The Bright Pearl
A Chinese Tale
Long, long ago there was a snow-white Jade Dragon, living in
a rock cave on the east bank of the Celestial River. In the great
forest across the river lived a beautiful Golden Phoenix.
Leaving their home every morning, the dragon and the phoenix met
each other before going their different ways. One flew in the
sky, while the other swam in the Celestial River. One day both
came to a fairy island. There they found a shining pebble and
were fascinated by its beauty.
"Look, how beautiful this pebble is!" Golden Phoenix
said to Jade Dragon.
"Let's carve it into a pearl," said Jade Dragon.
Golden Phoenix nodded in agreement. Then they started working
on it, Jade Dragon using his claws and Golden Phoenix her beak.
They carved the pebble day after day, month after month, until
they finally made it into a perfect small round ball. In high
spirits Golden Phoenix flew to the sacred mountain to gather dewdrops
and Jade Dragon carried a lot of clear water from the Celestial
River. They sprinkled and washed the ball with dew and water.
Gradually the ball turned into a dazzling pearl.
They had become attached to each other and both loved the pearl
dearly. Neither wanted to go back to the cave and the forest.
So they settled down on the fairy island guarding the pearl.
It was a magic pearl. Wherever it shone, things grew better.
Trees became green all the year round, flowers of all seasons
bloomed together and the land yielded a richer harvest.
One day the Queen Mother of Heaven left her palace and saw the
brilliant rays shed by the pearl. Overwhelmed by the sight, she
was eager to acquire it. She sent one of her guards to go in the
middle of the night to steal the pearl from Jade Dragon and Golden
Phoenix while they were fast asleep. When the guard came back
with it, the Queen Mother was very pleased. She would not show
it to anyone, but immediately hid it in the innermost room of
her palace, to reach which one had to pass through nine locked
When Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix woke up in the morning they
found the pearl gone. Frantically, they searched high and low
for it. Jade Dragon looked into every nook and cranny at the bottom
of the Celestial River, while Golden Phoenix combed every inch
of the sacred mountain, but in vain. They continued their unhappy
search day and night, hoping to recover their treasured pearl.
On the birthday of the Queen Mother, all the gods and goddesses
in Heaven came to her palace to offer their congratulations. She
prepared a grand feast, entertaining her guests with nectar and
celestial peaches, the fruit of immortality. The gods and goddesses
all said to her, "May your fortune be as boundless as the
East Sea and your life last long like the South Mountain!"
The Queen Mother was excited and, on a sudden impulse, declared,
"My immortal friends, I want to show you a precious pearl
which cannot be found either in Heaven or on earth."
So she unfastened nine keys from her girdle and unlocked the
nine doors one after the other. From the innermost room of her
palace she took out the bright pearl, placed it on a golden tray
and carried it carefully to the center of the banquet hall. The
whole hall was instantly lit by the pearl. The guests were fascinated
by its radiance and greatly admired it.
In the meantime, Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix were continuing
their fruitless search. Suddenly Golden Phoenix saw its bright
light. She called to Jade Dragon, "Look, isn't that the light
from our pearl?"
Jade Dragon stuck his head out of the Celestial River and looked.
"Of course! No doubt about it! Let's go and get it back."
They flew towards the light, which led them to the palace of
the Queen Mother. When they landed there, they found the immortals
crowding around the pearl and praising it lavishly. Pushing through
the crowd, Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix shouted together, "This
is our pearl!"
The Queen Mother was so enraged by their claim that she snapped,
"Nonsense! I'm the mother of the Heavenly Emperor. All treasures
belong to me!"
Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix were infuriated by her remarks.
They protested, "Heaven did not give birth to this pearl,
nor was it grown on earth. It was carved and polished by us. It
took many years' hard work."
Shamed and angry, the Queen Mother clutched the tray tightly
while ordering her palace guards to eject Jade Dragon and Golden
Phoenix. But they fought their way back, determined to snatch
the pearl from the Queen Mother. The three struggled over the
golden tray with all their might. As the tray shook amidst the
tussle, the pearl fell off, rolled to the edge of the stairs and
then dropped into the air.
Jade Dragon and Golden Phoenix rushed out of the palace, trying
to save it from being dashed to pieces. They flew beside the falling
pearl, until it slowly landed on earth. When it touched the ground
the pearl immediately turned into a clear, green lake. Jade Dragon
and Golden Phoenix could not bear to part from it, and so they
changed themselves into two mountains, remaining for ever by the
side of the lake.
Since then Jade Dragon Mountain and Golden Phoenix Mountain have
quietly stood beside the West Lake.