Ye Xian: The Chinese Cinderella (Part 2)

The tale of Cinderella is famous all around the world, and almost every country has a different version of the story. The Chinese version is the story of Ye Xian (in Chinese: 叶限 Yè xiàn), first written down around 860AD.

Listen to part one of the story and find out more about it here.

Read on to find out more about the story and listen to part 2 of our narration!

Ye Xian’s only friend was a fish

Press play to hear Nic narrate part 2 of the story to you!

One unique feature of the Chinese version of this tale is the fish who is Ye Xian’s only friend. It’s likely that, if the story was indeed imported from Egypt via the Mediterranean, the fish was a local addition. Fish (as a symbol) have been extremely auspicious in Chinese culture for thousands of years.

The Chinese character for fish, 鱼 (yú) sounds similar to 裕 (yù) meaning  abundance and 餘 (yú) meaning surplus, so fish are associated with plenty. A phrase commonly used at Chinese New Year is 年年有魚 or 年年有餘 (nián nián yǒuyú or nián nián yǒu yú) meaning may every year be plentiful. 

There are many Chinese folk tales about fish. One of the most famous is about a little koi carp who swam up a waterfall and was transformed into a dragon by the Jade Emperor as a reward for not giving up. Due to stories like this, and because of their long life span, they are associated with longevity and perseverance. Their colour is also lucky – gold is a symbol of wealth in China and an imperial colour.

The positive associations with fish only increased when Buddhism came to China in the early first century AD, as one of the eight Buddhist symbols is a pair of golden fish which originally symbolised the sacred Ganges and Yamuna rivers. 

A pair of golden fish is one of the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols (seen here in a mural in Kathmandu, Nepal)

Which classic Chinese tale should we read next? Let us know in the comments below. We always love hearing your thoughts and insights! 

Photo Credits
– Cultural Keys; Wonderlane on Flickr

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