Myths and Legends of China

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Forthwith the dragon went on shore, and, spying a monkey on the top of a tree, said: “Hail, shining one, are you not afraid you will fall?” “No, I have no such fear.” “Why eat of one tree? Cross the sea, and you will find forests of fruit and flowers.” “How can I cross?” “Get on my back.” The dragon with his tiny load went seaward, and then suddenly dived down. “Where are you going?” said the monkey, with the salt water in his eyes and mouth. “Oh! my dear sir! my wife is very sad and ill, and has taken a fancy to your heart.” “What shall I do?” thought the monkey. He then spoke, “Illustrious friend, why Page 212did not you tell me? I left my heart on the top of the tree; take me back, and I will get it for Mrs Dragon.” The dragon returned to the shore. As the monkey was tardy in coming down from the tree, the dragon said: “Hurry up, little friend, I am waiting.” Then the monkey thought within himself, “What a fool this dragon is!”

Then Buddha said to his followers: “At this time I was the monkey.”

The Ministry of Waters

In the spirit-world there is a Ministry which controls all things connected with the waters on earth, salt or fresh. Its main divisions are the Department of Salt Waters, presided over by four Dragon-kings—those of the East, South, West, and North—and the Department of Sweet Waters, presided over by the Four Kings (Ssŭ Tu) of the four great rivers—the Blue (Chiang), Yellow (Ho), Huai, and Ch’i—and the Dragon-spirits who control the Secondary Waters, the rivers, springs, lakes, pools, rapids. Into the names and functions of the very large number of officials connected with these departments it is unnecessary to enter. It will be sufficient here to refer only to those whose names are connected with myth or legend.

An Unauthorized Portrait

One of these legends relates to the visit of Ch’in Shih Huang-ti, the First Emperor, to the Spirit of the Sea, Yang Hou, originally a marquis (bou) of the State Yang, who became a god through being drowned in the sea.

Po Shih, a Taoist priest, told the Emperor that an enormous oyster vomited from the sea a mysterious Page 213substance which accumulated in the form of a tower, and was known as ‘the market of the sea’ (Chinese for ‘mirage’). Every year, at a certain period, the breath from his mouth was like the rays of the sun. The Emperor expressed a wish to see it, and Po Shih said he would write a letter to the God of the Sea, and the next day the Emperor could behold the wonderful sight.

The Emperor then remembered a dream he had had the year before in which he saw two men fighting for the sun. The one killed the other, and carried it off. He therefore wished to visit the country where the sun rose. Po Shih said that all that was necessary was to throw rocks into the sea and build a bridge across them. Thereupon he rang his magic bell, the earth shook, and rocks began to rise up; but as they moved too slowly he struck them with his whip, and blood came from them which left red marks in many places. The row of rocks extended as far as the shore of the sun-country, but to build the bridge across them was found to be beyond the reach of human skill.