ancient 1980s secret, huh?
September 18, 2009 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Another lost-childhood-book-filter. Time period: late 80s. This chapter book aimed at middle readers was a collection of Asian (Chinese or Japanese) folk tales centering on a wise man who served in the court of the emperor.

The one story I remember involved the emperor receiving a gift of a priceless vase which he loved far too much; the wise man ultimately threw the vase to the ground, cracking it, so that the emperor would get over himself. The illustrations were done in a style similar to Usagi Yojimbo. I believe the wise man was an actual historical figure, but it wasn't Confucius. Possibly Zhuangzi.

Ring any bells?
posted by roger ackroyd to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Could it have been Ooka the Wise?

I don't remember the vase story you described, but Ooka the Wise had another story involving a broken vase.
posted by zerzura at 5:32 PM on September 18, 2009

The story of the noodle shop keeper who sued for the price of the smell of his food and was paid with the sound of coins jingling popped into my head and on preview, what zerzura said. Maybe folktales of Ooka the wise?
posted by baserunner73 at 7:11 PM on September 18, 2009

I'm pretty sure the guy in my book wasn't a judge. I remember a shaved head and robes, which leads me to believe he was a monk.

Having said that, I will check out Ooka, if I can get my hands on a copy.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:33 PM on September 18, 2009

The story you quote is a Buddhist tale that appeared in Wisdom of the Zen Masters, edited and illustrated by Tsai Chih Chung (well-known Taiwanese comic artist), translated by Koh Kok Kiang. No chance it was that? Not really a kid's picture book and probably too recent (first translated late 80s it seems from that bio page), though.
posted by Abiezer at 11:00 PM on September 18, 2009

Oops, I think it was actually in Zen Speaks by the same guy.
posted by Abiezer at 11:18 PM on September 18, 2009

Abiezer, close but not the book I'm thinking of. I actually had one of the books from this series.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:47 AM on September 19, 2009

These sound like the Judge Dee novels written by Robert van Gulik.
posted by gum at 7:11 AM on September 20, 2009

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