Myths and Legends of China
Page: 57He burnt his house, went away to P’u-shui, in Hupei, and occupied himself in fishing. From there he went on to Chung-t’iao Shan, where he met Fêng Hou and her teacher Hsüan Nü, the Mother of Heaven. In their company he visited the palaces of the stars. One day, when he was attending a banquet at the palace of Wang-mu, Shang Ti gave him as his kingdom the planet Jupiter, and assigned to him as his palace the ancient abode of Mao Mêng, the stellar god reincarnated during the Chou dynasty. He had not yet returned, and had left his palace empty. Shang Ti had cautioned him never to absent himself without his permission.
The Three Musical Brothers
There were three brothers: T’ien Yüan-shuai, the eldest; T’ien Hung-i, the second; and T’ien Chih-piao, the youngest. They were all musicians of unsurpassed talent.
In the K’ai-yüan Period (A.D. 713–42) the Emperor Hsüan Tsung, of the T’ang dynasty, appointed them his music masters. At the sound of their wonderful flute the clouds in the sky stopped in their courses; the harmony of their songs caused the odoriferous la mei flower to open in winter. They excelled also in songs and dances.
The Emperor fell sick. He saw in a dream the three brothers accompanying their singing on a mandolin and violin. The harmony of their songs charmed his ear, and on waking he found himself well again. Out of gratitude for this benefit he conferred on each the title of marquis.
The Grand Master of the Taoists was trying to stay the ravages of a pestilence, but he could not conquer the devils which caused it. Under these circumstances he appealed to the three brothers and asked their advice as to what course to adopt. T’ien Yüan-shuai had a large boat built, called ‘Spirit-boat.’ He assembled in it a million spirits, and ordered them to beat drums. On hearing this tumult all the demons of the town came out to listen. T’ien Yüan-shuai, seizing the opportunity, captured them all and, with the help of the Grand Master, expelled them from the town.
The Dragon-boat Festival
This is said to be the origin of the dragon-boats which are to be seen on all the waterways of China on the fifth day of the fifth moon.11 The Festival of the Dragon-boats, held on that day, was instituted in memory of the statesman-poet Ch’ü Yüan (332–296 B.C.), who drowned himself in the Mi-lo River, an affluent of the Tung-t’ing Lake, after having been falsely accused by one of the petty princes of the State. The people, out of pity for the unfortunate courtier, sent out these boats in search of his body.