About Us | Contact Us | Feedback
Powered by a China travel agency - Easy Tour China Tel: +86-773-3810160 USA/CA:1-888 666 0951
Home > Facts > Tales, Myths, Legends, Stories > The Queer Cricket

The Queer Cricket

During the reign of Xuan De (1426-1435), cricket fights were popular at court and a levy of crickets was exacted every year. Now these insects were scare in the province of Shaanxi, but the magistrate of Huayin, to get into the good books of the governor, presented a cricket which proved a remarkable fighter. So much as that his county was commanded to present crickets regularly and the magistrate ordered his bailiffs to produce them. Then young fellows in town began to keep good crickets and demand high prices for them, while the crafty bailiffs seized this change to make money. Thus each cricket they collected was the ruin of several households.

Now in this town lived a scholar named Cheng Ming, who had failed repeatedly in the district examination. This slow-witted pedant was appointed beadle on the recommendation of the crooked bailiff and could not evade this service hard as he tried. In less than a year his small patrimony was exhausted. Then came another levy of crickets. Cheng dared not extort money from the country folk but neither could he pay the sum himself. At his wit's end, he longed to die.

"What good would dying do?" demanded his wife. "You had better go out and look for a cricket yourself. There is just one chance in ten thousand that you may catch one."

Cheng agreed. With a bamboo tube and wire cage he searched from down till dusk among ruins and waste land, peering under rocks and exploring crevices, leaving no stone unturned - but all in vain. The two or three crickets he caught were poor specimens which did not come up to standard. The magistrate set him a time limit and beat him when he failed, till in little more than ten days he had received some hundred strokes and his legs were so covered with sores that he could not continue his search. Tossing painfully on his bed, his one thought was to die.

Then to their village came a hump-backed diviner who could tell fortunes by consulting spirits. Cheng's wife, taking money, went to ask his advice. She found his gate thronged with pink, blooming girls and white-haired old women. Entering, she saw a curtain before the inner room, with incense on a table in front of it. Those come to ask their fortune burned incense in a tripod and kowtowed. The diviner prayed beside them, staring into space, but though his lips moved no one knew what it was he said and all listened respectfully. Finally a slip of paper was tossed from the inner room with the answer to the question asked – an answer which invariably proved correct.

Cheng's wife put her money on the table, burned incense and kowtowed like the other women. Presently the curtain moved and a piece of paper fluttered to the ground. Instead of writing it had a painting of a building like a temple with a small hill behind covered with rocks of every shape and overgrown with thorns. A cricket was crouching there while beside it a toad was making ready to spring. She had no idea what this meant, but the cricket at least had some connection with their problem. Accordingly she folded the paper and took it home to her husband.

Cheng wondered. "Is this supposed to show me where I should look for a cricket?"

On examining the picture closely, he recognized Great Buddha Monastery east of the village. So taking the paper with him, he struggled along with the help of a stick to the back of the monastery. There he found an old grave overgrown with brambles. Skirting this, he saw that the stones lying scattered around were exactly like the painting. He pricked up his ears and limped slowly through the brambles, but he might just as well have been looking for a needle or a grain of mustard-seed. Though he stained every nerve he found nothing. As he was groping around, a toad hopped into sight. Cheng gave a start and hurried after it. The toad slipped into the undergrowth and, following it, he saw a cricket at the root of a bramble. He snatched at it but the cricket leapt into a crevice in a rock and would not come out though he prodded it with a straw. Not till he poured water on it, did it emerge. It seemed a fine specimen and he picked it up. Seen up close, it had a large body and long tail, dark neck and golden wings, and he was a happy man as he carried it home in the cage to delight his household, who considered it more precious than the rarest jade. The cricket was kept in a pot and fed with white crab's flesh and the yellow kernel of chestnuts, tended with loving care till such time as the magistrate should ask for it.

Now Cheng had a son of nine, who uncovered this pot on the sly while his father was out. At once the cricket jumped out and sprang about so nimbly that he could not catch it. Finally the boy grabbed it, but in doing so, tore off a leg and crushed it so that the next moment it died. The frightened child ran crying to his mother. When she heard what had happened she turned as pale as death.

"You wicked boy!" she cried. "You'll catch it when your father comes home!"

Her son went off in ears. Soon Cheng came back and when he heard his wife's story, he felt as if he had been turned to ice. In a passion he searched for his son, who was nowhere to be found, until at last they discovered his body in the well. Then anger turned to sorrow. Cheng cried out in anguish and longed to kill himself. Husband and wife sat with their faces to the wall in their thatched and smokeless cottage in silent despair. As the sun began to set he prepared to bury the by, but upon touching the child, found there was still breath in him. Overjoyed, he laid the small body on the couch, and towards the middle of the night the child came round. Cheng and his wife began to breathe again, but their son remained in a trance with drooping eyelids. The sight of the empty cricket cage brought back Cheng's grief, but he dared not scold the child now. He did not close his eyes all night, and as the sun rose in the east he was still lying in stark despair when a cricket chirped outside the door. He rose in amazement to look, and sure enough there was a cricket. He clutched at it, but it chirped and hopped away. He put his hands over it but to no avail: when he turned up his palms the cricket escaped again. So he chased it up and down till it disappeared round the corner of the wall, and while searching for it he discovered another cricket on the wall. But this was a little, dark red insect, not to be compared with the first. Deciding that it was too small to be worth catching, Cheng looked round again for the one he had lost. At once the small cricket hopped from the wall to his sleeve, and he saw it resembled a mole-cricket with speckled wings, a square head and long legs – it might be a good one. So he was glad to keep it.

Cheng meant to present this cricket to the yamen, but fearing that it might not do he decided first t give it a trial fight. Now a young fellow in that village had a cricket called Crab Blue which had beaten every other insect it fought, and its owner wanted such an exorbitant price for it that it had remained in his hands. This man called on Cheng and laughed to see his cricket, producing his own for comparison. At the sight of this large, handsome insect, Cheng felt even more different and dared not offer a fight. The young man, however, insisted on a match; and since his poor cricket was useless in any case, Cheng thought he might as well sacrifice it for a laugh. So the two combatants were put in one basin, where the small one crouched motionless as a stick of wood. The young man laughed heartily and prodded it with a pig's bristle, but the cricket was roused to fury. It hurled itself at its opponent, attacking savagely. In an instant it had leapt forward with bristling tail and seized the other by the neck. The horrified young man made haste to separate the two contestants, while the little cricket chirped proudly as if to announce its victory to its master. Cheng was glorying in this sight when a cock bore down on the cricket and pecked at it. Cheng gave a cry, rooted to the ground in horror; but luckily the cock missed the small cricket which leapt a foot or more away. The cock gave chase, the cricket was under its claws. Cheng, unable to intervene, stamped his foot and turned pale. But the next thing he knew, the cock was flapping its wings and craning its neck - his cricket had fastened its teeth in the cock's comb. Amazed and exultant, he put the cricket back in its cage.

Later Cheng presented this cricket to the magistrate, who abuse hi angrily for producing one so small. Refusing to believe Cheng's account of the little creature's exploits, the magistrate pitted it against some others crickets and it defeated them all. He tried it with a cock, and again it turned out exactly as Cheng had said. Then the magistrate rewarded Cheng and presented this cricket to the governor, who put it in a golden cage and sent it joy fully to the emperor with a detailed report of its prowess.

In his palace the emperor tried the cricket with Butterfly, Praying Mantis, Yolita, Green Forehead and many other champions, but none was a match for it. And he prized it even more highly when he found that it would dance in time to music. In high good humor, he rewarded the governor with fine steeds and silk garments. And the governor, not forgetting where the cricket came from, within a short time commended the magistrate for outstanding merit. The magistrate, pleased n his turn, exempted Cheng from his duties and ordered the local examiner to see that he passed the next examination.

A year later Cheng's son was restored to his senses. He said, "I dreamed I was a cricket; a quick, good fighter. Now I have woken up."

The governor also rewarded Cheng so handsomely that within a few years he owned vast estates, whole streets of houses and countless flocks and herds. When he went abroad, his furs and carriage were more splendid than a noble's.

The recorder of these marvels comments: the emperor may do a thing once and forget it afterwards, but these who carry out his orders make his orders make this a general rule. Then when officials are greedy for profit and their underlings are bullies, men are driven to sell their wives and children. This shows that since each step an emperor takes is fraught with consequence for his subjects it behoves him to be very careful. This man Cheng, first impoverished by rapacious officials, grew so rich thanks to a cricket that he went about in magnificent carriages and furs. He could never have dreamed of such good fortune when he was a beadle and was being beaten! Because Heaven wished to reward an honest man, the governor and magistrate also benefited from the cricket. It is true, as the ancients said:"When a man becomes immortal and soars to heaven, his chickens and dogs attain immortality too."


Questions & Comments

Name (* required)
Mail (will not be published) (* required)

Please click to verify: