Myths and Legends of China

Page: 116

Strange Medicine

One serious difficulty, however, presented itself, and that was that the right medicine was almost impossible to procure. The King showed his displeasure by saying: “For every illness there is a medical prescription, and for every prescription a specific medicine; how can you say that the diagnosis is easy, but that there is no remedy?”

“Your Majesty,” replied the priest, “the remedy for your illness is not to be found in any pharmacy, and no one would agree to sell it.”

The King became angry, believed that he was being imposed upon, and ordered those about him to drive away the priest, who left smiling.

The following night the King saw in a dream an old man who said to him: “This priest alone can cure your illness, and if you ask him he himself will give you the right remedy.”

The King awoke as soon as these words had been uttered, and begged the Queen to recall the priest. When the latter had returned, the King related his dream, and begged the priest to procure for him the remedy required. Page 277“What, after all, is this remedy that I must have in order to be cured?” he asked.

“There must be the hand and eye of a living person, from which to compound the ointment which alone can save you,” answered the priest.

The King called out in indignation: “This priest is fooling me! Who would ever give his hand or his eye? Even if anyone would, I could never have the heart to make use of them.”

“Nevertheless,” said the priest, “there is no other effective remedy.”

“Then where can I procure this remedy?” asked the King.

“Your Majesty must send your ministers, who must observe the Buddhist rules of abstinence, to Hsiang Shan, where they will be given what is required.”

“Where is Hsiang Shan, and how far from here?”

“About three thousand or more li, but I myself will indicate the route to be followed; in a very short time they will return.”

The King, who was suffering terribly, was more contented when he heard that the journey could be rapidly accomplished. He called his two ministers, Chao Chên and Liu Ch’in, and instructed them to lose no time in starting for Hsiang Shan and to observe scrupulously the Buddhist rules of abstinence. He ordered the Minister of Ceremonies to detain the priest in the palace until their return.

A Conspiracy that Failed

The two sons-in-law of the King, Ho Fêng and Chao K’uei, who had already made secret preparations to succeed to the throne as soon as the King should breathe Page 278his last, learned with no little surprise that the priest had hopes of curing the King’s illness, and that he was waiting in the palace until the saving remedy was brought to him. Fearing that they might be disappointed in their ambition, and that after his recovery the King, faithful to his promise, would give the crown to the priest, they entered into a conspiracy with an unscrupulous courtier named Ho Li. They were obliged to act quickly, because the ministers were travelling by forced marches, and would soon be back. That same night Ho Li was to give to the King a poisoned drink, composed, he would say, by the priest with the object of assuaging the King’s pain until the return of his two ministers. Shortly after, an assassin, Su Ta, was to murder the priest. Thus at one stroke both the King and the priest would meet their death, and the kingdom would pass to the King’s two sons-in-law.