No one had seen the Ice Bodhisattva, and no one had even heard of the Ice Bodhisattva. However, the Climber was determined to find the Ice Bodhisattva. He once caught a glimpse of the holy figure of the Ice Bodhisattva in his dream. In his dream, he traced the origin of a river. He began at the vast downstream and went upstream against the current, all the way to the rapids on the high mountains. At the confluence of the two rapids, he saw a half-white and half-transparent statue of a Bodhisattva, half-floating and half-sinking in the water. The figure flashed by in the dream, leaving behind only the after-images of the white waves.
From then on, he was determined to search for the real body of the Ice Bodhisattva. He firmly believed that the Ice Bodhisattva should be found in the frozen lands at high altitudes. He began to learn climbing, and after many years of hard training, he became an outstanding climber. He had climbed the peaks of many mountains in the world, but he had not found the Ice Bodhisattva in his heart.
The Climber used to share his pursuit with his companions, but no one understood him. When hearing about the dream, some said it was just a block of ice, some said it was a big fish, and some even suggested it was a corpse. No matter what, it was just a dream. Later, the Climber stopped talking about the Ice Bodhisattva to others.
This time, the Climber came to another peak. He and his team decided to reach the summit on a sunny day. However, halfway up, the sky suddenly darkened, a strong wind blew, and the visibility became blurred. The team was stuck in the middle, with difficulty moving forward or backward. At this moment, he looked up at the peak and saw the colossal countenance of the Ice Bodhisattva in the blizzard that looked like surging white waves. He suddenly realized that the Ice Bodhisattva was undoubtedly the mountain peak itself. He called out to the Ice Bodhisattva, and the Ice Bodhisattva responded with a thunderous sound. At the brink of life and death, he lost consciousness.
When the Climber woke up, he was lying in a first aid station in the camp. An earlier avalanche had buried five team members, and more than ten others were injured. The injuries the Climber sustained were not severe, but his heart could not be calmed. The Ice Bodhisattva he had been searching for so painfully for many years turned out to be a ruthless and murderous demon. That night, he quietly left the camp and descended the mountain.
After walking all night, the Climber came to a stream at dawn and saw a dilapidated thatched hut. He walked into the hut, intending to ask the owner for some food. Inside the hut, there was a disheveled man with a full beard, chiseling a block of ice as tall as a person. The ice block was shaping into the figure of a standing woman. The Climber was shocked and immediately knelt down. That figure was the Ice Bodhisattva he had seen in his dream many years ago.
The Ice Sculptor moved the completed statue of the Bodhisattva outside the hut and placed it on a large stone platform next to the stream. Then, he went back into the house, fetched a few steamed buns and a bottle of sheep milk, handed them to the Climber, and asked him to guard the Ice Bodhisattva. The Ice Sculptor then pushed his wooden cart and went up the mountain.
The Climber sat on the ground, eating the steamed buns and drinking the sheep milk while staring at the Ice Bodhisattva he had been longing for in his dreams. The Ice Bodhisattva had the graceful posture of a woman, wearing a Bodhisattva crown and a Bodhisattva skirt. Her skin was half white and half transparent, her long arms and legs seemed to be dancing yet not dancing, moving yet not moving. There was an ice lotus bud on her shoulder, a blooming ice lotus at her fingertips, and a withered ice lotus at her waist. Wasn’t this the Ice Bodhisattva that was floating and sinking in the white waves in his dream? The Climber could not help but shed tears. The Ice Bodhisattva also shed tears.
The sun gradually rose, and the temperature became warmer. Under the sunlight, the Ice Bodhisattva began to melt slowly. Starting from the top of her head, her face, neck, shoulders, arms, body, lower body, legs, until only the feet were left. The thawing water flowed from the stone platform into the adjacent stream, rolling downstream with the running water. A portion of it also evaporated into the air under the sunlight. The Climber watched the disappearing Ice Bodhisattva with desperate eyes, unable to protect her, and shed even more tears.
At dusk, as the sun set in the west, there was not a drop of water left on the stone platform. The Climber was still sitting there, dazed, but his tears had long dried up. The sound of the wooden cart came from the bushes. The figure of the Ice Sculptor slowly appeared, and another block of ice covered with dry straw was on the wooden cart.
Illustration by Ian Leong