Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tungusic-Altaic Proverbs & Folk Sayings From China


To see whether a horse is good or not, ride it; to see whether a friend is true or not, deal with him. ("The proof is in the pudding.")If you are not hospitable to your guests, no one will care for you when it is your turn to be out on the road. (In a nomadic, pastoral society, the last thing one might want to do is to alienate those in one's community.)

Those who are not aware of what is happening around them are like a wind without a direction.
(The key to survival in harsh regions is to be observant of the sometimes quickly changing world around you.)


A tongue has no bones but is still stronger than iron. (At least two possible interpretations: (1) "The pen is mightier than the sword"; (2) A vicious tongue-lashing at times can be worse than a physical lashing.)In times of adversity, a hero girds up his chest while a coward retracts his neck. (When trouble occurs, a true hero makes himself available.)

A true man talks of what he has seen, while a loafer talks of what he has eaten. (There is value in talking to the upright and the decent; the converse is also true.)

Parents place their hearts' desires in their sons, and sons place their hearts' desires in the wild plains. (A son, a young man, is bound to explore the limitless horizons; that is nature.)

The flood that takes sixty days to overflow may disappear in just six. (Nothing lasts forever, or "in like a lion and out like a lamb.")

Knowledge is like a jacket which never frays; wisdom is like a mine which is never exhausted. (A little knowledge goes a long way in life.)

Those who don't love their old horses finally end up walking. (Take a moment and be appreciative of the people and things that help you in your life. )

Reeds can't be found among grains of sand; shame can't be found among criminals. ("Leopards can't change their spots.")

A chicken dreams of pecking grains of yellow rice; a fox dreams of eating plump chickens. (Mandarin speakers might say, "Same bed--different dreams." English speakers might say, "To each his own," or as we might say in the US, thanks to Sly and the Family Stone, "Different strokes for different folks.")


The mountain you can see is not very far off. ("A journey of a thousand li begins with the first step.")

The lamb that leaves the fold is soon eaten by the wolf. ("United we stand; divided we fall." In life-and-death struggles, all must pull together; there is no time to play the maverick.)

You can't get any milk from a screaming calf. (All in due course; everything comes in its right time.)

Korean (Chaoxian)

Even a pile of dirt can eventually grow into a Mount Tai. (Those who work diligently will eventually be rewarded for their efforts. Mandarin speakers say, "The constant dripping of water can drill a hole through a rock.")

In a household of much squabbling, even the soy sauce tastes bitter. (The converse of "When you are in love, the whole world is beautiful.")

Only by wading in the water will you ever know how deep it is; only by spending much time with someone will you ever understand that person's heart. (It takes time to build a relationship!)

Honesty is a person's greatest treasure. (One's reputation of honesty will precede one wherever one goes. No one can ever rob another of such a reputation.)


A leopard without fangs is more timid than even a rabbit. (A person without without determination, inner strength, or confidence is just a shell.)

Sometimes it is easier to recover from a knife wound than a wound caused by words. (Words can hurt; they can ring in the ears and continue to slash the heart long after they were uttered.)

Consuming medicine that prolongs life isn't nearly as beneficial as laughing three times a day. ("Laughter is the best medicine!" as many have said.)

A bad dog fears a cudgel; a bad person fears the truth. (Just as Superman avoids kryptonite, the bad must flee from the truth.)

The smoothest road on a journey is the road you have already covered. (Rough times always lurk ahead, so be ready for them.)

The carpenter has no coffin of his own when he dies. (Who will care for those who have cared for everyone else when their time is up?)

It is better to break your bones than to break your reputation. ( A person's reputation is everything; it precedes that person wherever he/she goes, it makes his/her eligibility for employment irresistible, and it becomes the envy of others.)

The arrogant ants that climb to the tip of the bull's horn think they are on a mountain peak. (The smug and untalented are always easily satisfied with low standards and their own "accomplishments.")

When you eat what is sweet, take care not to forget what is bitter. (Remember what it took for you to get to wherever you are; moreover, never forget the sacrifices of those who came before you.)

Sibo/Sibe (Xibo)

Don't ever show a lazy cow where the well is! (The last thing lazy people need is for you to do everything for them.)

Whenever you cross a bridge, thank the builder a hundred times. (Be thankful for all the benefactors in your life.)

Too many carpenters on the job result in a lopsided house. (Too many cooks spoil the broth.)

One hundred hunters may chase a rabbit, but only one of them will end up catching it. (Life is full of chances and risks; only those who dare to take a chance or risk stand to win anything.)

Beneath an old saddle may be a fine stallion; beneath filthy rags may be a true saint. ("Don't judge a book by its cover.")The wealthy fear robbers; the poor fear guests. (We all have fears; they just differ from person to person.)

The child who doesn't cry doesn't get the milk. ("The squeaky wheel gets the grease.")

Even a snake can say it sometimes moves in a straight path. ("Every dog has its day"; also, "Even a broken clock is right twice a day" [often says Larry Elder, talk show host on AM 790, KABC] and "Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in a while [Al Rantel, talk show host on AM 790, KABC].)

A rich man's money is invested in medicine; a poor man's belongings are invested at the pawnbroker's. (Rich or poor, we all have to spend money.)


It is better to have nearby friends than faraway relatives. (In times of extreme need, we need to accept whatever help we can get.)


Sparrows that unite can defeat even a camel. (Anything is possible when people unite as one.)

Don't believe your enemy's tears. (In the West, we speak of "crocodile tears.")(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


All the proverbs are from the compilation of Zhang Dingya, Chen Zeping, Wang Huixiao, and Wen Qingbo.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Golden Horns of Sultan Iskendar (Uighur)

There was once a very powerful sultan named Iskendar. Growing out of the two sides of his head were a pair of golden but, at the same time, horrible horns. Now Sultan Iskendar lived in fear that someone might see his horns, for he thought if word got out, he would soon die. So Sultan Iskendar always wore a conical cap lest someone find out. Of course there was always at least one person who would know the Sultan's secret: his barber. Sultan Iskendar had his beard trimmed every Friday--he would have a splitting headache if he didn't. After the haircut, he would have that week's unfortunate barber quietly executed. All the Sultan's subjects knew a barber disappeared in the palace every week, but no one knew why or even dared to ask further about it.

It came to pass that a young barber was selected to cut the Sultan's hair one week; he was told to report to the palace the next day with his tools--brush, mirror and comb.

As this was the same as a death sentence, the young barber was nearly frightened out of his mind. He lay on his cot late that afternoon and thought over the prospects. Was there any escape? Could he refuse? No, there seemed no way out of it. His family was impoverished; maybe the Sultan would provide for them . . .

His mother saw that he was greatly distressed and asked him what was troubling him.

"I am done for, Mother," he replied. "I have been summoned to cut Sultan Iskendar's hair tomorrow morning."

His mother understood why her son was so upset and said, "Don't worry, my child. I know how to help you."

"How can you possibly help me, Mother? No barber has ever left the Sultan's palace alive!"

"Have courage," his mother replied. "Here's what I shall do. Tonight I shall fry you some naan."

"Fried oil cakes! What good will that do?" he cried.

"Wait. Just listen. Take the batch of naan to the palace. The Sultan will want to eat one. After he eats the oil cake, tell him that your mother made the oil cake with batter from her own milk. His eating the cake will make him your brother. How could he kill his own brother?"

The next morning the young barber arrived at the Sultan's palace, where he was ushered into a chamber to await the Sultan for the monarch's haircut. In time, Sultan Iskendar finally showed up.

"What is it that smells so wonderful?" asked the Sultan.

"Some fresh oil cakes fried just last night by my mother, Your Highness," answered the barber. "Would Your Highness care to try one?"

"Yes. Let me have one."

Well, before long, the Sultan had devoured each one in the bag.

"Now cut my hair and trim my beard!" he barked, removing his tall conical cap and revealing his two golden horns.

The barber gasped and cut the Sultan's hair, finishing by trimming his beard. As soon as the barber was finished, the Sultan quickly donned his cap and summoned a guard.

"You shall now be put to death," said Sultan Iskendar.

"Please wait, Your Highness!"

The Sultan turned his head and raised an eyebrow.

"Please wait before a mistake is made," said the barber.

"There is no mistake, barber," replied Sultan Iskendar. "You saw what you saw, and now your time has come."

"The naan, Your Highness, the oil cakes you just ate," stammered the barber. "Do you recall them?"

"Of course. They were delicious. What of them?"

"My mother made the batter for the cakes using her own milk. You ate oil cakes containing my mother's milk! That makes you, Your Highness, my own brother!"

The Sultan was stupefied. Yes, this would indeed make him a brother to the young barber. He couldn't very well kill his own brother. Sultan Iskendar dismissed the guard.

"Very well, barber," said the Sultan, sighing deeply. "So we are now brothers. Now, as my brother, you must swear before me never to reveal my secret."

The young barber knelt before him and swore an oath not to reveal that Sultan Iskendar had a pair of golden horns. The Sultan then instructed the barber to report to the palace at the same time every Friday and then sent the barber home.

The barber was then left with a terrible secret and after a few days could no longer rest. Instead, he paced back and forth in the day and tossed and turned on the cot all night. He felt the weight of his knowledge on his chest smothering him. His mother knew something was wrong and once again asked him what was troubling him.

"I have sworn to Sultan Iskendar to keep a secret, Mother, " he said. "I cannot tell you what it is, yet if I don't tell someone, I will burst."

"To the west lies the dark forest," she said. "In it is a bubbling spring. Go to the spring and say to it three times that which is troubling you. You will then feel better and not have to violate your oath to Sultan Iskendar."

The young barber followed his mother's advice and entered the dark forest. He found the bubbling spring. Making sure no one was around, he then leaned over and said to the spring: "Sultan Iskendar has two golden horns growing out of his head! Do not tell a soul!" He spoke this message a total of three times and left for home.

Days passed and soon a sturdy bamboo shoot grew from out of the spring. A shepherd boy spied the shoot, and thinking that it would make a fine flute, he chopped it down and drilled some holes into it. When he played it, the flute announced: "Sultan Iskendar has two golden horns growing out of his head! Do not tell a soul!" Strangely enough, each time the shepherd played the flute, it always made the same sound.

It so happened one day that Sultan Iskendar was out hunting with his retinue. From afar he heard the plaintive sounds of a flute. He headed in the direction the music was coming from, a village near the forest. He and his company entered the village, and he saw the shepherd boy playing his flute.

This is what he heard as he got closer: "Sultan Iskendar has two golden horns growing out of his head! Do not tell a soul!"

The Sultan was mortified. He asked the boy about the tune he was playing, and the boy answered that no matter what he tried to play, only those particular words would come out this flute cut from bamboo growing out of a spring.

The next morning Sultan Iskendar summoned his barber before him.

"How dare you not keep your word!" thundered the Sultan once he and the barber were alone.

"I don't understand, Your Highness!" the young barber replied. "I haven't told anyone!"

"You must have, you liar! Otherwise how could my secret have gotten out? I'm sure the whole land knows by now, thanks to you, O Brother of mine!"

"Your Highness, I thought I'd die if I didn't get this secret off my chest! All I did was whisper the secret to a spring in the forest . . . "

"A spring in the forest? A spring in the forest? Where bamboo reeds grow?"

Sultan Iskendar's face turned as red as ox blood, and he gnashed his teeth. He then fell stone dead upon his marble floor.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Liu, p. 40-44

Iskendar is the historical Alexander the Great, a figure much respected in the Islamic world (Cavendish, 115). Ranelagh tells us that Alexander was depicted as wearing ram's horns, which he donned after visiting the Egyptian temple of Zeus-Ammon, the ram's horns being the symbol of Ammon. In time the figure of Alexander became associated with the mythical monarch Dhu al-Quarnain, or "Two Horned" (Ranelagh, 79). In the Greek myth of Midas, it is ass ears, of course, not horns, that the monarch must conceal. Milk is an element that initiates and, to a certain degree, equalizes; accordingly, Chevalier and Gheerbrant relate that Mary's nursing of St. Bernard made him, in effect, Christ's brother (654-655). Motifs: B23.3, "Man with horns on his head"; N465, "Barber who lets secret out"; P313, "Brotherhood through the partaking of milk from the same woman."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Journey of the Two Worms (Manchu)

Many, many years ago, two worms--an older but dumb worm and his younger but clever brother--lived together in the moist soil by Jingbo Lake. Whatever hard work was to be done, you could count on the older brother to do it cheerfully without complaint. As for the younger brother, well, he did all the thinking for the pair.

Now one fine morning, the younger worm, having done some deep thinking, slithered up to his older brother and said, "Say, I have heard that not far from here lives a very old worm, and this old worm can teach worms like us how to become dragons. Let's go seek this old wise worm and ask him to become our teacher. Who knows? Perhaps we'll even become dragons!"

"Splendid idea! Let's go," responded the older worm, and off they went.

After many days of slithering through mud and crawling over rocks, they finally arrived at the spot this wise old worm called his home. The younger worm, used to doing all the talking, respectfully approached the wise worm and asked him to teach him and his brother how to become dragons.

"So, you two wish to become dragons," said the old wise worm. "Very well. I agree to accept you as my students but only on one condition: You must follow every one of my instructions."

"Absolutely, Master," said the younger worm. "We shall follow your words without question."

And so the two brother worms stayed by the side of their teacher and did what he said, working all day long every day, doing what worms do--turning the soil over and over. Needless to say, it was grimy, gritty and thankless work, but still they worked away harder than they had ever done before.

After one particularly grueling afternoon of turning the soil, the younger worm crawled next to his brother and, making sure their master was out of earshot, said to him, "I have just about had it with all this backbreaking work. Why, we're no closer to becoming dragons now than we were when we started. I am beginning to think that this teacher of ours is nothing but a humbug."

"Hush!" cried the older worm, shocked at his younger brother's attitude. "How dare you speak that way about our teacher."

"All right, all right. Just hear me out. Let's just ask him how long it's going to be for us to become dragons. There's no harm in that, is there?"

"I guess not," the older brother answered, and they went to ask their teacher the big question.

Once again the younger brother did all the talking. "Master," he said, "we've been working hard without complaint for six long months, and we have yet to turn into dragons. With all respect, may I ask you how much longer it will take?"

"I've been expecting this question for some time now," replied the wise old worm. "I know you both have been working very hard, and so today I shall tell you how you may finally become dragons. Starting tomorrow you are to go to the nearby farm field. There, you are to plow the field for exactly one hundred days. After one hundred days, you are to make your way to Jingbo Lake. Once you arrive there, you will have become dragons."

The two worms were joyful at the news, and early the next morning they headed for the farm field where they were to plow for one hundred days. Turning the soil was one thing, but actual plowing, quite another. However, plow they did for ninety-eight days.

On the morning of the ninety-ninth day, the younger worm came to a decision. Working like this is crazy, he said to himself. If my brother wants to work for a full one hundred days, he can go ahead. I shall head for Jingbo Lake today and plow as I go. One day can't possibly make a big difference! So while his older brother was faithfully plowing away, the younger brother sneaked off without a word and headed toward the lake, plowing as he went.

He began to feel a bit strange as he slithered and plowed and slithered and plowed his way to the lake. He felt his head grow larger and larger as he made his way. "It's happening!" he shouted with glee. "I'm beginning to look like a dragon!" He was very close to the shores of Jingbo Lake when thunder and lightning sent him scurrying back into the earth. When he reemerged at the shore, he discovered he was stuck and unable to move. He now had the head of a dragon but still the body of a little worm. All he could do was lie with his face in the cold water of the lake, lapping up all the water he could drink whenever he was thirsty. There he remained, perhaps even to this day.

And what of the older brother? He plowed a full one hundred days, and then and only then did he crawl to the lake. When he reached the shore, he discovered that he had indeed turned into a real dragon, a lovely and lucky white dragon that to this day resides at the bottom of Jingbo Lake.

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Heilongjiang minjian gushixuan 31, p. 559-562.

European versions also exist. Motifs: B11.1.3.1, "Dragon from worm"; and D418.2.7, "Worm transformed to other animal." Jingbo Lake ("Mirror Lake") is in Heilongjiang Province, near Mudanjiang.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Tiger, the Yak and the Fox (Mongol)

Once a tiger cub encountered a yak calf on the edge of some woods. Not knowing they were supposed to hate each other, they soon became fast friends, in fact, best of friends, and remained inseparable. In time, they grew up together. The tiger's roar thundered throughout the four directions, while the yak's horns grew so that they could pierce the oldest pine trees. No matter what, they stayed closest of friends and lived together.

All the animals of the forest looked up to the tiger and the yak because of the way they lived in harmony. "They're both very powerful, yet they don't fight each other!" they cried. "See how they live in peace? We smaller creatures should be able to do the same."

Now there was one animal who was not happy about this. No, he was not happy at all. He was a fox, and he was jealous of the tiger and yak's brotherly love for each other. Being the vicious little creature he was, he decided to do something to break up this friendship.

One day, while the tiger was lounging by himself under a tree, the fox came by, sniffling and rubbing his eyes.

"What's the matter with you, Fox?" asked the tiger. "Why are you crying?"

"Oh, it's for you that I am crying," answered the fox.

"For me? What do you mean?"

"Well," replied the fox, "you are about to be done in by your worst enemy, and you don't even realize it." The tiger's ears perked up as the fox continued. "I overheard your so-called 'friend,' the yak, tell a snake, 'Tomorrow morning I shall get up, wag my tail and gore the tiger before he even knows what happens!'"

"That's ridiculous!" laughed the tiger. "Why, the yak and I are best friends and always have been so. Besides, I am not afraid of any beast, be he my friend or enemy."

"Tiger, I am telling you as a friend to beware," said the fox. "Our friend the snake said he had overheard the yak's plan to kill you. 'I'll just rise tomorrow, wag my tail and puncture that pompous striped cat,' Yak said!"

"Very well," said the tiger, now quite angry. "We shall see about this tomorrow morning. Now you beware; if you are lying, I shall pull your hide off!"

The fox nodded and then crept away to locate the yak, which he did in a nearby field. The yak spotted him, and he, the fox, began to sob.

"What happened?" inquired the fox. "Why are you crying?"

"Oh, poor Yak!" cried the fox. "My tears are for you!"

"Oh?" asked the yak. "Explain."

"The tiger, your 'friend,' is planning to kill you tomorrow morning!"

"No. That's impossible," said the yak. "We're best friends. You and all the animals know that. I don't believe you."

"Listen carefully to what I am going to tell you," said the fox very solemnly. "I heard the tiger tell a snake, 'Tomorrow morning, I shall stretch my body, wave my paws and then pounce upon that big stupid yak. I'll devour him in seconds!'"

"I fear no one, let alone a tiger," said the yak. "I still don't believe you, but just the same I'll keep my eyes open. Now if I discover you are trying to trick me, I'll gore you."

The fox nodded and stole away.

The next morning both the tiger and yak awoke at the same time and warily eyed each other. The yak's tail began to sway and wag just as the tiger stretched his body and flexed his paws.

Immediately, the same thought came to both of them: The fox was right! He's going to kill me!

They both sprang into action. The tiger went for the yak's throat and chest, slashing them through to the very bone. The yak punctured the tiger's ribs with his horns and blood flowed everywhere. The two animals went at it for what seemed like an eternity until both dropped to the ground, stone dead, as a large cloud of dust covered them.

When he was sure that the tiger and the yak were good and dead, the fox brought his cubs over to the two carcasses.

"Look, children," he said, "we have enough meat to last us for a mighty long while! Now, one of you go and fetch our friends and tell them to joins us!"

(from The Wonderful Treasure Horse)


Mengu minjian gushi, p. 92-94.

This fable is a variant of AT 59*, "The Jackal as Troublemaker."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Complete Bibliography for The White-Nosed Cat

(1) Sources for the Tales

Cang Dewu, ed. Taiwan minjian gushi 3. (Taiwanese folktales, Vol. 3). Taipei: Yongan Chubanshe, 1976.

Chen Di. Chaozhou minjian gushi. (Chaozhou folktales.) Hong Kong: Yuzhou Shudian, 1969.

Chen Qinghao & Wang Qiugui, eds. Fujian minjian gushiji. (A collection of folktales from Fujian). Vol. 2 of Zhongguo minjian gushi quanji. (The complete folktale collection of China). 40 vols. Taipei: Yuanliu Chubanshe, 1989.

__________, eds. Guangdong minjian gushiji. (A collection of folktales from Guangdong). Vol. 3 of Zhongguo minjian gushi quanji.

Chen Yixiu & Chen Fang, eds. Hanjiang gushilin. (A forest of stories from the Han River). Hong Kong: Nanyue Chubanshe, 1986.

China Folk Literature Association, Fujian Branch, eds. Jiuli hude gushi. (Stories from Jiuli Lake). Fuzhou: Fujian Renmin Chubanshe, 1984.

Guan Han & Wei Gan, eds. Guangdong minjian gushixuan. (A selection of folktales from Guangdong). Guangzhou: Huacheng Chubanshe, 1982.

Huang Deshi, ed. Taiwan minjian gushi jingxuan. (A special selection of Taiwanese folktales). Taipei: Qingwen Chubanshe, 1981.

Huang Rongcan. Fujian minjian chuanqi. (Folk legends from Fujian). Hong Kong: Luotuo Chubanshe, 1978.

Jia Zhi & Sun Jianbing, eds. Vol. 2 of Zhongguo minjian gushixuan. (A selection of Chinese folktales). 2 vols. 1958. Beijing: Renmin Chubanshe, 1980.

Jiang Tao, ed. "Guangzhou minjian chuanshuo." (Guangzhou folk legends). Zhongguo chuanji: minjian gushi. (Chinese legends: folktales). Taipei: Zhangyan Chubanshe, 1987.

__________, ed. "Quanzhou minjian chuanshuo." (Quanzhou folk legends.) Zhongguo chuanji: minjian gushi.

Liao Yuwen. Taiwan shenhua. (Taiwanese myths.) N.P.: Xuanfeng Shushe, 1978.

Qiu Jie, ed. Taiwan minjian gushi xuanji 2. (A collection of Taiwanese folktales, Vol. 2). Taipei: Yongan Chubanshe, 1973.

Shi Cuifeng, ed. Taiwan minjian gushi. (Taiwanese folktales.) N.P.: Hebei Shaonian Ertong Chubanshe, 1987.

Shi Siwei, ed. Taiwan minjian gushixuan. (A selection of folktales from Taiwan). Beijing: Shishi Chubanshe, 1985.

Wang Shizhen. Zhongguo shenhua: shiji bian. (Chinese myths: achievements). Taipei: Xingguang Chubanshe, 1981.

Ye Chunsheng & Liu Kelan, eds. Guangzhou chuanshuo. (Legends from Guangzhou). Shanghai: Shanghai Wenyi Chubanshe, 1985.

Zhuo Zhonglin & Chen Huiping, eds. Minjian wenxuejuan. (Folk literature archives). Fuzhou: Haixia Wenyi Chubanshe, 1990.

Zhi Nong, ed. Fujian chuanshuo miyu. (Legends and riddles from Fujian). 1956. Taipei: Orient Cultural Service, 1970.

(2) Works Cited

Aarne, Antti & Stith Thompson. The Types of the Folktale. 1961. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Burkhardt, V.R. Chinese Creeds and Customs. 1954. Taipei: Caves Bookstore, 1977.

Chen Yixiao. Foxue changjian cihui. (A glossary of common terms in Buddhism). Yinzhou: Ningxia Renmin Chubanshe, 1994.

Chen Yundong. Kejiaren. (The Hakka people). 1978. Taipei: Lianya Chubanshe, 1983.

Chinnery, John. "China." World Mythology. Ed. Roy Willis. New York: Henry Holt, 1993.

Chou Hongwei. "Niutou mamian." (Oxhead and Horseface). Zhongguo minjian xinyang fengsu cidian. (A dictionary of Chinese folk beliefs and customs). Eds. Wang Jinlin and Xu Tao. Beijing: Zhongguo Wenyi Chubanshe, 1992.

Cornelius, Geoffrey. Starlore: An Essential Guide to the Night Sky. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1997.

Dorson, Richard M. Folk Legends of Japan. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle, 1971.

Eberhard, Wolfram. Chinese Festivals. Asian Folklore and Social Life Monographs. Vol. 38. Taipei: Orient Cultural Service, 1972.

__________. A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought. 1986. London: Routledge, 1996.

__________, ed. Folktales of China. 1965. New York: Washington Square Press, 1973.

__________. Studies in Hakka Folktales. 2 vols. 1974. Taipei: Orient Cultural Service, 1983.

Fischer-Schreiber, Ingrid. The Shambhala Dictionary of Taoism. Trans. Werner Wunsche. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.

Guo Hui. "Niulang." (Cowherd). Zhongguo minjian xinyang fengsu cidian.

Iwasaka, Michiko & Barre Toelken. Ghosts and the Japanese: Cultural Experience in Japanese Death Legends. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1994.

Li Yingqiu. Miaozu minjian gushi. (Hmong folktales). Taipei: Mutong Chubanshe, 1978.

Lin Zaifu. Minnanren. (The Minnan People). 1974. Taipei: Zhiyin Chubanshe, 1985.

Liu Yahu. "Longwang." (Dragon king). Zhongguo minjian xinyang fengsu cidian.

Ong Hean-Tatt. Chinese Animal Symbolisms. 1993. Selangor Darul Ehsan: Pelanduk Publications, 1997.

Shang Yingshi, ed. Zhongguorende suhua. (Folk sayings of the Chinese). Taipei: Changchun Shufang, 1989.

Thompson, Stith. Motif-Index of Folk Literature. (6 vols). Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University, 1958.

Ting Nai-tung. A Type Index of Chinese Folktales. Helsinki: Folklore Fellows Communication, 1978.

Wang Jinglin. "Chenghuang." (City god). Zhongguo minjian xinyang fengsu cidian.

Williams, C.A.S. Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives. 1931. Taipei: Huangjia, 1978.

Xiang Yang, ed. Taiwan minsu tuhui. (Taiwanese folk illustrations). Taipei: Luocheng Chubanshe, 1986.

Xu Tao. "Shidian yanwang." (Ten kings of hell). Zhongguo minjian xinyang fengsu cidian.

Yang Liangcai, et al. Zhongguo minjian wenyi cidian. (Dictionary of Chinese folk literary arts). Lanzhou: Gansu Renmin Chubanshe, 1989.

Yuan Ke. Shenhua gushi xinbian. (A new edition of myths). 1963. Beijing: Zhongguo Qingnian Chubanshe, 1979.

__________. Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian. (Dictionary of Chinese myths and legends). Hong Kong: Shangwu, 1986.

Zheng Shaohong, ed. Zhongguo bixie wenhua daguan. 2 vols. (An overview on the culture of Chinese apotropaics). Guangzhou: Huacheng Chubanshe, 1994.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bao Gu and Cui Wei (Guangdong)

It was during the Feast of All Souls, or the Ghost Holiday. That, of course, is right in the middle of the Month of Ghosts, the seventh month of the lunar calendar.

Right outside the Sanyuan Palace, on a platform, an opera performance was underway. An ocean of onlookers was jostling, pushing, shoving, taking in the opera for a few minutes, or a few seconds, before moving off to the rows and rows of food and goods stalls, with the hawkers screaming their lungs out, calling out to the visitors to come and sample their wares.

Into the noisy throng stepped young scholar Cui Wei, taking a day off from his studies to enjoy all the sounds and sights.

The crowd grew very large and surged like the waves of the ocean itself. Cui Wei was concerned for an elderly beggar woman he spotted about ten people away from himself. The crowd then suddenly surged in a direction, sending the old woman falling against a wine stall, upsetting a jug of wine, which then crashed to the ground.

The wine seller immediately came from around the stall, grabbed the old woman by her collar, and shouted to her, "All right, you, pay up! I mean it! Pay up now or else!"

Alarmed for the woman's safety, Cui Wei rushed over and spoke to the wine seller.

"Please let her go! I'll pay for the wine. How much do I owe you?"

"How much?" asked the wine seller, letting the woman go. "I'll tell you how much! A string of copper coins! Do you have that much on you?"

Cui Wei fished around in his pockets. "No, I don't, but listen. I'll give you my outer garment. Surely you can sell it for more than a string of copper coins. What do you say?"

The wine seller agreed. Cui Wei took off his outer garment and handed it to the man. Cui Wei then turned to the old beggar woman, but she had already turned away and headed into the crowd, her head hanging low, leaving without saying as much as a "thank you."

Oh, well, thought Cui Wei. He didn't need any thanks to perform a good deed. He continued his outing and soon forgot about the whole thing.

A few nights later, he was completely startled when, responding to persistent knocking on the gate of his residence, he came face to face with the same beggar woman.

"Young man," she said, "I am tremendously grateful for your saving me the other night. I've come to give you something you might find useful." She handed him a small sack. "Inside are mugwort cones. Do you know anyone with a wart or some kind of growth? Burn a cone upon it and it will fall right off! Please accept these cones as a token of my gratitude!"

Before Cui Wei could say a word, the old beggar woman had vanished into air, astounding Cui Wei even more.

A few days later, Cui Wei visited a temple. There he encountered a monk with a growth the size of small teacup right on his ear. He told the monk about his mugwort cones and how the mysterious old woman had guaranteed the cones could remove any growth or wort. Was the monk interested? Yes, he was indeed. He was very interested, even excited, about the prospect of having his unsightly lump finally removed. Cui Wei hurried home, retrieved his sack of mugwort cones, and quickly returned to the temple. He had the monk lie down on a cot and then placed a cone on the lump. He lit the cone and within minutes, the huge growth completely fell off the monk's ear.

The monk was ecstatic.

"Listen," said the monk, "not far from here, by the mountain, is the Ren mansion. Mr. Ren is a major temple donor. He has a tumor the size of a papaya lodged next to his ear! Here's what I'll do. I'll write you a letter of introduction to Mr. Ren. Take your cones over to his home now and remove his tumor the way you removed mine. He'll be very grateful."

Soon, Cui Wei had arrived at the sprawling Ren mansion. Before long, after showing his letter of introduction to the head servant, he was ushered in to meet Mr. Ren himself. The monk had not exaggerated a bit about the size of Mr. Ren's growth. It was truly the size of a papaya.

"Can you remove this?" asked Mr. Ren, pointing to the tumor hanging from below his ear. "It is painful to carry this around."

"Let's see if the melon is ripe!" said Cui Wei, who had Mr. Ren lie down. He proceeded to place a mugwort cone upon Mr. Ren's giant tumor and then soon burned it right off.

"Splendid! Splendid!" cried the delighted Mr. Ren. He snapped his fingers for his head servant. He whispered something to the man; the servant disappeared from the room and soon reappeared with a string of coins worth 100,000 imperial dollars! Mr. Ren pressed the money into the reluctant scholar's hands.

"Mr. Ren, I . . . I . . . can't possibly . . . " stammered Cui Wei.

"Take it! I insist! You more than deserve this money," Mr. Ren said. "I have one more favor to ask of you. I want you to stay with us as long as you like, as a most honored guest of my family. Will you do me this great honor?"

Well, of course, Cui Wei agreed, as Mr. Ren was so earnest and insistent.

Hearing "yes," Mr. Ren told his servant to show Cui Wei his quarters. He then left, rubbing his hands together in delight.

What Cui Wei didn't realize, what no one living outside the Ren mansion had ever imagined, was that the friendly Mr. Ren, the great temple donor and fabulously wealthy merchant, was as evil as a lame wolf. Mr. Ren and a few of his cohorts secretly worshipped a false and evil entity, the so-called "one-legged god." This evil spirit required a human sacrifice every three years. The head of the dead person would be offered to the one-legged god. The three years were now up, and, as he had been unable to find a victim, Mr. Ren quickly decided to select Cui Wei, even though Cui Wei had just relieved him of a painful, unsightly tumor.

Late at night, when Cui Wei was fast asleep in his guest bedroom, the head servant sealed Cui Wei's door, making sure that there would be no escape for Cui Wei when Mr. Ren and his accomplices came for him early in the morning.

Fortunately for Cui Wei, he had a secret friend, an ally, someone who was watching out for him.

Mr. Ren's daughter had suspected her father was going to murder Cui Wei; however, she liked Cui Wei. Her suspicions were confirmed when she secretly witnessed the head servant double locking Cui Wei's door. After the head servant had left, she went to the kitchen, took a long kitchen knife and then went outside. She tiptoed over to Cui Wei's window and tapped on the pane. Cui Wei got up and opened the window.

"Mr. Cui," she whispered, "take this knife and leave here immediately! My father is planning to sacrifice you to his one-legged ghost-god before sunrise. Leave, now!"

Cui Wei thanked Miss Ren and took the knife. He gathered up his things, including his bag of mugwort cones, and jumped the short distance out the window. He started running for the gate.

Way behind him he could hear many voices and the falling of many running footsteps.

"Did she just help him get away?!"

"Hey, you! Stop! Stop, I say!"

Cui Wei didn't stop to turn around. He sprinted the best he could and pushed himself over the wooden gate. He continued to run as voices shouted at him.

"Come back here! Come back here!"

He had made it out of the compound! There was no time to take a breather, though, for there were a number of people still after him. He ran across the dark field.

"He is over there! After him! Don't let him get away!"

With no time to slow down or to turn around, Cui Wei kept running.

Suddenly, there was nothing but air below him.

He had fallen into an old well and landed on top of many leaves and twigs from an old tree growing out the side of the well not far above the floor. He lay still, listening to the pounding feet and voices above him.

"Where'd he go? Find him!" cried a voice from above. "Better find him or there'll be trouble from Mr. Ren for sure!"

"Ha! Don't I know it! Let's spread out and comb every inch!"

The voices grew fainter and fainter. Soon they were gone altogether.

Cui Wei looked around him. It was hard to see the mouth of the well. Clearly there would be no escaping, if escape was possible, until daylight. Cui Wei sighed and tried to sleep.

Dawn came.

Cui Wei awoke, stretched and looked about him. The well was cavernous; it could hold an army of men and horses! He walked around. There, by the wall of the well, lay a dragon, all curled up, licking water dripping into the well and onto a stone with a hollowed top. It looked up at Cui Wei with big mournful eyes and returned to its activity of drinking water.

"Oh, Dragon Lord, can you help me leave this place?" he asked the dragon.

The dragon sighed and continued to drink.

Cui Wei knelt down by the dragon's head and petted it. He then noticed that upon the dragon's tongue was a huge lump that made drinking or licking water and eating very laborious and certainly painful.

"Dragon Lord, I can help you!" he cried. Help, yes, but how? Cui Wei then thought. How can I light a fire in this damp well? "I need fire, O, Dragon Lord! I can help you if you let me!"

Flaming sparks came down the well. Were they produced by some sympathetic god who sent them down? Who knows? It didn't matter; Cui Wei took out a mugwort cone and lit it with the sparks before they died one by one.

He placed a lighted cone on the dragon's tongue. As expected, the huge tumor rolled right off its tongue and onto the floor of the well.

The dragon stretched, shook and lifted itself up. Life itself had now returned to the dragon. From its mouth rolled a beautiful pearl right towards Cui Wei.

"Many thanks, Dragon Lord, but I really do not need a pearl at this time! I need you to get me out of here! Can you, please?"

The dragon nodded its head. Its tongue shot out and grabbed the pearl, which the dragon then swallowed. It then slithered over to Cui Wei, who moved his legs apart and allowed the dragon to move between them. Cui Wei then sat down upon the dragon's back and held on for dear life.

The dragon raised its head and then shot out of the well with Cui Wei still holding on. They both came to earth near the Sanyuan Palace.

Cui Wei got off the dragon. It vanished into thin air before he had a chance to express his thanks.

Just as he was pondering all that had happened to him, a chuckling old man came up to him.

"You, young scholar," said the old man, still laughing, "are the one I've been instructed to tell everyone about!"

"I beg your pardon?" asked Cui Wei.

"Yes! You are the one with the healing mugwort cones, the one who can rid people of growths, lumps, tumors!"

"And who told you all this?"

The jolly old man pointed to a nearby old well, known locally as the Bao Gu well.

"She did!"

"She?" asked Cui Wei. "But that's a well. You mean Bao Gu herself?"

The old man laughed and then he himself vanished before Cui Wei's eyes.

He had seemed to come full circle. The whole adventure had actually started here, in front of the Sanyuan Palace a few days ago when he had come to the aid of the old beggar woman who was being badgered by the wine seller. This was the well he had fallen into, though? This far from the Ren mansion? How could that be possible? Yet, here he was.

Then it dawned on him.

The old woman had been none other than Bao Gu herself, the daughter of the famed alchemist Bao Jing who used to concoct pills of immortality on the spot where the Sanyuan Palace now stood. All that had happened since he had rescued Bao Gu--Miss Ren's aiding him, his falling into the well, his landing next to the dragon, the sparks that fell from heaven, his flight from the well, the spreading of the word of his skill with the mugwort--all had been orchestrated by Bao Gu.

Eventually, Cui Wei's fame as a healer with mugwort cones did spread, and people with large growths sought him. When he heard that Bao Gu was now preparing pills of immortality up on Luofu Mountain, he went in search of her. No one ever heard from him again.


Ye & Liu, p. 11-15.

The Taoist-oriented fifteenth day of the seventh month has been conflated with the Buddhist remembrance and feast day for the dead, Ullambana. On this day, food is set out for the hungry ghosts. Different regions of China have different methods of observing this day and other noted days that fall within the seventh lunar month, "the month of ghosts." No doubt the fifteenth might be more festive in some areas than in others; however, according to my recollections of Taiwan thirty years ago, this time of the year was one of somber observance and not very joyful. Indeed, I remember hearing how many loathed to engage in unnecessary travel during the whole lunar month. Temples like the famed Longshan Temple in Taipei were bustling with different projects and services, but I don't recall anyone looking forward to this particular day's activities. These days, apparently, this day of the month can become quite rollicking in some areas, if the videos on Youtube are any indication.

The "one-legged god" may be a variant of "the one-legged ghost," which, according to Yuan Ke, is said to appear in nightmares and thus kill dreamers; other one-legged ghosts behave more like the mischievous goblins and elves of European folklore by stealing clothes and food from larders but otherwise not harming people (
Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian, 280).

Motif: B512, "Medicine shown by animal."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

In a Bowl of Rice (Guangdong)

In the home of a wealthy merchant lived a very wicked young woman, the merchant's third daughter, San Xiaojie. Among her servants was a woman named Mama Lai who had worked for the family for years. She was a hard worker, and everyone generally liked her and paid no attention to San Xiaojie's spiteful stories about her.

One evening, San Xiaojie discovered Mama Lai wrapping up some of the leftover rice just before returning to her own home.

"Stop. Stop. Just what are you doing?" asked San Xiaojie.

"I'm just taking what wasn't eaten home with me to give to my aunt. Your father always lets me do so."

"Oh . . . " said San Xiaojie, watching Mama Lai leave. "Very well, then."

The next night, San Xiaojie asked Mama Lai to do a quick chore just as the servant woman had finished wrapping her aunt's leftover rice.

"Go out to the storehouse. Make sure that you covered the jars of sugar. I believe you were the last one out there."

"Yes, of course, San Xiaojie."

As soon as Mama Lai left, San Xiaojie opened the package of rice and then scattered upon it chicken droppings she had picked up and saved earlier in the day. She then carefully rewrapped the rice. Mama Lai returned a few minutes later and took the package of rice topped with chicken droppings home with her.

Once at home, Mama Lai poured the rice and its unsavory additions into a bowl for her aunt.

"Here, Auntie," she said, putting a pair of chopsticks into the older woman's hands, "have your dinner."

After one mouthful, however, the older woman violently spat out the food.

"What are you trying to do?" the aunt cried. "Are you trying to poison me after all the years I took care of you, now that I finally need you?"

"I don't . . . I don't understand, Auntie . . . "

"You are feeding me chicken dirt!"

Mama Lai looked at the rice and saw that it indeed was heavily laced with chicken droppings. She tearfully took the bowl down to the river to rinse it. Brushing away her tears, she took the bowl of rice and was about to plunge it into the water.

"Hey! What are you doing?"

She looked up and saw what appeared to be a Taoist priest. She told him what had happened and that she and her aunt were so poor that she couldn't bear to throw away even this bowl of polluted rice.

"Don't rinse that way," he said. "Allow me, please."

He gently took the bowl of rice from Mama Lai's hand and dipped it into the water. When it came out, it was full of gleaming, puffy rice.

"What? Rice?" she asked. "Can it be eaten?"

"Take it home and reheat it in your skillet," said the man. "See how good it is."

Mama Lai thanked the holy man and hurried home with the rice.

Just as she was ready to pour the rice into her skillet, she discovered that each grain of rice had turned into a pearl!

Mama Lai just about fainted.

"Auntie," she said, "we're rich!"

Early the next morning, Mama Lai went to San Xiaojie's home to tender her resignation. When San Xiaojie asked her how she could afford to quit, Mama Lai told her the whole story of how chicken droppings had somehow gotten mixed up in her rice and how a kindly old Taoist priest had rinsed the rice for her, rice which later turned into pearls! And with that, Mama Lai was gone.

If she can get pearls, thought San Xiaojie, I can get pearls too!

She quickly went out to the chicken coop and scooped up a bowl of chicken droppings. She then poured the contents onto a bowl of rice and waited for nightfall. At night, she took the polluted bowl of rice to the river and slowly extended the bowl toward the dark river water.

"Hold it!" cried a voice. "What are you doing?"

She looked up. Sure enough, it was an old Taoist priest.

Feigning despair, San Xiaojie said, "Oh, I'm going to rinse out this bowl of rice! My poor old mother was eating rice, and somehow chicken droppings got mixed in . . ."

"Say no more. Allow me, if you will," he said, taking the bowl from her hand and dipping it into the river. He handed back to her a bowl of fluffy white rice. "Take it home and then reheat it in a skillet."

She thanked the priest and fled back home. She feverishly searched for a skillet. Having found one, she hurriedly dumped the rice into the skillet, expecting pearls to tumble out of the bowl, but, no, only rice was there.

Hmm, she thought, that's odd. Where are the pearls?

She looked closely. It was rice, all right, but it smelled positively delicious. Her family members were there too, and they all smelled the rice.

"Fragrant rice!" said her brother. "Let me have some!"

"Oh, very well!" she said at last.

Everyone sat down at the table, and each person nibbled on his and her small portion of rice. Soon something odd began to happen.

"I feel strange," said San Xiaojie. "Oh! What's this! Look at my hands!"

Her hands, even between the knuckles, started sprouting thick brown hair, as did the hands of everyone else at the dinner table. Soon she and everyone there had long dark hair covering not only their arms but also their legs and much of their faces.

"No! No! Nooo! Hoo! Hooo! Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!" as each cried, discovering his and her own tail.

Alas, the whole family had turned into a bunch of smelly, hairy jabbering monkeys!

Guangzhou minjian gushi, Jiang Tao, ed.;  148-149.

There are many stories about monkeys and apes, some highlighting their cunning and mischievousness and others, their hideousness and depravity. The best known monkey in Chinese literature remains the headstrong but heroic Sun Wukong of the epic fantasy Xiyu Ji, or Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng'en of the Ming dynasty. The great scholar Arthur Waley's much beloved translation, Dear Monkey, remains very popular to this day. Motif: Q551.3.24, "Punishment: Transformation into monkey."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

To the Other Realm and Back (Fujian)

A long time ago, in the city of Quanzhou, there lived two sworn brothers, Mr. Wang and Mr. Li. Both were retired merchants and life-long friends. However, one day Wang came down with a fierce illness and died shortly afterwards. Li was beside himself with grief. On the day of the funeral, he sobbed uncontrollably for his lost friend and felt like neither eating nor sleeping for many days after. Eventually, though, he realized that life must go on and became determined to continue life without his friend, Wang.

One evening, Li had a particularly vivid dream in which Wang came to visit him.

"Is it really you?" Li asked.

"Yes, it is," Wang replied. "I'm back but only for a short while. I work in the Land of the Dead now and must return soon." Wang then turned serious for a moment. "Look," he said, "I have something to tell you. There is a way for us to meet. I will teach you a spell. All you need to do is to repeat this spell as you take a nap at noon while on your bed. If you do so, we'll be able to meet again in my new home. Now listen carefully. Here is the spell . . . "

Then, in the dream, Wang slowly recited the incantation, the words of which were familiar to Li, though he had never before heard them in that sequence. When Li awoke from his dream, he immediately wrote down the spell and then committed it to memory.

The next day at noon, Li decided to test the spell. He lay down on his bed and recited the formula as he drifted off to sleep. As he was promised, he soon found himself in the shadow world. And before long he was able to locate Wang, now a mandarin in one of the Courts of Hell. The two old friends had a wonderful lunch together until Li woke up.

In time Li became quite adept at entering the Land of the Dead and visited his friend there every day.

One day, Li's beloved grandson came to visit. After playing with the boy all morning, Li felt worn out and in need of a noontime nap. After telling the boy a story, Li said that he wanted to rest and to close his eyes and suggested the little boy do the same. Li had been looking forward to meeting Wang for their daily lunchtime get-together, and so he began reciting the spell as he drifted off to sleep. His grandson was of the curious age, so he copied his grandfather's words and followed the old man to the Land of the Dead.

Once there, Li was surprised to find his grandson tagging along at his heels.

"What? You're here too?" he asked. "Very well. Go along and play. Your grandpa has an appointment to meet his friend. Stay in this area."

The little boy spotted a group of twelve children playing by a nearby wall.

"Can I play with them?" he asked.

"Fine. Be a good boy and don't stray," answered Li, who then turned around and went off to have lunch with Wang.

The grandson approached this noisy but friendly gathering of children. One was wearing a paper hat in the shape of a pig's head. The wearer of the hat was the "pig," and the others, the "farmers."

"Can I play too?" asked Li's grandson.

"Sure! Come on!" the children cried. "Put on the cap! You be the pig now!"

Their lunch meeting over, Li returned to our world, the yang sphere, having left the yin sphere. He woke up to find his grandson lying next to him, cold and still. He immediately recalled that his grandson had been with him there in the Land of the Dead. He shook his grandson, but the boy remained unresponsive.

Then it dawned on Li: his grandson was still behind with the dead.

Li then tried to go back to sleep to return to the Land of the Dead, but as hard as he tried to sleep, he just could not. Since the spell worked during noontime naps, he would have to wait until the next day.

The following day at noon, with his still grandson lying beside him, Li once again sent himself to the Land of the Dead.

"My grandson! My grandson!" he cried as he clutched his old friend Wang's arm. "Where is he?"

Li then told Wang that the boy was lying like a stone on his bed back in the other world.

"There must be something you can do!" implored Li.

"Yes. Yes, there is," said Wang. "Come with me."

The pair ran into the palace of the King of the Dead, King Yanluo. There, Wang looked through the Book of Life and Death.

"All right, listen to this!" said Wang. "According to the book, yesterday twelve children down here were scheduled to be reborn as pigs on a farm in the Xinghua District. Your grandson had been playing with them. Return to your world and go to Xinghua. Find the farmer whose sow has given birth to thirteen piglets. Your grandson will be the thirteenth of the litter. Once you butcher that piglet, your grandson will return to life. Make haste!"

Li woke up with a start and leaped out of bed. He ordered the priests and everyone else keeping a vigil around his grandson to let the boy be.

"There shall be no funeral!" he thundered and then promptly left for neighboring Xinghua.

After scouring all the farms in the area, he finally located a farm where thirteen piglets had been born. He bought the thirteenth one and had the farmer butcher it on the spot. At the same instant, miles away, in Li's house, Li's grandson suddenly sat up in bed, none the worse for his ordeal.


Jiang Tao, p. 67-69.

A version of this tale can be found in Eberhard's Folktales of China (82-83; 221). The story touches upon a tremendously important Buddhist concept found in the religious beliefs of China--reincarnation or transmigration, a concept also found in "The White-Nosed Cat." It is commonly believed deceased sinners are reborn as animals, such as pigs or insects; others who had been more noble in life may be reborn as humans. Motifs: E238, "Dinner with the dead"; E577, "Dead persons play games"; E611.3, "Man reincarnated as swine"; E721.2, "Body in trance while soul is absent"; F81.1.2, "Journey to the land of the dead to visit the deceased."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Evil Water Buffalo Demon (Fujian)

It is said that on Yellow Bear Mountain in Fujian Province there once lived a family of three--a grandfather and his two grandchildren. The oldest child, a boy named Zhang Gen, spent his days plowing and hunting with his grandfather. An adopted girl, Mei Zai, helped out with chores at home, as was the custom. When the grandfather reached the age of seventy-one, he came down with a sickness from which he did not recover. Zhang Gen took over all the farming and hunting duties while Mei Zai cared for the grandfather.

Before she died, Zhang Gen's mother had adopted Mei Zai with the hope that the orphaned girl would one day marry Zhang Gen, as was also the custom. And so, to comfort Grandfather, Zhang Gen and Mei Zai promised the old man that they would wed at the beginning of the next year.

However, it is said that "heaven has unpredictable winds and clouds, and humans have misfortunes on New Year's Eve," and it was on this particular New Year's Eve that the water buffalo demon appeared on Yellow Bear Mountain. The water buffalo demon had the horned head of a water buffalo and the body of a man. As if his fearsome appearance weren't enough, the water buffalo demon was also a master of black magic. Wherever he went in the human world, floods and fires followed.

Not long after New Year's Day, this monster saw Zhang Gen leave home to go hunting and Mei Zai standing in the doorway, bidding him farewell. He then walked up to the door after Mei Zai had closed it and rapped loudly. She opened the door a crack to behold this hideous creature.

"Marry me, and you shall have all the gold you could possibly want for the rest of your life!" he said, pushing the door farther open.

The frightened young woman grabbed her broom and pushed the water buffalo demon away before slamming the door shut.

Not used to being rebuffed, the demon then sought out Zhang Gen.

"Let me have Mei Zai, and you shall then have all the grain you can eat, all the silk you can wear, and all the gold and silver you can carry," he told the young hunter.

Enraged, Zhang Gen chased the demon away with his hoe.

Turning his head as he fled, the water buffalo demon said, "You've got three days to think over my offer. If the answer is no, you'll all die!"

Three days came and passed without incident, so once again, Zhang Gen went up the mountain, this time to do some woodcutting. While he was chopping away, he smelled smoke and noticed a huge pillar of black smoke rising downhill. He rushed down the mountain with his axe, encountering more and more dense smoke and, soon, flames. Hacking a clearing for himself, he made it out of the forest only to see his cottage totally enveloped in flames. His beloved Mei Zai and Grandfather had been inside and had not been able to make it out alive.

With fire of his own in his eyes now, Zhang Gen grabbed his axe and sought out the being responsible, the water buffalo demon. He darted back into the smoking forest. He ran and tumbled through the burning embers until his own clothes had been seared and torn and, now, smoking. He found the water buffalo demon by the village pond, refreshing himself.

Zhang Gen crept up behind the demon and cut him in half lengthwise. The two halves of the water buffalo demon fell upon the ground, and the demon stirred no more.

All the blood the demon lost that day stained the soil, and this explains why the soil of Yellow Bear Mountain is red to this day.

As strange as all these things were, an even stranger thing then happened: half of the water buffalo demon turned into a stone in the shape of a water buffalo, while the other half eventually decayed into bones and then dust. So well versed in magic had been the demon that its soul came back time and time again to plague the people of the mountain with floods and fires. Years later, after Zhang Gen was no longer around, a mysterious three-legged deer appeared on the mountain. Whenever the demon's spirit was about to start a fire or unleash a flood, the deer would emit a piercing shriek that could alert the entire village and allow everyone to move to safety. The people of the mountain were sure that Heaven had taken pity on them and then sent them the spirit of Zhang Gen in the form of the deer to protect them from the soul of the evil water buffalo demon.


Chen & Wang, p. 462-466

The odious and malevolent creature of this grim story is not the beloved family water buffalo of southeastern Chinese farming families. The minotaur-like creature here embodies other qualities of the buffalo or ox--raw male power and energy--making it resemble the legendary creatures of Western folktales and mythology. The demon in this story could even be an embodiment of the relentless, brutal and impersonal power of nature with which farmers all over the world must contend. Motifs: B23.1, "Minotaur"; B184.4, "Magic deer"; and E162.5, "Reincarnation as deer."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Da Jie: A Southeastern Chinese Cinderella (Fujian)

There was once a farmer who married a woman, but after giving birth to their first child, the woman died. The farmer then later remarried another woman, who then gave birth to another daughter. Shortly after all this, the farmer himself died. The second wife was now left with her stepdaughter, whom she simply called Da Jie, or "Big Sister"; her own daughter, whom she called Xia Mei (or, "younger sister with the pitted face" due to her early encounter with chicken pox); and the small farm, with its few cows, pigs and chickens. Unfortunately, this was no loving stepmother; she abused Da Jie and heaped scorn upon her, while showering Xia Mei with love and affection. Da Jie lived in constant fear of her stepmother's fists and pine switches, as if the older woman's heart-slashing, hope-crushing tongue weren't enough with which to deal.

One day the mother called the two girls and said to them, "It's high time the two of you did more chores around the house. Go to the back, and you shall find some bundles of raw hemp. Divide the hemp evenly between you, and make sure you have all the hemp threaded into ropes before nightfall or there'll be trouble, for sure!"

The two girls then went behind the house, scooped up the bundles of hemp, sat far apart from each other, and busily started working on their tasks.

Da Jie saw that it would be impossible to finish the job before dark. Since she feared her stepmother's anger, she began to cry as she pulled and twisted the hemp. The more she worked, the more she fretted, for she could see the sun going down. When she was about one-third done with her work, a cow, the one named Milk Maid, ambled over to her. It lowered its head and proceeded to eat up all the hemp--raw and newly made rope alike--right before the astonished girl's eyes!

"No, Milk Maid! No!" she cried. "I'm done for now!"

The cow did nothing but merely look at Da Jie with her big dull brown eyes. Da Jie, tired from threading hemp, lay down on the ground with her head on her arms and soon fell asleep. Milk Maid then burped and opened her mouth. Then out came a long, tight length of rope which coiled itself neatly on the ground in front of the sleeping girl. Da Jie awoke a moment later and rubbed her eyes in disbelief when she saw the neat and fresh rope. As for the cow, it now walked over to Xia Mei's side.

Xia Mei, who was in no real danger of being beaten or even scolded, saw an opportunity to get out of her work. She gathered all her raw and coiled hemp into a pile and pretended to cry. As Milk Maid drew near, Xia Mei cried even louder. Then, when the cow started munching on her hemp, she pretended to fall asleep. She had planned to keep her eyes closed for a few minutes longer but had to open them right away because of a terrible stench. She sat up with a start: before her was not a nice coil of rope like Da Jie's. No! Instead, before her was a huge pile of stinky cow patties over which swarmed circling and madly buzzing flies!

"Ma!" Xia Mei cried, running to her mother. "Oh, Ma!" She then told her mother about what Milk Maid had done.

"Aiyo, that diry old cow!" said the mother. "Don't worry. On the fifteenth of the month, I'll have the cow butchered."

Da Jie overheard this and ran to the cow.

"Milk Maid! Poor Milk Maid! Stepmother is going to have you killed on the fifteenth of the month!" she wept while hugging the cow.

"Ha! Let her go ahead and do so, the stupid woman!" said the cow. Da Jie nearly fainted when she heard the cow speak. "Don't worry," continued Milk Maid. "Let her and Xia Mei eat all the meat up, but you, Da Jie, must gather up all my bones in a chest and then bury the chest in the garden. Do you understand, child?"

Da Jie nodded. Milk Maid winked an eye and then left to eat some grass.

Well, the fifteenth of the month came, and, sure enough, the stepmother had poor Milk Maid slaughtered and cut up. That night, the stepmother and the two daughters sat around their wooden table and ate dinner. While Xia Mei and her mother gorged themselves on seldom eaten beef, Da Jie ate only rice and some vegetables.

When all the bones had been picked clean, Da Jie quietly gathered up the bones into a chest.

"What are you doing with those bones?" asked Xia Mei.

"Never mind her," responded her mother. "Finish your soup. Let her concern herself with those bones!"

Da Jie remembered what Milk Maid had said. She took the tub of bones out to the garden, and there, under the bright moonlight, she buried the bones.

One year later it was the day of the temple festival. Da Jie's stepmother and Xia Mei were preparing to leave home for the temple when Da Jie asked if she could go too.

"Of course you can," the older woman answered, "but you must do some things first. You must carry this basket over to the well, fill it with water and then wash the floor of the house."

The stepmother then handed Da Jie a bamboo basket that was naturally full of holes.

"Then," the stepmother continued, "shell each one of those peas in that other basket over there in the corner. Once all that's done, you may go to the festival."

The stepmother and her daughter then laughed and left the house.

Just as Da Jie was leaving to go to the well, a sparrow flew in through the window.

"Let me help you," said the bird, which then used many of its feathers to fill in the numerous gaps in the basket. Da Jie then needed to make only one visit to the well.

The sparrow next used its tiny body and wings to help dry the washed floor. And then, using its beak, the bird had the peas shelled in no time at all.

Da Jie was now done with the chores, but she could still not leave the house. She didn't have any proper clothes to wear to the temple fair and market. Her neighbors had nothing to lend her. What could she sell or trade to earn money so that she could buy something presentable to wear? She thought of the chest of bones buried in the backyard. Perhaps she could sell the chest. Maybe someone might even want the bones.

Out of desperation, she dug up the chest of cow bones only to discover a parcel encased in burlap lying in the chest. After unwrapping the burlap, she discovered a beautiful set of female clothes along with gold and silver ornaments like earrings and bracelets and rings. She quickly put on the dress, the earrings, rings and bracelets and headed for the temple fair.

An ocean of people had thronged the road leading to the temple. The road itself was lined on both sides with food stalls and hawkers selling charms and toys of all kinds. The stepmother and Xia Mei were there too. In fact, they walked up one side of the street while Da Jie walked down the opposite.

"Look, Mother!" said Xia Mei. "Look at that lovely girl across the street."

"Where? Where?"

"Over there, by the stick rice cake stall. Doesn't she look a little like Da Jie?"

"Nonsense! She looks nothing like her at all. Where would Da Jie get such clothes or gold bracelets? That girl over there must be the daughter of some rich merchant or mandarin. Come on. Let's get something to eat."

The two women walked farther away from Da Jie.

Actually, thought the stepmother, that elegant young woman does resemble Da Jie, but--no, she couldn't be!

Try as hard as she could, the stepmother was unable to put that girl out of her mind. When the stepmother arrived home, Da Jie was sweeping the front porch. The stepmother went next door and asked her neighbor if, by chance, Da Jie had come to borrow any clothing or ornaments.

"Yes, she was here," the woman next door said, "but we had no clothes to lend her, let alone gold or silver!"

At last the stepmother could forget about the beautiful girl she and her daughter had seen at the temple.

Now after Da Jie had seen the fair, she left for home. In her haste to get home, one of her gold rings fell onto the street. A handsome young scholar saw the ring fall onto the ground. He quickly snatched it up and called for his servant.

"Follow that young woman," he told the servant, "and see where she lives. Then tomorrow go and tell her that I believe I have her ring and that she is welcome to come to our home to try it on to make sure it is hers."

The next day the servant relayed the message to Da Jie. Da Jie then approached her stepmother and asked permission if she could go and retrieve her ring.

Instead of asking Da Jie if she had indeed been to the fair, the stepmother thought to herself, Hmm . . . a scholar with a servant is here to request Da Jie's presence. I smell marriage. If I play my cards right, maybe there will be some money in it for me.

"Go along, my dear," smiled the stepmother.

Soon Da Jie came face-to-face with the scholar. He was smitten by her beauty that existed with or without the fancy clothes and ornaments. When she easily slipped on the ring, the scholar asked for her hand in marriage. Da Jie thought about how her stepmother despised her and how much she wanted to be free of her. She replied yes to the scholar.

In a short time, Da Jie and the scholar were wed, and now she lived in his house. The stepmother, in turn, received a handsome payment for her agreement to the marriage.

A few days after Da Jie had left the farm for good, a sedan chair and pair of porters showed up outside the scholar's house.

"Your stepmother would like you to return home for a visit," one of the porters told Da Jie.

Da Jie didn't want to go at all, but her husband told her, "You probably should go, for she is your stepmother. Just go for a few days and then come back right away."

Da Jie sighed and climbed into the sedan chair because, after all, a custom is a custom.

When Da Jie arrived at her old home, her stepmother and Xia Mei fawned all over her, running their hands over her silk gowns and lightly brushing her gold earrings with their hands. Entwining their arms in hers, they led her inside. They entreated her to take off her expensive new clothes and put on some of her old clothes.

"Go and put these on, Da Jie," said the stepmother. "They are more comfortable!"

Da Jie, not wishing to cause any trouble, did as the stepmother had asked. Then, the three of them sat and chatted. The stepmother and Xia Mei asked her all about her married life, especially details about the scholar.

After a while, Xia Mei took Da Jie by the hand and said, "Come with me to the well. Just a few days ago, we bought a huge carp, and I want to show it to you."

Xia Mei then led Da Jie over to the well and told her to take a look inside. As Da Jie leaned over to look down into the well, Xia Mei pushed her. For good measure, she took a flagstone and dropped it onto Da Jie, now at the bottom of the well. Poor Da Jie! Her spirit turned into a sparrow and flew out from the well.

A few days later, Xia Mei then took a bath and, with her mother's help, donned Da Jie's clothes. The stepmother hired some porters and had Xia Mei sent to the scholar's house. At night, when the scholar had finished with his studies, he came into the bedroom to retire.

As he lay down to sleep, he asked Xia Mei, who was lying by his side, "What happened to your face?"

"Oh, my face . . . ," she replied. "When I returned home, my little sister suddenly came down with chicken pox, uh, again. She gave it to me, and you can see what happened."

The next morning, while the scholar was busily pursuing his education in his study room, Xia Mei walked in.

"I'd like some money to go shopping," she said.

"Here's the key to my safe. Go and take what you need," he said.

"The safe? Where is it?"

"You know where my safe is. You've seen it before. What's wrong with you?"

"Oh, please be patient with me! After being sick with the chicken pox, I've discovered that I've become a little forgetful!" she cried.

"Of course! Forgive me!" he said and got up to show her where his safe was.

Shortly afterward, the scholar went out, saddled his horse, and rode out to the countryside for some fresh air. Following him was the sparrow, the same sparrow that was really Da Jie's spirit.

It sang:

"Let the sparrow tell the man who trusts others so
That Xia Mei has replaced me, his true wife!
Is it really possible he still does not know?"

The scholar looked up at the sparrow circling his head and said, "If you are really my wife, come and land upon my chest."

The sparrow then promptly flew down to his chest and nestled itself within his robe!

"Take me with you and put me into a gold cage! Take me with you and put me into a gold cage!" cried the sparrow.

"Very well," said the scholar, turning his horse around and heading home.

Once home, the scholar placed the sparrow into a cage that he suspended from an open window. Later in the afternoon, Xia Mei went by the window to brush her hair.

The bird then began to sing:

"Let the sparrow tell the man who trusts others so
That Xia Mei has replaced me, his true wife!
Is it really possible he still does not know?"

Enraged, Xia Mei reached into the cage and crushed the bird. She then threw its body into the garden, where before long, a sturdy bamboo tree grew. There, the scholar would sit once the weather became a bit warmer. He soon noticed something odd; no matter how hot it was, he would always feel a cool breeze under this bamboo tree and nowhere else. Whenever Xia Mei sat there, however, a bamboo shoot would always manage to scrape her scalp. Irritated, she had the bamboo stalks chopped down, split down the middle, and made into a bed. The scholar discovered that whenever he took a nap outside on this bamboo bed, even if it was in the midst of a raging summer heat, he felt just as cool as he would have had he slept in a hammock up in the mountains. If Xia Mei lay down for a nap, though, she felt arrows enter throughout her body. That was enough for Xia Mei; she had the bamboo bed burned and discarded along the road. The very next morning, an old woman discovered the scorched bamboo bed, found it still had some use, and dragged it back to her own hut.

That night, when the old woman had returned to her hut, she discovered several dishes of steaming food upon her table. She was surprised, of course, but was glad she didn't have to cook after being outside all day and ate the food. The very next night, the same thing happened again: some person or invisible hand had prepared a full dinner for her. She ate it up while thinking up a way to surprise whoever this unseen person was.

On the third night, she deliberately came home early and peered through the window of her hut to see a shade, a shadow of a lovely young woman, busily cooking a variety of foods.

"Maiden!" cried the old lady, bursting into her hut. "Who are you?"

"Don't call me 'maiden'!" the young woman said. "Please quickly give me a pair of chopsticks for my bones!"

The old woman did as she was asked.

"Now quickly find me a bowl for my stomach!"

The old woman found a bowl in her cupboard and gave it to the young woman.

"I need some bamboo skin for my skull."

The old lady went outside, chopped down some bamboo stalks, removed the skins, and gave them to the young woman. The shade immediately turned into the beautiful and real flesh-and-blood woman, Da Jie.

"There!" she said, adjusting her skin a bit. "I am whole once more. I shall never be a bamboo bed again!"

With that, she asked the old lady to let her stay in the small house, and the old lady agreed. She then became the daughter that the old woman had never had.

One morning, Da Jie turned to the old woman and said, "Mother, let me tell you something. I know how to embroider things for you to sell. I can help you fetch a little money."

The old woman agreed and went to the market and bought the materials. Da Jie then went to work and embroidered a lovely picture of a dragon and a phoenix. The old woman took it to market and displayed it. The picture caught the attention of the scholar who--lo and behold--bought the picture.

Something about the picture looked familiar to him, so he asked the old woman about the artist.

"Oh, her own story is so amazing you wouldn't believe it," the old woman said. "I found this sweet girl in my house one day, originally the spirit of a burned up bamboo bed--"

"What? a burned up bamboo bed? Take me to see her."

The old woman did just that. As she opened the door to her hut, the scholar came face-to-face with his own true bride, Da Jie. Of course he recognized immediately that he had been duped.

The scholar went to the yamen and had a warrant issued for arrest of Xia Mei and her mother. The mother was spared because of her age, but Xia Mei was swiftly put to death. The mother then had to live the rest of her years in deep shame and with unbearable grief and regret.


from Jiang Tao, "Quanzhou minjian chuanshuo," in Zhongguo chuanji: minjian gushi, pp. 133-138.

This story has a lot of similarities to "Lord Snake" above with elements from "Cinderella" thrown in for good measure. The stepmother's immorality is punctuated by her butchering of the cow, an unthinkable act for members of most southeastern Chinese farming families. The quick assignment of harsh justice at the conclusion of this story is reminiscent of the swift punishment meted out to miscreants at the end of some European folktales, especially those from the Brothers Grimm. In addition, once again, in true European folktale form, characters, here the scholar, act with total ignorance; specifically, the scholar is unable to recognize Xia Mei as an impostor. Motif: E607, "Bones of the dead return in another form."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Blue Pearl (Fujian)

A long time ago, there lived a young fellow named Ah Xiao. He was handsome, smart, strong and capable. He was an orphan, though, and so, to make ends meet, he hired himself out as a porter and pottery seller to a Mr. Gao, owner of a ceramics shop. Every day he picked up his shoulder pole and carried ceramic pots, tubs, and vases to sell outside, thus earning his keep.

Now Mr. Gao had a daughter named Yunu who was eighteen years of age. She was a sturdy young lady, even taller than Ah Xiao. She was not particularly beautiful, but she was warm and kindhearted. Moreover, she loved Ah Xiao but only from a distance. In turn, Ah Xiao treated her very kindly and had similar affections for her. This was not lost on Mr. Gao, who at last told Yunu, "From now on, if you so much as speak to that Ah Xiao, I shall break your legs."

So the two young people concealed their feelings and did not even dare speak to each other for one year, which was very difficult because they worked in the same shop.

It was now the beginning of the spring rainy season. Ah Xiao was given a number of pots to sell, so into the rain he went, carrying the pots on both ends of his bamboo pole. However, it was a poor day for business, and not one pot was sold. The sky was dark, and the rain was coming down very hard. Ah Xiao got up from his vendor's space and headed back to Mr. Gao's shop. It was too wet to walk very far. Ah Xiao quickly looked for some shelter to sit out the storm. He spied the local temple of the Dragon King of the East Sea, which was a short distance from the shore, and headed for it. He entered the main hall of the empty temple, bolted the huge wooden doors behind him, and lay down in front of the god's image. He was soon fast asleep.

He woke up with a start. He heard someone outside the door speaking to himself and trying to pry the doors open.

"Why do these miserable doors have to be locked now? They're never locked! You'd think that the Dragon King himself knew I was coming to steal his robe, confound it!"

Ah Xiao recognized the voice as belonging to Mei Shi, the town's number one gambler and drunkard, who would filch anything he could lay his hands on, including his old mother's jade bracelet or a temple god's gold embroidered robe.

Ah Xiao sat up and quickly untied his bundle of pots. He then threw them one by one at the two doors. Hong! Hong! Kaqiang! Pow! The pots shattered against the doors and flagstone floor.

Hearing the noise, Mei Shi thought he had stirred the angry god himself into action. He received the shock of his life and fled from the temple.

Ah Xiao then settled down and went back to sleep. He dreamed a silvery, smoky form appeared before him him and said, "Young man, I am the Dragon King of the East Sea. Thank you for driving off that thief and saving my gold robe. For your act, I shall give you a blue pearl. As long as you have it, you will find fortune. You can locate the blue pearl beneath the incense burner on my altar. Help yourself to it."

Ah Xiao woke up early the next morning. He remembered the vivid dream and walked over to the incense burner on the altar. Beneath the incense burner was, lo and behold, a blue pearl. Ah Xiao took the blue pearl and placed it in a pocket. He then collected the shards of Mr. Gao's pottery and threw them into the sea.

Ah Xiao headed back to town to Mr. Gao's shop. He waited until nightfall before approaching the shop. When it was dark, he made his way to Yunu's quarters. Yahuan, Yunu's servant, helped him enter through a window. Ah Xiao and Yunu were reunited after not having had a chance to be together for a year. Ah Xiao then told Yunu about the blue pearl and gave it to her for safekeeping.

Mr. Gao heard some noise coming from his daughter's room and, suspecting something was going on, stormed in and found Ah Xiao. Mr. Gao flew into a rage. He beat and kicked Ah Xiao mercilessly. He thundered blow after blow upon Ah Xiao until the young man lay in a heap on the floor. Mr. Gao then called for a rope and had his men tie Ah Xiao up. Once he had Ah Xiao secured in ropes, Mr. Gao and his men had Ah Xiao rowed out to a nearby deserted island and left there to starve.

Yunu fainted when her father had begun beating Ah Xiao. Yahuan helped bring her to her senses after Mr. Gao had Ah Xiao taken away.

"Miss Yunu," cried the servant girl, "you must get up! The master has taken Ah Xiao away to Huangwu Renyan Island. We must leave quickly!"

Gathering her wits, Yunu got up and took the blue pearl from under her bed. She and Yahuan then went to the temple of the Dragon King of the East Sea.

"The Dragon King will help us!" she told Yahuan.

Once at the temple, she knelt in prayer before the Dragon King's altar and asked if she and Ah Xiao might be allowed to live as husband and wife.

Suddenly the lips of the temple god's statue moved and it spoke. "Yunu!" said the god. "Do you not have the blue pearl with you? When you are in danger, place the pearl in your mouth. You will be able to carry Ah Xiao on your back, and you will have the power to go anywhere you like. You shall need to fear neither mountain tigers nor creatures of the sea as long as you have the blue pearl in your mouth. But make sure your mouth remains closed, for if the pearl should drop out and become lost, you shall be truly on your own."

The god having spoken, Yunu sent Yahuan back home. She then put the blue pearl in her mouth as she was told to do so by the god, and swam out to the island where Ah Xiao lay helplessly tied up on the beach. She untied Ah Xiao, and with the young man holding onto her back, Yunu headed back into the water towards the mainland.

Mr. Gao and his men happened to be returning in a small boat when he saw his daughter with Ah Xiao on her back effortlessly gliding past their boat through the choppy waves. Thunderstruck, he dropped his jaw and stared as the two young people passed him like a pair of flying fish.

Yunu saw how easily she outdistanced her father's boat and could not help laughing at the expression on his face. As she did, however, the blue pearl dropped into the sea below. Yunu and Ah Xiao then sank beneath the waves.

There, under the sea, the creatures that inhabit that world--the fishes, the shrimp, the sea turtles, the clams--took pity on Ah Xiao and Yunu. They located the shards from the cracked pottery that lay on the ocean floor and used them to mark Ah Xiao's and Yunu's graves. In time, the spirits of the two lovers became hou, crabs that dwell off the coast of Fujian, and the shards then became their shells.


from Chinese Folk Literature Association (CFLA), pp. 106-109.

The Dragon King of the East Sea is descended from one of eight to ten deities that appeared when Buddhism entered China. They may have once been related to the Hindu
naga serpents. Their domains include all the rivers, oceans, seas, lakes and wells in and around China. Originally Buddhist deities, they later entered the Taoist (Daoist) pantheon as god-kings. The four Dragon Kings of the Sea, including the one associated with the East Sea, are more closely identified with Taoism now (Liu, 166-167). As Taoist deities, the dragon kings are responsible for rain and can rectify human errors made during funerals (Fischer-Schreiber, 97). Pearls appear in many stories as magical objects, particularly as charms against fire, and, along with being one of the "eight treasures," they remain identified with feminine grace (Williams, 319-320). The character of the strong, active and determined young woman makes the story all the more striking. The original Chinese version interestingly emphasized Yunu's lack of superficial glamor. This leads to a question: Is this an original or invented folk legend? One might suspect the latter due to the enlarged role given to Yunu. I don't have an answer. Many folktales collected in mainland China before the 1990s likely have added "Maoist-friendly" motifs and details. My own guess is that it is a local legend with some modern, non-traditional sentiments added. Motifs: D1384.4.1, "Magic prevents swimming fatigue"; D1520.29.1, "Transportation by magic pearl"; E629.2, "Reincarnation as crab"; K335.1, "Robbers frightened from goods"; and S11, "Cruel father."