4. Tzu Ch’an and the Fish
Tzu Ch’an was a statesman who lived in Cheng during the Spring and Autumn period, some 2,500 years ago. Confucius praised his wisdom highly. Tzu Ch’an was so smart and so kind that Chinese people still honor him today. He helped the poor and rescued those in danger. He enjoyed doing good, and in particular, he never liked to kill anything.
One day, a friend sent him a present, several live fish. They were fat and looked delicious. They would certainly make a delicious meal! When Tzu Ch’an received this gift, he was very grateful that his friend was so thoughtful. He accepted the gift happily. Then he called his servant.
“Take these fish and put them in the fishpond in the yard.”
His servant said, “Master, this kind of fish is a rare delicacy. If you put them in the fishpond, the water is not as clear as a mountain stream’s, so their flesh will not be as soft, and they will not taste as good. You should eat them right away.”
Tzu Ch’an smiled. “I am the boss here. Do as you are told. How could I murder these poor, innocent fish just for the sake of their taste? I couldn’t bear to do that.”
The servant had to obey orders. As she poured the fish into the pond, she told them, “You sure are lucky fish! If you had been given to anybody but my master, you would already be cooking in the wok by now!”