During Chinese Warring states period, there was a man who was born in state Yan and migrated to state Chu at his early age.
When he was old, he missed his hometown so much that he decided to move back to Yan. So he set off with some companions. One day, they reached state Jin. One of his companions who wanted to play a joke on him pointed at the city of Jin, saying: "Look, my friend, this is the city of your homeland." His words brought a cloud of sadness on the old man's face
Later, when they saw a small temple, the companion said: "Look, my friend, this is the temple of your hometown." the old man began to sigh sorrowfully.
Skirting around the house, the companion pointed at a small mound and said:" Look, my friend, this is the grave of your parents." That was the last straw and the old man burst out into a flood of tears.
The companion comforted him with laugh: "Sorry, my friend, I am joking. This is state Jin, not even your home state." The old man was very embarrassed and stopped crying immediately.
After this experience, when the old man really saw his home town and his parents' house and grave, he felt far less sad than he did in state Jin.
Background and Writer Comment:
It is a story as strange as the "Who Was The Dreamer--Jiao Lu Zi Qi". Like the latter, this story is also from The King Mu of Zhou, an article of Lie Zi, in which the author talked about some typical points of Taoism.
Through this story, the author tried to tell us that everything in the mundane world even including our feeling is delusive, therefore we are often cheated by its illusion. This story is very similar with "The Shepherd", a story from Buddhist Scripture.
The idiom produced from this story is Yan Ren Fan Guo (燕人返国). But due to the fact that this idiom is rarely used nowadays and the complicated subject discussed in this story, I prefer put it in Chinese parable stories instead of idioms.