Saturday, May 5, 2012
The Maiden's Ghostly Bell
According to Lafcadio Hearn, there is an old story attached to this bell that goes back over 500 years. During this time the Great Emperor Yongluo who was said to be the son of heaven, from the Ming Dynasty, commissioned the construction of a great bell. He ordered the bell be made of brass, gold, and silver so that when it rang it could be heard for over a hundred miles. He commissioned the work from a master bell maker and the work began. Sadly, the construction of this bell seemed to be an impossible labor. The bell maker worked night and day and hired all the master molders of the empire to create this goliath creation. Yet despite the most brilliant artisans and the best materials, the metals rebelled against each other and would not mingle. Twice the master bell smith tried to make the great bell and twice he failed.
Yongluo heard of the bell smith's failure and grew angry. He send him a letter that said:
"From the Mighty Yongluo, the Sublime Taizong, the Celestial and August -whose reign is called "Ming"- to Guanyu the Fuyin: twice thous hast betrayed the trust we have deigned graciously to place in thee. If thous fail a third time in fulfilling our command, thy head shall be severed from thy neck. Tremble, and obey."
The bell maker had a beautiful daughter, Ge-ai, who he loved above all other things in the world and she heard of the words the emperor had sent to her father. She loved her father greatly and set out to save his life. She went to a fortune teller to see if there was anything she could do to save her father's life. The fortune teller told her that the gold and brass in the bell would never meet in wedlock unless it was bound by the blood of a virgin. Ge-ai didn't think long on this, but she went straight to her father's foundry. There she found him preparing to cast the third bell. As the metal poured, she leaped into the liquefied metal and vanished. As she fell she cried out to her father that she died for love of him. Ge-ai's father tried to leap in after his beloved daughter, but he was held back and all stood speechless. Nothing of Ge-ai remained but a single red slipper.
The bell was cast and never had there been a bell of such beauty and size. When it rang, it could be heard for more than a hundred miles and people said that in its ring they could hear the sound of Ge-ai crying out. She cried out for her lost life and for her single, lost slipper.