"In the eleventh year of the Chin T'ien epoch (2590 BC), there was a king
who, on account of demerits stemming from a former life, was denied the
blessing of a son. Accordingly he sought husbands of rare accomplishment
and fine presence for his three daughters, hoping to breed outstanding
grandsons, the best of whom would be well suited to inherit his kingdom.
His youngest daughter, however, rejected all talk of marriage and, on
reaching puberty, begged permission to reside at the White Sparrow
Convent, there to engage in a life of pious contemplation. 'Agreed!'
laughed the king, thinking that this gently nurtured girl would soon
long for deliverance from harsh monastic austerities and could then
be given the choice of remaining where she was or marrying some
"Alas, the austere life suited her all too well
and the king, his patience at an end, embarked upon a series of
measures marked by increasing severity to bend her to his will. Rage
mounting day by day, he finally had her dragged from the convent and
imprisoned in a tower, there to be nourished on unspeakably revolting
food. In vain! Drinking to drown his chagrin served only to increase it,
until one day he shouted to his henchmen: 'A monstrous child so lost to
filial propriety as to deny her father his dearest wish pollutes all under
Heaven. The earth must be cleansed of this foul example of disobedience
to loving parents, lest the fashion spread and corrupt future
generations. See to it this night!'
"Sorrowfully his attendants led the little princess to a lonely spot where
the headsman awaited her, weeping but not to be delflected from his
duty. The child was made to kneel and the headsman, grasping with
both hands the terrible sword that had drunk the blood of many a brutal
criminal, was preparing to strike when a blinding tempest arose. In a
moment the stars were blotted out, thunder roared and a dazzling ray from
Heaven shone down upon the kneeling victim. Ere the headsman could
regain his courage, a gigantic tiger bounded from the darkness and carried
the swooning girl into the nearby hills...
"From a cavern in the hills, whither the deity had borne her, the
Princess Miao Shan now descended into hell and there, by the power of
her unsullied purity, compelled its ruler to release every one of the
shivering wretches delivered to him for punishment...
"Returning to the dwelling of the tutelary deity, Miao Shan received the
signal honor of a visit from Amitabha Buddha in person! Assuming the
splendidly shining form known as the Buddha-Body of Reward, he
abjured her to seek safety on seagirt Potala, known to mariners as
the Island of P'u-t'o...
"An island diety, summoned from Potala, carried the princess to her new
abode, travelling more swiftly than the wind. For nine full years Miao
Shan, when not engaged in meditation, performed deeds of compassion
which, crowning the merits acquired in previous lives, completed all
that remained to enable her to attain the status of Bodhisattvahood.
It was at this time that the charming youth Shan Ts'ia (Virtuous
Talent) became her acolyte.
"Thereafter, by virtue of her Bodhisattva's all-seeing eye, she beheld one day a calamity that suddenly befell the third son of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea.
Wandering the ocean joyously in the form of a fish, he had been caught
by a fisherman and was being carried to the market in a pail heavy
with the living victims of the day's catch. Instantly Shan Ts'ai was
dispatched to purchase those unhappy creatures and return them to the
sea. His Majesty the Dragon King, apprised by his son of his deliverance,
sent Miao Shan a lustrous jewel known as the Night Brilliance Pearl,
by the light of which the Bodhisattva would be able to read sacred books
to her heart's content, no matter how dark the night. The gift was
carried by his own grand-daughter, Lung Nu (Dragon Maiden), who was so entranced
by the virtue and loveliness of her uncle's deliverer that she vowed there
and then to dedicate her life to the achievement of Bodhisattvahood.
To this end, she entered Kuan Yin's service and has every day since been
seen in her company.
"Some years later, the Princess Miao Shan, divesting herself of her
Bodhisattva's glory, returned to her own country for a space, and there
converted her father and her mother, enrolling them as disciples of the