The Four Dragons

A Chinese Vase in the Dining Room at Chirk Castle

Before China had any lakes or rivers, there was only the Eastern Sea, in which lived four dragons, the Black, Yellow, Pearl and Long Dragons, who spent most of their days swimming in and flying above the waves.

One day the Pearl Dragon flew closer to the mainland and observed some humans performing some rituals, burning incense and gesturing to the sky. They were upset and crying.

The Pearl dragon summoned the others to her, “look down at those people, they seem to be suffering. Let us get closer and listen.”

The dragons flew closer and could see that as well as burning incense the people had laid out cakes, fruit and other offerings. They were imploring the Jade Emperor to send rain else they succumb to famine as no rice was growing.

The dragons looked far into the land and could see that no rain had fallen for a very long time. The crops were ruined in the fields, the grass was yellow and the land was dry and cracked.

“The people are sad and desperate,” said the Yellow Dragon, “we should help.”

“They will all die if they get no rain,” said the Black Dragon, “we must help.”

“Then we shall fly and petition the Jade Emperor on their behalf,” said the Long Dragon, “we will help.”

“Yes. We will help,”  agreed the Pearl Dragon.

The dragons flew to the Jade Emperor. Who was, as everyone knows, very busy as ruler of Heaven, Earth and Hell. The Emperor was currently being distracted watching some fairies dance around. 

When the dragons made their entrance the Jade Emperor shouted, “why are you here? You should be looking after the Eastern Sea. I did not call for you.”

“Oh, mighty Emperor, please do not be angry, listen to our plea. The people on earth are in a terrible plight. No rain has fallen for a long time, their crops are failing and soon they will starve. Please send them some rain.”

“What?” Said the Emperor, still being distracted by the fairies. “Oh very well I will send some rain tomorrow. Now you have to go.”

“Thank you, oh mighty and magnificent Emperor,” said the dragons as they left.

A few days later the Pearl dragon again flew close to the mainland to look at the humans. Their plight had worsened the people were now resorting to eating the bark off trees, grass roots and even the earth itself.

 The Pearl Dragon called over the others, “look, the people are still suffering, The rain has not come. The Jade Emperor has forgotten.”

“He is too wrapped up in his own amusement to care for the people,” said the Yellow Dragon.

“Oh, if only there was a way to help,” cried the Black Dragon.

The Long Dragon was looking back to their home, the Eastern Sea. “There is a way we can help, but we may incur the wrath of the Emperor by doing so.”

“Tell us,” cried the other Dragons.

“There is plenty of water in the sea where we live. If we swallow water and sprayed it into the sky, it would fall like rain on the land and the people will be saved.”

“We must do this and help,” said the Yellow Dragon.

“I am willing to incur the wrath of the Emperor to help,” said the Black Dragon.

“I agree,” said the Pearl Dragon.

“Then let us begin,” said the Long Dragon.

The dragons flew back to the sea and scooped up large mouthfuls of water, then flew across the lands and sprayed the water into the sky. Soon great clouds formed and the water fell as rain to the earth. The wither crops began to grow again and the land turned green.

The people were overjoyed and wept with happiness.

However there was one other that was displeased by the dragons’ actions. The God of the Sea was angry that the dragons had taken water from him without permission and so he went to the Jade Emperor and informed him of their actions.

The Jade Emperor flew into a rage, “how dare those four dragons make rain without my permission.  Arrest them all immediately!”

The mightiest soldiers in the Emperor’s army were dispatched, and by sheer force of numbers they managed to capture the dragons and drag them back to the Jade Emperor.

“You have defied my will and must be punished,” said the Jade Emperor to the Dragons. He called upon the Mountain god to create four mountains. Each of the dragons was to be imprisoned forever underneath a mountain.

But this did not stop the dragons from helping the people. They turned themselves into mighty rivers so that water could run from these mountains and continued to help the people.

Thus were the four major rivers in China formed. The Heilonjhan in the North (Black Dragon), the Huanghe (Yellow Dragon) in the centre, The Yangstze (Long Dragon) in the southern area and the Zhujiang (Pearl River) in the utmost south.