Zhen Shi-yin makes the Stone’s
acquaintance in a dream
And Jia Yu-cun finds that poverty is not incompatible
with romantic feeling
What, you may ask, was the origin of this book?
Though the answer to this question may at first seem to border on the absurd, reflection will show that there is a good deal more in it than meets the eye.
Long ago, when the goddess Nǚ-wa was repairing the sky, she melted down a great quantity of rock and, on the Incredible Crags of the Great Fable Mountains, moulded the amalgam into thirty-six thousand, five hundred and one large building blocks, each measuring seventy-two feet by a hundred and forty-four feet square. She used thirty-six thousand five hundred of these blocks in the course of her building operations, leaving a single odd block unused, which lay, all on its own, at the foot of Greensickness Peak in the aforementioned mountains.
Now this block of stone, having undergone the melting and moulding of a goddess, possessed magic powers. It could move about at will and could grow or shrink to any size it wanted Observing that all the other blocks had been used for celestial repairs and that it was the only one to have been rejected as unworthy, it became filled with shame and re¬sentment and passed its days in sorrow and lamentation.
One day, in the midst of its lamentings, it saw a monk and a Taoist approaching from a great distance, each of them re¬markable for certain eccentricities of manner and appearance. When they arrived at the foot of Greensickness Peak, they sat down on the ground and began to talk. The monk, catching sight of a lustrous, translucent stone—it was in fact the rejected building block which had now shrunk itself to the size of a fan-pendant and looked very attractive in its new shape—took it up on the palm of his hand and addressed it with a smile: