Legend of the Immortal and the Golden Cow

Zheng Jian, Contributor, Dora Li, Contributing Translator

This story happened during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. One day, an old farmer hurriedly walked along a road, guiding a cow with golden fur. Soon, he arrived at the riverbank. He noticed a small boat in the river where a fisherman was putting his oar into the water and getting ready to disembark.

The old farmer shouted to the fisherman, “Hello there! I wish to cross the river in your boat!”

The fisherman replied reluctantly, “My boat is too small to carry your cow.”

The old farmer said, “Don’t worry that my cow is too heavy. I guarantee that your boat will not sink!”

The fisherman was a kind person, and so he invited the old farmer to get on the boat with his cow.
Sure enough, the boat was very stable and did not sink.

The golden cow stood quietly as the boat crossed the river. However, just as the boat reached the middle of the river, the cow started to empty its bowels, and didn't stop. The fisherman frowned upon seeing this. But the farmer acted as though nothing was happening. Instead, he smiled, pointed to the pile of cow dung and said, “I have no money, but I am giving you this!”

When the boat arrived at the other side of the river, the old farmer and his cow got off. The fisherman started to clean his boat. He angrily shoveled up the cow dung and threw it into the river.

By the time he had nearly finished shoveling all of it into the river, he noticed that the small pile of dung left in the boat was not dung at all. Instead it had turned into a pile of shining gold! The fisherman was shocked and realized that old farmer must be an immortal. He immediately jumped off the boat and ran after him and his cow.

As he chased after them, he saw the farmer and the golden cow enter a small crevice in the mountain and disappear. The fisherman searched everywhere, looking for the crevice they had entered, but could find nothing. He even dug along the side of the mountain with his shovel, but in vain.

People later called this place Golden Cow Hill. It still exists, and when tourists visit it they learn the “Legend of the Immortal and the Golden Cow.” The story suggests that we are like the fisherman, unaware of who we might meet and get the opportunity to help in our boring, everyday lives. Will we have the fisherman’s selfless heart when an important moment comes? If so, Heaven might just reward us in unexpected ways!

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