Once upon the time, in a very busy and narrow street of Shanghai there was a tiny shop selling Chinese lanterns. They were all very delicate and beautiful. Their designs did vary widely as well as the colors and shapes. The drawings on them were very carefully done by the hands of a very old artisan who had an innate talent to create marvelous things. He worked in a room in the bottom of the shop. There he used to spend all day and sometimes nights giving wings to his imagination. He only thought about lanterns and how he could make one prettier than the other. He did not like to talk to people, just with his lanterns as they had a life on their own. That little and messy room was his world and reason to live. He did not care about politics, economy, the newest technologies, other places around the planet, but his creation room and his lanterns. Lost in thoughts in the middle of hundreds of lanterns he felt complete.
As the old man did not leave his little kingdom, someone had to deal with the customers. So there was the old man's only daughter. Her name was Yuan which meant "graceful young lady". It was exactly the best way to describe her. She was all grace and as delicate as the lanterns her father used to make. Opposite to him, Yuan used to enjoy to be in contact with the public. She was always very willing to learn from the foreigners that came to the shop. She asked them so many things about their native lands. As she had never known any other place but Shanghai, she was curious about other countries, cultures, and their unique beauties.
Yuan had the ability to speak all the languages though she had never learned any one of them at school or at home. She just knew! There was something unusual about her. Not only about her. The shop was different of any other. Her father had also strange gifts of his own. The local ones always found something really weird about Yuan, her old father, and the shop, but did not know what it was.
The atmosphere of the shop was very inviting. People always described to Yuan how they felt a little different when arrived there. It was always a person at a time who went inside, never more than one unless little kids with their mothers. Yuan used to observe attentively each and every visitor while the person was lost between the lanterns with that usual doubt about which one to buy. They were all beautiful, after all. The customers could be full of uncertainties in their minds while trying to choose a proper lantern, but Yuan knew which one was the perfect to each person who came to the store. There was something magical about her perceptions of people.
Before the customers leave the shop with the chosen lanterns in a bag, Yuan used to give them a recommendation: "Hang the lantern close to a mirror, please. It is very important, don't forget. Thank you!" Then everybody asked her: "Why?" She always gave the same answer: " You will know!"
It was told that an old lady from Russia, took her Chinese lantern home. As soon as she arrived, she went to her bedroom, the only place in her house that had a mirror on the wall. Following Yuan's advice, the old lady hung the lantern close to the mirror. As soon as she did, the lantern started to shine. The lady look at the mirror and saw herself when she was a four years old girl. She had been depressed all her life as she lost her mother at that early age and nobody has ever told her how her mother looked like, how her personality felt. So, by looking at herself as the little girl she was, she heard behind her a very sweet voice and felt as a velvet touch of a hand on hers. Little by little, the image of a woman started taking shape. The woman knee in front of her and whispered: "I am your mother, the mother you never met. I came to meet you, my darling! You wanted to see me, here I am! I had to leave while you were very young still not because I did not love you or did not want you, but I had to. I was very ill and did not want you to see me to die close to you. So, I asked God, before taking me to His place, to send in your way a woman to protect you, replacing me. I wanted you to be very loved in spite of my absence. I was in her all the time. Her words were mine, her gestures were mine, just her physical appearance was another. I don't want you to feel depressed anymore by thinking that I left you because I did not want you in my life. You were, are, and always will be my treasure." The mother hugged and kissed the girl and left. Then, again, in front of the mirror there was the old lady. She look at herself with a smile and a feeling of wholeness for the first time in her heart. Then, she looked at the lantern and knew that that was not just an ordinary lantern. It has something special, unique! Now, every time she missed her mother too much, she knew that she just needed to turn the lantern on and look the reflection of its light in the mirror, and her mother would come to spend time with her.
Strange events like that one happened to all the people who bought a lantern from Yuan's shop. The kids saw in the mirror fairies and elves around them to play with. Men saw themselves in far away lands they had never been. All of those things were felt as they were real life, not fiction!
But more than seeing things and people they wanted to meet, they saw the core of themselves as transparent as a stream of a river under the sunlight. They learned so much about their own nature and things they had not idea lived in them, very beautiful things that made possible for them to live a better life and better relationships. Each one of them changed significantly within and forever.
This was a little story of a little shop from Shanghai where an inventive old man and a graceful young lady called Yuan used to sell Chinese lanterns which hide the most wonderful secrets.