The “Divine Panorama,” published by the Mercy of God Yü Ti, that Men and Women may repent them of their Faults and make Atonement for their Crimes.
The pious monk Tan Ch’i was wandering in the mountains one fine day, who encountered the entry to Feng Tu with a sign above the portal reading “Exit of the Living, Entry of the Dead”. The realm had been thrown open celebrating the birthday of the Great Emperor of Feng Tu. Tan Ch’i was invited to join in and, in view of his great religious merit, asked to carry the Divine Panorama back to the world of the living.
Tan Ch’i presented the Sacred Book to Wu Mi, who began distributing copies to all people.
HERBERT A. GILES, Of H.M.’s Consular Service in China, translated the book into English in 1880, and printed by Thomas De La Rue and Co., in London.
On the birthday of the Saviour P‘u-sa, as the spirits of Purgatory were thronging round to offer their congratulations, the ruler of the Infernal Regions spake as follows:—“My wish is to release all souls, and every moon as this day comes round I would wholly or partially remit the punishment of erring shades, and give them life once more in one of the Six Paths. But alas! the wicked are many and the virtuous few. Nevertheless, the punishments in the dark region are too severe, and require some modification. Any wicked soul that repents and induces one or two others to do likewise shall be allowed to set this off against the punishments which should be inflicted.” The Judges of the Ten Courts of Purgatory then agreed that all who led virtuous lives from their youth upwards shall be escorted at their death to the land of the Immortals; that all whose balance of good and evil is exact shall escape the bitterness of the Three States, and be born again among men; that those who have repaid their debts of gratitude and friendship, and fulfilled their destiny, yet have a balance of evil against them, shall pass through the various Courts of Purgatory and then be born again amongst men, rich, poor, old, young, diseased or crippled, to be put a second time upon trial. Then, if they behave well they may enter into some happy state; but if badly, they will be dragged by horrid devils through all the Courts, suffering bitterly as they go, and will again be born, to endure in life the uttermost of poverty and wretchedness, in death the everlasting tortures of hell. Those who are disloyal, unfilial, who commit suicide, take life, or disbelieve the doctrine of Cause and Effect, saying to themselves that when a man dies there is an end of him, that when he has lost his skin he has already suffered the worst that can befall him, that living men can be tortured, but no one ever saw a man’s ghost in the pillory, that after death all is unknown, etc., etc.,—truly these men do not know that the body alone perishes but the soul lives for ever and ever; and that whatsoever evil they do in this life, the same will be done unto them in the life to come. All who commit such crimes are handed over to the everlasting tortures of hell; for alas! in spite of the teachings of the Three Systems some will persist in regarding these warnings as vain and empty talk. Lightly they speak of Divine mercy, and knowingly commit many crimes, not more than one in a hundred ever coming to repentance. Therefore the punishments of Purgatory were strictly carried out and the tortures dreadfully severe. But now it has been mercifully ordained that any man or woman, young, old, weak or strong, who may have sinned in any way, shall be permitted to obtain remission of the same by keeping his or her thoughts constantly fixed on P‘u-sa and on the birthdays of the Judges of the Ten Courts, by fasting and prayer, and by vows never to sin again. Or for every good work done in life they shall be allowed to escape one ward in the Courts below. From this rule to be excepted disloyal ministers, unfilial sons, suicides, those who plot in secret against good people, those who are struck by lightning (lit. thunder), those who perish by flood or fire, by wild animals or poisonous reptiles—these to pass through all the Courts and be punished according to their deserts. All other sinners to be allowed to claim their good works as a set-off against evil, thus partly escaping the agonies of hell and receiving some reward for their virtuous deeds. Continue reading “Divine Panorama 玉曆寶鈔 中英对照 （恐怖彩图）”
Once a man saw in his dream, that a lion was chasing him. The man ran to a tree, climbed on to it and sat on a branch. He looked down and saw that the lion was still there waiting for him. The man then looked to his side where the branch he was sitting on was attached to the tree and saw that two rats were circling around and eating the branch. One rat was black and the other one was white. The branch will fall on the ground very soon.
The man then looked below again with fear and discovered that a big black snake had come and settled directly under him. The snake opened its mouth right under the man so that he will fall into it. The man then looked up to see if there was anything that he could hold on to. He saw another branch with a honeycomb. Drops of honey were falling from it.
The man wanted to taste one of the drops. So, he put his tongue out and tasted one of the falling drops of honey. The honey was amazing in taste. So, he wanted to taste another drop and then another and as a result, he got lost into the sweetness of the honey. He forgot about the two rats eating his branch away, the lion on the ground and the snake that is sitting right under him.
Suddenly when the branch broke he remembered all the dangers woke up from his sleep. Since this was an unique dream, the man went to a pious scholar to know its meaning.
The scholar said “The lion you saw is your death. It always chases you and goes where ever you go. The two rats, one black and one white, are the night and the day. Black one is the night and the white one is the day. They circle around, coming one after another, to eat your time as they take you closer to death. The big black snake with a dark mouth is your grave. It’s there, just waiting for you to fall into it. The honeycomb is this world and the sweet drops of honey are the luxuries of this world. We like to taste a little of the luxuries of this world and it’s very sweet. Then we want to taste little more and then more. Meanwhile, we get lost into it and we forget about our time, we forget about our death and we forget about our grave.” May GOD wake us up from the sleep and save us before it’s too late…..
Once a wealthy man invited witches to his home to call up a vision of his father, who had died a few months before. It will make the story more plain by explaining that the old man had been a mandarin, who had been notorious everywhere wherever he had held office for his avaricious, grasping disposition. His ability to accept bribes was immense, and no case came before him but was finally decided not on its own merits, but by the amount that either the prosecutor or the defendant was able to give him.
When he died he had a grand funeral, and houses and wives and concubines, and male and female slaves, fashioned at great expense in paper, were burned at the grave, which by some mysterious and unexplained way were to follow him into the Land of Shadows, where he could set up house on the same princely scale that he had been accustomed to on earth. Nothing had been neglected that money could purchase to make his life in the Dark World as thorough a success as it was possible to ensure, for in addition to a complete suite of furniture and kitchen utensils, and the providing even of a dog to guard the house from robbers, immense quantities of ingots of gold and silver, and piles of dollars and copper, all in paper, were dispatched by a fiery way into the land of gloom to prevent him from suffering any hardships that money could prevent.
It was felt in his late home that everything had been done that religion or money could suggest, for not only had every convenience for living a high-class life been lavishly provided, in paper, but Buddhist priests had been engaged to perform the most elaborate services to deliver him from the pains and sufferings of the infernal prisons, in case Yam-lo should have decided to have him imprisoned in one of them. These last had cost them thousands of dollars, which they had willingly spent, however, since they had been solemnly assured by the priests that their relative had been safely delivered from the horrors of the gaol in which he had been confined.
The witch having arrived, the ancestral tablets of the deceased mandarin, elaborately carved and chased with gold, were placed on a magnificent black wood table. Incense sticks were then lighted, and the usual questions identifying the spirit were asked and satisfactorily settled. This preliminary is a very essential one, for it has often been discovered that the inhabitants of the Land of Shadows retain many of the peculiarities of character that they had in the land of the living, and the witches are frequently taken in by vagrant spirits, who assume the name of others in order to obtain the offerings that are being presented to their friends in the other world.
The witch being satisfied that the spirit of the dead mandarin was really in the tablet before her, asked him if he was happy in the dark land, when it burst out into sorrowful complaints about the utter wretchedness of the life he was leading. Yam-lo, because of his exactions and disregard of the claims of justice when he was a ruler, had condemned him for his sins to be a chair-bearer, and his days were now spent in the severest toil, and at night he was tortured with cold, for he had not enough clothes to put on to keep out the damp air that struck a chill into his very bones.
“But did you not receive the mansion I burned for you,” broke out the son in an excited tone, “and the servants, and the thousands of gold and silver, that would have enriched you until you were released from that terrible land by being born again into the world of men?” “I have received nothing of all the offerings you made me,” the father replied, “for Yam-lo intercepted them, because my life had been such a bad one, and he declared that I deserved to suffer misery and degradation; and so I am working as a chair coolie, bearing hardships and sorrow every day of my life.”
“And is there nothing we can do for you?” asked the son. “Yes, there is one thing that will be of great service to me, in my present miserable condition. Buy two hundred pairs of straw sandals, such as chair-bearers wear, and send them to me at once; also a few rain hats to keep me from the wet. My feet are cut and lacerated with the rough roads, and I am continually wet through with the rain that seems to be always falling in this gloomy land, so that my life is one continued misery.” With the promise that these things would be burned and sent to him, the séance ended, and the family were left to mourn the sufferings of the man who had brought upon himself such a terrible fate through his passion for money, and because he had wished to enrich his family so that they should not know what want was after he had been taken away from them.
On the banks of a river flowing through the prefecture of Tingchow, there stood a certain city of about ten thousand inhabitants. Among this mass of people there was one particular individual named Chung, who had acquired the reputation of being exceedingly large-hearted and benevolently inclined to all those in distress. Anyone who was in want had but to appeal to Chung, and his immediate necessities would at once be relieved without any tedious investigation into the merits of his case. Chung was an easy-going, good-natured man, who was more inclined to look kindly upon his fellow-men than to criticise them harshly for their follies or their crimes.
Now the whole soul of Chung was centred upon his only son Keng. At the time when our story opens, this young fellow was growing up to manhood, and had proved himself to be possessed of no mean ability, for on the various occasions on which he had sat for examination before the Literary Chancellor, his papers had been of a very high order of merit.
The rumours of Chung’s generosity had travelled further than he had ever dreamed of. Several reports of the noble deeds that he was constantly performing had reached the Immortals in the Western Heaven, and as these are profoundly concerned in the doings of mankind, steps were taken that Chung should not go unrewarded.
One day a fairy in the disguise of a bonze called upon him. No sooner had the priest entered within his doors, than he received him with the greatest politeness and cordiality. The same evening he prepared a great dinner, to which a number of distinguished guests were invited, and a time of high festivity and rejoicing was prolonged into the early hours of the morning.
Next day Chung said to his guest, ” I presume you have come round collecting for your temple. I need not assure you that I shall be most delighted to subscribe to anything that has to do with the uplifting of my fellow-men. My donation is ready whenever you wish to accept it.”
The bonze, with a smile which lit up the whole of his countenance, replied that he had not come for the purpose of collecting subscriptions.
” I have come,” he said, ” to warn you about a far more important matter which affects you and your family. Before very long a great flood will take place in this district, and will sweep everything before it. y advice to you is to commence at once the construction of boats to carry you and your most precious effects away. When the news first comes that the waters are rising, have them anchored in the creek that flows close by your doors ; and when the crisis arrives, delay not a moment, but hurry on board and fly for your lives.”
“But when will that be?” asked Chung anxiously.
” I may not tell you the precise day or hour,” replied the bonze ; ” but when the eyes of the stone lions in the East Street of the city shed tears of blood, betake yourselves with all haste to the boats, and leave this doomed place behind you.”
” But may I not tell the people of this approaching calamity?” asked Chung, whose tender heart was deeply wrung with distress at the idea of so many being overwhelmed in the coming flood.
” You can please yourself about that,” answered the priest, ” but no one will believe you. The people of this region are depraved and wicked, and your belief in my words will only cause them to laugh and jeer at you for your credulity.”
As the priest was departing, Chung tried to press into his hand a considerable present of money, but he refused to accept it. After his departure Chung at once called the boat-builders who had their yards along the bank of the stream, and ordered ten large boats to be built with all possible speed. The news of this spread through the town, and when the reasons were asked and the reply was given that the boats were in anticipation of a mighty flood that would ere long devastate the entire region, everyone screamed with laughter ; but Chung let them laugh.
For weeks and months he sent an old man to East Street to see if the eyes of the stone lions there had overflowed with bloody tears.
One day two pig-butchers enquired of this man how it was that every day he appeared and looked into the eyes of the lions. He explained that Chung had sent him, for a prophecy had come from the gods that when the eyes of the lions shed blood, the flood which was to destroy the city would be already madly rushing on its way.
On hearing this, these two butchers determined to play a practical joke. Next day, in readiness for the coming of the old man, they smeared the stone eyes with pigs’ blood. No sooner had Chung’s messenger caught sight of this than, with terror in his eyes, he fled along the streets to tell his master the dreadful news. By this time everything had been prepared, and Chung was only waiting for the appointed sign. The most valuable of his goods had already been packed in some of the boats, and now his wife and son and household servants all hurried down to the water’s edge and embarked. Chung at once ordered the anchors to be raised, and the boatmen, as if for dear life, made for the larger stream outside.
Hardly had the vessels begun to move when the sun, which had been blazing in the sky, became clouded over. Soon a terrific storm of wind tore with the force of a hurricane across the land. By and-by great drops of rain, the harbingers of the deluge which was to inundate the country, fell in heavy splashes. Ere long it seemed as though the great fountains in the heavens had burst out, for the floods came pouring down in one incessant torrent. The sides of the mountains became covered with ten thousand rills, which joined their forces lower down, and developed into veritable cataracts, rushing with fearful and noisy tumult to the plain below.
Before many hours had passed, the streams everywhere overflowed their banks, and ran riot amongst the villages, and flowed like a sea against the city. There was no resisting this watery foe, and before night fell vast multitudes had been drowned in the seething floods from which there was no escape.
Meanwhile, carried swiftly along by the swollen current, Chung’s little fleet sped safely down the stream, drawing further and further away from the doomed city.
The river had risen many feet since they had started on their voyage, and as they were passing by a high peak, which had been undermined by the rush of waters hurling themselves against its base, the boats were put into great danger by the whirl and commotion of the foam-flecked river. Just as they escaped from being submerged, the party noticed a small monkey struggling in the water, and at once picked it up and took it on board.
Further on they passed a large branch of a tree, on which there was a crow’s nest, with one young one in it, they carefully took up and saved.
As they were rushing madly on down the tawny, swollen river, they were all struck with sudden excitement by seeing something struggling in the boiling waters. Looking at this object more attentively as they drew nearer to it, they perceived that it was a man, who seemed to be in great peril of his life. The boat just then came alongside the swimmer, he was hauled into it and delivered from his peril.
After a few days, when the storm had abated and the river had gone down to its natural flow, Chung returned with his family to his home. Shortly after they had settled down again, Chung enquired of Lo-yung, the man whom he had saved from the flood, whether he would not like to return to his family and his home.
” I have no family left,” he answered with a sad look on his face. ” All the members of it were drowned in the great flood from which you delivered me. What little property we had was washed away by the wild rush of the streams that overflowed our farm. Let me stay with you,” he begged, ” and give me the opportunity, by the devoted service of my life, to repay you in some slight degree for what you have done in saving my life.”
Chung was profoundly moved by the tears and sobs of Lo-yung, and hastened to assure him that he need be under no concern with regard to his future. ” You have lost all your relatives, it is true, but from to-day I shall recognize you as my son. I adopt you into my family and I give you my name.”
Six months after this important matter had been settled, the city was placarded with proclamations from its Chief Mandarin. In these he informed the people that he had received a most urgent Edict from the Emperor stating that an official seal, which which was in constant use in high transactions of the State, had in a most mysterious manner disappeared and could not be found. He was therefore directed to inform the people that whoever informed His Majesty where the seal was, so that it could be recovered, would receive a considerable reward and would also be made a high mandarin in the palace of the Emperor.
That very night, whilst Chung was sleeping, a fairy appeared to him in a dream. ” The gods have sent me,” he said, ” to give you one more proof of the high regard in which they hold you for your devotion to your fellow-men. The Emperor has lost a valuable seal which he is most anxious to recover, and he has promised large and liberal rewards to the man who shows him where it may be found. I want to tell you where the seal is. It lies at the bottom of the crystal well in the grounds behind the palace. It was accidentally dropped in there by the Empress-Dowager, who has forgotten all about the circumstance, but who will recollect it the moment she is reminded of it. I want you to send your own son to the capital to claim the reward by telling where the seal is.”
When Chung awoke in the morning, he told his wife the wonderful news of what had happened to him during the night, and began to make preparations for his son to start for the capital without delay, in order to secure the honours promised by the Emperor. His wife, however, was by no means reconciled to the idea of parting with her son, and strongly opposed his going.
” Why are you so set upon the honours of this Hfe that you are willing to be separated from your only child, whom perhaps you may never be able to see again ? ” she asked her husband, with tears in her eyes. ” You are a rich man, you are beloved of the gods, you have everything that money can buy in this flowery kingdom. Why not then be contented and cease to long after the dignities which the State can confer, but which can never give you any real happiness ? “
Just at that moment Lo-yung came in, and hearing the wonderful story, and seeing the distress of the mother, he volunteered to take the place of her son and go to the capital in his stead.
” I have never yet had the chance,” he said, ” of showing my gratitude to my benefactor for having saved my life, and for the many favours he has showered upon me. I shall be glad to undertake this journey. I shall have an audience with His Majesty and will reveal to him the place where the seal lies hidden, and I shall then insist that all the honours he may be prepared to bestow on me shall be transferred to your son, to whom of right they naturally belong.”
It was accordingly arranged that Lo-yung should take the place of Chung’s son, and preparations were at once made for his journey to the capital.
On his arrival at the capital, he at once sought an interview with the Prime Minister, Lo-yung at once explained that he had come to reveal the place where the lost seal at that moment lay concealed.
The audidience was quickly arranged, a eunuch from the palace commanded the Prime Minister to bring Lo-yung without delay to the Audience Hall and wait upon the Emperor. When they arrived they found there not only the King, but also the Empress-Dowager, waiting to receive them. In obedience to a hasty command, Lo-yung told in a few words where the seal was, and how it happened to be there. As he went on with the story the face of the Empress Ht up with wonder, whilst a pleasing smile overspread it, as she recognized the truth of what Lo-yung was saying.
” But tell me,” said the Emperor, ” how you get all your information and how it is that you have such an intimate acquaintance with what is going on in my palace ? “
Lo-yung then described how the Immortals in the Western Heaven, deeply moved by the loving character of Chung, and wishing to reward him and bring honour to his family, had sent a fairy, who appeared to him in a dream and told him the secret of the seal.
” Your home,” said the Emperor, ” must indeed be celebrated for benevolent and loving deeds to men, since even the fairies come down from the far-off Heaven to express their approbation. In accordance with my royal promise, I now appoint you to a high official position that will enrich you for life, for I consider that it will be for the welfare of my kingdom to have a man from a home, which the gods delight to honour, to assist me in the management of my public affairs.”
From the moment when the royal favour was bestowed on Lo-yung, it seemed as though every particle of gratitude and every kindly remembrance of Chung had vanished completely out of his heart. He cut himself off from the home he had left only a few days ago, as completely as though it had never existed.
Weeks and months went by, but no news came from him, and the heart of Chung was wrung with anguish, for he knew that Lo-yung’s unnatural conduct would in the end bring retribution upon Lo-yung himself.
At last he determined to send his son, Keng, to the capital to find out what had really become of Lo-yung. Attended by one of his household servants, the young man reached his journey’s end in a few days. On enquiring at his inn about Lo-yung, he was informed that he was a mandarin of great distinction in the city, and was under the special protection of the Emperor, whose favourite he was.
Hearing this joyful news, Keng, followed by his servant, at once hastened to the residence of Lo-yung, and was lucky enough to meet him as he rode out on horseback from his magnificent yamen, attended by a long retinue of officers and attendants.
Running up to the side of his horse, Keng cried out joyfully, ” Ah ! my brother, what a joy to meet you once more ! How glad I am to see you ! “
To his astonishment, Lo-yung, with a frown upon his face, angrily exclaimed : ” You common fellow, what do you mean by calling me your brother? I have no brother. You are an impostor, and you must be severely punished for daring to claim kinship with me.”
Calling some of the lictors in his train, he ordered them to beat Keng, and then cast him into prison, and to give strict injunctions to the jailer to treat him as a dangerous criminal. Wounded and bleeding from the severe scourging he had received, and in a terrible state of exhaustion, poor Keng was dragged to the prison, where he was thrown into the deepest dungeon, and left to recover as best he might from the shock he had sustained.
One morning, as Keng lay weary and half-starved in the dungeon. on the blackened heap of straw that served him as a bed in the corner of the prison, a monkey climbed up and clung to the narrow gratings through which the light penetrated into his room. In one of its hands it held a piece of pork which it kept offering to Keng. Very much surprised, he got up to take it, when to his delight he discovered that the monkey was the identical one which had been picked up by his father on the day of the great flood.
A few days after this, a number of crows gathered on a roof which overlooked the narrow slits through which the prisoner could catch a glimpse of the blue sky. One of them flew on to the ledge outside, and Keng immediately recognized it as the one which had been saved from the floating branch in the turbid river. He was overjoyed to see this bird, and besought the jailer to allow him to write a letter to his father, telling him of his pitiful condition. This request was granted, and the document was tied to the leg of the crow, which flew away on its long flight to Chung with its important news.
Chung was greatly distressed when he read the letter that his son had written in prison, and with all the speed he could command, he travelled post haste to the capital. When he arrived there he made various attempts to obtain an interview with Lo-yung, but all in vain. The mandarin had not sense enough to see that the threads of fate were slowly winding themselves around him, and would soon entangle him to his destruction.
Very unwillingly, therefore, because he still loved Lo-yung and would have saved him if possible, Chung entered an accusation against him before Pau-Kung, the famous criminal judge.
The result of the investigation was the condemnation of Lo-yung, whose execution speedily followed, whilst Keng was promoted to the very position that had been occupied by the man who had tried to work his ruin.
The moral of this story is: A benevolent life must be rewarded, and sometimes the lower animals know how to show gratitude, but men do not.
There was a monk named Ta Ma who came from the West to China to enlighten the Chinese.
He exposed himself to every possible hardship, being self-denying in the extreme. He lived only upon the herbs of the field; and in order to attain to the highest degree of sanctity, determined to pass his nights as well as days in contemplation of doctrine.
After some time spent thus, he became so weary that he fell asleep. This lapse troubled him sorely.
On awaking the next morning he determined to expiate his vow-breaking sin by cutting off his eyelids! Returning to the place the following day, he was surprised to find that each eyelid had become a shrub, the plant, indeed, which we now call tea.
He took of the leaves and ate them, and found that as he did so his heart was filled with extraordinary exhilaration, and that he had acquired renewed strength for his contemplation. The event being known, his disciples spread the news far and wide.
The ‘Military Emperor’ Wu-te of Wei was once afflicted with bad dreams, in which a spirit seemed to move his brain bones about until his head ached frightfully. He met a Buddhist Monk, who might be the disciple of Ta Ma, told him that on the mountains grew a certain plant called Ch’a, which would heal him. The Emperor followed his advice with complete success. From that time the beneficial effects of tea became know the wide Empire over.
As Mary is the guiding spirit of Rome, so is Kuan Yin of the Buddhist faith.
According to a beautiful Chinese legend, Kuan Yin. when about to enter Heaven, heard a cry of anguish rising from the earth beneath her, and, moved by pity, paused as her feet touched the glorious threshold. Hence her name ‘Kuan (Shih) Yin’ (one who notices or hears the cry, or prayer, of the world).
Kuan Yin was at one time always represented as a man; but in the T’ang dynasty and Five Dynasties we find him represented as a woman, and he has been generally, though not invariably, so represented since that time.
In old Buddhism Shâkyamuni was the chief god, and in many temples he still nominally occupies the seat of honour, but he is completely eclipsed by the God or Goddess of Mercy.
“The men love her, the children adore her, and the women chant her prayers. Whatever the temple may be, there is nearly always a chapel for Kuan Yin within its precincts; she lives in many homes, and in many, many hearts she sits enshrined. She is the patron goddess of mothers, and when we remember the relative value of a son in Chinese estimation we can appreciate the heartiness of the worship. She protects in sorrow, and so millions of times the prayer is offered, ‘Great mercy, great pity, save from sorrow, save from suffering,’ or, as it is in the books, ‘Great mercy, great pity, save from misery, save from evil, broad, great, efficacious, responsive Kuan Yin Buddha,’ She saves the tempest-tossed sailor, and so has eclipsed the Empress of Heaven, who, as the female Neptune, is the patroness of seamen; in drought the mandarins worship the Dragon and the Pearly Emperor, but if they fail the bronze Goddess of Mercy from the hills brings rain. Other gods are feared, she is loved; others have black, scornful faces, her countenance is radiant as gold, and gentle as the moon-beam; she draws near to the people and the people draw near to her. Her throne is upon the Isle of Pootoo [P’u T’o], to which she came floating upon a water-lily. She is the model of Chinese beauty, and to say a lady or a little girl is a ‘Kuan Yin’ is the highest compliment that can be paid to grace and loveliness. She is fortunate in having three birthdays, the nineteenth of the second, sixth, and ninth moons.” There are many metamorphoses of this goddess.
The Buddhist Saviour
“She is called Kuan Yin because at any cry of misery she ‘hears the voice and removes the sorrow.’ Her appellation is ‘Taking-away-fear Buddha,’ If in the midst of the fire the name of Kuan Yin is called, the fire cannot burn; if tossed by mountain billows, call her name, and shallow waters will be reached. If merchants go across the sea seeking gold, silver, pearls, and precious stones, and a storm comes up and threatens to carry the crew to the evil devil’s kingdom, if one on board calls on the name of Kuan Yin, the ship will be saved. If one goes into a conflict and calls on the name of Kuan Yin, the sword and spear of the enemy fall harmless. If the three thousand great kingdoms are visited by demons, call on her name, and these demons cannot with an evil eye look on a man. If, within, you have evil thoughts, only call on Kuan Yin, and your heart will be purified, Anger and wrath may be dispelled by calling on the name of Kuan Yin. A lunatic who prays to Kuan Yin will become sane. Kuan Yin gives sons to mothers, and if the mother asks for a daughter she will be beautiful. Two men–one chanting the names of the 6,200,000 Buddhas, in number like the sands of the Ganges, and the other simply calling on Kuan Yin–have equal merit. Kuan Yin may take the form of a Buddha, a prince, a priest, a nun, a scholar, any form or shape, go to any kingdom, and preach the law throughout the earth.”
Miao Chuang desires an Heir
In the twenty-first year of the reign of Ta Hao, the Great Great One, of the Golden Heavenly Dynasty, a man named P’o Chia, whose first name was Lo Yü, an enterprising kinglet of Hsi Yii, seized the throne for twenty years, after carrying on a war for a space of three years. His kingdom was known as Hsing Lin, and the title of his reign as Miao Chuang.
The kingdom of Hsing Lin was, so says the Chinese writer, situated between India on the west, the kingdom of T’ien Cheng on the south, and the kingdom of Siam on the north, and was 3000 _li_ in length. The boundaries differ according to different authors. Of this kingdom the two pillars of State were the Grand Minister Chao Chen and the General Ch’u Chieh. The Queen Pao Tê, whose maiden name was Po Ya, and the King Miao Chuang had lived nearly half a century without having any male issue to succeed to the throne. This was a source of great grief to them. Po Ya suggested to the King that the God of Hua Shan, the sacred mountain in the west, had the reputation of being always willing to help; and that if he prayed to him and asked his pardon for having shed so much blood during the wars which preceded his accession to the throne he might obtain an heir.
Welcoming this suggestion, the King sent for Chao Chên and ordered him to dispatch to the temple of Hua Shan the two Chief Ministers of Ceremonies, Hsi Hêng-nan and Chih Tu, with instructions to request fifty Buddhist and Taoist priests to pray for seven days and seven nights in order that the King might obtain a son. When that period was over, the King and Queen would go in person to offer sacrifices in the temple.
Prayers to the Gods
The envoys took with them many rare and valuable presents, and for seven days and seven nights the temple resounded with the sound of drums, bells, and all kinds of instruments, intermingled with the voices of the praying priests. On their arrival the King and Queen offered sacrifices to the god of the sacred mountain.
But the God of Hua Shan knew that the King had been deprived of a male heir as a punishment for the bloody hecatombs during his three years’ war. The priests, however, interceded for him, urging that the King had come in person to offer the sacrifices, wherefore the God could not altogether reject his prayer. So he ordered Ch’ien-li Yen, ‘Thousand-_li_ Eye,’ and Shun-fêng Erh, ‘Favourable-wind Ear,’  to go quickly and ascertain if there were not some worthy person who was on the point of being reincarnated into this world.
The two messengers shortly returned, and stated that in India, in the Chiu Ling Mountains, in the village of Chih-shu Yüan, there lived a good man named Shih Ch’in-ch’ang, whose ancestors for three generations had observed all the ascetic rules of the Buddhists. This man was the father of three children, the eldest Shih Wên, the second Shih Chin, and the third Shih Shan, all worthy followers of the great Buddha.
The Murder of the Tais
Wang Chê, a brigand chief, and thirty of his followers, finding themselves pursued and harassed by the Indian soldiers, without provisions or shelter, dying of hunger, went to Shih Wên and begged for something to eat. Knowing that they were evildoers, Shih Wên and his two brothers refused to give them anything; if they starved, they said, the peasants would no longer suffer from their depredations. Thereupon the brigands decided that it was a case of life for life, and broke into the house of a rich family of the name of Tai, burning their home, killing a hundred men, women, and children, and carrying off everything they possessed.
The local _t’u-ti_ at once made a report to Yü Huang.
“This Shih family,” replied the god, “for three generations has given itself up to good works, and certainly the brigands were not deserving of any pity. However, it is impossible to deny that the three brothers Shih, in refusing them food, morally compelled them to loot the Tai family’s house, putting all to the sword or flames. Is not this the same as if they had committed the crime themselves? Let them be arrested and put in chains in the celestial prison, and let them never see the light of the sun again.”
“Since,” said the messenger to the God of Hua Shan, “your gratitude toward Miao Chuang compels you to grant him an heir, why not ask Yü Huang to pardon their crime and reincarnate them in the womb of the Queen Po Ya, so that they may begin a new terrestrial existence and give themselves up to good works?” As a result, the God of Hua Shan called the Spirit of the Wind and gave him a message for Yü Huang.
A Message for Yü Huang
The message was as follows: “King Miao Chuang has offered sacrifice to me and begged me to grant him an heir. But since by his wars he has caused the deaths of a large number of human beings, he does not deserve to have his request granted. Now these three brothers Shih have offended your Majesty by constraining the brigand Wang Che to be guilty of murder and robbery. I pray you to take into account their past good works and pardon their crime, giving them an opportunity of expiating it by causing them all three to be reborn, but of the female sex, in the womb of Po Ya the Queen.  In this way they will be able to atone for their crime and save many souls.” Yü Huang was pleased to comply, and he ordered the Spirit of the North Pole to release the three captives and take their souls to the palace of King Miao Chuang, where in three years’ time they would be changed into females in the womb of Queen Po Ya.
Birth of the Three Daughters
The King, who was anxiously expecting day by day the birth of an heir, was informed one morning that a daughter had been born to him. She was named Miao Ch’ing. A year went by, and another daughter was born. This one was named Miao Yin. When, at the end of the third year, another daughter was born, the King, beside himself with rage, called his Grand Minister Chao Chên and, all disconsolate, said to him, “I am past fifty, and have no male child to succeed me on the throne. My dynasty will therefore become extinct. Of what use have been all my labours and all my victories?” Chao Chen tried to console him, saying, “Heaven has granted you three daughters: no human power can change this divine decree. When these princesses have grown up, we will choose three sons-in-law for your Majesty, and you can elect your successor from among them. Who will dare to dispute his right to the throne?”
The King named the third daughter Miao Shan. She became noted for her modesty and many other good qualities, and scrupulously observed all the tenets of the Buddhist doctrines. Virtuous living seemed, indeed, to be to her a second nature.
Miao Shan’s Ambition
One day, when the three sisters were playing in the palace garden of Perpetual Spring, Miao Shan, with a serious mien, said to her sisters, “Riches and glory are like the rain in spring or the morning dew; a little while, and all is gone. Kings and emperors think to enjoy to the end the good fortune which places them in a rank apart from other human beings; but sickness lays them low in their coffins, and all is over. Where are now all those powerful dynasties which have laid down the law to the world? As for me, I desire nothing more than a peaceful retreat on a lone mountain, there to attempt the attainment of perfection. If some day I can reach a high degree of goodness, then, borne on the clouds of Heaven, I will travel throughout the universe, passing in the twinkling of an eye from east to west. I will rescue my father and mother, and bring them to Heaven; I will save the miserable and afflicted on earth; I will convert the spirits which do evil, and cause them to do good. That is my only ambition.”
Her Sisters Marry
No sooner had she finished speaking than a lady of the Court came to announce that the King had found sons-in-law to his liking for his two elder daughters. The wedding-feast was to be the very next day. “Be quick,” she added, “and prepare your presents, your dresses, and so forth, for the King’s order is imperative.” The husband chosen for Miao Ch’ing was a First Academician named Chao K’uei. His personal name was Tê Ta, and he was the son of a celebrated minister of the reigning dynasty. Miao Yin’s husband-elect was a military officer named Ho Fêng, whose personal name was Ch’ao Yang. He had passed first in the examination for the Military Doctorate. The marriage ceremonies were of a magnificent character. Festivity followed festivity; the newly-wed were duly installed in their palaces, and general happiness prevailed.
Miao Shan’s Renunciation
There now remained only Miao Shan. The King and Queen wished to find for her a man famous for knowledge and virtue, capable of ruling the kingdom, and worthy of being the successor to the throne. So the King called her and explained to her all his plans regarding her, and how all his hopes rested on her.
“It is a crime,” she replied, “for me not to comply with my father’s wishes; but you must pardon me if my ideas differ from yours.”
“Tell me what your ideas are,” said the King.
“I do not wish to marry,” she rejoined. “I wish to attain to perfection and to Buddhahood. Then I promise that I will not be ungrateful to you.”
“Wretch of a daughter,” cried the King in anger, “you think you can teach me, the head of the State and ruler of so great a people! Has anyone ever known a daughter of a king become a nun? Can a good woman be found in that class? Put aside all these mad ideas of a nunnery, and tell me at once if you will marry a First Academician or a Military First Graduate.”
“Who is there,” answered the girl, “who does not love the royal dignity?–what person who does not aspire to the happiness of marriage? However, I wish to become a nun. With respect to the riches and glory of this world, my heart is as cold as a dead cinder, and I feel a keen desire to make it ever purer and purer.”
The King rose in fury, and wished to cast her out from his presence. Miao Shan, knowing she could not openly disobey his orders, took another course. “If you absolutely insist upon my marrying,” she said, “I will consent; only I must marry a physician.”
“A physician!” growled the King. “Are men of good family and talents wanting in my kingdom? What an absurd idea, to want to marry a physician!”
“My wish is,” said Miao Shan, “to heal humanity of all its ills; of cold, heat, lust, old age, and all infirmities. I wish to equalize all classes, putting rich and poor on the same footing, to have community of goods, without distinction of persons. If you will grant me my wish, I can still in this way become a Buddha, a Saviour of Mankind. There is no necessity to call in the diviners to choose an auspicious day. I am ready to be married now.”
She is Exiled to the Garden
At these words the King was mad with rage. “Wicked imbecile!” he cried, “what diabolical suggestions are these that you dare to make in my presence?”
Without further ado he called Ho T’ao, who on that day was officer of the palace guard. When he had arrived and kneeled to receive the King’s commands, the latter said: “This wicked nun dishonours me. Take from her her Court robes, and drive her from my presence. Take her to the Queen’s garden, and let her perish there of cold: that will be one care less for my troubled heart.”
Miao Shan fell on her face and thanked the King, and then went with the officer to the Queen’s garden, where she began to lead her retired hermit life, with the moon for companion and the wind for friend, content to see all obstacles overthrown on her way to Nirvana, the highest state of spiritual bliss, and glad to exchange the pleasures of the palace for the sweetness of solitude.
The Nunnery of the White Bird
After futile attempts to dissuade her from her purpose by the Court ladies, her parents, and sisters, the King and Queen next deputed Miao Hung and Ts’ui Hung to make a last attempt to bring their misguided daughter to her senses. Miao Shan, annoyed at this renewed solicitation, in a haughty manner ordered them never again to come and torment her with their silly prattle. “I have found out,” she added, “that there is a well-known temple at Ju Chou in Lung-shu Hsien. This Buddhist temple is known as the Nunnery of the White Bird, Po-ch’iao Ch’an-ssu. In it five hundred nuns give themselves up to the study of the true doctrine and the way of perfection. Go then and ask the Queen on my behalf to obtain the King’s permission for me to retire thither. If you can procure me this favour, I will not fail to reward you later.”
Miao Chuang summoned the messengers and inquired the result of their efforts. “She is more unapproachable than ever,” they replied; “she has even ordered us to ask the Queen to obtain your Majesty’s permission to retire to the Nunnery of the White Bird in Lung-shu Hsien.”
The King gave his permission, but sent strict orders to the nunnery, instructing the nuns to do all in their power to dissuade the Princess when she arrived from carrying out her intention to remain.
Her Reception at the Nunnery
This Nunnery of the White Bird had been built by Huang Ti, and the five hundred nuns who lived in it had as Superior a lady named I Yu, who was remarkable for her virtue. On receipt of the royal mandate, she had summoned Chêng Chêng-ch’ang, the choir-mistress, and informed her that Princess Miao Shan, owing to a disagreement with her father, would shortly arrive at the temple. She requested her to receive the visitor courteously, but at the same time to do all she could to dissuade her from adopting the life of a nun. Having given these instructions, the Superior, accompanied by two novices, went to meet Miao Shan at the gate of the temple. On her arrival they saluted her. The Princess returned the salute, but said: “I have just left the world in order to place myself under your orders: why do you come and salute me on my arrival? I beg you to be so good as to take me into the temple, in order that I may pay my respects to the Buddha.” I Yu led her into the principal hall, and instructed the nuns to light incense-sticks, ring the bells, and beat the drums. The visit to the temple finished, she went into the preaching-hall, where she greeted her instructresses. The latter obeyed the King’s command and endeavoured to persuade the Princess to return to her home, but, as none of their arguments had any effect, it was at length decided to give her a trial, and to put her in charge of the kitchen, where she could prepare the food for the nunnery, and generally be at the service of all. If she did not give satisfaction they could dismiss her.
She makes Offering to the Buddha
Miao Shan joyfully agreed, and proceeded to make her humble submission to the Buddha. She knelt before Ju Lai, and made offering to him, praying as follows: “Great Buddha, full of goodness and mercy, your humble servant wishes to leave the world. Grant that I may never yield to the temptations which will be sent to try my faith.” Miao Shan further promised to observe all the regulations of the nunnery and to obey the superiors.
Miao Shan Reaches the Nunnery
This generous self-sacrifice touched the heart of Yü Huang, the Master of Heaven, who summoned the Spirit of the North Star and instructed him as follows: “Miao Shan, the third daughter of King Miao Chuang, has renounced the world in order to devote herself to the attainment of perfection. Her father has consigned her to the Nunnery of the White Bird. She has undertaken without grumbling the burden of all the work in the nunnery. If she is left without help, who is there who will be willing to adopt the virtuous life? Do you go quickly and order the Three Agents, the Gods of the Five Sacred Peaks, the Eight Ministers of the Heavenly Dragon, Ch’ieh Lan, and the _t’u-ti_ to send her help at once. Tell the Sea-dragon to dig her a well near the kitchen, a tiger to bring her firewood, birds to collect vegetables for the inmates of the nunnery, and all the spirits of Heaven to help her in her duties, that she may give herself up without disturbance to the pursuit of perfection. See that my commands are promptly obeyed.” The Spirit of the North Star complied without delay.
The Nunnery on Fire
Seeing all these gods arrive to help the novice, the Superior, I Yu, held consultation with the choir-mistress, saying: “We assigned to the Princess the burdensome work of the kitchen because she refused to return to the world; but since she has entered on her duties the gods of the eight caves of Heaven have come to offer her fruit, Ch’ieh Lan sweeps the kitchen, the dragon has dug a well, the God of the Hearth and the tiger bring her fuel, birds collect vegetables for her, the nunnery bell every evening at dusk booms of itself, as if struck by some mysterious hand. Obviously miracles are being performed. Hasten and fetch the King, and beg his Majesty to recall his daughter.”
Chêng Chêng-ch’ang started on her way, and, on arrival, informed the King of all that had taken place. The King called Hu Pi-li, the chief of the guard, and ordered him to go to the sub-prefecture of Lung-shu Hsien at the head of an army corps of 5000 infantry and cavalry. He was to surround the Nunnery of the White Bird and burn it to the ground, together with the nuns. When he reached the place the commander surrounded the nunnery with his soldiers, and set fire to it. The five hundred doomed nuns invoked the aid of Heaven and earth, and then, addressing Miao Shan, said: “It is you who have brought upon us this terrible disaster.”
“It is true,” said Miao Shan. “I alone am the cause of your destruction.” She then knelt down and prayed to Heaven: “Great Sovereign of the Universe, your servant is the daughter of King Miao Chuang; you are the grandson of King Lun. Will you not rescue your younger sister? You have left your palace; I also have left mine. You in former times betook yourself to the snowy mountains to attain perfection; I came here with the same object. Will you not save us from this fiery destruction?”
Her prayer ended, Miao Shan took a bamboo hairpin from her hair, pricked the roof of her mouth with it, and spat the flowing blood toward Heaven. Immediately great clouds gathered in all parts of the sky and sent down inundating showers, which put out the fire that threatened the nunnery. The nuns threw themselves on their knees and thanked her effusively for having saved their lives.
Hu Pi-li retired, and went in haste to inform the King of this extraordinary occurrence. The King, enraged, ordered him to go back at once, bring his daughter in chains, and behead her on the spot.
The Execution of Miao Shan
But the Queen, who had heard of this new plot, begged the King to grant her daughter a last chance. “If you will give permission,” she said, “I will have a magnificent pavilion built at the side of the road where Miao Shan will pass in chains on the way to her execution, and will go there with our two other daughters and our sons-in-law. As she passes we will have music, songs, feasting, everything likely to impress her and make her contrast our luxurious life with her miserable plight. This will surely bring her to repentance.”
“I agree,” said the King, “to counter-order her execution until your preparations are complete.” Nevertheless, when the time came, Miao Shan showed nothing but disdain for all this worldly show, and to all advances replied only: “I love not these pompous vanities; I swear that I prefer death to the so-called joys of this world.” She was then led to the place of execution. All the Court was present. Sacrifices were made to her as to one already dead. A Grand Minister pronounced the sacrificial oration.
In the midst of all this the Queen appeared, and ordered the officials to return to their posts, that she might once more exhort her daughter to repent. But Miao Shan only listened in silence with downcast eyes.
The King felt great repugnance to shedding his daughter’s blood, and ordered her to be imprisoned in the palace, in order that he might make a last effort to save her. “I am the King,” he said; “my orders cannot be lightly set aside. Disobedience to them involves punishment, and in spite of my paternal love for you, if you persist in your present attitude, you will be executed to-morrow in front of the palace gate.”
The _t’u-ti_, hearing the King’s verdict, went with all speed to Yü Huang, and reported to him the sentence which had been pronounced against Miao Shan. Yü Huang exclaimed: “Save Buddha, there is none in the west so noble as this Princess. To-morrow, at the appointed hour, go to the scene of execution, break the swords, and splinter the lances they will use to kill her. See that she suffers no pain. At the moment of her death transform yourself into a tiger, and bring her body to the pine-wood. Having deposited it in a safe place, put a magic pill in her mouth to arrest decay. Her triumphant soul on its return from the lower regions must find it in a perfect state of preservation in order to be able to re-enter it and animate it afresh. After that, she must betake herself to Hsiang Shan on P’u T’o Island, where she will reach the highest state of perfection.”
On the day appointed, Commander Hu Pi-li led the condemned Princess to the place of execution. A body of troops had been stationed there to maintain order. The _t’u-ti_ was in attendance at the palace gates. Miao Shan was radiant with joy. “To-day,” she said, “I leave the world for a better life. Hasten to take my life, but beware of mutilating my body.”
The Tiger Carries Off Miao Shan.
The King’s warrant arrived, and suddenly the sky became overcast and darkness fell upon the earth. A bright light surrounded Miao Shan, and when the sword of the executioner fell upon the neck of the victim it was broken in two. Then they thrust at her with a spear, but the weapon fell to pieces. After that the King ordered that she be strangled with a silken cord. A few moments later a tiger leapt into the execution ground, dispersed the executioners, put the inanimate body of Miao Shan on his back, and disappeared into the pine-forest. Hu Pi-li rushed to the palace, recounted to the King full details of all that had occurred, and received a reward of two ingots of gold.
Miao Shan visits the Infernal Regions
Meantime, Miao Shan’s soul, which remained unhurt, was borne on a cloud; when, waking as from a dream, she lifted her head and looked round, she could not see her body. “My father has just had me strangled,” she sighed. “How is it that I find myself in this place? Here are neither mountains, nor trees, nor vegetation; no sun, moon, nor stars; no habitation, no sound, no cackling of a fowl nor barking of a dog. How can I live in this desolate region?”
Suddenly a young man dressed in blue, shining with a brilliant light, and carrying a large banner, appeared and said to her: “By order of Yen Wang, the King of the Hells, I come to take you to the eighteen infernal regions.”
“What is this cursed place where I am now?” asked Miao Shan.
“This is the lower world, Hell,” he replied. “Your refusal to marry, and the magnanimity with which you chose an ignominious death rather than break your resolutions, deserve the recognition of Yü Huang, and the ten gods of the lower regions, impressed and pleased at your eminent virtue, have sent me to you. Fear nothing and follow me.”
Thus Miao Shan began her visit to all the infernal regions. The Gods of the Ten Hells came to congratulate her.
“Who am I,” asked Miao Shan, “that you should deign to take the trouble to show me such respect?”
“We have heard,” they replied, “that when you recite your prayers all evil disappears as if by magic. We should like to hear you pray.”
“I consent,” replied Miao Shan, “on condition that all the condemned ones in the ten infernal regions be released from their chains in order to listen to me.”
At the appointed time the condemned were led in by Niu T’ou (‘Ox-head’) and Ma Mien (‘Horse-face’), the two chief constables of Hell, and Miao Shan began her prayers. No sooner had she finished than Hell was suddenly transformed into a paradise of joy, and the instruments of torture into lotus-flowers.
Hell a Paradise
P’an Kuan, the keeper of the Register of the Living and the Dead, presented a memorial to Yen Wang stating that since Miao Shan’s arrival there was no more pain in Hell; and all the condemned were beside themselves with happiness. “Since it has always been decreed,” he added, “that, in justice, there must be both a Heaven and a Hell, if you do not send this saint back to earth, there will no longer be any Hell, but only a Heaven.”
“Since that is so,” said Yen Wang, “let forty-eight flag-bearers escort her across the Styx Bridge [Nai-ho Ch’iao], that she may be taken to the pine-forest to reenter her body, and resume her life in the upper world.”
The King of the Hells having paid his respects to her, the youth in blue conducted her soul back to her body, which she found lying under a pine-tree. Having reentered it, Miao Shan found herself alive again. A bitter sigh escaped from her lips. “I remember,” she said, “all that I saw and heard in Hell. I sigh for the moment which will find me free of all impediments, and yet my soul has re-entered my body. Here, without any lonely mountain on which to give myself up to the pursuit of perfection, what will become of me?” Great tears welled from her eyes.
A Test of Virtue
Just then Ju Lai Buddha appeared. “Why have you come to this place?” he asked. Miao Shan explained why the King had put her to death, and how after her descent into Hell her soul had re-entered her body. “I greatly pity your misfortune,” Ju Lai said, “but there is no one to help you. I also am alone. Why should we not marry? We could build ourselves a hut, and pass our days in peace. What say you?” “Sir,” she replied, “you must not make impossible suggestions. I died and came to life again. How can you speak so lightly? Do me the pleasure of withdrawing from my presence.”
“Well,” said the visitor, “he to whom you are speaking is no other than the Buddha of the West. I came to test your virtue. This place is not suitable for your devotional exercises; I invite you to come to Hsiang Shan.”
Miao Shan threw herself on her knees and said: “My bodily eyes deceived me. I never thought that your Majesty would come to a place like this. Pardon my seeming want of respect. Where is this Hsiang Shan?”
“Hsiang Shan is a very old monastery,” Ju Lai replied, “built in the earliest historical times. It is inhabited by Immortals. It is situated in the sea, on P’u T’o Island, a dependency of the kingdom of Annam. There you will be able to reach the highest perfection.”
“How far off is this island?” Miao Shan asked. “More than three thousand _li_,” Ju Lai replied. “I fear,” she said, “I could not bear the fatigue of so long a journey.” “Calm yourself,” he rejoined. “I have brought with me a magic peach, of a kind not to be found in any earthly orchard. Once you have eaten it, you will experience neither hunger nor thirst; old age and death will have no power over you: you will live for ever.”
Miao Shan ate the magic peach, took leave of Ju Lai, and started on the way to Hsiang Shan. From the clouds the Spirit of the North Star saw her wending her way painfully toward P’u T’o. He called the Guardian of the Soil of Hsiang Shan and said to him: “Miao Shan is on her way to your country; the way is long and difficult. Do you take the form of a tiger, and carry her to her journey’s end.”
The _t’u-ti_ transformed himself into a tiger and stationed himself in the middle of the road along which Miao Shan must pass, giving vent to ferocious roars.
“I am a poor girl devoid of filial piety,” said Miao Shan when she came up. “I have disobeyed my father’s commands; devour me, and make an end of me.”
The tiger then spoke, saying: “I am not a real tiger, but the Guardian of the Soil of Hsiang Shan. I have received instructions to carry you there. Get on my back.”
“Since you have received these instructions,” said the girl, “I will obey, and when I have attained to perfection I will not forget your kindness.”
The tiger went off like a flash of lightning, and in the twinkling of an eye Miao Shan found herself at the foot of the rocky slopes of P’u T’o Island.
Miao Shan attains to Perfection
After nine years in this retreat Miao Shan had reached the acme of perfection. Ti-tsang Wang then came to Hsiang Shan, and was so astonished at her virtue that he inquired of the local _t’u-ti_ as to what had brought about this wonderful result. “With the exception of Ju Lai, in all the west no one equals her in dignity and perfection. She is the Queen of the three thousand P’u-sa’s and of all the beings on earth who have skin and blood. We regard her as our sovereign in all things. Therefore, on the nineteenth day of the eleventh moon we will enthrone her, that the whole world may profit by her beneficence.”
The _t’u-ti_ sent out his invitations for the ceremony. The Dragon-king of the Western Sea, the Gods of the Five Sacred Mountains, the Emperor-saints to the number of one hundred and twenty, the thirty-six officials of the Ministry of Time, the celestial functionaries in charge of wind, rain, thunder, and lightning, the Three Causes, the Five Saints, the Eight Immortals, the Ten Kings of the Hells–all were present on the appointed day. Miao Shan took her seat on the lotus-throne, and the assembled gods proclaimed her sovereign of Heaven and earth, and a Buddha. Moreover, they decided that it was not meet that she should remain alone at Hsiang Shan; so they begged her to choose a worthy young man and a virtuous damsel to serve her in the temple.
The _t’u-ti_ was entrusted with the task of finding them. While making search, he met a young priest named Shan Ts’ai. After the death of his parents he had become a hermit on Ta-hua Shan, and was still a novice in the science of perfection.
Miao Shan ordered him to be brought to her. “Who are you?” she asked.
“I am a poor orphan priest of no merit,” he replied. “From my earliest youth I have led the life of a hermit. I have been told that your power is equalled only by your goodness, so I have ventured to come to pray you to show me how to attain to perfection.”
“My only fear,” replied Miao Shan, “is that your desire for perfection may not be sincere.”
“I have now no parents,” the priest continued, “and I have come more than a thousand _li_ to find you. How can I be wanting in sincerity?”
“What special degree of ability have you attained during your course of perfection?” asked Miao Shan.
“I have no skill,” replied Shan Ts’ai, “but I rely for everything on your great pity, and under your guidance I hope to reach the required ability.”
“Very well,” said Miao Shan, “take up your station on the top of yonder peak, and wait till I find a means of transporting you.”
Miao Shan called the _t’u-ti_ and bade him go and beg all the Immortals to disguise themselves as pirates and to besiege the mountain, waving torches, and threatening with swords and spears to kill her. “Then I will seek refuge on the summit, and thence leap over the precipice to prove Shan Ts’ai’s fidelity and affection.”
A minute later a horde of brigands of ferocious aspect rushed up to the temple of Hsiang Shan. Miao Shan cried for help, rushed up the steep incline, missed her footing, and rolled down into the ravine. Shan Ts’ai, seeing her fall into the abyss, without hesitation flung himself after her in order to rescue her. When he reached her, he asked: “What have you to fear from the robbers? You have nothing for them to steal; why throw yourself over the precipice, exposing yourself to certain death?”
Miao Shan saw that he was weeping, and wept too. “I must comply with the wish of Heaven,” she said.
The Transformation of Shan Ts’ai
Shan Ts’ai, inconsolable, prayed Heaven and earth to save his protectress. Miao Shan said to him: “You should not have risked your life by throwing yourself over the precipice, I have not yet transformed you. But you did a brave thing, and I know that you have a good heart. Now, look down there.” “Oh,” said he, “if I mistake not, that is a corpse.” “Yes,” she replied, “that is your former body. Now you are transformed you can rise at will and fly in the air.” Shan Ts’ai bowed low to thank his benefactress, who said to him: “Henceforth you must say your prayers by my side, and not leave me for a single day.”
‘Brother and Sister’
With her spiritual sight Miao Shan perceived at the bottom of the Southern Sea the third son of Lung Wang, who, in carrying out his father’s orders, was cleaving the waves in the form of a carp. While doing so, he was caught in a fisherman’s net, taken to the market at Yüeh Chou, and offered for sale. Miao Shan at once sent her faithful Shan Ts’ai, in the guise of a servant, to buy him, giving him a thousand cash to purchase the fish, which he was to take to the foot of the rocks at P’u T’o and set free in the sea. The son of Lung Wang heartily thanked his deliverer, and on his return to the palace related to his father what had occurred. The King said: “As a reward, make her a present of a luminous pearl, so that she may recite her prayers by its light at night-time.”
Lung Nü, the daughter of Lung Wang’s third son, obtained her grandfather’s permission to take the gift to Miao Shan and beg that she might be allowed to study the doctrine of the sages under her guidance. After having proved her sincerity, she was accepted as a pupil. Shan Ts’ai called her his sister, and Lung Nü reciprocated by calling him her dear brother. Both lived as brother and sister by Miao Shan’s side.
The King’s Punishment
After King Miao Chuang had burned the Nunnery of the White Bird and killed his daughter, Ch’ieh Lan Buddha presented a petition to Yü Huang praying that the crime be not allowed to go unpunished. Yü Huang, justly irritated, ordered P’an Kuan to consult the Register of the Living and the Dead to see how long this homicidal King had yet to live. P’an Kuan turned over the pages of his register, and saw that according to the divine ordinances the King’s reign on the throne of Hsing Lin should last for twenty years, but that this period had not yet expired.  “That which has been decreed is immutable,” said Yü Huang, “but I will punish him by sending him illness.” He called the God of Epidemics, and ordered him to afflict the King’s body with ulcers, of a kind which could not be healed except by remedies to be given him by his daughter Miao Shan.
The order was promptly executed, and the King could get no rest by day or by night. His two daughters and their husbands spent their time in feasting while he tossed about in agony on his sick-bed. In vain the most famous physicians were called in; the malady only grew worse, and despair took hold of the patient. He then caused a proclamation to be made that he would grant the succession to the throne to any person who would provide him with an effectual remedy to restore him to health.
The Disguised Priest-doctor
Miao Shan had learnt by revelation at Hsiang Shan all that was taking place at the palace. She assumed the form of a priest-doctor, clothed herself in a priest’s gown, with the regulation headdress and straw shoes, and attached to her girdle a gourd containing pills and other medicines. In this apparel she went straight to the palace gate, read the royal edict posted there, and tore it down. Some members of the palace guard seized her, and inquired angrily: “Who are you that you should dare to tear down the royal proclamation?”
“I, a poor priest, am also a doctor,” she replied. “I read the edict posted on the palace gates. The King is inquiring for a doctor who can heal him. I am a doctor of an old cultured family, and propose to restore him to health.”
“If you are of a cultured family, why did you become a priest?” they asked. “Would it not have been better to gain your living honestly in practising your art than to shave your head and go loafing about the world? Besides, all the highest physicians have tried in vain to cure the King; do you imagine that you will be more skilful than all the aged practitioners?”
“Set your minds at ease,” she replied. “I have received from my ancestors the most efficacious remedies, and I guarantee that I shall restore the King to health,” The palace guard then consented to transmit her petition to the Queen, who informed the King, and in the end the pretended priest was admitted. Having reached the royal bed-chamber, he sat still awhile in order to calm himself before feeling the pulse, and to have complete control of all his faculties while examining the King. When he felt quite sure of himself, he approached the King’s bed, took the King’s hand, felt his pulse, carefully diagnosed the nature of the illness, and assured himself that it was easily curable.
One serious difficulty, however, presented itself, and that was that the right medicine was almost impossible to procure. The King showed his displeasure by saying: “For every illness there is a medical prescription, and for every prescription a specific medicine; how can you say that the diagnosis is easy, but that there is no remedy?”
“Your Majesty,” replied the priest, “the remedy for your illness is not to be found in any pharmacy, and no one would agree to sell it.”
The King became angry, believed that he was being imposed upon, and ordered those about him to drive away the priest, who left smiling.
The following night the King saw in a dream an old man who said to him: “This priest alone can cure your illness, and if you ask him he himself will give you the right remedy.”
The King awoke as soon as these words had been uttered, and begged the Queen to recall the priest. When the latter had returned, the King related his dream, and begged the priest to procure for him the remedy required. “What, after all, is this remedy that I must have in order to be cured?” he asked.
“There must be the hand and eye of a living person, from which to compound the ointment which alone can save you,” answered the priest.
The King called out in indignation: “This priest is fooling me! Who would ever give his hand or his eye? Even if anyone would, I could never have the heart to make use of them.”
“Nevertheless,” said the priest, “there is no other effective remedy.”
“Then where can I procure this remedy?” asked the King.
“Your Majesty must send your ministers, who must observe the Buddhist rules of abstinence, to Hsiang Shan, where they will be given what is required.”
“Where is Hsiang Shan, and how far from here?”
“About three thousand or more _li_, but I myself will indicate the route to be followed; in a very short time they will return.”
The King, who was suffering terribly, was more contented when he heard that the journey could be rapidly accomplished. He called his two ministers, Chao Chên and Liu Ch’in, and instructed them to lose no time in starting for Hsiang Shan and to observe scrupulously the Buddhist rules of abstinence. He ordered the Minister of Ceremonies to detain the priest in the palace until their return.
A Conspiracy that Failed
The two sons-in-law of the King, Ho Fêng and Chao K’uei, who had already made secret preparations to succeed to the throne as soon as the King should breathe his last, learned with no little surprise that the priest had hopes of curing the King’s illness, and that he was waiting in the palace until the saving remedy was brought to him. Fearing that they might be disappointed in their ambition, and that after his recovery the King, faithful to his promise, would give the crown to the priest, they entered into a conspiracy with an unscrupulous courtier named Ho Li. They were obliged to act quickly, because the ministers were travelling by forced marches, and would soon be back. That same night Ho Li was to give to the King a poisoned drink, composed, he would say, by the priest with the object of assuaging the King’s pain until the return of his two ministers. Shortly after, an assassin, Su Ta, was to murder the priest. Thus at one stroke both the King and the priest would meet their death, and the kingdom would pass to the King’s two sons-in-law.
Miao Shan had returned to Hsiang Shan, leaving in the palace the bodily form of the priest. She saw the two traitors Ho Fêng and Chao K’uei preparing the poison, and was aware of their wicked intentions. Calling the spirit Yu I, who was on duty that day, she told him to fly to the palace and change into a harmless soup the poison about to be administered to the King and to bind the assassin hand and foot.
At midnight Ho Li, carrying in his hand the poisoned drink, knocked at the door of the royal apartment, and said to the Queen that the priest had prepared a soothing potion while awaiting the return of the ministers. “I come,” he said, “to offer it to his Majesty.” The Queen took the bowl in her hands and was about to give it to the King, when Yu I arrived unannounced. Quick as thought he snatched the bowl from the Queen and poured the contents on the ground; at the same moment he knocked over those present in the room, so that they all rolled on the floor.
At the time this was happening the assassin Su Ta entered the priest’s room, and struck him with his sword. Instantly the assassin, without knowing how, found himself enwrapped in the priest’s robe and thrown to the ground. He struggled and tried to free himself, but found that his hands had been rendered useless by some mysterious power, and that flight was impossible. The spirit Yu I, having fulfilled the mission entrusted to him, now returned to Hsiang Shan and reported to Miao Shan.
A Confession and its Results
Next morning, the two sons-in-law of the King heard of the turn things had taken during the night. The whole palace was in a state of the greatest confusion.
When he was informed that the priest had been killed, the King called Ch’u Ting-lieh and ordered him to have the murderer arrested. Su Ta was put to the torture and confessed all that he knew. Together with Ho Li he was condemned to be cut into a thousand pieces.
The two sons-in-law were seized and ordered to instant execution, and it was only on the Queen’s intercession that their wives were spared. The infuriated King, however, ordered that his two daughters should be imprisoned in the palace.
The Gruesome Remedy
Meantime Chao Chên and Liu Ch’in had reached Hsiang Shan. When they were brought to Miao Shan the ministers took out the King’s letter and read it to her. “I, Miao Chuang, King of Hsing Lin, have learned that there dwells at Hsiang Shan an Immortal whose power and compassion have no equal in the whole world. I have passed my fiftieth year, and am afflicted with ulcers that all remedies have failed to cure. To-day a priest has assured me that at Hsiang Shan I can obtain the hand and eye of a living person, with which he will prepare an ointment able to restore me to my usual state of health. Relying upon his word and upon the goodness of the Immortal to whom he has directed me, I venture to beg that those two parts of a living body necessary to heal my ulcers be sent to me. I assure you of my everlasting gratitude, fully confident that my request will not be refused.”
The next morning Miao Shan bade the ministers take a knife and cut off her left hand and gouge out her left eye. Liu Ch’in took the knife offered him, but did not dare to obey the order. “Be quick,” urged the Immortal; “you have been commanded to return as soon as possible; why do you hesitate as if you were a young girl?” Liu Ch’in was forced to proceed. He plunged in the knife, and the red blood flooded the ground, spreading an odour like sweet incense. The hand and eye were placed on a golden plate, and, having paid their grateful respects to the Immortal, the envoys hastened to return.
When they had left, Miao Shan, who had transformed herself in order to allow the envoys to remove her hand and eye, told Shan Ts’ai that she was now going to prepare the ointment necessary for the cure of the King. “Should the Queen,” she added, “send for another eye and hand, I will transform myself again, and you can give them to her.” No sooner had she finished speaking than she mounted a cloud and disappeared in space. The two ministers reached the palace and presented to the Queen the gruesome remedy which they had brought from the temple. She, overcome with gratitude and emotion, wept copiously. “What Immortal,” she asked, “can have been so charitable as to sacrifice a hand and eye for the King’s benefit?” Then suddenly her tears gushed forth with redoubled vigour, and she uttered a great cry, for she recognized the hand of her daughter by a black scar which was on it.
“Who else, in fact, but his child,” she continued amid her sobs, “could have had the courage to give her hand to save her father’s life?” “What are you saying?” said the King. “In the world there are many hands like this.” While they thus reasoned, the priest entered the King’s apartment. “This great Immortal has long devoted herself to the attainment of perfection,” he said. “Those she has healed are innumerable. Give me the hand and eye.” He took them and shortly produced an ointment which, he told the King, was to be applied to his left side. No sooner had it touched his skin than the pain on his left side disappeared as if by magic; no sign of ulcers was to be seen on that side, but his right side remained swollen and painful as before.
“Why is it,” asked the King, “that this remedy, which is so efficacious for the left side, should not be applied to the right?” “Because,” replied the priest, “the left hand and eye of the saint cures only the left side. If you wish to be completely cured, you must send your officers to obtain the right eye and right hand also.” The King accordingly dispatched his envoys anew with a letter of thanks, and begging as a further favour that the cure should be completed by the healing also of his right side.
The King Cured
On the arrival of the envoys Shan Ts’ai met them in the mutilated form of Miao Shan, and he bade them cut off his right hand, pluck out his right eye, and put them on a plate. At the sight of the four bleeding wounds Liu Ch’in could not refrain from calling out indignantly: “This priest is a wicked man, thus to make a martyr of a woman in order to obtain the succession!”
Having thus spoken, he left with his companion for the kingdom of Hsing Lin. On their return the King was overwhelmed with joy. The priest quickly prepared the ointment, and the King, without delay, applied it to his right side. At once the ulcers disappeared like the darkness of night before the rising sun. The whole Court congratulated the King and eulogized the priest. The King conferred upon the latter the title Priest of the Brilliant Eye. He fell on his face to return thanks, and added: “I, a poor priest, have left the world, and have only one wish, namely, that your Majesty should govern your subjects with justice and sympathy and that all the officials of the realm should prove themselves men of integrity. As for me, I am used to roaming about. I have no desire for any royal estate. My happiness exceeds all earthly joys.”
Having thus spoken, the priest waved the sleeve of his cloak, a cloud descended from Heaven, and seating himself upon it he disappeared in the sky. From the cloud a note containing the following words was seen to fall: “I am one of the Teachers of the West. I came to cure the King’s illness, and so to glorify the True Doctrine.”
The King’s Daughter
All who witnessed this miracle exclaimed with one voice: “This priest is the Living Buddha, who is going back to Heaven!” The note was taken to King Miao Chuang, who exclaimed: “Who am I that I should deserve that one of the rulers of Heaven should deign to descend and cure me by the sacrifice of hands and eyes?”
“What was the face of the saintly person like who gave you the remedy?” he then asked Chao Chên.
“It was like unto that of your deceased daughter, Miao Shan,” he replied.
“When you removed her hands and eyes did she seem to suffer?”
“I saw a great flow of blood, and my heart failed, but the face of the victim seemed radiant with happiness.”
“This certainly must be my daughter Miao Shan, who has attained to perfection,” said the King. “Who but she would have given hands and eyes? Purify yourselves and observe the rules of abstinence, and go quickly to Hsiang Shan to return thanks to the saint for this inestimable favour. I myself will ere long make a pilgrimage thither to return thanks in person.”
The King and Queen taken Prisoners
Three years later the King and Queen, with the grandees of their Court, set out to visit Hsiang Shan, but on the way the monarchs were captured by the Green Lion, or God of Fire, and the White Elephant, or Spirit of the Water, the two guardians of the Temple of Buddha, who transported them to a dark cavern in the mountains. A terrific battle then took place between the evil spirits on the one side and some hosts of heavenly genii, who had been summoned to the rescue, on the other. While its issue was still uncertain, reinforcements under the Red Child Devil, who could resist fire, and the Dragon-king of the Eastern Sea, who could subdue water, finally routed the enemy, and the prisoners were released.
The King’s Repentance
The King and Queen now resumed their pilgrimage, and Miao Shan instructed Shan Ts’ai to receive the monarchs when they arrived to offer incense. She herself took up her place on the altar, her eyes torn out, her hands cut off, and her wrists all dripping with blood. The King recognized his daughter, and bitterly reproached himself; the Queen fell swooning at her feet. Miao Shan then spoke and tried to comfort them. She told them of all that she had experienced since the day when she had been executed, and how she had attained to immortal perfection. She then went on: “In order to punish you for having caused the deaths of all those who perished in the wars preceding your accession to the throne, and also to avenge the burning of the Nunnery of the White Bird, Yü Huang afflicted you with those grievous ulcers. It was then that I changed myself into a priest in order to heal you, and gave my eyes and hands, with which I prepared the ointment that cured you. It was I, moreover, who procured your liberty from Buddha when you were imprisoned in the cave by the Green Lion and the White Elephant.”
Sackcloth and Ashes
At these words the King threw himself with his face on the ground, offered incense, worshipped Heaven, earth, the sun, and the moon, saying with a voice broken by sobs: “I committed a great crime in killing my daughter, who has sacrificed her eyes and hands in order to cure my sickness.”
No sooner were these words uttered than Miao Shan reassumed her normal form, and, descending from the altar, approached her parents and sisters. Her body had again its original completeness; and in the presence of its perfect beauty, and at finding themselves reunited as one family, all wept for joy.
“Well,” said Miao Shan to her father, “will you now force me to marry and prevent my devoting myself to the attainment of perfection?”
“Speak no more of that,” replied the King. “I was in the wrong. If you had not reached perfection, I should not now be alive. I have made up my mind to exchange my sceptre for the pursuit of the perfect life, which I wish to lead henceforth together with you.”
The King renounces the Throne
Then, in the presence of all, he addressed his Grand Minister Chao Chên, saying: “Your devotion to the service of the State has rendered you worthy to wear the crown: I surrender it to you.” The Court proclaimed Chao Chên King of Hsing Lin, bade farewell to Miao Chuang, and set out for their kingdom accompanied by their new sovereign.
Pardon of the Green Lion and the White Elephant
Buddha had summoned the White Elephant and the Green Lion, and was on the point of sentencing them to eternal damnation when the compassionate Miao Shan interceded for them. “Certainly you deserve no forgiveness,” he said, “but I cannot refuse a request made by Miao Shan, whose clemency is without limit. I give you over to her, to serve and obey her in everything. Follow her.”
Miao Shan becomes a Buddha
The guardian spirit on duty that day then announced the arrival of a messenger from Yü Huang. It was T’ai-po Chin-hsing, who was the bearer of a divine decree, which he handed to Miao Shan. It read as follows: “I, the august Emperor, make known to you this decree: Miao Chuang, King of Hsing Lin, forgetful alike of Heaven and Hell, the six virtues, and metempsychosis, has led a blameworthy life; but your nine years of penitence, the filial piety which caused you to sacrifice your own body to effect his cure, in short, all your virtues, have redeemed his faults. Your eyes can see and your ears can hear all the good and bad deeds and words of men. You are the object of my especial regard. Therefore I make proclamation of this decree of canonization.
“Miao Shan will have the title of Very Merciful and Very Compassionate P’u-sa, Saviour of the Afflicted, Miraculous and Always Helpful Protectress of Mortals. On your lofty precious lotus-flower throne, you will be the Sovereign of the Southern Seas and of P’u T’o Isle.
“Your two sisters, hitherto tainted with earthly pleasures, will gradually progress till they reach true perfection.
“Miao Ch’ing will have the title of Very Virtuous P’u-sa, the Completely Beautiful, Rider of the Green Lion.
“Miao Yin will be honoured with the title of Very Virtuous and Completely Resplendent P’u-sa, Rider of the White Elephant.
“King Miao Chuang is raised to the dignity of Virtuous Conquering P’u-sa, Surveyor of Mortals.
“Queen Po Ya receives the title of P’u-sa of Ten Thousand Virtues, Surveyor of Famous Women.
“Shan Ts’ai has bestowed upon him the title of Golden Youth.
“Lung Nü has the title of Jade Maiden.
“During all time incense is to be burned before all the members of this canonized group.”
Once upon a time in China there lived a certain king who had three daughters. The fairest and best of these was Kwan-yin, the youngest. The old king was justly proud of this daughter, for of all the women who had ever lived in the palace she was by far the most attractive. It did not take him long, therefore, to decide that she should be the heir to his throne, and her husband ruler of his kingdom. But, strange to say, Kwan-yin was not pleased at this good fortune. She cared little for the pomp and splendour of court life. She foresaw no pleasure for herself in ruling as a queen, but even feared that in so high a station she might feel out of place and unhappy.
Every day she went to her room to read and study. As a result of this daily labour she soon went far beyond her sisters along the paths of knowledge, and her name was known in the farthest corner of the kingdom as “Kwan-yin, the wise princess.” Besides being very fond of books, Kwan-yin was thoughtful of her friends. She was careful about her behaviour both in public and in private. Her warm heart was open at all times to the cries of those in trouble. She was kind to the poor and suffering. She won the love of the lower classes, and was to them a sort of goddess to whom they could appeal whenever they were hungry and in need. Some people even believed that she was a fairy who had come to earth from her home within the Western Heaven, while others said that once, long years before, she had lived in the world as a prince instead of a princess. However this may be, one thing is certain—Kwan-yin was pure and good, and well deserved the praises that were showered upon her.
One day the king called this favourite daughter to the royal bedside, for he felt that the hour of death was drawing near. Kwan-yin kowtowed before her royal father, kneeling and touching her forehead on the floor in sign of deepest reverence. The old man bade her rise and come closer. Taking her hand tenderly in his own, he said, “Daughter, you know well how I love you. Your modesty and virtue, your talent and your love of knowledge, have made you first in my heart. As you know already, I chose you as heir to my kingdom long ago. I promised that your husband should be made ruler in my stead. The time is almost ripe for me to ascend upon the dragon and become a guest on high. It is necessary that you be given at once in marriage.”
“But, most exalted father,” faltered the princess, “I am not ready to be married.”
“Not ready, child! Why, are you not eighteen? Are not the daughters of our nation often wedded long before they reach that age? Because of your desire for learning I have spared you thus far from any thought of a husband, but now we can wait no longer.”
“Royal father, hear your child, and do not compel her to give up her dearest pleasures. Let her go into a quiet convent where she may lead a life of study!”
The king sighed deeply at hearing these words. He loved his daughter and did not wish to wound her. “Kwan-yin,” he continued, “do you wish to pass by the green spring of youth, to give up this mighty kingdom? Do you wish to enter the doors of a convent where women say farewell to life and all its pleasures? No! your father will not permit this. It grieves me sorely to disappoint you, but one month from this very day you shall be married. I have chosen for your royal partner a man of many noble parts. You know him by name already, although you have not seen him. Remember that, of the hundred virtues filial conduct is the chief, and that you owe more to me than to all else on earth.”
Kwan-yin turned pale. Trembling, she would have sunk to the floor, but her mother and sisters supported her, and by their tender care brought her back to consciousness.
Every day of the month that followed, Kwan-yin’s relatives begged her to give up what they called her foolish notion. Her sisters had long since given up hope of becoming queen. They were amazed at her stupidity. The very thought of any one’s choosing a convent instead of a throne was to them a sure sign of madness. Over and over again they asked her reason for making so strange a choice. To every question, she shook her head, replying, “A voice from the heavens speaks to me, and I must obey it.”
On the eve of the wedding day Kwan-yin slipped out of the palace, and, after a weary journey, arrived at a convent called, “The Cloister of the White Sparrow.” She was dressed as a poor maiden. She said she wished to become a nun. The abbess, not knowing who she was, did not receive her kindly. Indeed, she told Kwan-yin that they could not receive her into the sisterhood, that the building was full. Finally, after Kwan-yin had shed many tears, the abbess let her enter, but only as a sort of servant, who might be cast out for the slightest fault.
Now that Kwan-yin found herself in the life which she had long dreamt of leading, she tried to be satisfied. But the nuns seemed to wish to make her stay among them most miserable. They gave her the hardest tasks to do, and it was seldom that she had a minute to rest. All day long she was busy, carrying water from a well at the foot of the convent hill or gathering wood from a neighbouring forest. At night when her back was almost breaking, she was given many extra tasks, enough to have crushed the spirit of any other woman than this brave daughter of a king. Forgetting her grief, and trying to hide the lines of pain that sometimes wrinkled her fair forehead, she tried to make these hard-hearted women love her. In return for their rough words, she spoke to them kindly, and never did she give way to anger.
One day while poor Kwan-yin was picking up brushwood in the forest she heard a tiger making his way through the bushes. Having no means of defending herself, she breathed a silent prayer to the gods for help, and calmly awaited the coming of the great beast. To her surprise, when the bloodthirsty animal appeared, instead of bounding up to tear her in pieces, he began to make a soft purring noise. He did not try to hurt Kwan-yin, but rubbed against her in a friendly manner, and let her pat him on the head.
The next day the princess went back to the same spot. There she found no fewer than a dozen savage beasts working under the command of the friendly tiger, gathering wood for her. In a short time enough brush and firewood had been piled up to last the convent for six months. Thus, even the wild animals of the forest were better able to judge of her goodness than the women of the sisterhood.
At another time when Kwan-yin was toiling up the hill for the twentieth time, carrying two great pails of water on a pole, an enormous dragon faced her in the road. Now, in China, the dragon is sacred, and Kwan-yin was not at all frightened, for she knew that she had done no wrong.
The animal looked at her for a moment, switched its horrid tail, and shot out fire from its nostrils. Then, dashing the burden from the startled maiden’s shoulder, it vanished. Full of fear, Kwan-yin hurried up the hill to the nunnery. As she drew near the inner court, she was amazed to see in the centre of the open space a new building of solid stone. It had sprung up by magic since her last journey down the hill. On going forward, she saw that there were four arched doorways to the fairy house. Above the door facing west was a tablet with these words written on it: “In honour of Kwan-yin, the faithful princess.” Inside was a well of the purest water, while, for drawing this water, there a strange machine, the like of which neither Kwan-yin nor the nuns had ever seen.
The sisters knew that this magic well was a monument to Kwan-yin’s goodness. For a few days they treated her much better. “Since the gods have dug a well at our very gate,” they said, “this girl will no longer need to bear water from the foot of the hill. For what strange reason, however, did the gods write this beggar’s name on the stone?”
Kwan-yin heard their unkind remarks in silence. She could have explained the meaning of the dragon’s gift, but she chose to let her companions remain in ignorance. At last the selfish nuns began to grow careless again, and treated her even worse than before. They could not bear to see the poor girl enjoy a moment’s idleness.
“This is a place for work,” they told her. “All of us have laboured hard to win our present station. You must do likewise.” So they robbed her of every chance for study and prayer, and gave her no credit for the magic well.
One night the sisters were awakened from their sleep by strange noises, and soon they heard outside the walls of the compound the blare of a trumpet. A great army had been sent by Kwan-yin’s father to attack the convent, for his spies had at last been able to trace the runaway princess to this holy retreat.
“Oh, who has brought this woe upon us?” exclaimed all the women, looking at each other in great fear. “Who has done this great evil? There is one among us who has sinned most terribly, and now the gods are about to destroy us.” They gazed at one another, but no one thought of Kwan-yin, for they did not believe her of enough importance to attract the anger of heaven, even though she might have done the most shocking of deeds. Then, too, she had been so meek and lowly while in their holy order that they did not once dream of charging her with any crime.
The threatening sounds outside grew louder and louder. All at once a fearful cry arose among the women: “They are about to burn our sacred dwelling.” Smoke was rising just beyond the enclosure where the soldiers were kindling a great fire, the heat of which would soon be great enough to make the convent walls crumble into dust.
Suddenly a voice was heard above the tumult of the weeping sisters: “Alas! I am the cause of all this trouble.”
The nuns, turning in amazement, saw that it was Kwan-yin who was speaking. “You?” they exclaimed, astounded.
“Yes, I, for I am indeed the daughter of a king. My father did not wish me to take the vows of this holy order. I fled from the palace. He has sent his army here to burn these buildings and to drag me back a prisoner.”
“Then, see what you have brought upon us, miserable girl!” exclaimed the abbess. “See how you have repaid our kindness! Our buildings will be burned above our heads! How wretched you have made us! May heaven’s curses rest upon you!”
“No, no!” exclaimed Kwan-yin, springing up, and trying to keep the abbess from speaking these frightful words. “You have no right to say that, for I am innocent of evil. But, wait! You shall soon see whose prayers the gods will answer, yours or mine!” So saying, she pressed her forehead to the floor, praying the almighty powers to save the convent and the sisters.
Outside the crackling of the greedy flames could already be heard. The fire king would soon destroy every building on that hill-top. Mad with terror, the sisters prepared to leave the compound and give up all their belongings to the cruel flames and still more cruel soldiers. Kwan-yin alone remained in the room, praying earnestly for help.
Suddenly a soft breeze sprang up from the neighbouring forest, dark clouds gathered overhead, and, although it was the dry season a drenching shower descended on the flames. Within five minutes the fire was put out and the convent was saved. Just as the shivering nuns were thanking Kwan-yin for the divine help she had brought them, two soldiers who had scaled the outer wall of the compound came in and roughly asked for the princess.
The trembling girl, knowing that these men were obeying her father’s orders, poured out a prayer to the gods, and straightway made herself known. They dragged her from the presence of the nuns who had just begun to love her. Thus disgraced before her father’s army, she was taken to the capital.
On the morrow, she was led before the old king. The father gazed sadly at his daughter, and then the stern look of a judge hardened his face as he beckoned the guards to bring her forward.
From a neighbouring room came the sounds of sweet music. A feast was being served there amid great splendour. The loud laughter of the guests reached the ears of the young girl as she bowed in disgrace before her father’s throne. She knew that this feast had been prepared for her, and that her father was willing to give her one more chance.
“Girl,” said the king, at last regaining his voice, “in leaving the royal palace on the eve of your wedding day, not only did you insult your father, but your king. For this act you deserve to die. However, because of the excellent record you had made for yourself before you ran away, I have decided to give you one more chance to redeem yourself. Refuse me, and the penalty is death: obey me, and all may yet be well—the kingdom that you spurned is still yours for the asking. All that I require is your marriage to the man whom I have chosen.”
“And when, most august King, would you have me decide?” asked Kwan-yin earnestly.
“This very day, this very hour, this very moment,” he answered sternly. “What! would you hesitate between love upon a throne and death? Speak, my daughter, tell me that you love me and will do my bidding!”
It was now all that Kwan-yin could do to keep from throwing herself at her father’s feet and yielding to his wishes, not because he offered her a kingdom, but because she loved him and would gladly have made him happy. But her strong will kept her from relenting. No power on earth could have stayed her from doing what she thought her duty.
“Beloved father,” she answered sadly, and her voice was full of tenderness, “it is not a question of my love for you—of that there is no question, for all my life I have shown it in every action. Believe me, if I were free to do your bidding, gladly would I make you happy, but a voice from the gods has spoken, has commanded that I remain a virgin, that I devote my life to deeds of mercy. When heaven itself has commanded, what can even a princess do but listen to that power which rules the earth?”
The old king was far from satisfied with Kwan-yin’s answer. He grew furious, his thin wrinkled skin turned purple as the hot blood rose to his head. “Then you refuse to do my bidding! Take her, men! Give to her the death that is due to a traitor to the king!” As they bore Kwan-yin away from his presence the white-haired monarch fell, swooning, from his chair.
That night, when Kwan-yin was put to death, she descended into the lower world of torture. No sooner had she set foot in that dark country of the dead than the vast region of endless punishment suddenly blossomed forth and became like the gardens of Paradise. Pure white lilies sprang up on every side, and the odour of a million flowers filled all the rooms and corridors. King Yama, ruler of the dominion, rushed forth to learn the cause of this wonderful change. No sooner did his eyes rest upon the fair young face of Kwan-yin than he saw in her the emblem of a purity which deserved no home but heaven.
“Beautiful virgin, doer of many mercies,” he began, after addressing her by her title, “I beg you in the name of justice to depart from this bloody kingdom. It is not right that the fairest flower of heaven should enter and shed her fragrance in these halls. Guilt must suffer here, and sin find no reward. Depart thou, then, from my dominion. The peach of immortal life shall be bestowed upon you, and heaven alone shall be your dwelling place.”
Thus Kwan-yin became the Goddess of Mercy; thus she entered into that glad abode, surpassing all earthly kings and queens. And ever since that time, on account of her exceeding goodness, thousands of poor people breathe out to her each year their prayers for mercy. There is no fear in their gaze as they look at her beautiful image, for their eyes are filled with tears of love.
In years gone by, a dragon living in the great sea saw that his wife’s health was not good. He, seeing her colour fade away, said: “My dear, what shall I get you to eat?” Mrs Dragon was silent. Just tell me and I will get it,” pleaded the affectionate husband. “You cannot do it; why trouble?” quoth she. “Trust me, and you shall have your heart’s desire,” said the dragon. “Well, I want a monkey’s heart to eat.” “Why, Mrs Dragon, the monkeys live in the mountain forests! How can I get one of their hearts?” “Well, I am going to die; I know I am.”
Forthwith the dragon went on shore, and, spying a monkey on the top of a tree, said: “Hail, shining one, are you not afraid you will fall?” “No, I have no such fear.” “Why eat of one tree? Cross the sea, and you will find forests of fruit and flowers.” “How can I cross?” “Get on my back.” The dragon with his tiny load went seaward, and then suddenly dived down. “Where are you going?” said the monkey, with the salt water in his eyes and mouth. “Oh! my dear sir! my wife is very sad and ill, and has taken a fancy to your heart.” “What shall I do?” thought the monkey. He then spoke, “Illustrious friend, why did not you tell me? I left my heart on the top of the tree; take me back, and I will get it for Mrs Dragon.” The dragon returned to the shore. As the monkey was tardy in coming down from the tree, the dragon said: “Hurry up, little friend, I am waiting.” Then the monkey thought within himself, “What a fool this dragon is!”
Then Buddha said to his followers: “At this time I was the monkey.”
Once upon a time, within a league of Chao zhou (潮州), there lived a Buddhist monk in extreme austerity. He wore an iron chain always round him, which corrupted his Flesh, and bred worms; he was so set upon mortifying himself, that he picked up the worms as they fell off, and replaced them, saying, that there was still something to prey on.
There was in India a Sakya king, his name was Suddhodana or Pure-Rice. He loved his son Siddhattha, was anxious to see his son happy.
The palace which the king had given to the prince was resplendent with all the luxuries of India. All sorrowful sights, all misery, and all knowledge of misery were kept away from Siddhattha, for the king desired that no troubles should come nigh him; he should not know that there was evil in the world.
But as the chained elephant longs for the wilds of the jungles, so the prince was eager to see the world, and he asked his father, the king, for permission to do so.
And Suddhodana ordered a jewel-fronted chariot with four stately horses to be held ready, and commanded the roads to be adorned where his son would pass.
The houses of the city were decorated with curtains and banners, and spectators arranged themselves on either side, eagerly gazing at the heir to the throne. Thus Siddhattha rode with Channa, his charioteer, through the streets of the city, and into a country watered by rivulets and covered with pleasant trees.
There by the wayside they met an old man with bent frame, wrinkled face and sorrowful brow, and the prince asked the charioteer: “Who is this? His head is white, his eyes are bleared, and his body is withered. He can barely support himself on his staff.”
The charioteer, much embarrassed, hardly dared speak the truth. He said: “These are the symptoms of old age. This same man was once a suckling child, and as a youth full of sportive life; but now, as years have passed away, his beauty is gone and the strength of his life is wasted.”
Siddhattha was greatly affected by the words of the charioteer, and he sighed because of the pain of old age. “What joy or pleasure can men take,” he thought to himself, “when they know they must soon wither and pine away!”
And lo! while they were passing on, a sick man appeared on the way-side, gasping for breath, his body disfigured, convulsed and groaning with pain.
The prince asked his charioteer: “What kind of man is this?” And the charioteer replied and said: “This man is sick. The four elements of his body are confused and out of order. We are all subject to such conditions: the poor and the rich, the ignorant and the wise, all creatures that have bodies, are liable to the same calamity.”
And Siddhattha was still more moved. All pleasures appeared stale to him, and he loathed the joys of life.
The charioteer sped the horses on to escape the dreary sight, when suddenly they were stopped in their fiery course.
Four persons passed by, carrying a corpse; and the prince, shuddering at the sight of a lifeless body, asked the charioteer: “What is this they carry? There are streamers and flower garlands; but the men that follow are overwhelmed with grief!”
The charioteer replied: “This is a dead man: his body is stark; his life is gone; his thoughts are still; his family and the friends who loved him now carry the corpse to the grave.”
And the prince was full of awe and terror: “Is this the only dead man,” he asked, “or does the world contain other instances?”
With a heavy heart the charioteer replied: “All over the world it is the same. He who begins life must end it. There is no escape from death.”
With bated breath and stammering accents the prince exclaimed: “O worldly men! How fatal is your delusion! Inevitably your body will crumble to dust, yet carelessly, unheedingly, ye live on.”
The charioteer observing the deep impression these sad sights had made on the prince, turned his horses and drove back to the city.
When they passed by the palaces of the nobility, Kisā Gotamī, a young princess and niece of the king, saw Siddhattha in his manliness and beauty, and, observing the thoughtfulness of his countenance, said: “Happy the father that begot thee, happy the mother that nursed thee, happy the wife that calls husband this lord so glorious.”
The prince hearing this greeting, said: “Happy are they that have found deliverance. Longing for peace of mind, I shall seek the bliss of Nirvāna.”
Then asked Kisā Gotamī: “How is Nirvāna attained?” The prince paused, and to him whose mind was estranged from wrong the answer came: “When the fire of lust is gone out, then Nirvāna is gained; when the fires of hatred and delusion are gone out, then Nirvāna is gained; when the troubles of mind, arising from blind credulity, and all other evils have ceased, then Nirvāna is gained!” Siddhattha handed her his precious pearl necklace as a reward for the instruction she had given him, and having returned home looked with disdain upon the treasures of his palace.
His wife welcomed him and entreated him to tell her the cause of his grief. He said: “I see everywhere the impression of change; therefore, my heart is heavy. Men grow old, sicken, and die. That is enough to take away the zest of life.”
The king, his father, hearing that the prince had become estranged from pleasure, was greatly overcome with sorrow and like a sword it pierced his heart.
—- THE GOSPEL OF BUDDHA, BY PAUL CARUS
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