◎ Zhang Xiaofeng
Long, long ago, in a very, very faraway place, a tribal chief found himself terminally ill.
He summoned three most promising young villagers to his bedside and said, “As I’m leaving you soon, I hope you can do one thing more for me. Young men, you three are all unusually strong and resourceful, so I’d like you to strive to climb that high mountain which we’ve always been worshipping as a sacred place. Now do your best to reach the topmost and most forbidding part of it and then turn back to tell me about your findings. ”
Three days later, the first young man returned smartly dressed and said with smiling face,
“Lord, I’ve been to the mountaintop where I saw flowers of all sorts lining both sides of a path, babbling spring water and singing birds. That’s a real nice place. ”
The old tribal chief replied smilingly,
“Son, I’ve been there before. The place with singing birds and fragrant flowers, as you mentioned, is not the mountaintop. It’s the foot of the mountain. Now you can leave. ”
A week later, the second young man also returned. He looked terribly weary and his face was weather-beaten.
“Lord, I’ve been to the mountaintop where I saw groves of tall, solemn pine trees and vultures circling in the air. That’s a real nice place. ”
“What a pity!”said the tribal chief. “Son, you’ve been halfway up the mountain rather than to its summit. But you had a real tough time. Now you can leave. ”
A month later, everybody began to worry about the safety of the third young man. However, he finally showed up, hobbling along in rags. His hair was off-coloured and his lips parched, but his eyes were clear and bright.
“Lord, I succeeded in reaching the summit. Well, what shall I say to you about it?There was nothing there but the wailing highland wind and the blue sky hanging over the land. ”
“So you saw nothing at all?Not even a butterfly?”
“No, lord, nothing. All you can see is yourself. You feel how insignificant you are in this infinite universe and how sorrowful and agitated you are at the thought of heroes through the ages. ”
“Son, you’ve reached the real mountaintop. According to our tradition, you’ll undoubtedly be made our new tribal chief. My best wishes to you. ”
What makes a real hero? A real hero has cuts and bruises all over his body, he is all alone on a long journey and he feels with increasing sincerity how small he is.