|Chinese Fairy Tales
KING MU OF DSCHOU
IN the days of King Mu of Dschou a magician
came out of the uttermost West, who could walk through water and fire,
and pass through metal and stone. He could make mountains and rivers
change place, shift about cities and castles, rise into emptiness
without falling, strike against solid matter without finding it an
obstruction; and he knew a thousand transformations in all their
inexhaustible variety. And he could not only change the shape of things
but he could change men’s thoughts. The King honored him like a god,
and served him as he would a master. He resigned his own apartments
that the magician might be lodged in them, had beasts of sacrifice
brought to offer him, and selected sweet singers to give him pleasure.
But the rooms in the King’s palace were too humble—the magician could
not dwell in them; and the King’s singers were not musical enough to be
allowed to be near him. So King Mu had a new palace built for him. The
work of bricklayers and carpenters, of painters and stainers left
nothing to be desired with regard to skill. The King’s treasury was
empty when the tower had reached its full height. It was a thousand
fathoms high, and rose above the top of the mountain before the
capital. The King selected maidens, the loveliest and most dainty, gave
them fragrant essences, had their eyebrows curved in lines of beauty,
and adorned their hair and ears with jewels. He garbed them in fine
cloth, and with white silks fluttering about them, and had their faces
painted white and their eyebrows stained black. He had them put on
armlets of precious  stones and mix sweet-smelling herbs. They
filled the palace and sang the songs of the ancient kings in order to
please the magician. Every month the most costly garments were brought
him, and every morning the most delicate food. The magician allowed
them to do so, and since he had no choice, made the best of it.
long afterward the magician invited the King to go traveling with him.
The King grasped the magician’s sleeve, and thus they flew up through
the air to the middle of the skies. When they stopped they found they
had reached the palace of the magician. It was built of gold and
silver, and adorned with pearls and precious stones. It towered high
over the clouds and rain; and none could say whereon it rested. To the
eye it had the appearance of heaped-up clouds. All that it offered the
senses was different from the things of the world of men. It seemed to
the King as though he were bodily present in the midst of the purple
depths of the city of the air, of the divine harmony of the spheres,
where the Great God dwells. The King looked down, and his castles and
pleasure-houses appeared to him like hills of earth and heaps of straw.
And there the King remained for some decades and thought no more of his
Then the magician again invited the King to go
traveling with him once more. And in the place to which they came there
was to be seen neither sun nor moon above, nor rivers or sea below. The
King’s dazzled eyes could not see the radiant shapes which showed
themselves; the King’s dulled ears could not hear the sounds which
played about them. It seemed as though his body were dissolving in
confusion; his thoughts began to stray, and consciousness threatened to
leave him. So he begged the magician to return. The magician  put
his spell upon him, and it seemed to the King as though he were falling
into empty space.
When he regained consciousness, he was sitting
at the same place where he had been sitting when the magician had asked
him to travel with him for the first time. The servants waiting on him
were the same, and when he looked down, his goblet was not yet empty,
and his food had not yet grown cold.
The King asked what had
happened. And the servants answered, “The King sat for a space in
silence.” Whereupon the King was quite bereft of reason, and it was
three months before he regained his right mind. Then he questioned the
magician. The magician said: “I was traveling with you in the spirit, O
King! What need was there for the body to go along? And the place in
which we stayed at that time was no less real than your own castle and
your own gardens. But you are used only to permanent conditions,
therefore visions which dissolve so suddenly appear strange to you.”
King was content with the explanation. He gave no further thought to
the business of government and took no more interest in his servants,
but resolved to travel afar. So he had the eight famous steeds
harnessed, and accompanied by a few faithful retainers, drove a
thousand miles away. There he came to the country of the great hunters.
The great hunters brought the King the blood of the white brant to
drink, and washed his feet in the milk of mares and cows. When the King
and his followers had quenched their thirst, they drove on and camped
for the night on the slope of the Kunlun Mountain, south of the Red
River. The next day they climbed to the peak of Kunlun Mountain and
gazed at the castle of the Lord of the Yellow  Earth. Then they
traveled on to the Queen-Mother of the West. Before they got there they
had to pass the Weak River. This is a river whose waters will bear
neither floats nor ships. All that attempts to float over it sinks into
its depths. When the King reached the shore, fish and turtles, crabs
and salamanders came swimming up and formed a bridge, so that he could
drive across with the wagon.
It is said of the Queen-Mother of
the West that she goes about with hair unkempt, with a bird’s beak and
tiger’s teeth, and that she is skilled in playing the flute. Yet this
is not her true figure, but that of a spirit who serves her, and rules
over the Western sky. The Queen-Mother entertained King Mu in her
castle by the Springs of Jade. And she gave him rock-marrow to drink
and fed him with the fruit of the jade-trees. Then she sang him a song
and taught him a magic formula by means of which one could obtain long
life. The Queen-Mother of the West gathers the immortals around her,
and gives them to eat of the peaches of long life; and then they come
to her with wagons with purple canopies, drawn by flying dragons.
Ordinary mortals sink in the Weak River when they try to cross. But she
was kindly disposed to King Mu.
When he took leave of her, he
also went on to the spot where the sun turns in after running three
thousand miles a day. Then he returned again to his kingdom.
King Mu was a hundred years old, the Queen-Mother of the West drew near
his palace and led him away with her into the clouds.
And from that day on he was seen no more.