Hsue, the Dragon-slayer
Hsue Chen-chuen was a native either of Ju-ning Fu in Honan, or of Nan-ch'ang Fu in Kiangsi. His father was Hsue Su. His personal name was Ching-chih, and his ordinary name Sun.
At forty-one years of age, when he was Magistrate of Ching-yang, near the modern Chih-chiang Hsien, in Hupei, during times of drought he had only to touch a piece of tile to turn it into gold, and thus relieve the people of their distress. He also saved many lives by curing sickness through the use of talismans and magic formulae.
During the period of the dynastic troubles he resigned and joined the famous magician Kuo P'o. Together they proceeded to the minister Wang Tun, who had risen against the Eastern Chin dynasty. Kuo P'o's remonstrances only irritated the minister, who cut off his head.
Hsue Sun then threw his chalice on the ridgepole of the room, causing it to be whirled into the air. As Wang Tun was watching the career of the chalice, Hsue disappeared and escaped. When he reached Lu-chiang K'ou, in Anhui, he boarded a boat, which two dragons towed into the offing and then raised into the air. In an instant they had borne it to the Lue Shan Mountains, to the south of Kiukiang, in Kiangsi. The perplexed boatman opened the window of his boat and took a furtive look out. Thereupon the dragons, finding themselves discovered by an infidel, set the boat down on the top of the mountain and fled.
The Spiritual Alligator
In this country was a dragon, or spiritual alligator, which transformed itself into a young man named Shen Lang, and married Chia Yue, daughter of the Chief Judge of T'an Chou (Ch'ang-sha Fu, capital of Hunan). The young people lived in rooms below the official apartments. During spring and summer Shen Lang, as dragons are wont to do, roamed in the rivers and lakes. One day Hsue Chen-chuen met him, recognized him as a dragon, and knew that he was the cause of the numerous floods which were devastating Kiangsi Province. He determined to find a means of getting rid of him.
Shen Lang, aware of the steps being taken against him, changed himself into a yellow ox and fled. Hsue Chen-chuen at once transformed himself into a black ox and started in pursuit. The yellow ox jumped down a well to hide, but the black ox followed suit. The yellow ox then jumped out again, and escaped to Ch'ang-sha, where he reassumed a human form and lived with Ms wife in the home of his father-in-law, Hsue Sun, returning to the town, hastened to the yamen, and called to Shen Lang to come out and show himself, addressing him in a severe tone of voice as follows: "Dragon, how dare you hide yourself there under a borrowed form?" Shen Lang then reassumed the form of a spiritual alligator, and Hsue Sun ordered the spiritual soldiers to kill him. He then commanded his two sons to come out of their abode. By merely spurting a mouthful of water on them he transformed them into young dragons. Chia Yue was told to vacate the rooms with all speed, and in the twinkling of an eye the whole yamen sank beneath the earth, and there remained nothing but a lake where it had been.
Hsue Chen-chuen, after his victory over the dragon, assembled the members of his family, to the number of forty-two, on Hsi Shan, outside the city of Nan-ch'ang Fu, and all ascended to Heaven in full daylight, taking with them even the dogs and chickens. He was then 133 years old. This took place on the first day of the eighth moon of the second year (A.D. 374) of the reign-period Ning-K'ang of the reign of the Emperor Hsiao Wu Ti of the Eastern Chin dynasty.
Subsequently a temple was erected to him, and in A.D. 1111 he was canonized as Just Prince, Admirable and Beneficent.
The Great Flood
The repairing of the heavens by Nue Kua, elsewhere alluded to, is also attributed to the following incident.
Before the Chinese Empire was founded a noble and wonderful queen fought with the chief of the tribes who inhabited the country round about O-mei Shan. In a fierce battle the chief and his followers met defeat; raging with anger at being beaten by a woman, he rushed up the mountain-side; the Queen pursued him with her army, and overtook him at the summit; finding no place to hide himself, he attempted in desperation both to wreak vengeance upon his enemies and to end his own life by beating his head violently against the cane of the Heavenly Bamboo which grew there. By his mad battering he at last succeeded in knocking down the towering trunk of the tree, and as he did so its top tore great rents in the canopy of the sky, through which poured great floods of water, inundating the whole earth and drowning all the inhabitants except the victorious Queen and her soldiers. The floods had no power to harm her or her followers, because she herself was an all-powerful divinity and was known as the 'Mother of the Gods,' and the 'Defender of the Gods.' From the mountain-side she gathered together stones of a kind having five colours, and ground them into powder; of this she made a plaster or mortar, with which she repaired the tears in the heavens, and the floods immediately ceased.
The Marriage of the River-god
In Yeh Hsien there was a witch and some official attendants who collected money from the people yearly for the marriage of the River-god.
The witch would select a pretty girl of low birth, and say that she should be the Queen of the River-god. The girl was bathed, and clothed in a beautiful dress of gay and costly silk. She was then taken to the bank of the river, to a monastery which was beautifully decorated with scrolls and banners. A feast was held, and the girl was placed on a bed which was floated out upon the tide till it disappeared under the waters.
Many families having beautiful daughters moved to distant places, and gradually the city became deserted. The common belief in Yeh was that if no queen was offered to the River-god a flood would come and drown the people.
One day Hsi-men Pao, Magistrate of Yeh Hsien, said to his attendants: "When the marriage of the River-god takes place I wish to say farewell to the chosen girl."
Accordingly Hsi-men Pao was present to witness the ceremony. About three thousand people had come together. Standing beside the old witch were ten of her female disciples, "Call the girl out," said Hsi-men Pao. After seeing her, Hsi-men Pao said to the witch: "She is not fair. Go you to the River-god and tell him that we will find a fairer maid and present her to him later on." His attendants then seized the witch and threw her into the river.
After a little while Hsi-men Pao said: "Why does she stay so long? Send a disciple to call her back." One of the disciples was thrown into the river. Another and yet another followed. The magistrate then said:" The witches are females and therefore cannot bring me a reply." So one of the official attendants of the witch was thrown into the river.
Hsi-men Pao stood on the bank for a long time, apparently awaiting a reply. The spectators were alarmed. Hsi-men Pao then bade his attendants send the remaining disciples of the witch and the other official attendants to recall their mistress. The wretches threw themselves on their knees and knocked their heads on the ground, which was stained with the blood from their foreheads, and with tears confessed their sin.
"The River-god detains his guest too long," said Hsi-men Pao at length. "Let us adjourn."
Thereafter none dared to celebrate the marriage of the River-god.
Legend of the Building of Peking
When the Mongol Yuean dynasty had been destroyed, and the Emperor Hung Wu had succeeded in firmly establishing that of the Great Ming, Ta Ming, he made Chin-ling, the present Nanking, his capital, and held his Court there with great splendour, envoys from every province within the 'Four Seas' (the Chinese Empire) assembling there to witness his greatness and to prostrate themselves before the Dragon Throne.
The Emperor had many sons and daughters by his different consorts and concubines, each mother, in her inmost heart, fondly hoping that her own son would be selected by his father to succeed him.
Although the Empress had a son, who was the heir-apparent, yet she felt envious of those ladies who had likewise been blessed with children, for fear one of the princes should supplant her son in the affection of the Emperor and in the succession. This envy displayed itself on every occasion; she was greatly beloved by the Emperor, and exerted all her influence with him, as the other young princes grew up, to get them removed from Court. Through her means most of them were sent to the different provinces as governors; those provinces under their government being so many principalities or kingdoms.
One of the consorts of Hung Wu, the Lady Weng, had a son named Chu-ti. This young prince was very handsome and graceful in his deportment; he was, moreover, of an amiable disposition. He was the fourth son of the Emperor, and his pleasing manner and address had made him a great favourite, not only with his father, but with every one about the Court. The Empress noticed the evident affection the Emperor evinced for this prince, and determined to get him removed from the Court as soon as possible. By a judicious use of flattery and cajolery, she ultimately persuaded the Emperor to appoint the prince governor of the Yen country, and thenceforth he was styled Yen Wang, Prince of Yen.
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-wen, 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.
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'eng, the City of No-cha.  But, as the work will be costly, you must issue a proclamation inviting the wealthy to subscribe the necessary funds 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 rear 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."
All the people were loud in praise of the beauty and strength of the newly built city. Merchants from every province hastened to Peking, attracted by the news they heard of its magnificence and the prospect there was of profitably disposing of their wares. In short, the people were prosperous and happy, food was plentiful, the troops brave, the monarch just, his ministers virtuous, and all enjoyed the blessings of peace.
A Drought and its Cause
While everything was thus tranquil, a sudden and untoward event occurred which spread dismay and consternation on all sides. One day when the Prince went into the hall of audience one of his ministers reported that "the wells are thirsty and the rivers dried up"—there was no water, and the people were all in the greatest alarm. The Prince at once called his counsellors together to devise some means of remedying this disaster and causing the water to return to the wells and springs, but no one could suggest a suitable plan.
It is necessary to explain the cause of this scarcity of water. There was a dragon's cave outside the east gate of the city at a place called Lei-chen K'ou, 'Thunder-clap Mouth' or 'Pass' (the name of a village). The dragon had not been seen for myriads of years, yet it was well known that he lived there.
In digging out the earth to build the wall the workmen had broken into this dragon's cave, little thinking of the consequences which would result. The dragon was exceedingly wroth and determined to shift his abode, but the she-dragon said: "We have lived here thousands of years, and shall we suffer the Prince of Yen to drive us forth thus? If we do go we will collect all the water, place it in our yin-yang baskets [used for drawing water], and at midnight we will appear in a dream to the Prince, requesting permission to retire. If he gives us permission to do so, and allows us also to take our baskets of water with us, he will fall into our trap, for we shall take the waler with his own consent,"
The Prince's Dream
The two dragons then transformed themselves into an old man and an old woman, went to the chamber of the Prince, who was asleep, and appeared to him in a dream. Kneeling before him, they cried: "O Lord of a Thousand Years, we have come before you to beg leave to retire from this place, and to beseech you out of your great bounty to give us permission to take these two baskets of water with us."
The Prince readily assented, little dreaming of the danger he was incurring. The dragons were highly delighted, and hastened out of his presence; they filled the baskets with all the water there was in Peking, and carried them off with them.
When the Prince awoke he paid no attention to his dream till he heard the report of the scarcity of water, when, reflecting on the singularity of his dream, he thought there might be some hidden meaning in it. He therefore had recourse to the packet again, and discovered that his dream-visitors had been dragons, who had taken the waters of Peking away with them in their magic baskets; the packet, however, contained directions for the recovery of the water, and he at once prepared to follow them.
The Pursuit of the Dragons
In haste the Prince donned his armour, mounted his black steed, and, spear in hand, dashed out of the west gate of the city. He pressed on his horse, which went swift as the wind, nor did he slacken speed till he came up with the water-stealing dragons, who still retained the forms in which they had appeared to him in his dream. On a cart were the two identical baskets he had seen; in front of the cart, dragging it, was the old woman, while behind, pushing it, was the old man.
An Unexpected Flood
When the Prince saw them he galloped up to the cart, and, without pausing, thrust his spear into one of the baskets, making a great hole, out of which the water rushed so rapidly that the Prince was much frightened. He dashed off at full speed to save himself from being swallowed up by the waters, which in a very short time had risen more than thirty feet and had flooded the surrounding country. On galloped the Prince, followed by the roaring water, till he reached a hill, up which he urged his startled horse. When he gained the top he found that it stood out of the water like an island, completely surrounded; the water was seething and swirling round the hill in a frightful manner, but no vestige could he see of either of the dragons.
The Waters Subside
The Prince was very much alarmed at his perilous position, when suddenly a Buddhist priest appeared before him, with clasped hands and bent head, who bade him not be alarmed, as with Heaven's assistance he would soon disperse the water. Hereupon the priest recited a short prayer or spell, and the waters receded as rapidly as they had risen, and finally returned to their proper channels.
The Origin of Chen-shui T'a
The broken basket became a large deep hole, some three mu (about half an English acre) in extent, in the centre of which was a fountain which threw up a vast body of clear water. From the midst of this there arose a pagoda, which rose and fell with the water, floating on the top like a vessel; the spire thrusting itself far up into the sky, and swaying about like the mast of a ship in a storm.
The Prince returned to the city filled with wonder at what he had seen, and with joy at having so successfully carried out the directions contained in the packet. On all sides he was greeted by the acclamations of the people, who hailed him as the saviour of Peking. Since that time Peking has never had the misfortune to be without water.
The pagoda is called the Pagoda on the Hill of the Imperial Spring (Yue Ch'uean Shan T'a; more commonly Chen-shui T'a, 'Water-repressing Pagoda').  The spring is still there, and day and night, unceasingly, its clear waters bubble up and flow eastward to Peking, which would now be a barren wilderness but for Yen Wang's pursuit of the water.
Myths of Fire
The Ministry of Fire
The celestial organization of Fire is the fifth Ministry, and is presided over by a President, Lo Hsuean, whose titular designation is Huo-te Hsing-chuen, 'Stellar Sovereign of the Fire-virtue,' with five subordinate ministers, four of whom are star-gods, and the fifth a "celestial prince who receives fire": Chieh-huo T'ien-chuen. Like so many other Chinese deities, the five were all ministers of the tyrant emperor Chou.
It is related that Lo Hsuean was originally a Taoist priest known as Yen-chung Hsien, of the island Huo-lung, 'Fire-dragon.' His face was the colour of ripe fruit of the jujube-tree, his hair and beard red, the former done up in the shape of a fish-tail, and he had three eyes. He wore a red cloak ornamented with the pa kua; his horse snorted flames from its nostrils and fire darted from its hoofs.
While fighting in the service of the son of the tyrant emperor, Lo Hsuean suddenly changed himself into a giant with three heads and six arms. In each of his hands he held a magic weapon. These were a seal which reflected the heavens and the earth, a wheel of the five fire-dragons, a gourd containing ten thousand fire-crows, and, in the other hands, two swords which floated like smoke, and a column of smoke several thousands of li long enclosing swords of fire.
Having arrived at the city of Hsi Ch'i, Lo Hsuean sent forth his smoke-column, the air was filled with swords of fire, the ten thousand fire-crows, emerging from the gourd, spread themselves over the town, and a terrible conflagration broke out, the whole place being ablaze in a few minutes.
At this juncture there appeared in the sky the Princess Lung Chi, daughter of Wang-mu Niang-niang; forthwith she spread over the city her shroud of mist and dew, and the fire was extinguished by a heavy downpour of rain. All the mysterious mechanisms of Lo Hsuean lost their efficacy, and the magician took to his heels down the side of the mountain. There he was met by Li, the Pagoda-bearer,  who threw his golden pagoda into the air. The pagoda fell on Lo Hsuean's head and broke his skull.
Of the various fire-gods, Ch'ih Ching-tzu, the principle of spiritual fire, is one of the five spirits representing the Five Elements. He is Fire personified, which has its birth in the south, on Mount Shih-t'ang. He himself and everything connected with him—his skin, hair, beard, trousers, cloak of leaves, etc.—are all of the colour of fire, though he is sometimes represented with a blue cap resembling the blue tip of a flame. He appeared in the presence of Huang Lao in a fire-cloud. He it was who obtained fire from the wood of the mulberry-tree, and the heat of this fire, joined with the moisture of water, developed the germs of terrestrial beings.
The Red Emperor
Chu Jung, though also otherwise personified, is generally regarded as having been a legendary emperor who made his first appearance in the time of Hsien Yuan (2698-2598 B.C.). In his youth he asked Kuang-shou Lao-jen, 'Old Longevity,' to grant him immortality. "The time has not yet come," replied Old Longevity; "before it does you have to become an emperor. I will give you the means of reaching the end you desire. Give orders that after you are dead you are to be buried on the southern slope of the sacred mountain Heng Shan; there you will learn the doctrine of Ch'ih Ching-tzu and will become immortal."
The Emperor Hsien Yuean, having abdicated the throne, sent for Chu Jung, and bestowed upon him the crown. Chu Jung, having become emperor, taught the people the use of fire and the advantages to be derived therefrom. In those early times the forests were filled with venomous reptiles and savage animals; he ordered the peasants to set fire to the brushwood to drive away these dangerous neighbours and keep them at a distance. He also taught his subjects the art of purifying, forging, and welding metals by the action of fire. He was nicknamed Ch'ih Ti, 'the Red Emperor.' He reigned for more than two hundred years, and became an Immortal, His capital was the ancient city of Kuei, thirty li north-east of Hsin-cheng Hsien, in the Prefecture of K'ai-feng Fu, Honan. His tomb is on the southern slope of Heng Shan. The peak is known as Chu Jung Peak. His descendants, who went to live in the south, were the ancestors of the Directors of Fire.
The most popular God of Fire, however, is Hui Lu, a celebrated magician who, according to the Shen hsien t'ung chien, lived some time before the reign of Ti K'u (2436-2366 B.C.), the father of Yao the Great, and had a mysterious bird named Pi Fang and a hundred other fire-birds shut up in a gourd. He had only to let them out to set up a conflagration which would extend over the whole country.
Huang Ti ordered Chu Jung to fight Hui Lu and also to subdue the rebel Chih Yu. Chu Jung had a large bracelet of pure gold—a most wonderful and effective weapon. He hurled it into the air, and it fell on Hui Lu's neck, throwing him to the ground and rendering him incapable of moving. Finding resistance impossible, he asked mercy from his victor and promised to be his follower in the spiritual contests. Subsequently he always called himself Huo-shih Chih T'u, 'the Disciple of the Master of Fire.'
Shen Nung, the God of Agriculture, also adds to his other functions those appertaining to the God of Fire, the reason being that when he succeeded the Emperor Fu Hsi on the throne he adopted fire as the emblem of his government, just as Huang Ti adopted the symbol of Earth. Thus he came to be called Huo Ti, the 'Fire-emperor.' He taught his subjects the use of fire for smelting metals and making implements and weapons, and the use of oil in lamps, etc. All the divisions of his official hierarchy were connected in some way with this element; thus, there were the Ministers of Fire generally, the officers of Fire of the North, South, etc. Becoming thus doubly the patron of fire, a second fire symbol (huo) was added to his name, changing it from Huo Ti, 'Fire-emperor,' to Yen Ti, 'Blazing Emperor,'
Myths of Epidemics, Medicine, Exorcism, Etc.
The Ministry of Epidemics
The gods of epidemics, etc., belong to the sixth, ninth, second, and third celestial Ministries. The composition of the Ministry of Epidemics is arranged differently in different works as Epidemics (regarded as epidemics on earth, but as demons in Heaven) of the Centre, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, or as the marshals clothed in yellow, green, red, white, and blue respectively, or as the Officers of the East, West, South, and North, with two additional members: a Taoist who quells the plague, and the Grand Master who exhorts people to do right.
With regard to the Ministry of Seasonal Epidemics, it is related that in the sixth moon of the eleventh year (A.D. 599) of the reign of Kao Tsu, founder of the Sui dynasty, five stalwart persons appeared in the air, clothed in robes of five colours, each carrying different objects in his hands: the first a spoon and earthenware vase, the second a leather bag and sword, the third a fan, the fourth a club, the fifth a jug of fire. The Emperor asked Chang Chue-jen, his Grand Historiographer, who these were and if they were benevolent or evil spirits. The official answered: "These are the five powers of the five directions. Their appearance indicates the imminence of epidemics, which will last throughout the four seasons of the year." "What remedy is there, and how am I to protect the people?" inquired the Emperor. "There is no remedy," replied the official, "for epidemics are sent by Heaven." During that year the mortality was very great. The Emperor built a temple to the five persons, and bestowed upon them the title of Marshals to the Five Spirits of the Plague. During that and the following dynasty sacrifices were offered to them on the fifth day of the fifth moon.
The President of the Ministry
The following particulars are given concerning the President of the Ministry, whose name was Lue Yueeh. He was an old Taoist hermit, living at Chiu-lung Tao, 'Nine-dragon Island,' who became an Immortal. The four members of the Ministry were his disciples. He wore a red garment, had a blue face, red hair, long teeth, and three eyes. His war-horse was named the Myopic Camel. He carried a magic sword, and was in the service of Chou Wang, whose armies were concentrated at Hsi Ch'i. In a duel with Mu-cha, brother of No-cha, he had his arm severed by a sword-cut. In another battle with Huang T'ien-hua, son of Huang Fei-hu, he appeared with three heads and six arms. In his many hands he held the celestial seal, plague microbes, the flag of plague, the plague sword, and two mysterious swords. His faces were green, and large teeth protruded from his mouths. Huang T'ien-hua threw his magic weapon, Huo-lung Piao, and hit him on the leg. Just at that moment Chiang Tzu-ya arrived with his goblin-dispelling whip and felled him with a blow. He was able, however, to rise again, and took to flight.
The Plague-disseminating Umbrellas
Resolved to avenge his defeat, he joined General Hsue Fang, who was commanding an army corps at Ch'uan-yuen Kuan. Round the mountain he organized a system of entrenchments and of infection against their enemies. Yang Chien released his celestial hound, which bit Lue Yueeh on the crown of his head. Then Yang Jen, armed with his magic fan, pursued Lue Yueeh and compelled him to retreat to his fortress. Lue Yueeh mounted the central raised part of the embattled wall and opened all his plague-disseminating umbrellas, with the object of infecting Yang Jen, but the latter, simply by waving his fan, reduced all the umbrellas to dust, and also burned the fort, and with it Lue Yueeh.
Similar wonderful achievements are related in short notices in the Feng shen yen i of the four other officers of the Ministry.
Li P'ing, the sixth officer of the Ministry, met a like fate to that of Lue Yueeh after having failed to induce the latter to abandon the cause of the Shang dynasty for that of Chou.
The Five Graduates
In Pere Henri Dore's Recherches sur les Superstitions en Chine is given an interesting legend concerning five other gods of epidemics. These gods are called the Wu Yueeh, 'Five Mountains,' and are worshipped in the temple San-i Ko at Ju-kao, especially in outbreaks of contagious diseases and fevers. A sufferer goes to the temple and promises offerings to the gods in the event of recovery. The customary offering is five small wheaten loaves, called shao ping, and a pound of meat.
The Wu Yueeh are stellar devils whom Yue Huang sent to be reincarnated on earth. Their names were T'ien Po-hsueeh, Tung Hung-wen, Ts'ai Wen-chue, Chao Wu-chen, and Huang Ying-tu, and they were reincarnated at Nan-ch'ang Fu, Chien-ch'ang Fu, Yen-men Kuan, Yang Chou, and Nanking respectively. They were all noted for their brilliant intellects, and were clever scholars who passed their graduate's examination with success.
When Li Shih-min ascended the throne, in A.D. 627, he called together all the literati of the Empire to take the Doctor's Examination in the capital. Our five graduates started for the metropolis, but, losing their way, were robbed by brigands, and had to beg help in order to reach the end of their journey. By good luck they all met in the temple San-i Ko, and related to each other the various hardships they had undergone. But when they eventually reached the capital the examination was over, and they were out in the streets without resources. So they took an oath of brotherhood for life and death. They pawned some of the few clothes they possessed, and buying some musical instruments formed themselves into a band of strolling musicians.
The first bought a drum, the second a seven-stringed guitar, the third a mandolin, the fourth a clarinet, and the fifth and youngest composed songs.
Thus they went through the streets of the capital giving their concerts, and Fate decreed that Li Shih-min should hear their melodies. Charmed with the sweet sounds, he asked Hsue Mao-kung whence came this band of musicians, whose skill was certainly exceptional. Having made inquiries, the minister related their experiences to the Emperor. Li Shih-min ordered them to be brought into his presence, and after hearing them play and sing appointed them to his private suite, and henceforth they accompanied him wherever he went.
The Emperors Strategy
The Emperor bore malice toward Chang T'ien-shih, the Master of the Taoists, because he refused to pay the taxes on his property, and conceived a plan to bring about his destruction. He caused a spacious subterranean chamber to be dug under the reception-hall of his palace. A wire passed through the ceiling to where the Emperor sat. He could thus at will give the signal for the music to begin or stop. Having stationed the five musicians in this subterranean chamber, he summoned the Master of the Taoists to his presence and invited him to a banquet. During the course of this he pulled the wire, and a subterranean babel began.
The Emperor pretended to be terrified, and allowed himself to fall to the ground. Then, addressing himself to the T'ien-shih, he said: "I know that you can at will catch the devilish hobgoblins which molest human beings. You can hear for yourself the infernal row they make in my palace. I order you under penalty of death to put a stop to their pranks and to exterminate them."
The Musicians are Slain
Having spoken thus, the Emperor rose and left. The Master of the Taoists brought his projecting mirror, and began to seek for the evil spirits. In vain he inspected the palace and its precincts; he could discover nothing. Fearing that he was lost, he in despair threw his mirror on the floor of the reception-hall.
A minute later, sad and pensive, he stooped to pick it up; what was his joyful surprise when he saw reflected in it the subterranean room and the musicians! At once he drew five talismans on yellow paper, burned them, and ordered his celestial general, Chao Kung-ming, to take his sword and kill the five musicians. The order was promptly executed, and the T'ien-shih informed the Emperor, who received the news with ridicule, not believing it to be true. He went to his seat and pulled the wire, but all remained silent. A second and third time he gave the signal, but without response. He then ordered his Grand Officer to ascertain what had happened. The officer found the five graduates bathed in their blood, and lifeless.
The Emperor, furious, reproached the Master of the Taoists. "But," replied the T'ien-shih, "was it not your Majesty who ordered me under pain of death to exterminate the authors of this pandemonium?" Li Shih-min could not reply. He dismissed the Master of the Taoists and ordered the five victims to be buried.
The Emperor Tormented
After the funeral ceremonies, apparitions appeared at night in the place where they had been killed, and the palace became a babel. The spirits threw bricks and broke the tiles on the roofs.
The Emperor ordered his uncomfortable visitors to go to the T'ien-shih who had murdered them. They obeyed, and, seizing the garments of the Master of the Taoists, swore not to allow him any rest if he would not restore them to life.
To appease them the Taoist said: "I am going to give each of you a wonderful object. You are then to return and spread epidemics among wicked people, beginning in the imperial palace and with the Emperor himself, with the object of forcing him to canonize you."
One received a fan, another a gourd filled with fire, the third a metallic ring to encircle people's heads, the fourth a stick made of wolves' teeth, and the fifth a cup of lustral water.
The spirit-graduates left full of joy, and made their first experiment on Li Shih-min. The first gave him feverish chills by waving his fan, the second burned him with the fire from his gourd, the third encircled his head with the ring, causing him violent headache, the fourth struck him with his stick, and the fifth poured out his cup of lustral water on his head.
The same night a similar tragedy took place in the palace of the Empress and the two chief imperial concubines.
T'ai-po Chin-hsing, however, informed Yue Huang what had happened, and, touched with compassion, he sent three Immortals with pills and talismans which cured the Empress and the ladies of the palace.
The Graduates Canonized
Li Shih-min, having also recovered his health, summoned the five deceased graduates and expressed his regret for the unfortunate issue of his design against the T'ien-shih. He proceeded: "To the south of the capital is the temple San-i Ko. I will change its name to Hsiang Shan Wu Yueeh Shen, 'Fragrant Hill of the Five Mountain Spirits.' On the twenty-eighth day of the ninth moon betake yourselves to that temple to receive the seals of your canonization." He conferred upon them the title of Ti, 'Emperor.'
The Ministry of Medicine
The celestial Ministry of Medicine is composed of three main divisions comprising: (1) the Ancestral Gods of the Chinese race; (2) the King of Remedies, Yao Wang; and (3) the Specialists. There is a separate Ministry of Smallpox. This latter controls and cures smallpox, and the establishment of a separate celestial Ministry is significant of the prevalence and importance of the affliction. The ravages of smallpox in China, indeed, have been terrific: so much so, that, until recent years, it was considered as natural and inevitable for a child to have smallpox as for it to cut its teeth. One of the ceremonial questions addressed by a visitor to the parent of a child was always Ch'u la hua'rh mei yu? "Has he had the smallpox?" and a child who escaped the scourge was often, if not as a rule, regarded with disfavour and, curiously enough, as a weakling. Probably the train of thought in the Chinese mind was that, as it is the fittest who survive, those who have successfully passed through the process of "putting out the flowers" have proved their fitness in the struggle for existence. Nowadays vaccination is general, and the number of pockmarked faces seen is much smaller than it used to be—in fact, the pockmarked are now the exception. But, as far as I have been able to ascertain, the Ministry of Smallpox has not been abolished, and possibly its members, like those of some more mundane ministries, continue to draw large salaries for doing little or no work.
The chief gods of medicine are the mythical kings P'an Ku, Fu Hsi, Shen Nung, and Huang Ti. The first two, being by different writers regarded as the first progenitor or creator of the Chinese people, are alternatives, so that Fu Hsi, Shen Nung, and Huang Ti may be said to be a sort of ancestral triad of medicine-gods, superior to the actual God or King of Medicine, Yao Wang. Of P'an Ku we have spoken sufficiently in Chapter III, and with regard to Fu Hsi, also called T'ien Huang Shih, 'the Celestial Emperor,' the mythical sovereign and supposed inventor of cooking, musical instruments, the calendar, hunting, fishing, etc., the chief interest for our present purpose centres in his discovery of the pa kua, or Eight Trigrams. It is on the strength of these trigrams that Fu Hsi is regarded as the chief god of medicine, since it is by their mystical power that the Chinese physicians influence the minds and maladies of their patients. He is represented as holding in front of him a disk on which the signs are painted.
The Ministry of Exorcism
The Ministry of Exorcism is a Taoist invention and is composed of seven chief ministers, whose duty is to expel evil spirits from dwellings and generally to counteract the annoyances of infernal demons. The two gods usually referred to in the popular legends are P'an Kuan and Chung K'uei. The first is really the Guardian of the Living and the Dead in the Otherworld, Feng-tu P'an Kuan (Feng-tu or Feng-tu Ch'eng being the region beyond the tomb). He was originally a scholar named Ts'ui Chio, who became Magistrate of Tz'u Chou, and later Minister of Ceremonies. After his death he was appointed to the spiritual post above mentioned. His best-known achievement is his prolongation of the life of the Emperor T'ai Tsung of the T'ang dynasty by twenty years by changing i, 'one,' into san, 'three,' in the life-register kept by the gods. The term P'an Kuan is, however, more generally used as the designation of an officer or civil or military attendant upon a god than of any special individual, and the original P'an Kuan, 'the Decider of Life in Hades,' has been gradually supplanted in popular favour by Chung K'uei, 'the Protector against Evil Spirits.'
The Exorcism of 'Emptiness and Devastation'
The Emperor Ming Huang of the T'ang dynasty, also known as T'ang Hsuean Tsung, in the reign-period K'ai Yuean (A.D. 712-742), after an expedition to Mount Li in Shensi, was attacked by fever. During a nightmare he saw a small demon fantastically dressed in red trousers, with a shoe on one foot but none on the other, and a shoe hanging from his girdle. Having broken through a bamboo gate, he took possession of an embroidered box and a jade flute, and then began to make a tour of the palace, sporting and gambolling. The Emperor grew angry and questioned him. "Your humble servant," replied the little demon, "is named Hsue Hao, 'Emptiness and Devastation,'" "I have never heard of such a person," said the Emperor. The demon rejoined, "Hsue means to desire Emptiness, because in Emptiness one can fly just as one wishes; Hao, 'Devastation,' changes people's joy to sadness. "The Emperor, irritated by this flippancy, was about to call his guard, when suddenly a great devil appeared, wearing a tattered head-covering and a blue robe, a horn clasp on his belt, and official boots on his feet. He went up to the sprite, tore out one of his eyes, crushed it up, and ate it. The Emperor asked the newcomer who he was. "Your humble servant," he replied, "is Chung K'uei, Physician of Tung-nan Shan in Shensi. In the reign-period Wu Te (A.D. 618-627) of the Emperor Kao Tsu of the T'ang dynasty I was ignominiously rejected and unjustly defrauded of a first class in the public examinations. Overwhelmed with shame, I committed suicide on the steps of the imperial palace. The Emperor ordered me to be buried in a green robe [reserved for members of the imperial clan], and out of gratitude for that favour I swore to protect the sovereign in any part of the Empire against the evil machinations of the demon Hsue Hao." At these words the Emperor awoke and found that the fever had left him. His Majesty called for Wu Tao-tzu (one of the most celebrated Chinese artists) to paint the portrait of the person he had seen in his dream. The work was so well done that the Emperor recognized it as the actual demon he had seen in his sleep, and rewarded the artist with a hundred taels of gold. The portrait is said to have been still in the imperial palace during the Sung dynasty.
Another version of the legend says that Chung K'uefs essay was recognized by the examiners as equal to the work of the best authors of antiquity, but that the Emperor rejected him on account of his extremely ugly features, whereupon he committed suicide in his presence, was honoured by the Emperor and accorded a funeral as if he had been the successful first candidate, and canonized with the title of Great Spiritual Chaser of Demons for the Whole Empire.
The Goddess of Mercy
The Guardian Angel of Buddhism
As Mary is the guiding spirit of Rome, so is Kuan Yin of the Buddhist faith.
According to a beautiful Chinese legend, Kuan Yin. when about to enter Heaven, heard a cry of anguish rising from the earth beneath her, and, moved by pity, paused as her feet touched the glorious threshold. Hence her name 'Kuan (Shih) Yin' (one who notices or hears the cry, or prayer, of the world).
Kuan Yin was at one time always represented as a man; but in the T'ang dynasty and Five Dynasties we find him represented as a woman, and he has been generally, though not invariably, so represented since that time.
In old Buddhism Shakyamuni was the chief god, and in many temples he still nominally occupies the seat of honour, but he is completely eclipsed by the God or Goddess of Mercy.
"The men love her, the children adore her, and the women chant her prayers. Whatever the temple may be, there is nearly always a chapel for Kuan Yin within its precincts; she lives in many homes, and in many, many hearts she sits enshrined. She is the patron goddess of mothers, and when we remember the relative value of a son in Chinese estimation we can appreciate the heartiness of the worship. She protects in sorrow, and so millions of times the prayer is offered, 'Great mercy, great pity, save from sorrow, save from suffering,' or, as it is in the books, 'Great mercy, great pity, save from misery, save from evil, broad, great, efficacious, responsive Kuan Yin Buddha,' She saves the tempest-tossed sailor, and so has eclipsed the Empress of Heaven, who, as the female Neptune, is the patroness of seamen; in drought the mandarins worship the Dragon and the Pearly Emperor, but if they fail the bronze Goddess of Mercy from the hills brings rain. Other gods are feared, she is loved; others have black, scornful faces, her countenance is radiant as gold, and gentle as the moon-beam; she draws near to the people and the people draw near to her. Her throne is upon the Isle of Pootoo [P'u T'o], to which she came floating upon a water-lily. She is the model of Chinese beauty, and to say a lady or a little girl is a 'Kuan Yin' is the highest compliment that can be paid to grace and loveliness. She is fortunate in having three birthdays, the nineteenth of the second, sixth, and ninth moons." There are many metamorphoses of this goddess.
The Buddhist Saviour
"She is called Kuan Yin because at any cry of misery she 'hears the voice and removes the sorrow.' Her appellation is 'Taking-away-fear Buddha,' If in the midst of the fire the name of Kuan Yin is called, the fire cannot burn; if tossed by mountain billows, call her name, and shallow waters will be reached. If merchants go across the sea seeking gold, silver, pearls, and precious stones, and a storm comes up and threatens to carry the crew to the evil devil's kingdom, if one on board calls on the name of Kuan Yin, the ship will be saved. If one goes into a conflict and calls on the name of Kuan Yin, the sword and spear of the enemy fall harmless. If the three thousand great kingdoms are visited by demons, call on her name, and these demons cannot with an evil eye look on a man. If, within, you have evil thoughts, only call on Kuan Yin, and your heart will be purified, Anger and wrath may be dispelled by calling on the name of Kuan Yin. A lunatic who prays to Kuan Yin will become sane. Kuan Yin gives sons to mothers, and if the mother asks for a daughter she will be beautiful. Two men—one chanting the names of the 6,200,000 Buddhas, in number like the sands of the Ganges, and the other simply calling on Kuan Yin—have equal merit. Kuan Yin may take the form of a Buddha, a prince, a priest, a nun, a scholar, any form or shape, go to any kingdom, and preach the law throughout the earth."
Miao Chuang desires an Heir
In the twenty-first year of the reign of Ta Hao, the Great Great One, of the Golden Heavenly Dynasty, a man named P'o Chia, whose first name was Lo Yue, an enterprising kinglet of Hsi Yii, seized the throne for twenty years, after carrying on a war for a space of three years. His kingdom was known as Hsing Lin, and the title of his reign as Miao Chuang.
The kingdom of Hsing Lin was, so says the Chinese writer, situated between India on the west, the kingdom of T'ien Cheng on the south, and the kingdom of Siam on the north, and was 3000 li in length. The boundaries differ according to different authors. Of this kingdom the two pillars of State were the Grand Minister Chao Chen and the General Ch'u Chieh. The Queen Pao Te, whose maiden name was Po Ya, and the King Miao Chuang had lived nearly half a century without having any male issue to succeed to the throne. This was a source of great grief to them. Po Ya suggested to the King that the God of Hua Shan, the sacred mountain in the west, had the reputation of being always willing to help; and that if he prayed to him and asked his pardon for having shed so much blood during the wars which preceded his accession to the throne he might obtain an heir.
Welcoming this suggestion, the King sent for Chao Chen and ordered him to dispatch to the temple of Hua Shan the two Chief Ministers of Ceremonies, Hsi Heng-nan and Chih Tu, with instructions to request fifty Buddhist and Taoist priests to pray for seven days and seven nights in order that the King might obtain a son. When that period was over, the King and Queen would go in person to offer sacrifices in the temple.
Prayers to the Gods
The envoys took with them many rare and valuable presents, and for seven days and seven nights the temple resounded with the sound of drums, bells, and all kinds of instruments, intermingled with the voices of the praying priests. On their arrival the King and Queen offered sacrifices to the god of the sacred mountain.
But the God of Hua Shan knew that the King had been deprived of a male heir as a punishment for the bloody hecatombs during his three years' war. The priests, however, interceded for him, urging that the King had come in person to offer the sacrifices, wherefore the God could not altogether reject his prayer. So he ordered Ch'ien-li Yen, 'Thousand-li Eye,' and Shun-feng Erh, 'Favourable-wind Ear,'  to go quickly and ascertain if there were not some worthy person who was on the point of being reincarnated into this world.
The two messengers shortly returned, and stated that in India, in the Chiu Ling Mountains, in the village of Chih-shu Yuean, there lived a good man named Shih Ch'in-ch'ang, whose ancestors for three generations had observed all the ascetic rules of the Buddhists. This man was the father of three children, the eldest Shih Wen, the second Shih Chin, and the third Shih Shan, all worthy followers of the great Buddha.
The Murder of the Tais
Wang Che, a brigand chief, and thirty of his followers, finding themselves pursued and harassed by the Indian soldiers, without provisions or shelter, dying of hunger, went to Shih Wen and begged for something to eat. Knowing that they were evildoers, Shih Wen and his two brothers refused to give them anything; if they starved, they said, the peasants would no longer suffer from their depredations. Thereupon the brigands decided that it was a case of life for life, and broke into the house of a rich family of the name of Tai, burning their home, killing a hundred men, women, and children, and carrying off everything they possessed.
The local t'u-ti at once made a report to Yue Huang.
"This Shih family," replied the god, "for three generations has given itself up to good works, and certainly the brigands were not deserving of any pity. However, it is impossible to deny that the three brothers Shih, in refusing them food, morally compelled them to loot the Tai family's house, putting all to the sword or flames. Is not this the same as if they had committed the crime themselves? Let them be arrested and put in chains in the celestial prison, and let them never see the light of the sun again."
"Since," said the messenger to the God of Hua Shan, "your gratitude toward Miao Chuang compels you to grant him an heir, why not ask Yue Huang to pardon their crime and reincarnate them in the womb of the Queen Po Ya, so that they may begin a new terrestrial existence and give themselves up to good works?" As a result, the God of Hua Shan called the Spirit of the Wind and gave him a message for Yue Huang.
A Message for Yue Huang
The message was as follows: "King Miao Chuang has offered sacrifice to me and begged me to grant him an heir. But since by his wars he has caused the deaths of a large number of human beings, he does not deserve to have his request granted. Now these three brothers Shih have offended your Majesty by constraining the brigand Wang Che to be guilty of murder and robbery. I pray you to take into account their past good works and pardon their crime, giving them an opportunity of expiating it by causing them all three to be reborn, but of the female sex, in the womb of Po Ya the Queen.  In this way they will be able to atone for their crime and save many souls." Yue Huang was pleased to comply, and he ordered the Spirit of the North Pole to release the three captives and take their souls to the palace of King Miao Chuang, where in three years' time they would be changed into females in the womb of Queen Po Ya.
Birth of the Three Daughters
The King, who was anxiously expecting day by day the birth of an heir, was informed one morning that a daughter had been born to him. She was named Miao Ch'ing. A year went by, and another daughter was born. This one was named Miao Yin. When, at the end of the third year, another daughter was born, the King, beside himself with rage, called his Grand Minister Chao Chen and, all disconsolate, said to him, "I am past fifty, and have no male child to succeed me on the throne. My dynasty will therefore become extinct. Of what use have been all my labours and all my victories?" Chao Chen tried to console him, saying, "Heaven has granted you three daughters: no human power can change this divine decree. When these princesses have grown up, we will choose three sons-in-law for your Majesty, and you can elect your successor from among them. Who will dare to dispute his right to the throne?"
The King named the third daughter Miao Shan. She became noted for her modesty and many other good qualities, and scrupulously observed all the tenets of the Buddhist doctrines. Virtuous living seemed, indeed, to be to her a second nature.
Miao Shan's Ambition
One day, when the three sisters were playing in the palace garden of Perpetual Spring, Miao Shan, with a serious mien, said to her sisters, "Riches and glory are like the rain in spring or the morning dew; a little while, and all is gone. Kings and emperors think to enjoy to the end the good fortune which places them in a rank apart from other human beings; but sickness lays them low in their coffins, and all is over. Where are now all those powerful dynasties which have laid down the law to the world? As for me, I desire nothing more than a peaceful retreat on a lone mountain, there to attempt the attainment of perfection. If some day I can reach a high degree of goodness, then, borne on the clouds of Heaven, I will travel throughout the universe, passing in the twinkling of an eye from east to west. I will rescue my father and mother, and bring them to Heaven; I will save the miserable and afflicted on earth; I will convert the spirits which do evil, and cause them to do good. That is my only ambition."
Her Sisters Marry
No sooner had she finished speaking than a lady of the Court came to announce that the King had found sons-in-law to his liking for his two elder daughters. The wedding-feast was to be the very next day. "Be quick," she added, "and prepare your presents, your dresses, and so forth, for the King's order is imperative." The husband chosen for Miao Ch'ing was a First Academician named Chao K'uei. His personal name was Te Ta, and he was the son of a celebrated minister of the reigning dynasty. Miao Yin's husband-elect was a military officer named Ho Feng, whose personal name was Ch'ao Yang. He had passed first in the examination for the Military Doctorate. The marriage ceremonies were of a magnificent character. Festivity followed festivity; the newly-wed were duly installed in their palaces, and general happiness prevailed.
Miao Shan's Renunciation
There now remained only Miao Shan. The King and Queen wished to find for her a man famous for knowledge and virtue, capable of ruling the kingdom, and worthy of being the successor to the throne. So the King called her and explained to her all his plans regarding her, and how all his hopes rested on her.
"It is a crime," she replied, "for me not to comply with my father's wishes; but you must pardon me if my ideas differ from yours."
"Tell me what your ideas are," said the King.
"I do not wish to marry," she rejoined. "I wish to attain to perfection and to Buddhahood. Then I promise that I will not be ungrateful to you."
"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 the 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 Nirvana, 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 solicitation, 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-ssu. 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."
Miao Chuang summoned the messengers and inquired the result of their efforts. "She is more unapproachable than ever," they replied; "she has even ordered us to ask the Queen to obtain your Majesty's permission to retire to the Nunnery of the White Bird in Lung-shu Hsien."
The King gave his permission, but sent strict orders to the nunnery, instructing the nuns to do all in their power to dissuade the Princess when she arrived from carrying out her intention to remain.
Her Reception at the Nunnery
This Nunnery of the White Bird had been built by Huang Ti, and the five hundred nuns who lived in it had as Superior a lady named I Yu, who was remarkable for her virtue. On receipt of the royal mandate, she had summoned Cheng Cheng-ch'ang, the choir-mistress, and informed her that Princess Miao Shan, owing to a disagreement with her father, would shortly arrive at the temple. She requested her to receive the visitor courteously, but at the same time to do all she could to dissuade her from adopting the life of a nun. Having given these instructions, the Superior, accompanied by two novices, went to meet Miao Shan at the gate of the temple. On her arrival they saluted her. The Princess returned the salute, but said: "I have just left the world in order to place myself under your orders: why do you come and salute me on my arrival? I beg you to be so good as to take me into the temple, in order that I may pay my respects to the Buddha." I Yu led her into the principal hall, and instructed the nuns to light incense-sticks, ring the bells, and beat the drums. The visit to the temple finished, she went into the preaching-hall, where she greeted her instructresses. The latter obeyed the King's command and endeavoured to persuade the Princess to return to her home, but, as none of their arguments had any effect, it was at length decided to give her a trial, and to put her in charge of the kitchen, where she could prepare the food for the nunnery, and generally be at the service of all. If she did not give satisfaction they could dismiss her.
She makes Offering to the Buddha
Miao Shan joyfully agreed, and proceeded to make her humble submission to the Buddha. She knelt before Ju Lai, and made offering to him, praying as follows: "Great Buddha, full of goodness and mercy, your humble servant wishes to leave the world. Grant that I may never yield to the temptations which will be sent to try my faith." Miao Shan further promised to observe all the regulations of the nunnery and to obey the superiors.
This generous self-sacrifice touched the heart of Yue Huang, the Master of Heaven, who summoned the Spirit of the North Star and instructed him as follows: "Miao Shan, the third daughter of King Miao Chuang, has renounced the world in order to devote herself to the attainment of perfection. Her father has consigned her to the Nunnery of the White Bird. She has undertaken without grumbling the burden of all the work in the nunnery. If she is left without help, who is there who will be willing to adopt the virtuous life? Do you go quickly and order the Three Agents, the Gods of the Five Sacred Peaks, the Eight Ministers of the Heavenly Dragon, Ch'ieh Lan, and the t'u-ti to send her help at once. Tell the Sea-dragon to dig her a well near the kitchen, a tiger to bring her firewood, birds to collect vegetables for the inmates of the nunnery, and all the spirits of Heaven to help her in her duties, that she may give herself up without disturbance to the pursuit of perfection. See that my commands are promptly obeyed." The Spirit of the North Star complied without delay.
The Nunnery on Fire
Seeing all these gods arrive to help the novice, the Superior, I Yu, held consultation with the choir-mistress, saying: "We assigned to the Princess the burdensome work of the kitchen because she refused to return to the world; but since she has entered on her duties the gods of the eight caves of Heaven have come to offer her fruit, Ch'ieh Lan sweeps the kitchen, the dragon has dug a well, the God of the Hearth and the tiger bring her fuel, birds collect vegetables for her, the nunnery bell every evening at dusk booms of itself, as if struck by some mysterious hand. Obviously miracles are being performed. Hasten and fetch the King, and beg his Majesty to recall his daughter."
Cheng Cheng-ch'ang started on her way, and, on arrival, informed the King of all that had taken place. The King called Hu Pi-li, the chief of the guard, and ordered him to go to the sub-prefecture of Lung-shu Hsien at the head of an army corps of 5000 infantry and cavalry. He was to surround the Nunnery of the White Bird and burn it to the ground, together with the nuns. When he reached the place the commander surrounded the nunnery with his soldiers, and set fire to it. The five hundred doomed nuns invoked the aid of Heaven and earth, and then, addressing Miao Shan, said: "It is you who have brought upon us this terrible disaster."
"It is true," said Miao Shan. "I alone am the cause of your destruction." She then knelt down and prayed to Heaven: "Great Sovereign of the Universe, your servant is the daughter of King Miao Chuang; you are the grandson of King Lun. Will you not rescue your younger sister? You have left your palace; I also have left mine. You in former times betook yourself to the snowy mountains to attain perfection; I came here with the same object. Will you not save us from this fiery destruction?"
Her prayer ended, Miao Shan took a bamboo hairpin from her hair, pricked the roof of her mouth with it, and spat the flowing blood toward Heaven. Immediately great clouds gathered in all parts of the sky and sent down inundating showers, which put out the fire that threatened the nunnery. The nuns threw themselves on their knees and thanked her effusively for having saved their lives.
Hu Pi-li retired, and went in haste to inform the King of this extraordinary occurrence. The King, enraged, ordered him to go back at once, bring his daughter in chains, and behead her on the spot.
The Execution of Miao Shan
But the Queen, who had heard of this new plot, begged the King to grant her daughter a last chance. "If you will give permission," she said, "I will have a magnificent pavilion built at the side of the road where Miao Shan will pass in chains on the way to her execution, and will go there with our two other daughters and our sons-in-law. As she passes we will have music, songs, feasting, everything likely to impress her and make her contrast our luxurious life with her miserable plight. This will surely bring her to repentance."
"I agree," said the King, "to counter-order her execution until your preparations are complete." Nevertheless, when the time came, Miao Shan showed nothing but disdain for all this worldly show, and to all advances replied only: "I love not these pompous vanities; I swear that I prefer death to the so-called joys of this world." She was then led to the place of execution. All the Court was present. Sacrifices were made to her as to one already dead. A Grand Minister pronounced the sacrificial oration.
In the midst of all this the Queen appeared, and ordered the officials to return to their posts, that she might once more exhort her daughter to repent. But Miao Shan only listened in silence with downcast eyes.
The King felt great repugnance to shedding his daughter's blood, and ordered her to be imprisoned in the palace, in order that he might make a last effort to save her. "I am the King," he said; "my orders cannot be lightly set aside. Disobedience to them involves punishment, and in spite of my paternal love for you, if you persist in your present attitude, you will be executed to-morrow in front of the palace gate."
The t'u-ti, hearing the King's verdict, went with all speed to Yue Huang, and reported to him the sentence which had been pronounced against Miao Shan. Yue Huang exclaimed: "Save Buddha, there is none in the west so noble as this Princess. To-morrow, at the appointed hour, go to the scene of execution, break the swords, and splinter the lances they will use to kill her. See that she suffers no pain. At the moment of her death transform yourself into a tiger, and bring her body to the pine-wood. Having deposited it in a safe place, put a magic pill in her mouth to arrest decay. Her triumphant soul on its return from the lower regions must find it in a perfect state of preservation in order to be able to re-enter it and animate it afresh. After that, she must betake herself to Hsiang Shan on P'u T'o Island, where she will reach the highest state of perfection."
On the day appointed, Commander Hu Pi-li led the condemned Princess to the place of execution. A body of troops had been stationed there to maintain order. The t'u-ti was in attendance at the palace gates. Miao Shan was radiant with joy. "To-day," she said, "I leave the world for a better life. Hasten to take my life, but beware of mutilating my body."
The King's warrant arrived, and suddenly the sky became overcast and darkness fell upon the earth. A bright light surrounded Miao Shan, and when the sword of the executioner fell upon the neck of the victim it was broken in two. Then they thrust at her with a spear, but the weapon fell to pieces. After that the King ordered that she be strangled with a silken cord. A few moments later a tiger leapt into the execution ground, dispersed the executioners, put the inanimate body of Miao Shan on his back, and disappeared into the pine-forest. Hu Pi-li rushed to the palace, recounted to the King full details of all that had occurred, and received a reward of two ingots of gold.
Miao Shan visits the Infernal Regions
Meantime, Miao Shan's soul, which remained unhurt, was borne on a cloud; when, waking as from a dream, she lifted her head and looked round, she could not see her body. "My father has just had me strangled," she sighed. "How is it that I find myself in this place? Here are neither mountains, nor trees, nor vegetation; no sun, moon, nor stars; no habitation, no sound, no cackling of a fowl nor barking of a dog. How can I live in this desolate region?"
Suddenly a young man dressed in blue, shining with a brilliant light, and carrying a large banner, appeared and said to her: "By order of Yen Wang, the King of the Hells, I come to take you to the eighteen infernal regions."
"What is this cursed place where I am now?" asked Miao Shan.
"This is the lower world, Hell," he replied. "Your refusal to marry, and the magnanimity with which you chose an ignominious death rather than break your resolutions, deserve the recognition of Yue Huang, and the ten gods of the lower regions, impressed and pleased at your eminent virtue, have sent me to you. Fear nothing and follow me."
Thus Miao Shan began her visit to all the infernal regions. The Gods of the Ten Hells came to congratulate her.
"Who am I," asked Miao Shan, "that you should deign to take the trouble to show me such respect?"
"We have heard," they replied, "that when you recite your prayers all evil disappears as if by magic. We should like to hear you pray."
"I consent," replied Miao Shan, "on condition that all the condemned ones in the ten infernal regions be released from their chains in order to listen to me."
At the appointed time the condemned were led in by Niu T'ou ('Ox-head') and Ma Mien ('Horse-face'), the two chief constables of Hell, and Miao Shan began her prayers. No sooner had she finished than Hell was suddenly transformed into a paradise of joy, and the instruments of torture into lotus-flowers.
Hell a Paradise
P'an Kuan, the keeper of the Register of the Living and the Dead, presented a memorial to Yen Wang stating that since Miao Shan's arrival there was no more pain in Hell; and all the condemned were beside themselves with happiness. "Since it has always been decreed," he added, "that, in justice, there must be both a Heaven and a Hell, if you do not send this saint back to earth, there will no longer be any Hell, but only a Heaven."
"Since that is so," said Yen Wang, "let forty-eight flag-bearers escort her across the Styx Bridge [Nai-ho Ch'iao], that she may be taken to the pine-forest to reenter her body, and resume her life in the upper world."
The King of the Hells having paid his respects to her, the youth in blue conducted her soul back to her body, which she found lying under a pine-tree. Having reentered it, Miao Shan found herself alive again. A bitter sigh escaped from her lips. "I remember," she said, "all that I saw and heard in Hell. I sigh for the moment which will find me free of all impediments, and yet my soul has re-entered my body. Here, without any lonely mountain on which to give myself up to the pursuit of perfection, what will become of me?" Great tears welled from her eyes.
A Test of Virtue
Just then Ju Lai Buddha appeared. "Why have you come to this place?" he asked. Miao Shan explained why the King had put her to death, and how after her descent into Hell her soul had re-entered her body. "I greatly pity your misfortune," Ju Lai said, "but there is no one to help you. I also am alone. Why should we not marry? We could build ourselves a hut, and pass our days in peace. What say you?" "Sir," she replied, "you must not make impossible suggestions. I died and came to life again. How can you speak so lightly? Do me the pleasure of withdrawing from my presence."
"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."
"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.
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.
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?"
"What special degree of ability have you attained during your course of perfection?" asked Miao Shan.
"I have no skill," replied Shan Ts'ai, "but I rely for everything on your great pity, and under your guidance I hope to reach the required ability."
"Very well," said Miao Shan, "take up your station on the top of yonder peak, and wait till I find a means of transporting you."
Miao Shan called the t'u-ti and bade him go and beg all the Immortals to disguise themselves as pirates and to besiege the mountain, waving torches, and threatening with swords and spears to kill her. "Then I will seek refuge on the summit, and thence leap over the precipice to prove Shan Ts'ai's fidelity and affection."
A minute later a horde of brigands of ferocious aspect rushed up to the temple of Hsiang Shan. Miao Shan cried for help, rushed up the steep incline, missed her footing, and rolled down into the ravine. Shan Ts'ai, seeing her fall into the abyss, without hesitation flung himself after her in order to rescue her. When he reached her, he asked: "What have you to fear from the robbers? You have nothing for them to steal; why throw yourself over the precipice, exposing yourself to certain death?"
Miao Shan saw that he was weeping, and wept too. "I must comply with the wish of Heaven," she said.
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 Yueeh 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 palace 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 Nue, 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 Nue 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 Yue Huang praying that the crime be not allowed to go unpunished. Yue 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.  "That which has been decreed is immutable," said Yue 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 get 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, and 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.
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. "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 Chen 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 Feng and Chao K'uei, who had already made secret preparations to succeed to the throne as soon as the King should breathe his 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.
Miao Shan had returned to Hsiang Shan, leaving in the palace the bodily form of the priest. She saw the two traitors Ho Feng and Chao K'uei preparing the poison, and was aware of their wicked intentions. Calling the spirit Yu I, who was on duty that day, she told him to fly to the palace and change into a harmless soup the poison about to be administered to the King and to bind the assassin hand and foot.
At midnight Ho Li, carrying in his hand the poisoned drink, knocked at the door of the royal apartment, and said to the Queen that the priest had prepared a soothing potion while awaiting the return of the ministers. "I come," he said, "to offer it to his Majesty." The Queen took the bowl in her hands and was about to give it to the King, when Yu I arrived unannounced. Quick as thought he snatched the bowl from the Queen and poured the contents on the ground; at the same moment he knocked over those present in the room, so that they all rolled on the floor.