Myths and Legends of China

Page: 70

The sun and the moon are both included by the Chinese among the stars, the spirit of the former being called T’ai-yang Ti-chün, ‘the Sun-king,’ or Jih-kung Ch’ih-chiang, ‘Ch’ih-chiang of the Solar Palace,’ that of the latter T’ai-yin Huang-chün, ‘the Moon-queen,’ or Yüeh-fu Ch’ang O, ‘Ch’ang O of the Lunar Palace.’

Ch’ih-chiang Tzŭ-yü lived in the reign of Hsien-yüan Huang-ti, who appointed him Director of Construction and Furnishing.

When Hsien-yüan went on his visit to Ô-mei Shan, a mountain in Ssuch’uan, Ch’ih-chiang Tzŭ-yü obtained permission to accompany him. Their object was to be initiated into the doctrine of immortality.

The Emperor was instructed in the secrets of the doctrine by T’ai-i Huang-jên, the spirit of this famous mountain, who, when he was about to take his departure, Page 180begged him to allow Ch’ih-chiang Tzŭ-yü to remain with him. The new hermit went out every day to gather the flowering plants which formed the only food of his master, T’ai-i Huang-jên, and he also took to eating these flowers, so that his body gradually became spiritualized.

The Steep Summit

One day T’ai-i Huang-jên sent him to cut some bamboos on the summit of Ô-mei Shan, distant more than three hundred li from the place where they lived. When he reached the base of the summit, all of a sudden three giddy peaks confronted him, so dangerous that even the monkeys and other animals dared not attempt to scale them. But he took his courage in his hands, climbed the steep slope, and by sheer energy reached the summit. Having cut the bamboos, he tried to descend, but the rocks rose like a wall in sharp points all round him, and he could not find a foothold anywhere. Then, though laden with the bamboos, he threw himself into the air, and was borne on the wings of the wind. He came to earth safe and sound at the foot of the mountain, and ran with the bamboos to his master. On account of this feat he was considered advanced enough to be admitted to instruction in the doctrine.

The Divine Archer

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 Ch’ih-chiang Tzŭ-yü. He told the Emperor he was a skilful archer and could fly in the air on the wings of Page 181the 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. Ch’ih 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.