Farmer and Snake

In Traditional Chinese parables, there is a story about a farmer and a snake:

Long time ago, in a frosting winter, an old man was pacing slowly on frozen water for home.

Some time later, he saw a strange stick lying on the ground. Despite the heavy snow splashing into his face, he went forth and found out the strange twisted stick was not a stick at all, but a frozen snake.

The farmer braced the snake into his chest, and kept on heading his way home.

The warmth of the farmer’s chest slowly thawed the snake out. Once the snake regained its consciousness, it bit the farmer immediately.

The snake fell down, and slowly slithered away.

The farmer died in the end, because of venom and blood loss in this heart cold winter.


The moral of the story is ambiguous. Some say snakes are evil, you should never trust a snake. Some say the farmer is dumb, he took a snake under his protection. You either stay away from evil beings, or don’t be a dumb guy.

This thought-provoking parable has its new manifestations in modern China. As an old traditional Chinese story, it is still yet very adaptable to our modern scenery.

If we metaphorize the snake as an evil person, and the farmer as a stupid person, what would the story adapt to our social life?

To not be stupid? To not contact with sneaky evil persons?

Look at the story a different way, what are the motives behind the actions of the farmer and the snake?

Why did the farmer take the snake in his crib? What does doing this benefit him in any way? Didn’t he konw snakes are dangerous animals?

Why did the snake bite him? Doesn’t it have conscience? Conscience for gratitude?

Or that snakes are cold-blooded animals, they don’t need high temperature in order to survive. Could the snake lie at the first place? That it was faking its death, just in order to bite the farmer?

It makes zero senes for both characters’ actions. It makes no sense for the farmer to take the snake in his chest. It does not benefit him at all. It makes no sense for the snake to bite the farmer. It does not benefit it at all.

The farmer knew he would be bitten and he still protected the snake. The snake had zero advantage in biting the farmer, not only did it consume energy and it was a reckless move that may cause it to die.

I find the story at its first place being abhorrently wrong and perverse in trying to deliver a really wrong message for the whole society–we shall be enemies to each other, we are not brothers and sisters. If you are kind to others, the end is death. If you are not smart and evil enough, you are not going to be taken seriously.


The reason why I wrote this parable is to preach that stupidity needs to be punished. However, stupidity is usually not punished by men, but the mere incident itself. The consequence, is usually, enough of teaching a lesson, and that’s how we learn.

On some occasions, stupidity is punished by men, more superior and smarter men. You are taken advantage of.

However, there is also this picture I have dreamed so far. It is a picture that contradicts the modern China in any aspect.

We don’t need to fear the story of Farmer and Snake. Because, I feel like this parable is only applicable to Chinese society, where people constantly try to deceive you in order to take advantage of you, due to your stupidity or innocence.

A world where there is no snake any more, but simplicity and justice. A world where people can confess to each other freely without oppressions from above and morality is not skewed. A world where everyone can be treated as human beings, conscience flourishes.

I want a world, where there is no snake any more. There is genuinely, a frozen squirrel on the snowy ground, and you take it under your crib, later it becomes affectionate to you.

There is this grim image over China for far too long. Everyone fears everyone else, everyone is an enemy to everyone else.

In the lower rungs of society, stupidity dominates all and people are actually suffering losses completely obliviously.

In the higher rungs of society, greed, smartness and evil dominate all and these people enjoy in taking advantage of others’ losses.

There is not a single tiny drop of justice in this society that holds everyone together.

Kindness, is a good trait, but not blind kindness. What you want, is benevolence.

Smartness, is a good trait, but not for selfish and evil gains. What you want, is altruism.

Lack of knowledge, lack of vigilance, and lack of basic instincts, are the reasons why the farmer died in the end.

Pervasion of greed, debauchery, hypersensivity, are the reasons why the snake bit the farmer instantly.

The story of Farmer and Snake is definitely not a mere lesson of gratitude. It is a story that reflects the flaws of a society, and how the society should be changed. The story is deeply rooted inside the very own culture of China, and it is necessary to be changed inside out so that a new China can be reborn.

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