GEORGES F. SCHULTZ1
Little Statesman Ly
There was once a famous Vietnamese states-man whose name was LY. He was very short of stature; in fact, he was so short that the top of his head was no higher than a man’s waist.
Statesman LY was sent to China to settle a very important political problem with that nation. When the Emperor of China looked down from his Dragon Throne and saw this little man, he exclaimed, “Are the Vietnamese such little people?”
LY answered: “Sire, in Vietnam, we have both little men and big men. Our ambassadors are chosen in accordance with the importance of the problem. As this is a small matter, they have sent me to negotiate. When there is a big problem between us, we will send a big man to speak with you.”
The Emperor of China pondered: “If the Vietnamese consider this important problem only a small matter, they must indeed be a great and powerful people.”
So he lessened his demands and the matter was settled then and there.
The Tailor and The Mandarin
In the capital of Vietnam there was once a certain tailor who was renowned for his skill. Every garment that left his shop had to fit the client perfectly, regardless of the latter’s weight, build, age, or bearing.
One day a high mandarin sent for the tailor and ordered a ceremonial robe.
After taking the necessary measurements, the tailor respectfully asked the mandarin how long he had been in the service.
“What does that have to do with the cut of my robe?” asked the mandarin good-naturedly.
“It is of great importance, sire,” responded die tailor. “You know that a newly appointed mandarin, impressed with his own importance, carries his head high and his chest out. We must take this into consideration and cut the rear lappet shorter than the front.
‘‘Later, little by little we lengthen the rear lappet and shorten the front one; the lappets are cut exactly the same length when the mandarin reaches the halfway point of his career.
“Finally, when bent over with the fatigue of long years of service and the burden of age, he aspires only to join his ancestors in heaven, the robe must be made longer in the back than in the front.
“Thus you see, sire, that a tailor who does not know the seniority of the mandarins cannot fit them correctly.”
The Blind Son-In-Law
There was once a handsome young man who had been blind from birth, but because his eyes looked quite normal, very few people were aware of his affliction.
One day he went to the home of a young lady to ask her parents for her hand in marriage. The men of the household were about to go out to work in the rice fields, and in order to demonstrate his industry, he decided to join them. He trailed along behind the others and was able to do his share of the day’s work. When it came time to finish for the day all the men hurried homeward for the evening meal. But the blind man lost contact with the others and fell into a well.
When the guest did not appear, the future mother- in-law said: “Oh, that fellow will be a fine son-in-law for he puts in a full day’s labor. But it is really time for him to stop for today. Boys, run out to the field and tell him to return for supper.”
The men grumbled at this task but set out and looked for him. As they passed the well, the blind man overheard their conversation and was able to clamber out and follow them back to the house.
At the meal, the blind man was seated next to his future mother-in-law, who loaded his plate with food.
But then disaster struck. A bold dog approached, and began to eat the food from his plate.
“Why don’t you give that dog a good slap?” asked his future mother-in-law. “Why do you let him eat your food?”
“Madam,” replied the blind man, “I have too much respect for the master and the mistress of this house, to dare strike their dog.”
“No matter,” replied the’ worthy lady. “Here is a mallet; if that dog dares bother you again, give him a good blow on the head.”
Now the mother-in-law saw that the young man was so modest and shy that he seemed afraid to eat, and would take nothing from his plate, She wanted to encourage him and selected some sweetmeats from a large platter and placed them before him.
On hearing the clatter of the chopsticks against his plate, the blind man thought that the dog had returned to annoy him, so he took up the mallet and gave the poor woman such a fierce blow on the head that she fell unconscious.
Needless to say that was the end of his courtship!
The Cook’s Big Fish
TU SAN2 of the land of the Trinh considered himself a disciple of Confucius3.
One day his cook was enticed into a game of chance, and lost the money that had been entrusted to him for the day’s purchases at the market. Fearful of being punished should he return home with empty hands, he invented the following story.
“This morning on arriving at the market, I noticed a large fish for sale. It was fat and fresh — in short, a superb fish. For the sake of curiosity I asked the price. It was only one bill, although the fish was easily worth two or three. It was a real bargain and thinking only of the fine dish that it would make for you, I did not hesitate to spend the money for today’s provisions.
“Halfway home, the fish, which I was carrying on a line through the gills, began to stiffen as in death. I recalled the old adage: ‘A fish out of water is a dead fish,’ and as I happened to be passing a pond, I made haste to plunge it into the water, hoping to revive it under the influence of its natural element.
“A moment later, seeing it was still lifeless, I took it off the line and held it in my two hands. Soon it stirred a little, yawned, and then with a quick movement slipped from my grasp. I plunged my arm into the water to seize it again, but with a flick of the tail it was gone. I confess that I have been very stupid.”
When the cook had finished his tale, TU SAN clapped his hands and said: “That’s perfect! That’s perfect!”
He was thinking of the fish’s bold escape.
But the cook failed to understand this point and left, laughing up his sleeve. Then he went about telling his friends with a triumphant air: “Who says my master is so wise? I lost all the market money at cards. Then I invented a story, and he swallowed it whole. Who says my master is so wise?”
MENCIUS4, the philosopher, once said “A plausible lie can deceive even a superior intellect.”
◊ Some Vietnamese short stories in rich meaning – Section 2.
BAN TU THU
Editor – 8 /2020
1: Mr. GEORGE F. SCHULTZ, was Executive Director of the Vietnamese-American Association during the years 1956-1958. Mr. SCHULTZ was responsible for the construction of the present Vietnamese-American Center in Saigon and for the development of the cultural and educational program of the Association.
Shortly after his arrival in Vietnam, Mr. SCHULTZ began to study the language, literature, and history of Vietnam and was soon recognized as an authority, not only by his fellow Americans, for it was his duty to brief them in these subjects, but by many Vietnamese as well. He has published papers entitled “The Vietnamese Language” and “Vietnamese Names” as well as an English translation of the Cung-Oan ngam-khuc, “The Plaints of an Odalisque.” (Quote Preface by VlNH HUYEN – President, Board of Directors Vietnamese-American Association, Vietnamese Legends, Copyright in Japan, 1965, by Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.)
2: … updating …
◊ Source: Vietnamese Legends, GEORGES F. SCHULTZ, Printed – Copyright in Japan, 1965, by Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.
◊ All citations, italics texts and image sepiaized has been set by BAN TU THU.