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September 26, 2017

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God of Rains II

One of the dragons is said to have caused storm and flood by mistake. Legend has it that during the reign (627-650 A.D.) of the emperor Taizhong of the Tang Dynasty (唐太宗), a dragon king came from his undersea palace to visit Zhangan, the capital city, where he met a Taoist diviner who knew what he was and told him to go back to carry out the Jade Emperor's rainmaking order. The order was 300 "tou (斗)" of rain over the city and 3,000 over the farmland beyond the city wall, the diviner said. The dragon didn't believe the diviner. They laid each other a bet. Their lives were at stake. Either of them who lost vowed to die. When the dragon returned to his palace, the order was waiting for him to carry out. It was exactly the order the diviner said.

Afraid he would lose the bet, the dragon reversed the ordered amounts of rainfall. The result was disastrous. Zhangan was flooded, with many people drowned, but the farmers began suffering from a drought. The angry Jade Emperor ordered the dragon to be executed. The executioner happened to be Wei Zhigong (尉遲恭), a general of the emperor Taizhong, better known as Li Shimin (李世民).

The dragon then appeared before the emperor asking for a favor. He asked Li Shimin to play a game of chess with his general overnight so that the executioner wouldn't have time to get him. The emperor complied with the request.

While playing chess with the emperor, the general had to levitate in pursuit of the dragon. The general fell asleep as he levitated. In hot pursuit of the dragon, he sweated profusely, and the kind emperor who saw his general sweating took up a fan to fan his sleeping chess playmate. Thus reinvigorated, the general was able to overtake the dragon to carry out the Jade Emperor's execution order. At the third wielding of the fan, the head of the dragon fell right before the emperor and his general who woke up all of a sudden.

It's now time for the ghost of the dragon to pursue the emperor like a Fury. But in the end, the emperor survived with the help of his general, who was then made the Gate God or Men Shen (門神). One can see his image on one of the two doors of any Taoist temple anywhere in Taiwan.

But the worship of the dragon as the god of rain probably has something to do with the great grandson of Li Shimin, emperor Xuanzhong who is immortalized in Po Chu-i's "Song of Eternal Sorrow (長恨歌)" about his love with his imperial concubine Yang Yuhuan (楊玉環).

According to a popular legendary tale, there was a disastrous drought during the early years of Xuanzhong's reign (玄宗713-756). He asked a best known Buddhist monk, known as Yixing (一行), to beg for rain. The monk said it's easy to make rain, but one thing was needed as a prop when he begged the heaven to let the skies open up.

"For me to have rains fall," the monk said, "I need an implement with an image of the dragon." The emperor gave orders to search all his palaces for anything that had a dragon's image.

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