I plan on making a whole bunch of these, just for fun… If anybody else wants to write up some of the enlightening escapades of Lai-Xeng - or anyone else, for that matter - feel free, just so long as the basic structure stays similar…
...And of course, comments and criticism and whatnot are welcome.
Additional Ideas (15)
One day, a tradesman driving a cart to town came upon a river, and this tradesman spied Lai-Xeng upon the bank of this river, deep in thought. The tradesman had heard of Lai-Xeng's wisdom and fame, and decided he would put a question to the young sage, for this tradesman wished above all to be famous himself. And thus the tradesman approached Lai-Xeng, and asked him plainly:
"O Lai-Xeng, O motionless Sage, how is it that you are so famous without accomplishing anything? Is it not true that a man's actions alone will win him all the renown he desires?"
And Lai-Xeng rose, and plucked a small stone from the riverbank, and cast it into the lazily flowing river. And both men marked the ripples it caused, and Lai-Xeng said:
"I, Lai-Xeng, have cast the stone that caused these ripples. And this alone is all the renown I desire."
And the tradesman bowed his head, and gathered up his reins, and left Lai-Xeng feeling wiser than before.
One night, Lai-Xeng was sitting in the garden of a jhen-tse* with whom he was staying the night, and he was observing the white lilies by the light of the moon. And the jhen-tse's daughter, who had espied the handsome sage and grown enamoured of him, visited him in her father's garden. And when she saw that Lai-Xeng observed the lilies and gave little thought to her, she cast aside her garment and stood before him, and asked him angrily:
"O Lai-Xeng, O cold Sage, how is it that you perceive the lily's smallest petal, yet give no heed to me? Is not the beauty of a lovely woman greater than the beauty of a mere plant?"
And Lai-Xeng rose, and looked upon the flower and the woman, and not once did his eyes falter. And the woman marked the impartiality of his gaze, and Lai-Xeng said:
"The beauty of each is great, yet the lily gives no heed to its own beauty. And for this I esteem the plant more than the woman."
And the jhen-tse's daughter bowed her head, and clothed herself, and left Lai-Xeng feeling wiser than before.
*Jhen-tse: In the Jutan Kingdoms, every village in a city-state is overseen by a local magistrate, called a jhen-tse in Jutanese.
One day, Lai-Xeng was walking in the mountains, and he was met with a lavish caravan of pilgrims, on their way to the holy city to pray. And the pilgrims perceived Lai-Xeng to be in their way, and perceiving who he was, they called to him rudely and ridiculed him and rode their mules towards him so that he fell into the mud by the side of the path. And the pilgrims' guide approached Lai-Xeng, and asked him in scorn:
"O Lai-Xeng, O foolish Sage, how is it that you are content to spend your days in the harsh wilds, while we have brought all manner of splendid traveling gear? Is it not true that sleeping mats stuffed with goose down are softer than mud to sleep on?"
And Lai-Xeng sat down in the mud, and lay back with his eyes closed, and was silent for a while. And the pilgrims marked how tranquil he seemed, and Lai-Xeng said:
"My cushion is the soil, my roof the sky, and my lullaby the trills of nightingales. And this is why I find the mud to be soft as any dead bird's feathers."
And the pilgrims bowed their heads, and helped the sage out of the mud, and left Lai-Xeng feeling wiser than before.
One morning, Lai-Xeng was washing his face in a stream when he noticed an old widow by the side of the water, weeping in such a way that her tears fell upon the surface of the water and scattered her reflection. And the woman spied Lai-Xeng, and knew him for the sage he was. And the unhappy widow told Lai-Xeng of how she was struck with a sudden fear of dying, and asked him in sorrow:
"O Lai-Xeng, O passive Sage, how is it that you give so little thought to death? Is it not true that we are cursed with but one short life to spend in this world?"
And Lai-Xeng drew forth water from the stream with his hands, and let it pour back slowly. And the woman marked the flow of the water, and Lai-Xeng said:
"Every drop of this life can be spent in sadness or happiness, but it cannot be retrieved. And this is why I look not towards my death, but towards my life."
And the widow bowed her head, and dried her tears, and left Lai-Xeng feeling wiser than before.
While passing through Don-Choi, Lai-Xeng was stopped by the local magistrate, Chai-Xeng.
"Oh wise one, Is the world is nothing but chaos? I rush about from one crisis to the next. My sons are disobedient, prone to idling the day away. My villagers do not wish to their duties to the Emperor. Is all the world this way?
Lai-Xeng took three deep breaths. Then he waited. He took more deep breaths. The magistrate was impatient. He interrupted Lai-Xeng as he thought. "Wise one? Why do you ignore me?" Lai-Xeng, took three more cleansing breaths. He then held up one hand to forstall the magistrate's next question.
"To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right."
The Magistrate stopped. He gave the Wise One a deep reverent bow. He then retreated to the nearby garden. The Wise One spent the day with him saying nothing at all.
Lai-Xeng was traveling in the southern lands, known for their spicy foods. He was on the road to the Grand Temples of Kain-Jow, but was travelling alone at this time. The Restaurant was crowded this noontide. Lai-Xeng had been sitting, waiting for a table, smiling most of the time. He was seated, ordered, and was dining, and the Scholar was still smiling.
The Restauranteur had been dealing with all the customers and staff. He could not understand while the Scholar was smiling so.
"Why are you so happy scholar? There is a hot wind. You are eating my spicy food which makes you sweat. You are days from the temples. Why do you smile so?"
Lai-Xeng put down his eating utensils. He dabbed his face with a napkin. He turned to the gumpy man.
"If you want happiness for a moment, take a breath".
The Restauranteur grunted.
"If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. "
The Restauranteur grunted again.
"If you want happiness for a day, go fishing."
The Restauranteur smirked.
If you want happiness for a month, get married."
The Restauranteur rolled his eyes.
"If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. "
The Restauranteur said, "taxes!"
"If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else."
The Restauranteur looked confused and grunted. He ran off to clear some tables.
As the scholar moved to pay, the restauranteur smiled and took the bill away.
Lai-Xeng and the Emperor's Avenger
One day as Lai-Xeng was sitting by the road side dining on a bowl of plain rice, his old childhood friend, Mah-Waon came riding by on his fettered mount, armor ablaze in the morning sun, his helm and shield depiciting a fiery pheonix, symbol of his beloved Emperor!
"Lai-Xeng, is that you? It has been ages seen our paths last crossed, and still you sit by roadsides eating plain rice. As for me, I am one of the Emperor's chosen avengers now! I have done well for myself, eh old friend?"
"Greetings childhood friend", was all Lai-Xeng said in response, as he continued eating from his bowl.
"You know, Lai-Xeng", continued the proud Mah-Waon, "If you would just learn to cultivate your subservience to the Emperor, you would not have to live on plain rice"
"Learn to live on plain rice Mah-Waon, and you would not have to cultivate the Emperor", Lai-Xeng calmly replied.
"Hrrmmphh", exclaimed Mah-Waon, and rode off in a cloud off dust, feeling none the wiser.
As it happened under the sun, Lai-Xeng sat upon the bank of the Kui-Pon river. his fishing pole was left against the tree as he rested on the bank. A man who made a living by the selling of fish came upon the sage's supine form.
"Here now, the great and wise sage Lai-Xeng. How is it that you are so lacking in ambition? Are you lazy?" The Fishmonger asked.
"Then you are not lacking in ambition, you are not lazy?" Lai-Xeng asked.
"Of course not. what have you done all day?" The Fishmonger asked again.
"I have sat by this river, and took a nap, and fished a little." The Sage answered. "What would you do?"
"Me, I would fish hard, catch as many fish as possible." He said.
"Why?" The sage asked.
"So that I could sell them, make money." The Fishmonger said.
"Why?" Lai-Xeng asked.
"So I could hire men to fish for me, to make me more money. Then I could buy boats to fish further from the shore, and carts to carry the fish to market." He said with pride, for this was what he had done himself and had become wealthy.
"And what after that?" the Sage asked.
"After that I will retire." The Fishmonger said, thinking upon his retirement and his sons taking over his business.
"When you retire, what will you do then?" Lai-Xeng asked.
"Well, I will live by the river, take naps whenever I like, maybe fish a little." The fishmonger said. Lai-Xeng picked up his fishing pole and cast the line back into the water. The Merchant stood up and walked away, leaving Lai-Xeng feeling wiser than before.
The great monk was walking the road. He happened upon a tutor and several students studying in an orchard.
"Wise one can you help me?"
"My students. They are poor in their studies. They stare off into space. They dream. They think of other things. How can I make them great as their father wishes."
The wise one looked upon the boys.
"He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger."
The boys sat upright. The tutor said, "Do you wish to be lost or in danger?"
The boys dilligently returned to their studies.
Lai-Xeng was returning down the Dusty Road from Fai-Tong and his teachings there.
As he walked through the village, there was a militia drilling on the green. One of the soldiers was a known master of unarmed combat. He was refusing to participate in the drills. In his loud voice, "This are beneith me. I am the Mighty Klai-Dong. I have mastered the 12 forms. I am known far and wide as He with Rock Hands. I am a teacher of the Pon_Dar School. " The rest of them practiced distractedly. Some watched the ongoing noise. Others tried to practive their drills. Others took the opportunity to do what they wished. As the master continued, others began to yell at the officer. They too claimed they did not need to practice and began to recite their deeds. The Officer tried to blow his whistle for order.
When he paused for breath, the scholar simple cleared his voice. Then in a quiet tone, "It is better to practice a little than talk a lot."
Klai-Dong stopped. He took three classic cleansing breaths. He then nodded and bowed. The others followed his example.
The sage stopped for some excellent buns. As he passed the green again, Klai-Dong had finished the drill and was now instructing others.
He turned to his travelling companion as said, "Even great men need to remind themselves of things."
As they left, they were all the wiser.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
One day, as Lai-Xeng was walking pass a school, he overheard a conversation between two students.
“Should we ask the Master about that question?”
“But everyone else seems to understand perfectly. If we ask the Master, he will think we are dimwitted.”
Lai-Xeng cleared his throat at this point and said, “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.”
And the two students bowed their heads, and left to seek out their Master.
Lai-Xeng and the Prostitute
One morning as Lai-Xeng was meditating a great sage came to him and asked him "O Lai-Xeng, O wise Sage, what is Truth?"
And Lai-Xeng continued meditating.
Later, shortly before the noon day bell Lai-Xeng was approached by a student of philosophy, who asked "O Lai-Xeng, O wise Sage, how might I, a mere student, become wise?"
And Lai-Xeng continued meditating.
That afternoon, as the sun was sinking down below the horizon Lai-Xeng was approached by a child who plainly asked, "O Lai-Xeng, O wise Sage, what use is wisdom against might?"
And Lai-Xeng continued meditating.
That night, when the moon was high in the sky a prostitute walked in front of Lai-Xeng and he said to her, "You don't seek Truth, yet you found it; you don't seek Wisdom, yet it found you; you didn't gain Wisdom soon enough, and now Might holds you."
The prostitute turned to Lai-Xeng and bowed her head, gathering up her skirts she thanked him and said, "O Lai-Xeng, O wise Sage, would that I had lies to lull me to sleep, would that I was a protected fool, and would that the world was a gentle place, but it could not be any other way," and she left Lai-Xeng feeling wiser than before.
At the end of the rains one year Lai-Xeng sought out the advice of the famous architect Noo-Om’nter. The Emperor’s builder was unsure that a proposed bridge across a wide river would be feasible. Lai-Xeng volunteered to take the problem to the master Noo-Om-ter.
One day, in the dew and grey of the pre-dawn hour, Lai-Xeng sat outside the quarries were Noo-Om’ter meet with young designers. As the young architects gathered with their wax tablets and fabric scrolls Lai-Xeng reviewed his own notes so that he could present Noo-Om’ter with the problem of the bridge clearly. Then just as the sun was rising Noo-Om’ter came walking towards the crowd form the east. The rising sun streaming through his unkempt grey hair; Noo-Om’ter first reminded the crowd that he was Noo-Om’ter and assured them that he had seen their problems before. Noo-Om’ter took the offerings of food and drink brought to him and then listened to two questions from the score of young designers.
For the rest of the morning Noo-Om’ter talked about how he had done thing in the west. With each story he dissmissed the questions of the younger ones as being the results of poor planning, incomplete work or pure ignorance.
“All my designs were based on 10,000 hours of research, that is the Noo-Om-ter way, if you did not do 10,000 hours of research you can not succeed.”
“Noo-Om’ter would never attempt such a design, it is inherently limit, the reasons are obvious to any designer with a drop of intelligence.”
“Noo-Om’ter has seen many such things as you have proposed fail, yet the castles of the ancients still stand, and I learned from those castles.”
At midday Noo-Om’ter left and Lai-Xeng sat with the young builders. Lai-Xeng then asked the young men what they wanted to build. They told him and he asked why. They told him and he asked how. They told him and he asked how else they might build it. Then Lai-Xeng asked the young men how else they build their designs. After they discussed other measures, he asked them what might fail and why. They discussed that for a time, and then they went through the designs counting what they could be sure of and what they couldn’t. At the end of the day Lai-Xeng had learned much and he left the quarries that night.
When he returned the builder asked him what Noo-Om’nter had said. Lai-Xeng told him what Noo-Om’nter had said, and the builder was confused. “But what did he say about the Bridge?” Lai-Xeng replied
“To build our bridge we must judge the weakness in our own plans, not be judged by the purported strength of others.”
One day, as Lai-Xeng was travelling on the road to the Imperial City, he met a *frustrated scholar who was coming from the opposite direction. Recognising Lai-Xeng, he asked, “O Lai-Xeng, O wise Sage, how is it that those of far less worth than myself have all advanced in life while I am still just a commoner? Is there no justice in the world?”
To this, Lai-Xeng replied: “A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a man perfected without trials.
And the scholar bowed his head, and left Lai-Xeng feeling wiser than before.
*frustrated scholar: In ancient China, scholars from all over China would travel to the Imperial City to attend the Imperial Examination. This is often a prerequisite to entering into civil service, with high scoring individuals being awarded various court positions. Individuals who fail the exams could often become very frustrated as they could be very talented but still fail repeatedly while those far less talented had all succeeded because they had the right connections.
Lai-Xeng and the Lotus Pool
In the village of Nedra-lyn, Lai-Xeng would break his travels to visit old friends. In the heat of the day, he would rest by a sheltered pond, on which the lotus petals floated, shaded by stately willow trees, and think thoughts none would dare interrupt.
But that afternoon came Mistress Ci, the usurer. From her withered limbs draped silks, and her breath smelled of the finest of plum wines, and her fingernails were painted with gold leaf. She would do things no one else would, and from that her palms cupped silver uncounted. And so she bade her slaves carry her sedan chair to the pond, and set it beside the Sage, for though custom was nothing to her beside the sheen of gold and the sparkle of jewels in her vaults, she would always listen to those who were deemed thoughtful. And in such wise she learned many things.
Mistress Ci drew the jade-beaded curtain of her chair aside and gazed upon the Sage, with hard black eyes deeper than jet. "O Lai-Xeng, worthy Sage," she rasped, "Hear me. I am honored, I am rich, my days under the Lady of Heaven have been long. But I am old, and my daughters are dead, and their children are idle wasters of silver, loving luxury, but not caring to earn or maintain it. How can I preserve what I have built, that it not be poured into the sand like water when I am laid with my ancestors?"
Lai-Xeng did not look at her, but slid off one sandal, and lowered his toe into the water. He said nothing. Knowing of his ways, Mistress Ci waited: she was, if anything, patient, and her years had not made her the hastier. Even when the young daughter of the Sage's friend, Ichi the sandalmaker, came to tell him that the afternoon meal was ready to serve, Lai-Xeng did not move.
At last, the old Sage reached up, and allowed the girl to help him to his feet. He left the sandal on the grass, making no effort to replace it on his foot. Turning half over his shoulder, but not facing the old woman, Lai-Xeng asked "Did you see the hole in the water made by my toe?"
"I am old, not blind, honored Sage," Mistress Ci said, trying to keep asperity from her voice. "I did."
"And where is it now? So, too, with your life or mine. The pool does not notice that you lived, and it will not care when you die. Your passing will leave behind no more than did my toe, and your monuments no more than that sandal, which in a month's time no one will recall ever covered the foot of Lai-Xeng."