The gardener’s daughter had been offering fresh flowers to the Bodhisattva since she was a child. Some were grown in their own garden, and others were flowers that bloomed in the fields in different seasons. The little girl collected flowers in a carefree way every day, just wanting to present the most beautiful and brilliant flowers in the world to the Bodhisattva. People who saw the gardener’s daughter praised her for her deep devotion. They said, with her accumulated merit, she would receive great blessings in the future. The gardener’s daughter, running around with flowers, was like a moving bouquet. In fact, she herself was like a flower bud ready to bloom. Her cute little stature was brimming with boundless vitality.
The fresh flowers collected by the girl were all dedicated to the Bodhisattva in a small temple beside the field ridge. Nobody knew who this Bodhisattva was, but because the gardener’s daughter offered flowers day after day, people called it the Flower Bodhisattva. The gardener’s daughter collected so many flowers that she felt it was not enough to just offer them in the vases in front of the altar. She climbed onto the altar and decorated the Bodhisattva statue with fresh flowers. Then she thought of creating flower crowns, flower belts, flower clothes, etc., for the Bodhisattva to wear. In this way, the Flower Bodhisattva truly lived up to its name. The gardener’s daughter’s actions earned the praise of people from near and far, and some called her the “Flower Adornment Maiden.”
The Flower Adornment Maiden gradually grew up, her beauty outshining the flowers. Among her admirers were handsome youths, ambitious heroes, and wealthy young gentlemen, but all of them were like weeds by the roadside, disregarded by the maiden. The Flower Adornment Maiden was wholeheartedly devoted to adorning the Bodhisattva, spending her life picking and offering flowers. She vowed to offer only the freshest flowers and couldn’t bear to see any wilting, so the floral adornments needed to be frequently replaced. The Flower Adornment Maiden expended great effort in doing so, but her beauty never diminished. In fact, it radiated more brightly than ever.
One summer night, a heavy thunderstorm suddenly broke out. Someone saw a bolt of lightning strike the temple of the Flower Bodhisattva. Then someone else saw the silhouette of a woman rushing into the burning site. The next morning, the temple had been reduced to ruins. Among the debris were burnt flower petals which, when blown by the wind, raised a shower of black raindrops that fell onto the fields. Not long after, rumors spread that the Flower Adornment Maiden had been with a young monk that night, lost her virginity, and the heavens had therefore become angry.
On the ruins of the temple, the gardener’s daughter used fresh flowers to recreate a statue of the Bodhisattva. It was a more aptly named Flower Bodhisattva than before, but it was also more difficult to create and maintain. People said that the gardener’s daughter did this as an act of repentance. No one pursued the gardener’s daughter anymore, and even her parents, feeling ashamed, drove her out of their home. From then on, the woman lived in the ruined temple, single-mindedly constructing her Flower Bodhisattva every day. People gave her a new name, calling her the “Flower Madwoman”.
The Flower Madwoman kept piling up the Flower Bodhisattva until she grew old. When people saw the Flower Madwoman passing by, they would all avoid her. Children said that the Flower Madwoman looked like a withered flower. The Flower Madwoman continued to pick flowers everywhere, with flowers in her arms, flowers on her head, and even flowers hanging all over her body, just like a moving Flower Bodhisattva. However, this was a ridiculous Flower Bodhisattva! People spurned her, just as they no longer revered the Flower Bodhisattva.
One winter, the weather was unusually cold, and many plants were damaged by the frost. When spring came, the rain was late, and flowers couldn’t bloom as usual. By summer, there was a once-in-a-century drought, the fields cracked, and blooming was out of the question. The aging Flower Madwoman went around crazily every day looking for fresh flowers, but by nightfall, she could only gather a few weeds. In the ruined temple, the Flower Bodhisattva was just a pile of rotten and decayed flowers and leaves, emitting a foul smell. One day, someone noticed that the foul smell also contained the stench of the Flower Madwoman’s corpse. In the air, the Flower Adornment Maiden and the Flower Bodhisattva finally merged into one.
The following spring, the ice peaks on the top of the mountains melted, and the water rolled down endlessly, causing a flood in the plains below. The ruins of the Flower Bodhisattva’s temple were completely washed away, leaving no trace. After the water receded, an unprecedented abundance of radiant flowers grew up in the fields. Their colors were brighter than before, and their varieties were more diverse. Some people said that late at night, you could see a little girl picking flowers in the fields.
Illustration by Ian Leong