his was a book our foster parents had my baby brother, Richard Rothwell Bolton, give me during WWII. At first I believed its magic and would cut out photographs of babies in christening robes in shopping catalogues in the hopes they would come to life and be my dolls to play with. Then I learned the story was better stripped of its false magic. It made such a deep impression on me that I wish to share its wisdom with all children. Long ago I had had to leave it behind me when at sixteen I went from England to America, so my brother could continue his schooling at Shrewsbury, and then at university. Now, here in Italy, I have bought a used copy of it to share with you. It's a lovely blend of far away in space and time, in China before it went Red and destroyed its ancient civilization, the book's sales going to help Chinese children in poverty.

It mixes the myth of Greek King Midas turning to gold everything he touches, including his loving daughter, of the tale in the Koran of the boy Jesus shaping birds in clay which come to life and fly, and the legend of British King Arthur and the Sword that must be thrown back into the Lake before he can sail to Avalon. I am glad I had its moral lesson for, time and time again in my life, I was stripped of almost everything, yet each time finding these not necessary for happiness.

Preparing this in files for the web I find details I had not noticed before, that a child holds a flag of a fish and that Liu Chu builds a sand fish, reminding me of the joke in The Story of Ferdinand, the peace-loving Bull, of cork trees covered with absurd corks. Now I feel as if I have cut out with scissors a lost part of my childhood and that it can come to life for you, too.

nce upon a time, far, far away in a forgotten part of the world, between high mountains and a deep, blue lake, there was a little Chinese boy and his name was Liu Chu.

He lived with his father and mother in a little bamboo hut and he was very happy. All day long he played in the sand or he sat in the sun and looked at the birds and the flowers. And when he was hungry his mother gave him a bowl of rice, and he ate it with his fingers, and nobody minded.

One day his mother said to him: 'Liu Chu, there is not enough rice today. Go to the lake and catch some fish for dinner.'

Liu Chu, who was a good little boy, went to the back of the hut to fetch his fishnet. Then he trotted off to the lake.

It was a long way and the day was very hot. But Liu Chu was used to the sun and did not mind a bit. He whistled as he went and soon reached the lake. There he threw his net into the water and caught a beautiful, big red-and-blue-and-silver fish. Liu Chu was very glad, but the red-and-blue-and-silver fish said: 'Dear Liu Chu, please, please, let me go and I promise you a wonderful pair of magic scissors; whatever you cut out with them will come to life.

So Liu Chu let the red-and-blue-and-silver fish go and found himself holding a wonderful pair of scissors instead.

Liu Chu was delighted. He took a scrap of golden paper and cut a beautiful little castle. No sooner was it ready than it grew and grew, and to his surprise the little boy saw an immense golden castle arising before him.

Then Liu Chu thought of the lovely garden that should surround it, and with the scissors he cut out tree after tree, flower after flower, the one more beautiful than the other, and they all grew and became real. And he also cut out pretty little birds, that filled the air with their sweet music.

Liu Chu then ran home to fetch his parents.

But when he saw them in their ragged old clothes, he decided to make them new ones first. He set to work with his scissors, and the little paper garments he made became magnificent clothes of silk and brocade. Soon they were all dressed in them and Liu Chu led the way to the castle. His parents were full of admiration and wonder and went to look inside. Liu Chu, left alone in the garden, decided to make himself some little playmates. He cut some paper dolls. They fluttered around him and became lifelike, and in no time a whole swarm of cheerful little boys and girls were dancing around him, crying happily, 'Liu Chu, be our friend, come and play with us'.

Thus Liu Chu made everything under the sun that should fill a little boy with happiness. The castle became their new home. There were so many rooms that nobody had ever seen them all, and each one was furnished in grand style and with exquisite taste. There were the most precious toys and delightful books, but yet, the more he had the unhappier he became. One by one his old pleasures were taken away from him.

If he ate with his fingers his father would box his ears and say: 'What are your chopsticks for, young rascal!'

And if he played in the sand, his mother would scold and say: 'Liu Chu dear, think of your beautiful new clothes, you'll spoil them'.

Worst of all there was no more time to play. All day long from breakfast to suppertime there were lessons to study. Learned professor came to teach Liu Chu reading and writing and arithmetic, geography, history and Oh! so many other things, Liu Chu was sure he never would remember all he had to learn.

Outside he could hear the happy cries of his little playmates and he would think of the old days, when he, too, was out in the sun, laughing and playing, watching the birds and the flowers.

So, day by day, little Liu Chu grew less happy.

One night he could not sleep, but lay tossing about in his bed. At last he got up and softly went out of his bedroom. He tiptoed through the sleeping palace and silent gardens and ventured out of the gate.

The moon was shining very brightly, making a magic world out of the one Liu Chu knew so well. He shivered a little with the cold of the night, but he went on bravely to find his way to the lake. There he looked for his friend, the red-and-blue-and-silver fish.

'Fish', he cried, 'red-and-blue-and-silver fish, it's me, Liu Chu. I am no longer happy. Can't you help me?'

The fish peeped out of the water, 'Little friend', he said, 'you have grown too rich, and wealth does not always mean happiness; take your scissors, and at sunrise whistle thrice and throw them into the lake. Then you will be rich no more, but you may be happy again'.

The fish disappeared and Liu Chu sat down to wait for the sun to come up. At last, the pale dawn crept slowly over the mountains and soon the earth was filled with light and warmth.

Liu Chu threw away his scissors into the lake and went home hopefully.

There he found the old bamboo hut again. His mother in her old clothes was waiting for him with a bowl of rice. She smiled at him. And Liu Chu, sitting down on the warm, yellow sand to gobble up his rice, felt that once more he was the happiest boy in the world.




To donate to the restoration by Roma of Florence's formerly abandoned English Cemetery and to its Library click on our Aureo Anello Associazione:'s PayPal button: