Planting Pears: The Quirks of Human Behavior

Explore the story of a rural man's encounter with a Taoist, revealing aspects of generosity, selfishness, and human folly in a bustling marketplace.

A rural man was selling pears at the market. The pears were fragrant and sweet, and their price was high. There was a beggarly Taoist priest wearing a tattered headscarf and a ragged cotton robe, begging for a pear in front of the pear vendor’s cart. The rural man scolded him, but he refused to leave. The rural man became angry and started shouting at him. The Taoist priest said, “There are hundreds of pears in this cart. I only want one. It won’t be a big loss for you. Why make such a fuss?” People nearby advised the rural man to pick a bad pear and give it to the Taoist priest to send him away, but the rural man adamantly refused.

The shop assistant from the nearby store, seeing the commotion, took out money and bought a pear, which he gave to the Taoist priest. After thanking them, the Taoist priest said to the crowd, “A person who has renounced worldly possessions should not be stingy. I have some good pears; I will share them with everyone shortly.” Someone asked, “Since you have pears, why don’t you eat them yourself?” The Taoist priest replied, “I only need this pear seed for planting.” He then enjoyed eating the pear heartily. After finishing the pear, the Taoist priest held onto the pear seed, took off the iron shovel from his shoulder, and dug a hole in the ground, several inches deep. He placed the pear seed in the hole, covered it with soil, and asked the people on the street for hot water. A well-intentioned person from a roadside shop brought a pot of boiling water, which the Taoist priest poured into the hole. To the amazement of the onlookers, a pear sprout broke through the soil and gradually grew, becoming a lush pear tree in no time. It bloomed, bore fruit, and the tree was filled with large, sweet pears. The Taoist priest climbed the tree and picked pears to give to the gathering crowd, quickly distributing all the pears. Then, he used the iron shovel to chop down the pear tree with a prolonged “clang, clang” sound. After a while, he finally cut it down. The Taoist priest hoisted the tree trunk, still adorned with branches and leaves, onto his shoulder, and calmly and unhurriedly walked away.

Initially, when the Taoist was performing his magic tricks, the rural man was also among the onlookers. He was so engrossed in watching the spectacle, craning his neck and staring with wide eyes, that he completely forgot about his pear cart. Only after the Taoist had left did he turn around to check his cart, and to his dismay, he found that not a single pear was left. It was then that he realized that all the pears the Taoist had distributed had come from his own cart. Upon closer inspection, he noticed that one of the cart handles was missing; it was a newly cut one. Feeling both angry and resentful, he hastily followed the path the Taoist had taken. When he turned a corner, he saw the broken cart handle discarded against a wall. It was at that moment the rural man realized that the pear tree trunk the Taoist had chopped down was, in fact, the missing cart handle. The Taoist had disappeared by then. The entire market square burst into laughter, and no one could stop smiling.

The chronicler of strange tales said: The rural man was confused and simple-minded, making himself a laughingstock to the people at the market, which was somewhat understandable. Often, you would see those known as local wealthy farmers in the countryside getting upset when a good friend asked to borrow some grain, calculating and saying, “This will cost us several days’ worth of expenses.” Some would advise them to help those in dire need, to give some food to the lonely and destitute, but they would still complain and calculate, saying, “This could feed five or ten people.” Even among fathers, sons, and brothers, they would meticulously count every penny. However, when these same individuals were captivated by vices like prostitution and gambling, they would spend money extravagantly without hesitation. When faced with the threat of punishment for their crimes, they would immediately pay to buy their way out, fearing the consequences. There are so many people like this; it’s truly endless! So, what’s so surprising about a rural man selling pears being foolish and simple?






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