Having journeyed for more than ten days in the Chinese junk, the Magician continued his way on the open sea. The tiny vessel was equipped with a small sail, and his sleeping area had only a little rectangular patch of fabric that served as protection from the sun. The currents were not in his favor, so he manipulated the sail with his trusty compass as reference. His vision of the Land of Immortals to the east continued to haunt him in his dreams.
Early one morning, after two weeks of navigating, he spotted a tiny fishing boat bobbing in the offing. Although the boat was too far for him to signal the fisherman, he rejoiced at knowing that land could not be too far off. He sighed with relief at the welcomed sight. With only half a canteen of water left, he took sips to wet his lips only, careful not to use up his supply. Strewn on the floor of the junk were a few dozen empty canteens. His food supply had diminished to just a couple of pieces of dried fruit of which he allowed himself only a bite or two. He was hungry and tired. By his calculations, after unfurling the rough map folded in his robe, he determined he should be approaching the largest island of an archipelago in the East China Sea.
With little wind on this day, the Magician resorted to paddling the rest of the way as the slight waves bobbed him toward the shoreline. Constantly wary of being seen by the Emperor’s soldiers, a nagging disquiet added to his fatigue. While sailing night and day he pondered his karma. He had been journeying east since he was a very young man. He had left his homeland traveling by horseback, by boat and sometimes by foot. He had discovered slowly the spiritual ways of the East. Traveling in this direction he encountered teachings of the Taoists, Buddhists and Confucianists. His reminiscing continued in dreamlike sequences in his mind’s eye, and he wondered if the white sandy shore in the offing was a mirage, much like the ones he had encountered on his trek through the desert.
As the junk ebbed close to the shore, he stepped out into warm shallow water and waded to the edge of the beach. The soft dry sand swallowed his feet and he found that he could barely walk. His legs had grown so weak that he collapsed in the warm sand strewn with exotic shells of every shape and color. Hypnotized by the buzzing of cicadas in the tall grasses, he fell into a deep sleep.
“The Land of Immortals,” he sang to himself as he fell instantly into a profound slumber. For hours he lay baking in the sun and was awakened by the murmuring of human voices. He raised his arm above his eyes to shield himself from the sun directly overhead and squinted as he quickly sat upright, startled to find himself surrounded by nine curious people: three men, two women, and four children. They looked much like Chinese peasants and were dressed in very similar tunics with their hair, men and women alike, pulled up into topknots on their heads with sticks holding the knots in place.