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The Magic Brocade

A Tale of China

Book illustration

Retold by Aaron Shepard
Illustrated by Xiaojun Li

No brocades are more lovely or lifelike than the ones the widow weaves to sell at the marketplace. One day she returns home with a marvelous painting of a fairy palace, and her son Chen suggests that she weave the image as a brocade. Devoting all her loving skill, she creates the finest brocade of her life. But so fine it is that the fairies of the palace send a wind to carry it off for themselves.

Knowing his mother will die without her beloved creation, Chen starts out after it. But the way to the fairy palace lies over Fiery Mountain and across the Icy Sea. Even if he gets there, will the fairies give up the brocade?

This popular Chinese folktale will enchant young and old, as Chen and his mother find their way to a happiness beyond their dreams.

Picture book • Ages 4 & up

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of The Baker’s Dozen, The Sea King’s Daughter, The Monkey King, and many more children’s books, while his Web site is known internationally as a prime resource for folktales, storytelling, and reader’s theater. Once a professional storyteller, Aaron specializes in lively retellings of folktales and other traditional literature, which have won him honors from the American Library Association, the New York Public Library, the Bank Street College of Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the American Folklore Society.

Xiaojun Li, a native of Inner Mongolia, was an award-winning children’s book illustrator and art director in China before moving to the United States.

Pan Asian/Edustar

Hardcover ~ 2000

Ebook ~ 2015

Also published in bilingual editions with Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese

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Book cover


“A picture-perfect storybook fairytale of adventure, dangers, and surprises, showcased by the magnificent watercolor artistry of Xiaojun Li.”—Children’s Bookwatch, Apr. 2001

“Lyrical, romantic. . . . Exquisite watercolors beautifully complement the story.”—Katy Rydell, Stories, Spring 2001

“Aaron Shepard has done it again! That is, he has taken a classic tale and given it new life in a picture book that will please old and young alike. . . . There is much to like about this book: the story is a fine one; the language feels naturally conversational; the watercolor illustrations are a suitable complement to the tale. A surefire winner.”—The Story Bag, Dec. 2001–Jan. 2002

Sample Text

One day, Chen came in to find the loom empty and the widow sobbing. “What’s wrong, Mother?” he asked in alarm.

She looked at him tearfully. “I finished it.”

The brocade was laid out on the floor. And there it all was—the palace reaching to the sky, the beautiful gardens, the lovely fairy ladies.

“It looks so real,” said Chen in amazement. “I feel like I could step into it!”

Just then, a sudden wind whipped through the cottage. It lifted the brocade, blew it out the window, and carried it through the air. The widow and her son rushed outside, only to watch the brocade disappear into the east.

“It’s gone!” cried the widow, and she fainted away.

Chen carried her to her bed and sat beside her for many hours. At last her eyes opened.

“Chen,” she said weakly, “you must find the brocade and bring it back.”

“Don’t worry, Mother. I’ll go at once.”

Chen gathered a few things and started to the east. He walked for hours, then days, then weeks. But there was no sign of the brocade.

One day, Chen came upon a lonely hut. Sitting by the door was an old, leather-skinned woman smoking a pipe. A horse was grazing nearby.

“Hello, deary,” said the woman. “What brings you so far from home?”

“I’m looking for my mother’s brocade. The wind carried it to the east.”

“Ah, yes,” said the woman. “The brocade of Sun Palace! Well, that wind was sent by the fairy ladies of the palace itself. They’re using the brocade as a pattern for their weaving.”

“But my mother will die without it!”

“Well, then, you had best get it back! But you won’t get to Sun Palace by foot, so you’d better ride my horse. It will show you the way.”

“Thank you!” said Chen.

“Oh, don’t thank me yet, deary. Between here and there, you must pass through the flames of Fiery Mountain. If you make a single sound of complaint, you’ll be burnt to ashes. After that, you must cross the Icy Sea. The smallest word of discontent, and you’ll be frozen solid. Do you still want to go?”

“I must get back my mother’s brocade.”

“Good boy. Take the horse and go.”

Sample text copyright © 2000 Aaron Shepard. Illustration copyright © 2000 by Xiaojun Li.

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