雞年談雞德

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1993 / 2月

文‧沈謙 圖‧卜華志


中國人喜歡談十二生肖,雞年談雞,既熱鬧又兼具門道。如果能從文化內涵的角度,思量雞的特性與德性,則見微知著,睹雞思人。中國的傳統社會往往將若干做人處世的哲理寄託「雞」上,耐人尋味。


雞是最普遍的家禽,也是文人筆下的寵物,提起雞,立刻就會想起先秦諸子有關雞的軼聞逸事。

《莊子.達生篇》有一則膾炙人口的寓言故事:

紀渻子為主養雞。

十日而問:「雞已乎?」曰:「未也,方虛憍而恃氣。」十日又問。曰:「未也,猶應嚮景。」十日又問。曰:「未也,猶疾視而盛氣。」

十日又問。曰:「幾矣。雞雖有鳴者,已無變矣。望之似木雞矣。異雞無敢應者,反走矣!」

這篇「木雞」的故事,可以分作首中尾三部分。

木雞為尚

首部介紹人物和場景:馴養鬥雞的高手紀渻子為國君訓練一隻「雞王」。

中間舖敘訓練的過程:經過十天,國君想要驗收成果——驕矜而自恃意氣,差得遠哩!又十天,國君再問——聞見其他雞的聲影還會衝動,仍然不行!再隔十天,國君又問——看見對手還怒目疾視,意氣自負,火候尚未到家!

結局是國君再問,紀渻子回答:差不多了,無論對手如何鳴叫挑戰,他都能無動於衷,毫不理睬,看起來簡直就是一隻木雕的雞。如此能內守其性,不受外界刺激影響,「雞王」已經訓練成熟,所有的雞都不是對手,一看到牠,只有掉頭逃跑的份兒。

這是個形式完整的諷喻故事,有簡潔的開端,有曲折的舖敘,更有圓滿的結局。除了主角雞王之外,沉著的馴雞師和性急的楚王,也都個性分明。寓言的寓意,見於言外,值得深思:常人處世,往往自恃意氣,好勇鬥狠。表面上張牙舞爪,神氣十足,其實只是跳梁小丑。真正高人,卻是虛心歛氣,像木雞一樣,修養到家。俗諺云:「半瓶醋響」、「大勇不事小鬥」、「成熟的稻穗向下低垂」,都是同樣的道理。

雄雞不輕啼

墨子也有一段以雞喻人的警世名言:

天地長育萬物,何嘗講過話?日月照耀世界,是沉默的——花草不說話,無損其美麗;樹木不說話,並不表示無用。青蛙、蒼蠅、蚊子一天到晚不停地叫,不但沒有用,反而惹人厭煩。相對的,雄雞從來不隨便出聲,只在天剛破曉時發出嘹亮的鳴聲,喊醒人們起床工作。

孟子也在《盡心篇上》說:「雞鳴而起,孳孳為善者,舜之徒也。」

假如將墨子、孟子的話予以闡述,則可以與《易.繫辭下》的名言相印證:「吉人之辭寡,躁人之辭多。」

當然,並非要人家不說話,而是切忌喋喋不休,像青蛙、蚊子那樣聒噪,廢話連篇,而是要效法雞鳴,有必要的時候才開口。雖不能奢望一言九鼎,最起碼的要求是非禮勿言,言之成理,言必有中。「巧言亂德」,何況不巧之妄言乎!孔子曰:「剛、毅、木、訥近乎仁。」言多必失,言多有詐,不隨便輕易妄言,總是距離「仁」字近了一些。

雞有雞德

古代的哲人,往往以雞喻人,從雞的特性與德性上闡述做人處世的道理,發人深省。詩人們也不讓哲人專美於前,歷代的詩人頗不乏詠雞的傑作,聊舉數例,以窺一斑:

李商隱《賦得雞》:

稻梁猶足活諸雛,妒敵專場好自娛。

李商隱這兩句話意謂:飼料足以養活所有的雛雞,根本無須爭食,而好鬥的公雞偏偏目空一切,嫉妒對方,以獨霸全場為樂。作者旨在諷刺獨佔權勢的小人,毫無容人之量,心胸褊狹,唯我獨尊。

李頻《府試風雨聞雞》:

不為風雨變,雞德一何貞!

在暗長先覺,臨晨即自鳴。

意謂:雞深具美德,貞亮自持,聖守原則,不因風雨而停止鳴啼。在天將亮的黑暗中,總是適時先醒起,天明之際為人們報曉。所謂「風雨如晦,雞鳴不已」正是喻君子人處亂世有為有守,不因環境惡劣而改變其高尚的節操。

崔道融《雞》:

深山月黑風雨夜,欲近曉天啼一聲。

意謂:處在深山中,夜色晦暗,再加上淒風苦雨。唯賴黎明前雄雞一聲嘹亮的啼鳴,使主人感覺精神振奮。因為長夜既過,風雨將停,則眼前一片光明,前程自有無限美好的風光。既寫實景,又暗喻人生之坎坷將去,未來美麗的憧憬,值得期盼。

聞雞起舞,人須奮勉

沈周《為張固寫「雞」》:

黃卷青衿子,紅冠碧距雞。

要知勤讀處,須候五更啼。

這是一首題畫詩,五絕只有廿個字,卻是多采多姿,寓意深遠。「黃字」、「青衿」指手持書卷勤奮苦讀的書生,「紅冠」、「碧距」指啼鳴報曉的雄雞。首句寫人,次句寫雞,「黃」、「青」、「紅」、「碧」,連用四個顏色,使得全詩耀眼增輝。後二句意思明白曉暢,也使人聯想到「聞雞起舞」,無論學文習武,雞是喚醒人們勤奮努力的良伴。

由此可見,無論是哲人、詩人,都喜愛雞,而且將若干文化理想投射到雞身上,使得雞的特性與德性,永遠活躍在廣大的中國人心目中。

最後要說到雞的德性,《韓詩外傳》指出雞有五德:「首戴冠者,文也;足傅距者,武也;敵在前敢鬥者,勇也;得食相告者,仁也;守夜不失時,信也。」雞既具備文、武、勇、仁、信五德。如何在雞年這嶄新的時光堙A能將這五德發揚光大,不但是湊熱鬧的民俗習尚,更是我們的責任與期許!

〔圖片說明〕

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中國古代,男女婚配須先合八字。圖中這位相命先生正在為抽菸斗的小伙子合婚。十二生肖的配對各有吉凶,其中「金雞見犬淚交流」,雞犬配恐怕不吉。(翻拍自Chinese PopularPrints)

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「群雞」陳嗣雪亂針刺繡作品

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倚坐在躺椅的少女揮著牡丹花與雞戲玩,一派閒適。古代,雞是美德與榮耀的象徵,而牡丹代表富貴。(翻拍自Chinese Popular Prints)

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張靜茹、張良綱、陳麗珠、蔡文婷、倪淑雲資料提供

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雞年到,以雞為主題的櫥窗、玩具花燈,紛紛出籠。

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邱瑞金攝

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Growing In the New Year: Let's Talk Rooster

Sheng Chien /photos courtesy of Pu Hua-chih /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

The Chinese love to talk about the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. Talking about the cock in the year of the cock is both festive and appropriate. From the angle of its cultural meaning, one can't help seeing cocks and thinking people -- in light of the human characteristics ascribed to the bird. In traditional Chinese society, people projected many of their thoughts about themselves onto roosters. It's really very interesting.


Cocks are a common animal to have around one's home, and they are also a common subject for writers' ponderings. As soon as you bring up he rooster, anecdotes of the pre-Chin scholars immediately come to mind.

Chuang Tzu tells this fable involving a cock:

Chi Hsiao-tzu trained roosters for the duke.

After ten days, the question: "Is it ready?" He said, "Not yet. It's still cocky." Ten days later, to the same question: "Not yet, it still reacts to the presence of other roosters." And in another ten days: "Not yet, it's still giving other cocks the evil eye."

In still another ten days: "Just about. Though other cocks challenge him, he has no reaction. From a distance, he resembles a wooden carving of a cock. Others won't dare attack but instead run away!"

This story of the "wooden rooster" can be divided into three sections.

A wooden rooster is best:

The first part introduces the characters and the background: Chi Hsiao-tzu, a master trainer of fighting cocks, is training a "King Cock" for the duke.

The middle section describes the training process: After ten days, the duke wants to inspect the result but he is told that the bird is too prideful and cocky--it's far too early! After ten more days, the emperor asks again, but he is told that the cock is still aggressive toward other birds in his sounds and movements and not yet ready. In another ten days, the emperor asks once more but is told that the bird still shows its animosity toward opposing birds and thus still comes up short.

In the conclusion, the emperor asks a final time, and Chi Hsiao-tzu answers, "It's just about ready. No matter how much its opponent calls out in challenge, he won't flinch and is completely indifferent. He looks like he's carved out of wood." In so keeping his composure and not being affected by the outside world, the "King Cock" is fully trained. None is his equal. As soon as other cocks see him, they'll lower their heads and run.

This sarcastic story is complete in its form. It has a simple beginning, twists of plot and a good conclusion. Besides the leading character of the cock, it also has the trainer and the anxious Duke of Chu. And each character is sharply outlined. The meaning of the fable is clear without needing explanation, and it's worth thinking about: In dealing with the world, some people often rely on aggressiveness, on being bold and combative. Raising their hackles and beating their breasts, these people are quite full of themselves, but they're really just acting like clowns. The truly superior are modest and reticent, like wooden statues, trained to perfection. The proverbs say, "A bottle of vinegar only half full makes the loudest noise when shook"; "The brave don't fight over small matters"; and "Mature stalks of rice bend downward." These all mean more or less the same thing.

The cock won't crow for nothing:

Mo Tzu also wrote a famous passage about the cock-a-doodle-doo that wakes up the world:

"Heaven and earth have a myriad of beasts but never speak. The sun and the moon shine down on the world in silence. The flowers and the grass don't speak but lose none of their beauty. That the trees utter not a word does not mean they are of no use. But the frogs, the flies and the mosquitoes make noise all day. It's not only of no use--it's downright annoying. On the other hand, the cock never calls out for no reason, crowing only to announce the break of day and call people from their slumber."

And Meng Tzu said, "A person who rises with the call of the cock is a like the Great Shun."

Meng Tzu's and Mo Tzu's comments support each other and this statement from the I Ching: "The words of the fortunate are few, whereas the words of the anxious are many."

Of course, this doesn't mean that people shouldn't speak but that they shouldn't engage in idle chatter, blabbing on and on like a frog or mosquito with nothing to say. People should learn from the cock, and only open their mouths when necessary. Although you can't expect people to be completely true to their word, at the very least you can expect that they will be polite and logical and get to the point. "Clever talk leads to muddled morality." Not to mention what talk that isn't so clever leads to. Confucius said, "Being resolute and ineloquent approaches benevolence." A lot of talk leads to loss. Lots of chatter hides a scheme. By not engaging in idle chatter, one is nearer to benevolence.

The ways of the cock:

Ancient philosophers always took the cock to symbolize man. From the special traits and manners of the cock, they described the ways of man in the world, giving people food for thought. And poets were not willing to let the philosophers get the better of them. There are numerous examples of cocks in classical Chinese poetry. Here are a few:

The feed is ample to go around, but the jealous cock bullies his enemies for fun.

--Li Shang-yin

Although there is enough food for all the roosters, and there's no need to wrangle over it, the cock is looking for a fight. Snubbing all around him, ever jealous, he is happy only as the dictator of the barnyard. The writer takes a sarcastic tone to this petty tyrant's narrow-minded and boorish antics.

Unyielding to the wind and rain! How true is the cock! Arising alone in the dark, he calls out at dawn.

--Li Pin

The cock is extremely virtuous, steady of purpose and true to his principles. He doesn't let a little rain stop him from getting up to cock-a-doodle-doo. He rises in the dark, always in time to announce for man the break of day. The lines of verse, "Through the wind and rain all looks dark. And the cocks crow without ceasing" are used to mean that gentlemen remain clear-headed when the world is in confusion, that their superior character does not yield to the chaos around them.

The storm in the mountains darkens the moon. Before dawn . . . the call of the cock.

--Tsui Tao-jung

Deep in the hills, the night is dark and the wind and rain bitter. But the call of the cock is enough to revive the writer's spirits. Because the night has passed, the wind and rain will stop. The future is bright, promising scenery of unlimited splendor. Since real scenery is being described, the writer is hinting that one's troubles are over and that a beautiful future beckons ahead.

UP at the crack of dawn:

Yellow Chuan, Blue Chin and the red-crowned green rooster. At dawn its call brings them to their studies.

--Shen Chou

This is a poem originally written on a painting. It is composed of four phrases of five characters for a total of 20 characters. "Yellow Chuan" and "Green Chin" refer to diligent students carrying their scrolls. The four colors in the first line--yellow, blue, red and green--give the whole poem a bright feeling. The second line is very clear, bringing to mind the phrase, "Rising at the sound of the cock to practice one's swordsmanship." Whether one is studying literature or the martial arts, the rooster is a great partner to those who wish to get up and at it.

From these passages, you can see that both philosophers and poets love the cock and that several cultural ideals are projected onto him, making his character and traits live forever in the hearts and minds of Chinese.

Finally, let me speak of the moral character of roosters. The Han-shih wai-chuan (Han Ying's Illustrations of the Didactic Application of the Classic of Songs) points to the five characteristics of the cock: "Wearing a hat like a scholar, it is scholarly; with claws that pierce the flesh, it is martial; attacking when confronted by an enemy, it is bold; calling out when it finds food, it is benevolent; standing guard at night without fail, it is trustworthy." And so a cock is scholarly, martial, bold, benevolent and trustworthy. In the fresh light of the new year, these virtues not only fit in with the folklore of this festive holiday but cultivating them is our hope and duty.

[Picture Caption]

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In ancient China, when men and women were being matched for marriage, it was necessary first to study the eight Chinese characters signifying the years, months, days and hours of their births. This picture shows a fortune teller in the midst of describing who would make a suitable mate for his client. The twelve signs of the zodiac all have their lucky and unlucky matches. Among them, "The gold cock weeps at the sight of the dog." The dog and the rooster, one fears, may not be the best of pairings. (from Chinese Popular Prints)

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"A Group of Roosters" a work of irregular embroidery by Chen Szu-hsieh.

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Darnation! It's clearly the Year of the Rooster, and there isn't a single one around.

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There are sure to be a lot of them in heaven because the elections are just over.

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[Note: certain candidates in the recent election sacrificed chickens to back up their vows to run a clean campaign.]

(Cartoon by Lao Chiung, United Daily News, Jan. 15, 1993)

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Reclining on a daybed, a young woman waves a peony playfully at a rooster in this lazy scene. In ancient times, cocks represented glory and peonies wealth. (from Chinese Popular Prints)

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As the year of the rooster arrives, he shows up everywhere, including on windows, as toys and as lanterns.

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Materials provided by Chang Chin-ju, Vincent Chang, Chen Li-chu, Ventine Tsai, and Ni Shu-yun.

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(photo by Diago Chiu)

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