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?

《种梨》

有乡人货梨于市,颇甘芳,价腾贵。有道士破巾絮衣,丐于车前。乡人咄之,亦不去。乡人怒,加以叱骂。道士曰:“一车数百颗,老衲止丐其一,于居士亦无大损,何怒为?”观者劝置劣者一枚令去,乡人执不肯。

肆中佣保者,见喋聒不堪,遂出钱市一枚,付道士。道士拜谢,谓众曰:“出家人不解吝惜。我有佳梨,请出供客。”或曰:“既有之,何不自食?”曰:“吾特需此核作种。”于是掬梨大啖。且尽,把核于手,解肩上镵,坎地深数寸,纳之而覆以土,向市人索汤沃灌。好事者于临路店索得沸沈,道士接浸坎处。万目攒视,见有勾萌出,渐大,俄成树,枝叶扶疏。倏而花,倏而实,硕大芳馥,累累满树。道人乃即树头摘赐观者,顷刻向尽。已,乃以镵伐树,丁丁良久,乃断,带叶荷肩头,从容徐步而去。

初,道士作法时,乡人亦杂众中,引领注目,竟忘其业。道士既去,始顾车中,则梨已空矣。方悟适所俵散,皆己物也。又细视车上一靶亡,是新凿断者。心大愤恨,急迹之。转过墙隅,则断靶弃垣下,始知所伐梨本,即是物也。道士不知所在。一市粲然。

异史氏曰:乡人愦愦,憨状可掬,其见笑于市人,有以哉。每见乡中称素封者,良朋乞米则怫然,且计曰:“是数日之资也。”或劝济一危难,饭一茕独,则又忿然计曰:“此十人、五人之食也。”甚而父子兄弟,较尽锱铢。及至淫博迷心,则倾囊不吝;刀锯临颈,则赎命不遑。诸如此类,正不胜道,蠢尔乡人,又何足怪!

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