Good Bad Who Knows? The Taoist Farmer Parable Meaning

A farmer had a horse that ran away. His neighbors said, “That’s too bad.”

Throughout events that appear good and events that appear bad, the farmer’s attitude remains steadfast and consistent. he responds to each event with a simple “Maybe, or we’ll see, or good bad who knows.”


This Taoist parable teaches us that knowing whether something is good or bad is difficult. Things can be both good and bad, depending on the situation. It isn’t a moral question. It’s about not judging circumstances too quickly.

Please keep reading to learn what happens to the farmer and what it means.

A close up picture of a black and white horse and a brown horse, with the text overlay: "Good Bad Who Knows? The Taoist Farmer Parable Meaning"

Taoist parable who knows what is good and what is bad

The Taoist parable “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” illustrates the idea of non-attachment and relying on the natural flow of life.

An old farmer’s stallion won a prize at a country show, and his neighbor came to congratulate him, but the old farmer replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

Some thieves stole the stallion the next day, yet the old man’s attitude remained unchanged. A few days later, the stallion escaped and joined a herd of wild mares, leading them back to the farm.

The neighbor came to share the farmer’s joy, and the old man still replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The following day, while trying to break in one of the mares, the farmer’s son got thrown and fractured his leg. Despite this misfortune, the old man stayed calm.

The following week, the army passed by, forcibly conscripting soldiers for the war. However, they did not take the farmer’s son because he couldn’t walk.

The neighbor came to say how fortunate he was, and the old man replied, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The story illustrates that life’s ups and downs are constantly changing and that we should learn to see past individual highs and lows and focus instead on the bigger picture.


Who knows what is good and what is bad meaning

The Taoist parable is about the idea that it is impossible to determine what is good and bad in life.

The story follows an old farmer whose stallion wins a prize at a country show, but the following day it is stolen by thieves.

The day after, the stallion escapes and leads a herd of wild mares back to the farm.

While trying to break in one of the mares, the farmer’s son falls and breaks his leg.

Finally, the military comes to the village, and the son is exempt from conscription due to his leg injury.

The old farmer’s consistent answer to each of these events is, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”.

He is teaching us to accept life’s uncertainties and unexpected turns and to remain open and aware of the way of the Tao.


Good or bad, hard to say parable Explanation

What makes Taoist parables difficult to interpret is that they are often open-ended and do not provide a clear answer.

This is exemplified in the Taoist story of the old farmer and his horse. The story does not provide a clear answer as to whether the events were good or bad but instead encourages the reader to come to conclusions.

This can be particularly challenging as it leaves the reader to grapple with their emotional reactions to the story and come to an understanding of the moral behind it.

Ultimately, this encourages self-reflection and the development of wisdom, as the readers must think critically to draw meaning from the story.


Taoist farmer story Interpretations

Here are four interpretations of the Taoist farmer story.

  1. The Taoist farmer story teaches us to remain open-minded and accept life’s events without assigning labels of good or bad. We should not limit our perspective and allow the complete story to unfold before making judgments.
  2. The farmer’s mentality of not caring and not attaching to particular outcomes serves as a reminder that life is out of our control and that our stories can never fully capture reality. By maintaining this stance of non-attachment, we can experience life with more grace and less stress.
  3. The parable also reminds us to take the long view and consider the larger implications of any given event to make the best decisions. The old farmer’s example of looking at the big picture can help us navigate our lives better.
  4. The story of the Taoist farmer can also serve as a reminder to stay focused on our ultimate goals instead of getting caught up in our stories and preoccupations. We can approach life with more clarity and perspective by avoiding getting caught up in our thoughts and expectations.


Be Thankful For Everything In The Bible

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 in the Bible encourages us to be thankful for everything, no matter the outcome. This message is echoed in the Taoist farmer parable, where the farmer responds with a simple “maybe” to everything that happens to him.

He does not judge events as good or bad, instead choosing to remain open to all possibilities.

By maintaining a spirit of gratitude, we can learn to accept all experiences as part of the human journey with grace and understanding.



What is the proverb of the Chinese farmer?

The proverb of the Chinese farmer is “every cloud has a silver lining,” which originated in the late 1800s. It means one should never feel hopeless, as challenging times can lead to better days. The proverb implies that every situation in life is transitory, and darkness will eventually pass. It encourages acceptance rather than creating drama around good luck or bad luck.

What is the story of the lucky horse?

The story of the lucky horse is an ancient parable of an old farmer whose only horse escapes one day, only to return a few days later with a herd of wild horses. Later, when the farmer’s son tries to ride one of the wild horses, he falls off and breaks his leg, only to be saved from enlistment in the army due to his injury.

What was the point message of the Confucian parable of the man with the horse?

The point of the Confucian parable of the man with the horse is to demonstrate the importance of accepting life as it is without judging events as either “good luck” or “bad luck.” It also underlines that knowledge of the Dào, or The Right Way, is accessible to everyone and that the appropriate response to life’s events is stoic equanimity.

Finally, it shows that life is an interplay of Yin and Yang, happiness and unhappiness, in both small and large events.

Who knows Chinese proverb?

Who knows the Chinese proverb, “塞翁失馬, 焉知非福” (Sài Wēng Shī Mǎ Yān Zhī Fēi Fú)? It is a proverb about accepting life’s circumstances and recognizing that our interpretations of events are subjective and that the full story is only revealed over time.

The proverb tells a story of a farmer and his son whose beloved horse runs away, only to return a few days later with a few other horses.

Although the neighbors initially felt that the horse running away was a terrible misfortune, the farmer knew better and acknowledged, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later, when the son was injured while trying to break one of the wild horses, the villagers again proclaimed the misfortune, but the farmer remained calm.

The proverb ultimately teaches us to be level-headed and accept what life gives us without making hasty judgments about whether something is good or bad for us.

What is the most famous proverb in the world?

One of the most famous proverbs in the world is “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see”. This proverb emphasizes the importance of not making snap judgments about any situation and remaining patient until the full story can be revealed.

It reminds us to stay open-minded and curious when faced with uncertainty and avoid labeling certain events or experiences as good or bad, lucky or unlucky prematurely.

Everyone should approach life positively and remain curious about their experiences, which is key to avoiding the ‘automatic pilot’ habit of jumping to conclusions.

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This ancient Chinese story has timeless wisdom that can be applied to any situation. Remember the Taoist farmer parable the next time you feel lost and step back to see the bigger picture.

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