"The Superlative Horse" retold by Deng Ming Tao

Arabian Horse Drawing 2013 09 13a
by Angel Ciesniarska

Duke Mu of Qin said to Bo Le, his best judge of horses: “You are growing old. Could I ask your sons to find horses for me in your place?”

Bo Le replied: “Anyone can find an excellent horse by looking at its build, its color, its muscles, and its bone structure. But only a rare few can find a superlative horse that raises no dust and leaves no tracks. Although my sons have the talent to find excellent horses, they cannot see a superlative horse. However, I do have a friend named Gao who is a firewood and vegetable hawker. His ability to choose horses is as good as mine. Please talk to him.”

So Duke Mu summoned Gao and hired him to look for horses. Gao returned after three months and reported that he had found a horse in Shaqiu.

The duke asked him eagerly: “What kind of horse is it?” Gao replied, “It is a brown mare.”

Duke Mu sent for the horse with great excitement. But he was disappointed weeks later when the grooms brought him a black stallion.

The duke was speechless with anger and summoned Bo Le. “This is terrible. The man you recommended doesn’t 2 know the difference between colors or whether a horse is a stallion or a mare! How can he possibly judge horses?”

Bo Le sighed deeply. “Has he progressed that far? Then he’s worth a million of me and there is no comparing us. His vision is superior! He sees the divine workings and the subtle essence instead of coarse appearances. He sees what’s inside and is not fooled by what’s outside. He sees what ought to be seen and ignores what ought to be ignored. Gao can truly judge horses!”

Bo Le asked to see the steed. When it was led in, he saw right away that it was a superlative horse.

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