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The mysterious Jiaozi

2016/1/14 13:40:23   source:Foreign language teaching and research press

A fine drizzle touches the skin. Behind tender veils of slowly-rising mist, the silhouettes of oriental gardens arise like shadows out of the tranquility of the magic lake. Not the slightest breath of air can disturb the deep peace and quietness. The laws of time and space lose all power. Each season exposes the beauty of Hangzhou’s West Lake in its own guise. The mystic poetry of the landscape cannot be felt more deeply or intensely than on a foggy and rainy day in the early summer – scenery portrayed in age-old Chinese paintings. These enchanted places are the home of touching myths, tales, and legends.

The lake itself, as well as the history of its origin, even has a very special mythological background. A long time ago, in a time when all creatures on earth lived in unique harmony with the powers of heaven, there once was a dispute amongst the emperors of the earth, dragon, phoenix, and the goddess of heaven. In deep sadness about this disturbance of harmony, a tear dropped out of the eyes of the goddess of heaven and fell down to the earth as a precious pearl. There, where the divine tear touched the land, one of the most beautiful waters in China was created – the West Lake of Hangzhou.

Still today, dragon and phoenix are said to be the embodiment of the terrestrial lordship of emperor and empress. While the dragon expresses imperial attributes like power, wealth, and luck, the phoenix symbolizes the empress and represents traits such as wisdom, steadiness, and longevity.

It is not surprising that, at the same time, this almost magical place marks the stage for one of the most touching love dramas of Chinese literature – the legend of the white snake. It is the great saga of eternity and time, of love and passion, and of life and death.

The warming sun of the receding winter days, whose rays of sunlight made the snow on the arc of bridge melt faster than on both its ends, gave the “broken bridge in the melting snow” its mysterious name.

The sun was shining. It was an early spring day in March, a long time ago. Families with children stood cheerfully next to the broken bridge, just gathering around a huge steaming kettle out of which an old man offered hot and tasty Jiaozi. Even in old times this kind of stuffed food was regarded as beloved delicacies of Chinese cuisine. The old man’s Jiaozi was widely known and so popular that it usually didn’t take long till the kettle was empty.

“There are just a few tiny Jiaozi left,” mumbled the old man with true regret when the little boy Xu Xian appeared holding his father’s hand. “It’s almost time for me to go home.”

“Most incredible,” thought his father, as little Xu Xian, after eating only a single Jiaozi, was completely full and refused to eat any more. Mr. Xu almost forgot about this strange incident. It didn’t take long though until he began to wonder if something peculiar or extraordinary had happened on that spring afternoon near the broken bridge, because since eating the single little Jiaozi, his son strictly refused to eat. He was completely without appetite but showed no signs of sickness or weakness. After three days, as Xu Xian still refused to eat, his father took him by his hand: “Come on boy, let us see the old man next to the broken bridge again. I really want to know the truth about the Jiaozi he gave you last time.”

It had become cooler again. New snow covered the bridge. Once again the old man’s kettle stood there. The scent of tasty and fresh Jiaozi filled the air and lots of people gathered around the steaming pot.

“How strange,” muttered the old man behind his kettle, deep and meaningful. “A Jiaozi like this only happens once in a thousand years. Nobody knows what effects it may unleash.”

Father Xu had not the time, nor patience for such baffling messages. For days, his son refused to eat – quick help was urgently required. Before he could even utter a reply, the old man grasped the boy, laughed and held him upside down over the balustrade. Instantly, the Jiaozi fell out of the boy’s mouth and down into the water – just as fresh and mouth-watering as it had been three days ago. Xu Xian’s appetite returned immediately – as if nothing spectacular had ever happened to him. Bewildered but satisfied, Mr. Xu returned home with his son – of course, without ordering another Jiaozi.

This is just the prologue of our story. There are several variations of this event in the Chinese mythology – sometimes it’s totally left out.

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