A Shuimu, or How A River Came About

posted by Frank van Steenbergen
December 03, 2012

In the Jinci temple near Taiyuan (China), amid an amazing variety of historical and spiritual buildings and millennia old trees there is the home of the serene River Goddess – or Shuimu.  This small place of worship dates back to 1563. Its story is one of the every-day miracle of the kind-hearted.

A girl was betrothed to a man who was weak and invalid.  He died opn the eve of their marriage, leaving the girl to fend for herself. Amongst other things, she had to deal with the perennial wrath of her mother-in-law.  To fetch water she had to make a long steep climb every day, made even more difficult because of her small feet and the leaking bucket that her mother-in-law gave her.  On one of those journeys she met a very old man, visibly struggling to chart the mountain terrain. The girl took pity on him and poured her water into his pitchers.

Now it turned out that this man was destiny himself. Out of respect for her kindness he gave the girl a whip. If she would snap the whip, her water containers would fill, sparing her of hard daily travel.

Unfortunately one person that did not like the arrangement was her mother-in-law. Envious, bitter and curious, she sneaked into the girl’s house one day and took out the magical whip.  She snapped it several times waiting for the water containers to fill. But what happened was much more than that. Water started to rise from everywhere and soon developed into a flood. When the water receded the mother-in-law was still there but unable to ever get up.

This is how the Never Aging Spring (Ninlao) developed – the source of the Jin River. It provided water to paddy fields that would produce the best rice in China. Kings, however, would never eat the rice as somehow the water was still considered polluted by the wicked mother-in-law!

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December 3, 2012  
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