Sima Guang Breaks The Vat
Illustrated By: Tristan Liu
Sima Guang was nine years old. He liked to play in his backyard with his friends Wang Wei, Li Na, and Zhang Yong.
One day, the friends were playing in the yard. Wang Wei said, “I bet I can go up to the top of the water vat!” A water vat is a very big clay jar used to keep rain water.
“Do not go to the top of the water vat!” said Li Na. “It is too high.”
“Wang Wei said, “I bet I can go up to the top of the water vat!”
“It is not too high for me!” said Wang Wei.
“Come down here and play,” said Sima Guang.
“I want to go up!” said Wang Wei. When he was at the top he called, “Look at me – one foot!”
“That is good!” said Zhang Yong.
Then – oh, no! Wang Wei fell down into the water vat!
“I cannot swim!” he called. “The water is too deep!”
“We must run for help!” said Li Na.
“No!” said Sima Guang. “That will take too long!”
“We must run for help! said Li Na.”
“Then we cannot do anything to help,” yelled Li Na in fear. “Ahhh!” yelled Zhang Yong in fear, too. “AHHH!” they yelled together.
Sima Guang saw a rock. He picked up the rock and threw it at the bottom of the water vat. The vat did not crack. He picked up the rock and threw it again. There was a very small crack this time. He threw it again. Then a bigger crack! All at once, a very big wave of water flew out of the broken water vat.
And with the wave of water, out rolled Wang Wei!
A Classic Chinese Folktale, this story is based on a famous anecdote which relates how the young Sima Guang once saved a playmate who had fallen into an enormous vat full of water. As other children scattered in panic, Sima Guang calmly picked up a rock and smashed a hole in the base of the pot. Water leaked out, and his friend was saved from drowning.
Sima Guang (17 November 1019 – 11 October 1086), courtesy name Junshi, was a Chinese historian, writer, and politician. He was a high-ranking Song dynasty scholar-official and historian who authored the monumental history book Zizhi Tongjian.