Good Stories from China: When the Lions' Eyes Turn Red
Throughout history, the Chinese people have believed in Gods and respected Buddhas. It is only fitting that we start our “Good Stories from China” series with one about such a belief.
This story is said to be set in ancient times, like many good stories. Bodhisattva Dizang (Kshitigarbha) descended to the human world, but found that most people no longer believed in Gods or Buddhas. Out of great compassion, he decided to seek out the last believers and save them.
Bodhisattva Dizang transformed himself into a beggar, wandering in a village from house to house begging for food. No one gave him any food and no houses had worshipping altars. Approaching the end of the village, he saw an old woman burning incense in front of a Buddha statue. He went up and begged for food. The old woman hesitated, “I only have one bowl of rice left. You can take half of it, and I will need to keep the other half to make offerings to the Buddha.”
Seeing the old woman's kindness and her devout heart to the Buddha, Bodhisattva Dizang revealed to her what would happen. He pointed to a pair of stone lions at the end of the village and said, “When the lions' eyes turn red, it foretells the coming of a great flood. You will have to hurry up and run to the hilltop. I can guarantee that you will be safe.” With these words, the Bodhisattva-turned beggar left.
The kind-hearted woman told the beggar's words to everyone in the village. No one, however, believed her. Instead, the villagers mocked and scolded her. They said that she was insane and superstitious: How on earth could the eyes of stone lions turn red? She pleaded with the villagers to believe her, but to no avail.
The old woman kept the beggar's prediction in mind and checked the eyes of the stone lions every day. One day, several mischievous villagers decided to make fun of the old woman. “Let's play a trick on the woman; let's paint the lions' eyes with red dye.”
Seeing that the stone lions' eyes had indeed turned red, the old woman panicked. She ran to the villagers and shouted to them, “Hurry up and run! The great flood is coming!” No one listened. They laughed at her till their bellies hurt.
Convincing no one, the old woman ran up the hill alone. By the time she reached the hilltop, she looked back, only to see that the whole village had been submerged in water.
She sobbed in great sadness.