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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
The Painted Bottle

"Whatís this?" Yong-Hu asked, bending over to pick up something from the grass. "Itís a bottle of some kind. Itís very dirty though. Letís go to the river and wash it out."

"A bottle? What was it doing lying in the grass? Thatís curious. You want to go to the river again?" Ho-Shing asked.

"Yes. I am thirsty too. I have had enough bamboo for today," Yong-Hu said, brushing dirt off the bottle. The two pandas headed for the river. It was flowing quickly and was a muddy brown color.

"It seems to have rained up river," Ho-Shing noted, seeing the color of the water. "Itís not very good for drinking, nor for washing out bottles."

"Iíll do the best I can. You sit here on this log and wait. Iíll be right back," Yong-Hu said. Ho-Shing watched as Yong-Hu put the bottle into the water and filled it up. He then shook it and dumped it back out. He did this several times. "Itís almost clean," Yong-Hu shouted back. Several minutes later he came walking towards Ho-Shing. "Itís clean now."

Ho-Shing took the bottle from Yong-Huís paw and examined it. "This looks like a snuff bottle," he said.

"Whatís that?" Yong-Hu asked.

"If you take a narrow strip of bamboo and find some paint, you can paint the inside of this bottle. Itís an old art, from the Qing Dynasty. Would you like to try?" Ho-Shing asked his friend.

"I think it would be better if you did it. Youíre much more skilled than I am. Iíll find some paint and the bamboo. Letís go back to the bamboo forest," Yong-Hu said.

Ho-Shing carried the bottle as they walked back. He wondered if he could paint something beautiful inside the bottle as others had in the past. "Here we are. Will you go and find me some bamboo, Yong-Hu? I need a small sliver of it, thin enough to go inside the snuff bottle. I will search for some items to use for paints." Ho-Shing gathered brightly colored flowers and leaves, berries and other things he could use to make a dye of some kind. He prepared them and soon Yong-Hu returned with a piece of bamboo. "This will do fine," Ho-Shing said, sticking it inside the bottle.

"Iíll leave you alone to paint. Iím off to nibble on some bamboo. I might go for a swim in the river, if the muddy water has cleared off," Yong-Hu said and left.

Ho-Shing concentrated. He carefully used the tip of the bamboo, dipping it into the dyes and painted the interior of the bottle. A few hours later it was complete. Ho-Shing set it down on a large rock and let it dry.

When Yong-Hu came back he saw the bottle. "Ho-Shing! That is beautiful! Iíve never seen such colors before. That is us; you and I. Youíve painted us inside the bottle. There I am sitting on the bamboo cane and you are in the tall grass, sitting, surrounded by chrysanthemum."

"Thank you," Ho-Shing humbly said. "It is for you."

"For me? You painted this for me?" Yong-Hu asked.

"You found the bottle. You took care of it and washed it out. You are my friend and I want you to have it. I will do another for myself," Ho-Shing said, handing the snuff bottle to Yong-Hu.

He reached out and took it. A tear ran down his cheek, wetting his fur. "Thank you. I will treasure it always." He walked towards the bamboo with it held carefully in his paw.

Ho-Shing smiled. It brought him great joy to make Yong-Hu happy. He knew he would find another bottle and now that heíd done it once, he knew he could paint another. From then on, the painted bottle sat on a rock near Yong-Hu. He was careful with it and looked at it often, to remind him of what a good friend, Ho-Shing was.

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