Once upon a time there was a curious man from China who wore a magical pair of glasses. Everywhere he looked he saw things other people could not see.


(Chapter three)

A bevy of fine feathered peacocks strutting in front of a towering palace. Cheerful sparrows nesting in the ramparts. At the gate a crow lying in a pile of feathers. The sun shinning from above the highest tower, forming a background for a silhouetted eagle in flight.

Captain Li pored over each fine pencil stroke of this amazing paper tapestry.

“Brilliant!  This is a work of patriotic genius!  Look here, the shading around the eagle directs all the light to reach the birds on the ground.”

“It looks like a bird zoo to me, comrade,” his young aide exclaimed.

“You are a peasant, Wang! You don’t see the Chairman’s aura guiding the light to the grateful sparrows?” Captain Li chided his subordinate.  “I suppose you also cannot see the beauty of the officers of the People’s Army in the strong, straight lines of the tall peacocks, or a disgraced comrade in the pathetic pose of the fallen crow?”

“Well, yes.  Now that you mention it, it does remind me of the power of the proletariat, sir,” Wang quickly corrected himself, not wanting to appear unpatriotic as well as uneducated.

“Find out whose work this is and bring him to me immediately,” Captain Li ordered.

“Ah, sir, I’m afraid that’s impossible.”

“‘Impossible’! Are you defying my order?”

“Well, uh, sir, you see, the artist is, is..”

“Is what? Speak up you fool!”

“The truth is, he is being held at a reeducation camp in the countryside.”

“Who the hell sent him there? Bring that moron here and I’ll have him sent to a camp.”

“That might not be such a good idea, sir.  It was Colonel Cho who had the young artist arrested.”

“How do you know that, Wang?”

“I was at the People’s Court last week. Colonel Cho was the officer in charge.  A sergeant brought him that picture.  He too was impressed, but not so favorably as you, sir.”

“Why the hell not? What could he possibly have found offensive?”

“Maybe the Colonel has different artistic tastes, sir.”

“Are you trying to insult me, Wang?”

“Certainly not , sir.  All I know is that he took the paper, looked it over carefully on both sides, and went into a rage, ordering the boy be arrested.”

“Both sides? ” Captain Li turned the paper over, and there he saw a crude sketch of a fat pig chewing on some heart shaped leaves with a meandering circle scribbled around the picture.

“Get the car, Wang.  We are going to headquarters. I will take this directly to General Wu.”


“Colonel, would you please explain to the captain your decision to arrest the author of this scribbling,” General Wu requested, barely able to suppress a yawn.

“Captain Li, do you mean to tell me that your knowledge of our nation’s geography is so poor? Did you not recognize that this pig is eating a cluster of ramie leaves?” Colonel Cho asked with unmistaken condescension.

“Ramie leaves?”

“Yes. The heart shaped leaves that adorn the great land of Hunan, the homeland of our enlightened leader. And for those like you who need extra clues, the treasonous artist drew a clear outline of Hunan Province around this disgusting pig.”

“Well, does that satisfy you captain? This insidious depiction is obviously subversive propaganda suggesting that our great leader is a low life scoundrel fattening himself on the labor of the people. It is only fitting that he should live out the rest of his life tending pigs,” the general concluded.

“Yes, sir, I agree that the picture on the back is offensive and treasonous.  However, with all due respect sir, I would like to point out that the crudeness of the pig drawing strongly suggests it could not possibly be the work of the master who sketched the peacock drawing,” Captain Li persisted.

“Then how do you explain the man’s admission to having penned both the peacocks and the pig?” Colonel Cho countered.

“I am sorry to have troubled you both.  But may I request permission to interrogate the prisoner myself?  I cannot believe that one man could possess both the patriotism that inspired the peacock drawing and the heresy that dictated the pig sketch,”  the junior officer pleaded.

“Why are you making such a fuss over one lousy picture, Captain?” Colonel Cho asked in sincere astonishment.  “The young hooligan who drew them is nothing more than street rabble. Even if he didn’t draw the pig, his confinement serves as an example to other subversives.”

Captain Li saw that his case was weak and that he might even be placing himself in jeopardy, but he made one last plea.

“I beg your pardon, sir.  But in my ten years at the Peoples Art Academy I have rarely seen anything as inspiring as the peacock picture.  Even if we must rehabilitate the artist, the country needs his talents to further the glory of the revolution.”

“Very well,” proclaimed the general, you may see him. But you will be fully responsible for his rehabilitation if you choose to have him released.

“Thank you sir. I will send a report, hopefully with another inspirational sketch attached.”

Colonel Cho dismissed the captain with the last word, “Do not forget the old saying, Captain Li, ‘He who gives wings to the pig must prepare for heavy precipitation.'”

“You made that up,” Captain Li suggested.

“Yes.  But it is you who could make it happen.  Good luck, Captain.”

(To be continued)