Myths and Legends of China

Page: 113

“Well,” said the visitor, “he to whom you are speaking is no other than the Buddha of the West. I came to test your virtue. This place is not suitable for your devotional exercises; I invite you to come to Hsiang Shan.”

Miao Shan threw herself on her knees and said: “My bodily eyes deceived me. I never thought that your Majesty would come to a place like this. Pardon my seeming want of respect. Where is this Hsiang Shan?”

“Hsiang Shan is a very old monastery,” Ju Lai replied, “built in the earliest historical times. It is inhabited by Immortals. It is situated in the sea, on P’u T’o Island, a dependency of the kingdom of Annam. There you will be able to reach the highest perfection.” Page 270

“How far off is this island?” Miao Shan asked. “More than three thousand li,” Ju Lai replied. “I fear,” she said, “I could not bear the fatigue of so long a journey.” “Calm yourself,” he rejoined. “I have brought with me a magic peach, of a kind not to be found in any earthly orchard. Once you have eaten it, you will experience neither hunger nor thirst; old age and death will have no power over you: you will live for ever.”

Miao Shan ate the magic peach, took leave of Ju Lai, and started on the way to Hsiang Shan. From the clouds the Spirit of the North Star saw her wending her way painfully toward P’u T’o. He called the Guardian of the Soil of Hsiang Shan and said to him: “Miao Shan is on her way to your country; the way is long and difficult. Do you take the form of a tiger, and carry her to her journey’s end.”

The t’u-ti transformed himself into a tiger and stationed himself in the middle of the road along which Miao Shan must pass, giving vent to ferocious roars.

“I am a poor girl devoid of filial piety,” said Miao Shan when she came up. “I have disobeyed my father’s commands; devour me, and make an end of me.”

The tiger then spoke, saying: “I am not a real tiger, but the Guardian of the Soil of Hsiang Shan. I have received instructions to carry you there. Get on my back.”

“Since you have received these instructions,” said the girl, “I will obey, and when I have attained to perfection I will not forget your kindness.”

The tiger went off like a flash of lightning, and in the twinkling of an eye Miao Shan found herself at the foot of the rocky slopes of P’u T’o Island. Page 271

Miao Shan attains to Perfection

After nine years in this retreat Miao Shan had reached the acme of perfection. Ti-tsang Wang then came to Hsiang Shan, and was so astonished at her virtue that he inquired of the local t’u-ti as to what had brought about this wonderful result. “With the exception of Ju Lai, in all the west no one equals her in dignity and perfection. She is the Queen of the three thousand P’u-sa’s and of all the beings on earth who have skin and blood. We regard her as our sovereign in all things. Therefore, on the nineteenth day of the eleventh moon we will enthrone her, that the whole world may profit by her beneficence.”

The t’u-ti sent out his invitations for the ceremony. The Dragon-king of the Western Sea, the Gods of the Five Sacred Mountains, the Emperor-saints to the number of one hundred and twenty, the thirty-six officials of the Ministry of Time, the celestial functionaries in charge of wind, rain, thunder, and lightning, the Three Causes, the Five Saints, the Eight Immortals, the Ten Kings of the Hells—all were present on the appointed day. Miao Shan took her seat on the lotus-throne, and the assembled gods proclaimed her sovereign of Heaven and earth, and a Buddha. Moreover, they decided that it was not meet that she should remain alone at Hsiang Shan; so they begged her to choose a worthy young man and a virtuous damsel to serve her in the temple.

The t’u-ti was entrusted with the task of finding them. While making search, he met a young priest named Shan Ts’ai. After the death of his parents he had become a hermit on Ta-hua Shan, and was still a novice in the science of perfection. Page 272

Miao Shan ordered him to be brought to her. “Who are you?” she asked.

“I am a poor orphan priest of no merit,” he replied. “From my earliest youth I have led the life of a hermit. I have been told that your power is equalled only by your goodness, so I have ventured to come to pray you to show me how to attain to perfection.”

“My only fear,” replied Miao Shan, “is that your desire for perfection may not be sincere.”

“I have now no parents,” the priest continued, “and I have come more than a thousand li to find you. How can I be wanting in sincerity?”