But He Looks So Benign
A joke from Qing dynasty told of a man who had intended to buy a picture of a door-god. He bought one of a Taoist priest by mistake and pasted it up ...
Historical Chinese homes were decorated with posters of door-gods on their doors. The door-gods were supposed to act as guards of their homes against ghosts. They usually featured frightening swordsmen with threatening postures, expressions and weapons. A joke from Qing dynasty told of a man who had intended to buy a picture of a door-god. He bought one of a Taoist priest by mistake and pasted it up on the front door. “A door-god is supposed to hold a sword in one hand and a hatchet in the other,” said his wife. “That’s why ghosts are afraid of door-gods. This one looks so benign. What’s the use of having his picture pasted there?” “Don’t talk like that,” warned her husband. “Nowadays, one who looks benign often acts with vicious intent.”
This joke from Qing dynasty is hardly hilarious. When I first heard it, it did not make me laugh or giggle. Instead, I found it so frightening that it sent chills through my spine. On the stage of life, actors hardly have to wear the costumes or facial expressions to match their parts. The deceitful person recites the most comforting and reassuring lines. He gets so upset having heard about your problem. He offers his help and advice in spite of his very busy schedule. While he is talking to you, his phone rings and it is the Mayor seeking his help. Just as he finishes the phone call, another celebrity has called to thank him for his advice. There are no close-ups of a tell-tale wicked smile at the corner of his mouth that you can recognize a villain by, as in movies. You feel absolutely blessed and grateful to be so lucky to have met this respectful and helpful person. Even business cards are equally deceitful these days. The most junior member in the team is the Assistant Vice-President. Sometimes you wonder whom or what he is presiding over. Then there comes the CV. This successful person is the chairman of numerous corporations. What it doesn’t tell you is that these numerous corporations are all related companies owned by the same person, and staffed by the same 3 people, namely the person, his wife and his mother-in-law. And we have these ads showing how these services solve so many different kinds of problems for their clients. And all these wonderful new products that you can’t afford not to know about. It is simply mankind’s biggest tragedy that so few people know about them. When my ten year old girl watches TV commercials, her eyes widen and she suggests that we should try out some of these amazing foods or drinks or toys or electronic gadgets. My response: “you don’t expect them to tell you how ordinary these products are, do you?”