Yuan Gong agreed unceasingly, knelt, and left the Jade Emperor's presence. Then the Royal Attendant of Cultural Affairs again knelt and memorialized the throne for the Royal Seals. He then resealed the jade box in fulfillment of his duties. Then the Lord of the Pole Star also knelt and left.
As for Yuan Gong, he went to the Cultural Affairs Ministry and reverently thanked Mi Heng; he then went to the Delegation of Star Lords and paid his parting respects to the Lord of the Pole Star. In his right hand he now lifted the white jade incense burner while under his left arm he clinched the rolled-up Curtain of Fog fast next to his heart, and at this instant he departed high Heaven, swirling down to earth and crawling into White Cloud Cave on Mt Dream-of-the-Clouds.
Now, already the monkey children, grandchildren and hordes of fleabitten followers of Yuan Gong had been completely expelled by Heaven's charm, already transmitted by the Judges of the Fates of Souls, the Mountain Spirit, and the Earth God. Yuan Gong was suddenly a bit sad but at least he was glad to have his life, and received two treasures in the bargain. His feelings were truly mixed. He then took the precious incense burner and placed it in front of the chamber, and he saw only the misty cloud of smoke soaring directly up to Heaven. Next he opened the Curtain of Fog about a foot, and hung it in the mouth of the cave. Sure enough, white vapor rose toward the sky and outward and in a short while there was a fog covering ten li, engulfing the entire vicinity of the cave in what seemed like white flour. It became impossible to see out or vice-versa.
"On Earth," Yuan Gong happily exclaimed, "most things exist in form but not in substance. For example, the name 'White Cloud Cave' has always been a misnomer; now at last it is appropriately named!" Then he returned to the precious burner and kowtowed four times to thank heaven for its kindness.
From this time on everything was the same, but he didn't allow his spirit to become idle. Every year, at noon on the Duan Wu Day, that of the Dragon Boat Festival and the summer solstace, he closed up the Curtain of Fog, reported to the Palace of Heaven, had an audience with the Jade Emperor and apologized. After the noon hour he had to return to the cave as usual, where he again hung the curtain. Once more, inside and outside were seperated and the cave became a world apart.
Now the cave, it is said, was originally very large with many varieties of the most famous flowers and strange fruits, never ceasing their growth throughout the four seasons; they were certainly sufficient for Yuan Gong's enjoyment and nourishment. After the Imperial Audience, Yuan Gong stayed in the cave, cultivating his nature in accordance with true Dao. And in his leisure time he reached for the pair of male and female magic pellets, delighting in their fiery dancing performances. Now, as the One Hundred and Eight Transformation Charms had already been carved upon the two stone walls, let us consider their importance. They are all capable of stealing the sky and moving the sun itself, and can chase after the Hun and Po essences of the spirit. And among them are the powers to turn beans into men and spirits into swords, all for the purpose of attacking human beings. "No wonder," surmised Yuan Gong, "the Jade Emperor is so secretive and protective, not permitting these charms to be leaked to the world. That book is obviously heretical Dao, beyond and against the truths of the Buddha, and it has nothing to do with my plane of existance. I knew this from the start; why did I have to go and open the box?" In his heart he felt deep remorse, and so he took up the brush and wrote these characters on the wall at the rear of the cave:
"These are Secret and Mysterious Charms of Ninth Heaven, cared for by God. If any future person is so fated to see them, he must be prepared to serve Heaven by following Dao. Defend the country and protect the people! And every year on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth lunar month at the stroke of midnight, he must climb to the peak of his roof and straddle the beam. Then, so positioned, he is to swear an oath to the Lord of the Polestar as follows: Your disciple, X, is caring for your secret charms. Throughout the years down to present he has never committed an offense. If trouble should arise to harm the people, let the Lord of Thunder strike me dead with a bolt of lightning!"
Altogether the message was comprised of seventy-six characters and accordingly he chiseled their inked forms into the wall. Now what does all this mean? Well, because Yuan Gong had taken an oath upon his life when writing his confession after having been captured by the Thunder Lord and interrogated by the Lord of the Pole Star, now anyone else coming into possession of the charms would likewise have to take the oath to the star lord. So, on the twenty-fifth of the twelfth lunar month when the Jade Emperor comes down to the world of mortals, we can, at last, see Yuan Gong cultivating his heart in devotion to Dao, certainly without a selfish bone in his body.
Conclusion of Chapter 2 Ping Yao Zhuan. Click to continue to Chapter 3. Return to Homepage
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