It is a well-known fact that the Chinese regard the turtle as a supernatural creature blessed
with magical qualities and long life. To the fisherman whose livelihood comes from the perilous
sea, the turtle is both a protector and a symbol of survival.
You can thus imagine the excitement in Hong Kong when some fishermen found a giant
turtle in the South China Sea one April morning. A fleet of Chinese trawlers had set out in the
grey-blue dawn to catch fish. When they drew in their nets, the fishermen noticed something
unusual entangled among their fish, prawns and squid - it was a giant turtle.
Immediately they took the creature ashore and asked some zoological experts to estimate its
age. They analyzed the calcium content of its shell and discovered that the turtle was about 260
years old! It weighed about 160 kilograms, and its moss-green patterned shell measured a
The fishermen were filled with awe. "It is the gods who sent us this turtle," they said. "We're
going to give it to a charitable institution and have it set free on an auspicious day." Their reason
for doing this was simple: they believed that if they restored the turtle to the sea they would
share its magical powers.
As for the turtle, it belonged to the species called "chelonia Mydas' or the "Green Turtle'
which usually roams the tropical waters of the Malay Archipelago. How then did it come to the
South China Sea?
Professor Lai Ying offered an explanation. "The turtle must have strayed north in search of
food and so got caught in the net."
However, the fishermen disagreed, saying that it had instead come to pay homage to the
goddess Tin Hau on her birthday. Tin Hau is the patron saint of the fishermen, and her birthday is ceremoniously observed on the twenty-third day of the third moon in the lunar calendar
[around the end of April].
The turtle was kept in a pool in a temple while waiting to be released on Tin Hau's birthday.
Hundreds of believers filed past the pool to stroke the turtle's shell and drop money in the pool.
There was a competition too - the man who donated the largest amount of money to the
charitable institution would have the privilege of casting the turtle back into the sea.
Mr C. H. Ko, a wealthy restaurateur, paid for the privilege. "I'm just like everybody else," he
said. "I also want a long life." The charity organizers carved his name on the stainless steel plaque
and fastened it onto the turtle's shell.
On the chosen day, Mr Ko tied a red ribbon round the head of the turtle and set it free from
the launch far out at sea.
A word about the turtle's supposed magical powers which you might find hard to believe:
"Sometime last year," said an official of the charitable institution, "we were given a 32- kilogram turtle by a fish dealer who did not want to sell it for food. His business was very bad
then, but today it is flourishing and he is rich man."
Answer the following questions using complete
1. How do Chinese fishermen regard the turtle?
2. How did the zoologists know the turtle was 260 years old?
3. Why do you think the fishermen chose to set the turtle free on an auspicious day?
4. Why did the fishermen disagree with Professor Lai Ying's explanation? What was their
5. Why do you think people thronged to where the turtle was kept to stroke its shell?
6. Why was the competition held?
7. What are the two examples mentioned in the passage which showed the Chinese people's
belief that the person who restores a turtle to the sea would share in its magical power?
Fill in the blanks with one correct word from the passage.
8. People in ancient times used to believe in the existence of creatures
with magical powers.
9. Everyone should donate generously to organizations.
10. During Thaipusam, Hindus visit the temple to pay to