The Importance of Being Flexible


There was once a farmer who was nicknamed Iron Head Chang. This was because he was an honest man, but he was slow and inflexible when dealing with problems. He worked hard in the fields every day, but year after year of typhoons, floods, and drought caused his harvest to shrink year by year. One day, his family needed money urgently. So, his wife asked him to go to the millionaire Lo to borrow some money, and they would repay the money after the harvest.

Iron Head Chang had no choice but to pay a visit to the millionaire Lo. When he arrived at Lo's house, Lo happened to be eating sweet potatoes, and invited Chang to have some as well. Back in those days, life was very tough, and few people could afford to eat sweet potatoes whole. They had to dry the sweet potatoes under the sun and cut them into thin strips, which they ate sparingly. As Lo was very rich, he could afford to peel the skin off the sweet potato and dip it in sugar before eating it. This was considered to be a great luxury. When Chang was offered a sweet potato, he thought to himself, “I should eat the skin to avoid wasting food, but Lo peeled the skin off before eating it. I should do the same so that people won't think of me as a country bumpkin.”

In the end, Iron Head Chang decided to eat the sweet potato in the same way as the millionaire Lo. After eating, Lo asked Chang why he had come, and Chang told him he needed to borrow some money. Lo thought for a while and said, “The amount you wish to borrow is a trifling sum to me. I would have lent it to you, but seeing the wasteful way in which you ate the sweet potato just now, I can tell that you are a wasteful person by nature. I do not wish to lend money to someone who does not know the value of thriftiness.” When Iron Head Chang heard this, he could think of nothing to say, so he went home empty-handed.

After his wife heard what happened, she sighed and said, “You are so inflexible. You should have eaten the sweet potato in a manner that befits your means and circumstance!” Later on, people used this saying to remind themselves of the value of being flexible, and to behave in a manner that befits their means and circumstance.