Storied China 2011 (2 of 6)

In our village, there was an ancient and magical tree. It was said that the tree had a several hundred years history. It is so huge that only three people hand in hand can hold it up. The thick foliage of this tree spreads out like an umbrella, sending out its roots towards the deep soil. Every year, it bears a lot of fruits. All the villagers regard the fruit as “Holy Fruit”. They think if one person eat it, he can have a good health and make much money. So they like it very much. Because the tree is too huge to be reached, only when the fruit is ripe and fall[s] down from the top, can we pick it up and eat. [This only increases] its mystery.

Our attitude towards the tree didn’t change until several strangers came to our village. They came from another faraway village. They were servants of a rich family. They told us that the tree was a demon and always hurt people. They also said that the daughter of their owner was pestered by the tree demon.

Every night, when the daughter was in bed, she felt dimly that a person was beside her. She turned up the light but [found] nothing. One night, when she turned up the light, she found a mouse running away from her bed. She told it to her parents, but nobody thought the criminal was the mouse. In the following days, she had the same feeling. One night, she couldn’t bear it eventually. Therefore, she made up her mind to find the truth. That night, she went to bed [earlier] and kept awake all the night. Eventually, the tree demon came and lay down beside her. Then she tied a handkerchief on the man’s waist gently and turned up [the] light immediately. To her surprise, she found it [was] a handsome young man. The young man told his name and address to her and changed into a mouse running away. The next day, her father ordered several servants to seek for the young man. Finally, they came to our village and asked about the young man. To their surprise, they found that the young man was the tree. That day, all the people also noticed that in the midst of the tree, there was a handkerchief. It’s the daughter’s precisely.

From then on, the villagers didn’t dare to eat the fruit any more. Every time, when rains, the thunder always hit the tree.  As the time went by, there was a big crack in the midst and vertical direction of the tree. After two or three years later, the tree died. But it still stood there [upright]. Now and then, the storm split [one] branch off from the main trunk. Each [time a branch] dropped down, one of our villagers would die. Therefore, all the villagers regarded it more respectfully and fearfully.

Several years ago, when I was in junior school, a strong wind blew down the magical tree. Nobody dare[d] to make a fire with it, just leaving it there to rot.

This semester, I asked students to call the oldest person in their families and to ask that person to tell them a story that they had never heard before. They then translated and told the story in English. While we’re away traveling, I thought I’d let my students tell their stories. To preserve their privacy, I have not credited the authors, but I have gotten their permission to let you listen in. The stories vary—sometimes simple, sometimes Earth shattering, sometimes otherworldly. I have not edited their stories unless I needed to help the flow. My edits are in brackets. [ ] Check back for more. There will be a new one posted each Wednesday through Feb. 23.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *