Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all of my readers and their family members!

Fred Lobb & family

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Bride of Sir Gentleman Snake -- Part Three (Hmong)

On and on the babies roared, crying even more than before, as if for some dire reason.

Ah Yang carried the babies down closer to the river.

"I'll let them look at the fish," she told Ah Yi. "Maybe they'll become distracted and stop crying."

"All right, " said Ah Yi, staying behind where she was, by the rocks.

"Oh, Ah Yi!" cried Ah Yang suddenly. "You've got to come over and see!"

"See what, Older Sister?"

"These beautiful multicolored fish! Hurry and come and see them before they swim away! Hurry!"

Poor unsuspecting Ah Yi! She got up, left the rocks and came down to the riverbank.

"Where? What fish?" asked Ah Yi.

"Over there! Over there!" Ah Yang was practically jumping up and down, pointing. "Come closer!"

Ah Yi stood next to Ah Yang and looked in the direction of Ah Yang's finger.


Ah Yang pushed her sister Ah Yi down into the rapids of the river. Ah Yi flailed about in the water and cried for her snake husband but to no avail. Her cries became weaker and weaker until her head and arms sank beneath the water.

"Little Sister's become fish food!" said Ah Yang, cooing to Ah Yi's two children. "Little Sister's become fish food!"

She went back up to the rocks with the two children and waited for the snake husband to return.

Well, she was now dressed up in Ah Yi's clothes, she carried Ah Yi's two small children, and, of course, she even looked like her twin, Ah Yi! What could go wrong?

By and by, Sir Gentleman Snake returned from his trip into the forest, empty handed. Ah Yang immediately put on an act, pretending she was angry.

"Where the devil have you been?" she asked. "How could you leave your wife and children out here while chasing after birds? The nerve you have!"

Huh, thought Sir Gentleman Snake. That's not like Ah Yi; that's not like the woman I married! 

He stared at Ah Yang.

"Who are you in my wife's clothes, holding my children?" he asked.

"What?!" Ah Yang screeched. "Children, do you hear that father of yours? Did you hear what he just said? Listen to yourself! You must be having vision problems! First of all, you can't even catch a measly crow--some hunter you are! Ha! And now, you are suggesting I'm an impostor? Perhaps your eyesight is failing."

"Well, I . . ."

"Take a close look at me, O mighty eagle-eyed hunter! Am I not wearing your wife's clothes? What's out of place, Husband? the tunic? the skirt? the leggings? Am I also not carrying the two children your wife bore? Or, are you ready to deny them as well?"

She then began to weep. Sir Gentleman Snake did not wish to see his wife cry, if she was really his wife.

"Please stop crying! Let's go on home!"

And so they headed home, and on their way back, the snake husband was not entirely convinced the woman walking next to him, carrying his two sons, was indeed his wife. He held his tongue, though.

They finally reached home, with Ah Yang now successfully taking Ah Yi's place as the wife of Sir Gentleman Snake. A number of years later, Ah Yang bore him a child. She now lived very well with this young and handsome husband, Sir Gentleman Snake, and was as happy as a maggot in pork fat--no cares, no worries, just endless bliss.

She also continued to assume that Ah Yi was dead.

Ah Yang, however, was wrong: Ah Yi was very much alive.

Ah Yang had pushed Ah Yi into the river, and Ah Yang had seen her sink below the water. The daughter of the Dragon King saw what had befallen Ah Yi and rescued her. The Dragon Princess escorted Ah Yi to the underwater palace, and there Ah Yi was given a place to live. There, she was offered a position as a maid of honor and stayed for several years.

Speaking to the Dragon Princess, Ah Yi said, "My Princess, I deeply thank you for saving me and giving me a home for all this time, but I really must leave now and find my children and husband!"

"Very well," replied the Princess. "I understand. I'll see you back to the surface."

The Dragon Princess accompanied Ah Yi to the surface of the river and made sure she landed on the bank safely before returning to her watery realm.

Ah Yi now found herself lost in the forest. She didn't know the direction to the house of Sir Gentleman Snake. Would she be able to find it? Even if she did, would her husband still love her? And her children! She now felt the greatest pains of despair--to have survived in the watery kingdom only to die alone in the forest while searching for her husband and children!

It was precisely at this moment that Ah Yi turned into a little crow and flew up into the sky.

Flying and searching, flying and searching, she finally located her husband's home early one morning and descended to circle it.

Inside the house, Sir Gentleman Snake had just gotten up and was washing his face when he heard the pretty chirping of a small bird, a crow, outside his window. He listened carefully. Was the bird telling him something, giving him a message? The bird seemed to be singing:

"Listen up! Listen up!
Your children's noses are running!
Their little noses need to be wiped!
Listen, up! Listen up!"

He went to check on the children.

Ah Yang had also now gotten up and was washing her face when she too heard the crow sing. The little bird now sang the following:

"Listen up! Listen  up!
Ah Yang's got a dirty heart!
Whether she ever washes or not,
She'll always be dirty through and through!
Listen up! Listen up!"

Livid like someone jumping on burning coals, Ah Yang stormed out of the house, picked up a good-sized rock and threw it at the bird, knocking it off the branch and killing it.

Sir Gentleman Snake came out and saw the dead crow lying on the ground.

Poor cute little creature, he thought, fated with just a short, violent life . . . Oh, well . . . 

He buried the little crow outside the house.

A few days later, from out of the little bird's grave grew a brilliantly verdant and sturdy tree. Sir Gentleman Snake loved this tree. He would go under its ample branches to rest and to cool off in the heat of the day and to escape from the annoying mosquitoes that seemed to be everywhere except under the branches of this tree.

 However, each time Ah Yang  tried resting by this tree, she felt as if she were in an inferno and would begin to sweat buckets. Not only that but she would be attacked a by virtual armada of mosquitoes. All this happened more than once. After sweating and being stung once too often, Ah Yang, muttering words that our parents would not much appreciate if they were written down here, stormed into the house for a hatchet. She then chopped the tree down.

Her husband must not have been too happy, but what can one do once a tree is chopped down? He used some of the wood to make a club for beating laundry. The club worked very well for the snake husband and children's clothes, but not so well for Ah Yang's. As a matter of fact, her clothes became even dirtier after using the club.

She snarled, took the club, burnt it to ashes and scattered the ashes in the field. She then went stomping back into the house.

The next day Sir Gentleman Snake was out in the field exactly at the spot were the ashes had been scattered and what did he find? A mud-snail shell! He thought this find was very interesting and beautiful, so he took the shell home and placed it in a tub of water.

Then, on a day when Sir Gentleman Snake, Ah Yang, and the children had gone up the mountain to chop wood, the mud snail stirred. From out of the shell came not the mud snail but, instead, Ah Yi! While the snake husband and Ah Yang were away, Ah Yi tidied up the house, neatly folded her husband's clothes, and washed the everyone's clothes.

The work done, Ah Yi returned to the snail shell just before Ah Yang and the snake husband returned home.

This situation went on for a while without rousing too much suspicion in Sir Gentleman Snake. After a period of time, though, he became suspicious.

I don't see my wife doing anything around the house, he mused, yet the house is always neat and clean! I've never seen her do much laundry, yet all of our clothes are washed and neatly folded. 

Then it dawned on him: all these mysterious happenings--the singing, speaking crow; the mysterious tree that seemed to sprout from the crow's grave overnight; the laundry club that could somehow make clean clothes dirtier than before; and the appearance of the mud-snail shell in the field--all of them somehow seemed in their own ways to cast doubts on his wife.

Doubts began to smolder in Sir Gentleman Snake's heart as well but he said nothing.

One day he, Ah Yang and the children were out in the field when he turned to her and told her he had to return to the house.

"Why?" she asked. "We just got here."

"I want to bring some more fertilizer, a couple of sacks more. Wait for me here and watch over the children. I'll be right back."

Actually, Sir Gentleman Snake had made up the need to get the fertilizer. He wanted to see who or what it was that was cleaning his house and doing the laundry. Very stealthily like a jungle cat, he climbed up the house and then lodged himself in the eaves. From there he could see inside the house.

He waited and watched for any movement within the house . . .

Before long, his waiting paid off. He saw a young woman emanate out from the mud-snail shell in the tub. She stood up and stretched. Then she went about sweeping and washing.

Ah Yi! thought Sir Gentleman Snake.

He jumped down from his perch below the eaves and pushed open the door. He ran in and embraced his wife, his true wife, the real Ah Yi. A lot had happened; a lot had changed but not enough changes to matter.
They continued to embrace.

Outside, the bright sunny noon day sky gave way to menacing black clouds. A strong wind whipped through the trees, and soon hail came down.

Ah Yang and the children were still out in the field. As soon as the wind started blowing and the hail started coming down, Ah Yang put down her hoe and fled the area, leaving the children behind.

Off she ran, with a black cloud in pursuit, lobbing hailstones at her head. When she could run no more, the rain became a torrent of water, a river just for her, washing her far, far away, to some place where her corpse became a meal for shrimp.

The wind and the rain then stopped as suddenly as they had appeared. Sir Gentleman Snake and Ah Yi rushed out to the field and picked the crying children up and carried them back home.

From then on, they all lived very happily and lovingly as a family!


from Miaozu minjian gushi; Li Yingqiu, ed. pp. 129-134.

This story is similar to Han Chinese versions from Southwest China and Taiwan: a sister is murdered by a jealous older sister, who takes her place; the murdered sibling returns in a variety of incarnations (bird, plant, inanimate object, etc.); the murderess is humiliated by the actions of these (re)incarnated objects and animals; the murderess dies a gruesome death. However, the Hmong story differs in that the snake husband never appears to be anything but a true gentleman, unlike in the Han version, where he threatens, at least in the opening, his own future father-in-law.  In this story, the sisters' father is given more of a role. Crows/ravens also play a prominent role in the story. Often harbingers of evil in folklore, crows/ravens here also serve positive functions. The Han version also doesn't provide a spouse for the jealous sibling; in the Hmong version, she marries a monkey, which turns out to be a terrible bargain compared to the fortunate younger sister's snake husband. Also of interest is the hailstorm that foreshadows Ah Yang's doom.

This story is classified as AT 33D, "The Snake Husband."

Motifs: D1812.5.1.15, "Hailstorm as a bad omen"; cE613, "Reincarnation as bird"; E631.6, "Reincarnation in tree growing from grave"; cF420.5.1, "Kind water spirit"; K2212, "Treacherous sister"; N741.1, "Concealed wife awaits favorable moment to come forward"; Q467, "Punishment by drowning"; Q552.19, "Miraculous drowning as punishment." 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Bride of Sir Gentleman Snake -- Part Two (Hmong)

You can believe that Ah Yi was not too pleased with the prospect of having to lug her future husband in a basket into the house! Still, she did so.

That very day the two daughters were married. The next day, the daughters, now brides, said their goodbyes to their father as they headed off to the homes of their respective grooms.

On her way to the snake's home, with her husband, the snake, by her side, Ah Yi passed into the heart of the forest, where the sunlight was weakest and thinnest.

Where, O where, is he taking me? she wondered. How am I ever going to be able to survive out here in this place?

At about this time, the snake suddenly spoke to her and said, "You go on ahead. I've something to do. I'll catch up to you."

"'Go on ahead'? 'Go on ahead' where? I have no clue where we are! Let me wait here by the path for you."

"Very well."

The snake then left the path and entered into the thick forest. Moments later, a very handsome young man emerged, startling Ah Yi.

"Come," he said. "Let's continue."

"I don't know you! Who are you?"

The youth laughed and replied, "Ah Yi, I'm your husband, the snake!"

Ah Yi just stared at him.

"All right," he continued. "I can see you don't believe me. Just a moment . . ."

He dug into his bag slung over his shoulder and brought out a very long snakeskin.

"See? Now do you believe me? I just shed this skin."

Ah Yi was speechless. What could she say? She didn't need or want to say anything, for she was absolutely, deliriously happy! So arm-in-arm, she and her handsome husband made it to his house.

A year flew by, and the bride of Sir Gentleman Snake had now become a proud, loving mother!

What of Ah Yang and her monkey husband?

The past year had not been so kind to her. She and her husband, not having a true home of their own, had to roam from place to place for shelter. If this weren't bad enough, both had resorted to thievery. On the third of February, they stole stalks of wheat; on the sixth of June, they dragged away others' millet when no one was looking; then, on the ninth of September, they made off with some farmer's ears of rice. By the twelfth of November, they had found themselves a cave in the highlands and, there, they began to eat their ill-gotten victuals.

And that's how they lived.

Two years had now passed.

One day at the marketplace, Ah Yang overheard some woman talking about Ah Yi and her husband, Sir Gentleman Snake, and how wonderful, doting, considerate and handsome a husband he actually was. Not only that but her now two children were both healthy and beautiful. The four of them were at currently visiting Ah Yi's father . . .

Ah Yang heard all this good and well. She then made a decision: she would abandon that useless monkey of a husband and return to her father's home. There she could see for herself this gorgeous husband of Ah Yi's who could change himself from snake to man, who provided so well for his wife and who was the father of two handsome boys.

And so, instead of heading back to the monkey's cave to live that hardscrabble, miserable life, she returned to her childhood home.

Yes, it was all true, Ah Yang discovered upon reaching her father's home. The snake was no longer a snake but a truly beautiful specimen of man and a loving husband and wonderful father to boot.

How lucky that Ah Yi is! I should've had this man for a husband, Ah Yang thought. All this is so unfair. After all, I'm the older sister.

Then and there Ah Yang's mind began to work feverishly some evil plan . . .

"Welcome home, my older daughter!" Ah Yang's father had said.

"Thank you, Father," Ah Yang replied. "It's good to be home. I've missed you . . . and Ah Yi."

Hmm, thought the father. Something's wrong here. Don't know what it is, but something's definitely wrong. I've got to help Ah Yi and help her watch out for whatever may come.

Ten days later, Ah Yi, her husband and children were prepared to return to their own home. Very early that morning, the father, holding two empty bamboo baskets, approached his two daughters.

"Girls, my cucumber crop this year was really bountiful," he said. "I'm going to need your help."
He handed a basket to Ah Yi. To Ah Yang, he then held out a basket which he knew to have a hole, saying, "Now you two go out to the garden and pick the cucumbers until your baskets are full. Let's see who has the fuller basket!"

The two went out in the early morning light to pick cucumbers. Each worked quickly and energetically to fill her basket; however, no matter how hard Ah Yang worked and sweated, she just couldn't fill her basket to the brim.

Ah Yi returned to the house while Ah Yang still labored to fill her basket. The father took her basket and handed her sticky-rice cakes for her and her husband's breakfast.

"Hurry up and eat!" he said. "No need to wait for Ah Yang. You've got a long road ahead of you and need to leave soon, so eat! Eat!"

Ah Yi thought this was odd, but she and Sir Gentleman Snake did as they were told. They ate the sticky-rice cakes, picked up their children, said goodbye to Ah Yi's father and headed back on the road to their home.

Ah Yi and her family were long gone by the time Ah Yang and her basket finally stumbled into the house.

What had taken her so long? While outside, she heard the crows warbling:

"Gua, gua,
Line it with small twigs!
Gua, gua!"

Ah Yang looked at her basket. She poured the cucumbers onto the ground, picked up small twigs and leaves, and lined the bottom of the basket with them, covering up the hole. She then picked up the cucumbers on the ground and walked back to the garden, where she was able to pick even more. Soon, her basket was overflowing with cucumbers.

Looking around the house, Ah Yang asked her father, "Where's Ah Yi?"

"Maybe in her room, combing her hair!"

Ah Yang ran to Ah Yi's room, took a peek, and came running back to her father.

"No, Father, she's not there."

"Well, maybe she went back out to the garden to pick more cucumbers!"

Ah Yang then headed out the door and back to the garden and immediately returned.

"No, Father, she's not there either!"

"Well, then, perhaps she and her husband and children stopped by Uncle's to say hello."

Ah Yang practically flew out the door and ran to her uncle's place. Soon after, she returned. She headed into the kitchen and saw the bamboo steamer on the table. She lifted the still-warm lid and saw it was empty inside. She put two and two together: her sister and family had already eaten and left.

Meanwhile, Ah Yi and family had followed the path from her father's village until they arrived at the edge of the river. There, they decided to take a rest.

While they sat by the river, a crow flew by and landed on a branch of a nearby juniper tree. Sir Gentleman Snake saw this and said to Ah Yi, "A nice meal for us is about to arrive. Wait right here while I fetch it!"

He grabbed his bow and quiver of arrows and approached the tree. The crow immediately flew off and landed onto the branch of a tree farther away. Again, Sir Gentleman Snake headed towards that tree with stealth. Yet again, the crow flew off, landing somewhere else, and, yet again, Sir Gentleman Snake headed off furtively in pursuit. This went on and on until Sir Gentleman Snake disappeared into the dark forest.

There, by the river, Ah Yi, her two boys strapped to her back, waited, without any sign of her husband's return.

Little did she know that she and her boys were not alone! On the same path that led to the river was Ah Yang. Hiding, she observed her sister from afar. Now that Ah Yi's husband was out of the picture, she got up and made her way to her sister and nephews.

"Ah Yi, my little Ah Yi!" cried Ah Yang. "I've caught up with you! You and your husband leaving like that without as much as a 'goodbye'!"

"Come and sit with us as we wait for my husband," said Ah Yi. "He's gone off to hunt for our next meal."

"Ah Yi, let me take your two boys from you so you can give your poor back a rest!"

"Oh, thank you!"

Ah Yi stood up and let Ah Yang hold the two boys, both of whom immediately began to cry.

"Poor babies!" said Ah Yang. "It must be this tunic I'm wearing that bothers them. Let's not make them cry. Take your tunic off and trade it for mine."

"Oh, all right . . ."

She did so and they traded tunics, wearing each other's; however, the two babies continued to cry even more than before.

"I've got it!" said Ah Yang. "It's this old skirt of mine. Surely that must be it. Let's hurry and trade skirts!"

"If you think so . . ."

"I do, so hurry up!"

Both took off their own skirts and wore each other's, but the babies continued to cry even more loudly without stopping.

"I know what it is now!" said Ah Yang. "It's my bare legs! They're not covered by leggings as yours are! Take your leggings off and let me wrap them around my legs! That should do the trick."

"Very well . . ."

Ah Yi unwrapped her leggings and gave them to Ah Yang, who wrapped them around her legs. She now had on Ah Yi's tunic, skirt and leggings, and still the upset babes roared without any indication of tiring themselves out.


from Miaozu minjian gushi, Li Yingqiu, comp.; pp. 123-128.

The dates listed in the story, at least the first two, seem to correspond with actual Hmong holidays and celebrations as observed in China on the Chinese lunar calendar. (See Zhongguo minzu jie'ri dachuan [Compendium of Holidays of the Peoples of China], Gao Zhanxiang, comp. Beijing: Zhishi Chubanshe, 1993; pp. 442-501.)

February 3rd: a holiday for the Hmong of Taijiang County, Guizhou Province, called simply in Chinese, "February 3rd." Villagers wear their finery;young men and women sing romantic songs to each other. Those of the opposite sex not yet acquainted with each other will sing the "Inquiring Song," which asks one's name and location of home village.

June 6th: Guizhou's Song Festival on June 6th apparently began to commemorate Hmong resistance to Qing exploitation and the execution of Fu Meilou, a heroic Hmong youth who sought to shoot symbolic arrows at the Qing emperor in Beijing. Usually set in a bucolic location, the festival includes much singing of romantic and nostalgic songs as well as singing competitions. Young men and women will sing romantic lyrics in response to each other. Also on this date is Racing Day, in which Hmong and members of other minorities race horses. Finally, there is Grain Day. On this day, offerings are made to the Great God of the Five Grains. Many will slaughter some chickens, prepare rice wine and invite friends over for a feast.

September 9th: No holidays or festivals are specifically listed for September 9th; however, two movable events appear on the lunar calendar during the first two weeks of the ninth month in Guizhou. One is the harvest festival called, among other names, "Rice Stalk Harrowing Day," a day in which friends exchange gifts of sticky rice cakes and chicken. Another occurring sometime in this period is "Bullfighting Day," a day which includes sheng (reed) flute performances, singing and dueling bulls.

November 12th: According to Dr. Kou Yang, the Hmong of Hunan and Guizhou provinces celebrate their new year in November, presumably after the major harvesting. (See page 4 of the following link: Is November 12th thus a fixed date for New Year's? Possibly not; perhaps this date in the story is simply evocative of this festive, joyous, family-centered time of the year, emphasizing the degradation and deprivation Ah Yang encounters while married to her monkey husband. 

I'd be very grateful if those readers who know more about the venerable Hmong culture than I do, especially Americans of Hmong descent, can correct me if I am inaccurate about any of the above dates and their significance to the Hmong people!  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Bride of Sir Gentleman Snake -- Part One (Hmong)

Years and years ago, there was an old man, a widower, who lived with his two daughters. The older daughter was called Ah Yang and the younger one, Ah Yi.

Very early one day, the old man, a woodcutter by trade, went up to the mountains. He spied many fine fir and pine trees. He put down his lunchbox and got set to work. Time went quickly, as it does for us when we age. Soon it was already noon. The old man had only cut down four trees. He took his hulu gourd, sat down on a stump, and drank some water.

He looked at the four small trees he had felled and sighed.

"Four small trees," he said aloud to himself, "that's it! Just four puny trees . . . And I'm not getting any younger! Today four trees--how many this time next year or even in the next few months? I wish a strong young man could help me out. I'd marry off one of my daughters to him! Oh, well . . . "

He prepared a small camp fire and sat back when he heard a voice.

"Grandpa! What did you say just now?"

He looked up. A small magpie was fluttering its wings above him.

"Nothing, Magpie, nothing. I'm just tired . . ."

"No, Grandpa. You certainly said something, something interesting, an oath or vow."

"All right, you heard me. I offered to let a healthy strong young man who can help me in my work marry one of my daughters. What of it?"

"Ah, yes! I knew I had heard correctly! I shall be the one to help you!"

The weary old man was too tired to be annoyed so he softly chuckled.

"Oh, Magpie, you're tiny and have no arms or hands. How in the world could you chop down trees?"

"No, problem, I can do it! Fasten the ax to my tail."

"What . . . ?"

"Just do it!"

The old man sighed again, got up and tied the ax to the bird's tail.

Well, the magpie flew up to the trees and whirled around the tree trunks without chopping down a single tree! All it managed to do was to lose the ax somewhere on the ground and strip its own tail of all its feathers.

The old man looked at the magpie, flying lamely now with its bare behind, shook his head, and thought, That was mighty dumb! That old magpie surely made a great fool of itself and me too for my even bothering to listen!"

The embarrassed magpie flew off; the old man got up to look for his ax.

The next morning at dawn, the old man was once again up on the mountain.

He chopped and chopped, wiped his brow and moaned, "Aii, what will it take for me to find a strapping young man to take over for me and to wed one of my daughters!"

He heard some rustling in the bushes and then a voice ask, "Grandpa, what did you just say?"

He looked in the direction of the voice. Just beyond some bushes was a large rock. Upon it were a snake and a monkey.

"I said nothing," the old man replied.

"No, no, you distinctly said something," said the snake.

"We both heard you," said the monkey.

"All right, so you heard what I said. What of it?"

"We can help you!"

The old man first looked at the snake.

"A monkey has hands and feet which can grab pretty well," he said. "Even a magpie has two feet. How in the world could you possibly cut anything down, Snake?"

"Tie your ax to my tail and you shall see!" replied the snake.

"Very well," said the old man, tying his ax to the snake's tail. Then, turning to the monkey, he said, "I brought two axes today. I suppose you'd like to cut down a tree as well?"

"Yes, and you don't need to tie the ax to me!" said the monkey.

"All right, Snake and Monkey, hop to it . . ."

The two animals set off to cut trees!

The snake slithered by the base of each tree and with a swish of his tail, he cut down each tree, big, small and in between. Soon, a large part of the dense forest lay broadly open due to the snake's quick and skilled efforts.

"Unbelievable!" cried the old man. "Simply unbelievable!"

He turned to see what the monkey had done; the monkey had wielded the ax as long as, if not longer than, the snake and had not yet felled one tree, though not from lack of effort. He just about collapsed, drenched with sweat.

No results, thought the old man, but he certainly tried, poor fellow. No shame there. You have to respect one who tries hard.

The old man gave the two animals the boxed lunch that Ah Yi that morning had packed for him.

"Boys," said the old man, "eat up. You're both coming home with me."

The snake and the monkey followed the old man home.

Outside the front gate, the old man said, "Boys, wait here. I'll tell my two girls to come out and greet you."

He walked into his house and what did he find? His two daughters engaged in a quarrel! The hardworking Ah Yi was trying to get her lazy older sister Ah Yang to do some work around the house, such as cleaning and setting the bowls and chopsticks for dinner. Ah Yang, though, didn't feel like helping.

"Girls, girls!" said the old man. "Stop arguing! We have guests outside. Do you want them to laugh at us?" The girls immediately became silent and looked at their father. "Good. Now listen to me. I've brought two suitors home, one for each of you. They're waiting outside for you now. We shall have a wedding today, girls! Now go outside and graciously invite them into our home."

"Very good, Father. You know the custom. I'm the older sister. My wishes come first!"

Ah Yi was angry but held her tongue as Ah Yang went out the door ahead of her.

The two girls went outside to the front gate and saw no one there, just a snake and a monkey looking at them, a sight not unusual in the forest.

"Father!" shouted Ah Yang from outside. "There's nobody here! All we see are only a monkey and snake. Are you going to tell us that they are our suitors?"

"Yes!" cried the father through the window. "They are the pair."

Ah Yang and Ah Yi looked at each other and shrugged. Ah Yang figured the monkey resembled a man more than the snake did, so she chose the monkey to be her husband.

"You get the snake!" Ah Yang snickered to Ah Yi as she, Ah Yang, led the monkey by the hand into the house.

"Well, then," said Ah Yi to the snake, "how am I supposed to bring you into the house?"

"Very simple, kind Maiden," said the snake. "Get a bamboo basket--I'm sure you have one. Let me crawl in and then carry the basket inside!"


from Miaozu minjian gushi (Hmong folktales), Li Yingqiu, comp. Taipei: Mutong chubanshe, 1978; pp. 117-122.

This is the Hmong version of the Southeastern Chinese/Taiwanese folktale "The Bride of Lord Snake." This version is significantly different from the Taiwanese one in my Amazon Kindle book Taiwan Folktales. Already, in this first of three parts, we have a glimpse into an old Hmong custom: the bride leading the groom into the bride's home.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Taiwanese Folk Beliefs -- Series 2

1. If You Have to Be Bitten . . .
To the majority of us who are not marine biologists or zoologists, a random turtle and/or tortoise placed side-by-side with a Chinese soft-shelled fresh water turtle (Trionyx sinensis) may not seem terribly distinctive from each other. However, the ancestors of today's Taiwanese would have disagreed. The mouths of most turtles and tortoises in the wild were thought to be inlaid with gold. Thus, for one to be bitten by a species of turtle or tortoise other than the Trionyx sinensis would mean one would eventually become wealthy. However, the bite of the latter, the Chinese fresh water turtle, was to be avoided at all costs. It was thought that its beak would clamp down onto human flesh until either the peal of thunder of the sound of a pestle grinding inside a mortar could be heard. Only then would its jaws slacken and release whomever it had bitten.

2. The Sensitivity of Snakes
Snakes, of course, have no legs. Therefore, one must never speak of this fact; otherwise, any snake that overhears mention of this might become angry and seek out the speaker.

3. Sons of the Dragon
A dragon has nine sons.
The first son loves loud noises, so bells are adorned with the images of dragons.
The second son loves music, so musical instruments are adorned with images of dragons.
The third son loves to drink, so drinking vessels are adorned with images of dragons.
The fourth son loves mountain peaks, so the tops of tall buildings or other structures or places are adorned with images of dragons.
The fifth son loves weaponry, so weapons are adorned with images of dragons.
The sixth son loves literature, so images of dragons are found on movable type.
The seventh son loves litigation, so images of dragons are found in courtrooms.
The eighth son loves sitting, so chairs are decorated with the images of dragons.
The ninth son loves heavy objects, so the images of dragons may be found on plinths.

4. Tree Spirits
Camphor, banyan and maple trees, once they reach a very old age, become tree spirits and are liable to turn malevolent and harm people. Thus, many people erect small shrines beneath the branches of these trees and, there, make offerings to them.

5. Flower Spirits
Flowers also house spirits. One is not supposed to pluck flowers at night lest the spirit of the flower becomes angry.

6. Twitching Eyebrows
A twitching eyebrow is a bad omen. This is especially true for children, for a child's twitching eyebrow indicates a beating is coming.

7. Bridal Sedan Chair
In days past the rear of a bridal sedan chair was decorated with the images of the bagua (the symbols from the Yijing, or Book of Changes), the taiji (i.e., the well-known yin yang symbol, like the ones found on the respective flags of the Republic of Korea and Mongolia), and a rice sieve. Why? These symbols together represent all the innumerable things in the universe and, thus, many children and descendants.

8. More Lucky & Unlucky Dream Symbols
Lucky dream symbols:
to hear the sounds of bells and drums . . . good fortune
to obtain shoes . . . great luck
to come into contact with blue-green clothing . . . to be assisted by a god(dess)
to lie down upon rice grains . . . great luck
to lie down upon a rock . . . great luck
to be disparaged by someone . . . great luck
to handle a rock . . . to give birth to a future member of the nobility
Unlucky dream symbols:
to obtain grains but then only to lose them . . . a sign of impending illness
to be beaten by a ghost . . . bad luck
to be beaten by one's wife or mistress . . . bad luck
to see two women engaged in a brawl . . . a sign of impending illness
to have the bowstrings break . . . bad luck

9. More Omens
to have an itchy ear . . . someone is thinking of you and misses you
to have an itchy foot . . . the earth god is giving you a warning
to stumble or fall outside while engaged in some enterprise . . . a sign of impending harm
to have twitching eyelids . . . someone is disparaging you (see 6. Twitching Eyebrows above)
to have a ringing in the ears or hot ears . . . a sign of either impending good or bad luck
to see a "tailless" or otherwise incomplete rainbow . . . a typhoon is imminent
to witness a falling star come to earth . . . a huge disaster is imminent
to have one's bamboo hat blown off by the wind is very unlucky . . . for the hat to be blown into the ocean or down a mountain could indicate the end of one's days is approaching.

10. Taboos
Don't pull out any white hairs . . . to do so will make white hairs proliferate.
Don't pull out any hair on the feet . . . to do so will lead to one's being frightened by ghosts.
Don't wear washed clothes which have not been first dried and then folded . . . to do so may lead one to become a "bamboo clothing pole ghost" (i.e., one who has a skeletal frame and all that that entails).
Don't let a child walk underneath a stretched out blanket or a woman's skirt . . . otherwise, the child might not grow taller than the child's current height; any adult, especially a man, involved in violating this taboo can expect bad luck as well.
Don't dry clothes outside at night . . . otherwise, any future child born might be of short stature or the birth might turn out to be stillborn.
Don't mend clothes while wearing them . . . otherwise, the wearer might be accused of being a thief.
Don't eat beef . . . much illness will follow.
Don't stick chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice . . . it is very unlucky, for it mimics what is done for the dead.
Don't speak of "turning over" the fish while eating fish with any guest who is a sailor or fisherman . . . to do so could foreshadow his boat's capsizing at sea.
Don't look in the mirror while eating . . . to do so will lead to one's becoming an inarticulate speaker.
Don't let a little girl change seats while eating . . . otherwise, after she marries one day, she may end up "changing partners."


Taiwan minjian gushi, Cang Dewu; Taiwan minsu, Wu Yingtao. (See 9/12/11 for full citation.)


These are bits and pieces of long outmoded and discarded folklore and are not meant to represent the belief systems of most people alive today.

For a legend about spirits housed in trees, see story #4 at 3/26/09.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sweet . . . Fragrant . . . Gas?! (Taiwan)

There were once two brothers who lived somewhere off in the countryside. The older brother was named Zheng Shuihuo, and the younger brother, Zheng Jinmu.

While they were born of both the same mother and father, the two couldn't have been more different. Shuihuo was ruthless, heartless, capable of great wrongdoing. He was his town's local bully, fighting just for the fun and meanness of it all and always taking advantage of the weakness of others. The result--everybody in the countryside feared him, avoided him, and cursed him behind his back. Jinmu, on the other hand, was quiet, deferential, modest, and sincere. He was welcomed and respected by all.

And despite more than once being beaten and having his lip split by his Shuihuo, Jinmu still treated his brother with respect. Shuihuo, was after all, his older brother.

Then came the day to split up the family property after the remaining parent had passed away. Unfortunately, Shuihuo had strong-armed the local mediator to award him, Shuihuo, the lion's share: the house, the best farm fields, and so on. The three--Shuihuo, Jinmu, and the mediator--sat down in the house to discuss the distribution.

"The ancients said," the mediator spoke, "'As a tree grows branches, so the branches spread.' Thus, gentlemen, it's entirely proper for you to split from each other and start your own families. Life will thus be easier, more convenient for you both.

"You're still a young fellow, Jinmu," continued the mediator. "What do you, at your age, need such a huge spread for? Therefore, your brother has generously agreed to give you the plot of land along the foothills as well as an ox."

Jinmu nodded and thanked his brother and the mediator. Yes, the whole thing had been rigged from the start, and Jinmu knew this. However, he didn't quibble; that wasn't his nature. He agreed to the transaction.

The deal was done; the papers were signed; the mediator left.

"We're finished here," said Shuihuo to his brother no sooner than the mediator had exited the gate. "Don't even think about coming over here with your open palms, expecting a handout. The door is over there. Keep off my land."

Jinmu, who had never had any intention of asking his older brother for money, nodded and left for his portion of the land, the sandy stretch of field along the foothills that came with an old ox and a small hut that Jinmu would have to call "home."

Jinmu rose early the next morning and began plowing what was now his land. Working this basically useless plot of sand would be a challenge, but he decided to make the most of it.

Day after day he worked the land with no obvious result. One thing that did happen, however, was he grew attached to the old ox that came with the land and the hut. It tried its best to do the work expected of it, but Jinmu didn't push the poor creature too much. Instead, he let it rest under a tree much of the time.

The ox and I--we're in this together, he thought. It depends on me, and I depend on it as well. It can make or break my rice bowl.

He would lovingly stroke the ox's neck and throat, feeding it grass and other grains that it loved. He grew to love this old ox and sensed it loved him back as well.

One day, he left the ox tied to the tree while he went out for a bunch of grass stalks. The creature seemed to be all right when he left. When he returned, the ox was now lying on the ground, still, not breathing. From its mouth came a very bitter stench. It was clear the ox was dead.

Jinmu knelt beside his animal friend and partner and cried and cried.

Now what shall I do? he thought. I've lost my right arm and hand . . .

He dug a hole for the ox near the tree and buried it.

Three days later, he took a nap next to the ox's grave. He had a dream in which cold ripples of a wind bathed his face and eyes. In this dream he looked up to see the ox munching grass right before him and continually nodding its head, as if happy.

The ox then said, "Tomorrow you will notice a fruit growing upon my tree. This fruit, once ripe, can be picked and eaten. This fruit will earn you great fame and fortune . . ."

Jinmu woke up with a start. The ox was gone. He looked up at the tree--there wasn't a hint of a fruit growing on the tree.

That night, Jinmu tossed and turned on his cot, anxiously awaiting daylight and a chance to rush out to see if there was any fruit on the tree. As soon as the sun was over the horizon, he ran out to the tree, and, sure enough, there were strange fruits growing all over the tree. Not only that, but they appeared ripe. Jinmu picked one.

The ox said I could eat them and that they would bring me 'great fame and fortune,' he thought. All right, well here I go . . .

He ate one. It was delicious, sweet like honey. He ended up eating ten of them.

Hmm, he thought. They're filling. Now I don't need to prepare lunch.
As he walked back to his hut, a sudden deep pressure and dull pain gripped his bowels. He had the desperate urge to relieve himself. Holding his stomach, he half-waddled, half-quick stepped back to his outhouse.

Instead of relieving himself in the manner he thought he would, he relieved himself in a different manner: he emitted an extremely thunderous passage of wind. Instead of the usual foul odor that would accompany such an eruption came instead the most fragrant, most redolent scent imaginable, an aroma akin to the scent one might smell in the fanciest perfume and incense shops.

Huh! he thought.

Now he had no idea for what good purpose this fruit could be ultimately used, but, nonetheless, he was pleased that the tree was laden with these large, red fruits.

Meanwhile, over in town, the area's wealthiest man, Merchant Zhao, lay bedridden with an unidentifiable disease. He was the kind of stingy man of whom the ancients had said "would not pull out a single hair to save the world." A small army of physicians had failed to cure him of his illness, so all day long for many weeks he lay in his bed, moaning. At times, he would resemble a madman, suddenly screaming and pushing his hands forward to drive away horrible green-faced demons, visible only to him, with long claws and fangs. At other times, he would act like a small child and giggle at things only he could see or hear.

His wife, son and daughter were all at their wits' end about what to do.

Now one day a very raggedy old beggar, looking for a handout or some rice, approached the Zhao family mansion gate. The servant manning the gate waved his arms furiously.

"Old beggar! Get away from here!" shouted the guard. "The master of the house is ill and doesn't need to be bothered by the likes of you!"

The beggar, feelings ruffled, turned away from the gate and headed elsewhere. As he did, he turned his head back to the servant at the gate, laughed and sang a little song he had invented on the spot:

"Ha, ha, ha!

Merchant Zhao lying ill on his bed!

Needs to be saved by a fragrant fart.

Otherwise, he'll soon be dead!

Ha, ha, ha!"

The servant watched the mendicant leave. He thought about the song the man had sung. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed intriguing. Why had the man sung about "a fragrant fart," of all things? Was there even such a thing? Was this one of those off-handed suggestions that sounded so ridiculous, so preposterous that there had to be some merit to it? Could it be one of those things that was crazy but too crazy to overlook?

All these thoughts ran through the servant's head. He immediately left his post and ran through the narrow market streets of the town looking for the beggar, to ask him further what he meant. Maybe--just maybe--the beggar was on to something. Alas, the beggar was nowhere to be found, so the servant immediately ran back to the Zhao mansion and asked to speak with Merchant Zhao himself.

The servant stood before the stricken Zhao on his sickbed and told him what the old beggar had said about "a fragrant fart."

"Are you out of your mind?" shouted Zhao, raising his head from his pillow. "Bodily gas smells awful! It always has and always will! Get out of here with your 'fragrant fart'!"

Mrs. Zhao stepped in to comfort and to calm down her husband.

"Husband," she said, "hush and relax! Don't exert yourself over this. Please just listen. 'Fragrant fart'? Just because a mendicant said it is no reason to discount it. Did the ancients not say, 'Beneath the rags may lie a saint'? Here's what we'll do. We shall put up notices at all the crossroads, offering a great reward, one hundred thousand gold coins, and even the hand of our daughter, to whoever can provide the means of delivering such a . . . a fart! This may be your only option left. Don't pass it up!"

"One hundred thousand gold coins, Wife? Have you too lost your senses? That much money? No, no, no!"

Just then he witnessed one of the leering green demons pop up right in front of his face. He shrieked and waved his hands as those gathered around the bed just shook their heads in pity and dismay.

"Good! Just go and do it!" he cried. "Ten thousand gold coins, fine! Hurry and put the notices up!"

That day the notices went up at all the crossroads.

Soon everyone gathered in tea houses, inns and restaurants was talking about the same thing: Merchant Zhao's offer of one hundred thousand gold coins and his daughter's hand in marriage to whoever could supply a "fragrant fart," whatever that was. Much of the talk centered on the extraordinary amount of cash being offered; however, a very fair amount of the talk concerned the downright loveliness of Miss Zhao, even more beautiful than "Lady Chang O who ascended to the moon," as one wag put it.

All the men of the area longed for the chance to present themselves to Merchant Zhaoto claim the rewards; not one, though, had a clue as to what to do about providing "a fragrant fart."

Soon, the Zhaos' notice came to the attention of the one man who could indeed produce marvelous fragrant gas, Zheng Jinmu. He hurried over to the Zhao mansion; before doing so, however, he gobbled down ten of his special fruits.

By the time he reached the Zhao mansion, his quick steps had slowed down considerably; he wobbled and lurched towards the gate, his hands clutching his abdomen.

"I . . . read . . . your . . . notice . . . I . . . am . . . here . . . to . . . sell . . . my . . . fragrant . . . farts," he moaned to the servant at the gate.

He was hurriedly ushered into Merchant Zhao's bedroom before Mrs. Zhao, their chief servant, and, of course, on the bed, Merchant Zhao himself.

Had they not posted a reward of one hundred thousand gold coins and the offer to marry their daughter for a fragrant passage of wind?

Yes, they had. He was in the right place. Could the young gentleman now . . . er . . . deliver the goods?

Jinmu nodded his head. He turned to Merchant Zhao and painfully raised his two clenched hands in the traditional greeting. He then very gingerly turned around so that his back faced the ill man. He next pulled up his upper garment and bent over, thereupon letting loose the loudest, most window-rattling flatulent outburst in the history of the human race. It seemed to go on forever but must have lasted but a score of seconds or so.

The entire room was instantly bathed in the most wondrous scent, a scent more fragrant than a thousand field of jasmine blossoms or any other redolent flower, for that matter.

Then, it happened.

Merchant Zhao instantly sat up in bed, unaided. He smiled and stretched his arms and continued to breathe in the aroma.

"I . . . I feel wonderful!" he cried. "Yes, I truly feel wonderful!"

Not only that, he no longer saw the demons--in the day or night.

He had Jinmu sit beside him.

"You, young man, get the reward, the full reward!" he told Jinmu.

He made sure the young man received his money and also set the date of the wedding, three days later.

With a smile, Merchant Zhao watched the young man leave. He, Zhao, made a pledge to himself--he would no longer be a miserable skinflint. From that day forward, he successfully lived up to that pledge.

Once married, the first thing Jinmu did with the money was to build a grander tomb, a shrine, for the ox.

That Jinmu was now fabulously wealthy and married to the most beautiful young woman in the region had not escaped the attention of his older brother Shuihuo. He had heard about it while sitting drunk in a tavern, drinking up the proceeds from the sale of his house and failed farm.

Jinmu discovered what had happened to his older brother and felt compassion for him, giving him thirty thousand gold coins and telling him to turn a new leaf.

With tears flowing, Shuihuo bowed before his younger brother and accepted the money; more importantly he accepted his younger brother's advice as well. He became a new man, a better man, the kind of man his younger brother was, with or without riches.


from Taiwan minjian gushi jingxuan, Huang Deshi, ed. Taipei: Qingwen Publishing, 1981; pp. 12-24.

In another version of this story, the source of which I can't remember, the older brother suffers a very serious comeuppance at the conclusion. Discovering his younger brother's new wealth and marriage to the lovely Miss Zhao, he asks him how he did it. "Very simple," responds Jinmu. "I ate lots and lots of meat--mountains of it, and then advertised my 'sweet gas' for sale. Try it!" Arrogant and foolish Shuiho then begins consuming incredible amounts of meat, to the point where he does the unthinkable: he even butchers his own ox or water buffalo and eats it as well. He advertises his "wares," finds a wealthy buyer, passes wind in front of the face of this powerful individual and then is severely beaten within an inch of his life.

The brothers' names are the basic Chinese elements: Shuihuo (water & fire) and Jinmu (gold & wood), stressing their generic identity.

The Chinese title is "Mai Xiangpi," or "Selling Fragrant Broken Wind." This story or versions of it are apparently known throughout China. In A Type Index of Chinese Folktales (Folklore Fellows Communication 223; Helsinki, 1978, pp. 89-90), Ting Nai-tung labels this as 503m, "Selling Sweet Gas." For a similar Cantonese tale, "The Bamboo Grove of the Loyal Dog," see 6/26/07. Motifs: B580, "Animal helps human to wealth"; Q51, "Kindness to animal rewarded."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Some Taiwanese Folk Beliefs

The following items come from a couple of sources and may reflect certain superstitions, taboos, and traditions that stem from bits and pieces of long-forgotten and discarded legend and myth.

1. Peaches of the Immortals & Celestial Dew
Peaches of the immortals exist up in the heavens, it is said, and that if a mortal is able to eat one he or she can live forever without aging. Celestial dew, likewise up in the heavens, can allow a person, if he or she bathes in it, to achieve unparalleled wisdom.

2. Tiangou--"Heavenly Hound"
The sky dog, Tiangou, is responsible for both solar and lunar eclipses. These occur whenever the heavenly hound bites a chunk out of, respectively, the sun and the moon.

3. The Golden Bird
The sun itself is nothing but a huge golden bird with three legs.

4. The Sun's Birthday & the Sun's Hideous Face
The sun has its birthday on the nineteenth day of the third month, according to the traditional Chinese (lunar) calendar. Alas, the sun is so ugly that in order to hide its face from the rest of us, it is forced to shower our eyes with blinding rays, causing us to look away and not to see its horrible visage.

5. When the Sun & the Moon Are Ill
Solar eclipses occur when the sun is sick; in like manner, a lunar eclipse takes place when the moon is not well. The sun willingly allows itself to become ill so that the human race as a whole does not. Therefore, during a solar eclipse, people pray for the well-being and swift recovery of the kind, beneficent sun. The moon's illness is caused by a demon connected to the Peach Blossom Girl. Thus, during a lunar eclipse, people bang gongs to drive away the noxious being and to restore the moon to health.

6. Don't Count the Stars!
Counting the stars in the sky is a very bad idea. At the very least, it can cause scabies. There are, of course, an infinite number of stars above, and if one insists on wasting valuable time to count all the stars, even if one disregards the threat of scabies, the outcome could lead to death.

7. Respecting the Moon
Another bad idea is pointing a finger at the moon and scolding or cursing it. This could cause the moon to send down its "lunar knife" to snip off the offender's earlobes.

8. Red (or Bare) Dog Day
This is the third day of the lunar calendar new year. On this day, we should not engage in activities outdoors or host guests. "Red" or "bare" (the classical character for "red" or the modern character for "naked," [Mandarin: chi; Taiwanese/Hokkien: chhiah]) is also part of the Taiwanese/Hokkien compound for "poverty,"san-chhiah.

9. Some Lucky Dream Symbols
to enter a great hall . . . a sign of impending wealth and ennoblement
to see a great front door or large, imposing gate . . . a sign of impending wealth and ennoblement
to witness clouds billow in every direction . . . a sign of prosperous business dealings
to see surging river or ocean waters . . . a sign of great fortune
to butcher a hog . . . a sign of great fortune
to ride a dog and ascend into the heavens . . . a sign of future ennoblement
to sharpen a sword . . . a sign of great fortune
to be injured physically by another . . . a sign of luck
to witness heaven and earth united as one . . . a sign that one's deepest desire is about to come true
to travel through the mountains in the spring or summer . . . a sign of luck
to burn incense below the moon . . . a sign of great luck
to be attached to a snake . . . a sign of impending great inheritance

10. Some Unlucky Dream Symbols
to be killed by a dragon . . . a sign of great misfortune
to see a crab . . . a sign of future illness
to fall into a latrine or toilet and be unable to get out . . . a sign of great misfortune
to stand up in the midst of water . . . a sign of great misfortune
to see a monkey . . . a sign of future legal problems
to see oneself enter hell for thievery . . . a sign of great misfortune
to see a dragon enter a well . . . a sign of impending mental debility
to see an already dead person eating . . . a sign of great misfortune
to kill a turtle . . . a sign of impending death
to lose a water buffalo . . . a sign of impending death

11. Rain
Rain is actually ocean water breathed in by dragons and then expelled from the heavens. It may also be heavenly river water scattered to the earth below by a god.

12. Brides-to-be, Stay Away From Chicken Blood!
A young woman should not eat chicken blood just before her wedding lest she appear inexplicably red-faced.


from (1) Taiwan minjian gushi, Cang Dewu, ed.; Taipei: Yong'an Chubanshe, 1976; (2) Taiwan minsu, Wu Yingtao; Taipei: Zhongwen, 1984.

The Chinese celestial sky dog may be derived from a star deity. later becoming an entity that could ward off evil, especially the menace of fox goblins. However, in other traditions, it could preside over military disasters. It eventually evolved, in Japan, into the famed tengu, a malevolent creature of the mountain forests which was capable of abducting children. One species in Japan was purely bird-like, with the appearance of a huge malevolent crow. The other looked like yamabushi, or mountain hermit-monks, with a human appearance but also a very long nose.

The Peach Blossom Girl is a celestial servant girl and immortal in her own right, appearing with legendary Zhou Gong (the Duke of Zhou) in many legends and opera stories. She is noted for her ability with magic.

Counting, pointing at or otherwise disparaging heavenly bodies such as the moon or a comet is not a taboo just in Chinese culture. A version of a North American Indian folktale, "The Star Husbands Tale," tells of two sisters who lie down in the tall grass one warm summer's night and look up at the stars, particularly a red star and a gray one. They jokingly suggest they would like to marry those stars. They fall asleep in the grass and wake up to find that they are now indeed up in the sky married to the stars, the younger one married to the red star and the older sister, to the gray star. If only they hadn't looked up, pointed at the stars and brazenly claimed to want to marry them . . .

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Dog Legs!" (Han)

Long, long ago, there was a very remarkable little boy, a child genius, if you will, with the utterly strange name of Gui Guzi ("Ghost[ly] Millet" or "Unhusked rice").

What made him so amazing? At the age of three, he began to study medicine. By the age of five, he could cure people of their diseases.

Before long, people from far and near would come to him to seek a cure for whatever ailed them.
He was able to diagnose the symptoms, prescribe medicine, and perform surgery! Forget about playing with other children, hitting and catching balls, rolling in the grass, wrestling and just horsing around--his single activity was helping those who came to him in pain and misery.

Not far away, the local tyrant, the county magistrate, was in agony, his right leg covered with deep, sore ulcers. No one in his mansion could help him--not his family, staff, or any of the many doctors called in to take a look at his leg.

Then, somehow he heard of Gui Guzi.

He snapped his fingers and called for his head thug, officially, a magistrate's runner. "Fetch this child, this boy called Gui Guzi. Now!"

The runner located the boy, who, not surprisingly, was treating someone.

"All right, boy," said the thug, "let's go. His Honor, the county magistrate, needs your help."

"The county magistrate? I don't treat people like him, only people who cannot afford a doctor."

"Why, you impertinent little dog! Get up immediately and come with me! That's an order!"


The runner, the thug, immediately hit the boy several times and roughly pulled him to his feet.

"Then," said this brute, "I'll drag you back to the mansion!"

And so he did; he literally had to drag the boy back with him. Soon, Gui Guzi was standing before the county magistrate.

"Thank you for coming, boy," said the county magistrate. "Your fame precedes you. I need your help."

"Well," said Gui Guzi, rubbing the lump on his noggin, "since I'm now here, I'll help you."

"Good. That's the right attitude! Now, behold this . . ." The county magistrate rolled up his right pant leg, exposing the numerous ulcers all over his leg. "Cure me of this, boy, and I shall reward you with great riches."

"Hmm," said the boy, "I can surely help you, but the treatment is drastic."

"'Drastic'? What do you mean?"

"I shall need to cut your diseased leg off and replace it with someone else's leg, a healthier leg."

"Cut my leg off? Are you serious? You expect me to do my work while hobbling around on some stranger's leg? This better not be a joke!" The boy looked up at him, and he could see it was no joke. "Very well, very well." The county magistrate took a deep sigh and gritted his teeth. He turned to the henchman who had brought the boy. "You, go to the prison, secure a prisoner with a healthy right leg, and have the whole leg amputated!"

"No, Your Honor," said Gui Guzi, "that will not do. I need to judge whose leg you are to receive. Suppose a leg slightly shorter or longer were brought? Or, a leg with rougher skin? Such a leg wouldn't match. No, I need to select the leg for this procedure to be a success, and I need to do it soon."

"All right, boy, all right. Then, whose leg am I to receive?"

The boy turned to the runner standing loyally by the county magistrate and pointed at him.


The runner turned white. "What?!" this thug cried. "My leg? My leg?"

"Yes, your leg," replied Gui Guzi. "When I was brought to this place, I had the opportunity to observe your right leg. It is just right."

The thug started breathing heavily and exuding rolling drops of sweat. He knew that the boy was doing this for revenge, but what could he, the mighty runner, the chief enforcer of the county magistrate's law in this district, do?

"Oh, not my leg! Please! I beg you!"

The runner turned to the county magistrate, hoping for some reconsideration, some mercy. The county magistrate turned to his runner and looked at him with the utmost coldness.

"You would deny me, the imperial magistrate for this county, a needed leg? You wretch . . ." Turning back to Gui Guzi, he said, "Cut his leg off."

The county magistrate's servant gave Gui Guzi a sharp vegetable-and-meat carving knife. Gui Guzi first cut off the diseased right leg of the county magistrate. Then he cut off the right leg of the runner, who was being held down and restrained by men stronger than he. Finally, Gui Guzi replaced the county magistrate's missing leg with the runner's now severed right leg. The new leg was attached to the stump. Within minutes, the county magistrate was up and around, walking about on his new right leg.

"Wonderful!" the county magistrate cried. "Simply wonderful! Just like new!"

And the runner? He lay on the floor, writhing in blinding pain, moaning the torment and the loss of his leg.

Gui Guzi, however, was not without compassion. He had the rear right leg of a dog amputated and attached it to the stump where the runner's right leg had been. The thug now had a right leg again, albeit a dog's, but he could still somewhat walk and get around.

For this reason, many Chinese today still refer to corrupt, petty officials, low-level hoodlums, and those who act as bullies under the guise of authority as "dog legs."


from Minjian gushi, Lu Yao, ed. N.P.: Hebei Shaonian Ertong Chubanshe, 2004; pp. 78-79.

The character for "ghost" (gui) used as someone's nickname can indicate his/her connection to the mystical, dark and occult. The location of the province from which this story comes remains, unfortunately, unidentified.

Motifs: cE782, "Limb successfully replaced"; E782.4.1, "Substituted leg"; cQ451.2.0.1, "Limb cut off as punishment."

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Quick-Witted Bald Man (Kirghiz)

There was once a not particularly good-looking man with a shiny, round, hairless head. What he lacked in appearance, however, he more than made up with keen wisdom. In fact, in time, he became well known for his judgment. When he was of age, he married a lovely young woman, and they lived happily.

Now the Khan of those parts was a tyrant whose words were absolute law. His son, the Prince, was an equally unsavory character who always got his way because his father was the local monarch. One day the Prince spied the bald man's wife and decided he would have her for himself.

One afternoon, he sought out the bald man's wife when her husband was at work. He pestered and pestered her, demanding here and threatening there, and she felt deep shame. He only left just before the bald man returned home. Tearfully, the wife explained to her husband what had just happened.

"All right, this is what you must do should he appear again," said the bald man. "Tell him, 'My husband is home. Return tomorrow evening because by then he shall be on a long trip.'"

Well, not surprisingly, the Prince did return, and the wife did exactly as she had been instructed.

"My man's here!" she whispered to the Prince. "Come back tomorrow night when he's away on caravan!"

"Done!" whispered the Prince back, smiling and rubbing his hands.

Later the next evening, the Prince returned as had been expected. Striding into the yurt without looking about, he reached out to embrace the young wife. However, from out of the shadows, the bald man pounced upon the Prince and throttled him on the spot.

"Husband!" cried the wife. "You killed him! You just killed the Prince! You know there's no justice in this land. We're done for . . ."

"I know what to do," he replied. "You may go to sleep if you like."

Shouldering the dead prince, the bald man then headed into the night. He made his way to the yurt of the daughter of the Ba'yi, the great landowner. She lived alone and had remained fiercely jealous of the bald man's wife. The bald man stood the corpse of the Prince up and left it leaning against the opening of the yurt.

The Ba'yi's daughter heard some commotion outside her yurt and awoke.

"Who is it?" she screeched.

"The Prince," answered the bald man, hiding nearby.

"What do you want?"

"I love you!"

"Oh!" she fumed. "You disgusting, shameless creature! Be gone!"

"Shut up! I'm the Khan's son, and all I have to do is snap my fingers and your head will be on a platter. Now let me in!"

"If I want to marry," she responded, "my father will go through a matchmaker. I'm not interested in some chicken-and-dog thief who shows up at midnight!"

"Don't flatter yourself. I'm away from my yurt and too tired to go back to my wives. You'll do in a pinch."

Enraged, she picked up a long dagger, stepped over to the opening flap of the yurt where the shape of someone leaning against the fabric could be seen, and plunged the knife into the figure, the already dead Prince propped up there. When she opened the flaps of the yurt and saw what she had done, she ran in a panic to her father, the Ba'yi.

The Ba'yi heard about how the Prince had grossly insulted his daughter and could find no grounds on which to punish her for her act. Yet, she had just apparently murdered the Khan's son!

"Don't worry," he told her. I know someone who can help us." He then went to the yurt of the bald man, who was fast asleep.

"It is said that when one's father is dead, the dead man's friend becomes his father," said the anxious landowner to the bald man. "In truth, your late father was my very best friend. Son, on this night I need your help!"

"Speak, Ba'yi, and I shall do what I can," said the bald man.

The Ba'yi told the bald man everything. "I don't want to die!" he then added.

"Fear not," the bald man replied. "Now listen: what I am about to do is no small thing. It shall be very dangerous for me. How do you intend to reward me?"

"If I don't give you enough gold to fill a horse's head, may my own head roll under the blue sky!" answered the Ba'yi.

"Gold would be acceptable," said the bald man.

"I promise," said the Ba'yi. "If I break my promise, may heaven and earth punish me!"

"So be it," said the bald man, who then went to the yurt of the Ba'yi's daughter to retrieve the corpse of the dead Prince. Once again shouldering the dead Prince, the bald man headed into the darkness, this time on the road to the Khan's treasury.

He stealthily approached the great walls of the treasury. During the changing of the guard, he stuffed the dead Prince through an opening and allowed the body to drop to the ground with a loud clump. The bald man then scurried back to his yurt as fast as his legs could carry him. Naturally the guards had heard the noise and turned their direction to the intruder. They shot dozens of arrows at the dark figure lying on the ground below. The guards then rushed over to see who the brazen prowler was. When they saw the Prince's face, they were stunned, the breath knocked out of each one of them.

By and by they recovered from their shock. One of them had the sense to say, "Quick! We must act now. One of us must head over to that bald fellow and ask him for help. He'll know what to do!"

And so one of them did go there. Soon the bald man himself had arrived back at the treasury compound.

"How may I be of service?" asked the bald man.

The frightened guards immediately told him that the Prince himself had raided the treasury's forbidden compound and had been shot on sight.

"Help us, please!" the guards begged the bald man.

"Hmm, . . . ," said the bald man. "This is going to be tricky and personally very dangerous for me. If I help you, what will you do for me?"

"We'll serve you till the end of our days!" one said.

"Ha! Don't make me laugh. Here's what I want: as much gold as will fill the empty head of a horse."

The guards looked at each other.

"Come, now," said the bald man. "We are standing inside a treasury, are we not?"

What could the guards do? They agreed. The bald man told them to leave the Prince's body where it lay. He then left. Meanwhile, the guards then took out as much gold as would fill a horse's head and buried it in a spot designated by the bald man.

Early that morning, the bald man strode into the Khan's palace and requested an audience with the Khan. The Khan was already upon his throne that morning and curtly bade the the bald man to enter.

The bald man removed his battered hat and bowed before the Khan.

"Hurry up and state your concern," said the Khan. "I don't have all day for you."

"Great Khan, forgive my intrusion," said the bald man. "I am merely here as a loyal subject to gather a little information. Is it true that your word is law, that whatever you say can never be disregarded or ignored?"

"My words are rivets in steel," said the Khan. "There are no if's, but's, or and's when it comes to my orders. They are carried out as I have ordered, or else the offender's head is to be displayed. There are no exceptions. Now, bald man, why do you ask?"

"Great Khan, earlier this morning your guards killed a man who had dared to enter the treasury compound . . ."

"Have them bring the offender's head to me immediately!" thundered the Khan.

Shortly afterward, a guard brought in the head of the Prince. The Khan climbed down from his throne and saw that it was his very own son. And what could he say, he who had so many times said his orders here iron law? He ran out of the palace and all the way to the treasury, where the guards stood at attention, their knees knocking.

There on the ground lay the headless corpse of the Prince. The Khan thought back to one of his unbreakable edicts: Whoever enters the grounds of the treasury without permission is to be put to death on the spot! He gnashed his teeth, bowed his head and slowly walked back to his palace. No one was to be punished; his orders, after all, had been obeyed.

When it was wise to do so, the bald man dug up the rest of his gold. With his new riches, he constructed an even grander yurt for his wife. In time, he took the Ba'yi's daughter as his second wife, and she had to draw water, chop wood, and cook for the first wife.

The bald man thus ended his days respected by all, deeply satisfied and very happy.


from Xinjiang minjian gushiji, Chen Qinghao & Wang Qiugui, eds. pp. 35-42. (See 2/26/08 for full citation.)

There are folktales from around the world which present roguish, unattractive but virile and extremely resourceful male protagonists. Two come to mind: the Mongolian/Yugur "One-Inch Two-Inch Man" (see 12/30/07) and the Metis "Little-Man-With-Hair-All-Over," from American Indian Myths and Legends (Richard Erdoes & Alfonso Ortiz, eds; Pantheon, 1985, pp. 185-191). These heroes seem to have a lot in common with the roles traditionally accorded to dwarfs in folklore: their small stature suggests a budding libido as well as a closeness to the earth, making them crafty chthonic beings, appreciated for their innate wisdom derived from their contact with the secrets below the surface. The physical stature of the bald man in this story, however, is not emphasized; rather, his unattractiveness and sharp mind are stressed.

This folktale is a variation of the Indo-European series of tales "Disposing of the Corpse" and "Killing a Corpse" (AT 1536A and B and 1537).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"May We Have a Word With You?" -- a Taiwanese Legend From the Cold War

This is a story I heard from my late friend Richard, a family friend and visitor from Taiwan. He told me this story as I drove him, his wife, my family and family friends from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in the summer of 1982 or 1983.

This story has been in my mind all these years. It takes place during a less happier time, a time when residents of Taiwan and China were not allowed to communicate with each other or visit each other, a time of great political and military tensions.

"The Chinese secret intelligence service is second to none," I remember hearing Richard say as he began his story. Only one thing--he didn't specify whose intelligence service, China's or Taiwan's. What follows is his story to the best of my memory.

It seems that Mr. Tom H. (pseudonym), a government civil servant in some department, applied to the appropriate government agency for permission to visit Hong Kong. Permission was granted, so off he went.

There was a slight detail he did not bother to tell the government agent responsible for looking into his trip: Tom was not intending to make Hong Kong the focal point of his trip. No, instead he was planning to land in Hong Kong and then cross the border into the People's Republic of China, where he would travel up to his home province, let's say Anhui, a place he had left as a child with relatives who had fled to Taiwan. There, in his hometown, he planned to reunite with his mother, whom he hadn't seen since 1948, nearly thirty years before.

He landed in Hong Kong. The next day he arrived at the Lok Ma Chau border station to cross over into China. He did so, without incident, his passport left unstamped. From Guangdong Province, he traveled by bus or train to Anhui Province and then onto his hometown, the place of his birth. He was joyfully reunited with his mother and other relatives.

During his visit, he was paid a visit by PRC security agents, who politely asked Tom to visit their office. Tom, of course, went immediately. He was ushered into a room and was asked to sit in front of a desk behind which sat a high-ranking security officer. Offered tea, Tom was given a brief interview.

He was asked his impression of modern China. Did everything look fine? Did the local people appear well fed, happy, prosperous? Was he enjoying himself? and so on.

Tom responded affirmatively and positively to everything he was asked. Yes, he was very impressed by the People's Republic, and, yes, everything appeared modern. The citizens, too, looked content, happy and well-fed.

Fine. Tom was allowed to return back to his mother's apartment. He continued to visit for a few more days and then returned to Hong Kong. He might have spent a day or two in Hong Kong, for after all, the then-British Crown Colony had been his ostensible destination. He'd be expected to bring back souvenirs of his stay.

He returned to Taipei and then back to his apartment.

A few days later, as he was getting ready to go to work in the morning, he heard a knock at the door. Opening the door, he came face-to-face with two polite strangers in business suits. One of them smiled and flashed his I.D. at Tom: Agent X, the National Security Bureau of the Republic of China.

"May we have a word with you at our office regarding your recent trip to Hong Kong?" the NSB agent asked. "Our car is waiting downstairs."

A million things must have run through Tom's head as he sat in the backseat of the car headed to NSB headquarters. Did they know he had gone to the Mainland, which at that time would have been a huge crime? Had he been sloppy in keeping his tracks clean? He had been careful not to bring back any memento from Anhui. So did they know?

Tom and his government escorts arrived at their destination. Tom was led into an office. Behind the desk sat a senior agent. On the desk was a tape recorder or tape deck. With a wave of the hand, the senior agent dismissed the pair that had brought Tom in.

"Now, may I ask where you went on your recent overseas vacation?" the senior agent asked.

"Hong Kong."

"Just Hong Kong? Not, perhaps, Macao as well?"

"No. Just Hong Kong."

"I see."

The senior agent smiled. He turned on the recorder. The tape then repeated the exact conversation Tom had had with the security officer in Anhui--the exact words and the same voices. Tom heard once again the questions asked of him while in China, and again he heard the replies he himself had given.

He slumped into his chair. What could he say? There was nothing he could say . . .

Tom was punished. He was very fortunately not sent to Green Island. Back in those martial-law days, his punishment could have been very heavy. Instead, he was given five to ten years restricted travel, prohibited from leaving Taiwan. I don't recall how his legal problems impacted his job as civil servant. Difficulties such as his tended to have a negative effect on job promotion and tenure.


Nowadays Chinese from both sides of the Straits can visit each other. Many Mainland visitors have flocked to Taiwan, and thousands of citizens of Taiwan live and work on the Mainland. Indeed, Richard's ex-wife herself now lives in Shanghai. Thus, this story is a relic of a bygone era.

Green Island, now a popular resort off the southeast coast of Taiwan, was once a penal colony housing those convicted of political offenses.

This story has some of the hallmarks we associate with urban legends: the lack of a firmly identified protagonist; "Tom," to the best of my recollection, was explained away as a "friend of a friend"; and a "comeuppance" effect, poetic justice or an otherwise very negative result for involving oneself in deception.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Two Legends About the Sea Goddess Mazu (Fujian & Taiwan)

(1) Mazu and General Sees All and General Hears All

It is said that General Sees All and General Hears All had been brothers in life. The older brother, the one who could see vast distances, was named Gaoming; his brother, the one whose ears could pick up the faintest sounds for thousands of li, was named Gaojue.

These two brothers were generals, and in their final battle, they fought fiercely together before sacrificing their lives. Their spirits then floated up to Peach Blossom Mountain, where they became resident noxious demons that threatened any humans passing by.

When the goddess Mazu happened to travel through the area, the two demons appeared to her and demanded that she marry them. The goddess, of course, refused this outrageous command. Would she battle them? they asked. The loser would do the other's bidding; in this case, if Mazu lost, she would have to marry the pair. Mazu agreed and countered that if they, the demons, lost, they would become her attendants.

Both sides agreed to the terms and the duel was on!

With her matchless powers, Mazu trounced both fierce warrior demons in no time.

The demons had no choice but to keep their word. Thus, this how the green-faced demon Sees All and his red-faced brother Hears All came to be the goddess companions and servants!


from Shi Siwei, Taiwan minjian gushixuan, pp. 59-60.

Mazu (Matsu) ("Ancestress Mother") is the Southeastern Chinese patron goddess of mariners and is also known as the "Holy Mother of Heaven" or "the Heavenly Empress." According to Lin Daoyuan, who classifies Mazu as a "folk religion deity," there are from 500 to 600 temples and shrines on Taiwan alone dedicated to her (Taiwan minjian xinyang shenming datu, 294.). Perhaps the most famous Mazu temple on Taiwan is the one located in Pei-kang (Beigang), which attracts many pilgrims. The Taiwan-administered island chain, the Matsu Islands north of Taiwan, though written with a slightly different character, is named for her, and a temple on one of the islets is believed to house her tomb. It also remains a destination for pilgrims. The major focus of pilgrims, however, remains the goddess's birthplace, Meizhou, Fujian Province, where she was born in circa 960 A.D., right at the inauguration of the Song Dynasty. She was named "Mo" ("silent") or "Moniang" ("Silent maiden") because in the first month of life she did not utter a cry. When Lin Moniang reached her twenty-third year (Liao Yuwen, Taiwan shenhua, 73), she ascended into heaven from a cloud-encased mountain peak and into the company of welcoming celestial and immortal children. Other sources place her age at twenty eight (Cang Dewu, Taiwan minjian gushi, 133; Shi Siwei, Taiwan minjian gushixuan, 55), while Lin Daoyuan states she perished in a typhoon at the age of twenty seven (295). In any case, she would later appear on the seas during storms, aiding those in distress.

Another legend about Mazu, "The Story of Yishan Island," can be found at 3/28/08.

I didn't attempt to translate literally the Chinese names for "General Sees All" and "General Hears All"; instead, I freely translated their respective names (Qianliyan, "Eyes that see for a thousand li," and Shunfeng'er, "Ears that hear with the flow of the wind") to capture what the original names in Chinese imply. Their names have come down into modern parlance to mean "foresighted," "shrewd," or even "telepathic" (qianliyan) and "illuminated" or "enlightened" (shunfeng'er). Two excellent wooden images of the generals can be found inside Tainan's Heavenly Empress Palace (Daitian hougong), also known as the Tainan Mazu Temple; here, the Qianliyan statue is green-skinned, while Shunfeng'er is red, as are other statues of the generals elsewhere on Taiwan. (Shi Cuifeng reverses their colors; Taiwan minjian gushixuan, 53.) These two beings first come into history by appearing in the well-known Ming Dynasty epic Journey to the West, where they are depicted as the "eyes" and "ears" of the Jade Emperor, informing him of what is going on in the world (Chou Hongwei, Zhongguo minjian xinyan fengsu cidian, 127). Probably not coincidentally, "Gaoming" means "high brilliance," "great wisdom," and/or "profound brightness (of the eyes)," while "Gaojue" means "great perception" and/or "great sensitivity."

(2) Mazu's Iron Horse

By the time she was nineteen, Lin Moniang had already witnessed many maritime tragedies--lives being lost in sudden storms and typhoons--and each time she saw such an occurrence, it always broke her heart. Most heart-wrenching for her was a tsunami that suddenly hit Meizhou Island one autumn day, sweeping out to sea more than ten fishing boats and over a hundred souls.

Lin Moniang continued to mourn the disaster that had hit her close-knit community. She soon fell very ill as a result and became confined to her bed.

One day, some time between afternoon and early evening, Lin Moniang was sleeping when she was suddenly awoken by whinnying. That was odd, for there were no horses on this island of fishing families. Whenever the island residents had to travel, they took to their boats and headed for the mainland. Who on this island would have any use for a horse? Lin Moniang herself had never even beheld a real horse, only the ornamental majestic iron horse placed near the village during some long ago dynasty, the iron horse which continually stood under a banyan tree.

Lin Moniang went back to sleep.

Late the next afternoon, still very ill in bed, Lin Moniang again heard the telltale whinnying of what could only be a vigorous horse. Her curiosity had now gotten the better of her, prompting her to put her illness and weakness out of her mind.

The next day, at sundown, Lin Moniang was ready. She had lain on her bed for most of the day in her clothes, preparing to get up at a moment's notice. At the first sound of neighing, she climbed out of bed and made it to the door, which she opened.

She listened.

Yes, it must be a horse; there was no other creature on the island that could make such a sound. The noise seemed to be coming from the grove of banyan trees just beyond the village. As ill as she was, she crept outside and headed for the banyan trees, in particular the tree under which stood the iron horse.

There stood the iron horse, motionless, gleaming in the moonlight.

Lin Moniang approached the horse and stroked its neck and metal mane.

She stepped back--the horse was now warm flesh, covered by a downy fuzz! Its eyes blinked as it boldly snorted a ball of warm air, its tail, gently switching.

Startled but also happily excited, Lin Moniang put her arms around the horse's neck and climbed up onto its back. She gently patted the horse. It then gave off a loud neigh, raised its head and took off like a ray of light, heading for the boundless sea!

Lin Moniang discovered she could guide the horse's direction by pointing. When she folded her five fingers, the horse would come to a stop.

The future goddess Mazu, Lin Moniang, was jubilant and filled with hope, for with this horse, she could go to any friend or family member needing rescue at sea.

Dawn was approaching. Lin Moniang guided the iron horse back to its original spot beneath the banyan tree. She dismounted the steed and gently stroked its neck, allowing its soft flesh to return instantly to a metallic state.

From that day on, Lin Moniang patrolled the ocean off the coast of the island while riding the iron horse, rescuing all--be they fishermen, traders or passengers--who found themselves struggling to survive upon the unfriendly sea.

It is said that when Lin Moniang ascended into heaven, the iron horse went with her.


from Mazude chuanshuo (Legends about Mazu), Wang Wulong, ed.; Fuzhou: Haixia Wenyi Chubanshe, pp. 27-28.

Few animals in world myths and legends can compete with the horse in abundance of symbols. Depending on the culture, horses may represent frenzy, male vitality, the underworld (as psychopomps), nobility, the sun, and flowing water (e.g., springs). Ancient Chinese myth has its share of flying horses. The Shanhaijing, composed sometime between the end of the Period of Warring States (221 B.C.) and the beginning of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.), a compendium of fabulous beasts, lists a "heavenly horse," a winged creature with the head of a dog that would fly away upon being observed by people (Yuan Ke,
Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian, 63).

Motifs: B41.2, "Flying horse"; cD1626.1, "Artificial flying horse."