Myths and Legends of China
The Spiritual Alligator
In this country was a dragon, or spiritual alligator, which transformed itself into a young man named Shên Lang, and married Chia Yü, daughter of the Chief Judge of T’an Chou (Ch’ang-sha Fu, capital of Hunan). The young people lived in rooms below the official apartments. During spring and summer Shên Lang, as dragons are wont to do, roamed in the rivers and lakes. One day Hsü Chên-chün met him, recognized him as a dragon, and knew that he was the cause of the numerous floods which were devastating Kiangsi Province. He determined to find a means of getting rid of him.
Shên Lang, aware of the steps being taken against him, changed himself into a yellow ox and fled. Hsü Chên-chün at once transformed himself into a black ox and Page 224started in pursuit. The yellow ox jumped down a well to hide, but the black ox followed suit. The yellow ox then jumped out again, and escaped to Ch’ang-sha, where he reassumed a human form and lived with Ms wife in the home of his father-in-law, Hsü Sun, returning to the town, hastened to the yamên, and called to Shên Lang to come out and show himself, addressing him in a severe tone of voice as follows: “Dragon, how dare you hide yourself there under a borrowed form?” Shên Lang then reassumed the form of a spiritual alligator, and Hsü Sun ordered the spiritual soldiers to kill him. He then commanded his two sons to come out of their abode. By merely spurting a mouthful of water on them he transformed them into young dragons. Chia Yü was told to vacate the rooms with all speed, and in the twinkling of an eye the whole yamên sank beneath the earth, and there remained nothing but a lake where it had been.
Hsü Chên-chün, after his victory over the dragon, assembled the members of his family, to the number of forty-two, on Hsi Shan, outside the city of Nan-ch’ang Fu, and all ascended to Heaven in full daylight, taking with them even the dogs and chickens. He was then 133 years old. This took place on the first day of the eighth moon of the second year (A.D. 374) of the reign-period Ning-K’ang of the reign of the Emperor Hsiao Wu Ti of the Eastern Chin dynasty.
Subsequently a temple was erected to him, and in A.D. 1111 he was canonized as Just Prince, Admirable and Beneficent.
The Great Flood
Before the Chinese Empire was founded a noble and wonderful queen fought with the chief of the tribes who inhabited the country round about Ô-mei Shan. In a fierce battle the chief and his followers met defeat; raging with anger at being beaten by a woman, he rushed up the mountain-side; the Queen pursued him with her army, and overtook him at the summit; finding no place to hide himself, he attempted in desperation both to wreak vengeance upon his enemies and to end his own life by beating his head violently against the cane of the Heavenly Bamboo which grew there. By his mad battering he at last succeeded in knocking down the towering trunk of the tree, and as he did so its top tore great rents in the canopy of the sky, through which poured great floods of water, inundating the whole earth and drowning all the inhabitants except the victorious Queen and her soldiers. The floods had no power to harm her or her followers, because she herself was an all-powerful divinity and was known as the ‘Mother of the Gods,’ and the ‘Defender of the Gods.’ From the mountain-side she gathered together stones of a kind having five colours, and ground them into powder; of this she made a plaster or mortar, with which she repaired the tears in the heavens, and the floods immediately ceased.
The Marriage of the River-god
In Yeh Hsien there was a witch and some official attendants who collected money from the people yearly for the marriage of the River-god.
The witch would select a pretty girl of low birth, and say that she should be the Queen of the River-god. The girl was bathed, and clothed in a beautiful dress of gay and costly silk. She was then taken to the bank of the Page 226river, to a monastery which was beautifully decorated with scrolls and banners. A feast was held, and the girl was placed on a bed which was floated out upon the tide till it disappeared under the waters.
Many families having beautiful daughters moved to distant places, and gradually the city became deserted. The common belief in Yeh was that if no queen was offered to the River-god a flood would come and drown the people.
One day Hsi-mên Pao, Magistrate of Yeh Hsien, said to his attendants: “When the marriage of the River-god takes place I wish to say farewell to the chosen girl.”
Accordingly Hsi-mên Pao was present to witness the ceremony. About three thousand people had come together. Standing beside the old witch were ten of her female disciples, “Call the girl out,” said Hsi-mên Pao. After seeing her, Hsi-mên Pao said to the witch: “She is not fair. Go you to the River-god and tell him that we will find a fairer maid and present her to him later on.” His attendants then seized the witch and threw her into the river.
After a little while Hsi-mên Pao said: “Why does she stay so long? Send a disciple to call her back.” One of the disciples was thrown into the river. Another and yet another followed. The magistrate then said:” The witches are females and therefore cannot bring me a reply.” So one of the official attendants of the witch was thrown into the river.
Hsi-mên Pao stood on the bank for a long time, apparently awaiting a reply. The spectators were alarmed. Hsi-mên Pao then bade his attendants send the remaining disciples of the witch and the other official attendants to recall their mistress. The wretches threw Page 227themselves on their knees and knocked their heads on the ground, which was stained with the blood from their foreheads, and with tears confessed their sin.
“The River-god detains his guest too long,” said Hsi-mên Pao at length. “Let us adjourn.”
Thereafter none dared to celebrate the marriage of the River-god.
Legend of the Building of Peking
When the Mongol Yüan dynasty had been destroyed, and the Emperor Hung Wu had succeeded in firmly establishing that of the Great Ming, Ta Ming, he made Chin-ling, the present Nanking, his capital, and held his Court there with great splendour, envoys from every province within the ‘Four Seas’ (the Chinese Empire) assembling there to witness his greatness and to prostrate themselves before the Dragon Throne.