The Clay Figure and the Wooden Image
When Lord Mengchang decided to leave his native land—the state of Qi—to take office in the state of Qin, hundreds of men tried to dissuade him from going. But he would not listen to them. Then Su Jin, the rhetorician, wanted to reason with him.
“I have heard all the arguments men can think of,” said Lord Mengchang. “All that’s lacking is some supernatural reasoning.”
“I came here with no intention of discussing human affairs,” replied Su Jin. “I am asking for an audience to speak of the supernatural.”
Then the lord admitted him, and Su Jin told the following story:
“Passing the River Zi on my way here, I heard a clay figure and a peach-wood image talking together.
“‘You used to be a piece of clay on the west bank,’ jeered the wooden image. ‘Now you have been made into a figure. But during the big rains in the eighth month, when the river rises, you are sure to be destroyed.’
“‘What of it?’ retorted the clay figure. ‘I come from the west bank, and when I am destroyed I shall become part of it again. But you are made of peach wood from the east country, carved into an image. When the great rains come and the river rises, you will be swept away, and then what will you do?’
“The state of Qin has strong passes on every side, so to enter it is like entering a tiger’s mouth! Once you go to Qin, I fear you will never come back.”
Then the lord gave up his plan.
–Warring States Anecdotes