The Silk Road

Sichuan was the seat of ancient China's silkworm-raising industry. Having no central government, the diverse tribes would battle among themselves over disputes. In this region lived a beautiful girl of marriageable age. Her father had gone off to battle, and had not returned for over a year. Being very close to her father, the girl pined for him, and became gravely ill. Her mother, alarmed that she would lose her daughter as well, declared that any young man who brought the father home would have the daughter's hand in marriage.

Many young men tried, unsuccessfully. Then one day, the father's horse pulled free of his ropes and galloped off. In two days, he returned with the father on his back. When people heard of this, they all agreed that the horse possessed a soul. As a reward, the master gave him extra food and treats. Amazingly, the animal refused everything. Each time the girl walked past, he would rear his body and whinny. Mystified, the father asked his daughter what was happening, and when told of his wife's promise, he flew into a rage. "What man would allow his daughter to be betrothed to a beast?!" On hearing these angry words, the horse began to kick and bellow. Outraged, the master killed him, and buried him beneath the mulberry tree.

A few days later, the girl was walking near the tree. The spirit of the horse rose up from its grave, enveloped the girl, and whisked her off into the sky. For ten days, the father searched in vain for his daughter. Then one day, he saw something growing on the mulberry tree. On closer inspection, he found it was a silken cocoon, and inside it was his daughter, changed into a silkworm. From that day onwards, people reported seeing the girl and horse galloping across the land. She would stop and teach people how to raise silkworms and grow mulberry trees, on whose leaves the silkworms fed. When asked, she said, "The gods have conferred this task upon me, so I may never forget what it is to be just." She came to be known as Cannu, the Silkworm Girl.

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