Grandfather’s Wooden Bowl

Grandfather's Wooden Bowl

Long ago, there lived a man in the Middle Kingdom who had come from humble beginnings. Through careful spending and an industrious character, he rose to become a merchant of some renown, and in due course he married and fathered a son. Life was good.

War, however, takes its toll, and in the spring of one year the merchant’s mother left the world of the living amid failing crops and poor health. Fearing the worst, the merchant brought his venerable father out of their ancestral village to live in the city, where he could be cared for by his son and daughter-in-law. Daily, the old farmer supplemented his grandson’s education with scraps of wisdom borrowed from the Sages. It was plain for all to see that he had great pride in his son, and he lost no opportunity¬†to express his love and affection.

As the years passed, the farmer grew infirm. His eyes lost the brightness they once held. His hands, once deft and powerful, became thin and clumsy, and he moved about with a shuffling step as he clung to the walking stick which propped up his fragile form. Still, he spoke kindly and did not lament his old age. Whenever he would spill the tea, he would laugh and wink at his grandson, saying, “Ai! The Kitchen God must have been impatient with thirst.”

Sometimes it was a tender morsel dropped from his¬†kuaizi, and the old farmer would look to his grandson and say, “Ai! A mosquito bit me, did you see?”

Then, when he broke his bowl by accident, “Ai! My son, the merchant, is too generous. How can I hold such a large portion?”

Eventually, the merchant and his wife grew angry at the old farmer, and they resolved to keep him away from anything he might upset. He was forbidden to touch the tea, made to eat with his hands, and placed at a low table at dinner to drink from a wooden cup and eat from a plain wooden bowl. Still, the old farmer spoke no ill word against his son.

One day, the merchant’s son sat outside, whiling away the autumn hours by fashioning little wooden trinkets. The merchant returned from his day’s labours and laughed gaily when he saw his son engaged in being productive rather than begging his mother for watermelon seeds or sweets.

He asked the child, “What is all this, then? Do I not buy toys enough, that you are forced to make your own?”

“No,” the boy replied. “I am practicing.”

The merchant saw then that his son was working intently at carving out a wooden bowl from a block of wood. With some apprehension, he asked, “Practicing for what, my son? To be a carpenter?”

“No,” the boy replied again. “We will not have to waste good money when you and mother are old if I learn how to make your bowls now.”


The old farmer was seated at the place of honour for that evening’s meal, and he sat there for every meal thereafter until the end of his days.

JC Augustus Lai Andurin

JC Augustus Lai Andurin

J.C. Augustus Lai Andurin is an Irish-American author and philosopher. Having spent much of his life traveling the U.S., Europe, and Asia, he has a fierce wanderlust and thirst for knowledge. Despite his adventurous spirit, he is a husband and father, first and foremost, with three wonderful children.
JC Augustus Lai Andurin

Latest posts by JC Augustus Lai Andurin (see all)