Friday, February 13, 2009

Fish and Bear's Palm

Mencius said, "Fish is what I want. The bear's palm is also what I want. If I cannot have both, then I will give up the fish and take the bear's palm. 魚我所欲也 熊掌亦我所欲也 二者不可得兼 捨魚而取熊掌者也"

Because of the above writing, people have been thinking that the bear's palm must be very delicious. I remember one year when I was in Hong Kong, a group of very wealthy people bought a pair of bear's palm from China and shared them in a very special banquet. They arranged the banquet in a famous restaurant with the best cook. A lot of reporters were attracted there to interview everyone in this event. When asked about the taste of the bear's palm, here were some of the remarks:

(1) It is good, like beef but a little difficult to bite through.
(2) It is a rare opportunity. The flavour? Well, to tell you the truth, not as good a beef.
(3) Not worth the money.

I tried hard to understand why Mencius said he preferred the bear's palm to fish. One day, I got the answer. I will tell you in the next moment when I think aloud.



quahbkc said...

Hi Joseph,

I think it is easy to guess why Mencius said he preferred the bear's palm to fish. It is because he had not tried it before.

Päivi said...

Dear Joseph,

A neat riddle. I am waiting with great interest to see if our thoughts go along the same lines:-)

Päivi said...

Dear Joseph,

My first guess would be this Mencius' saying has something to do with bears being able to catch fish by hand.
It's better to be able to catch fish (have a bear's palm), than to be given a fish.

Just another example how careful one has to be with translations from old Chinese texts.