Tag Archives: China

Kong Rong Rang Li and the Pears


H is a parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


H: Kong Rong Rang Li is also this little boy… he was 4 years old I think. His father was very fond of him so one day he brought home some delicious pears-

Me: Wait is he a real person?

H: Yeah, he was real- in the Han Dynasty. I sent it to you because the name can be really hard to spell. But after his father brought home the pears, he gave Kong Rong, who was four, the biggest pear. But Kong Rong had a lot of brothers. He had five elder brothers and one younger brother. Kong Rong… decided to give the biggest pear to his youngest brother and his father was very surprised and asked him how come you- and Kong Rong, instead, picked the smallest himself. Kong Rong said I’m younger than my older brothers so they should have bigger pears than me and his father than said how about your younger brother. Oh he didn’t give his younger brother the biggest pear, he just put the biggest pear down I think and picked up the youngest – the smallest pear. The father then asked how about the younger brother? He should have the smallest pear right because he’s the youngest. But Kong Rong said no because I’m older than him so I should take care of him by giving him the bigger one. So after he said that, his father was very happy and his brothers all felt that they should do something so they all tried to pick the smallest pear.

Me: (laughs)

H: (laughs) So they, you know, all learned how to, try to save the best one for others. 


This legend is another story that is meant to teach children to act a certain way. It is another origin story of a famous scholar in Ancient China who teaches kids to put others ahead of them and be selfless. I thought that this story was endearing because it ended with none of the kids wanting to eat the largest pear in order to be selfless like their brother. I think his logic was also very smart but also childish in the sense that his answer to his father changes to the opposite in order to answer for both his younger and older brothers. It also seems to tie into the tradition of gifting fruits in Chinese culture rather than other physical presents, especially bringing fruits home from a journey.

Cowherd and Weaver Girl


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. This particular conversation followed a couple previous tellings of other stories from my other parent. 


Y: The Cowherd and the weaver girl, you should know this one, it’s very famous-

Me: Wait what was it?

Y: The Cowherd and weaver girl, Zhong Guo Zen ( Chinese People) call it Niúláng Zhīnǚ. I’ll send you the spelling.

Me: Isn’t there another story about the crane and the weaver?

Y: There is another crane, but this one is about the stars. Remember, there’s – Cause chinese people watched the stars and they saw those stars separated from each other so they made up the story so that’s the Niúláng Zhīnǚ. Niúláng  is the guy who herds the cows, that’s called cowherd and Weaver girl is the girl who weaves. The weaver girl is actually a goddess, she’s the daughter of the god, the god in charge in heaven, and she’s the seventh daughter. And her job was to weave the rainbows, and she had to weave the rainbows all the time. 

One day she got tired of it and she decided to. This version is different from the one we heard. We heard that one day she and her sisters, seven of them, decided to come down to earth and swim in the river. And Niúláng actually saw them swimming and he was actually bad (laugh). He stole the seventh girl, the Zhīnǚ’s clothes so she couldn’t go back to heaven. So she stayed and married him. But this other version is a little nicer, Niúláng isn’t such a bad guy. 

This one says that since Zhīnǚ’ was tired of weaving rainbows, she decided to come down to earth and she saw this Niúláng, the boy, and fell in love with him and decided to marry him. Okay? They lived happily together but when her dad found out about it, that she escaped, he actually sent people and his men to bring him- her back, to heaven. And he banned her from visiting Earth until like once a year. He only allows her to visit or see this Cowherd once a year. 

And because the magpies, magpies are considered birds that bring good luck. Magpies heard about it and they felt sorry for the two and they decided to form a bridge to reunite them. So every year, during July 7. July 7 is called which festival? Zhong qiu jie? Is it Zhong qiu jie? July 7 is what jie? Which festival? (asking other informant).

H: Chinese Valentine!

Y: Chinese Valentine but I think there’s a special festival time. Anyways, on July 7th every year, they form – another story is that they reunited on the rainbow. Rainbow is like a bridge.

Me: Ohhhh.

Y: They reunite on the bridge made by a rainbow, but anyways the magpies were the story here. 

Me: I feel like I’ve heard this one before.

Y: yeah, it’s a very famous one. 


I had heard this story when i was younger from my parents from a storybook and only recognized it when my mom told me the part about the magpie bridge! I think it’s also interesting because this directly demonstrates the multiplicity of folklore and how different versions of a story may interact with each other. I also think it is intriguing that in one version, it is more censored so that the story is more of a true love tale rather than the main love interest being creepy and being rewarded for his answer. This story reminds me of the Hades and Persephone Greek Myth with the trope of only being allowed to see your lover at a certain time of the year rather than all year. This story also directly ties into a festival that is celebrated in China as a representation of love: Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Chang’e: The Moon Goddess


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


Y: Chang’e is the one we see the shadow in the moon, and the shadow looks like a lady there.

Me: Oh yeah.

Y: But the story goes that there’s a beautiful woman who’s married to a famous archer, and his name is Hou Yi. The guy is the one who, when in Ancient Times, they had 10 suns. The sun in the sky, not the kids. The sun in the sky, when there was 10 of them, the sky was so hot that the earth, the crops couldn’t grow because of the squelching from the sun, and the soil is cracked and everyone was dying from the heat. So Hou Yi, the husband, because he’s a famous archer, he decided to shoot the nine suns down and just leave one of them left.

Me: Uhuh.

Y: So he pulled his legendary, he had this bow that was a legendary sun and succeeded in shooting down nine of the suns. So the earth was back to normal.

Because of what he did, he met the like, goddess, the goddess decided to reward him with some kind of medicine that will make him live forever. The goddess name is… the jade- no, the Wángmǔ Niángniáng, yeah. Hou Yi felt very, unsure about whether he should take the elixir or the medicine because he didn’t want to live forever after his wife dies. Wife is mortal so if he becomes immortal he’s going to be living alone without his wife. So he just put the medicine underneath the bed or in a closet, wherever, but the wife found out about it and she decided to steal it. And after the husband fell asleep, she took the medicine and drank the medicine, all of it. And after, she felt her body get light and she started to float in the air. Then the husband woke up and saw the wife floating away. He saw her floating away and tried to grab onto her but couldn’t because she was already in the sky. He tried to call her to stop but she couldn’t really stop it. When she saw the moon, she tried to land on the moon and she stayed there forever. Because she couldn’t move after and the husband really missed her so he put out her favorite food, dessert like the mooncake, out every night to hope she will see it and return. But she couldn’t return.

After that, on the moon festival, everyone would eat moon cakes and look at the moon where Chang’e lives. And the moon shadow suggests there’s a rabbit called the jade rabbit to keep her company on the moon. So poor Hou Yi put out the food until he died, basically, but she couldn’t return. She became immortal but he was mortal so he died, eventually. 


This is another story that I was told when I was a kid. I remember distinctly looking up at the moon and imagining the lady on the moon and her rabbit. This origin story is interesting because Chang’e is seen as the moon goddess yet the reason why she is up on the moon is for selfish reasons. Additionally, this plays into the traditional view of the moon as a feminine symbol while the sun is a masculine symbol. While the sun is not her husband, her husband was the one who shot down the other suns in order to restore peace to Earth. I think it is also interesting how the tale affects the food that we consume during the festival as the egg yolks in the mooncakes are meant to represent the moon in the sky. Some versions of the story also explain her reasoning for taking the medicine because they portray her as someone who previously worked in heaven in the Jade Emperor’s palace before she was sentenced to earth for breaking a vase. 

“The Legend of Chang E.” The Legend of Chang E, http://www.moonfestival.org/the-legend-of-chang-e.html.

Master Dongguo and the Wolf


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


Y: Master Dongguo and the Wolf – this is a little like the story, uh what’s the story? The farmer and the snake! Remember the farmer and the snake, the farmer found a frozen snake and put him into his, next to his chest inside his jacket and the snake was warmed up and woke up and bit the farmer and killed the farmer. 

Me: I don’t remember that one.

Y: It’s an Aesopp’s fable. Anyways, this one is a similar one but in Chinese. Master Dongguo is a teacher, who’s a little bit stubborn but not very wise. He felt he was a kind person and willing to help out people or anything because he thinks he should do the right thing because of whatever he learned. One day he was walking in a mountain and came upon a wounded wolf. The wolf was being pursued by someone who was, I think a hunter. The hunter was chasing after the wolf so the wolf asked Master Dongguo for the help. Master Dongguo was carrying a bag of book so he pulled out the books and told the wolf to get inside the bag and then he put some of the books into the bag to make it look like a bag for books. The hunter was able to catch up and see Master Dongguo. So he asked him if he saw a wolf and he lied and said he didn’t see a wolf. After the hunter left, he let the wolf out. The wolf was, at first, thankful but then he said oh if you’re such a kind person maybe you can do another good deed by letting me eat you because I’m hungry.

Me: Ah??

Y: And he also said, while I was in the bag, you put books on me and I nearly suffocated. I almost died from suffocation. So you need to compensate me-

Me: Ungrateful wolf (laugh).

Y: Yeah, so that’s why I said it’s like the farmer and the snake story. Anyways, Master Dongguo was upset so he didn’t know what to do. He actually told the wolf we should ask other people for their opinions so he went to a big tree and told the tree about the story and asked what he think. The tree said I was a big food tree and I was able to produce fruits every year for my owner, but after they ate all the fruits and I grew old and could no longer bear fruit, they decided to chop me down for the wood and make me into furniture. So what do you think the treatment I endured was unfair?

Because Master Dongguo said I saved him and he tried to eat me. And he said my experience was also unfair, so I can’t help you. So then they went along and saw a cow, and asked the cow for his help. And the cow heard the story and said sorry I can’t help because I was treated unwell by my owner. I- I helped to plow the fields and worked hard for many years and when I got old I couldn’t work hard anymore so my owner wanted to eat me. Okay? So I can’t help I have to run away.

And then finally, they came across an older man. An old man heard the story and said I don’t believe either of you. The bag seems awful small and I don’t think the wolf can fit in there. But the wolf said I curled up and hid my tail and I can fit just fine. He told the wolf I don’t believe your story either because I don’t know how the books made you suffocated, so I have to see for myself. So can you get into the bag and show me? So the wolf gladly got into the bag and the old man immediately grabbed the bag and tied it up-

Me: Ahh?

Y: He told Master Dongguo you need to kill him because he’s an ungrateful wolf.

Me: What’s the moral of the story??

Y: The moral of the story is don’t be kind to bad people, like…

Me: The wolf.

Y: The wolf. 


The informant immediately began by referencing a different fable in order to explain and preface this tale, which I thought spoke directly to the globalization and multiplicity that has been brought on even more by the printed word. This story is one that takes a more aggressive point in proving a moral, a warning to children and others to look out for people like this wolf. Additionally, this story has a bit of a humorous note at the end in which the other man is very blunt after tricking the wolf again. This story also echoes the stereotypical portrayal of a wolf as a creature that deceives humans and is planning on eating humans. It perpetuates this evil typecast of the wolf, even towards his savior.

The Foolish Old Man


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


Y: The Foolish Old man removes the mountain – the story goes, this story became famous after Chairman Mao used it in his speech or writing. 

The story goes that in old times, there was an old man who was 90 years old. He lived near the mountains called the Tai Ha Sang and Wang Mu Sang, the two mountains. Basically, he was angry because the mountains blocked his view and he wanted to move them. He wanted to dig up the mountain. Because the mountains are kind of far away, even though they look near, when you go to them it’s pretty far. It takes about a year to, basically it takes time to go to the mountains and he can’t really dig up the mountain because he can only dig up some rock and dirt each time. So people laugh at him and say you’re so old with limited timee left, and you can only remove a little bit of dirt and rock at a time. How can you remove the mountain, its impossible. And he said, Oh, although I may not be able to accomplish in my lifetime, my kids can continue it and my kid’s kids, my grandkids, can work on it after. So if I have generations working on it, eventually we can succeed.

Me: mhm.

Y: yeah. So generations and generations continued to work on it, working on removing the moutanins. Eventually the gods heard about it and were impressed by his perseverance, so basically the gods seperated the mountains.

Me: Ohhh, they did it for him.

Y: Yeah so the gods separated the mountains. 

The moral is that if you are determined to do something, the perseverance will eventually help you succeed.


This story focuses again on the morals in Chinese culture to persevere, as well as to respect the wishes of your ancestors. It is also a direct example of advising to respect your elders because those who told the old man that he was too old were proved wrong as his legacy persisted past his lifetime. This long line of families all follow the wishes of the original protagonist before the gods reward them for their actions. I think it is also interesting that my informant remembered it because of a speech from Chairman Mao. Mao notoriously appealed to the lower class and therefore I think it is telling that he references this folktale in order to appeal to this audience. This fable also gave way to a figure of speech that references the hardship of the old man.

“The Foolish Old Man Moves a Mountain – Xu Beihong – Google Arts & Culture.” Google, Google, https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-foolish-old-man-moves-a-mountain-xu-beihong/VwF2EURLdtUNww?hl=en.