Author Archives: Harrison Ryoo

Buddha Crossing the River


The informant is a student at USC studying Bio-Chem. In this account, he recalls religious stories that he heard.

In the transcript of our conversation, he is identified as S (storyteller) and I am identified as C (collector).


C: Do you have any stories like from your childhood or from growing up? Anything you might want to share?

S: Yea… I’m Buddhist. Kinda forced into it I guess. Both of my parents are from Burma, I guess.

So when I was in elementary, my parents wanted me to hang out with my Burmese friends but I didn’t speak Burmese. There was a session with the monk but during break or down times, they would tell us stories and stuff.

It was told by a monk. So… I don’t remember the lesson but, most of the stories are about Buddha.

So there’s this one story I remember:

So one day, Buddha was hanging out with his apostles when this one guy said he knows a monk that surpassed him or something.

He was like, “Where? Bring me to him.”

When we went to the monk, we has all frail and sickly.

The monk told Buddha, “I can walk on water. This was done by strict meditation and following the teachings while starving.” This was obviously a lie.

The monk continued, “You’ve only started your path. I’ve gotten this far already.” He was basically challenging the Buddha.

The monk said, “I bet I can get across this river.”

Buddha: “Why would you do that?”

Monk: “It just proves I’m much stronger. Can you do the same thing?”

So Buddha accepted this bet and the monk proceeded to give a ferryman one penny and crossed the river with on a ferry.


S: This story isn’t verbatim, but I guess the lesson that I learned was this: Buddhism isn’t a superstitious religion. It’s very grounded. Each city it went and added their own superstitions to make it different and “holy.”

Buddhism is about self-actualization and helping others but it gets muddled in all the lighting candles, and like all the rituals and stuff.



It’s interesting to hear religious stories, mostly because of the lessons or explanations that they teach. In this case, the story explores the idea of what Buddhism is or isn’t. It also teaches a fundamental idea in folklore in that, each group makes variations or changes to something that they learn in order to adapt it as their own. This is the same case in religion as each group adds on their own superficial things which may distract or draw away from the core beliefs.

Three Wise Men


The informant recounts the different religious and cultural stories that he heard while growing up as a child.

In the transcript of our conversation, he is identified as S (storyteller) and I am identified as C (collector).


S: Do you have the thing of the three wise men? It’s a Catholic thing.


C: No… can you explain it?


S: Like you put your shoes out and then the three wise men from Jesus’ birth come and give you gifts


C: Oh.. is that it?


S: That’s pretty much it. Like parents put money in your shoes obviously instead of the three wise men. It usually happens around Christmas but I forget the exact date.


C: Oh so is this something that you or your family did?


S: Yeah. Well it’s a catholic thing. Popular in Spanish speaking countries.




Biblical stories are often told for the lessons they are able to impart on the listener, but also for entertainment. The tale of the Three Wise Men is one such story that encompasses many functions. The three men are figures of great status in society and they all see an unusual new star in the sky, and knew that it told of the birth of a special king in Israel. This marks the coming of Christ into the world and the spark of Christianity as it exists today. To welcome Jesus’ arrival, they presented him with gifts that hold symbolic meanings in Christianity. Gold was given as something that is associated with kings and the idea that Jesus was to be the King of other kings. The other two are Frankincense, a symbol used to show that people would worship Jesus and
Myrrh, a perfume that showed Christians of Jesus’ eventual suffering and death. The act of giving gifts is still something that we do til this day and it is curious to see if many base their tradition of gift giving to this tale in the Bible.


For another version, see: All About the Wise Men

Cooper, James. “The Christmas Story – All About The Wise Men.” The History of The Christmas Story — Whychristmas?Com,