Long ago, in ancient China, there were four magnificent Dragons: the Long Dragon, the Black Dragon, the Pearl Dragon, and the Yellow Dragon. They lived in palaces under the only sea in China.
One day, they emerged from the Sea to fly high above the clouds to see the beautiful world from above. The Pearl Dragon heard the voices of the people and called upon his brothers to hear them. He heard them crying and praying desperately for help.
An old woman held a young child close and cried, “Please bring us rain, so that our crops won’t die! We are starving, and if we don’t eat soon, we’ll also die!”
The dragons felt sympathy for the people and decided to ask the Jade Emperor, the supreme ruler of Heaven and Earth, to send rain to them, but when they went to ask the great Emperor, he became angry that the dragons disturbed his fun. He had been enjoying a performance and was enthralled at the beauty of a fairy dance that he was watching.
The dragons respectfully asked for the rain to be sent for the people, to which the king replied, “Go back to your palace, and I will send them rain tomorrow.” The dragons were happy, so they complied. The Emperor, however, forgot about their request as soon as they left, as he got lost in watching the beautiful performance.
After 10 days had passed, the dragons ventured out again, only to find that the people were even more desperate than before. They were so hungry that they had to resort to eating bark from the trees, roots, and clay.
The dragons despaired for the people and felt anguish for having an Emperor that cared more about his selfish pleasure than about the people he ruled.
That’s when the Black Dragon remarked, “I wish there was a way that we can help them.”
The Long Dragon had an idea. He said let’s scoop up water from the sea and spray it into the clouds. Surely, it will fall back to the Earth as rain and save the people?”
His brothers agreed, but the Long Dragon warned that the Emperor may be angry with them for overstepping their bounds. The other dragons were not deterred and agreed that they’d do anything for the people.
The Black Dragon said, “Let’s begin brothers”, and they took large mouthfuls of the sea water and sprayed it into the clouds, and the rain fell on the land. The people rejoiced as the grass grew green again and the crops became fertile and thrived. The dragons were overjoyed.
Their joy was not to last long, however, as the Sea God became angry that they had stolen a large amount of his water, so he went to complain to the Jade Emperor.
The Jade Emperor was livid and stormed, “How could they bring rain without my permission!?!?”
He used powerful magic and ordered his Generals to capture the dragons. They managed to outnumber and overwhelm them, and the dragons were helpless to escape.
The Sea God was commanded to bring four mountains to place on top of them so that they’d never be able to escape again.
The Dragons never forgot their love for the people though and decided to turn themselves into rivers that would never let the people thirst again, and these rivers run through the valleys and fields and run into the Sea, thus becoming the four rivers of China. The Heilongjiang, or Black Dragon, flows through the North. The Huanghe, or Yellow River, flows through Central China. The Changjiang, or Long River, flows through Southern China. And finally, the Zhujiang or Pearl River flows through the Lower South.