Myths / Mythologies / Legends

Dragon Tales from the East

archived 11-03-99
Archive file# m110399a
donated by James Vandale

Dragon Tales from the East

Liu Yi

Origin China Source Tang Ren Chuan Qi (Shang)
-- Legends from Tang Dynasty (Vol. 1)
Edited by Wang Pi Jiang
Introduction by Gong Peng Cheng
Jin Fong Publisher: Taipei, Taiwan, 1987

The Story

Young scholar Liu Yi meets a girl attending a herd of goats. When inquired why she seems so sad, she relates her ill fate of having an abusive husband. She asks Liu Yi to help delivering a letter to her fahter, the Dragon King of Lake Tung Ting. While Liu Yi is at the Dragon King's palace, the news of the Princess's plight was overheard by the quick-tempered Qian Tang Dragon, the princess's uncle. He rushes out and back in no time, saving his niece and punishing his nephew-in-law by devouring him. Since he is so mad, on the way to his niece's rescue, Qian Tang creates havoc, flooding 800 miles and killing 600,000 people. Liu Yi does not want to marry the princess under the pressure of Qian Tang, especially after witnessing the fate of her ex-husband. However, karma eventually brings these two together and in time Liu Yi becomes a dragon himself.

Comparative Note: Unlike the slightly simplified English retelling in Daughter of the Dragon King this version in its original Classical Chinese form has very decorated language. The description of the beauty of the Dragon King's underwater palace is extremely detailed. The highly civilized and artistic entertainment presented by the Dragon King's court. It is made clear that these Dragons are one step above humans as god-like creatures that humans can aspire to become.

The Daughter of the Dragon King

Origin China Source Tales of a Chinese Grandmother
by Frances Carpenter
illustrated by Malthe Hasselriis
Rivercity Press: Mattituck, 1937

The Story

The Dragon King of Lake Tung Ting has the from of a man, is dressed in robes of bright purple, and in his hand, a pieces of the purest green jade-stone gleams. The Dragon King of Chien tang is a red draong with red scales and his mane shines like fire. His eyes flashes like lightening. These two dragons represent the classic Chinese dragons, intelligent, hot-tempered, and commands divine powers.

Comparative Note:
See Liu Yi.

The Jewel from a Dragon's Head

Origin Japan Source The Tale of the Shining Princess
adapted by Sally Fisher
from a translation of the story by Donald Keene
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, 1980

The Story

This is the story of one of the five suiters who court the Shining Princess in this classic from 6 A.D. Japan. In order to have the hand of the Shining Princess (who does not want to marry anyone at all), each suiter has to obtain an impossible treasure. Otomo no Miyuk, the Grand Counselor, orders his clever servants to get him the sparkling jewel imbedded in the head of each dragon. When the servants fail to accomplish the quest, Otomo no Miyuk embarks on the journey over the sea to hunt the dragon. But when he is in the middle of the ocean, a terrible storm with deadly waves break out. This is the work of dragons. The Grand Counselor promises to never challenge the power of nature/dragon again -- "Thunders and dragons are in the same family and not to be tempered with."

The dragons are never seen in this story, but their presence and affinity to water and weather is evident.

The Luminous Pearl

Origin China Source The Luminous Pearl
Retold by Betty L. Torre; illustrated by Carol Inouye
Orchard Books, New York: 1990
Note: The story is adapted from Favourite Folktales of China,
translated by John Minford. Beijing, China: New World Press, 1983.

The Story

In order to choose a proper husband, the Beautiful daughter of the Eastern Sea Dragon King, Mai Li, set a task for two brothers. She would marry whoever brought her a pearl that glowed at night. The younder and honest brother, Wa Jing, after keeping his promise to help the village people rid of the flood, found a black, dull pearl while the older and greedy brother thought he had found the brightest pearl. At the time of the test, the dull pearl shone bright while the bright pearl did not give out any light. The couple were instangly married. The telling is simple and smooth but the choices of some characters and their names are not appropriate: Admiral C. Horse just does not sound Chinese at all. The teller seems to try to be cute here.

In the text, there is no description of the Eastern Sea Dragon King. However, in the illustrations, this dragon is portrayed as a human with a draong's head which consists of antlers, green beard and hair that looks like wavering seaweeds, tiger ears, a huge mouth with boar's tusks, an animal snout, and two feelers like those of a cat fish's. He is a good-natured father who is the ruler of the underwater world and possesses the magical tools to help people rid of flood.

Comparative Note:
See Lieh Ren Hai Li Bu

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