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Myths and Legends of China

Page: 118

The next morning Miao Shan bade the ministers take a knife and cut off her left hand and gouge out her left eye. Liu Ch’in took the knife offered him, but did not dare to obey the order. “Be quick,” urged the Immortal; “you have been commanded to return as soon as possible; why do you hesitate as if you were a young girl?” Liu Ch’in was forced to proceed. He plunged in the knife, and the red blood flooded the ground, spreading an odour like sweet incense. The hand and eye were placed on a golden plate, and, having paid their grateful respects to the Immortal, the envoys hastened to return.

When they had left, Miao Shan, who had transformed herself in order to allow the envoys to remove her hand and eye, told Shan Ts’ai that she was now going to prepare the ointment necessary for the cure of the King. “Should the Queen,” she added, “send for another eye and hand, I will transform myself again, and you can give them to her.” No sooner had she finished speaking than she mounted a cloud and disappeared in Page 281space. The two ministers reached the palace and presented to the Queen the gruesome remedy which they had brought from the temple. She, overcome with gratitude and emotion, wept copiously. “What Immortal,” she asked, “can have been so charitable as to sacrifice a hand and eye for the King’s benefit?” Then suddenly her tears gushed forth with redoubled vigour, and she uttered a great cry, for she recognized the hand of her daughter by a black scar which was on it.

Half-measures

“Who else, in fact, but his child,” she continued amid her sobs, “could have had the courage to give her hand to save her father’s life?” “What are you saying?” said the King. “In the world there are many hands like this.” While they thus reasoned, the priest entered the King’s apartment. “This great Immortal has long devoted herself to the attainment of perfection,” he said. “Those she has healed are innumerable. Give me the hand and eye.” He took them and shortly produced an ointment which, he told the King, was to be applied to his left side. No sooner had it touched his skin than the pain on his left side disappeared as if by magic; no sign of ulcers was to be seen on that side, but his right side remained swollen and painful as before.

“Why is it,” asked the King, “that this remedy, which is so efficacious for the left side, should not be applied to the right?” “Because,” replied the priest, “the left hand and eye of the saint cures only the left side. If you wish to be completely cured, you must send your officers to obtain the right eye and right hand also.” The King accordingly dispatched his envoys anew with a letter of thanks, and begging as a further favour that Page 282the cure should be completed by the healing also of his right side.


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