Myths and Legends of China

Page: 94

The Sealed Packet

The young Prince, shortly after, taking an affectionate leave of the Emperor, left Chin-ling to proceed to his post. Ere he departed, however, a Taoist priest, called Liu Po-wên, who had a great affection for the Prince, put a sealed packet into his hand, and told him to open it when he found himself in difficulty, distress, or danger; the perusal of the first portion that came to his hand would invariably suggest some remedy for the evil, whatever it was. After doing so, he was again to seal the packet, without further looking into its contents, till some other emergency arose necessitating advice or assistance, when he would again find it. The Prince departed on his journey, and in the course of time, without meeting with any adventures worth recording, arrived safely at his destination. Page 229

A Desolate Region

The place where Peking now stands was originally called Yu Chou; in the T’ang dynasty it was called Pei-p’ing Fu; and afterward became known as Shun-t’ien Fu—but that was after the city now called Peking was built. The name of the country in which this place was situated was Yen. It was a mere barren wilderness, with very few inhabitants; these lived in huts and scattered hamlets, and there was no city to afford protection to the people and to check the depredations of robbers.

When the Prince saw what a desolate-looking place he had been appointed to, and thought of the long years he was probably destined to spend there, he grew very melancholy, and nothing his attendants essayed to do in hope of alleviating his sorrow succeeded.

The Prince opens the Sealed Packet

All at once the Prince bethought himself of the packet which the old Taoist priest had given him; he forthwith proceeded to make search for it—for in the bustle and excitement of travelling he had forgotten all about it—in hope that it might suggest something to better the prospects before him. Having found the packet, he hastily broke it open to see what instructions it contained; taking out the first paper which came to hand, he read the following:

“When you reach Pei-p’ing Fu you must build a city there and name it No-cha Ch’êng, the City of No-cha.Page 230funds for building it. At the back of this paper is a plan of the city; you must be careful to act according to the instructions accompanying it.”

The Prince inspected the plan, carefully read the instructions, and found even the minutest details fully explained. He was struck with the grandeur of the design of the proposed city, and at once acted on the instructions contained in the packet; proclamations were posted up, and large sums were speedily subscribed, ten of the wealthiest families who had accompanied him from Chin-ling being the largest contributors, supporting the plan not only with their purses, by giving immense sums, but by their influence among their less wealthy neighbours.

The City is Founded

When sufficient money had been subscribed, a propitious day was chosen on which to commence the undertaking. Trenches where the foundations of the walls were to be were first dug out, according to the plan found in the packet. The foundations themselves consisted of layers of stone quarried from the western hills; bricks of an immense size were made and burnt in the neighbourhood; the moat was dug out, and the earth from it used to fill in the centre of the walls, which, when complete, were forty-eight li in circumference, fifty cubits in height, and fifty in breadth; the whole circuit of the walls having battlements and embrasures. Above each of the nine gates of the city immense three-storied towers were built, each tower being ninety-nine cubits in height.

Near the front entrance of the city, facing each other, were built the Temples of Heaven and of Earth. In Page 231rear of it the beautiful ‘Coal Hill’ (better known as ‘Prospect Hill’) was raised; while in the square in front of the Great Gate of the palace was buried an immense quantity of charcoal (that and the coal being stored as a precaution in case of siege).

The palace, containing many superb buildings, was built in a style of exceeding splendour; in the various enclosures were beautiful gardens and lakes; in the different courtyards, too, seventy-two wells were dug and thirty-six golden tanks placed. The whole of the buildings and grounds was surrounded by a lofty wall and a stone-paved moat, in which the lotus and other flowers bloomed in great beauty and profusion, and in the clear waters of which myriads of gold and silver fish disported themselves.

The geomancy of the city was similar to that of Chin-ling, When everything was completed the Prince compared it with the plan and found that the city tallied with it in every respect. He was much delighted, and called for the ten wealthy persons who had been the chief contributors, and gave each of them a pair of ‘couchant dragon’ silk- or satin-embroidered cuffs, and allowed them great privileges. Up to the present time there is the common saying: “Since then the ‘dragon-cuffed’ gentlefolks have flourished.”