Myths and Legends of China

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“Wretch of a daughter,” cried the King in anger, “you think you can teach me, the head of the State and ruler of so great a people! Has anyone ever known a daughter of a king become a nun? Can a good woman be found in that class? Put aside all these mad ideas of a nunnery, and tell me at once if you will marry a First Academician or a Military First Graduate.”

“Who is there,” answered the girl, “who does not love the royal dignity?—what person who does not aspire to the happiness of marriage? However, I wish to become a nun. With respect to the riches and glory of this world, my heart is as cold as a dead cinder, and I feel a keen desire to make it ever purer and purer.”

The King rose in fury, and wished to cast her out from his presence. Miao Shan, knowing she could not openly disobey his orders, took another course. “If you absolutely insist upon my marrying,” she said, “I will consent; only I must marry a physician.”

“A physician!” growled the King. “Are men of good family and talents wanting in my kingdom? What an absurd idea, to want to marry a physician!”

“My wish is,” said Miao Shan, “to heal humanity of all its ills; of cold, heat, lust, old age, and all infirmities. I wish to equalize all classes, putting rich and poor on Page 260the same footing, to have community of goods, without distinction of persons. If you will grant me my wish, I can still in this way become a Buddha, a Saviour of Mankind. There is no necessity to call in the diviners to choose an auspicious day. I am ready to be married now.”

She is Exiled to the Garden

At these words the King was mad with rage. “Wicked imbecile!” he cried, “what diabolical suggestions are these that you dare to make in my presence?”

Without further ado he called Ho T’ao, who on that day was officer of the palace guard. When he had arrived and kneeled to receive the King’s commands, the latter said: “This wicked nun dishonours me. Take from her her Court robes, and drive her from my presence. Take her to the Queen’s garden, and let her perish there of cold: that will be one care less for my troubled heart.”

Miao Shan fell on her face and thanked the King, and then went with the officer to the Queen’s garden, where she began to lead her retired hermit life, with the moon for companion and the wind for friend, content to see all obstacles overthrown on her way to Nirvāna, the highest state of spiritual bliss, and glad to exchange the pleasures of the palace for the sweetness of solitude.

The Nunnery of the White Bird

After futile attempts to dissuade her from her purpose by the Court ladies, her parents, and sisters, the King and Queen next deputed Miao Hung and Ts’ui Hung to make a last attempt to bring their misguided daughter to her senses. Miao Shan, annoyed at this renewed Page 261solicitation, in a haughty manner ordered them never again to come and torment her with their silly prattle. “I have found out,” she added, “that there is a well-known temple at Ju Chou in Lung-shu Hsien. This Buddhist temple is known as the Nunnery of the White Bird, Po-ch’iao Ch’an-ssŭ. In it five hundred nuns give themselves up to the study of the true doctrine and the way of perfection. Go then and ask the Queen on my behalf to obtain the King’s permission for me to retire thither. If you can procure me this favour, I will not fail to reward you later.”