Chinese Folktales

47. The Sect of the White Lotus

ONCE there was a man Who belonged to the sect of the White Lotus. He was good at deluding the masses by black magic and many who were anxious to learn magic skills took him as their teacher.

One day the magician Was about to leave. He placed a covered dish in his hall and instructed his apprentices to guard it carefully. He also warned them against uncovering it to see what was inside.

He was no sooner gone than the apprentices lifted the lid and found that there was nothing but water in the dish. On the water floated a tiny little ship made of straw, With real sails and masts. They were greatly astonished and jabbed it with their fingers. The little boat capsized. They quickly righted it again and covered up the dish. But at that moment the magician returned and upbraided them angrily; ‘Why did you disobey my orders?’ The pupils rose to their feet and denied everything. But the magician said: ‘You cannot deceive me—my own ship capsized on the Sea!’ Another evening he lit a huge candle in the room and ordered them to watch it so that the Wind should not blow it out. About the second watch, when the magician had still not returned, the pupils felt tired and sleepy: they went to bed and were soon asleep. When they awoke the candle had gone out. They rose hurriedly and lit it again. But almost at once the magician was back and again chided them.

“But we really did not sleep! How could the light have gone out?’

The magician said angrily: ‘You let me walk fifteen miles in the dark, and now you lie to me as well!’ At this, the apprentices were very frightened.

He practised black magic of every kind, far more than can be related.

In the course of time it happened that one of the apprentices made love secretly to the magician’s favourite slave girl. The magician was well aware of it but he kept his knowledge to himself and said nothing. He then made the apprentice go and feed the pigs. No sooner had the young man entered the pigsty than he was transformed into a pig. The magician called the butcher to have the pig slaughtered and sold its meat. No one knew anything about it.

Later the boy’s father turned up to inquire about him because he had not come home for a long time. The magician turned him away and told him that the boy had long left him. The father returned home and made inquiries about his son wherever he could. But he did not discover anything. In the end a schoolmate Who had been secretly informed about the whole business told the father the truth. The father thereupon laid a charge against the magician with the magistrate. But the magistrate was afraid the magician would make himself invisible and dared not arrest him but instead reported to his superiors and requested a thousand armoured Warriors. These surrounded the magician’s house. He was seized together with his wife and son. They were locked up in wooden cages to be taken to the capital.

The road to the capital lay through the mountains. When they were right among the mountains a giant

appeared, as tall as a tree, with eyes like saucers, with a mouth like a dish and with teeth a foot long. The warriors stood there shaking with fear and dared not move.

The magician said: ‘That is a mountain spirit. My wife knows how to put him to flight.’

They therefore undid the wife’s fetters. The woman took up a spear and advanced against the giant. But the giant turned Wild and swallowed her lock, stock and barrel. This filled them all with even greater terror. The magician then said: ‘As he has killed my Wife, my son must deal with him.’

So they released the son as well. But he was devoured in the same way. Everyone Was watching helplessly.

The magician screamed with anger and said “First he killed my wife and now he has killed my son. He shall pay for this! But I’m the only one who can deal with him.’ So they released him too from his cage, gave him a sword and sent him into action. The magician and the giant fought for a While but in the end the giant seized the magician, shoved him into his mouth, stretched his neck and swallowed him, and walked off cheerfully. It was only later that the soldiers discovered the trick that the magician had played on them.