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The hardest thing in the world






Someone asked, “What is the hardest thing in the world?”

[Another man] said, “Stone and iron.”

[The first man] said, “Stone can be smashed, and iron dented: how are they hard? In my humble opinion, the beard on your face is the very hardest. Neither iron nor stone rivals it.”

[The second man] asked why. [The first man] replied, “Just look at how thick the skin of your face is - it penetrates even that!”

The bearded man scoffed at him in return, saying, "Mine is nothing compared to yours, impenetrable even for beard this hard!"

* From Youxi zhuren 遊戲主人 (fl. 19th century), Xinzeng xiaolin guangji 新增笑林廣記, 4.7b:

Guan Yu 關羽 (d. 200), the famous general who is known as Meirangong 美髯公 (Lord Fine-Beard); detail of the handscroll "Guanyu qinjiang tu" 關羽擒將圖 attributed to the court painter Shang Xi 商喜 (fl. 15th century)

Image credit: The Palace Museum, Beijing (

Figurine of Guan Yu; Qing dynasty (1636-1912)

Image credit: The Palace Museum, Beijing (


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