The Master of the Clouds entered the gate of the palace, walked over the Nine Dragon Bridge and strolled down the broad royal way. He was dressed in a long robe with wide sleeves and held a dust whisk in his right hand and a flower basket in his left. When he walked on his cloud, stars and planets trembled and shook. When he passed through the mountains, tigers kowtowed before him, and when he travelled through the seas, dragons bowed and scraped before him. When he reached the entrance to the court, he said, "Your Majesty, this humble Taoist greets you."
Seeing that the Taoist did not kneel down and kowtow before him, King Zhou was displeased. "I'm king, master of the four seas. Though he's a Taoist immortal, he also lives within my territory. How dare he act so rudely! He should be punished for this, though my officials would criticise me for being intolerant. Let me ask him some questions and see whether he can answer me properly, " he decided. "Where do you come from, Sir?"
"I come from the clouds and rivers," the Taoist replied.
"What do you mean by the 'clouds and rivers'?"
"My heart's as free as the white clouds, and my mind flows like water."
King Zhou was a witty ruler, and he asked a philosophical question, "Where will you go when the clouds disperse and the rivers dry up?"
"When the clouds disperse, a bright moon hangs in the sky and when the rivers dry up, a brilliant pearl appears before me."
King Zhou's rage turned to happiness, and he exclaimed with joy, "At first I was rather displeased with the way you greeted me, but from your answers, I realise that you're a great and wise saint."
King Zhou told his attendants to show Master of the Clouds to a seat, and without further ado the Taoist sat down at the king's side.
Master of the Clouds lowered his head respectfully and addressed the monarch, "Your Majesty knows only that a king must be accorded the highest honour, but has no idea that of the three religions - Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, Taoism is the most honoured."
"How is that?"
"Let me tell you. Among the three religions, Taoism is the most highly esteemed. A Taoist neither makes obeisance to a king nor calls on dukes and high ministers. He resides in his hermitage and avoids the entrapments of political powers. He thoroughly rejects the vulgar world, regarding it as a net, and endeavours throughout his life to seek truth. He distances himself from fame and riches, he finds joy in forests and streams, he abandons all concepts of honour and dishonour, and he takes refuge in caves. he's got a blanket of stars above by night, and of sunshine by day. he wears cotton gowns, weaves hats of fresh flowers and plucks wild grass for mattresses. He drinks from sweet springs, eats pine and cypress seeds to ensure his longevity, claps his hands when he sings and sleeps in the clouds when the dancing's over. He discusses the Way, and essays and poems over wine with his friends. He disdains wealth and rejoices in purity and poverty. He lives a carefree life, spending his time discussing the rise and fall of dynasties.
"Though the four seasons follow in an endless cycle, he can turn his white hair black and rejuvenate his old body. He helps people with medicinal herbs and saves them from death. He exorcises spectres and demons by means of charms and spells. He gathers refined emanations from both Heaven and Earth and collects the essences of the sun and moon. he cultivates himself with the Yin and Yang and achieves rebirth by means of fire and water. Collecting the ingredients in the appropriate season, he refines the elixirs of life. He rides upon green phoenixes or white cranes and calls upon the Purple Jade Palace of the Supreme Emperor.
"Unlike the Confucians who seek positions as high ministers, Taoists see riches and political power as floating clouds. Unlike the Jieists who practise sorcery and witchcraft, the Taoists care only for the Way. Thus, of the three religions, Taoism is the most respectable."
from "The Making of the Gods", Traditional Chinese Mythology
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