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The river god wanted to get marry
The river god wanted to get marry
Xi-Men Bao was posted to the city of Ye Du (present day Lin Zhang
county in Henan province) as an administrative officer. When he took up
residency in the city, he was surprised by the low population density of
the city and its outskirts. He summoned a meeting with the citizens of the
district and asked the reason why there were so few people living here.
They replied that the river god wanted to get married every year. Xi Men
"How strange! How strange! Tell me how he gets married."
He was told that there was a river called Zhang in the east of the city.
Many years ago a man named Feng Yi drowned there while crossing the river.
Later he became the river god who wanted a beautiful bride every year. If
the citizens refused his demand he would cause the river to swell and
inundate their farm lands and houses. If his demand were met there would be
a bountiful harvest for that year.
Xi-Men Bao asked,
"Who was the one who first started to believe in this?"
The citizens rplied,
"According to the local witch they have to oblige otherwise;
calamities would occur. The local district officer and the gentry
also support the witch. We are so scared that we also believe it.
Every year they ask us to donate over a million yuan but they only
spend about twenty per cent of this amount on the celebration
of the river god's wedding. The rest of the money they divided
Xi-Men Bao asked,
"Why none of you protest ?"
They told him that the witch, the gentry and district officer were also
busy running around looking for young and beautiful girls to be married
to the river god. If they saw a beautiful girl they would say,
"This is a beautiful girl who would be the next wife for the
The family of the girl would be frightened into paying a large sum of
money to them to have the girl spared. They would then go around searching
for another girl. If the family of any girl so found could not afford to
pay them they would marry her off to the river god. They would build a
little makeshift house on a floating raft moored on the river. The little
house was decorated as if it was a residence for the girl and the river
god. When the auspicious day for the wedding arrived, the girl would be
placed on a little boat made of reeds. The girl and the boat would be
pushed inside the house. The raft would be cast off the moorings and
allowed to drift off in the running water. After drifting for about ten
kilometers or so, the raft would sink, and the poor girl drowned. This
occured year after year.
The citizens also told Xi-Men Bao,
"People are afraid of the river god. They love their daughters and
are frightened that their daughters would be chosen as the brides
for the river god. So, many families moved away from this district
and live somewhere else. That is why there are not many people
Xi-Men Bao asked them if their lands had ever been flooded. They replied
that the river was so far away and their lands were in an elevated position.
Besides, the river god should be happy because he had a new wife every year.
Xi Men Bao asked to be informed when the next wedding was due.
The day of the next wedding arrived and as usual the makeshift house had
been erected and beautifully decorated. Xi-Men Bao, as the officer in
charge of the city, arrived with a contingent of soldiers. Acting as the
presiding officer for the ceremony, he welcomed the local witch, the local
gentry, the district officer and all the citizens numbering a few thousand
who came from far and near. There were a few thousand people. The local
witch came with over twenty disciples. The bride was brought forward to
the bank of the river when the wedding ceremony was about to take place.
Xi-Men Bao demanded to see the bride before she was given away to the
river god. His conclusion was that the girl was not beautiful enough and
that a new girl should be found. He asked some of his soldiers to
accompany the local witch to the river bed to inform the river god.
Without any delay the soldiers threw the witch into the river.
After waiting for some time Xi-Men Bao complained that the local witch
was taking too long and should have been back already. He ordered one of
her disciples to go and see what had happened to her master. Down she went
to the river and a few soldiers grabbed her and tossed her into the river.
Again nothing had happened in the river. Xi-Men Bao was a bit annoyed. He
ordered another disciple to go down to the river bed and reported back to
him without delay. This disciple was similarly hurled into the river.
Unhappy that the local witch and her disciples had not yet returned, he
told one of the gentry to go and find out what had happened. The soldiers
took this gentry and dumped him into the river. The audience was shocked
and stunned but soon cheered and celeberated what Xi-Men Bao had done to
The river was still calm and showed no sign of any turbulence. He ordered
the district officer to investigate those who were led to the river bed.
Xi-Men Bao said that they must be having lunch with the river god.
Immediately, the district officer kneeled down and kowtowed to Xi-Men
Bao. Begging for mercy and forgiveness, he suggested that it was not his
idea to defraud the people. The money-making scheme was devised by the
local witch and the gentry and he was not involved.
Xi-Men Bao spoke to all the people standing there,
"It is only a dirty trick by these bad people to swindle your money.
You can see now. Nothing has happened in the river. There is no river
god. Now the local witch is dead and the river god is gone. In future
if anyone still believes in it, I would order him to go down
to the river bed and have an audience with the river god"
The citizens applauded. Xi-Men Bao consficated the property of the
local witch and the gentry and the money was used for the development of
the district. He married off the local witch's disciples to the local old
bachelors. With the old superstition of river god gone and a water
irrigation scheme completed, more and more ex-residents gradually returned
to live in the district.
"He2 Bo2 Wei2 Huan4" in Zheng Guo (Warring States).
CHUNG Yoon-Ngan. firstname.lastname@example.org