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Page 2 - Lotus Flowers in Winter
Just behind the pavilion there was large body of water. In summer it was usually covered with lotus flowers as far as the eye could see, but since it was winter, there was nothing to be seen through the windows but the murky water. One of the guests remarked, "It is a unfortunate not to have the lotus flowers to put a finishing touch on such a beautiful scene". The other guests echoed his wishes. A short time later, an attendant rushed in to report that the lake was now filled with lotus flowers... which amazed all the guests. They opened the windows and peered out. Exactly as wished, they look out open thousands of lotus flowers which opened almost simultaneously. The guests could smell the sweet scent carried by the cold wind of the winter season.
Knowing that this was very strange, they sent some servants off in a boat to collect some lotus seeds. Although the men were seen to go deep into the mass of flowers and then return, they returned empty-handed. On being questioned how it was that they did not collect the seeds, they said: "When we were rowing out, we saw the flowers were on the far northern side of the lake, but as soon as we were approaching the northern shore, they had shifted to the southern side." At this, the priest said laughing, "These flowers are only in one's imagination. They do not really exist." Soon the party came to an end and the lotus flowers began to wilt. Within moments, all the plants were blown down in a sudden gust of northern wind and disappeared completely.
One magistrate took a liking to the old priest and invited him to his official residence to live. The magistrate kept some rare wine in his cellar and only offered it to his guests a little at a time. During one party, the magistrate's guests were very fond of the wine and asked for more. The host refused, stating that there was no more wine left. At this, the priest smiled and said to the guests, "If you want to drink more, why don't you just ask me?" He put the wine jug into his loose sleeve, then produced it again and poured out its contents for the guests. The wine tasted exactly like what they had just drunk. The priest let them drink as much as they liked.
Suspecting that something may be wrong, the magistrate went into his cellar to examine his wine stocks. Although the seals of the jars remained tight, they wine bottles were empty. The host was filled with anger at the priest and had him arrested as a sorcerer.
The priest's punishment was to be publicly whipped with bamboo. As soon as the priest was struck, the magistrate became conscious of an severe pain on his own buttocks. As the beating continued, although the priest kept writhing and screaming at the top of his voice, the magistrate was found unconscious in a pool of blood. The punishment was suspended and the priest was ordered to leave the residence at once.
No one knew where the priest went until years later when it was rumored that someone met him in Nanjing. He was still wearing his old robe and belt. He only smiled but made no reply when spoken to. ------------------
-Pu Songling, 1640-1715
©Reprinted from the Summer 1995 issue of Qi Journal
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