Notebooks

## Brahmanical Proverbs

07 Apr 1998 16:06

From The Wallet of Kai Lung

It is a mark of insincerity of purpose to spend one's time in looking for the sacred Emperor in the low-class tea-shops.

The wise and all-knowing Emperor Fohy instituted three degrees of attainment: Being poor, to obtain justice; being rich, to escape flattery; and being human, to avoid the passions. To these the practical and enlightened Kang added yet another, the greatest: Being lean, to yield fatness.

When struck by a thunderbolt it is unnecessary to consult the Book of Dates as to the precise meaning of the omen.
---Ting Fo

The person who patiently awaits a sign from the clouds for many years, and yet fails to notice the earthquake at his feet, is devoid of intellect.
---The Book of Verses

When marked out by destiny, a person will assuredly be drowned, even though he passes the whole of his existence among the highest branches of a date tree.

He is a wise and enlightened suppliant who seeks to discover an honourable Mandarin, but he is a fool who cries out, I have found one.''

Although there exist many thousand subjects for elegant conversation, there are persons who cannot meet a cripple without talking about feet.

It is needless to apply the ram's head to the unlocked door.
---The Book of Verses

Every Mandarin has three hands and every soldier a like number of feet.

When actually in the embrace of a voracious and powerful wild animal, the desirability of leaving a limb is not a matter to be subjected to lengthy consideration.
---Huai Mei-shan

The meaner the slave, the greater the lord
---The Book of Verses

Vast chasms can be filled, but the heart of man never.

With honey it is possible to soften the heart of the he-goat; but a blow from an iron cleaver is taken as a mark of welcome by an agent of Ti Hung.

A fair wind raises no storm.

The good bee will not touch the faded flower.

When the earth-worm boasts of his elegant wings, the eagle can afford to be silent.

The shadow falls in such a direction as the sun wills.

In the course of a lifetime there are many very disagreeable evils that may overtake a person. He may offend the Sacred Dragon, and be in consequence reduced to a fine dry powder; or he may incur the displeasure of the benevolent and pure-minded Emperor, and be condemned to death by roasting; he may also be troubled by demons or by the disturbed spirits of his ancestors, or be struck by thunderbolts. Indeed, there are numerous annoyances, but they become as Heaven-sent blessings in comparison to a self-opinionated and more than ordinarily weak-minded son-in-law.
---Ti Hung

It is related, that a person of limited intelligence, on being assured that he would certainly one day enjoy an adequate competence if he closely followed the industrious habits of the thrifty bee, spent the greater part of his life in anointing his thighs with the yellow powder which he laboriously collected from the flowers of the field.
---Kai Lung

Distrust an inordinate appearance of servility. The estimable person who retires from your presence walking backwards may adopt that deferential manner in order to keep concealed the long double-edged knife with which he had hoped to slay you.

More contentment of mind can assuredly be obtained from the unexpected discovery of a tael among the folds of a discarded garment than could, in the most favourable circumstances, ensue from the well-thought-out construction of the new and hitherto unknown device.

Although it is desirable to lose persistently when playing at squares and circles with the broad-minded and sagacious Emperor, it is none the less a fact that the observance of this etiquette deprives the intellectual diversion of much of its interest for both players.
---H'sou

Man is greatly inferior to the meanest fly, inasmuch as that creature, although granted only a day's span of life, contrives during that period to fulfil all the allotted functions of existence.
---Wen-weng

Better a frugal dish of olives flavoured with honey than the most sumptuously devised puppy-pie of which the greater portion is sent forth in silver-lined boxes and partaken of by others.
---Wen-wang

Before hastening to secure a possible reward of five taels by dragging an unobservant person away from a falling building, examine well his features lest you find, when too late, that it is one to whom you are indebted for double that amount.

Money is hundred-footed; upon perceiving a tael lying apparently unobserved upon the floor, do not lose the time necessary in stooping, but quickly place your foot upon it, for one fails nothing in dignity thereby; but should it be a gold piece, distrust all things, and valuing dignity but as an empty name, cast your entire body upon it.

`Come, let us eat together,' said the wolf to the she-goat.

At the Final Gate of the Two Ways the necessity for elegant and well-chosen sentences ends

Should a person on returning from the city discover his house to be in flames, let him examine well the change which he has received from the chair-carrier before it is too late; for evil never travels alone.
---Ye-te, Proverbs of Everyday Happenings

The wise man's eyes fell before the gaze of the fool, fearing that if he looked he must cry aloud, "Thou hopeless one!" "There," said the fool to himself, "behold this person's power!"

Misfortune comes to all men and to most women
---Ni-Hyu

The road to eminence lies through the cheap and exceedingly uninviting eating-houses.

After being disturbed in one's dignity by a mandarin's foot it is no unusual occurrence to fall flat on the face in crossing a muddy street.
---Tai Loo

Beware lest when being kissed by the all-seeing Emperor, you step upon the elusive banana-peel.
---The Book of Verses

The whitest of pigeons, no matter how excellent in the silk-hung chamber, is not to be followed on the field of battle.
---Li Pen

The lightning discovers objects which the paper-lantern fails to reveal.