The Evergreen Tree and the Wilderness Marigold
When the springtime comes in China, the marigold (long-life flower) grows everywhere—on the mountains, in the fields, and by the river side.
The marigold is very proud of its great family which is so numerous that the earth seems hardly large enough for it.
Once there was a marigold family that lived beneath an evergreen tree. They grew together all summer long, side by side, arms interwoven with arms, and leaves mingling with leaves.
Every year the tree grew larger, until at last no more sunshine or rain could come through its thick leaves and branches.
One day the marigold said to the evergreen tree, “Whom does this mountain belong to? You are only one, while our family grow in thousands everywhere. We have beautiful flowers from the summer time until the autumn comes. These flowers bear seeds that live through the winter, and in the spring another generation appears. In the summer time people come many miles to this mountain to see us.
“These people take our flowers home. Some of us they put in baskets and call basket flowers. Some they put in the maidens’ hair and they call us maiden flowers. School boys like us on their tables and the pupils say we are their flowers. Old people gather us for their birthdays and we are called long-life flowers, and when maidens are married, our flowers are placed in a dish and they worship the Flower God, and call us the pure flower.
“So you see how pretty the names are that have been given us and how many people need us for their happiness.
“We must bring more and more flowers into the world, for there are not enough even yet.
“But we that live under your shade are not happy. You take away the sun so that he never shines on us, and when the rain comes, not a drop can reach our throats. The breeze comes, but never into our house—no fresh air, no sunshine, no rain, until we fear that we shall die.
“For eighty years our family has lived here. Our children sometimes say, ‘We hope that next year we may have sunshine,’ or ‘We hope that we may soon have rain to drink.’ Still no sunshine and no rain can reach us.
“You have destroyed many of our people. When will you allow us to have sun, rain, and air? Do you not know that you are killing us?”
Then the evergreen tree said, “My dear friend, I can not prevent this. Your people are more easily moved than I am. We are three brothers who have lived here hundreds of years and we are here forever. If our great bodies were moved we should die. It is you who should go away from here. Your seeds are light and it would be easy for them to go.
“When summer comes the children need us here. When the sun is hot the boys and girls sit under our shade, and even though we may kill some of your family, yet must we serve mankind. Do you not know that the children hang swings, and that women hang their babies’ beds in our arms? The children also play ride-the-horse, and climb up in our arms, and have many games in our shade.
“Although we serve them and make them happy, yet they are not always kind to us, for sometimes they cut our bark. Students write words in my body with a sharp knife, but I can not prevent it. I have cried many years about this one thing and I would like to go away from here—but how can I move?
“I do not wish to hurt you, dear friend, any more than I wish to be hurt by others; but I am a mountain evergreen and must stand here forever. I hope you will be able to go, for we do not want to quarrel.”
The marigold bowed her head and made no reply. And a deep silence came over the evergreen tree as he grew and grew, a year and a hundred years, and many, many more.
Ee-Sze (Meaning): The weak can not live with the strong. The poor can not stay with the rich. Only equals are happy together.
From Chinese Fables and Folk Stories, Mary Hayes Davis & Chow-Leung.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company, 1908.