Stories From Ancient China: Moving a Dragon into the Huai River

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During the Kaiyuan Era in the Tang Dynasty, Qi Huan, the Feudal Governor of Bian Province and Investigational Officer of Henan Province requested that the Imperial Court dig an 18-mile long river because the high waterline was risking the safety of Xu City. He asked that the river be dug so that the water in the river could be diverted into the Qing River, and the threat of flooding would be eliminated along the Long and Huai Rivers. The county and local governments then went ahead and dug the river.

Cui Yanwei, the head of Zhenyuan County, and Bozhou gathered officers and laborers and they dug thousands of feet until reaching a dragon temple. When they first opened the temple, they thought it was an ancient grave. But it looked newly built and was very clean inside. When they looked around, they saw a dragon with scales of five colors lying in the hole. The dragon was more than 1 zhang (1 zhang = 12 ft.) long, and five or six carps were swimming around it. The carp were each about one foot long. There were also two spirit turtles, each 12 to 14 inches long, and some nine-inch long ordinary turtles. Cui Yanwei reported this to Wu Yuanchang, the official in charge of digging the river, and Wu Yuanchang reported it to Qi Huan.

Qi Huan ordered them to move the dragon into the Huai River and put the turtles into the Bian River. Cui Yanwei moved the dragon and carps over a distance of more than 200 miles. When they reached the bank of Huai River, millions of white fish in the river swam toward the dragon and the water boiled. After entering the Huai River, the dragon began shooting water upwards. Dark clouds gathered and soon the dragon could no longer be seen.

Wu Yuanchang sent people to move the turtles to Song, another area. On the way, there was a pond that blocked them. The large turtles stretched out their necks several times toward the water, and the person moving the turtles took pity on them and put them into the water temporarily. The water was only several feet wide and less than 6 inches deep. However, the turtles mysteriously disappeared. They couldn’t find the turtles even after they drained the water. Thus, they had spent their time in vain trying to move the turtles.

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