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No Cha the Third Lotus Prince

THE eldest daughter of the lord of heaven had married the general Li Ching. Her sons were called Chin Chia, Mu Chia and No Cha. But before No Cha was born his mother had been carrying him for three years and six months. One night she dreamed that a Taoist priest entered het chamber. Angrily she bade him leave. But he said: 'Make haste to receive the divine son!' And with these words he placed a brilliant pear in her body. The woman had such a fright that she woke up. And there she gave birth to a ball of flesh which spun like a wheel, filing the chamber with strange perfumes and red light.

Li Ching was much startled and thought it was an evil spirit. With his sword he cleft the sphere in two and from it leapt a small boy whose whole body glowed with a rosy radiance. His face was delicate and as white as snow. On his right arm he wore a golden armlet, and tied round his hips was a piece of red silk so brilliant it blinded the eye.

When Li Ching saw the child he took pity on him and did not kill him. And his wife conceived a deep love for the boy.

When three days had passed all their friends came to congratulate them. As they were all banqueting a Taoist priest entered and said: 'I am the Great One. This boy is the bright pearl of the first origin, lent to you as your son. But he is wild and uncontrolled and will kill many people. I Will therefore take him as my pupil to pacify his wild nature.' Li Ching bowed gratefully and the Great One disappeared.

One day, When No Cha was seven years old he left home. He came to the nine-bend river whose green waters rolled along between two rows of weeping willows. It was a hot day and he stepped into the water to cool himself. He untied his red silk cloth and swished it through the water to wash it. All the water turned red from it. But as No Cha was sitting there, swishing his cloth in the water, the dragon king's castle in the eastern sea was shaken its foundations. The dragon king therefore sent out a triton of horrible aspect to see what was happening. When it caught sight of the boy it began scold him. But the boy glanced up and said: 'What a strange animal you are. Are you even capable of speech?'

This infuriated the triton and it leapt up and hit out at No Cha with its axe. No Cha dodged the blow and flung his golden armlet at it. The armlet hit the triton on its head so that its brain spurted out and it fell down dead.

No Cha laughed: Now it has spattered my armlet with its blood.' And he sat down on a stone to wash it. Then the crystal castle of the dragon king began to shake until it was near to collapsing. A guard arrived and reported that the triton had been killed by a boy, so the dragon king sent out his son to question the boy. The son mounted the Water-cleaving beast and arrived amidst a great roar of waves. No Cha straightened up and said: That's a good wave.' Suddenly he saw a beast emerging from the waves and on it a man in armour who shouted with a mighty voice: 'Who killed my triton?' No Cha replied: 'The triton tried to kill me, so I killed it. What is it to you?' Thereupon the dragon charged him with his halberd. But No Cha said: 'Tell me Who you are before we start fighting.' 'l am the son of the dragon king,' was the reply. 'And I am No Cha, the son of the General Li Ching. Now don't you make me angry with your violence or else I'll skin you alive, together with your old man, the mud fish!' This made the dragon furious and he charged savagely. But No Cha threw his red cloth into the air so that it flashed like a ball of fire and threw the young dragon from his mount. Then No Cha took his golden armlet and struck him on the forehead so that he had to reveal himself in his true shape of the golden dragon and he fell down dead.

 No Cha laughed: 'I have heard it said that dragons' tendons make good rope. I will pull one out and bring it to my father so that he can fasten his armour with it.' And with these words he pulled out the dragon's dorsal tendon and took it home with him. Meanwhile the dragon king had hurried to No Cha's father Li Ching in wrath and demanded that he should hand his son over. But Li Ching said; 'You must be mistaken, my boy is Only seven, he is incapable of such misdeeds.' While they were arguing No Cha came running up and called out: 'Father, here is a dragon's tendon I have brought you to fasten your armour with.' Thereupon the dragon king burst into tears and angry words of reproach. He threatened to denounce Li Ching to the lord of heaven and made off, snorting with anger. Li Ching was greatly upset and told his wife about the incident; and both started to cry. But No Cha came in and said: 'What are you crying about? I will simply go to my master, the Great One, he will know what to do.' NO sooner had he said these words than he was gone. He went up to his master and told him the whale story. The master said: "You must get up to heaven before the dragon so he does not denounce you there.' Then he gave him some magic and No Cha was transported to the door of heaven, where he would wait for the dragon. It was still early in the morning. The door of heaven was not yet open and the guard had not yet arrived. And there the dragon came climbing up. No Cha, made invisible by his magic, threw the dragon to the ground by striking him from behind with his armlet and started to beat him. The dragon complained and screamed. 'Look how the old worm is squirming,' said No Cha, 'he does not seem to mind being beaten. I will scrape some of his scales off.' With these he ripped open the dragon's ceremonial clothes and began to tear off some of his scales under his left arm So that the red blood began to drip. The dragon could not stand the pain any longer and asked for mercy. But No Cha did not let him go until he had promised not to denounce him. The dragon now had to change into a small green snake which No Cha slipped up his sleeve and so returned home. No sooner had he pulled the small snake out of his sleeve than it assumed human shape. The dragon swore frightful vengeance upon Li Ching and vanished in a flash of lightning. Li Ching was seriously angry with his son. For that reason, No Cha's mother sent him out of the way so his father should not see him. No Cha slipped away to his master to ask him what he should do if the dragon returned. He gave him his counsel and No Cha returned home. When he got back the dragon kings of all the four seas were assembled there and with much noise and shouting had tied up his parents to take their vengeance. No Cha raced up to them and shouted in a loud voice: 'Whatever I have done I shall answer for myself. No blame attaches to my parents. What satisfaction do you demand from me 'A life for a life!' shouted the dragon. 'Very well, I Will chop myself up. Will you promise me not to do my parents any harm then? ' The dragon agreed and ordered the fetters of No Cha's parents to be struck. No Cha first hacked off one of his arms. His mother burst into loud lamentations. But it was of no avail. He had already slit open his body, his entrails spilled out, his three spirits and nine souls dispersed and his life returned to the beyond. Satisfied, the dragons departed and No Cha was buried by his mother with a great many tears.

But No Cha's spirit still fluttered about in the air and was carried by the wind to the Cave of the Great One. He received him and said to him: 'You must appear to your mother. Forty miles from your home stands the green rock face. Upon that rock she is to build a temple to you. When you have enjoyed the incense of humans for three years you may receive a body again.' No Cha appeared to his mother in a dream and conveyed it all to her. She awoke wet with tears. But Li Ching was angry when she told him her dream. 'It serves that accursed boy right to be dead. But because you keep thinking of him he appears to you in your dream. You are not to take any notice of him.' The woman was silent, but from then onwards No Cha appeared to her every day the moment she closed her eyes and he became more and more insistent. In the end she had no other choice but to have a temple built for No Cha without Li Ching's knowledge.

In that temple No Cha performed great miracles. All prayers were answered. Men came from far and wide to burn incense to him. Six months passed. Then one day Li Ching came by that mountain on a military exercise and saw the crowds swarming around the mountain like ants. Li Ching asked what there was to be seen there. There is a new god who works such miracles that people come from far and wide to revere him.' 'What kind of god is that?' asked Li Ching. They dared not keep the truth from him. Then Li Ching was angry. He galloped his horse up the mountain and there, true enough, over the temple gateway, was the inscription 'Temple of No Cha'. And inside was No Cha's picture, looking exactly as he had done while alive. Li Ching said: 'When you were alive you brought misfortune upon your parents. And now, after your death, you deceive the people. That is despicable!' With these words he drew his whip, shattered No Cha's idol, had the temple burnt down and pacified the worshippers. Then he returned home.

That day No Cha had been away in spirit. When he returned to his temple he found it in ruins. The spirit of the mountain told him what had happened. No Cha hurried to his master and, in tears, told him What had happened. The master said angrily: 'Li Ching was at fault. Once you have returned your body to your parents you are no longer any concern of theirs. Why should he deprive you of the enjoyment of incense?' Thereupon the Great One fashioned body of lotus plants, breathed life into it and enclosed No Cha's spirit in this body. Then he called with a loud voice: 'Arise!' There came the sound of a breath and No Cha rose up again in the shape of a small boy. He threw himself down at his master's feet and thanked him. The master granted him the magic of the fiery lance and from then onwards No Cha had two whirling wheels under his feet—the wheel of Wind and the wheel of fire. On these he could rise and descend in the air. The master also gave him a bag of panther skin to hold his armlet and red silk cloth. Thoughts of revenge would not let No Cha rest. In an unguarded moment he departed and on whirling wheels accompanied by the roar of thunder he made for Li Ching's home. Li Ching could not stand up to him and fled. His strength was about to leave him when out of the White Crane's Cave came his second son Mu Chia, the disciple of the holy P'u Hsien, to rescue him. An angry dispute arose bet-ween the two brothers. They started to fight and Mu Chia succumbed. Once more No Cha charged after Li Ching. In his despair Li Ching was about to take his own life when the holy Wen Shu from the Mount of the Five Dragons, the master of Chin Chia, Li Ching's eldest son, appeared and hid him in his cave. Angrily No Cha demanded that he should surrender him but the holy Wen Shu said: 'Elsewhere you may give free rein to your nature, but you will not do so in this place.' When No Cha, seething with anger, turned his fiery lance upon him Wen Shu took a step back, from his sleeve produced the seven-petalled lotus flower and threw it into the air. A whirlwind sprang up, clouds and mist enveloped everything, sand and earth swirled through the air. Then, with a loud crash, everything dropped to the ground. No Cha lost consciousness and When he woke up again he was tied to a golden column with three golden hoops so that he could not move. Wen Shu now summoned Chin Chia and commanded him to give his misbegotten brother a good thrashing. This he did. No Cha gnashed his teeth but had to submit. At the moment of his supreme trial he saw the Great One approach through the air. He called out to him: 'Master, save me!' Great One did not listen to him but stepped into the cave and with a smile thanked Wen Shu for the rough lesson he had administered to No Cha. At last they called him in and commanded him to be reconciled with his father. Then they dismissed the two and sat down to a game of chess. But no sooner was No Cha free again than his anger flared up anew and he resumed his pursuit. Again he had caught up with Li Ching but just then another saint appeared to protect him. This was the ancient Buddha of Glowing Light. When No Cha tried to fight him he raised his sleeve and red swirling clouds turned into a pagoda enclosing No Cha. Glowing Light now placed both his hands on the pagoda. A fire sprang up inside it which burnt No Cha until he cried for mercy. He had to promise to ask his father's forgiveness and to be ever obedient to him. Not until he had made all these pledges did the Buddha release him. He then gave the pagoda to Li Ching and taught him a magic formula with which he could constrain No Cha. Since then Li Ching had been called the pagoda-bearing King of Heaven.

Li Ching and his three sons Chin Chia, Mu Chia and No Cha later helped Emperor Wu of the house of Chou to destroy the tyrant Chou Hsin. No one could resist their powers. However, a wizard once succeeded in wounding No Cha on his left arm by black magic. Anybody else would have died of the Wound. But No Cha was carried by the Great One to his cave. There the Great One treated his wound and gave him three beakers of gods' wine to drink and three fire-dates to eat. When No Cha had eaten and drunk he suddenly heard a loud crack on his left side and a new arm grew from his body. He turned pale with fright, but at that moment another arm grew from his right side. His words stuck in his throat and his eyes started from their sockets with horror. But this was not all: four arms grew from his body and two more heads, so that eventually he had three heads and six arms. He called cut to his master: 'Where is this leading?' but his master laughed and said: "That's fine! That's fine! Now you will have real power.' Then he taught him the magic of making the arms and heads visible or invisible at will. When the tyrant Chou Hsin was destroyed Li Ching and his three sons were raised to the rank of gods while still alive and in their earthly bodies.

[Triton is a mythological Greek god, the messenger of the sea. He is the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, god and goddess of the sea respectively, and is herald for his father. Ewald Osers uses a Greek god’s name to translate the name of a dragon’s prince of Eastern China Sea.]


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