The Four Dragons
A Chinese Tale
Once upon a time, there were no rivers and lakes on earth, but
only the Eastern Sea, in which lived four dragons: the Long Dragon,
the Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon and the Pearl Dragon.
One day the four dragons flew from the sea into the sky. They
soared and dived, playing at hide-and-seek in the clouds.
"Come over here quickly!" the Pearl Dragon cried out
"What's up?" asked the other three, looking down in
the direction where the Pearl Dragon pointed. On the earth they
saw many people putting out fruits and cakes, and burning incense
sticks. They were praying! A white-haired woman, kneeling on the
ground with a thin boy on her back, murmured:
"Please send rain quickly, God of Heaven, to give our children
rice to eat.."
For there had been no rain for a long time. The crops withered,
the grass turned yellow and fields cracked under the scorching
"How poor the people are!" said the Yellow Dragon.
"And they will die if it doesn't rain soon."
The Long Dragon nodded. Then he suggested, "Let's go and
beg the Jade Emperor for rain."
So saying, he leapt into the clouds. The others followed closely
and flew towards the Heavenly Palace.
Being in charge of all the affairs in heaven, on earth and in
the sea, the Jade Emperor was very powerful. He was not pleased
to see the dragons rushing in. "Why do you come here instead
of staying in the sea and behaving yourselves?"
The Long Dragon stepped forward and said, "The crops on
earth are withering and dying, Your Majesty. I beg you to send
rain down quickly!"
"All right. You go back first, I'll send some rain down
tomorrow." The Jade Emperor pretended to agree while listening
to the songs of the fairies.
"Thanks, Your Majesty!" The four dragons went happily
But ten days passed, and not a drop of rain came down.
The people suffered more, some eating bark, some grass roots,
some forced to eat white clay when they ran out of bark and grass
Seeing all this, the four dragons felt very sorry, for they knew
the Jade Emperor only cared about pleasure, and never took the
people to heart. They could only rely on themselves to relieve
the people of their miseries. But how to do it?
Seeing the vast sea, the Long Dragon said that he had an idea.
"What is it? Out with it, quickly!" the other three
"Look, is there not plenty of water in the sea where we
live? We should scoop it up and spray it towards the sky. The
water will be like rain drops and come down to save the people
and their crops."
"Good idea!" The others clapped their hands.
"But," said the Long Dragon after thinking a bit, "we
will be blamed if the Jade Emperor learns of this."
"I will do anything to save the people," the Yellow
Dragon said resolutely.
"Let's begin. We will never regret it." The Black Dragon
and the Pearl Dragon were not to be outdone.
They flew to the sea, scooped up water in their mouths, and then
flew back into the sky, where they sprayed the water out over
the earth. The four dragons flew back and forth, making the sky
dark all around. Before long the sea water became rain pouring
down from the sky.
"It's raining! It's raining!"
"The crops will be saved!"
The people cried and leaped with joy. On the ground the wheat
stalks raised their heads and the sorghum stalks straightened
The god of the sea discovered these events and reported to the
"How dare the four dragons bring rain without my permission!"
The Jade Em-peror was enraged, and ordered the heavenly generals
and their troops to arrest the four dragons. Being far outnumbered,
the four dragons could not defend themselves, and they were soon
arrested and brought back to the heavenly palace.
"Go and get four mountains to lay upon them so that they
can never escape!" The Jade Emperor ordered the Mountain
The Mountain God used his magic power to make four mountains
fly there, whistling in the wind from afar, and pressed them down
upon the four dragons.
Imprisoned as they were, they never regretted their actions.
Determined to do good for the people forever, they turned themselves
into four rivers, which flowed past high mountains and deep valleys,
crossing the land from the west to the east and finally emptying
into the sea. And so China's four great rivers were formed --
the Heilongjian (Black Dragon) in the far north, the Huanghe (Yellow
River) in central China, the Changjiang (Yangtze, or Long River)
farther south, and the Zhujiang (Pearl) in the very far south.