8. The Titmouse’s Reward
During the Han dynasty, about two thousand years ago, to the north of Huayin Mountain, there lived a family called Yang. They were farmers, and had only one child, who was so precious to them that they named him Treasure: Pao.
Yang Pao was not only clever, kind, and quick-witted, but he was also very good looking with his clear eyebrows and bright eyes. His parent shaved all of his hair off except for two locks on the top, which they tied into two knots. Everybody agreed that he was very cute.
Yang Pao loved nature. He spent a lot of time playing in the forests of Huayin Mountain. One day when he was nine years old, he was playing outdoors as usual. All of a sudden he heard a cry above him. He looked up and saw a hunting owl had just snatched a little bird, a titmouse, out of the air. The owl was so startled to discover someone watching it hunt that it dropped the titmouse, which fell to the ground. It was so dazed it just lay there without moving.
Ants then came to take it away for food, but the titmouse had been hurt by the owl’s claws and the fall to the ground, so it couldn’t move. Yang Pao ran over and picked the titmouse up, brushing away the ants. He took the titmouse home and raised it in a bamboo cage.
He loved his little bird. He fed it chrysanthemum petals and tended to its wounds until it was strong enough to fly. Then he took it to the forest and let it go.
“You’re free now! Watch out for owls! Goodbye!!”
Not long afterwards, he had a strange dream. A child dressed in brown clothes came to thank him for saving his life. He presented Pao with four priceless white jade bracelets, saying, “Sir, I am an envoy of the Heavenly Queen. You have saved my life. I would like to show my gratitude by presenting these four immaculate jade bracelets to you, with my blessing that your children and grandchildren be as spotless as pure jade, and hold posts in the top ranks of the government.”
Yang Pao did not want to take the gift, but the little boy dressed in brown insisted, so he finally took the bracelets. As soon as he did, he woke up and found that it had just been a dream.
“That sure was a strange dream,” he thought, shaking his head.
Yang Pao’s sons, grandsons, great-grandsons, and great-great-grandsons were as spotless as pure jade. For four generations, his descendants all held posts in the top ranks of the government.