Tales of Chinese Children
The Crocodile Pagoda
 

When the father of Chung and Choy returned from the big city where lived their uncle, he brought each of his little girls a present of a pretty, painted porcelain cup and saucer. Chung's was of the blue of the sky after rain, and on the blue was painted a silver crane and a bird with a golden breast. Choy's cup was of a milky pink transparency, upon which light bouquets of flowers appeared to have been thrown; it was so beautiful in sight, form, and color that there seemed nothing in it to be improved upon. Yet was Choy discontented and envied her sister, Chung, the cup of the blue of the sky after rain. Not that she vented her feelings in any unseemly noise or word. That was not Choy's way. But for one long night and one long day after the pretty cups had been brought home, did Choy remain mute and still, refusing to eat her meals, or to move from the couch upon which she had thrown herself at sight of her sister's cup. Choy was sulking.

On the evening of the long day, little Chung, seated on her stool by her mother's side, asked her parent to tell her the story of the picture on the vase which her father had brought from the city for her mother. It was a charming little piece of china of a deep violet velvet color, fluted on top with gold like the pipes of an organ, and in the centre was a pagoda enamelled thereon in gold and silver. Chung knew that there must be a story about that pagoda, for she had overheard her father tell her mother that it was the famous Crocodile Pagoda.

"There are no crocodiles in the picture. Why is it called a crocodile pagoda?" asked Chung.

"Listen, my Jes'mine Flower," replied the mother. She raised her voice, for she wished Choy, her Orchid Flower, also to hear the story.

"Once upon a time, there was a big family of crocodiles that lived in a Rippling River by a beach whose sands were of gold. The young crocodiles had a merry life of it, and their father and mother were very good and kind to them. But one day the young crocodiles wanted to climb a hill back of the beach of golden sand, and the parents, knowing that their children would perish if allowed to have their way, told them: 'Nay, nay.'

"The young crocodiles thereupon scooped a large hole in the sand and lay down therein. For half a moon they lived there, without food or drink, and when their parents cried to them to come out and sport as before in the Rippling River, they paid no attention whatever, so sadly sulky their mood.

"One day there came along a number of powerful beings, who, when they saw the golden sands of the Rippling River, exclaimed: 'How gloriously illuminating is this beach! Let us build a pagoda thereon.' They saw the hole which the young crocodiles had made, but they could not see the hole-makers at the bottom thereof. So they set to work and filled the hole, and on top thereof they built a great pagoda. That is the pagoda of the picture on the vase."

"And did the children crocodiles never get out?" asked Chung in a sad little voice.

"No, daughter," replied the mother. "After the pagoda was on top of them they began to feel very hungry and frightened. It was so dark. They cried to their father and mother to bring them food and find them a way to the light; but the parent crocodiles, upon seeing the pagoda arise, swam far away. They knew that they never more should see their children. And from that day till now, the young crocodiles have remained in darkness under the pagoda, shut off forever from the light of the sun and the Rippling River."

"Please, honorable mother," spake a weak little voice, "may I have some tea in my pretty, pink porcelain cup?"