A long, long time ago when China was first born, there were no rivers or lakes. Just one big sea to the East where four dragons lived. There was the Black Dragon, who loved to sleep. The Long Dragon, who loved to eat. The Pearl Dragon, who loved to fly and the Yellow Dragon who loved to boss the others around.
Most of the time the dragons lived in the sea and minded their own business. But, one day, Yellow Dragon was having a nosy around the neighbourhood, when she noticed something.
“Hmmmm. Everything looks very dry,” she said. “I wonder why?”
On her way back to the Eastern sea, Yellow Dragon came across Black Dragon, who was snoring gently. “Wake up, lazy scales,” she said.
“I’m not asleep,” Black Dragon murmured, “I was just resting my eyes.”
Yellow Dragon rolled her eyes, he always said that. “Have you noticed anything strange on land?” she asked him.
The Black Dragon opened one droopy eyelid. “Not today,” he said with a yawn.
“Something’s not right,” Yellow Dragon told him.
So, after a nice big wake-up stretch, Black Dragon went for a fly through the sky. “Hmm,” he said. “It is somewhat dry. I wonder why?”
Black Dragon found Long Dragon hunting for eagle eggs at the top of a mountain. “Hey, Long Dragon,” he called, waking up the eagle who squawked and pecked at Long Dragon’s nose.
“Have you noticed anything strange down below?” Black Dragon asked.
“Nope,” Long Dragon rubbed his nose, “Can’t say that I have.”
“Something’s not right,” Black Dragon said.
So, Long Dragon hopped off the mountain top and went for a fly through the sky. “Hmmm, it is rather dry,” he said. “I wonder why?”
At that moment, Pearl Dragon came whizzing by. “Hey, Pearl Dragon,” he called.
Pearl Dragon did a loop the loop and came back to him.
“Have you noticed anything strange, down there?” Long Dragon asked.
“Not a thing,” Pearl Dragon said, already flying away.
“Something’s not right,” Long Dragon called after her.
Pearl Dragon changed direction and nose-dived down to the ground. “Ooo,” she said. “It is super dry, I wonder why?”
Later that day, the dragons met in the Eastern sea. “I think we should investigate,” Yellow Dragon said. The others agreed.
Black Dragon went North, well he headed North, but he didn’t get very far before he saw a big oak tree. “That looks like a perfect place to take a nap,” he said, and curled up in the shade.
Long Dragon went East. But just as he was heading off, he caught sight of a tasty looking lion and his tummy rumbled. “I’ll just have a snack first,” he said and followed the lion.
Luckily, Pearl Dragon was on the case. Pearl Dragon was what you might all an over achiever. She flew South and saw everything there was to see. She kept flying and flying until she was in the North and saw everything there too. Then, because she liked to keep an eye on Long Dragon, she went East. Pearl Dragon went so far East she ended up in the West and before Yellow Dragon had worked out a plan of action, Pearl Dragon was back with her report.
“Everywhere is really, really, really, dry,” she told the others. “I don’t think there’s been any rain for weeks.”
Black Dragon yawned. “Maybe the Jade Emperor forgot to send the rain?” he said.
“Or got distracted,” Long Dragon added.
Yellow Dragon snorted. “More likely he’s doing it on purpose,” she didn’t trust Jade Emperor. “But why?”
None of the dragons knew.
“If he doesn’t send rain soon,” Pearl Dragon said. “People will start to die. The crops have already stopped growing.”
Yellow Dragon tutted. “We can’t let this continue. We need a plan.”
She looked at Black Dragon, who was resting his eyes. She looked at Long Dragon, who was eyeing a lizard. Neither of them were keen to get involved. But Pearl Dragon was already on the go. “Come on!” she shouted. “Last one to the Jade Emperor’s palace is on seaweed duty.”
If there was one thing that could motivate the dragons, it was the threat of having to clean out the seaweed.
Now, the Jade Emperor lived in the heavens and he was supposed to look after the world.
“Yes, yes, yes,” he said when the dragons asked him to send rain. “I’ll send some tomorrow.” Then he went back to his word game. He had just thought of a really, good word… “annoying”.
The dragons returned to their sea home, relieved the Jade Emperor would send rain. But the next day came and there was no rain. Then the next day and the next and the next after that and there was still no rain.
“Maybe he forgot,” Black Dragon said with a yawn.
“Or got distracted,” Long Dragon said and snapped at a passing tuna fish.
“He can’t be allowed to get away with this,” Pearl Dragon said. “People are dying.”
“Don’t worry,” Yellow Dragon said. “I have a plan.”
Yellow Dragon’s plan was brilliant. Although, it meant going against the Jade Emperor.
“He’s not going to like it,” Long Dragon said, flicking his tongue at a passing fly.
“Maybe we should give him another day or two…” Black Dragon suggested with a stretch.
But Pearl Dragon didn’t like waiting around. She was already putting the plan into action. Scooping up the seawater in her big dragon mouth, she squirted it into the sky, making the first cloud in weeks.
“Whoever makes the least amount of clouds is on seaweed duty!” she laughed.
That got them going. Black Dragon, Long Dragon and Yellow Dragon beat their wings and flew into the sky, joining Pearl Dragon as she swooped to the surface, sipped up the seawater, surged skywards and created cloud after cloud after cloud.
Now, once you get a dragon going, they don’t stop until the job is done. All day the four dragons forged clouds. They made so many clouds the sky turned black and threatened to overflow with water. The dragons beat their wings, making a wind that blew the clouds over the earth and then, finally, one sprung a leak. A droplet of rain fell to the ground, quickly followed by another and another and another. Pitter-patter rain became a thrum, became a pelt, became a torrent. Soon the earth was awash with water. It fell on the dry, cracked land, it fell on the thirsty, shrivelled crops it fell in the empty, stark water barrels. The ground became moist. The crops grew drank their fill. The barrels overflowed and the people danced in the rain: they were saved. The four dragons were so pleased with themselves they danced in the sky, making loop the loops and breathing fireworks.
But there was someone who wasn’t dancing: the Jade Emperor.
“Those dragons think they can go against me!” He called his soldiers to arms. “Punish those dragons!” he ordered.
Once again, the sky darkened but this time in battle. The Emperor’s army filled the sky with arrows and nets. The dragons tried to fight, they tried to flee, but the army was too mighty for them, they soon had them caught. But even the Jade Emperor wouldn’t dare kill dragons. Instead he told his army to, “Put them under the mountains. So, they may never disobey me again.”
And so it was done, four mega mountains were brought forth. The dragons eyed them and gulped.
“I cannot sleep with this mountain on top of me!” Black Dragon whimpered.
“I cannot eat with this mountain on top of me.” Long Dragon protested.
“I cannot fly with this mountain on top of me,” Pearl Dragon cried.
But Yellow Dragon didn’t whimper, or protest or cry. “Don’t worry,” she told them. “I have a plan.”
Yellow Dragon’s plan was brilliant.
“We will turn ourselves into rivers,” Yellow Dragon said. “Even a mountain cannot stop a river.”
So, the dragons under the mountains turned their skin to river banks and their flesh to water. They snaked and wove their way down the valleys and the people who lived on land never went thirsty again.