Saturday, April 27, 2019

X is for Xigua Lady (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Xigua is Chinese for watermelon (in case you were wondering why I didn't use watermelon for W). The story I have for today is fairy well known, considered one of the Four Great Folktales of China. It is generally known as Meng Jiang Nü, or, in English, Lady Meng Jiang.

The story begins with two neighbors, Meng and Jiang, who live very comfortable next to each other. One day, Meng plants a watermelon seed in his garden. The seed sprouts, the vines creep over the fence, and the plant bears a single watermelon in Jiang's backyard. The two friends have a bit of an argument over who should have the fruit - each one of them wants to give it to the other. Eventually they decide to share. However, when they cut the watermelon open, they find a baby girl inside. The two childless couples decide to raise the girl together, so she becomes a daughter of four parents - taking both family names, she is called Meng Jiang Nü.

The girl grows up and marries a man she loves, named Wang Chi-liang. They live happily for a while... until one day soldiers show up in the village, rounding up men and taking them away to serve as laborers on the building of the Great Wall. They are marched away without goodbyes or provisions. Lady Meng Jiang, worried that her husband would freeze in the winter, makes warm clothes and shoes for him, and sets out alone on the long journey to deliver them to her beloved.

The young woman travels for a long time, crosses mountains and rivers, and searches tirelessly until she finally arrives to the Great Wall. However, seeking Wang Chi-liang, she finds out that he is already dead. Like so many others who died from exhaustion during the work, he was buried inside the wall. The young wife wails and mourns so pitifully that the heavens take pity on her; with thunder and lightning, a portion of the wall collapses, revealing the bones of her husband so that she can bury them. She identified his bones by dripping her own blood on them, seeing if they would soak it in.

According to some versions of the legend, the cruel emperor sees the beautiful widow, and wishes to marry her. She agrees only on condition that they first bury her husband, and hold a ceremony in his honor on a high cliff above the river. When everything is ready, she curses the emperor, jumps into the river, and drowns herself.

(Read about this story here or here.)

Is there a canon of Great Folktales in your own culture? 
What stories would be included in it?


  1. Wow! What a great story. Thoughtfulness, cooperation,true love, righteous anger and sacrifice.

  2. Sad indeed! A lot of good men must have died in real life, building that wall. I’m betting that it sparked a lot of stories, though not all of them with a watermelon baby starting it!

    Well done for finding a fruit theme with X!

  3. What a beautiful tragic tale! And I must admit I really really like the idea of a culture having identified a small body of work as being classical representations.

  4. the tiger/persimmon story is a korean folktale :) as is a fun one called "older brother, younger brother" about a swallow who delivers pumpkins (?) who delivers ea brother their just deserve reward.

    Joy at The Joyous Living

  5. I wish I'd known this story before I walked on the Great Wall - it would have been a great tale to tell my fellow travelers.

    My A-Z of Children's Stories

  6. It's lucky they cut the watermelon "open." When we get a watermelon we whack it straight in half with a big knife. I think it's very dangerous to grow babies inside edibles. But I love that the two families raised her together.

  7. Great story! I was a little lost at the beginning, as the first caracteres are not inside the story anymore later. Sad but beautiful storytale!

  8. What a tragic tale! My heart goes out for her. This story is about all the nameless men who sacrificed their lives building the great wall and all their family members who must have suffered in silence. It is only due to Lady Meng Jiang Nu that we come to know of this cruelty towards workers - through this folktale.
    Read my X post here XYST

  9. That's a tragic story, no matter which version! I'm totally unfamiliar with Slovak folklore, though I'm sure there must be more than the few stories I've heard of.

  10. All the great monuments of the ancient world were built on the back on the underprivileged and exploited. Such a lovely but tragic story!

  11. Wow! This was one powerful tale! You know, we have almost finished the series now, but I still haven't been able to wrap my head around the fact that such amazing folk lore is based around fruits!

    Anyway, I got behind a bit, my iron levels dipped too low, so was really tired. I'm catching up now.

    Find my X post @ 5 Must-Watch English Movies Set In Foreign Countries That Xenophiles Will Love

  12. Interesting tale.

    Ronel visiting with the A-Z Challenge music and writing: Covers of My Favourites

  13. Wonderful yet tragic tale, Sad he was buried within the wall...
    Guess what even i had packed xigua the Chinese melon in my tiffin series today in X tiffin.