Bachelor Liu and Princess Dragon, Chinese tale

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Bachelor Liu and Princess Dragon, Chinese tale

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The story of the Princess Dragon and the Bachelor Liu is one of the best known Chinese stories.

  • Origins

Dating from the Tang dynasty, the tale of the Princess Dragon and the Bachelor Liu features several characters, through which one can learn more about the customs of the time.

  • Liu and the Dragon King's

Liu was born in Huan province and went to the capital for his exams. Having failed, he returned home, but made a detour to see another candidate from Jingyang, who had also failed. On the road, while on horseback, he met a young shepherdess, very beautiful, but who seemed saddened. If the young woman tried to smile to hide what was hurting her, she ended up crying. She explained that she was the daughter of the Dragon King of Lake Dongtin and that her father had married her to the second son of the Dragon King of the Jing River. She was not happy with her husband because he often cheated on her and brutalized her. Her complaints were in vain, her in-laws not believing her had banished her, leaving her only with a herd of sheep. She would have wanted to tell her father, but she couldn't go there because it was too far away.


As Liu was born near Dongtin Lake, she asked him if he could bring a message to his father. Liu agreed but asked how to reach the bottom of the lake and the young woman handed him a belt. She told him to tie it to one of the branches of an orange tree north of the lake and hit the tree trunk three times. Someone would then come and get him and he would just have to follow him. Liu took the Princess Dragon's message, but before leaving he asked her what was wrong with the sheep she was keeping. She explained to him that they were lightning and thunder and showed him the lightning coming out of their eyes.

  • Dongtin Lake

Liu set off and barely turned around when the Princess Dragon and the sheep had disappeared. He arrived at Dongtin Lake after a month, found the orange tree and followed the instructions to the letter of the Princess Dragon. A guard appeared and asked him who he was. Liu explained it to him and the guard made him close his eyes. When it opened again, it was at the King Dragon's Divine Vault Palace, a magnificent place with many arcades, jasper stairs, jade columns, amber beams, emerald coral beds.

The Dragon King was announced and he came in human form. He asked Liu what a man was doing here. Liu explained to him his journey for his exams, his failure, his meeting with the Princess Dragon on the way home and what she had told him. He then took out the letter she had given him and entrusted it to the Dragon King. The Dragon King was saddened to see his daughter live like that and gave the letter to his eunuch for his wives to read. He then asked that the women lament less loudly so that his brother, the Prince of the Qiantang River, would not hear them. Having a strong character, he had caused the Great Flood, drowned the Five Sacred Peaks and had recently quarrelled with the Generals of Heaven. He had received forgiveness from the Emperor of Jade, but had been placed under the supervision of the Dragon King. If he heard the news, he could go too far out of anger again.

But it was too late, the Dragon King's brother had heard and arrived in the form of a scarlet dragon in a swirl of smoke, his mane on fire and his eyes throwing lightning. At the sight of this huge and powerful creature, Liu fainted. When he awoke, he saw another swirl of smoke enter, but this one was of soothing clouds. He then saw a procession of beautiful and graceful young girls dressed in red and playing instruments entering. The last of them was dressed differently in silk and had butterfly antennas on her head. As she approached him, Liu recognized the Princess Dragon. The Dragon King came to see him and offered him a drink, introducing him to his brother, the Prince of Qiantang.

The Prince thanked Liu for the news and told him what had happened while he was unconscious. The Prince had fought on the Jing River, taking all the servants of Jing's Dragon King and killing the Princess Dragon's husband. After these acts, he went to see the Emperor of Jade to explain what had happened. The Emperor of Jade before the facts forgave all the Prince's past acts, given the injustice suffered by the Princess Dragon.


The prince apologized for frightening Liu, because he was still angry and the next day a large feast was organized. In the end, the Dragon King offered Liu a rhino horn that could split the waters and the Prince offered him a jade stone whose brilliance could repel the darkness. All the other guests offered him other things, including silks and beads.

As Liu was about to retire, the Prince took him aside and offered him to act as Liu's matchmaker with the Princess Dragon. Liu was angry because he did not accept that the Prince should make such a proposal until he had repaired the Princess Dragon's honour and not see himself accepting it, also out of honour. The Prince took it up and apologized, realizing his mistake. He then became a great friend of Liu who stayed for a while in the palace, before deciding to leave. When he said goodbye, everyone was saddened and he was heartbroken to leave Princess Dragon.

  • Departure from Liu

Escorted by men to carry all his presents, Liu stopped on the way to sell some items. With only one sold, he became so rich that no one in the Empire could match him. He eventually married Zangh, but she died some time later. He later married a young woman named Han, but she also died. He moved to Nanking and thought about getting married again. A matchmaker suggested Lu, a young woman from Fanyang whose father, a magistrate, had left while he was old in search of immortality. He had never returned and Lu had married but her husband had died. Liu accepted seeing in Lu a woman who knew as well as he did the loss of another.

Some time after the wedding, he looked at Lu's face one evening and realized how she looked like the Princess Dragon. He told Lu his story and she told him just after she was pregnant. A month after the birth of their child, Lu smiled as if he had told her about his adventures and revealed to her that she was indeed the Princess Dragon. She told him that she had sworn to serve him for saving her and although he refused Prince de Jing's proposal, she was determined to do so. When her parents wanted to remarry her to the Prince of the Zhuojin River, she had revealed her oath. Her parents then let her find him, but she arrived too late, he was already married to Zangh. She remained patient as he married Han, so that she could finally serve him. At the end of her story, she asked Liu if he loved her too and he replied that at the first meeting he had felt sorry for her. When Prince de Jing made his proposal he was furious, but when he left, he regretted it. He couldn't be happier now than to have her back.

  • Epilogue

They lived happily together for many years, the Princess Dragon sharing her power of immortality with Liu. However, they had to retreat to the Dragon King's palace when an emperor desiring immortality had them hunted down by the alchemists. Only Xue Gu, Liu's cousin, saw him again one day when he crossed Lake Dongtin after being deposed from the imperial administration and exiled. Liu dressed as an emperor appeared perched on top of a huge emerald mountain and took him to the palace. He gave Xue Gu a box containing fifty pills giving him one more year of longevity. After having feasted, Liu went back to the palace, having given an appointment to Xue Gue in fifty years' time. Xue Gue returned to the lake at the appointed time and we never saw him again. After that, no one saw the two men again.

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