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Pan, Mai, and Xiang Shu Han the Dragon
Many moons ago, during the Qin dynasty, there lay a village near the Great Wall of China. News sent from guards on the wall was that a vast army of Mongols was being sent to pillage their village. That night, the magistrate of the village had a vision that two young boys would save the village. The next morning, he announced this to the village, and said that all boys would be tested for this adventure.
Pan and his brother Mai were part of the lowest class in the village. They didn’t have any parents, but instead wandered around the village. Being very impoverished, they were not sent to the magistrate to have their fortunes read. By the end of the day, the testing had been completed, and with no success.
“What shall we do,” the large, chubby magistrate cried, “we have tested all the children in the village, and none of them is the right one!”
“Not all of them,” his adviser replied, “we have only checked the wealthy and the middle class, but not the poor children.”
“But none of them will venture out of hiding, for fear of being sent to an orphanage,” the magistrate said bitterly.
“Unless you offer them a prize,” the adviser offered.
“Brilliant!” the magistrate exclaimed.
The next day, the emperor announced for all the homeless children to come to the royal palace for testing. He also mentioned that all who attended would receive a prize. Soon, hundreds of children were running towards the palace. Pan and Mai ended up at the end of the line, because on the way there they stopped to snatch a few fruits from a careless vendor. Even though the line was long, there were excited that they could possibly be the ones to save the village. They were also curious about what the prize could be.
Now there were only a few people in front of them. They were very excited. Not only had they been giving bags of gold coins to the children, but no one had been chosen yet. Finally came their turn. A small, haggard old lady told one of them to hold out their hand. Being oldest, Pan shoved his hand forward.
“Ah yes,” she croaked, “I see great deeds ahead of you.”
Pan stepped to the right of the old ladies’ chair to accept his prize. It was a small sack filled to the rim with large golden coins, each had the face of the emperor on the front and a twisting dragon on the back. He was so excited that he didn’t realize that his brother had also been accepted to go on the quest.
“What must we do?” asked Mai.
The fortune teller replied, “You must seek out Xiang Shu Han, the great Golden Dragon and ruler of all the Zodiac Gods.”
“Where might we find him?” inquired Pan.
“It is said in the legends that he is to be found at the summit of the mountain Fung Chi Chu,” the fortune teller said, as he went into telling the legend of the Golden Dragon. When he finished the magistrate commanded, “You must now head to Fung Chi Chu, the home of Xiang Shu Han, or our village will peril!”
Preparation for the journey wasn’t tough. They had only a couple belongings, which they threw into canvas sacks along with their prize money, and headed south out of the village. As they passed through the marketplace, they stealthily stole some more fruit and other necessities for their journey. They traveled many days and nights, through blistering heat and drenching rain. From miles away they could see the ominous mountain towering over the valley, its top hidden in the clouds.
When they reached the base of the mountain, they stopped to rest the remainder of the night for the climb the next day. The two brothers didn’t talk much as they ate their meal before going to bed.
In the morning, they ate some rice, and set off to climb to the top of the gargantuan mountain. As they climbed up the steep, winding trail, they started to see the gods of the Zodiac, each in the form of their animal. First came small ones like the rat and the dog, getting larger and larger, until they were oxen and horses. They stared at Pan and Mai, but let them pass. At one point they stopped to rest and looked down into the peaceful valley. They could see in the distance The Great Wall of China, and beyond that an ominous dust cloud that was unmistakably the Mongol army. By mid-day they made it to the top of Fung Chi Chu. When they got there, there was nothing in sight. Suddenly, out of the sky far above them, they heard a deafening roar. Out of the mist came the Golden Dragon, tumbling and twisting gracefully in flight. He was the largest creature they had ever seen. He was decorated with large, round golden scales that almost blinded them.
He roared, “What do you want!”
The brothers quivered in fear at the sound of his voice. It took them a while to build up enough courage to speak.
“We have come because our fortunes have said we were to come and see you,” Pan stammered.
“Well, what is your reason?” Xiang Shu Han said in a softer voice.
“You see, our village is in danger from a Mongol invasion, and we were sent to ask you if you could help.”
“I see.” Xiang Shu Han said.
“Do you think we could reach the village in time if you rode on my back?” the great dragon inquired.
“Yes, I believe we could,” Mai said.
“Then let’s start!” Xiang Shu Han roared.
And they were flying through the air, above the clouds chubby, puffy clouds, the other Zodiac Gods rose up into the sky on invisible wings, and trailed behind the majestic dragon. They reached the village just as the Mongols were charging through the last fortifications. Xiang Shu Han roared a command to the gods, and each of them disappeared, only to reappear a couple seconds later as a giant horde of animals, and charged at the on-coming soldiers. Snakes lashed out viciously, dragons swooped and clawed, and horses knocked down soldiers with their powerful hind legs. The Mongols were not suspecting the animals to be so ferocious, and fled. Once they were gone, the villagers came out of their huts and cheered for the heroes who had braved the weather and had saved the village. By time the villagers had ceased their mob around the two heroes, they looked for the large army of animals that had been there moments before. They were gone! The only remnants of the epic battle were the many bodies of the dead Mongol soldiers.
Later that day, the Emperor arrived at the village to see the two boys. He offered them a place at his palace as his adopted sons, but they refused, being completely happy living in the village. All they requested was more gold so they could buy items of want and need without stealing it.