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A Chinese fairytale: The magic pill
Edited by Zhu Yueming
4/21/2003

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There was a mysterious old traveling pharmacist. When asked his name, he always introduced himself as “the pharmacist.” Many elderly people remembered having seen him when they were children and found that his face remained exactly the same as when they had first met him. It seemed that he never aged.

He was often seen selling medicine from a big gourd that he carried. He never cared whether people paid him for the medicine or not. He provided everyone with medicine when they came to him with sickness. Everyone who took his medicine found it to work well. Sometimes people just asked for medicine as a practical joke, but the medicine the old man gave them would soon disappear. Afterwards, no one dared to play practical jokes on him any more.

He got drunk very frequently. If people happened to pay him for his medicine, he would give the money to the poor. Sometimes people would teasingly ask him, “Do you have a magic pill that can turn a man into a deity?” He would answer, “Yes. As a matter of fact, I do --- for 1,000 strings of coins per pill.” People would make fun of the old pharmacist and his “crazy talk.” The old man would laugh at them in turn and say, “To think a man would pass up the magic pill to stay on earth!” No one understood the meaning of his words. They simply found his response all the more laughable.

Eventually the old man traveled to Changan (today’s Xian, China) where he continued to sell medicine. One day many people came to buy medicine from him as usual. The old man shook the gourd to empty it, but this time only one pill fell out. It was a pill of an enormous size with a beautiful radiance. He placed the pill in his palm and declared, “I have been selling medicine in the human world for more than a hundred years. I must have run across hundreds of millions or even ten trillion people, but no one was interested in buying the magic pill. It is truly sad! Now I have no choice but to consume the pill myself.” The moment he placed the pill in his month, five colorful clouds immediately grew from under his feet. The old man then soared and disappeared into the sky.

Source: Biographies of Chinese Deities


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