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Offerings to the Alligators 1

Han, Yu (768 A.D.-824 A.D.)
    On a certain date, I as the mayor of Chao-zhou City 2 asked Ji Qin, a military officer, to throw a pig and a goat into the E-Creek 3 to feed the alligators. I took this opportunity to speak to the reptiles:

    In ancient times, after an emperor conquered China, he would order people to burn the forests on mountains or near rivers, to spread nets made of ropes, and to throw javelins to banish vermin, snakes, and any harmful birds or animals out of our territory. Later, as the virtues of emperors declined, our territory became smaller and smaller. Even the rich regions along the Yangtze River were abandoned to barbarous tribes, not to mention the remote Chao-zhou City which is between the Five Mountains and South China Sea, ten thousand miles away from the national capital. In other words, if the virtue of our government deteriorated, it would be appropriate for the alligators to hide in a remote region such as this place and brood their young.

    Now our emperor has succeeded to the throne of the Tang dynasty. He is kind, sacred, gallant, and virtuous. He takes care of all the land and people in China. Chao-zhou City was once visited by Emperor Yu of the Xia dynasty and is very close to the metropolis, Yang-zhou City. Because it is my jurisdiction, I as mayor have to collect taxes to provide the emperor some offerings to Heaven and Earth, gods, and the ancestors of the royal family.

    Alligators! You cannot dwell on this land together with the mayor. I was appointed by the emperor to protect this land and take care of the people living in this city. However, you alligators are defiant, restless, and do not remain in the creek. You occupy the land and eat livestock, bears, pigs, and deer to fatten your bodies and give birth to your offspring. You defy the mayor and compete for control. Weak and incapable as I am, I as mayor will not be subservient to alligators. In other words, I will not be intimidated by alligators, scorned by the people in this city, and left to drag out an ignoble existence. Furthermore, I was appointed to be the mayor by the emperor's edict. Therefore, I must contend with you alligators.

    If you alligators have any sense, you should listen to me. The sea is south of Chao-zhou City. Large living beings like whales and roc, and small living beings like crabs and shrimp all live and feed themselves there. If you start in the morning, you can reach there by the evening. Now I will make a agreement with you alligators. Within three days, move each individual of your ugly species to the sea in the south to escape punishment from the mayor. If you cannot move within three days, you are allowed five days. If you still cannot make it, you will be allowed seven days. If you do not finish moving in seven days, we will conclude that you are determined not to move after all. That is, I will infer that you alligators despise me and intentionally ignore my advice. Or it might indicate that you alligators are too obstinate and foolish to listen to or understand my words. The living beings that despise the mayor, fail to listen to his advice and fail to move to avoid punishment, as well as those that are obstinate, foolish, and harmful to people and livestock should be killed. Therefore, I will order competent officers and hunters to use powerful bows and poisonous arrows to deal with alligators until your extermination. If you regret your decision at that moment, it will be too late.

1 Han wrote this essay and threw it into the E-Creek to ask the alligators to leave the city. It is said that there was a huge thunderstorm that night. A few days later, the E-Creek dried up and the alligators moved 600 miles west. Afterwards, Chao-zhou City no longer had alligator problems.

2 Chao-zhou City was present day Chao-an City in Guangdong Province.

3 "E" means "alligator" in Chinese. The E-creek was located northeast of Chao-zhou City and is called the Han River today.