Myths and Legends of China

Page: 115

The Transformation of Shan Ts’ai

Shan Ts’ai, inconsolable, prayed Heaven and earth to save his protectress. Miao Shan said to him: “You should not have risked your life by throwing yourself over the precipice, I have not yet transformed you. But you did a brave thing, and I know that you have a good heart. Now, look down there.” “Oh,” said he, “if I mistake not, that is a corpse.” “Yes,” she replied, “that is your former body. Now you are transformed you can rise at will and fly in the air.” Shan Ts’ai bowed low to thank his benefactress, who said to him: “Henceforth you must say your prayers by my side, and not leave me for a single day.”

‘Brother and Sister’

With her spiritual sight Miao Shan perceived at the bottom of the Southern Sea the third son of Lung Wang, who, in carrying out his father’s orders, was cleaving the waves in the form of a carp. While doing so, he was caught in a fisherman’s net, taken to the market at Yüeh Chou, and offered for sale. Miao Shan at once sent her faithful Shan Ts’ai, in the guise of a servant, to buy him, giving him a thousand cash to purchase the fish, which he was to take to the foot of the rocks at P’u T’o and set free in the sea. The son of Lung Wang heartily thanked his deliverer, and on his return to the Page 274palace related to his father what had occurred. The King said: “As a reward, make her a present of a luminous pearl, so that she may recite her prayers by its light at night-time.”

Lung Nü, the daughter of Lung Wang’s third son, obtained her grandfather’s permission to take the gift to Miao Shan and beg that she might be allowed to study the doctrine of the sages under her guidance. After having proved her sincerity, she was accepted as a pupil. Shan Ts’ai called her his sister, and Lung Nü reciprocated by calling him her dear brother. Both lived as brother and sister by Miao Shan’s side.

The King’s Punishment

After King Miao Chuang had burned the Nunnery of the White Bird and killed his daughter, Ch’ieh Lan Buddha presented a petition to Yü Huang praying that the crime be not allowed to go unpunished. Yü Huang, justly irritated, ordered P’an Kuan to consult the Register of the Living and the Dead to see how long this homicidal King had yet to live. P’an Kuan turned over the pages of his register, and saw that according to the divine ordinances the King’s reign on the throne of Hsing Lin should last for twenty years, but that this period had not yet expired.3 “That which has been decreed is immutable,” said Yü Huang, “but I will punish him by sending him illness.” He called the God of Epidemics, and ordered him to afflict the King’s body with ulcers, of a kind which could not be healed except by remedies to be given him by his daughter Miao Shan.

The order was promptly executed, and the King could Page 275get no rest by day or by night. His two daughters and their husbands spent their time in feasting while he tossed about in agony on his sick-bed. In vain the most famous physicians were called in; the malady only grew worse, and despair took hold of the patient. He then caused a proclamation to be made that he would grant the succession to the throne to any person who would provide him with an effectual remedy to restore him to health.

The Disguised Priest-doctor

Miao Shan had learnt by revelation at Hsiang Shan all that was taking place at the palace. She assumed the form of a priest-doctor, clothed herself in a priest’s gown, with the regulation headdress and straw shoes, and attached to her girdle a gourd containing pills and other medicines. In this apparel she went straight to the palace gate, read the royal edict posted there, and tore it down. Some members of the palace guard seized her, and inquired angrily: “Who are you that you should dare to tear down the royal proclamation?”

“I, a poor priest, am also a doctor,” she replied. “I read the edict posted on the palace gates. The King is inquiring for a doctor who can heal him. I am a doctor of an old cultured family, and propose to restore him to health.”

“If you are of a cultured family, why did you become a priest?” they asked. “Would it not have been better to gain your living honestly in practising your art than to shave your head and go loafing about the world? Besides, all the highest physicians have tried in vain to cure the King; do you imagine that you will be more skilful than all the aged practitioners?”

“Set your minds at ease,” she replied. “I have received from my ancestors the most efficacious remedies, Page 276and I guarantee that I shall restore the King to health,” The palace guard then consented to transmit her petition to the Queen, who informed the King, and in the end the pretended priest was admitted. Having reached the royal bed-chamber, he sat still awhile in order to calm himself before feeling the pulse, and to have complete control of all his faculties while examining the King. When he felt quite sure of himself, he approached the King’s bed, took the King’s hand, felt his pulse, carefully diagnosed the nature of the illness, and assured himself that it was easily curable.