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燧人钻木取火 (sui4 ren2 zuan1 mu4 qu3 huo3) Saved by Fire Fetcher Suiren

IN ancient times, human beings ate food raw and lived in the dark at night because they didn't know how to make or use fire. As a result, they easily fell ill and died early.

The only fire they had ever seen was that started by deafening thunder. But, human beings, like other animals on the planet, were born brontophobic, or having an abnormal and persistent fear of thunder.

People thought thunder was a sign of the great anger of the gods and it was meted out as a punishment. So whenever there was thunder, they tried to find places to hide and whenever there was a fire started by thunder they would flee for their lives.

A big fire once lasted for 10 days and 10 nights. It charred a huge expanse of land and made it difficult for people to find any food. As it was eventually dying out, some bold people ventured back to look for food. When they stepped onto the burnt land they not only felt its warmth, but also smelled the aroma of cooked meat.

Someone tried the cooked meat and found it much tastier than the raw food they'd been eating. From this exciting discovery, people tried to sustain the fire by throwing dried leaves and tree branches into it. At night, they worked in rotation to keep it alive.

But one night a tender fell asleep and next morning people found that the fire had already gone out. Again, they had to eat raw meat and live in the dark at night. They waited for the next thunder to start a new fire but it was a long time coming.

One day, the God Fuxi told a brave young man that in a very remote place there was a country called Suiming where he could find the seed of fire.

The man set out next morning on a long journey to find the place. He climbed numerous high mountains and paddled across countless rivers. Eventually after a harrowing voyage he reached Suiming.

But to his great surprise, he found the place in absolute darkness. There was no sun during the day and no moon at night. Not even twinkling stars.

So, where's the fire, he asked himself?

He was disappointed and didn't know what to do, so he took a break under a gargantuous tree. The tree was so big that its canopy covered an area of nearly 10,000 square kilometers. If Suiming was a country of darkness, the place under the tree was even darker.

To his surprise, the young man heard sounds of hammering on the tree trunk and saw several sparks of light flashing in the darkness. Eventually he found out that it was a woodpecker digging a hole in the tree trunk.

And then it dawned on him. He found a small, hard twig and used it to drill into a big wooden branch. After much persistence, smoke came out. By adding some dried grass to it, he found he could start a fire.

The young man was overjoyed. He returned to his people with a fire that would never go out, namely the method of making fire.

His people were so grateful they chose the young man as the chief of their tribe and offered him the exalted title of "Suiren," or the "Fire Fetcher."


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