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Legends of ‘eight fairies in water’
2014-09-25
By Ruby Gao

• Lotus root

It is said that lakes contained nothing but water until thousands of years ago when a beautiful fairy named Lotus Flower, daughter of the Emperor Heaven, came down from the sky and met a man named Oulang (藕郎), literally “lotus root darling,” along the lake. They fell in love and secretly married.

The Emperor Heaven raged after learning of the marriage and ordered both to be arrested. Lotus Flower fled and hid in a lake. She gave her husband a pearl before leaving, saying it could save his life.

Oulang, after swallowing the pearl, was soon arrested. Emperor Heaven tried to kill him on 80 separate occasions. Every time he was beheaded, white sticky fossils came out from the incision, joining his body and head back together.

Finally the emperor threw him into a lake. Oulang died and became the joints of the lotus root. The fairy took the form of a lotus flower to accompany him. From then on, lotus roots grew in the lake.

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• Chinese eddo

The story traces back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when General Qi Jiguang (1528-88) led his forces to defend the coastal area from Japanese pirates. One day his troops were trapped on a mountain and many starved to death.

An oval-shaped tuber growing in a pond was found to be extremely tasty after it was cooked, helping the soldiers survive. The general named the taro yu’nan (遇难), meaning died accidentally, to commemorate his fallen comrades. Gradually the name changed to yu’nai (芋艿).

 

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