Stories from Ancient China: A Blue Phoenix Paid Shows It's Gratitude

Yang Bangyi was from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) of ancient China. One day, when he was reading in Tianwang Temple after he passed the candidacy examination in the provincial imperial examinations, he saw the wings of a blue phoenix, which sat straddling on the body of a Buddha statue, fall off from the rain dripping on them over the years. Bangyi thought of putting the wings back on, but he asked himself whether the wings wouldn't be damaged again from the rain if the temple were not first repaired. He knew that he couldn't afford to do it by his own efforts. So he made a book for recording contributions and wrote a preface for it. He donated 10 liangs (50 grams equal one liang) of silver first. He then carried the donation book and went to many wealthy gentlemen and his classmates asking for donations. After collecting enough money, he had the temple repaired and the wings of the blue phoenix connected back to its body.

Bangyi came to the capital to participate in the final exam the following year. The title of the test was "The crown prince went for an outing in the royal garden." After finishing the main article, Bangyi wrote the upper portion of the antithetical couplet:

The red temple shows a lucky sign; a red phoenix exhibits brightness on the red steps of the palace.

But he couldn't think of the bottom part to match got the top antithetical couplet. He thought hard but still didn't have a clue when it was close to the time to hand in the paper. Suddenly he saw a blue phoenix calling in the sky and then it flew away. Bangyi had a thought and wrote down the matching couplet right away:

The blue palace displays an auspicious sign; a blue phoenix flew on its wings high into the blue sky.

He was satisfied with his work after he finished. Sure enough, the official in charge praised the couplet highly. Yang Bangyi was ranked first among all participants in that year's exam.

(From Erke Xingshi Henhyan - The Common Sayings to Awaken the World, a non-classical novel written in the Qin dynasty)

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