Select the desired text size
South pointing carriage.
From Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki.
Start of Story
The compass, with its needle always pointing to the North, is quite a
common thing, and no one thinks that it is remarkable now, though when
it was first invented it must have been a wonder.
Now long ago in China, there was a still more wonderful invention
called the shinansha. This was a kind of chariot with the figure of a
man on it always pointing to the South. No matter how the chariot was
placed the figure always wheeled about and pointed to the South.
This curious instrument was invented by Kotei, one of the three Chinese
Emperors of the Mythological age. Kotei was the son of the Emperor
Yuhi. Before he was born his mother had a vision which foretold that
her son would be a great man.
One summer evening she went out to walk in the meadows to seek the cool
breezes which blow at the end of the day and to gaze with pleasure at
the star-lit heavens above her. As she looked at the North Star,
strange to relate, it shot forth vivid flashes of lightning in every
direction. Soon after this her son Kotei came into the world.
Kotei in time grew to manhood and succeeded his father the Emperor
Yuhi. His early reign was greatly troubled by the rebel Shiyu. This
rebel wanted to make himself King, and many were the battles which he
fought to this end. Shiyu was a wicked magician, his head was made of
iron, and there was no man that could conquer him.
At last Kotei declared war against the rebel and led his army to
battle, and the two armies met on a plain called Takuroku. The Emperor
boldly attacked the enemy, but the magician brought down a dense fog
upon the battlefield, and while the royal army were wandering about in
confusion, trying to find their way, Shiyu retreated with his troops,
laughing at having fooled the royal army.
No matter however strong and brave the Emperor's soldiers were, the
rebel with his magic could always escape in the end.
Kotei returned to his Palace, and thought and pondered deeply as to how
he should conquer the magician, for he was determined not to give up
yet. After a long time he invented the shinansha with the figure of a
man always pointing South, for there were no compasses in those days.
With this instrument to show him the way he need not fear the dense
fogs raised up by the magician to confound his men.
Kotei again declared war against Shiyu. He placed the shinansha in
front of his army and led the way to the battlefield.
The battle began in earnest. The rebel was being driven backward by the
royal troops when he again resorted to magic, and upon his saying some
strange words in a loud voice, immediately a dense fog came down upon
But this time no soldier minded the fog, not one was confused. Kotei by
pointing to the shinansha could find his way and directed the army
without a single mistake. He closely pursued the rebel army and drove
them backward till they came to a big river. This river Kotei and his
men found was swollen by the floods and impossible to cross.
Shiyu by using his magic art quickly passed over with his army and shut
himself up in a fortress on the opposite bank.
When Kotei found his march checked he was wild with disappointment, for
he had very nearly overtaken the rebel when the river stopped him.
He could do nothing, for there were no boats in those days, so the
Emperor ordered his tent to be pitched in the pleasantest spot that the
One day he stepped forth from his tent and after walking about for a
short time he came to a pond. Here he sat down on the bank and was lost
It was autumn. The trees growing along the edge of the water were
shedding their leaves, which floated hither and thither on the surface
of the pond. By and by, Kotei's attention was attracted to a spider on
the brink of the water. The little insect was trying to get on to one
of the floating leaves near by. It did so at last, and was soon
floating over the water to the other side of the pond.
This little incident made the clever Emperor think that he might try to
make something that could carry himself and his men over the river in
the same way that the leaf had carried over the spider. He set to work
and persevered till he invented the first boat. When he found that it
was a success he set all his men to make more, and in time there were
enough boats for the whole army.
Kotei now took his army across the river, and attacked Shiyu's
headquarters. He gained a complete victory, and so put an end to the
war which had troubled his country for so long.
This wise and good Emperor did not rest till he had secured peace and
prosperity throughout his whole land. He was beloved by his subjects,
who now enjoyed their happiness of peace for many long years under him.
He spent a great deal of time in making inventions which would benefit
his people, and he succeeded in many besides the boat and the South
He had reigned about a hundred years when one day, as Kotei was looking
upwards, the sky became suddenly red, and something came glittering
like gold towards the earth. As it came nearer Kotei saw that it was a
great Dragon. The Dragon approached and bowed down its head before the
Emperor. The Empress and the courtiers were so frightened that they ran
But the Emperor only smiled and called to them to stop, and said:
"Do not be afraid. This is a messenger from Heaven. My time here is
finished!" He then mounted the Dragon, which began to ascend towards
When the Empress and the courtiers saw this they all cried out together:
"Wait a moment! We wish to come too." And they all ran and caught hold
of the Dragon's beard and tried to mount him.
But it was impossible for so many people to ride on the Dragon. Several
of them hung on to the creature's beard so that when it tried to mount
the hair was pulled out and they fell to the ground.
Meanwhile the Empress and a few of the courtiers were safely seated on
the Dragon's back. The Dragon flew up so high in the heavens that in a
short time the inmates of the Palace, who had been left behind
disappointed, could see them no more.
After some time a bow and an arrow dropped to the earth in the
courtyard of the Palace. They were recognized as having belonged to the
Emperor Kotei. The courtiers took them up carefully and preserved them
as sacred relics in the Palace.