LITTLE CAO WEIGHS AN ELEPHANT
Very long ago the people in a small village in China gathered around a huge elephant. It was the biggest animal they had ever seen. It was two times as tall as a water buffalo. It was fifty times as big as a dog. It was a hundred times as fat as a goose.
“It can’t be that big!”
But it was.
Cao Cao, his wife and their son, Little Cao were looking at that elephant too.
“Where did it come from?” asked Little Cao. He was eight years old, and he always wanted to know things.
“From far away where the world is hot,” his father said. Cao Cao was the wisest person in the village. He spent all his time studying. He knew all the books of Confucius by heart.
Little Cao hoped that some day he would be as wise as his father. “What does an elephant do?” he asked.
“Who knows?” said his mother. “It’s a gift for the Emperor. He will know what to do with it.”
“How can it go from to the Emperor?” asked Little Cao. “The Emperor lives very far away.” “It will go by barge on the Grand Canal,” Cao Cao answered.
The barge owner was looking at the elephant. “I must know how much it weighs before I take it on my barge,” he said. “I charge by how much things weigh.”
“But how can weigh such a big animal?” asked the people. They scratched their heads and tried to think how to weigh the elephant. No one had scales big enough for the elephant.
Little Cao was thinking and thinking. “ I know how to weigh it,” he said at last. But no one heard him.
“Ask Cao Cao,” the people said. “He is the wisest person in the village.”
Cao Cao shut his eyes so that he could think better. Then he opened them again. “Confucius didn’t say how to weigh an elephant，”he said.
“What shall we do now?” the people said.
“I know how to weigh it,” Little Cao said again. But nobody listened.
Then everyone thought some more.
“Weigh one leg at a time,” said one.
“Put the elephant on a lot of scales,” said another. “Then add up how much it weighs.” Finally Tai Tai said to the barge owner, “Why not take elephant free of charge?”
“That’s all right for rich people to do,” answered the scale owner. “But it will not feed me or my family. To say nothing of my water buffalo.”
Everyone nodded. They knew he was right.
Then Little Cao pushed his way to the front. He said very loudly, “I know how to weigh the elephant!” This time everyone heard him. Everyone laughed at him.
“But I do know how!” Little Cao said. “If you are so wise, Little Cao, Tell us how to weigh this elephant.” But they laughed when they said it.
“Well, let’s hear it,” the people said. “If you are so wise, Little Cao, Tell us how to weigh this elephant.” But they laughed when they said it.
Little Cao didn’t mind. “Put the elephant on the barge,” he said.
“The barge isn’t a scale, you know,” the people said.
“I know,” Little Cao answered. “I will tell you how to weigh the elephant. First put it on the barge.”
So people did what he said. “Now what?” they asked.
“Now,” said Little Cao, “do you see where the water comes up to on the side of the barge? Make a mark there, all around.”
“Well!” said the people. “This is a strange way to weigh an elephant.” But they marked the side of the barge next to the land. Then the owner turned the barge around. They marked the other side.
“Now take the elephant off,” Little Cao said.
“Then what was all the work for, marking the barge?” the people groaned.
“Wait and see,” said Little Cao.
So the people let the elephant off again. They gave it some leaves to eat because it was getting cross.
““Now,” said Little Cao, “fill the barge with stones until the water comes up to the mark you made. Then take the stones off and weigh them a few at a time. Add them up. Then you will know how much the elephant weighs.”
“Of course!” everyone said. Why didn’t we think of that? That is how to weigh an elephant!” And they all said, “What a wise child! When he grows up, he will be almost as wise as his father!”
Cao Cao put his hand on Little Cao’s shoulder. “Wiser, I think,” he said.
“Of course,” said Cao’s wife. “He is my son too.”
So the people weighed the elephant just as Little Cao told them to. And the barge owner took it to the Emperor.
2014. 5. 1