A Dream Deer, or a Dear Dream?
Listen to the strange events which took place in the China of long ago:
A peasant was gatheing fuel one day in the forest when he came upon a deer, which was as startled as he was. Running after it and wanting it for food, he somehow managed to kill it. Looking around to see if anyone had seen him, he hastily hid the carcass in a ditch, covering it well with leaves. Then he went home to get help for carrying it back for a feast. He brought his brother with him into the forest, but could not find the place at all, where he had hidden the deer. Quite confused, he told his brother the whole story. "I wonder if I could have been dreaming!" he exclaimed.
They did not see that there was another woodsman nearby. Overhearing the description of the hiding-place, this man went looking for it and actually found the deer carcass. Being large and strong, he was able to carry the deer home. He said to his wife: "I heard a man in the woods say that he dreamt he had got a deer, but did not know where it was. Now I have got the deer; so his dream is no dream, but a reality."
"It is you," said his wife, "who have been dreaming. You dreamt of a woodsman who caught a deer, but obviously it is you who have caught the deer; so how can his dream be real?"
"True," her husband agreed. "As I have got the deer, it makes little difference whether the woodsman dreamt the deer or I have dreamt the woodsman. Let us hang up the carcass for preparation."
Our first peasant reached home, much annoyed at losing the deer. That night he actually dreamt where the deer was located, in whose house it lay. In the morning he went to that house and, sure enough, there was the deer. He decided to go to court at once and make a legal complaint to recover possession. When the magistrate of the court came in and heard the case, this is what he finally said: "The plaintiff (the first woodsman) began with a real deer and a supposed dream. He now comes forward with a real dream and a supposed deer. The defendant (second woodsman) really got the deer which the plaintiff said he dreamt, and is now trying to keep it; while his wife says both the plaintiff and the deer are nothing but a dream, so that no one got a deer at all. However here is a deer: so you had better divide it between the two of you."
When the Prince of Cheng (who ruled over that district) heard this story, he exclaimed, "The magistrate himself must have dreamt the whole case!" He asked his prime minister for his opinion.
"Only the wisest of the wise, such as Confucius himself," replied the prime minister, "can understand exactly the difference between dream and reality. You had better confirm the magistrate's decision."
[And if you can untangle this mystery, you are one of the wisest of the wise!]