Myths about Han Kao Tsu: the first emperor of the Han dynasty

The mother of Han Kao Tsu, dame Liu, reposed on the banks of a large lake. In a dream, she met with a spirit. At that time there was a tempest with thunder and lightning. In the darkness a dragon appeared on high. The son, of which she was delivered, had an excellent character, but was very fond of wine. He would buy wine on credit from Mrs. Wang and mother Wu. When he was drunk, he stopped, and lay down to sleep. Mrs. Wang and mother Wu then always saw some miraculous signs about him. Whenever he remained to drink wine, the price of the wine then sold was many times as much as usual.

Later on he walked into the lake, and cut a big snake into pieces with his hand. An old woman filled the roads with her wails, crying that the Red Emperor had killed her son. This miracle being very striking was much talked about.

Ch’in Skih Huang Ti used to say that in the south-east there was the spirit of a son of heaven. Therefore he travelled eastward in order to suppress it. This was Kao Tsu’s spirit. Together with Lü Hou he concealed himself amidst the marshes in the Mang and T’ang Mountains.2 When Lü Hou with other people went in search for him, they always saw a vapour rising in a straight line above him, and thus discovered where he was.

Later on Kao Tsu agreed with Hsiang Yü that whoever first entered the gates of Ch’in, should be king. Kao Tsu arrived first, which was deeply resented by Hsiang Yü. Fan T’sêng said: — “‘ I pray to look at his vapours. They all take the shape of a dragon, and have five colours: — they are those of the son of heaven. He must be despatched forthwith.”

When Kao Tsu went to thank Hsiang Yü, the latter and Ya Fu hatched a plot to kill him. At their instigation Hsiang Chuang performed a dance with a drawn sword. Hsiang Po, who knew their intentions, began to dance together with Hsiang Chuang, and no sooner was the sword raised over Kao Tsu’s head, than Hsiang Po covered him with his own body so, that the sword did not fall, and the murderous plot was not carried out.6 At one time. Kao Tsu was rescued by Chang Liang and Fan K’uai, and after all got off unhurt. Thereupon he swayed the whole empire.

When his mother conceived him, the spirit of a dragon made its appearance. When he grew up, peculiar clouds were seen about the wine shop. During the night, he killed a snake, and the snake’s old mother lamented, and cried. Ch’in Shih Huang Ti and Lü Hou saw an aureole above him. Hsiang Yü planned his assassination, but Hsiang Po protected him, and the scheme fell through.

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