Drowned Superstition

    During the time of Prince Wen of the Wei Dynasty (445 - 396 BC), officer Ximen Bao was appointed head of E County (in the west of the current county of Linzhan, Henan Province).
    Arriving at the duty station, he met with local elders and began to ask them what difficulties the locals had. The elders said: "We are saddened by the need to give brides to the river god, which is the reason for our poverty . "
    Ximen Bao began to question in more detail. The answer was: “ Three priests and one hermit every year organize requisitions among the population. The amount they take comes up to a hundred times 10 thousand each. Of these, 20-30 times in 10 thousand they use for the wedding of the river god. They divide the remainder among themselves and another witch.When the time comes, the sorceress comes here and chooses some beautiful girl. She says: "This girl must become the wife of the river god." And preparations for the engagement ceremony begin.
    After 10 days, the girl is put on jewelry and ordered to lie on the mat. The mat is thrown into the river. She swims a few miles, and then with the girl goes under water to the river god. If there is a beautiful daughter in any family, then everyone is afraid that when she grows up, the witch will appoint her to the river god in brides. Many families flee with their daughters to a remote area. The population of the city is getting smaller and poverty is growing. This has been going on for a long time. People say: "If the bride is not given to the river god, then the streams of water will destroy all property and drown people." That’s what it says. ”
    Ximen Bao said: "When the river god wants to get a spouse next time, I want the three priests, the witch and the village elders to lead the girl when she will be sent to the river. I will also be present there . ” Everyone agreed.
    When the appointed day arrived, Ximen Bao appeared on the river bank.
    Three priests, local officials and servants, wealthy, elders - all came to see the sacrifice. In total there were about three thousand spectators, the
    Witch was about 70 years old. She was followed by 10 of her students. They all wore long silk dresses and served the sorceress.
    Ximen Bao said; “Call here the bride of the river god. I want to see if she is beautiful or ugly. ”
    The chosen one was taken out of the hut. Ximen Bao examined it and turned to the priests, the witch and the elders: "This girl is not beautiful enough. Therefore, I instruct the great sorceress to go down into the river and convey the message to the river god. If he wants a more beautiful wife, we will send her to him after a while . " And he ordered his assistants to throw the old woman into the river.
    After waiting a bit, Ximen Bao said: “ Why is this old sorceress so slow? Let her student hurry her! "And one of the students was thrown into the river.
    After some time, Ximen Bao said: “ That this student is delayed? Send another student to rush her . ” Another student was thrown into the river. In the same way, this fate befell three more students.
    Ximen Bao said: "Sorceresses and students are just women. They cannot intelligently convey our words to the river god. Perhaps, three priests should be sent to the river so that they can communicate with the river god . ”
    And he ordered three priests to be thrown into the river. Then he stabbed his hair with a hairpin and began, carefully staring into the river, waiting for something. Here fear seized the village elders, officials and spectators.
    Finally, Ximen Bao turned around and said: “The old sorceress, her students and three priests are not returning, what should I do?” And he ordered the hermit and one of the rich to be thrown into the river to hurry the disappeared.
    Then everyone rushed to their knees, put their hands on the ground and began, turning to Ximen Bao, to bang their heads on the ground so hard that they opened their foreheads to themselves. The color of their faces resembled cooled ashes.
    Ximen Bao said: "Well then, let's wait a little longer."
    After a while he said: “Well, get up. I feel that the river god will keep his guests for a long time. You do not have to go to him. Go home. ”
    The officials and residents of E were scared for their lives and since then no one has tried to talk about the wedding of the river god, not to mention arranging it.

    Adapted from the “Appendix to the“ Historical Notes ”by Chu Shaosun (I century BC) as presented by H. von Senger

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