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A Peasant Circus
- Stories Told by a Young Chinese Monk (9)

17 December 2007

Watery Town is a small place with very few venues for entertainment, so each time when a circus comes to visit, it becomes an occasion of festivity. Whenever possible, we young monks would choose such a day coming down the hill to do some shopping at the marketplace, then stand behind the crowd watching the show.

The circus tours the villages and market towns, and visits Watery Town once in ten days. When they come they set the stage in an open space at the east end of the town, with no curtain and no ticket required; audience just come and go as they please, and contribute fares or decline to pay as they wish.

There is nothing extraordinary about the show, but the people in the town enjoy the play tremendously, in particular when an actor finally does a wire walking (走钢丝), which is forever the highlight of the whole performance. The audience would all get excited and cheer with thunderous applause.

But not everyone is impressed with this particular “high” performance.

In the audience, there is a man surnamed Li who is one of the richest people in the town. Every time when the tightrope walker reaches the safety of the other side, he would become extremely disappointed and wretched.

Once as I stood next to him watching the show, I enquired just what exactly troubled him so much.

“You know, It bothers me like hell,” returned him, stony faced. “Why on earth he never falls off the wire?”

Later when my master learned of this episode, he commented: If Mr Li can only finds his enjoyment in other people's misfortune, how can he ever gain true happiness?

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Next: A Village Wedding


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