There are many stories from ancient China that carry a lot of wisdom into the busy lives we live today. The following stories originate from ancient Chinese philosophy, offering a unique and beautiful message for your contemplation.

2 Monks and a Woman

A senior monk and a junior monk were travelling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.

Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”


This simple story reminds us to live in the present moment and how we so often hold onto resentment and are blind to the fact the only person we are hurting is ourselves. We all go through times in life of hurt and grief but we always have the opportunity to hold onto it or let it go.

The 3 Vinegar Tasters

Three wise sages, Confucius (Confucianism), Buddha (Buddhism) & Lao Tzu (Taoism) sat gathered around a vat of vinegar.

Confucius tasted first and had a sour look on his face. To Confucius, the present was out of step with the past and the government of man was out of step with the way of the universe and believed imposing strict rules would keep order.

Buddha wore a bitter expression, to him the world was a setter of traps, a revolving wheel of pain for all creatures and in order to find peace you needed to transcend the world of dust and reach Nirvana.

Lao Tzu however, just smiled. To Lao Tzu, the harmony that naturally existed between heaven and earth could be found by anyone at anytime. He believed the rules of man would complicate this harmony and that life was not a setter of traps but a teacher of valuable lessons.


In this story, the vinegar represents the essence of life. We all sometimes try to fit square pegs into round holes soon realise this is not the way it’s meant to work. This ancient story can remind us to accept that everything has an inner nature and by not forcing rules or change upon it we can find peace in everything we do and everything we interact with.

This article was written by freelance writer, Lachlan Cornell