Happy Chinese New Year everyone! As you’ve probably heard or already know, it’s the Year of the Horse (not my year yet), and festivities are underway all across the globe to celebrate the occasion. And while we’re talking about horses, I decided to re-post this little Chinese fable about horses and the (mis)fortunes that come with having them. Enjoy, and 恭喜發財!
Among the people of the border region (near the Great Wall), there was one who was skilled at divination. A horse, for reasons unknown, ran off and entered the land of the Hu (胡). The people lamented their loss.
The owner of the horse said, “How could this not be good fortune?” A month later, his horse returned, leading a fine horse of the Hu, and the people congratulated him. But the old man asked, “How do we know that this is not a sign of misfortune?”
The man’s household was supplied with good horses. His son enjoyed riding, but one day he fell from his horse and broke his thighbone, and the people lamented his injury. But the old man said, “How could this not be good fortune?”
One year later, the people of Hu invaded the border region in great numbers. The able-bodied men frontier men fought with bow and arrow. But among the people of the border region, nine out of ten died. Yet because his son was crippled by his fall, the old man and the son were able to take care of each other.
As to good fortune becoming misfortune, and misfortune becoming good fortune: such transformations are boundless, and their depths are unfathomable.
The moral of the story? Take everything in stride, or to put it another way…hold (on to) your horses!
Source: The Huainanzi (淮南子 · 人間訓). Those of you who are well-versed in classical Chinese can find the full text here.