Yan Liben - Thirteen Emperors Scroll,
7th century China, detail
One leisurely evening, a king asked a certain courtier: "You appear to be a man of integrity. Why is it that you are the target of so much criticism, slander and hatred?"
The official replied: "Your Majesty, when the torrential rains of spring arrive, farmers are elated because their fields are well-irrigated. Pedestrians, on the other hand, are unhappy because the streets are muddy and slippery. When the summer moon is as clear and bright as a mirror, poets and writers rejoice at the opportunity to travel and compose couplets and poems, while thieves and felons are distressed at the brightness of the moonlight! If even the impartial heaven and earth are the object of blame and resentment, love and hate, how can this subject of yours, imperfect and full of blemishes, escape denigration and criticism?
"Thus, I venture to think, we should remain calm in the face of praise or criticism, think it over, and not rush to believe it. If a king believes gossip, his subjects lose their lives; if parents believe gossip, their children are hurt; if brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, believe words of gossip, they experience separation; if relatives, friends and neighbors believe gossip, they sever relations with one another. Fault-finding is really more noxious than snakes and serpents, sharper than swords and knives, killing without spilling a single drop of blood."
According to the judgement of history, this courtier was considered to be a disloyal official. His answer, however, was sound and reasonable, and a worthy example for later generations. It is still quoted today...
The truth seems to always lie in the eye of the beholder. But is that really so?
Retold by Dominique Allmon
Source of parable unknown, but greatly appreciated
Image source here