A short Story from Viet-Nam
The Quicker Painter
Among the Chinese residents of the capital city of Viet-Nam was a famous painter. Not only did this foreignerpaint beautiful picture, but he also painted very fast. People who had had the opportunity to watch him paint said that their eyes were hardly able to follow his hand, because it moved so quickly. They said that he could cover a large square of paper with mountains and rivers, animals and men in less time than it takes a tea drinker to empty a cup of tea.
With such extraordinary ability, the Chinese used to say that between sky and earth this man was the greatest and the fastest painter alive.
Now there was a Viet-Namese villager named Kinh. He had heard the stories about the wonderful Chinese painter. Since he himself was fond of painting. Kinh decided to see the Chinese.
Going into the great man`s presence, Kinh said to him: “Sir, I have heard of your extraordinary talent as an artist and as a fast painter. I came here with only one simple request…….”
“Yes, yes,” the Chinese painter encouraged his guest, “What is in your mind, most honourable visitor?”
“I wish to see you paint, sir,“ Kinh said. The Chinese laughed kindly and said: “But that is simple enough. I shall satisfy your wish. Servants! Bring ink and brushes !”
Kinh began to scratch his forehead. “But, sir,” he said to the Chinese, “I would like to paint, too.”
“You would?” the great artist was surprised. “You mean, “ he said after a moment, “ You mean you would like to compete with me?”
“That’s right, sir. Please forgive my rudeness…..”
Kinh sighed while the Chinese painter looked at him in amusement, in disbelief and almost in pity.
When the inkwells, brushes and paper were all laid out on the mats, the two men took thier places.
The great Chinese artist asked Kinh: “Now, honourable visitor, what would you like to choose as the subject of our printing?”
Kinh looked up and down and around the large room. His eyes fell upon a large column of wood, with several golden dragons coiling around it. “ We shall paint dragons,“ Kinh declared.
The Chinese gave a sign to start. His work was an extraordinary sihgt. His right hand flew from the inkwell to the paper and back, so fast that it could hardly the followed by normal eyes. One would think that he was in act of becoming a dragon. Like magic, the dragon he was painting appeared almost complete on the paper, surrounded by clouds and lightning, its jaws opening, its nostrils breathing fire, its claws threatening.
Then triumphantly, the famous painter stopped, threw his brush into the brush holder and set back. Then he turned to the Kinh: “Have you finished?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, I have. A long time ago. I have been watching you paint. You were wonderful, “ Kinh replied.
“But, but,” the Chinese artist lost his patience, “but you have finished your picture before me !”
“Yes sir, I have,“the viet-Namese said.“I have panited not only one, but ten dragons”.
When the Chinese painter saw what was on Kinh’s sheet of paper, he could not help letting out a cry of astonishment. Then he stood up, solemnly bent down and howed low to Kinh, thus expressing. In oriental fashion, respect and admiration.
As Kinh told it later, he had quickly dipped all ten fingertips into the inkwell and moved them over his sheet of paper. The viet-Namese knew, and he also knew that his Chinese host knew, that in Chinese language earthworms are called earthdragons. So he had painted ten earthdragons instead of a legendary fire-breathing dragon!.