Exploring Chinese History
-Chinese Lunar Calendar-

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac
By: Jenn Reese

These stories are republished here with permission from the author- the very talented fiction writer and friend of mine- Jenn Reese. Please visit her website at http://www.jennreese.com for more information.

They are available for purchase in the form of a chapbook for $6, including shipping, at http://www.tropismpress.com/zodiac.html.

"Tales of the Chinese Zodiac" Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese


Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Monkey

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

17 January 2005

When lightning struck Widow Mingmei's tree, a dozen monkeys fell out of its branches. As it was newly the Year of the Monkey, the Widow took this as a sign of great fortune.monkey icon

Six of the monkeys had fur the color of gold, and so the widow gave them to the six poorest families in the village. Three of the monkeys had bright red rings around their eyes, so she gifted them to the three villagers who had suffered from the worst luck in the last year. Of the remaining three monkeys, she gave the blue-furred one to her daughter, who had just lost her only son to fever, and she gave the rice-white monkey to her sister Jin-Hua, who had never tasted love.

But the black monkey, Mingmei kept for herself. It was smaller than the others, smelled vaguely of ginger, and watched her constantly with its glassy brown monkey eyes. She named it Tao, meaning long life, for she hoped it would stay with her for many years.

Tao proved quite useful around the house. It washed dishes and chopped wood, and even fetched fruit for Mingmei from the highest branches of her trees. But at night, when Mingmei retired to the small cot in her bedroom, the monkey would not follow. Mingmei fell asleep to the sounds of screeches and clanking metal pots each night, but didn't dare look to see what Tao was doing.

Months passed. The poor families grew wealthy, the unlucky ones found themselves happier than they'd ever been. Mingmei's daughter was once again pregnant, and her sister Jin-Hua had married a handsome man from another village. Only Mingmei's monkey remained a mystery, with its black ginger-scented fur and eyes full of night.

And then one night, Mingmei awoke to a scream. No longer caring to hide her eyes from Tao's secret, she ran into the kitchen. Tao lay gravely wounded on the floor, a dented pot in his twitching paw. Next to him knelt Widow Mingmei's long-dead husband.

"For months he has fought me," her husband said. "Each night I have come to bring you home with me, to my house on the other side of death. Each night, this monkey has raked my face and hit me with iron pans, and forced me away. But tonight I have won."

Mingmei, her eyes full with the promise of tears, did not know what to say, nor what to think. She had not seen her husband since the last Year of the Monkey, the year he had died. But she did know what to do. Mingmei lifted the pot from Tao's hand and struck her dead husband in the head.

"I'll go to the other side when the time is right," she said, "not when you decide it's time."

Her husband left, holding his head, and never returned. Mingmei nursed the black monkey back to health, and the two are living still.

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Rooster

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

21 February 2005

In the Year of the Rooster, Chen dreamed of a giant rooster with a beak as hard as stone and eyes the size of the moon at night. His nightmare bird pecked its way across the countryside destroying houses, uprooting trees, and killing the animals too slow to run from its massive clawed feet. And each night-for Chen had this very same dream nine evenings in a row-he awoke clutching his ears to shield himself from the creature's sky-splitting crow.rooster icon

Chen was convinced these dreams were a portent sent by the gods, and that he was supposed to warn everyone of their impending doom. He took his message to the village wisewoman, who laughed at him. He went next to the nearby town and spoke with the magistrate, who nearly had him thrown in jail. The monks on the hill listened, but did nothing, as was their way.

And every time Chen slept, in his bed or under the trees, the nightmare came and ravaged his sleep. Always, he woke with his hands pressed hard against his ears.

At first, Chen was frightened of the roosters in his neighbors' yards. He ran and hid when one got loose and the neighbors found him two days later at the top of a tree. But soon, Chen's fear became hate. He carried a small silver-tipped axe wherever he went and began wandering the land, slaughtering every rooster he could find. He chopped off their heads and wore a string of dried rooster feet around his neck.

Eventually, Chen came to a temple in the middle of a vast field. A monk beckoned him closer and bade him enter. Although Chen thought only to stop for water, he did as the monk requested. Finally, he thought, someone will listen to the warning the gods have sent.

Chen walked through gilt halls strewn with hardened kernels of corn. Torches flickered along the wall, illuminating ancient drawings of men and roosters living together in harmony. What was this place? Why hadn't he found it sooner?

Though blood still dripped from his silver-tipped axe-it had dripped for months now-Chen proceeded deeper into the temple. At last, he came to a beautiful dark-haired woman wearing a flowing red robe. She sat on a golden throne carved like a rooster about to crow, its glorious comb reaching up towards the heavens. Chen stood before her.

"I have dreamed of a giant rooster," he said. "It will come and destroy us all."

The woman nodded. "The dream was indeed a portent," she said, "and the Great Rooster will soon descend upon us to wreak his vengeance. Your war against his people has doomed us all. The gods sent you a warning that you did not heed."

Chen opened his mouth to say something, anything, but it was too late. Behind the priestess, the golden rooster had opened its stone-hard beak and begun to crow.

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Dog

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

21 March 2005

Because it was the Year of the Dog, and because Hsien had grown tired of his ancient body, he went down to Meat Swap on Sunday and bought himself the body of a forty-pound mutt.dog icon

The operation was a simple one. Hsien's consciousness was extracted and sealed in a small lacquer box with two chopsticks sticking out. The chopsticks slid into the back of the dog's neck like a plug. A little woven collar-Hsien chose a manly and youthful green-protected the box and the dog's neck.

Hsien trotted out in the cool spring air on four strong legs. He received more attention instantly. Beautiful women patted his head and dragged their manicured fingernails along his back. Two sweet ladies even touched his rump! It had been decades since a woman-even an ugly one-had wanted to feel the sag of his old body's ass in her hand.

Of course, he missed the colors. And now kneecaps filled his vision instead of faces. He could smell the garbage on the street, and it made his stomach growl. But his back didn't hurt. His claws chattered on the sidewalk and he let his mouth hang open, his tongue loll out.

"Yes," Hsien thought. "This feels right. I should never have waited so long to switch bodies."

It troubled him slightly, though, about the dog. He was a beautiful specimen, well-muscled but lean. Where had the dog's soul gone when Hsien's had been inserted? Possibly it was a question for the monks or the high government officials, but it nagged at him through the evening and into the next day. Even his breakfast of meat scraps tasted dull and sticky, like overcooked rice.

"Dogs are beautiful, loyal spirits," Hsien thought, for he could no longer speak with his mouthful of teeth and his big pink tongue.

And so it continued for many days and nights, until the next Sunday Meat Swap. Hsien's old body was still on the freezer shelf, sagging and hunched. Apparently no one else had wanted it.

Hsien studied his body for many long minutes, his guilt dissipating in the shadow of that decrepit hairless prison he'd worn for so long. Finally, he thought, "I'm sure the dog's soul is in a far better place than this. Yes, I'm doing us both a big favor." And, mostly convinced, he trotted out of the Meat Swap to find some place to piss.

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Pig

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

18 April 2005

In the Year of the Pig, Farmer Enyi collected spit from his four hogs and poured it into his son's tea. Since his wife had died, Enyi needed more help on the farm, but Bunsang was too skinny to work in the fields or even to haul bales of hay. The farmer thought the hogs' essence would make his son eat more and grow strong.pig icon

But Bunsang grew sick instead, and spent five long nights staining his sheets with sweat from his feverish body. When he finally recovered, he was thinner than ever, only now he had a pig's keen nose and could smell the eggs cooking in the neighbor's house, even though the neighbors were a day's walk away.

Farmer Enyi was glad his son had not died, but frustrated that his plan hadn't worked. He slaughtered one of his pigs and soaked an old towel in its blood. When Bunsang came out of his bath the next morning, the Farmer wrapped his son in the bloody rag.

Once again, Bunsang became sick. His fever burned hotter this time, and he stayed in bed for all of ten days. When he awoke, he sniffed the air and declared that it would rain in two days, that the Empress had spilled perfume on her shoes, and that the chicken grilling over the pits in the distant City was not yet thoroughly cooked.

Bunsang stayed inside all day, sniffing the air and making his proclamations. Someone had dropped a crate of green tea into the river. To the east, a kitten had killed and eaten its first mouse. Over the mountain, his sister was sitting in her new husband's house and crying tears that tasted of salt.

Farmer Enyi decided to try one last time. He killed the largest of his pigs, cut out its heart, and ground it into a paste. He intended to rub the heart over his son's stomach while the boy slept, but when he entered the room, Bunsang awoke.

"I smelled the slaughter, Father, and I smell the frustration on your breath," Bunsang said. "But if you do this thing to me, I will most surely die."

Farmer Enyi grew angry. "You are useless to me unless you can work the fields, boy. I would rather you die than take food away from the rest of the family."

Bunsang lowered his head. "I smell your resolve. Do as you will."

Farmer Enyi smeared the pig's heart over his son's emaciated chest. Even before he removed his hand, the boy started to die, his eyes wide and wild. The last thing he said was, "Mother is welcoming me in heaven, and she is oranges and summer, love and cool water on my feet." The Farmer fell to his knees, stricken by these words, but it was from his dead wife that he begged forgiveness.

He buried the boy with the pigs, and from then on, even their bacon smelled of oranges.

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Rat

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

16 May 2005

In the Year of the Rat, the girl-child Chyou became high priestess of rodents. They made her a cloak from the fur of white mice and wove beaded rat tails into her long black hair. In her hand, she carried a small scepter-a stick, really-adorned with a pair of shrews that danced and mated and danced some more on a small jade platform at the top.rat icon

Instead of gold, they brought her great morsels of yak cheese and smaller pieces of ham. Chyou sat long nights and heard her subjects' tales of woe and injustice. With her shrew wand, she cast spells for the rats and the mice. She helped them find food and warm places to sleep when it rained. She gave them cat wards and monkeybane, and taught them the fine art of rodent self-defense. (In which she was already a black belt six times over.)

Her reign was a good one. The rodents celebrated her wisdom and lauded her generosity. They painted pictures for her with their small paws and performed comedies on a small stage built from bamboo and scraps of raw silk.

Only the jealous gerbil was unhappy. He plotted in sewers and under porches and sometimes in the tops of trees. He sowed lies and reaped resentment. The rats joined him-ever ready to display their feelings toward authority-and in their clever heads a plan was formed.

War, dark and bloody, spilled forth from the rodent realms. The dead and dying grew in number until their bodies clogged the roads and hampered the horses in the human streets.

In her cape of white mice and with her scepter, Chyou called upon the spirits of the ancient ones-the great creatures that had hunted long before cities had sprouted and become infected by humanity. Huge and without mercy, these rodents of old destroyed the rats. They wounded the gerbil and Chyou herself crushed it with one of her dainty black sandals.

But even after the last battle had been fought and the dead on both sides counted, the ancient ones refused to return to their rightful place in the underworld. Now even Chyou, who is still high priestess of the rodents, must watch the shadows and run when she sees their glowing golden eyes.

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Ox

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

20 June 2005

In the Year of the Ox, Ting-An decided to plow his fields and sow them with animals instead of plants. He bought the animal seeds from an old monk who appeared, coincidentally enough, the same day that Ting-An got his brilliant idea.ox icon

The price for the seeds? Ting-An's wife. Ting-An considered it a bargain, however, and even the old monk wore an irritated expression as he hobbled off with her.

But without his wife, Ting-An had no one to help him till the ground. He approached the ox-who had always been a better listener than his wife, and was quite a bit stronger, too-and said, "If you help me till the soil and plant these seeds, I will make you king over all the creatures that grow in my fields." The ox agreed.

The harsh winter had turned the ground as hard as stone. Ting-An and the ox worked themselves for hours in the morning and hours in the afternoon and even more hours at night. They grew lean from their labors, but soon the ground was ready to be sown.

In the first row, Ting-An planted porcupines, because he thought they were ugly and he always forgot to water the first row anyway. In the second row, he dropped fat brown pellets that he hoped would grow into succulent pigs. In subsequent rows he planted geese, horses, deer, chickens, oxen, and wolves.

He was a little unsure about the wolves. He suspected his wife would have talked him out of those, if she had still been there. But Ting-An had always like the look of wolves-imagined himself one at heart-and saw no harm in it.

Ting-An and the ox continued to work. They covered the seeds and watered them, even on the hottest of days. Soon, the animals began to sprout.

The oxen grew fast and strong. The pigs and geese grew fat, the deer and horses graceful, and the chickens loud. The wolves and porcupines didn't seem to grow at all.

Every few hours, the ox walked up and down the rows of his soon-to-be subjects and delivered speeches about hard work and loyalty. He was a charismatic creature, and his words were heartfelt. The animals grew faster and stronger and promised him their fealty.

And then, just as most of the animals began falling from their stalks, the wolves burst from the ground, fully formed, and began to kill the others.

Ting-An watched from the safety of the house, stricken with fear. The ox, however, would not stand by and watch his people slaughtered. He rushed into the fray, goring wolves with his horns and crushing their skulls with his mighty hooves, and when he died, hours later, it was in the brave defense of his people.

At dawn, the surviving wolves loped off into the woods, smiling and fat, and Ting-An was left with a row of half-dead porcupines to show for his work.

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Tiger

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

18 July 2005

When she was five, Suyee wished for a sister, and in the Year of the Tiger, her wish was granted. The baby was born healthy save for one thing: it wouldn't open its eyes. Not after a week. Not after a month. Not after a year, or two years, or even five years.tiger icon

Suyee and her mother and her sister traveled to the wide ocean and back seeking advice about the girl's eyes. Everyone suggested something different.

Old man Ko tried to pry her eyes open with rounded sticks dipped in eagle's blood, but it didn't work. One town's wisewoman suggested they surround the girl with beauty to tempt her eyes to open. Suyee and her mother tried, but as they were not very wealthy, their small pile of beauty wasn't enough. A doctor from a big city wanted to cut the girl's eyelids away, but Suyee's mother refused.

One day, Suyee was wandering through the forest collecting funny rocks when she encountered a tiger. Although the creature was huge and dangerous-looking, the tips of its ears were grey and its stripes had begun to fade. Just one large fang remained in its mouth.

"You're a tiger," Suyee said. "Are you going to eat me?"

"Not unless you run very slowly," the tiger said. "I'm old, and I'll soon join my sire in the Forest of Endless Night."

"Sounds nice," Suyee said, trying to be polite. In truth, she thought the forest was scary and night was altogether too dark. And then, because she was tired, she told the tiger about her blind sister.

He listened patiently, and when she was done, he said, "Child, come here and pull on my fang." It sounded like a trap to Suyee, but as she was a child, traps didn't scare her much. She walked to the tiger, wrapped one hand around its last tooth, and pulled. The fang popped out easily, trailing only a little blood.

"Put my tooth under your sister's pillow tonight," the tiger said. And with that, it closed its eyes and died.

Suyee decided not to tell her mother about the tiger's gift. Her mother was poor and tired, and had very nearly lost hope. That night, Suyee tucked her sister into bed and slipped the bloody fang under her small head.

The next morning, Suyee awoke to the sound of her mother's laughter, a sound she hadn't heard in almost a year. Suyee ran outside. Her mother and sister were holding hands and spinning as they laughed.

"It's a miracle," her mother said.

Suyee looked at her sister, and her sister's great golden tiger eyes looked back. Her sister smiled, and two sharp fangs glinted in her mouth.

"Come, Suyee," her sister said, "and run with me through the forest."

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Rabbit

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

15 August 2005

In the Year of the Rabbit, Peisun decided to paint her heart's desire on a stack of thin, tea-stained rice paper. rabbit icon

She plucked five long whiskers from a rabbit and bound them with a piece of string. She stole an ink stick from Old Kim's special stock, and rubbed it against a smooth river rock wet with her own tears. Then she dipped the tip of her brush in the small pool of black.

The first image was blurry. She forgot to hold the sleeve of her shirt with her left hand, and it smeared the image. A small, dark grey deer tried to jump from the page, but its two deformed legs couldn't bear its weight. It struggled as if trying to pull itself from a marsh, but failed. The page sucked it back in.

The next three pictures were also failures. Peisun tossed the sheets into the creek: a moon cake, a bowl of plums, a pheasant. Her hunger drove her desire, but her skill was not enough. She needed to dig deeper inside her heart, to find her true desire.

She sketched a mountain near the town where she grew up. It crumbled into dust when she tried to climb it. Her mother's comb broke in two. The cricket rubbed its legs, but no music came out.

Peisun's sheaf of pages thinned as she dropped her failed images into the water. The ink needed more moisture, and her tears fell readily onto the stone. When they struck, ink splashed onto the remaining piece of rice paper and formed a circle.

"Of course!" Peisun said, and she lifted the moon off the page and into the sky, where she stared at it until her heart was just as full.

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Dragon

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

19 September 2005

In the Year of the Dragon, Kwong found a glittering scale by the well and brought it home to his wife, for it reminded him of the sea. No matter how he held the scale, or how dim the light, the scale shimmered and glowed like the sun dancing on the surface of the ocean: blue, green, and smelling of salt.dragon icon

Lian, Kwong's wife, was delighted with the scale and hung it in the kitchen, where she could look at it all day while she worked. Lian began spending more and more time gazing at the scale. The bread burned and the rice cooked so long it became one white, gooey mass.

When Kwong called her to bed one night, she did not come. He found her sitting on a chair in front of the scale and staring at its surface.

"What do you see that entrances you so?" he asked her.

"A princess," Lian said. "A princess of the deep ocean, with long hair like tendrils of thick kelp and eyes pure white, like pearls, glowing in the smooth green skin of her face. She is wearing a flowing dress and near it, little silvery fish dance and sparkle in patterns. Also," Lian said, "she is my daughter."

Kwong grunted. He loved his wife, but did not care for this madness. That night he had suffered through a dinner of burnt fish and cold tea. Maybe he should have agreed to father a child for her, so she'd have something to do besides daydream.

The next day, Kwong awoke early and took the scale into town. He sold it to a man who collected oddities, and used the money to buy a new rice pot for his wife. He never should have picked up that old scale anyway, glittering or not.

When Kwong got home with his present, his wife was gone. He searched the yard, the bedroom, and the kitchen-twice-and was forced to admit that she just wasn't there. He wandered outside and once again found himself at the well. He peered over its edge and called "Hello" into the darkness.

After a long, lonely moment, his wife's voice floated up from the depths. "I'm sorry, Kwong, but I've returned to my first husband, the water dragon, and to our daughter. There's a bag of rice in the cupboard and some freshly picked vegetables in the basin. Have a good life!"

From this, Kwong learned a valuable lesson: never pick up strange ocean-scented objects, no matter how pretty, if you've married a woman who you found on a beach.

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Snake

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

17 October 2005

In the Year of the Snake, Jin-Hua was bitten by a tiny green viper with black pinprick eyes and sharp needle teeth. It bit her in the hand as she bent to pick a flower from her garden, so she grabbed the little snake instead.snake icon

"You must release me," the snake hissed at her, "for my brothers and sisters are many, and quick to anger. They will avenge my death with poison and fangs, and ferry all those you love into a land of living nightmare from which there is no escape."

"That's quite enough of that talk," Jin-Hua said, and shoved the little snake into her thick leather pouch.

A week later, Jin-Hua opened her pouch and fed the snake the head of a mouse. It said, "Even now, my brothers and sisters are leaving their nests and holes, their shadows and their dark places. They are winding their way over mountains and across seas. They will find you and those you love and you will all be plunged into the insanity of never-ending pain."

"Right," Jin-Hua said. She closed the pouch, but not before the little viper grabbed the mouse head and swallowed it.

It continued like this for almost two months. Jin-Hua opened the pouch to feed the snake, and it hissed a vile curse involving her, her loved ones, and immense torture and discomfort.

One morning, Jin-Hua looked out into her small yard, and it seemed as if the very grass itself were moving. The snakes had arrived. Jin-Hua went outside to greet them.

Thousands of snakes surrounded her house in a great green mass. One slithered forward and spoke.

"You. Human. You have one of ours," it said, with its whispering tongue and pinprick eyes.

"I have your runaway prince," Jin-Hua said. "He has dined on the finest mouse heads and been kept warm and safe, despite his vile and unprovoked attack on my person."

"Lies, all lies!" hissed the viper in her pouch.

"They are not lies," the leader of the snakes said. "We had been looking for you for years until your captivity led us here."

And so Jin-Hua gained the respect of all the snakes in the world save one, and was immune from poison her whole life long.

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Horse

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

21 November 2005

In the Year of the Horse, Anshi carved a miniature stallion for his son Ryo. He painted its tiny hooves black and cut off a lock of his own hair to fashion its mane and tail. For eyes, always the trickiest, Anshi embedded two perfect apple seeds.horse icon

Ryo took the wooden horse, hugged it to his small chest, and ran off to play behind the house. When night came, Anshi's wife called their son to dinner, but the boy didn't come. Anshi searched everywhere, but instead of Ryo, they found only hoofprints the size of fingernails in the moist earth. Anshi tried to follow them, but the trail ended at the edge of the forest.

While his wife cried, Anshi set to work on another horse. He took great care to carve its legs strong and swift, its neck curved and noble. He used another clump of his own hair for its mane and tail, and found two more apple seeds for eyes. Anshi took his creation into the yard and stared at it in his hand, waiting for something to happen.

And soon, something did. The little mare shook her head like a child shaking off sleep, and pranced on his palm with her painted hooves. Her apple-seed eyes held a question, and Anshi nodded.

The smell of hay filled his head. In the space of a hoofbeat, he had shrunk to the horse's size and now sat upon her smooth wooden back. Grass surrounded them like a green field of wheat. Anshi stroked the mare's neck and said, "Take me to my son."

He felt the horse's wooden muscles bunch just before it sprang into a gallop across the lawn. The night air raked Anshi's face like soft claws. He clung to the horse's mane-to a tuft of his own hair-and hunkered low. When they reached the edge of the forest, the mare jumped. His mind erupted with the scent of apples, and then they were in a vast golden meadow filled with horses and people of all sorts. A village.

A man approached Anshi. "Father," he said, "it's me, Ryo!" Anshi wanted to protest-his Ryo was but six years old-but the man hugged him, and Anshi recognized his son. He had grown strong and tall, with eyes like his mother's.

"Ryo," Anshi said, his voice thick, "your mother is worried. You must come back with me."

"I have a life here now, father," Ryo said. "A wife and three children of my own."

Anshi's heart faltered, but he saw the joy in his son's eyes and could not weep. All children grow up faster than their parents expect.

Anshi pulled out his knife and set to work immediately, fashioning four new miniature horses for his son's new family. He wiped the unborn tears from his eyes and said, "I hope you'll visit often."

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac: Goat

By Jenn Reese, illustration by Jenn Reese

19 December 2005

It came as a surprise to no one except Yuhan himself that, in the Year of the Goat, he fell in love with one.goat icon

She was particularly beautiful, his goat, with a gleaming coat of silver threads and small wooden wheels instead of hooves. But people frowned on overt goat love, even in the remote village of Sunrise, and Yuhan was forced to keep his love hidden, both literally and figuratively.

Yuhan rolled his goat up a long, winding path in the nearby mountains until he reached a small but cozy cave.

"Here you shall be protected from the wind and rain, from the early morning frost, and from the floods of springtime."

The goat said nothing, but simply regarded him with the dull brown circles of her eyes.

Her silence didn't deter Yuhan. In fact, he redoubled his efforts to win her affection by climbing the trail to her cave not merely once or twice a day, but a full dozen times, his arms laden with gifts and treats to amuse her and bind her heart to his.

But Yuhan's work suffered. He was the town's only cobbler, and he'd never been more than just adequate at the task. The weather grew colder, the rains fell harder, and the number of shoes Yuhan needed to mend swelled as quickly as his love for the goat. When he wasn't visiting his true love, Yuhan was making himself new shoes, for just one day's worth of treks up the mountain and back ruined his soles and covered his feet in blisters.

And still, the goat refused to return Yuhan's love.

Finally, after months of wooing, Yuhan grew too weak to make the journey up the mountain. His bloody feet had swollen to almost twice their normal size and throbbed painfully. The citizens of Sunrise were angry at the poor condition of their shoes, and Yuhan was forced to keep his door bolted shut and the curtains drawn over his two small windows. He thought of his goat, alone in that dark cave in the mountain, and for the first time, his heart did not threaten to break with the pain of unrequited love.

"Perhaps it was not meant to be," Yuhan whispered, and his heart lightened at the thought. "Perhaps next time, I will fall in love with a woman, and she will tend to my wounds and help me in my business, and let me kiss her."

But the wise people of Sunrise knew better, for it was soon to be the Year of the Monkey, and they had already fashioned a most beautiful specimen with fur of curled bronze and teeth of molded sugar.

Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

These stories are republished here with permission from the author- the very talented fiction writer and friend of mine- Jenn Reese. Please visit her website at http://www.jennreese.com for more information.

They are available for purchase in the form of a chapbook for $6, including shipping, at http://www.tropismpress.com/zodiac.html.

"Tales of the Chinese Zodiac" Copyright © 2005 Jenn Reese

This page does not fall under either the GNU Free Documentation License or the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

The content of this page is an original work by Jenn Reese and may not be republished, redistributed or otherwise copied for use anywhere else for any reason without the permission of the original author. Please contact her through her website at http://www.jennreese.com.

Only the construction, corresponding regular website consistency graphics and construction are the property of Exploring Chinese History. For further information, please contact Richard R. Wertz through the contact page, found here.


Scroll to Top