Myths and Legends of China

Page: 101

The Emperor Hsien Yüan, having abdicated the throne, sent for Chu Jung, and bestowed upon him the crown. Chu Jung, having become emperor, taught the people the use of fire and the advantages to be derived therefrom. In those early times the forests were filled with venomous reptiles and savage animals; he ordered the peasants to set fire to the brushwood to drive away these dangerous neighbours and keep them at a distance. He also taught his subjects the art of purifying, forging, and welding metals by the action of fire. He was nicknamed Ch’ih Ti, ‘the Red Emperor.’ He reigned for more than two hundred years, and became an Immortal, His capital was the ancient city of Kuei, thirty li north-east of Hsin-chêng Hsien, in the Prefecture of K’ai-fêng Fu, Honan. His tomb is on the southern slope of Heng Shan. The peak is known as Chu Jung Peak. His descendants, who went to live in the south, were the ancestors of the Directors of Fire.

The Magic Umbrellas

The Magic Umbrellas

The Wu Yüeh are stellar devils whom Yü Huang sent to be reincarnated on earth. Their names were T’ien Po-hsüeh, Tung Hung-wên, Ts’ai Wên-chü, Chao Wu-chên, and Huang Ying-tu, and they were reincarnated at Nan-ch’ang Fu, Chien-ch’ang Fu, Yen-mên Kuan, Yang Chou, Page 243and Nanking respectively. They were all noted for their brilliant intellects, and were clever scholars who passed their graduate’s examination with success.

When Li Shih-min ascended the throne, in A.D. 627, he called together all the literati of the Empire to take the Doctor’s Examination in the capital. Our five graduates started for the metropolis, but, losing their way, were robbed by brigands, and had to beg help in order to reach the end of their journey. By good luck they all met in the temple San-i Ko, and related to each other the various hardships they had undergone. But when they eventually reached the capital the examination was over, and they were out in the streets without resources. So they took an oath of brotherhood for life and death. They pawned some of the few clothes they possessed, and buying some musical instruments formed themselves into a band of strolling musicians.

The first bought a drum, the second a seven-stringed guitar, the third a mandolin, the fourth a clarinet, and the fifth and youngest composed songs.

Thus they went through the streets of the capital giving their concerts, and Fate decreed that Li Shih-min should hear their melodies. Charmed with the sweet sounds, he asked Hsü Mao-kung whence came this band of musicians, whose skill was certainly exceptional. Having made inquiries, the minister related their experiences to the Emperor. Li Shih-min ordered them to be brought into his presence, and after hearing them play and sing appointed them to his private suite, and henceforth they accompanied him wherever he went.

The Emperors Strategy

The Emperor bore malice toward Chang T’ien-shih, the Master of the Taoists, because he refused to pay the Page 244taxes on his property, and conceived a plan to bring about his destruction. He caused a spacious subterranean chamber to be dug under the reception-hall of his palace. A wire passed through the ceiling to where the Emperor sat. He could thus at will give the signal for the music to begin or stop. Having stationed the five musicians in this subterranean chamber, he summoned the Master of the Taoists to his presence and invited him to a banquet. During the course of this he pulled the wire, and a subterranean babel began.

The Emperor pretended to be terrified, and allowed himself to fall to the ground. Then, addressing himself to the T’ien-shih, he said: “I know that you can at will catch the devilish hobgoblins which molest human beings. You can hear for yourself the infernal row they make in my palace. I order you under penalty of death to put a stop to their pranks and to exterminate them.”

The Musicians are Slain

Having spoken thus, the Emperor rose and left. The Master of the Taoists brought his projecting mirror, and began to seek for the evil spirits. In vain he inspected the palace and its precincts; he could discover nothing. Fearing that he was lost, he in despair threw his mirror on the floor of the reception-hall.

A minute later, sad and pensive, he stooped to pick it up; what was his joyful surprise when he saw reflected in it the subterranean room and the musicians! At once he drew five talismans on yellow paper, burned them, and ordered his celestial general, Chao Kung-ming, to take his sword and kill the five musicians. The order was promptly executed, and the T’ien-shih informed the Emperor, who received the news with ridicule, not Page 245believing it to be true. He went to his seat and pulled the wire, but all remained silent. A second and third time he gave the signal, but without response. He then ordered his Grand Officer to ascertain what had happened. The officer found the five graduates bathed in their blood, and lifeless.

The Emperor, furious, reproached the Master of the Taoists. “But,” replied the T’ien-shih, “was it not your Majesty who ordered me under pain of death to exterminate the authors of this pandemonium?” Li Shih-min could not reply. He dismissed the Master of the Taoists and ordered the five victims to be buried.

The Emperor Tormented

After the funeral ceremonies, apparitions appeared at night in the place where they had been killed, and the palace became a babel. The spirits threw bricks and broke the tiles on the roofs.

The Emperor ordered his uncomfortable visitors to go to the T’ien-shih who had murdered them. They obeyed, and, seizing the garments of the Master of the Taoists, swore not to allow him any rest if he would not restore them to life.

To appease them the Taoist said: “I am going to give each of you a wonderful object. You are then to return and spread epidemics among wicked people, beginning in the imperial palace and with the Emperor himself, with the object of forcing him to canonize you.”

One received a fan, another a gourd filled with fire, the third a metallic ring to encircle people’s heads, the fourth a stick made of wolves’ teeth, and the fifth a cup of lustral water.

The spirit-graduates left full of joy, and made their Page 246first experiment on Li Shih-min. The first gave him feverish chills by waving his fan, the second burned him with the fire from his gourd, the third encircled his head with the ring, causing him violent headache, the fourth struck him with his stick, and the fifth poured out his cup of lustral water on his head.