Folk Tales from Around the World
In Chinese history, the Chin dynasty was the strongest period. The emperor, whose name was Shih-Huang, was very cruel to his subjects, and forced people from every part of the country to come and build the Great Wall to protect his empire. People worked non-stop, day and night. They received very little food; the clothes they wore were threadbare. So it was scarcely to be wondered why large numbers of them died every day.
There was a young man among these workers, named Wan Hsi-Liang, who had been pressed into the service of building the Emperor Shih-Huang's Great Wall. This man had a beautiful and smart wife, whose name was Meng Chiang-Nu. Since her husband was forced to leave her, she did not have any news from him. Therefore, she decided to look for her husband. She made cotton-padded clothes and shoes for him.
It was a very long distance from her place, especially since she had never been away from home in her life, and didn't know the way and had to ask fro directions every now and then. One night, she failed to reach a town, in spite of having walked the whole day; so, she put up for the night in a small temple in a grove beside the road. She dreamed her husband was coming towards her, and a feeling of great happiness enveloped her. But he told her that he had died, and she cried bitterly. When she woke up in the morning, she hardly accepted what she dreamed and continued her way to the Great Wall.
"No matter the difficulty, I will be certain to find my husband!" she said in her mind. And so, Meng Chiang-Nu walked on and on until, one day, she came to a deep valley between the mountains. When she took a rest, a crow suddenly alighted before her. It cawed again twice. Meng Chiang-Nu noticed that the bird was inviting her to follow its direction and so she resumed her travel. Thus she walked past mountain ranges, crossing big rivers as well as small streams. The crow led her to a place which has piercingly cold wind and was covered with only dry grass, without any trees anywhere. How fearful she was when she caught sight of it; clusters of people were huddled against the Great Wall; these were the people who had been driven here to build it. Meng chiang-Nu tried to find her husband. She saw what shallow faces the toilers had, their cheekbones protruding through the skin, and she saw many dead lying about, without anybody paying attention. At last she learned the sad truth; her husband dad died long ago because of the unbearably hard toil, and his body had been put underground where he fell, under the Great Wall. She fell into a swoon. some of the builders tried to revive her, but it was a long while before she regained consciousness. When she did, she burst into a flood of tears, for several days. Suddenly, a length of over two hundred miles of the Great Wall came crumbling down, while a violent storm made the sand and bricks whirl about in the air.
When the Emperor heard the news, he immediately went to see for himself what kind of person she was. He found that she was as beautiful as a fairy, so he asked her to become his concubine. Meng Chiang-Nu answered amiably: "Yes, I will, if you do three things for me. The first is that you bury my husband in a golden coffin; the second is that all your ministers and generals go into mourning for my husband; and the third is that you attend his funeral yourself." And then the Emperor consented to what she requested. But, when she saw her husband properly buried, all of a sudden, she jumped into the river that flowed close by the tomb. TheEmperor was angry and ordered his attendants to pull her out of the water again. But before they could seize her, Meng Chiang-Nu had turned into a beautiful, silvery fish and swarmed gracefully out of sight.