Ling Li’s Lantern
Midnight Sun, 2020
32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
Da Zhi often set his children challenges to help them become good, kind and honest and build their wisdom. But this challenge would prove to be the hardest yet – each was given the same amount of money and with it, they were to each fill an empty pagoda with anything they chose but they had to spend wisely.
Jingming, the eldest, completed the task first, filling his pagoda with bamboo. Miao , the middle child, filled his with duck feathers and down. Both pleased their father. But on her way to market, Ling Li spent her coins on helping others in need so that she only had two left by the time she got there. What could she buy with so little that would please her father as much as her brothers had?
Told in the voice of old didactic stories whose job was to teach the listeners, this is a beautifully illustrated story that might seem to have come from yesteryear but which has great application for today’s strange times. Given the extraordinary events of 2020, if our students were set the same task as Ling Li and her brothers, what would they fill their pagoda with? Books? Games? Toilet paper? Even without their experiences of the last few months, it is unlikely they would have made the same choices as the brothers, so why did Jingming and Miao choose bamboo and duck down? Is Ling Li’s choice still relevant to this time and place.
While the theme of this story may be familiar, it’s refreshing to read this modern interpretation which demonstrates that some values are timeless and universal.