For thousands of years, the people of China have had the utmost respect for all natural things. Long ago in a simpler time, men would roam the forest to explore its bounty and marvel at the beauty of new and untouched lands. There is an ancient legend that tells of a mystical lake, nestled high up in the mountains. This lake was blessed with the soul of a long-extinct creature with the strength to wield unknown ancient magic. It is known as the lake of abundant life.
Those who were allowed to swim in the lake would be enriched with a youth that would last hundreds of years. Those granted the privilege to live by the lake to drink its waters would be blessed with immortality. It is said that only those who show great love for the chastity of nature would be allowed to leave the lake in peace. Those who mean to do harm, would be drowned as the water turned to steel within their bodies.
Only the strongest and most cunning wild animals could reach the lake to refresh in its waters. Some of the lands oldest and most awe inspiring inhabitants are able to roam the surroundings wilderness for centuries because they have lived by this mystic lake. Bears that drank from the lake were granted claws that could tear through ice. Birds that nested in the trees by the lake were granted the vision to scour miles into the distance. Even the mountain ranges surrounding this majestic place grew higher and wider. For many centuries they would act as a mighty wall defending the privacy of this sacred haven.
One day, a very young hunter named Li Wei had lost his baring in the woods and panicked to find his way back. Following his instincts, he climbed to seek higher ground which would allow him to map his path out of the forest. He climbed and climbed noticing that the trees around him did not dwindle as he gained height. In fact, the higher he climbed, the larger and more healthy the life around him seemed to be growing. As he reached a clearing, he was astonished to find a great lake before him surrounded by mountain tops and an abundance of life.
From land, Li Wei could see the fish swimming in the lake were abnormally large, fast, and plentiful. He could see the trees closest to the water were teaming with fresh fruit unblemished by any form of decay. Swans and ducks whisked across the surface of the water with more speed and fluidity than he had ever seen. Every living thing by this lake was the perfect specimen of its kind. The hunter inside Li Wei was captivated by the sight of this magnificent place. He felt an instinctive longing to capture some of these great creatures, but his resolve kept him from doing so.
The young hunter felt in his heart that this was not a place to be tainted by consumption. He recognised that such a place deserved to be left in harmony and peace. Still, there was something about the water that could not be ignored. Exhausted from his climb, Li Wei rushed to the water. As he approached, he noticed movements in the water’s surface that were not created by fish. He felt a presence surge around him as if a swarm of swallows had erupted from beneath the ground and wrapped him like a blanket.
Before he could reach the edge, the soul of the lake called out to him. It asked the young hunter if he would stay, remain by the lake to take it’s blessing, and spend the many years ahead protecting this natural wonder from those who would come to exploit its power and do it harm. The spirit of the lake explained to Li Wei that it was growing concerned with the spread of man. It feared that some day, people would be the end of this blessed place and the water would be soiled by man’s destructive tendencies.
In return for his service, the lake promised Li Wei that he would enjoy the rest of his days in perfect youth, eating the healthiest fruits, and savoring the most pristine paradise on earth. He would grow wiser and stronger than any man ever to have walked the earth. It was an offer that many men would have taken with open arms.
The hunter refused the request. He knew that his family relied on his work in the forest and that he had a duty to return to them. While refreshing himself in the waters, he made a counter offer to the soul that had spoken to him. He promised that for the rest of his life, he would train his children to love the forest in all its beauty just as he has done, to respect all living animals as the lifeblood of the earth, and to protect the balance of nature with their lives. These were his vows as a hunter and he would ensure he passed them on to all the men that followed in his footsteps.
The lake of abundant life accepted his promise graciously. In great appreciation, the lake instructed its birds to fly up into the air and guide the hunter home. With the gift of abundant life, the hunter was able to share his teachings with the many generations of hunters that continued to live in the forest for hundreds of years.
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