Myths and Legends of China
Page: 177One day—it was in the ninth moon of the seventh year of Chêng Yüan (A.D. 791)—after drinking heavily with a party of friends under a wide-spreading old locust-tree near his house, he had to be carried to bed and there left to recover, his friends saying that they would leave him while they went to bathe their feet. The moment he laid down his head he fell into a deep slumber. In his dream appeared to him two men clothed in purple, who kneeling down informed him that they had been sent by their master the King of Huai-an (‘Locust-tree Peace’) to request his presence. Unconsciously he rose, and, arranging his dress, followed his visitors to the door, where he saw a varnished chariot drawn by a white horse. On each side were ranged seven attendants, by whom he was assisted to mount, whereupon the carriage drove off, and, going out of the garden gate, passed through a hole in the trunk of the locust-tree already spoken of. Filled with astonishment, but too much afraid to speak, Ch’un-yü noticed that he was passing by hills and rivers, trees and roads, but of quite a different kind from those he was accustomed to. A few miles brought them to the walls of a city, the approach to which was lined with men and vehicles, who fell back at once the moment the order was given. Over the gate of the city was a pavilion on which was written in gold letters “The Capital of Huai-an.” As he passed through, the guard turned out, and a mounted officer, shouting that the husband of the King’s daughter had arrived, showed him the way into a hall where he was to rest awhile. The room contained fruits and flowers of every description, and on the tables was laid out a profuse display of refreshments. Page 412
While Ch’un-yü still remained lost in astonishment, a cry was raised that the Prime Minister was coming. Ch’un-yü got up to meet him, and the two received each other with every demonstration of politeness.
He marries the King’s Daughter
The minister, looking at Ch’un-yü, said: “The King, my master, has brought you to this remote region in order to give his daughter in marriage to you.” “How could I, a poor useless wretch,” replied Ch’un-yü, “have ever aspired to such honour?” With these words both proceeded toward the audience-chamber, passing through a hall lined with soldiers, among whom, to his great joy and surprise, Ch’un-yü recognized an old friend of his former drinking days, to whom he did not, however, then venture to speak; and, following the Prime Minister, he was ushered into the King’s presence. The King, a man of noble bearing and imposing stature, was dressed in plain silk, a jewelled crown reposing on his head. Ch’un-yü was so awe-stricken that he was powerless even to look up, and the attendants on either side were obliged to remind him to make his prostrations. The King, addressing him, said: “Your father, small as my kingdom is, did not disdain to promise that you should marry my daughter.” Ch’un-yü could not utter a word; he merely lay prostrate on the ground. After a few moments he was taken back to his apartments, and he busied his thoughts in trying to discover what all this meant. “My father,” he said to himself, “fought on the northern frontier, and was taken prisoner; but whether his life was saved or not I don’t know. It may be that this affair was settled while he was in those distant regions.”