Only the Truth: A Review of ‘The Empty Pot’

 “To be honest as this world goes is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.” —William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Reading Level

AR 3.8 [0.5 points]

3.0-3.9 ATOS Book Level [ATOS readability formula represents the difficulty of the text]

Interest Level

Pre-K – Grade 5

Review and Comments

The Empty Pot is an inspirational Chinese folk tale about honesty and honor, bravely demonstrated by a little boy named Ping.

The Emperor is getting older and realizes he must find someone to take his place – someone who will be an honorable leader.  Since he has no children, he looks to all the children in his kingdom to find that one exceptional child.  His plan will surely reveal someone who is worthy.  He invites all the children of his kingdom to his palace and gives each child flower seeds to plant and nurture for the next year.  Then, they are to return and present their best flowers to the Emperor, and he will make his decision.

Ping lives in this kingdom, so he receives flower seeds from the Emperor.  He loves nature and is very successful growing all kinds of beautiful flowers.  After he plants the seeds he is given, he waits for his flowers to push through the soil, but there is no growth whatsoever. This has never happened to him before. He earnestly tries to coax the seeds to grow but even with his special care the pot is still empty.  When it is time for him to take his flowers to the Emperor, Ping is afraid of what the Emperor will say. His father wisely counsels him that he did his best, and he should not be ashamed.

All the children stand before the Emperor with their wonderful flowers. Ping stands among them with his empty pot.  The Emperor’s displeased reaction to the flowers is unexpected.  Then, he sees Ping with his empty pot.  The Emperor joyfully makes the announcement that Ping is the worthy child he is seeking.  He explains that he cooked the seeds, and they could not possibly have grown.  Ping will be the next Emperor because he is courageous enough to be honest among many who are not.

Children enjoy Ping’s story of integrity.  It is a wonderful story for teaching about the value of hard work and the virtue of honesty.  I recommend this book as a read aloud for younger children and for young independent readers.

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion

Discussion questions after reading:

  1. What do you think integrity means after hearing the story?
  2. What actions demonstrate that Ping showed integrity?
  3. What do you think the moral or the lesson of the story might be?
  4. Identify story elements and examples of honesty and integrity.
  5. Give examples of how someone you know has shown integrity.
  6. Make a flower picture or collage.

Folk Tale – description of story elements and quality characteristics”

35 Seed Activities for Young Kids is a collection of “some playful ways to teach young kids (ages 2-6) about seeds in a hands-on way.”

Facts About China: This site includes “some interesting facts about China, its people, its history and its culture.”

Catholic Resources

CCC 2465 The Old Testament attests that God is the source of all truth. His Word is truth. His Law is truth. His “faithfulness endures to all generations.” Since God is “true,” the members of his people are called to live in the truth.

CCC 2482 “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.”

A Prayer for the Virtue of Honesty:

Jesus, Prince of all Heavenly truths, Your Words are carved for eternity! You have commanded the virtue of honesty; it is the power against all deceptions. Direct Your Spirit of honesty upon me, that my soul may always remain stainless. Guide my daily thoughts, words and actions, to join those living by the Spirit of truth. For honesty yields harmony and loyalty, enriching all human relationships. By the power of Your Spirit that flourishes, honesty will prevail in this world!

Patron Saints of China:

  1. The Virgin Mary (as Our Lady of Sheshan) “Prayer of His Holiness Benedict XVI to Our Lady of Sheshan”
  2. Joseph (Patronof the Universal Church; Feast days March 19 and May 1)
  3. Francis Xavier (Feast day December 3)