Chinese traditional 75CM

Brocade China

Book cover: Folktales on StageNARRATOR 1: Once in China there lived an old widow and her son, Chen. The widow was known all over for the brocades that she made on her loom.

NARRATOR 4: Weaving threads of silver, gold, and colored silk into her cloth, she made pictures of flowers, birds, and animals—

NARRATOR 2: pictures so real they seemed almost alive.

NARRATOR 3: People said there were no brocades finer than the ones the widow wove.

NARRATOR 1: One day, the widow took a pile of brocades to the marketplace, where she quickly sold them. Then she went about buying her household needs.

NARRATOR 4: All at once she stopped.

WIDOW: Oh, my!

NARRATOR 2: Her eye had been caught by a beautiful painted scroll that hung in one of the stalls.

NARRATOR 3: It showed a marvelous palace, all red and yellow and blue and green, reaching delicately to the sky. All around were fantastic gardens, and walking through them, the loveliest maidens.

NARRATOR 1: The stall keeper asked,

STALL KEEPER: Do you like it? It’s a painting of Sun Palace. They say it lies far to the east and is the home of many fairy ladies.

WIDOW: (sighs) It’s wonderful. It makes me want to be there. (pays and takes it)

NARRATOR 4: Though it cost most of her money, the widow could not resist buying the scroll.

NARRATOR 2: When she got back to her cottage, she showed it to her son.

WIDOW: Look, Chen. Have you ever seen anything more beautiful? How I would love to live in that palace, or at least visit it!

NARRATOR 3: Chen looked at her thoughtfully.

CHEN: Mother, why don’t you weave the picture as a brocade? That would be almost like being there.

WIDOW: Why, Chen, what a marvelous idea! I’ll start at once.

NARRATOR 1: She set up her loom and began to weave.

NARRATOR 4: She worked for hours, then days, then weeks, barely stopping to eat or sleep. Her eyes grew bloodshot, and her fingers raw.

CHEN: (anxiously) Mother, shouldn’t you get more rest?

WIDOW: Oh, Chen, it’s so hard to stop. While I weave, I feel like I’m there at Sun Palace. And I don’t want to come away!

NARRATOR 2: Because the widow no longer wove brocades to sell, Chen cut firewood and sold that instead.

NARRATOR 3: Months went by, while inch by inch the pattern appeared on the loom.

NARRATOR 1: One day, Chen came in to find the loom empty and the widow sobbing.

CHEN: (in alarm) What’s wrong, Mother?

NARRATOR 4: She looked at him tearfully.

WIDOW: (plaintively) I finished it.

NARRATOR 2: The brocade was laid out on the floor. And there it all was—the palace reaching to the sky, the beautiful gardens, the lovely fairy ladies.

CHEN: (in amazement) It looks so real. I feel like I could step into it!

NARRATOR 3: Just then, a sudden wind whipped through the cottage. It lifted the brocade, blew it out the window, and carried it through the air.

NARRATOR 1: The widow and her son rushed outside, only to watch the brocade disappear into the east.

WIDOW: It’s gone!

NARRATOR 4: And the widow fainted away.

NARRATOR 2: Chen carried her to her bed and sat beside her for many hours.

NARRATOR 3: At last her eyes opened.

WIDOW: (weakly) Chen, you must find the brocade and bring it back. I cannot live without it.

CHEN: Don’t worry, Mother. I’ll go at once.

NARRATOR 1: Chen gathered a few things and started to the east.

NARRATOR 4: He walked for hours, then days, then weeks. But there was no sign of the brocade.

NARRATOR 2: One day, Chen came upon a lonely hut.

NARRATOR 3: Sitting by the door was an old, leather-skinned woman smoking a pipe. A horse was grazing nearby.

OLD WOMAN: Hello, deary. What brings you so far from home?

CHEN: I’m looking for my mother’s brocade. The wind carried it to the east.

OLD WOMAN: Ah, yes. The brocade of Sun Palace! Well, that wind was sent by the fairy ladies of the palace itself. They’re using the brocade as a pattern for their weaving.

CHEN: But my mother will die without it!

OLD WOMAN: Well, then, you had best get it back! But you won’t get to Sun Palace by foot, so you’d better ride my horse. It will show you the way.

CHEN: Thank you!

OLD WOMAN: Oh, don’t thank me yet, deary. Between here and there, you must pass through the flames of Fiery Mountain. If you make a single sound of complaint, you’ll be burnt to ashes. After that, you must cross the Icy Sea. The smallest word of discontent, and you’ll be frozen solid. (with a hard look) Do you still want to go?

CHEN: (daunted yet determined) I must get back my mother’s brocade.

OLD WOMAN: (approvingly) Good boy. Take the horse and go.

NARRATOR 1: Chen climbed on, and the horse broke into a gallop. Before long they came to a mountain all on fire.

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