Resources - China

Stories and Pictures Books-China

The Empty Pot

Tikki Tikki Tembo

Yeh-Shen, A Cinderella Story
By Aai-Ling Louie, Philomel books, NY, 1982.

During the time of the Ch'in and Han dynasties, a cave chief named Wu married two wives and each gave birth to baby girls. Before long Chief Wu and one wife died leaving one baby, Yeh-Shen, to be reared by her stepmother. The stepmother didn't like Yeh-Shen for she was more beautiful and kinder than her own daughter so she treated her poorly. Yeh-Shen was given the worse jobs and the only friend she had was a beautiful fish with big golden eyes . Each day the fish came out of the water onto the bank to be fed by Yeh-Shen. Now Yen-Shen had little food for herself but she was willing to share with the fish. Her stepmother hearing about the fish disguised herself as Yen-Shen and enticed the fish from the water. She stabbed it with a dagger, and cooked the fish for dinner. Yeh-Shen was distraught when she learned of the fish's death. As she sat crying she heard a voice and looked up to see a wise old man wearing the coarsest of clothes and with hair hanging down over his shoulders. He told her that the bones of the fish were filled with a powerful spirit, and that when she was in serious need she was to kneel before the bones and tell them of her heart's desires. She was warned not to waste their gifts. Yeh-Shen retrieved the bones from the trash heap and hid them in a safe place. Time passed and the spring festival was nearing. This was a time when the young people gathered in the village to meet one another and to find husbands and wives. Yen-Shen longed to go to the festival but her stepmother wouldn't allow it because she feared that someone would pick Yeh-Shen rather than her own daughter. The stepmother and the daughter left for the festival leaving Yeh-Shen behind. Yeh-Shen wanting desperately to go asked the bones for clothes to wear to the festival. Suddenly she was wearing a beautiful gown of azure blue with a cloak of kingfisher feathers draped around her shoulders. On her feet were beautiful slippers.They were woven of golden threads in a pattern of a scaled fish and the soles were made of solid gold. When she walked she felt lighter than air. She was warned not to lose the slippers. Yeh-Shen arrived at the festival and soon all were looking her way. The daughter and step-mother moved closer to her for they seemed to recognize this beautiful person. Seeing that she would be found out, Yeh-Shen dashed out of the village leaving behind one of the golden slippers. When she arrived home she was dressed again in her rags. She spoke again to the bones, but they were now silent. Saddened she put the one golden slipper in her bedstraw. After a time a merchant found the lost slipper, and seeing the value in the golden slipper sold it to a merchant who gave it to the king of the island kingdom of T'o Han. Now the king wanted to find the owner of this tiny beautiful slipper. He sent his people to search the kingdom but no ones foot would fit in the tiny golden slipper. He had the slipper placed on display in a pavilion on the side of the road where the slipper had been found with an announcement that the shoe was to be returned to the owner. The king's men waited out of site. All the women came to try on the shoe. One dark night Yeh-Shen slipped quietly across the pavilion, took the tiny golden slipper and turned to leave, but the king's men rushed out and arrested her. She was taken to the king who was furious for he couldn't believe that any one in rags could possibly own a golden slipper. As he looked closer at her face he was struck by her beauty and he noticed she had the tiniest feet. The king and his men returned home with her where she produced the other slipper. As she slipped on the two slippers her rags turned into the beautiful gown and cloak she had worn to the festival. The king realized that she was the one for him. They married and lived happily ever after. However, the stepmother and daughter were never allowed to visit Yeh-Shen and were forced to continue to live in their cave until the day they were crushed to death in a shower of flying stones.

Mr.Chang and the Yellow Robe
By Dorothee Bohlke, Garrett Educational Corp., Ada, Oklahoma, 1991.

Each day Mr. Chang went about his business dressed in his plain colored clothes, black hat and black shoes. One day he decided he was tired of looking like everyone else and wanted to dress in bright beautiful colors. While on the street the governor, Mr. Mo, passed by in his sedan chair. He was wearing a bright beautiful golden robe, and all the towns' people stopped to bow to him. Mr. Mo held his head high and ignored them. Mr. Chang loved the yellow robe and was impressed by the governor's importance. He went to the tailor and asked for a mandarin's yellow robe for himself. The tailor was shocked at such a request for only the most important people were allowed to wear such a robe. Mr. Chang insisted. The tailor happened to have one in a trunk and sold it to Mr. Chang, but again warned him not to wear it in public. Each day Mr. Chang would arrive home, put on his golden robe, look at himself in the mirror and feel important. When he went out he put his plain clothes over the golden robe to conceal it. He soon took on a haughty air, not speaking or looking at his neighbors, just walking alone with his head held high. One day as he was resting on a river bank wearing his golden robe he heard the screams of two little girls. They had been playing badminton and their shuttlecock was in the river. Mr. Chang jumped up to help them. They saw his golden robe and told him not to bother for he was too important to help with such a small task. Mr. Chang ignored the comments of the little girls and retrieved their shuttlecock. After returning the shuttlecock to the girls he hurried away to cover his golden robe. As he was returning home a dog grabbed the hem of his plain clothes exposing his yellow robe hidden underneath. The people saw this, had him arrested and taken before Mr. Mo. The governor was furious at Mr. Chang for wearing the golden robe and wanted to punish him. The two little girls Mr. Chang had helped were hiding behind a pillar and heard their father speaking in harsh tones to Mr. Chang. They rushed to Mr. Chang's rescue. The girls told their father how Mr. Chang had helped them. Mr. Mo was grateful and invited Mr. Chang to the palace the next night for a fireworks display. He would be permitted to wear the golden robe for one night. Mr. Chang did not go to the palace but stayed home wearing his plain clothes. After the fireworks he gazed at the stars and decided that he was like them, "not as bright as the sun or moon but special just like each of the stars."

Two of Everything
By Lily Toy Hong, Albert Whitman & Co., Morton Grove, Illinois, 1993.
... a funny Chinese folktale with a bit of wisdom.

Old Mr. Haktak found a large brass pot while digging in his garden. He drug the pot home to show Mrs. Haktak. They are excited over finding this brass pot for they are poor and have few worldly possessions. Before returning home with the newly found pot Mr. Haktak had placed his purse with their last 5 gold coins in the pot so as not to drop it on the way home. When he arrived Mrs. Haktak leaned into the pot to take a closer look and dropped one of her hair pins. As she reached for it she found another pin and two purses with 5 gold coins in each.They then began to drop items into the pot and soon had two of everything. One day Mrs. Haktak leaned too far into the pot and on pulling her out by her legs, Mr. Haktak found that he had two Mrs. Haktaks. This presented a problem. In his excitement he fell back into the pot and soon there was a second Mr. Haktak. The two new Haktaks became man and wife and friends with the original Haktaks. Soon the two couples built identical houses next to each other with identical teapots, rice bowls, embroideries, and bamboo furniture.

The Magic Tapestry
By Demi, Henry Holt and Co., 1994.

This is the story of a poor widowed woman who had a special gift for weaving beautiful tapestries. Her three sons supported the family by cutting wood while she spent all her time weaving a beautiful tapestry with flowing streams, fish, animals and flowers. Her work on the tapestry was finished at the end of three years. One day as the sons were arguing about the tapestry a gust of wind carried it out the window and off into the eastern sky. One by one the three sons journeyed to retrieve the tapestry. At a mountain pass each son had to choose between completing 4 difficult tasks or taking a box of jewels. The first two sons took the jewels and went off to the city. The youngest son completed the dangerous tasks and was whisked to a palace at the top of Sun Mountain. There he found three fairies weaving copies of his mother's tapestry that hung from the wall. He stayed the night and woke to find the fairies gone and the tapestry rolled up next to him. Soon he started for home, again completing the 4 difficult tasks, carrying the tapestry and thinking of one particular beautiful fairy. His mother was overjoyed at seeing him and the tapestry. As he rolled it out on the grass it surrounded them and became their environment. At that moment the animals and flowers came to life and the beautiful fairy he desired stepped out of the tapestry. And you know the rest.....the young couple became man and wife.

Another of Demi's beautiful stories with her beautiful pictures.

The Journey of Meng
By Doreen Rappaport, Dial Books for Young Readers, NY, 1991. ancient Chinese legend of love and courage during the period of the building of the Great Wall of China.

Meng Jiangnu's husband Wan, a scholar, was taken from their home and carried away to help with the building of the Great Wall. Meng, saddened by the loss of her husband, waited for news of him. Much time passed without hearing of his whereabouts. One night in her sleep he came to her and told her he was freezing to death. She awoke and made the decision to travel to the area where she thought he was working and take him clothes she had made for him. During her journey she almost froze to death in a snow storm. A crow flew down next to her as she slept in the snow, and upon her awakening showed her how to flap her wings so she could join the crows and fly to her destination. Upon her arrival at the Great Wall she learned that her husband had died. She learned that he had been buried with many other workers in a section of the Great Wall. She searched the wall but couldn't locate his body. Anger arose from within her and poured out of her causing lightning to split the sky and rain to pour from the heavens washing away whole sections of the Great Wall. As the bones of the workers swirled about Meng pricked her finger and asked that her blood penetrate the bones of her husband, Wan. She located his bones and wrapped them in the clothes she had brought for him. The cruel Emperor, Qin shi Huangdi, was furious with her but taken with her beauty. The Emperor gave her a choice of coming with him or being beheaded. Meng responded by asking for three wishes: to have her husband buried in the style of a prince, to have the kingdom mourn him for 49 days, and give him a public funeral. The Emperor granted her the three wishes. After Wan's funeral she thanked the Emperor ...and then threw herself into the sea for she could not stand the thoughts of being with the Emperor. The Emperor commanded that her body be drug from the sea, cut into pieces, and her bones ground into dust. As they threw her dust into the sea thousands of little silvery fish filled the waters. So today if you visit the Great Wall next to the Eastern Sea you and others in China will remember the story of Meng and Wan.

Rappaport's telling of the story and the beautiful watercolor pictures by Yang Ming-Yi make this tale one that will touch your heart.

Lon Po Po
By Ed Young, Philomel Books, NY, 1989.
...a Red-Riding Hood story from China. A tale that is thought to be over 1000 years old.

A woman lived with her three children, Shang. Tao, and Paotze, in the country. One day she left to visit their grandmother leaving the three children alone. She would not be returning until the next day. The old wolf had been watching the house and saw the mother leave. He went to the door, knocked two times and told the children that he was their grandmother, their Po Po, coming to visit them. The wolf tricked the children into letting him inside the house and into their bed. They questioned his low voice, his foot with a bush on it, his hands with thorns on them. The eldest child recognized the wolf and devised a plan to get him. They ran from the house and climbed the nearby gingko tree. They convinced the wolf to tie a rope to a basket, climb into a basket, and throw the rope up to them so they could pull him up the tree and he could sample the ginko nuts. As they pulled the wolf up the tree they let go of the ropes so that he fell to the ground. They did this several times until he was finally dead and no longer a threat to them. The children climbed down the tree and ran into the house where they waited until their mother returned. The next day she arrived from the real Po Po's house with baskets of food.

The Magic Boat
By Demi, Henry Holt & Co., 1990.

A little boy named Chang, a name which means honest, lived with his mother and white cat. He spent each day cutting firewood for his mother. One day he saw an old man fall from a single log bridge into the river. Chang rushed to save the old man. The old man was impressed with Chang's courage and selflessness and gave him a small dragon boat. When the old man said, "Grow bigger! Grow bigger! May you brave the wind and water!" the boat turned into a large vessel . When he said, "Grow smaller! Grow smaller! May you be a toy again!" the boat became a toy again. The old man left Chang with the toy boat and told him that if he ever needed help he was to call to the east, "Grandfather! Grandfather!" The old man disappeared. Soon the rains came. It rained for ten days and ten nights. The water began to rise. Chang brought out his boat and speaking the magic words turned it into a mighty vessel that he, his mother, and cat boarded. As they sailed on the rising sea they spied an ant, a bee, and a crane that were drowning. They rescued each of them and once a board the boat they began to help row and steer the boat. They spied a man struggling in the water and rescued him. His name was Ying, which means tricky. Once aboard the boat he refused to help. He stretched out on the deck and gave orders to the others. Once the rain stopped and the water receded, Chang returned to his village, and saying the magic words changed the boat into a toy. Ying saw this and wanted this magic boat. Chang set about rebuilding his house that had been destroyed in the flood. His mother, the cat and the other animals they rescued helped Chang. Ying did nothing but give orders. One day he suggested that Chang give him the magic boat so he could take it to the Emperor who would give a lot of money for the boat. This money could be used to rebuild the house. Being a trusting person Chang gave the magic boat to Ying. Time passed and Ying had not returned. Chang went in search of Ying and the boat. He searched for days. One day he heard a large procession coming and the announcement that the Prime Minister was approaching. The Prime Minister was none other than Ying. Chang was furious at Ying for stealing his boat, and Ying was fearful of Chang, knowing he had cheated him. He had Chang arrested. When Chang did not return home the animals went searching for him. They found him hungry, dirty, and bruised. They returned home with hime and restored him to health. They decided to return to the Emperor and tell them their story. But first they had to find a way to enter the palace. Word was that the Emperor's daughter was ill and any one who could cure her would be given one wish. Chang disguised himself as a doctor and went to the palace. Chang was taken before the Emperor. Seated next to him was Ying who recognized Chang and wanted him arrested. The Emperor anxious to find a cure for his daughter decided to allow Chang an opportunity to cure her. Chang pulled out his little red bag of magic medicine and cured her. The Emperor very happy and gave Chang one wish. His wish was for the return of his magic boat. The Emperor was reluctant. Ying and the Emperor decided to trick Chang. If Chang could select the Princess from her seven maids when they were all disguised then he could have the boat. The Princess and her maidens were brought before Chang. The queen bee buzzed around the head of the Princess so he made the right selection. The Emperor again refused to give him the boat. The Emperor told Chang that he had to prove to him that the boat was his. Chang remembered the words of the old man and called to the east, "Grandfather! Grandfather!" The old man appeared riding a golden phoenix and told the Emperor that he had given the boat to Chang. The Emperor and Ying refused again. The animals began to chant, "Turn Ying into an old gray wolf and the Emperor into a big wild pig." And the old man did! Chang retrieved his boat and returned home with his friends. He used the boat to help other in times of need and to bring joy in times of peace.

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