Athlon, Crazee, Kangxi himself said that it would be an easy mission for him. Smurf, I guess it was because everybody else was doing it? I am surprised that an astute Kangxi did not know about it. Or perhaps he did, but he did not care? I guess because he did not have to campaign to be elected 'emperor' ... Ace, thanks for the info. I incorporate your note into my source file, it becomes note 1, hence you will see the notes in this chapter will start with 2. Anh, you are welcome. When are you coming home?
BTW, I used to get 'wuxia xiao shuo' from Qiqi.com, but apparently the site is no longer there. Can anybody tell me other source? I know that I can search it, but since my reading skill is inadequate, it will take me a long time. I think it was Ace who pointed out the site for Jin Yong's work, but I am looking for Gu Long, Liang Yusheng, Huang Yi, etc.
If there is one thing I don't like about Jin Yong's work, it's the reference to classical literature ... oh, and Happy Fourth to those of you in the US.
Yangzhou’s banquet was very elegant and very rich in variety. Just the pre-banquet tea, fruits and delicacy were already more than a dozen varieties. Although Wei Xiaobao was born and raised locally, he could not know everything. After drinking a round of tea, the sun was gradually tilting to the west, the sun illuminated the several thousand Chinese peony outside the canopy, like glorious and magnificent luster of gems, just like brocade clothes. But the more Wei Xiaobao looked at it, the angrier he got, thinking about the grudge of the past, when he was beaten and humiliated by the monks of the Temple. Right then and there he was thinking of having all the Chinese peony pulled and burned, but he must have a legitimate pretext to do that.
While he was mulling over this, the Inspector-General Ma You said with a laugh, “Wei Daren, listening to Daren’s accent, it seems that you have lived in Huai Yang region before. Huai Yang’s water and soil is rich, thus it produces talented persons, as well as good flowers.”
The rest of the officials only knew that the Imperial Envoy was a Yellow Banner Manchu, the last several days the Inspector-General heard him speaking, he could detect Yangzhou accent in his speech, thereupon he seized this opportunity to flatter him a little bit.
Wei Xiaobao was thinking about the hateful monks of Chanzhi Temple. “Yangzhou’s monks are no good,” he blurted out.
The Inspector-General was startled, he was not sure what Wei Xiaobao was referring to. The administrative commissioner Mu Tianyan was a very perceptive, as well as highly educated; he interrupted, “Wei Daren’s observation is very true. Yangzhou monks selfishly concerned with gaining advantages for themselves, they fawn on local authorities, humiliate the poor; they were just like that since ancient times.”
Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he laughed and said, “That’s right. Mu Daren is a scholar, you knew that it was written in the books.”
Mu Tianyan said, “Isn’t the story of ‘Jade Green Muslin Covering’ by Wang Bo of the Tang Dynasty set in Yangzhou?”
Wei Xiaobao just loved to hear stories; he hastily asked, “What is the story of ‘yellow cloth’ [huang bu] versus sandy dragon’ [bi sha long, same pronunciation, different characters from ‘Jade Green Muslin Covering’]?”
“The story happened in Yangzhou’s Shita [stone pagoda] Temple,” Mu Tianyan said, “During the early Qian years of the Tang Dynasty, the Shita Temple was called Mulan [lily magnolia] Courtyard. When the poet Wang Bo was young, his family was poor …”
Wei Xiaobao thought, “Turns out this person was called Wang Bo, not a piece of yellow cloth.” He heard Mu Tianyan continued, “… he lived away from home in Mulan Courtyard. The monks in the temple rang a bell to signal meal times, when Wang Bo heard the bell, he went to the dining hall to eat. The monks disliked him, there was one time when everybody ate first, and rang the bell after they all finished eating. Wang Bo heard the bell, he went to the dining hall, but saw that the monks had already dispersed, the food had already been eaten clean …”
Wei Xiaobao slapped the table and angrily said, “Damn monks are so repulsive.”
“That’s right,” Mu Tianyan said, “Just a meal, how much does it cost? At that time Wang Bo was very ashamed, he inscribed a poem on the wall, ‘Attending a lesson from west to east, ashamed returning to black after-meal bell.’”
“What kind of fellow was this ‘Hui Li’ [return black]?” Wei Xiaobao asked.
The numerous officials had been in contact with him these past few days, they knew that the Imperial Envoy was not a scholar; in fact, a lot of famous, rich and honorable banner men did not come from academic field, hence nobody thought it strange. Mu Tianyan said, “Hui Li means monk.”
Wei Xiaobao nodded. “So they are the bald thieves,” he said, “And then what happened?”
Mu Tianyan said, “And then Wang Bo became a high-ranking official, the imperial court sent him to guard Yangzhou, and he returned to Mulan Courtyard. Naturally those monks were fawning on him. He went to see if the poem he inscribed on the wall was still there or not, but he saw a piece of expensive jade green muslin pasted on the wall, covering the two lines of poem he wrote, in order to avoid it being damaged. Wang Bo was deeply moved, he added two more lines after the original poem, ‘Thirty years ago dust covered the surface, only now it is covered with jade green muslin.’”
“Surely he arrested those bald thieves and had them flogged?” Wei Xiaobao asked.
Mu Tianyan said, “Wang Bo was an elegant scholar, he thought that the two lines of poem already ridiculed them, hence he let it pass.”
Wei Xiaobao thought, “If it were me, how could I give up that easily? But if I had to write a poem, I don’t have that kind of skill. Laozi can only defecate, cannot write a poem.”
After the story, the tea was removed and the wine was poured. Wei Xiaobao looked around. He caught Wang Jinbao on separate table was pouring a cup of wine into his mouth; the way he drink was very straightforward. Wei Xiaobao had an idea, “General Wang,” he said, “You told me once that the war-horses that eat Chinese peony are especially full of power and grandeur, didn’t you?” While he spoke, he winked at him.
Wang Jinbao did not understand his intention, “This …” he stammered.
Wei Xiaobao said, “His Majesty selects and uses famous species of good horses: Mongolian horses, Western Region horses, Sichuan horses, Yunnan horses, what have you. His Majesty instructed us to raise those horses carefully, didn’t he?”
Wang Jinbao knew about Kangxi accumulated war horses with diligent care. “Daren is right,” he said.
“You are well acquainted with horses’ character,” Wei Xiaobao continued, “When we were in Beijing, you said that if war-horses are fed Chinese peony, their running speed will double. His Majesty loves horses like this, we as his servants should uphold the Holy Sage’s intention. If we dig the Chinese peony in this place and send it to the Capital, so that the Ministry of War’s carriage manager can feed the horse. When His Majesty finds out, his dragon countenance will surely be very pleased.”
When the people heard this, their countenance looked extremely strange; Chinese peony flowers can strengthen the horse? It was the first time that they heard about it. Looking at Wang Jinbao, they noticed his expression was ambiguous, apparently he disagreed, but did not dare to object blatantly. Yet Wei Xiaobao kept saying His Majesty this and His Majesty that, he was ‘lifting high the Emperor’s hat’; who would dare to show the slightest objection? They all could see that these several thousand famous varieties of Chinese peony would be destroyed in his hands. Henceforth Yangzhou would lose one scenic spot. But why did this Wei Daren hate these Chinese peonies so much? Everybody looked at each other in dismay, nobody could say anything.
Prefectural magistrate Wu Zhirong said, “Wei Daren’s scholarly knowledge is profound, indeed worthy of other people’s admiration. This Chinese peony’s root is called Scarlet Peony. The Compendium of Medical Herbs mentions that its function is to reduce internal blood clot and improve blood circulation. The name Chinese peony [shaoyao] itself has the character ‘yao’ [medicine] in it; apparently the people of old recognized its good medicinal character. When the horse eats Chinese peony, its blood vessels unimpeded, naturally it can run like flying. When Daren returns to the Capital, lowly officer will have all the Chinese peony flowers here dug out and have Daren carry it back to the Capital.”
When the other officials heard this, in their hearts they all scolded Wu Zhirong as despicable and shameless, in order to curry favor with a superior officer, he was willing to go as far as destroying Yangzhou’s beautiful scenery. Wei Xiaobao clapped his hands and said, “Wu Daren is capable and experienced. Very good, very good.”
Wu Zhirong felt much honored; he hastily stood up to bow and said, “Thank you for Daren’s compliment.”
The administrative commissioner Mu Tianyan walked out of the canopy toward a cluster of Chinese peonies. He picked a big Chinese peony, as big as a rice bowl, and returned to the table; with both hands he presented the flower to Wei Xiaobao and said with a laugh, “Would Daren please stick this flower on your hat? Lowly officer has a story for Daren to hear.”
Hearing that he was about to listen to another story, Wei Xiaobao received the flower; he saw that the Chinese peony’s petals were dark red, with a yellow line running right the in middle of each petal, it was indeed a tender and beautiful flower, hence he inserted it onto his hat.
Mu Tianyan said, “Congratulations Daren, this Chinese peony has a name; it is called the ‘Gold Band All Around’. It is a very rare variety, there is a writing in the ancient books that whoever can see this ‘Gold Band All Around’, in the future he could be the Prime Minister.”
Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “How can there be such thing?”
Mu Tianyan said, “The story originated during the Northern Song Dynasty. In those days Han Weigong [Duke of Wei], Han Qi, was guarding Yangzhou. In the Chinese peony garden, right here, in front of the Chanzhi Temple, suddenly four big flowers bloomed on one Chinese peony tree, the petals were dark red, with gold thread right in the middle; it was precisely this ‘Gold Band All Around’. This kind of Chinese peony had never been seen before, it was extremely rare. His subordinates promptly reported this, Han Weigong graced the garden with his presence to enjoy the scenery; he was very happy. Seeing there were four flowers, he thought about inviting three guests to enjoy the flowers together.”
Wei Xiaobao took down his hat to look at the flower again; indeed the red and yellow produced stark contrast, it was exceptionally marvelous. The lines of golden stripes may not be found in a hundred flowers.
Mu Tianyan said, “At that time there were two well-known persons in Yangzhou, one was Wang Gui, the other Wang Anshi; both were people of talent and learning, of knowledge and experience. Han Weigong thought, there were four flowers, but only three people; unavoidably ‘everything is fine except for one small defect’. If he were to invite other person, their prestige may not fit the other three. While he was hesitating, suddenly someone came to pay respect to him; it was Chen Shengzhi. He was also a famous scholar. Han Weigong was greatly delighted; the next day he held a big feast in front of the Chinese peony garden. He had the four ‘Gold Band All Around’ flowers picked and inserted into each man’s hat. This story is called ‘The Feast of Four Prime Ministers with flowers on their hats’. These four men later on became Prime Ministers.”
Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Interesting. These four honorable friends were all famous intellectual, people who could write poem and write essays. Xiongdi cannot be compared to them.”
“That is not necessarily so,” Mu Tianyan replied, “During the Northern Song Dynasty, only intellectuals can become Prime Ministers. Our Great Qing conquered the world on horseback. The ones esteemed the most by His Majesty are brave and cunning heroes and warriors.” Hearing the comment ‘brave and cunning heroes and warriors’, nine characters [you yong you mou de ying xiong hao han], Wei Xiaobao could not help but was very happy. He nodded his head repeatedly.
Mu Tianyan continued, “Han Weigong was conferred the title Duke of Wei Country, it goes without saying. Wang Anshi was bestowed the title Duke of Jing Country, Wang Gui was made Duke of Qi Country, and Chen Shengzhi became Duke of Xiu Country. Not only these four famous feudal officials became Prime Ministers, they were all bestowed the title ‘Country Duke’; not only each one had riches and honor, they also had long life. Wei Daren attained much in your youth, right now you are bestowed the title Bojue [Earl/Count], if you are promoted one more level, you will be Houjue [Marquis]; one more level and you will become Gongjue [Duke]. Even Wang [King] or Qinwang [Prince (royalty)] is just a matter of time.”
Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud and said, “If only it will be according to Mu Daren’s golden mouth, then everybody here will also be promoted and gain wealth.”
All the officials rose and held the wine cups with both hands; they said, “Congratulations to Wei Daren for your upcoming promotions, Gong and Hou for ten thousand generations.”
Wei Xiaobao also stood up and drank the toast together with the numerous officials; he thought, “This official is both scholarly and eloquent, he can tell stories and attract people’s attention. If I call him to Beijing to work for me, I can frequently listen to his stories, won’t it be better than listening to the storytellers? By nature this man is a big king of flattery, he was given the name Mu Tianyan [lit. admiring heaven’s countenance]; clearly he always wanted to have an audience with the Emperor.”
Mu Tianyan continued, “Afterwards Han Weigong led the troops to guard the western border. Seeing him, Western Xia people were scared to death, they did not dare to send any troops to disturb the border. At that time the Western Xia people feared two Song Dynasty ministers, one was Han Weigong, Han Qi; the other was Fan Wenzhenggong, Fan Zhongyan. At that time there was a saying, ‘With a Han in the army, western thieves hear it and their hearts tremble; with a Fan in the army, western thieves hear it and were frightened that their guts busted’. In the future Wei Daren will lead the troops to guard the western border, there will be a saying, ‘With a Wei in the army, western thieves see it and hastily kneel down’!”
Wei Xiaobao loved it very much; he said, “These two characters ‘western thieves’ are very clever. Ping Xi Wang that western …” Suddenly he remembered, “Wu Sangui has not yet risen in rebellion; I cannot call him ‘western thief’.” Hastily he corrected himself, “Ping Xi Wang is guarding the western border, we have peace and security without any problem; he has rendered very great merit.”
Wu Zhirong said, “Ping Xi Wang is brave and resourceful, he performs high service through hard work, he was bestowed the title Qinwang, the heir apparent has become the Prince Consort. In the future Wei Daren will have great riches and great honor, will live as long as Mount Nan, definitely you will be no different than Ping Xi Wang.”
In his heart Wei Xiaobao cursed, “Hot piece mama, you want me to be no different than Wu Sangui that big traitor. This old turtle will have his head removed any day, you want me to be the same as him?”
 Compiled by Li Shizhen, c. 1596.
 Wang Anshi (1021-1086), Song Dynasty politician and writer, one of the Eight Giants.
 Duke of Wenzheng, ‘wen (culture/literature/gentle) zheng (upright/just)’ being his posthumous title.
 In these three phrases, the word ‘tremble’ (han) rhymes with the surname Han, the word ‘busted guts’ (po dan) rhymes with the surname Fan, and the word ‘knee down’ [xia gui] rhymes with the surname Wei.