The Mysterious Buddhist Robe
by J. Macgowan
The short visit which the Emperor Li Shih-ming paid to the Land of
Shadows had produced a profound impression on his mind. The pain and
misery that men had to endure there, because of the evils they had
committed in this life by their own voluntary action, had been brought
before him in a most vivid manner. He had seen with his own eyes what
he had always been unwilling to believe—namely, that wrong-doing is in
every case followed by penalties, which have to be paid either in this
world or the next.
He was now convinced that the doctrine of the sages on this point was
true, for he had witnessed the horrors that criminals who had
practically escaped punishment in this life had to suffer when they
came under the jurisdiction of Yam-lo.
What distressed him most of all, however, was the grim thought which
clung to him and refused to be silenced, that a large number of those
in the Land of Shadows who were suffering from hunger and nakedness,
were there as the result of his own cruelty and injustice, and that the
cries of these men and women would reach to Heaven, and in due time
bring down vengeance on himself.
With this fear of coming judgment there was at the same time mingled in
his mind an element of compassion, for he was really sorry for the poor
wretches whom he had seen in the "City of the Wronged Ones," and whose
reproaches and threats of divine vengeance had entered into his very
He therefore determined to institute a magnificent service for those
spirits of the dead, who through the injustice of rulers, or the
impotence of law, or private revenge, had lost their lives and were
suffering untold hardships in the other world. He would have prayers
said for their souls, that would flood their lives with plenty, and in
course of time would open up the way for their being reborn into the
world of men.
In this way he would propitiate those whom he had injured, and at the
same time accumulate such an amount of merit for his benevolence, that
the gods would make it easy for him when his time of reckoning came,
and the accounts of his life were made up and balanced.
As this ceremony was to be one such as had never before been held at
any period of Chinese history, he was anxious that the man who should
be the leader and conductor of it should not be one of the men of
indifferent lives who are usually found in the Buddhist temples and
monasteries. He must be a man of sterling character, and of a life so
pure and holy that no stain could be found upon it to detract from the
saintly reputation he had acquired.
His Majesty accordingly sent out edicts to all the Viceroys in the
Empire, commanding them to issue proclamations throughout the length
and breadth of the country, telling the people of the great religious
service which he was going to hold in the capital for the unhappy
spirits in the Land of Shadows. In these edicts he ordered that search
should be made for a priest of unblemished character—one who had
proved his love for his fellow-men by great acts of sympathy for them.
This man was to be invited to present himself before the Emperor, to
take charge of the high and splendid service which had been designed by
the Sovereign himself.
The tidings of this noble conception of Li Shih-ming spread with
wonderful rapidity throughout his dominions, and even reached the
far-off Western Heaven, where the mysterious beings who inhabit that
happy land are ever on the alert to welcome any movement for the relief
of human suffering. The Goddess of Mercy considered the occasion of
such importance that she determined to take her share of responsibility
for this distinguished service, by providing suitable vestments in
which the leader of the great ceremony should be attired.
So it came to pass that while men's minds were excited about the
proposed celebration for the dead, two priests suddenly appeared in the
streets of the capital. No one had ever seen such old-fashioned and
weird-looking specimens of manhood before. They were mean and
insignificant in appearance, and the distinctive robes in which they
were dressed were so travel-stained and unclean that it was evident
they had not been washed for many a long day.
Men looked at them with astonishment as they passed along the road, for
there was something so strange about them that they seemed to have come
down from a far-off distant age, and to have suddenly burst into a
civilization which had long out-grown the type from which they were
descended. But by-and-by their curious old-world appearance was
forgotten in amazement at the articles they carried with them. These
were carefully wrapped in several folds of cloth to keep them from
being soiled, though the two priests were perfectly willing to unfold
the wrappers, and exhibit them to anyone who wished to examine them.
The precious things which were preserved with such jealous care were a
hat and robe such as an abbot might wear on some great occasion when
the Buddhist Church was using its most elaborate ceremonial to perform
some function of unusual dignity and importance. There was also a
crosier, beautifully wrought with precious stones, which was well
worthy of being held in the hand of the highest functionary of the
Church in any of its most sacred and solemn services. The remarkable
thing about the hat and robe was their exquisite beauty. The richness
of the embroidered work, the quaint designs, the harmonious blending of
colours, and the subtle exhibition of the genius of the mind which had
fashioned and perfected them, arrested the attention of even the lowest
class in the crowds of people who gathered round the two priests to
gaze upon the hat and robe, with awe and admiration in their faces.
Some instinct that flashed through the minds of the wondering
spectators told them that these rare and fairy-like vestments were no
ordinary products manufactured in any of the looms throughout the wide
domains of the Empire. No human mind or hand had ever designed or
worked out the various hues and shades of such marvellous colours as
those which flashed before their eyes, and which possessed a delicacy
and beauty such as none of the great artists of the past had ever been
able to produce.
The priests from the various temples and monasteries of the capital
soon heard the reports that spread through the city about the
marvellous hat and robe, and flocked in large numbers to see these
wonderful things, which the two curious-looking men were displaying to
all who cared to gaze upon them.
"Do you wish to dispose of these things?" asked one of the city priests.
"If any one can pay the price at which alone we are prepared to sell,
we shall be willing to part with them to him," was the reply.
"And what may the price be?" anxiously enquired the priest.
"The hat and robe will cost four thousand taels, and the crosier, which
is of the rarest materials and manufacture, will be sold for the same
At this a great laugh resounded through the crowd. In those days eight
thousand taels was a huge fortune which only one or two of the
wealthiest men of the State could have afforded to give. The
boisterous mirth, however, which convulsed the crowd when they heard
the fabulous sums asked by these strangers for their articles, soon
became hushed when the latter proceeded to explain that the sums
demanded were purposely prohibitive, in order that the sacred vestments
should not fall into the hands of anyone who was unworthy to possess
"You are all aware," said one of the strangers, "that His Majesty the
Emperor, recognizing that the service for the dead which he is about to
hold is one of momentous importance, not only to the spirits suffering
in the Land of Shadows, but also to the prosperity and welfare of the
Chinese Empire, has already issued edicts to secure the presence of
some saintly and godly priest, who shall be worthy to superintend the
prayers that will be said for the men and women who are leading dreary
lives in the land over which Yam-lo rules."
The story of these two men spread with great rapidity throughout the
homes of all classes in the metropolis, and when it was understood that
they had no desire to make money by the rare and beautiful articles
which they readily displayed to the crowds that followed them whenever
they appeared on the streets, they began to be surrounded with a kind
of halo of romance. Men whispered to each other that these were no
common denizens of the earth, but fairies in disguise, who had come as
messengers from the Goddess of Mercy. The garments which they had with
them were such as no mortal eyes had ever beheld, and were clearly
intended for use only at some special ceremony of exceptional
importance such as that which the Emperor was planning to have carried
At length rumours reached the palace of the strange scenes which were
daily taking place in the streets of the capital, and Li Shih-ming sent
officers to command the two strange priests to appear in his presence.
When they were brought before him, and he saw the wonderful robe
embroidered in delicate hues and colours such as no workman had ever
been known to design before, and grasped the crosier which sparkled and
flashed with the brilliancy of the precious stones adorning it, the
Emperor felt that the invisible gods had approved of his design for the
solemn service for the dead and had prepared vestments for the High
Priest which would be worthy of the exalted position he would occupy in
the great ceremony.
"I hear that you want eight thousand taels for these articles," said
the Emperor to the two men, who stood respectfully before him.
"We are not anxious, your Majesty," replied one of the strangers,
"about the price. That is to us of very little importance. We have
mentioned this large sum simply to prevent any man of unworthy mind
from becoming their possessor.
"There is a peculiarity about that robe," he continued. "Any person of
pure and upright heart who wears it will be preserved from every kind
of disaster that can possibly assail him in this world. No sorrow can
touch him, and the schemes of the most malignant of evil spirits will
have no influence upon him. On the other hand, any man who is under
the dominion of any base passion, if he dares to put on that mystic
robe, will find himself involved in all kinds of calamities and
sorrows, which will never leave him until he has put it off and laid it
aside for ever.
"What we are really here for," he concluded, "is to endeavour to assist
your Majesty in the discovery of a priest of noble and blameless life
who will be worthy of presiding at the service you are about to hold
for the unhappy spirits in the Land of Shadows. When we have found him
we shall consider that our mission has been fulfilled, and we can then
return and report the success we have achieved."
At this moment despatches from high officials throughout the country
were presented to the Emperor, all recommending Sam-Chaong as the only
man in the dominions who was fit to act as High Priest in the proposed
great service. As Sam-Chaong happened to be then in the capital, he
was sent for and, being approved of by His Majesty, was at once
appointed to the sacred office, which he alone of the myriads of
priests in China seemed to be worthy of occupying.
The two strangers, who had been noting the proceedings with anxious and
watchful eyes, expressed their delight at the decision that had been
arrived at. Stepping up to Sam-Chaong with the most reverential
attitude, they presented him with the costly vestments which had
excited the wonder and admiration of everyone who had seen them.
Refusing to receive any remuneration for them, they bowed gracefully to
the Emperor and retired. As the door of the audience-chamber closed
upon them they vanished from human sight, and no trace of them could
anywhere be found.
On the great day appointed by the Emperor, such a gathering was
assembled as China in all the long history of the past had never before
witnessed. Abbots from far-off distant monasteries were there, dressed
in their finest vestments. Aged priests, with faces wrinkled by the
passage of years, and young bonzes in their slate-coloured gowns, had
travelled over the hills and mountains of the North to be present, and
took up their positions in the great building. Men of note, too, who
had made themselves famous by their devoted zeal for the ceremonies of
the Buddhist Church and by their munificent gifts to the temples and
shrines, had come with great retinues of their clansmen to add to the
splendour and dignity of the occasion.
But the chief glory and attraction of the day to the assembled crowds
was the Emperor, Li Shih-Ming. Never had he been seen in such pomp and
circumstance as on this occasion. Close round him stood the princes of
the royal family, the great officers of state and the members of the
Cabinet in their rich and picturesque dresses. Immediately beyond were
earls and dukes, viceroys of provinces and great captains and
commanders, whose fame for mighty deeds of valour in the border warfare
had spread through every city and town and hamlet in the Empire.
There were also present some of the most famous scholars of China, who,
though not members of the Buddhist Church, yet felt that they could not
refuse the invitation which the Emperor had extended to them.
In short, the very flower of the Empire was gathered together to carry
out the benevolent purpose of rescuing the spirits of the dead from an
intolerable state of misery which only the living had the power of
The supreme moment, however, was when Sam-Chaong and more than a
hundred of the priests most distinguished for learning and piety in the
whole of the church, marched in solemn procession, chanting a litany,
and took their places on the raised platform from which they were to
conduct the service for the dead.
During the ceremony, much to his amazement, Li Shih-Ming saw the two
men who had bestowed the fairy vestments on Sam-Chaong, standing one on
each side of him; but though they joined heartily in the proceedings,
he could not help noticing that a look of dissatisfaction and
occasionally of something which seemed like contempt, rested like a
shadow on their faces.
At the close of the service he commanded them to appear before him, and
expressed his surprise at their conduct, when they explained that the
discontent they had shown was entirely due to a feeling that the ritual
which had been used that day was one entirely inadequate to the
occasion. It was so wanting in dignity and loftiness of conception,
they said, that though some ease might be brought to the spirits
suffering in the Land of Shadows from the service which had been
performed, it would utterly fail in the most important particular of
all—namely, their deliverance from Hades, and their rebirth into the
land of the living.
That this was also a matter which had given the Goddess of Mercy a vast
amount of concern was soon made evident to the Emperor, for in the
midst of this conversation there suddenly sounded, throughout the great
hall in which the vast congregation still lingered, a voice saying:
"Send Sam-Chaong to the Western Heaven to obtain the ritual which shall
there be given him and which shall be worthy of being chanted by a
This command from the invisible Goddess produced such an impression
upon the Emperor that he made immediate preparations for the departure
of Sam-Chaong on his momentous journey; and in a few days, supplied
with everything necessary for so toilsome an undertaking, the famous
priest started on what seemed a wild and visionary enterprise in
pursuit of an object which anyone with less faith than himself would
have deemed beyond the power of any human being to accomplish.
In order to afford him protection by the way and to act as his
body-servants, the Emperor appointed two men to accompany Sam-Chaong on
the long journey which he had undertaken at the command of the Goddess
of Mercy. His Majesty would indeed have given him a whole regiment of
soldiers, if he had been willing to accept them; but he absolutely
refused to take more than just two men. He relied chiefly on the fairy
robe which he had received, for that secured him from all danger from
any foes whom he might meet on the road. Moreover, his mission, as he
assured the Emperor, was one of peace and good-will, and it would not
harmonize either with his own wishes or with those of the Goddess for
him to be in a position to avenge his wrongs by the destruction of
Before many days had elapsed Sam-Chaong began to realize the perilous
nature of the service he had been called upon to perform. One
afternoon, the travellers were jogging leisurely along in a wild and
unsettled district, when suddenly two fierce-looking hobgoblins swooped
down upon them, and almost before a word could be said had swallowed up
both his poor followers. They were proceeding to do the same with
Sam-Chaong when a fairy appeared upon the scene, and sent them flying
with screams of terror to the caverns in the neighbouring hills where
their homes seemed to be.
For a moment or two, Sam-Chaong was in extreme distress. He had just
escaped an imminent peril; he was absolutely alone in an apparently
uninhabited region; and the shadows of night were already darkening
everything around. He was wondering where he would spend the night,
when a man appeared upon the scene and invited him to come home with
him to a mountain village on the spur of the hills which rose abruptly
some distance away in front of them.
Although an entire stranger, who had never even heard Sam-Chaong's
name, this man treated his guest right royally and gave him the very
best that his house contained. Deeply impressed with the generous
treatment he had received, Sam-Chaong determined that he would repay
his host's generosity by performing an act which would be highly
gratifying both to him and to all the members of his household.
Arranging a temporary altar in front of the image of the household god,
who happened to be the Goddess of Mercy, he chanted the service for the
dead before it with such acceptance that the spirit of the father of
his host, who had been confined in the Land of Shadows, was released
from that sunless land and was allowed to be reborn and take his place
amongst the living. Moreover, that very night, the father appeared
before his son in a vision, and told him that in consequence of the
intercession of Sam-Chaong, whose reputation for piety was widely known
in the dominions of Yam-lo, he had been allowed to leave that dismal
country and had just been born into a family in the province of Shensi.
The son was rejoiced beyond measure at this wonderful news, and in
order to show his gratitude for this generous action, he volunteered to
accompany Sam-Chaong right to the very frontiers of China and to share
with him any dangers and hardships he might have to endure by the way.
After many weary days of travelling this part of the journey was at
last accomplished, and they were about to separate at the foot of a
considerable hill which lay on the border line between China and the
country of the barbarians beyond, when a loud and striking voice was
heard exclaiming, "The priest has come! The priest has come!"
Sam-Chaong asked his companion the meaning of these words and to what
priest they referred.
"There is a tradition in this region," replied the man, "that five
hundred years ago, a certain fairy, inflamed with pride, dared to raise
himself in rebellion against the Goddess of Mercy in the Western
Heaven. To punish him she turned him into a monkey, and confined him
in a cave near the top of this hill. There she condemned him to remain
until Sam-Chaong should pass this way, when he could earn forgiveness
by leading the priest into the presence of the Goddess who had
commanded him to appear before her."
Ascending the hill in the direction of the spot from whence the cry
"The priest has come!" kept ringing through the air, they came upon a
natural cavern, the mouth of which was covered by a huge boulder,
nicely poised in such a position that all exit from it was rendered an
impossibility. Peering through the crevices at the side, they could
distinctly see the figure of a monkey raising its face with an eager
look of expectation in the direction of Sam-Chaong and his companion.
"Let me out," it cried, "and I will faithfully lead you to the Western
Heaven, and never leave you until you find yourself standing in the
presence of the Goddess of Mercy."
"But how am I to get you out?" asked Sam-Chaong. "The boulder that
shuts you in is too large for human hands to move, and so, though I
pity you in your misfortune and greatly desire your help to guide me
along the unknown paths that lie before me, I fear that the task of
setting you free must fall to other hands than mine."
"Deliverance is more easy than you imagine," replied the monkey. "Cast
your eye along the edge of this vast rock, which the Goddess with but a
simple touch of one of her fingers moved into its place five hundred
years ago, as though it had been the airiest down that ever floated in
a summer's breeze, and you will see something yellow standing out in
marked contrast to the black lichen-covered stone. That is the
sign-manual of the Goddess. She printed it on the rock when she
condemned me centuries ago to be enclosed within this narrow cell until
you should come and release me. Your hand alone can remove that mystic
symbol and save me from the penalty of a living death."
Following the directions of the monkey, Sam-Chaong carefully scraped
away the yellow-coloured tracings which he tried in vain to decipher;
and when the last faint scrap had been finally removed, the huge,
gigantic boulder silently moved aside with a gentle, easy motion and
tilted itself to one side until the prisoner had emerged, when once
more it slid gracefully back into its old position.
Under the guidance of the monkey, who had assumed the appearance of a
strong and vigorous young athlete, Sam-Chaong proceeded on his
journey—over mountains so high that they seemed to touch the very
heavens, and through valleys which lay at their foot in perpetual
shadow, except only at noon-tide when the sun stood directly overhead.
Then again they travelled across deserts whose restless, storm-tossed,
sandy billows left no traces of human footsteps, and where death
seemed, like some cunning foe, to be lying in wait to destroy their
It was here that Sam-Chaong realized the protecting care of the Goddess
in providing such a valuable companion as the monkey proved himself to
be. He might have been born in these sandy wastes, so familiar was he
with their moods. There was something in the air, and in the colours
of the sky at dawn and at sunset, that told him what was going to
happen, and he could say almost to a certainty whether any storm was
coming to turn these silent deserts into storm-tossed oceans of sand,
which more ruthless even than the sea, would engulf all living things
within their pitiless depths. He knew, moreover, where the hidden
springs of water lay concealed beneath the glare and glitter that
pained the eyes simply to look upon them; and without a solitary
landmark in the boundless expanse, by unerring instinct, he would
travel straight to the very spot where the spring bubbled up from the
great fountains below.
Having crossed these howling wildernesses, where Sam-Chaong must have
perished had he travelled alone, they came to a region inhabited by a
pastoral people, but abounding in bands of robbers. Monkey was a
daring fellow and was never afraid to meet any foe in fair fight; yet
for the sake of Sam-Chaong, whose loving disposition had been
insensibly taming his wild and fiery nature, he tried as far as
possible to avoid a collision with any evil characters, whether men or
spirits, who might be inclined to have a passage of arms with them.
One day they had passed over a great plain, where herds of sheep could
be seen in all directions browsing under the watchful care of their
shepherds, and they had come to the base of the foot-hills leading to a
mountainous country beyond, when the profound meditation in which
Sam-Chaong was usually absorbed was suddenly interrupted by a startled
cry from Monkey.
Drawing close up to him, he said in a low voice, "Do you see those six
men who are descending the hill and coming in our direction? They look
like simple-minded farmers, and yet they are all devils who have put on
the guise of men in order to be able to take us unawares. Their real
object is to kill you, and thus frustrate the gracious purpose of the
Goddess, who wishes to deliver the souls in the Land of Shadows from
the torments they are enduring there.
"I know them well," he went on; "they are fierce and malignant spirits
and very bold, for rarely have they ever been put to flight in any
conflict in which they have been engaged. They little dream, however,
who it is you have by your side. If they did they would come on more
warily, for though I am single-handed they would be chary of coming to
issues with me.
"But I am glad," he continued, "that they have not yet discovered who I
am, for my soul has long desired just such a day as this, when in a
battle that shall be worthy of the gods, my fame shall spread
throughout the Western Heaven and even into the wide domains of the
Land of Shadows."
With a cry of gladness, as though some wondrous good-fortune had
befallen him, he bounded along the road to meet the coming foe, and in
contemptuous tones challenged them to mortal combat.
No sooner did they discover who it was that dared to champion
Sam-Chaong with such bold and haughty front, than with hideous yells
and screams they rushed tumultuously upon him, hoping by a combined
attack to confuse him and to make him fly in terror before them.
In this however they had reckoned without their host. With a daring
quite as great as theirs, but with a skill far superior to that of the
six infuriated demons, Monkey seized a javelin which came gleaming
through the air just at the precise moment that he needed it, and
hurled it at one of his opponents with such fatal effect that he lay
sprawling on the ground, and with a cry that might have come from a
lost spirit breathed his last.
And now the battle became a mighty one indeed. Arrows shot from
invisible bows flew quicker than flashes of light against this single
mighty fighter, but they glanced off a magic shield which fairy arts
had interposed in front of him. Weapons such as mortal hands had never
wielded in any of the great battles of the world were now brought into
play; but never for a moment did Monkey lose his head. With marvellous
intrepidity he warded them off, and striking back with one tremendous
lunge, he laid another of the demons dead at his feet.
Dismay began to raise the coward in the minds of those who were left,
and losing heart they turned to those subtle and cunning devices that
had never before failed in their attacks on mankind. Their great
endeavour now was to inveigle Monkey into a position where certain
destruction would be sure to follow. Three-pronged spears were hurled
against him with deadly precision, and had he not at that precise
moment leaped high into the air no power on earth could have saved him.
It was at this tremendous crisis in the fight that Monkey won his
greatest success. Leaping lightly to the ground whilst the backs of
his foes were still turned towards him, he was able with the
double-edged sword which he held in each of his hands to despatch three
more of his enemies. The last remaining foe was so utterly cowed when
he beheld his comrades lying dead upon the road that he took to flight,
and soon all that was to be seen of him was a black speck slowly
vanishing on the distant horizon.
Thus ended the great battle in which Monkey secured such a signal
victory over the wild demons of the frozen North, and Sam-Chaong drew
near to gaze upon the mangled bodies of the fierce spirits who but a
moment ago were fighting so desperately for their very lives.
Now, Sam-Chaong was a man who naturally had the tenderest heart for
every living thing; and so, as he looked, a cloud of sadness spread
over his countenance and he sighed as he thought of the destruction of
life which he had just witnessed. It was true that the demons had come
with the one settled purpose of killing him, and there was no reason
therefore why he should regret their death. But life to him was always
precious, no matter in what form it might be enshrined. Life was the
special gift of Heaven, and could not be wilfully destroyed without
committing a crime against the gods.
So absorbed did Sam-Chaong become in this thought, and so sombre were
the feelings filling his heart, that he entirely forgot to thank the
hero by his side who had risked his life for him, and but for whose
prowess he would have fallen a victim to the deadly hatred of these
enemies of mankind. Feelings of resentment began to spring up in the
mind of Monkey as he saw that Sam-Chaong seemed to feel more pity for
the dead demons than gratitude for the heroic efforts which had saved
him from a cruel death.
"Are you dissatisfied with the services I have rendered to you to-day?"
he asked him abruptly.
"My heart is deeply moved by what you have done for me," replied
Sam-Chaong. "My only regret is that you could not have delivered me
without causing the death of these poor wretched demons, and thus
depriving them of the gift of life, a thing as dear to them as it is to
you or me."
Now Monkey, who was of a fierce and hasty temper, could not brook such
meagre praise as this, and so in passionate and indignant language he
declared that no longer would he be content to serve so craven a
master, who, though beloved of the Goddess, was not a man for whom he
would care to risk his life again.
With these words he vaulted into the air, and soared away into the
distance, on and on through countless leagues of never-ending sky,
until he came to the verge of a wide-spreading ocean. Plunging into
this as though it had been the home in which he had always lived, he
made his way by paths with which he seemed familiar, until he reached
the palace of the Dragon Prince of the Sea, who received him with the
utmost cordiality and gave him an invitation to remain with him as his
guest as long as he pleased.
For some time he entertained himself with the many marvellous sights
which are hidden away beneath the waters of the great ocean and which
have a life and imagery of their own, stranger and more mysterious
perhaps than those on which men are accustomed to look. But in time he
became restless and dissatisfied with himself. The unpleasant thought
crept slowly into his heart that in a moment of passion he had basely
deserted Sam-Chaong and had left him helpless in a strange and unknown
region; and worse still that he had been unfaithful to the trust which
the Goddess had committed to him. He became uncomfortably conscious,
too, that though he had fled to the depths of the ocean he could never
get beyond the reach of her power, and that whenever she wished to
imprison him in the mountain cavern where he had eaten out his heart
for five hundred years, she could do so with one imperious word of
In this mood of repentance for his past errors, he happened to cast his
eye upon a scroll which hung in one of the rooms of the palace. As he
read the story on it his heart smote him, and from that moment he
determined to hasten back to the post from which he had fled.
The words on the scroll were written in letters of gold and told how on
a certain occasion in the history of the past the fairies determined to
assist the fortunes of a young man named Chang-lung, who had gained
their admiration because of the nobility of character which he had
exhibited in his ordinary conduct in life. He belonged to an extremely
poor family, and so without some such aid as they could give him, he
could never attain to that eminence in the State which would enable him
to be of service to his country. But he must first be tested to see
whether he had the force of character necessary to bear the strain
which greatness would put upon him. Accordingly one of the most
experienced amongst their number was despatched to make the trial.
Assuming the guise of an old countryman in poor and worn-out clothing,
the fairy sat down on a bridge over a stream close to the village where
the favourite of the gods lived. By-and-by Chang-lung came walking
briskly along. Just as he came up to the disguised fairy, the latter
let one of his shoes drop into the water below. With an air of
apparent distress, he begged the young man to wade into the stream and
pick it up for him.
Cheerfully smiling, Chang-lung at once jumped into the water. In a
moment he had returned with the shoe and was handing it to the old man,
when the latter requested him to put it on his foot for him. This was
asking him to do a most menial act, which most men would have
scornfully resented; but Chang-lung, pitying the decrepit-looking old
stranger, immediately knelt on the ground and carefully fastened the
dripping shoe on to his foot.
Whilst he was in the act of doing this, the fairy, as if by accident,
skilfully managed to let the other shoe slip from his foot over the
edge of the bridge into the running stream. Apologizing for his
stupidity, and excusing himself on the ground that he was an old man
and that his fingers were not as nimble as they used to be, he begged
Chang-lung to repeat his kindness and do him the favour of picking up
the second shoe and restoring it to him.
With the same cheery manner, as though he were not being asked to
perform a servile task, Chang-lung once more stepped into the shallow
brook and bringing back the shoe, proceeded without any hesitation to
repeat the process of putting it on the old man's foot.
The fairy was now perfectly satisfied. Thanking Chang-lung for his
kindness, he presented him with a book, which he took out of one of the
sleeves of his jacket, and urging him to study it with all diligence,
vanished out of his sight. The meeting that day on the country bridge
had an important influence on the destiny of Chang-lung, who in time
rose to great eminence and finally became Prime Minister of China.
As Monkey studied the golden words before him, he contrasted his own
conduct with that of Chang-lung, and, pricked to the heart by a
consciousness of his wrong, he started at once, without even bidding
farewell to the Dragon Prince of the Sea, to return to the service of
He was just emerging from the ocean, when who should be standing
waiting for him on the yellow sands of the shore but the Goddess of
Mercy herself, who had come all the way from her distant home to warn
him of the consequences that would happen to him were he ever again to
fail in the duty she had assigned him of leading Sam-Chaong to the
Terrified beyond measure at the awful doom which threatened him, and at
the same time truly repentant for the wrong he had committed, Monkey
bounded up far above the highest mountains which rear their peaks to
the sky, and fled with incredible speed until he stood once more by the
side of Sam-Chaong.
No reproof fell from the latter's lips as the truant returned to his
post. A tender gracious smile was the only sign of displeasure that he
"I am truly glad to have you come back to me," he said, "for I was lost
without your guidance in this unknown world in which I am travelling.
I may tell you, however, that since you left me the Goddess appeared to
me and comforted me with the assurance that you would ere long resume
your duties and be my friend, as you have so nobly been in the past.
She was very distressed at my forlorn condition and was so determined
that nothing of the kind should happen again in the future, that she
graciously presented me with a mystic cap wrought and embroidered by
the fairy hands of the maidens in her own palace.
"'Guard this well,' she said, 'and treasure it as your very life, for
it will secure you the services of one who for five hundred years was
kept in confinement in order that he might be ready to escort you on
the way to the Western Heaven. He is the one man who has the daring
and the courage to meet the foes who will endeavour to destroy you on
your journey, but he is as full of passion as the storm when it is
blowing in its fury. Should he ever desert you again, you have but to
place this cap on your head, and he will be wrung with such awful and
intolerable agonies that though he were a thousand miles away he would
hurry back with all the speed he could command to have you take it off
again, so that he might be relieved from the fearful pains racking his
After numerous adventures too long to relate, Sam-Chaong reached the
borders of an immense lake, many miles in extent, spanned by a bridge
of only a single foot in width. With fear and trembling, as men
tremble on the brink of eternity, and often with terror in his eyes and
a quivering in his heart as he looked at the narrow foothold on which
he was treading, he finally crossed in safety, when he found to his
astonishment that the pulsations of a new life had already begun to
beat strongly within him. Beyond a narrow strip of land, which bounded
the great expanse of water over which he had just passed, was a wide
flowing river, and on its bank was a boat with a ferryman in it ready
to row him over.
When they had reached the middle of the stream, Sam-Chaong saw a man
struggling in the water as if for dear life. Moved with pity he urged
upon the boatman to go to his rescue and deliver him from drowning. He
was sternly told, however, to keep silence. "The figure you see
there," said the boatman, "is yourself—or rather, it is but the shell
of your old self, in which you worked out your redemption in the world
beyond, and which you could never use in the new life upon which you
On the opposite bank of the river stood the Goddess of Mercy, who with
smiling face welcomed him into the ranks of the fairies.
Since then, it is believed by those whose vision reaches further than
the grey and common scenes of earthly life, Sam-Chaong has frequently
appeared on earth, in various disguises, when in some great emergency
more than human power was required to deliver men from destruction.
There is one thing certain at least,—these gifted people declare—and
that is that in the guise of a priest Sam-Chaong did once more revisit
this world and delivered to the Buddhist Church the new ritual which
the Goddess of Mercy had prepared for it, and which is used to-day in
its services throughout the East.