Skip to main content

Four Chinese Legends

Butterfly lovers

Zhu Yingtai (祝英台) is a beautiful and intelligent young woman, the ninth child and only daughter of the wealthy Zhu family. Although traditions of her era discourage females from going to school, Zhu manages to convince her father to allow her to attend classes in disguise as a young man. During her journey to Hangzhou, she meets Liang Shanbo (梁山伯), a scholar from Kuaiji. He is the son of a poor farmer. They chat and feel a strong affinity for each other at their first meeting. Hence, they make soil cake and gather some grasses as incense, and take an oath of fraternity in the pavilion of a thatched bridge.

They study together for the next three years in school and Zhu gradually falls in love with Liang. Although Liang equals Zhu in their studies, he is still a bookworm and fails to notice the feminine characteristics exhibited by his classmate. They share the only toilet in the college, her classmates notice that she never stand to wee, rumours start to circulate and finally reaches the ear of the bookworm Liang Shanbo. Zhu Yingtai covers up the truth by a very clever scheme, she spills urine on the ground and wall in the toilet, and on the rim of the stool. Then she complains to the headmistress, demanding change of position from stand to sit as a rule hygene.

One day, Zhu receives a letter from her father, asking her to return home as soon as possible because he was very ill. Zhu has no choice but to pack her belongings immediately and bid Liang farewell. However, in her heart, she has already confessed her love for Liang and is determined to be with him for all eternity. Before her departure, she reveals her true identity to the headmaster's wife and requests her to hand over a jade pendant to Liang as a betrothal gift.
Liang accompanies his "sworn brother" for 18 miles to see her off. During the journey, Zhu hints to Liang that she is actually a woman. For example, she compares them to a pair of mandarin ducks (symbolic of lovers in Chinese culture) but Liang does not catch her hints and does not have even the slightest suspicion that his companion is a woman in disguise. Zhu finally comes up with an idea and tells Liang that she will act as a matchmaker for him and her "sister". Before they part, Zhu reminds Liang to visit her residence later so he can propose to marry her "sister." Liang and Zhu reluctantly part ways at the Changting pavilion.

Months later, when Liang visits Zhu, he discovers that she is actually a woman. They are devoted to and passionate about each other and they make a vow of "till death do us part". The joy of their reunion is short-lived as Zhu's parents have already arranged for her to marry a man from a rich family called Ma Wencai. Liang is heartbroken when he hears the news and his health gradually deteriorates until he becomes critically ill. He dies in office later as a county magistrate.

On the day of Ma and Zhu's marriage, mysterious whirlwinds prevent the wedding procession from escorting the bride beyond Liang's grave, which lies along the journey. Zhu leaves the procession to pay her respects to Liang. She descends in bitter despair and begs for the grave to open up. Suddenly, the grave opens with a clap of thunder. Without further hesitation, Zhu throws herself into the grave to join Liang. Their spirits turn into a pair of beautiful butterflies and emerge from the grave. They fly together as a pair and are never to be separated again.

The Story of Lady White Snake

or The White Maiden Locked for Eternity in the Leifeng Pagoda

The story is set in the Southern Song Dynasty period of Chinese history.

Bai Suzhen (白素貞), a female white snake demon, dreams of becoming a goddess by doing good deeds. She transforms herself into a woman and travels to the human realm. There, she meets a green snake demon, Qing (青), who causes disaster in the area she lives. Bai holds Qing captive at the bottom of a lake but promises her that she will return 300 years later to free her. Bai keeps her word and develops a sisterly bond with Qing. They encounter Fahai, a sorcerer who believes that every demon is inherently evil and must be destroyed. However, Bai is too powerful and Fahai is unable to eliminate her immediately, so he vows to destroy them if he sees them again.

Fearing that they will meet more human sorcerers, Bai and Qing retreat to the Banbuduo, a realm that exists between the human and demon worlds. They try to perform good deeds by bringing rain to places experiencing drought. However, Qing was careless and almost flooded the whole town once. Due to this mistake, Bai loses her chance to become an immortal. However, Guan Yin informs her that she may have yet another opportunity.

In the meantime, Bai and Qing accidentally bring a scholar named Xu Xian, and his friend, into the demon world. Bai protects them from the other demons and falls in love with Xu in the process. After the battle with the lord of the Underworld, Xu confesses his feelings for Bai, claiming that it was love at first sight. However, for a human to return to his world, he must first become unconscious and have any memory about his experience in the demon realm erased, but Xu knows and avoids being knocked out. However, Fahai finds a way into the demon world and he tricks Xu into being knocked out.

When Xu Xian returns to the human realm he forgets everything. Since he and his friend entered the portal separately, they end up in different locations. Xu meets many new people there. Not long later, Bai takes a final step to becoming a goddess, which is to collect human tears. Bai sees Xu with another woman and assumes that they are a couple. Qing realizes that when Xu and Bai meet, Xu will fall in love with Bai again, so she helps to arrange a meeting for them. Xu and Bai are married, open a medicine shop and live happily together.

However, as humans and demons are forbidden to bond, the town is struck by a plague and ends up on the verge of total destruction. Bai, Qing and Fahai finally agree to a truce and obtain a magical herb needed to help the population. Bai becomes pregnant later with Xu's child, but Fahai continues to attempt to eliminate her and Qing.

On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, when the Duanwu Festival is held, demons in human form will revert to their original shape. Bai thus decides to take Qing and Xu Xian back to Banbuduo, but Xu falls for Fahai's trick again. Bai's true form is revealed and Xu is literally scared to death. Bai retrieves a drug that restores Xu to life. After giving birth to Xu's son, Bai is unable to control herself anymore and is forced to tell her husband the truth about her origin. Xu kindly accepts her, but Fahai attacks the weakened Bai and imprisons her for eternity in the Leifeng Pagoda.

Lady Meng Brought Down Great Wall by Tears

Chinese first emperor Qin Shihuang made history by unifying China and ending the fragmentation of the land into many vassal dukedoms. But at the same time he was a heinous tyrant. He made excessive demands on his manpowers condemning thousands upon thousands of people to back-breaking toil on the Great Wall project in total disregard oftheir health and welfare. So the legend of Lady Mengjiang began.Lady Meng Jiang's husband, like many other young men in the village, had to leave home to build the Great Wall. Lady Meng Jiang knew how hard and dangerous it was to build the Great Wall. She worried her husband so much, she prayed for him everyday, hoping he would soon come home. Years passed without Lady Meng Jiang receiving word from her husband.Lady Meng Jiang decided to go see her husband taking a new coat she just made for him. She trudged for months on the rocky paths and over the mountains to make her way to the Great Wall, where she began to look for her husband. As she walked along the Wall, Lady Meng Jiang asked everyone she met if th under the wallobody knew him. Finally she found the group of workers from her village. When she asked about her husband, they told her that he had died. By asking where was her husband's tomb, Lady Meng Jiang was told that nobody knew exactly where it was, but somewhere under the wall.

This tragic news sent Lady Meng Jiang into a stupor. As she gained conscious, sorrow began to eat into her heart, tears running unchecked. She started to weep and then to wail. For three days and three nights, she wept and wailed at the foot of the Great Wall, when her tears dried up, contiued with blood, The heaven was moved by her tears, when all of a sudden a miraculous event happened: a section of the wall, as long as eight hundred miles, broke loose and collapsed with a big bang, revealing countless white bones, including that of her husband's amidst the debris of dirt and stones. She let her blood drip to the dead bodies and white bones, and prayed that the blood would permeate into the body if it was her husband's body, otherwise the blood would flow away. In this way, Lady Meng Jiang finally found the remains of her husband.

The collapse of the Great Wall disturbed Qing-shi-huang, the emperor. When the Emperor came and saw Lady Meng Jiang, he was attracted by her beauty, took her to be his concubine. Lady Meng Jiang consented on three conditions: First, the Emperor should arrange a decent funeral for her her husband and bury him properly; Second, confer her late husband a posthumous title of high official; Third, the Emperor should go with her to sacrifice the spirit of Mountain T'ai and the Eastern Sea, annoucing their marriage to Heaven and Earth. The Emperor agreed with her requests. The Emperor built a great pier into the Eastern Sea, and accompanied Lady Meng to office sacrifice to the Spirit, but alas! Lady Meng, Jang jumped into the foaming sea.

Cowherd and Weaver Girl

In late summer, the stars Altair and Vega are high in the night sky, and the Chinese tell the following love story, of which there are many variations:

A young cowherd, hence Niulang (牛郎), came across with a beautiful girl, Zhinü (織女), the seventh daughter of the Goddess, who just has escaped from boring heaven to look for fun. The naughty princess soon fell in love with Niulang, and they got married without the knowledge of the Goddess. Zhinü proved to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang to be a good husband. They lived happily and had two children. But the Goddess of Heaven (or in some versions, Zhinü's mother) found out that Zhinü, a fairy girl, had married a mere mortal. The Goddess was furious and ordered Zhinü to return to heaven. (Alternatively, the Goddess forced the fairy back to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds, a task she neglected while living on earth with a mortal.) On Earth, Niulang was very upset that his wife had disappeared. Suddenly, his ox began to talk, telling him that if he killed it and put on its hide, he would be ableto go up to Heaven to find his wife. Crying bitterly, he killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to Heaven to find Zhinü. The Goddess discovered this and was very angry. Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratched a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever, thus forming the Milky Way between Altair and Vega.

Zhinü must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niulang watches her from afar while taking care of their two children (his flanking stars β and γ Aquilae or by their Chinese names Hè Gu 1 and Hè Gu 3).

But once a year all the magpies in the world would take pity on them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge (鵲橋, "the bridge of magpies") , so the lovers may be together for a single night, which is the seventh night of the seventh moon.

Popular posts from this blog

The wonderful pear-tree

Once upon a time a countryman came into the town on market-day, and brought a load of very special pears with him to sell. He set up his barrow in a good corner, and soon had a great crowd round him ; for everyone knew he always sold extra fine pears, though he did also ask an extra high price. Now, while he was crying up his fruit, a poor, old, ragged, hungry-looking priest stopped just in front of the barrow, and very humbly begged him to give him one of the pears. But the countryman, who was very mean and very nasty-tempered, wouldn't hear of giving him any, and as the priest didn't seem inclined to move on, he began calling him all the bad names he could think of. " Good sir," said the priest, " you have got hundreds of pears on your barrow. I only ask you for one. You would never even know you had lost one. Really, you needn't get angry." "Give him a pear that is going bad ; that will make him happy," said one of the crowd. "The o

The Legend of The Three-Life Stone

The Buddhist believe metempsychosis, or the migration of the souls of animated beings, people's relationships are predestined through three states of life: the past, present, and future life. Legend has it that there's a road called Yellow Spring Road, which leads to Fogotten River. Over the river there's a bridge called Helpless Bridge (Naihe Bridge), at one end of the bridge sits a crimson stone called Three-life Stone. When two people die, they take this route to reincarnation. if they carve their name on the Three-life Stone together while they pass the stone, they are to be predestined to be together in their future life. Although before their rebirth they will be given a MengPo Soup to drink and thereby their memory of past life are obliterated. In reality, San-Sheng Shi (三生石), or Three-Life Stone is located beside Flying Mountain near the West Lake, Hangzhou. On the stone, there is seal with three Chinese characters that say "The Three-life Stone," and a de

The Fox and The Tiger

ONE day a fox encountered a tiger. The tiger showed his fangs and waved his claws and wanted to eat him up. But the fox said: 'Good sir, you must not think that you alone are the king of beasts. Your courage is no match for mine. Let us go together and you keep behind me. If the humans are not afraid of me when they see me, then you may eat me up.' The tiger agreed and so the fox led him to a big high-way. As soon as the travellers saw the tiger in the distance they were seized with fear and ran away. Then the said: 'You see? I was walking in front; they saw me before they could See you.' Then the tiger put his tail between his legs and ran away. The tiger had seen that the humans were afraid of the fox but he had not realized that the fox had merely borrowed his own terrible appearance. [This story was translated by Ewald Osers from German, published by George Bell & Sons, in the book 'Chinese Folktales'.  Osers noted that this story was