The Love of Life

19. A Dragon in Disguise

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There was an old man named Ch’u . He was well over sixty. He had done many good things throughout his life. In the old days, transportation was very difficult. He donated money to have roads made and bridges built so people could get around more easily. People in need could always count on him for a hand-out. His neighbors had many good things to say about him.

One day, he saw a fisherman on his way to the market to sell a carp he had caught. This beautiful fish had red markings as bright and warm as a fire in the winter. Its eyes were as shiny as stars in the sky. Old Ch’u thought it would be a shame to eat such a beautiful fish, so he bought the carp for a good price and put it in a pond. He felt very good about that.

But Ch’u was an old man, and nobody lives forever. Not long after that, he felt weak, giddy, and despondent. He thought he might not live much longer.

As he was lying home sick, a little serving boy came in, and said, “Mister Ch’u , my master has sent me to invite you to eat with him.”

Old Ch’u didn’t recognize whose serving boy it was, but he thought getting out of bed might do him good; a meal out would lift his spirits. He followed the boy. ‘I must really be sick,’ he thought as they made their way, ‘Everything looks hazy, and glowing in a golden light.’

Before long, he found himself standing in front of an ornate palace with carved pillars and painted beams. A sign over the front door read, The Crystal Palace. “Strange! Isn’t that the name of the dragon’s palace?” wondered Old Ch’u .

In a few moments, out came his host, a most impressive man with thick eyebrows, long eyes, and five long strands of whiskers. He looked lively and powerful, yet virtuous. After they had chatted a bit, Old Ch’u found out that his host was none other than the Dragon King himself!

Together, they enjoyed a rich feast of all the delicacies of mountain and sea. The Dragon King told Old Ch’u , “One of my sons was out fooling around the other day, and was kidnapped by a bandit who was going to murder him! Fortunately, you were there to save him. For this we are most grateful.

“Actually, your time on this earth is just about up, but because you have rescued a dragon in the guise of a fish, you have earned the right to live longer. I have prepared this simple repast to express my gratitude, and explain this to you.”

“I hardly dare to accept your generosity,” Old Ch’u humbly replied. “From now on, I will do even more good deeds to show my deep gratitude.”

After their feast, Old Ch’u woke up in bed with a full stomach. “It must have been a dream,” he told himself. “But why am I so full?”

He did many more good deeds, and died peacefully many years later without any suffering at the age of one hundred twenty years old.


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