This story tells us quite a lot about daily life in Han times, in both the city and in the country. We found 13 things about life in Han times. How about you? For the things we found, click here. I bet we missed some!
Ancient Story: A simple man named Wang lived in a village in long ago early Han times. Only a narrow, rough path led to this village, so merchants, officials, and travelers rarely visited. To sell his charcoal, Wang knew he must become the traveler, and make the journey to the city.
Wang shouldered his long carrying pole. At each end, swung wide bamboo baskets stacked high with charcoal. What present would you like me to bring you, he asked his pretty young wife. “A comb!” she cried. “A beautiful comb like those of the imperial court!” The combs they used in the country at that time were made of wood. “A comb like that!” she cried, pointing to the crescent of the golden moon.
After a long trip, Wang arrived safely at the city gates. He sold his charcoal for a good price. Made bold by the string of cash he now carried, he looked around the city for his wife’s present. The city was so very pretty, with banners of red and yellow and green and blue hung from shop fronts and balconies. It was very noisy with the racket of shopmen and shouting buyers.
Wang rubbed his chin. What was it his wife had wanted? He had forgotten! Perhaps a pair of leather slippers? Or a warm fur coat? It was getting dark. The shops would soon be closed. Early in the morning, he had to return to the village. Suddenly, he noticed the moon. It was round, so very round. She wanted something round, he thought. He looked in shop after shop for something to make his young wife happy.
Suddenly, he spotted the perfect gift. He wrapped his purchase in a piece of cotton cloth, and hurried off, with only one bow to the shopkeeper. Wang had bought a mirror. He did not even know what a mirror was. He only knew that it was round.
On a warm spring day, in Xia times, some children went out in the fields to play. In those days, if you had a problem you went to see the local wise woman. In this village, the wise woman’s name was Loawnu.
Alarmed at what they saw in the fields, the children ran up the hill to Loawnu’s house. “Loawnu,” they shouted. “The sky is falling down!” Loawnu smiled at the children. “Don’t be worried. Find all the pieces of sky that have fallen, and bring them to me. I’ll sew them together again in time for the festival.”
The spring festival was nearing. This was a time when the young people gathered from many villages to meet one another and to find husbands and wives. The children’s village had been honored this year as the meeting village. It would be a horrible time for the sky to fall down. The village would be disgraced!
Off the children ran to pick up the pieces. But some were missing! “Loawnu!” cried the children, as they tore up the hill, breathing heavily. Loawnu only smiled.
The next day, the children ran outside and looked up. The sky looked as it always looked on a warm spring day, clean and fresh and blue. They were so happy.
That night, they were amazed! The sky had always been dark at night. That night, it was filled with light! Loawnu had patched the missing pieces of sky with bright twinkling light! How beautiful! How clever! We shall have the happiest spring festival in all the land! How lucky we are to know Loawnu! All the village agreed.
A poor merchant dropped in the village inn to spend the night. He left aside his merchandise and asked the innkeeper to prepare dinner.
The merchant had a few items and a couple of coins, but the greedy innkeeper thought:” Why shouldn’t I take all his merchandise and money.”
While she cooked dinner in the kitchen, that thought never got out of her head. Finally she said to her husband.:
“There is a merchant staying overnight in our inn. It would be good to take his merchandise.”
“There’s nothing easier than that” – said the husband. – “Just put some of the herb named “mega” in his meal. Everyone who eats from the herb forgets something. And what would a merchant forget if not his merchandise?”
And that’s what the innkeeper did. She put the herb in the merchants dinner. He ate the meal, thanked the innkeeper and went to bed.
The merchant left the inn early the following morning. When the innkeeper woke up, she went to the merchants room immediately. But the room was empty.
“Oh, you fool” – she started to scream at her husband. – “What foolishness have you told me about this herb. The merchant forgot nothing.”
“Then he must have forgotten something else!” – calmly said the husband.
“He forgot nothing!” – shouted the innkeeper.
“It can’t be! Think about it!”
The innkeeper started thinking: what could have the merchant forgot. Suddenly she slapped herself on the forehead and said:
“He forgot to pay, you old fool!