Stories that we grew up with

Telling stories is an art form, and an important aspect on passing knowledge and beliefs to the next generation. They tell us how to behave, how to interact with others, and what’s morally acceptable in our society. They also aim to explain our surroundings, patterns in nature, and our universe, but often using Metaphors and Myths.

These are three out of the many stories I grew up with in China.

1. The Golden and Silver Axe

axes

There was once a very poor boy who worked for a wealthy but stingy landlord. After a long day of chopping wood in the forest, he stopped by a river to rest. As he leaned over to get a drink of water, his axe fell in and got washed away by the current. The landlord was furious when he found out, and told the boy if he can’t find the axe he won’t be paid for the month. So the boy went back to the river, sat hopelessly on the shoreline and started to cry. Suddenly an old man (the river God) walked out and asked him what was wrong. The boy told him about what happened, and the old man smiled and said, “Just wait here.” He then came back with three different axes, one made of gold, one made of silver, and the last one made of steel. He asked the boy, “Dear boy, which one is the one you lost?” The boy pointed to the steel one and said, “That one.” The old man nodded and handed him his axe, “You are a very honest boy, here, take the gold one too.”

The boy ran back excitedly and told the landlord about his encounter. The landlord was instantly intrigued, so he went to the river and repeated exactly what the boy did. Soon enough, the old man came out of the river, asked what’s wrong, and came back with the same three axes. “They are all mine, I dropped all of them!” Said the landlord. But this time the old man shook his head and said, “You are both greedy and dishonest, and you shall get nothing.” Then without a word, he disappeared into the river with all three axes.

2. The Ten Suns

Houyisheri

Long long ago God had 10 sons, and they were the 10 Suns in the sky. They lived on the East end, and each day one of the ten brothers would take a chariot across the sky to give warmth to the world.

One day, one of them said, it’s so lonely traveling by myself, why don’t we all go up and play together? So they decided to all take the chariot and went up at the same time.

This caused the rivers to dry up, the fishes to die, and the land and trees to burn. People were scared for their lives, and begged the Heavens and God to help them.

A great archer named HouYi decided to do something about it, so he climbed 99 mountains, crossed 99 rivers, and passed 99 canyons to reach the Eastern seashore, where he climbed up a tall mountain and pulled out his bow and arrow.

One, two, and three, he shot down the Suns one by one, until there was only one Sun left in the sky. The last Sun was so scared and yelled, “Stop, please stop, I will do what you want! Please don’t shoot me!”

From then on, the Sun rises from the East and sets on the West, and people were able to live in peace and contentment.

3. The story that never ends

Mountain Temple Monk

Once upon a time there was a Mountain, and on the Mountain there was a Temple. Inside there was an old monk telling a story to the young monks.

Once upon a time there was a Mountain, and on the Mountain there was a Temple. Inside there was an old monk telling a story to the young monks.

Once upon a time there was a Mountain, and on the Mountain there was a Temple. Inside there was an old monk telling a story to the young monks.

… and so on forth

What are some of the stories you grew up with?

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