The Jeweled Sea
A Chinese Tale
Long, long ago, a little Chinese boy named Kwang-Su lived in
the city of Yo-chan with his father and mother, who loved him
very much. Now, Chinese mothers and fathers will take every care
to protect their children from the power of evil Genii, or spirits.
There were a great many evil Genii in China at that time, a little
Kwang-Su's mother was very careful to protect him as best she
It is well known that a wicked Genii will not come near a Chinese
boy if some red silk is braided in with his pigtail, or if he
wears a silver chain around his neck; and every wicked Genii has
a great dread of old fishing nets, as well.
So Kwang-Su's mother made him a little shirt out of an old fishing
net to wear next his skin, and she took good care that his pigtail
should be plaited with the brightest red silk that money could
There is a great deal in having the head shaved in just the right
way, too, and it is best to have a little tuft of hair sticking
up in the luckiest place, as well. All these things were done
for Kwang-Su, and so he passed safely through the troubles of
his babyhood and grew from a little boy into a bi one, and from
a boy to a tall and handsome youth.
At this time he left off wearing his netted shirt although the
silver chain still hung around his neck, and you may be very sure
there was red silk braided into his pigtail.
One day Kwang-Su's father said, "It is time that the boy
saw a little more of the world. He must go to Yun-nan and study
under the wise men there and find out the things that he should
know." Yun-nan was a very great city indeed, and Shun-Che,
the master to whom Kwang-Su was sent, was the wisest man in it.
Under this teacher Kwang-Su learned what the wise men of the
world were thinking about, and many other things besides. When
he was eighteen years old he took the red silk out of his pigtail
and the silver chain from his neck, for grown-up people do not
need such charms to protect themselves from the Genii.
When Kwang-Su was twenty years old, Shun-Che told him he could
not teach him any more. "It is time for you to go back to
your parents and com- fort them in their old age," he told
him; and he was very sorry as he said it, for Kwang-Su was his
"I will do as you bid me," replied Kwang-Su, obediently.
"I will start tomorrow, and I will leave the city by the
"You must not leave by the Golden Bridge," said Shun-Che,
"you must go by the Indigo Bridge, for there you will meet
your future wife."
"But I have not been thinking of a wife at all," said
"All the better," said Shun-Che as he wrinkled up his
eyes, and laughed, "because when you have once seen her,
you will be able to think of nothing else."
In the morning Kwang-Su was sleepy and did not start on his journey
as early as he should have done, but he had studied very hard
the night before, and so fell asleep just before sunrise and slept
through the coolest hours of the day.
When he did awake the sun was blazing down upon the streets of
Yun-nan, and making the town like a furnace. Kwang-Su set off
with his stick in his hand, however, for he had promised to start
that day. He said to himself: "I will rest a little at the
Indigo Bridge, and walk on again in the cool of the evening."
But when he reached the bridge he was so tired that he fell asleep
again, and while he slept he dreamed that a tall and beautiful
maiden appeared to him, and showed him her right foot around which
a red cord was bound. Kwang-Su could hardly take his eyes from
her face to look at her foot, but at last he asked, "What
is the meaning of it?"
And the girl replied, "What is the meaning of the red cord
around your foot, too?" Kwang-Su looked down at his right
foot. Sure enough, his foot and the girl's foot were tied together
by the same thin red cord; and by this he knew that she must be
his future wife.
Then he said to the girl, "I have heard my mother say that
when a boy is born the Fairy of the Moon ties an invisible red
cord around his right foot, and the other end of the cord around
the foot of the girl-baby whom he is to marry."
And the girl replied, "That is true, and this is an invisible
cord to people who are awake. Now I am going to tell you my name
and you must remember it when you hear it again, It is Ling-Ling."
Then Kwang-Su began to say, "And I will tell you mine,"
but Ling-Ling stopped him, smiling. "Ah, I know yours and
all about you," she said.
Kwang-Su was very much surprised at this, but he need not have
been, for every one in Yun-nan knew him to be the handsomest and
wisest and best-loved pupil the wise Shun-Che had ever taught.
Ling-Ling lived quite close to the city, and had often seen Kwang-Su
walking through the streets with his books. When Kwang-Su awoke
he found as the girl had said, that there was no red cord around
his foot, and no fair maiden, either. "I wonder if she is
real, or only a dream-maiden, after all," he said to himself.
And then he went on his way, thinking of Ling-Ling all the time.
After a while he grew so thirsty that he stopped at a little
house by the road-side, and asked an old woman who was sitting
in the doorway to give him a drink.
The woman called to her daughter to fill their best cup with
fresh spring water and bring it out to the stranger; and when
the daughter appeared it was Ling-Ling herself! "Oh!"
cried Kwang-Su, "I thought perhaps I should never see you
again, and here I have found you so soon."
Then the girl laughingly asked, "And what is my name ?"
"It is Ling-Ling," replied Kwang-Su, "Ling-Ling...Ling-Ling,"
he repeated, just as he had been saying it all the time as he
Ling-Ling stood in the door of the little house, with a peach
tree in full bloom over her head. She was dressed in white, but
her over-dress was bright blue, embroidered with beautiful flowers
which she had worked herself, and she made such a picture of youth
and loveliness that Kwang-Su was completely bewildered.
"How do you come to know Ling-Ling?" asked the old
woman. "Who are you?" she added, peering and blinking
at him, with her hand over her eyes to shade them from the sun.
Now, the old woman knew something of magic, and had given Ling-Ling
the power of stepping in and out of people's dreams just as she
chose, but when she came to hear of Kwang-Su's dream, and the
red cord, and that Kwang-Su wanted to marry her daughter, she
did not look at all pleased.
Kwang-Su was not a bad match at all, for his parents were well
off, and he was their only child, but the old woman only grumbled,
"If I had two daughters, you might have one of them and welcome."
The truth of the matter was that Ling-Ling was a very pretty
girl, and a mandarin in Yun-nan was anxious to make her his wife.
Her mother ex- plained this to Kwang-Su. "He is four times
her age, it is true," she said, "but he is very rich.
All his dishes and plates are gold, and they say his drinking
cups are gold, set with diamonds."
"I don't want to marry him," said Ling-Ling. "He
is old and wrinkled, like a little brown monkey. And, besides,
the Fairy of the Moon didn't tie my foot to his."
"That is very true," sighed her mother. She would have
liked to tell Kwang-Su to go about his business, but she knew
if the red cord really had been tied between his foot and Ling-Ling's
it would not be safe to do it. It does not do to meddle with such
So the old woman invited Kwang-Su into the house. "Come
in," she said, "and I'll see what I can promise."
The inside of the house was fra- grant with the scent of herbs,
which were strewn all over the floor, and on a wooden stool in
the middle of the room lay a broken pestle atld mortar.
"On this stool," said the old woman, "I pound
magic drugs given to me by the Genii; but my pestle and mortar
is broken. I want a new one." "I will buy you one in
Yun-nan," replied Kwang-Su.
"That will not do at all, for it is a pestle and mortar
of jade, and you can only get one like it by going to the home
of the Genii which is on a mountain above the Jeweled Sea. If
you will do that, and bring it back to me, you shall marry Ling-Ling."
"I will do it," said Kwang-Su, "but I must see
my parents first." He had not the least idea where the home
of the Genii was; but Ling-Ling took him out into the garden,
and showed him in the far distance a range of snow-capped mountains,
with one pea towering above the rest.
"That is where the Genii live," she said. "Up
there on Mount Fumi, where they can sit on the snow and looked
down at the Jeweled Sea." Then she went on: "But to
reach Mount Fumi, you must cross the Blue River, the White River,
the Red River and the Black River, which are all full of monstrous
fishes. That is why my mother is sending you," sighed Ling-Ling.
"She thinks you will never come back alive."
"Fishes don't frighten me," said Kwang-Su, "and
I know how to swim."
"But you must promise me you won't try to swim," insisted
Ling-Ling. "You would be devoured in a moment. Take this
box with you. In it are six red seeds. Throw one in each river
as you come to it, and it will shrink to a little brook, over
which you can jump."
So Kwang-Su looked at the six round seeds, each about the size
of a pea, and agreed to use them as Ling-Ling directed. Then he
kissed her, and set out on his journey. On his way he passed through
Yo-Chan, where his parents lived, so he went to see them and told
them all that had happened since he left home.
Kwang-Su's mother was a very wise woman, as mothers generally
are, and she told him the Genii would be angry if he turned their
four great rivers into brooks, and would probably refuse to give
him a pestle and mortar made of jade.
Kwang Su said he had never thought of that. "It need not
trouble you, though," said his mother, "for I will give
you a box containing six white seeds. All you have to do is to
cast one into each brook when you have crossed it on your way
home, and the brook will become a river again."
In the morning Kwang-Su kissed his mother and went on his way.
He rested during the mid-day heat, and continued his journey when
it grew cool again; and in this way at the end of seven days he
came to the Blue River.
This river was a quarter of a mile wide, and as blue as midsummer
skies, and fishes were popping their heads out of the water in
every direction. The head of every fish was twice as large as
a football, and had two rows of teeth.
But Kwang-Su threw a red seed into the waters which were lapping
the shore, and in a moment, instead of a wide blue river, a little
brook lay at his feet. The huge fishes were changed into tiny
creatures like tadpoles, and he hopped across the brook on one
Not long afterwards he came to the White River which was half
a mile wide, so rapid that it was covered with foam, and full
of immense sea serpents.
"I shan't be able to hop over this on one foot," thought
Kwang-Su, throwing one of his red seeds into the water. But to
his surprise the White River shrank, as rapidly as the Blue River
had done, into a tiny rippling brook, with some wee, wriggling
eels at the bottom.
Kwang-Su leaped lightly over it, and walked a long way before
he came in sight of the Red River. This was three-quarters of
a mile wide, and bright scarlet. It looked like a flood of melted
sealing-wax, and a row of alligators with their mouths wide open,
stretched right across it like a bridge. "Now for my little
red seed!" cried Kwang-Su, opening his box.
Snap! went the jaws of the nearest alligator as the seed struck
the water, but he missed it, and the next minute he found himself
no bigger than a lizard sitting at the bottom of a stream not
half a yard across.
On the other side of the river Kwang-Su was met by one of the
Genii who had come down from his snow-peak to see who had dared
to play such tricks with three mighty rivers. Kwang-Su showed
him the round white seeds in his other box.
"I can make the rivers as large as they were before on my
way back," he told the Geni. "But first I must find
the home of the Genii, and get a pestle and mortar of jade for
my future mother-in-law to pound her magic drugs in."
"To get to it you must first cross the Black River,"
said the Genii, with rather a scornful laugh. "It is a mile
wide, and the fishes in it are six yards long, and covered with
spikes like porcupines."
"Would you mind telling me how you get across?" asked
"Not at all. I can fly," replied the Genii.
"And I can jump," retorted Kwang-Su, sturdily.
So they set out together and in a little while came to the Black
River---a great waste of water, as black as ink, stretching in
front of them. Kwang-Su's heart sank a little, but he took out
his fourth seed and watched it disappear beneath a coal-black
wave. In an instant the river dried up, leaving only a shallow
stream running through the grass at their feet.
The Genii was much impressed by the wonderful things Kwang-Su
seemed able to do, and as he was not altogether a bad-hearted
fellow, he offered to show him the nearest way to the home of
the Genii on the top of Mount Fumi. After a long and wearisome
climb they got up there, and found eight of the Genii sitting
on eight snow-peaks and looking down on the Jeweled Sea, as Ling-Ling
Kwang-Su could not take his eyes off the Jeweled Sea, for it
was a beautiful sheet of water, flashing with all the colors of
the rainbow. He forgot all about the pestle and mortar as he watched
the waves rippling along the shore, leaving behind them diamonds,
rubies, sapphires, and pearls in thousands. Every pebble was a
precious stone, and he wanted to go down and fill his pockets
So there he stood while the Genii who had been his guide explained
to the others why he had come and told them about the wonderful
red and white seeds he carried about with him. "We must let
him have the pestle and mortar," he said, "or he won't
give us our rivers back again."
Then the eight Genii nodded their eight heads, and spoke all
at once with a voice which was like the rumble of thunder among
the hills. "Let him take it if he can carry it," they
said. And then they laughed until the snow-peaks shook beneath
them, for the mortar made of jade was six feet high and our feet
wide, and the pestle was so heavy no mortal could lift it.
When Kwang-Su had finished staring at the Jeweled Sea, he walked
around the pestle and mortar, and wondered how he was to carry
it down the mountain and across the plains to Yun-nan. He sat
down beside it to think the matter over, while the Genii laughed
at him again.
"Oh, you can carry it easily enough," they said, "and
if you wish to fill the mortar with precious stones, you may do
so. Any man who can carry it away empty, can carry it away full."
Still Kwang-Su sat there with folded arms, and thought, and thought,
and paid no attention to their sneers. He had not studied three
years with the wisest man in Yun-nan for nothing, and besides,
he was determined to marry Ling-Ling.
Then all at once the right idea came to him; and he jumped up
and asked the friendly Geni if he would make a little heap of
stones at one side of the mortar. "I want to look inside
of it, and I am not tall enough," he said.
"Why don't you do it yourself ?" asked the Geni; and
Kwang-Su replied, "Because I must go down to the Jeweled
Sea and collect precious stones." So he ran down to the water
and gathered diamonds and rubies and pearls and emeralds and sapphires,
as many as he could carry.
Again and again he did this, emptying them into the mortar each
time, until it was quite full, and held gems enough to make him
the richest man in China.
You see, the yellow-faced mandarin was only the richest man in
Yun-nan, but if Kwang-Su could be the richest man in the whole
kingdom he would have a much better chance of marrying Ling-Ling.
When Kwang-Su had finished filling the mortar, the Genii said
to him, "Well, what next? Are you going to take it on your
shoulder or on your head?" and Kwang-Su replied easily, "I
will just carry it under my arm!"
Then he took out his little box and dropped one of the red seeds
on top of the gems; and in a mo- ment the pestle and mortar shrank
to one of ordinary size! Then Kwang-Su put the pestle in his pocket,
and lifting the mortar carefully so as not to spill the precious
stones, he made a low bow to the Genii and said, "Good-bye,
and thank you very much."
Then what a roar the Genii set up. It sounded as if thirteen
lions were waiting for their dinners. There was no laughing this
time, for they were in a rage; but they did not dare to stop him
for they knew he had the power to turn the four brooks into four
On his way back Kwang-Su did exactly as he had promised the Genii.
He jumped across the first brook, and threw a white seed into
it, and turned it into a terrible inky black waste of waters,
a mile wide, full of fishes six yards long, and every fish covered
with spikes. The roars of the Genii ceased when they saw the Black
River rolling once more between them and the outer world.
At the Red River, the White River, and the Blue River, Kwang-Su
did the same thing; and from that day to this, no one has been
able to find the home of the Genii, because no one but Kwang-Su
could ever cross the Blue River, much less the other three.
Then for seven days Kwang-Su journeyed on, and came at last to
his father's and mother's home in Yo-Chan. Then he told them all
that had happened since he had left them; and for every white
seed his mother had given him, he gave her a diamond, a ruby,
an emerald, a pearl, a sapphire, and a pink topaz, each as large
as a robin's egg.
After that he went on to Yun-nan, and there he found that although
he had been away but a month, Ling-Ling's mother had told every
one that he was dead. Besides this, she had invited all her friends
to a wedding feast in honor of her daughter's marriage with the
Luckily the wedding had not taken place when Kwang-Su arrived;
but Ling-Ling stood under the peach tree in her wedding dress,
which was of pink silk, all embroidered with silver. When she
saw Kwang-Su she threw herself into his arms and cried for joy.
Kwang-Su put down the mortar while he comforted here, and just
then her mother came running out to look at it. "You have
come too late to marry Ling-Ling," she said, "but I
will buy the pestle and mortar from you with some of the money
the mandarin has given me."
"Not a bit of it," replied Kwang-Su. And then he dropped
one of his white seeds into the mortar, which at once increased
in size until it filled the plot of grass under the peach tree,
and was full to the top with glittering jewels.
The next thing Kwang-Su did was to climb onto one of the branches
above them, and from there he threw down among the wedding guests
rubies and diamonds and all kinds of precious stones. The busiest
one among the guests was the yellow-faced mandarin. "One
cannot have too much of a good thing," he chuckled as he
picked up the glittering gems.
"Just look at him!" cried the others indignantly. "Just
see him scramble, as though he had no drinking cups set with diamonds!"
Then Kwang-Su offered him three rubies, each as large as a hen's
egg, if he would go away and say nothing about marriage to Ling-Ling
ever again. So the yellow-faced mandarin took the rubies and went
away. Perhaps he knew that he had no chance against a lover who
scattered jewels about as though they were pebbles; and perhaps
he preferred the three great rubies to Ling-Ling.
When the yellow-faced mandarin was gone, Kwang-Su and Ling-Ling
were married; and in the city where his father and mother lived
they were as happy as two young people deserve to be when they
love each other very dearly.