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There was a shrine to the water-goddess in the village of Ch'ing Ch'i, and her image that was placed there was so nicely carved that it looked like a real goddess of splendid beauty. The villagers made her the guardian of the district and paid her great respect.

It was the second month of the year when the pear-blossoms on the grounds were very pretty, that a party of young students was passing by and admired the flowers. One of them lifted the curtain that was hung before the image of the goddess and exclaimed: "How lovely she is! If she were alive I would make her my mistress!"

His friends were shocked, but he laughed at their scruples, saying that spirits and gods have no reality; that it is well enough for the people to believe in and fear them, because such superstition made them the more amenable. He then composed a libelous poem and wrote it on the wall, but his friends did not say anything more, knowing the uselessness of their advice.

After this they all went to the examination

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hall, and stayed at the Wên Chang Dormitory. One evening the Lord Wên Chang[1] appeared to them in a dream, and they were greatly afraid to be in the presence of his august majesty. He had a roll on his table and declared to them: "As you know well, any student who is guilty of trifling with women is excluded from the list. Even a plain, ordinary woman should be respected by you; and how much more this is true of a holy goddess, you all must know. According to a report I have received it seems there is one of your number who has insulted the goddess of Ch'ing Ch'i." Having ascertained the name of the offender, the Lord cancelled it from the list, adding that this was done because the man was guilty of wronging a woman.

When the students met the following morning, they learned that each had the same dream during the night. Yet the offender himself was obdurate and said: "What has the Lord of Literature to do with such trifles? What harm can an image of clay do to me?"

He entered an examination cell, and having written down his seven essays with unusual vigor and brilliancy, felt assured of his

[1. Wên Chang means "Scripture Glory" and he bears the title Ti-Chün, "Lord Superior." He is worshiped all over China as the god of written revelation and is the patron of all educational institutions.]

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final success. But when the night was far advanced, there appeared before him the goddess of water with her attendants. She censured him for both his grave offence and impenitence, and then ordered her maids to strike him with their sticks until the student lost his mind and destroyed all of his papers. When he was carried out of the cell in the morning, he was unconscious and died soon.

[The accompanying picture illustrates the examination hall where every candidate is seated in a separate cell. The row in the corner is inscribed with the words, "Heaven-Character Number," which means "number one." In explanation we have to state that one way of counting in Chinese is according to the words of the Thousand Character Book, Chien Tzu Wen, which begins with the words Tien ti hsüan huang. This book is used as a primer in Chinese schools, and every partly educated {Chinese} knows it by heart. It contains the thousand most important characters used in daily life and no two characters are alike. Thus, tien (heaven) means "one," ti (earth) means "two," hsüan (dark) means "three," huang (yellow) means "four," etc.]

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