禿尾巴老李的傳說 The Story of Short-Tailed Old Li
申報地區或單位: 山東省即墨市、莒縣、文登市、 諸城市
Inscribed list: National List, Second Batch
Inventory no.: I-46
Nominating unit(s): Shandong Province, Jun County, Wendeng City, Zhucheng City
The Short-tailed Old Li is a legendary, mythical dragon with a special status in Shandong, where he was honored and worshipped. The Story of Short Tailed Old Li is the tale that explains his origins and heroic acts.
Modern versions of the tale place the setting of the story in a village in Shandong. There in the village, a young teenaged women, Li Xian (李仙), was washing clothes near the riverside, when an unexpected accident caused her to fall unconscious. When she regained her senses, she discovered herself pregnant, with the father being unknown. After 14 months of pregnancy, she finally gave birth to the infant, which, to everyone’s surprise, was a black dragon. Enraged, Li’s father grabbed a sharp knife, intending to kill the dragon, but only ended up chopping his tail off instead. After running off, the dragon decided to cultivate himself to become a real dragon. He would also visit his mother while disguised as a human.
With a missing tail and born from the daughter of the Li family, he was dubbed “Short Tailed Old Li” by the villagers. Wherever he went, he brought rain, and was worshipped as a rain god.
Later, he decided to move to a distant land to settle himself over there, but he was confronted with the White Dragon as an enemy. Some sources described the White Dragon as either a former occupant of the land Old Li wanted to settle in, or a dragon ordered by the Jade Emperor to capture Old Li. Both dragons fought for a long time, and Old Li summoned help from the residents in Shandong through their dreams, telling them to throw items into the river if the water turned white. With the help of the villagers, Old Li successfully defeated the White dragon and occupied the land, which is now known as “Heilongjiang” (黑龙江), or Black Dragon River, in his legacy.
This tale is well-known among various areas in Shandong, with different versions in different areas. In Wendeng City, the black dragon was first described as being born after a young wife consumed a plum that was transformed from a dragon’s ear, except his name was never specified, as documented in What the Master Would Not Discuss (子不语), a Qing Dynasty compilation of supernatural stories. In another Qing dynasty text, which documented matters related to the city of Wendeng, a version of the story that is very similar to the modern version can be found. Temples honoring both the dragon and his mother were also constructed around Wendeng city, under the orders of the Qing emperor. These temples no longer exist, but The Tomb of the Dragon’s Mother is the remaining heritage site within the city that honors the legendary mother and tale.