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"Something to think about"

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"THE SACRIFICE"


"There's a story told among the Chinese about how a young scholar and statesman named Gaw Hong was sent by the Emporer of China to govern the islands of Formosa. The island was inhabited then by savage tribes who worshipped fierce gods and offered human sacrifices on their altars. For many years Gaw Hong ruled over these people; and he became very fond of them. He was a just and kindly ruler whom people loved and trusted as a friend.

And all that time Gaw Hong was troubled about this custom of human sacrifice. Time and time again he called the tribes together and tried to persuade them to give up this cruel practice; but, as much as they loved and respected him, they would not do it, because they feared the anger of their gods. But after many years Gaw Hong's love and friendship prevailed and they said they would do as he asked.

And then that year they had a very bad harvest and, threatened with famine, they thought that the angry gods were punishing them for not offering a human sacrifice. So the chief went to Gaw Hong and said, "We must sacrifice again, for the gods are displeased," and Gaw Hong said: "But you have promised not to sacrifice again. It is an evil thing to slay your fellow men on the altar of sacrifice, and if you do evil, you do harm to your own selves. Would I be a true father to let you do evil to yourselves?" But he pleaded in vain. The chief begged and implored that just this once they might be allowed to offer human blood on the altar.

At last Gaw Hong said: "Listen. If I allow you to offer just one more human life on your altar, will you swear to me that this will be the very last time?" "Yes," said the chief, "I will swear to it." "Then," said Gaw Hong sadly, "I will arrange for the victim to be awaiting you tonight in the forest just after sundown. You will find him bound to the sacred pine." So the chief thanked him and went away to prepare.

That same night after sundown, the chief, the witch doctors and a band of warriors went into the forest, where they saw the victim bound hand and foot and lashed to the sacred pine tree, clothed in the red robe of sacrifice and with the red cloth of sacrifice tied around his face. At once the drums were beaten and the people were summoned to let them know that the victim was ready for sacrifice. At a word from the chief the warriors drew their bows and within a few moments the body of the victim was riddled with arrows. In front of all the assembled people the chief stepped forward and pulled the red cloth of sacrifice from the victim's face.

Immediately the air was filled with cries of dismay and sorrow. "What have we done?" cried the chief, "What have we done?" cried all the people. "We have slain our father and our friend. We have slain Gaw Hong. And then, turning to the weeping people, the chief spoke to them. "See what Gaw Hong has done," he said, "He believed it was wicked to sacrifice a human life, and if he had given us a victim he would have shared our wickedness. So he gave us himself. He has given us his own life to save us from this evil"

Somehow this story seems familiar but there are important differences between the two events which might well be explored.


John G. Williams, From "Thought For A Day".


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