Black Beast

I have heard His Excellency Li Jingyi say: A certain gentleman in Shenyang held a banquet on a mountaintop. As he looked down at the mountain, a tiger came carrying something in its mouth, used its claws to dig a hole in the ground, buried the object and left. He sent men to search the burial spot and they found a dead deer, so they took the deer and covered over the hole again.

   Soon, the tiger led a black beast there that had fur several inches long. The tiger ran in front, as if inviting an honoured guest. When they reached the hole, the beast squatted down to wait, glaring menacingly. The tiger searched the hole but the deer was gone – trembling, the tiger lay flat, not daring to move a muscle. Furious at this deception, the beast smote the tiger’s forehead with its claws and the tiger died on the spot. The beast then left directly.

 

The Cryptohistorian says: The name of the beast is unknown, but having asked its appearance, it was barely bigger than the tiger, so why was the tiger terrified of it to such an extent as to meekly accept death?

   All things seem to have their master, often quite inexplicably. For example, macaques fear golden monkeys most of all – when they see some in the distance they’ll gather in their tens or hundreds, kneel down in a circle and none dare escape. With glazed eyes and barely breathing, they wait for the golden monkeys to come, which then use their paws to feel if the macaques are fat or lean – the plump ones will have a stone put on their heads as a marker. The petrified macaques crouch there motionless, terrified in case the stone should drop. When the golden monkeys have finished their deliberations then one by one they eat those marked with stones, after which the rest disperse with a din.

   I have often observed that corrupt officials are like the golden monkeys, judging whether the people are fat or lean and marking them, then gobbling them up; and the people just bow their heads and wait to be eaten, not daring to breathe. The situation of the simple folk is just like that. How lamentable!