My dear Kacvey,

Here is a very ancient Chinese tale that Chinese of every generation, educated or otherwise, since that time knows by heart. You may wish to share it with your students as a lesson of righteousness, integrity and rectitude. It is out of this tale that were borne the origins of both, the sticky rice dumplings 粽子 (glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves) and the Duanwu Festival 端午节 (Double Fifth Festival), also known as the “Dragon Boat Festival” celebrated on every 5 May.

In the “Songs of the South 楚辭”, the tale was titled “The Old Fisherman 渔父” and goes as follows:
“After Qu Yuan was banished, he wandered, sometimes along the river’s banks, sometimes along the marsh’s edge, singing as he went. His expression was dejected and his features emaciated.

“An old fisherman caught sight of him. “Are not you the Lord of the Three Wards?” said the fisherman. “What has brought you to this pass?”

“Because all the world is muddy and I alone am clear,” said Qu Yuan, “and because all men are drunk and I alone am sober, I have been sent into exile.”

“The Wise Man is not chained to material circumstances,” said the old fisherman, “but can move as the world moves. If all the world is muddy, why not help them to stir up the mud and beat up the waves? And if all men are drunk, why not sup their dregs and swill their lees? Why get yourself exiled because of your deep thoughts and your fine aspirations?”

“Qu Yuan replied, “I have heard it said: “He who has just washed his hair should brush his hat; and he who has just bathed should shake his clothes.” How can I submit my spotless purity to the dirt of others? I would rather cast myself into the waters of the river and be buried in the bowels of fishes, than hide my shining light in the dark and dust of the world.”

“The old fisherman, with a faint smile, struck his paddle in the water and made off. And as he went he sang:
When the Cang Lang’s waters are clear,
I can wash my hat-strings in them;
When the Cang Lang’s waters are muddy,
I can wash my feet in them.

“With that he was gone, and did not speak again.”

Here is the Chinese text:

屈原既放,游于江潭,行吟泽畔。颜色憔悴,形容枯槁。
渔父见而问之,曰:“子非三闾大夫欤?何故至于斯”
屈原曰:“举世皆浊我独清,众人皆醉我独醒,是以见放”
渔父曰:”圣人不凝滞于物,而能与世推移。世人皆浊,何不淈其泥而扬其波?众人皆醉,何不哺其糟而歠其醨?何故深思高举,自令放为”
屈原曰:“吾闻之:新沐者必弹冠,新浴者必振衣。安能以身之察察,受物之汶汶者乎?宁赴湘流,葬身于江鱼之腹中。安能以皓皓之白,而蒙世俗之尘埃乎”
渔父莞尔而笑,鼓枻而去。乃歌曰:“沧浪之水清兮,可以濯吾缨。沧浪之水浊兮,可以濯吾足”
遂去,不复与言.