I was trying out 听故事学中文 and read the story about 三块巧克力 (another version is here). I'll add my translation below:

After school a child was playing basketball in the living room, and carelessly broke a vase on a bookshelf. The child hurriedly glued the pieces together, and scared he returned it back to its original position.

That evening, his mother found the vase had "changed", and asked him "did you break the vase?"

The boy had a bright idea and said "a stray cat came in through the window and knocked off the vase". His mother was clear that he was lying, but didn't say anything.

After sleeping, the mother took a chocolate bare from a drawer and said "this chocolate is your prize, because you used our mythical imagination to make up a cat coming in through the window, and afterwards you can write good detective novels."

Continuing, she gave him another bar of chocolate, saying "this is a prize, because of your outstanding restoration; the cracks are glued together almost flawlessly."

The mother took out another bar of chocolate, and said "this last bar of chocolate expresses my deep regret towards you. As your mother, I should not have left a vase in a place where it can be easily broken, and hope you are not smashed or frightened."

The boy listened, and ashamed he lowered his head; he never lied again.

Compared to a punishment, this is a profound reward.

I think I've basically translated it okay, and get the general mechanics of the situation, but I'm failing to see anything profound about this story: after all, the mother rewards him for lying, and seems to blame herself for him breaking the vase while playing basketball. It seems like he would continue to lie, after benefiting from it. However, it's possible I'm missing some subtleties here.

Question: What is the moral of the short story 三块巧克力?

3 Answers 3


Possible explanations (some of which are found on the Internet):

(1) The mother responds to the boy's rebelliousness with forgiveness, love and understanding, thus made him ashamed of having intended to lie and deny everything.

(2) If the mother had punished him, the boy might become even more determined to lie the next time he does something wrong, in order to escape punishment.

(3) The mother saw the good side (that the boy repaired the vase), which I believe symbolizes encouraging him to fix a mistake rather than to lie about one.

(4) The mother tried to find problems from herself (third chocolate) rather than simply blaming his son for breaking the vase. Maybe this sets a example for her son, teaching him to try to find his own problem rather than shifting responsibility.

But still, such things usually don't have a standard answer so you're welcome to interpret it in any way that is acceptable. And since such stories often describe idealistic situation, it is perfectly normal for us to find them unrealistic.

Also, I found a more complete version, which contains more descriptions of their emotions and stuff, and might help you with the understanding.









but I'm failing to see anything profound about this story

The moral of the story is 以德服人, 勝於以法冶人. (use kindness to convince people to do the right thing on their own is better than use punishment to deter people from doing the wrong thing out of fear). It is a typical ideal of '儒家思想' (Confucianism)

The main plot of the story is about how the mother dealt with her son's misbehavior. Instead of using punishment to deter him, she used kindness to encourage her son to stop lying to her on his own.

If she punished him, he might not lie to her again out of fear, but treating him with kindness, he would be graceful to her and be ashamed if he ever lie to her again.

Notice, she did not teach her son lying is wrong, her goal was to make her son feels 'lying to his mother is wrong'

The following is a different story with a similar message:

Qin Mugong (秦穆公)'s beloved horse was stolen and eaten by the savage tribe in his country. The minister of law wanted to arrest the savages and punish them, but Qin Mugong did not agree. He actually sent the savages fine wine to drink instead. Saying: "Eating horse meat without drinking wine is harmful to one's health. The savages too are my subjects under my care" The savages were graceful to the lord and never caused any trouble in Qin again. You can say it is a display of management wisdom in Qin Mugong's part. If he punished those savages, they would be resentful to the government and cause more trouble in the future.

In 法家思想 (Legalism), the son who lied and the savages who stole should be punished according to the degree of their crime.

  • There are a lot of ideals in Confucianism that are questionable to me. For example, A lord once said to Confucius: " The people of my country are very moral, if a father committed a crime, his son would turn him in; if a big brother committed a crime, his little brother would turn him in" . Confucius replied: "The people in my country are also very moral, a son would shelter his father; a little brother would shelter his big brother."
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 11:38

The key is what the mother did towards the lie of her son. She rewarded his son by giving chocolates instead of blaming or anything, which actually turned out a better result (his son felt ashamed and never lied again).

The story tells us that blaming sometimes is not the best way to deal with wrongdoings. There could be some other alternatives like what the mother did. So, it suggest that we should be wise when we encounter such cases.

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