Story Of Li Tan

In the tenth year of T’ang Tai Chung’s reign, his Empress died. She was a woman of no ordinary talent and virtue. He built her a splendid mausoleum, but the next year consoled himself by collecting beautiful damsels for the imperial seraglio. Among these was a young girl of fifteen, named Wu Chow . She was of low parentage, but soon procured great favour for herself, and high official posts for her near relatives, by her exceptional beauty and wit.

An imperial censor, however, predicted calamity to the realm in connection with her name. The Emperor was alarmed, and sent away Wu Chow into a Buddhist nunnery, where her history is involved in some very serious scandals.

She did not remain long in seclusion, for T‘ang Kao Chung, in fulfilment of an early vow he had made her, removed her back to Court. The reason given for the step in the orthodox history books is, that Kao Chung’s Empress considered it the only means by which the influence of a certain inmate of the palace could be nullified.

Her reinstatement at Court, if at first desired by the Empress, brought her much misery. It was like ‘ cutting out the flesh in one part to mend a sore in another.’ Mistress Wu soon began to use every artifice to get the Empress deposed.

Plots thickened around the phoenix consort of the dragon. Wu Chow had an image made, with the never-to-be-written personal name, date of birth, etc., of the Emperor inscribed thereon. She then struck five large nails of peach wood into its body. This image she managed to secrete in the apartment of the Empress. Then coming in tears before the Emperor, she besought him to institute a search, as her own life and even his were in danger.

The image was found, and the sin of the Empress seemed certain. The whole story was reported in the conclave of suddenly summoned ministers. One of them pleaded that there must be some mistake. But the Empress’ fair name was gone. To render her disgrace more complete, Wu Chow strangled an infant princess, and accused the Empress of the crime. Upon which Kao Chung imprisoned his brother-in-law, who died soon after ; banished his Empress to a secluded part of the palace, and raised Wu Chow to her vacated place.

On the morning after the celebration of this latter event with a magnificent feast, the deposed Empress, who had heard the sounds of revelry, gave birth to a son, whom she called Li Tan , which signifies dawn.

Baby Li Tan

On receipt of the news, Wu Chow began to fear for her own position, and secretly summoned the eunuch Teu Hwui to her presence, bidding him go that night to the ex-Empress’ apartment and murder both mother and son. Teu Hwui bowed assent and took the proffered reward.

On his reaching the chamber and explaining his commission, a most pathetic scene ensued. But his heart was loyal ; and, far from taking life, he was willing to risk his own by carrying the infant to a place of safety. His plan was to flee to the King of Kiangsha, a relative of the Empress.

If he were really true, the Empress said, she could die without regret. Being at length assured of his sincerity, she bit her finger till it bled, and wrote a gory letter to the King of Kiangsha. Then embracing her babe, she sobbed out, ‘ Alas, my child, that you should be born in such evil days, that you and I should have to part so soon. But the good Teu Hwui will take care of you. Do not cry, will you ? And when you are grown up, you will see this blood-written letter, and think of your poor mother, won’t you ? ‘  The infant smiled.

She gave her child to his deliverer, and as they went, her heart was pierced through as with a sword. Then she and her two faithful maids strangled themselves. Hearing of which, Wu Chow exclaimed that a thorn had been plucked from her eye. But, alas, that Li Tan had escaped !

Teu Hwui with his precious bundle arrived safely at Kiang-sha just as the ‘ King ‘ was feasting with some friends, one of whom was Ma Chow, was a brave warrior and a fearless censor. After a secret consultation it was agreed to bring up the infant in the inner apartments of his yamun, and to publicly announce that the King of Kiangsha had a grandson.

Years passed, and one evening at the capital city of Chang-ngan , the lantern festival of the first month was celebrated with unusual splendour, bringing vast crowds from the neighbouring towns and villages. The streets were crammed with sightseers, and, during the excitement, a young man of high rank named Shieh Kang, who had been drinking heavily, created a great disturbance. The Emperor Kao Chung and his favourites were sitting in a turreted loft enjoying the sights, until one of the princes went down and mixed in the crowd, to be killed by a kick from the wine-maddened man. The Emperor hearing thereof, hurried towards the stairs, and having been drinking freely, missed his footing, fell, and died.

Shieh Kang escaped in the universal panic by opening up a gory road. But a terrible retribution was meted out by the Empress Wu to the loyal and lordly family of the Shiehs. Three hundred and eighty-odd persons greybeards grown old in the Imperial warfare and service, women of virtue and beauty, and children too, who had been the hope of that ancient clan all were beheaded in one day. By such means as these did the merciless woman make good her seat upon the coveted throne, occupied long enough, to her thinking, by the Imperial weakling.

But before openly assuming the Imperial prerogatives, she first raised a son of hers to the nominal post of emperor. He was a mere puppet in the hands of his mother ; and before a month had passed, he contentedly resigned the powers of government to his mother, who relegated him to a state of virtual confinement, assuming the full attributes of supreme power, which she continued to wield for nearly twenty years, putting to death many heads of chief families, and committing, if history be true, many unspeakable crimes .  Meanwhile, in the seclusion of his ‘ grandfather’s ‘ yamun at Kiangsha, Li Tan grew up to boyhood, noble of feature and undoubtedly clever. He had been carefully trained in book study, in writing and drawing, in the music of the harpsichord and flute, and could play a game of chess with the ‘ King ‘ himself. Added to this he was a good archer though only a mere youth when the news came of the deposition of the puppet Emperor.

Li Tan grew up to boyhood

Hearing of this turn of affairs, the friends of Li Tan felt that the time had come for his appearance. His true parentage was accordingly explained to him, and the letter written with his mother’s blood put into his hands. He was at first overwhelmed by the knowledge of his true position, then fell in eagerly with the maturing plans of his faithful adherents, who first called away their relatives from the distant capital, then massed their forces around a city called Yangchow.

A large army was sent to withstand them, commanded by near relatives of the Empress Wu. The city was taken by stratagem of a very ignoble sort, and two of Li Tan’s generals were killed. The young prince only saved himself by solitary flight ; disguised as a menial, he made his way to the city of Tungchow , where, having no resources, the heir-apparent to the throne of the eighteen provinces became a beggar on the streets, who had to be well content with an old temple as his resting-place at night.

One day he applied for alms at the shop of a wealthy man named Hu Fah, who, seeing a lad of cinnabar lips, clear features, intelligent eyes, and long-lobed ears, guessed that he was no ordinary beggar, and inquired into his history. He replied that his surname was Ma, and his own name Yin , signifies obscurity , that both his parents were dead, and that, in consequence of disturbances at the capital, he had become a refugee. Hu Fah inquired whether he had any abilities. He replied that his grandfather had caused him to be instructed in music, chess, books, and drawing. Whereat Hu Fah said that he was in need of an account-keeper and serving-man who could dust, sweep, bring in the tea and rice, and make himself generally useful. The youth agreed to do so, and his employer altered his name to one more suggestive of good fortune to the business, calling him Tsin-shing [approaching prosperity].

Hu Fah had never been noted for overmuch generosity, but his wife was a stingy shrew. She made things very unpleasant for three days, saying that the young vagabond would eat their rice to their own starvation. The sting of her gentle remonstrances lay in the fact that in the house, living on their rice, were a sister-in-law and a niece of Hu Fah’s. Their own daughter had been brought up and educated with the said niece by their scholarly, but lately deceased brother-in-law ; but this was forgotten now.

One day when Tsin-shing (as Li Tan was now called) was clearing away the bowls, the scholar’s widow noticed that he was very thinly clad, and, though miserably treated herself, managed to find him an old wadded garment, receiving which with all gratitude, Tsin-shing caught a glimpse of her daughter, which glimpse aroused his interest. And no wonder, for Fung-kiao was a maiden of incomparable beauty. To a wise and modest disposition, which revealed itself in her features, may be added the fact that she had attained a high degree of proficiency in study, in music, chess, and drawing. Her abilities in one of these directions was soon to be put to the proof.

The same evening, her mother suggested that Fung-kiao should play on the harpsichord. The plaintive sounds reached the ears of a ‘ sympathetic listener,’ for Tsin-shing’s dormitory was the wood-shed adjoining. He walked quietly forth, made a little hole in the tissue paper window, then standing outside until the pathetic strains overcame him, he gently knocked and entered.

His presence was greeted with due surprise ; but what with his refined looks and his apologetic explanations, Fung- kiao’s mother began to feel so much at home with him that she persuaded her daughter to continue her music, while she enlarged upon the causes of its plaintiveness. The widow and fatherless were treated as mere slaves by Hu Fall’s wife, who subjected them to daily insults. The story of their woes filled the heart of the young prince with tenderest sympathy, and after he had told his somewhat fictitious history, he responded to the invitation of the ill-treated lady to play a while. After doing so, he retired. There are mingled thoughts, the sum total of which may be more restful than sleep. There is a companionship in adversity which may be more heart-soothing than solitary splendour. And so the prince in the wood-shed found that night.

 The night was not destined to be dreamless as far as the widow was concerned. A demigod in golden armour appeared to her, congratulating the lady and her daughter upon much approaching prosperity, uttering a poetic message for her comfort. After which a ruby sun appeared, and sounds as of thunder shook the place.

She awoke with a start, and related the dream to her daughter. As also the fact that while the serving-lad was playing the harpsichord so well, she observed that he had upon his hand a birth-mark referred to in the dream poem, a mark corresponding to one upon the hand of her daughter. Anon with early dawn came the nurse of Hu Pah’s own daughter. She too had a dream, in which a demigod clad in golden armour commanded her to become matchmaker between Tsin-shing and Fung-kiao.

That evening, after the rest of the family had retired, Tsin-shing came in by appointment, and a comparison of hands ensued, the dreams being related also. Tsin-shing replied with all humility that he was unworthy of having his name coupled with that of Fung-kiao. But that maiden’s mother represented to him that the match was all the more desirable, as fulfilling the suggestion of Heaven rather than his own. He was more than delighted, and saluted his prospective mother-in-law with a deep obeisance. He then produced a gem (which his Empress-mother had long ago entrusted to Teu Hwui for him), and gave it, with injunctions of secrecy, as a betrothal token to his own affianced bride, then retired for the night.

They examined the gem in the lamp-light, and were amazed to see that the device thereon consisted of the five-clawed Imperial dragon ; which set them wondering what manner of person the serving-lad could be.

It must be explained that Hu Fah’s own daughter had been recently married to a certain Ma Ti, the conceited son of a military graduate. Also that Fung-kiao had another cousin, the daughter of Hu Fah’s deceased sister. This cousin was named Lwan-kiao. She had a worthy husband, whose name was Ch’eng Tsin.

The day approached when Ma Ti was to come and bring his bride to see her parents, and partake of a feast which should be provided on that occasion. Previous to the intended visit, Hu Fah’s wife told the elder of the two ladies that she and her daughter were to keep close, their garments not being fit to be seen. To their great disappointment, she locked them up in an outhouse, with a limited supply of cold rice to keep them alive, and a rather unlimited supply of hemp twine for them to work up into skeins.

Lwan-kiao, who had ever been a faithful friend, made inquiries of the nurse, and heard how matters stood, including the dreams and consequent betrothal, this latter after Lwan- kiao had expressed a devout wish that her cousin might soon find a good husband, who would free her and her mother from such treatment. At the betrothal news Lwan-kiao was delightfully surprised.

 Her husband, Ch’eng Tsin, on seeing the serving-lad, treated him with marked respect. He persisted, in spite of Hu Fah’s remonstrances, that the lad was no ordinary youth, but was surely destined for a high position some day. At this, Hu Fah exclaimed that like could only produce like, ‘ the dragon bears dragons ; the phoenix, phoenixes. He is of the lower classes. Can a dog grow a horn upon its head and become a celestial unicorn ? ‘

 Ch’eng Tsin continuing to be respectful to the young man, the guests took Hu Fah’s part. The leader in such derision was the objectionable Ma Ti, who was inflated with family pride. Matters came to a crisis at the banquet, from which Ma Ti rose in high dudgeon, and went outside to show his skill in archery, hitting a certain branch of a willow tree at the other end of the garden, as he had promised he could. The guests complimented him on his achievement.

 Tsin-shing, however, emboldened by the geniality of Ch’eng Tsin, asked to be allowed to hit a flying crow in the neck. Hu Fah cursed him with such epithets as ‘ dog-slave.’ But Ch’eng Tsin carried the day. The serving-lad took the bow, waited till the looked-for bird came in sight, and shot. The crow came fluttering down with the arrow through his neck. The guests, with one exception, applauded the deed.

Ma Ti, choking down his wrath and shame, went off in a rage. When the others had dispersed, Hu Fah, with many a curse, ordered his serving-lad to lie down arid be beaten. ‘ I should like to kill the vagabond myself,’ cried Ma Ti’s bride, who was remaining with her parents. Thus urged, Hu Fah beat the lad most fiercely, and but for Lwan-kiao’s entreaties, the story of Li Tan would have ended here.

‘ Now, get up, you son of Cerberus ! ‘ shouted Hu Fah ; but the prince was so battered about that he could not rise.

So a coolie of the house was told to pick him up and throw him on to his bed in the wood-shed. The orders were obeyed with unnecessary violence.

The heir-apparent could hardly move, but his sufferings at the hand of Hu Fah called forth the keenest sympathy of Fung-kiao and her mother. The latter managed to secure a little of the leavings of the feast for him, telling him, what her red eyes had already declared, how great was her grief at his woe, telling him also that her daughter was inconsolable.

He replied by regretting his forgetfulness of his position in daring to show his skill at archery ; and making light of his own aches and pains, tried to comfort her. Nor was she to stay too long for fear their kindness might involve them in fresh insults. Then he poured out his gratitude, and finally sent a message to his betrothed.

Next day Lwan-kiao greeted the widow and her daughter with all affection, bidding them to take all possible care of Tsin-shing, and urging them to try and get him away out of such a ‘ heaven-net earth-gauze ‘ house as soon as possible. At which stage Ma Ti’s wife passed close by as she was leaving. She saw them, but she pretended she did not.

It was a full month before the young prince was able to get about, during which time he had repeated visits from the ‘nurse’ and his mother-in-law, who sometimes brought Fung-kiao with her.

Soon after his recovery, five soldiers, who had been going about the streets for some time, were driven by a heavy downpour of rain to take shelter under the eaves of Hu Fah’s shop. Standing there, and looking in, they saw their prince. They were trusty followers of Ma Chow, who had been searching everywhere for Li Tan. The leader of the little band was recognised by the prince, who made signs that each should take no notice of the other. They entered, bought an article or two, then went out again. The serving-lad went out too on some pretence, and having reached a secluded spot, the five soldiers knelt down and did their prince homage, beseeching him with all earnestness to mount one of their horses and fly at once to Ma Chow’s camp on a certain hill.

He replied that he had been in Hu Fah’s house for seven months, during which time he had received great kindness from his employer’s sister-in-law ; that he, moreover, was betrothed to her daughter, and could not leave without bidding them farewell. He asked them, therefore, to come again at night, and wait for him outside the back door. They reluctantly assented to the delay, praying him not to divulge his identity. Having assured them that he would not, he returned to his drudgery.

‘ When the golden wheel had dropped behind the hills,’ and Hu Fah and his household were asleep, the prince went into the kitchen, and told his friends that an uncle of his had sought him out and sent for him. Fung-kiao’s mother heard the news with mingled feelings. Her daughter looked at him with a searching glance, then hung her head and wept.

The widow asked who this uncle really was. He replied that he could only say that he was a rich man who had just come into office, but that he himself would come or send for them at the earliest opportunity. She exhorted him, now that he had come to great honour, not to forget his poor friends, and take some rich beauty to wife. He responded by an appeal to the all-recording Heaven. The faithful matchmaker reminded him of the mark on his hand. Which called forth the prayer that he might be visited with the heaviest retribution if he forgot his much-loved benefactors.

 The five men were then called in, and the two ladies introduced. When lo, they knelt down before them ! Which called forth fresh inquiries from the widow. Li Tan explained that such was the custom of the camp.

The prince could not leave without bidding farewell to Ch’eng-Tsin. The bodyguard of five protested that the affairs of the camp were urgent, but seeing that his heart was set upon the visit, went with him. The doors were bolted. But at length Ch’eng Tsin appeared, and let them into his study. Nor was the kind-hearted Lwan-kiao far off. She was listen- ing behind a screen. The prince explained the state of affairs, and implored them to take care of his future wife and her mother. Lwan-kiao could remain in hiding no longer, but advanced to add her own to the already received exhortations to fidelity.

 ‘ The affairs of the camp are urgent,’ again protested the leader of the band. That parting over, a longer and more lingering farewell was taken of his yet dearer friends.

 ‘ The affairs of the camp are urgent.’ again pleaded the soldier, and soon they were safely outside the city gates, which closed at midnight.

Meanwhile Ma Chow, in his hill-top camp, was in great distress. A party of seekers had returned after a long absence to say that they could find no trace of the prince. At this the brave old veteran was unable to hold back his choking sobs. His brother general exhorted him not to lose heart, or the army could not be kept together. So he endeavoured to maintain a forced cheerfulness, hoping for, yet dreading, the return of the remaining party still away on search. It was hard work as day after day went by.

But one day a messenger galloped up to the camp, gasping out, ‘ The prince is found ! The prince is found ! He is at the foot of the hill.’

Ma Chow’s tears burst forth unrestrained now. As for his army, the men leaped and shouted till the earth shook. Then all doubled down the hill, fell into line, and knelt before their rightful monarch. The customary salute for an emperor is ‘ Myriad years [may you live] ‘ ; that for a prince is ‘ Thousand years ! ‘ And now was the prince saluted with cries of ‘ Thousand years ! Thousand years ! Thousand thousand years !’ Then came confessions of failure on the one hand, and grateful commendations on the other. After which, with the whole army for bodyguard, the prince was escorted up the hill in triumph. Cattle were slaughtered, and a great feast prepared.

In a few days consultations were held as to the desirability of taking a city where the prince could live in such style as his position warranted. The choice fell upon Han-yang, as being an important place, with rich revenues, and near Kiangsha. A portion of the army was sent thither, but the ruler of the city, a man of great courage and powers, being persuaded at length of Li Tan’s claims and Ma Chow’s loyalty, received the commander hospitably, and sent him back with injunctions to bring the prince without delay. The news being carried back, Ma Chow congratulated his imperial protégé on such a good omen at the initial stage of his career a city taken without blood- shed. And with all the glories of a triumphal march, the prince entered the gates, and assumed the rulership of the city.

But the news soon reached the capital, and an army of 100,000 strong was sent to dispossess and capture Li Tan. Previous to the battle, as indeed before all old-time battles, the champions from either side stood forth and stated their cause, then indulged in a wordy battle of boastful recrimination. Two of the boasters, brothers of Empress Wu’s commander-in-chief, were killed at the first onset, and the over-confident army repulsed. They were rallying for a second attack, when a despatch arrived to say that trouble had broken out on the frontier from the inroads of the barbarian tribes, and that the troops were to march there at once.

Hanyang had thus a breathing space. Would it last, or would the revenge-fiercened hosts return ?

Meanwhile, how went it with Fung-kiao and her mother ? On Tsin-shing’s disappearance, they suffered fresh indignities, being accused of facilitating his flight. Nor had they a scrap of news from him.

One day, when Hu Fah and his wife were out, they went to the shop-door to try and get a change of thought, when Ma Ti came along and caught sight of them. It was his first sight of Fung-kiao. She retreated in haste, but her mother, proceeding rather slowly, was caught up by the objectionable man, who gave her an ounce of silver to buy a new garment or two. With part of it she procured some refreshments for the donor, as Hu Fah did not come back till evening. Ma Ti greeted him with apparent heartiness, and, in a by-the-way style, informed him that ‘ the young scoundrel Tsin-shing ‘ had been convicted of robbery with violence, and was awaiting sentence of death in prison.

Fung-kiao’s mother was greatly alarmed. Not so the damsel herself. She was highly indignant at such a lie from ‘ the evil-faced Ma Ti.’ Her mother protested that he was a generous man, and had given her an ounce of silver.

‘Yes, for some evil purpose,’ exclaimed the discreet maiden.

That purpose caused him to ask if he might be allowed to remain and study in Hu Fah’s house. His own was so noisy. Hu Fah was only too glad to regain the good graces of his son-in-law, and, having no scholarship himself, longed that he might add the lustre of a degree to the family. The ladies keeping themselves closely concealed for some days, Ma Ti’s next move was to feign illness. His mother accordingly sent him an old crony as nurse. He divulged the cause of his indisposition to her, and a preliminary fee of five ounces of silver made her a very ‘ sympathetic listener ‘ indeed. She promised to get him Fung-kiao for his second wife.

Worn out by long-continued slavery, Fung-kiao’s mother replied to the old dame’s overtures with evident reluctance. Her daughter was already engaged, though she did not at all like the recent news. Fung-kiao, however, hearing of the old woman’s mission, delivered her soul in somewhat forcible style, bidding the go-between make good her exit, or she would accelerate it with what muscular force she possessed.

Her overtures having failed, the old woman suggested as a palliative that Ma Ti should secrete himself in the kitchen, where mother and daughter went every evening to wash up. He caught at the suggestion with such avidity that he would ‘ fain have pushed the sun down the hill.’ Evening came at last, and he managed with some difficulty to secrete himself within a large hencoop, ‘ crawling in sideways like the old tortoise that he was.’

As the two entered to do their work, Fung-Kiao’s sharp eyes caught sight of the enemy in ambush, but she said nothing. Instead, she began busying herself shovelling up the hot ashes under the stove, and threw the contents of dustpan after dustpan upon the hencoop. She then scoured the oily cooking-pan with silk-melon fibre, and wishing it had been oilier, threw the greasy water over the hencoop also.

Their other occupations over, they retired. But Hu Fah, who had seen them leave the kitchen, felt sure that he heard strange noises there. ‘ It must be burglars,’ he thought to himself. There was the sound again ! ‘ Burglars ! ‘ he cried. ‘ Burglars ! ‘ he roared, until the whole household took up the cry, and came in armed with stout cudgels, coolie poles, door bars, and the like. Fung-kiao’s mother snatched up a long-handled grass broom; Mrs. Hu a roll of matting. The burglar was hid in the hencoop ; and, strong in numbers, the well-armed force belaboured the flimsy structure with might and main, until the burglar moaned for mercy, then emerged with difficulty, to display the bedraggled person of Hu Fah’s son-in-law. All but two laughed in their sleeves. But Hu Fah cried, ‘ He must be mad ! And such a promising-student ! Such a good man ! Alas, he is certainly mad ! ‘

As Ma Ti was so bad as all this, his wife must be sent for to nurse him. But being now ‘ a thorn in his eye,’ her presence did not minister to his happiness. He behaved all the more strangely when she came, staring wildly at her as though he had never seen her before (and, when her back was turned, glaring at her as though he had both seen and heard her once or twice too often). He was therefore sent home to be nursed by motherly hands, his wife and the old go-between electing to stay behind.

After a few days, Ma Ti thought fit to recover. His first work was now to secure five men, whom he feed considerably to scatter evil reports about the city, until a story of Tsin-shing’s having killed the keeper of the jail was in everybody’s mouth.

At Fung-kiao’s request, the ‘ nurse ‘ besought Ch’eng Tsin to inquire at all the yamuns as to whether there was any truth in the current reports. Of course there was none. It was, however, suggested that she should pay a visit to a famous temple to the goddess of mercy, some distance from the city, to learn his actual fate. Her mother well-nigh persecuted her on the subject, until she agreed to go the very next day.

Hearing which, the old crony counsellor of Ma Ti went and told him. The news disarmed his pent-up anger. He immediately sent for the two Buddhist nuns who had charge of the temple, and gave them a preliminary sum of a hundred taels. He then arranged to secrete himself in an apartment of the lonely place, and force Fung-kiao into a marriage.

Mother and daughter went and laid the matter before the Bodhisattva Guan Yin, then drew a lot, which the nun who was at home said she could not interpret, but the other ‘ sister ‘ would be back very soon, and she was a wondrous scholar. Fung-kiao, however, having her own interpretation of the very ambiguous message, wanted to return at once, but her mother insisted on her staying. So the two occupied themselves in reading the numerous testimonial tablets which adorned the walls, ‘ Asking brings certain response,’ ‘ Motherly heart granted a son,’ ‘ Great in efficacy,’ and the like being the chief mottoes.

The other ‘ sister ‘ came at length, panting as though from a long outing. She apologised profusely ; then, without asking any particulars concerning Fung-kiao’s betrothed, displayed a really wonderful knowledge of his history and his awful but deserved doom. The latter Fung-kiao vigorously disputed, and insisted on going back at once. But, lo and behold, their sedan chairs had disappeared ! The temple servant being sent for fresh ones, did not return. It was sundown, and the temple doors were shut by the nuns. Then Ma Ti came forth and showed himself.

They were in sore straits. But Fung-kiao required him to fulfil three conditions. ‘ A myriad,’ was the reply. The first was that the marriage should be celebrated in due form, with red candles, lamps, and all the customary rites ; that she should live apart from her cousin ; and that Ma Ti would care for her mother. He gave an eager assent. They then retired into a side chamber to wash, and arrange their garments. The old go-between proffered her assistance, but was indignantly refused. The door having been shut, they gave vent to their feelings in tearful lamentations, and resolved to commit suicide.

The crows outside were cawing. ‘ Alas, my betrothed, the crows are happy, and we are moaning here.

The birds have each a roosting- place, but what resting-place is there for us this side the yellow springs ? Art thou indeed there, as the depraved nun declared ? If so, we join thee.’ And they wept on each other’s necks, then untied their girdles to strangle themselves when a ‘ star of rescue ‘ appeared.

After displaying more patience than his mother would have thought possible in a lifetime, Ma Ti went to the door and peered through a crack. He could see no one there ! He called gently, then loudly, but no response. The doors were then opened by being lifted out of the lower hinge sockets. The room was empty ! What could have happened ? They seemed to have dissolved into thin air ! Perhaps they had ascended the skies !

The red temple lamps, which were to have shed a ruby light over a marriage ceremony, were now taken down and carried all over the temple, then out into the enclosure.

They searched up and down, the disappointed man, his five men-servants, the old hag, and the two devotees of the motherly-hearted goddess, but could find no trace of them. ‘ But look ! There, on the wall, the moss has been crushed a little, and the chamber lattice is open.’ With fresh energy, the party went outside the wall, but could not even find a footprint.

‘ To think,’ growled Ma Ti, ‘ that such a fine piece of mutton should be lost as it was nearing the mouth.’ With not even a scent of ‘ mutton,’ the disappointed villain and his servants slouched home, to find Ma Ti’s wife returned, and fully prepared to make a few remarks.

Where had the ladies gone ? It happened that a serving-man of their former household, having gone to the city of Tungchow with a present of grain for them, heard that they had not returned, and learning the bent of Ma Ti’s mind, left the present in the house, and hurried off in his little boat, rowing might and main to the bank hard by the temple. Then going on shore, he found the doors closed, but an unusually brilliant light in the main building. Following the wall, he discerned a ray of light from a side lattice, thought he heard sounds of wailing, climbed up a willow tree, called to his late mistress, got her to open the window, pulled them one after the other over the moss-grown wall, took them to his boat, and rowed down with the stream.

The ladies having a rich relative in Lingchow, the boat-man took them thither. It was morning when they arrived. The boatman went ashore, found the mansion where they lived, but the lady of the house, being afraid of lowering the family, would not consent to receive them. While the boat-man was delivering his message, a heavy shower began. There was no cover to the boat, and its passengers were soon very wet. Seeing which, an old nun, standing in a temple porch on the river bank, asked them in, and hearing of their recent repulse, told them that the son of the lady who had treated them so shabbily, a young man of virtuous and generous disposition, had passed by that way, and would probably return by the same road shortly. Meanwhile they must dry their outer garments, and partake of some frugal refreshments.

Before long, Wen-teh [literary virtue], the young man referred to, being caught in the rain, came in. He was much grieved at his mother’s conduct, went home and expostulated with her. She excused herself by saying she was afraid her son would not like such folks to come into the house. This being the only alleged reason, he soon disposed of her scruples, and entreated her to send a couple of chairs and two changes of garments to the temple. When the guests arrived, she received them with many apologies, and the recital of their misfortunes moved her to tears. But here matters were destined to be complicated by the fact that Wen-teh, from his first sight of Fung-kiao, longed much for her.

Meanwhile a second army sent against Hanyang had been guilty of such enormities on the way thither, that the citizens of the cities which lay between the capital and Li Tan’s district had fled into the country. One of these cities was Tungchow. Its houses and shops were bolted and barred, and the streets emptied, for fear of their own army !

Wen-teh’s longing having reached the point of supplication, Fung-kiao’s mother thought it a stroke of policy to send him to Tungchow, to ask permission of Hu Fah, whom she knew to have fled with the rest. She did not like to give her benefactor the direct no ; and the argument that such a weighty matter should not be settled by an old woman, seemed orthodox enough. Off he went in his eagerness, to find, however, what Fung-kiao’s mother had not bargained for that Hu Fah had just returned. The middleman’s present being a very heavy one, Hu Fah felt that here was Heaven’s compensation for his generosity to the ladies, about whose welfare he had made numerous inquiries. The ‘ eight characters ‘ of Fung-kiao’s year, month, day and hour of birth being made out, Wen-teh returned with great exultation, for the betrothal was now legally complete.

When Fung-kiao heard of it, a scene ensued which brought out her faithfulness to her Tsin-shing, and also Wen-teh’s true heartedness. Then the maiden retired to her chamber, and refused to eat or drink day after day. She pined away, until one day she ceased to breathe. Her spirit ascended the skies, but the attendants of the Supreme were ordered to return it to her body, as her life-destiny was not yet fulfilled. As consciousness returned, Wen-teh, with all generosity, gave into her hands the dearly-bought document, after which her recovery became rapid, and cheerfulness returned with the glow of health.

Nothing more being said about the engagement, she thought the matter had been dropped ; they thought her friendliness with Wen-teh was a sign of willingness to marry him, and so made preparations for that event. The guests were invited, and the red cloth upon which the young couple were to kneel was spread. Only then did Fung-kiao realise her position. She was brought forth, but stood erect. They remonstrated with her, and at length, seeing no way of escape, no ‘ star of hope,’ but only the kindness of her benefactors, she obeyed the promptings of the attendant women, and went silently through the ceremony. Then saying she was ill, she went to her room, and became once more a voluntary prisoner. Wen-teh could only inquire about her health ; she would not look at him.

Some days passed thus, when she said she had had a dream, in which the spirit of her deceased Tsin-shing appeared to her, asking that a sacrifice should be offered to his memory in mid-river some distance away, after which she might own Wen-teh as her husband. She then wrote a letter, and put it into a box, which she left unlocked.

They went off in a large house-boat, wherein a feast was spread. Her mother and Wen-teh, wishing, to humour her, yielded to her persuasions, and partook freely of the good cheer provided, she herself more sparingly. They then retired to rest, the sacrifice being fixed for the morrow.

When all was silent, Fung-kiao crept forth, sprang lightly on shore, then walked on in the moonlight until she came to a high-arched bridge over a creek, and taking her farewell of heaven, earth, and her mother, thanking her creators and preservers for unnumbered kindnesses, she bemoaned her lot thus early to die on that lovely, emotion-waking, moonlight night. Then she jumped off the boat into the flowing water.

The consternation upon Wen-teh’s boat some hours after may be imagined. They traced her footprints to the bridge, and wept in anguish. The sacrifice prepared for Tsin-shing was offered for the benefit of her own spirit. This over, they returned, to find a note in her chamber explaining all. It called forth some noble words from Wen-teh. ‘My cousin, he cried, ‘ why did you do this ? Why did you not tell me ? I would have given you up after marriage, as I did for a while after betrothal. I would have done anything, or suffered anything, to have saved you from any pain ; how much more from this ! ‘ Then he broke down completely.

Fung-kiao was not drowned. Just as she fell into the water, a mandarin’s boat was descending the stream, and she was picked up by the boat-hooks of the crew. She was just alive. Restoratives being given her, she slowly came back to the upper world, to find herself upon a boat belonging to a certain official named T’ao, chief mandarin of the prefecture of Shangchow. She was glad to change her name, and became an attendant of the mandarin’s daughter. We will leave her in that position.

The prince had by no means forgotten his promise to his betrothed. But affairs all along had been unsettled ; and whenever he broached the matter, his generals urged the plea that State matters must be put first, especially at a time when his loyal soldiers had long been separated from their wives and families. At length, however, he sent a party of trusty men to Tungchow, which he knew to be in the direct line of the enemy’s march. The band arrived at Tungchow, to find the city depopulated at the approach of the Emperor’s dis- orderly troops. Hu Fah’s house was deserted, but a blind man, who had served them in years past, had been left behind in the general panic. Him they seized and brought before the prince.

Not knowing whom he was addressing, the blind man told part of the tale already given, adding many a reproach on the faithless young rascal who had been the cause of the misery and disappearance of Fung-kiao and her mother. The attendants drew their swords to silence the slander of their prince, but he restrained them, and gave vent to his woe.

‘ Oh, you have a scrap of conscience left, then. I will tell you something more. They are alive, being rescued by a boatman and taken to Lingchow. He had more gratitude than you with your robber bands.’ At which the attendants removed the old man, who almost died with terror when he found that he had been reproaching the Imperial son of Kao Chung.

The young prince was all eagerness to send to Lingchow, but was effectually hindered therefrom, owing to the fact that the general of the opposing forces had enlisted the services of a Taoist magician, who possessed a wondrous talisman by which the city was held under a spell, which, at the decree of Heaven, just stopped short at the lives of the besieged. A consultation was held as to what should be done. Matters were indeed desperate. But one of the prince’s officers said there was a counter talisman possessed by a mandarin of Shangchow, who, however, was a staunch adherent of the Empress, and whose son held office near the capital. This did not seem very hopeful ; but another general, with much diffidence, put forth a certain plan. He had a recently-deceased nephew, engaged to the daughter of the mandarin of Shang-chow. The family had never seen him, nor did they know that he was dead. Now, it happened that the prince was about his age. To remain in Hanyang would be dangerous ; to do as he was about to suggest could hardly be more so. Would the prince personate him, gain the confidence of the family, and secure the talisman ? The prince was grateful for the suggestion, and fell in with it at once. He managed to escape through the enemy’s lines that night, and was soon fairly on his way.

Arrived at Shangchow, the ‘ son-in-law ‘ created a favourable impression. The day was fixed for the marriage, and the ceremony had to be gone through, when the bridegroom fell judiciously ill. He had nothing to say to T’ao’s daughter, but had plenty of material for meditation, when a glance at her attendant revealed a wonderful likeness to Fung-kiao. Their eyes met for a moment. It was she ! But there was no lustre in that look ; for was he not married in spite of all his promises to another ? After some days of continued ‘ poorliness ‘ he managed to whisper in her ear that she must trust him in spite of all seeming, also that he would not leave without her this time.

He was not too ill to be much in conversation with the mandarin T’ao himself, and having felt his way to the subject, asked whether there was not an old talisman in the family. T’ao called his daughter, and told her to bring it out of the treasury. It was exhibited, and its uses explained, and the mandarin’s daughter in a fit of anger told her ‘ invalid husband ‘ to take it back himself. This he did, carefully leaving all the doors unlocked except that in the outer wall. That night the talisman was secured, and one of Li Tan’s followers sent off post-haste to Hanyang. ‘ Now, my lord, fly with us,’ the other two said.

He would not leave his betrothed, however, and so remained a month or so, still ‘ poorly.’ One day he managed, by pleading illness at a feast, to retire and have an interview with the maiden he loved. They both related their adventures, and as he drew near to the close, she asked him wonderingly what manner of man he really was.

‘ I am no other than Li Tan, son of the true Empress of Kao Chung,’ was the reply. Could it be possible, she won- dered, that she was the only beloved of the heir to the Dragon Throne ? Her betrothed soon made that clear, and, with pro- mises of undying affection, not unaccompanied with kisses, the two poured out their pent-up emotion.

 A knock at the door ! T’ao’s daughter was calling.

Fung-kiao emerged, all blushes, to receive the curses and blows of her mistress. The prince could remain within no longer, and interposed to receive the blows instead.

Hearing the hubbub, the whole household collected. In the thick of the excitement, Fung-kiao dropped her precious gem.

 It was picked up. The device thereon was seen to be the Imperial dragon, the significance of which was not lost upon the mandarin’s wife, who went and showed it to her husband. In order to make sure, she hit upon the plan of getting the mandarin to tell his ‘ son-in-law ‘ that they knew of his fondness for Fung-kiao, and that although he himself would have had no objection to bestow her upon him as a second wife, it was out of the question, for she was already betrothed to Li Tan, son of the Emperor Kao Chung.

With a smiling face it was just after the feast and the blandest tones of voice, the mandarin Tao interviewed his ‘ son-in-law ‘ in the study. ‘ My noble son-in-law,’ he said, ‘ you are in love with Fung-kiao, and it would not be difficult for me to bestow her upon you but for a certain reason,’ which he gave, adding that he had been looking for an opportunity of sending her, with an adequate bodyguard, to Hanyang to greet her lord.

Being overcome with such an unexpected speech, what could the prince do but bow his thanks, and say, ‘ I will not deceive you ; I am no other than Li Tan, and will abundantly recompense your kindness some day.’

 Outside the study ‘ walls have cracks and partitions have ears ‘ was one of the two remaining attendants, who, hearing the words, glided out in great trepidation, saddled his horse, and flew towards Hanyang.

Having extorted the confession from the prince, T’ao bowed his apologies for neglect of suitable entertainment, multiplied his expressions of abject contrition, and fixed an auspicious day on which to escort them both. For which Li Tan devoutly thanked him. He then retired, commanded his underlings to secure all the outer doors, and hastened to his wife, saying, ‘ It is so. He is Li Tan. I could send a messenger to the Empress, who would have him taken alive. But then our daughter will object. If I send him to Hanyang, the lives of the family may be endangered. What do you advise in this dilemma ? ‘

T’ao’s right-hand man and near relative, named Shü-yin, knelt, and urged that the Empress Wu was a usurper, and that the true heir to the throne was his daughter’s husband. As Shü-yin was himself in love with Fung-kiao, this plea was not without a touch of loyal self-forgetfulness. But T’ao’s daughter interrupted him in somewhat violent language. Shü-yin’s mother replied by representing that the mandarin’s daughter was now the rightful Empress ; would she not on that account decide for the life of the prince ?

 ‘ What demon haunts you ? ‘ screamed T’ao’s daughter. ‘ He has not made the country his, nor does he care for me. The Empress Wu has the land. Li Tan has just one city and very few soldiers. You would destroy the whole family. Seize him ! Deliver him up to the Empress, and get her high reward. Thus say I.’

 ‘ Is that your final decision ? ‘ asked her father.

 ‘ What is it to do with me ? If you want to annihilate the whole family, let him go.’

 Thus persuaded, T’ao gave orders that the prince should be seized. Hearing which, Li Tan hurried forth to plead for his life. But as he knelt, T’ao’s daughter pushed him violently over, crying, ‘Don’t talk to me! Go to your Fung-kiao.’ The underlings rushed forward immediately, ‘ fierce as wolves and tigers,’ and bound the prostrate prince. But someone else rushed forward, and held him fast, crying, ‘My husband, I have brought all this upon you !’

The underlings tried to separate them, but the maiden clung to her lord with superhuman strength. Sh-üyin pleaded that if Fung-kiao would not let him go, they need not try and separate the pair. The mandarin T’ao ordered, therefore, that both should be secured in the same wooden cage, and put into the inner prison. He then wrote a despatch to the capital, sending it by two couriers, and when these had gone, ordered all the city gates to be closed.

With the aid of the counter charm, the troops at Han-yang had utterly routed the enemy, and began to make preparations to bring the prince and his bride back. But just as the bodyguard was starting, a horseman appeared on a jaded steed, gasping out, ‘ The prince has confessed who he is ! ‘

Ma Chow was greatly alarmed. ‘ He is doubtless seized,’ he cried; ‘perhaps on his way to the capital. Call three hundred more picked men.’ And with the speed of wildfire, they galloped on for three days, until they came to a certain fork in the road. ‘ That leads to the capital. The messengers will pass here.’

He had hardly spoken when two men galloped up. ‘ Stop ! ‘ cried Ma Chow ; ‘ who are you ? ‘

‘ Imperial couriers.’

‘ Give up your despatches.’

‘ You bold slave, the Imperial despatches are not for you.’

‘ The vile usurper ! Imperial indeed ! Seize them ! ‘

‘ It was done, the despatches secured, read, and torn to fragments.’

‘ Now choose, you two, death or life ! ‘

‘ Pardon us ! ‘ cried both men, bowing to the ground. ‘

The gates of Shangchow were opened to the Imperial couriers, and the whole company rushed in, made their way to the prison, burst it open, and secured the cage.

It was now the turn of T’ao and his family to plead for their lives. T’ao’s daughter alone was deemed beyond pardon and full acquittance, and the prince and his bride were con- ducted in triumph to the now peaceful city of Hanyang, where, amid general festivities and rejoicings, their marriage was consummated.

Several cities fell to the prince, his army being augmented by various contingents. The populace around were exceedingly friendly to his rule, and the Empress thought best to acknowledge Li Tan as a prince of the realm. So the time seemed ripe for his going off to Tungchow to seek out his former friends. He was disguised as a scholar, and his bodyguard as household servants. They were seen by Ma Ti, who treated them very badly, binding and imprisoning them in a garden pavilion, where they were visited by the nurse of Hu Fah’s household, whose patience was somewhat tried, for they were purposely dumb. She, however, went and told Ch’eng Tsin and his wife (Fung-kiao’s genial cousin). Ch’eng Tsin bought off Tsin-shing for fifty taels, then accompanied him and his attendants to Lingchow, where Fung-kiao’s mother was living in sorrow ; well cared for, however, by Wen-teh.

That generous young man, on seeing ‘ Tsin-shing,’ was so affected at the latter’s bereavement, and his own unintentional part therein, that he proposed another match an eligible one for him. The offer was not accepted.

The prince’s generals, fearing for his safety, sent a strong body of soldiers to Tungchow, and thence to Lingchow. Wen-teh, hearing that Tsin-shing was no other than the prince who ruled over a section of the Empire, prepared for execution, as having been guilty of causing Fung-kiao’s death. His mother was first to meet the prince, and begged that in her death the rest of the family might find pardon. Kindly hands raised her from the ground, and kindly lips thanked her. But Wen-teh, knowing nothing of this, rushed forward, bound himself, and, prostrate in the dust, confessed the wrongs he had done, beseeching that, after his death-sentence had been pronounced, his mother might be spared.

Full of emotion, the prince stooped down, untied his bonds, lifted him up, and told him that Fung-kiao lived as his wedded consort, called him his benefactor, and there and then raised him with the prince’s other friends to high office. On Wen-teh’s wife for he was now married a special title was conferred also. Nor was Lwan-kiao forgotten.

Hu Fah, his wife and daughter, for whom Fung-kiao had pleaded, were permitted to live, but were fined heavily. The fines were bestowed upon Shü-yin of T’ao’s household. Ma Ti and the two nuns were executed, as they richly deserved.

After some years, the Empress Wu having died, Prince Li Tan removed to the capital city of Perpetual Peace, and ascended the dragon throne.

He was succeeded by his second son, who, under the title of the Lustrous Emperor, reigned for forty-four years, and is one of the most celebrated sovereigns in Chinese history.

Nezha, The Third Lotus Prince

Li, the Pagoda-bearer

In Buddhist temples there is to be seen a richly attired figure of a man holding in his hand a model of a pagoda. He is Li, the Prime Minister of Heaven and father of No-cha.

He was a general under the tyrant Chou and commander of Ch’ên-t’ang Kuan at the time when the bloody war was being waged which resulted in the extinction of the Yin dynasty.

No-cha is one of the most frequently mentioned heroes in Chinese romance; he is represented in one account as being Yü Huang’s shield-bearer, sixty feet in height, his three heads with nine eyes crowned by a golden wheel, his eight hands each holding a magic weapon, and his mouth vomiting blue clouds. At the sound of his Voice, we are told, the heavens shook and the foundations of the earth trembled. His duty was to bring into submission all the demons which desolated the world.

His birth was in this wise. Li Ching’s wife, Yin Shih, bore him three sons, the eldest Chin-cha, the second Mu-cha, and the third No-cha, generally known as ‘the Third Prince.’

Yin Shih dreamed one night that a Taoist priest entered her room. She indignantly exclaimed: “How dare you come into my room in this indiscreet manner?” The priest replied: “Woman, receive the child of the unicorn!” Before she could reply the Taoist pushed an object to her bosom.

Yin Shih awoke in a fright, a cold sweat all over her body. Having awakened her husband, she told him what she had dreamed. At that moment she was seized with the pains of childbirth. Li Ching withdrew to an adjoining room, uneasy at what seemed to be inauspicious omens. A little later two servants ran to him, crying out: “Your wife has given birth to a monstrous freak!”

An Avatar of the Intelligent Pearl

Li Ching seized his sword and went into his wife’s room, which he found filled with a red light exhaling a most extraordinary odour. A ball of flesh was rolling on the floor like a wheel; with a blow of his sword he cut it open, and a babe emerged, surrounded by a halo of red light. Its face was very white, a gold bracelet was on its right wrist, and it wore a pair of red silk trousers, from which proceeded rays of dazzling golden light. The bracelet was ‘the horizon of Heaven and earth,’ and the two precious objects belonged to the cave Chin-kuang Tung of T’ai-i Chên-jên, the priest who had bestowed them upon him when he appeared to his mother during her sleep. The child itself was an avatar of Ling Chu-tzu, ‘the Intelligent Pearl.’

On the morrow T’ai-i Chên-jên returned and asked Li Ching’s permission to see the new-born babe. “He shall be called No-cha,” he said, “and will become my disciple.”

A Precocious Youth

At seven years of age No-cha was already six feet in height. One day he asked his mother if he might go for a walk outside the town. His mother granted him permission on condition that he was accompanied by a servant. She also counselled him not to remain too long outside the wall, lest his father should become anxious.

It was in the fifth moon: the heat was excessive. No-cha had not gone a _li_ before he was in a profuse perspiration. Some way ahead he saw a clump of trees, to which he hastened, and, settling himself in the shade, opened his coat, and breathed with relief the fresher air. In front of him he saw a stream of limpid green water running between two rows of willows, gently agitated by the movement of the wind, and flowing round a rock. The child ran to the banks of the stream, and said to his guardian: “I am covered with perspiration, and will bathe from the rock.” “Be quick,” said the servant; “if your father returns home before you he will be anxious.” No-cha stripped himself, took his red silk trousers, several feet long, and dipped them in the water, intending to use them as a towel. No sooner were the magic trousers immersed in the stream than the water began to boil, and Heaven and earth trembled. The water of this river, the Chiu-wan Ho, ‘Nine-bends River,’ which communicated with the Eastern Sea, turned completely red, and Lung Wang’s palace shook to its foundations. The Dragon-king, surprised at seeing the walls of his crystal palace shaking, called his officers and inquired: “How is it that the palace threatens to collapse? There should not be an earthquake at this time.” He ordered one of his attendants to go at once and find out what evil was giving rise to the commotion. When the officer reached the river he saw that the water was red, but noticed nothing else except a boy dipping a band of silk in the stream. He cleft the water and called out angrily: “That child should be thrown into the water for making the river red and causing Lung Wang’s palace to shake.”

“Who is that who speaks so brutally?” said No-cha. Then, seeing that the man intended to seize him, he jumped aside, took his gold bracelet, and hurled it in the air. It fell on the head of the officer, and No-cha left him dead on the rock. Then he picked up his bracelet and said smiling: “His blood has stained my precious horizon of Heaven and earth.” He then washed it in the water.

The Slaying of the Dragon-king’s Son

“How is it that the officer does not return?” inquired Lung Wang. At that moment attendants came to inform him that his retainer had been murdered by a boy.

Thereupon Ao Ping, the third son of Lung Wang, placing himself at the head of a troop of marines, his trident in his hand, left the palace precincts. The warriors dashed into the river, raising on every side waves mountains high. Seeing the water rising, No-cha stood up on the rock and was confronted by Ao Ping mounted on a sea-monster.

“Who slew my messenger?” cried the warrior.

“I did,” answered No-cha.

“Who are you?” demanded Ao Ping.

“I am No-cha, the third son of Li Ching of Ch’ên-t’ang Kuan. I came here to bathe and refresh myself; your messenger cursed me, and I killed him. Then–“

“Rascal! do you not know that your victim was a deputy of the King of Heaven? How dare you kill him, and then boast of your crime?”

So saying, Ao Ping thrust at the boy with his trident. No-cha, by a brisk move, evaded the thrust.

“Who are you?” he asked in turn.

“I am Ao Ping, the third son of Lung Wang.”

“Ah, you are a blusterer,” jeered the boy; “if you dare to touch me I will skin you alive, you and your mud-eels!”

“You make me choke with rage,” rejoined Ao Ping, at the same time thrusting again with his trident.

Furious at this renewed attack, No-cha spread his silk trousers in the air, and thousands of balls of fire flew out of them, felling Lung Wang’s son. No-cha put his foot on Ao Ping’s head and struck it with his magic bracelet, whereupon he appeared in his true form of a dragon.

“I am now going to pull out your sinews,” he said, “in order to make a belt for my father to use to bind on his cuirass.”

No-cha was as good as his word, and Ao Ping’s escort ran and informed Lung Wang of the fate of his son. The Dragon-king went to Li Ching and demanded an explanation.

Being entirely ignorant of what had taken place, Li Ching sought No-cha to question him.

An Unruly Son

No-cha was in the garden, occupied in weaving the belt of dragon-sinew. The stupefaction of Li Ching may be imagined. “You have brought most awful misfortunes upon us,” he exclaimed. “Come and give an account of your conduct.” “Have no fear,” replied No-cha superciliously; “his son’s sinews are still intact; I will give them back to him if he wishes.”

When they entered the house he saluted the Dragon-king, made a curt apology, and offered to return his son’s sinews. The father, moved with grief at the sight of the proofs of the tragedy, said bitterly to Li Ching: “You have such a son and yet dare to deny his guilt, though you heard him haughtily admitting it! To-morrow I shall report the matter to Yü Huang.” Having spoken thus, he departed.

Li Ching was overwhelmed at the enormity of his son’s crime. His wife, in an adjoining room, hearing his lamentations, went to her husband. “What obnoxious creature is this that you have brought into the world?” he said to her angrily. “He has slain two spirits, the son of Lung Wang and a steward sent by the King of Heaven. To-morrow the Dragon-king is to lodge a complaint with Yü Huang, and two or three days hence will see the end of our existence.”

The poor mother began to weep copiously. “What!” she sobbed, “you whom I suffered so much for, you are to be the cause of our ruin and death!”

No-cha, seeing his parents so distracted, fell on his knees. “Let me tell you once for all,” he said, “that I am no ordinary mortal. I am the disciple of T’ai-i Chên-jên; my magic weapons I received from him; it is they which brought upon me the undying hatred of Lung Wang. But he cannot prevail. To-day I will go and ask my master’s advice. The guilty alone should suffer the penalty; it is unjust that his parents should suffer in his stead.”

Drastic Measures

He then left for Ch’ien-yüan Shan, and entered the cave of his master T’ai-i Chên-jên, to whom he related his adventures. The master dwelt upon the grave consequences of the murders, and then ordered No-cha to bare his breast. With his finger he drew on the skin a magic formula, after which he gave him some secret instructions. “Now,” he said, “go to the gate of Heaven and await the arrival of Lung Wang, who purposes to accuse you before Yü Huang. Then you must come again to consult me, that your parents may not be molested because of your misdeeds.”

When No-cha reached the gate of Heaven it was closed. In vain he sought for Lung Wang, but after a while he saw him approaching. Lung Wang did not see No-cha, for the formula written by T’ai-i Chên-jên rendered him invisible. As Lung Wang approached the gate No-cha ran up to him and struck him so hard a blow with his golden bracelet that he fell to the ground. Then No-cha stamped on him, cursing him vehemently.

The Dragon-king now recognized his assailant and sharply reproached him with his crimes, but the only reparation he got was a renewal of kicks and blows. Then, partially lifting Lung Wang’s cloak and raising his shield, No-cha tore off from his body about forty scales. Blood flowed copiously, and the Dragon-king, under stress of the pain, begged his foe to spare his life. To this No-cha consented on condition that he relinquished his purpose of accusing him before Yü Huang.

“Now,” went on No-cha, “change yourself into a small serpent that I may take you back without fear of your escaping.”

Lung Wang took the form of a small blue dragon, and followed No-cha to his father’s house, upon entering which Lung Wang resumed his normal form, and accused No-cha of having belaboured him. “I will go with all the Dragon-kings and lay an accusation before Yü Huang,” he said. Thereupon he transformed himself into a gust of wind, and disappeared.

No-cha draws a Bow at a Venture

“Things are going from bad to worse,” sighed Li Ching, His son, however, consoled him: “I beg you, my father, not to let the future trouble you. I am the chosen one of the gods. My master is T’ai-i Chên-jên, and he has assured me that he can easily protect us.”

No-cha now went out and ascended a tower which commanded a view of the entrance of the fort. There he found a wonderful bow and three magic arrows. No-cha did not know that this was the spiritual weapon belonging to the fort. “My master informed me that I am destined to fight to establish the coming Chou dynasty; I ought therefore to perfect myself in the use of weapons. This is a good opportunity.” He accordingly seized the bow and shot an arrow toward the south-west. A red trail indicated the path of the arrow, which hissed as it flew. At that moment Pi Yün, a servant of Shih-chi Niang-niang, happened to be at the foot of K’u-lou Shan (Skeleton Hill), in front of the cave of his mistress. The arrow pierced his throat, and he fell dead, bathed in his blood. Shih-chi Niang-niang came out of her cave, and examining the arrow found that it bore the inscription: “Arrow which shakes the heavens.” She thus knew that it must have come from Ch’ên-t’ang Kuan, where the magic bow was kept.

Another Encounter

The goddess mounted her blue phoenix, flew over the fort, seized Li Ching, and carried him to her cave. There she made him kneel before her, and reminded him how she had protected him that he might gain honour and glory on earth before he attained to immortality. “It is thus that you show your gratitude–by killing my servant!”

Li Ching swore that he was innocent; but the tell-tale arrow was there, and it could not but have come from the fortress. Li Ching begged the goddess to set him at liberty, in order that he might find the culprit and bring him to her. “If I cannot find him,” he added, “you may take my life.”

Once again No-cha frankly admitted his deed to his father, and followed him to the cave of Shih-chi Niang-niang. When he reached the entrance the second servant reproached him with the crime, whereupon No-cha struck him a heavy blow. Shih-chi Niang-niang, infuriated, threw herself at No-cha, sword in hand; one after the other she wrenched from him his bracelet and magic trousers.

Deprived of his magic weapons, No-cha fled to his master, T’ai-i Chên-jên. The goddess followed and demanded that he be put to death. A terrible conflict ensued between the two champions, until T’ai-i Chên-jên hurled into the air his globe of nine fire-dragons, which, falling on Shih-chi Niang-niang, enveloped her in a whirlwind of flame. When this had passed it was seen that she was changed into stone.

“Now you are safe,” said T’ai-i Chên-jên to No-cha, “but return quickly, for the Four Dragon-kings have laid their accusation before Yü Huang, and they are going to carry off your parents. Follow my advice, and you will rescue your parents from their misfortune.”

No-cha commits Hara-Kiri

On his return No-cha found the Four Dragon-kings on the point of carrying off his parents. “It is I,” he said, “who killed Ao Ping, and I who should pay the penalty. Why are you molesting my parents? I am about to return to them what I received from them. Will it satisfy you?”

Lung Wang agreed, whereupon No-cha took a sword, and before their eyes cut off an arm, sliced open his stomach, and fell unconscious. His soul, borne on the wind, went straight to the cave of T’ai-i Chên-jên, while his mother busied herself with burying his body.

“Your home is not here,” said his master to him; “return to Ch’ên-t’ang Kuan, and beg your mother to build a temple on Ts’ui-p’ing Shan, forty _li_ farther on. Incense will be burned to you for three years, at the end of which time you will be reincarnated.”

A Habitation for the Soul

During the night, toward the third watch, while his mother was in a deep sleep, No-cha appeared to her in a dream and said: “My mother, pity me; since my death, my soul, separated from my body, wanders about without a home. Build me, I pray you, a temple on Ts’ui-p’ing Shan, that I may be reincarnated.” His mother awoke in tears, and related her vision to Li Ching, who reproached her for her blind attachment to her unnatural son, the cause of so much disaster.

For five or six nights the son appeared to his mother, each time repeating his request. The last time he added: “Do not forget that by nature I am ferocious; if you refuse my request evil will befall you.”

His mother then sent builders to the mountain to construct a temple to No-cha, and his image was set up in it. Miracles were not wanting, and the number of pilgrims who visited the shrine increased daily.

Li Ching destroys his Son’s Statue

One day Li Ching, with a troop of his soldiers, was passing this mountain, and saw the roads crowded with pilgrims of both sexes. “Where are these people going?” he asked. “For six months past,” he was told, “the spirit of the temple on this mountain has continued to perform miracles. People come from far and near to worship and supplicate him.”

“What is the name of this spirit?” inquired Li Ching.

“No-cha,” they replied.

“No-cha!” exclaimed the father. “I will go and see him myself.”

In a rage Li Ching entered the temple and examined the statue, which was a speaking image of his son. By its side were images of two of his servants. He took his whip and began to beat the statue, cursing it all the while. “It is not enough, apparently, for you to have been a source of disaster to us,” he said; “but even after your death you must deceive the multitude.” He whipped the statue until it fell to pieces; he then kicked over the images of the servants, and went back, admonishing the people not to worship so wicked a man, the shame and ruin of his family. By his orders the temple was burnt to the ground.

When he reached Ch’ên-t’ang Kuan his wife came to him, but he received her coldly. “You gave birth to that cursed son,” he said, “who has been the plague of our lives, and after his death you build him a temple in which he deceives the people. Do you wish to have me disgraced? If I were to be accused at Court of having instituted the worship of false gods, would not my destruction be certain? I have burned the temple, and intend that that shall settle the matter once for all; if ever you think of rebuilding it I will break off all relations with you.”

No-cha consults his Master

At the time of his father’s visit No-cha was absent from the temple. On his return he found only its smoking remnants. The spirits of his two servants ran up lamenting. “Who has demolished my temple?” he asked. “Li Ching,” they replied. “In doing this he has exceeded his powers,” said No-cha. “I gave him back the substance I received from him; why did he come with violence to break up my image? I will have nothing more to do with him.”

No-cha’s soul had already begun to be spiritualised. So he determined to go to T’ai-i Chên-jên and beg for his help. “The worship rendered to you there,” replied the Taoist, “had nothing in it which should have offended your father; it did not concern him. He was in the wrong. Before long Chiang Tzu-ya will descend to inaugurate the new dynasty, and since you must throw in your lot with him I will find a way to aid you.”

A New No-cha

T’ai-i Chên-jên had two water-lily stalks and three lotus-leaves brought to him. He spread these on the ground in the form of a human being and placed the soul of No-cha in this lotus skeleton, uttering magic incantations the while. There emerged a new No-cha full of life, with a fresh complexion, purple lips, keen glance, and sixteen feet of height. “Follow me to my peach-garden,” said T’ai-i Chên-jên, “and I will give you your weapons.” He handed him a fiery spear, very sharp, and two wind-and-fire wheels which, placed under his feet, served as a Vehicle. A brick of gold in a panther-skin bag completed his magic armament. The new warrior, after thanking his master, mounted his wind-and-fire wheels and returned to Ch’ên-t’ang Kuan.

A Battle between Father and Son

Li Ching was informed that his son No-cha had returned and was threatening vengeance. So he took his weapons, mounted his horse, and went forth to meet him. Having cursed each other profusely, they joined battle, but Li Ching was worsted and compelled to flee. No-cha pursued his father, but as he was on the point of overtaking him Li Ching’s second son, Mu-cha, came on the scene, and keenly reproached his brother for his unfilial conduct.

“Li Ching is no longer my father,” replied No-cha. “I gave him back my substance; why did he burn my temple and smash up my image?”

Mu-cha thereupon prepared to defend his father, but received on his back a blow from the golden brick, and fell unconscious. No-cha then resumed his pursuit of Li Ching.

His strength exhausted, and in danger of falling into the hands of his enemy, Li Ching drew his sword and was about to kill himself. “Stop!” cried a Taoist priest. “Come into my cave, and I will protect you.”

When No-cha came up he could not see Li Ching, and demanded his surrender from the Taoist. But he had to do with one stronger than himself, no less a being than Wên-chu T’ien-tsun, whom T’ai-i Chên-jên had sent in order that No-cha might receive a lesson. The Taoist, with the aid of his magic weapon, seized No-cha, and in a moment he found a gold ring fastened round his neck, two chains on his feet, and he was bound to a pillar of gold.

Peace at the Last

At this moment, as if by accident, T’ai-i Chên-jên appeared upon the scene. His master had No-cha brought before Wên-chu T’ien-tsun and Li Ching, and advised him to live at peace with his father, but he also rebuked the father for having burned the temple on Ts’ui-p’ing Shan. This done, he ordered Li Ching to go home, and No-cha to return to his cave. The latter, overflowing with anger, his heart full of vengeance, started again in pursuit of Li Ching, swearing that he would punish him. But the Taoist reappeared and prepared to protect Li Ching.

No-cha, bristling like a savage cat, threw himself at his enemy and tried to pierce him with his spear, but a white lotus-flower emerged from the Taoist’s mouth and arrested the course of the weapon. As No-cha continued to threaten him, the Taoist drew from his sleeve a mysterious object which rose in the air, and, falling at the feet of No-cha, enveloped him in flames. Then No-cha prayed for mercy. The Taoist exacted from him three separate promises: to live in harmony with his father, to recognize and address him as his father, and to throw himself at his, the Taoist’s, feet, to indicate his reconciliation with himself.

After this act of reconciliation had been performed, Wên-chu T’ien-tsun promised Li Ching that he should leave his official post to become an Immortal able to place his services at the disposal of the new Chou dynasty, shortly to come into power. In order to ensure that their reconciliation should last for ever, and to place it beyond No-cha’s power to seek revenge, he gave Li Ching the wonderful object by whose agency No-cha’s feet had been burned, and which had been the means of bringing him into subjection. It was a golden pagoda, which became the characteristic weapon of Li Ching, and gave rise to his nickname, Li the Pagoda-bearer. Finally, Yü Huang appointed him Generalissimo of the Twenty-six Celestial Officers, Grand Marshal of the Skies, and Guardian of the Gate of Heaven.

The Divine Archer Hou Yi

The Emperor Yao, in the twelfth year of his reign (2346 B.C.), one day, while walking in the streets of Huai-yang, met a man carrying a bow and arrows, the bow being bound round with a piece of red stuff. This was Hou Yi. He told the Emperor he was a skilful archer and could fly in the air on the wings of the wind. Yao, to test his skill, ordered him to shoot one of his arrows at a pine-tree on the top of a neighbouring mountain. Hou Yi shot an arrow which transfixed the tree, and then jumped on to a current of air to go and fetch the arrow back. Because of this the Emperor named him Shên I, the Divine Archer, attached him to his suite, and appointed him Chief Mechanician of all Works in Wood. He continued to live only on flowers.

Vanquishes the Wind-spirit

At this time terrible calamities began to lay waste the land. Ten suns appeared in the sky, the heat of which burnt up all the crops; dreadful storms uprooted trees and overturned houses; floods overspread the country. Near the Tung-t’ing Lake a serpent, a thousand feet long, devoured human beings, and wild boars of enormous size did great damage in the eastern part of the kingdom. Yao ordered Shên I to go and slay the devils and monsters who were causing all this mischief, placing three hundred men at his service for that purpose.

Shên I took up his post on Mount Ch’ing Ch’iu to study the cause of the devastating storms, and found that these tempests were released by Fei Lien, the Spirit of the Wind, who blew them out of a sack. As we shall see when considering the thunder myths, the ensuing conflict ended in Fei Lien suing for mercy and swearing friendship to his victor, whereupon the storms ceased.

Dispels the Nine False Suns

After this first victory Shên I led his troops to the banks of the Hsi Ho, West River, at Lin Shan. Here he discovered that on three neighbouring peaks nine extraordinary birds were blowing out fire and thus forming nine new suns in the sky. Shên I shot nine arrows in succession, pierced the birds, and immediately the nine false suns resolved themselves into red clouds and melted away. Shên I and his soldiers found the nine arrows stuck in nine red stones at the top of the mountain.

Marries the Sister of the Water-spirit

Shên I then led his soldiers to Kao-liang, where the river had risen and formed an immense torrent. He shot an arrow into the water, which thereupon withdrew to its source. In the flood he saw a man clothed in white, riding a white horse and accompanied by a dozen attendants. He quickly discharged an arrow, striking him in the left eye, and the horseman at once took to flight. He was accompanied by a young woman named Hêng O [22], the younger sister of Ho Po, the Spirit of the Waters. Shên I shot an arrow into her hair. She turned and thanked him for sparing her life, adding: “I will agree to be your wife.” After these events had been duly reported to the Emperor Yao, the wedding took place.

Slays Various Dangerous Creatures

Three months later Yao ordered Shên I to go and kill the great Tung-t’ing serpent. An arrow in the left eye laid him out stark and dead. The wild boars also were all caught in traps and slain. As a reward for these achievements Yao canonized Shên I with the title of Marquis Pacifier of the Country.

Builds a Palace for Chin Mu

One day the Emperor Yao, from the top of Ch’ing-yün Shan, saw a track of light, and asked Shên I the cause of this unusual phenomenon. The latter mounted the current of luminous air, and letting it carry him whither it listed, found himself on Lo-fou Shan, in front of the door of the mountain, which was guarded by a great spiritual monster. On seeing Shên I this creature called together a large number of phoenixes and other birds of gigantic size and set them at Shên I. One arrow, however, settled the matter. They all fled, the door opened, and a lady followed by ten attendants presented herself. She was no other than Hsi Wang Mu herself. Shên I, having saluted her and explained the object of his visit, was admitted to the goddess’s palace, and royally entertained.

“I have heard,” said Shên I to her, “that you possess the pills of immortality; I beg you to give me one or two.” “You are a well-known architect,” replied Hsi Wang Mu; “please build me a palace near this mountain.” Together they went to inspect a celebrated site known as Pai-yü-kuei Shan, ‘White Jade-tortoise Mountain,’ and fixed upon it as the location of the new abode of the goddess. Shên I had all the spirits of the mountain to work for him. The walls were built of jade, sweet-smelling woods were used for the framework and wainscoting, the roof was of glass, the steps of agate. In a fortnight’s time sixteen palace buildings stretched magnificently along the side of the mountain. Hsi Wang Mu gave to the architect a wonderful pill which would bestow upon him immortality as well as the faculty of being able at will to fly through the air. “But,” she said, “it must not be eaten now: you must first go through a twelve months’ preparatory course of exercise and diet, without which the pill will not have all the desired results.” Shên I thanked the goddess, took leave of her, and, returning to the Emperor, related to him all that had happened.

Kills Chisel-tooth

On reaching home, the archer hid his precious pill under a rafter, lest anyone should steal it, and then began the preparatory course in immortality.

At this time there appeared in the south a strange man named Tso Ch’ih, ‘Chisel-tooth.’ He had round eyes and a long projecting tooth. He was a well-known criminal. Yao ordered Shên I and his small band of brave followers to deal with this new enemy. This extraordinary man lived in a cave, and when Shên I and his men arrived he emerged brandishing a padlock. Shên I broke his long tooth by shooting an arrow at it, and Tso Ch’ih fled, but was struck in the back and laid low by another arrow from Shên I. The victor took the broken tooth with him as a trophy.

Hêng Ô flies to the Moon

Hêng Ô, during her husband’s absence, saw a white light which seemed to issue from a beam in the roof, while a most delicious odour filled every room. By the aid of a ladder she reached up to the spot whence the light came, found the pill of immortality, and ate it. She suddenly felt that she was freed from the operation of the laws of gravity and as if she had wings, and was just essaying her first flight when Shên I returned. He went to look for his pill, and, not finding it, asked Hêng Ô what had happened.

The young wife, seized with fear, opened the window and flew out. Shên I took his bow and pursued her. The moon was full, the night clear, and he saw his wife flying rapidly in front of him, only about the size of a toad. Just when he was redoubling his pace to catch her up a blast of wind struck him to the ground like a dead leaf.

Hêng Ô continued her flight until she reached a luminous sphere, shining like glass, of enormous size, and very cold. The only vegetation consisted of cinnamon-trees. No living being was to be seen. All of a sudden she began to cough, and vomited the covering of the pill of immortality, which was changed into a rabbit as white as the purest jade. This was the ancestor of the spirituality of the _yin_, or female, principle. Hêng Ô noticed a bitter taste in her mouth, drank some dew, and, feeling hungry, ate some cinnamon. She took up her abode in this sphere.

As to Shên I, he was carried by the hurricane up into a high mountain. Finding himself before the door of a palace, he was invited to enter, and found that it was the palace of Tung-hua Ti-chün, otherwise Tung Wang Kung, the husband of Hsi Wang Mu.

The Sun-palace and the Bird of Dawn

The God of the Immortals said to Shên I: “You must not be annoyed with Hêng Ô. Everybody’s fate is settled beforehand. Your labours are nearing an end, and you will become an Immortal. It was I who let loose the whirlwind that brought you here. Hêng O, through having borrowed the forces which by right belong to you, is now an Immortal in the Palace of the Moon. As for you, you deserve much for having so bravely fought the nine false suns. As a reward you shall have the Palace of the Sun. Thus the You and Hêng Ô will be united in marriage.” This said, Tung-hua Ti-chün ordered his servants to bring a red Chinese sarsaparilla cake, with a lunar talisman.

“Eat this cake,” he said; “it will protect you from the heat of the solar hearth. And by wearing this talisman you will be able at will to visit the lunar palace of Hêng O; but the converse does not hold good, for your wife will not have access to the solar palace.” This is why the light of the moon has its birth in the sun, and decreases in proportion to its distance from the sun, the moon being light or dark according as the sun comes and goes. Shên I ate the sarsaparilla cake, attached the talisman to his body, thanked the god, and prepared to leave. Tung Wang Kung said to him: “The sun rises and sets at fixed times; you do not yet know the laws of day and night; it is absolutely necessary for you to take with you the bird with the golden plumage, which will sing to advise you of the exact times of the rising, culmination, and setting of the sun.” “Where is this bird to be found?” asked Shên I. “It is a three-footed bird, which perches on the Fu-sang_ tree [a tree said to grow at the place where the sun rises] in the middle of the Eastern Sea. This tree is several thousands of feet in height and of gigantic girth. The bird of golden plumage had a sonorous voice and majestic bearing. It lays eggs which hatch out nestlings with red combs, who answer him every morning when he starts crowing. He is usually called the cock of heaven, and the cocks down here which crow morning and evening are descendants of the celestial cock. This bird keeps near the source of the dawn, and when it sees the sun taking his morning bath gives vent to a cry that shakes the heavens and wakes up all humanity. Go and fetch it and take it to the Palace of the Sun. .

Shên I visits the Moon

Shên I, riding on the celestial bird, traversed the air and reached the disk of the sun just at mid-day. He found himself carried into the centre of an immense horizon, as large as the earth, and did not perceive the rotatory movement of the sun. He then enjoyed complete happiness without care or trouble. The thought of the happy hours passed with his wife Hêng O, however, came back to memory, and, borne on a ray of sunlight, he flew to the moon. He saw the cinnamon-trees and the frozen-looking horizon. Going to a secluded spot, he found Hêng O there all alone. On seeing him she was about to run away, but Shên I took her hand and reassured her. “I am now living in the solar palace,” he said; “do not let the past annoy you.” Shên I cut down some cinnamon-trees, used them for pillars, shaped some precious stones, and so built a palace, which he named Kuang-han Kung, ‘Palace of Great Cold.’ From that time forth, on the fifteenth day of every moon, he went to visit her in her palace.

Shên I, on returning to his solar kingdom, built a wonderful palace, which he called the Palace of the Lonely Park.

From that time the sun and moon each had their ruling sovereign.

When the old Emperor was informed that Shên I and his wife had both gone up to Heaven he was much grieved to lose the man who had rendered him such valuable service, and bestowed upon him the posthumous title of Tsung Pu, ‘Governor of Countries.’ In the representations of this god and goddess the former is shown holding the sun, the latter the moon.

* Hêng O is the same as Ch’ang Ô (嫦娥), the name Hêng being changed to Ch’ang because it was the tabooed personal name of the Emperors Mu Tsung of the T’ang dynasty and Chên Tsung of the Sung dynasty.

(From Myths and Legends of China, by E. T. C. Werner)

The Dragon Mother Zhou

I heard this story from my mother. And later I read this legend in the local history. And it recorded the Dragon Mother’s family, the date when she was born, and accidentally swallowed the egg, to every details.

During the Later Jin dynasty (937 – 951 A.D.), in County Yueqing, Zhejiang Province, China, there was a Changshan (Long-hill) Village, which is in now within the jurisdiction of Hongqiao (Rainbow Bridge) town. In the village, there lived a Ye family. In the year 937, a little girl was born, her name was Gongyu. When she was still a baby, she was betrothed to a Zhou family in the nearby county Yongjia, according to the local custom.

Every morning she went to a well to fetch a pail of water. This well connects to the Eastern China Sea, and the Dragon King of East China Sea had three sons, the third prince saw Gongyu, and fell in love with her. One day she was thirteen years old, she went with her sister-in-law to the well to fetch water as usual.

The dragon prince also went to the well every morning, just wanted to catch a glimpse of the beautiful girl. That morning he was late, and when he emerged out of the water, he saw Gongyu coming towards the well, the Dragon prince had no time to hide himself, so he turned himself into a five-colored eggs, which was floating in the well. Gongyu picked up the colorful stone egg, but it was so slippery, seemed to fall out of her hand, she couldn’t think of anywhere except her mouth, so she put the egg into her mouth. Then suddenly she swallowed the egg.

She came home with the pail of water, and told her father about the strange egg. While she was speaking, she felt very uncomfortable, a very strange desire to get on a higher place. So she said, “Father, I felt like to get on somewhere higher.”

Her father replied, “You may stand on the Chair.”

She felt better on the chair, but after couple minutes, she wanted to get on even higher place, so her father said, “You may stand on the table.”

She seemed to feel better on the table, but not long she even had stronger desire to get on a higher place. Her father said, “You may try the roof top?”

She climbed up onto the roof, but she was so desperate, and you couldn’t stay on the roof all day like a rooster, this would be very strange, and so it was. All the neighbours came to ask why Gongyu stayed on the roof top.

Gongyu asked her father where was the highest mountain. Her father said, “Cangshan Mountain is the highest.”

Gongyu said, “I am going to that mountain top. You can only come to see me in forty-nine days. ”

She prepared herself enough victuals, and set out to Cangshan. The mountain is very steep, she had to get hold the grasses to support herself up, and the grasses on the way up the mountain are still curly till today.

Gongyu’s father was very concerned about her, and couldn’t wait to see her daughter. After only forty-eight days, ignoring her daughter’s warning, he took an umbrella with him, and set out to Cangshan mountai to look for her.

He found her daughter lying in a cave, and nine dragons, which was mistaken for snakes by her father, playing on her body. Gongyu gave birth to nine dragons, she felt strange because of being pregnant. Gongyu’s father was so frightened that he hit those “snakes” with the umbrella, and broke one dragon’s tail. Eight dragons flied far away into the sky and disappeared , and only the ninth Wulong (Black) dragon which was the youngest couldn’t fly far with a broken tail, he dived into the nearby lake of Nanxijiang River.

Gongyu died. She turned into a white flash, and disappeared into the sky. Now many places has the name of Wulong, which was after the black broken-tailed dragon. In that county, now produces a famous Wulong green tea.

On the top of Cangshan (blue mountain) and other places, we can find the temples dedicated the Dragon Mother Zhou. Countrymen used to go there, or sacrifice the Wulong dragon with a dragon parade, to pray for rain during the dry season. Their prayers have always been responded with immediate heavy rain.

Ma Liang and his Magic Paintbrush

Once upon a time, in China, there lived a poor boy called Ma Liang. He had to work hard every day, gathering firewood, washing pots, scrubbing floors, etc. He loved to draw, but he was too poor to buy a paintbrush.

“I can draw on the ground with stick!” he said to himself, “But I could paint picture for poor people if I have a paintbrush.”

Suddenly an old man appeared. He held out a paint brush, and gave it to Ma Liang. “Now you can paint pictures for poo people,” he said.

The old man disappeared, leaving the paintbrush in Ma Liang’s hand. Ma Liang started to paint immediately. He painted a butterfly, but the butterfly came to life and flew away! this was a magic paintbrush!

Soon everyone in the village heard about Ma Liang’s paintbrush. Poor people began to ask him to paint things they needed.

“I am so hungry! Please paint me some rice.” One poor man asked.

Ma Liang painted rice for him.

“Please paint me some fishes.” asked another.

“Here you go. Be careful, it’s very slippery!”

“I am cold! Please paint me a coat.” asked another, he was shaking in the freezing wind.

“Here, this will keep you warm.” Ma Liang painted him the warmest coat.

Soon the story of the boy with the magic paintbrush spread across China to the royal palace. Even the emperor knew about Ma Liang.

The emperor was a very greedy man. He said to Ma Liang: “Draw me a tree covered with gold coins!”

Ma Liang refused said: “No, I only paint for poor people!”

The emperor was furious! “Lock him up!” The emperor ordered his guards to threw Ma Liang into prison.

Ma Liang was hungry, cold, and lonely in the prison. Suddenly the old man who gave Ma Liang the magic paint brush appeared. He said, “Ma Liang, did you forget your paintbrush? It can save your life too!”

This reminded Ma Liang. He started to draw. He painted an Island, on the island, there were a lot of trees covered gold coins. And then he draw a huge sail boat mooring at the port waiting for sail.

The next morning, when the emperor came to the prison, and saw the Island.  He immediately order to sail to the Island with all his ministers and grandees.

When the emperor was on board, and ordered Ma Liang to draw winds to send the sail. Ma Liang started to draw, but he drew hurricane instead wind, and thick black clouds and heavy rains, too. The typhoon blew the boat far away in the sea, and the emperor’s ship wrecked in thunderstorm, and they never came back.

Ma Liang waked back to his village, and he told everyone what happened. The he went on painting things for poor people. All villagers lived happily ever after.


The compass, with its needle always pointing to the North, is quite a common thing, and no one thinks that it is remarkable now, though when it was first invented it must have been a wonder.

Now long ago in China, there was a still more wonderful invention called the Zhinanche (指南车). This was a kind of chariot with the figure of a man on it always pointing to the South. No matter how the chariot was placed the figure always wheeled about and pointed to the South.

This curious instrument was invented by the Yellow Emperor Huangdi, one of the three Chinese Emperors of the Mythological age. The Yellow Emperor was the son of Shaodian (少典). Before he was born his mother had a vision which foretold that her son would be a great man.

One summer evening she went out to walk in the meadows to seek the cool breezes which blow at the end of the day and to gaze with pleasure at the star-lit heavens above her. As she looked at the North Star, strange to relate, it shot forth vivid flashes of lightning in every direction. Soon after this her son the Yellow Emperor came into the world.

The Yellow Emperor in time grew to manhood and succeeded his father the Emperor. His early reign was greatly troubled by the rebel Chiyou. This rebel wanted to make himself King, and many were the battles which he fought to this end. Chiyou was a wicked magician, his head was made of iron, and there was no man that could conquer him.

At last The Yellow Emperor declared war against the rebel and led his army to battle, and the two armies met on a plain called Zhulu. The Emperor boldly attacked the enemy, but the magician brought down a dense fog upon the battlefield, and while the royal army were wandering about in confusion, trying to find their way, Chiyou retreated with his troops, laughing at having fooled the royal army.

No matter however strong and brave the Emperor’s soldiers were, the rebel with his magic could always escape in the end.

The Yellow Emperor returned to his Palace, and thought and pondered deeply as to how he should conquer the magician, for he was determined not to give up yet. After a long time he invented the Zhinanche with the figure of a man always pointing South, for there were no compasses in those days. With this instrument to show him the way he need not fear the dense fogs raised up by the magician to confound his men.

The Yellow Emperor again declared war against Chiyou. He placed the Zhinanche in front of his army and led the way to the battlefield.

The battle began in earnest. The rebel was being driven backward by the royal troops when he again resorted to magic, and upon his saying some strange words in a loud voice, immediately a dense fog came down upon the battlefield.

But this time no soldier minded the fog, not one was confused. The Yellow Emperor by pointing to the Zhinanche could find his way and directed the army without a single mistake.

(Selected and edited from Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki)

The king of Cochichina (越裳氏) sent Ambassadors to the King of Tcheou Tching Vang (周成王), to congratulate him on his Happiness of having so wise a Minister as Tcheou Kong (周公). These Ambassadors were received with the highest Marks of esteem and friendship.

After they had had their audience of leave in order to return to their own country, they seemed to forget the way back, Tcheou kong gave them five south pointing carriages, which equiped with an instrument, which on one side pointed towards the North, and on the oppsite side towards to the South, to direct them better on their way home, than they had been directed in coming to China. This  has given Occasion to think that Tcheou kong was the inventor of the Compass.

Dong Yong and the Seventh Fairy

In the Han Dynasty lived a man by the name of Dong Yong. His family was poor when he was a small child. When his father died, he was willing to sell himself into slavery for a little money for the funeral. Moved by his filial piety, the youngest daughter of the Emperor of Heaven secretly came to the secular world. With the soil as their matchmaker, they held a wedding under an old locust tree. In order to repay the debt, the couple returned to the master to work as slaves. Since the fairy could weave ten bolts of fine silk overnight, the master cut down Dong Yong’s hire period from three years to one hundred days. On the expiration, the couple were returning home when the God of Heaven made an edict that the fairy should go back to the heavenly palace. Shedding tears, the fairy had to part with Dong Yong under the old locust tree. She flew into the sky and vanished.

the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl

The book, the Record of Years and Seasons of Jing Chu, published in the Southern and Northern Dynasty (420—589 AD), recorded a story about the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl:

In the east of the Heavenly River, there was a weaver girl, who was the daughter of the Emperor of Heaven. She worked very hard on the loom year after year, weaving colorful clouds and heavenly clothes. The Emperor of Heaven took pity on her loneliness, he married the weaver girl to a cowherd lived in the west side of the Heavenly River. But the weaver girl totally neglected her weavering task after she was married. The Emperor of Heaven became very angry, and ordered her to return to the east of the River, only allowed the couple to be together for a single night, which is the seventh night of the seventh moon.

In this variation of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl story, the weaver girl was a daughter of the Emperor of Heaven, instead of the grand daughter, and we don’t know if she was the seventh girl, who was the youngest of the seven fairy sisters . And the Cowherd also lived in heaven, west side of the Heavenly River, which implies that he might be an immortal as well. Their marriage was consented and arranged by the Emperor of Heaven himself, there is no romantic incidents such as seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake, the cowherd stealing the weaver girl’s clothes, and there is no talking cow either.


(Dragon tamer playing with dragons)

(Dragon tamer playing with dragons)
In Xia Dynasty, Emperor Kongjia was fond of enquiring into spiritual matters, and indulged in dissipation, and the virtue of the princes of Xia having degenerated, the chiefs rebelled. Heaven sent down two dragons, a male and a female. Kongjia could not feed them, and could not obtain a dragon-keeper. After the decline of Tangtao(Yao) one of his descendants, Liu Lei, learnt to train dragons, and he was chosen out of the dragon-tamer, which was inherited by the descendants of Shiwei. The female dragon died, and he served it up as a meal for the Prince of Xia, but the latter having sent some one to look for it, he became frightened and ran away.

The first named Dragon-tamer is Dongfu, who, during the time of Emperor Shun, was enfeoffed in the place of Dong, where was his surname came from.
(Dongfu, the first known Dragon-tamer)

The Emperor Shun of Yu

Shun of Yu was named Chonghua (double splendour); Chonghua’s father was Gusou; Gusou’s father was Qiaoniu (bridge cow); Qiaoniu’s father was Juwang; Juwang’s father was Jingkang; Jingkang’s father was Qiongchan; Qiongchan’s father was Emperor Zhuanxu; Zhuanxu’s father was Changyi. From him to Shun we have seven generations. From Qiongchan to Emperor Shun they were all insignificant common people.

Shun’s father, Gusou, was blind, and his mother having died, Gusou married again and had a son, Xiang, who was arrogant.

Gusou loved his second wife, and frequently tried to kill Shun, who avoided him; when he made slight mistakes he was punished, yet he obediently served his father, stepmother, and brother, and was day by day generous, careful, and never negligent.

Shun was a native of Jizhou, ploughed on Li mountain, fished in Thunder lake, made pots on the bank of the river, fashioned various articles at Shouqiu, and went now and then to Fuxia.

Shun’s father, Gusou, was unprincipled, his mother insincere, and his brother, Xiang arrogant. They all tried to kill Shun, who was obedient, and never by chance failed in his duty as a son, or his fraternal love. Though they tried to kill him they did not succeed, and when they sought him he got out of the way.

When Shun was twenty years old he was noted for his filial piety, and when he was thirty the Emperor Yao asked if he was fit to reign. The presidents united in bringing Shun of Yu forward as an able man, so Yao gave him his two daughters in marriage in order to observe his conduct at home, and bade his nine sons put him in charge of a post so as to note his behaviour abroad.

Shun lived within the bend of Kuei River, and was especially careful. Yao’s two daughters did not dare, on account of their rank, to be proud, but waited on Shun’s relations, and were constant in their wifely duties, while Yao’s nine sons became more and more generous.

When Shun ploughed on Li mountain, the inhabitants yielded the boundaries; when he fished in Thunder lake, the men on the lake yielded to him the best place; and when he made pots on the bank of the river, his vessells had no holes or flaws in them. If he dwelt in a place for a year he formed a metropolis.

Yao gave Shun clothes made of fine grasscloth, and a lute, and built him a granary and shed for his oxen and sheep.

Gusou again tried to kill Shun by making him go up and plaster the roof of the granary, while he set fire to it from below, but Shun, protecting himself from the fire wit a couple bamboo hats, came down and escaped with his life.

Gusou after this told Shun to dig a well, which he did, making a secret tunnel at the side to get out at. When Shun had gone right in, Gusou and Xiang filled up the well with earth, but Shun came out by the secret passage. Gusou and Xiang rejoiced, thinking that Shun was dead, and Xiang said, ‘The plot was mine, but I will go shares with my father and mother; I will take Shun’s wives, Yao’s two daughters, and the lute as my share, while the oxen, sheep, granary and shed shall belong to my parents.’ He remained, however, in Shun’s house playing on the lute, and when Shun went thither Xiang, startled and not well-pleased to see him, said, ‘I was just thinking of you, and getting very anxious.’ ‘quite so,’ said Shun, ‘and so you possessed yourself of all these things.’ Shun again served Gusou, loved his brother, and was still more careful in his conduct.

Yao thereupon tested Shun as to the five cardinal rules, and the various officers were under control.

In former days the emperor Kaoyang had eight talented sons; the world benefited by them, and they were called the eight benevolent ones. The Emperor Kaoxin had also eight talented sons, and men called them eight virtuous ones. Of these sixteen men after ages have acknowledged the excellence, and not let their names fall to the ground. In the time of Yao he was not able to raise them to office, but Shun raised the eight benevolent ones to office, and made them superintend the land department and direct all matters,arranging them according to their seasons. He also raised the right virtuous ones to office, employing them to spread throughout the country a knowledge of the duties pertaining to the five social relationships, for fathers became just, mothers loving, elder brothers sociable, younger ones respectful, and children dutiful; within the empire there was peace, and beyond it submission.

In ancient days the Emperor Hong (Huangdi) had a son devoid of ability, who shut himself off from duty, and was a vallain in secret, delighting in the practice of the worst vices, and all men called him Chaos. (The Emperor) Shaohao had a descendant devoid of ability, who overthrew good faith, hated loyalty, extolled specious and evil talk, and all the people called him Monter. Zhuanxu had a son devoid of ability, who would receive no instruction and acknowledge no good words, and all people called him Block. There three men everyone was distressed about until the time of Yao, but yao could not send them away. Jinyun had a son devoid of ability, who was greedy in eating and driking, and pursued wealth blindly. All the people called him Glutton, hated and compared him to the three other wicked men. Shun received visitors at the four gates, but banished these four wicked ones to the four borders of the empire to manage hobgolins; and those at the four gates rightly said “there were no wicked men among them.”

Shun went to the great plains at the foot of the mountains, and amid violent wind, thunder, and rain, did not go astray. Yao then knew that Shun was fit to accept the empire, and being old, caused Shun to be associated with him in the government, and when he went on a tour of inspection Shun was promoted and employed in the administration of affairs for twenty years; and Yao having drected that he should be associated in the government, he was so associated for eight years.

Yao died, and when the three years mourning was over, Shun yielded to Danzhu, but the people of the empire turned to Shun. Now Yu, Gaoyao, Xie, Houji, Poyi, Kuei, Long, Qiu, Yi, and Pengzu were all from the time of Yao promoted to office, but had not separate appointments.

Shun having then proceeded to the tmeple of the accomplished ancestor, deliberated with the president of the four mountains, threw open the four gates, and was in direct communication with officers in all four quarters of the empire, who were eyes and ears to him.

He ordered the twelve governors to talk of the Emperor’s virture, to be kind to the virtuous, and keep the artful at a distance, so that the barbarians of the south might lead on one another to be submissive.

He said to the president of the four mountains, Is there anyone who can vigorously display his merits, and beautify Yao’s undertakings, and whom I can make prime minister? They all said, ‘There is a Baron Yu, the superintendent of works,’ He can beautify the Emperor’s labours.

Shun said, ‘Ah, yes, Yu, you have put in order the water and the land, but in this matter you must exert yourself.’

Yu did obeisance with his head to the ground, while declining in favour of Millet, Xie, or Gaoyao.

Shun said, ‘Yes; but do you go and set about it.’

Shun said, ‘Qi, the black-haired people begin to be famished. Do you, Prince of Millet, sow in their seasons the various kinds of grain.’

He also said, ‘Xie, the people do not love on another, and the five orders of relationship are not observed. You, as minister of instruction, must carefully diffuse abroad those five lessons of duty, but do so with gentleness.’

He also said, ‘Gaoao, the southern babarians are disturbing the Xia region, while robbers, murderers, villains, and traitors abound. Do you, as minister of crime, exercise repression by use of the five kins of punishment – for the infliction of which there are three appointed places – and the five banishments with their several places of detention, and three degrees of distance. Be intelligent and you will inspire confidence.’

Shun said, ‘Who can direct the workmen?’ They all said ‘Chui can do it;’ so he made Chui minister of works.

Shun said, ‘Who can superintend my uplands and lowlands, pastures and woods, birds and beasts?’ They all said, ‘Yi is the man’; so Yi was made imperial forester. Yi did obeisance with his head to the ground, and declined in favour of the officials Fir, Tiger, Black Bear, and Grizzly Bear. Shun said, ‘Go and act harmoniously.’ Fir, Tiger, Black Bear, and Grizzly Bear were accordingly his assistants.

Shun said, ‘Ah! president of the four mountains, is there anyone who can superintend the three ceremonies?’ They all said, ‘Baron Yi is the man.’ Shun said, ‘Ah! Baron Yi, I will make you arranger of the ancestral Temple. Day and night be careful, be upright, be pure.’ Baron Yi declined in favour of Kuei or Long, but Shun said, ‘Let it be so,’ and made Kuei director of music and teacher of youth. ‘Be straigtforward’ (he added) ‘and yet mild; lenient and yet stern; firm, yet not tyrannical; impetuous, yet not arrogant. Poetry gives expression to the thought, and singing is the prolonged utterance of that expression. Notes accompany that utterance, and are harmonized themselves by the pitch-pipes. The eight kinds of instruments can be adjusted, so that one shall not take from or interfere with another, and spirits and men are thereby brought into harmony.’ Kuei said, ‘Oh! smite the stone; I tap the stone, and the various animals lead on one another to dance.’

Shun said, ‘Long, I dread slanderous speakers and injurious deceivers, who agitate and alarm my people. I appoint you minister of communication. Day and night you will issue and receive my orders, but be truthful.’

Shun said, ‘Ah! you twenty and two men, be reverent, and you will aid in their proper seasons the undertakings of heaven.’

Every three years there was an examination of merits, and after three examinations there were degradations and promotions both far and near.

The people’s labours generally prospered, while the people of the three Miao tribes were divided and defeated. These twenty-two all completed their labours.

Gaoyao was chief minister of crime, and the people were all subservient and obtained his genuine services. Boyi was director of ceremonies, and both upper and lower classes were retiring. Chui was head workman, and the various kinds of work were successfully accomplished. Yi was head forester, and hills and swamps were brought under cultivation. Ji was director of agriculture, and the various crops ripened in their seasons. Xie was minister of instruction, and the people were friendly together. Long superintended the foreign department, and men from afar arrived. The twelve governors did their duty, and the people of the nine provinces did not dare to rebel. But Yu’s labours consisted in making great cuttings through the nine hills, making thoroughfares through nine swamps, deepening the nine rivers, and regulating the nine provinces, each of which by their officials sent tribute, and did not lose their rightful dues. In a square of 5000li he reached the wild domain. to the south he governed Annam, Beifa; On the western the Rong tribes, Xizhi, Qushou, Di, qiang, On the north Hill Rong, Fa, Xishen, On the east the tall island barbarians(Chang, Niaoyi). All within the four seas were grateful for Emperor Shun’s labours; and Yu then performed the nine tunes, and the result was that strange creatures and pheonixes flew to and fro. Men of illustrious virtue in the empire began from the days of Empoeror Shun of Yu.

When Shun was twenty years of age he was noted for his filial piety, at thirty Yao raised him to office, at fifty he assisted in the administration of Imperial affairs, when he was fifty-eight Yao died, and when he was sixty-one he sat on the Imperial throne in Yao’s stead. After he had occupied the Imperial throne thirty-nine years, he went on hunting expedition to the south, died in the desert of Cangwu, and was buried at a place called Lingling (Broken hillocks) in the Jiuyi range in Jiangnan Province.

After Shun had come to the throne, and was flying the Imperial flag, he went to pay a visit to his father, Gusou, and addressed him in a grave and respectful manner, as a son should do. He raised his brother Xiang to the rank of prince.
shun’s son Shangjun was also degenerate, so that Shun, being prepared, recommended Yu to the notice of Heaven, and seventeen years later he died. When the three years’ mourning was over, Yu also yielded to Shun’s son just as Shun had yielded to Yao’s son, but the princes gave their allegiance to Yu, and he thereupon came to the Imperial throne. Yao’s son Danzhu, and Shun’s son Shangjun, both held territory so that they might be enabled to perform sacrifices to their ancestors; they paid the due observances, such as religious ceremonies and music, and they went to the audiences as the Emperor’s guests. The emperor did not dare, without due notification from his ministers, to act on his own responsibility.