On passing a wealthy merchant’s house, the stonecutter peered through an open gateway and was awed by the exquisite possessions and esteemed visitors. “What power that merchant must wield!” thought the stonecutter. Overwhelmed with envy, he wished that he could be like the merchant. He would happily leave behind the life of a stonecutter.
All of a sudden, the stonecutter became the merchant. He reveled in more luxury and power than he dreamed possible, and he was envied and despised by those with fewer riches. Then a high official passed by, borne by servants carrying his sedan chair, and attended by soldiers. Even the wealthiest citizens were compelled to bow before this procession. Noting the official’s great power, the merchant thought “I wish I could be a high official!”
Lo and behold, the merchant was transformed into a high ranking official. He was carried throughout the land in a regal sedan chair, and was loathed by those subjects forced to bow as he passed. One hot summer day, the official was sweltering in the hot and sticky sedan chair. Looking up, he noticed the sun glaring down from the sky. The sun was completely unmoved and unaffected by his presence. “The sun is so very powerful,” he thought, “I want to be the sun!”
And then our official became the sun, shining with merciless ferocity on his subjects. He was cursed by farmers and laborers alike. All at once, a huge black cloud came between the sun and the earth, blocking the sun’s harsh light and heat from the land below. Observing the storm cloud’s superior power, the sun wished to become a cloud.
He was transformed into a cloud, flooding the fields and villages, reviled by all. Soon, however, the cloud was displaced by a mighty force. He realized it was the wind. “Oh, the power of the wind,” thought he, “I wish I could be the wind!”
As he became the wind, he blew roofs off homes and uprooted mighty trees. He was feared and hated by all below him on earth. But the wind came upon a force that could not be moved. He blew and blew against the towering stone, but to no avail. In the face of such power, the wind wished to be turned to stone.
He became the stone, at last convinced that he was more powerful than any other person, force or object on or above earth. Yet while standing proud and strong, he heard the unmistakable sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into solid stone. He felt his very form being changed. “What could be more powerful than I?” he wondered. He looked down, and far below he saw the stonecutter.
Traditional, translated from the Chinese
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