The Chinese people are fond of bamboo. Bamboo is hollow; it has a modest heart. It is jointed, striving ever upward. Bamboo stands rigid, defying wind and snow, symbolizing dauntlessness in the face of difficulties. Since ancient times there have been many people who have loved and praised bamboo, and legends about bamboo have been passed down by word of mouth among the people. “Mottled Bamboo” is one of them.
The story goes that once upon a time on Mount Jiuyi in Hunan Province there were nine evil dragons, that engaged in all kinds of mischief. They would often frolic in the water of the Xiang River, bursting its dykes and causing annual floods. The turbulent flood waters would inundate the land, destroying crops, carrying away livestock and destroying houses. The people, left homeless, fled in all directions. When Shun (舜), leader of a local tribal federation, learned about the damage done by the evil dragons he could neither eat nor sleep. He decided to go to the south and get rid of the evil dragons for the people.
Shun had two wives – Ehuang (娥皇 ) and Nüying (女英 ), the daughters of the previous ruler, Emperor Yao. They were called the “Madames Xiang.” They were reluctant to part from Shun, especially when they learnt how dangerous it would be to kill the dragons. But when they thought of relieving the people from hardship they resigned themselves to sorrow, and bade farewell to Shun. They prayed for him night and day, and waited for him to return victorious. But winter went and spring came. Year after year passed, and still there was no news of Shun, so, after a great deal of thought, Ehuang and Nüying decided to go south to look for their husband.
舜有两个妃子 ——娥皇和女英，是尧帝的女儿。这二人被称为 “湘夫人 ”。她们对舜依依不舍，更知道斩杀恶龙的危险，但想到为百姓解除痛苦，也只好强忍心中的担忧，送舜上路了。她们日夜祈祷，期待他凯旋。可是，冬去春来，一年又一年过去了，仍然没有舜的消息。娥皇和女英思前想后决定去南方寻找丈夫。
They crossed mountain after mountain, and river after river, and finally came to Mount Jiuyi. They looked in every village, trod every footpath, and finally came to a place called “Three-Peak Rocks.” Here were three gigantic rocks, and, surrounded by emerald bamboo, a huge tomb made of piled-up precious stones. Astonished, they asked a local villager: “Whose is that splendid tomb, and why are those steep rocks standing there?” The villager answered tearfully: “That is the tomb of Emperor Shun, who removed the nine evil dragons, and enabled us to live in peace and happiness. He died of suffering and exhaus¬tion.” After Emperor Shun died, the local people buried him on Mount Jiuyi to express their gratitude to him. The cranes of Mount Jiuyi, every morning and evening carried in their beaks pure jewels from the South China Sea, and scattered them on the tomb, until eventually it became a tomb of jewels. The three rocks were originally the three-pronged harrow which Emperor Shun had used to destroy the evil dragons planted in the earth.
她们翻过一座又一座山，蹚过一条又一条河，终于来到九嶷山。她们找遍每一个山村，踏遍每一条小径。有一天，她们来到一个名叫 “三峰石 ”的地方。这里立着三块巨大的石头，翠竹围绕着一座珍珠垒成的高大坟墓。她们感到惊异，便问附近的乡亲：“是谁的坟墓如此壮观美丽？三块大石为何险峻地耸立？”乡亲们含着眼泪告诉她们：“这便是舜帝的坟墓。他斩除了九条恶龙，让我们过上了安乐的生活，可是却受苦受累病死在这里。”原来，舜帝病逝之后，湘江畔的父老乡亲们为了感激舜帝，为他修了这座坟墓。九嶷山上的一群仙鹤朝朝夕夕从南海衔来一颗颗纯洁的珍珠，撒在坟墓上，久而久之便形成了这座珍珠坟墓。而那三块巨石，则是舜帝除恶龙用的三齿耙插在地上变成的。
When they heard this, Ehuang and Nüying were overcome with grief. They prostrated themselves in front of Shun’s tomb, and wept for nine days and nine nights, until blood mixed with their tears, which were sprinkled on the bamboo on the mountain. Later, the bamboo stalks bore traces of splashes – purple, white and blood-colored. This kind of rather renowned bamboo is called “dappled” or “mottled” (“Madame Xiang”) bamboo.
娥皇和女英得知实情后，悲痛万分，伏在舜的坟墓前，昼夜啼泣，哭了九天九夜，眼泪流干，哭出血泪，洒在山间竹子上，后来竹竿上面就留下了点点斑痕，有紫斑、白斑、血色斑。这种竹子就叫 “斑竹 ”或“湘妃竹 ”，是竹子中较名贵的一种。
There are many other tales about bamboo besides the one about mottled bamboo, but they all convey a common spirit – one of steadfast loyalty, moral integrity, unbending de¬termination and fearlessness.