Sunday, August 2, 2015

Article: A Fish is a Wish Your Heart Makes - The 2,200-year-old Tale of the Chinese Cinderella (& the Ye Xian Illustrations of Stephanie Pui Mun Law)

Yexian of the Chinese Cinderella story, and the magic fish that grants her wishes.
Catchy title, don't you think?

And before you go much further I wanted to point out this lovely series of paintings by Stephanie Pui Mun Law for the fairy tale Ye Xian. I really like the incorporation of the fish into the different paintings. You can find her gallery and much more of her work (many more fairy tales) HERE.

Back to the article: I just thought this was a nicely succinct and personable piece, that's worth a read and might be good to keep on hand for reference. It has a nice summary of ancient Cinderella stories most people outside fairy tale folk wouldn't be aware of, and may be useful if you want to reference the history of Cinderella stories, particularly Ye Xian or Yeh Shen.
Yexian of the Chinese Cinderella story. - Burdens to Bear

Here are some excerpts from the article at AncientOrigins:
Before there was Cinderella, there was Ye Xian. Undeniably one of the most well-read fairy tales, Cinderella describes the life of a young woman forced into servitude by her stepmother until she is freed by her fairy godmother and a charming prince. 
Meet the Cinderellas: Ye Xian, Zezolla, and Cendrillon 
Considered to have been first dictated in the 17th century by Italian writer Giambattista Basile, and later streamlined in the 18th century by the renowned Frenchman Charles Perrault, the version of Cinderella that most have read is, in truth, a later telling of a much older story.  
Before both of these men told of Zezolla and Cendrillon, there was Ye Xian, the tale of a young Chinese girl living sometime between the Qin and Han Dynasties of China (221-206 BC and 206 -220 AD, respectively). 
It goes on to talk about the details of Ye Xian but the bit I like the most is the part about her fishy-friend:
Yexian of the Chinese Cinderella story, in her kingfisher finery
Ye Xian's Magical Protector 
Ye Xian's only relief comes from her acquaintance with a very large and very chatty fish living in the river near Ye Xian's home. The fish, as it turns out, is a guardian sent from the sky by her ever-present mother, and helps Ye Xian through her dark home life. That is, until Jun-li catches Ye Xian with the fish and Ye Xian's stepmother stabs it with a dagger for her and Jun-li's dinner. 
However, just as the fairy godmother of the better known maiden Cinderella has extraordinary magic, so does the Ye Xian's fishy friend. Its role in Ye Xian's future does not end with this mishap. 
Following the murder of her only friend, Ye Xian is visited by the spirit of an old ancestor who informs her that while the shell of her friend might be gone, its spirit is still alive. Through the burial of the fish bones in the four corners of her bedroom, Ye Xian can still harness the power of her spirit guide as one would a genie—whatever Ye Xian wishes for will come true.
Fish are fascinating creatures in fairy tales. One of the weirdly wonderful things about them is how they often continue to have magical properties/provide protection/send messages etc beyond their death... I'll have to hunt for a book on the subject (there must be one somewhere, or at least a paper).

In the meantime you can read the whole article HERE.
Yexian of the Chinese Cinderella story, in her kingfisher finery on festival night.

1 comment:

  1. I read this in elementary class and this story stuck with me forever! I love the story and its why I love koi fish so much. At least I think that's what they are called. Do you know where I can buy this book or story at? The image is beautiful! Would love it as a back tattoo :)