Chinese Idiom: Gold and Jade on the Outside but Rotten Cotton on the Inside
All That Glitters Is Not Gold.
There was, during the Ming Dynasty, a fruit seller. His oranges were so well kept that they could last throughout the year. But although outwardly as smooth as jade and as shiny as gold, inwardly they were like rotten cotton.
When a customer asked him why he tried to deceive people, the pedlar replied with a smile, “Am I the only swindler in this world? No. There are many others. Take, for instance, those cocky generals armed with tallies and sitting in chairs covered with tiger skin—are they really capable of directing battles? And those officials wearing black gauze caps and jade belts—are they really capable of running the country? They do nothing to help the common people who are now suffering.
“They do nothing to check the evil doings of their subordinates. They do nothing useful at all, but only eat the grain produced by the common people. Aren’t they all as shiny as gold and jade without but like rotten cotton within? Why do you fix your eyes only on a fruit seller like me, instead of those I’ve just mentioned?” This argument left the customer speechless.
– Collected Works of the Earl of Loyalty
By Liu Ji (1311-75) of the Ming Dynasty
Calligraphy by Harrison X. Tu, Confucius Classroom in Denver