Tell Me a Story

The Stonemason (A Chinese Tale)

One upon a time in China, a stonemason lived in a tiny hut where he carved beautiful stones and ornaments with his hammer and chisel every day. Everyone admired his work.

One day, the wealthiest man in the city hired him to carve a statue in honor of the man's father. The stonemason worked at the rich man's house, and while he was working, he noticed how beautiful the mansion was -- how rich the tapestries, how tasty the food and how beautiful the furniture. He began to wish he could be just like this wealthy man.

The spirits that protected him heard his wish. So they transformed him into a rich man with a mansion, many servants, beautiful clothes and exquisite food. Now the stonemason had everything his heart desired.

Many months passed until one day the stonemason was walking along the streets when he heard a procession behind him. He turned and saw the chief being carried on a high chair by his servants. Drummers were announcing his arrival, and soldiers were guarding him. As the procession passed by, people bowed to the chief.

But the stonemason thought: I am important, too. I don't need to bow to this man. And he did not.

The chief was furious. "You have disrespected me!" he said, and he instructed his soldiers to beat the stonemason.

The soldiers did as they were told, and they left him on the street bleeding and wounded. The stonemason's servants rescued him and carried him home. Later that night, as he was lying in bed, he decided he must become a chief. Obviously, the chief had more power than he did, and the stonemason wished to be powerful. When his spirits heard his wish, they changed him into a high chief.

Now the stonemason traveled the country carried in a chair, with servants, drummers and soldiers surrounding him. Everyone bowed to him when he passed, but he was terribly strict, so no one liked him.

One day, as he was traveling through a village, he saw some beautiful women walking along the roadside. "Hello!" he cried to them. He was lonely, and he called to the women to join him.

"We don't like you," the women said.

This angered the stonemason. "Chase them!" he ordered his servants. But when the servants began to chase the women, the local farmers working in the fields nearby came to their rescue. They ran toward the stonemason's servants with their rakes and shovels, scaring them off.

The women thanked the farmers for what they had done.

When the chief saw this, he began to think it would be wonderful to be one of those farmers -- doing such good, healthy work that was so beloved. And before he knew what was happening, his spirits heard his wish and turned him into a farmer.

For many months, he loved his work -- it was hard but gratifying, and he made many friends. He loved to sow and plow and weed, but there was just one problem: It was terribly hot. The sun wore him down, and he couldn't escape it.

He started to wonder what it must be like to be the sun, so powerful and strong, and he began to wish he had that kind of power.

So, naturally, his spirits turned him into the sun. At first, he reveled in the power he had to scorch the Earth with his powerful force. And then one day a raincloud drifted by and came between the sun and Earth; the stonemason realized he could do nothing to reach the Earth with his powerful rays so long as that raincloud hovered in his way. He had never known the power of clouds, and he began to wish he were a cloud.

Sure enough, his spirits turned him into a big, dark, forceful raincloud that lingered above the Earth, and all the people looked up at him with admiration.

But the next day, the wind began to blow, and it pushed him this way and that and tore little bits of him apart. The stonemason realized that he had no power compared to the wind.

"I wish I were the wind," he said. And sure enough, he became the wind, whipping across fields and hills, pulling up trees, blowing down huts and tearing roofs apart.

He raced toward the mountain, determined to move it aside, but the mountain stood still and strong, and the stonemason was mightily impressed.

"How wonderful it must be to be a mountain, so strong and peaceful and quiet," he said. And so his spirit turned him into a mountain that stood very still and watched everything, impervious to wind and sun and rain.

Then one winter day, he heard human voices. He looked and saw those voices belonged to stonemasons who were climbing to look for rocks to turn into statues. The stonemasons knocked on the surface of his body with their hammers and picks. At first the stonemason was horrified, but after a while he realized, "A stonemason can separate rocks from my body!"

This caused him to scream.

When the spirits heard him screaming, they transformed him back into a stonemason. So there he was, once again standing in his workshop holding a hammer and chisel. And that is when the stonemason understood that he would be wise to love his life just as it was.

"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit

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