The Love of Life

79. The Butcher's Face

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Ch’ien Meihsi recorded the story of Hsueh Ch’ingkuan, the goat butcher. He ran his own little store selling mutton and mutton soup. The fame of his delicious mutton soup spread far and wide, bringing lots of customers. Some people even traveled for days to taste his soup, and they all went home satisfied.

With business like that, Hsueh became rich in a short time.

Some of his friends were Buddhists, and told him not to kill any more goats. “You’ve earned enough money. Don’t be greedy. We’re not beasts in the jungle, you know. Killing animals is a terrible crime against the universe. You just can’t get away with it. Sooner or later your bad deeds will catch up with you, and then no matter how much money you have, it won’t do you any good.

“Look, Hsueh, why don’t you just use your money to invest in some other kind of business? You can still make lots of money, and at the same time, you can repent and do good deeds to make up for all your crimes. Otherwise, you’ll be in big trouble, and even your children and grandchildren will catch it.”

Nobody likes to listen to good advice. Hsueh just snorted and sneered. “I’m too smart to believe in that kind of old wives’ tale. Don’t think you’re going to spook me with these fairy tales! Crimes against the universe! What nonsense!”

When Hsueh was about forty, he got a strange disease. His mouth started to jut out, and his jaw got longer. He had a dumb look in his eyes. Actually, all in all, he looked just like a goat!

Pretty soon all the local people knew that Hsueh Ch’ingkuan was looking just like a goat. They all came to see for themselves. They wouldn’t say anything to him, but every day, crowds of people came to look at Hsueh. Then they would turn to their friends and whisper to each other and nod their heads. Hsueh got tired of that in a hurry! None of the doctors could do anything for him, but they all agreed that he sure did look just like a goat.

Hsueh was so frustrated that he thought he would lose his mind, but he was too stubborn to admit that he might have been wrong. He refused to admit that maybe he shouldn’t kill so many goats.

Finally, on a business trip to Anhui, he fell in a river and drowned. They never did find his corpse.

The sad thing is that Hsueh didn’t have to suffer humiliation and a sudden death. If he had been less greedy, and more willing to consider the requirements of our conscience, he could have lived a long and happy life.

But money, stupidity, and stubbornness were more valuable to him than happiness, good health, and wisdom.


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