How to Get the Moon by Papercutting

A twisting Chinese mythology story about how magical powers of Taoism(道家) can do anything, even travel through time and space.

Once upon a time, there was a Mr. Wang who lived in the upper reaches of the Wujiang River(烏江). He usually kept his whereabouts hidden, so the villagers could not tell who he was. Some people thought he was a demon.

One day, a fire broke out in the village. The fire spread quickly and destroyed many houses. Mr. Wang went to see the fire and shouted, “Fire, stop! Fire, stop!” The fire then extinguished itself, and the villagers were amazed.

During the Changqing era(長慶), a man named Yang Huizhi from Hongnong traveled east from Chang’an to visit Wu and Chu. When he arrived at the Wujiang River, he heard that Mr. Wang was a great man, so he went to visit him.

Mr. Wang was wearing a black silk scarf and a brown robe. He sat behind a desk, looking like an immortal. His face was handsome and refined. Yang Huizhi bowed to him twice, but Mr. Wang only returned a slight bow. He then invited Huizhi to sit down next to him.

Mr. Wang’s conversation was both profound and clear, far beyond what Huizhi had expected. He was so impressed that he decided to stay with Mr. Wang.

On the twelfth day of August, Mr. Wang called his daughter, Qi Niang, to come in. She was an old woman, over seventy years old, with white hair and a cane. Mr. Wang introduced her to Yang Huizhi, saying, “This is my daughter.”

Yang Huizhi was surprised. He asked Mr. Wang how she had become so old.

Mr. Wang replied, “Qi Niang was born with a lifespan of only seventy years. She was lazy and did not practice Taoism, so she wasted her time and became old. If she had practiced Taoism, she would have lived much longer.”

Then he said to Qi Niang, “Please cut a moon out of paper for me, just like the moon tonight. Paste it on the east wall of the house.”

Qi Niang quickly pasted the paper to the wall. In the evening, a strange light came out of the paper moon, illuminating the entire room so clearly that even the finest hairs could be seen. Huizhi was amazed, deeply impressed by the profoundness of Mr. Wang’s magical powers.

When it was dawn and Huizhi was ready to leave, Mr. Wang knocked on the ground with his staff. Suddenly, dust flew everywhere and the sky turned dark. After a long time, the dust cleared. Looking around the courtyard, Huizhi saw only steep cliffs and deep valleys. The ground was covered in piles of rocks.

Huizhi was terrified, his back covered in cold sweat and his hair standing on end. Mr. Wang said, “The mountains and valleys have changed so quickly. Tell me, where can you go now?”

Huizhi was even more frightened, and tears welled up in his eyes. “I really didn’t know that such a vast change could occur in an instant. Could it be that in the blink of an eye in the immortal world, a thousand years have passed in the mortal world?”

Mr. Wang laughed. “Don’t be afraid. I was just joking with you.”

Then he took a broom and swept the courtyard. Dust flew up again. After a while, the dust cleared and the courtyard looked just as it had before. Yang Huizhi was overjoyed. He mounted his horse and galloped away.

Original text in 《宣室志》’s 《王先生》:


2 thoughts on “How to Get the Moon by Papercutting”

  1. Thank you for your sharing. I am worried that I lack creative ideas. It is your article that makes me full of hope. Thank you. But, I have a question, can you help me?

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