The Legend of Meng Jiangnv
Meng Jiangnv is a household name in China. She was born in a wealthy family which reaped a harvest not only of grain and mulberry but also of numerous fishes every year. In such a family, she got a good and strict family education, turning into a girl of culture and proficiency in needlework.
There was a local custom. When the water rose during the period of peach blossom every March, a beauty would hold an orchid flower to call back the spirit so as to wipe off the devils, which would attract a multitude of people, creating a grand scene. One day, the little Meng Jiangnv followed her father to have a look at the scene, but she came back home soon and said: “There are only mixed groups of men and women. Nothing deserves viewing.” Surprised pleasantly by her words, her father commented: “Our family boasts an extraordinary girl!”
Several years later, the family built a mansion with a garden and a lotus pond in the south of Cuilu Mountain (now called Jia Mountain) and Li River, and moved in after its completion. At that time, Meng Jiangnv blossomed into a pretty girl, who, however, preferred to stay indoors, only taking a walk around the garden or alongside the lotus pond. Thus neighbors seldom saw her.
At that time, the First Emperor of Qin had the government runners press-gang men into building the Great Wall, frightening a young scholar named Fan Xiliang, who was forced to escape from home. The long running made Fan tired and thirsty, so he stopped to relax, looking for water to drink. Just then, this runaway suddenly heard men shouting, horse neighing and a noise of hurried footsteps, only to discover that the government runners here were catching men too. However, he was too late to run away again, just climbing over a wall nearby, inside which was just the garden of Meng Jiangnv. At that moment, Meng Jiangnv, followed by her servant girl, happened to take a walk around the garden. Both young girls nearly cried out when seeing suddenly a men hiding under the luffa trellis. Fan Xiliang hastened to get out, bowing and imploring her: “Miss, Miss, don’t cry! Don’t cry please! I’m just a refugee. Help me! Help me please!” Looking at this young and pretty scholar, Meng Jiangnv decided to inform her father of the man together with the servant girl. The old landlord, questioned him in the garden about his homeland, his name and the reason why he jumped off the wall into their garden. The young scholar answered everything in detail. The old landlord found him an honest and educated man, thereby agreeing to shelter him. During those days when Fan hided in their home, Meng Jiangnv’s parents found him a charismatic man of good manners, thus discussing the possibility of taking him in as a son-in-law. Meng Jiangnv assented to that suggestion after hearing it, and the man also embraced the offer with pleasure. In this way their marriage was settled.
In those days, no one would like to delay a settled marriage in turmoil of war when the runners press-ganged men almost everyday. After deliberate discussion, her parents picked an auspicious day and invited kith and kin to the wedding. Among the joyful celebration all the day, the pair performed the formal wedding ceremony. As a Chinese saying goes, however, in nature there are unexpected storms and in life unpredictable vicissitude. In the third day after their wedding, a gang of government runners broke into their home, not allowing a word, took Fan away forcefully.
Afraid of her husband in danger, the newlywed-woman shed tears all day long, eagerly longing for his return. Nevertheless, a year later, she neither saw him back, nor received any letter from him. Deeply worried about her husband, she spent several days making a winter cloth and decided to go to the Great Wall to look for her lover by herself. Her parents saw her too stubborn to be stopped, thus doing nothing but support her.
Meng Jiangnv packed her package, bid farewell to her parents and started the journey of tracing her husband. She took bites of cold buns when hungry, drunk some cold water when thirsty, and sat by the roadside for rest when tired. One day, the pity woman asked a gray-headed woodcutter: “How far is it from here to the Great Wall?” “Far-faraway is Youzhou. The Great Wall lies in the north of it.” answered the old man. Hearing that, the husband seeker talked to herself:“Even if the Great Wall is over the horizon, I am determined to get there to find my husband.” Be it windy or rainy, Meng Jiangnv persisted in walking forward. One day, when arriving at wilderness in the middle of nowhere, she stayed overnight at a ruined temple for it was getting dark and she was exhausted. The lonely young woman was really scared but she had no choice but to find a nook for sleep. In her night dream she was learning classics with her dear husband. Suddenly there came a rat-a-tat on the door and then a gang of government runners burst in. She woke up with a start at a stroke, only to find that it was the sounds of the temple’s windows and door caused by wind. The pity woman heaved a sign. Seeing it was dawned, she packed her bag and set out on her journey again.
One day, Meng Jiangnv felt so tired and chilly. She attempted to find a place for rest. However, she fell down in a faint with a plop. When waking up, she found herself lying on a warm brick-bed in a fellow villager's home. The kind landlady was making noodles and infusing ginger and brown sugar water for her. She was moved and highly grateful for such generous help. After sweating, she felt slightly relaxed so that she struggled to set out again. The landlady, with tears in her eyes, stopped her: “Sister, I know you are eager to find your husband. But your body was as hot as a burning coal. How could I bear to let you go? Sister, look at your bleeding feet. Can one recognize they are feet?” The weakling glanced at her swelling breeding feet and only had a rest for two days in the kind lady's home. Then she started her husband-seeking journey again before she was fully fit. The landlady, with tears shedding, murmured:“How nice a wife she is. Heaven, please be kind. Let all the couples get reunited!"
Meng Jiangnv at long last arrived at the Great Wall. She inquired of those laborers one after another: “Where is Fan Xiliang?” Some answered “I don’t know”, while others shook their heads. After asking many people, she found a laborer from her neighboring village. He with great enthusiasm took her to find those laborers who had worked together with her dear husband.
The woman asked: “Your big brother, do you work together with Fan Xiliang?”
“Yes!” answered those men.
“Where is he?”
They looked at each other with tears in their eyes, not saying a word. At the sight of this, the pity wife bristled with anxiety and questioned urgently with her eyes wide open: “Where is my husband, Fan Xiliang?’ Those men found that they could not keep anything from this woman and stammered: “Fan died of fatigue and hunger last month...”
“Where is his body?”
“There are too many bodies to be buried. The supervisor asked us to bury them under the Great Wall.” answered those men.
Before their last word came out, Meng Jiangnv burst out crying, her hands beating the Great Wall. Her repeated cries not only broke hearts of thousands of laborers who at that time lowered their heads and shed tears, but also made the sun and moon dimmed, heaven and earth gloomy. Even the wind wailed, sea water turned torrential for her cries. By the time when she was crying, a rumbling broke out, a large segment of the Great Wall collapsing as if the earth was shattered. As a result, piles of bones and skeletons appeared, but she could not find her husband’s skeleton. At that time, it occurred to her that when she was young, her mother told her a story: One’s blood could seep into his or her lover's bones. Then she broke her middle finger with her teeth, applied her blood to distinguish her husband’s skeleton. At last, she recognized his remains and stayed by it, weeping herself out.
In the meantime, the First Emperor of Qin, followed by a group of forces, passed through here during his inspection tour of the Great Wall.
The Emperor flied into a rage once hearing that Meng Jiangnv’s cries had broken down a segment of the Great Wall. He led the forces to the foot of the Cape Mount with a purpose of punishing the audacious woman by himself, but he changed his mind immediately and wanted to occupy the woman when seeing she was such a charming young woman as pretty as a blooming flower. Meng Jiangnv refused him firmly of course. The Emperor sent some people to persuade her to become his wife. She, however, would rather die than accept the proposal. In the end, the Emperor had no way but to try to persuade her himself. Meng Jiangnv wished she could have crushed her skull against the wall before the cruel tyrant had the first sight of him. Yet on the second thought, she decided not die for nothing at all since she had yet to avenge her husband and the people. Then she choked back her anger, listening to the tyrant’s nonsense. Seeing her in silence, the Emperor thought she had accepted his proposal. Then he talked more excitedly: “Say ‘yes’. Just say ‘yes’. I will give you whatever you want, be it a golden mountain or a silver mountain.”
“The golden mountain or the silver mountain, I am not interested in. If you want me to say ‘yes’, promise me three things.” answered the woman.
“I can promise you thirty things, let alone three things. Now, tell me, the first one.” the Emperor agreed readily.
“You should set up a tablet and build a grave for my husband, cover his body with sandalwood coffin.” said the pity woman.
“Okay, no problem! I promise you. Now, the second one.” the Emperor agreed immediately once hearing that.
“I want you to wear mourning clothes and wave the spirit flag for my husband, follow his hearse and lead all the civil and military officials to a funeral procession in tears.”
Hearing this, the Emperor thought it infeasible for him in that an emperor was too high-status to take part in a funeral procession for a common civilian. Then he said:“No, I can’t do it. The next one, go on.”
“If you do not promise me this one, there is no the third one.” answered Meng Jiangnv.
Looking at her, the Emperor was in a dilemma: If he does not promise it, he will suffer failure just on the verge of success. If he promises, he might be ridiculed by the world. After a second thought, he decided to disregard the possible mockery because he would kill them all if people dare to tease him. Then he said: “Okay, I promise you the second one. Now the third one, go on quickly!”
“I want to cruise on the ocean for three days.” said the woman.
“So easy. Okay, I promised you these three things.” answered the Emperor.
He ordered men to set up a tablet, build a grave, purchase a coffin for Fan Xiliang, then prepared mourning clothes and white spirit flag. On the funeral day, the First Emperor of Qin in mourning clothes followed closely the hearse of Fan Xiliang, looking like a real dutiful son. After the funeral, Meng Jiangnv proposed: “Let’s cruise on the ocean. After that, we can get married.” This exhilarated the Emperor greatly. As he indulged in his illusory happiness, Meng Jiangnv leaped herself into the ocean with a plop.
The Emperor got shocked: “Go! Quickly! Dive to save her!”
As the salvagers jumped into the ocean, the raging billows roared immediately. Seeing that, those men hurried scrambling up the board. Why did the torrents come so timely? It was the Dragon King and the Dragon Lady having mercy on the pity woman that took her to the Dragon Palace at the sight of her plunge. And the shrimp soldiers and crab generals whipped up the wind and waves at their command. But for the soldiers’ help, the Emperor would be engulfed into the ocean.
Please refer to eng.changde.gov.cn when using the article.
Adapted by Li Haijun