Traditional Chinese Tales with a Twist
The Story of Qilin and Pixiu*
Source of picture: http://www.sdmuseum.com/show.aspx?id=1702&cid=76
Summer vacation had started. One night, Qilin came to his cousin Pixiu, carrying two bamboo baskets on his back. His scales glistened red in the moonlight. In one of the bamboo baskets was a baby, in the other were diapers and a milk bottle.
Pixiu was bored. He sat on the floor, one hand scratching his feet, while the other was bouncing a ball off of the ceiling. He looked like a dirty, stuffed dog.
Qilin asked, “What’s up? Wanna go out with me?”
“My mom wants me to deliver a baby to someone. You remember that saying, don’t you, ‘The Qilin deliver babies’? It’s the work of us Qilins. Mom says starting this year, I can do it by myself. Today is my first trip.”
So saying, Qilin turned his handsome head and motioned to the baskets on his back.
Pixiu got up from the floor, held onto the rim of one basket, and took a look inside. “I hate these small things. They are stinky and noisy. What is the matter with you Qilins? Why deliver babies? If people want babies, can’t they have them by themselves?!”
Qilin took on a lecturing tone and replied, “Well, some people just can’t give birth by themselves. We delivery a baby to these people and they are really happy. It’s like saving their lives. Plus these babies we deliver are all cast outs coming from other families. If we don’t find them good mothers, they will die. Today I am going to a family in the Li Family Village. Their own little baby just died from a brain fever. They are heart-broken.”
“Go on then, I’m not going.” With that, Pixiu sat down on the floor again and continued bouncing his ball off of the ceiling.
“Brother Pixiu, please go with me. My mom said that it’s best that I get you to go with me the first time. She is worried that there might be bad people on the way. You are a fierce animal. You can fight demons and monsters.”
“I truly am a fierce animal!” Pixiu preened. Qilin’s comment had cheered him up a bit. He showed his teeth, looking like a mad dog. Then he had second thoughts, “Nah. I won’t go. Going out requires spending money. I don’t have as much money as you. I’m saving mine. I’ve been on assignment killing rats for people. It’s taken me quite some time to save this much.” As if to prove his point, Pixiu raised a piggybank parked on a table next to him. He shook it hard. From the sound of it, it was almost full.
“What do you want to save so much money for? You don’t buy anything. So much money is of no use to you!” Qilin pouted.
“I want to buy… er… er… well, I haven’t decided yet. But you can only save if you don’t spend. If I go out like you every day and buy this and that, I would have no money left.”
Qilin was getting a bit irritated, “You don’t need to buy this or that when we go out! For instance, every time we Qilin go to deliver babies, we just eat grass by the roadside and drink from mountain streams. We don’t buy anything.”
“Ha! Not me. I have to eat meat. I have to eat shish kebabs. So, what’s the point? No, I won’t be going with you. Besides, I still have half a sheep in my freezer. If I eat that I can save money.”
“You are so boring. You’ve become a hoarder. No wonder people talk about you…” Qilin sighed and didn’t finish his sentence. He started to get depressed. When that happened scales on his body started to turn dark blue.
“Say what? What do people say about me?!”
“I’m not telling you unless you come with me.”
“Suit yourself, I’m still not going.”
Qilin gave up and went by himself, soon disappearing into the western night.
Pixiu resumed bouncing his ball, then stopped. He sat on the floor for awhile with his lower lip pushed out in a pout. He turned on the TV, browsed all the channels, and found nothing good to watch. He picked up his piggybank and looked at it pensively. He suddenly decided to chase after Qilin. He tied the piggybank around his waist and left.
After Qilin left Pixiu, in order to get his job done faster, he decided to fly. But after a short while, a parliament of owls surrounded him in flight, a threatening hoard with large beaks.
They hooted noisily, “Have rats?” “No rat, no go!” “What’s in the baskets?”
Qilin said, “Why won’t you let me pass? Can’t you catch rats yourselves if you want to eat them? In my basket is a baby belonging to a family. Nothing else.”
“Why won’t we let you pass? Because you haven’t paid the road toll! No way you pass without paying the toll?”
“What road toll? You didn’t build any road in the sky.”
“If you can’t see the road, we don’t care. This is our territory. If we say there’s a toll road here, then there is one. If you don’t deliver a rat, you cannot pass by here.”
Qilin was perplexed, “Aren’t you owls supposed to be the rat exterminator team? How come you are charging this toll now?”
“Rat poison has been distributed down below. Can’t eat poisoned dead rats, now can we? So, we are laid off, get it?! If we don’t ask you for a toll, what are we going to eat?!”
That huge parliament of owls all hooted together, “Rat poison distributed. Laid off! Laid Off! Pay the toll! Pay the toll!”
Although Qilin was much bigger than an owl, he got frightened at the great number of owls swooping around him. He decided to walk and settled back down to earth.
After he had run along a small road for awhile, his way forward entered into a forest darker than the night he was travelling in. Though Qilin could get his scales to light up and illuminate the road ahead, he had no idea of what terrible animals might be hiding in the forest. Qilin stopped, mulling over whether he should go or not? He wished his mother was by his side.
Quite a distance back, Pixiu ran along the road, hoping to catch up with Qilin. He didn’t know that Qilin had flown for awhile and was way ahead of him. Pixiu came to a village and decided to stop for a rest. He saw four men playing cards around a table. On the table in front of each of them was a pile of money. Some men had more money, others only had one or two coins left. Money piqued Pixiu’s interest. He went closer for a look.The card players noticed Pixiu. One of them said, “Aha, a wild dog! Let’s catch him to have for supper, otherwise by midnight we’ll mighty hungry.”Another player said, “That’s no wild dog?! What wild dog would come close to humans? It must be some family’s pet.”
A third player exclaimed, “You idiots! That’s no dog. Where have you seen a dog with wings and horns?!”
Hey, guys! I bet this is a Pixiu! Haven’t you heard of them? They say whoever catches one will get rich!”
The first player looked puzzled and said, “What piqiu? Doesn’t piqiu mean leather ball. He sure don’t look like no ball?”
On hearing that these people wanted to catch him and eat him, and that one had even called him a ball, Pixiu became very angry. He growled, “You all are balls! I am Pixiu!”
The third card-player said, “Hear that?! This IS a Pixiu. Catch him and we will be rich. Pixiu only eat. They never have to go to the bathroom. They’re born without, you know, without a way to take a dump. That’s part of their ability to hoard wealth.”Pixiu
When Pixiu heard this, he became so angry that smoke poured out of his ears. “You’re the ones born without butt-holes! We Pixiu are descendants of dragons and pandas! We are magical animals that can defeat demons and protect humans!”
Finally the fourth card player said, “Don’t listen to him! He is way too small. How fierce could he be? Let’s catch him, put him in a cage, and we won’t have to work for the rest of our lives.” As he said this, he went around to the back of Pixiu to grab his tail, saying, “Let’s see if there really is no butt-hole.”
This infuriated Pixiu so much, his hackles stood up, turning him into what looked like a large ball of fur. He dashed on the person behind him and gobbled him up in a few mouthfuls. He was like a large caterpillar eating a leaf, but a thousand times faster. When he had finished, he looked at the other three. They couldn’t believe their eyes. They grasped each other quivering, reduced to a stunned silence.
Because Pixiu was shy when it came to matters of the toilet, he went under the card table and did his business there.
After a bit, a terrible stink rose from under the table. Pixiu came out and said, as he wrinkled his nose, “My that stinks! Bad
Then Pixiu remembered that he was on a mission to catch up with Qilin. He grabbed all the money on the table, threw it into his piggybank and left.
Down the road, Qilin was still hesitating by the forest. Right then seven wolves came bounding over a hill and circled Qilin.White-Eye, the alpha wolf
The alpha-wolf, White-Eye, said, “Your money or your life? If you want to live, give everything in your baskets to us!”
Qilin took a look and recognized the seven wolves, “Aren’t you the Howling Wolves? You’re a great band, what are you doing as highway robbers?”
“The band made no money, so we decided to try out highway robbery.”
Qilin said, “Listen. I’m the cousin of Pulao. Wasn’t Pulao part of your band? You shouldn’t go around robbing people who are your friends or family.”
One of the wolves, named Ambitious, chimed in, “Pulao called himself a dragon. We call him Dried Shrimp. What are you?”
“My grandma was also a dragon, and my grandpa was a deer. I am a Qilin.”
White-Eye stepped up and pointed out, “As highway robbers we don’t care whose cousin you are. We don’t recognize nobody’s relatives.”
Big-Grey, a large wolf, nodded his head and said, “Right, we don’t know no relatives!”
The group continued to circle Qilin. White-Eye looked in Qilin’s basket, “Either we eat this little twerp that you carry, or we eat you.”
Big-Grey nodded, “Right, we either eat him or we eat you.”
As an afterthought Ambitious added, “But why not eat this Qilin too?!”
Big-Grey nodded, “Right. We eat him too.”
“You will NOT eat him! He’s just a baby! I am here to protect him.”
In unison the seven wolves closed in on Qilin, growling, “Then we will eat you.”
Qilin started shaking. He was still too young to know that his magical powers far exceeded the powers of a bunch of wolves. He thought his life was coming to an end. He said faintly, “Mom, come and save me!”
The seven wolves laughed when they heard this. They taunted him, “Mom, come and save me! Mom, come and save me!…” They laughed and laughed until they fell to and ground in stitches. Ambitious barked out, “Ayah, I’m dying of laugher. Mom, come and save me!” And so they continued to roll on the ground with laughter.
When Pixiu came to the fringe of the forest, he saw a group of wolves rolling on the ground with laughter. They had surrounded Qilin and Qilin was shaking with fright in their midst.
Pixiu looked a Qilin, “What on earth are you doing, auditioning for a band?”
Qilin squeaked out, “They want to eat me.”
“That’s weird, somebody also wanted to eat me today. But it’s OK, I ate him instead. Let’s go.” As he said so, the Pixiu passed some very stinking gas.
The odor stunned the seven wolves, who immediately stopped laughing. They stood up and White-Eye said, “What? You think you’re going? And who is this? He stinks up the air and you both think you can just leave?” Then White-Eye looked menacingly at Pixiu and continued, “As for you, are you part of the weasel family?”
When Pixiu heard this he got angry again. He didn’t like be caught out. He yelled, “Who passed gas?! Must have been one of you guys. How dare you pass gas in front of me. You open your mouths and you pass gas. As for me, I’m a Pixiu?” At this point, his hackles once again stood as he said, “We are about to go. You would dare stop us? Just try it. I will eat each one of you. Seven wolves is barely enough for my midnight snack. Come on.”
Despite his small statue, when his hackles stood up, he was larger than any one of those wolves–a huge ball of furious fur.
Those seven wolves were taken aback by the ferocity of Pixiu’s words. He was so ugly and his gas so stinking, they couldn’t figure out if a wolf-eating monster lived under all that fur. None of the wolves dared test their luck by approaching him?
White-Eye said in a subdued voice and with his tail between his legs, “Brother, nobody said anything about passing gas? I was saying that passing the time with you has been a real gas. Now it’s getting late. Please do get on with whatever you are doing. We’re heading off ourselves.” With that, the wolves bounded off over the hill.
Qilin and Pixiu entered the forest together. The narrow road was getting even narrower as they moved on. With Pixiu as company, Qilin was no longer afraid. His scales gave out a yellow glow, illuminating their way. After awhile, the baby in the basket started to cry. Pixiu grumbled, “How irritating! I knew he wouldn’t let us walk in peace. Can’t you do something about it?”
They came to a small clearing in the forest. Qilin placed the bamboo basket down, grabbed a milk bottle from the other basket, and fed the baby. Silence was restored. In a bit, the bottle was empty. When Qilin took it away from the baby, it started crying again.
Qilin pondered, “Perhaps it needs a change of diapers.”
Pixiu snorted in derision, “Some expert you are!”
When Qilin had finished changing the diaper, the baby didn’t cry at anymore but started looking around. When he saw Pixiu, he started to cry again.
Qilin was puzzled, “I can’t figure it out. Mom didn’t teach me much about dealing with babies. It’s been fed and had its diapers changed. Why’s it still crying? Perhaps you frightened it. You can look pretty scary sometimes?”
Pixiu grumbled, “Fine, it’s all my fault. I’m going home now?”
Qilin said, “Please don’t go. Help me put the bamboo baskets back on my back. Maybe once I start walking, the baby will quiet down soon.”
Pixiu picked up the baby basket. His furry face was on the rim of the basket. As he looked in he made a face. To his surprise the baby laughed. Pixiu thought this was fun. He hid his face, then popped out again, and said to the baby, “Booboo.” The baby laughed again. Pixiu, happy with his success, put the supply basket on Qilin’s back and they moved on.
As Qilin carried the baskets he started walking faster. Pixiu kept jumping up and down beside the basket that held the baby. Every time he jumped up, he would say, “Booboo” to the baby. The baby laughed all the way.
Soon they came out of the dark forest only to discover they’d passed the whole night in there. The sun was just coming out when they arrived at the Li Family Village. Qilin put the baby in front of the door of the Li family that had lost their first child to brain fever. He found the family to be very poor. Their windows were covered with plastic sheets, not glass. As they peered through the plastic sheeting, they saw that the rooms were empty, with no furniture, just a water urn.
Qilin lowered his head and said to Pixiu sadly, “They are so poor. I wish we do something about it. Perhaps we should just quietly leave. Let’s hope this child will bring them happiness.”
Pixiu looked sad too and replied, “But after awhile the baby will get hungry again. There’s no milk left in our supply basket. From the looks of it, they may not have any milk for the child either. That’s no good!”
Qilin sighed, “I don’t know what to say. Their original baby died because they had no money for medicine.”
Pixiu thought hard about it. He then pulled out the piggybank he had tied around his waist and wrapped it in the baby’s blanket. He then put it into the baby basket. He then pulled Qilin to the back of the house to watch what happened.
A short time later, the man of the house came out to fetch water. As soon as he opened the door, he saw the basket on the ground. He yelled to his wife, “Someone has put a child down here!”
His wife came running out. When she saw the baby, her face was immediately full of sunshine, matching the shine on her husband’s face. “Lets make some millet gruel! This little chap may be hungry. I’ll go work in the city today. That way I can make a little money to buy the baby some milk powder!”
The woman of the house picked up the basket and as she walked inside, Pixiu poked his head from around the corner for a quick look. At that moment the baby looked over and smiled brilliantly. It said, “Booboo.”
Pixiu jerked back and turned to Qilin and said, “They took it in. Let’s get out of here fast. If we don’t, I may regret leaving them my piggybank. That money took me a whole year to save up.”
Pixiu jumped into the supply basket that was still on Qilin’s back and Qilin carried him up into the air. In the breeze of early morning, the two cousins flew towards the sun. After awhile, Qilin asked Pixiu, “Any regrets now?”
Pixiu said, “No regrets.”
After another while, Pixiu mumbled, “Booboo.”
Qilin said, “What?”
“That baby. It said ‘Booboo’ to me.”
Qilin said, “You heard wrong. Babies that young can’t speak.”
Pixiu said, “Yeah, I know. But this one did. The last time it saw me, out came that word, ‘Booboo’. Maybe the kid’s a genius.”
Both the Qilin and the Pixiu are auspicious animals in Chinese mythology.
The Qilin is considered to be one of four divine beasts, together with the dragon, phoenix, and turtle. The characteristics of the Qilin are kindness, gentleness, and peacefulness. Sightings of Qilin in history symbolized a blissful and peaceful reign.
It is said that before Confucius was born, a Qilin visited his mother. For that reason, the Qilin are associated with childbirth. A Qilin delivering a baby is a common theme in folk art. People also put “Qilin lockets” on their babies to protect them.
The Pixiu is said to be the ninth son of the dragon and the most ferocious. People use an image of the Pixiu to protect their houses and counter-act bad fengshui elements.
There is a story that the Pixiu liked to eat treasure and then defecated everywhere after eating. The Jade Emperor supposedly gave it a good swat on the bum, which resulted in sealing up its butt. From then on it could only eat and not defecate. In recent years, society in China has become increasingly commercialized. The story of the Pixiu only eating but not being able to go to the toilet is interpreted as the reason why it was able to accumulate such wealth. Gamblers often carry small Pixiu pendants on their bodies, believing that it will bring them luck while gambling.
Source of Pixiu picture: http://www.yinziji.com/article/Article-5918.html