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He was at a loss as to how to behave all the time

Imitating Another without Success and Losing What Used to Be One’s Own Ability

Tradition has it that more than 2.000 years ago, there lived a young man in the Shouling area of the State of Yan. As his name is not known, we just call him Shouling young man for convenience’s sake.

Self confident He was at a loss as to how to behave all the time.

His family members advised him to overcome this shortcoming, but he thought they were fond of poking their noses into his business and were unwilling to provide him with tuiton fee. His relatives and neighbors sneered at him, saying that he would never be able to learn anything. As the days went by, he even began to doubt whether he should walk the way he did, felt more and more that his walking gestures were too clumsy and awkward.

One day, he met some people on the road who were chatting and laughing. One of them said that people in Handan walked most gracefully. And that was just what he was most concerned about, so he hurried towards the man wanted to make further inguiries. To his surprise, when these people saw him, they stalked off laughing.

He could not picture to himself in what way their walking gestures were graceful, no matter how hard he racked his parents one day. He went to Handan which was far away to learn how to walk.

As soon as he arrived in Handan, he was dazzled to find that everything was novel. He learned from the children there how to walk, because he thought that the children’s walking gestures were lively and pleasing to the eye. He learned from the old people there how to walk, because he thought the old people’s walking gestures were steady. He learned from the women there how to walk, because he thought the woman’ swaying walking gestures were beautiful. That being the case with him, in less that half a month he even forgot how to walk. As he had already used up his traveling expenses, he had to crawl back home.

This story come from article “Autumn Water” in The Works of Zhuang Zi (Zhung Zi was a famous ancient Chinese philosopher of about 300B.c). Later the set phrase “initiating another without success and losing what used to be one’s own ability” is used to refer to acts of copying others mechanically in disregard of specific conditions.

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