Long ago in China there lived a poor widow and her only daughter. Life was very hard for them, and they had little to eat. One day the widow began to weep. "Dear Pear Blossom," she sobbed, "we are lost. We have almost no food and no more money. What shall become of us?"
Pear Blossom knelt before her mother. "Don't worry. I will travel to see your wealthy brother in the city. Surely he will help his only sister and her child."The mother shook her head. "No, child. The way to the city is filled with danger."
But Pear Blossom was determined. "Honorable Mother, I will be swift and careful. I will be home before the roses have wilted, and we will be saved."
Her mother could think of no other way to help them, and so, sadly, she sent Pear Blossom on her way to the great city.
After many hours, Pear Blossom came upon a garden more beautiful than any she had ever seen. Behind the garden walls, she saw three sisters wearing pretty dresses and playing happily amid a sea of red poppies.
Suddenly one of the girls spotted a butterfly. "Look," the girl cried, and the sisters began to chase the creature. It fluttered this way and that, trying to escape their grasp.
Pear Blossom darted into the garden, reached out and caught the poor creature by its delicate wing.
"Give it to us," the sisters demanded. "It's our garden!"
Pear Blossom shook her head. "The butterfly must fly free," she said, and let it go, fanning the warm air to help the creature fly away more quickly.
The girls were furious. "Out of our garden, beggar!" they cried.
"I am not a beggar," Pear Blossom said. "I am on my way to the home of my rich uncle who lives in the city."
The girls only laughed. "You cannot go to the city. The Golden Dragon who lives on the mountain outside the city will gobble you up when you try to pass his cave. He breathes fire and smoke and allows no one to pass his cave." Giggling, the girls ran back into their house.
Pear Blossom wondered what to do. Suddenly Butterfly Fairy appeared. "Don't fear, Pear Blossom," the fairy said. "You saved my life and I will save yours. I know how to soothe the dragon. His hot breath has burned the earth near his cave, and flowers do not grow there, but the Golden Dragon loves flowers. Take this bouquet to him and ask for his kindness." She handed Pear Blossom a bouquet of the most glorious flowers.
Pear Blossom thanked the fairy and walked on. Before long she came to the foot of the mountain. She could hear the dragon's roar and trembled as she climbed closer. When she reached the top, the dragon leaped from his cave. "Who goes there?" he roared.
"Honorable Dragon," Pear Blossom said, "I have brought you flowers." She handed him the bouquet. "You are very fierce," she said softly, "but I want you to promise me you will never scare anyone again. If you stop roaring, your flowers will grow."
The dragon lowered his head and sniffed the bouquet. He was so moved by the gift that he promised he would be kinder.
"Thank you, Dragon," she said, "and now I will be on my way."
"Wait," the dragon said, and went back into his cave. He returned carrying three golden necklaces sparkling with jewels. "You are the first person who has ever been kind enough to give me a gift. I give you these in gratitude."
Pear Blossom thanked the dragon and walked on. When she arrived at her Uncle Ming's house, she bowed before him. "Honorable Uncle, my poor mother, your sister, has no money to pay for food. We are starving. Won't you help us?"
"Do you think I am made of money?" he cried.
"Honorable Uncle, I have traveled far to see you. I came past the cave of the Golden Dragon. Look, the dragon gave these to me because I gave him flowers," and she showed him her necklaces.
When Ming saw these, he grabbed some flowers from a vase and set off without saying another word to Pear Blossom. He ran as fast as he was able, but he could not run very fast, because he was quite fat. At last he came to the dragon's cave.
"Dragon," he said, "I have brought you flowers, and now I wish you to give me jewels." But the flowers Ming handed to the dragon were wilted. The dragon roared with fury and began to chase Ming.
Meanwhile, news of Pear Blossom's necklaces had reached the Empress of China. She sent for the child, and when she saw the necklaces, she gasped with admiration.
"Honorable Empress, allow me to give these to you," Pear Blossom said. "I have no need for precious jewels. Please accept them as a gift from me and my poor mother."
When the Empress heard the story of Pear Blossom's journey and of the way she had calmed the Golden Dragon, she invited her and her mother to live in luxury in her court. And so they did.
The Golden Dragon remained in his cave, but he was peaceful, for every day Butterfly Fairy and Pear Blossom visited him, and before long his land grew thick with flowers. As for Uncle Ming, he never again left his house, for when he tried, the dragon roared with fury and swore to harm the greedy, selfish man who had tried to give him wilted flowers.