Hang Foy Qua looked up at the entrance doors towering high above him. The icy wind coming
from the mountains seemed to pierce through his clothes, transforming his body into a
trembling, defenceless victim of cold. It felt like his bones were frozen, and he could
easily imagine that his blood was hardly circulating through his veins. Gathering courage,
he knocked on the door as loud as he could. Despite the savage cold that seemed to gnaw at
his limbs, he began to sweat. It froze instantly on his skin.
The doors belonged to the Pagoda of Knowledge, which were built many centuries ago
amidst the desolate mountains of Tibet. The legend told that the wisest men of the world lived
there; in the Pagoda of Knowledge the answers to all questions were held. Nobody knew
exactly where it was - and many of the people who travelled there never returned, paying
with their life for the answer to their questions or the granting of their wish.
Hang Foy Qua had every reason in the world to go there: His home in Queping, a small
fishing-village by the Japanese Sea, was being tormented by men of the Emperor. His effort
to resist them had resulted on Leia Sing, his younger sister, being kidnapped. If he were
ever to resist again, he had been told, he would get her back: In several pieces.
He had set out months earlier to find the Pagoda, and was now glad he had finally succeeded.
Ages seemed to pass while he waited for someone or something to react to his knocking;
ages in which he knew more and more part of his limbs and body were frostbitten into
numbness. Then, without as much as a sound, the doors opened slowly. Hang Foy blinked
as warm light seemed to pour out from the entrance. In it stood the dark silhouette of a
man wearing a robe, leaning with difficulty on a thin staff.
Instincively, Hang Foy knew: This was one of the Mandarins from the Pagoda of Knowledge.
The old Mandarin stood in silence, stroking his light grey moustache which hung down
along his cheeks reaching the lower parts of his neck. He didn't seem to be bothered by
the immense cold and neither his clothes nor his thin white hair seemed to waver in the
tarrifying storm. His eyes narrowed to a gaze like suspicion as he looked at the man standing
in front of him.
The Old Mandarin didn't open his mouth, nor did any sounds arise. Yet in Hang Foy's
brain he formed a simple telepathic question: "What do you want?"
Hang Foy opened his mouth and replied: "Help."
The Old Mandarin hushed him telepathically. "Do not speak. Think. I will receive."
While Hang Foy thought to sense what he considered to be a telepathical chuckle, the
Old Mandarin turned around and signalled him to come in.
Since he was chilled to the very core of his bones, he didn't hesitate and stumbled in.
The doors closed mysteriously behind him.
The second they closed, it felt as though every vein in his body had thawed. For
several seconds, he experienced a feeling he could not possible describe.
When the peculiar sensation wore off, he felt comfortably warm and removed his coat. The
Old Mandarin was now a fair distance ahead of him and he quickened is pace to catch up with
him as he disappeared into a small house to the right of the doors.
"Welcome to my humble abode," the Mandarin thought to Hang Foy as they both sat down on
the ground, "Please make yourself comfortable and accept a bowl of my fine herbal tea."
"Thank you," Hang Foy thought back, now getting the hang of it (and liking it). He
gladly accepted the warm bowl filled with scented herbal tea and drank it with relish.
Feeling relaxed now he felt as though the Old Mandarin was probing his brain, as if
tiny tentacles were scanning his grey matter for good or evei intent. The Old Mandarin spoke
"I see you are a good person. How can I help you?"
Hang Foy wondered why the Old Mandarin was helping him - without asking for money in
return, gifts, or even his life which he would gladly have offered for the sake of Leia Sing.
The Old man seemed to sense the thoughts, and said: "Good persons are like a warm cup
of herbal tea - indispensable."
Hang Foy could have sworn to sense some telepathic chuckling.
"Thank you. You are too goo to me," Hang Foy said.
He explained how his village was being harassed by men of the Emperor, and how he had
tried to resist this by fighting them and trying to outwit them in one way or another.
He had been too successful, and that was perhaps the reason why the Emperor's men had
decided to kidnap his sister to ensure he would be silent in future.
How they had misjudged Hang Foy! The very morning he discovered his sister's room
ravaged and her bed empty, he swore an oath to find and rescue her. Even if it meant going to
the Emperor to kill him, he would do so gladly if his sister was to be safe henceforth.
"I sear I will not be merciful to those who inflicted harm upon her," Hang Foy pleaded,
"help me Buddha!"
The Old Mountain had listened carefully, and looked grieved at hearing such unhappiness.
Sice Hang Foy had not spoken but only thought of everything, the Old Mandarin had seen far
more than Hang Foy could have possibly intended. He had seen Queping lying on the shores
of the Japanese Sea, Leia Sing's face, the evel performed by the Emperor's men, and many
of Queping's residents toiling on the Great Wall that the Emperor wanted built to defend
his empire from savage invasions from the North.
From inside his robe, he took out a small gem - its appearance was like that of an
emerald, but its glimmer was a bright as a diamond.
"This is the Thoughtstone," the Old Mandarin began, "it provides solutions to the many
questions we may not or cannot answer."
He held it aloft and closed his eyes. A spiritual hum emanated from the stone and several
moments later he Old Mandarin started to float upward, until he seemed to hover steadily
at about an arm's length above the ground.
The Thoughtstone started to shine even more, and then dimmed into dark green and a picture
appeared before them. The Old Mandarin held his eyes shut and sweat formed on his brows as
he appeared to be concentrating heavily.
The picture became very clear, and it appeared as though several scenes were depicted
rapdily behind each other. Hang Foy saw himself struggling to resist a rising tide, defending
a bridge in flames, warding off enemies attacking him with sticks and axes, and jumping
on various rising and sinking poles. He saw the Forbidden City, the Pagoda of Fear, and
formidable opponents. He saw his sister struggling for survival in deep dungeons under
the Emperor's Pagoda.
He saw all this in what was only half a minute. Then, the pictures faded and the Old
Mandarin gently floated back down to the earth. The Thoughtstone assumed its familiar shining
and just before the Mandarin opened his eyes, it seemed as though some else, someone invisible
shouted something through the room in a dark and threatening voice.
"Shaolin!" it cried loudly and then it echoed away quickly.
When the Mandarin finally opened his eyes, Hang Foy could see they were filled with
dread and fear.
"Shaolin," the Old Mandarin thought, "The Chambers of Shaolin. Why did it have to come
Hang Foy could barely refrain from speaking aloud, "What are you speaking of, Old man?
What are these Chambers of Shaolin?"
The Old Mandarin seemed hesitant to answer and sighed deeply.
"An old legend says," the Mandarin thought, "that the Emperor can be overthrown and all
his evil reversed if someone completes a paerticular hazardous quest. Nobody has ever done
that, and even all the Mandarins in this Pagoda of Knowledge know nothing more about it
than that which you have just seen. All that is known is that someone has to conquer the
Chambers of Shaolin fight and defeat fierce opponents."
He then silenced for several moments that seemed to last an age.
"If you complete this quest," the Mandarin continued, "all will be happy again - and
your sister will return to Queping."
Hang Foy didn't need long to think. He wasn't a hero, but the life of his sister Leia Sing
meant everything to him.
"I'll do it," he said aloud, "just tell me where the Chambers are and I will have the
The Chambers of Shaolin!