The Dragon King of the Eastern Ocean was keen to find a suitor for his beautiful and clever daughter but she would have none of it, turning every one of them away.
”I don’t want a rich man or high official,” she said, ”just someone who is kind and brave.”
The king’s ministers soon ran out of ideas until Lobster remembered that there was just such a boy called A-er who lived nearby in a poor fishing village by the bay. He sent the boy a dream to come down to the shore that night. A-er woke, but as he was getting dressed he made the mistake of telling his greedy brother who followed him down to the shore.
The princess was there to meet A-er but she became confused by the sudden appearance of two young men both wanting to be her husband, so she said…
”I’ll have the one who can bring me the pearl that shines in the dark. You can find it in my father’s palace.”
She gave them both a silver hair pin that would part the waters of the stormiest sea so that they could find their way and then she disappeared back beneath the waves.
The greedy brother borrowed a neighbour’s horse and galloped off. A-er made his way slowly on foot.
It was a long way.
Eventually the greedy brother, who was far ahead, came to a flooded village. When the villagers discovered he was on his way to the Dragon King they begged him to bring back the Golden Pumpkin that was kept in the palace, the only thing that could stem the flood.
But the greedy brother had other things on his mind.
When A-er arrived they asked him for help as well.
‘I’ll see what I can do.’
When they arrived the Dragon King was waiting.
‘I have been expecting you,’ he said, ‘you may pick what you please from my storehouse, but only one piece of treasure.’
The storehouse was magnificent. The walls were inlaid with precious stones, the floor was of jade and the roof of gold. Treasure was mounted up in heaps and topping them all, the shining pearl.
A-er sighed, he thought of the princess and then of the flooded villagers. He stood in the middle of all the treasure and listened intently to the Deep Silence. Then he pulled out the Golden Pumpkin from under a pile of diamonds.
”Allow me this, oh mighty king.”
The greedy brother had meanwhile seized the pearl and hurriedly departed.
When the greedy brother reached the flooded village they asked,
”do you have the Golden Pumpkin?”
”No, the king wouldn’t give it to me.”
And he rode on.
When A-er arrived he showed the despairing villagers what he had bought and they were overjoyed. The flood waters dried up in an instant.
Someone noticed a shell that the waters had left behind. Inside was a dull black pearl which they gave to A-er out of gratitude. It seemed worthless but it warmed his heart so he tucked it in his tunic and trudged home.
Meanwhile, night had fallen.
The greedy brother arrived back at the bay.
‘I have bought the pearl!’ he shouted to the Princess who was waiting. ”Take it and become my wife.’
He pulled out the pearl, but it had lost all of its radiant glow….
He held it higher but it burst in his hand leaving behind only a drop of muddy water…
A-er arrived some days later…
‘I’m sorry, Princess. I failed. I was unable to bring back the pearl.
‘What do you have in your tunic?’
He pulled out the muddy black pearl the villagers had given him and held it out to her. As he did so it began to glow, shining all around, brighter than the moon and bathing the beach in mysterious light.
She threw it up into the air where a great mansion suddenly appeared, the pearl fixed to the highest point as if to light the way.
The Princess took his hand.
‘That is the glow of your kind and brave soul,’ she said quietly…
and led him inside.
This ancient story from China exemplifies one of life’s greatest spiritual truths and the power of heeding one’s inmost voice which, though not a part of the physical world, still has the power to affect it.