A Chinese Myth
There was a time there were no streams, rivers, pools or lakes on earth. There was just the Eastern Sea where four dragons lived; Long Dragon, Yellow Dragon, Black Dragon and Pearl Dragon.
All day the dragons would fly up and play hide and seek among the clouds. One especially hot day, there was not a cloud in the sky as Pearl Dragon soared high. From up there he could see people putting out fruits and cakes and burning incense sticks on earth. Soon the other dragons joined him and they could see people praying.
“Look at that sweet old lady,” said the Long Dragon, pointing to a white-haired old lady who knelt down, carrying her little grandson on her back. Looking up at the cloudless sky she prayed, “Oh God in the Heavens, please send us some rain... our children have no rice to eat!”
The crops had died on the stalks, the grass was yellow and the earth cracked in the scorching heat of the sun.
“How terrible! These poor folk have no food to eat. They will die if it doesn’t rain soon,” said the Yellow Dragon.
“Let’s go to the Jade Emperor and ask him to send them some rain,” said the Long Dragon. So the four dragons flew to the Heavenly Palace where the Jade Emperor lived.
The Jade Emperor was a powerful god and ruled over the heavens, the seas and the earth. He wasn’t very happy to see the four dragons barging into his palace.
“What are you four doing here? Your place is in the sea. Go down at once!” he ordered. The Jade Emperor wasn’t exactly your benevolent sort.
The Long Dragon stepped forward. “Please, Your Majesty! The earth is parched and the crops are withering away! The poor people have no food to eat. If you do not send the rains quickly, they’ll all die!” he said.
“All right, I’ll send some rain down tomorrow. But you dragons! Go back at once!” he said and turned his attention to some fairies who were singing to him.
“Thank you for your kindness, Your Majesty,” said the dragons and returned to the Eastern Sea.
Many days went by but not a drop of rain fell from the sky. The people took to eating grass and then the barks of trees. When even that was over, they started to eat white clay. The dragons watched all this from above and their hearts were filled with pity.
They realised that the Jade Emperor did not care. If they wanted to help, they had to do it themselves.
As they flew back to Eastern Sea, the Long Dragon came up with an idea. “I think we can help them,” he said.
“How?” asked the others in one voice.
“Look, there is plenty of water here in the Eastern Sea. Why don’t we scoop it up and take it to the skies and make it fall as rain?”
The others agreed and at once got to work.
They flew back and forth carrying the water up the sky and blowing it down as rain. Soon the rains fell on to the earth and crops began to grow. People rejoiced and soon there was enough to eat. The sea god reported the matter to the Jade Emperor. He was livid! “Arrest them and bring them here,” he ordered.
The four dragons were caught and brought to the Emperor. He summoned the Mountain God, “Press upon them four of your mountains so that they never escape!”
Four mountains were brought to press them down but the brave dragons had no regrets. They turned themselves into four rivers and flowed down the mountain and thorough the valleys, finally going home to the sea. They became China’s four great rivers — Huang He (Yellow river), Yangtse (Long river), Zhujiang (Pearl river) and Heilongjiang (Black river).