Princess Peony



The front cover of Khunkha Magazine, November 1988 presented this very beautiful traditional Japanese doll in kimono with seven hats. She was dressed like a character from Kabuki play, performing a traditional dance in the “Musume Dojoji” or “The Maiden at Dojoji Temple”.

This tragic love tale is one of the most famous folklore in Japan. According to the original Dojoji legend…

There was a handsome young priest named Anchin, with whom a young girl named Kiyohime fell in love. Because of his religious precepts, he rejected her. But Kiyohime could not forget him and continued to pursue him with great persistence.

Finally, her passionate love for him turned into a deep hatred. While she was chasing Anchin across the river, she turned into a fierce, fire-breathing serpent. The terrified priest fled into Dojoji Temple and hid beneath the huge bell, which the abbot lowered over him.

Kiyohime, now the furious serpent coiled herself around the bell and blew fire out from the mouth until the bell melted and Anchin was burned to death.

Since then no women had been allowed to enter the temple precincts. For a long, long time there was no bell in the temple. Many years passed, a new bell was constructed and dedicated.

One day a pretty young girl appeared at Dojoji Temple and introduced herself as Hanako, a dancer traveling around the country.

She asked the priests to enter the temple and danced in the bell’s honor. At first she was refused admittance, but finally the priests agreed to let her.

So she danced to celebrate the event, but as she approached the bell, she became a serpent and pulled down the bell. The story ended when the Buddhist priests finally drove her out with the power of their prayer.

And now it’s time for an interesting Japanese folktale from Khunkha Magazine, Princess Peony.

To view full picture in PDF please click the link Princess Peony

Long time ago in Japan, there was a very beautiful castle surrounded by ponds with the lotus lilies and peonies. The owner of this castle was the brave and intelligent feudal lord. He was a widower for many years and had a beautiful daughter, aged eighteen.

During that time all the people in this province lived in peace and were happy. So it was the best time for the lord to find a husband for his daughter, Princess Aya.

The chosen man was Lord of Ako’s son and he was very fond of his future bride. On the contrary, Princess Aya didn’t feel the same way.

One evening, Princess Aya went to walk in her garden by the moonlight, accompanied by her maids. She wandered down through the peony bed to the pond, where she loved to gaze at the reflection of the full moon, listen to frogs, and watch the glow of the fireflies.

While stepping near the pond, her foot slipped. She would have fallen into the water unless a young man appeared as if by magic to catch her. Then he suddenly disappeared.

At that moment, her maids just only saw her slip and a glimmer of light, but Princess Aya had seen more. “Oh! He looked like a very handsome samurai. I guessed he was only twenty-one years old,” Princess Aya told her maids.

“You know, his dress was covered with the beautiful peonies and his sword was so shiny. I should have seen him longer to thank him for preventing me from falling into the pond. Hmm, who is he?” Princess Aya whispered.

Then Princess Aya asked her maids to keep this as a secret because if her father knew anything, the garden must have been searched thoroughly. The young samurai might even be beheaded because of trespassing.

The day after, Princess Aya was sick. She could not eat or sleep. Very soon the wedding ceremony was coming. So many excellent doctors were invited to find the way to cure her.

But nobody could help. Princess Aya was getting worse everyday. The Lord ordered his soldier to find out the cause of his daughter’s sickness. Was it possible that she didn’t want to marry?

“My Lord, I’ve heard that after the night Princess Aya was saved by the mystery samurai, she deeply fell in love with him. Unless we could find that samurai, she must have passed, I’m afraid,” said that soldier.

“Impossible! No one would be able to get into my castle without my permission,” Princess Aya’s father argued. “Perhaps you saw a fox and thought it was a man.”

That night, Princess Aya was weaker than ever before so her maids brought the musicians to play her favorite songs. Once the song of “The peony” had begun, the mystery samurai started to show up at the peony bed!

“Oh! He’s over there!” everybody shouted at the same time but he disappeared at once. Princess Aya was so excited and looked livelier at that moment. After thoroughly searching the entire castle inside and out, nothing was found.

The Lord decided to invite the spiritual adviser to consult. When this man came he dressed in black and hid himself behind the peony bed. His plan was using the song of “The peony” to lure the mystery samurai out of hiding.

And it worked. Suddenly that samurai showed up in dress covered with the peonies. Everyone there stunned at the charm and handsome samurai.

Within a minute, the hidden spiritual adviser jumped out to catch that samurai. Suddenly he felt like a stream of water hitting at his face and then he almost passed out. Fortunately, he’d already grabbed that samurai and many soldiers came to help him.

The soldiers shouted loudly, “Look here…we catched him!” Instead, the thing they saw in the spiritual adviser’s hand was only a large peony flower. How strange!

This was beyond explanation. Only the Lord’s scholar could explain, “ It must have been the soul of the young samurai at the peony bed.” So he suggested Princess Aya to keep that large peony flower.

She brought that flower to her bedroom, put it in the vase and carefully watered it. Every night she put the vase near her pillow. It made her feel warm and comfortable.

Since then Princess Aya took very good care of that peony by herself. It seemed like the peony could grow everyday. Finally, she got over the sickness, was happy, and looked as beautiful as ever.

And then…it was the wedding time of Princess Aya and Lord of Ako’s son. As soon as the wedding ceremony finished, the peony flower in the vase withered at once.

Since that day, Princess Aya’s been called “Princess Peony” and no one’s ever seen the mystery samurai at the peony bed near the pond in that castle.