1992 / 10月
Hung I-nang /photos courtesy of Hung I-nang /tr. by Peter Eberly
1. There was once an old woman who had three sons. The first two were married, but the third was still too young.
2. She adopted a little girl to be his future bride.
3. Fourteen years later, the girl had grown into a lovely young woman.
4. The old woman was very strict with her. She made the girl wear old clothes and eat leftovers, and she beat and scolded her on the slightest pretext.
5. The wife of her eldest son was wicked. She was always stirring up trouble and bearing malicious tales about the girl to the old woman.
6. The wife of the second son was kindhearted and spoke up for the girl whenever she was beaten.
7. Dysentery was rampant in the village one summer and many people died. The child bride also contracted it.
8. "since she can't work any more, let's get rid of her and be done with her!" the eldest son's wife said.
9. "We paid good money for her," the old woman thought, "so it would be a pity to get rid of her. Let's watch her for a while, and if she get s better we can still get some use out of her."
10. The girl was driven out into a little hut in the fields.
11. "The Missus treats me like an animal, and my husband is too young and ingenuous to protect me," she thought. "There's no point in going on like this. I'd rather be dead than suffer this living hell."
12. "Don't do anything rash," her second sister-in-law urged. "You're st ill young, with a long life ahead of you. Here's a bowl of rice porridge I've brought for you to eat. Don't worry. I'll tell my husband to call a doctor to have a look at you."
13. Her words caused the girl to buck up and take heart.
14. But her sister-in-law didn't come back the next day, nor the day aft er that. The porridge was all gone, and the girl was faint with hunger.
15. She was so famished she tried to still her hunger with weeds from th e field.
16. Much to her surprise, several days later she recovered and set out f or home.
17. When she arrived, she saw her husband in mourning clothes.
18. "What happened?" she asked.
19. "Are you still alive?" he cried. "Mother and number one sister-in-la w are dead, and second sister-in-law is sick in bed. . . ."
20. "Second sister-in-law . . . That's it! Those weeds will cure her. . ." she thought.
21. The girl returned to the field at once and picked many of the plants, which she boiled into a concoction and gave her sister-in-law to take. Soon enough she got well, too.
22. Purslane cures dysentery. Its leaves are said to resemble a horse's teeth, whence its Chinese name, ma-chih-hsien or "horse-tooth amaranth."
Appearance: Sprouts in the spring. Lies low to the ground and divides into numerous branches.
Round stems. Leaves and stems are juicy. Flowers are yellow and five-petaled. Bears fruit with black seeds.
Properties: Acrid to the taste, cold in nature, nontoxic.
Efficacy: Relieves internal heat. Cures dysentery and bites from venemous insects and snakes. Seeds are good for the eyesight.
(To be used by prescription only.)