The Three Genii
There was a certain scholar who, passing through Su-chien on his way to Nanking, where he was going to try for his master's degree, happened to fall in with three other gentlemen, all graduates like himself, and was so charmed with their unusual refinement that he purchased a quantity of wine, and begged them to join him in drinking it. While thus pleasantly employed, his three friends told him their names. One was Chieh Chiu-heng; the second, Chang Feng-lin; and the other, Ma Hsi-chih. They drank away and enjoyed themselves very much, until evening had crept upon them unperceived, when Chieh said, "Here we, who ought to have been playing the host, have been feasting at a stranger's expense. This is not right. But, come, my house is close by; I will provide you with a bed." Chang and Ma got up, and taking our hero by the arm, bade his servant come along with them.
When they reached a hill to the north of the village, there before them was a house and grounds, with a stream of clear water in front of the door, all the apartments within being beautifully clean and nice. Chieh then gave orders to light the lamps and see after his visitor's servant; whereupon Ma observed, "Of old it was customary to set intellectual refreshments before one's friends. Let us not miss the opportunity of this lovely evening, but decide on four themes, one for each of us; and then, when we have finished our essays, we can set to work on the wine." To this the others readily agreed; and each wrote down a theme and threw it on the table. These were next divided amongst them as they sat, and before the second watch was over the essays were all completed and handed round for general inspection; and our scholar was so struck with the elegance and vigor of those by his three friends, that he ran off a copy of them and put it in his pocket. The host then produced some excellent wine, which was drunk by them in such bumpers that soon they were all tolerably tipsy. The other two now took their leave; but Chieh led the scholar into another room, where, so overcome was he with wine, that he went to bed in his boots and clothes.
The sun was high in the heavens when our hero awaked, and looking round, he saw no house or grounds, only a dell on the hillside, in which he and his servant had been sleeping. In great alarm he called out to the servant, who also got up, and then they found a hole with a rill of water trickling down before it. Much astonished at all this, he felt in his pocket, and there, sure enough, was the paper on which he had copied the three essays of his friends. On descending the hill and making inquiries, he found that he had been to the Grotto of the Three Genii -- Crab, Snake, and Frog, three wonderful beings, who often came out for a stroll, and were occasionally visible to mortal eyes.
Subsequently, when our hero entered the examination hall, the three themes set were those of the Three Genii, and he came out at the top of the list.
End of The Three Genii