Chinese Folktales

Chinese Folktales

Originally Published as Chinesische Märchen (Chinese Fairy Tales) Translated into German by Richard Wilhelm, 1958.

This English Selection Translated from the German by Ewald Osers, and Published by G. Bell & Sons Ltd., 1971.

Silkworm Grandmother

Empress Leizu discovered silkworms while having a midday tea, and a cocoon fell in her tea.

One day when empress Leizu was taking a stroll in the royal garden with the Yellow Emperor, she found silkworms eating the mulberry leaves and spinning cocoons. She collected some cocoons, then sat down to have some tea. While she was sipping a cup, she dropped a cocoon into the steaming water. The heat unwrapped the silk, a fine thread started to separate itself from the silkworm cocoon silk until it stretched across her entire garden. Leizu found that she could unwind this soft and lovely thread around her finger.

She then persuaded her husband to give her a grove of mulberry trees, where she could domesticate the worms that made these cocoons. She then invented the silk reel, which joins fine filaments into a thread strong enough for weaving. She also invented the first silk loom which weaves silk thread into fine cloth.

Leizu then shared her discoveries with others, and the knowledge became widespread in China. People remembered her as ‘Silkworm Mother’ or ‘Can Nainai’ till today.

The return of Second Sun


Planet X

Many people are talking about the returns of the Second Sun, or so called the planet X. In ancient Chinese books, many records of two or more suns appeared on the sky, the story Divine Archer Yi shot off Ten Sun might be not just a fanatic myth.


Many people are talking about the returns of the Second Sun, in this youtube vedio, the photographer recorded this remarkable video of the second Sun (Planet X) taken on April 21, 2009 in Chkalovsky, Russia.
In Ancient Chinese myths, we had once ten suns instead of one. The suns were the sons of Emperor Di Jun, the God of the Eastern Sky. One day tens suns appeared on the sky together and scorched the earth, great drought after the water evaporated of the earth surface, vegetations became dried out, people hid in the cave. The great divine Archer Yi shot off nine suns, and the earth returned to normal.
There are many records in the ancient Chinese books, most of these are records of two sun appeared together, in some occasions, more than two suns, even as many as 10 suns; Other strange phenomenons like one sun appears at night, or two suns clashing each other, one big and one small.
Below are quotations from Chinese Classics and history annals, with a brief translation, to keep the original text for the purpose of authenticity, and waiting further research of Chinese historians and astronomers.
Year 1914 BC, Ten suns appeared together. This strange phenomenon also recorded in another book, Bamboo Annals.
Year 1042 BC, the 48th year of Emperor Xin of Yin (the notorious tyrant king Zhou) dynasty, two sun appeared together. 4 years later, the Martial King of Zhou began the punitive expedition against Yin.
Year 139 BC, the fourth month, a sun-like star appeared in the evening.
the first month of the fifth Year, three suns appeared on the sky.
Year 318, eleventh month, the sun rise up during the night, 3 Zhangs above the horizon.
Year 520, sun appeared on the eastern sky in the night, as bright as fire.
In year 809, the third month, beside sun appeared an object looks like a sun.
Yuan dynasty, year 1356, the third month, two sun clashing each other.
Year 1594, in the area of Jijiang, another sun under the sun, clashing many days then stopped.
Year 1621, in the area of Liao Yang, several suns appeared together.
The latest recorded in Qing dynasty, year 1651, at round 23PM-1AM, red sun appeared in the eastern sky, as big as Hu (a measure tool), at the midnight, the moon rose, then the sun disappeared.
A Chinese saying, No two suns on the sky, no two emperors on the earth, this might be wrong, and the return of the second sun, even the third, unto ten suns, the tens sun appeared on the sky might be not just a fantasy myth.

YouTube Video



Hart Unicorn

Genghis Khan, having destroyed the Kingdom of Matena; and carried his Conquests to the Indies and Samarkand, they advanced to Tie men, that is, the Iron Gate, which was the Name of a Cittadel ; that in this Place their General was stopped by a Monster shaped like a Hart Unicorn, his Skin was green, and he had a Horn in his Forehead, and a Tail like a Horse. This Monster spoke to the Genghis Khan, and asked him if he was not satisfied with so much Blood and Slaughter, and if his Fury would have no Bounds? This so frighted the Genghis Khan, that he returned to his own Country, and sometime afterwards invaded China instead.

Emperor Wu of Han and the Immortal Liquor

Emperor Wu ti of Han dynasty was esteemed one of the greatest Emperor of China, but he had the Weakness to give ear to Impostors, who promised him an Elixir which should render him immortal.

One Day one of these Chemists brought him a Cup full of this immortal Liquor, and desired him to drink it for an Experiment ; one of his Ministers, who was advising him not to hearken to such Cheats, took the Cup and drank it himself ; the Emperor being very angry that his Minister had deprived him of Immortality, revolved to punish him with Death for it ; to which the Minister replyed with a Smile :–

If this Drinks, Sir, has made me immortal, how can you put me to Death? But if you can put me to Death, how doth this frivolous theft deserve it?

This Answer soften’d the Emperor, who praised the Wisdom of his Minister, but was not thoroughly cured of that Weakness. (Du Halde)

Another similar version of the story:

The Elixir of Death

How to extort the confession of a prisoner

A magistrate, who after several hearings had failed to discover, among a gang accused of murder, what was essential to the completion of the case, namely, the actual hand which struck the fatal blow, notified the prisoners that he was about to invoke the assistance of the spirits, with a view to elicit the truth.

Accordingly, he caused the accused men, dressed in the black clothes of criminals, to be led into a large barn, and arranged around it, face to the wall. Having then told them that an accusing angel would shortly come among them, and mark the back of the guilty man, he went outside and had the door shut, and the place darkened.

After a short interval, when the door was thrown open, and the men were summoned to come forth, it was seen directly that one of the number had a white mark on his back. This man, in order to make all secure, had turned his back to the wall, not knowing, what the magistrate well knew, that the wall had been newly white-washed.


The story of Chopsticks

When the first English Seaman set his foot on the beach of the Yangtze River near Shanghai, he saw some Chinese fisherman having their lunch. Those fishermen invited him to join in, and gave him a bowl of boiled rice and a pair of bamboo sticks, and they shared a pot of chicken stew.

When the English seaman was watching interestingly how those Chinese fishermen pick up rice and chicken from the pot using a pair of bamboo sticks. Those fishermen waved their chopsticks, saying: “Chop, Chop. “(Eat, eat!) Then they showed him how to pluck chicken meat off the bone by the chopsticks. What they meant actually was to encourage the seaman to start eating, but the English seaman mistook it as the name of bamboo sticks. So he wrote in his sea diary: Chinese don’t eat with forks and knives, they use chopsticks instead!

That’s how this English word chopsticks has been invented. Actually, the Chinese word for Chopsticks was “Zhu”, which sounds similar to the word “stop”, so it became a taboo among the superstitious fishermen on the ship. They wish their boat sailing quickly, so they call chopsticks “Kuai”, which means “quick”. As such “Kuai zi” eventually replaced the original word “zhu”.

Ying C Compestine invented a story for the origin of chopsticks in her book, and said “all Chinese people ate with their hands”, and she gives credit for the invention of chopsticks to a hungry boy named “Kuai zi”, who “pulled two sticks from the kindling pile and used them to spear chunks of hot food.”

I wonder why Mrs. Compestine invents this story which is neither witty nor humorous, nor lacks of culture meaning. Actually, why do we need a human brain to use a stick to fish out food from a hot pot? The world’s foremost authority on chimpanzees, Dr. Goodall observed that even a chimpanzee can  use thin sticks to fish termites out of a termite mound, and they even use sticks to measure the depth of water and as “walking sticks” to support their posture when crossing.

Western people don’t know how to use chopsticks, because they have been evolved too far away from their ancestor, and totally forgot how Adam and Eve ate with a pair of sticks, for there is no records in the Bible. But Chinese people continue to use chopsticks generation after generation, and they decorate the chopsticks with delicate calligraphy, pictures of dragons and phoenixes, and images of Chinese opera and landscapes. We use different materials such as wood, bamboo, silver, gold and ivory. We turn chopsticks into wonderful artworks, a pair of chopsticks are not only just eating tools, but also collectible art which bears five thousand years of culture and history.

It’s said that the tyrant King Chou of Shang dynasty first ordered his craftsman to make chopsticks out of ivory, but we now know that there are no elephants around the Yellow River basin in the North China. Archeologists develops a theory of climate change on Central Kingdom, where once was a very warm area such as India. But most of the historians belive that the ivories which King Chou used had been tributed by nations from the south.

Ancient forensic also used silver needle to detect poisons such as arsenic, so it’s wide spread belief that that silver chopsticks can detect poison for they may turn their silver colour into black when they came in contact with poisonous food. The fact was that the arsenic was not pure due to poor refinery technology, which contains traces of sulphur or sulphide which can produce a layer of silver suphide by chemical reaction, so that change the colour of silver.

Chopsticks is also a lethal weapon as deadly as knives and forks in the hands of Chinese kungfu master. I am not kidding, and it’s one of real hidden weapons, and even more difficult to defense because the kungfu master don’t have to take out flying darts, he simply shoots out his chopsticks while he’s feasting with his enemy. A normal bamboo chopstick can penetrate a metal washing basin, you can imagine how it may happen when it hit human flesh!

We all know that you can easily break one chopsticks, but it’s quite difficult to break a bunch of chopsticks. This is so called “unity is strength”, and this story has been handed down generation after generation. Once upon a time, an ancient King who had twenty sons, every one of them has one merit or another, but they always fought against each other. One day, the King was lying in his deathbed, he summoned all his sons to his room, and gave one chopstick each, and ordered them to break it. The sons did easily. Then he gave them each a bunch of chopsticks, and again asked them to break it. But the sons found it was very difficult to do so, almost impossible. The King looked at them meaningfully, and breathed his last. The princes understood what their father was trying to teach them, and they stopped fighting each other, and worked together to create a powerful dynasty.