Through but one single, casual look Soon an exalted

Through but one single, casual look

Soon an exalted place she took.

The fact is that after Yü-ts’un had been presented with the money by Shih-yin,

he promptly started on the 16th day for the capital, and at the triennial great tripos,

his wishes were gratified to the full. Having successfully carried off his degree of graduate of the third rank,

his name was put by selection on the list for provincial

appointments. By this time, he had been raised to the rank of Magistrate in this district; but, in spite of the excellence and sufficiency of his accomplishments and

abilities, he could not escape being ambitious and overbearing. He failed besides, confident as he was in his own merits,

in respect toward his superiors, with the result that these officials looked upon him scornfully with the corner of the eye.

A year had hardly elapsed, when he was readily denounced in a memorial to the Throne by the High Provincial authorities, who

represented that he was of a haughty disposition, that he had taken upon himself to introduce

innovations in the rites and ceremonies, that overtly, while he endeavoured to enjoy the

reputation of probity and uprightness, he, secretly, combined the nature of the tiger and wolf;

with the consequence that he had been the cause of much trouble in the district,

and that he had made life intolerable for the people, &c. &c.

The Dragon countenance of the Emperor was considerably incensed. His Majesty lost no time in issuing commands,

in reply to the Memorial, that he should be deprived of his official status.

On the arrival of the despatch from the Board, great was the joy felt by every officer, without exception, of the prefecture in which he had held office. Yü-ts’un,

though at heart intensely mortified and incensed, betrayed not the least outward symptom of annoyance, but still preserved, as of old, a smiling and cheerful countenance.

He handed over charge of all official business and removed the savings which he had accumulated during the several years he had been in office,

his family and all his chattels to his original home;

where, after having put everything in proper order,

he himself travelled (carried the winds and sleeved the moon) far and wide,

visiting every relic of note in the whole Empire.

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The narration may border on the limits of incoherency and triviality

The narration may border on the limits of incoherency and triviality, but it possesses considerable zest. But to begin.

The Empress Nü Wo, (the goddess of works,) in fashioning blocks of stones, for the repair of the heavens, prepared,

at the Ta Huang Hills and Wu Ch’i cave, 36,501 blocks of rough stone, each twelve chang in height, and twenty-four

chang square. Of these stones, the Empress Wo only

used 36,500; so that one single block remained over and above, without being turned to any account. This was cast down

the Ch’ing Keng peak. This stone, strange to say, after having undergone a process of refinement, attained a nature of

efficiency, and could, by its innate powers, set itself into motion and was able to expand and to contract.

When it became aware that the whole number of blocks had been made use of to repair the heavens, that it alone had been destitute of the necessary properties

and had been unfit to attain selection, it forthwith felt within itself vexation and shame, and day and night, it gave way to anguish and sorrow.

One day, while it lamented its lot, it suddenly caught sight, at a great distance, of a Buddhist bonze and of a Taoist priest coming towards that direction.

Their appearance was uncommon, their easy manner remarkable. When they drew near this Ch’ing Keng peak, they sat on the ground to rest, and began to

converse. But on noticing the block newly-polished and brilliantly clear, which had moreover contracted in dimensions, and become no larger than the pendant of a fan,

they were greatly filled with admiration. The Buddhist priest picked it up, and laid it in the palm of his hand.

“Your appearance,” he said laughingly, “may well declare you to be a supernatural object, but as you lack any inherent quality it is necessary

to inscribe a few characters on you, so that every one who shall see you may at once recognise you to be a remarkable

thing. And subsequently, when you will be taken into a country where honour and affluence will reign,

into a family cultured in mind and of

official status, in a land where flowers

and trees shall flourish with luxuriance,

in a town of refinement, renown and glory;

when you once will have been there . . . ”

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The mistress of the Chen family (Mrs. Chen Shih-yin)

The mistress of the Chen family (Mrs. Chen Shih-yin) could not but feel very much affected by what she heard, and the whole evening she uttered not a word.

The next day, at an early hour, Yü-ts’un sent some of his men to bring over to Chen’s wife presents, consisting of two packets of silver, and four pieces of brocaded silk, as a token of gratitude, and to Feng Su also a confidential letter, requesting him to ask of Mrs. Chen her maid Chiao Hsing to become his second wife.

Feng Su was so intensely delighted that his eyebrows expanded, his eyes smiled, and he felt eager to toady to the Magistrate (by

presenting the girl to him). He hastened to employ all his persuasive powers with his daughter (to further his purpose),

and on the same evening he forthwith escorted Chiao Hsing in a small chair to the Yamên.

The joy experienced by Yü-ts’un need not be dilated upon. He also presented Feng Su with a packet containing one hundred

ounces of gold; and sent numerous valuable presents to Mrs. Chen, enjoining her “to live cheerfully in the anticipation of finding out the whereabouts of her daughter.”

It must be explained, however, that the maid Chi’ao Hsing was the very person, who, a few years ago, had looked round at Yü-ts’un and who, by one simple, unpremeditated glance, evolved, in fact, this extraordinary destiny which was indeed an event beyond conception.

Who would ever have foreseen that fate and fortune would both have so favoured her that she should, contrary to all anticipation, give birth to a son, after living with Yü-ts’un barely a year, that in addition to this,

after the lapse of another half year, Yü-ts’un’s

wife should have contracted a sudden illness and departed this life,

and that Yü-ts’un should have at once raised her to the rank of first wife.

Her destiny is adequately expressed by the lines:

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Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception

Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality — Chia Yü-ts’un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts of a beautiful maiden.

This is the opening section; this the

first chapter. Subsequent to the visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced, the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the

true circumstances, and borrowed the

attributes of perception and spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this purpose, he made use

of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?

Wearied with the drudgery experienced of late in the world, the author speaking for himself, goes on to explain, with the lack of success which attended every single concern, I suddenly bethought myself of the womankind of past ages. Passing one by one under a minute scrutiny, I felt that

in action and in lore, one and all were far above me; that in spite of the majesty of my manliness, I could not, in point of fact, compare with these characters

of the gentle sex. And my shame forsooth then knew no bounds; while regret, on the other hand, was of no avail, as there was not even a remote possibility of a day of remedy.

On this very day it was that I became desirous to compile, in a connected form, for publication throughout the world, with a view to (universal) information, how that I bear inexorable and manifold retribution; inasmuch as what time, by the sustenance of the benevolence of Heaven,

and the virtue of my ancestors, my apparel was rich and fine, and as what days my fare was savory and sumptuous, I disregarded the bounty of education and

nurture of father and mother, and paid no heed to the virtue of precept and injunction of teachers and friends,

with the result that I incurred the punishment, of failure recently in the least trifle, and the reckless waste of half my lifetime. There have been meanwhile, generation

after generation, those in the inner

chambers, the whole mass of whom could not, on any account, be, through my influence, allowed to fall into extinction, in order that I, unfilial as I have been, may have the means to screen my own shortcomings.

Hence it is that the thatched shed, with bamboo mat windows, the bed of tow and the stove of brick, which are at present my share,

are not sufficient to deter me from carrying out the fixed purpose of my mind. And could I, furthermore, confront the morning breeze, the evening moon,

the willows by the steps and the

flowers in the courtyard, methinks these would moisten to a greater degree my mortal pen

with ink; but though I lack

culture and erudition, what harm is there, however, in employing fiction and unrecondite language to give utterance to the merits of these characters? And were I also able to

induce the inmates of the inner chamber to understand and diffuse them, could I besides

break the weariness of even

so much as a single moment, or could I open the eyes of my contemporaries, will it not forsooth prove a boon?

This consideration has led to the usage of such names as Chia Yü-ts’un and other similar appellations.

More than any in these pages have been

employed such words as dreams and visions;

but these dreams constitute the main

argument of this work, and combine,

urthermore, the design of giving a word of warning to my readers.

Reader, can you suggest whence the story begins?

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The spirit of Mrs. Chia Shih-yin departs from the town

The spirit of Mrs. Chia Shih-yin departs from the town of Yang Chou — Leng Tzu-hsing dilates upon the Jung Kuo Mansion.

To continue. Feng Su, upon hearing the shouts of the public messengers, came out in a flurry and forcing a smile, he asked them to explain (their errand); but all these people did was to continue bawling out: “Be quick, and ask Mr. Chen to come out.”

“My surname is Feng,” said Feng Su, as he promptly forced himself to smile; “It is’nt Chen at all: I had once a son-in-law whose surname was Chen, but he has left home, it is now already a year or two back. Is it perchance about him that you are inquiring?”

To which the public servants remarked: “We know nothing about Chen or Chia (true or false); but as he is your son-in-law, we’ll take you at once along with us to make verbal answer to our master and have done with it.”

And forthwith the whole bevy of public servants hustled Feng Su on, as they went on their way back; while every one in the Feng family was seized with consternation, and could not imagine what it was all about.

It was no earlier than the second watch, when Feng Su returned home; and they, one and all, pressed him with questions as to what had happened.

“The fact is,” he explained, “the newly-appointed Magistrate, whose surname is Chia, whose name is Huo and who is a native of Hu-chow, has been on intimate terms, in years gone by, with our son-in-law; that at the sight of the girl Chiao Hsing, standing at the door, in the act of buying thread, he concluded that he must have shifted his quarters over here, and hence it was that his messengers came to fetch him. I gave him a clear account of the various circumstances (of his misfortunes), and the Magistrate was for a time much distressed and expressed his regret. He then went on to make inquiries about my grand-daughter, and I explained that she had been lost, while looking at the illuminations. ‘No matter,’ put in the Magistrate,

‘I will by and by order my men to make search,

and I feel certain that they will find her and bring her back.’

Then ensued a short conversation,

after which I was about to go,

when he presented me with the sum of two taels.”

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All men spiritual life know to be good,But fame to disregard

All men spiritual life know to be good,

But fame to disregard they ne’er succeed!

From old till now the statesmen where are they?

Waste lie their graves, a heap of grass, extinct.

All men spiritual life know to be good,

But to forget gold, silver, ill succeed!

Through life they grudge their hoardings to be scant,

And when plenty has come, their eyelids close.

All men spiritual life hold to be good,

Yet to forget wives, maids, they ne’er succeed!

Who speak of grateful love while lives their lord,

And dead their lord, another they pursue.

All men spiritual life know to be good,

But sons and grandsons to forget never succeed!

From old till now of parents soft many,

But filial sons and grandsons who have seen?

Shih-yin upon hearing these words, hastily came up to the priest, “What were you so glibly holding forth?” he inquired. “All I could hear were a lot of hao liao (excellent, finality.”)

“You may well have heard the two words ‘hao liao,’” answered the Taoist with a smile, “but can you be said to have fathomed their meaning? You should know that all things in this world are excellent, when they have attained finality; when they have attained finality, they are excellent; but when they have not attained finality, they are not excellent; if they would be excellent, they should attain finality. My song is entitled Excellent-finality (hao liao).”

Shih-yin was gifted with a natural perspicacity that enabled him, as soon as he heard these remarks, to grasp their spirit.

“Wait a while,” he therefore said smilingly; “let me unravel this excellent-finality song of yours; do you mind?”

“Please by all means go on with the interpretation,” urged the Taoist; whereupon Shih-yin proceeded in this strain:

Sordid rooms and vacant courts,

Replete in years gone by with beds where statesmen lay;

Parched grass and withered banian trees,

Where once were halls for song and dance!

Spiders’ webs the carved pillars intertwine,

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Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings

Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings, had such a fit of weeping that she hung between life and death; but her only alternative was to consult with her father,

and to despatch servants on all sides to institute inquiries. No news was however received of him, and she had nothing else to do but to practise resignation,

and to remain dependent upon the support of her parents for her subsistence. She had fortunately still by her side,

to wait upon her, two servant girls, who had been with her in days gone by; and the three of them, mistress as well as servants,

occupied themselves day and night with needlework, to assist her father in his daily expenses.

This Feng Su had after all, in spite of his daily murmurings against his bad luck, no help but to submit to the inevitable.

On a certain day, the elder servant girl of the Chen family was at the door purchasing thread, and while there,

she of a sudden heard in the street shouts of runners clearing the way, and every one explain that the new magistrate had come to take up his office.

The girl, as she peeped out from inside the door, perceived the lictors and policemen go by two by two;

and when unexpectedly in a state chair, was carried past an official, in black hat and red coat, she was indeed quite taken aback.

“The face of this officer would seem familiar,” she argued within herself; “just as if I had seen him somewhere or other ere this.”

Shortly she entered the house, and banishing at once the occurrence from her mind, she did not give it a second thought. At night,

however, while she was waiting to go to bed, she suddenly heard a sound like a rap at the door. A band of men boisterously cried out:

“We are messengers, deputed by the worthy magistrate of this district, and come to summon one of you to an enquiry.”

Feng Su, upon hearing these words,

fell into such a terrible consternation that his eyes stared wide and his mouth gaped.

What calamity was impending is not as yet ascertained, but,

reader, listen to the explanation contained in the next chapter.

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The green gauze now is also pasted on the straw windows!

The green gauze now is also pasted on the straw windows!

 

What about the cosmetic fresh concocted or the powder just scented;

Why has the hair too on each temple become white like hoarfrost!

Yesterday the tumulus of yellow earth buried the bleached bones,

To-night under the red silk curtain reclines the couple!

Gold fills the coffers, silver fills the boxes,

But in a twinkle, the beggars will all abuse you!

While you deplore that the life of others is not long,

You forget that you yourself are approaching death!

You educate your sons with all propriety,

But they may some day, ’tis hard to say become thieves;

Though you choose (your fare and home) the fatted beam,

You may, who can say, fall into some place of easy virtue!

Confusion reigns far and wide! you have just sung your part, I come on the boards,

Instead of yours, you recognise another as your native land;

What utter perversion!

In one word, it comes to this we make wedding clothes for others!

(We sow for others to reap.)

The crazy limping Taoist clapped his hands. “Your interpretation is explicit,” he remarked with a hearty laugh, “your interpretation is explicit!”

Shih-yin promptly said nothing more than,—“Walk on;” and seizing the stole from the Taoist’s shoulder, he flung it over his own. He did not, however, return home, but leisurely walked away, in company with the eccentric priest.

The report of his disappearance was at once bruited abroad, and plunged the whole neighbourhood in commotion; and converted into a piece of news, it was circulated from mouth to mouth.

Through your dislike of the gauze hat as mean,

You have come to be locked in a cangue;

Yesterday, poor fellow, you felt cold in a tattered coat,

To-day, you despise the purple embroidered dress as long!

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Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings

Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings, had such a fit of weeping that she hung between life and death;

but her only alternative was to consult with her father, and to despatch servants on all sides to institute inquiries.

No news was however received of him, and she had nothing else to do but to practise resignation,

and to remain dependent upon the support of her parents for her subsistence. She had fortunately still by her side,

to wait upon her, two servant girls, who had been with her in days gone by; and the three of them, mistress as well as servants,

occupied themselves day and night with needlework, to assist her father in his daily expenses.

This Feng Su had after all, in spite of his daily murmurings against his bad luck, no help but to submit to the inevitable.

On a certain day, the elder servant girl of the Chen family was at the door purchasing thread, and while there,

she of a sudden heard in the street shouts of runners clearing the way, and every one explain that the new magistrate had come to take up his office.

The girl, as she peeped out from inside the door, perceived the lictors and policemen go by two by two;

and when unexpectedly in a state chair,

was carried past an official, in black hat and red coat, she was indeed quite taken aback.

“The face of this officer would seem familiar,” she argued within herself; “just as if I had seen him somewhere or other ere this.”

Shortly she entered the house,

and banishing at once the occurrence from her mind, she did not give it a second thought.

At night, however, while she was waiting to go to bed, she suddenly heard a sound like a rap at the door. A band of men boisterously cried out:

“We are messengers,

deputed by the worthy magistrate of this district, and come to summon one of you to an enquiry.”

Feng Su, upon hearing these words,

fell into such a terrible consternation that his eyes stared wide and his mouth gaped.

What calamity was impending is not as yet ascertained,

but, reader, listen to the explanation contained in the next chapter.

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