How to Make Tolerance Work for You—The Story of Two Melon Fields

By Jing Yuan and Jade Pearce | Epoch Times Staff

When taking one step back leads to huge strides forward

Most of us are taught as kids that we should never let others take advantage of us. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, so be prepared to fight for what should be yours.” So we cultivate habits like always having the last word, always getting our way, road rage, and other aggressive behaviours.

But few of us are taught the very opposite – to give way and be tolerant. After all, it seems foolish to blindly let others take advantage of you.

However, tolerance is a higher level of wisdom – it requires the ability to forgive, care, and be responsible for others. It necessitates compassion and a broad-minded attitude.

Moreover, some battles are simply not worth our time, energy, or ego to fight. Of course, certain things like child labour and genocide should never be tolerated. But practiced in the right context, tolerance is a powerful tool as – by taking a step back – we may gain much more in return.

These ancient stories about tolerance may be a source of inspiration for our lives and relationships today, where we give in to receive more.

Between Neighbours: The Story of Two Melon Fields

The next story is useful for relationships with people we live close to in everyday life, such as our spouses, family members, and neighbours.

During China’s Warring States Period, there were two neighbouring states: the State of Liao and the State of Chu. Near the border where the two states met, both sides had planted melon fields.

The Liao people were very hardworking and spent much effort making sure their melon fields were well irrigated. As such, their melons grew healthy and plentiful. The Chu people, however, were not as diligent, and their melons did not grow very well.

Jealous of the Liao people’s success, the Chu people sneaked over one night and trampled on the Liao people’s melon plants.

When they discovered the damaged plants the next morning, the angry Liao people sought their county magistrate, Song Jiu, for help. They were ready to take revenge on the Chu people, by going over and trampling on their plants.

But Song Jiu shook his head and said, “To reciprocate any ill will is to invite trouble to your doorstep. ‘When others treat us badly, we must treat them badly too’ – isn’t that a narrow-minded way to think? Here’s what you should do instead.”

Song Jiu said to the Liao people, “Every night, send some people to water the Chu people’s melon fields, but don’t let the Chu people know!”

Song Jiu ordered Liao people to water the Chu people’s melon fields every night, without them knowing. (

The next morning, the Chu people were amazed to find that their melon fields had already been watered. This happened again on the second day, the third day, and thereafter. Moreover, as the days passed, they found their melon fields getting healthier and more bountiful.

The mystified Chu people did some investigating, and finally discovered that it was the Liao people who had been helping them look after their fields. Stunned by this revelation, they reported the entire story to the King of Chu.

The king was greatly ashamed of what his people had done, and was moved by the Liao people’s compassionate response. He sent an entourage bearing gifts to apologise to the Liao people, and to seek greater communication between the two countries.

From then on, the States of Liao and Chu began a long and friendly diplomatic relationship. Many scholars believe that this would not have happened without Song Jiu’s astute management of the melon field incident.

 Lesson to Learn: When our relationship with someone we’re close to has soured, and we feel victimized by the other party, little gestures of kindness may help to mend the relationship. Often, the upset person will be moved by our tolerance and kindness, and will try to make amends.


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