The Wallet of Kai Lung HTML version

The Experiment Of The Mandarin Chan Hung
Related by Kai Lung at Shan Tzu, on the occasion of his receiving a very unexpected
"There are certainly many occasions when the principles of the Mandarin Chan Hung
appear to find practical favour in the eyes of those who form this usually uncomplaining
person's audiences at Shan Tzu," remarked Kai Lung, with patient resignation, as he took
up his collecting-bowl and transferred the few brass coins which it held to a concealed
place among his garments. "Has the village lately suffered from a visit of one of those
persons who come armed with authority to remove by force or stratagem such goods as
bear names other than those possessed by their holders? or is it, indeed--as they of Wu-
whei confidently assert--that when the Day of Vows arrives the people of Shan Tzu, with
one accord, undertake to deny themselves in the matter of gifts and free offerings, in spite
of every conflicting impulse?"
"They of Wu-whei!" exclaimed a self-opinionated bystander, who had by some means
obtained an inferior public office, and who was, in consequence, enabled to be present on
all occasions without contributing any offering. "Well is that village named 'The Refuge
of Unworthiness', for its dwellers do little but rob and illtreat strangers, and spread evil
and lying reports concerning better endowed ones than themselves."
"Such a condition of affairs may exist," replied Kai Lung, without any indication of
concern either one way or the other; "yet it is an undeniable fact that they reward this
commonplace story-teller's too often underestimated efforts in a manner which betrays
them either to be of noble birth, or very desirous of putting to shame their less prosperous
neighbouring places."
"Such exhibitions of uncalled-for lavishness are merely the signs of an ill-regulated and
inordinate vanity," remarked a Mandarin of the eighth grade, who chanced to be passing,
and who stopped to listen to Kai Lung's words. "Nevertheless, it is not fitting that a
collection of decaying hovels, which Wu-whei assuredly is, should, in however small a
detail, appear to rise above Shan-Tzu, so that if the versatile and unassuming Kai Lung
will again honour this assembly by allowing his well-constructed bowl to pass freely to
and fro, this obscure and otherwise entirely superfluous individual will make it his
especial care that the brass of Wu-whei shall be answered with solid copper, and its
debased pewter with doubly refined silver."
With these encouraging words the very opportune Mandarin of the eighth grade himself
followed the story-teller's collecting-bowl, observing closely what each person
contributed, so that, although he gave nothing from his own store, Kai Lung had never
before received so honourable an amount.
"O illustrious Kai Lung," exclaimed a very industrious and ill-clad herb-gatherer, who, in
spite of his poverty, could not refrain from mingling with listeners whenever the story-
teller appeared in Shan Tzu, "a single piece of brass money is to this person more than a