Once upon a time, a stag fell ill. So, he came to a clear grassy patch of land and lay down there. In a day or two, he became too weak to move his body even.

Soon the news of the stag’s illness spread and a number of his friends came to enquire after his health. Evidently, they were all grass-eating animals. They stayed with the stag to nurse him. In a few days, they grazed all the grass of the patch and not a blade of it was left there now.

In a few days, the stag began to be well. Seeing this, his friends left one by one and he was left all alone. But he was still too feeble to get up and move about.

As all the grass of the patch had been grazed by the stag’s friends and he was too weak to go grazing, he starved to death. Had his friends not grazed the grass in the patch, he would have fed on it and lived. A foolish friend is worse than a foe.


The Foolish Old Man of the North Mountain was nearly ninety years old. His house was in the backyard of two huge mountains, each a hundred thousand feet in height and seventy square li in area. Not only they shut off his view, but blocked his way so badly that he had to make a detour around them whenever he went out. He called a family meeting.

“Let’s remove the mountains,” he said to his family. “Let’s chisel away the rocks and level the mountains to the ground.”

Everybody in the family agreed except his wife. “How absurd!” she said. “How can you expect to remove them? You can’t even remove a mound. Besides, where can you put away the mud and rocks chiseled off the mountains?”

“We’ll throw them into the East China Sea,” others in the family replied.

So the old man, together with his children and grandchildren, began to break the rocks and dig the soil with chisels and spades. The mud and rocks were placed in baskets and pans and then carried to the seashore every day. Their neighbor’s son, a seven-year-old boy, also came to join them.

One day on his way to work, the Foolish Old Man was stopped by the Wise Old Man of the River Bend.

“Be sensible, my friend,” said the Wise Old Man with a scornful twist of the lips. “You’re over ninety. You cannot even pull up weeds on the mountain—let alone carry mass of mud and rocks!”

“You’re short-sighted, I’m afraid,” said the Foolish Old Man with a sigh. “Don’t you see that when I die, there will be my children to carry on the work? When they die, they will have their children and grandchildren. And those grandchildren will have their children and grandchildren. My family line will carry on forever, but the mountains will not grow any higher. Why can’t we remove them?”

The Wise Old Man raised his eyebrows, not knowing what to say. Their conversation was overheard by God. He was so moved by the Foolish Old Man’s faith he sent down two angels to carry the mountains somewhere else.


feed the hungry and educate the foolish