In Chinese legend, dragons are the ones who provide rain and water to the people. As such, it becomes a problem when they withhold their favor or just plain go missing. Today, I’m sharing two versions of a story that tells what happens when a young boy finds a mysterious stone during a dragonless drought.
Version 1: The Water Dragon
One day, a young boy finds a strange red stone, which he puts in his rice jar. When it magically refills the rice, he decides to see if it will refill his coin box, too—and it does! The boy is kind and unselfish, so he uses the stones to help his neighbors, as well. There is just one problem—since around the time he brought the stone home, there has been no rain. The people need water badly. When the boy puts the stone in the water jar to try to help, the stone absorbs all the water instead of replacing it, and the boy doesn’t know what to do.
That night, he dreams of the water dragon that could save his people. Packing up some supplies and his stone, the boy starts a journey to find the dragon and ask for its help. As he searches, he meets a snake, a carp, a deer, and some eagles. He helps each of them out of a dilemma, and in return, they give him a gift (the fish’s scales, the deer’s horns, and so forth) that they say he will need later. Each also gives him the same warning: Beware of the greedy red monster.
Finally, up on a cliff, the boy finds a red monster, who tells him that he can’t find the dragon if he doesn’t have the dragon ball. When the boy holds up his red stone to ask if that is the dragon ball, the greedy red monster tries to steal it from him. In desperation, the boy swallows the stone and jumps from the cliff. In the waters at the bottom, the animals’ gifts all become a part of his body as he grows and changes. He has become the water dragon! After he drinks from the sea to satisfy his sudden terrible thirst, he flies back to his village and returns water to their rivers and wells. Thanks to the water dragon, the people have water once more.
Version 2: The Dragon’s Pearl
In this version of the story, the drought has been plaguing the land all summer. When a little boy finds a strange white stone that is keeping a patch of grass green, he brings it home and accidentally discovers that it refills his rice jar. He and his mother are excited, and use it to refill their coin and oil supplies, too.
When the neighbors find out, they are jealous. They try to take the stone from the boy, who puts it in his mouth to protect it. When he accidentally swallows it, he becomes so thirsty that he drinks up the whole river. Then, he begins to change. As his mother watches and cries, he becomes bigger and bigger—and scalier—until he ultimately becomes a dragon. The dragon turns around several times to look at his mother until finally disappearing into the mud. The drought ends, but the muddy river banks where the boy and his mother parted remain, and have been called “Looking at Mother Banks” ever since.