Myths and Legends of China

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The young mandarin joyfully returned to the temple, and offered sacrifices by way of thanksgiving to the Ch’êng-huang P’u-sa for bringing his innocence to light, but he could not refrain from addressing to him what one is disposed to consider a well-merited reproach.

“You made me fall down,” he said, “and so led people to think I was guilty, and now you accept my gifts. Aren’t you ashamed to do such a thing? You have no face!

As he uttered the words all the plaster fell from the face of the idol, and was smashed into fragments.

From that day forward the Ch’êng-huang P’u-sa of Yen Ch’êng has had no skin on his face. People have Page 405tried to patch up the disfigured countenance, but in vain: the plaster always falls off, and the face remains skinless.

Some try to defend the Ch’êng-huang P’u-sa by saying that he was not at home on the day when his temple was visited by the accused boy and his relatives, and that one of the little demons employed by him in carrying off dead people’s spirits out of sheer mischief perpetrated a practical joke on the poor boy.

In that case it is certainly hard that his skin should so persistently testify against him by refusing to remain on his face!

The Origin of a Lake

In the city of Ta-yeh Hsien, Hupei, there is a large sheet of water known as the Liang-ti Lake. The people of the district give the following account of its origin:

About five hundred years ago, during the Ming dynasty, there was no lake where the broad waters now spread. A flourishing hsien city stood in the centre of a populous country. The city was noted for its wickedness, but amid the wicked population dwelt one righteous woman, a strict vegetarian and a follower of all good works. In a vision of the night it was revealed to her that the city and neighbourhood would be destroyed by water, and the sign promised was that when the stone lions in front of the yamên wept tears of blood, then destruction was near at hand. Like Jonah at Nineveh, the woman, known to-day simply as Niang-tzŭ, walked up and down the streets of the city, warning all of the coming calamity. She was laughed at and looked upon as mad by the careless people. A pork-butcher in the town, a noted wag, took some pig’s blood and sprinkled it round the eyes of the stone lions. This had the desired effect, for when Niang-tzŭ saw the blood Page 406she fled from the city amid the jeers and laughter of the inhabitants. Before many hours had passed, however, the face of the sky darkened, a mighty earthquake shook the country-side, there was a great subsidence of the earth’s surface, and the waters of the Yangtzŭ River flowed into the hollow, burying the city and villages out of sight. But a spot of ground on which the good woman stood, after escaping from the doomed city, remained at its normal level, and it stands to-day in the midst of the lake, an island called Niang-tzŭ, a place at which boats anchor at night, or to which they fly for shelter from the storms that sweep the lake. They are saved to-day because of one good woman helped by the gods so long ago.

As a proof of the truth of the above story, it is asserted that on clear days traces of the buried city may be seen, while occasionally a fisherman casting his net hauls up some household utensil or relic of bygone days.

Miao Creation Legends

If the Miao have no written records, they have many legends in verse, which they learn to repeat and sing. The Hei Miao (or Black Miao, so called from their dark chocolate-coloured clothes) treasure poetical legends of the Creation and of a deluge. These are composed in lines of five syllables, in stanzas of unequal length, one interrogative and one responsive. They are sung or recited by two persons or two groups at feasts and festivals, often by a group of youths and a group of maidens. The legend of the Creation commences: