Miss Chongcao

If you ever travel to the high mountains of Sichuan or Tibet, you may meet Miss Chongcao the caterpillar. She used to stay on the plains. But there is a good reason why she now lives so high up.

Every spring she used to wriggle up from the earth and change into a jade-green silk dress. Then she would hide in the sprouting grass and enjoy the warm sunshine.

24. Miss ChongcaoOne spring, Miss Chongcao spotted a horse. Nibble, nibble, chomp, chomp: it walked from the edge of the plain to the place where Miss Chongcao was. “Watch out, I’m here!” called Miss Chongcao, waving her body, “If you eat me, you’re sure to get stomach ache.”

The horse jumped backwards with surprise and trotted off.

That was lucky, thought Miss Chongcao. Maybe I’d better look more like the creature I really am. So she promptly changed into a brown velvet gown and spread herself out on a comfortable mushroom for an afternoon nap.

Scratch, scratch. What was that? Miss Chongcao opened her eyes and screamed. A golden pheasant was scratching the soft earth with iron claws. It picked up Miss Chongcao, dangled her in its beak, and tossed her in the air.

“Don’t eat me!” cried Miss Chongcao. “I’m poisonous. Put me down!”

The golden pheasant was so surprised to hear a caterpillar talking that she let go of Miss Chongcao and the caterpillar quickly wriggled away.

Nibble, nibble. Scratch, scratch. A few days later Miss Chongcao heard the familiar sounds of both the horse and the golden pheasant. What could she do? Wriggle up to the nearest mountain as fast as the wind.

Living above the snow line, the fashionable Miss Chongcao still dresses in green in spring and brown in winter, but is now safe from predators.

This tale is loosely based on an ancient Naxi tribe legend.

Illustrated by Bianca Lesaca

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