The lost legend of the Song Dynasty

ledgend2sm                            ledgend1sm




While every friend I had was silently envious of my families’ position, I felt as if I was born into hell, and lived in utter torment.

The year was 359, and my father was high magistrate of the province of Jilin. By tradition the Qin imperial dynasty (221 to 206 BC) enacted systems governing the afterlife, and called them the TEN HELLS. My father chose to model his court of justice after the Fourth Hell of the underworld, what the ancients called “the Hell of The Dark Dust”. All manners of people were subject to guilt; such as those who opened letters not addressed to them, or pilfered oil from a sanctuary lamp, those who did not give money to beggars, stealing little boys and incompetent physicians.

Alas the punishments did not fit the crimes, as his menu of severities was derived from revitalizing the cruelest period of Chinese laws. These archaic acts were illegal, but as an appointed official, people did not question his verdicts. By the time they rebelled against the horrors of his decrees it was too late, as he formed a large militia to protect his authority.

In effect my father was a sadistic criminal who rejoiced in meting out “the hell of extreme hunger” “the hell of excruciating thirst” “the hell with boiling copper cauldrons“ “the hell of iron corselets” and “the hell where men are pecked to death by cocks”.

A strange thing began to happen; the people started enjoying the public spectacles of cruelty. As a beast that once tasted blood they became as thirsty for it as my father was. I was not an only child, but the only one who remained distraught to the point where I decided to end my life of shame. My beautiful mother Lady Seo Kang Moon felt as I did, and we decided that drowning would cleanse us from any association of my father’s debauchery.

We ran away together and walked for many weeks the rocky and steep land, until finally on a mild July day we glimpsed the North China Sea.

Instead of fearing our end nearing, we both felt a mysterious calmness.

We changed into white ceremonial garments of burial, said our prayers for the souls of the tortured people and asked Kwan Yin the goddess of mercy to forgive our family. We shook our rattles and set off firecrackers to be sure to gain her attention.

Hand in hand we jumped into the water, facing death together.

Instead of drowning though, we gently sank into the calm deep waters of a coral paradise of unutterable beauty. The deity of the North Sea, Ao Shun (敖順), the Dragon King himself came to receive us. He knew our history, and without further ado instructed the youngest of his nine sons to take us to our new home, the Mansion of the Luminous Pearl.  Water Monkey, the youngest son, was the most playful in his father’s kingdom and kept a stable of giant seahorses.

 He gave each of us one of his favorites, and Mother and I happily ride ever after in the sea -foam green ocean among the vermilion coral.

as told by
Hang Bo Ra of the Coral Reef

to Valerie von Sobel













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