Part 13 out of 14
mother, and give way to secret grief, and Ch'ing Wen, on the other,
continue not quite convalescent, there was no one to turn any attention
to such things as poetical meetings, with the result that several
occasions, on which they were to have assembled, were passed over
without anything being done. By this time, the twelfth moon arrived. The
end of the year was nigh at hand, so Madame Wang and lady Feng were
engaged in making the necessary annual preparations. But, without
alluding to Wang Tzu-t'eng, who was promoted to be Lord High
Commissioner of the Nine Provinces; Chia Yü-ts'un, who filled up the
post of Chief Inspector of Cavalry, Assistant Grand Councillor, and
Commissioner of Affairs of State, we will resume our narrative with Chia
Chen, in the other part of the establishment. After having the Ancestral
Hall thrown open, he gave orders to the domestics to sweep the place, to
get ready the various articles, and bring over the ancestral tablets.
Then he had the upper rooms cleaned, so as to be ready to receive the
various images that were to be hung about. In the two mansions of Ning
and Jung, inside as well as outside, above as well as below, everything
was, therefore, bustle and confusion. As soon as Mrs. Yu, of the Ning
mansion, put her foot out of bed on this day, she set to work, with the
assistance of Chia Jung's wife, to prepare such needlework and presents
as had to be sent over to dowager lady Chia's portion of the
establishment, when it so happened that a servant-girl broke in upon
them with a tea-tray in hand, containing ingots of silver of the kind
given the evening before new year.
"Hsing Erh," she said, "informs your ladyship that the pieces of gold in
that bundle of the other day amount in all to one hundred and
fifty-three taels, one mace and seven candareens; and that the ingots of
pure metal and those not, contained in here, number all together two
hundred and twenty."
With these words, she presented the tray. Mrs. Yu passed the ingots
under survey. She found some resembling plum-blossom; others peonies.
Among them were some with pens and 'as you like,' (importing "your
wishes are bound to be fulfilled);" and others representing the eight
precious things linked together, for use in spring-time.
Mrs. Yu directed that the silver ingots should be made up into a parcel,
and then she bade Hsing Erh take them and deliver them immediately
The servant-girl signified her obedience, and went away. But shortly
Chia Chen arrived for his meal, and Chia Jung's wife withdrew.
"Have we received," thereupon inquired Chia Chen, "the bounty conferred
(by His Majesty) for our spring sacrifices or not?"
"I've sent Jung Erh to-day to go and receive it," Mrs. Yu rejoined.
"Albeit," continued Chia Chen, "our family can well do without those
paltry taels, yet they are, whatever their amount may be, an imperial
gift to us so take them over as soon as you can, and send them to our
old lady, on the other side, to get ready the sacrifices to our
ancestors. Above, we shall then receive the Emperor's bounty; below, we
shall enjoy the goodwill of our progenitors. For no matter if we went so
far as to spend ten thousand ounces of silver to present offerings to
our forefathers with, they could not, in the long run, come up this gift
in high repute. Added to this, we shall be the participators of grace
and the recipients of blessings. Putting one or two households such as
our own aside, what resources would those poverty-stricken families of
hereditary officials have at their command wherewith to offer their
sacrifices and celebrate the new year, if they could not rely upon this
money? In very truth, therefore, the imperial favour is vast, and
"Your arguments are quite correct!" Mrs. Yu ventured.
But while these two were indulging in this colloquy, they caught sight
of a messenger, who came and announced: "Our young master has arrived."
Chia Chen accordingly enjoined that he should be told to enter;
whereupon they saw Chia Jung step into the room and present with both
hands a small bag made of yellow cloth.
"How is it you've been away the whole day?" Chia Chen asked.
Chia Jung strained a smile. "I didn't receive the money to-day from the
Board of Rites," he replied. "The issue was again made at the treasury
of the Kuang Lu temple; so I had once more to trudge away to the Kuang
Lu temple before I could get it. The various officials in the Kuang Lu
temple bade me present their compliments to you, father. (They asked me
to tell you) that they had not seen you for many days, and that they are
really longing for your company."
"What an idea! Do they care to see me?" Chia Chen laughed. "Why, here's
the end of the year drawing nigh again; so if they don't hanker after my
presents, they must long and crave for my entertainments."
While he spoke his eye espied a slip of paper affixed to the yellow
cloth bag, bearing the four large characters, 'the imperial favour is
everlasting.' On the other side figured also a row of small characters
with the seal of the Director of Ancestral Worship in the Board of
Rites. These testified that the enclosed consisted of two shares,
conferred upon the Ning Kuo duke, Chia Yen, and the Jung Kuo duke, Chia
Fa, as a bounty (from the Emperor), for sacrifices to them every spring
in perpetuity, (and gave) the number of taels, computed in pure silver,
and the year, moon and day, on which they were received in open hall by
Chia Jung, Controller in the Imperial Prohibited City and Expectant
Officer of the Guards. The signature of the official in charge of the
temple for that year was appended below in purple ink.
After Chia Chen had perused the inscription, he finished his meal,
rinsed his mouth and washed his hands. This over, he changed his shoes
and hat, and bidding Chia Jung follow him along with the money, he went
and informed dowager lady Chia and Madame Wang (of the receipt of the
imperial bounty), and repairing back to the near side, he communicated
the fact to Chia She and Madame Hsing; after which, he, at length,
betook himself to his quarters. He then emptied the money and gave
orders that the bag should be taken and burnt in the large censer in the
"Go and ask your aunt Tertia, yonder," he further enjoined Chia Jung,
"whether the day on which the new year wine is to be drunk has been
fixed or not? If it has been determined upon, timely notice should be
given in the library to draw out a proper list in order that when we
again issue our invitations, there should be no chance of two
entertainments coming off on the same day. Last year, not sufficient
care was exercised, and several persons were invited to both mansions on
the very same occasion. And people didn't say that we hadn't been
careful enough, but that, as far as appearances went, the two households
had made up their minds among themselves to show an empty attention,
prompted by the fear of trouble."
Chia Jung immediately replied that he would attend to his injunctions,
and not much time elapsed before he brought a list mentioning the days
on which the inmates were to be invited to partake of the new year wine.
Chia Chen examined it. "Go," he then said, "and give it to Lai Sheng so
that he may see its contents and invite the guests. But mind he doesn't
fix anything else for the dates specified in here."
But while watching from the pavilion the servant-boys carrying the
enclosing screens and rubbing the tables and the gold and silver
sacrificial utensils, he perceived a lad appear on the scene holding a
petition and a list, and report that 'Wu, the head-farmer in the Hei
Shan village, had arrived.' "What does this old executioner come for
to-day?" Chia Chen exclaimed.
Chia Jung took the petition and the list, and, unfolding them with all
despatch, he held them up (to his father). Chia Chen however glanced at
the papers, as they were held by Chia Jung, keeping the while both hands
behind his back. The petition on red paper ran as follows: "Your
servant, the head farmer, Wu Chin-hsiao, prostrates himself before his
master and mistress and wishes them every kind of happiness and good
health, as well as good health to their worthy scion and daughter. May
great joy, great blessings, brilliant honours and peace be their share
in this spring, which is about to dawn! May official promotion and
increase of emoluments be their lot! May they see in everything the
accomplishment of their wishes."
Chia Chen smiled. "For a farmer," he remarked, "it has several good
"Pay no heed to the style," urged Chia Jung, also smiling; "but to the
Saying this, he speedily opened the list. The articles mentioned were,
on examination, found to consist of: "Thirty big deer; five thousand
musk deer; fifty roebuck deer; twenty Siamese pigs; twenty boiled pigs;
twenty 'dragon' pigs; twenty wild pigs; twenty home-salted pigs; twenty
wild sheep; twenty grey sheep; twenty home-boiled sheep; twenty
home-dried sheep; two hundred sturgeon; two hundred catties of mixed
fish; live chickens, ducks and geese, two hundred of each; two hundred
dried chickens, ducks and geese; two hundred pair of pheasants and
hares; two hundred pair of bears' paws; twenty catties of deer tendons;
fifty catties of bêche-de-mer; fifty deer tongues; fifty ox tongues;
twenty catties of dried clams; filberts, fir-cones, peaches, apricots
and squash, two hundred bags of each; fifty pair of salt prawns; two
hundred catties of dried shrimps; a thousand catties of superfine,
picked charcoal; two thousand catties of medium charcoal; twenty
thousand catties of common charcoal; two piculs of red rice, grown in
the imperial grounds; fifty bushels of greenish, glutinous rice; fifty
bushels of white glutinous rice; fifty bushels of pounded non-glutinous
rice; fifty bushels of various kinds of corn and millet; a thousand
piculs of ordinary common rice. Exclusive of a cartload of every sort of
vegetables, and irrespective of two thousand five hundred taels, derived
from the sale of corn and millet and every kind of domestic animals,
your servant respectfully presents, for your honour's delectation, two
pair of live deer, four pair of white rabbits, four pair of black
rabbits, two pair of live variegated fowls, and two pair of duck, from
When Chia Chen had exhausted the list, "Bring him in!" he cried. In a
little time, he perceived Wu Chin-hsiao make his appearance inside. But
simply halting in the court, he bumped his head on the ground and paid
Chia Chen desired a servant to raise him up. "You're still so hale!" he
"I don't deceive you, Sir," Wu Chin-hsiao observed, "when I say that
yours servants are so accustomed to walking, that had we not come, we
wouldn't have felt exceedingly dull. Isn't the whole crowd of them keen
upon coming to see what the world is like at the feet of the son of
heaven? Yet they're, after all, so young in years, that there's the fear
of their going astray on the way. But, in a few more years, I shall be
able to appease my solicitude on their account."
"How many days have you been on the way?" Chia Chen inquired.
"To reply to your question, Sir," Wu Chin-hsiao ventured, "so much snow
has fallen this year that it's everywhere out of town four and five feet
in depth. The other day, the weather suddenly turned mild, and with the
thaw that set in, it became so very hard to make any progress that we
wasted several days. Yet albeit we've been a month and two days in
accomplishing the journey; it isn't anything excessive. But as I feared
lest you, Sir, would be giving way to anxiety, didn't I hurry along to
arrive in good time?"
"How is it, I said, that he's come only to-day!" Chia Chen observed.
"But upon looking over the list just now it seemed to me that you, old
fossil, had come again to make as much as fun of me, as if you were
putting up a stage for a boxing-match."
Wu Chin-hsiao hastily drew near a couple of steps. "I must tell you,
Sir," he remarked, "that the harvest this year hasn't really been good.
Rain set in ever since the third moon, and there it went on incessantly
straight up to the eighth moon. Indeed, the weather hasn't kept fine for
five or six consecutive days. In the ninth moon, there came a storm of
hail, each stone of which was about the size of a saucer. And over an
area of the neighbouring two or three hundred li, the men and houses,
animals and crops, which sustained injury, numbered over thousands and
ten thousands. Hence it is that the things we've brought now are what
they are. Your servant would not have the audacity to tell a lie."
Chia Chen knitted his eyebrows. "I had computed," he said, "that the
very least you would have brought would have been five thousand taels.
What's this enough for? There are only now eight or nine of you farmers,
and from two localities reports have contrariwise reached us during the
course of this very year of the occurrence of droughts; and do you
people come again to try your larks with us? Why, verily these aren't
sufficient to see the new year in with."
"And yet," Wu Chin-hsiao argued, "your place can be looked upon as
having fared well; for my brother, who's only over a hundred li away
from where I am, has actually fallen in with a vastly different lot! He
has at present eight farms of that mansion under his control, and these
considerably larger than those of yours, Sir; and yet this year they too
have only produced but a few things. So nothing beyond two or three
thousand taels has been realised. What's more, they've had to borrow
"Quite so!" Chia Chen exclaimed. "The state of things in my place here
is passable. I've got no outside outlay. The main thing I have to mind
is to make provision for a year's necessary expenses. If I launch out
into luxuries, I have to suffer hardships, so I must try a little
self-denial and manage to save something. It's the custom, besides, at
the end of the year to send presents to people and invite others; but
I'll thicken the skin of my face a bit, (and dispense with both), and
have done. I'm not like the inmates in that mansion, who have, during
the last few years, added so many items of expenditure, that it's, of
course, a matter of impossibility for them to avoid loosening their
purse strings. But they haven't, on the other hand, made any addition to
their funds and landed property. During the course of the past year or
two, they've had to make up many deficits. And if they don't appeal to
you, to whom can they go?"
Wu Chin-hsiao laughed. "It's true," he said, "that in that mansion many
items have been added, but money goes out and money comes in. And won't
the Empress and His Majesty the Emperor bestow their favour?"
At these words, Chia Chen smilingly faced Chia Jung and the other
inmates. "Just you listen to his arguments!" he exclaimed. "Aren't they
Chia Jung and the rest promptly smiled. "Among your hills and seaboard
can anything," they observed, "be known with regard to this principle?
Is it likely, pray, that the Empress will ever make over to us the
Emperor's treasury? Why, even supposing she may at heart entertain any
such wish, she herself cannot possibly adopt independent action. Of
course, she does confer her benefits on them, but this is at stated
times and fixed periods, and they merely consist of a few coloured
satins, antiquities, and bric-a-brac. In fact, when she does bestow hard
cash on them, it doesn't exceed a hundred ounces of silver. But did she
even give them so much as a thousand and more taels, what would these
suffice for? During which of the two last years have they not had to
fork out several thousands of taels? In the first year, the imperial
consort paid a visit to her parents; and just calculate how much they
must have run through in laying out that park, and you'll then know how
they stand! Why, if in another couple of years, the Empress comes and
pays them a second visit, they'll be, I'm inclined to fancy, regular
"That's why," urged Chia Chen smiling, "country people are such
unsophisticated creatures, that though they behold what lies on the
surface, they have no idea of what is inside hidden from view. They're
just like a piece of yellow cedar made into a mallet for beating the
sonorous stones with. The exterior looks well enough; but it's all
"In very truth," Chia Jung added, laughing also the while, as he
addressed himself to Chia Chen, "that mansion is impoverished. The other
day, I heard a consultation held on the sly between aunt Secunda and
Yüan Yang. What they wanted was to filch our worthy senior's things and
go and pawn them in order to raise money."
"This is just another devilish trick of that minx Feng!" Chia Chen
smiled. "How ever could they have reached such straits? She's certain to
have seen that expenses were great, and that heavy deficits had to be
squared, so wishing again to curtail some item or other, who knows
which, she devised this plan as a preparatory step, in order that when
it came to be generally known, people should say that they had been
reduced to such poverty. But from the result of the calculations I have
arrived at in my mind, things haven't as yet attained this climax:"
Continuing, he issued orders to a servant to take Wu Chin-hsiao outside,
and to treat him with every consideration. But no further mention need
be made of him.
During this while, Chia Chen gave directions to keep from the various
perquisites just received such as would prove serviceable for the
sacrifices to their ancestors, and, selecting a few things of each kind,
he told Chia Jung to have them taken to the Jung mansion. After this, he
himself kept what was required for his own use at home; and then
allotting the rest, with due compliance to gradation, he had share after
share piled up at the foot of the moon-shaped platform, and sending
servants to summon the young men of the clan, he distributed them among
In quick succession, numerous contributions for the ancestral sacrifices
were likewise sent from the Jung mansion; also presents for Chia Chen.
Chia Chen inspected the things, and having them removed, he completed
preparing the sacrificial utensils. Then putting on a pair of slip-shod
shoes and throwing over his shoulders a long pelisse with 'She-li-sun'
fur, he bade the servants spread a large wolf-skin rug in a sunny place
on the stone steps below the pillars of the pavilion, and with his back
to the warm sun, he leisurely watched the young people come and receive
the new year gifts. Perceiving that Chia Ch'in had also come to fetch
his share, Chia Chen called him over. "How is it that you've come too?"
he asked. "Who told you to come?"
Chia Ch'in respectfully dropped his arms against his sides. "I heard,"
he replied, "that you, senior Sir, had sent for us to appear before you
here and receive our presents; so I didn't wait for the servants to go
and tell me, but came straightway."
"These things," Chia Chen added, "are intended for distribution among
all those uncles and cousins who have nothing to do and who enjoy no
source of income. Those two years you had no work, I gave you plenty of
things too. But you're entrusted at present with some charge in the
other mansion, and you exercise in the family temples control over the
bonzes and taoist priests, so that you as well derive every month your
share of an allowance. Irrespective of that, the allowances and money of
the Buddhist priests pass through your hands. And do you still come to
fetch things of this kind? You're far too greedy. Just you look at the
fineries you wear. Why, they look like the habiliments of one who has
money to spend, of a regular man of business. You said some time back
that you had nothing which could bring you in any money, but how is it
that you've got none again now? You really don't look as if you were in
the same plight that you were in once upon a time."
"I have in my home a goodly number of inmates," Chia Ch'in explained,
"so my expenses are great."
Chia Chen gave a saturnine laugh. "Are you trying again to excuse
yourself with me?" he cried. "Do you flatter yourself that I have no
idea of your doings in the family temples? When you get there, you, of
course, play the grand personnage and no one has the courage to run
counter to your wishes. Then you've also got the handling of money.
Besides you're far away from us, so you're arrogant and audacious. Night
after night, you get bad characters together; you gamble for money; and
you keep women and young boys. And though you now fling away money with
such a high hand, do you still presume to come and receive gifts? But as
you can't manage to filch anything to take along with you, it will do
you good to get beans, with the pole used for carrying water. Wait until
the new year is over, and then I'll certainly report you to your uncle
Chia Ch'in got crimson in the face, and did not venture to utter a
single word by way of extenuation. A servant, however, then announced
that the Prince from the Pei mansion had sent a pair of scrolls and a
At this announcement, Chia Chen immediately told Chia Jung to go out and
entertain the messengers. "And just say," he added, "that I'm not at
Chia Jung went on his way. Chia Chen, meanwhile, dismissed Chia Ch'in;
and, seeing the things taken away, he returned to his quarters and
finished his evening meal with Mrs. Yu. But nothing of any note occurred
during that night.
The next day, he had, needless to say, still more things to give his
mind to. Soon arrived the twenty ninth day of the twelfth moon, and
everything was in perfect readiness. In the two mansions alike, the gate
guardian gods and scrolls were renovated. The hanging tablets were newly
varnished. The peach charms glistened like new. In the Ning Kuo mansion,
every principal door, starting from the main entrance, the ceremonial
gates, the doors of the large pavilions, of the winter apartments, and
inner pavilions, the inner three gates, the inner ceremonial gates and
the inner boundary gates, straight up to the doors of the main halls,
was flung wide open. At the bottom of the steps, were placed on either
side large and lofty vermilion candles, of uniform colour; which when
lit presented the appearance of a pair of golden dragons.
On the morrow, dowager lady Chia and those with any official status,
donned the court dress consistent with their grade, and taking first and
foremost a retinue of inmates with them, they entered the palace in
eight bearer state chairs, and presented their congratulations. After
acquitting themselves of the ceremonial rites, and partaking of a
banquet, they betook themselves back, and alighted from their chairs on
their arrival at the winter hall of the Ning mansion. The young men, who
had not followed the party to court, waited, arranged in their proper
order, in front of the entrance the King mansion, and subsequently led
the way into the ancestral temple.
But to return to Pao-ch'in. This was the first occasion, on which she
put her foot inside to look at the inner precincts of the Chia ancestral
temple, and as she did so, she scrutinized with minute attention all the
details that met her gaze in the halls dedicated to their forefathers.
These consisted, in fact, of a distinct courtyard on the west side of
the Ning mansion. Within the balustrade, painted black, stood five
apartments. Over the main entrance to these was suspended a flat tablet
with the inscription in four characters: 'Ancestral hall of the Chia
family.' On the side of these was recorded the fact that it had been the
handiwork of Wang Hsi-feng, specially promoted to the rank of Grand
Tutor of the Heir Apparent, and formerly Chancellor of the Imperial
Academy. On either side, was one of a pair of scrolls, bearing the
Besmear the earth with your liver and brains, all ye people, out of
gratitude for the bounty of (the Emperor's) protection!
The reputation (of the Chia family) reaches the very skies. Hundred
generations rejoice in the splendour of the sacrifices accorded
This too had been executed by Wang, the Grand Tutor.
As soon as the court was entered, a raised road was reached, paved with
white marble, on both sides of which were planted deep green fir trees,
and kingfisher-green cypress trees. On the moon-shaped platform were
laid out antiquities, tripods, libation-vases, and other similar
articles. In front of the antechamber was hung a gold-coloured flat
tablet, with nine dragons, and the device:
Like a dazzling star is the statesman, who assists the Emperor.
This was the autograph of a former Emperor.
On both sides figured a pair of antithetical scrolls, with the motto:
Their honours equal the sun and moon in lustre.
Their fame is without bounds. It descends to their sons and grandsons.
These lines were likewise from the imperial pencil. Over the five-roomed
main hall was suspended a tablet, inlaid with green, representing
wriggling dragons. The sentiments consisted of:
Mindful of the remotest and heedful of the most distant ancestors.
A pair of antithetical scrolls was hung on the sides; on which was
After their death, their sons and grandsons enjoy their beneficent
Up to the very present the masses think of the Jung and Ning families.
Both these mottoes owed their origin to the imperial pencil.
Inside, lanterns and candles burnt with resplendent brightness.
Embroidered curtains and decorated screens were hung in such profusion
that though a large number of ancestral tablets were placed about they
could not be clearly discerned. The main thing that struck the eye was
the inmates of the Chia mansion standing about, on the left and right,
disposed in their proper order. Chia Ching was overseer of the
sacrifices. Chia She played the part of assistant. Chia Chen presented
the cups for libations. Chia Lien and Chia Tsung offered up the strips
of paper. Pao-yü held the incense. Chia Ch'ang and Chia Ling distributed
the hassocks and looked after the receptacles for the ashes of
joss-sticks. The black clad musicians discoursed music. The
libation-cups were offered thrice in sacrifice. These devotions over,
paper money was burnt; and libations of wine were poured. After the
observance of the prescribed rites, the band stopped, and withdrew. The
whole company then pressed round dowager lady Chia, and repaired to the
main hall, where the images were placed. The embroidered curtains were
hung high up. The variegated screens shut in the place from view. The
fragrant candles burnt with splendour. In the place of honour, of the
main apartment, were suspended the portraits of two progenitors of the
Ning and Jung, both of whom were attired in costumes, ornamented with
dragons, and clasped with belts of jade. On the right and left of them,
were also arrayed the likenesses of a number of eminent ancestors.
Chia Heng, Chia Chih and the others of the same status stood according
to their proper grades in a row extending from the inner ceremonial gate
straight up to the verandah of the main hall. Outside the balustrade
came at last Chia Ching and Chia She. Inside the balustrade figured the
various female members of the family. The domestics and pages were
arrayed beyond the ceremonial gate. As each set of eatables arrived,
they transmitted them as far as the ceremonial gate, where Chia Heng,
Chia Chih and his companions were ready to receive them. From one to
another, they afterwards reached the bottom of the steps and found their
way into Chia Ching's hands.
Chia Jung, being the eldest grandson of the senior branch, was the only
person, who penetrated within the precincts of the balustrade reserved
for the female inmates. So whenever Chia Ching had any offerings to pass
on, he delivered them to Chia Jung, and Chia Jung gave them to his wife;
who again handed them to lady Feng, Mrs. Yu, and the several ladies. And
when these offerings reached the sacrificial altar, they were at length
surrendered to Madame Wang. Madame Wang thereupon placed them in dowager
lady Chia's hands, and old lady Chia deposited them on the altar.
Madame Hsing stood on the west-east side of the sacrificial altar, and
along with old lady Chia, she offered the oblations and laid them in
their proper places. After the vegetables, rice, soup, sweets, wine and
tea had been handed up, Chia Jung eventually retired outside and resumed
his position above Chia Ch'in.
Of the male inmates, whose names were composed with the radical 'wen,'
'literature,' Chia Ching was at the time the head. Below followed those
with the radical 'Yü,' 'gem,' led by Chia Chen. Next to these, came the
inmates with the radical 'ts'ao,' 'grass,' headed by Chia Jung. These
were arranged in proper order, with due regard to left and right. The
men figured on the east; the women on the west.
When dowager lady Chia picked up a joss-stick and prostrated herself to
perform her devotions, one and all fell simultaneously on their knees,
packing up the five-roomed principal pavilion, the inside as well as
outside of the three antechambers, the verandahs, the top and bottom of
the stairs, the interior of the two vermilion avenues so closely with
all their fineries and embroideries that not the slightest space
remained vacant among them. Not so much as the caw of a crow struck the
ear. All that was audible was the report of jingling and tinkling, and
the sound of the gold bells and jade ornaments slightly rocked to and
fro. Besides these, the creaking noise made by the shoes of the inmates,
while getting up and kneeling down.
In a little time, the ceremonies were brought to a close. Chia Ching,
Chia She and the rest hastily retired and adjourned to the Jung mansion,
where they waited with the special purpose of paying their obeisance to
dowager lady Chia.
Mrs. Yu's drawing rooms were entirely covered with red carpets. In the
centre stood a large gold cloisonné brasier, with three legs, in
imitation of rhinoceros tusks, washed with gold. On the stove-couch in
the upper part was laid a new small red hair rug. On it were placed deep
red back-cushions with embroidered representations of dragons, which
were embedded among clouds and clasped the character longevity, as well
as reclining-pillows and sitting-rugs. Covers made of black fox skin
were moreover thrown over the couch, along with skins of pure white fox
Dowager lady Chia was invited to place herself on the couch; and on the
skin-rugs spread, on either side, two or three of the sisters-in-law, of
the same standing as old lady Chia, were urged to sit down.
After the necessary arrangements had been concluded, skin rugs were also
put on the small couch, erected in a horizontal position on the near
portion of the apartments, and Madame Hsing and the other ladies of her
age were motioned to seat themselves. On the two sides stood, face to
face on the floor, twelve chairs carved and lacquered, over which were
thrown antimacassars and small grey-squirrel rugs, of uniform colour. At
the foot of each chair was a large copper foot-stove. On these chairs,
Pao-ch'in and the other young ladies were asked to sit down.
Mrs. Yu took a tray and with her own hands she presented tea to old lady
Chia. Chia Jung's wife served the rest of their seniors. Subsequently,
Mrs. Yu helped Madame Hsing too and her contemporaries; and Chia Jung's
wife then gave tea to the various young ladies; while lady Feng, Li Wan
and a few others simply remained below, ready to minister to their
wants. After their tea, Madame Hsing and her compeers were the first to
rise and come and wait on dowager lady Chia, while she had hers. Dowager
lady Chia chatted for a time with her old sisters-in-law and then
desired the servants to look to her chair.
Lady Feng thereupon speedily walked up and supported her to rise to her
"The evening meal has long ago been got ready for you, venerable
ancestor," Mrs. Yu smiled. "You've year by year shown no desire to
honour us with your presence, but tarry a bit on this occasion and
partake of some refreshment before you cross over. Is it likely, in
fact, that we can't come up to that girl Feng?"
"Go on, worthy senior!" laughed lady Feng, as she propped old lady Chia.
"Let's go home and eat our own. Don't heed what she says!"
"In what bustle and confusion aren't you in over here," smiled dowager
lady Chia, "with all the sacrifices to our ancestors, and how could you
stand all the trouble I'm putting you to? I've never, furthermore, had
every year anything to eat with you; but you've always been in the way
of sending me things. So isn't it as well that you should again let me
have a few? And as I'll keep for the next day what I shan't be able to
get through, won't I thus have a good deal more?"
This remark evoked general laughter.
"Whatever you do," she went on to enjoin her, "mind you depute some
reliable persons to sit up at night and look after the incense fires;
but they mustn't let their wits go wool-gathering."
Mrs. Yu gave her to understand that she would see to it, and they
sallied out, at the same time, into the fore part of the
winter-apartments. And when Mrs. Yu and her friends went past the
screen, the pages introduced the bearers, who shouldered the sedan and
walked out by the main entrance. Then following too in the track of
Madame Hsing and the other ladies, Mrs. Yu repaired in their company
into the Jung mansion.
(Dowager lady Chia's) chair had, meanwhile, got beyond the principal
gateway. Here again were deployed, on the east side of the street, the
bearers of insignia, the retinue and musicians of the duke of Ning Kuo.
They crammed the whole extent of the street. Comers and goers were alike
kept back. No thoroughfare was allowed. Shortly, the Jung mansion was
reached. The large gates and main entrances were also thrown open
straight up to the very interior of the compound. On the present
occasion, however, the bearers did not put the chair down by the winter
quarters, but passing the main hall, and turning to the west, they
rested it on their arrival at the near side of dowager lady Chia's
principal pavilion. The various attendants pressed round old lady Chia
and followed her into her main apartment, where decorated mats and
embroidered screens had also been placed about, and everything looked as
In the brasier, deposited in the centre of the room, burnt fir and cedar
incense, and a hundred mixed herbs. The moment dowager lady Chia
ensconced herself into a seat, an old nurse entered and announced that:
"the senior ladies had come to pay their respects."
Old lady Chia rose with alacrity to her feet to go and greet them, when
she perceived that two or three of her old sisters-in-law had already
stepped inside, so clasping each other's hands, they now laughed, and
now they pressed each other to sit down. After tea, they took their
departure; but dowager lady Chia only escorted them as far as the inner
ceremonial gate, and retracing her footsteps, she came and resumed the
place of honour. Chia Ching, Chia She and the other seniors then ushered
the various junior male members of the household into her apartments.
"I put you," smiled old lady Chia, "to ever so much trouble and
inconvenience from one year's end to another; so don't pay any
But while she spoke, the men formed themselves into one company, and the
women into another, and performed their homage, group by group. This
over, arm-chairs were arranged on the left and on the right; and on
these chairs they too subsequently seated themselves, according to their
seniority and gradation, to receive salutations. The men and women
servants, and the pages and maids employed in the two mansions then
paid, in like manner, the obeisance consonant with their positions,
whether high, middle or low; and this ceremony observed, the new year
money was distributed, together with purses, gold and silver ingots, and
other presents of the same description. A 'rejoicing together' banquet
was spread. The men sat on the east; the women on the west. 'T'u Su,'
new year's day, wine was served; also 'rejoicing together' soup,
'propitious' fruits, and 'as you like' cakes. At the close of the
banquet, dowager lady Chia rose and penetrated into the inner chamber
with the purpose of effecting a change in her costume, so the several
inmates present could at last disperse and go their own way.
That night, incense was burnt and offerings presented at the various
altars to Buddha and the kitchen god. In the courtyard of Madame Wang's
main quarters paper horses and incense for sacrifices to heaven and
earth were all ready. At the principal entrance of the garden of Broad
Vista were suspended horn lanterns, which from their lofty places cast
their bright rays on either side. Every place was hung with street
lanterns. Every inmate, whether high or low, was got up in gala dress.
Throughout the whole night, human voices resounded confusedly. The din
of talking and laughing filled the air. Strings of crackers and rockets
were let off incessantly.
The morrow came. At the fifth watch, dowager lady Chia and the other
senior members of the family donned the grand costumes, which accorded
with their status, and with a complete retinue they entered the palace
to present their court congratulations; for that day was, in addition,
the anniversary of Yüan Ch'un's birth. After they had regaled themselves
at a collation, they wended their way back, and betaking themselves also
into the Ning mansion, they offered their oblations to their ancestors,
and then returned home and received the conventional salutations, after
which they put off their fineries and retired to rest.
None of the relatives and friends, who came to wish their compliments of
the season, were admitted into (old lady Chia's) presence, but simply
had a friendly chat with Mrs. Hsüeh and 'sister-in-law' Li, and studied
their own convenience. Or along with Pao-yü, Pao-ch'ai and the other
young ladies, they amused themselves by playing the game of war or
Madame Wang and lady Feng had one day after another their hands full
with the invitations they had to issue for the new year wine. In the
halls and courts of the other side theatricals and banquets succeeded
each other and relations and friends dropped in in an incessant string.
Bustle reigned for seven or eight consecutive days, before things
settled down again.
But presently the festival of the full moon of the first month drew
near, and both mansions, the Ning as well as the Jung, were everywhere
ornamented with lanterns and decorations. On the eleventh, Chia She
invited dowager lady Chia and the other inmates. On the next day, Chia
Chen also entertained his old senior and Madame Wang and lady Feng. But
for us to record on how many consecutive days invitations were extended
to them to go and, drink the new year wine, would be an impossible task.
The fifteenth came. On this evening dowager lady Chia gave orders to
have several banqueting tables laid in the main reception hall, to
engage a company of young actors, to have every place illuminated with
flowered lanterns of various colours, and to assemble at a family
entertainment all the sons, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and
grandchildren's wives and other members of the two mansions of Ning and
Jung. As however Chia Ching did not habitually have any wine or take any
ordinary food, no one went to press him to come.
On the seventeenth, he hastened, at the close of the ancestral
sacrifices, out of town to chasten himself. In fact, even during the few
days he spent at home, he merely frequented retired rooms and lonely
places, and did not take the least interest in any single concern. But
he need not detain us any further.
As for Chia She, after he had received dowager lady Chia's presents, he
said good-bye and went away. But old lady Chia herself was perfectly
aware that she could not conveniently tarry any longer on this side so
she too followed his example and took her departure.
When Chia She got home, he along with all the guests feasted his eyes on
the illuminations and drank wine with them, Music and singing deafened
the ear. Embroidered fineries were everywhere visible. For his way of
seeking amusement was unlike that customary in this portion of the
In dowager lady Chia's reception hall, ten tables were meanwhile
arranged. By each table was placed a teapoy. On these teapoys stood
censers and bottles; three things in all. (In the censers) was burnt
'Pai ho' palace incense, a gift from his Majesty the Emperor. But small
pots, about eight inches long, four to five inches broad and two or
three inches high, adorned with scenery in the shape of rockeries, were
also placed about. All of which contained fresh flowers. Small foreign
lacquer trays were likewise to be seen, laden with diminutive painted
tea-cups of antique ware. Transparent gauze screens with frames of
carved blackwood, ornamented with a fringe representing flowers and
giving the text of verses, figured too here and there. In different
kinds of small old vases were combined together the three friends of
winter (pine, bamboo and plum,) as well as 'jade-hall,' 'happiness and
honour,' and other fresh flowers.
At the upper two tables sat 'sister-in-law' Li and Mrs. Hsüeh. On the
east was only laid a single table. But there as well were placed carved
screens, covered with dragons, and a short low-footed couch, with a full
assortment of back-cushions, reclining-cushions and skin-rugs. On the
couch stood a small teapoy, light and handy, of foreign lacquer, inlaid
with gold. On the teapoy were arrayed cups, bowls, foreign cloth napkins
and such things. But on it spectacle case was also conspicuous.
Dowager lady Chia was reposing on the couch. At one time, she chatted
and laughed with the whole company; at another, she took up her
spectacles and looked at what was going on on the stage.
"Make allowances," she said, "for my old age. My bones are quite sore;
so if I be a little out of order in my conduct bear with me, and let us
entertain each other while I remain in a recumbent position."
Continuing, she desired Hu Po to make herself comfortable on the couch,
and take a small club and tap her legs. No table stood below the couch,
but only a high teapoy. On it were a high stand with tassels,
flower-vases, incense-burners and other similar articles. But, a small,
high table, laden with cups and chopsticks, had besides been got ready.
At the table next to this, the four cousins, Pao-ch'in, Hsiang-yün,
Tai-yü and Pao-yü were told to seat themselves. The various viands and
fruits that were brought in were first presented to dowager lady Chia
for inspection. If they took her fancy, she kept them at the small
table. But once tasted by her, they were again removed and placed on
their table. We could therefore safely say that none but the four
cousins sat along with their old grandmother.
The seats occupied by Madame Hsing and Madame Wang were below. Lower
down came Mrs. Yu, Li Wan, lady Feng and Chia Jung's wife. On the west
sat Pao-ch'ai, Li Wen, Li Ch'i, Chou Yen, Ying Ch'un, and the other
cousins. On the large pillars, on either side, were suspended, in groups
of three and five, glass lanterns ornamented with fringes. In front of
each table stood a candlestick in the shape of drooping lotus leaves.
The candlesticks contained coloured candles. These lotus leaves were
provided with enamelled springs, of foreign make, so they could be
twisted outward, thus screening the rays of the lights and throwing them
(on the stage), enabling one to watch the plays with exceptional
distinctness. The window-frames and doors had all been removed. In every
place figured coloured fringes, and various kinds of court lanterns.
Inside and outside the verandahs, and under the roofs of the covered
passages, which stretched on either side, were hung lanterns of
sheep-horn, glass, embroidered gauze or silk, decorated or painted, of
satin or of paper.
Round different tables sat Chia Chen, Chia Lien, Chia Huan, Chia Tsung,
Chia Jung, Chia Yün, Chia Ch'in, Chia Ch'ang, Chia Ling and other male
inmates of the family.
Dowager lady Chia had at an early hour likewise sent servants to invite
the male and female members of the whole clan. But those advanced in
years were not disposed to take part in any excitement. Some had no one
at the time to look after things; others too were detained by
ill-health; and much though these had every wish to be present, they
were not, after all, in a fit state to come. Some were so envious of
riches, and so ashamed of their poverty, that they entertained no desire
to avail themselves of the invitation. Others, what is more, fostered
such a dislike for, and stood in such awe of, lady Feng that they felt
bitter towards her and would not accept. Others again were timid and
shy, and so little accustomed to seeing people, that they could not
muster sufficient courage to come. Hence it was that despite the large
number of female relatives in the clan, none came but Chia Lan's mother,
née Lou, who brought Chia Lan with her. In the way of men, there were
only Chia Ch'in, Chia Yün, Chia Ch'ang and Chia Ling; the four of them
and no others. The managers, at present under lady Feng's control, were
however among those who accepted. But albeit there was not a complete
gathering of the inmates on this occasion, yet, for a small family
entertainment, sufficient animation characterised the proceedings.
About this time, Lin Chih-hsiao's wife also made her appearance, with
half a dozen married women who carried three divan tables between them.
Each table was covered with a red woollen cloth, on which lay a lot of
cash, picked out clean and of equal size, and recently issued from the
mint. These were strung together with a deep-red cord. Each couple
carried a table, so there were in all three tables.
Lin Chih-hsiao's wife directed that two tables should be placed below
the festive board, round which were seated Mrs. Hsüeh and
'sister-in-law' Li, and that one should be put at the foot of dowager
lady Chia's couch.
"Place it in the middle!" old lady Chia exclaimed. "These women have
never known what good manners mean. Put the table down." Saying this,
she picked up the cash, and loosening the knots, she unstrung them and
piled them on the table.
'The reunion in the western chamber' was just being sung. The play was
drawing to a close. They had reached a part where Yü Shu runs off at
night in high dudgeon, and Wen Pao jokingly cried out: "You go off with
your monkey up; but, as luck would have it, this is the very day of the
fifteenth of the first moon, and a family banquet is being given by the
old lady in the Jung Kuo mansion, so wait and I'll jump on this horse
and hurry in and ask for something to eat. I must look sharp!" The joke
made old lady Chia, and the rest of the company laugh.
"What a dreadful, impish child!" Mrs. Hsüeh and the others exclaimed.
"Yet poor thing!"
"This child is only just nine years of age," lady Feng interposed.
"He has really made a clever hit!" dowager lady Chia laughed. "Tip him!"
This shout over, three married women, who has previously got ready
several small wicker baskets, came up, as soon as they heard the word
'tip', and, taking the heaps of loose cash piled on the table, they each
filled a basket full, and, issuing outside, they approached the stage.
"Dowager lady Chia, Mrs. Hsüeh, and the family relative, Mrs. Li,
present Wen Pao this money to purchase something to eat with," they
At the end of these words, they flung the contents of the baskets upon
the stage. So all then that fell on the ear was the rattle of the cash
flying in every direction over the boards.
Chia Chen and Chia Lien had, by this time, enjoined the pages to fetch
big baskets full of cash and have them in readiness. But as, reader, you
do not know as yet in what way these presents were given, listen to the
circumstances detailed in the subsequent chapter.
Dowager lady Chia, née Shih, does away with rotten old customs.
Wang Hsi-feng imitates in jest (the dutiful son), by getting herself
up in gaudy theatrical clothes.
Chia Chen and Chia Lien had, we will now explain, secretly got ready
large baskets of cash, so the moment they heard old lady Chia utter the
word 'tip,' they promptly bade the pages be quick and fling the money.
The noise of the cash, running on every side of the stage, was all that
fell on the ear. Dowager lady Chia thoroughly enjoyed it.
The two men then rose to their feet. The pages hastened to lay hold of a
silver kettle, newly brought in with fresh wine, and to deposit it in
Chia Lien's hands, who followed Chia Chen with quick step into the inner
rooms. Chia Chen advanced first up to 'sister-in-law' Li's table, and
curtseying, he raised her cup, and turned round, whereupon Chia Lien
quickly filled it to the brim. Next they approached Mrs. Hsüeh's table,
and they also replenished her cup.
These two ladies lost no time in standing up, and smilingly
expostulating. "Gentlemen," they said, "please take your seats. What's
the use of standing on such ceremonies?"
But presently every one, with the exception of the two ladies Mesdames
Hsing and Wang, quitted the banquet and dropping their arms against
their bodies they stood on one side. Chia Chen and his companion then
drew near dowager lady Chia's couch. But the couch was so low that they
had to stoop on their knees. Chia Chen was in front, and presented the
cup. Chia Lien was behind, and held the kettle up to her. But
notwithstanding that only these two offered her wine, Chia Tsung and the
other young men followed them closely in the order of their age and
grade; so the moment they saw them kneel, they immediately threw
themselves on their knees. Pao-yü too prostrated himself at once.
Hsiang-yün stealthily gave him a push. "What's the use of your now
following their lead again and falling on your knees?" she said. "But
since you behave like this, wouldn't it be well if you also went and
poured wine all round?"
Pao-yü laughed. "Hold on a bit," he rejoined in a low tone, "and I'll go
and do so."
So speaking, he waited until his two relatives had finished pouring the
wine and risen to their feet, when he also went and replenished the cups
of Mesdames Wang and Hsing.
"What about the young ladies?" Chia Chen smilingly asked.
"You people had better be going," old lady Chia and the other ladies
unanimously observed. "They'll, then, be more at their ease."
At this hint Chia Chen and his companions eventually withdrew. The
second watch had not, at the time, yet gone. The play that was being
sung was: 'The eight worthies look at the lanterns,' consisting of eight
acts; and had now reached a sensational part.
Pao-yü at this stage left the feast and was going out. "Where are you
off to?" inquired his grandmother Chia. "The crackers outside are
dreadful. Mind, the lighted pieces of paper falling from above might
Pao-yü smiled. "I'm not going far," he answered. "I'm merely going out
of the room, and will be back at once."
Dowager lady Chia directed the matrons to "be careful and escort him."
Pao-yü forthwith sallied out; with no other attendants however than She
Yüeh, Ch'iu Wen and several youthful maids.
"How is it," his grandmother Chia felt obliged so ask, "that I don't see
anything of Hsi Jen? Is she too now putting on high and mighty airs that
she only sends these juvenile girls here?"
Madame Wang rose to her feet with all haste. "Her mother," she
explained, "died the other day; so being in deep mourning, she couldn't
very well present herself."
Dowager lady Chia nodded her head assentingly. "When one is in service,"
she smilingly remarked, "there should be no question of mourning or no
mourning. Is it likely that, if she were still in my pay, she wouldn't
at present be here? All these practices have quite become precedents!"
Lady Feng crossed over to her. "Had she even not been in mourning
to-night," she chimed in with a laugh, "she would have had to be in the
garden and keep an eye over that pile of lanterns, candles, and
fireworks, as they're most dangerous things. For as soon as any
theatricals are set on foot in here, who doesn't surreptitiously sneak
out from the garden to have a look? But as far as she goes, she's
diligent, and careful of every place. Moreover, when the company
disperses and brother Pao-yü retires to sleep, everything will be in
perfect readiness. But, had she also come, that bevy of servants
wouldn't again have cared a straw for anything; and on his return, after
the party, the bedding would have been cold, the tea-water wouldn't have
been ready, and he would have had to put up with every sort of
discomfort. That's why I told her that there was no need for her to
come. But should you, dear senior, wish her here, I'll send for her
straightway and have done."
Old lady Chia lent an ear to her arguments. "What you say," she promptly
put in, "is perfectly right. You've made better arrangements than I
could. Quick, don't send for her! But when did her mother die? How is it
I know nothing about it?"
"Some time ago," lady Feng laughed, "Hsi Jen came in person and told
you, worthy ancestor, and how is it you've forgotten it?"
"Yes," resumed dowager lady Chia smiling, after some reflection, "I
remember now. My memory is really not of the best."
At this, everybody gave way to laughter. "How could your venerable
ladyship," they said, "recollect so many matters?"
Dowager lady Chia thereupon heaved a sigh. "How I remember," she added,
"the way she served me ever since her youth up; and how she waited upon
Yün Erh also; how at last she was given to that prince of devils, and
how she has slaved away with that imp for the last few years. She is,
besides, not a slave-girl, born or bred in the place. Nor has she ever
received any great benefits from our hands. When her mother died, I
meant to have given her several taels for her burial; but it quite
slipped from my mind."
"The other day," lady Feng remarked, "Madame Wang presented her with
forty taels; so that was all right."
At these words, old lady Chia nodded assent. "Yes, never mind about
that," she observed. "Yuan Yang's mother also died, as it happens, the
other day; but taking into consideration that both her parents lived in
the south, I didn't let her return home to observe a period of mourning.
But as both these girls are now in mourning, why not allow them to live
together? They'll thus be able to keep each other company. Take a few
fruits, eatables, and other such things," continuing she bade a matron,
"and give them to those two girls to eat."
"Would she likely wait until now?" Hu Po laughingly interposed. "Why,
she joined (Hsi Jen) long ago."
In the course of this conversation, the various inmates partook of some
more wine, and watched the theatricals.
But we will now turn our attention to Pao-yü. He made his way straight
into the garden. The matrons saw well enough that he was returning to
his rooms, but instead of following him in, they ensconced themselves
near the fire in the tea-room situated by the garden-gate, and made the
best of the time by drinking and playing cards with the girls in charge
of the tea. Pao-yü entered the court. The lanterns burnt brightly, yet
not a human voice was audible. "Have they all, forsooth, gone to sleep?"
She Yüeh ventured. "Let's walk in gently, and give them a fright!"
Presently, they stepped, on tiptoe, past the mirrored partition-wall. At
a glance, they discerned Hsi Jen lying on the stove-couch, face to face
with some other girl. On the opposite side sat two or three old nurses
nodding, half asleep. Pao-yü conjectured that both the girls were
plunged in sleep, and was just about to enter, when of a sudden some one
was heard to heave a sigh and to say: "How evident it is that worldly
matters are very uncertain! Here you lived all alone in here, while your
father and mother tarried abroad, and roamed year after year from east
to west, without any fixed place of abode. I ever thought that you
wouldn't have been able to be with them at their last moments; but, as
it happened, (your mother) died in this place this year, and you could,
after all, stand by her to the end."
"Quite so!" rejoined Hsi Jen. "Even I little expected to be able to see
any of my parents' funeral. When I broke the news to our Madame Wang,
she also gave me forty taels. This was really a kind attention on her
part. I hadn't nevertheless presumed to indulge in any vain hopes."
Pao-yü overheard what was said. Hastily twisting himself round, he
remarked in a low voice, addressing himself to She Yüeh and her
companions: "Who would have fancied her also in here? But were I to
enter, she'll bolt away in another tantrum! Better then that we should
retrace our steps, and let them quietly have a chat together, eh? Hsi
Jen was alone, and down in the mouth, so it's a fortunate thing that she
joined her in such good time."
As he spoke, they once more walked out of the court with gentle tread.
Pao-yü went to the back of the rockery, and stopping short, he raised
his clothes. She Yüeh and Ch'iu Wen stood still, and turned their faces
away. "Stoop," they smiled, "and then loosen your clothes! Be careful
that the wind doesn't blow on your stomach!"
The two young maids, who followed behind, surmised that he was bent upon
satisfying a natural want, and they hurried ahead to the tea-room to
prepare the water.
Just, however, as Pao-yü was crossing over, two married women came in
sight, advancing from the opposite direction. "Who's there?" they
"Pao-yü is here," Ch'ing Wen answered. "But mind, if you bawl and shout
like that, you'll give him a start."
The women promptly laughed. "We had no idea," they said, "that we were
coming, at a great festive time like this, to bring trouble upon
ourselves! What a lot of hard work must day after day fall to your
share, young ladies."
Speaking the while, they drew near. She Yüeh and her friends then asked
them what they were holding in their hands.
"We're taking over," they replied, "some things to the two girls: Miss
Chin and Miss Hua."
"They're still singing the 'Eight Worthies' outside," She Yüeh went on
to observe laughingly, "and how is it you're running again to Miss
Chin's and Miss Hua's before the 'Trouble-first moon-box' has been gone
"Take the lid off," Pao-yü cried, "and let me see what there's inside."
Ch'in Wen and She Yüeh at once approached and uncovered the boxes. The
two women promptly stooped, which enabled Pao-yü to see that the
contents of the two boxes consisted alike of some of the finest fruits
and tea-cakes, which had figured at the banquet, and, nodding his head,
he walked off, while She Yüeh and her friend speedily threw the lids
down anyhow, and followed in his track.
"Those two dames are pleasant enough," Pao-yü smiled, "and they know how
to speak decently; but it's they who get quite worn out every day, and
they contrariwise say that you've got ample to do daily. Now, doesn't
this amount to bragging and boasting?"
"Those two women," She Yüeh chimed in, "are not bad. But such of them as
don't know what good manners mean are ignorant to a degree of all
"You, who know what's what," Pao-yü added, "should make allowances for
that kind of rustic people. You should pity them; that's all."
Speaking, he made his exit out of the garden gate. The matrons had,
though engaged in drinking and gambling, kept incessantly stepping out
of doors to furtively keep an eye on his movements, so that the moment
they perceived Pao-yü appear, they followed him in a body. On their
arrival in the covered passage of the reception-hall, they espied two
young waiting-maids; the one with a small basin in her hand; the other
with a towel thrown over her arm. They also held a bowl and small
kettle, and had been waiting in that passage for ever so long.
Ch'iu Wen was the first to hastily stretch out her hand and test the
water. "The older you grow," she cried, "the denser you get! How could
one ever use this icy-cold water?"
"Miss, look at the weather!" the young maid replied. "I was afraid the
water would get cold. It was really scalding; is it cold now?"
While she made this rejoinder, an old matron was, by a strange
coincidence, seen coming along, carrying a jug of hot water. "Dear
dame," shouted the young maid, "come over and pour some for me in here!"
"My dear girl," the matron responded, "this is for our old mistress to
brew tea with. I'll tell you what; you'd better go and fetch some
yourself. Are you perchance afraid lest your feet might grow bigger by
"I don't care whose it is," Ch'iu Wen put in. "If you don't give me any,
I shall certainly empty our old lady's teapot and wash my hands."
The old matron turned her head; and, catching sight of Ch'iu Wen, she
there and then raised the jug and poured some of the water.
"That will do!" exclaimed Ch'iu Wen. "With all your years, don't you yet
know what's what? Who isn't aware that it's for our old mistress? But
would one presume to ask for what shouldn't be asked for?"
"My eyes are so dim," the matron rejoined with a smile, "that I didn't
recognise this young lady."
When Pao-yü had washed his hands, the young maid took the small jug and
filled the bowl; and, as she held it in her hand, Pao-yü rinsed his
mouth. But Ch'iu Wen and She Yüeh availed themselves likewise of the
warm water to have a wash; after which, they followed Pao-yü in.
Pao-yü at once asked for a kettle of warm wine, and, starting from
sister-in-law Li, he began to replenish their cups. (Sister-in-law Li
and his aunt Hsüeh) pressed him, however, with smiling faces, to take a
seat; but his grandmother Chia remonstrated. "He's only a youngster,"
she said, "so let him pour the wine! We must all drain this cup!"
With these words, she quaffed her own cup, leaving no heel-taps.
Mesdames Hsing and Wang also lost no time in emptying theirs; so Mrs.
Hsüeh and 'sister-in-law' Li had no alternative but to drain their
"Fill the cups too of your female cousins, senior or junior," dowager
lady Chia went on to tell Pao-yü. "And you mayn't pour the wine anyhow.
Each of you must swallow every drop of your drinks."
Pao-yü upon hearing her wishes, set to work, while signifying his
assent, to replenish the cups of the several young ladies in their
proper gradation. But when he got to Tai-yü, she raised the cup, for she
would not drink any wine herself, and applied it to Pao-yü's lips.
Pao-yü drained the contents with one breath; upon which Tai-yü gave him
a smile, and said to him: "I am much obliged to you."
Pao-yü next poured a cup for her. But lady Feng immediately laughed and
expostulated. "Pao-yü!" she cried, "you mustn't take any cold wine.
Mind, your hand will tremble, and you won't be able to-morrow to write
your characters or to draw the bow."
"I'm not having any cold wine," Pao-yü replied.
"I know you're not," lady Feng smiled, "but I simply warn you."
After this, Pao-yü finished helping the rest of the inmates inside, with
the exception of Chia Jung's wife, for whom he bade a maid fill a cup.
Then emerging again into the covered passage, he replenished the cups of
Chia Chen and his companions; after which, he tarried with them for a
while, and at last walked in and resumed his former seat.
Presently, the soup was brought, and soon after that the 'feast of
lanterns' cakes were handed round.
Dowager lady Chia gave orders that the play should be interrupted for a
time. "Those young people," (she said) "are be to pitied! Let them too
have some hot soup and warm viands. They then can go on again. Take of
every kind of fruit," she continued, "'feast of lanterns' cakes, and
other such dainties and give them a few."
The play was shortly stopped. The matrons ushered in a couple of blind
singing-girls, who often came to the house, and put two benches, on the
opposite side, for them. Old lady Chia desired them to take a seat, and
banjos and guitars were then handed to them.
"What stories would you like to hear?" old lady Chia inquired of
'sister-in-law' Li and Mrs. Hsüeh.
"We don't care what they are;" both of them rejoined with one voice.
"Any will do!"
"Have you of late added any new stories to your stock?" old lady Chia
"We've got a new story," the two girls explained. "It's about an old
affair of the time of the Five Dynasties, which trod down the T'ang
"What's its title?" old lady Chia inquired.
"It's called: 'A Feng seeks a Luan in marriage': (the male phoenix asks
the female phoenix in marriage)," one of the girls answered.
"The title is all very well," dowager lady Chia proceeded, "but why I
wonder was it ever given to it. First tell us its general purport, and
if it's interesting, you can continue."
"This story," the girl explained, "treats of the time when the T'ang
dynasty was extinguished. There lived then one of the gentry, who had
originally been a denizen of Chin Ling. His name was Wang Chun. He had
been minister under two reigns. He had, about this time, pleaded old age
and returned to his home. He had about his knees only one son, called
When the company heard so far, they began to laugh.
"Now isn't this a duplicate of our girl Feng's name?" old lady Chia
A married woman hurried up and pushed (the girl). "That's the name of
your lady Secunda," she said, "so don't use it quite so heedlessly!"
"Go on with your story!" dowager lady Chia shouted.
The girl speedily stood up, smiling the while. "We do deserve death!"
she observed. "We weren't aware that it was our lady's worthy name."
"Why should you be in such fear and trembling?" lady Feng laughed. "Go
on! There are many duplicate names and duplicate surnames."
The girl then proceeded with her story. "In a certain year," she
resumed, "his honour old Mr. Wang saw his son Mr. Wang off for the
capital to be in time for the examinations. One day, he was overtaken by
a heavy shower of rain and he betook himself into a village for shelter.
Who'd have thought it, there lived in this village, one of the gentry,
of the name of Li, who had been an old friend of his honour old Mr.
Wang, and he kept Mr. Wang junior to put up in his library. This Mr. Li
had no son, but only a daughter. This young daughter's worthy name was
Ch'u Luan. She could perform on the lute; she could play chess; and she
had a knowledge of books and of painting. There was nothing that she did
Old lady Chia eagerly chimed in. "It's no wonder," she said, "that the
story has been called: 'A Feng seeks a Luan in marriage,' '(a male
phoenix seeks a female phoenix in marriage).' But you needn't proceed.
I've already guessed the denouement. There's no doubt that Wang Hsi-feng
asks for the hand of this Miss Ch'u Luan."
"Your venerable ladyship must really have heard the story before," the
"What hasn't our worthy senior heard?" they all exclaimed. "But she's
quick enough in guessing even unheard of things."
"All these stories run invariably in one line," old lady Chia laughingly
rejoined. "They're all about pretty girls and scholars. There's no fun
in them. They abuse people's daughters in every possible way, and then
they still term them nice pretty girls. They're so concocted that
there's not even a semblance of truth in them. From the very first, they
canvass the families of the gentry. If the paterfamilias isn't a
president of a board; then he's made a minister. The heroine is bound to
be as lovable as a gem. This young lady is sure to understand all about
letters, and propriety. She knows every thing and is, in a word, a
peerless beauty. At the sight of a handsome young man, she pays no heed
as to whether he be relation or friend, but begins to entertain thoughts
of the primary affair of her life, and forgets her parents and sets her
books on one side. She behaves as neither devil nor thief would: so in
what respect does she resemble a nice pretty girl? Were even her brain
full of learning, she couldn't be accounted a nice pretty girl, after
behaving in this manner! Just like a young fellow, whose mind is well
stored with book-lore, and who goes and plays the robber! Now is it
likely that the imperial laws would look upon him as a man of parts, and
that they wouldn't bring against him some charge of robbery? From this
it's evident that those, who fabricate these stories, contradict
themselves. Besides, they may, it's true, say that the heroines belong
to great families of official and literary status, that they're
conversant with propriety and learning and that their honourable mothers
too understand books and good manners, but great households like theirs
must, in spite of the parents having pleaded old age and returned to
their natives places, contain a great number of inmates; and the nurses,
maids and attendants on these young ladies must also be many; and how is
it then that, whenever these stories make reference to such matters, one
only hears of young ladies with but a single close attendant? What can,
think for yourselves, all the other people be up to? Indeed, what is
said before doesn't accord with what comes afterwards. Isn't it so, eh?"
The party listened to her with much glee. "These criticisms of yours,
venerable ancestor," they said, "have laid bare every single
"They have however their reasons," old lady Chia smilingly resumed.
"Among the writers of these stories, there are some, who begrudge
people's wealth and honours, or possibly those, who having solicited a
favour (of the wealthy and honorable), and not obtained the object, upon
which their wishes were set, have fabricated lies in order to disparage
people. There is moreover a certain class of persons, who become so
corrupted by the perusal of such tales that they are not satisfied until
they themselves pounce upon some nice pretty girl. Hence is it that, for
fun's sake, they devise all these yarns. But how could such as they ever
know the principle which prevails in official and literary families? Not
to speak of the various official and literary families spoken about in
these anecdotes, take now our own immediate case as an instance. We're
only such a middle class household, and yet we've got none of those
occurrences; so don't let her go on spinning these endless yarns. We
must on no account have any of these stories told us! Why, even the
maids themselves don't understand any of this sort of language. I've
been getting so old the last few years, that I felt unawares quite
melancholy whenever the girls went to live far off, so my wont has been
to have a few passages recounted to me; but as soon as they got back, I
at once put a stop to these things."
'Sister-in-law' Li and Mrs. Hsüeh both laughed. "This is just the rule,"
they said, "which should exist in great families. Not even in our homes
is any of this confused talk allowed to reach the ears of the young
Lady Feng came forward and poured some wine. "Enough, that will do!" she
laughed. "The wine has got quite cold. My dear ancestor, do take a sip
and moisten your throat with, before you begin again to dilate on
falsehoods. What we've been having now can well be termed 'Record of a
discussion on falsehoods.' It has had its origin in this reign, in this
place, in this year, in this moon, on this day and at this very season.
But, venerable senior, you've only got one mouth, so you couldn't very
well simultaneously speak of two families. 'When two flowers open
together,' the proverb says, 'one person can only speak of one.' But
whether the stones be true or fictitious, don't let us say anything more
about them. Let's have the footlights put in order, and look at the
players. Dear senior, do let these two relatives have a glass of wine
and see a couple of plays; and you can then start arguing about one
dynasty after another. Eh, what do you say?"
Saying this, she poured the wine, laughing the while. But she had
scarcely done speaking before the whole company were convulsed with
laughter. The two singing girls were themselves unable to keep their
"Lady Secunda," they both exclaimed, "what a sharp tongue you have! Were
your ladyship to take to story-telling, we really would have nowhere to
earn our rice."
"Don't be in such overflowing spirits," Mrs. Hsüeh laughed. "There are
people outside; this isn't like any ordinary occasion."
"There's only my senior brother-in-law Chen outside," lady Feng smiled.
"And we've been like brother and sister from our youth up. We've romped
and been up to every mischief to this age together. But all on account
of my marriage, I've had of late years to stand on ever so many
ceremonies. Why besides being like brother and sister from the time we
were small kids, he's anyhow my senior brother-in-law, and I his junior
sister-in-law. (One among) those twenty four dutiful sons, travestied
himself in theatrical costume (to amuse his parents), but those fellows
haven't sufficient spirit to come in some stage togs and try and make
you have a laugh, dear ancestor. I've however succeeded, after ever so
much exertion, in so diverting you as to induce you to eat a little more
than you would, and in putting everybody in good humour; and I should be
thanked by one and all of you; it's only right that I should. But can it
be that you will, on the contrary, poke fun at me?"
"I've truly not had a hearty laugh the last few days," old lady Chia
smiled, "but thanks to the funny things she recounted just now, I've
managed to get in somewhat better spirits in here. So I'll have another
cup of wine." Then having drunk her wine, "Pao-yü," she went on to say,
"come and present a cup to your sister-in-law!"
Lady Feng gave a smile. "There's no use for him to give me any wine,"
she ventured. "(I'll drink out of your cup,) so as to bring upon myself
your longevity, venerable ancestor."
While uttering this response, she raised dowager lady Chia's cup to her
lips, and drained the remaining half of the contents; after which, she
handed the cup to a waiting-maid, who took one from those which had been
rinsed with tepid water, and brought it to her. But in due course, the
cups from the various tables were cleared, and clean ones, washed in
warm water, were substituted; and when fresh wine had been served round,
(lady Feng and the maid) resumed their seats.
"Venerable lady," a singing-girl put in, "you don't like the stories we
tell; but may we thrum a song for you?"
"You two," remarked old lady Chia, "had better play a duet of the
'Chiang Chün ling' song: 'the general's command.'"
Hearing her wishes, the two girls promptly tuned their cords, to suit
the pitch of the song, and struck up on their guitars.
"What watch of the night is it?" old lady Chia at this point inquired.
"It's the third watch," the matrons replied with alacrity.
"No wonder it has got so chilly and damp!" old lady Chia added.
Extra clothes were accordingly soon fetched by the servants and maids.
Madame Wang speedily rose to her feet and forced a smile. "Venerable
senior," she said, "wouldn't it be prudent for you to move on to the
stove couch in the winter apartments? It would be as well. These two
relatives are no strangers. And if we entertain them, it will he all
"Well, in that case," dowager lady Chia smilingly rejoined, "why
shouldn't the whole company adjourn inside? Wouldn't it be warmer for us
"I'm afraid there isn't enough sitting room for every one of us," Madame
"I've got a plan," old lady Chia added. "We can now dispense with these
tables. All we need are two or three, placed side by side; we can then
sit in a group, and by bundling together it will be both sociable as
well as warm."
"Yes, this will be nice!" one and all cried.
Assenting, they forthwith rose from table. The married women hastened to
remove the debandade of the banquet. Then placing three large tables
lengthways side by side in the inner rooms, they went on to properly
arrange the fruits and viands, some of which had been replenished,
"You must none of you stand on any ceremonies!" dowager lady Chia
observed. "If you just listen while I allot you your places, and sit
down accordingly, it will be all right!"
Continuing, she motioned to Mrs. Hsüeh and 'sister-in-law' Li to take
the upper seats on the side of honour, and, making herself comfortable
on the west, she bade the three cousins Pao-ch'in, Tai-yü and Hsian-yün
sit close to her on the left and on the right. "Pao-yü," she proceeded
"you must go next to your mother." So presently she put Pao-yü, and
Pao-ch'ai and the rest of the young ladies between Mesdames Hsing and
Wang. On the west, she placed, in proper gradation, dame Lou, along with
Chia Lan, and Mrs. Yu and Li Wan, with Chia Lan, (number two,) between
them. While she assigned a chair to Chia Jung's wife among the lower
seats, put crosswise. "Brother Chen," old lady Chia cried, "take your
cousins and be off! I'm also going to sleep in a little time."
Chia Chen and his associates speedily expressed their obedience, and
made, in a body, their appearance inside again to listen to any
injunctions she might have to give them.
"Bundle yourself away at once!" shouted dowager lady Chia. "You needn't
come in. We've just sat down, and you'll make us get up again. Go and
rest; be quick! To-morrow, there are to be some more grand doings!" Chia
Chen assented with alacrity. "But Jung Erh should remain to replenish
the cups," he smiled; "it's only fair that he should."
"Quite so!" answered old lady Chia laughingly. "I forgot all about him."
"Yes!" acquiesced Chia Chen. Then twisting himself round, he led Chia
Lien and his companions out of the apartment.
(Chia Chen and Chia Lien) were, of course, both pleased at being able to
get away. So bidding the servants see Chia Tsung and Chia Huang to their
respective homes, (Chia Chen) arranged with Chia Lien to go in pursuit
of pleasure and in quest of fun. But we will now leave them to their own
devices without another word.
"I was just thinking," meanwhile dowager lady Chia laughed, "that it
would be well, although you people are numerous enough to enjoy
yourselves, to have a couple of great-grandchildren present at this
banquet, so Jung Erh now makes the full complement. But Jung Erh sit
near your wife, for she and you will then make the pair complete."
The wife of a domestic thereupon presented a play-bill.
"We, ladies," old lady Chia demurred, "are now chatting in high glee,
and are about to start a romp. Those young folks have, also, been
sitting up so far into the night that they must be quite cold, so let
the plays alone. Tell them then to have a rest. Yet call our own girls
to come and sing a couple of plays on this stage. They too will thus
have a chance of watching us a bit."
After lending an ear to her, the married women assented and quitted the
room. And immediately finding some servant to go to the garden of Broad
Vista and summon the girls, they betook themselves, at the same time, as
far as the second gate and called a few pages to wait on them.
The pages went with hurried step to the rooms reserved for the players,
and taking with them the various grown-up members of the company, they
only left the more youthful behind. Then fetching, in a little time, Wen
Kuan and a few other girls, twelve in all, from among the novices in the
Pear Fragrance court, they egressed by the corner gate leading out of
the covered passage. The matrons took soft bundles in their arms, as
their strength was not equal to carrying boxes. And under the conviction
that their old mistress would prefer plays of three or five acts, they
had put together the necessary theatrical costumes.
After Wen Kuan and the rest of the girls had been introduced into the
room by the matrons, they paid their obeisance, and, dropping their arms
against their sides, they stood reverentially.
"In this propitious first moon," old lady Chia smiled, "won't your
teacher let you come out for a stroll? What are you singing now? The
eight acts of the 'Eight worthies' recently sung here were so noisy,
that they made my head ache; so you'd better let us have something more
quiet. You must however bear in mind that Mrs. Hsüeh and Mrs. Li are
both people, who give theatricals, and have heard I don't know how many
fine plays. The young ladies here have seen better plays than our own
girls; and they have heard more beautiful songs than they. These
actresses, you see here now, formed once, despite their youth, part of a
company belonging to renowned families, fond of plays; and though mere
children, they excel any troupe composed of grown-up persons. So
whatever we do, don't let us say anything disparaging about them. But we
must now have something new. Tell Fang Kuan to sing us the 'Hsün Meng'
ballad; and let only flutes and Pandean pipes be used. The other
instruments can be dispensed with."
"Your venerable ladyship is quite right," Wen Kuan smiled. "Our acting
couldn't, certainly, suit the taste of such people as Mrs. Hsüeh, Mrs.
Li and the young ladies. Nevertheless, let them merely heed our
enunciation, and listen to our voices; that's all."
"Well said!" dowager lady Chia laughed.
'Sister-in-law' Li and Mrs. Hsüeh were filled with delight. "What a
sharp girl!" they remarked smilingly. "But do you also try to imitate
our old lady by pulling our leg?"
"They're intended to afford us some ready-at-hand recreation," old lady
Chia smiled. "Besides, they don't go out to earn money. That's how it is
they are not so much up to the times." At the close of this remark, she
also desired K'uei Kuan to sing the play: 'Hui Ming sends a letter.'
"You needn't," she added, "make your face up. Just sing this couple of
plays so as to merely let both those ladies hear a kind of parody of
them. But if you spare yourselves the least exertion, I shall be
When they heard this, Wen Kuan and her companions left the apartment and
promptly apparelled themselves and mounted the stage. First in order,
was sung the 'Hsün Meng;' next, '(Hui Ming) sends a letter;' during
which, everybody observed such perfect silence that not so much as the
caw of a crow fell on the ear.
"I've verily seen several hundreds of companies," Mrs. Hsüeh smiled,
"but never have I come across any that confined themselves to flutes."
"There are some," dowager lady Chia answered. "In fact, in that play
acted just now called: 'Love in the western tower at Ch'u Ch'iang,'
there's a good deal sung by young actors in unison with the flutes. But
lengthy unison pieces of this description are indeed few. This too,
however, is purely a matter of taste; there's nothing out of the way
about it. When I was of her age," resuming, she pointed at Hsiang-yün,
"her grandfather kept a troupe of young actresses. There was among them
one, who played the lute so efficiently that she performed the part when
the lute is heard in the 'Hsi Hsiang Chi,' the piece on the lute in the
'Yü Ts'an Chi,' and that in the supplementary 'P'i Pa Chi,' on the
Mongol flageolet with the eighteen notes, in every way as if she had
been placed in the real circumstances herself. Yea, far better than
"This is still rarer a thing!" the inmates exclaimed.
Old lady Chia then shortly called the married women, and bade them tell
Wen Kúan and the other girls to use both wind and string instruments and
render the piece; 'At the feast of lanterns, the moon is round.'
The women servants received her orders and went to execute them. Chia
Jung and his wife meanwhile passed the wine round.
When lady Feng saw dowager lady Chia in most exuberant spirits, she
smiled. "Won't it be nice," she said, "to avail ourselves of the
presence of the singing girls to pass plum blossom round and have the
game of forfeits: 'Spring-happy eyebrow-corners-go-up,' eh?"
"That's a fine game of forfeits!" Old lady Chia cried, with a smile. "It
just suits the time of the year."
Orders were therefore given at once to fetch a forfeit drum, varnished
black, and ornamented with designs executed with copper tacks. When
brought, it was handed to the singing girls to put on the table and rap
on it. A twig of red plum blossom was then obtained. "The one in whose
hand it is when the drum stops," dowager lady Chia laughingly proposed,
"will have to drink a cup of wine, and to say something or other as
"I'll tell you what," lady Feng interposed with a smile. "Who of us can
pit herself against you, dear ancestor, who have ever ready at hand
whatever you want to say? With the little use we are in this line, won't
there be an absolute lack of fun in our contributions? My idea is that
it would be nicer were something said that could be appreciated both by
the refined as well as the unrefined. So won't it be preferable that the
person, in whose hands the twig remains, when the drum stops, should
crack some joke or other?"
Every one, who heard her, was fully aware what a good hand she had
always been at witty things, and how she, more than any other, had an
inexhaustible supply of novel and amusing rules of forfeits, ever
stocked in her mind, so her suggestion not only gratified the various
inmates of the family seated at the banquet, but even filled the whole
posse of servants, both old and young, who stood in attendance below,
with intense delight. The young waiting-maids rushed with eagerness in
search of the young ladies and told them to come and listen to their
lady Secunda, who was on the point again of saying funny things. A whole
crowd of servant-girls anxiously pressed inside and crammed the room. In
a little time, the theatricals were brought to a close, and the music
was stopped. Dowager lady Chia had some soup, fine cakes and fruits
handed to Wen Kuan and her companions to regale themselves with, and
then gave orders to sound the drum. The singing-girls were both experts,
so now they beat fast; and now slow. Either slow like the dripping of
the remnants of water in a clepsydra. Or quick, as when beans are being
sown. Or with the velocity of the pace of a scared horse, or that of the
flash of a swift lightning. The sound of the drum came to a standstill
abruptly. The twig of plum blossom had just reached old lady Chia, when
by a strange coincidence, the rattle ceased. Every one blurted out into
a boisterous fit of laughter. Chia Jung hastily approached and filled a
cup. "It's only natural," they laughingly cried, "that you venerable
senior, should be the first to get exhilarated; for then, thanks to you,
we shall also come in for some measure of good cheer."
"To gulp down this wine is an easy job," dowager lady smiled, "but to
crack jokes is somewhat difficult."
"Your jokes, dear ancestor, are even wittier than those of lady Feng,"
the party shouted, "so favour us with one, and let's have a laugh!"
"I've nothing out of the way to evoke laughter with," old lady Chia
smilingly answered. "Yet all that remains for me to do is to thicken the
skin of my antiquated phiz and come out with some joke. In a certain
family," she consequently went on to narrate, "there were ten sons;
these married ten wives. The tenth of these wives was, however, so
intelligent, sharp, quick of mind, and glib of tongue, that her father
and mother-in-law loved her best of all, and maintained from morning to
night that the other nine were not filial. These nine felt much
aggrieved and they accordingly took counsel together. 'We nine,' they
said, 'are filial enough at heart; the only thing is that that shrew has
the gift of the gab. That's why our father and mother-in-law think her
so perfect. But to whom can we go and confide our grievance?' One of
them was struck with an idea. 'Let's go to-morrow,' she proposed, 'to
the temple of the King of Hell and burn incense. We can then tell the
King our grudge and ask him how it was that, when he bade us receive
life and become human beings, he only conferred a glib tongue on that
vixen and that we were only allotted such blunt mouths?' The eight
listened to her plan, and were quite enraptured with it. 'This proposal
is faultless!' they assented. On the next day, they sped in a body to
the temple of the God of Hell, and after burning incense, the nine
sisters-in-law slept under the altar, on which their offerings were
laid. Their nine spirits waited with the special purpose of seeing the
carriage of the King of Hell arrive; but they waited and waited, and yet
he did not come. They were just giving way to despair when they espied
Sun Hsing-che, (the god of monkeys), advancing on a rolling cloud. He
espied the nine spirits, and felt inclined to take a golden rod and beat
them. The nine spirits were plunged in terror. Hastily they fell on
their knees, and pleaded for mercy."
"'What are you up to?' Sun Hsing-che inquired."
"The nine women, with alacrity, told him all."
"After Sun Hsing-che had listened to their confidences, he stamped his
foot and heaved a sigh. 'Is that the case?' he asked. 'Well, it's lucky
enough you came across me, for had you waited for the God of Hell, he
wouldn't have known anything about it.'"
"At these assurances, the nine women gave way to entreaties. 'Great
saint,' they pleaded, 'if you were to display some commiseration, we
would be all right.'"
"Sun Hsing-che smiled. 'There's no difficulty in the way,' he observed.
'On the day on which you ten sisters-in-law came to life, I was, as luck
would have it, on a visit to the King of Hell's place. So I (saw) him do
something on the ground, and the junior sister-of-law of yours lap it
up. But if you now wish to become smart and sharp-tongued, the remedy
lies in water. If I too were therefore to do something, and you to drink
it, the desired effect will be attained.'"
At the close of her story, the company roared with laughter.
"Splendid!" shouted lady Feng. "But luckily we're all slow of tongue and
dull of intellect, otherwise, we too must have had the water of monkeys
"Who among us here," Mrs. Yu and dame Lou smilingly remarked, addressing
themselves to Li Wan, "has tasted any monkey's water. So don't sham
ignorance of things!"
"A joke must hit the point to be amusing," Mrs. Hsüeh ventured.
But while she spoke, (the girls) began again to beat the drum. The young
maids were keen to hear lady Feng's jokes. They therefore explained to
the singing girls, in a confidential tone, that a cough would be the
given signal (for them to desist). In no time (the blossom) was handed
round on both sides. As soon as it came to lady Feng, the young maids
purposely gave a cough. The singing-girl at once stopped short. "Now
we've caught her!" shouted the party laughingly; "drink your wine, be
quick! And mind you tell something nice! But don't make us laugh so
heartily as to get stomachaches."
Lady Feng was lost in thought. Presently, she began with a smile. "A
certain household," she said, "was celebrating the first moon festival.
The entire family was enjoying the sight of the lanterns, and drinking
their wine. In real truth unusual excitement prevailed. There were great
grandmothers, grandmothers, daughters-in-law, grandsons' wives, great
grandsons, granddaughters, granddaughters-in-law, aunts' granddaughters,
cousins' granddaughters; and ai-yo-yo, there was verily such a bustle
While minding her story, they laughed. "Listen to all this mean mouth
says!" they cried. "We wonder what other ramifications she won't
"If you want to bully me," Mrs. Yu smiled, "I'll tear that mouth of
yours to pieces."
Lady Feng rose to her feet and clapped her hands.
"One does all one can to rack one's brain," she smiled, "and here you
combine to do your utmost to confuse me! Well, if it is so, I won't go
"Proceed with your story," old lady Chia exclaimed with a smile. "What
Lady Feng thought for a while. "Well, after that," she continued
laughingly, "they all sat together and crammed the whole room. They
primed themselves with wine throughout the hours of night and then they
The various inmates noticed in what a serious and sedate manner she
narrated her story, and none ventured to pass any further remarks, but
waited anxiously for her to go on, when they became aware that she
coldly and drily came to a stop.
Shih Hsiang-yün stared at her for ever so long.
"I'll tell you another," lady Feng laughingly remarked. "At the first
moon festival, several persons carried a cracker as large as a room and
went out of town to let it off. Over and above ten thousand persons were
attracted, and they followed to see the sight. One among them was of an
impatient disposition. He could not reconcile himself to wait; so
stealthily he snatched a joss-stick and set fire to it. A sound of
'pu-ch'ih' was heard. The whole number of spectators laughed
boisterously and withdrew. The persons, who carried the cracker, felt a
grudge against the cracker-seller for not having made it tight, (and
wondered) how it was that every one had left without hearing it go off."
"Is it likely that the men themselves didn't hear the report?"
"Why, the men themselves were deaf," lady Feng rejoined.
After listening to her, they pondered for a while, and then suddenly
they laughed aloud in chorus. But remembering that her first story had
been left unfinished, they inquired of her: "What was, after all, the
issue of the first story? You should conclude that too."
Lady Feng gave a rap on the table with her hand. "How vexatious you
are!" she exclaimed. "Well, the next day was the sixteenth; so the
festivities of the year were over, and the feast itself was past and
gone. I see people busy putting things away, and fussing about still, so
how can I make out what will be the end of it all?"
At this, one and all indulged in renewed merriment.
"The fourth watch has long ago been struck outside," lady Feng smilingly
said. "From what I can see, our worthy senior is also tired out; and we
should, like when the cracker was let off in that story of the deaf
people, be bundling ourselves off and finish!"
Mrs. Yu and the rest covered their mouths with their handkerchiefs and
laughed. Now they stooped forward; and now they bent backward. And
pointing at her, "This thing," they cried, "has really a mean tongue."
Old lady Chia laughed. "Yes," she said, "this vixen Feng has, in real
truth, developed a meaner tongue than ever! But she alluded to
crackers," she added, "so let's also let off a few fireworks so as to
counteract the fumes of the wine."
Chia Jung overheard the suggestion. Hurriedly leaving the room, he took
the pages with him, and having a scaffolding erected in the court, they
hung up the fireworks, and got everything in perfect readiness. These
fireworks were articles of tribute, sent from different states, and
were, albeit not large in size, contrived with extreme ingenuity. The
representations of various kinds of events of antiquity were perfect,
and in them were inserted all sorts of crackers.
Lin Tai-yü was naturally of a weak disposition, so she could not stand
the report of any loud intonation. Her grandmother Chia therefore
clasped her immediately in her embrace. Mrs. Hsüeh, meanwhile, took
Hsiang-yün in her arms.
"I'm not afraid," smiled Hsiang-yün.
"Nothing she likes so much as letting off huge crackers," Pao-ch'ai
smilingly interposed, "and could she fear this sort of thing?"
Madame Wang, thereupon, laid hold of Pao-yü, and pulled him in her lap.
"We've got no one to care a rap for us," lady Feng laughed.
"I'm here for you," Mrs. Yu rejoined with a laugh. "I'll embrace you.
There you're again behaving like a spoilt child. You've heard about
crackers, and you comport yourself as if you'd had honey to eat! You're
quite frivolous again to-day!"
"Wait till we break up," lady Feng answered laughing, "and we'll go and
let some off in our garden. I can fire them far better than any of the
While they bandied words, one kind of firework after another was lighted
outside, and then later on some more again. Among these figured
'fill-heaven-stars;' 'nine dragons-enter-clouds;' 'over-whole-land-a-
crack-of-thunder;' 'fly-up-heavens;' 'sound-ten shots,' and other such
The fireworks over, the young actresses were again asked to render the
'Lotus-flowers-fall,' and cash were strewn upon the stage. The young
girls bustled all over the boards, snatching cash and capering about.
The soup was next brought. "The night is long," old lady Chia said, "and
somehow or other I feel peckish."
"There's some congee," lady Feng promptly remarked, "prepared with
"I'd rather have plain things," dowager lady Chia answered.
"There's also some congee made with non-glutinous rice and powder of
dates. It's been cooked for the ladies who fast."
"If there's any of this, it will do very well," old lady Chia replied.
While she spoke, orders were given to remove the remnants of the
banquet, and inside as well as outside; were served every kind of
_recherché_ small dishes. One and all then partook of some of these
refreshments, at their pleasure, and rinsing their mouths with tea, they
On the seventeenth, they also repaired, at an early hour, to the Ning
mansion to present their compliments; and remaining in attendance, while
the doors of the ancestral hall were closed and the images put away,
they, at length, returned to their quarters.
Invitations had been issued on this occasion to drink the new year wine
at Mrs. Hsüeh's residence. But dowager lady Chia had been out on several
consecutive days, and so tired out did she feel that she withdrew to her
rooms, after only a short stay.
After the eighteenth, relatives and friends arrived and made their
formal invitations; or else they came as guests to the banquets given.
But so little was old lady Chia in a fit state to turn her mind to
anything that the two ladies, Madame Hsing and lady Feng, had to attend
between them to everything that cropped up. But Pao-yü as well did not
go anywhere else than to Wang Tzu-t'eng's, and the excuse he gave out
was that his grandmother kept him at home to dispel her ennui.
We need not, however, dilate on irrelevant details. In due course, the
festival of the fifteenth of the first moon passed. But, reader, if you
have any curiosity to learn any subsequent events, listen to those given
in the chapter below.
The stupid secondary wife, dame Chao, needlessly loses her temper and
insults her own daughter, T'an Ch'un.
The perverse servant-girls are so full of malice that they look down
contemptuously on their youthful mistresses.
We will now resume our narration with the Jung Mansion. Soon after the
bustle of the new year festivities, lady Feng who, with the most arduous
duties she had had to fulfil both before and after the new year, had
found little time to take proper care of herself, got a miscarriage and
could not attend to the management of domestic affairs. Day after day
two and three doctors came and prescribed for her. But lady Feng had
ever accustomed herself to be hardy, so although unable to go out of
doors, she nevertheless devised the ways and means for everything, and
made the various arrangements she deemed necessary, and whatever concern
suggested itself to her mind, she entrusted to P'ing Erh to lay before
Madame Wang. But however much people advised her to be careful, she
would not lend an ear to them. Madame Wang felt as if she had been
deprived of her right arm. And as she alone had not sufficient energy to
see to everything, she bestowed her own attention upon such important
affairs, as turned up, and entrusted, for the time being, all
miscellaneous domestic matters to the co-operation of Li Wan.
Li Wan had at all times held virtue at a high price, and set but little
value on talents of any kind, so that she, as a matter of course,
displayed leniency to those who were placed under her. Madame Wang
accordingly bade T'an Ch'un combine with Li Wan in the management of the
household. "In a month," she argued, "lady Feng will be getting all
right again, and then you can once more hand over charge to her."
Little, however, though one would think it, lady Feng was endowed with a
poor physique. From her youth up, moreover, she had not known how to
husband her health; and emulation and contentiousness had, more than
anything else, combined to undermine her vital energies. Hence it was
that although her complaint was a simple miscarriage, it had really,
after all, been the outcome of loss of vigour. After a month symptoms of
emissions of blood began also to show themselves. And notwithstanding
her reluctance to utter what she felt every one, at the sight of her
sallow and emaciated face, readily concluded that she was not nursing
herself as well as she should.
Madame Wang therefore enjoined her merely to take her medicines and look
to herself with due care; and she would not allow her to disquiet her
mind about the least thing. But (lady Feng) herself also gave way to
misgivings lest her illness should assume some grave phase, and much
though she laughed with one and all, she was ever mindful to steal time
to attend to her health, feeling inwardly vexed at not being able to
soon get back her old strength again. But she had, as it happened, to
dose herself with medicines and to nurse herself for three whole months,
before she gradually began to rally and before the discharges stopped by
degrees. But we will abstain from any reference to these details which
pertain to the future, suffice it now to add that though Madame Wang
noticed her improved state, (she thought it) impossible for the time
being for T'an Ch'un and Li Wan to resign their charge. But so fidgetty
was she lest with the large number of inmates in the garden proper
control should not be exercised that she specially sent for Pao-ch'ai
and begged of her to keep an eye over every place, explaining to her
that the old matrons were of no earthly use, for whenever they could
obtain any leisure, they drank and gambled; and slept during broad
daylight, while they played at cards during the hours of night. "I know
all about their doings," (she said). "When that girl Feng is well enough
to go out, they have some little fear. But they're bound at present to
consult again their own convenience. Yet you, dear child, are one in
whom I can repose complete trust. Your brother and your female cousins
are, on the one hand, young; and I can, on the other, afford no spare
time; so do exert yourself on my behalf for a couple of days, and
exercise proper supervision. And should anything unexpected turn up,
just come and tell it to me. Don't wait until our old lady inquires
about it, as I shall then find myself in a corner with nothing to say in
my defence. If those servants aren't on their good behaviour, mind you
blow them up; and if they don't listen to you, come and lay your
complaint before me; for it will be best not to let anything assume a
Pao-ch'ai listened to her appeal and felt under the necessity of
volunteering to undertake the charge.
The season was about the close of spring, so Tai-yü got her cough back
again. But Hsiang-yün was likewise laid up in the Heng Wu Yüan, as she
too was affected by the weather, and day after day she saw numberless
doctors and took endless medicines.
T'an Ch'un and Li Wan lived apart, but as they had of late assumed joint
management of affairs, it was, unlike former years, extremely
inconvenient even for the servants to go backwards and forwards to make
their reports. They consequently resolved that they should meet early
every day in the small three-roomed reception-hall, at the south side of
the garden gate, to transact what business there was, and that their
morning meal over, they should after noon return again to their
This three-roomed hall had originally been got ready at the time of the
visit of the imperial consort to her parents, to accommodate the
attendants and eunuchs. This visit over, it proved, therefore, no longer
of use, and the old matrons simply came to it every night to keep watch.
But mild weather had now set in, and any complete fittings were quite
superfluous. All that could be seen about amounted to a few small pieces
of furniture just sufficient for them to make themselves comfortable
with. Over this hall was likewise affixed a placard, with the
inscription in four characters:
"Perfected philanthropy, published virtue!"
Yet the place was generally known among the domestics as 'the
discuss-matters-hall.' To this hall, (Li Wan and T'an Ch'un) would daily
adjourn at six in the morning, and leave it at noon, and the wives of
the managers and other servants, who had any matters to lay before them,
came and went in incessant strings.
When the domestics heard that Li Wan would assume sole control, each and
all felt secretly elated; for as Li Wan had always been considerate,
forbearing and loth to inflict penalties, she would be, of course, they
thought, easier to put off than lady Feng. Even when T'an Ch'un was
added, they again remembered that she was only a youthful unmarried girl
and that she too had ever shown herself goodnatured and kindly to a
degree, so none of them worried their minds about her, and they became
considerably more indolent than when they had to deal with lady Feng.
But after the expiry of three or four days several concerns passed
through her hands, which gave them an opportunity to gradually find out
that T'an Ch'un did not, in smartness and thoroughness, yield to lady
Feng, and that the only difference between them was that she was soft in
speech and gentle in disposition. By a remarkable coincidence, princes,
dukes, marquises, earls, and hereditary officials arrived for
consecutive days from various parts; all of whom were, if not the
relatives of the Jung and Ning mansions, at least their old friends.
There were either those who had obtained transfers on promotion, or
others who had been degraded; either those, who had married, or those
who had gone into mourning, and Madame Wang had so much congratulating
and condoling, receiving and escorting to do that she had no time to
attend to any entertaining. There was therefore less than ever any one
in the front part to look after things. So while (T'an Ch'un and Li Wan)
spent their whole days in the hall, Pao-ch'ai tarried all day in the
drawing-rooms, to keep an eye over what was going on; and they only
betook themselves back to their quarters after Madame Wang's return. Of
a night, they whiled away their leisure hours by doing needlework; but
they would, previous to retiring to sleep, get into their chairs, and,
taking along with them the servants, whose duty it was to be on night
watch in the garden, and other domestics as well, they visited each
place on their round. Such was the control exercised by these three
inmates that signs were not wanting to prove that greater severity was
observed than in the days when the management devolved on lady Feng. To
this reason must be assigned the fact that all the servants attached
inside as well as outside cherished a secret grudge against them. "No
sooner," they insinuated, "has one patrolling ogre come than they add
three more cerberean sort of spring josses so that even at night we've
got less time than ever to sip a cup of wine and indulge in a romp!"
On the day that Madame Wang was going to a banquet at the mansion of the
Marquis of Chin Hsiang, Li Wan and T'an Ch'un arranged their coiffure
and performed their ablutions at an early hour; and after waiting upon