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Thread: DOMD Translation (Take 2)

  1. #1
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    Default DOMD Translation (Take 2)

    I've been busy the last few months, but I figured I'd restart this pet project.

    To avoid copyright issues, I'm just re translating it. I left the poems and stuff intact from Minford, and give him credit. I'm not even going to try those. No way.

    Without further ado, I'll start posting the new stuff immediately (including the work I've already done and getting rid of the last vestiges of Minford's translation). If someone can help edit the weird sentences that will inevitably pop up, let me know.

    *Note, in some of the early portions, there might be some stray sentences from Minford's translation, but that's mainly due to the fact that I've forgotten which parts I've translated and which parts he did. This problem is not present in the new portions, mainly because I'm not using his translation!
    Last edited by HuntingX; 09-26-08 at 11:35 PM.

  2. #2
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    DOMD, Chapter 1, Part 1

    An armed band of soldiers steadily walked somewhere in the hills and plains Jiangnan. In each of the first three carts sat a single caged scholar; two middle aged, one already old. The four rear carts were occupied by women, the last of them by a young mother holding a baby girl at her breast. Despite the mother’s consternation, the baby let out a high pitched wail. One of the soldiers marching alongside, irritated by the baby's crying, violently kicked the cart shouting: ‘You little brat, if you don’t stop crying we’ll see what happens to you!’ The baby, startled by this sudden violence, cried even louder.

    Under a large house, some distance away from the road, a middle-aged scholar was standing with a young boy at his side. He was evidently affected by this little scene, for a groan escaped his lips and he appeared to be very close to tears. 'Poor things!' he murmured to himself.

    'Papa,' said the little boy, 'what have they done wrong?' 'What indeed!' said the man, 'During these last two days, they must have made more than thirty arrests. All of them of the finest scholars, and none guilty of the crimes charged;’ the last part was almost a whisper, for fear of letting the soldiers overhear.

    ‘But they captured a baby girl!' said the boy. 'What can she possibly be guilty of?'

    ‘It is good that you understand the government does wrong,' said the man. ‘They are the butcher and we are the meat. They are the cauldron and we are the deer.'

    'You explained the first phrase the other day, papa,' said the boy. 'It's what they say when people are massacred or beheaded; like meat or fish being sliced up on the chopping-board. Does ‘they are the cauldron and we are the deer’ mean the same thing?'

    ‘Basically,' said the man. 'Let's go indoors now; it's too windy to be standing outside.' As he spoke, the column had already receded into the horizon.

    The man picked up a writing-brush and moistened it on the ink-slab, then, on a sheet of paper, he wrote the character for a deer. 'The deer is a wild animal, but although it is comparatively large, it has a very peaceful nature. It eats only grass and leaves and never harms other animals. So when other animals want to hurt or to eat it, all it can do is run away. If it can't escape by running away, it gets eaten.' He wrote the characters for 'chasing the deer' on the sheet of paper. 'That's why in ancient times they often used the deer as a symbol of the peasant class; gentle and obedient, they are like the deer. Like the deer's, it’s their fate to be oppressed. During the Han Dynasty, it was written that "Qin lost the deer and the world went chasing after it;’ in other words when the Qin Emperor lost control of the Empire, it created a power vacuum that endless warlords sought to fill. In the end it was the first Han Emperor who got this deer by defeating the Overlord of Western Chu.'

    'I know,' said the boy. 'In my story-books it says "they chased the deer on the Central Plains". That means they were all fighting each other to become the Emperor.'

    The scholar nodded, pleased with his son's intelligence. He drew a picture of a cauldron on the sheet of paper. 'In olden times they didn't use a cooking-pot but rather a three-legged cauldron and lit a fire underneath. Thus, deer would be cooked in such a cauldron. Many ancient Emperors were hardly enlightened; it was not uncommon to fabricate charges against loyal officials and punish the “crimes” by boiling them alive. In one record, Lin Xiangru says to Qin Shihuang, "Deceiving Your Majesty was a capital offence. I beg the cauldron." What he meant was, "I deserve to die. Put me in the cauldron and boil me."'

    'Often in my story-books I've seen the words "asking about the cauldrons in the Central Plain",' said the boy. 'It seems to mean the same thing as "chasing the deer in the Central Plain".'

    'It does,' said the man. 'King Yu of the Xia dynasty (the first dynasty of China), collected metal from all nine provinces of the Empire and used it to cast nine great cauldrons. "Metal" in those days meant bronze. Each of these bronze cauldrons had the name of one of the nine provinces on it and a map showing the mountains and rivers of that province. In later times whoever became Master of the Empire automatically became the guardian of these cauldrons. In the Chronicle of Zuo, it states that when the Viscount of Chu was reviewing his troops on Zhou territory, the Zhou king sent Prince Man to him with his royal compliments, and the Viscount questioned Prince Man about the size and weight of the cauldrons. Of course, as ruler of the whole Empire, only the Zhou king had the right to be guardian of the cauldrons. For a mere Viscount like the ruler of Chu to ask questions about them showed that he was planning to seize the Empire for himself.'

    'So "asking about the cauldrons" and "chasing the deer" both mean wanting to be Emperor, ' said the boy. 'And "not knowing who will kill the deer" means not knowing who is going to be Emperor.'

    'That's right,' said the man. 'As time went by these expressions came to be applied to other situations as well, but originally they were only used in the sense of wanting to be Emperor.' He sighed. 'For the common people, the subjects of Empire, our role is to be the deer. It may be uncertain who will kill the deer, but the deer will get killed nonetheless. On the second point, there's no uncertainty.'

    He walked over to the window and gazed outside: the sky had now become dark; snow was likely. He sighed again, 'He must be a cruel God up there. There will be hundreds of poor peasants under that freezing sky. Haven’t they suffered enough?'

    Two figures caught his eye, moving along the highway to the south. They walked close together, side by side, wearing straw hats and rain-capes. As they drew nearer, he recognized them with a cry of pleasure. 'It's Uncle Huang and Uncle Gu,' he said to the boy as he hurried out to greet them. 'Zongxi, Yanwu, what brings you here?'

    The one he addressed as 'Zongxi' was a rotund man with a heavy beard. His full name was Huang Zongxi of the Zhe-jiang Province. The other one, a tall thin man with a dark complexion, was Gu Yanwu of Kunshan in the Jiangsu Province. Huang Zongxi and Gu Yanwu were two of the foremost scholars of their day. Both of them, from patriotic motives, had gone into retirement when the Ming Empire collapsed, being unwilling to take office under barbarians. Gu Yanwu drew a little closer before replying. 'Liuliang, we have something serious to discuss with you. That's what brings us here today.'

    Lu Liuliang was our narrator’s name: his family had lived for generations in Chongde, a prefecture in the Hangzhou district of Zhejiang Province. Like Huang Zongxi and Gu Yanwu he was famous among those Jiangnan scholars who, during the last days of the Ming dynasty and the early days of the Manchu conquest, buried themselves away on their estates and refused to take part in public life. Lu Liuliang observed the grave expression on his visitors' faces. Considering Gu Yanwu's political judgement, he realized that what the latter had referred to as 'something serious' must be important indeed. Clasping his hands and bowing, he said 'Come inside. Drink a few cups of wine first, to warm yourselves.' As he ushered them into the study, he gave an order to the boy. 'Baozhong, tell your mother that Uncle Huang and Uncle Gu are here. Ask her to prepare some goat meat to go with our wine.'

    In a minute or two the boy came in again, accompanied by his younger brother. They were carrying three sets of chopsticks and wine-cups which they laid on the study table. An old servant followed them carrying a wine-kettle and some plates of cold meat. Lu Liuliang waited until the two boys and the servant were outside the room and closed the door. 'Come, my friends, ' he said. 'Wine first.'

    Huang Zongxi declined gloomily with a brief shake of the head, but Gu Yanwu, helping himself unceremoniously from the wine-kettle, downed half a dozen shots in quick succession.

    'I suppose your visit has something to do with this Ming History business, ' said Lu Liuliang. 'Precisely, ' said Huang Zongxi. Gu Yanwu raised his wine-cup and started reciting a couplet: ‘The cool wind sways not me, howe'er it blow; For me the bright moon still shines everywhere. That's a splendid couplet of yours, Liuliang, ' he said. 'Whenever I drink wine now, I have to recite it. ', all the while flourishing his wine cup.

    In spite of Lu Liuliang's patriotic unwillingness to serve, a local official, impressed by what he had heard of Lu's reputation, had once sought to recommend him as a 'hidden talent' and a summons to the Manchu Court for employment; but Lu had made it clear that he would die rather than accept such a traitorous officialship, and the matter had been dropped. Some time later, however, when another high-ranking official sent forward his name as a 'distinguished scholar of exceptional merit', Lu realized that his continued refusal would be construed by the Court as an open slight, with fatal consequences. Accordingly he left the public world behind and became a monk in name only; this act convinced the Manchu officials of his determination and they ceased urging him to come out of his retirement.

    Gu Yanwu's enthusiasm for Lu's somewhat mediocre couplet sprang from the fact that it contained a hidden message. In Chinese the word for 'cool' is qing (the word chosen by the Manchus for their new 'Chinese' dynasty) and the word for 'bright' is ming (the name of the old Chinese dynasty they had supplanted). So the couplet Gu had recited could be understood to mean: The Qing wind sways not me, how e'er it blow; For me the Ming moon still shines everywhere. In other words, 'I will never bow to the Manchus, whatever their threats. I shall always remain a loyal subject of Great Ming.' Although the poem in which these lines occurred could not be published, all scholars were well familiar with their meaning. Huang, hearing them recited by Gu, responded to the challenge by raising a wine-cup in homage. 'Yes, it is a very good poem,' he said, and drained it in a single a gulp. ‘Thank you both, but it doesn't deserve your praise,' responded Lu Liuliang.

    Chancing to glance upwards at that moment, Gu Yanwu found his attention caught by a large painting which was hanging on one of the walls. It must have measured almost four feet from top to bottom and well over three yards horizontally. It was a landscape, so magnificently conceived and boldly executed that he could not help but utter a cry of admiration. The sole inscription on this enormous painting was the phrase ‘This Lovely Land' written in very large characters at the top. 'From the brushwork I should say this must be Erzhan's work,' he said. '

    You are absolutely right,' said Lu. This Erzhan's real name was Zha Shibiao. He was a well-known painter in the late Ming, early Manchu period and a good friend of the three men present. 'How is it that so fine a painting lacks a signature?' said Huang. Lu sighed. ‘The painting had a message, ' he said. 'But you know what a stern, careful person Erzhan is. He wouldn't sign it and he wouldn't write any inscription. He painted it for me on a sudden impulse when he was staying with me a month or so ago. Why don't you two write a few lines on it?'

    Gu and Huang got up and went over to examine the painting more closely. It was a picture of the Yangtze rolling majestically eastwards between innumerable peaks, with a suitable garnish of gnarled pines and strange rocks: a very beautiful landscape were it not for the all-pervading mist and cloud which seemed calculated to create a feeling of gloom in anyone looking at it.

    'This lovely land under the heel of the barbarian!' said Gu Yanwu. 'And we have to swallow our humiliation and go on living in it. It makes my blood boil. Why don't you do an inscription, Liuliang—a poem that will give voice to what Erzhan had in mind to say?'

    'Very well,' said Lu Liuliang, and he took the huge scroll carefully down from the wall and spread it out on the desk, while Huang Zongxi set about grinding him some ink. He picked up a writing-brush and for some minutes could be observed talking to himself. Then, writing straight on to the painting and with few pauses, he quickly completed the following poem:

    “Is this the same of Great Song's south retreat,
    This lovely land that hides its face in shame?
    Or is it after Mount Yai's fateful leap?
    This lovely land then scarce dared breathe its name.
    Now that I seem to read the painter's mind,
    My bitter teardrops match his drizzling rain.
    Past woes I see reborn in present time:
    This draws the groans that no gag can restrain.
    Methinks the painter used poor Gaoyu's tears
    To mix his colours and his brush to wet.
    'This Lovely Land' was commentary enough;
    No need was there for other words to fret.
    The blind would see, the lame would walk again,
    Could we but bring, back Hong Wu's glorious days.
    With what wild joy we'd look down from each height
    And see the landscape free of mist and haze!”

    From the translation by Minford (I’m not touching poetry)

    Finished, he threw the brush to the floor and burst into tears.

    'It says all there is to say, ' said Gu Yanwu. ‘Masterful!' 'It lacks subtlety, ' said Lu. 'In no way could you call it a good poem. I merely wanted to put Erzhan's original idea into writing so that anyone looking at the picture in days to come will know what it is about.' 'When China does eventually emerge from this time of darkness, ' said Huang, 'we shall indeed "see the landscape free of mist and haze". When that time comes, we shall gaze at even the poorest, meanest, most barren landscape with a feeling of joy. Then, indeed, we shall look down with "wild joy . . . from each height"!' 'Your conclusion is excellent, ' said Gu. 'When we do eventually rid our country of this foreign scum, the feeling of relief will be infinitely greater than the mixed pleasure we get from occasionally uncorking our feelings as we do now.'

    Huang carefully rolled up the painting. 'You won't be able to hang this up anymore Liuliang, ' he said. 'You'd best put it away somewhere safe. If some evil person like Wu Zhirong were to set eyes on it, you'd soon have the authorities asking questions and the consequences could be serious not only for you but probably for Erzhan as well.'

    ‘That vermin Wu Zhirong!' said Gu Yanwu, smiting the desk with his hand. 'I could tear his flesh off with my teeth!'

    'You said when you came that you had something serious to discuss with me, ' said Lu, 'yet here we are, like typical scholars, wasting our time on poetry and painting instead of attending to business. What brought you here?'

    'It has to do with Erzhan's kinsman Yihuang, ' said Huang. The day before yesterday Gu and I learned that he has now been named in connection with the Ming History affair.' 'Yihuang?' said Lu. 'You mean he's been dragged into it too?'

    'I'm afraid so, ' said Huang. 'As soon as we heard, the two of us hurried as quickly as we could to his home in Yuanhua Town, but we were a step too late. They said he'd gone off to visit a friend. In view of the urgency, Yanwu advised the family to make their getaway as soon as it was dark. Then, remembering that Yihuang was a good friend of yours, we thought we'd come and look for him here. '

    'No, ' said Lu, 'no, he's not here. I don't know where he could have gone.'

    'If he had been here, he would have shown himself by now, ' said Gu. 'I left a poem for him on his study wall. If he goes back home, he will understand when he reads the poem that he is to go and hide. What I'm afraid of, though, is that he may not have heard the news yet and may expose himself unnecessarily outside and get himself arrested. That would be terrible.’

    'Practically every scholar in West Zhejiang has fallen victim to this wretched Ming History business, ' said Huang. ‘The Manchu Court has a grudge against us. You are too well known. We both think that you ought to leave here for the time being. Find shelter for yourself in the coming storm.’

    Lu Liuliang looked angry. 'Let the Tartar Emperor have me arrested and carried off to Beijing!' he said. 'If I could curse him to his face and get rid of some of the anger that is pent up inside me, I think I should die happy, even though it meant having the flesh ripped from my bones!'

    'I admire your spirit, ' said Gu, 'but I don't think there's much likelihood of you meeting the Emperor personally. You would die at the hands of nameless nobodies. Besides, the Emperor is still a child who knows nothing about anything. The Government is in the hands of the all-powerful Oboi. Huang and I are both of the opinion that Oboi is behind this Ming History affair. The reason they are making such a fuss about nothing is as an excuse to break the spirit of the Jiangnan scholars.'

    'I'm sure you are right,' said Lu. 'When the Manchu troops first came inside the Wall, they had pretty much open reign in Northern China. It wasn't until they came south that they found themselves running into resistance. The scholars in particular, as guardians of Chinese culture, have given them endless trouble. So Oboi is using this business to crush the us is he? Humph! What does the poet say? The bush fire cannot burn them out For next year's spring will see them sprout. —Unless, that is, he plans to wipe out the lot of us!'

    ‘Indeed,' said Huang. 'If we are to carry on the struggle against the Manchu, we need anyone who can be of use to stay alive. Indulging in heroics at this juncture might be satisfying, but would be merely falling into their trap.'

    Lu suddenly understood. It was not only to look for Zha Yihuang that his friends had come; they wanted to persuade him to escape. They knew how impetuous he was and were afraid that he might throw his life away for nothing; this was true friendship. 'You give me good advice, ' he said, 'I can hardly refuse. I'll leave with the family first thing tomorrow.'

    Huang and Gu were visibly delighted and voiced their approval of his decision, but Lu looked uncertain. 'But where can we go?' The whole world belonged to the Manchu. Not a single patch of land was free of their presence. He thought of the poet Tao Yuanming's story about the fisherman who, by following a stream that flowed between flowering peach trees, had stumbled on an earthly paradise—a place where refugees from ancient tyranny had found haven. 'Ah, Peach Tree Stream,' he murmured, 'if I could but find you!' 'Come,' said Gu, 'even if there were such a place, we cannot, as individuals, opt out altogether. In times like these—' Before he could finish, Lu struck the desk with his hand and jumped to his feet, loudly disclaiming his own weakness, 'You do right to rebuke me, Yanwu. The citizen of a conquered country still has his duty. It's all very well to take temporary refuge, but to live a life of ease in some Peach Tree Haven while millions are suffering under the iron heel of the Manchu would be inhuman. I spoke without thinking.'

    Gu Yanwu smiled. ‘I’ve been wandering around a great deal this last few years and made friends with extraordinary people. Wherever I've been, be it North or South, I've discovered that resistance to the barbarians is everywhere. Many of our most ardent patriots are small tradesmen, Yamen runners, or even peasants—people belonging to the very lowest ranks of society. If you'd care to join us, the three of us could travel to Yangzhou together. I have a number of contacts there I could introduce you to. What do you think?'

    'That would be terrific,' said Lu Liuliang delightedly. 'We leave for Yangzhou tomorrow. If the two of you will just sit here for a moment, I'll go and tell my wife to start getting things ready.'

    He hurried off to the inner quarters, but was back in the study again after only a few minutes. 'About this Ming History business,' he said. 'I've heard a good deal of talk about it outside, but you can't believe everything people say. In any case, much of it is in darkness and I'm isolated here. Tell me, how did it all begin?'


    Gu Yanwu sighed. 'We've all seen this Ming History. There are, obviously, passages in it which are not very complimentary to the Manchu. It was written by Zhu Guozhen, who was a former Chancellor of the Ming. When he came to wrote about the "antics of the Chief of the Jianzhou tribe", which is how the Ming Court used to refer to the Manchu, it's a bit hard to see how he could have been polite.' Lu nodded: 'I heard somewhere that a member of the Zhuang family of Huzhou paid one of Chancellor Zhu's heirs a thousand taels of silver for the manuscript and published it under his own name— never dreaming, of course, that it would lead to such terrible consequences.' Gu went on to tell him the whole story.

  3. #3
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    The Ming History:

    Hangzhou, Jiaxing, and Huzhou, the three prefectures of Zhejiang Province around the southern shores of Lake Taihu, are situated on flat, low-lying, and extremely fertile soil. It is an area which produces rice and silk in abundance. Huzhou has always been a great cultural hub, the birthplace of scholars and artists alike. The poet Shen Yue in the sixth century, who first gave names to the four tones of the Chinese language, and Zhao Mengfu in the thirteenth, equally talented at calligraphy and art, were both from Huzhou. The brushes of Huzhou, the ink-sticks of Huizhou, Xuancheng paper, and the inkstones of Zhaoqing and Duan are celebrated as the Four Treasures.

    The city of Nanxun in Huzhou is very large for a market town; comparable to the provincial capitals elsewhere. Among the richest and most distinguished of its families were the Zhuang, the most famous of which was Zhuang Yuncheng, who had several sons: the eldest Zhuang Tinglong, was a devoted scholar. Some time during the reign of the first Manchu Emperor Shun Zhi, Zhuang Tinglong lost his sight due to reading too much. Even the most renowned doctors failed their attempts at restoring his vision. Eventually, he became depressed and bitter as well as blind.

    One day, a young man named Zhu turned up in the Zhuangs' neighborhood with a manuscript written by his grandfather the Ming Chancellor, which he offered as security for a loan of several hundred taels. Zhuang Yuncheng was a generous man and in any case well-disposed towards anyone claiming relationship with the famous Chancellor. He agreed at once to the loan but waived the need for a security. However, the young man insisted on depositing the manuscript. He said he was going on his travels as soon as he had the money and feared it might get lost if he took it with him. On the other hand, the manuscript might be stolen if left unattended. Zhuang thus received the manuscript as a diversion for his blind son.

    The greater part of Zhu's Ming History had previously been uncovered and was already in circulation. The manuscript that his grandson had given the Zhuangs as security was the final and completely new portion. After listening to its contents for some days, Zhuang Tinglong suddenly had an idea. ‘Among the scholars of old, Zuo Qiuming was blind like me, yet he wrote The Chronicles of Zuo, immortalizing his name. My blindness has made me idle and bored; why don't I write a history that will carry on my name?'

    Money solves all problems. Immediately, scholars and servants began to delve through the manuscript, editing and amending in accordance with Zhuang Tinglong’s will.

    Unfortunately, he was still blind and unable to verify the accuracy of his work. If in fact the work turned out to be rubbish, he would be a laughingstock of the scholarly world. Consequently, he hired even more scholars and specialists to study and analyze his new history. For those scholars unable to be bought, he alternated between social connections and humble invitations.

    Scholars abound in the area surrounding Lake Taihu. Due both to the admirable nature of Zhuang Tinglong as well as illustrious reputation of the Ming History, the majority of invited scholars eventually came to help with the undertaking. The new Ming History in its completed form was now a collective work by the most distinguished scholars in the area. Shortly after its completion, Zhuang Tinglong died.

    To honor the memory of his beloved son, Zhuang Yuncheng undertook the printing of the book without delay; in the Manchu reign this was nontrivial. Before the actual printing could begin, engravers had to cut the many wooden blocks representing a double page of the text. The Ming History was a large book with many chapters; the cost would be enormous. However, to the Zhuangs, this cost was inconsequential. They set aside several rooms to serve as workshops, engaged large numbers of printers and engravers, and in the course of several years succeeded in getting the whole work into print. It was entitled The Definitive Ming History. Zhuang Tinglong was named on the title page as the book's author, and a distinguished scholar, Li Lingxi, was invited to write a preface. In it the names of the scholars who had helped in the production of the book were listed, eighteen of them in all. There was also a statement to the effect that the book had been based on an original manuscript by one Master Zhu. As a former Chancellor of Ming, Zhu Guozhen's name was too well-known to be mentioned in full. ‘Master Zhu's manuscript' was deemed the least dangerous way in which to pay homage to the original author.

    After the eighteen scholars had their way with the source material, The Definitive Ming History was unflinchingly magnificent in presentation; the historical text was well researched and clear; and the prose style was superb. Its publication was greeted with acclaim by the learned world. It should be added that the Zhuangs, being more interested in fame than in profit, had set a very reasonable price to increase circulation.

    In its treatment of the period when the Manchus play a part in the story, the original manuscript had been too harsh. Whatever was noticed was quickly edited out by the scholars, yet inevitably some passages in which the Ming Court was presented in a favorable light remained. The Ming had only fallen recently, and educated readers still felt a connection to the old regime. The book was wildly influential and Zhuang Tinglong's name was on everyone's lips. Although grieved for the loss of his son, the Elder Zhuang took comfort in knowing that his name would live on.

    It should be noted that the times were unjust; the wicked would often be rewarded and the virtuous punished. In the Gui'an district of Huzhou prefecture, the District Magistrate Wu Zhirong had earned the fierce hatred of the locals with his corrupt and oppressive practices. He was eventually denounced by his subordinates and dismissed from the court.

    During his tenure, Wu Zhirong had corrupted more than ten thousand taels of silver. In order to avert the Search and Confiscate order following his dismissal, he had to use his entire fortune to bribe his superiors. His cronies, seeing his condition, had all melted away into the shadows. Alone, jobless, and penniless, he was reduced to knocking on rich men's doors and soliciting 'subscriptions' to pay his way back home. He presented himself as a poor but honest official who had lost his job through misfortune and lacked the money even to return to his hometown. Some of the men gave him a few taels to make him go away, but when he came to the residence of the Zhu family, the Master of the house, Zhu Youming, a rich and upright man, not only refused to make any contribution but gave him a tongue-lashing. 'During your period of office you did a great deal of harm to the people in this area,' he said. 'If I had any money to give away, I would sooner give it to the poor people you wronged.'

    Wu was furious, but there was nothing he could do. No longer an official, he had to take the insults as they came. Instead of fighting a losing battle, he went to Zhuang Yuncheng.

    A patron of poor scholars, Zhuang had the upmost contempt for greedy officials like Wu. When the latter arrived begging for money, Zhuang laughed and gave him a single tael. ‘You aren’t worthy of even this one tael; but since nobody wants you here anyway, if this tael can speed you on your journey, it is money well spent.'

    While he struggled to conceal his fury, Wu caught a glance at the Definitive Ming History lying on living room table. ‘This Zhuang Yuncheng likes to be flattered,' he thought. 'You've only got to say what a wonderful job they've made of this Ming History, and the silver will flow from his hands like water.'

    Smiling like a toad, he began ‘Master Zhuang, it would be a mistake for me to reject such hospitality, but I really regret leaving Huzhou without the Treasure of Huzhou to show my friends at home.’ ‘What Treasure of Huzhou?’

    Wu smiled. 'You are being modest, Master Zhuang. The Definitive Ming History by your late son, whether from the point of view of historical genius, command of material, or style, is an unparallel achievement in any age. Already people are saying the Four Great Historians are Zuo, Ma, Ban, and Zhuang. The Treasure of Huzhou is, of course, the Ming History.'

    These repeated references to his son’s masterpiece pleased Zhuang Yuncheng. He knew that his son had not been the sole writer of the History and that knowledge had always gnawed at him. The fact that Wu continuously implied that the sole ownership of the History belonged to Zhuang was intoxicating. Despite all his flaws, Wu began to have some appeal for the vain old man.

    In spite of his wish to be severe, a broad smile suffused his face.

    ‘This expression you just referred to, the Four Great Historians, Zuo, Ma, Ban, and Zhuang,' he said: 'I don't quite comprehend, Master Wu. Please explain.' The sudden change of expression on the old man's face from sternness to genial showed Wu that his plan had succeeded.
    'You really are too modest, Master Zhuang,' he said. ‘Commentary of Zuo by Zuo Qiuming, the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian, and Ban Gu's Book of Hanare universally recognized to be the greatest histories ever written. From Ban Gu's time until recently there hasn't been any really great historian. Ouyang Xiu's History of the Five Dynasties and Sima Guang's Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government, though stylistically very fine, lack the touch of genius. Only this Definitive Ming History from your late son can be said in the same breath as those Masterpieces. Hence the coining of this new expression—the Four Great Historians, Zuo, Ma, Ban, and Zhuang.'

    By now Zhuang was beaming. ‘You are too kind sir, but maybe the four great historians phrase is a bit much.'

    ‘Why not?' Wu replied with a perfectly straight face. ‘There's even a rhyme going around: Brushes, silk, and a book Are Huzhou's treasures three. And the greatest one among them Is Zhuang's History.'
    * I suck at rhymes. That’s from Minford

    Silk and writing-brushes were Huzhou’s most famous products. Despite actually being uneducated and philosophically ignorant, Wu was gifted with a silver tongue and his neat coupling of 'Zhuang's History' with 'Hu brushes' and 'Hu silk', as they were called, had Zhuang eating out of his palms.

    Wu pressed on. ‘I arrived here to take up a government post without sullying my conscience; I leave here as poor as I came. To put it directly, my primary reason for visiting is to ask for a copy of the History. It would become an heirloom in my family. My sons and grandsons would read and study it day and night. It would improve their minds. It would be the foundation for my line and due entirely to your generosity.'

    'You shall have a copy, of course,' said Zhuang graciously. Wu kept laying on the platitudes, but his host showed little interest, so he attempted to comment on the Ming History. In fact he hadn't read a single page of it and his eloquent comments on the book's amazing historical genius, superb command of material, were general comments that are wholly unrelated to the subject matter. Zhuang finally stood. 'Make yourself comfortable Master Wu while I leave you for a moment.’
    Some time later, a servant came in and placed a bundle at Wu’s feet; Zhuang was nowhere to be seen. Upon checking the bundle’s weight, Wu could not help but be disappointed; there was no way it contained silver. Zhuang then returned and presented the bundle personally to Wu. 'Since you have shown your appreciation of our Huzhou products, Master Wu, allow me to present you with this sample.'

    Thanking him, Wu left. Inside the package were a book, some silk, and a bundle of writing brushes. His plan to get the book and some spending money had completely failed. That brilliant bit about 'Huzhou's treasures three' which he had invented on the spur of the moment had been taken literally and Zhuang had, though not in the sense he intended, given him what he asked for. ‘Damn!' he thought. ‘Why did I say that? If only I'd told him that the three treasures of Huzhou were gold, silver, and the Ming History, I would be in much better shape.'

    He reached the inn upset; placing the bundle on the table, he went to sleep. When he awoke it was already night. The inn had long since ceased serving supper, but he didn't feel he could afford to order a separate meal. Hungry and anxious about his current state, he couldn’t fall back asleep. To pass time he began to read the book he had previously lauded to the sky. After he had read a few pages, he thought he saw the glint of gold. He turned over the page and there, shining before him, was a whole sheet of gold leaf. His heart pounded with excitement. Could it be? He rubbed his eyes and looked again. Yes, it was gold all right. He picked up each volume in turn and shook wildly. Ten sheets dropped out, weighing in total five taels, or the equivalent of four hundred taels of silver.

    Wu's joy knew no bounds. 'That Zhuang's a crafty fox, ' he thought. 'He was afraid that once given the book, I might throw it aside and forget it without even looking at the contents. He put these sheets of gold leaf inside this copy of his son's book to make sure that only the first person who read it would discover them. I'll read two or three more chapters, and visit tomorrow; I'll recite a few passages from memory and tell him how wonderful they are. Maybe the fool will give me even more.'

    At once he turned on the lamp and began reading. On and on he read until the history arrived at the year 1616. It was the year in which the Manchu Nurhachi proclaimed himself First Emperor of the Later Jin dynasty, but here in the book it was referred to as 'the forty-fourth year of the Ming Emperor Wan Li'. He read on. And again: the year 1627 when Abahai succeeded Nurhachi as Emperor of Later Jin was referred to as 'the seventh year of the Ming Emperor Tian Qi'; 1636, when Abahai changed the name of the Manchu dynasty from 'Later Jin' to 'Qing', was given as 'the ninth year of the Ming Emperor Chong Zhen'; 1645 was called 'the first year of Long Wu', and 1647 'the first year of Yong Li'. ('Long Wu' and 'Yong Li' were the reign-titles of Prince Tang and Prince Gui, Ming Princes who set up shortlived regimes in the South after the Manchus had established themselves in Peking.) It was patently obvious that the author of the book had followed Ming Court practice throughout for his dates, totally disregarding the existence of the Manchus.

    Wu hit the table loudly and shouted. ‘Treasonous! Insane!' The table was shaken so much by his blow that the lamp fell over, splashing his hands and the front of his gown with oil. As he sat there in the dark he had a sudden inspiration that made him ecstatic. 'Heavens, ' he thought, 'I thank you for this fortune! This could be my ticket back into the favor of the Court.' Energized by this revelation, he let out a rather loud cry of joy. It was shortly followed by an urgent knocking at the door. 'Hello, sir. Hello. Are you all right?' 'It's nothing,' he said, laughing. 'I'm all right.' He re-lit the lamp and went back to his reading. The roosters were already crowing when he went to bed fully clothed. From time to time he chuckled in his sleep. He had discovered between seventy and eighty treasonous statements.

    Whenever there is a change of dynasty, the incoming regime is always extremely sensitive about dates. There is a mandate that the new date system take precedence. Lapses, whether in speech or writing, of a kind likely to awaken nostalgic memories of the previous dynasty are regarded as particularly criminal. As a narrative of Ming events, the Definitive Ming History had followed the Ming system of dating; but though this had seemed perfectly natural to the original author, it was likely to have disastrous consequences at a time when new regulations about these matters were being applied with ever-increasing stringency. Most of the scholarly specialists who had taken part in the editing had worked on only one or two sections of the book and never read it through, whilst those who worked on the last few sections were precisely the ones with the most inveterate hatred of the new Court, men for whom the use of the 'Great Qing' formula in a book like this would have been unthinkable. As for Zhuang Tinglong himself: it was hardly surprising that a wealthy young amateur who was blind should have overlooked loopholes that a mean-spirited reader might exploit.

    At noon next day Wu took an eastbound boat to Hangzhou. There, as soon as he had found lodgings, he wrote a letter of denunciation and delivered it, together with his copy of the History, to the headquarters of General Songkui, the Military Governor, confident that as soon as the General saw it, he would be summoned for an interview. This was a period in which anyone who gave the Manchu authorities information leading to the apprehension of a rebel could expect a very generous reward. In return for so important a service Wu could be sure at the very least of getting back his old post and even perhaps of promotion. Yet though he waited and waited in his lodgings until he had been staying in the same inn for more than half a year, and though he went every single day to the General's headquarters to make inquiries, there was no response. It was as if he was a drop of water in a vast ocean. Eventually the receptionists got annoyed at the constant inquiries and prohibited him from coming.

    Wu was now seriously worried. The money he had got from selling the gold leaf given to him by Zhuang Yuncheng was gone, yet all his efforts had come to naught. Not only was he irritated, he was also confused. One day while strolling, he chanced upon the Wen Tong Tang bookshop. He had no intention of buying anything, but he figured he could waste some time by browsing the literature. As he did so he noticed, among the other books on the shelves, three copies of the Definitive Ming History. 'Surely,' he thought, 'those things I found wrong with the book ought to have been enough to get Zhuang Yuncheng arrested? I'll just have another look and see if I can find some really seditious bits. Then tomorrow I'll write another letter and take it to the General's headquarters.' The Provincial Governor of Zhejiang at this time was a Chinese civilian; the Military Governor was a Manchu. Wu was afraid that, as a Chinese, the Provincial Governor might be unwilling to start a literary witch-hunt in his area. That is why he was determined that the Military Governor should again be the one to receive his denunciation.

    He took a copy down from the shelf, opened it up and began to read. He hadn't read more than a few pages when he felt like he had been immersed in ice water. All traces of seditious writing had disappeared. From 1615 onwards, the year in which Nurhachi proclaimed himself Emperor, every single date was expressed in terms of Jin or Qing reign-titles. The disparaging references to the 'antics of the Paramount Chief of the Jianzhou tribe' had vanished. So had all references to the Southern Courts of the Ming Princes as those of legitimate rulers. And yet there were no breaks in the text, no signs of erasure or alteration. What conjurer's magic could have produced so extraordinary a transformation? For some time he stood there in the bookshop, holding the book in both his hands and gaping like an idiot. It wasn’t long before he figured out what had happened. 'Of course!' he said to himself out loud.

    The cover of the book was brand-new, the pages were dazzling white, and when he made a few inquiries of the bookseller's assistant, the latter confirmed that the Huzhou agent had only recently delivered it. The copies had in fact only been in stock for seven or eight days. ‘That Zhuang's a cunning devil,' he thought. 'No wonder they say money can work miracles. He's withdrawn the book, had new blocks cut, and brought out a new edition in which all the offensive bits have been removed. Humph, you won't get away with it that easily, my friend!'

    Wu's surmise was correct. General Songkui, the Military Governor in Hangzhou, was unable to read Chinese. Wu's letter had gone straight to his Chinese secretary, who had broken out in a cold sweat when he saw its contents. He knew what serious repercussions a letter like this would have and his hands, as they held it, shook uncontrollably.

    The name of this secretary was Cheng Weifan, a Shaoxing man, like a great many other Yamen secretaries of the Ming and Qing periods: indeed, 'Shaoxing secretary' and 'Yamen secretary' had become almost synonyms. These Shaoxing secretaries were trained by their older countrymen in the mysteries of their profession before they entered employment, so that when they did so they were able to discharge their duties, whether legal or financial, with complete assurance. All official correspondence passed through their hands; and since they were all fellow-countrymen, it was very unusual for documents sent for approval from a lower to a higher Yamen to meet with criticism or refusal. For this reason the first thing any candidate for office would do on receiving his posting would be to acquire, at whatever cost, the services of a Shaoxing secretary. During the Ming and Qing dynasties very few Shaoxing men reached positions of authority, yet for several centuries they virtually controlled the administration. This is one of the great paradoxes of Chinese history.

    This Cheng Weifan was a heroic man. He firmly believed that 'good works may be done even in local offices', by which it is meant that, since a Government official has powers of life and death over the people in his jurisdiction, and since, as a consequence, the secretary who takes down his commands can, by a mere shift of emphasis, either utterly ruin a man or save him from certain death, more good can be done by a conscientious secretary than monks praying in an isolated temple. Well aware that an inquiry into the Ming History could threaten the lives and fortunes of countless people in West Zhejiang, he acted swiftly. Asking the General for a few days' leave, he hired a boat to take him to Nanxun in Huzhou prefecture, travelling through the night for greater speed, and went straight to see Zhuang Yuncheng.

    The effect of suddenly being made aware of the calamity that hung over him was sufficient to send old Zhuang into shock. His whole body became paralyzed, a dribble of saliva ran from his mouth, and for some time he was incapable of making any response. Eventually he stood up from his chair and kowtowed to Cheng Weifan repeatedly while begging him for a way to avert disaster.

    Cheng Weifan had already though of a plan during the long boat journey from Hangzhou to Nanxun. The Definitive Ming History had already been in circulation for some time. It was therefore too late for concealment. The only method left was to reduce the damage already done — by removing the burning fagots from underneath the pot, as it were, in order to reduce the heat. The first step was buyback as many copies of the original manuscript as possible to limit exposure. Meanwhile, the second step was to set the engravers to work day and night on a new edition from which all the offensive bits had been removed. Then, flood the market with this new edition. When the authorities started investigating, they would submit the new edition for inspection. Wu's charges would be dismissed as groundless and a hideous disaster would have been averted. Old Zhuang listened with a mixture of surprise and delight as Cheng Weifan unfolded his plan and kowtowed many times in gratitude when he had finished. The latter added a number of tips on handling the authorities — which officials to bribe and how much, which secretaries in which Yamens to contact, and so on— all of which were gratefully received.

    After his return to Hangzhou, Cheng Weifan allowed more than two weeks to go by before forwarding Wu's letter and copy of the book to the civilian Governor of Zhejiang. He added a brief covering note in which he played the affair down as much as possible, pointing out that the writer of the letter was an ex-magistrate who had been dismissed for dishonesty and who appeared to be highly self-interested. He ended by praying His Excellency to kindly look into the matter and deal with it as he thought fit.

    While Wu sat in his Hangzhou lodgings anxiously waiting for news, a regular flood of silver from Zhuang Yuncheng was busy doing at work. The Provincial Governor's Yamen and the Literary Chancellor's Yamen were already in receipt of very substantial bribes. Matters of publication fell within the domain of the Literary Chancellor, the Governor decided, so after holding on to the file for a fortnight or so, he passed it on with another covering note to the Literary Chancellor. Following its arrival in the Literary Chancellor's office, the secretary managed to put off opening it for about three weeks. He then took a month's sick leave, and only after his return set about, albeit very slowly, drawing up a directive to be sent in due course, along with the book and the rest of the file, to the Chief Education Officer in Huzhou prefecture. This individual managed a delay of some three weeks or more before issuing directives to the Education Officers of Gui'an district and Wucheng district requiring them to furnish him with a report. Long in advance of this, both Education Officers had received hefty bribes from Zhuang Yuncheng; and by this time the printing of the revised Definitive Ming History had been completed, so they were able to send in copies of the new edition along with their reports. In these they stated—the words of one more or less echoing the words of the other—that they had read the whole book carefully, that they had found it indifferently and somewhat carelessly written, with little in its contents conducive to moral uplift, but that they had failed to find any instances in which taboos, regulations concerning the correct wording of dates, and so on, had been infringed. And so, in somewhat shady fashion, the affair was laid to rest.

    Wu had realized what he was up against as soon as he came across the new edition of the Epitome in the Hangzhou bookshop. He now saw that he would only get the case reopened if he could find another copy of the original edition. In all of Hangzhou every copy appeared to have been bought and subsequently destroyed. He therefore set about hunting for one in the remoter towns and cities of East Zhejiang; but there, too, not a single copy was to be found. In the end, demoralized and now broke, he conceded defeat and returned home.

    It was at this low point in his fortunes that the heavens smiled upon him. One night at an inn, he observed the innkeeper nodding while reading a book. Upon closer inspection, he realized the book was none other than the original version of the Definitive Ming History. Figuring that the innkeeper may refuse to sell the book, and realizing his was basically penniless, he decided to steal it. Sneaking from his bed in the deep of night, he was able to make off with the book unnoticed. Suspicious that all the powerful officials in Zhejiang Province had received Zhuang's bribes, Wu thought 'Very well, in for a penny, in for a pound!' and resolved to take the case all the way to Beijing. When he arrived, Wu wrote out three more copies of his denunciation, one addressed to the Board of Rites, one to the Court of Censors, and one to the Chancellery, this time adding an account of how the Zhuang family had evaded justice by bribing Government officials and by printing a new, innocent edition of the seditious book.

    To his astonishment, this denunciation was also rejected. After waiting in Beijing for a whole month, he received the same dismissive reply from all three departments. They had carefully examined the Definitive Ming History by Zhuang Tinglong and found no infringements. The allegations made by the disgraced District Officer Wu were without foundation and inspired by malice. As for his allegations about the bribery of officials, these appeared to be totally groundless. The Chancellery's finding was even more severe, stating that 'the said Wu, having himself been dismissed from office for corrupt practices, was evidently seeking to tarnish the reputation of honest officials.' Acting on Cheng Weifan's advice, old Zhuang had long sent copies of the new edition to the Board of Rites, the Court of Censors, and the Chancellery, and suitable “donations” to the relevant officials and secretaries.

    Again Wu had nothing to show for all his work; and as he now had no money left for his journey back home, he was faced with the prospect of becoming a nobody in a city in an unfamiliar city. The Manchu Court was at this period extremely severe in its treatment of Chinese intellectuals. Normally the punishment for the slightest infringement of a taboo found in their writings would be summary execution by beheading. If the charges made by Wu had been laid against an ordinary writer, they would long since have been acted on. It was only because their target was the member of a very wealthy family that he had encountered so many obstacles.

    Having no other recourse, he resolved, even at the risk of imprisonment, to follow this case through to the bitter end. He wrote out four more copies of his denunciation which he addressed to four great Counselors of State. At the same time, sitting in his Beijing lodgings, he wrote out several hundred copies of a fliers outlining his main charges which he pasted up everywhere in the city. This was a very risky move, for if the officials got irritated and discovered the source of the fliers, he would be executed for promoting public panic.

    Soni, Suksaha, Ebilun, and Oboi were the names of the Counselors of State whom Wu had sent his complaint. These four Manchu statesmen, distinguished for the parts they had played in the foundation of the new state, had been nominated by the dying Emperor Shun Zhi to act as Regents for his Heir, the boy Emperor Kang Xi. Oboi was by far the most powerful of the four. He had the most followers at Court and was a virtual dictator. In spite of this he was paranoid of his political rivals and employed a regular army of informers, both at the capital and in the provinces, to keep an eye on their activities. It was from a secret report sent in by one of these spies that he learned of the fliers which had been appearing all over Beijing denouncing a Zhejiang commoner called Zhuang who had written a seditious book, and claiming that the Zhejiang authorities had taken bribes settle the matter.

    On receipt of this information Oboi at once ordered an investigation. At last things began to move, this time with lightning speed. At just this moment, Wu’s letter arrived at Oboi’s office, who summoned him for an interview without delay. He ordered his Chinese secretaries to take the copy of the original edition of the Definitive Ming History and review it thoroughly. Needless to say, Wu's allegations were now all substantiated.

    Oboi, who had won his dukedom and high office by virtue of his military exploits, had an inveterate contempt for civilians, especially Chinese officials and scholars. In order to consolidate his monopoly of power in the state he needed a few large show trials which would cow the nation into submission, not only to extinguish Chinese hopes of a rebellion, but also as a means of deterring the rival factions at Court from acting against him. A Special Commissioner was accordingly dispatched to Zhejiang to pursue the investigation. His first act was to arrest all members of the Zhuang family and send them to Beijing. General Songkui and the Provincial Governor of Zhejiang, all members of their staffs, and all subordinate officials of whatever rank were immediately suspended and placed under investigation; and all scholars whose names were inscribed in the preface of the Epitome were imprisoned.

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    Death By a Thousand Cuts

    Thus did Gu Yanwu and Huang Zongxi relate the entire affair in all its sordid detail to Lu Liuliang, who was growing increasingly upset at the situation. When it was time for sleep, the three men instead retired to a single bedroom and discussed the current state of the nation: how, in the penultimate reign of the Ming dynasty, the evil eunuch Wei Zhongxian had gained control of the Government by trumping up charges on loyal officials; how the weakening of the state by his disastrous policies had hastened the fall of the dynasty; and how, since the arrival of the Manchus, the Chinese people had been cruelly massacred and subjected to every conceivable suffering, to which they now responded with a deep and bitter hatred of their oppressors.

    First thing next morning, the three friends and Lu’s family embarked on their journey. It was very common for families to have boats due to the terrain of the land. This was a land of lakes and rivers, criss-crossed in all directions by canals and waterways, where journeys were normally made not by land but by water, so that it was often said, 'the Northerner goes a-horseback, the Southerner by boat'.

    Their plan, when they reached Hangzhou, was to use the Grand Canal to travel northward. While they were moored for the night outside the city, they heard some news. The Manchu Court had already sentenced a large number of those involved in the Ming History case, both officials and commoners. Zhuang Ting-long could not be executed because he was already dead, so they had broken open his coffin and hung his corpse. His father had been tortured to death in prison. The remaining forty odd members of the Zhuang family were disposed of as traitors normally are: all men over the age of fifteen were beheaded, and all women were sold as prostitutes to the Manchu army.

    The former Vice-Chancellor of Rites Li Lingxi who had written the preface to the Epitome was sentenced to die by a thousand cuts. Vice-President Li's four sons had been beheaded. The youngest son, barely 16, was offered the option of reporting an age of 15 to avoid the executions. Not willing to live on after his family was dead, he refused the well-intentioned offer and was executed as well. Songkui and the Provincial Governor of Zhejiang were in prison awaiting sentence. The secretary Cheng Weifan had been sentenced to execution in a similar manner to Li. The Education Officers of Gui'an and Wucheng had been beheaded. Many innocent people had already been killed on various pretexts. The Prefect of Huzhou, who had only held office for a fortnight, was accused by the Court of failing to report the facts and receiving bribes. Along with his Justiciar and his Sub-Director of Studies, he was strangled to death.

    Wu Zhirong utterly despised the wealthy Nanxun householder Zhu Youming who had scolded him so viciously when Wu was begging for “assistance.” The preface to the Epitome had described the book as 'a revised and improved edition of an original manuscript by Master Zhu'. Wu Zhirong misled the court officers to the conclusion that Master. Zhu was actually Zhu Youming, when he fact he knew full well that the real Master. Zhu had been dead for decades. He even out that the name Youming, which means 'Guiding Light', could be construed to mean 'Supporting the Ming' and had obviously been assumed by Zhu in defiance of the Manchu Court. As a result, Zhu Youming and all five of his sons were beheaded, and the Zhu family fortune, amounting to more than a hundred thousand taels, was awarded by the Manchu Court to Wu Zhirong.

    Even more unreasonable was the pitiful fate of all the engravers, printers, and binders who produced the book, the book-traders, booksellers, and booksellers' assistants who sold it, and even— whenever they could be traced—the readers who bought it: all were executed. It is reliably reported that one Li Shangbai, an Excise Officer working in the Suzhou Customs at Xushuguan who had a great fondness for reading books of history, chancing to hear that the Chang Men Bookshop in Suzhou was selling copies of a newly published Ming History, the contents of which had been very highly praised, sent one of his workmen to buy a copy for him. When the man got to the shop the bookseller was out, so he sat and waited for him to return in the house next door belonging to an old gentleman called Zhu. In due course the bookseller got back, the man bought a copy of the book and delivered it to Li Shangbai, and Li read a few chapters and thought no more about it.

    A few months later, however, the Ming History affair exploded and a hunt began for all those who had either bought or sold copies of the book. By this time Li Shangbai was working in Beijing. He was charged with purchasing a treasonous work and executed, along with The Suzhou bookseller who sold him the book and even the workman who had been sent to buy it. Even old Master Zhu who lived next door to the bookshop was arrested. Why hadn't he reported it that the man had bought a seditious book? As he was already seventy years of age, his sentence was instead commuted to hard labor for the duration of his life.

    The scholars who had unwittingly caused the catastrophe were also pursued. Fourteen were executed simultaneously by a Thousand Cuts. Their families and even acquaintances were also executed. The piles of dead were becoming uncountable.

    The feelings of Lu Liuliang and his friends when they heard this news, their cries of anger and horror, can be imagined. 'Yihuang's name was in the list of co-editors,' said Huang. 'He's probably already in custody.' All three were friends with Yihuang and grew anxious of his fate.

    When the boat reached Jiaxing, Gu Yanwu went ashore and bought a copy of the Beijing Chronicle which listed the names of all those who had been sentenced. Somewhere in the Chronicle’s transcript of the Imperial Edict he noticed the following words: Zha Yihuang, Fan Xiang, and Lu Qi, although listed as co-editors, had never seen the book. They are to be exempt from punishment and released from further questioning. Gu Yanwu took the copy of the Chronicle back to his friends and all three expressed their surprise at Zha Yihuang's release.

    'This must be General Wu's doing, ' said Huang Zongxi. 'General Wu?' said Lu Liuliang. 'Who on earth is he?'

    'When I went to visit Yihuang a couple of years ago,' said Huang Zongxi, 'I found his place completely and utterly transformed. There was an enormous garden. The fittings and furnishings of his house were positively magnificent. There was even a troupe of opera-players—players, moreover, of a standard it would be hard to match anywhere in Jiangnan. Well, Yihuang and I have known each other for a very long time and have no secrets from each other, so I asked him point-blank the meaning of this transformation. The story he told me by way of explanation was one of the most extraordinary I've ever heard.' He proceeded to tell them the story as he had heard it from Zha Yihuang.

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    The Beggar in the Snow

    A few years ago Zha Yihuang had been drinking alone as it began to snow. The blizzard was growing fiercer, and given that he didn’t really have anything else to do, he went outside to see what was going on. That’s when he glanced upon a beggar taking shelter from the cold. He was a tall, powerfully built man, evidently not someone to be trifled with. Although dressed only in a ragged, unlined gown, he seemed utterly unaffected by the cold, but his face had an aggrieved, angry expression on it. It was clear this was no ordinary beggar. This snow is not going to stop for quite a while yet,' said Yihuang to the man. 'How about coming inside for a drink.'
    'Good idea,' said the beggar. Yihuang showed him into the house, ordered the servant to bring another wine-cup and a pair of chopsticks, and poured out a drink for them both. 'To your health,' he said. The beggar raised his wine-cup and drained it at a gulp. 'Good wine,' he said appreciatively.

    Yihuang poured him three more cupfuls and the beggar downed them just as quickly. Seeing how the beggar was able to drink so cheerfully, Yihuang’s spirits also rose. 'Your wine tolerance is excellent!' he said. 'How many cups can you drink?'
    'In the right company a thousand cups are too few; in the wrong company a single word is too many.' The well-known saying, though unremarkable in itself, struck him as somewhat odd coming from the mouth of a beggar. He gave instructions to his servant to get out a large jar of his best rice-wine, Shaoxing Rosy Girl. ‘My actual tolerance isn’t so great,' he said to the beggar, ‘and in any event I was slightly drunk before I met you. I can’t match you drink for drink, so how about I drink from a smaller cup?' The beggar replied that he had no objection. The page-boy first heated up the wine and then poured it out for them, a big wine-bowlful for the beggar, and a tiny wine-cupful for Yihuang. After twenty or more rounds Yihuang had passed out while the beggar appeared none the worse for wear.

    It should be explained that Shaoxing Rosy Girl seems harmless enough while you are drinking it but is actually extremely potent. In Shaoxing families it is the custom when a baby is born to make anything from a few jars to several dozen jars of the wine and bury them in the ground. If the child is a girl, they wait till she has grown up and use the wine for her wedding-feast. By the time it is dug up, it will have gone a deep amber color: hence the name Rosy Girl. The wine will have been in the ground by then for anything from sixteen to twenty-odd years, so you can imagine how strong it is. If the baby is a boy, they call the wine Rosy Top Boy, the idea being that it can be used at the celebration-party when the son comes out top in the Civil Service examination. Of course, very few do, so in the majority of cases it is used for the son's marriage-feast. The names Rosy Girl and Rosy Top Boy are also given to wines made commercially and sold in the wine-shops. While the page-boy helped Yihuang to bed, the beggar went outside of his own accord and took his old haunt outside the house.

    By next morning Yihuang was sober and curious as to the fate of his beggar friend. He found him standing, hands behind his back, enjoying the outdoors. Right then, a gust of wind nearly made his toes freeze; curiously, the beggar seemed unperturbed. Being a good host, Yihuang still proffered his coat to his new friend: 'Here, ' he said. 'Your clothes are a bit too thin for this freezing weather.' As he did this, he also brought out some taels of silver adding ‘This is a little something to buy wine with; please accept this gesture. And whenever you feel like it, drop in again for a drink. I’m ashamed to say that I was so wasted that I didn’t remember to offer you bed; I have failed as a host.' Taking the money, the beggar simply said: “Forget about it,” and left in his swaggering walk.

    Some time in the spring of the next year Yihuang was on holiday in Hangzhou. One day, he came across an old bell in a ruined temple. The bell was abnormally large and weighed at least four hundred catties. While lost in thought, he saw out of the corner of his eye a beggar nonchalantly raise the bell and took out some meat and wine from underneath. Amazed at this display of strength, Yihuang was even more shocked to discover it was the same beggar he had hosted the previous winter. ‘Hey! Do you still remember me?’ he inquired. The beggar looked at him for a moment and returned his smile. 'Ha, it's you! Today it's my turn to host. Let’s have another go at this.’ while gesturing toward the wine.

    Taking the bottle, Yihuang started drinking. The beggar took out some meat and said 'This is dog's meat. Take some!' Yihuang was not too keen on the prospect, but figured that a refusal would offend his old acquaintance. Taking a bite, he was pleasantly surprised by the sweet flavor. Thus the two sat on the dusty floor, trading the wine and dog meat until the jug was empty and the dish was clean. The beggar let out a laugh that resembled a roar. 'I wish there was more wine! Who can get drunk off of this?'

    Yihuang responded 'Fate let us meet once before at my home and again in this temple. Maybe it is our destiny to be friends! You are clearly no ordinary man; I would be honored to keep your friendship. Let’s get properly at a restaurant instead!' The beggar enthusiastically agreed, so the two men travelled to nearby restaurant The Tower Beyond the Tower'. As before, Yihuang was host to the party. And as before, he had drunk himself to oblivion long before his guest. By the time he had awoken, his guest had gone.

    These events took place in the Chong Zhen period, during the closing years of the Ming dynasty. It wasn’t long before the Manchus were to enter China proper and overthrow Great Ming. Zha Yihuang, having now abandoned any thought of officialdom, was indulging in idleness. He was thus surprised when an army officer and some subordinates turned up at his doorstep.

    At first, Yihuang feared for his life, but the officer was extremely courteous. 'Orders of General Wu, Guangdong Headquarters, sir. I am to present you with this gift.'

    'Surely there must be some mistake.' said Yiahung. 'I've never met any General Wu.' The officer then produced an elaborate box from which he delivered a letter for Zha Yihuang and from Wu Liuqi 'Who is this man?' Yihuang thought. ‘What could this present be?'

    Seeing Yihuang in a trance, the officer spoke again: ‘The general informs you that this is only a gesture of his goodwill. He begs your forgiveness in its nature, but would hope that you would accept anyway.' He then placed two large golden colored chests before Yihuang and left. As Yihuang opened the chests, he was beyond shocked. In one chest was no less than 50 taels of gold and the other six bottles of the finest foreign wine. The wine bottles were even decorated with gorgeous gems. Not daring to accept such lavish gifts, and somewhat worried about their meaning, he ran after the officer to persuade him to take them back.' A cautious man by nature, he decided to simple leave the chests in storage sealed in tape. Though the Zha family cannot be compared to the Zhuang, they were of sufficient means that he hardly noticed the loss of gold. The wine, on the other hand, was a cause of some regret.

    A few months later, an extremely elegant young man with an air of authority arrived at the Zha estate. Along with his attendents, the young man immediately fell to his knees upon seeing Zha Yihuang. 'Uncle Zha, my name is Wu Baoyu.' Yihuang was again confused and quickly raised the youth to his feet. ‘I’m not sure I’m worthy of being your uncle. Do I know your father?' Upon hearing that the young man’s father was none other than Wu Liuqi, Military Governor of Guangdong Province, Yihuang was even more surprised. Baoyu then invited him to dine with his father on the pretext that Wu Liuqi had some things to discuss with him.
    ‘Actually, I received an inordinately lavish gift from your father a short while ago. I was too ashamed to use it since, and pardon me for saying this, I don’t believe I’ve ever met your father. I’m merely a low level scholar and I certainly don’t know any military governors. If you’d wait there a moment?' Yihuang swiftly returned with the chests of treasure. ‘I’m not worthy of such gifts. I would prefer it if they were returned to your father.'

    He had supposed Wu Liuqi was a recently appointed official and desired a secretary of Zha Yihuan’s abilities. Unfortunately, he was well aware that the only way Wu would have risen to that position is by being a lapdog of the Manchu. Thus, no matter how valuable the presents, he could not tarnish his name by accepting them. How unfortunate!

    'But my father insists you come!' said Wu Baoyu. 'Maybe this will jog your memory.' Immediately, an attendant came and presented him with an age-worn sheepskin gown.

    Now piecing the information together, Yihuan recognized the gown as the one he gave to the beggar so long ago. Shocked at the revelation, he began to think a little deeper. ‘All the under heaven, what don’t the Manchu own? We still outnumber the barbarians a hundred to one. If there was only a rallying cause and army, we might still drive them back across the wall. My old friend seems to remember gratitude and honor. If it is possible to convince a military general to follow the right path, even if I die trying it’s not in vain.'

    In better spirits, he went with the son to visit the father. In Guangdong, he met his old friend for the first time in years. Wu Liuqi treated him like an old coMasterade ‘You recall our first encounter, when you freely invited to drink your wine? You even gifted me a gown for the cold!' he said, 'I was honestly more impressed when you treated me like an equal as we ate and drank from the same dish and jug. You were the only one who treated me like a person of worth. I going through a rough patch in my life and nobody would give me the time of day except for you. Without your kind words, who knows where would I would be today?'

    Zha only responded “Are you sure that being a general is better than being a beggar?”

    Wu was more than a little surprised, but chose not to pursue the matter out of respect for his guest. That night, there was a grand banquet for all the officials. Wu gave Zha the seat of honor and even sat underneath him; this of course puzzled his guests to no end. The governor figured that Zha Yihuang must be an Imperial inspector doing his tour of the provinces. There was no other explanation for Wu Liuqi’s sudden deferential behavior to the unknown man from Jiangnan. Nearing the end of the feast, he asked Wu whether or not the new man was in fact an important personage in the royal palace.

    Wu’s smile was indescribable. ‘You have a 90% sense as to the truth my friend,” which the civilian governor took to mean his guess was right. This got the provincial head thinking: ‘This inspector has the ear of the emperor and is being treated at Wu Liuqi’s estate! How can this be good for me?’ It is unfortunate for him that his relationship with Wu Liuqi was not terrific. What if Wu said something untoward in a plot to undermine him? If the Inspector’s report to the emperor contained some negative comments, he could only be prepared for the very worst. The first task occupying him was to prepare a suitable bribe for the Inspector to try and salvage to situation. Travelling to Wu’s estate, he intended to personally deliver the gift to Zha Yihuang and convey his respects. Unluckily, he was met by none other than Wu Liuqi himself. Wu informed him that Zha, like always, was drunk out of his mind and unable to get out of bed. However, he would deliver the present personally. Figuring that was the best he would get, the governor left.

    A governor personally delivering a gift is no small matter; the news spread like wildfire throughout the province. Worried about their own jobs, the other officials began racing to find a suitable gift for this mysterious Zha Yihuang. It was not long before Zha had a veritable mountain of rare treasures. Wu Liuqi simply told his staff to note the presents and not tell Zha Yihuang, with whom he spent most of the day getting drunk.

    During one of their customary drinks in the garden, Zha began to carry out his plan ‘General Wu, your hospitality has been overwhelming, but I really can’t impose on you any longer. I’ll head back to my home tomorrow.'

    ‘What are you saying?' said General Wu. 'It was a long trip to get here, how can you leave so soon? The number of landmarks and treasures in Guangdong are countless. How can a few months be enough? Stay for a year at least!”

    Slightly tipsy and seeing how Wu treated him, Zha Yihuang’s courage started to rise.
    He continued: ‘Guangdong is indeed beautiful; it’s really too bad it’s all under the heel of the Manchu.' A cloud darkened Wu Liluqi’s expressions ‘Old friend, maybe you’ve had too much to drink. Come, I’ll see you to bed.’

    'When we first met, I judged you to be an honorable man down on your luck. I expected that you would be able to distinguish between right and wrong, know the difference between righteousness and evil. Now I see that I was wrong.'

    Wu Liuqi’s expression was indefinable ‘How so?’

    ‘You are a lion among men; your virtues numerous. If you had the presence of mind to work toward the greater good of your fellow man, what couldn’t you accomplish? Instead you have become a lackey of the barbarian court. You feel no shame and instead are proud of your accomplishments. To contribute to such an outcome, how can I be happy? For you to be my friend, I’d rather die alone.”

    ‘Are you insane? If anyone heard you, who knows how many times you would die?'

    ‘If not for the fact that you are my good friend, why would I risk my neck to spout such treason? If you want to shut me up, just kill me. Even ignoring the fact you have thousands of soldiers, I have no martial ability whatsoever. Killing me is as easy as killing a chicken.'

    Wu Liuqi seemed to relent a little: ‘Since you treat me as a friend, I will listen to what you have to say. Speak out, do not fret about the consequences.”

    ‘You are the leader of a huge army. Instead of using it subjugate your own people, why not rebel openly and dethrone the Manchu? With you as a rallying point, the peasants from Guangdong and neighboring lands will join your rebellion. Even if you fail, the Manchu court will have a huge problem on their hands, weakening their dynasty.’

    In response, Wu poured out a bowl of wine and downed it immediately. ‘Well said my friend.' As he spoke, he ripped open his gown, displaying his chest covered in black hair. When he parted his hair, Zhu Yihuang was in shock at the tattooed words: (By my father in Heaven and my mother in Earth, I will topple Qing and restore Ming)

    Zha Yihunag was beyond shocked, but simultaneously delighted. ‘What is that?' The Wu Liuqi covered himself before he continued ‘I didn’t make your friendship in vain. Your words were brave and at great risk to yourself and your family. In truth I used to be a Begger in the Begger’s Guild; now I am the leader of the Red Banner in the Heaven and Earth Society. My only goal is what’s tattooed on my chest.'

    Understanding the situation, Zha Yihuang immediately apologized
    ‘Your body is in Cao, but your heart is in Han. Terrific! I said some really thoughtless things before, I hope you can forgive my indiscretion.' Of course, Zha Yihuang was referring to Guan Yu under Cao Cao and longing to reunited with his brother Liu Bei. To compare him with the God of War was a bit too much for Wu who could only decline the honor.
    ‘What is the beggar’s guild and Heaven and Earth society?'

    ‘The story is not short. Let’s drink as I explain’

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    One last thing

    The second of "The Ming History" isn't revised yet; some of it is still Minford's old work, but I'm too tired tonight to do it all. So I'll fix it at some later date. I think most of the rest is free from Minford's "influence," but due to the earlier basis for my work, I can't guarentee 100% divergence. If anyone catches anything, just let me know and I'll reword it.

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    Thanks HuntingX,

    Its good to see that you are persisting with this project.

    Good luck.

    Han Solo
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    Quote Originally Posted by bliss
    I think they're probably at the same level as or one level below Ah Qing, which is about the level of a 2nd or 3rd generation Quan Zhen disciple.
    Troll Control

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    Senior Member Abhay's Avatar
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    Talking

    Interestingly enough I too started DOMD translation yesterday only.
    First time wetting my feets in translating wuxia novel so it was intersting seeing the difference between out work.

    Nice work buddy...now may be I will take some other novel.
    Any suggestion from guys here.

    p.s. - I am a jin yong fan(atic) and don't have a clue about lanugage but fastclock's suggestion about tranlation is my inspiration.

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    Beggars and Triads

    'There's been a Beggars Clan ever since the beginning of the Song. They have consistently been at the forefront of Jianghu, even though their members mainly beg for sustenance. Regardless of initial status or wealth, all members must beg for food in order to stay in the Clan. The Clan has a leader; under him are four Elders; and under them are Protectors, one for each of the Five Ways. I was a Protector of the Left and an eight-bag member; not a low rank. Unfortunately, I got into a spiff with Elder Sun, and ended up wounding him. The original offense of disrespecting an Elder was bad enough: actually hurting him was unacceptable. Naturally, I was expelled from the clan; when we met that first time, I was at my lowest point, having just been expelled. Your company did much to raise my spirits.’

    'I see, ' said Zha. The year after that, in the spring, when we met for the second time beside West Lake, ' continued Wu, 'you treated me like a brother. You told me I was a "very remarkable man" and you said you would like to have me as a friend. That got me thinking; I'd been thrown out of the Beggars Guild; my Brothers all despised me; every single day I was drunk. My life was essentially over. But how can I disappoint your expectations? Certainly, I could at least make an attempt. Soon, I met up with the entering Manchu forces, and joined up. I distinguished myself, but I was forced to slaughter many of our countrymen. Thinking back, I feel nothing but shame.'

    Zha looked grave. 'That was a mistake. With your skills, even without the Begger Clan, you can be a wanderer, start a family, anything. You certainly didn’t have to join the Manchus.' 'I'm not a clever man, ' said Wu, 'and at that time I didn't have you to advise me. I made a lot of mistakes. I did some really terrible things.' Zha nodded. ‘So long as you understand your past mistakes, you can correct them in the future.'

    Wu continued: ‘When the Manchu conquered China, I became a governor. Two years prior, an assassin tried to kill me in my sleep. He was no match for my skills and was swiftly overpowered. Imagine my surprise when I saw Elder Sun looking back at me! Curses flowed from his mouth like an unending stream. Other than being shameless, cowardly, money-grubbing, countless other things were said, all of which shook me to my core. In fact, those very things were what I thought to myself in my private moments; having someone else say them out loud was horrifying. So I just sighed and set him free. "You are correct, Elder Sun, please leave before you are caught." His shock was only momentary; he fled the scene shortly after.'

    ‘A righteous deed,' said Zha.

    'At that time, there were several political prisoners being held in the county prisons,' said Wu. ‘I immediately used my position to set as many of them free as possible. I used all sorts of excuses; mistaken identity, lesser charges, whatever it took. More than a month later, I had another midnight visit from Sun. This time, he was more cordial: he asked me directly if I wanted to help overthrow the Manchu. I immediately cut off two fingers from my left hand to demonstrate my sincerity. "Elder," I said, "No longer will I sell out to the invaders. Please give me whatever orders you desire."'

    When Wu held up his hand, he was indeed missing his fourth and fifth fingers. Zha immediately praised 'Good man!' he said.

    Wu continued: 'Elder Sun saw my sincerity and knew that I had changed from my earlier ways, so he promised to talk with the Clan leader about my status. Ten days hence, he returned with news that the Clan had readmitted me, but I would have to restart as a one-bag member. He also told me that the Beggars Clan was now allied with the Heaven and Earth society to overthrow the Manchu. Chen Jinnan founded the Heaven and Earth Society. He is the military adviser of Marshal Zheng situated in Taiwan. Chen’s title is ‘helmsman’ of the society

    *Editor’s note: Give me a better name. I’m not using helmsman. No way.

    These last few years, the heaven and earth society has been very active in the three south-eastern provinces of Fujian, Zhejiang, and Guangdong. Elder Sun introduced me to the Master of the Obedience Lodge of the Heaven and Earth Society in Guangdong, so that I could join. For one year, I was given varying tests to prove my worth. Once my loyalty was assured, I was promoted by Helmsman Chen to Red Banner Master of the Obedience Lodge.'

    While the Heaven and Earth society operated in secret, every patriot knew of Marshal Zheng, whose army in Taiwan was still maintaining a heroic resistance against the Manchus. If Helmsman Chen was the military advisor to Zheng, then he must be a great figure indeed.

    'A year ago Marshal Zheng led a large host to attack Nanjing,' Wu continued. 'He was defeated and had to flee to Taiwan, but there are still a lot of his former soldiers scattered about in the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Fujian who weren't in time for the evacuation and got left behind. It’s these old soldiers that Chen Jiannan organized to form his Heaven and Earth society. Their credo is tattooed on my chest. It is my poor imitation Yue Fei who had the words "Loyal to the End" tattooed on himself, to show his devotion to the Imperial House of the Song dynasty.

    Zha was so impressed that he quickly downed too more shots of wine. ‘Sir, you really are a remarkably man, I was not wrong about you.' ‘You are too kind,' said Wu. 'I'll be happy enough if you will just allow me to call myself your friend. Now Helmsman Chen—that’s a real hero! He’s a true hero without a doubt! Throughout Jianghu, who doesn’t know his name? He’s inspired a famous saying: ‘Without seeing Chen Jinann, one is not a real man” Since I’ve never met the master, I’m not even a real man!.' Quite carried away by his mental picture of this god among men, Zha poured out two more cups of wine. 'Come!' he said. 'Let's toast to Helmsman Chen!' The two men drained their cups. 'An individual scholar like me is not much use,' said Zha. 'I'm unable to do anything to benefit my country. I promise you, however, that when the revolution occurs, I will volunteer for your forces, no matter how small my contribution.'

    From then on, all Zha did with his friend was talk about the coming revolution. Wu told him the Heaven and Earth society was rapidly expanding its reach in the North. Lodges had now been opened up in every major province of China. Zha stayed on six or seven months longer in General Wu's residence before finally returning to his own home. He was shocked upon entering. A brand new wing to his home had been constructed. General Wu had funneled all the “gifts” for Zha back into a brand new palatial residence for his friend.

    Knowing that Huang Zongxi and Gu Yanwu were passionately devoted to the cause of the Ming restoration and that they spent their days travelling about the country looking for likely recruits to join in the anti-Manchu Resistance, Zha had no reason to conceal anything and told his friends everything without hesitation.

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    Translating is so hard.

    My goal is to post a new "subchapter" every other day (ish) so I actually make some progress on this beast.

    Moral support would be appreciated

  11. #11
    Moderator Han Solo's Avatar
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    Thanks for the translation.

    You have my moral, spiritual, and emotional support.

    Ya, clan leader might be a better term.

    Han Solo
    Last edited by Han Solo; 02-21-09 at 02:21 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bliss
    I think they're probably at the same level as or one level below Ah Qing, which is about the level of a 2nd or 3rd generation Quan Zhen disciple.
    Troll Control

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    As yet, there aren't any hate figures in DOMD to compare with Zhang Wuji, nor are there comparable holes to pick in Jin Yong's writing style, that led me and others on flights of fancy over on Foxs' threads. Towards the end of HSDS, Wuji-bashing was almost a story in and of itself.

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    I was thinking Clan Leader, but it's Tian Di Hui, not Tian Di Pai. So it's not a Clan, it's a "society" or a group of some sort. I don't think Clan Leader fits, but neither am I going to use Helmsman.

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    The Scholar in the Doorway

    Back to our original story (two steps removed), Huang Zongxi has now told Lu Liuliang everything of interest. ‘Obviously this must be kept in the strictest of confidence. Not only would Zha and Wu’s families be executed, the entire resistance movement would be in danger.'

    Lu Liuliang agreed. ‘Besides us 3, a fourth person will never hear of this,' he said. ‘Even with Zha, it is probably prudent to not mention the name Wu' 'Anyway,' said Huang, 'you see now what the connection is which links Zha with General Wu. Because General Wu is so noted in the Manchu court, when he spoke up in favor of Zha, how could they ignore him?' ‘Maybe Zha is saved,' said Lu, 'but what about the other two? According to the report they were given the same pardon as Zha: "exempt from punishment and further questioning" on the grounds that they hadn't seen the book. How did they escape death?’

    'Perhaps Wu thought speaking up for his friend would be suspicious, so he randomly added two names to the list.' said Huang. Lu laughed. 'If that's the case, ' he said, ‘those two must be thanking heaven and earth for their fortune.' Gu nodded gravely. ‘Every single scholar saved is a fortune for our country.' he said.

    The three men were most cognizant of the secrecy of their conversation. Although they only had family on board, they still spoke in barely above a whisper; there seemed no danger of detection. Boats are not like buildings; where can spies hide? The three were consequently shocked when Gu's last words were followed by some sinister laughter from abov. 'Who's there?' the three of them cried out simultaneously, their hair standing on end, but naturally received no response. Their reasoning decried the possibility of supernatural events, but their ears could not be deceiving them.

    Gu, the bravest and most skilled in martial arts, took out a dagger and advanced to the bow of the ship. As he walked, suddenly a shadow was upon him. ‘Who are you?' Gu shouted, striking at the assailant. But even as he moved, he felt his arm immobilized. Soon after, he felt his pressure points being hit, and he knew that he was in the presence of an expert.

    Huang and Lu watched with astonishment as Gu staggered back to the cabin, followed closely by a tall man in black. ‘What is the meaning of this?' said Lu. The man gave a sinister laugh. 'Thanks to the three of you for my promotion and coming wealth. When My Lord Oboi receives my report informing him that General Wu and Zha are traitors, I my future is secured. You three will be my evidence.' The three were horrified at their own carelessness at thinking that their conversation was safe. Their thoughts were not for their own safety, but the knowledge that they might have ruined any hope for a Chinese overthrow of the Manchu overlords.'

    ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about' said Lu. ‘It’s your business if you want to slander others, don’t drag us into it.' He was mostly trying to get the mysterious man to kill him and deprive him of evidence to use against General Wu.

    The man laughed and instantly struck Lu and Huang on pressure points in their stomachs, immobilizing both. He continued laughing at his apparent success. ‘Come on in guys,' he shouted. ‘We’ve done pretty well here.' There was an answering cry from the stern. Four men, all dressed as boatmen, came into the cabin and joined in the laughter of their leader.

    The three scholars looked at each other with shock. They knew that this group, the Vanguard Battalion, was part of the Emperor's personal bodyguard. These men must have infiltrated their gathering from the beginning, hiding and listening to every word. Huang and Lu were simple scholars and could be excused from caution, but Gu was experienced in Jianghu affairs. Further, he had been searching across the country for potential recruits. How could he have been so blind?
    One of the fake boatmen called out to the navigator: ‘Turn about, we're heading back to Hangzhou! Try anything, and you’re a dead dog!' An obedient 'Aye, aye!' answered him from the stern.

    The navigator was an old man in his late sixties whom Gu had personally interviewed when they hired the boat. He had a face lined wrinkles and curved back: the very picture of an old waterman who had spent a lifetime handling paddles and pulling ropes. It had never occurred to Gu to question his credentials. In fact, the old navigator was genuine enough, but had been forced by threats and intimidation to accept these Imperial Guardsmen as substitutes for his own assistants. Gu was deeply regretful that he had forgotten his caution in the face of his discussions of higher matters.

    The man in black continued his mocking. 'Mister Gu, Mister Huang, Mister Lu, your fame is not small. Otherwise, why would we have been following you from the beginning?' He turned to address his four subordinates: 'We've now got clear evidence that Governor Wu of Guangdong is planning rebellion. We should proceed with all haste to Haining and arrest Zha. These three seem to have some loyalty. They can't get away, but they might try to poison themselves or jump in the canal. They must be brought alive, so each of you must watch over one carefully. Any mistakes and you can expect a harsh punishment.'

    'Very good, Major Gua,' the men replied. 'Leave it to us.' 'When we get back to Beijing and report to Lord Oboi, ' said Major Gua, 'all four of you can expect promotions.' 'It'll all be thanks to you, Major,' said one of the guardsmen. ‘How can we take credit?' Suddenly, another laughter was heard from the ship’s bow. ‘None of you will ever take credit!'

    Suddenly, the cabin doors burst open and a thirty-something scholar materialized out of thin air. His hands clasped behind his back, he wore a mysterious smile. 'We're on official business here, ' Major Gua shouted at him, 'and we are court officers. Who are you?'

    The scholar made no reply but continued to smile as he stepped inside the cabin. To his left and right, two swords came down, but already he had dodged and was lunging towards Major Gua with arm upraised to smash down on his head. The Major parried the blow with his left hand, simultaneously striking out with his right fist. Ducking the blow, the scholar kicked backwards with his left foot at one of the guardsmen, getting the man’s stomach. Staggering backwards, the guard let out a cry and vomited blood.

    The other three guards had their swords up and were attacking the scholar, who, due to space constraints, was using his grappling skills. With a single blow, he broke one guard’s neck. Major Gua swung a blow with his right palm towards the back of the scholar's head, but the scholar had already whirled about, bringing his own left palm round to catch the blow. He did this with such force that the two palms met in a thunderclap, the force of the impact throwing the major off balance and causing him to fall against the cabin wall hard. Immediately the scholar attacked the two remaining guards. As before, the two guards could not defend themselves, and collapsed on the ground with broken ribs.

    Having made a whole in the wall after his fall, Major Gua attempted an escape. ‘Where do you think you’re going?' asked the scholar, striking out at him with the palm of his left hand. The blow was aimed at the upper part of his back, but Gua luckily kicked out at the exact moment that the palm went toward him: the collision propelled him off the boat into the river. There was a willow tree nearby, and Gua was barely able to use it as leverage to get onto shore.

    The scholar then ran to a boat pole and threw it with frightening force at the major. Already tired from the earlier fight, he could do nothing but be impaled like a fish by the spear. The scholar returned to the cabin. After releasing the pressure points of the three scholars, he dumped the four guards’ bodies into the river. Gu, Huang, and Li, were of course overjoyed, and immediately asked for their benefactor’s name. The scholar smiled. ‘You were just talking about me, I believe. The name is Chen Jinnan. Some know me better as Helmsman Chen.'

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    Thus ends our "prologue."

    What follows is the actual plot, which features Wei Xiao Bao (rape-man) and his various subordinates, bosses, and other generally weird figures.

    There are no heroes and few villains. Each person has an agenda, and everyone has a part to play.

    Who's right and who's wrong? Find out once we introduce our protagonist in all his glory.

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    er... what is the full form of DOMD?
    Rose blooms best near death
    You are in full bloom, Pal!

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    Is Oboi Aobai?

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    Wiki used the name Oboi, so I'm guessing that's his "Manchu" name while Au Bai is his Sinicized name. Correct me if I'm wrong.

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    Is he the scary official, played by Guan Haishan in the 1986 series?

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    Oboi=Ao Bai, yes, the most powerful of the four Regents who oversaw the government during Emperor Kangxi's childhood.
    Blademaster. Hero. General. He was the best there ever was.
    Butcher. Murderer. Traitor. All that he loved, he had destroyed.
    Matheius Randas.
    That Merciless Blade - Legend of the Arctic Wolf.

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