Stories of Immortals: Confucius Sends a Letter to Admonish Han Huang

O’yang Zhiyun, Ed.

PureInsight | January 23, 2003

[] Han Huang, the Prime Minister during the reign of Emperor De in the Tang Dynasty (also the painter of the Picture of Five Oxen, which is kept in the Imperial Palace in Beijing as one of the masterpieces of animal painting), held the post of the envoy to the west of the Province Zhe. He was very talented and ambitious. He was always plotting to unseat the emperor.

One day, a traveling merchant named Li Shun tied his boat up at the dock of the capital. At midnight, there arose a great gale wind, and the docking rope was broken by the wind. The boat then drifted aimlessly on the river. When dawn broke on the next day, the boat drifted to the foot of a mountain and stopped. When the wind died down, Li Shun went to shore to seek help. There was just a narrow meandering footpath up to the mountain, so he walked for five or six miles along the path. At that time he saw a man wearing a black hood and ancient clothes that were totally different from those of other people of that time period. The man led Li Shun to climb a hill and then to the front of a palace where he saw many magnificent multi-storied buildings, pavilions, halls and cabinets. It was just like a place where immortals would live. After they entered the main entrance, they went through many doors. They saw that the hall inside the palace was very commodious. From a distance the man started bowing towards the main hall, and then someone lifted the shade of the main hall and walked out to talk to Li Shun, saying, "Don't feel surprised! I want to let you take along a letter with you to Han Huang." Then he took out a letter. Li Shun bowed to him and then took the letter from him. He then served as a guide and walked Li Shun out of the palace and back to the boat. Out of curiosity, Li Shun asked the guide, "Where is this place? If Han Huang asks me who had me deliver the letter, how can I answer him?" The guide said, "This is the immortal island Guang Sang Shan of the Eastern Sea, where the Announced Father Zhongni of the Warring State of Lu (Confucius, his name is Qiu and his other name is Zhongni; "Announced Father" was the title given to Confucius respectfully by the emperor of the Tang Dynasty, Taizong Li Shimin, in the 11th year of Zhengguan) became an immortal officer in Heaven after he obtained the Tao. He is in charge of the island. Han Huang is the reincarnation of Confucius's disciple Zhongyou (also called Zilu, who was bold, powerful and resolute, and had been a city governor of the bureaucrat Kong Li during the Warring State of Wei). Han Huang is so powerful and ambitious that Confucius fears that he will commit a crime and fall into the net of justice. So he is sending this letter to Han Huang to get his attention." After these words, the guide took his leave. Li Shun went back to the boat, and at that time, an envoy from the immortal place told the people in his boat, "Take your seats, please, and don't be afraid. Never look outside, and you will be back to where you came from soon." All the people inside the boat didn't dare to look out of the boat. In just a short while, the boat returned to the dock of the capital city, though it seemed they had traveled for thousands of miles.

When Li Shun found the office of Han Huang, Li gave the letter to Han. When Han Huang opened the letter, he found there were nine words on it, which were unrecognizable. So he asked Li what had happened. Li told him his experience on the island. What he said made Han feel so strange that he thought that Li wanted to spread fallacies to deceive people. So he detained Li and wanted to use cruel torture on him. Han Huang then visited many people who might be able to make out the archaic Chinese characters. But none of them could figure them out. One day, a person in ancient clothes paid a formal visit to Han, and he said he was good at making out ancient characters. Then Han gave the letter to him. After he finished reading the letter, he raised the letter over his head and got down on his knees and kowtowed to Han and said, "The letter is from the Announced Father, Confucius. The characters are Kedou script from the period of Xiayu. The nine words are: Gao Han Huang, Jie Chen Jie, Wu Wang Dong." (The meaning was to admonish Han, to tell him to do his duty well, not to act rashly.) Han was then very respectful to the guest who disappeared after leaving. After the guest had left, Han felt very sad and sat silently for a long time. He remembered the experience Li Shun had told him about the island of a supernatural being. He released Li and gave him a handsome rewarded. And from then on, Han Huang was very modest and prudent and devoted to assisting the emperor in governing the country.

Source of information: Taiping Folklore

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