Showing posts with label dragons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dragons. Show all posts

Friday 20 January 2012

The Year of the Yang Water Dragon


The Year of the Water Dragon
January 23rd 2012 to February 9th 2013
The Yang Water Dragon Year starts on January 23, 2012 and ends on February 9, 2013. The energetic high point of the year is the month of the dragon moon from May 20 to June 18. This month starts with the new moon on May 20; the full Dragon Moon is June 4; and the month is over on June 18. June 19 begins the month of the snake moon, which will set up the energy for the following Year of the yin Water Snake that will start in February of 2013.
A Brief History: 
The Chinese calendar traditionally numbers the years from the reign of the Yellow Emperor; therefore our 2012 AD is approximately the year 4710. The seeds for Chinese astrology were planted during the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) and burgeoned during the Han Dynasty (2nd century BC to 2nd century AD). During the Han period the familiar elements of traditional Chinese culture: Yin-Yang philosophy, the theory of the 5 elements and of Heaven and Earth as well as Confucian morality were built upon the foundation of the calendar to formalize the philosophical principles of Chinese medicine and divination, astrology and alchemy.
At present the Chinese lunisolar calendar (the moon and sun calendar) determines the date of Chinese New Year. In the Chinese calendar the winter solstice must occur in the 11th month, which means that Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. In traditional Chinese Culture lichun is a solar term marking the start of spring which occurs on or about February 4.

A 60-year Cycle:
A 60-year cycle consists of two separate cycles interacting with each other. The first is the cycle of ten heavenly stems. Each of the ten heavenly stems is associated with one of the five elements of Chinese astrology: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. The elements are rotated every two years while the yin and yang association alternates every year. The elements are thus distinguished as, Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, etc.
Incidentally, Water Dragons occur every 60 years, so we have had Yang Water Dragons in 1592, 1652, 1712, 1772, 1832, 1892, 1952, 2012, and it will fall again in 2072, 2132, 2192 and 2252.
When in navigating the lunisolar calendar, a simple rule to remember is that years that end in an even number are yang, those that end with an odd number are yin. The cycle works like this:
-When the year ends in 0 it is Yang Metal; when the year ends in 1 it is Yin Metal.
-When the year ends in 2 it is Yang Water; when the year ends in 3 it is Yin Water.
- When the year ends in 4 it is Yang Wood; when the year ends in 5 it is Yin Wood.
-When the year ends in 6 it is Yang Fire; when the year ends in 7 it is Yin Fire.
- When the year ends in 8 it is Yang Earth; when the year ends in 9 it is Yin Earth.
Twelve-year cycle of animals:
The second cycle system is comprised of the twelve-year cycle of the animal zodiac (shēngxiào) or Earthly Branches. It was built from observations of the orbit of Jupiter, which is called the Year Star. Following the orbit of Jupiter around the sun, Chinese astronomers divided the celestial sphere into 12 sections, and rounded each one up to one year from 0.86 of a year.  These are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. (In Vietnam the rabbit is supplanted by the cat.)
 All these accounts produce a combined cycle that repeats every 60 years. For example, the year of the Yang Fire Rat occurred in 1936 and in 1996, 60 years apart.
Special Note: There are a number of legendary accounts as to the source of 12 animals of the zodiac. One version mentions that the Jade Emperor invited all the animals to come to see him in Heaven. Of all the animals invited, only the Rabbit, Snake, Horse, Dragon, Ox, Boar, Tiger, Rat, Ram, Monkey, Dog, and Rooster complied. In honour of their arrival, the Emperor named a year after each of these animals whose characteristics are thought to be shared by anyone born in that year. Another popular version states that it was Buddha who bid the animals to his presence. Each of the animals that obeyed were given a year to be named after them. Their characteristics (also connected to the elements) would hence, determine the outcome of events and people of the corresponding year.
In Chinese Five Element theory, Dragon is in the Earth group but it also contains Wood and Water. When it meets a Rabbit, the Dragon adopts Wood's characteristic. When it meets a Rat, then the Dragon shares the Water characteristic. When it meets a Rooster, Dragon assumes the characteristic of Metal. Since a Dragon might be treated as Earth, Water, Wood or Metal, the Dragon is deemed unpredictable and intangible. Year of Dragon then usually has something unexpected in store. Another thing to remember is that 2012 is the Water Dragon, or Black Dragon, year, so water is a predominant factor in determining people's fortune in 2012.

General predictions for the Year of the Dragon
What kind of year will 2012 be?   Many expect 2012 to bring about the end of the world, perhaps because they mistakenly think of Mayan or Hindu cosmologies as linear rather than cyclical. Those people who predicted the Doomsday scenario on December 21, 2012 after interpreting the ending of the Great Cycle of the
Mayan Calendar would no doubt jump at the chance to remind us that the Mayans predicted that this whole cycle of civilization which has lasted 5,125 years comes to an end on the Winter Solstice, 2012.
It’s interesting to note that in China there is no such prediction about the world ending in 2012. On the contrary hundreds of years ago diviners in China predicted that the Nation will in fact become prosperous and peaceful in 2012.
Chinese Dragons in particular are considered to be Divine, mythical creatures. In ancient times Emperor’s power was represented by the emblems of celestial Dragon. In the present day the Dragon is still considered a mystical being, therefore a karmic sign. It means that in 2012 we can anticipate great things. Dragon years are action driven and are times for major initiatives. Dragon years favour progress, but opportunities do need to be taken when they arise. In this fast moving year there is no time to waste. For astronomers, this can be a highly significant year- as exciting new finds will be made. There will also be a major development in the area of transport. Usually the Year of Dragon portends a fortunate, happy and joyful period, especially for Dragon people. The Dragon constellation, in fact, is accorded the honour of being the guardian of the Eastern sky and traditionally it’s supposed to bring in the Four Blessings of the East: wealth, virtue, harmony and longevity. People and business around the world that had difficult times over the last few years look forward to dragon year, as the good luck it brings is both a timely and much needed reprieve.
On the cautionary note, however, there will be spectacular successes as well as notable crash and burn failures. Regardless of your sign, there will be significant upheavals in 2012. Soaring stock markets, natural disasters, and noteworthy, cultural and political developments will be more the norm than the exception.
We all know that water covers 2/3 of our planet & comprises 85% of our bodies; we simply cannot function without it. In Chinese element theory, water produces wood, which signifies growth and is the natural element of the dragon. The dragon governs east/southeast, wealth accumulation and the hours of 7 a.m. - 9 a.m. Associated with thunder, lightning and arousal, the Water Dragon personifies creativity at its best.
This is the Water Dragon year and the Dragon mainly contains the Earth; yet Earth and Water are opposite elements. From this we can deduce that some bad news might happen. This year will be marked by a natural catastrophe very early on. Not only could there be earthquakes and volcanoes erupting in various parts of the World but the whims of the weather system may also play havoc in certain regions.
As the Water Dragon year is a strong sign of Water the bulk of natural disasters will be related to water, flood, hurricane, rain, ocean, rivers or mud. It is interesting to note that the nickname of Dragon in Chinese astrology is Water Dam. That implies Dragon can hold Water and make it quiet.

To grasp the enormity, the scale of events that might occur in 2012, here are few accounts of things that had transpired on the previous Water Dragon year, 1952:
 -In February young Elizabeth II was enthroned Queen of the United Kingdom, beginning her long reign lasting to this date.
- In 1952 the United States introduced two of the most destructive weapons in history, the hydrogen bomb and the B-52 bomber.
- Dragon Year Children are always prized. Here’s an example of the last water dragon births: World leaders include Vladimir Putin and Lee Hsien Loong.
Craig Newmark, founder of Craig’s List, who has revolutionized the world of advertising, was born in the Year of the Dragon.
In sports, Jimmy Connors dominated the world of tennis; football coach Bill Belichick was instrumental in winning four Superbowls.
The dragon year favours creativity, originality and plain old expressionism. Penicillin was just one of the major discoveries made in a dragon year (1952). In the world of fashion new styles are likely to emerge that will catch the imagination, whereas in music musicians will be keen to experiment and promote new sounds with some new bands attracting a worldwide following. Interestingly enough it was in the dragon year of 1964 that Beatle mania became such a worldwide phenomenon, with the Beatles being the first band to see a million copies of a record sold before its release.
Everyone has dreams, and that the time to pursue them is now, for The Dragon Year gives you the best chance to make them come true. Timing is of the essence but keep in mind that Dragon is associated with spring therefore you need to get off to a fast start as things are going to start happening early in the year.  Opportunities to accrue a fortune could come right after lunar New Year. You don’t want to miss that boat now, do you?
Meanwhile expect fireworks in your love and romance sector. New love can blossom or an old one will be rekindled on the spur of the moment. It is important to note the Dragon is associated with festivals and celebrations which makes 2012 the perfect year for baptisms, engagements, and weddings. A note of caution: These happenings may be of transitory nature By all means enjoy that new love but be mindful that it is more than likely just a fleeting romance.

Because Water nourishes the Dragon’s fixed element, Wood, this Dragon receives a big advantage over the rest of the animals when it comes to bringing good luck and personal accomplishment. The Dragon person is actually going to realize some of those big dreams!

There is as well another reason to rejoice; since 1996 the year element had been in a destructive relationship with the fixed element of the animal sign. That made for a long unfavourable period in the 60 year cycle of Chinese Astrology, and therefore a scarcity of good luck. The year 2012 is thus twice blessed; not only with the lucky Dragon but also by the end of this destructive cycle. There will be celebrations of all kinds and good luck will be coming your way.

Want to hear more good news? Read on.
Under the influence of the Dragon it is a yang year and yang Water is like a flowing river rather than a stagnant lake. Things will therefore move, with creativity abounding ideas will flow, economies will boom, and relationships will blossom in this environment. By all accounts it promises to be a most memorable year ahead.
Dragon years are lucky for anyone thinking of starting a business or initiating a new project of any sort because money is easier to come by for everyone, whether it’s earned, borrowed or received as a gift. Consequently we can expect the economic downturn to ease up a bit in the coming year. Fortunes can be made but they can also be lost if you are not careful or unreasonably extravagant with your spending.
Last but not least, water is connected to Wisdom. This furnishes us with the hope that the people will act wiser in 2012, which may in turn bring the biggest blessing of all in the Year of the Water Dragon.

Best of luck in 2012!

Wednesday 11 January 2012

The Legend of Wen Shi (Long Mu)

The Legend of Wen Shi (Long Mu)
My Version of the Story: Wen Shi -The Mother of the Dragons

During the Qin Dynasty, in the Teng District of Guangdong Province a second girl child, named Wen Shi, was born to Wen Tianrui and Liang Shi. Wen Shi often frequented the banks of the nearby Xi River to catch fish or do the laundry.  On one such errand she chanced upon a large, smooth, white stone along the banks of the river, partially hidden by a cluster of rushes. Drawn to it at once, she picked it up and admired it for a long while before placing it in her apron’s pocket.

When she concluded her chores she returned home for supper.  As she was getting ready for bed, her hand chanced upon the stone in her pocket. Elatedly she showed this beautiful new find to her siblings but her sisters weren’t at all interested and, as in the past, they laughed and teased her endlessly for liking such odd things.  She didn’t care, for the more she handled it, the more things she found to like about it. For one, it possessed a nacreous depth and a unique hint of luminosity, it grew warmer with prolonged touch and it offered her unending comfort. You can imagine her thrill when she discovered weeks later that it was actually an egg; an egg from which hatched five baby snakes. Her sisters wanted nothing to do with these slithering creatures and again teased her incessantly for her odd attraction to them.  She pleaded with her parents to be allowed to keep them, promising to bear the sole responsibility of feeding them, caring for them and keeping them out of trouble. Although they were a poor family Wen Shi saved the best portions of her own food and diligently fed these morsels by hand to the baby snakes. She carried them with her always, even when doing her chores. Soon the snakes grew up under her good care, and loving her in return, they assisted her whenever they could with her chores.  These unusually intelligent snakes were quite adept in the water and excellent swimmers; therefore, they used their ability to help Wen Shi catch bountiful loads of fish in the Xi River.
Then a time came when another wonder manifested; the snakes matured into five magnificent and most powerful dragons. By then her parents had departed this world and her sisters had been happily married off and lived elsewhere. She therefore dwelled in her parent’s home alone. In Chinese culture, dragons are deemed spirits of water and have the power to control the weather. When a bad drought plagued her village and caused untold hardships for many families living within that region, Wen Shi gathered her dragon children to her and asked for their help.  The dragons instinctively knew what to do and they set to work in summoning the rain.  Soon the downpours drenched the parched land, renewing life of vegetation and crops. The grateful villagers from that time on overcame their innate fear of the dragons and named Wen Shi “Mother of Dragons” or “Divine Human”.
 Visitors spread the word far and wide of this miracle and the benevolent dragons that had saved the villagers from certain ruin. Before long it reached the ear of the Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shihuang.  Immediately Wen Shi was summoned to Court for a private audience with the Empreor in the Imperial City, Xianyang, far to the north near the Yellow River.  Wen was declared a Benevolent Being and was also endowed with gifts of gold and jade.

By the time of this summons she was an elderly woman in rather frail health and her dragons feared for her well being and safety. They tried to deter her from the gruelling trip but she was a loyal subject and would not hear of it. Soon she boarded the boat to begin her journey to the Imperial City.  Unbeknownst to her, however, her concerned dragons had hidden themselves under the boat and pulled it backward; no matter how hard the rowers struggled, the boat failed to pass Guilin. Eventually the frustrated Imperial officials aborted their mission with great reluctance and allowed Wen Shi to return to the safety of her home.
Finally after many years, Wen Shi passed away and the grief-stricken dragons buried her with due reverence on the northern side of Zhu Mountain.  Then they forsook their dragon forms and permanently assumed human shapes. In time they became known as the Five Scholars.
The End

Sunday 8 January 2012

The Centipede and the Dragon Princess

 The Centipede and the Dragon Princess
(An Alternate Version of Rice-bag Toda (Tawara Toda) 

Once upon a time a warrior called Fujiwara no Hidesato was crossing the Seta Bridge at Lake Biwa. Suddenly a monstrous serpent appeared and lay across the roadway just ahead of him.  The hero was not least bit perturbed and, shrugging his shoulders, calmly stepped over the giant snake and continued on his way. No sooner had Fujiwara passed than the serpent slid into the lake only to reappear again a few feet in front of him in the form of a beautiful woman, blocking his way.


Sporting an enchanting smile, she bowed to him in formal greeting and said, “For two thousand years sir, it’s been my unfortunate fate to be kept away from my home, held prisoner under this bridge. In all that time, I have never before seen such a courageous man as you. It is for that reason that I dare ask this favour.”  In a sorrowful voice she related her tragic story to the hero. She told him how once she’d been a Dragon Princess from a far away sea. Wanting to see more of the world, she had forsaken her safe home, snuck away and travelled far and wide. After many years, as she grew older and matured, she relented and wished to go back home but could no longer find her way no matter how hard she tried. Alone and forlorn, constrained to remain in human form, she had been fortunate enough to meet a brilliant scholar and married him.
For a time they lived happily with their three children, but then one unfortunate day a monstrous centipede emerged from a valley beyond the ridge of hills and, having spotted her, abducted her and hid her in a cave where no one could find her. While she was captive, the centipede had gone back and murdered her loving husband and children. Claiming the region around their old home and the river as his own, he’d brought her back to that precise spot and, from that time on, condemned her to the life of a captive slave. He used his power to endlessly torment her. She had made her home in the depths of the river, forsaking solid land as it had reminded her too much of what she had lost. Still she could not attain any solace. She was forced to give him whenever he wanted each time he came to call on her. She had been most miserable since then, powerless to escape the clutches of the trickster centipede. The few times she’d sought help from wandering warriors, or anyone courageous enough to be willing to help, it had ended disastrously. The monster, delighting in torture, had eaten each champion slowly and painfully in front of her.
“I have been most frank and now you know just what is at stake. Dare I hope for your help, for salvation from my nightmare?” She cupped her face in her hands and sobbed tragically. As he had not taken to his heels in fright and still hung about, she came to believe that he might be the one to save her and again implored the hero to do all he can to destroy the centipede and rescue her from this dire predicament.
Fujiwara was as compassionate as he was brave and he consented after only a very brief consideration. “Rest assured dear lady, I’ll do all I can within my power to help you.” he promised her. “Please go home to your place in the lake and await the results.”
That evening armed with a bow and arrow he planted his feet solidly in the centre of the bridge and waited patiently for the arrival of the centipede. It was a particularly cold night, cumulous clouds rode the sky, driven by strong winds that buffeted his sleeves and thrashed at his face. Often they hid the moon’s rays, leaving him in pitch darkness. Adding an ominous choir to this dramatic scene were the continuous cries of the wild beasts. 
Suddenly from the top of Mt. Mikami, following in the wake of a flash of lightning, two enormous lights burst into the black sky. The vast blinding light, resembling two hundred lit torches, had suddenly turned night into day. It took Hidesato only an instant to recognise the two beams of light as the centipede’s eyes.

Unafraid, Hidesato sightlessly launched three consecutive arrows directly at the blinding lights. Being a great marksman, he hit his mark and the blinding lights were instantly snuffed out; the monster was no more.
The Dragon princess was overjoyed at the news of his decisive victory. Filled with gratitude, she invited Hidesato to be her guest for a time at her own Dragon abode. With her powers now at full capacity after the death of the centipede she was able to transform the simple dwelling into a palace more befitting a Dragon Princess. There she regaled him with music, tasty, delectable dishes and rewarded him with fine gifts: a roll of fine silk, a temple bell, a sword and armour, as well as a tawara bag of rice. She told him in no uncertain terms that these were magical items; that the silk roll, no matter how much he cut from it, would not diminish in size, nor would the bag of rice ever empty no matter how many scoops he took from it, and that the magic would last as long as he lived.
Hidesato returned home and lived comfortably till a ripe old age.  At one point, he did come to know how the Dragon Princess, with her continually growing powers, had eventually attained her ultimate goal of returning home. She was eventually reunited with her parents, who forgave her after learning of all that she’d gone through, had married another dragon and they both lived happily ever after.
 Before the end of his life Hidesato saw fit to donate the bell to Mii-dera temple at Mount Hiei. Unfortunately it was stolen by a priest from rival Enryaku-ji temple. When the bell spoke to the culprit priest he took fright and threw the bell over a cliff and into a valley. The long drop and the landing on hard rock made a long crack appear in the side of the bell. Eventually when the cracked bell was returned to Mii-dera a small snake, perhaps an offspring of the Dragon Princess, used his tail to repair the damage. She was known to visit the lake from time to time, to pay homage to her late human husband and deceased children, whom she’d never forgotten.

Note: In another version of the story, set during the Genpei War, when Hidesato encounters the Dragon Snake on the bridge it is transformed, instead of a beautiful woman, into a “strange small man” instead, who was none other than the Dragon King himself. There is a Shinto shrine near the Seta Bridge at Lake Biwa where, even to date, people worship Tawara Toda, “Rice-bag Toda”.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Dragon Lore - The Dragon King's Daughter

Dragon Lore:

The Dragon King’s Daughter Retold

Once upon a time there was a hard working student named Liu Yi, who lived in the central region of China near the great lakes. He was on his way home from the State Examinations, when his horse bolted and took the wrong turn, galloping quite a distance before he could regain control. Looking up the road up ahead he spotted a young maiden standing by a flock of sheep.

As he advanced and came within closer proximity, he was genuinely struck with her rare, exquisite beauty. She appeared distraught and quite distressed and, though she did her best to hide them, unrelenting fresh tears cascaded down her frail cheeks and on to her worn, yet immaculately clean, clothes.

Being a compassionate young man, Liu Yi could not pass by and, after bowing to her in greeting, he politely inquired as to the source of her distress.

She was a proud being but confronted with such kindness, her emotions took hold and she begun to openly sob. Liu’s heart was crushed and he immediately jumped down from his mount and, rushing to her side, offered her his silk handkerchief. She accepted it gratefully and dried her tears. Standing off to the side he, with a lowered head, tentatively asked if there was any way he could be of assistance to her. His voice was so soothing and his intent so genuine that the girl was pacified in but a short time. As she dried the last of her tears she took a good long look at this gentle stranger. Liking what she saw, she decided to place her trust in him and explained the cause of her dismay.

“My father is the Dragon King of Lake Dong Ting,” she choked back fresh tears, “and some months ago he arranged for me to wed the second son of the Dragon King of the Jing River, whom I do not love and never did. My husband can be considered rather handsome and is deceptively charismatic, but he is selfish and thinks only of his own pleasures and his heart is as dark as his face is fair. He revealed his true nature to me soon after I came to live with him and his family. Both he and his relations delight in inflicting cruelty and they torment me endlessly. When I pleaded with my Father-in-Law for mercy he became incensed and exiled me here to herd these sheep. Lake Dong Ting is too far away for me to journey. They always keep me under close scrutiny so I am prevented from ever contacting my father to give vent to my grievances. At the beginning I tried many a time to send word to my father but each time they intercepted my messages and tormented me even more. Hanging on to a hope that a slim chance would appear, I’ve carried this written note on me for many weeks now, praying that someone will come along who could take it to my father. They treat me like a slave, oh, I feel so utterly alone and helpless, I don’t know how much longer I can endure this humiliation!”

Touched by the girl’s plight, Liu at once volunteered to take the message to her father himself but at the next moment he hesitated, as he became anxious as to how he might accomplish the task. One thing for sure, he would never back out of the offer of help, not after seeing that ray of hope in her eyes.

“How could they condemn such a pure spirit to become a mere shepherdess? You are far too beautiful and delicate to be taking care of the Dragon’s food.”

“Dragons do not eat sheep.” The princess kindly corrected Liu, “and these are not ordinary sheep. They are rainmakers kept inside the bodies of sheep.”


“Lightning, thunder, tempests, winds and the like all have their uses for Dragons and must be kept within easy reach.”

“I see. “ After a moment’s reflection Liu clearing his throat then tentatively voiced his prior concern. “I’ve lived all my life on the shores of Lake Dong Ting, but I am a mere human. How can I ever travel to your father’s palace in the abysmal depths of that great lake?”

The girl looked up at him and held his gaze for a long time before thoughtfully speaking, “If you are as strong in heart as I believe you are; you must go to the sacred tangerine tree on the northern shore of the lake. There tie your belt around its trunk, put my sash around your own waist and knock three times on the trunk of the tree. You will be led to the palace.”

Liu, nodding readily, agreed to undertake the journey for her. Hope sprung anew in the girl’s heart and she joyfully placed the hidden letter from the folds of her gown into his hand and handed her sash over to him as soon as he had secured the message. As Liu remounted his steed he turned to gaze at her once more and called out, “Rest assured, I shall not fail you, but after you return to Dong Ting, I earnestly hope that we shall meet again.” He then spurred his steed on, anxious to undertake this very dangerous adventure. After a spell he did look back but the girl and the sheep had already vanished.

After several days of riding, Liu at long last arrived at the northern shore of Dong Ting Lake. Ignoring his tiredness, he at once sought the sacred tangerine tree and right away tied his belt around its trunk, donned the Princess’ sash, and then knocked three times on the tree.

Suddenly there was a thunderous noise as though the skies would rip open and the churning waves of the lake parted to reveal a giant rising from the depths. “Who dares to disturb my peace?” He growled at the young man stoically standing his ground.

“I must talk to the Dragon King.” Liu shouted in order to be heard over the tumult. “It’s a matter of utmost importance.”

The giant nodded, and slowly diminished in size to equal Liu. He next placed a blindfold over Liu’s eyes, and taking him by the forearm led him into the depths of the water. With each bold step Liu noted the growing silence engulfing him and his body’s temperature becoming colder and colder still, until he was rendered numbed all over. Then something extraordinary happened; after going through a sticky curtain all the warmth suddenly flooded back into his body and he felt normal again, neither hot nor cold. When finally the blindfold was removed, Liu found himself in a great big palace with many towers and arches of glittering marble, countless doors, columns and arches holding up tall azure ceilings that were inlaid with pearls, precious stones and innumerable other unnamed treasures that had no correlation in the surface world.

“What place is this?” Liu Yi asked his guide.

“The Palace of the Divine Void.”

His guide ushered him into the Pavilion of the Dark Pearl, a vast chamber where Liu saw a man clad in purple robes and holding the jasper sceptre whom his guide now proclaimed to him, as being the powerful Dragon King, seated amidst gathering mist upon a mighty throne.

Upon the King’s slight nod, Liu was led forward. Liu bowed low respectfully and waited to be formally addressed.

After a brief scrutiny, the King spoke: “Our Kingdom is occult and fathomless, quite unsuitable for those who live on the surface. What enterprise has brought you here from such a distance? You may speak freely sir.”

“I am Liu Yi, a resident of the land around this lake, and I met your daughter, the Princess, while returning from the examinations as she herded sheep beside the Jing River. She was ill-clothed and without shelter or any protection from the wind and rain, and she, teary-eyed, was beset with such sorrow that I felt obliged to do something to alleviate her suffering. I therefore asked her how she had come to this sorry state and she told me how her husband’s cruelty and the neglect of her parents-in-law had consigned her to this sad fate. I entreated her to allow me to help her and she gave me this message to give to you, her father, along with her plea for your loving kindness.” Liu retrieved the message from his inner pocket and, bowing low, humbly presented it to the Dragon King.

As the King read the letter his face filled with anger, then his visage became solemn. His eyes glistened with tears and his hands trembled slightly as he lowered the message and handed it to his steward along with orders to deliver it to the Queen. He addressed Liu next, “I have been both blind and deaf. Though I am indeed her loving father I had no idea of her suffering in her new home. It took you, a perfect stranger to her, to come to her rescue. As long as my Kingdom endures you shall not be forgotten and your bravery and kindness shall not go unrewarded.”

Just then however, he was interrupted by a loud wailing and weeping emanating from the Queen’s chambers. Quickly, he ordered an attendant to quell the commotion. “Tell the ladies to be quiet, lest they arouse Qian Tang.”

Lui, very much aghast, forgot his place and blurted out in astonishment, “Qian Tang?”

“Qian Tang is my younger brother, once the ruler of Lake Qian Tang.” The Dragon King answered him directly, overlooking in his gratitude Liu’s breach of protocol. “Unfortunately Qian Tang has a quick temper that lands him in terrible trouble. His ill temper has sadly, caused untold misery, devastation and floods in the region where once he reigned. You may have heard of the Nine Year Flood during the reign of your King Yao; that was but a small example of his boiling angers. When, in his rage, Qian Tang even threatened the Five Holy Peaks, the incensed Jade Emperor had him banished from his lake. I managed to, by entreaty, sway the Jade Emperor to show leniency, on the condition that I, his elder brother, would guarantee Qian Tang’s good behaviour and house him in my palace. “

“This news would infuriate him, as he is particularly fond of his niece. I fear that he would be unreasonable and exact revenge, therefore landing him in still more trouble.” As the Dragon king voiced his concern, there was suddenly a tremendous crash, the Palace shook and the chamber filled with blinding mist. In the tumult of thunder, lightning and deluge, a thousand foot long crimson dragon tore through the Pavilion of the Dark Pearl, issuing the most powerful roar as billows of cloud and flashes lightning steamed from his nostrils.

Liu was so terrified that his shaking knees buckled under him, and he dropped to the floor. Fortunately the fearsome dragon had disappeared as swiftly as he’d appeared.

“That was my unruly brother Qian Tang,” The Dragon King explained, as he helped the mortified Liu to his feet. “Hope he didn’t frighten you too much, he only takes that form when he is angry.” A gesture of the hand led them to a more private room where Liu, seated across from the King, was served wine and food by the attendants. They talked amiably then, about great many things, including Liu’s career and the life in the capital. They were deep in conversation when waves of soft clouds, borne upon gentle breezes drifted through the Palace ahead of the Queen and her attendants as, smiling and jovial, she glided into the room. Among the thousands of attractive girls clad in brightly coloured silk adorned with glittering jewels, Lui’s eyes were drawn to one whose exceptional beauty drown out all the others’ charms. As she drew near Liu recognized the Dragon King’s daughter, the same girl he had met on the road.

He watched with heartfelt joy the warm embrace between the reunited father and daughter as she sat by his side. With eyes brimming with love, the Dragon King asked her forgiveness for allowing her to marry such a wretch then, with equal affection, she responded by bestowing a heartfelt kiss and a joyous tear upon his brow.

Suddenly all went quiet in the chamber as all eyes had turned on the elegant, vigorous young man that had just entered. The Princess was the first to rush over and embrace him.

“Behold the Dragon Prince of Qian Tang.” The Dragon King, with a slight incline of his head, said quietly to Liu, before he initiated the formal introductions. Liu was both relieved and delighted to make the acquaintance of this fearsome yet charismatic Crimson Dragon who so vastly differed in form than his previous appearance.

Then Liu was addressed by Qian Tang, “My unhappy niece was nearly undone by that black-hearted rogue. If it were not for your compassion and gentlemanly honour, she would have been condemned to endure that wretched life forever. My gratitude to you is beyond words.”

“As is mine,” said the Princess, standing beside her heroic Uncle.

After the Dragon King cleared the Pavilion of all save family and Liu Yu, Qian Tang explained how he had battled the Jing River Dragon and his army.

“Oh they, her late husband and father mounted a darn good defence but even so, it only took an hour to breach it. “ He chuckled. “I slew six hundred thousand of their supposed mighty warriors, like swatting flies. Still, my wrath was not assuaged, so I flooded three hundred squire miles of their fields, after which the battle was as good as won.”

Seeing the perturbed expression on his brother, the Dragon King, Qian Tang hastened to explain, “After it was all over, I visited the Jade Emperor to justify my actions and to apologize. I declared sole responsibility for the revengeful act and remained most willing to receive his worst punishment. Yet, Elder Brother, His Highness approved of the justice I had meted out to the Jade River Dragons and, in his leniency, showed me more kindness than I deserved. The Jade emperor expressed due sympathy for my nieces past plight and, after a word of warning, generously absolved me of all blame.”

“I am relieved to hear the Jade Emperor has already forgiven you,” Dragon King smiled, “otherwise I would have been hard pressed to say anything further in your defence. You’ve exhausted all good arguments. You must be less hasty in the future. “

He waited to receive an affirmative nod from Qian Tang before he continued, “Now enlighten me on one small fact; what became of my daughter’s erstwhile husband?” He knew well what the answer would be; still he wanted to hear the affirmation.

“I ate him.” Qian Tang replied casually with a shrug of his shoulders, as they both looked away and suppressed their laughter.

The dragon king, deferring the serious talk till later, called for the celebrations to be held in the Emerald Palace to commemorate the safe return of the Princess and to honour her champion redeemers, Qian Tang and Lui Yu. The Dragon King and Queen lavished numerous gifts on Liu. The King presented him with a rhinoceros horn casket inlaid with jasper and a key that parted the waves of the lake. Prince Qian Tang gave him an amber bowl bearing pearls that glowed when struck by moonlight and the Queen had her Maids of Honour pile silk and jewels around him until he could not see over them until he stood up; then they all drank countless toasts to his health and future.

After much delectable food, and even more choice wine, Qian Tang pulled Liu aside and said to him, “My favourite niece has been saved thanks to you. She is beautiful, is she not? She feels boundless gratitude towards you, but I can’t help feeling there is something more. I have also noted your covert looks, exposing the infatuation with her that you‘ve endeavoured to conceal behind your wine goblet. I therefore propose to speak to her on the morrow on your behalf, and make the suggestion that she be wed you without delay. What say you to that?”

Liu was tongue tied by this bluntness and did not know how to respond. He was in truth quite enamoured by the Princes but a marriage to the Dragon King’s daughter was not to be taken lightly. Besides, he deeply doubted his own worth, his suitability for such a high honour. He pondered: “Qian Tang is inebriated as he makes this proposal. If I were to take his words at face value and agree now to his suggestion, what would he think later when he is in a sober state? Surely he would regret this. Could I survive his fantastic anger at my presumption? Oh, my!” An involuntary shiver passed through Liu just thinking of the possibilities. Regretfully, Liu dissuaded Qian Tang of the thought of his niece ever marrying a mere human.

The following day Liu, with the longing to be united in matrimony with the Dragon Princess still lodged deep in the private corners of his soul, attained a private audience with the Dragon King and expressed his urgent desire to return home.

“We shall all miss your company; however, we understand your homesickness.” The Dragon King acquiesced and gave his permission for Liu to depart at the earliest convenience.

Soon after Liu met with the Princess, Queen and the Dragon King, and left his best wishes for the absent Qian Tang, who had returned to take up his duties at Lake Qian Tang now the Jade Emperor had forgiven him. The Queen instructed her daughter to thank her benefactor, which she did then, with deep sorrow written on her face, she turned to Liu Yi and asked, “Is it too much to hope that we two shall meet again someday?” Liu Yi was filled with remorse at seeing the Princess’ true feelings and deeply regretted spurning the Dragon Prince’s suggestion. Soon afterwards Liu left the Dragon Place mounted on a fine stallion laden with gifts and accompanied by the many servants needed to carry them all the way to his home. Once he was back on dry land and settled in, with the gifts stored in a safe place, he gave his permission for the retinue to take the horse and return to their home and King.

Many months passed, and the now affluent Liu still could forget neither the haunting beauty of Dragon Princess nor her enchanting ways. Whether awake or sleep, daily he yearned for his lost love and the life that he’d forsaken so foolishly. Regrets being of no use and mindful that he could not pine for the Princess forever, he finally consented to marry a beautiful girl from a very good family. Their wedded bliss was short lived however, as she was inexplicably stricken with a high fever and died soon afterwards. Liu remained a widower for many a year, but over time loneliness again haunted him and once more he consented to marry. As bad luck would have it she, too, succumbed to a strange illness and passed away a short time later.

Often he sank into despair and lamented, “I am cursed. I shall never find ordinary happiness, having forsaken the rarest of Heaven’s gifts!” With some reluctance he was again persuaded by concerned family and friends to again marry. He stipulated one condition however; that his chosen mate is obtained from outside the region. This time around he actually did attain matrimonial bliss and his beautiful wife soon bore him a fine son. As time went by, Liu began to detect some odd similarities between his young wife’s appearance and mannerisms and those of the Dragon King’s daughter.

“How can that be?” he wondered. Twenty years had passed since his visit to the underwater Kingdom and his young wife by that account would have been but an infant at that time.

After the birth of his second son, when his suspicions again surfaced, this time not holding back, he voiced a direct question to his wife, in a tone that boded no argument.

“The time is at hand; I shall be frank.” His fair wife acquiesced and, after moment’s hesitation, admitted that she was indeed the Dragon King’s daughter. She had been so bitterly disappointed when Liu rejected her uncle’s generous suggestion and had secretly mourned for many a year. Then she had recollected Liu’s last words to her when he left the Jing River and hope sprung anew in her heart. “Do you remember your words to me then?” She hesitated; worried that he would scorn her for her deception of all these years.

“Yes,” He nodded. He remembered every minute detail of every word, everything pertaining to her. He smiled affectionately, as he repeated the words, “Rest assured I shall not fail you, but when you return to Dong Ting, I earnestly hope that we shall meet again.”

“I did return to Dong Ting and when your second wife died I seized the opportunity to become your third wife”. She was uttering these words more to herself.

“And I am most grateful that you did. You’ve given me a rare second chance; I love you all the more for that.” He took her hands into his and looked lovingly into her eyes, erasing all doubt from her heart.

They lived happily for countless years and raised a large family. And whenever she was homesick, they took all their family and visited the Dragon King’s palace beneath the deep waters of Lake Dong Ting. In time even Qian Tang forgave Liu, noting the enduring happiness of his favourite niece. Besides, he loved his new nephews and played with them often, getting them into countless, endearing mischief. The Dragon Princess, being immortal, had stayed just as fresh as the day Liu had first met her, but the same could not be said of Liu. His advancing years necessitated increasingly extended visits with the Dragon King, the Queen and Qian Tang, as it revitalized Liu and prolonged his life. Then one day Liu, the Dragon Princess and their children all left the land of mortal men and took up permanent residence beneath the waves.

At the celebratory feast that night Liu was presented with the elixir of long life, which the Dragon King had obtained from the Jade Emperor as a reward for Liu’s lifelong rectitude. Liu with deep gratitude accepted this honour and ingested the nectar whereupon he was instantly transformed to his former young self. Though he never could become a dragon and live ten thousand years, he did live a long and happy life and saw all his sons grow up to be fine young dragons themselves.

The End.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Legends of Red and White Dragons and Merlin

Legends of Red and White Dragons and Merlin

One could expect that the legends surrounding Merlin the Mage in Arthurian legend would contain tales of dragons, and so they do. Merlin’s dragons, in fact, appeared when the Romans first invaded Britain, well before Arthur took over the throne and long before Merlin was born.

The Fable of Llefelys and Llud:

At the time of the Roman invasion there were two brothers, Llefelys the King in France and Llud who ruled in Britain. Llud’s kingdom was cursed by horrible screams, so fearsome that they caused the women and beasts of the kingdom to miscarry. These screeches and shrieks occurred on every Beltane (the modern May Day). Llefelys, who had all the wise men of France at his disposal, told Llud that the screams came from a Welsh dragon trying to defeat a foreign dragon. Llud was instructed to return home and to measure his kingdom lengthwise and width-wise to find the center point. Once this was done, Llud was told to have a cistern, or large well constructed on the spot. The cistern was to be filled with strong mead and covered with brocaded silk. Then Llud himself was to sit by the side of the cistern on Beltane and apply Llefelys’ second set of instructions.

Having followed his brother’s first set of instructions; Llud found that the center point was at Oxford. He constructed the cistern there and filled it with mead then placed a silk covering on top. He was rewarded on the night of Beltane by the sight of two dragons furiously fighting above him in the air. Finally they exhausted themselves, changed into the shape of pigs, and fell into the vat where they commenced gobbling the alcoholic mead. After drinking their fill they fell asleep and Llud was able to wrap the cloth around them and take them captive. From Oxford Llud took the sleeping dragons to the most secure spot in his kingdom: the Citadel at Ffaraon Dandde in Snowdon where he had the dragons permanently imprisoned. From then on Beltane was free of shrieking and the overjoyed people celebrated with true merriment.

Merlin and the Red and White Dragons

After the Romans left Britain the site was re-named Emrys’s Citadel and it was at that time that it entered into Arthurian legend through the exploits of the Wizard Merlin.

About 450 AD the Constantine, King of the Britons was killed by a Pictish assassin and his eldest son, Constans, became King. Vortigern had married Princess Severa, the daughter of Constantine’s predecessor, Magnus Maximus, and from this position he installed himself as the Reagent to the young king. Soon the young King Constans met his untimely end. When Vortigern took over the throne the infant brothers Aurelius Ambrosius and Uthar Pendragon (Arthur’s father) were spirited to safety in Brittany.

Vortigern’s hold on power was shaken when the kingdom was attacked by Picts living north of Hadrian’s Wall. Since he did not have enough fighters to repel the Picts permanently, Vortigern enlisted the aid of two armies of Saxon and Jutish mercenaries from the Baltic, led by the Princes Hengist and Horsa. The Jutes and Saxons were paid with a grant of land between the Britons and the Wall. This proved to be an uwise move when, soon after, the Saxons and the Jutes betrayed Vortigern and attacked the Britons.

The distraught Vortigern called together a council of twelve wise men and asked for their advice. They told him to construct a fortress in one of the remote areas of his kingdom from which he could mount a defence against the Saxons. The place that was chosen for the fortress was Dinas Ffaraon, also known as Ffaraon Dandde, near mount Snowdonia in Wales. Construction began but, no sooner than the material s were gathered and the foundations were laid, the structure crumbled to rubble overnight. Three times Vortigern attempted to build his fortress and three times his efforts were foiled. Again he called on his council and asked them to determine the reason for this failure.

In those times human sacrifice was an accepted practice where infants were sealed up in walls or the blood of the sacrificial victims was mixed into the mortar. When the council of twelve told the King, “You must find a child born without a father, put him to death, and sprinkle the ground on which the citadel is to be built with his blood.” he accepted their advice and sent his servants throughout Britain to find a fatherless boy. One of the servants, Dafydd Goch, discovered a boy called Myrddin Emrys in Bassaleg. Emry’s mother was named Aldan and his father was reputed to be a demon, though it was more likely that the father was a Royal Prince whose name could not be publically revealed, and for this reason he’d acquired the reputation of being fatherless. The boy was brought back to Dinas Ffaraon to be presented to Vortigern as the appropriate sacrifice.

Emrys faced Vortigern boldly, “Why did you have me brought here?”

“To be put to death so that the ground on which my citadel is to stand may be sprinkled with your blood.” Vortigern replied.

“Who advised you thus?”

“My council.”

“The law stipulates that a condemned man may plead for the King’s justice. Bring the council thither that I may argue my case.”

When the councillors were brought before the King the boy spoke, “I will soon reveal everything to your Highness, but first I require that these men disclose what is hidden in the earth beneath this structure.” The King granted Emrys permission to do this, at which point Emrys turned to the councillors, “By what means was it revealed to you that this citadel could not be built unless the ground were sprinkled with the blood of an innocent? Speak without guile and profess your true reasons.”

The councillors exchanged nervous looks and could not give an answer.

The boy with a wry smile then said, “Under us there is a pool if you but delve to find it.”

Diggers were brought and they found the pool, just as Emrys had said. “Now, you who are so wise, tell me what is in that pool.”

They were ashamed and could not reply.

“There are two vessels there.”, and it was indeed discovered that there were two vases joined neck to neck in the pool.

“What is in these vases?” The councillors could not answer this question any more than they could answer the others. “There is a silk tent in them, pull them apart and find it is so.”

By the King’s command the vases were separated and a folded tent was found inside. “What is in the tent?” asked the boy and again they could not speak.

“Inside the tent are two serpents, one white and one red, reveal them and watch what they do.”

The instructions were obeyed and two sleeping serpents were discovered. Once exposed to the air the creatures changed into Dragons and began to fight upon the silk tent. The white dragon raised himself on his hind legs and threw the other into the middle of the tent, then drove him back to the edge. Three times the white dragon assailed the red and three times the red, apparently the weaker of the two, was driven to the edge of the tent. In a turn of events the red dragon recovered his strength and threw the white dragon completely off of the tent and into the pool. Here the pursuit continued and both dragons disappeared into the bottom. Once the dragons were seen no more the boy turned to the councillors and asked them what meaning they put to the actions of the dragons. Perplexed, they again admitted their ignorance.

“The pool is this world, and the tent is your kingdom, oh King. The Red Dragon is the dragon of the Britons and the White Dragon that of the Saxons. At length, however, our people shall rise and drive the Saxons back into the sea from whence they came but you, oh King, are constrained from raising you citadel on this mountain. You must depart and build elsewhere. Emrys also prophesied the defeat of Vortigern at the hands of Prince Ambrosius before the eventual expulsion of the Saxons.

Vortigern, seeing how he had been deceived by his councillors, put them to death and ordered them to be buried in a nearby field. The boy’s life was spared and he became known in later years as the great Mage Myrddin Emrys (Merlin in English) and the mountain which had housed the captive dragons was re-named Dinas Emrys and became his home until he was found by Aurelius Ambrosius, who persuaded Merlin to come with him. Merlin helped Ambrosius become King and, after him, helped his younger brother Uthar Pendragon strengthen the kingdom.

The Red Dragon of this Legend went on to become the symbol of the Welsh people.

Saturday 3 December 2011

The Taming Dragon Lohan

The Taming Dragon Lohan

Buddhism, centering on the teachings of Buddah, is one of the world’s most popular religions.

The 18 Lohans (or Arahats) were followers of Buddhism’s “Eightfold Path” who had achieved full spiritual fulfillment. They had reached “Nirvana,” the state of absolute freedom from worldly cravings, and because of this they were no longer subject to reincarnation. Their eternal status makes them akin to guardian angels, adept at protecting adherents from evil and allowing them to open themselves to meditation and spiritual enlightenment.

Originally there were only 16 Lohan. Sometime between the late Tang Dynasty and early Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period of China, two more Lohan were added, increasing the number to 18. The 18 Lohan were first painted in 891 A.D. by the Chinese Buddhist monk Guan Xiu, who is said to have been visited by the Lohan in his dreams. Yet these added representations only gained foothold in China, while Japan and India continue to recognize only 16 of the Lohan.

Here’s an interesting fact: In China at the end of the ninth century the Buddhist faith had suffered greatly, being subjugated to great persecution under the reign of Emperor Tang Wuzhong who preferred Taosm. A cult was born, out of this staunch resistance which incorporated the Lohan as the powerful guardians of the Buddhist faith. The last two additions, the Taming Dragon and Taming Tiger Lohan were, in fact, thinly disguised swipes against the thriving Taoism of the time.

The Taming Dragon Lohan’s Sanskrit name is Nantimitolo. Nanti stands for happy and mitolo, a friend. Together the name means happy friend. He is called the Taming Dragon Lohan for his brave act of vanquishing the ferocious dragon. There is a charming verse describes him thus:

“In the hands are the spiritual pearl and the holy bowl,

Endowed with power that knows no bounds,

Full of valour, vigour and awe-inspiring dignity,

He succeeds in vanquishing the ferocious dragon.”

According to lore his story goes:

Once upon a time in ancient India the people of a small kingdom, being incited by a demon, went on a rampage against the Buddhists and their monasteries. In the mayhem of destruction, some had even shamelessly stooped to steal the Buddhist sutras.

The Dragon King of the undersea, outraged by this unruly behaviour of humans, punished them all, innocents as well as the guilty, by flooding their entire kingdom. As he deemed them most unworthy of benefiting from the wisdom within these writings, he took custody of the sutras and stored them in his palace.

In time the repentant people having suffered so long, wanted the sutras back but nothing would sway the Dragon King’s resolve. It took an extraordinary being, Nantimitolo, to succeed in subduing the dragon guard and restoring the sutras back to earth. Hence he is called the Taming Dragon Lohan.