China the Beautiful

A Deer Hunter Misplaced the Deer
(and thought he dreamt it.)

A woodsman from Zheng saw a deer in the field, shot and killed it. Afraid he would be caught, he hid the deer and covered it with banana leaves. He was pleased with himself.

Rightaway he forgot the hiding place, and thought that the whole episode was a dream! On his way home, he kept telling himself that it was only a dream. As he mumbled to himself about his dream, he was overheard by a passerby.

The passerby thought about what he had heard and figured out where the deer was hidden. He found the deer and took it home. He told his roommate, "The woodsman dreamt he killed the deer and forgot where he hid it. I now found the deer; so his dream must be true."
The roommate said,"Was there really a woodsman? Or did you dream the woodsman? Since you now have the deer, doesn't it mean that your dream is true?"

The man replied," I now have the deer. It doesn't matter whether his dream or my dream is true."

The woodman went home, and was depressed about his lost deer. That night he had a dream. He dreamt about the passerby who had heard of him talking to himself and then found the hidden deer. Next morning, following his dream, he found the passerby and the deer. So he took him to the Magistrate and sued for the recovery of the deer.

The Magistrate said,
"First the woodman killed the deer, but thought it was a dream. Then he dreamt that he killed the deer and believed it was real. He found the passerby with a real deer,so he sues for the deer.
The roommate said that the passerby got the deer from another man's dream; so the deer belongs to no one.
The deer is here and is real. Let it be divided equally between the two men."

The case was appealed to King Zheng, who jokingly remarked, "Jeez, next thing I will be told that the Magistrate had dreamt about dividing the deer." and sent the case to his Chief Adviser for an opinion.

The Adviser reported, "Sir, whether this case is about dreams or reality I cannot tell. Only (really wise men like) Huang Di or Confucius can differentiate dreams and realities. Since they are both dead, I recommend that we leave the Magistrate's decision be."

-Lie Zi, Han Dynasty

What is the moral of this story?
Does a Judge have unlimited wisdom?
Have you heard a similar story in Western literature?


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