Once upon a
time, there were no rivers and lakes on earth, but only the
Eastern Sea, in which lived four dragons: the Long Dragon, the
Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon and the Pearl Dragon.
One day the
four dragons flew from the sea into the sky. They soared and
dived, playing at hide-and-seek in the clouds.
here quickly!" the Pearl Dragon cried out suddenly.
asked the other three, looking down in the direction where the
Pearl Dragon pointed. On the earth they saw many people putting
out fruits and cakes, and burning incense sticks. They were
praying! A white-haired woman, kneeling on the ground with a
thin boy on her back, murmured:
rain quickly, God of Heaven, to give our children rice to eat.."
had been no rain for a long time. The crops withered, the grass
turned yellow and fields cracked under the scorching sun.
the people are!" said the Yellow Dragon. "And they will die if
it doesn't rain soon."
Dragon nodded. Then he suggested, "Let's go and beg the Jade
Emperor for rain."
he leapt into the clouds. The others followed closely and flew
towards the Heavenly Palace.
charge of all the affairs in heaven, on earth and in the sea,
the Jade Emperor was very powerful. He was not pleased to see
the dragons rushing in. "Why do you come here instead of staying
in the sea and behaving yourselves?"
Dragon stepped forward and said, "The crops on earth are
withering and dying, Your Majesty. I beg you to send rain down
You go back first, I'll send some rain down tomorrow." The Jade
Emperor pretended to agree while listening to the songs of the
Your Majesty!" The four dragons went happily back.
But ten days
passed, and not a drop of rain came down.
suffered more, some eating bark, some grass roots, some forced
to eat white clay when they ran out of bark and grass roots.
this, the four dragons felt very sorry, for they knew the Jade
Emperor only cared about pleasure, and never took the people to
heart. They could only rely on themselves to relieve the people
of their miseries. But how to do it?
vast sea, the Long Dragon said that he had an idea.
"What is it?
Out with it, quickly!" the other three demanded.
there not plenty of water in the sea where we live? We should
scoop it up and spray it towards the sky. The water will be like
rain drops and come down to save the people and their crops."
The others clapped their hands.
the Long Dragon after thinking a bit, "We will be blamed if the
Jade Emperor learns of this.
"I will do
anything to save the people," the Yellow Dragon said resolutely.
begin. We will never regret it." The Black Dragon and the Pearl
Dragon were not to be outdone.
They flew to
the sea, scooped up water in their mouths, and then flew back
into the sky, where they sprayed the water out over the earth.
The four dragons flew back and forth, making the sky dark all
around. Before long the seawater became rain pouring down from
raining! It's raining!"
will be saved!"
cried and leaped with joy. On the ground the wheat stalks raised
their heads and the sorghum stalks straightened up.
The god of
the sea discovered these events and reported to the Jade
the four dragons bring rain without my permission!" The Jade
Emperor was enraged, and ordered the heavenly generals and their
troops to arrest the four dragons. Being far outnumbered, the
four dragons could not defend themselves, and they were soon
arrested and brought back to the heavenly palace.
"Go and get
four mountains to lay upon them so that they can never escape!"
The Jade Emperor ordered the Mountain God.
God used his magic power to make four mountains fly there,
whistling in the wind from afar, and pressed them down upon the
as they were, they never regretted their actions. Determined to
do good for the people forever, they turned themselves into four
rivers, which flowed past high mountains and deep valleys,
crossing the land from the west to the east and finally emptying
into the sea. And so China's four great rivers were formed --
the Heilongjian (Black Dragon) in the far north, the Huanghe
(Yellow River) in central China, the Changjiang (Yangtze, or
Long River) farther south, and the Zhujiang (Pearl) in the very