The Wallet of Kai Lung HTML version

The Probation Of Sen Heng
Related by Kai Lung, at Wu-whei, as a rebuke to Wang Yu and certain others who had
questioned the practical value of his stories.
"It is an undoubted fact that this person has not realized the direct remunerative
advantage which he confidently anticipated," remarked the idle and discontented pipe-
maker Wang Yu, as, with a few other persons of similar inclination, he sat in the shade of
the great mulberry tree at Wu-whei, waiting for the evil influence of certain very
mysterious sounds, which had lately been heard, to pass away before he resumed his
occupation. "When the seemingly proficient and trustworthy Kai Lung first made it his
practice to journey to Wu-whei, and narrate to us the doings of persons of all classes of
life," he continued, "it seemed to this one that by closely following the recital of how
Mandarins obtained their high position, and exceptionally rich persons their wealth, he
must, in the end, inevitably be rendered competent to follow in their illustrious footsteps.
Yet in how entirely contrary a direction has the whole course of events tended! In spite of
the honourable intention which involved a frequent absence from his place of commerce,
those who journeyed thither with the set purpose of possessing one of his justly-famed
opium pipes so perversely regarded the matter that, after two or three fruitless visits, they
deliberately turned their footsteps towards the workshop of the inelegant Ming-yo, whose
pipes are confessedly greatly inferior to those produced by the person who is now
speaking. Nevertheless, the rapacious Kai Lung, to whose influence the falling off in
custom was thus directly attributable, persistently declined to bear any share whatever in
the loss which his profession caused, and, indeed, regarded the circumstance from so
grasping and narrow-minded a point of observation that he would not even go to the
length of suffering this much-persecuted one to join the circle of his hearers without on
every occasion making the customary offering. In this manner a well-intentioned pursuit
of riches has insidiously led this person within measurable distance of the bolted dungeon
for those who do not meet their just debts, while the only distinction likely to result from
his assiduous study of the customs and methods of those high in power is that of being
publicly bowstrung as a warning to others. Manifestedly the pointed finger of the
unreliable Kai Lung is a very treacherous guide."
"It is related," said a dispassionate voice behind them, "that a person of limited
intelligence, on being assured that he would certainly one day enjoy an adequate
competence if he closely followed the industrious habits of the thrifty bee, spent the
greater part of his life in anointing his thighs with the yellow powder which he
laboriously collected from the flowers of the field. It is not so recorded; but doubtless the
nameless one in question was by profession a maker of opium pipes, for this person has
observed from time to time how that occupation, above all others, tends to degrade the
mental faculties, and to debase its followers to a lower position than that of the beasts of
labour. Learn therefrom, O superficial Wang Yu, that wisdom lies in an intelligent
perception of great principles, and not in a slavish imitation of details which are, for the
most part, beyond your simple and insufficient understanding."