Legend – Irvine, California/China

“There were two poor brothers.  One was really nice and one was evil.  The nice one had a very faithful dog, and the evil one decided to kill the dog.  After he killed the dog, the nice one was really sad and buried the dog in the yard.  Later, a tree grew over the dog’s grave, and the tree had fruit.  The nice brother picked the fruit and ate it, and realized that it had a magical power! It made his farts smell really good.  So, he told a few people and nobody believed him until he actually farted, and then they were all really amazed.  They suggested him to go around and make money off this cool talent.  So he went into the town square and started hollering ‘mai xiang pi!’ (which means ‘I’m smelling aromatic farts!’).  And people just laughed at him, but gave him a bit of change anyway to see what he could do, and when he did it, butterflies and birdies circled him and everyone was amazed at the crazy-good smell.  So, he started making a huge fortune off his farts from the fruits in his backyard, and eventually rumor reached the King.  The king is, of course, incredulous, and so he orders people to bring in the guy who can fart so well.  So when he arrived at the palace, the king tells him to prove it.  So the brother farts, and all these butterflies fly into the room and it smells great of course.  The king is so awed that he gives him money or something.  Basically, this nice brother is no longer a poor man.  Well, the evil brother gets really jealous, and so he steals the fruit off the tree in the yard and eats it.  He then marches directly into the palace and proclaims that he, too, can fart lovely smells and deserves the recognition and money too.  So the king tells him to proceed, and the evil brother farts right in front of the king.  But, his fart produced the most abhorrent smell ever sniffed by the king and the royal subjects, and the ugliest noise! So, the king punishes him and his reputation was completely ruined.”

A perfect example of good versus evil, reward and consequence, this legend was an old Chinese story that Marilyn said she learned from her parents (who learned it in China) when she was a young child in elementary school.  A humorous tale that also demonstrates the consequences and benefits for those who are malicious and those who are kindly, this legend was told to Marilyn as a piece of light-hearted entertainment that would keep her and her siblings from restlessness or boredom.  At the same time, it was a legend with a lesson, instilling in Marilyn and her siblings the ideas that along with goodness comes rewards and with rottenness comes punishment.  The legend therefore served as both a story to appease unsatisfied children and a method for Marilyn’s parents to subconsciously pass on bits and pieces of admonishment.

Also, the concept of a traditional Chinese legend that focuses on flatulence is quite unexpected.  Marilyn said that her initial reaction to the story was that it was hilarious and outrageous, but that she was also mildly surprised at the rather “gross” subject matter portrayed in a normally conservative culture.  However, the lack of conservativeness in the subject of the legend is probably due to the fact that it might not have come from conservative elites in the upper classes of society but from the folk themselves.  Another aspect of the legend that should be noted is that Marilyn concluded it with the social downfall of the evil brother rather than, say, his imprisonment or any specific details of his punishment.  The important part of the conclusion is that the brother’s reputation was ruined forever; this reflects the values of honor and social upstanding in the Chinese culture.  Without his reputation, the brother loses his identity and worth in the social hierarchy.