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The Circle of Power

21 March 2007

Ever have imagined what will happen if belligerent dogs, stubborn goats and noisy chickens share accommodation?

Guess the self-righteous dogs would be self-appointed policemen, the reserved goats would refuse to co-operate, while easily-excited chickens, like many media guys, keep stirring things up with sensational news reports, comments and forecasts. Before long we may see the dogs biting the goats and the goats chasing the chickens and the chickens fleeing the scene. In the end the dogs impose their hegemony in the site, but their victory could be rather shallow: the goats are mortally broken and can not serve the ruler whether they are willing or not, and the chickens have long sought refugee elsewhere. Then the dogs may have to turn on each other to determine who shall rule over who until they end in common ruin.

The theoretical scenario of above almost became reality in the yard of a Chinese farmer known as Big Sister Liu.

The ostriches fleeing in panic

Liu lives in Yanqing County in the outskirts of Beijing and keeps four dogs, tow goats and dozens of chickens in her family-run farmhouse accommodation (农家院). Her dogs are not more humble than any other dogs, her goats are not more easygoing than any other goats, and her chickens are not more meditative than any other chickens. Then how is she able to accommodate this multi-species community under one roof without turning her residence into a war zone? Well, she has a secret weapon: a pair of ostriches.

The young birds are quite pretty (they are on strict diet and eat oil-free & salt-free cabbage salads only) and very tall (up to 2 metres) with a pair of long and robust legs, that only a well-trained ballerina or a highly accomplished martial arts master would possess. They do enjoy showing off their kung fu kicks, but on the dogs only. The poor dogs are so petrified of these long-range arms (legs that are) that they would immediately lie low, not daring to demand an apology.

But hasn’t Big Sister Liu just installed a new bunch of dictators to replace the old? Fortunately, nope. Because no matter how successful the birds have managed to terrify the dogs, they are unable to impress the goats who view them just as a couple of tall chickens. Whenever the goats get a gutful of the dogs, they’ll try to get even with the ostriches by chasing them around as they do to the chickens. And whenever the ostriches spot the sight of the sharp horns, they run away faster than any chicken would do, failing to remember their legs are multi-functioned. Thus the balance of power is achieved.

Of course, it still leaves a lot to be desired if Big Sister Liu ever wants to create a harmonious backyard. That might require Liu, for instance, to set up a forum to talk about The Analects to her multi-being audience, so her furred, horned and feathered friends can learn to have genuine respect for, instead of fear of, each other. When this happens, it will be a miracle. But miracles do occur. You never know.

(Original news report in Chinese on 北京晚报by 黄敬、郑永: 农家大院里动物循环称霸王)

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