Audio Story: The Man Who Lost His Horse

The story The man who lost his horse (塞翁失马 Sàiwēngshīmǎ) is a classic Chinese tale of equanimity in the face of changing fortunes, with a moral roughly comparable to the English idiom of “a blessing in disguise” – though of course misfortune also comes in disguise!

Read on to find out more about the story and listen to our narration!

Qing dynasty (1644-1912) edition of the Huai Nan Zi.

This story is from a Han dynasty (202BC-220AD) text called the Huai Nan Zi (淮南子) by Liu An, Prince of Huainan. The Huai Nan Zi is a collection of essays that blend Taoist, Confucianist, and Legalist concepts, including theories such as Yin-Yang. The text was completed sometime in the late 130s, which we know because it was recorded that Liu An visited his nephew, Emperor Wu, in 139 and presented him with a copy of his “recently completed” book!

The story, perhaps created for the Huai Nan Zi, illustrates a basic principle of Taoism: “Misery is what happiness rests upon. Happiness is what misery lurks beneath. Who knows where it ends?” that was first mentioned in the Dao De Jing from the 4th century BC. 

So remember, the next time something happens -whether good or bad – accept it as a gift that you can learn from!

Night Shining White by Han Gan (c.750)

Which classic Chinese tale should we read next? Let us know in the comments below. We always love hearing your thoughts and insights! 

Photo Credits: Public Domain

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