Tavu The Scholar

Two thousand seven hundred years ago, there lived in China a famous scholar. His name was So Po Tavu, and although his knowledge was vast, there was little or no demand for his services, so his years were spent in poverty.

Many of his friends begged him to go to the Province of Chu, whose ruler was not only a great patron of learning but was himself a great scholar. At last, Tavu was persuaded, and he set off with little in the way of warm clothing and even less money.

The journey was long and hard through mountain passes well above the snow line. As the depth of winter was fast approaching, Tavu, now tired and weak, decided to rest for a few days at a mountain village.

He was given shelter at the house of a young man named Ayee Chiyavu. To his sur- prise, Tavu discovered that his youthful host was a man of considerable learning, and they soon found much in common.

For hours the two scholars “would sit and lament on the poor state of learning in China at that time. In the end, Ayee Chiyavu agreed to accompany Tavu to the Province of Chu, where they knew the great Kwan ruler would welcome them with open arms.

The two scholars wended their way over the mountains, oblivious to time in their never-ending discussions, but before many days had passed, they encountered severe blizzards and bitter cold. Tavu, on account of his age, found breathing difficult in the rarefied atmosphere, and then with his feet and hands badly frostbitten, he could walk no further.

Luckily they found a small cave in the hillside, which at least sheltered them from the snow-laden winds. But Tavu felt that his end was near. “Ayee, my friend,” he said, “I am near the end of life’s journey. If you stay with me, we shall both perish of the cold. I am old and can lie down and die in peace, but you are young with years of life ahead of you, so please, I beg of you, leave me.”

Ayee’s eyes moistened at his friend’s words, but he shrugged. “Dear Tavu, how can I leave you? By tomorrow you will be feeling much better.”

That night, as Ayee slept, Tavu realized that Ayee would stay with him and endanger his own life. So Tavu decided to make it easy for Ayee.

Divesting himself of his warm clothing, which he neatly folded and put by the side of his sleeping friend, Tavu managed to totter out of the cave to his certain death.

The following day Ayee awoke to find that his friend had gone. He was overcome with grief at Tavu’s sacrifice. He searched unsuccessfully for Tavu’s body in the snow and then resumed the journey to the Province of Chu, carefully marking the spot of their last night together.

When he finally reached his destination, the extraordinary Kwan, recognizing the importance of this learned young man, offered him a post in his court.

Ayee told the Kwan of his long journey with Tavu and the circumstances of Tavu’s noble sacrifice. The Kwan immediately sent out a search party to find the body of Tavu, and when it was found, the Kwan erected a marble mausoleum at the scene of the tragedy in honour of the dead scholar.

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