Eons ago, no lakes or rivers flowed upon earth. There was only the great Eastern Sea, within which lived four dragons: Yellow Dragon, Black Dragon, Pearl Dragon and Long Dragon.
One day, the foursome soared into the skies and were indulging in a game of hide-and-seek among the clouds when they spotted activity below on earth. Several people were arranging cakes and fruits and lighting incense sticks.
One silver-haired old woman knelt in prayer, her eyes raised heavenwards.
“Dear God in heaven, please send us rain. We have no food for our children.”
The dragons were shocked and sad. Long Dragon spoke.
“We must help these starving people. Let’s inform the Jade Emperor.”
The Jade Emperor, who reigned over all realms was displeased when the dragons rushed into his palace with no decorum whatsoever.
“Why are you here instead of your home in the sea?”
Long Dragon spoke first.
“Your Majesty, earth is in a crisis – there is no rain and the crops have withered. People are starving. I beg you, please send down the rain.”
The Jade Emperor, who had been enjoying some celestial music, was in no mood to work; to get rid of the dragons, he pretended to agree.
“I will send some rain tomorrow. Now leave.”
Ten days went by but there was no rain. On earth, people survived on bark and grass roots. The dragons realized that the Jade Emperor cared little about human suffering. They decided to do something themselves for the starving people on earth. But what could they do? Gazing upon the limitless ocean, Long Dragon came up with an idea.
“Look at our home, the sea – there is so much water in it. What if we scoop and spray it across the sky? The scattered drops will fall down like rain upon the fields below.”
The others nodded excitedly. Even the thought of the Jade Emperor’s disapproval could not contain their enthusiasm.
Filling their enormous mouths with water, the four magnificent creatures began spraying water drops across the vast canvas of the sky. Back and forth they went until plump, black clouds blotted out the sun. Soon, sheets of water cascaded down upon the parched land.
The villagers went wild with joy. In time, wilted stalks of wheat and sorghum revived and stood straight. All was well on earth. But the dragons were in trouble, for the sea god reported their activities to the Jade Emperor.
Pique and rage flitted across the Great One’s features. How dare these creatures create rain without his permission! Soon the four disobedient ones were arrested. There would be no mercy for them.
The Jade Emperor summoned the Mountain God.
“Get four huge mountains and place them upon the dragons, so that they can never escape,” he roared.
The Mountain God obeyed, imprisoning the dragons forever. But the four bravehearts were now more resolute than ever to serve the people on earth. Using their celestial powers, they became rivers that flowed through great mountain ranges and valleys from west to east, before joining the sea. The Black Dragon became Heilongjian up north, the Yellow River became central China’s Huanghe River , the Long Dragon transformed into the Changjiang (or Yangtze), while the Pearl Dragon is the Zhujiang in the far south.
Picture above: Sterling Silver Dragon Earrings with Garnet Gemstone