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The Jade Maiden

Xuan Chao was secretary in the procinceial government of Jibei. During the Jia Ping period of the Wei Dynasty (249 - 253 A.D.), he was sleeping alone one night when he dreamed that a goddess had come to him.

"I am a jade maiden from Heaven," she said, "a native of Dongjun named Chenggong. I lost my parents when I was a child, and the Heavenly Emperor, pitying my loneliness, has sent me to be your wife."

This dream was extremely vivid, and Xuan marveled at her more than mortal beauty. When he awoke he longed for her as if she were close at hand. So three or four nights passed.

Then one day she came to visit him in person, riding in a curtained carriage with eight maids in attendance dressed in embroidered silks, as lovely as winged fairies. She told him she was seventy, but she looked like a girl of sixteen. In her carriage were a wine-pot and dishes, five pieces of pale green glassware. The food and wine were exquisite, and as she shared them with Xuan she said to him:

"I am a jade maiden from Heaven, sent to marry you. That is why I am here. It is not repay former kindness, but because we were destined to be husband and wife. I cannot help you, but neither will I harm you. You can ride with me in swift carriages or on good steeds, you can share with me food and drink from distant lands, and always have clothes to wear. Since I am immortal I cannot bear you a son, I will not be jealous of other women, and you can still marry according to the custom."

Thus they lived as husband and wife, and she presented him with a poem which began as follows:

          Drifting high above fairy isles,
          I wander over rocks and clouds;
          The sacred herb grows without nourishment,
          And its great virtue lasts to eternity.
          Immortals do not descend to earth for  nothing,
          But to help men according to fate;
          Accepting me will make your family prosper,
          Offending me will get you into trouble...

So the poem went on, but since it came to more than two hundred words we will not quote it all. She also made notes on the Book of Changes, attaching explanations to the hexagrams and sayings. These commentaries were logically reasoned and could also be used for divination, like Yang Xiong's Tai Xuan or Xue's Zhong Jing. Xuan could understand all her notes, and used them as oracles to divine the future.

When they had been married for seven or eight years Xuan's parents found him a wife. Then the jade maiden came to feast and sleep with him on certain days, coming in the night and leaving in the morning as swiftly as if on wings. Only Xuan could see her. When he was alone people could hear talking, and her presence was felt though no one could actually see her. Later inquisitive friends questioned him, and the secret leaked out. Then the jade maiden took her leave of him.

"I am an immortal," she said. "I do not like others to know that I come to you. Now that you have been so careless and my secret is revealed, I shall not come back again. We have loved each other for many years, and now that we have to part, how can I help feeling sad? But what must be must be, so take good care of yourself!"

She bid her attendants bring wine and food, and took from a basket two sets of silk garments for him. She also gave him a poem. Then after a last embrace they wept and parted. She mounted her carriage silently and left swiftly as the wind. For days Xuan pined for her and nearly fell ill.

Five years later, official business took Xuan to Luoyang. He was traveling west at the foot of Yu Mountain when he saw at a bend in the road a carriage with horses which looked like hers. When the carriage drew near, he found it indeed belonged to the jade maiden. She parted the curtain and they greeted each other with mingled joy and sorrow. Then she turned back and rode with him to Luoyang, where they lived together again and renewed their love. They were still together by the Tai Kang period (280-289 A.D.) of the Jin Dynasty, but she did not come every day. Only on the third of the third month, the fifth of the fifth month, the seventh of the seventh month, the ninth of the ninth month, and the first and fifteenth of the tenth month would she come to stay for the night and leave the next morning. Inspird by this story, the scholar named Zhang wrote a poem called The Fairy Maid.

Book of Changes: An ancient classic containing oracles of the Zhou Dynasty.
Yang Xiong:a famous scholar, philosopher and linguist who lived in 53 B.C. - 18 A.D.
Luoyang: Located in the west of Henan Province, China, known for one of the greatest ancient capitals of China and one of the cradles of the ancient Chinese civilization. It was listed on the Roll of Famous Historical and Cultural Cities by the State Council of China in the last century.

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