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The Serpent Sacrifice

In the province of Minzhoug in Dongyue, Mount Yongling towers many miles high. In its northwest corner there was a huge serpent seventy to eighty feet long and so thick that it took a dozen men to encircle it. The local people were terrified of it, and many offers of Dongye and other adjoining districts were killed by it. Though they sacrificed oxen and sheep, they had no peace. Then someone dreamed or some oracle predicted that this serpent wanted to be fed with virgins of twelve or thirteen. The authorities were dismayed, but since the serpent continued to make trouble they began taking local girls to it, especially from the families of criminals. So every eight month they made a morning sacrifice, setting down the girl at the mouth of the serpent's cave. And the serpent would come out to eat her.

This went on year after year until nine girls had been sacrificed this way. But when the order came down the tenth time, no girl could be found. Li Dan of Jiangle County had six daughters but no son, and his youngest daughter, Ji, offered to go. But her parents would not agree.

"My unhappy parents have six daughters only and no son," said Ji. "So they have no real descendant. We are not like Ti Ying who was able to help her father. Since we cannot work to support them, but are simply a burden to them and no use at all, the sooner we die the better. Besides, my sale will bring in some money for my parents. Surely that is best!"

Still her parents could not bear to let her go. But in spite of this, Ji left home secretly. Having procured a sharp sword and a dog which could catch snakes, in the morning of the first day of the eighth month she went and sat down in the temple, taking her sword and dog. She had first poured honey on several large rice cakes, which she put at the mouth of the cave, so presently the serpent came out. Its head was as gig as a winnowing fan, its eyes like bronze mirrors two feet in diameter. When it smelt the fragrant cakes and started eating them, Ji loosed her dog which began worrying the monster, while she cut and wounded it in several places from behind. In pain the serpent fled, writhing, but did not get far before in died. Then Ji went into the cave and found the skeletons of nine girls. She carried them out and said sadly:

"Because you were timid, the serpent ate you, poor things!"

Then she made her way leisurely home.

When the Prince of Yue heard this he made her his queen, appointed her father magistrate of Jiangle, and richly rewarded her mother and her sisters. Since then there have been no more monsters in Dongyue, and the people have sung her praises to this day.

Note: Ti Ying, a girl in the Han Dynasty who offered to serve as a slave in place of her father.

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