Loved and respected by everyone, she longed desperately for a child. Night and day, she prayed for a son.
However, her husband scolded her for wanting another mouth to feed. Once he had been a nobleman, but he had lost all his money.
Afterward, all his old friends avoided him and he became deeply ashamed of his poverty. Luckily, Cheng was willing to marry him.
One day, Cheng undertook a long journey to a remote temple to pray for a child. Her husband angrily refused to accompany her. The villagers all admired her bravery for attempting the journey to such an isolated place.
The trail was steep and rocky. Cheng felt alone in the world as she wound her way around the narrow, stony path. Her chest hurt as she breathed the cold, thin mountain air. In her pocket quietly jingled a string of coins, her meager earnings from selling embroidery in the market. She hoped to buy prayers, incense, and fruit for the temple goddesses.
Cheng had to dodge branches and avoid disturbing the rocks in the road. She was careful to tread lightly on the ground because she wanted to make as little noise as possible. She did not want to attract the attention of hungry tigers that roamed the hills, ready to pounce on easy prey.
Even worse, bandits might find her. Once, these robbers had been hardworking farmers, but greedy lords took their crops, taxed them, stole their wives, enslaved their children, and took their land.
After years of humiliation and starvation, the farmers’ hearts turned to stone. Desperate and famished, they turned into robbers who roamed the countryside, stealing food and killing people. Over the years, the bandits had become more ruthless than any wild beast in the mountains.
As Cheng walked carefully along the dirt path, she stepped in some faint animal footprints. As she looked at them, the image of the footprints grew stronger and
clearer. They were shaped like horse’s hooves, only much larger. As she examined the hoof prints closely, her heart filled with joy. Could these be the footprints of the magic unicorn, the Chi-lin?
From childhood stories, Cheng knew that the Chi-lin appeared as an omen of peace. But her world was anything but peaceful. Poor people had known only fear, warfare, and strife.
As the woman continued to gaze at the mysterious footprints on the ground, a warm breeze swept over her body. She heard a light rustling of leaves, and a beautiful creature stepped forward from the trees. It was fifteen feet tall and covered with a pale yellow hide. Large spots like dark red clouds and purple mists covered its deer-shaped body.
On its head, a single skin-covered fleshy horn sat between its ears. At its rear, a long tail switched gently to and fro like an ox’s. Its horselike hooves stepped lightly on the earth so that it harmed no living creature. Its dragonlike neck moved in a slow, stately, fluid rhythm. Its large black eyes were as soft as wet dew. Indeed, it was the Chi-lin, the magic unicorn, walking toward her.
The woman watched the unicorn with a mixture of fear and awe. The beautiful creature approached the woman and stopped before her. To Cheng’s surprise, the Chi-lin bowed its head and dropped a piece of jade from its mouth at the woman’s feet.
When the creature spoke, its voice was like a clear, soft, faraway monastery bell. The Chi-lin told Cheng that soon she would bear a son who would be a great ruler, but one without subjects, a king without a throne. Then the unicorn bowed gracefully and disappeared back into the shadows of the trees.
Carefully, Cheng picked up the piece of jade. The Chi-lin’s message puzzled her, and the lustrous jade seemed to hold deep secrets below its cloudy surface. The stone felt naturally cold, yet warmed up quickly in the palm of her hand. The jade appeared dense and cloudy, yet the longer she looked at it, the clearer and more transparent it seemed.
Jade was harder than the bronze coins in her pocket, yet Cheng knew it could be carved into fluid shapes like twisting dragons, chirping insects, and tumbling clouds. When she struck the wonderful stone, the jade emitted a low-pitched musical note that inspired comfort and hope in Cheng’s heart.
Cheng fervently hoped that the unicorn would bring peace to the troubled world. She rushed home to tell her husband about the magical encounter, her footsteps
scattering the stones that she once carefully avoided.
True to the unicorn’s prophecy, Cheng rejoiced at the birth of a son one year later. Cheng named him Kung Qiu. She placed the unicorn’s jade around his neck to protect him against diseases and accidents.
Three years after the child’s birth, Kung Qiu’s father died, and the boy was raised by his mother in poverty deeper than ever before. Gifted with an exceptional
memory, Kung Qiu remembered everything that he saw and heard. The boy loved to read and recite passages from classical literature.
Despite his amazing intellect, or because of it, Kung Qiu was constantly teased as a child. He was not handsome and had a high, broad, protruding forehead. By the time the boy grew up, he was a giant, almost seven feet tall.
Kung Qiu had many good ideas. Unfortunately, no lords paid attention to him because he was poor. However, he decided to teach his beliefs to anyone who would listen. He was a powerful speaker, and he attracted a loyal following of three thousand people who called him Master Kung (Confusius). His beliefs taught people how to behave decently toward each other.
To learn without thinking is fatal, but to think without learning is just as bad.
Do not worry if no one knows you, but be worthy of being known.
A good man can influence those above him: the inferior man can influence only those below him.
Do not do to others what you do not wish done to you.
Master Kung, the giant, had indeed fulfilled the unicorn’s prophecy. He was a king without a throne, a ruler without a kingdom. Yet his ideas were true to the spirit of the Chi-lin, and they brought order and peace throughout the land.
Label: chinese mythology