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jokes from ancient china

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An Out-and-out Bungler

Once upon a time there was a leading county official, who when settling lawsuits could never clearly distinguish between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, and merits and demerits. Therefore, the people nicknamed him "the bungler," and verses were made up to taunt him. Soon many people copied the verses and pasted them up on the walls in all the streets and lanes. The bungling official saw these posted and scolded his subordinates. "Outside there are official notices everywhere saying there are many bunglers throughout the county. Why aren't you out there arresting them?" He said to one of his messengers."I'll give you three days to arrest at least three bunglers. If you are one short, I will have no mercy!"

The messenger left the government office and loathed, "Damn him! Where am I going to arrest these bunglers?"

At the city gate the message happened to see a man riding with a parcel on his head. He went straight up to the man and asked, "Why don't you put the parcel on the horse's back?"

"I am afraid it will be too heavy for the horse," said the man. "I put it on my head to lighten its burden."

"This fellow can be counted as a bungler," said to him the messenger and arrested the riding man.

He went back to the city gate again where he fortunately found a country bumpkin holding a long bamboo pole and attempting to go through the city gate. He first tried to enter holding the pole vertically, but the gate was too low. Then, holding it horizontally, he found the gate was too narrow. Pacing up and down the country bumpkin hadn't the slightest idea how to get into the city.

"This guy can be counted as a bungler, too." The messenger arrested this man. Now only once was left to be caught.

Having heard the two men's stories, the official laughed at the first bungler and said, "How foolish you are! Carrying the parcel on your head, isn't this letting your horse take advantage of you"

"You fool!" the official, turning to the bungler with the pole, sneered, "Why didn't you break this long pole into two? If the pole is broken into two short ones, you can enter the gate."

Hearing the bungling official's muddled talk, the messenger knelt down and reported, "I've just found the third bungler."

"Where? Go and get him here quickly," said the official.

"When the next county official arrives, I will get the third one at once," answered the messenger.

(Compiled and Translated by Liu Jiangting et al.)

                                             


 

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