A long, long time ago – the world was a dangerous place. The 山were full of ferocious beasts (like the terrible Nian, with its sharp gnashing teeth)! Unlucky villagers, who wandered too far into the mountains, would be gobbled up alive！
Finally, the people of the village had had enough. They fashioned bows and arrows out of bamboo, and set out into the 山. It was time to hunt monsters!
While the people in the village were making their bows and arrows, a snowy white crane was preening its feathers, high up in the clouds! This was a beautiful bird – a magical bird. It had lived its entire life in the cloud gardens in the sky, and was a favorite of the Jade Emperor – the ruler of the heavens above.
As day became night, the heavenly crane decided to leave the garden, and to explore the skies beyond its home. The sun was beginning to set in the west, and the sky was changing into oranges and pinks. As the crane flew, it stretched out its wings… and admired how its white feathers glowed pink under the setting sun!
As the crane flew on, the pink sky darkened… there was a flash of lightning, and a rumble of thunder. Suddenly,heavy rain began to pour – heaving drops beating against the crane! Caught by surprise, the crane began to fly downward, towards the misty mountains down below…
Perhaps it could find shelter in a mountain cave?
In the mountains below, the villagers had been caught in the rain – and had taken shelter in a nearby cave.
They glanced out, towards the sky, and were terrified to see a dark shape flying straight at them!
Monster！” Somebody shrieked.
“Shoot it down! shouted another.
And so the villagers lifted their bows… and fired their arrows!
Arrows flew – and one of them struck the white crane in its wing! The crane tumbled from the sky, and landed with a thud… right in front of the villagers! “Is the monster dead?” somebody asked. “Don’t think this is a monster”, said another. “It’s hurt – come, lets bring it back to the village”. And so,the villagers picked up the injured crane, and hurried down the mountain.
箭飞了出去，射中了仙鹤的翅膀！那仙鹤从天空中坠落下来，咚的一声掉在村民的面前。“妖怪死了吗？”有人问道. “好像不是妖怪哦…”另一个人说. “它受伤了！来，我们把它带回村里吧”。于是，村民们抱起受伤的仙鹤，急匆匆地下了山。
As all this was happening, the Jade Emperor was strolling through the cloud gardens behind his palace in the sky. As he walked… he frowned. Something was missing.
“Where is the white crane?” the Jade Emperor asked. “Why hasn’t it come?”
The Jade Emperor called for his two captains, 千里眼(Qiānlǐyǎn) and 顺风耳（Shùnfēng'ěr), to find the white crane. With ears that can hear as far as the wind blows, 顺风耳（Shùnfēng'ěr) pricked up his ears... and heard a voice from the misty mountains below. “Is the monster dead?”
And then, with sharp eyes that could see for a thousand miles, 千里眼(Qiānlǐyǎn) looked down to the earth and saw… a group of villagers carrying bows and arrows… and a single white crane.
Thus, 千里眼(Qiānlǐyǎn) and 顺风耳（Shùnfēng'ěr) reported back to the Jade Emperor: human villagers in the land below called your crane a monster, and shot it dead.
The Jade Emperor was furious!
Believing that his favorite crane had been killed, he commanded: On the 15th day of the new lunar year, his armies would rain fire down on the village below.
Thundered the Jade Emperor, “until not a single house, not a single person, and not a single blade of grass shall remain!”
Startled by her father’s fury, the Jade princess slipped silently from the Jade palace. She rode a silver moonbeam down to the village below! At first villagers were awed by the beautiful maiden who appeared before them – with starlight twinkling in her hair. But, when the Jade Princess spoke, their eyes widened in fear.
玉帝的女儿被父王吓了一跳，便悄悄地离开了天宫。她驾着月光，来到了村庄里。一开始, 村民们被这位突然出现的少女给迷住了– 她真美呀，连头发里都闪着星星！不过，当玉女开口说话时，村民们睁大了眼睛，开始害怕起来。
The Princess said:
“My father, Yu-Di,is angry that you have killed his favorite crane. On zheng-yue-shi-wu, heavenly fire will rain down on this village, until not a single blade of grass remains. “Oh no!”The villagers gasped, “what shall we do?!” They cried.
“But, but – “ came a child’s voice. “But the crane is not dead!”
The Jade Princess looked down, and saw a young girl. In one hand, she held a bucket of water. In the other hand, she carried a small, glowing lantern. “I’ve just gone to get some water for the crane”, said the girl to the princess. “It is resting now.”
The Jade Princess gazed at the girl… and gave a slight smile. Then, she turned back to the villagers and said: “Even if you did not kill the crane, harming a heavenly creature is still a serious crime.” “Still, I can see you carry no evil in your hearts. So, I offer you these words before I go: the way to save you all… lies in the hands of a child. “ And with that, the Jade Princess vanished.
“ A 孩子?!””What does it mean?” the villagers cried.
“一个child？!”, “这话什么意思啊？”, 村民疑惑道。
Just then, an old woman noticed little girl– still carrying her water bucket, and a little paper lantern. “I know what to do”, the old woman said. “Listen closely，everyone!…”
The next day, the villagers made hundreds and hundreds of red lanterns. They hung the lanterns from every roof and on every street. On the 14th night of the new lunar year, the villagers lit their lanterns. Then, they set off all the firecrackers – and the village was ablaze with light and sound!
For three days, and three nights, the villagers kept the lanterns burning bright –
and in the evenings, the sound of firecrackers and bright lights of fireworks filled the skies!
As for the Sky armies the Jade Emperor sent? By the time they flew to the village– all they saw was a blaze of red. All they heard was the sound of loud explosions！And so, they flew back to the Jade Palace and reported to the Jade Emperor: “The village is ablaze and burning bright. By morning, not a single blade of grass shall remain!”
replied the Jade Emperor, nodding his approval.
Dawn came and went, the sun was rising into a clear blue sky. And in the village - not one house was damaged, and not one villager was hurt. The white crane was healed (for magical creatures heal quite quickly!), and the villagers waved goodbye as it flew away into the bright blue sky…
And from that day on, on the 15thday of each lunar year (Which is the Chinese lantern festival, 元宵节), we would light bright lanterns … and celebrate the night the village was saved!