Part 1 out of 10
HUNG LOU MENG, BOOK I
OR, THE DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER, A CHINESE NOVEL IN TWO BOOKS
Translated by H. BENCRAFT JOLY
This translation was suggested not by any pretensions to range myself
among the ranks of the body of sinologues, but by the perplexities and
difficulties experienced by me as a student in Peking, when, at the
completion of the Tzu Erh Chi, I had to plunge in the maze of the Hung
Shortcomings are, I feel sure, to be discovered, both in the prose, as
well as among the doggerel and uncouth rhymes, in which the text has
been more adhered to than rhythm; but I shall feel satisfied with the
result, if I succeed, even in the least degree, in affording a helping
hand to present and future students of the Chinese language.
H. BENCRAFT JOLY, H.B.M. Vice-Consulate, Macao, 1st September, 1891.
THE DREAM OF THE RED CHAMBER.
Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality.
Chia Yü-ts'un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts
of a beautiful maiden.
This is the opening section; this the first chapter. Subsequent to the
visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced,
the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the true
circumstances, and borrowed the attributes of perception and
spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this
purpose, he made use of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under
the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events
recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?
Wearied with the drudgery experienced of late in the world, the author
speaking for himself, goes on to explain, with the lack of success which
attended every single concern, I suddenly bethought myself of the
womankind of past ages. Passing one by one under a minute scrutiny, I
felt that in action and in lore, one and all were far above me; that in
spite of the majesty of my manliness, I could not, in point of fact,
compare with these characters of the gentle sex. And my shame forsooth
then knew no bounds; while regret, on the other hand, was of no avail,
as there was not even a remote possibility of a day of remedy.
On this very day it was that I became desirous to compile, in a
connected form, for publication throughout the world, with a view to
(universal) information, how that I bear inexorable and manifold
retribution; inasmuch as what time, by the sustenance of the benevolence
of Heaven, and the virtue of my ancestors, my apparel was rich and fine,
and as what days my fare was savory and sumptuous, I disregarded the
bounty of education and nurture of father and mother, and paid no heed
to the virtue of precept and injunction of teachers and friends, with
the result that I incurred the punishment, of failure recently in the
least trifle, and the reckless waste of half my lifetime. There have
been meanwhile, generation after generation, those in the inner
chambers, the whole mass of whom could not, on any account, be, through
my influence, allowed to fall into extinction, in order that I, unfilial
as I have been, may have the means to screen my own shortcomings.
Hence it is that the thatched shed, with bamboo mat windows, the bed of
tow and the stove of brick, which are at present my share, are not
sufficient to deter me from carrying out the fixed purpose of my mind.
And could I, furthermore, confront the morning breeze, the evening moon,
the willows by the steps and the flowers in the courtyard, methinks
these would moisten to a greater degree my mortal pen with ink; but
though I lack culture and erudition, what harm is there, however, in
employing fiction and unrecondite language to give utterance to the
merits of these characters? And were I also able to induce the inmates
of the inner chamber to understand and diffuse them, could I besides
break the weariness of even so much as a single moment, or could I open
the eyes of my contemporaries, will it not forsooth prove a boon?
This consideration has led to the usage of such names as Chia Yü-ts'un
and other similar appellations.
More than any in these pages have been employed such words as dreams and
visions; but these dreams constitute the main argument of this work, and
combine, furthermore, the design of giving a word of warning to my
Reader, can you suggest whence the story begins?
The narration may border on the limits of incoherency and triviality,
but it possesses considerable zest. But to begin.
The Empress Nü Wo, (the goddess of works,) in fashioning blocks of
stones, for the repair of the heavens, prepared, at the Ta Huang Hills
and Wu Ch'i cave, 36,501 blocks of rough stone, each twelve chang in
height, and twenty-four chang square. Of these stones, the Empress Wo
only used 36,500; so that one single block remained over and above,
without being turned to any account. This was cast down the Ch'ing Keng
peak. This stone, strange to say, after having undergone a process of
refinement, attained a nature of efficiency, and could, by its innate
powers, set itself into motion and was able to expand and to contract.
When it became aware that the whole number of blocks had been made use
of to repair the heavens, that it alone had been destitute of the
necessary properties and had been unfit to attain selection, it
forthwith felt within itself vexation and shame, and day and night, it
gave way to anguish and sorrow.
One day, while it lamented its lot, it suddenly caught sight, at a great
distance, of a Buddhist bonze and of a Taoist priest coming towards that
direction. Their appearance was uncommon, their easy manner remarkable.
When they drew near this Ch'ing Keng peak, they sat on the ground to
rest, and began to converse. But on noticing the block newly-polished
and brilliantly clear, which had moreover contracted in dimensions, and
become no larger than the pendant of a fan, they were greatly filled
with admiration. The Buddhist priest picked it up, and laid it in the
palm of his hand.
"Your appearance," he said laughingly, "may well declare you to be a
supernatural object, but as you lack any inherent quality it is
necessary to inscribe a few characters on you, so that every one who
shall see you may at once recognise you to be a remarkable thing. And
subsequently, when you will be taken into a country where honour and
affluence will reign, into a family cultured in mind and of official
status, in a land where flowers and trees shall flourish with
luxuriance, in a town of refinement, renown and glory; when you once
will have been there..."
The stone listened with intense delight.
"What characters may I ask," it consequently inquired, "will you
inscribe? and what place will I be taken to? pray, pray explain to me in
lucid terms." "You mustn't be inquisitive," the bonze replied, with a
smile, "in days to come you'll certainly understand everything." Having
concluded these words, he forthwith put the stone in his sleeve, and
proceeded leisurely on his journey, in company with the Taoist priest.
Whither, however, he took the stone, is not divulged. Nor can it be
known how many centuries and ages elapsed, before a Taoist priest, K'ung
K'ung by name, passed, during his researches after the eternal reason
and his quest after immortality, by these Ta Huang Hills, Wu Ch'i cave
and Ch'ing Keng Peak. Suddenly perceiving a large block of stone, on the
surface of which the traces of characters giving, in a connected form,
the various incidents of its fate, could be clearly deciphered, K'ung
K'ung examined them from first to last. They, in fact, explained how
that this block of worthless stone had originally been devoid of the
properties essential for the repairs to the heavens, how it would be
transmuted into human form and introduced by Mang Mang the High Lord,
and Miao Miao, the Divine, into the world of mortals, and how it would
be led over the other bank (across the San Sara). On the surface, the
record of the spot where it would fall, the place of its birth, as well
as various family trifles and trivial love affairs of young ladies,
verses, odes, speeches and enigmas was still complete; but the name of
the dynasty and the year of the reign were obliterated, and could not be
On the obverse, were also the following enigmatical verses:
Lacking in virtues meet the azure skies to mend,
In vain the mortal world full many a year I wend,
Of a former and after life these facts that be,
Who will for a tradition strange record for me?
K'ung K'ung, the Taoist, having pondered over these lines for a while,
became aware that this stone had a history of some kind.
"Brother stone," he forthwith said, addressing the stone, "the concerns
of past days recorded on you possess, according to your own account, a
considerable amount of interest, and have been for this reason
inscribed, with the intent of soliciting generations to hand them down
as remarkable occurrences. But in my own opinion, they lack, in the
first place, any data by means of which to establish the name of the
Emperor and the year of his reign; and, in the second place, these
constitute no record of any excellent policy, adopted by any high
worthies or high loyal statesmen, in the government of the state, or in
the rule of public morals. The contents simply treat of a certain number
of maidens, of exceptional character; either of their love affairs or
infatuations, or of their small deserts or insignificant talents; and
were I to transcribe the whole collection of them, they would,
nevertheless, not be estimated as a book of any exceptional worth."
"Sir Priest," the stone replied with assurance, "why are you so
excessively dull? The dynasties recorded in the rustic histories, which
have been written from age to age, have, I am fain to think, invariably
assumed, under false pretences, the mere nomenclature of the Han and
T'ang dynasties. They differ from the events inscribed on my block,
which do not borrow this customary practice, but, being based on my own
experiences and natural feelings, present, on the contrary, a novel and
unique character. Besides, in the pages of these rustic histories,
either the aspersions upon sovereigns and statesmen, or the strictures
upon individuals, their wives, and their daughters, or the deeds of
licentiousness and violence are too numerous to be computed. Indeed,
there is one more kind of loose literature, the wantonness and pollution
in which work most easy havoc upon youth.
"As regards the works, in which the characters of scholars and beauties
is delineated their allusions are again repeatedly of Wen Chün, their
theme in every page of Tzu Chien; a thousand volumes present no
diversity; and a thousand characters are but a counterpart of each
other. What is more, these works, throughout all their pages, cannot
help bordering on extreme licence. The authors, however, had no other
object in view than to give utterance to a few sentimental odes and
elegant ballads of their own, and for this reason they have fictitiously
invented the names and surnames of both men and women, and necessarily
introduced, in addition, some low characters, who should, like a buffoon
in a play, create some excitement in the plot.
"Still more loathsome is a kind of pedantic and profligate literature,
perfectly devoid of all natural sentiment, full of self-contradictions;
and, in fact, the contrast to those maidens in my work, whom I have,
during half my lifetime, seen with my own eyes and heard with my own
ears. And though I will not presume to estimate them as superior to the
heroes and heroines in the works of former ages, yet the perusal of the
motives and issues of their experiences, may likewise afford matter
sufficient to banish dulness, and to break the spell of melancholy.
"As regards the several stanzas of doggerel verse, they may too evoke
such laughter as to compel the reader to blurt out the rice, and to
spurt out the wine.
"In these pages, the scenes depicting the anguish of separation, the
bliss of reunion, and the fortunes of prosperity and of adversity are
all, in every detail, true to human nature, and I have not taken upon
myself to make the slightest addition, or alteration, which might lead
to the perversion of the truth.
"My only object has been that men may, after a drinking bout, or after
they wake from sleep or when in need of relaxation from the pressure of
business, take up this light literature, and not only expunge the traces
of antiquated books, and obtain a new kind of distraction, but that they
may also lay by a long life as well as energy and strength; for it bears
no point of similarity to those works, whose designs are false, whose
course is immoral. Now, Sir Priest, what are your views on the subject?"
K'ung K'ung having pondered for a while over the words, to which he had
listened intently, re-perused, throughout, this record of the stone; and
finding that the general purport consisted of nought else than a
treatise on love, and likewise of an accurate transcription of facts,
without the least taint of profligacy injurious to the times, he
thereupon copied the contents, from beginning to end, to the intent of
charging the world to hand them down as a strange story.
Hence it was that K'ung K'ung, the Taoist, in consequence of his
perception, (in his state of) abstraction, of passion, the generation,
from this passion, of voluptuousness, the transmission of this
voluptuousness into passion, and the apprehension, by means of passion,
of its unreality, forthwith altered his name for that of "Ch'ing Tseng"
(the Voluptuous Bonze), and changed the title of "the Memoir of a Stone"
(Shih-t'ou-chi,) for that of "Ch'ing Tseng Lu," The Record of the
Voluptuous Bonze; while K'ung Mei-chi of Tung Lu gave it the name of
"Feng Yüeh Pao Chien," "The Precious Mirror of Voluptuousness." In later
years, owing to the devotion by Tsao Hsüeh-ch'in in the Tao Hung study,
of ten years to the perusal and revision of the work, the additions and
modifications effected by him five times, the affix of an index and the
division into periods and chapters, the book was again entitled "Chin
Ling Shih Erh Ch'ai," "The Twelve Maidens of Chin Ling." A stanza was
furthermore composed for the purpose. This then, and no other, is the
origin of the Record of the Stone. The poet says appositely:--
Pages full of silly litter,
Tears a handful sour and bitter;
All a fool the author hold,
But their zest who can unfold?
You have now understood the causes which brought about the Record of the
Stone, but as you are not, as yet, aware what characters are depicted,
and what circumstances are related on the surface of the block, reader,
please lend an ear to the narrative on the stone, which runs as
In old days, the land in the South East lay low. In this South-East part
of the world, was situated a walled town, Ku Su by name. Within the
walls a locality, called the Ch'ang Men, was more than all others
throughout the mortal world, the centre, which held the second, if not
the first place for fashion and life. Beyond this Ch'ang Men was a
street called Shih-li-chieh (Ten _Li_ street); in this street a lane,
the Jen Ch'ing lane (Humanity and Purity); and in this lane stood an old
temple, which on account of its diminutive dimensions, was called, by
general consent, the Gourd temple. Next door to this temple lived the
family of a district official, Chen by surname, Fei by name, and
Shih-yin by style. His wife, née Feng, possessed a worthy and virtuous
disposition, and had a clear perception of moral propriety and good
conduct. This family, though not in actual possession of excessive
affluence and honours, was, nevertheless, in their district, conceded to
be a clan of well-to-do standing. As this Chen Shih-yin was of a
contented and unambitious frame of mind, and entertained no hankering
after any official distinction, but day after day of his life took
delight in gazing at flowers, planting bamboos, sipping his wine and
conning poetical works, he was in fact, in the indulgence of these
pursuits, as happy as a supernatural being.
One thing alone marred his happiness. He had lived over half a century
and had, as yet, no male offspring around his knees. He had one only
child, a daughter, whose infant name was Ying Lien. She was just three
years of age. On a long summer day, on which the heat had been intense,
Shih-yin sat leisurely in his library. Feeling his hand tired, he
dropped the book he held, leant his head on a teapoy, and fell asleep.
Of a sudden, while in this state of unconsciousness, it seemed as if he
had betaken himself on foot to some spot or other whither he could not
discriminate. Unexpectedly he espied, in the opposite direction, two
priests coming towards him: the one a Buddhist, the other a Taoist. As
they advanced they kept up the conversation in which they were engaged.
"Whither do you purpose taking the object you have brought away?" he
heard the Taoist inquire. To this question the Buddhist replied with a
smile: "Set your mind at ease," he said; "there's now in maturity a plot
of a general character involving mundane pleasures, which will presently
come to a denouement. The whole number of the votaries of voluptuousness
have, as yet, not been quickened or entered the world, and I mean to
avail myself of this occasion to introduce this object among their
number, so as to give it a chance to go through the span of human
existence." "The votaries of voluptuousness of these days will naturally
have again to endure the ills of life during their course through the
mortal world," the Taoist remarked; "but when, I wonder, will they
spring into existence? and in what place will they descend?"
"The account of these circumstances," the bonze ventured to reply, "is
enough to make you laugh! They amount to this: there existed in the
west, on the bank of the Ling (spiritual) river, by the side of the San
Sheng (thrice-born) stone, a blade of the Chiang Chu (purple pearl)
grass. At about the same time it was that the block of stone was,
consequent upon its rejection by the goddess of works, also left to
ramble and wander to its own gratification, and to roam about at
pleasure to every and any place. One day it came within the precincts of
the Ching Huan (Monitory Vision) Fairy; and this Fairy, cognizant of the
fact that this stone had a history, detained it, therefore, to reside at
the Ch'ih Hsia (purple clouds) palace, and apportioned to it the duties
of attendant on Shen Ying, a fairy of the Ch'ih Hsia palace.
"This stone would, however, often stroll along the banks of the Ling
river, and having at the sight of the blade of spiritual grass been
filled with admiration, it, day by day, moistened its roots with sweet
dew. This purple pearl grass, at the outset, tarried for months and
years; but being at a later period imbued with the essence and
luxuriance of heaven and earth, and having incessantly received the
moisture and nurture of the sweet dew, divested itself, in course of
time, of the form of a grass; assuming, in lieu, a human nature, which
gradually became perfected into the person of a girl.
"Every day she was wont to wander beyond the confines of the Li Hen
(divested animosities) heavens. When hungry she fed on the Pi Ch'ing
(hidden love) fruit--when thirsty she drank the Kuan ch'ou (discharged
sorrows,) water. Having, however, up to this time, not shewn her
gratitude for the virtue of nurture lavished upon her, the result was
but natural that she should resolve in her heart upon a constant and
incessant purpose to make suitable acknowledgment.
"I have been," she would often commune within herself, "the recipient of
the gracious bounty of rain and dew, but I possess no such water as was
lavished upon me to repay it! But should it ever descend into the world
in the form of a human being, I will also betake myself thither, along
with it; and if I can only have the means of making restitution to it,
with the tears of a whole lifetime, I may be able to make adequate
"This resolution it is that will evolve the descent into the world of so
many pleasure-bound spirits of retribution and the experience of
fantastic destinies; and this crimson pearl blade will also be among the
number. The stone still lies in its original place, and why should not
you and I take it along before the tribunal of the Monitory Vision
Fairy, and place on its behalf its name on record, so that it should
descend into the world, in company with these spirits of passion, and
bring this plot to an issue?"
"It is indeed ridiculous," interposed the Taoist. "Never before have I
heard even the very mention of restitution by means of tears! Why should
not you and I avail ourselves of this opportunity to likewise go down
into the world? and if successful in effecting the salvation of a few of
them, will it not be a work meritorious and virtuous?"
"This proposal," remarked the Buddhist, "is quite in harmony with my own
views. Come along then with me to the palace of the Monitory Vision
Fairy, and let us deliver up this good-for-nothing object, and have done
with it! And when the company of pleasure-bound spirits of wrath descend
into human existence, you and I can then enter the world. Half of them
have already fallen into the dusty universe, but the whole number of
them have not, as yet, come together."
"Such being the case," the Taoist acquiesced, "I am ready to follow you,
whenever you please to go."
But to return to Chen Shih-yin. Having heard every one of these words
distinctly, he could not refrain from forthwith stepping forward and
paying homage. "My spiritual lords," he said, as he smiled, "accept my
obeisance." The Buddhist and Taoist priests lost no time in responding
to the compliment, and they exchanged the usual salutations. "My
spiritual lords," Shih-yin continued; "I have just heard the
conversation that passed between you, on causes and effects, a
conversation the like of which few mortals have forsooth listened to;
but your younger brother is sluggish of intellect, and cannot lucidly
fathom the import! Yet could this dulness and simplicity be graciously
dispelled, your younger brother may, by listening minutely, with
undefiled ear and careful attention, to a certain degree be aroused to a
sense of understanding; and what is more, possibly find the means of
escaping the anguish of sinking down into Hades."
The two spirits smiled, "The conversation," they added, "refers to the
primordial scheme and cannot be divulged before the proper season; but,
when the time comes, mind do not forget us two, and you will readily be
able to escape from the fiery furnace."
Shih-yin, after this reply, felt it difficult to make any further
inquiries. "The primordial scheme," he however remarked smiling,
"cannot, of course, be divulged; but what manner of thing, I wonder, is
the good-for-nothing object you alluded to a short while back? May I not
be allowed to judge for myself?"
"This object about which you ask," the Buddhist Bonze responded, "is
intended, I may tell you, by fate to be just glanced at by you." With
these words he produced it, and handed it over to Shih-yin.
Shih-yin received it. On scrutiny he found it, in fact, to be a
beautiful gem, so lustrous and so clear that the traces of characters on
the surface were distinctly visible. The characters inscribed consisted
of the four "T'ung Ling Pao Yü," "Precious Gem of Spiritual Perception."
On the obverse, were also several columns of minute words, which he was
just in the act of looking at intently, when the Buddhist at once
"We have already reached," he exclaimed, "the confines of vision."
Snatching it violently out of his hands, he walked away with the Taoist,
under a lofty stone portal, on the face of which appeared in large type
the four characters: "T'ai Hsü Huan Ching," "The Visionary limits of the
Great Void." On each side was a scroll with the lines:
When falsehood stands for truth, truth likewise becomes false,
Where naught be made to aught, aught changes into naught.
Shih-yin meant also to follow them on the other side, but, as he was
about to make one step forward, he suddenly heard a crash, just as if
the mountains had fallen into ruins, and the earth sunk into
destruction. As Shih-yin uttered a loud shout, he looked with strained
eye; but all he could see was the fiery sun shining, with glowing rays,
while the banana leaves drooped their heads. By that time, half of the
circumstances connected with the dream he had had, had already slipped
from his memory.
He also noticed a nurse coming towards him with Ying Lien in her arms.
To Shih-yin's eyes his daughter appeared even more beautiful, such a
bright gem, so precious, and so lovable. Forthwith stretching out his
arms, he took her over, and, as he held her in his embrace, he coaxed
her to play with him for a while; after which he brought her up to the
street to see the great stir occasioned by the procession that was going
He was about to come in, when he caught sight of two priests, one a
Taoist, the other a Buddhist, coming hither from the opposite direction.
The Buddhist had a head covered with mange, and went barefooted. The
Taoist had a limping foot, and his hair was all dishevelled.
Like maniacs, they jostled along, chattering and laughing as they drew
As soon as they reached Shih-yin's door, and they perceived him with
Ying Lien in his arms, the Bonze began to weep aloud.
Turning towards Shih-yin, he said to him: "My good Sir, why need you
carry in your embrace this living but luckless thing, which will involve
father and mother in trouble?"
These words did not escape Shih-yin's ear; but persuaded that they
amounted to raving talk, he paid no heed whatever to the bonze.
"Part with her and give her to me," the Buddhist still went on to say.
Shih-yin could not restrain his annoyance; and hastily pressing his
daughter closer to him, he was intent upon going in, when the bonze
pointed his hand at him, and burst out in a loud fit of laughter.
He then gave utterance to the four lines that follow:
You indulge your tender daughter and are laughed at as inane;
Vain you face the snow, oh mirror! for it will evanescent wane,
When the festival of lanterns is gone by, guard 'gainst your doom,
'Tis what time the flames will kindle, and the fire will consume.
Shih-yin understood distinctly the full import of what he heard; but his
heart was still full of conjectures. He was about to inquire who and
what they were, when he heard the Taoist remark,--"You and I cannot
speed together; let us now part company, and each of us will be then
able to go after his own business. After the lapse of three ages, I
shall be at the Pei Mang mount, waiting for you; and we can, after our
reunion, betake ourselves to the Visionary Confines of the Great Void,
there to cancel the name of the stone from the records."
"Excellent! first rate!" exclaimed the Bonze. And at the conclusion of
these words, the two men parted, each going his own way, and no trace
was again seen of them.
"These two men," Shih-yin then pondered within his heart, "must have had
many experiences, and I ought really to have made more inquiries of
them; but at this juncture to indulge in regret is anyhow too late."
While Shih-yin gave way to these foolish reflections, he suddenly
noticed the arrival of a penniless scholar, Chia by surname, Hua by
name, Shih-fei by style and Yü-ts'un by nickname, who had taken up his
quarters in the Gourd temple next door. This Chia Yü-ts'un was
originally a denizen of Hu-Chow, and was also of literary and official
parentage, but as he was born of the youngest stock, and the possessions
of his paternal and maternal ancestors were completely exhausted, and
his parents and relatives were dead, he remained the sole and only
survivor; and, as he found his residence in his native place of no
avail, he therefore entered the capital in search of that reputation,
which would enable him to put the family estate on a proper standing. He
had arrived at this place since the year before last, and had, what is
more, lived all along in very straitened circumstances. He had made the
temple his temporary quarters, and earned a living by daily occupying
himself in composing documents and writing letters for customers. Thus
it was that Shih-yin had been in constant relations with him.
As soon as Yü-ts'un perceived Shih-yin, he lost no time in saluting him.
"My worthy Sir," he observed with a forced smile; "how is it you are
leaning against the door and looking out? Is there perchance any news
astir in the streets, or in the public places?"
"None whatever," replied Shih-yin, as he returned the smile. "Just a
while back, my young daughter was in sobs, and I coaxed her out here to
amuse her. I am just now without anything whatever to attend to, so
that, dear brother Chia, you come just in the nick of time. Please walk
into my mean abode, and let us endeavour, in each other's company, to
while away this long summer day."
After he had made this remark, he bade a servant take his daughter in,
while he, hand-in-hand with Yü-ts'un, walked into the library, where a
young page served tea. They had hardly exchanged a few sentences, when
one of the household came in, in flying haste, to announce that Mr. Yen
had come to pay a visit.
Shih-yin at once stood up. "Pray excuse my rudeness," he remarked
apologetically, "but do sit down; I shall shortly rejoin you, and enjoy
the pleasure of your society." "My dear Sir," answered Yü-ts'un, as he
got up, also in a conceding way, "suit your own convenience. I've often
had the honour of being your guest, and what will it matter if I wait a
little?" While these apologies were yet being spoken, Shih-yin had
already walked out into the front parlour. During his absence, Yü-ts'un
occupied himself in turning over the pages of some poetical work to
dispel ennui, when suddenly he heard, outside the window, a woman's
cough. Yü-ts'un hurriedly got up and looked out. He saw at a glance that
it was a servant girl engaged in picking flowers. Her deportment was out
of the common; her eyes so bright, her eyebrows so well defined. Though
not a perfect beauty, she possessed nevertheless charms sufficient to
arouse the feelings. Yü-ts'un unwittingly gazed at her with fixed eye.
This waiting-maid, belonging to the Chen family, had done picking
flowers, and was on the point of going in, when she of a sudden raised
her eyes and became aware of the presence of some person inside the
window, whose head-gear consisted of a turban in tatters, while his
clothes were the worse for wear. But in spite of his poverty, he was
naturally endowed with a round waist, a broad back, a fat face, a square
mouth; added to this, his eyebrows were swordlike, his eyes resembled
stars, his nose was straight, his cheeks square.
This servant girl turned away in a hurry and made her escape.
"This man so burly and strong," she communed within herself, "yet at the
same time got up in such poor attire, must, I expect, be no one else
than the man, whose name is Chia Yü-ts'un or such like, time after time
referred to by my master, and to whom he has repeatedly wished to give a
helping hand, but has failed to find a favourable opportunity. And as
related to our family there is no connexion or friend in such straits, I
feel certain it cannot be any other person than he. Strange to say, my
master has further remarked that this man will, for a certainty, not
always continue in such a state of destitution."
As she indulged in this train of thought, she could not restrain herself
from turning her head round once or twice.
When Yü-ts'un perceived that she had looked back, he readily interpreted
it as a sign that in her heart her thoughts had been of him, and he was
frantic with irrepressible joy.
"This girl," he mused, "is, no doubt, keen-eyed and eminently shrewd,
and one in this world who has seen through me."
The servant youth, after a short time, came into the room; and when
Yü-ts'un made inquiries and found out from him that the guests in the
front parlour had been detained to dinner, he could not very well wait
any longer, and promptly walked away down a side passage and out of a
When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back to
rejoin Yü-ts'un, as he had come to know that he had already left.
In time the mid-autumn festivities drew near; and Shih-yin, after the
family banquet was over, had a separate table laid in the library, and
crossed over, in the moonlight, as far as the temple and invited
Yü-ts'un to come round.
The fact is that Yü-ts'un, ever since the day on which he had seen the
girl of the Chen family turn twice round to glance at him, flattered
himself that she was friendly disposed towards him, and incessantly
fostered fond thoughts of her in his heart. And on this day, which
happened to be the mid-autumn feast, he could not, as he gazed at the
moon, refrain from cherishing her remembrance. Hence it was that he gave
vent to these pentameter verses:
Alas! not yet divined my lifelong wish,
And anguish ceaseless comes upon anguish
I came, and sad at heart, my brow I frowned;
She went, and oft her head to look turned round.
Facing the breeze, her shadow she doth watch,
Who's meet this moonlight night with her to match?
The lustrous rays if they my wish but read
Would soon alight upon her beauteous head!
Yü-ts'un having, after this recitation, recalled again to mind how that
throughout his lifetime his literary attainments had had an adverse fate
and not met with an opportunity (of reaping distinction), went on to rub
his brow, and as he raised his eyes to the skies, he heaved a deep sigh
and once more intoned a couplet aloud:
The gem in the cask a high price it seeks,
The pin in the case to take wing it waits.
As luck would have it, Shih-yin was at the moment approaching, and upon
hearing the lines, he said with a smile: "My dear Yü-ts'un, really your
attainments are of no ordinary capacity."
Yü-ts'un lost no time in smiling and replying. "It would be presumption
in my part to think so," he observed. "I was simply at random humming a
few verses composed by former writers, and what reason is there to laud
me to such an excessive degree? To what, my dear Sir, do I owe the
pleasure of your visit?" he went on to inquire. "Tonight," replied
Shih-yin, "is the mid-autumn feast, generally known as the full-moon
festival; and as I could not help thinking that living, as you my worthy
brother are, as a mere stranger in this Buddhist temple, you could not
but experience the feeling of loneliness. I have, for the express
purpose, prepared a small entertainment, and will be pleased if you will
come to my mean abode to have a glass of wine. But I wonder whether you
will entertain favourably my modest invitation?" Yü-ts'un, after
listening to the proposal, put forward no refusal of any sort; but
remarked complacently: "Being the recipient of such marked attention,
how can I presume to repel your generous consideration?"
As he gave expression to these words, he walked off there and then, in
company with Shih-yin, and came over once again into the court in front
of the library. In a few minutes, tea was over.
The cups and dishes had been laid from an early hour, and needless to
say the wines were luscious; the fare sumptuous.
The two friends took their seats. At first they leisurely replenished
their glasses, and quietly sipped their wine; but as, little by little,
they entered into conversation, their good cheer grew more genial, and
unawares the glasses began to fly round, and the cups to be exchanged.
At this very hour, in every house of the neighbourhood, sounded the fife
and lute, while the inmates indulged in music and singing. Above head,
the orb of the radiant moon shone with an all-pervading splendour, and
with a steady lustrous light, while the two friends, as their exuberance
increased, drained their cups dry so soon as they reached their lips.
Yü-ts'un, at this stage of the collation, was considerably under the
influence of wine, and the vehemence of his high spirits was
irrepressible. As he gazed at the moon, he fostered thoughts, to which
he gave vent by the recital of a double couplet.
'Tis what time three meets five, Selene is a globe!
Her pure rays fill the court, the jadelike rails enrobe!
Lo! in the heavens her disk to view doth now arise,
And in the earth below to gaze men lift their eyes.
"Excellent!" cried Shih-yin with a loud voice, after he had heard these
lines; "I have repeatedly maintained that it was impossible for you to
remain long inferior to any, and now the verses you have recited are a
prognostic of your rapid advancement. Already it is evident that, before
long, you will extend your footsteps far above the clouds! I must
congratulate you! I must congratulate you! Let me, with my own hands,
pour a glass of wine to pay you my compliments."
Yü-ts'un drained the cup. "What I am about to say," he explained as he
suddenly heaved a sigh, "is not the maudlin talk of a man under the
effects of wine. As far as the subjects at present set in the
examinations go, I could, perchance, also have well been able to enter
the list, and to send in my name as a candidate; but I have, just now,
no means whatever to make provision for luggage and for travelling
expenses. The distance too to Shen Ching is a long one, and I could not
depend upon the sale of papers or the composition of essays to find the
means of getting there."
Shih-yin gave him no time to conclude. "Why did you not speak about this
sooner?" he interposed with haste. "I have long entertained this
suspicion; but as, whenever I met you, this conversation was never
broached, I did not presume to make myself officious. But if such be the
state of affairs just now, I lack, I admit, literary qualification, but
on the two subjects of friendly spirit and pecuniary means, I have,
nevertheless, some experience. Moreover, I rejoice that next year is
just the season for the triennial examinations, and you should start for
the capital with all despatch; and in the tripos next spring, you will,
by carrying the prize, be able to do justice to the proficiency you can
boast of. As regards the travelling expenses and the other items, the
provision of everything necessary for you by my own self will again not
render nugatory your mean acquaintance with me."
Forthwith, he directed a servant lad to go and pack up at once fifty
taels of pure silver and two suits of winter clothes.
"The nineteenth," he continued, "is a propitious day, and you should
lose no time in hiring a boat and starting on your journey westwards.
And when, by your eminent talents, you shall have soared high to a lofty
position, and we meet again next winter, will not the occasion be
Yü-ts'un accepted the money and clothes with but scanty expression of
gratitude. In fact, he paid no thought whatever to the gifts, but went
on, again drinking his wine, as he chattered and laughed.
It was only when the third watch of that day had already struck that the
two friends parted company; and Shih-yin, after seeing Yü-ts'un off,
retired to his room and slept, with one sleep all through, never waking
until the sun was well up in the skies.
Remembering the occurrence of the previous night, he meant to write a
couple of letters of recommendation for Yü-ts'un to take along with him
to the capital, to enable him, after handing them over at the mansions
of certain officials, to find some place as a temporary home. He
accordingly despatched a servant to ask him to come round, but the man
returned and reported that from what the bonze said, "Mr. Chia had
started on his journey to the capital, at the fifth watch of that very
morning, that he had also left a message with the bonze to deliver to
you, Sir, to the effect that men of letters paid no heed to lucky or
unlucky days, that the sole consideration with them was the nature of
the matter in hand, and that he could find no time to come round in
person and bid good-bye."
Shih-yin after hearing this message had no alternative but to banish the
subject from his thoughts.
In comfortable circumstances, time indeed goes by with easy stride. Soon
drew near also the happy festival of the 15th of the 1st moon, and
Shih-yin told a servant Huo Ch'i to take Ying Lien to see the
sacrificial fires and flowery lanterns.
About the middle of the night, Huo Ch'i was hard pressed, and he
forthwith set Ying Lien down on the doorstep of a certain house. When he
felt relieved, he came back to take her up, but failed to find anywhere
any trace of Ying Lien. In a terrible plight, Huo Ch'i prosecuted his
search throughout half the night; but even by the dawn of day, he had
not discovered any clue of her whereabouts. Huo Ch'i, lacking, on the
other hand, the courage to go back and face his master, promptly made
his escape to his native village.
Shih-yin--in fact, the husband as well as the wife--seeing that their
child had not come home during the whole night, readily concluded that
some mishap must have befallen her. Hastily they despatched several
servants to go in search of her, but one and all returned to report that
there was neither vestige nor tidings of her.
This couple had only had this child, and this at the meridian of their
life, so that her sudden disappearance plunged them in such great
distress that day and night they mourned her loss to such a point as to
well nigh pay no heed to their very lives.
A month in no time went by. Shih-yin was the first to fall ill, and his
wife, Dame Feng, likewise, by dint of fretting for her daughter, was
also prostrated with sickness. The doctor was, day after day, sent for,
and the oracle consulted by means of divination.
Little did any one think that on this day, being the 15th of the 3rd
moon, while the sacrificial oblations were being prepared in the Hu Lu
temple, a pan with oil would have caught fire, through the want of care
on the part of the bonze, and that in a short time the flames would have
consumed the paper pasted on the windows.
Among the natives of this district bamboo fences and wooden partitions
were in general use, and these too proved a source of calamity so
ordained by fate (to consummate this decree).
With promptness (the fire) extended to two buildings, then enveloped
three, then dragged four (into ruin), and then spread to five houses,
until the whole street was in a blaze, resembling the flames of a
volcano. Though both the military and the people at once ran to the
rescue, the fire had already assumed a serious hold, so that it was
impossible for them to afford any effective assistance for its
It blazed away straight through the night, before it was extinguished,
and consumed, there is in fact no saying how many dwelling houses.
Anyhow, pitiful to relate, the Chen house, situated as it was next door
to the temple, was, at an early part of the evening, reduced to a heap
of tiles and bricks; and nothing but the lives of that couple and
several inmates of the family did not sustain any injuries.
Shih-yin was in despair, but all he could do was to stamp his feet and
heave deep sighs. After consulting with his wife, they betook themselves
to a farm of theirs, where they took up their quarters temporarily. But
as it happened that water had of late years been scarce, and no crops
been reaped, robbers and thieves had sprung up like bees, and though the
Government troops were bent upon their capture, it was anyhow difficult
to settle down quietly on the farm. He therefore had no other resource
than to convert, at a loss, the whole of his property into money, and to
take his wife and two servant girls and come over for shelter to the
house of his father-in-law.
His father-in-law, Feng Su, by name, was a native of Ta Ju Chou.
Although only a labourer, he was nevertheless in easy circumstances at
home. When he on this occasion saw his son-in-law come to him in such
distress, he forthwith felt at heart considerable displeasure.
Fortunately Shih-yin had still in his possession the money derived from
the unprofitable realization of his property, so that he produced and
handed it to his father-in-law, commissioning him to purchase, whenever
a suitable opportunity presented itself, a house and land as a provision
for food and raiment against days to come. This Feng Su, however, only
expended the half of the sum, and pocketed the other half, merely
acquiring for him some fallow land and a dilapidated house.
Shih-yin being, on the other hand, a man of books and with no experience
in matters connected with business and with sowing and reaping,
subsisted, by hook and by crook, for about a year or two, when he became
In his presence, Feng Su would readily give vent to specious utterances,
while, with others, and behind his back, he on the contrary expressed
his indignation against his improvidence in his mode of living, and
against his sole delight of eating and playing the lazy.
Shih-yin, aware of the want of harmony with his father-in-law, could not
help giving way, in his own heart, to feelings of regret and pain. In
addition to this, the fright and vexation which he had undergone the
year before, the anguish and suffering (he had had to endure), had
already worked havoc (on his constitution); and being a man advanced in
years, and assailed by the joint attack of poverty and disease, he at
length gradually began to display symptoms of decline.
Strange coincidence, as he, on this day, came leaning on his staff and
with considerable strain, as far as the street for a little relaxation,
he suddenly caught sight, approaching from the off side, of a Taoist
priest with a crippled foot; his maniac appearance so repulsive, his
shoes of straw, his dress all in tatters, muttering several sentiments
to this effect:
All men spiritual life know to be good,
But fame to disregard they ne'er succeed!
From old till now the statesmen where are they?
Waste lie their graves, a heap of grass, extinct.
All men spiritual life know to be good,
But to forget gold, silver, ill succeed!
Through life they grudge their hoardings to be scant,
And when plenty has come, their eyelids close.
All men spiritual life hold to be good,
Yet to forget wives, maids, they ne'er succeed!
Who speak of grateful love while lives their lord,
And dead their lord, another they pursue.
All men spiritual life know to be good,
But sons and grandsons to forget never succeed!
From old till now of parents soft many,
But filial sons and grandsons who have seen?
Shih-yin upon hearing these words, hastily came up to the priest, "What
were you so glibly holding forth?" he inquired. "All I could hear were a
lot of hao liao (excellent, finality.")
"You may well have heard the two words 'hao liao,'" answered the Taoist
with a smile, "but can you be said to have fathomed their meaning? You
should know that all things in this world are excellent, when they have
attained finality; when they have attained finality, they are excellent;
but when they have not attained finality, they are not excellent; if
they would be excellent, they should attain finality. My song is
entitled Excellent-finality (hao liao)."
Shih-yin was gifted with a natural perspicacity that enabled him, as
soon as he heard these remarks, to grasp their spirit.
"Wait a while," he therefore said smilingly; "let me unravel this
excellent-finality song of yours; do you mind?"
"Please by all means go on with the interpretation," urged the Taoist;
whereupon Shih-yin proceeded in this strain:
Sordid rooms and vacant courts,
Replete in years gone by with beds where statesmen lay;
Parched grass and withered banian trees,
Where once were halls for song and dance!
Spiders' webs the carved pillars intertwine,
The green gauze now is also pasted on the straw windows!
What about the cosmetic fresh concocted or the powder just scented;
Why has the hair too on each temple become white like hoarfrost!
Yesterday the tumulus of yellow earth buried the bleached bones,
To-night under the red silk curtain reclines the couple!
Gold fills the coffers, silver fills the boxes,
But in a twinkle, the beggars will all abuse you!
While you deplore that the life of others is not long,
You forget that you yourself are approaching death!
You educate your sons with all propriety,
But they may some day, 'tis hard to say become thieves;
Though you choose (your fare and home) the fatted beam,
You may, who can say, fall into some place of easy virtue!
Through your dislike of the gauze hat as mean,
You have come to be locked in a cangue;
Yesterday, poor fellow, you felt cold in a tattered coat,
To-day, you despise the purple embroidered dress as long!
Confusion reigns far and wide! you have just sung your part, I come on
Instead of yours, you recognise another as your native land;
What utter perversion!
In one word, it comes to this we make wedding clothes for others!
(We sow for others to reap.)
The crazy limping Taoist clapped his hands. "Your interpretation is
explicit," he remarked with a hearty laugh, "your interpretation is
Shih-yin promptly said nothing more than,--"Walk on;" and seizing the
stole from the Taoist's shoulder, he flung it over his own. He did not,
however, return home, but leisurely walked away, in company with the
The report of his disappearance was at once bruited abroad, and plunged
the whole neighbourhood in commotion; and converted into a piece of
news, it was circulated from mouth to mouth.
Dame Feng, Shih-yin's wife, upon hearing the tidings, had such a fit of
weeping that she hung between life and death; but her only alternative
was to consult with her father, and to despatch servants on all sides to
institute inquiries. No news was however received of him, and she had
nothing else to do but to practise resignation, and to remain dependent
upon the support of her parents for her subsistence. She had fortunately
still by her side, to wait upon her, two servant girls, who had been
with her in days gone by; and the three of them, mistress as well as
servants, occupied themselves day and night with needlework, to assist
her father in his daily expenses.
This Feng Su had after all, in spite of his daily murmurings against his
bad luck, no help but to submit to the inevitable.
On a certain day, the elder servant girl of the Chen family was at the
door purchasing thread, and while there, she of a sudden heard in the
street shouts of runners clearing the way, and every one explain that
the new magistrate had come to take up his office.
The girl, as she peeped out from inside the door, perceived the lictors
and policemen go by two by two; and when unexpectedly in a state chair,
was carried past an official, in black hat and red coat, she was indeed
quite taken aback.
"The face of this officer would seem familiar," she argued within
herself; "just as if I had seen him somewhere or other ere this."
Shortly she entered the house, and banishing at once the occurrence from
her mind, she did not give it a second thought. At night, however, while
she was waiting to go to bed, she suddenly heard a sound like a rap at
the door. A band of men boisterously cried out: "We are messengers,
deputed by the worthy magistrate of this district, and come to summon
one of you to an enquiry."
Feng Su, upon hearing these words, fell into such a terrible
consternation that his eyes stared wide and his mouth gaped.
What calamity was impending is not as yet ascertained, but, reader,
listen to the explanation contained in the next chapter.
The spirit of Mrs. Chia Shih-yin departs from the town of Yang Chou.
Leng Tzu-hsing dilates upon the Jung Kuo Mansion.
To continue. Feng Su, upon hearing the shouts of the public messengers,
came out in a flurry and forcing a smile, he asked them to explain
(their errand); but all these people did was to continue bawling out:
"Be quick, and ask Mr. Chen to come out."
"My surname is Feng," said Feng Su, as he promptly forced himself to
smile; "It is'nt Chen at all: I had once a son-in-law whose surname was
Chen, but he has left home, it is now already a year or two back. Is it
perchance about him that you are inquiring?"
To which the public servants remarked: "We know nothing about Chen or
Chia (true or false); but as he is your son-in-law, we'll take you at
once along with us to make verbal answer to our master and have done
And forthwith the whole bevy of public servants hustled Feng Su on, as
they went on their way back; while every one in the Feng family was
seized with consternation, and could not imagine what it was all about.
It was no earlier than the second watch, when Feng Su returned home; and
they, one and all, pressed him with questions as to what had happened.
"The fact is," he explained, "the newly-appointed Magistrate, whose
surname is Chia, whose name is Huo and who is a native of Hu-chow, has
been on intimate terms, in years gone by, with our son-in-law; that at
the sight of the girl Chiao Hsing, standing at the door, in the act of
buying thread, he concluded that he must have shifted his quarters over
here, and hence it was that his messengers came to fetch him. I gave him
a clear account of the various circumstances (of his misfortunes), and
the Magistrate was for a time much distressed and expressed his regret.
He then went on to make inquiries about my grand-daughter, and I
explained that she had been lost, while looking at the illuminations.
'No matter,' put in the Magistrate, 'I will by and by order my men to
make search, and I feel certain that they will find her and bring her
back.' Then ensued a short conversation, after which I was about to go,
when he presented me with the sum of two taels."
The mistress of the Chen family (Mrs. Chen Shih-yin) could not but feel
very much affected by what she heard, and the whole evening she uttered
not a word.
The next day, at an early hour, Yü-ts'un sent some of his men to bring
over to Chen's wife presents, consisting of two packets of silver, and
four pieces of brocaded silk, as a token of gratitude, and to Feng Su
also a confidential letter, requesting him to ask of Mrs. Chen her maid
Chiao Hsing to become his second wife.
Feng Su was so intensely delighted that his eyebrows expanded, his eyes
smiled, and he felt eager to toady to the Magistrate (by presenting the
girl to him). He hastened to employ all his persuasive powers with his
daughter (to further his purpose), and on the same evening he forthwith
escorted Chiao Hsing in a small chair to the Yamên.
The joy experienced by Yü-ts'un need not be dilated upon. He also
presented Feng Su with a packet containing one hundred ounces of gold;
and sent numerous valuable presents to Mrs. Chen, enjoining her "to live
cheerfully in the anticipation of finding out the whereabouts of her
It must be explained, however, that the maid Chi'ao Hsing was the very
person, who, a few years ago, had looked round at Yü-ts'un and who, by
one simple, unpremeditated glance, evolved, in fact, this extraordinary
destiny which was indeed an event beyond conception.
Who would ever have foreseen that fate and fortune would both have so
favoured her that she should, contrary to all anticipation, give birth
to a son, after living with Yü-ts'un barely a year, that in addition to
this, after the lapse of another half year, Yü-ts'un's wife should have
contracted a sudden illness and departed this life, and that Yü-ts'un
should have at once raised her to the rank of first wife. Her destiny is
adequately expressed by the lines:
Through but one single, casual look
Soon an exalted place she took.
The fact is that after Yü-ts'un had been presented with the money by
Shih-yin, he promptly started on the 16th day for the capital, and at
the triennial great tripos, his wishes were gratified to the full.
Having successfully carried off his degree of graduate of the third
rank, his name was put by selection on the list for provincial
appointments. By this time, he had been raised to the rank of Magistrate
in this district; but, in spite of the excellence and sufficiency of his
accomplishments and abilities, he could not escape being ambitious and
overbearing. He failed besides, confident as he was in his own merits,
in respect toward his superiors, with the result that these officials
looked upon him scornfully with the corner of the eye.
A year had hardly elapsed, when he was readily denounced in a memorial
to the Throne by the High Provincial authorities, who represented that
he was of a haughty disposition, that he had taken upon himself to
introduce innovations in the rites and ceremonies, that overtly, while
he endeavoured to enjoy the reputation of probity and uprightness, he,
secretly, combined the nature of the tiger and wolf; with the
consequence that he had been the cause of much trouble in the district,
and that he had made life intolerable for the people, &c. &c.
The Dragon countenance of the Emperor was considerably incensed. His
Majesty lost no time in issuing commands, in reply to the Memorial, that
he should be deprived of his official status.
On the arrival of the despatch from the Board, great was the joy felt by
every officer, without exception, of the prefecture in which he had held
office. Yü-ts'un, though at heart intensely mortified and incensed,
betrayed not the least outward symptom of annoyance, but still
preserved, as of old, a smiling and cheerful countenance.
He handed over charge of all official business and removed the savings
which he had accumulated during the several years he had been in office,
his family and all his chattels to his original home; where, after
having put everything in proper order, he himself travelled (carried the
winds and sleeved the moon) far and wide, visiting every relic of note
in the whole Empire.
As luck would have it, on a certain day while making a second journey
through the Wei Yang district, he heard the news that the Salt
Commissioner appointed this year was Lin Ju-hai. This Lin Ju-hai's
family name was Lin, his name Hai and his style Ju-hai. He had obtained
the third place in the previous triennial examination, and had, by this
time, already risen to the rank of Director of the Court of Censors. He
was a native of Kú Su. He had been recently named by Imperial
appointment a Censor attached to the Salt Inspectorate, and had arrived
at his post only a short while back.
In fact, the ancestors of Lin Ju-hai had, from years back, successively
inherited the title of Marquis, which rank, by its present descent to
Ju-hai, had already been enjoyed by five generations. When first
conferred, the hereditary right to the title had been limited to three
generations; but of late years, by an act of magnanimous favour and
generous beneficence, extraordinary bounty had been superadded; and on
the arrival of the succession to the father of Ju-hai, the right had
been extended to another degree. It had now descended to Ju-hai, who
had, besides this title of nobility, begun his career as a successful
graduate. But though his family had been through uninterrupted ages the
recipient of imperial bounties, his kindred had all been anyhow men of
The only misfortune had been that the several branches of the Lin family
had not been prolific, so that the numbers of its members continued
limited; and though there existed several households, they were all
however to Ju-hai no closer relatives than first cousins. Neither were
there any connections of the same lineage, or of the same parentage.
Ju-hai was at this date past forty; and had only had a son, who had died
the previous year, in the third year of his age. Though he had several
handmaids, he had not had the good fortune of having another son; but
this was too a matter that could not be remedied.
By his wife, née Chia, he had a daughter, to whom the infant name of Tai
Yü was given. She was, at this time, in her fifth year. Upon her the
parents doated as much as if she were a brilliant pearl in the palm of
their hand. Seeing that she was endowed with natural gifts of
intelligence and good looks, they also felt solicitous to bestow upon
her a certain knowledge of books, with no other purpose than that of
satisfying, by this illusory way, their wishes of having a son to
nurture and of dispelling the anguish felt by them, on account of the
desolation and void in their family circle (round their knees).
But to proceed. Yü-ts'un, while sojourning at an inn, was unexpectedly
laid up with a violent chill. Finding on his recovery, that his funds
were not sufficient to pay his expenses, he was thinking of looking out
for some house where he could find a resting place when he suddenly came
across two friends acquainted with the new Salt Commissioner. Knowing
that this official was desirous to find a tutor to instruct his
daughter, they lost no time in recommending Yü-ts'un, who moved into the
His female pupil was youthful in years and delicate in physique, so that
her lessons were irregular. Besides herself, there were only two waiting
girls, who remained in attendance during the hours of study, so that
Yü-ts'un was spared considerable trouble and had a suitable opportunity
to attend to the improvement of his health.
In a twinkle, another year and more slipped by, and when least expected,
the mother of his ward, née Chia, was carried away after a short
illness. His pupil (during her mother's sickness) was dutiful in her
attendance, and prepared the medicines for her use. (And after her
death,) she went into the deepest mourning prescribed by the rites, and
gave way to such excess of grief that, naturally delicate as she was,
her old complaint, on this account, broke out anew.
Being unable for a considerable time to prosecute her studies, Yü-ts'un
lived at leisure and had no duties to attend to. Whenever therefore the
wind was genial and the sun mild, he was wont to stroll at random, after
he had done with his meals.
On this particular day, he, by some accident, extended his walk beyond
the suburbs, and desirous to contemplate the nature of the rustic
scenery, he, with listless step, came up to a spot encircled by hills
and streaming pools, by luxuriant clumps of trees and thick groves of
bamboos. Nestling in the dense foliage stood a temple. The doors and
courts were in ruins. The walls, inner and outer, in disrepair. An
inscription on a tablet testified that this was the temple of Spiritual
Perception. On the sides of the door was also a pair of old and
dilapidated scrolls with the following enigmatical verses.
Behind ample there is, yet to retract the hand, the mind heeds not,
Before the mortal vision lies no path, when comes to turn the will.
"These two sentences," Yü-ts'un pondered after perusal, "although simple
in language, are profound in signification. I have previous to this
visited many a spacious temple, located on hills of note, but never have
I beheld an inscription referring to anything of the kind. The meaning
contained in these words must, I feel certain, owe their origin to the
experiences of some person or other; but there's no saying. But why
should I not go in and inquire for myself?"
Upon walking in, he at a glance caught sight of no one else, but of a
very aged bonze, of unkempt appearance, cooking his rice. When Yü-ts'un
perceived that he paid no notice, he went up to him and asked him one or
two questions, but as the old priest was dull of hearing and a dotard,
and as he had lost his teeth, and his tongue was blunt, he made most
Yü-ts'un lost all patience with him, and withdrew again from the
compound with the intention of going as far as the village public house
to have a drink or two, so as to enhance the enjoyment of the rustic
scenery. With easy stride, he accordingly walked up to the place.
Scarcely had he passed the threshold of the public house, when he
perceived some one or other among the visitors who had been sitting
sipping their wine on the divan, jump up and come up to greet him, with
a face beaming with laughter.
"What a strange meeting! What a strange meeting!" he exclaimed aloud.
Yü-ts'un speedily looked at him, (and remembered) that this person had,
in past days, carried on business in a curio establishment in the
capital, and that his surname was Leng and his style Tzu-hsing.
A mutual friendship had existed between them during their sojourn, in
days of yore, in the capital; and as Yü-ts'un had entertained the
highest opinion of Leng Tzu-hsing, as being a man of action and of great
abilities, while this Leng Tzu-hsing, on the other hand, borrowed of the
reputation of refinement enjoyed by Yü-ts'un, the two had consequently
all along lived in perfect harmony and companionship.
"When did you get here?" Yü-ts'un eagerly inquired also smilingly. "I
wasn't in the least aware of your arrival. This unexpected meeting is
positively a strange piece of good fortune."
"I went home," Tzu-hsing replied, "about the close of last year, but now
as I am again bound to the capital, I passed through here on my way to
look up a friend of mine and talk some matters over. He had the kindness
to press me to stay with him for a couple of days longer, and as I after
all have no urgent business to attend to, I am tarrying a few days, but
purpose starting about the middle of the moon. My friend is busy to-day,
so I roamed listlessly as far as here, never dreaming of such a
While speaking, he made Yü-ts'un sit down at the same table, and ordered
a fresh supply of wine and eatables; and as the two friends chatted of
one thing and another, they slowly sipped their wine.
The conversation ran on what had occurred after the separation, and
Yü-ts'un inquired, "Is there any news of any kind in the capital?"
"There's nothing new whatever," answered Tzu-hsing. "There is one thing
however: in the family of one of your worthy kinsmen, of the same name
as yourself, a trifling, but yet remarkable, occurrence has taken
"None of my kindred reside in the capital," rejoined Yü-ts'un with a
smile. "To what can you be alluding?"
"How can it be that you people who have the same surname do not belong
to one clan?" remarked Tzu-hsing, sarcastically.
"In whose family?" inquired Yü-ts'un.
"The Chia family," replied Tzu-hsing smiling, "whose quarters are in the
Jung Kuo Mansion, does not after all reflect discredit upon the lintel
of your door, my venerable friend."
"What!" exclaimed Yü-ts'un, "did this affair take place in that family?
Were we to begin reckoning, we would find the members of my clan to be
anything but limited in number. Since the time of our ancestor Chia Fu,
who lived while the Eastern Han dynasty occupied the Throne, the
branches of our family have been numerous and flourishing; they are now
to be found in every single province, and who could, with any accuracy,
ascertain their whereabouts? As regards the Jung-kuo branch in
particular, their names are in fact inscribed on the same register as
our own, but rich and exalted as they are, we have never presumed to
claim them as our relatives, so that we have become more and more
"Don't make any such assertions," Tzu-hsing remarked with a sigh, "the
present two mansions of Jung and Ning have both alike also suffered
reverses, and they cannot come up to their state of days of yore."
"Up to this day, these two households of Ning and of Jung," Yü-ts'un
suggested, "still maintain a very large retinue of people, and how can
it be that they have met with reverses?"
"To explain this would be indeed a long story," said Leng Tzu-hsing.
"Last year," continued Yü-ts'un, "I arrived at Chin Ling, as I
entertained a wish to visit the remains of interest of the six
dynasties, and as I on that day entered the walled town of Shih T'ou, I
passed by the entrance of that old residence. On the east side of the
street, stood the Ning Kuo mansion; on the west the Jung Kuo mansion;
and these two, adjoining each other as they do, cover in fact well-nigh
half of the whole length of the street. Outside the front gate
everything was, it is true, lonely and deserted; but at a glance into
the interior over the enclosing wall, I perceived that the halls,
pavilions, two-storied structures and porches presented still a majestic
and lofty appearance. Even the flower garden, which extends over the
whole area of the back grounds, with its trees and rockeries, also
possessed to that day an air of luxuriance and freshness, which betrayed
no signs of a ruined or decrepid establishment."
"You have had the good fortune of starting in life as a graduate,"
explained Tzu-tsing as he smiled, "and yet are not aware of the saying
uttered by some one of old: that a centipede even when dead does not lie
stiff. (These families) may, according to your version, not be up to the
prosperity of former years, but, compared with the family of an ordinary
official, their condition anyhow presents a difference. Of late the
number of the inmates has, day by day, been on the increase; their
affairs have become daily more numerous; of masters and servants, high
and low, who live in ease and respectability very many there are; but of
those who exercise any forethought, or make any provision, there is not
even one. In their daily wants, their extravagances, and their
expenditure, they are also unable to adapt themselves to circumstances
and practise economy; (so that though) the present external framework
may not have suffered any considerable collapse, their purses have
anyhow begun to feel an exhausting process! But this is a mere trifle.
There is another more serious matter. Would any one ever believe that in
such families of official status, in a clan of education and culture,
the sons and grandsons of the present age would after all be each
(succeeding) generation below the standard of the former?"
Yü-ts'un, having listened to these remarks, observed: "How ever can it
be possible that families of such education and refinement can observe
any system of training and nurture which is not excellent? Concerning
the other branches, I am not in a position to say anything; but
restricting myself to the two mansions of Jung and Ning, they are those
in which, above all others, the education of their children is
"I was just now alluding to none other than these two establishments,"
Tzu-hsing observed with a sigh; "but let me tell you all. In days of
yore, the duke of Ning Kuo and the duke of Jung Kuo were two uterine
brothers. The Ning duke was the elder; he had four sons. After the death
of the duke of Ning Kuo, his eldest son, Chia Tai-hua, came into the
title. He also had two sons; but the eldest, whose name was Hu, died at
the age of eight or nine; and the only survivor, the second son, Chia
Ching, inherited the title. His whole mind is at this time set upon
Taoist doctrines; his sole delight is to burn the pill and refine the
dual powers; while every other thought finds no place in his mind.
Happily, he had, at an early age, left a son, Chia Chen, behind in the
lay world, and his father, engrossed as his whole heart was with the
idea of attaining spiritual life, ceded the succession of the official
title to him. His parent is, besides, not willing to return to the
original family seat, but lives outside the walls of the capital,
foolishly hobnobbing with all the Taoist priests. This Mr. Chen had also
a son, Chia Jung, who is, at this period, just in his sixteenth year.
Mr. Ching gives at present no attention to anything at all, so that Mr.
Chen naturally devotes no time to his studies, but being bent upon
nought else but incessant high pleasure, he has subversed the order of
things in the Ning Kuo mansion, and yet no one can summon the courage to
come and hold him in check. But I'll now tell you about the Jung mansion
for your edification. The strange occurrence, to which I alluded just
now, came about in this manner. After the demise of the Jung duke, the
eldest son, Chia Tai-shan, inherited the rank. He took to himself as
wife, the daughter of Marquis Shih, a noble family of Chin Ling, by whom
he had two sons; the elder being Chia She, the younger Chia Cheng. This
Tai Shan is now dead long ago; but his wife is still alive, and the
elder son, Chia She, succeeded to the degree. He is a man of amiable and
genial disposition, but he likewise gives no thought to the direction of
any domestic concern. The second son Chia Cheng displayed, from his
early childhood, a great liking for books, and grew up to be correct and
upright in character. His grandfather doated upon him, and would have
had him start in life through the arena of public examinations, but,
when least expected, Tai-shan, being on the point of death, bequeathed a
petition, which was laid before the Emperor. His Majesty, out of regard
for his former minister, issued immediate commands that the elder son
should inherit the estate, and further inquired how many sons there were
besides him, all of whom he at once expressed a wish to be introduced in
his imperial presence. His Majesty, moreover, displayed exceptional
favour, and conferred upon Mr. Cheng the brevet rank of second class
Assistant Secretary (of a Board), and commanded him to enter the Board
to acquire the necessary experience. He has already now been promoted to
the office of second class Secretary. This Mr. Cheng's wife, nèe Wang,
first gave birth to a son called Chia Chu, who became a Licentiate in
his fourteenth year. At barely twenty, he married, but fell ill and died
soon after the birth of a son. Her (Mrs. Cheng's) second child was a
daughter, who came into the world, by a strange coincidence, on the
first day of the year. She had an unexpected (pleasure) in the birth,
the succeeding year, of another son, who, still more remarkable to say,
had, at the time of his birth, a piece of variegated and crystal-like
brilliant jade in his mouth, on which were yet visible the outlines of
several characters. Now, tell me, was not this a novel and strange
"Strange indeed!" exclaimed Yü-ts'un with a smile; "but I presume the
coming experiences of this being will not be mean."
Tzu-hsing gave a faint smile. "One and all," he remarked, "entertain the
same idea. Hence it is that his mother doats upon him like upon a
precious jewel. On the day of his first birthday, Mr. Cheng readily
entertained a wish to put the bent of his inclinations to the test, and
placed before the child all kinds of things, without number, for him to
grasp from. Contrary to every expectation, he scorned every other
object, and, stretching forth his hand, he simply took hold of rouge,
powder and a few hair-pins, with which he began to play. Mr. Cheng
experienced at once displeasure, as he maintained that this youth would,
by and bye, grow up into a sybarite, devoted to wine and women, and for
this reason it is, that he soon began to feel not much attachment for
him. But his grandmother is the one who, in spite of everything, prizes
him like the breath of her own life. The very mention of what happened
is even strange! He is now grown up to be seven or eight years old, and,
although exceptionally wilful, in intelligence and precocity, however,
not one in a hundred could come up to him! And as for the utterances of
this child, they are no less remarkable. The bones and flesh of woman,
he argues, are made of water, while those of man of mud. 'Women to my
eyes are pure and pleasing,' he says, 'while at the sight of man, I
readily feel how corrupt, foul and repelling they are!' Now tell me, are
not these words ridiculous? There can be no doubt whatever that he will
by and bye turn out to be a licentious roué."
Yü-ts'un, whose countenance suddenly assumed a stern air, promptly
interrupted the conversation. "It doesn't quite follow," he suggested.
"You people don't, I regret to say, understand the destiny of this
child. The fact is that even the old Hanlin scholar Mr. Cheng was
erroneously looked upon as a loose rake and dissolute debauchee! But
unless a person, through much study of books and knowledge of letters,
so increases (in lore) as to attain the talent of discerning the nature
of things, and the vigour of mind to fathom the Taoist reason as well as
to comprehend the first principle, he is not in a position to form any
Tzu-hsing upon perceiving the weighty import of what he propounded,
"Please explain," he asked hastily, "the drift (of your argument)." To
which Yü-ts'un responded: "Of the human beings created by the operation
of heaven and earth, if we exclude those who are gifted with extreme
benevolence and extreme viciousness, the rest, for the most part,
present no striking diversity. If they be extremely benevolent, they
fall in, at the time of their birth, with an era of propitious fortune;
while those extremely vicious correspond, at the time of their
existence, with an era of calamity. When those who coexist with
propitious fortune come into life, the world is in order; when those who
coexist with unpropitious fortune come into life, the world is in
danger. Yao, Shun, Yü, Ch'eng T'ang, Wen Wang, Wu Wang, Chou Kung, Chao
Kung, Confucius, Mencius, T'ung Hu, Han Hsin, Chou Tzu, Ch'eng Tzu, Chu
Tzu and Chang Tzu were ordained to see light in an auspicious era.
Whereas Ch'i Yu, Kung Kung, Chieh Wang, Chou Wang, Shih Huang, Wang
Mang, Tsao Ts'ao, Wen Wen, An Hu-shan, Ch'in Kuei and others were one
and all destined to come into the world during a calamitous age. Those
endowed with extreme benevolence set the world in order; those possessed
of extreme maliciousness turn the world into disorder. Purity,
intelligence, spirituality and subtlety constitute the vital spirit of
right which pervades heaven and earth, and the persons gifted with
benevolence are its natural fruit. Malignity and perversity constitute
the spirit of evil, which permeates heaven and earth, and malicious
persons are affected by its influence. The days of perpetual happiness
and eminent good fortune, and the era of perfect peace and tranquility,
which now prevail, are the offspring of the pure, intelligent, divine
and subtle spirit which ascends above, to the very Emperor, and below
reaches the rustic and uncultured classes. Every one is without
exception under its influence. The superfluity of the subtle spirit
expands far and wide, and finding nowhere to betake itself to, becomes,
in due course, transformed into dew, or gentle breeze; and, by a process
of diffusion, it pervades the whole world.
"The spirit of malignity and perversity, unable to expand under the
brilliant sky and transmuting sun, eventually coagulates, pervades and
stops up the deep gutters and extensive caverns; and when of a sudden
the wind agitates it or it be impelled by the clouds, and any slight
disposition, on its part, supervenes to set itself in motion, or to
break its bounds, and so little as even the minutest fraction does
unexpectedly find an outlet, and happens to come across any spirit of
perception and subtlety which may be at the time passing by, the spirit
of right does not yield to the spirit of evil, and the spirit of evil is
again envious of the spirit of right, so that the two do not harmonize.
Just like wind, water, thunder and lightning, which, when they meet in
the bowels of the earth, must necessarily, as they are both to dissolve
and are likewise unable to yield, clash and explode to the end that they
may at length exhaust themselves. Hence it is that these spirits have
also forcibly to diffuse themselves into the human race to find an
outlet, so that they may then completely disperse, with the result that
men and women are suddenly imbued with these spirits and spring into
existence. At best, (these human beings) cannot be generated into
philanthropists or perfect men; at worst, they cannot also embody
extreme perversity or extreme wickedness. Yet placed among one million
beings, the spirit of intelligence, refinement, perception and subtlety
will be above these one million beings; while, on the other hand, the
perverse, depraved and inhuman embodiment will likewise be below the
million of men. Born in a noble and wealthy family, these men will be a
salacious, lustful lot; born of literary, virtuous or poor parentage,
they will turn out retired scholars or men of mark; though they may by
some accident be born in a destitute and poverty-stricken home, they
cannot possibly, in fact, ever sink so low as to become runners or
menials, or contentedly brook to be of the common herd or to be driven
and curbed like a horse in harness. They will become, for a certainty,
either actors of note or courtesans of notoriety; as instanced in former
years by Hsü Yu, T'ao Ch'ien, Yuan Chi, Chi Kang, Liu Ling, the two
families of Wang and Hsieh, Ku Hu-t'ou, Ch'en Hou-chu, T'ang Ming-huang,
Sung Hui-tsung, Liu T'ing-chih, Wen Fei-ching, Mei Nan-kung, Shih
Man-ch'ing, Lui C'hih-ch'ing and Chin Shao-yu, and exemplified
now-a-days by Ni Yün-lin, T'ang Po-hu, Chu Chih-shan, and also by Li
Kuei-men, Huang P'an-cho, Ching Hsin-mo, Cho Wen-chün; and the women
Hung Fu, Hsieh T'ao, Ch'ü Ying, Ch'ao Yün and others; all of whom were
and are of the same stamp, though placed in different scenes of action."
"From what you say," observed Tzu-hsing, "success makes (a man) a duke
or a marquis; ruin, a thief!"
"Quite so; that's just my idea!" replied Yü-ts'un; "I've not as yet let
you know that after my degradation from office, I spent the last couple
of years in travelling for pleasure all over each province, and that I
also myself came across two extraordinary youths. This is why, when a
short while back you alluded to this Pao-yü, I at once conjectured, with
a good deal of certainty, that he must be a human being of the same
stamp. There's no need for me to speak of any farther than the walled
city of Chin Ling. This Mr. Chen was, by imperial appointment, named
Principal of the Government Public College of the Chin Ling province. Do
you perhaps know him?"
"Who doesn't know him?" remarked Tzu-hsing. "This Chen family is an old
connection of the Chia family. These two families were on terms of great
intimacy, and I myself likewise enjoyed the pleasure of their friendship
for many a day."
"Last year, when at Chin Ling," Yü-ts'un continued with a smile, "some
one recommended me as resident tutor to the school in the Chen mansion;
and when I moved into it I saw for myself the state of things. Who would
ever think that that household was grand and luxurious to such a degree!
But they are an affluent family, and withal full of propriety, so that a
school like this was of course not one easy to obtain. The pupil,
however, was, it is true, a young tyro, but far more troublesome to
teach than a candidate for the examination of graduate of the second
degree. Were I to enter into details, you would indeed have a laugh. 'I
must needs,' he explained, 'have the company of two girls in my studies
to enable me to read at all, and to keep likewise my brain clear.
Otherwise, if left to myself, my head gets all in a muddle.' Time after
time, he further expounded to his young attendants, how extremely
honourable and extremely pure were the two words representing woman,
that they are more valuable and precious than the auspicious animal, the
felicitous bird, rare flowers and uncommon plants. 'You may not' (he was
wont to say), 'on any account heedlessly utter them, you set of foul
mouths and filthy tongues! these two words are of the utmost import!
Whenever you have occasion to allude to them, you must, before you can
do so with impunity, take pure water and scented tea and rinse your
mouths. In the event of any slip of the tongue, I shall at once have
your teeth extracted, and your eyes gouged out.' His obstinacy and
waywardness are, in every respect, out of the common. After he was
allowed to leave school, and to return home, he became, at the sight of
the young ladies, so tractable, gentle, sharp, and polite, transformed,
in fact, like one of them. And though, for this reason, his father has
punished him on more than one occasion, by giving him a sound thrashing,
such as brought him to the verge of death, he cannot however change.
Whenever he was being beaten, and could no more endure the pain, he was
wont to promptly break forth in promiscuous loud shouts, 'Girls! girls!'
The young ladies, who heard him from the inner chambers, subsequently
made fun of him. 'Why,' they said, 'when you are being thrashed, and you
are in pain, your only thought is to bawl out girls! Is it perchance
that you expect us young ladies to go and intercede for you? How is that
you have no sense of shame?' To their taunts he gave a most plausible
explanation. 'Once,' he replied, 'when in the agony of pain, I gave vent
to shouting girls, in the hope, perchance, I did not then know, of its
being able to alleviate the soreness. After I had, with this purpose,
given one cry, I really felt the pain considerably better; and now that
I have obtained this secret spell, I have recourse, at once, when I am
in the height of anguish, to shouts of girls, one shout after another.
Now what do you say to this? Isn't this absurd, eh?"
"The grandmother is so infatuated by her extreme tenderness for this
youth, that, time after time, she has, on her grandson's account, found
fault with the tutor, and called her son to task, with the result that I
resigned my post and took my leave. A youth, with a disposition such as
his, cannot assuredly either perpetuate intact the estate of his father
and grandfather, or follow the injunctions of teacher or advice of
friends. The pity is, however, that there are, in that family, several
excellent female cousins, the like of all of whom it would be difficult
"Quite so!" remarked Tzu-hsing; "there are now three young ladies in the
Chia family who are simply perfection itself. The eldest is a daughter
of Mr. Cheng, Yuan Ch'un by name, who, on account of her excellence,
filial piety, talents, and virtue, has been selected as a governess in
the palace. The second is the daughter of Mr. She's handmaid, and is
called Ying Ch'un; the third is T'an Ch'un, the child of Mr. Cheng's
handmaid; while the fourth is the uterine sister of Mr. Chen of the Ning
Mansion. Her name is Hsi Ch'un. As dowager lady Shih is so fondly
attached to her granddaughters, they come, for the most part, over to
their grandmother's place to prosecute their studies together, and each
one of these girls is, I hear, without a fault."
"More admirable," observed Yü-ts'un, "is the régime (adhered to) in the
Chen family, where the names of the female children have all been
selected from the list of male names, and are unlike all those
out-of-the-way names, such as Spring Blossom, Scented Gem, and the like
flowery terms in vogue in other families. But how is it that the Chia
family have likewise fallen into this common practice?"
"Not so!" ventured Tzu-h'sing. "It is simply because the eldest daughter
was born on the first of the first moon, that the name of Yuan Ch'un was
given to her; while with the rest this character Ch'un (spring) was then
followed. The names of the senior generation are, in like manner,
adopted from those of their brothers; and there is at present an
instance in support of this. The wife of your present worthy master, Mr.
Lin, is the uterine sister of Mr. Chia. She and Mr. Chia Cheng, and she
went, while at home, under the name of Chia Min. Should you question the
truth of what I say, you are at liberty, on your return, to make minute
inquiries and you'll be convinced."
Yü-ts'un clapped his hands and said smiling, "It's so, I know! for this
female pupil of mine, whose name is Tai-yü, invariably pronounces the
character _min_ as _mi_, whenever she comes across it in the
course of her reading; while, in writing, when she comes to the
character 'min,' she likewise reduces the strokes by one, sometimes by
two. Often have I speculated in my mind (as to the cause), but the
remarks I've heard you mention, convince me, without doubt, that it is
no other reason (than that of reverence to her mother's name). Strange
enough, this pupil of mine is unique in her speech and deportment, and
in no way like any ordinary young lady. But considering that her mother
was no commonplace woman herself, it is natural that she should have
given birth to such a child. Besides, knowing, as I do now, that she is
the granddaughter of the Jung family, it is no matter of surprise to me
that she is what she is. Poor girl, her mother, after all, died in the
course of the last month."
Tzu-hsing heaved a sigh. "Of three elderly sisters," he explained, "this
one was the youngest, and she too is gone! Of the sisters of the senior
generation not one even survives! But now we'll see what the husbands of
this younger generation will be like by and bye!"
"Yes," replied Yü-ts'un. "But some while back you mentioned that Mr.
Cheng has had a son, born with a piece of jade in his mouth, and that he
has besides a tender-aged grandson left by his eldest son; but is it
likely that this Mr. She has not, himself, as yet, had any male issue?"
"After Mr. Cheng had this son with the jade," Tzu-hsing added, "his
handmaid gave birth to another son, who whether he be good or bad, I
don't at all know. At all events, he has by his side two sons and a
grandson, but what these will grow up to be by and bye, I cannot tell.
As regards Mr. Chia She, he too has had two sons; the second of whom,
Chia Lien, is by this time about twenty. He took to wife a relative of
his, a niece of Mr. Cheng's wife, a Miss Wang, and has now been married
for the last two years. This Mr. Lien has lately obtained by purchase
the rank of sub-prefect. He too takes little pleasure in books, but as
far as worldly affairs go, he is so versatile and glib of tongue, that
he has recently taken up his quarters with his uncle Mr. Cheng, to whom
he gives a helping hand in the management of domestic matters. Who would
have thought it, however, ever since his marriage with his worthy wife,
not a single person, whether high or low, has there been who has not
looked up to her with regard: with the result that Mr. Lien himself has,
in fact, had to take a back seat (_lit_. withdrew 35 li). In looks,
she is also so extremely beautiful, in speech so extremely quick and
fluent, in ingenuity so deep and astute, that even a man could, in no
way, come up to her mark."
After hearing these remarks Yü-ts'un smiled. "You now perceive," he
said, "that my argument is no fallacy, and that the several persons
about whom you and I have just been talking are, we may presume, human
beings, who, one and all, have been generated by the spirit of right,
and the spirit of evil, and come to life by the same royal road; but of
course there's no saying."
"Enough," cried Tzu-hsing, "of right and enough of evil; we've been
doing nothing but settling other people's accounts; come now, have
another glass, and you'll be the better for it!"
"While bent upon talking," Yü-ts'un explained, "I've had more glasses
than is good for me."
"Speaking of irrelevant matters about other people," Tzu-hsing rejoined
complacently, "is quite the thing to help us swallow our wine; so come
now; what harm will happen, if we do have a few glasses more."
Yü-ts'un thereupon looked out of the window.
"The day is also far advanced," he remarked, "and if we don't take care,
the gates will be closing; let us leisurely enter the city, and as we go
along, there will be nothing to prevent us from continuing our chat."
Forthwith the two friends rose from their seats, settled and paid their
wine bill, and were just going, when they unexpectedly heard some one
from behind say with a loud voice:
"Accept my congratulations, Brother Yü-ts'un; I've now come, with the
express purpose of giving you the welcome news!"
Yü-ts'un lost no time in turning his head round to look at the speaker.
But reader, if you wish to learn who the man was, listen to the details
given in the following chapter.
Lin Ju-hai appeals to his brother-in-law, Chia Cheng, recommending
Yü-ts'un, his daughter's tutor, to his consideration.
Dowager lady Chia sends to fetch her granddaughter, out of
commiseration for her being a motherless child.
But to proceed with our narrative.
Yü-ts'un, on speedily turning round, perceived that the speaker was no
other than a certain Chang Ju-kuei, an old colleague of his, who had
been denounced and deprived of office, on account of some case or other;
a native of that district, who had, since his degradation, resided in
his family home.
Having lately come to hear the news that a memorial, presented in the
capital, that the former officers (who had been cashiered) should be
reinstated, had received the imperial consent, he had promptly done all
he could, in every nook and corner, to obtain influence, and to find the
means (of righting his position,) when he, unexpectedly, came across
Yü-ts'un, to whom he therefore lost no time in offering his
congratulations. The two friends exchanged the conventional salutations,
and Chang Ju-kuei forthwith communicated the tidings to Yü-ts'un.
Yü-ts'un was delighted, but after he had made a few remarks, in a great
hurry, each took his leave and sped on his own way homewards.
Leng Tzu-hsing, upon hearing this conversation, hastened at once to
propose a plan, advising Yü-ts'un to request Lin Ju-hai, in his turn, to
appeal in the capital to Mr. Chia Cheng for support.
Yü-ts'un accepted the suggestion, and parted from his companion.
On his return to his quarters, he made all haste to lay his hand on the
Metropolitan Gazette, and having ascertained that the news was
authentic, he had on the next day a personal consultation with Ju-hai.
"Providence and good fortune are both alike propitious!" exclaimed
Ju-hai. "After the death of my wife, my mother-in-law, whose residence
is in the capital, was so very solicitous on my daughter's account, for
having no one to depend upon, that she despatched, at an early period,
boats with men and women servants to come and fetch her. But my child
was at the time not quite over her illness, and that is why she has not
yet started. I was, this very moment, cogitating to send my daughter to
the capital. And in view of the obligation, under which I am to you for
the instruction you have heretofore conferred upon her, remaining as yet
unrequited, there is no reason why, when such an opportunity as this
presents itself, I should not do my utmost to find means to make proper
acknowledgment. I have already, in anticipation, given the matter my
attention, and written a letter of recommendation to my brother-in-law,
urging him to put everything right for you, in order that I may, to a
certain extent, be able to give effect to my modest wishes. As for any
outlay that may prove necessary, I have given proper explanation, in the
letter to my brother-in-law, so that you, my brother, need not trouble
yourself by giving way to much anxiety."
As Yü-ts'un bowed and expressed his appreciation in most profuse
"Pray," he asked, "where does your honoured brother-in-law reside? and
what is his official capacity? But I fear I'm too coarse in my manner,
and could not presume to obtrude myself in his presence."
Ju-hai smiled. "And yet," he remarked, "this brother-in-law of mine is
after all of one and the same family as your worthy self, for he is the
grandson of the Duke Jung. My elder brother-in-law has now inherited the
status of Captain-General of the first grade. His name is She, his style
Ngen-hou. My second brother-in-law's name is Cheng, his style is
Tzu-chou. His present post is that of a Second class Secretary in the
Board of Works. He is modest and kindhearted, and has much in him of the
habits of his grandfather; not one of that purse-proud and haughty kind
of men. That is why I have written to him and made the request on your
behalf. Were he different to what he really is, not only would he cast a
slur upon your honest purpose, honourable brother, but I myself likewise
would not have been as prompt in taking action."
When Yü-ts'un heard these remarks, he at length credited what had been
told him by Tzu-hsing the day before, and he lost no time in again
expressing his sense of gratitude to Lin Ju-hai.
Ju-hai resumed the conversation.
"I have fixed," (he explained,) "upon the second of next month, for my
young daughter's departure for the capital, and, if you, brother mine,
were to travel along with her, would it not be an advantage to herself,
as well as to yourself?"
Yü-ts'un signified his acquiescence as he listened to his proposal;
feeling in his inner self extremely elated.
Ju-hai availed himself of the earliest opportunity to get ready the
presents (for the capital) and all the requirements for the journey,
which (when completed,) Yü-ts'un took over one by one. His pupil could
not, at first, brook the idea, of a separation from her father, but the
pressing wishes of her grandmother left her no course (but to comply).
"Your father," Ju-hai furthermore argued with her, "is already fifty;
and I entertain no wish to marry again; and then you are always ailing;
besides, with your extreme youth, you have, above, no mother of your own
to take care of you, and below, no sisters to attend to you. If you now
go and have your maternal grandmother, as well as your mother's brothers
and your cousins to depend upon, you will be doing the best thing to
reduce the anxiety which I feel in my heart on your behalf. Why then
should you not go?"
Tai-yü, after listening to what her father had to say, parted from him
in a flood of tears and followed her nurse and several old matrons from
the Jung mansion on board her boat, and set out on her journey.
Yü-ts'un had a boat to himself, and with two youths to wait on him, he
prosecuted his voyage in the wake of Tai-yü.
By a certain day, they reached Ching Tu; and Yü-ts'un, after first
adjusting his hat and clothes, came, attended by a youth, to the door of
the Jung mansion, and sent in a card, which showed his lineage.
Chia Cheng had, by this time, perused his brother-in-law's letter, and
he speedily asked him to walk in. When they met, he found in Yü-ts'un an
imposing manner and polite address.
This Chia Cheng had, in fact, a great penchant above all things for men
of education, men courteous to the talented, respectful to the learned,
ready to lend a helping hand to the needy and to succour the distressed,
and was, to a great extent, like his grandfather. As it was besides a
wish intimated by his brother-in-law, he therefore treated Yü-ts'un with
a consideration still more unusual, and readily strained all his
resources to assist him.
On the very day on which the memorial was submitted to the Throne, he
obtained by his efforts, a reinstatement to office, and before the
expiry of two months, Yü-t'sun was forthwith selected to fill the
appointment of prefect of Ying T'ien in Chin Ling. Taking leave of Chia
Cheng, he chose a propitious day, and proceeded to his post, where we
will leave him without further notice for the present.
But to return to Tai-yü. On the day on which she left the boat, and the
moment she put her foot on shore, there were forthwith at her disposal
chairs for her own use, and carts for the luggage, sent over from the
Lin Tai-yü had often heard her mother recount how different was her
grandmother's house from that of other people's; and having seen for
herself how above the common run were already the attendants of the
three grades, (sent to wait upon her,) in attire, in their fare, in all
their articles of use, "how much more," (she thought to herself) "now
that I am going to her home, must I be careful at every step, and
circumspect at every moment! Nor must I utter one word too many, nor
make one step more than is proper, for fear lest I should be ridiculed
by any of them!"
From the moment she got into the chair, and they had entered within the
city walls, she found, as she looked around, through the gauze window,
at the bustle in the streets and public places and at the immense
concourse of people, everything naturally so unlike what she had seen
After they had also been a considerable time on the way, she suddenly
caught sight, at the northern end of the street, of two huge squatting
lions of marble and of three lofty gates with (knockers representing)
the heads of animals. In front of these gates, sat, in a row, about ten
men in coloured hats and fine attire. The main gate was not open. It was
only through the side gates, on the east and west, that people went in
and came out. Above the centre gate was a tablet. On this tablet were
inscribed in five large characters--"The Ning Kuo mansion erected by
"This must be grandmother's eldest son's residence," reflected Tai-yü.
Towards the east, again, at no great distance, were three more high
gateways, likewise of the same kind as those she had just seen. This was
the Jung Kuo mansion.
They did not however go in by the main gate; but simply made their
entrance through the east side door.
With the sedans on their shoulders, (the bearers) proceeded about the
distance of the throw of an arrow, when upon turning a corner, they
hastily put down the chairs. The matrons, who came behind, one and all
also dismounted. (The bearers) were changed for four youths of seventeen
or eighteen, with hats and clothes without a blemish, and while they
carried the chair, the whole bevy of matrons followed on foot.
When they reached a creeper-laden gate, the sedan was put down, and all
the youths stepped back and retired. The matrons came forward, raised
the screen, and supported Tai-yü to descend from the chair.
Lin Tai-yü entered the door with the creepers, resting on the hand of a
On both sides was a verandah, like two outstretched arms. An Entrance
Hall stood in the centre, in the middle of which was a door-screen of Ta
Li marble, set in an ebony frame. On the other side of this screen were
three very small halls. At the back of these came at once an extensive
courtyard, belonging to the main building.
In the front part were five parlours, the frieze of the ceiling of which
was all carved, and the pillars ornamented. On either side, were covered
avenues, resembling passages through a rock. In the side-rooms were
suspended cages, full of parrots of every colour, thrushes, and birds of
On the terrace-steps, sat several waiting maids, dressed in red and
green, and the whole company of them advanced, with beaming faces, to
greet them, when they saw the party approach. "Her venerable ladyship,"
they said, "was at this very moment thinking of you, miss, and, by a
strange coincidence, here you are."
Three or four of them forthwith vied with each other in raising the door
curtain, while at the same time was heard some one announce: "Miss Lin
No sooner had she entered the room, than she espied two servants
supporting a venerable lady, with silver-white hair, coming forward to
greet her. Convinced that this lady must be her grandmother, she was
about to prostrate herself and pay her obeisance, when she was quickly
clasped in the arms of her grandmother, who held her close against her
bosom; and as she called her "my liver! my flesh!" (my love! my
darling!) she began to sob aloud.
The bystanders too, at once, without one exception, melted into tears;
and Tai-yü herself found some difficulty in restraining her sobs. Little
by little the whole party succeeded in consoling her, and Tai-yü at
length paid her obeisance to her grandmother. Her ladyship thereupon
pointed them out one by one to Tai-yü. "This," she said, "is the wife of
your uncle, your mother's elder brother; this is the wife of your uncle,
her second brother; and this is your eldest sister-in-law Chu, the wife
of your senior cousin Chu."
Tai-yü bowed to each one of them (with folded arms).
"Ask the young ladies in," dowager lady Chia went on to say; "tell them
a guest from afar has just arrived, one who comes for the first time;
and that they may not go to their lessons."
The servants with one voice signified their obedience, and two of them
speedily went to carry out her orders.
Not long after three nurses and five or six waiting-maids were seen
ushering in three young ladies. The first was somewhat plump in figure
and of medium height; her cheeks had a congealed appearance, like a
fresh lichee; her nose was glossy like goose fat. She was gracious,
demure, and lovable to look at.
The second had sloping shoulders, and a slim waist. Tall and slender was
she in stature, with a face like the egg of a goose. Her eyes so
beautiful, with their well-curved eyebrows, possessed in their gaze a
bewitching flash. At the very sight of her refined and elegant manners
all idea of vulgarity was forgotten.
The third was below the medium size, and her mien was, as yet,
In their head ornaments, jewelry, and dress, the get-up of the three
young ladies was identical.
Tai-yü speedily rose to greet them and to exchange salutations. After
they had made each other's acquaintance, they all took a seat, whereupon
the servants brought the tea. Their conversation was confined to
Tai-yü's mother,--how she had fallen ill, what doctors had attended her,
what medicines had been given her, and how she had been buried and
mourned; and dowager lady Chia was naturally again in great anguish.
"Of all my daughters," she remarked, "your mother was the one I loved
best, and now in a twinkle, she has passed away, before me too, and I've
not been able to so much as see her face. How can this not make my heart
And as she gave vent to these feelings, she took Tai-yü's hand in hers,
and again gave way to sobs; and it was only after the members of the
family had quickly made use of much exhortation and coaxing, that they
succeeded, little by little, in stopping her tears.
They all perceived that Tai-yü, despite her youthful years and
appearance, was lady-like in her deportment and address, and that though
with her delicate figure and countenance, (she seemed as if) unable to
bear the very weight of her clothes, she possessed, however, a certain
captivating air. And as they readily noticed the symptoms of a weak
constitution, they went on in consequence to make inquiries as to what
medicines she ordinarily took, and how it was that her complaint had not
"I have," explained Tai-yü, "been in this state ever since I was born;
though I've taken medicines from the very time I was able to eat rice,
up to the present, and have been treated by ever so many doctors of
note, I've not derived any benefit. In the year when I was yet only
three, I remember a mangy-headed bonze coming to our house, and saying
that he would take me along, and make a nun of me; but my father and
mother would, on no account, give their consent. 'As you cannot bear to
part from her and to give her up,' he then remarked, 'her ailment will,
I fear, never, throughout her life, be cured. If you wish to see her all
right, it is only to be done by not letting her, from this day forward,
on any account, listen to the sound of weeping, or see, with the
exception of her parents, any relatives outside the family circle. Then
alone will she be able to go through this existence in peace and in
quiet.' No one heeded the nonsensical talk of this raving priest; but
here am I, up to this very day, dosing myself with ginseng pills as a
"What a lucky coincidence!" interposed dowager lady Chia; "some of these
pills are being compounded here, and I'll simply tell them to have an
extra supply made; that's all."
Hardly had she finished these words, when a sound of laughter was heard
from the back courtyard. "Here I am too late!" the voice said, "and not
in time to receive the distant visitor!"
"Every one of all these people," reflected Tai-yü, "holds her peace and
suppresses the very breath of her mouth; and who, I wonder, is this
coming in this reckless and rude manner?"
While, as yet, preoccupied with these thoughts, she caught sight of a
crowd of married women and waiting-maids enter from the back room,
pressing round a regular beauty.
The attire of this person bore no similarity to that of the young
ladies. In all her splendour and lustre, she looked like a fairy or a
goddess. In her coiffure, she had a band of gold filigree work,
representing the eight precious things, inlaid with pearls; and wore
pins, at the head of each of which were five phoenixes in a rampant
position, with pendants of pearls. On her neck, she had a reddish gold
necklet, like coiled dragons, with a fringe of tassels. On her person,
she wore a tight-sleeved jacket, of dark red flowered satin, covered
with hundreds of butterflies, embroidered in gold, interspersed with
flowers. Over all, she had a variegated stiff-silk pelisse, lined with
slate-blue ermine; while her nether garments consisted of a jupe of
kingfisher-colour foreign crepe, brocaded with flowers.