House of Dreams

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Caroline Young, artwork and text

Zheng and Wei were best friends even though Zheng was a working man, while Wei was the scion of a wealthy family.

One day, Zheng was returning from a trip when he came across the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen, Ren.

Much attracted to each other, she invited him into her home to meet her mother. Zheng ended up spending several days with her, during which they fell deeply in love.

When he finally left, with promises to return, he encountered an old man on his journey home. Upon hearing of the beautiful girl, he nodded knowingly and said,

“You have met Ren, the fox fairy. Many young men have fallen under her charms, but you are the first to capture her heart.”

When Wei heard about Zheng’s good fortune, he became curious. Wei had had many beautiful lovers in the past, but had never fallen in love before. He sent a servant to check things out, and the servant returned with endless praises of Ren’s incomparable beauty. Wei decided to see this beauty for himself. Indeed, when he saw her, she was lovelier than the servant had described. Filled with lust, Wei forced himself upon her.
She fought off his advances and after a lengthy struggle, she finally sighed:

“Pity Zheng, a poor man who has nothing but my love. You are wealthy, and yet you would take from your best friend the one thing that means the most to him.”

Wei heard the truthfulness of her words, and was very much ashamed of himself. He apologized to Ren, and from that day on, he was a changed man. He treated Ren with respect and kindness, and they became the closest of friends.

One day, Wei arranged a hunting expedition for Zheng and himself. The men wanted Ren to accompany them, but she was reluctant. She had been advised against western travel by a fortune teller. They begged her to change her mind, and finally she relented. As the hunting party was about to take off, the hounds were released. In a sudden flash, Ren changed into a little red fox, and ran off into the woods, with the dogs in close pursuit. Zheng and Wei searched for her in vain. All that was left of her were her silken robes. From that day on, the villagers spread the story of Ren, the beautiful fox fairy, who loved with a true and faithful heart. Young men still enter the forest in the hopes of catching a glimpse of her, but she was never to be seen again.

As an adopted child of Chinese-American expatriates, I have always been intrigued by how the Chinese culture explained the mysteries of the universe.