The Peony Temple

There is a temple in Japan known as the Peony Temple. For centuries, this temple has grown tree peonies in its spacious garden; then these all blossom together it is one of the famous sights of the region. In the late Middle Ages, an army general had to deal with a local uprising. He crushed the so called brigands, capturing their leaders. He proposed to execute these publicly the next morning, after which he thought he would go to see the peonies at the Temple, then in their full glory. He sent a messenger to the Abbot to inform him of his proposed visit.

The envoy presented himself and delivered his message. The Abbot made no comment, but beckoned him to follow. He went out into the garden, on the way picking up a little sickle. As they came up to the nearest peony, upright on its supporting stick, the Abbot cut off its beautiful head. Then he went on to the next one and did the same, and so on through the garden. The envoy was aghast, but too horrified to say anything. After the decapitation of the last beautiful flower, the Abbot turned to him. ‘Tell him I’ve murdered them’, he said, and escorted the messenger to the gate.

When this was reported to the general, his eyes became red with anger. But after a little, he became thoughtful. He cancelled the executions, told the prisoners that their grievances would be looked into, and sent them back to their own part of the country.

© Trevor Leggett

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