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The Cuckoo Bird and the Emperor

Duyu (杜宇 Cuckoo Bird) descended from Heaven and resided in Zhuti (朱提), he married a lady called Zhu Li (朱利), who was born in a well. Duyu ascended to the throne after Yu Fu (魚鳧 Fisher Bird), and reigned for a hundred years the ancient kingdom Ba and Shu (巴蜀), which encompassed the SiChuan basin. His imperial title was Emperor Wang (望帝) .

Du Yu was a kind-hearted king, and he loved his people as much as he loved his siblings and children. He taught his people to plow and sow, and harvest according to seasons and people of Shu adored and trusted him as if he were their father.

One year, flood engulfed the country of Shu and people and crops became the food of fish and dragons. Du Yu tried all he could, but the flood continued to rage. When he realized that he could no longer provide security and happiness to his people, and was in great distress, he met a young man called Bie Ling (鳖灵 the Tortoise Spirit). Bie Ling told Emperor Wang that he came from Jing (荆). He was drowned and his body floated down the river Pi, and later revived. Bie Ling became Emperor's Councillor, and was ordered to work on irrigation and flood control immediately.

Bie Ling was the embodiment of the spirit of a water turtle, and he understood the nature of water. He led the people of Shu to open up the Three Gores on the Yangtze River, and drained the Sichuan Basin of the overwhelming water. Signs of life returned to the land.

In Bie Ling's absence, Emperor Wang had an adulterous affair with Bie Ling's wife. But he was regret and repented for his wrongdoing. When Bie Ling returned from his successful mission, Emperor Wang abdicated his throne to Bie Ling and retired himself into the West Mountain.

Bie Ling ascended the throne and became the Emperor of Kaiming (开明 Open and Bright). People resumed the routine of plowing and sowing, the flood became a distant nightmare. In happiness, they totally forgot about their old king.

But gradually, Emperor Kaiming became proud and give himself up to dissolution. People suffered under this new tyrant. One day someone suddenly thought of Emperor Wang. People went looking for him, but it was too late. In the West Mountain, people could not find any traces of the old king--only the cuckoo birds sang among the bushes.

People of Shu missed King Du Yu, and felt guilty for abandoning him in his old age. They realized that the old king had transformed into the cuckoo birds. Every spring, cuckoos came out at the same time and sang “Cuckoo! Bu Gu!” calling his people to sow grains.

People also wondered what the old king must have felt in his final years. They imagined that he was very sad, for the cries of the cuckoos had a heart wrenching ring. Some say that the cuckoo birds sang so fervently that they shed blood, and the blood became azaleas, the flame-like flowers, which lit up every hill in southern China every spring.


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