Long ago, there were no rivers or lakes on the Earth, only the Eastern Sea. In this sea lived four dragons: the Long
Dragon, the Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon, and the Pearl Dragon. One day, as they flew from the sea to the sky and played
in the clouds, the Pearl Dragon pointed down to the earth and cried out for the others to come and look. On the Earth they
saw many people putting out fruits and cakes and burning incense sticks while they prayed. One white-haired woman, kneeling
on the ground with a thin boy on her back, was praying, "Please send rain quickly, God of Heaven, to give our children rice
to eat,"-for there had been no rain for a very long time and the crops had withered, the grass turned yellow, and the fields
cracked under the scorching sun. "How poor the people are!" said the Yellow Dragon. "They will die if it doesn't rain soon!"
The Long Dragon agreed and then suggested that they go and beg the Jade Emperor for rain. He then leapt into the clouds and
flew towards the Heavenly Palace with the other Dragons following close behind.
The Jade Emperor was in charge of
all the affairs in heaven and on earth and he was very powerful. He was not pleased to see the Four Drogons rushing into the
Palace. "Why do you come here instead of staying in the sea and behaving yourselves?" The Long Dragon stepped forward and
said, "The crops on Earth are withering and dying Your Majesty. I beg you to send rain down quickly!" The Jade Emperor pretended
to agree with him and repsonded, "All right. You go back first and I'll send rain tomorrow." The Four Dragons thanked the
Emperor and flew happily back to the sea.
Ten days passed and no rain came to the earth. The people suffered more
and more, some eating bark and roots, others forced to eat white clay when they had nothing more to eat. Seeing this the Four
Dragons felt sorry for the people because they knew the Jade Emperor cared only about pleasure and never took the people to
heart. They decided they could only rely on themselves to relieve the people from their misery. Seeing the vast sea the Long
Dragon said he had an idea. "Look, there is plenty water in the sea where we live. We should scoop it up and spray it towards
the sky. The water will be like raindrops and come down to save the people and their crops!" "Good idea!" said the others.
"But", the Long Dragon added, "We will be blamed if the Jade Emperor learns of this." "I will do anything to save the people!",
the Yellow Dragon declared. The others Dragons agreed and they flew down to the sea, scooped up water in their mouthes, and
flew back into the sky where they sprayed water all over the earth. The Four Dragons flew back and forth, making the sky dark
and before long the sea water became rain and it poured down from the sky. "It's raining! It's raining!" the people cried.
"Our crops will be saved!" They leapt with joy as the wheat stalks raised their heads and the grasses straigtened up.
god of the sea discovered what the dragons had done and reported it to the Jade Emperor who became enraged and ordered the
heaveny generals and their troops to arrest the Four Dragons. Being out numbered, the Dragons could not defend themselves
and were soon captured and brought to the Heavenly Palace. "Go and get four mountains to lay upon them so they can never escape!',
the Emperor ordered. The Mountain God used his powers to make four mountains fly from afar and pressed them down on the Four
Dragons imprisoning them forever.
The Dragons never regretted their decision and determined to continue to do good
for the people, they turned themselves into four rivers, which flowed past the high mountains and deep valleys, crossing the
land from the west to the east, and finally emptied into the sea. Thus they became China's four great rivers-the Heilongjian
(Black Dragon), the Huanghe (Yellow Dragon), the Changjiang (Long Dragon), and the Zhujiang (Pearl Dragon).
Tales: A Collection of Chinese Stories. Beijing: Chinese Literature Press, 1988.