"Loss of one hair from nine oxen"
This Chinese proverb comes from a book titled Historical Records,
written in 100 BC by China's great historian Sima Qian. He had been
sentenced to death but survived by undergoing voluntary castration,
a fate considered worse than death in those days. Considered a coward,
he wrote of his all-consuming desire to write. "If I were to
die before the completion of my work," he wrote, "my death
would be as trivial as the loss of one hair from nine oxen."
When I was thirteen years old, I begged my father to let me go to
university. He refused, saying that educating me further was a task
as worthless as the "loss of one hair from nine oxen". Besides,
it would spoil any chance I might have of making a suitable marriage.
"No sane man," father added, "would want a bride with
"Loss of one hair from nine oxen" became the source of
my inspiration. I wrote the proverb on the first page of my diary,
and set out to prove my father wrong. Every time I wavered, I would
look at the proverb and draw upon the experience. A year later, I
won an international playwriting competition that enabled me to go
to medical school in England. After the death of my parents, I wrote
my autobiography Falling Leaves which became an international
best-seller. Two years later, I wrote Chinese Cinderella to
emphasise the importance of education in a child's life. Hopefully,
this proverb will bring hope to every child in the world, not just