Oct 272011

Traditional Chinese Tales with a Twist

Stories of Lord Jade Rabbit of the Moon*

Lord Jade Rabbit and the Girl Chunlan

Lord Jade Rabbit

When Wu Gang decided to go to earth in a UFO, Rabbit became very peeved. Actually Rabbit’s full name was Lord Jade Rabbit of the Moon, but he preferred simply to be called Rabbit. Anyway, here’s his story.

You see, Wu Gang and Rabbit had spent thousands of years together. But suddenly Wu had decided to visit his relatives and was gone, just like that, with little discussion. What about Rabbit? Rabbit wanted to go too. But Wu said, “No, you can’t go! On earth they will think you are a monster. They don’t have rabbits on earth your size anymore! What if they catch you and put you in a zoo?!” And then Wu was gone.

In their discussion before Wu left, Rabbit wanted him to bring something back, and wrote a long list of Chinese medicine names. But Wu Gang didn’t take the list and just left. After two days he was back, all dusty, bringing with him many germs, but no Chinese medicine. He did, however, bring back a black box and said it was for contacting his relatives on Earth.

Rabbit said to himself, “So, he’s found relatives. Big deal! What about me? What about my Rabbit families?!”

Rabbit and Wu Gang had been living on the moon since the Han Dynasty. Rabbit had brought nine types of Chinese medicine from earth back then. These had to be grown in a greenhouse, together with Wu Gang’s Sweet Osmanthus tree. For Rabbit, the worst thing was having no patients to treat. There were no germs on the moon and Wu Gang had superhuman immunity, so he never got sick. Rabbit’s doctor skills could not be applied anywhere. At one point, he secretly gave Wu Gang some medicinal mixes to try to improve Wu’s impatient temperament, but the few herbs Rabbit owned had little effect.

After Wu Gang came back from earth, he was occupied with his “satellite telephone” and had had little to say. After half a month of toil, he finally found out that the solar energy source it needed had to be placed facing the sun and not the ground. After that, he got a signal. During this half a month, Rabbit was dying from curiosity as to what Wu saw on earth, but Wu Gang didn’t want to talk. He was so wound up with his telephone, he answered all questions with just a word or a grunt, as if talking would hinder him from fixing the phone. Rabbit thought, “Ok, you don’t want to talk to me. I don’t want to talk to you either. In the end you will still have to talk, because even your 800th generation grandsons will not have time to chat with you all day long.”

Rabbit was right. After the phone got fixed, Wu Gang had nothing to do and started to tell Rabbit about his experience on earth. He remembered that he was from Xihe, so he had gone to Xihe by UFO, to find out whether there were any Wu families left. It turns out that the last Wu had moved to the county town and become a “famous doctor” no less, treating patients in a big hospital. His specialty was to prescribe many different types of tests for patients, so everybody called him “Dr. Wu the Tester”, which in Chinese is Dr. Wu Huayan.

Wu Gang found Wu Huayan in a county town and told him he was his distant senior relative, now living in a remote mountainous region and would like to keep in touch. So Wu Huayan’s colleague helped Wu Gang purchase a satellite telephone and solar energy source. Wu Gang then wanted to stay a few more days on earth to see what the world had turned into. But a man with a big beard kept following him around, trying to persuade him to go “shoot a commercial for Han-style clothing.” Wu Gang couldn’t understand what he was talking about and just found him really weird and thought it best to avoid him. So he came back that night.

Rabbit was particularly interested in Dr. Wu Huayan. “Does he have lots of patients?”

“Of course! He sees 50 patients a day.”

“So many? How does he manage? There’s not even enough time for feeling their pulse.”

“He doesn’t feel their pulse. They have machines. They put the patient inside the machine, and shine them with a light. Then you can see plainly what ailments they have. It’s like a magic eye.”

“But then he wouldn’t have time to write prescriptions for them either.”

“Doctors there don’t mix medicines. There are place specialized in mixing medicines. They call them pharmacies. It’s all pre-mixed, for all kinds of diseases, packed in small boxes. If anyone needs some medicine, the doctor will prescribe it, the patient will pay money, and the pharmacy will bring out the medicine.”

“Ah, but those are ready-made drugs. They surely can’t be suitable for everyone?”

“I don’t know about that. You can ask him yourself next time he calls me.”

A few days later, the opportunity came. Wu Huayan called Wu Gang and mentioned that he just saw a patient hard to diagnose. The test results all came back normal and the photos they took didn’t show any problem either. But the patient said she couldn’t breath, her head ached, her hands and feet were all turning black, and the ailment seemed to be progressing very fast.

Wu Gang said, “I have a magical doctor with me here, would you discuss it with him?”

Wu Huayan said, “What magical doctor? In your small village, probably you would be called a magical doctor if you cured a cold once?”

“Well, that’s hard to say, but talk with him anyway, his full name is Jade Rabbit, but you can call him Dr. Jade.”

So, Wu Gang passed the phone to Rabbit. Wu Huayan said, “Hello, Doctor Jade. I have a difficult patient here. Let me tell you her symptoms.”

Rabbit said, “Hello, Doctor Wu, what’s the name of your patient? Is it a he or a she, and how old?”

“Ah, the patient is a little girl from the countryside. As for her age, well, it’s written here, yes, she is 10. Her name? Here it is: Li Chunlan, a little ‘Spring Orchid’ she is.”

“Chunlan, what a sweet name. She must be a lovely little girl.”

“The test results are all normal and I can’t find anything wrong on her x-rays, but she claims to have a problem breathing, has a headache, and her hands and feet are all black. She is getting sicker by the day.”

“Did you observe her face? How is her complexion?”

“No I did not stare at her face. She is just a little girl from a village, not particularly good looking.”

“Did you listen to her breathing? Is her breathing deep or shallow?”

“She said she can’t breathe very well. I didn’t listen to her breathe.”

“Did you smell the girl’s breath? Is there any strange odor in her breath?”

“Doctor Jade, we don’t use these outdated methods here anymore for diagnoses. We just look at test results.”

“Really? Can you still find a pulse on Chunlan’s wrists or feet?”

“Listen, Doctor Jade, as I said, we don’t use these outdated methods here anymore for diagnoses. We just look at test results.”

“Is that so?! Is the girl still in your hospital? I must go see her immediately.”

“She is still in the observation room. If I can’t diagnose her, and they have no money for further treatment, I guess she will be going home tomorrow.”

After hanging up the phone, Rabbit said to Wu Gang, “Take me to their hospital! I must see this little Chunlan immediately. She is getting sick fast. If I delay she may die.”

Wu Gang said, “It’s extremely difficult for a Rabbit your size to go to the hospital. If they catch you they will use you for experiments! Then what do I do?”

“What do you do? I can go under disguise. It’s more important to save lives.”

“What will you be disguised as? Princess Snow Hair? Mickey Mouse? Donkey? It’s a hospital my friend. It’s either patients or doctors there. What do we do?”

“No time to talk! Let’s think about it while we fly. I will put something on when we get there.”

It was already evening when the UFO arrived at the hospital. Wu Gang switched all the lights on the vehicle off and parked the UFO behind a large garbage bin. Wu Gang and Rabbit waited a few minutes behind the garbage bin, making sure there was nobody at the hospital entrance. Then they sneaked in and headed straight for a little room under the stairs. Wu Gang knew this was where the cleaning ladies kept mops and uniforms.

In the little room, Rabbit and Wu Gang both changed into cleaning ladies’ uniforms. Rabbit wore a big face mask, a large cap, and a pair of eye glasses. With each a broom in hand, Wu Gang and Rabbit went to look for the observation room.

There was a light on in the observation room, and the nurse had left for supper. Li Chunlan’s father had also gone outside to eat. Only little Chunlan was lying on a bed in the middle of the room. Her mood was blacker than a moonless night.

After entering the room, Wu Gang pretended to sweep the floor. Rabbit went straight to Chunlan’s bedside and said gently to her, “Little Chunlan, how are you feeling? You are such a pretty little girl, how come you are sick?!”

Chunlan said, “My head is killing me and my hands and feet are numb. Am I going to die soon?”

“Don’t you fear that. Doctors here can cure you. Do you have anybody from home with you here?”

“My father has gone outside to eat. He hasn’t eaten for a whole day now.”

“Can I keep you company then?”

“That would be nice. If I die, will I see my mother? My mother was sick and died last year.”

Rabbit put his face close to Chunlan’s, trying to see if there was anything unusual in the girl’s face. He also took his face mask off to smell her better.

“Let’s not talk about that, my dear. You are, in fact, not dying. Little Chunlan, where do you live and what do you like doing the best?”

“My home is in the Li Family Village. What I like most are my rabbits. I have adopted many wild hares. I go out looking for Yidianhong for them. Do you know of Yidianhong? It’s a weed and the rabbits’ favorite. My rabbits are so cute!” Chunlan smiled but soon her smile faded. “Now that we are here, nobody is feeding the rabbits! They must be hungry. If they go eat people’s vegetables, they might get killed by dogs.”

On hearing the name Yidianhong, an herb Rabbit had longed to eat for over a thousand years, Rabbit had to swallow hard. He said, “Chunlan, you are such a kind girl. You love animals. I know they will love you back.”

Suddenly, Rabbit sneezed on Chunlan. He immediately said, “Aya! I am so sorry, I sneezed on you. I need to disinfect you.” So saying, he fetched out one ear from under his cap and used it as a rag to very slowly rub down Chunlan’s chest. Of course, Rabbit had not really sneezed, nor was he really using his ear as a rag. He just wanted to listen to the girl’s breathing and heart.

Chunlan said, “Your towel is so white and soft, like my rabbits’ ears.”

Rabbit said, “Girl, I am not a doctor but I can tell your fortune. Give me your hand and let me tell your fortune?”

Chunlan smiled and gave him her hand. Her hand was all black and her fingers had no feeling. Rabbit looked at the back of her hand and then at her palm and sighed, “You will live a long and happy life, but there will be some hardship in your childhood.”

Chunlan’s eyes shone, “I am not afraid of hardship, nor of death. I just don’t want to die now. My father and my rabbits all depend on me.”

At this point Chunlan’s father returned from his supper. On seeing two cleaning staff in the room, he asked, “Wasn’t the room cleaned this morning?”

Chunlan said, “Dad, this cleaning grandpa has been keeping me company.”

Wu Gang said, “Old friend, let’s go. There are other rooms to clean.” So they left.

Once they had sneaked back to the UFO, Wu Gang asked, “Well? Have you found out what disease it is?”

Rabbit thought about it. Wu Gang thought he is going to come up with a strange name, but Rabbit said, “No.”

“There are many small black thorns on her face, if you don’t get close, you won’t even notice them. I had my ear to her chest and heard her windpipe blocked by something. Not completely blocked, but very difficult for her to breathe. There was also an odor. What was that odor? I couldn’t find a pulse on her wrist, and her blood vessels are clogged too. The same is probably true of her feet. What disease is this? And what’s the relationship between the stuff that clogs her windpipe and blood vessels and the black thorns on her face? I need to go back to the sweet Osmanthus tree to think.”

Rabbit had got used to thinking under the Osmanthus tree for the past thousand years. He felt he could not think without being under the Osmanthus tree.

Back on the moon and under the sweet Osmanthus tree, Rabbit lay on the ground looking at the tree top above him and through the leaves, contemplating the beautiful earth in the sky, surrounded by stars. Time went by slowly and constellations moved. The sun was about to rise.

Rabbit said to himself, “What is that odor? I’ve smelt it before. Where did I smell it? It wasn’t here on the moon. It must be from my childhood, when I was on earth and tasting all those herbs on the mountains.”

Suddenly, an image associated with that odor came into rabbit’s mind: a large rotten tree had fallen to the ground and many mushrooms were growing on it. Some mushrooms had ripened and blackened, their spores floating in the air.

Rabbit suddenly turned over and jumped up, shouting, “I’ve got it! It’s the odor of fungus! Her disease is caused by a fungus. The black thorns on her face is the wuci fungus, you know, the ‘no such’ fungus. What has clogged up her lungs and blood vessels is also the wuci fungus. Call Wu Huayan, your earth-doctor, and tell him to cure this fungus!”

However, by the time Wu Gang got through to Wu Huayan by phone, this Doctor Wu had finished checking his wards. He said Chunlan’s disease had still not been diagnosed and had told Chunlan and her father that to treat her, she and her father had to stay in the hospital for another week. For that reason, the father and daughter had decided to go home, as they had no money to stay in the hospital.

Wu Gang shouted, “What?! How can you let her go? She may die anytime.”

“I don’t see anything wrong from her tests. How do you know she may die?”

“Then do you have her home address?”

“No, but it should be somewhere close, in one of the villages. Also, because they have decided not to accept any treatment, there is nothing more I can do. You don’t expect me to go to her home and force her to accept treatment, do you?!”

Wu Gang hung up and looked at Rabbit, who had been listening intently, “What do we do now?”

Rabbit said, “What, what? You don’t know? We will go do what’s necessary! Come with me immediately to her house!”

“Do you know where she lives?”

“In the Li Family Village.”

“Which one? Don’t you know there are many Li Family Villages all over China. There is even more than one in some counties. What shall we do?”

“We must go and find out, of course. Hurry up! If we delay anymore, Chunlan may die.”

“Where should I set the coordinates to?”

“To an empty place outside this county town. We can ask around there!”

The UFO landed in an abandoned field outside the county town. At least it looked abandoned as they were descending. But as they approached, they found a huge crowd fighting a battle there. It had turned out that a movie was being made about ancient warfare at this location. There was a large crowd of extras dressed in Han Dynasty clothing, some in armor, some carrying swords, and some riding horses. They were making a big din. Everybody was so involved with the movie that no one noticed a UFO landing quietly behind a truck loaded with costumes.

Wu Gang got out. The first thing he did was find Rabbit something to wear. He saw military garments of all kinds in the truck, so he picked out one with a helmet. The helmet had two holes with pheasant feathers sticking out, Wu Gang pulled them out so Rabbit could stick his large ears out of the two holes.

Then the two went to some farmers who were standing by, to ask where the nearest Li Family Village was. After talking with many people, only one said he knew, but he couldn’t give any clear directions. He pointed impatiently towards the south, and said, “That way.” Then he went back to watching the making of the movie.

At this point the director of the movie came over to Rabbit and said, “It’s your turn! Get on your horse. It’s your turn to lead the attack!”

Rabbit looked at Wu Gang and said, “Riding horses is great way to get to the village and fast too. Look, here are two horses, let’s ride!”

Wu Gang replied, “But I don’t know how to ride a horse. What should I do?”

Rabbit said, “Didn’t you learn the Taoist arts? Don’t you know tudun, or, as they say, ‘earth-travelling.’ With tudun I’ve heard you Taoists can travel at high speeds through earth and sandstorms. But you’re telling me you can’t do a simple thing like ride a horse? Go dig yourself a hole in the dirt, then, and earth-travel to the village.”

Wu Gang balked and said, “I’ve been living too many years living on the moon. I’ve forgotten that.”

Rabbit smiled and said, “Okay. Give me your hand. I’ll pull you up onto that horse and you can hold onto the horse’s mane. I will lead the way.”

The two rode south. The director saw them take off and shouted, “Those two are thieves. They’ve stolen costumes! Get them!”

A young man went chasing after them on another horse. Rabbit said to his mare, “Excuse me, but don’t let him catch us! We need to get to the Li Family Village to save a girl who protects animals.”

The mare said, “Wow, I thought you couldn’t speak our language. Never thought you could speak it better than me! We horses are from Shanxi and speak with a Shanxi accent, not like your perfect pronunciation. Don’t worry, that horse that is chasing us is my son. He won’t catch us if I say so.”

After awhile, the young man chasing them saw that he wouldn’t be able to catch up, so he went back to the movie set.

After another while, the mare said, “Where is this Li Family Village you are looking for?”

Rabbit said, “Let’s stop a minute and I’ll ask around.”

“Stop here? Who can you ask here? There’s not a soul here.”

“Don’t you worry, there should be some relatives of mine in this place.”

As he said this, Rabbit jumped off his horse and started drumming the ground with his strong hind-legs. The strange beat was carried far and wide through ground vibrations. This was a form of rabbit “telegraphy.” The message he sent said, “Jade Rabbit here. Come gather all ye rabbits! I need your help.”

In less than a minute, the first rabbit popped up from behind a small mound. Soon there was another and then another. Before long, a large group of small rabbits had gathered around Rabbit.

“Which one of you knows where the girl Li Chunlan of the Li Family Village is? She is the one who likes to help rabbits.”

A small rabbit hopped to the front and excitedly said, “I know! I know! I will take you there. Chunlan is sick and we are just worried to death about her.”

The small rabbit hopped on Rabbit’s horse and gave directions. Rabbit and Wu Gang galloped like the wind to Chunlan’s home. Rabbit was dressed in the movie set’s Han Dynasty military general attire, with a bronze “Cloud-and-Moon” sword in his hand. Wu Gang was in his personal Han Dynasty garb, holding on to the horse’s neck and shouting all the way, “I am going to fall off!” At the village entrance the small rabbit jumped down. Two wolfhounds came up and were about to snatch the small fellow. But Rabbit held up his sword and pointed at them, “I am Jade Rabbit! Hold your peace!” The two dogs were dumbfounded that the rider spoke their language. They slinked away with tails between their legs.

After awhile they came to Chunlan’s home. It was damp and dark, and the air smelled of mold. Chunlan lay in bed, her two eyes blinded. Her father sat helplessly by her bed. A few months earlier, Chunlan’s mother had died in the same fashion and it now appeared to be Chunlan’s turn. She was only ten years old.

The arrival of Rabbit and Wu Gang did not shock Chunlan’s father. He was too numbed from sorrow. Whether it was a Han Dynasty general, an alien from outer space, or a big tiger, nothing really mattered to him. What mattered was his beloved daughter was about to die. Rabbit took off his helmet and revealed a furry face. He felt for the pulse on Chunlan’s neck. It was still there! Rabbit said to Chunlan’s father, “Hurry! You have anti-fungal medicine? No? You have garlic? Yes? Go get garlic, as much as you can. Garlic can kill fungus. I need to crush it and have Chunlan lie in it. I also need to squeeze some juice for her to drink, and to wash her eyes. Quick! Your girl can still be saved!”

When Chunlan’s father heard that his daughter could be saved, he didn’t bother asking who Rabbit was and went straight to his neighbors to ask for garlic. Wu Gang went into the yard and washed out the pig’s trough and brought it inside the room. Then Rabbit began to crush garlic. Soon, the trough was filled with crushed garlic. Rabbit picked Chunlan up and placed her gently into the trough. He also took a bowl and filled it with garlic juice and fed it to Chunlan. After drinking it, Chunlan was able to breathe and her senses returned. She said, “Wow! Something stinks, just like garlic!”

Rabbit took some gauze and dipped it in garlic juice and gently rubbed Chunlan’s eyes. Chunlan said, “Ouch! My eyes hurt!”

Rabbit said, “Don’t you remember, I said that you must suffer hardship in your childhood?”

Chunlan was startled, “I can’t see, but by your voice, you sound like the cleaning grandpa in the hospital. Have you come to save me? Now that you are here, I am not afraid anymore.”

After a few more minutes of wiping her face, Chunlan said, “Hey! I see some light!”

Then Chunlan exclaimed with delight as her sight gradually returned, “Wow! You’re Grandpa Rabbit, right? I didn’t recognize you in the hospital with your facemask on. I’ve never seen a rabbit your size! Why didn’t you come earlier?!”

Rabbit said, “That’s because I live in the moon. If it wasn’t because my friend Wu Gang had come to earth to look for his family roots, I wouldn’t have even known you were sick.”

Rabbit cured Chunlan, then said to Chunlan’s father, “Your house is too stuffy. You should open up several holes to ventilate it!”

Wu Gang noticed that Chunlan’s dad was stupefied, so he explained, “Windows! Windows! He wants you to put in a few windows. Otherwise you will get sick again! Your house is damp enough to grow mushrooms.”

Rabbit smiled at Chunlan, showing his two front teeth. He then left with Wu Gang on the horses to look for their own transport back to the moon. The movie makers had left and on the deserted meadow, in deep grass, there was only their UFO.

Chunlan didn’t want to tell others the story of Rabbit saving her life. She thought no one would believe her, probably calling her a liar. Plus, Rabbit was her secret friend and she didn’t need anyone else to comment on this precious friendship. But her father didn’t hesitate to tell everybody he met that it was the Jade Rabbit from heaven who had saved his daughter’s life. Outsiders mostly did not believe him, but his fellow villagers did. After all, he had asked them for a huge amount of garlic and later his daughter had miraculously recovered, after almost dying. Apart from Rabbit, no one on this earth would have treated them for free and no one else would have had such skills.

Nowadays, during the Moon Festival, people buy a clay rabbit and put it on offering tables. They look at the distant moon, wishing Rabbit and Wu Gang a happy life, hoping that they will still come to earth, from time to time, to cure us in our times of need.


 Source of picture:http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%85%94%E5%84%BF%E7%88%B7  

As early as the Han Dynasty, the Jade Rabbit was the symbol for the moon in Taoist mythology. The symbol for the sun was a Golden Bird. In order to explain why the Jade Rabbit was in the moon, a folk story says that there were three immortals who disguised themselves as three beggars. They came to be from a fox, a monkey, and a rabbit. While the fox and monkey both had food to offer beggars, the rabbit had nothing to offer. So the rabbit said, “You can eat my flesh”, whereupon he jumped into a fire. The other immortals were greatly moved, so they took him to heaven and made him an immortal in the moon. As for why this rabbit used a mortar and pestle to prepare medicine in the moon, this has to do with the Taoist belief it was possible to develop a medicine for immortality.

Song Dynasty bronze mirror showing Jade Rabbit crushing medicine
Source of picture: http://www.ynwmw.com/womendejieri/zhongqiu/jrcs/201109/t20110909_6171.html

By the Ming Dynasty, in Beijing, there was a story about the Lord Rabbit. The story said that there was a big epidemic in Beijing and many people died. The Goddess Chang’e of the moon took pity on the people and sent Jade Rabbit down to cure people. Lord Rabbit did not take money for his services, but only took old clothes from the people so that he could disguise himself into different shapes and not be detected. From then on, people have made offerings to Lord Rabbit during the Moon festival.

In Taiwan, however, the Lord Rabbit is the protector of gays.

The legend of Wu Gang may have originated during the Tang dynasty. He is said to have been a Han Dynasty Taoist monk from the Xihe region. Supposedly he made several mistakes: One version of the story has him leaking heavenly secrets; another version has him killing the grandson of the Sun God (because the grandson was sleeping with Wu Gang’s wife). Wu Gang was thereupon penalized by being sent to the moon to cut down a cassia tree that grew there. However, that tree, as it was being cut down, actually grew even bigger. In the end it could never be cut down.