Monday, May 05, 2008

The eel that arched her abdomen

In ancient China (Song dynasty? (960–1279)), there lived an educated man named 周豫(Zhou Yu). One day, his friend brought him some fresh eels, a delicacy that Zhou Yu liked very much. Having little to do that day, Zhou Yu wanted to try his culinary skills, which he had long left unused, and prepared to make a batch of unseasoned eel stew.

He placed the eels in a pot, and when the stew began to boil, Zhou Yu lifted the lid and saw an extraordinary phenomenon: One of the eels had pushed its abdomen upward in an arch, leaving its head and tail in the soup. With great curiosity, Zhou Yu immediately spooned the eel out of the soup and cut open its abdomen. To his amazement, he saw countless eggs inside. In order to protect its spawn, the mother eel had struggled to prevent hot water from hurting its abdomen by pushing its body into an arch.

The sight left Zhou Yu dumbfounded, and he could not contain his tears. Even an eel knew how to protect its eggs, he thought, yet he, a human being, the highest of all creatures, had not been filial to his mother. Deeply moved, Zhou Yu vowed never to eat eel again. And he loved and respected his mother evermore.

Original writing

“学士周豫,尝烹鳝。见有鞠身向上,以首尾就烹者,讶而剖之,腹中累累有子,鞠躬避汤耳… 物类之甘心忍痛,而护惜鞭子如此。恻然感叹,永断不食。” --《护生录; hu sheng lu; Protecting-lives-records》

"xue shi zhou yu, chang peng shan. jian you ju shen xiang shang, yi shou wei jiu peng zhe, ya er pou zhi, fu zhong lei lei you zi, ju gong bi tang er... wu lei zhi gan xin ren tong, er hu xi bian zi ru ci. ce ran gan tan, yong duan bu shi." --《护生录; hu sheng lu; Protecting-lives-records》

“Scholar Zhou Yu, tried to cook eels. [He] saw an eel bowed up, with head and tail fully cooked in soup. Puzzled, [he] cut open the eel, abdomen strains of eggs, bowing to avoid soup… living kinds willing to suffer, to protect babies at such. Deeply touched and sighed: Never to eat eels. ” --《护生录; hu sheng lu; Protecting-lives-records》

The story tells us:

“Animals do not live without feelings, emotions.
Neither do they live without love.”

Like you and I,
animals have mothers who care about them,
even when they die, babies come first.

Happy Mother's day
to all animals!
All living beings!

Shall we celebrate this Mother's day without taking lives? with vegetarian food?

1) I was preparing to translate this article from ancient Chinese expressions to English when I stumbled upon this writing. Apparently Sonoflight, a blogger from China, had already done the translation a while ago. Her narration of the story is of my taste and I can’t resist but to ‘borrow’ her work over here. Thank you, Sonoflight. A good job, indeed. The original article is at:

2) Original writing, quote from 《护生录; hu sheng lu; Protecting-lives-records》, was written probably during the time of Song dynasty (960–1279). A slightly more illustrated version (by John Lew, for the sake of more complete sense. Pin Yin pronunciation and English translation by John Lew) is shown above in Chinese language. Anyway, there is more than one version with slight difference in wordings.

3) The first illustration (首尾就烹; shou wei jiu peng; Head-Tail-In-Cooking) is by the late Mr. 丰子恺 (Feng Zi-Kai) in his book 《护生画集》第二集39; hu sheng hua ji; Protecting-lives-drawing-collections, 2nd episode, page 39. Origin of the second illustration (烹鳝; peng shan; Cooking-Eels) is unknown, though the style looks similar to that of the first one.


The Runner, Dreamer, Observer, Seeker said...

Thanks for sharing this story and at such an appropriate time for Mother's Day. Personally it brought to mind how often I assumed she is okay when she is not. I'll like to share some of my thoughts too...
MY MOTHER IS INCOMPLETE : She gave part of herself when she gave birth to me. "Have I considered that when I was judging her, I was actually defining myself?"
MY MOTHER IS A CHRONIC WORRIER : She nagged us all the time. We thought it was worry, she thought it was love. "Have I ever try to listen from a non-judgmental mind and hear her message of love instead?"
MY MOTHER IS LOST IN HER LONELINESS...All she needs is someone to chat. "When was the last time I had a good chat with my mom?"
A nagger she was, but if I had chosen to understand her motive behind those words - I would have heard love instead of nagging. Surely I would hear her differently if I was silent in the midst of her voice.

Anonymous said...

If only more and more people care more about building good relationship with their parents...

Lau said...

Hi , Dr. John,

Much appreciated to you...

A real compassionate person treats all living beings as her own body.
If his or her body is in pain and feels cold, or hurts a bit, he or she will care for this body wholeheartedly.
The one who realizes the enlightened mind and sees into the original nature can thoroughlyunderstand the suffering of all sentient beings.
It's because the enlightened one is closely connected with the whole universe.
That' to say: " great compassion embraces all beinga".


John J. C. Lew said...

Dear Sylvia,

Thank you for sharing the idea of an enlightened being. We're all working toward the direction.

There's hope in this chaotic world, after all.