Offerings to the Alligators 1
Han, Yu (768 A.D.-824 A.D.)
On a certain date, I as the mayor of Chao-zhou City 2 asked Ji Qin,
a military officer, to throw a pig and a goat into the E-Creek
feed the alligators. I took this opportunity to speak to the reptiles:
In ancient times, after an emperor conquered China, he would order people to
burn the forests on mountains or near rivers, to spread nets made of ropes, and
to throw javelins to banish vermin, snakes, and any harmful birds or animals out
of our territory. Later, as the virtues of emperors declined, our territory
became smaller and smaller. Even the rich regions along the Yangtze River were
abandoned to barbarous tribes, not to mention the remote Chao-zhou City which is
between the Five Mountains and South China Sea, ten thousand miles away from the
national capital. In other words, if the virtue of our government deteriorated,
it would be appropriate for the alligators to hide in a remote region such as
this place and brood their young.
Now our emperor has succeeded to the throne of the Tang dynasty. He is kind,
sacred, gallant, and virtuous. He takes care of all the land and people in
China. Chao-zhou City was once visited by Emperor Yu of the Xia dynasty and is
very close to the metropolis, Yang-zhou City. Because it is my jurisdiction, I
as mayor have to collect taxes to provide the emperor some offerings to Heaven
and Earth, gods, and the ancestors of the royal family.
Alligators! You cannot dwell on this land together with the mayor. I was
appointed by the emperor to protect this land and take care of the people living
in this city. However, you alligators are defiant, restless, and do not remain
in the creek. You occupy the land and eat livestock, bears, pigs, and deer to
fatten your bodies and give birth to your offspring. You defy the mayor and
compete for control. Weak and incapable as I am, I as mayor will not be
subservient to alligators. In other words, I will not be intimidated by
alligators, scorned by the people in this city, and left to drag out an ignoble
existence. Furthermore, I was appointed to be the mayor by the emperor's
edict. Therefore, I must contend with you alligators.
If you alligators have any sense, you should listen to me. The sea is south
of Chao-zhou City. Large living beings like whales and roc, and small living
beings like crabs and shrimp all live and feed themselves there. If you start in
the morning, you can reach there by the evening. Now I will make a agreement
with you alligators. Within three days, move each individual of your ugly
species to the sea in the south to escape punishment from the mayor. If you
cannot move within three days, you are allowed five days. If you still cannot
make it, you will be allowed seven days. If you do not finish moving in seven
days, we will conclude that you are determined not to move after all. That is, I
will infer that you alligators despise me and intentionally ignore my advice. Or
it might indicate that you alligators are too obstinate and foolish to listen to or
understand my words. The living beings that despise the mayor, fail to listen to
his advice and fail to move to avoid punishment, as well as those that are
obstinate, foolish, and harmful to people and livestock should be killed.
Therefore, I will order competent officers and hunters to use powerful bows and
poisonous arrows to deal with alligators until your extermination. If you regret
your decision at that moment, it will be too late.
Han wrote this essay and threw it into the E-Creek to ask the alligators to
leave the city. It is said that there was a huge thunderstorm that night. A few
days later, the E-Creek dried up and the alligators moved 600 miles west.
Afterwards, Chao-zhou City no longer had alligator problems.
Chao-zhou City was present day Chao-an City in Guangdong Province.
3 "E" means "alligator" in Chinese. The E-creek was located northeast of Chao-zhou City and is called the Han River today.