The Enchanted Otters of Luo River

During the reign of Emperor Ming of Wei, while he was strolling along the banks of Luo River, he noticed several white otters in the water, exquisite and pitiable, swiftly disappearing at the sight of people. The Emperor, intrigued, desired to see them up close but repeatedly failed in his attempts. Grand Preceptor Xu Jingshan (徐景山) suggested, “Otters are fond of loach, even at the risk of death.” He then painted two lifelike loaches on a board and hung it by the riverbank. Instantly, a group of otters competed to catch them, and within moments, one was captured. The Emperor was greatly pleased and exclaimed, “I’ve heard of your skill in painting. How marvelous this is!” Xu Jingshan humbly replied, “I have never wielded a brush before, but what captivates the eyes of others can be achieved with a bit of effort.” The Emperor praised, “Indeed, you have utilized your talents wisely.” As stated in Yan Gong’s “Imperial Decree,” “Xu Jingshan’s painting of otters was truly exceptional.”

Original story in 《齊諧記》


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