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meaning Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, or Morgiana the Clever

meaning Chien Nang

Chien Nang

As told by Mary Grace Ketner
San Antonio, Texas

When my mother was dying of ovarian cancer, I would to drive up to Kerrville to see her, visit with her, help my father take care of her, but often I would be thinking that I should be in San Antonio with my own husband, taking care of my own kids. But whenever I was in San Antonio, I would be thinking that I should be in Kerrville, visiting with my mother, helping my father. And so it was that when I found this story in a book called Charms and Changelings by Ruth Manning-Sanders, I knew that there was a time and a place where it should be true.


And the time was once upon a time, and the place was in China...

There lived in a great house a wealthy man named Chang and his beautiful daughter, Chien Nang. Also living in the house with them was Chang's nephew, his accountant, Wang Chou.

What might have happened did happen. Chien Nang and Wang Chou fell in love. When Chang saw this happening, he was distressed.

He called Wang Chou to him and he said "I know that you love my daughter, and so you must want what is best for her. I have found what is best for her. I am going to marry her to a wealthy man, and she will never lack for anything her heart desires. And I think it would be better if you just left." And Chang gave Wang Chou a little boat.

When Chien Nang heard what her father had done, she said "You have ruined my life!" and she ran up the stairs to her room and flung herself on her bed and cried.

That night, Wang Chou pulled his little boat to the shore and made himself a pallet, but he could not sleep. He looked up at the stars, thinking about the life that might have been his (pat pat) if only he had been allowed to marry (pat pat) Chien Nang (pat pat) when he heard footsteps! (pat pat)

It was Chien Nang! She ran into his arms, and she said "Wang Chou! I love only you! I will marry only you! Please take me with you!"

Well, what could he do? He helped her into the boat and placed the pallet over her and set sail that very night for Nanking.

There, they were married and lived happily. They never acquired much wealth, but they never lacked for anything they really needed.

One day after about five years, Chien Nang said to Wang Chou "Let us go back to my father's house and see if he has forgiven us? Perhaps we could be reconciled and live as one happy family again."

Wang Chou agreed, and that very night they set sail back up the river.

As they approached Chang's great house, Wang Chou said "If your father is angry, it is I on whom he should take out his anger. Let me go first, and if he is glad to see us, I will come and get you."

Chien Nang agreed, and the pulled up to the shore beside Chang's great house. Wang Chou got out of the boat, wondering what would happen as he walked up to knock on that great door.

But he didn't even get the chance. Chang was working in the garden. When he saw Wang Chou, he ran over to him and embraced him and said "Nephew! How does it go with you all these years?"

"It goes well with me, Uncle," said Wang Chou, "And with my wife also."

"Your wife?" said Chang. "Then you are married?"

"Why, yes. That's the first thing we did when we got to Nanking; we got married. Chien Nang is in the boat; she will be so happy to see you!"

Now, when Chang heard this, he thought "Oh, my poor nephew. I don't know who it is to whom he is married, but it is not Chien Nang. She is up on her bed, crying. She has been grieving since he left these five years ago. Oh, my poor nephew! He's lost his mind." And thinking this, Chang spoke to him gently, as to an invalid.

He said: "Chien Nang is in her room. She has not left there for these five years. She will be so happy to see you. I will send the servants up to get her bed and carry it down."

When Wang Chou heard this, he thought "Oh, my poor Uncle. I don't know who is up in the bed, but it is not Chien Nang. She is in the boat and has been with me these five years. My poor Father-in-law! He's lost his mind." And thinking this, he spoke to him gently, as to an invalid.

He said: "Chien Nang is in the boat. She will be so happy to see you. I will go and get her.

And he did, and Chang sent the servants, and when they arrived, they found not a sick and grieving girl but a beautiful girl, standing before the mirror, combing her hair. She pushed past them and ran down the stairs, out the door, into the garden, into....

...Chien Nang, coming up from the boat.

They melted into each other like two drops of water.

Where there were two Chien Nangs, there was now but one.

The wise men of China debated for many centuries over which was the real Chien Nang and which was the changeling. But I think that those men, wise as they were, did not know, as Chien Nang and I know, the need to be in two places at the same time.


This story seems to perform the same psychic healing upon others as it does for me. How many of us seem to have felt that same need and have been unable to resolve it!--Mary Grace

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