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September 20, 2017

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God of rains III

The imperial orders of Xuanzhong (玄宗) were obeyed to the letter. Everybody at his court and palaces searched for anything that had an image of the dragon. Three days of exhaustive room-to-room search were crowned with success, when a eunuch found a very old mirror, atop of whose frame was an image of the dragon engraved. Yixing, the rainmaking monk, was summoned to the court and told to beg for rain to end the terrible drought. Of course, the monk had to use the old mirror to invoke benevolent power to open the skies. In the evening after his prayer session, heavy rains fell over all parched land. The drought came to an end. And the people began to worship the dragon as their god of rain. There are goddesses of rain, too.

Legend has it that a young man, named Liu Yi (劉毅), was traveling along the River Jinshui (涇水) long, long ago, when he met a girl tending to a flock of sheep. The animals were grazing in the lea on the southern bank of the river. The shepherdess was all alone. Curious, Liu came close to her and asked her why she was shepherding all by herself.

"Who are you?" Liu asked the girl. "Why are you alone tending to the sheep?"

"I am a daughter of the Lord Dragon of Lake Dongting," she replied. Dongting is one of the largest lakes in China. The Yangtze River feeds it. To the south of the lake is the province of Hunan (湖南), which means "South of the Lake." The province to its north is known as Hubei (湖北) or North of the Lake. Hunan, incidentally, is Mao Zedong's native province.

"Then, why are you (the princess) herding the sheep?" Liu persisted.

"Sir," the princess said, smiling: "they aren't sheep. They are my implements to help make rain. As a matter of fact, they perform the role of thunder."

Remember what Socrates is believed to have said when his nagging wife Xanzippa splashed a pail of water all over him? The great Greek philosopher said: "Rain always follows thunder."

The princess of the Lord Dragon of Lake Dongting is worshipped as a goddess of rain. There is another goddess of rain.

Outside a small village near Lake Dongting is a hill. The hill at Pingxiang (萍鄉) is called Yunugang (玉女崗) or Jade Girl Hill. People of Pingxiang marveled at colored clouds arising from the high hill before rains fell. The clouds came out of an abyss near the top of the hill.

Whenever they saw beautiful multicolored clouds rising up from the hill, the people would say, "Ah, well, Jade Girl is showing her dress!" Over time Jade Girl was made the villagers' goddess of rain.

Rains are often preceded by thunder. So the Chinese have gods of thunder in their Taoist pantheon. Of course, they are minor deities, often given the title of Lei Shi (雷師) or Master Thunder.

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