Four Questions – Chinese Folktale
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Four Questions – Chinese Folktale
November 16, 2023
Have you ever made a promise to someone that ended up being so hard to keep you wished you had never made it? How did that turn out for you?
Hello everyone. I’m Kathleen Pelley. Welcome to Journey with Story. Today’s episode is a story from China about a young man who makes some promises that are hard to keep because it means he cannot get what he most wants. Let’s see how that turns out for him.
Let’s take a journey with Four Questions
Long ago in China, there lived a young man called, Wei, who took care of his elderly mother. Every day Wei worked in his orchard, but no matter how hard he tried, he could barely earn enough money to keep food on the table and wood on the fire.
As time passed, Wei grew more and more worried as to how he was going to look after his dear mother. And so he decided to go in search of the wise man who lived on top of Holy Mountain. People said that this wise man knew the answer to every question in the world.
“I am going on a journey to the wise man,” he told his mother. “Surely he will be able to tell me how I can earn more money so that I can look after you and keep you comfortable in your old age.”
His mother gave Wei her blessing and waved him goodbye as he set off on his journey.
Wei walked and walked and walked, and just as darkness was about to fall, he spotted some light in a tiny cottage up ahead. So he knocked on the door and bowed to the woman who answered.
“Forgive me,” he said, “but might I ask you if I can rest here for one night? I am traveling to see the wise man.”
The woman smiled. “I’m happy to welcome you, but in exchange, I would like you to ask something of the wise man. My beautiful daughter, Xiu, She has not smiled for years. I can do nothing to make her smile. Please ask the wise man what I should do.”
“Of course, and I will bring you his answer,” Wei said. At dawn he set off again for the mountain.
For many days, Wei walked and walked, and just when he thought he could not put one foot in front of the other, he came upon a little village near the foot of Holy Mountain.
“Welcome, welcome!” the people called to him, and they offered him food and water and a warm hut to rest. But friendly though they were, Wei noticed a certain sadness in their faces.
“Please, good people,” he said, “tell me what is wrong?”
“Our beautiful magnolia tree no longer blossoms,” the villagers told him. “Once upon a time it had beautiful flowers, but something has happened and now there are no blossoms. Will you ask the wise man how we can help our tree?”
“Of course,” Wei said, and the next morning he set off for the mountain across a river.
But as he dipped one foot in the water, the current was so strong that it swept away his shoe. He shivered with fear, “Surely I will drown if I try to swim. I’ll never reach the wise man now.”
Suddenly a dragon appeared on the shore. “I’ll carry you across,” the dragon said, “if you’ll ask the wise man a question for me. I am meant to fly to heaven to live among my fellow dragons, but no matter how I try, I cannot fly. Please ask the wise man what I must do.”
“Of course,” Wei said, and he sat upon the dragon’s sturdy back, and the creature carried him across the river.
When Wei reached the foot of the mountain, he could barely contain his excitement at the thought of finally meeting the wise man, and he ran as fast as he could all the way to the top of the mountain. And there before him, sat the wise man.
Bowing down low, Wei said, “Sir, I have four questions for you.”
The wise man shook his head. “The rule of the mountain is that each person may ask only three questions.”
Wei’s heart sank with disapointment.Now what could he do? He had promised to help the dragon and the sad young woman and the townspeople, and yet, he wanted with all his heart to know what to do so that he would no longer be poor and could look after his beloved mother.
He cleared his throat. “Very well, I must ask you how a young woman named Xiu can be made to smile.”
The wise man nodded. “Xiu awaits someone to love. When she meets him, she will smile, not only with her mouth, but with her heart.”
“And, sir,” Wei went on, “can you tell me why the magnolia tree in the village below no longer blooms?”
“There is a box of gold buried beneath the tree,” said the wise man. “Dig that up, and the tree shall bloom again.”
Now Wei paused. He thought of his own question, but then he remembered the dragon’s sad eyes and how he had helped him across the river. He could not disappoint him, and so he asked, “Please, can you tell me how the dragon that lives in the river below can fly to heaven?”
“The dragon possesses many jewels, but no one can take the riches of this earth to heaven. Tell him to give away his earthly goods, and he shall fly.”
“Thank you,” Wei said. He bowed low, and then, with no answer to his own question, he walked down the mountain.
The dragon was there to meet him at the riverbank and as they crossed the river, Wei told him the wise man’s answer. “Give away your earthly treasures and you shall fly,” he said.
When they had reached the far side of the river, the dragon handed a pouch to Wei. “Take these,” he said. “These are rubies and pearls. They are yours.”
A moment later the dragon was on h is way, flying to heaven.
Wei journeyed toward the village and told the townspeople there what the wise man had said. At once the villagers dug beneath the tree and found the box of gold.
“ Here you must take this,” they said to. Wei. “For you have returned our beautiful magnolia blossoms to us.”
Wei waved farewell to the villagers and set off again on his journey holding his box of gold and pouch of jewels.
When he reached Xiu’s home, he stopped and knocked. Xiu answered and when she saw Wei, her heart filled with joy. She smiled the most beautiful smile in the world.
She and Wei fell instantly in love, and the next day they married, and together they returned to Wei’s mother. They brought along the jewels and gold, and forever after, they lived in peace and prosperity.
Awww….wasn’t that lovely to see how Wei’s loyalty to all those he made promises too, ended up getting him what he wanted as well.
What do you think this story’s souvenir is – the little nugget of truth about what it means to be human and live in this world?
Cheerio then – join me next time for Journey with Story.