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Chinese Title: 神农尝百草

A cool introduction to one of the lesser-known deities, Shen Nong 神农 shén nóng, the God of Agriculture (and later called the Bodhisattva of Medicine). This is upper-intermediate reading: expect a lot of new words (mostly relating to plants and Chinese medicine) but intermediate sentence structure, and sentences mostly communicate a complete point.

Buddhist Stories and Legends: Learn to Read Simplified Chinese Shen Nong, we are to understand, had a transparent abdomen so all his innards could be seen from the outside (yes, the first sentence does say ‘Shen Nong had a crystal belly’), and he always carried two bags with him – read the story to find out what the bags were for.

We touch on the origins of some well-known plants (one of which is poorly described, I think), but the last paragraph talks about the herb “heartbreak grass” – 断肠草 duàn cháng cǎo – which I’d never heard of and which is not a common plant. The English botanical name is Gelsemium elegans (yeah, no idea), which according to the abstract of one study is “a toxic plant indigenous to southeastern Asia, well known among hill tribes as an effective means for committing suicide”. So a very potent poison, then.

Original post was found on a cool mythology and fable website – you may find some other interesting stuff there. I made a tiny edit from the original to correct a mistake.

Click to Listen

五脏六腑 – wu zàng liù fǔ – Five main organs (and six bowels) of Chinese medicine – heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys
一清二楚 – yī qīng èr chǔ – Very clear
丧命 – sàng mìng – Lose one’s life
嫩叶 – nèn yè – Tender new leaves
器官 – qì guān – Bodily organ
清清爽爽 – qīng qīng shuǎng shuǎng – Fresh and cool
巡查 – xún chá – Do one’s rounds on patrol
香味扑鼻 – xiāng wèi pú bí – Exotic odors assail the nostrils
甘草 – gān cǎo – Licorice
中毒 – zhòng dú – Be poisoned
来不及 – lái bu jí – Not enough time to…
解毒 – jiě dú – Detoxify
拯救 – zhěng jiù – To rescue
牺牲 – xī shēng – Sacrifice oneself
菩萨 – pú sà – Bodhisattva


神农一生下来就是个水晶肚子,五脏六腑全都能看得一清二楚。那时侯,人们经常因为乱吃东西而生病,甚至丧命。神农决心尝遍所有的东西,好吃的放在身边左边的袋子里,给人吃;不好吃的就放在身子右边的袋子里,作药用。

第一次,神农尝了一片小嫩叶。这叶片一落进肚里,就上上下下地把里面各器官擦洗得清清爽爽,象巡查似的,神农把它叫做“查”,就是后人所称的“茶”。神农将它放进右边袋子里。第二次,神农尝了朵蝴蝶样的淡红小花,甜津津的,香味扑鼻,这是“甘草”。他把它放进了左边袋子里。就这样,神农辛苦地尝遍百草,每次中毒,都靠茶来解救。后来,他左边的袋子里花草根叶有四万七千种,右边有三十九万八千种。

但有一天,神农尝到了“断肠草”,这种毒草太厉害了,他还来不及吃茶解毒就死了。他是为了拯救人们而牺牲的,人们称他为“药王菩萨”,人间以这个神话故事永远地纪念他。

SHOW ENGLISH TRANSLATION »
All his life, Shen Nong had a crystal abdomen, and one could clearly see all of his internal organs. At that time, humans were often getting sick and even dying because they ate things indiscriminately [not knowing if they were good or bad]. Shen Nong determinedly tasted everything everywhere; the good-tasting things he put in a bag on his left side, those were for people to eat; the bad-tasting things he put in a bag on his right side, and those were used for medicine.

The first time, Shen Nong tasted a small fresh leaf. As this leaf fell into his stomach, it cleaned every inch of his insides so that every organ top and bottom was fresh and cool, as if [the leaf] was somehow on patrol [making the rounds], so Shen Nong called it “chá” [to investigate / check], and later generations of men called it “chá” [tea]. Shen Nong put it in the bag on the right. The second time, Shen Nong tasted a little light red flower that looked like a butterfly, which was sweet and delicious, with an exotic smell that filled his nostrils, so he called it “licorice”. He put it in the bag on the left. In this way, Shen Nong diligently tasted all manner of flora, and every time he was poisoned, he used tea to rescue himself. Before long, the bag on his left contained 47,000 kinds of flowers, grasses, roots and leaves, and the right side had 398,000 kinds.

But one day, Shen Nong tasted “heartbreak grass”, and this poison was too terrible, so there wasn’t enough time to eat the tea leaves to detoxify and he died. He sacrificed himself to save humanity, so people call him the “Bodhisattva of Medicine”, and people forever commemorate him through this story.



3 comments to "The Farmer God Shen Nong Tastes All the Plants"

    • Oooh, awesome, thanks for the pic.

      • Orange County, California! We “OC Mamas” are pretty darn fun… let’s be hoenst! I bet we could easily find studio space, too.Probably a beginner course. You know you want to, Sarah!! ;-)


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