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A Magic Well

13 December 2006

In China’s central western province Sichuan, there is a humble mountain called Mask Top (蒙顶山); in the mountain, there is an inconspicuous well named Ancient Mask Spring (古蒙泉), also called Sweet Due Well (甘露井), built during the Western Han Dynasty, about two thousand years ago.

Protected by a fence around it, guarded by a pair of dragon stone sculptures at the both sides, the name of the well made an entry into ancient documents.

What makes the humble well so special that it deserves dragon-esque decos and deliberate mentions in the official chronicles?

That is because it has, apparently, a magic power: whenever the cover of the well is lifted, the heaven will "well with tears", and there will be rain. And the rain would not stop until the cover is returned to its place.

When a major Chinese media learned this story, it sent some guys over to take a look. The guys picked a sunny day to mount the hill and wanted to see how the drama would be played out under such a condition.

They arrived at the site, removed the cover, and stood watching the sky. The sun projected gold reflections onto the mountain terrain while the pale clouds ranked the summits - for good twenty minutes there was not the slightest sign of approaching rain. Just at the time they were about to conclude that it was another local myth and one more piece of ancient superstition, the heaven opened up and fine rain fell upon their faces.

In the group there was an editor of local chronicles. When being slapped on the face by the heaven’s wet fingers, he recalled the passages he read in the chronicles and began to tell tales about the well.

According to the ancient documents, said the editor, there was a dragon locked inside the well. And dragons, though in a higher level of existence, in a way are very much just like our humans; some are quite noble, others pretty naughty. The dragon in question was initially assigned a petty job to take charge of the local weather bureau. It might because that Officer Dragon was a fanatic member of a raining cult, or simply it had been corrupted by some elements in wet products industry, either way, it abused its power and kept thundering and showering the region until eventually the people were truly fed up. A referendum was held by the local human government, and a decision to impeach the dragon was passed unanimously. The people quickly built the well to serve as the narrow entrance to a celestial prison underground, and tricked the poor dragon into the solitary confinement. A warning was recorded thereafter by the historians in the chronicles that the prisoner should never be let out for a fresh air, as giving it half a chance, it would just commit the same offence again.

When a local scientist heard the local historian’s dragon tell, he snubbed. He’d prefer to talk about something he could see and touch, for example, butterflies. So his version of the magic well began with butterfly in Amazon – thousands miles away from Sichuan though, it is in this world nevertheless, not in some other space formed by eleven or twelve dimensions. If the flap of a butterfly's wings in the Amazon rainforest can trigger a tornado in Texas as Ed Lorenz suggested, imagine what the sound and vibration caused by the action of removing the well cover can do to the local thunderstorm.

This butterfly tall theory flavoured with generous dose of scientific terminology sounded quite appealing, and the media guys decided to give it a try. Around the well, they shouted, yelled, screamed, howled, barked, roared and blared while loudly beating a couple of metal pans.

They shouted at the sky: "Hi heaven, can you hear me?"

Nothing happened, to the great dismay of the Amazon butterfly. Evidently, the heaven went deaf and refused to be moved to tears.

So, the dragon stays, for now.

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