The Parable of the Chinese Farmer. Let’s explore!

March 21, 2024
Life guarantees ups and downs, blessings and disappointments. What if we looked at them with different eyes?

Happy Spring! In honor of the new-ness and re-birth that defines spring, I’ve been contemplating ideas like change, grief and metamorphosis, and found myself thinking about one of my all-time favorite parables, about a Chinese farmer.

Rather than share with you what *I* think about this parable, I’m sharing it here and inviting you to tell us what *you* think the message is. In my next blog post, I’ll explore it more fully, including feedback and thoughts from our fabulous community.
Fun, right? Let’s go!


The Parable of the Chinese Farmer

Long ago, there was a widowed Chinese farmer. The farmer and his only son labored through the cold winds of winter and scorching rays of summer with their last remaining horse. One day, the son didn’t lock the gate of the stable properly, and the horse bolted away.

When neighbors learned what happened, they came to the farmer and said, “What a terrible sadness this is! Without your horse, you’ll be unable to maintain the farm. Your son has ruined you by not locking the gate properly! This is a great tragedy!” 

The farmer calmly replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”


The next day, the missing horse returned to the farmer’s stable, bringing along with it six wild horses. The farmer’s son locked the gate of the stable firmly behind all seven horses.

When neighbors heard the news, they came to the farmer and said, “What happiness this brings! With seven horses, you’ll be able to easily maintain the farm with three of them and sell the rest for huge profits. What a blessing!”

The farmer thoughtfully rubbed his chin and replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”


The next day the farmer’s son was breaking in one of the wild horses. The son got thrown from the horse, hit the ground hard, and broke his leg.

When neighbors learned of his injury, they came to the farmer and said, “What a great sadness this is! Now, you can’t count on your son’s help. And you have six untrained horses that are worth less money than trained horses! What a tragedy!” 

The farmer adjusted his hat and quietly replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”


The next day, a general from the Imperial Chinese Army arrived to conscript all the young men of the village into the army. Their assignment was to fight on the front lines of a battle against a terrifying enemy of overwhelming force. The farmer’s son, because of his broken leg, was not taken.

After only two days of battle, the neighbors came to the farmer and said, “So many of our sons have died in these two days! Your son avoided facing certain death on the front lines of the battle. What a blessing!” 

The farmer, in his infinite wisdom, replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!


He was such a cool dude, that farmer. And I’d love to know…

  • What are your thoughts when you read the parable?
  • Any overt or subtle teachings that arise for you?
  • How might filing this parable in your mind serve you, going forward?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Remember, there’s no wrong or dumb reply because we each interpret things through our own mind and stored experiences. I so enjoy it when I’ve read or heard something countless times, and then someone points out yet another way of looking at it, or a nuance that I’d missed. I invite you to hop down to the comment section below and chime in!

To your empowered well-being,



  1. Tricia Wrenn

    There are always different ways to look at a situation. I take from the parable that it is better not to jump to quick conclusions and better to accept things that happen as what they are in the moment.

    The rest I am still thinking about.

    • Laurie

      Yes, Tricia, I agree. We never know how things will turn out.

  2. Dorothea Daniel

    The neighbors unsolicited words are not helpful, pushing despair, and feelings of separation from community. The farmer is smart by not giving any energy back .Arguing or agreeing with the neighbor is to no benefit to the farmer.

    • Laurie

      Wisely said, Dorothea. As you point out, he’s simply listening but not “feeding into the drama” as one might say today. He keeps his center and remains open and curious.

  3. Marion

    It would be impossible for me to not have feelings about all the challenging happenings if I were the farmer. And yet, his wisdom seems to be in staying in the present and staying open to a longer view of events, rather than getting caught up in the tragedies in individual days. He seems to trust that things will keep unfolding and so doesn’t hold tight to any response. Perhaps he suffers less by releasing control over outcomes.

    • Laurie

      YES, Marion: “Perhaps he suffers less by releasing control over outcomes.”
      I do believe this is a key area that contributes to our experience of suffering. Beautifully put!

    • Christel Antonellis

      I couldn’t agree more! This would be my big take away regarding releasing control over outcomes.

      • Laurie

        You’re not alone, Christel! Wanting control…in big and little ways…causes the majority of our suffering and angst. I’m certainly no stranger to that stumbling block.


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