This is a fan translation of Jin Yong's last book, The Deer and the Cauldron (Lu Ding Ji). In translating this story, I am making a conscious effort to stick as close as possible to the original Chinese text (even more so that my previous works), for two reasons:
1. To distance this work as far as possible from existing work (i.e. John Minford's)
2. To save time, since I do not have to think too much about the proper English equivalent of the words.
Therefore, the names, titles (you won't find 'Trinket', 'Whisker Mao', 'Misty', 'Helmsman' and the like here), and especially curse words (which, surprisingly, Jin Yong used a lot in this book. WARNING: this story is not suitable for children) are kept in their original forms, or translated literally. Those of you who are used to Hollywood-style cussing may find it sounds a bit strange. The only exception is 'tamade' [他妈的], which I translate as 'damn it'. I even keep the units of measurement in their original form, with modern day equivalent in footnote. For the same reason, I apologize for grammatically-inaccurate and other sounds-rather-strange sentences.
This is a massive work. Jin Yong's original work consists of 5 books, 10 chapters each. I browsed Minford's, and found that his work consists of 28 chapters plus the prologue, i.e. Minford skipped a lot of text. Even so, his work is published in three books; just imagine how much text I'll have to translate ... I will try my best to finish it, but I make no promise to do so.
Last but not least, HuntingX has agreed to join me in this endeavor, so hopefully together we will be able to finish this story.
The title of Chapter 1 is 纵横钩党清流祸, 峭茜风期月旦评. I am not able to translate it into a concise sentence, but here is what it means: the disaster by running amuck, crooked gang of Qing became the object of day in and day out impromptu discussion and roundabout critique of scholars west of the mountain.
I read through HuntingX’s translation and browse John Minford's. It seems to me that toward the end, it was almost identical to John Minford's, and HuntingX did confirm it. I might come back and edit it later. But for now, please refer to DOMD Translation (Take 2) thread.
Chapter 1 Crooked bunch went on a rampage courting disaster, discussing early morning moon during high wind.
(Translated by Foxs)
Northern wind as sharp as a blade, ice and frost covered the earth.
Along a Jiangnan [area south of the River, i.e. Yangtze] coastal road, a company of Qing troops with sabers and spears in their hands was escorting seven prisoner carriages, braving the wind and the cold as they travelled northward. The first three carriages in the front separately held three men, all dressed as scholars. One was an old man with white hair, the other two were middle-aged men. The four carriages on the rear held women, the very last prisoner carriage held a young woman, holding a baby girl in her bosom. The baby was crying incessantly. Her mother comforted her with tender voice, but the baby kept crying loudly. A Qing soldier by the prisoner carriage got angry, he lifted his leg and kicked the carriage. “Keep crying, keep crying,” he shouted, “Laozi will kick you dead!” The baby was scared, she cried even louder.
There was a big house several dozen zhang [unit of length, approximately 10 ft or 3 m], away from the road; under the eaves of the house stood a middle-aged scholar and a boy about eleven or twelve. Seeing this situation, he could not help heaving a deep sigh, his eyes also turned red as he said, “Have mercy, have mercy!”
“Die die [pronounced ‘dee-eh’ – Dad],” the boy asked, “What crime have they committed?”
“What crime have they committed?” the scholar echoed, “Yesterday and this morning they already arrested more than thirty people, all are our Zhejiang’s famous intellectuals, each and every one is innocent and is only guilty by association.” When he said the four words ‘innocent, guilty by association’ [wu gu zhu lian], he lowered his voice considerably, afraid that the officers and men escorting the prisoner carriages would hear it.
The boy said, “That little baby girl is still sucking the breast, could it be that she also committed the same crime? Really does not make any sense.”
The scholar said, “You understand that the officers and men do not make any sense, you are a really good child. Ay, others are the sacrifical knife and altar, we are the fish and the meat; others are the [tree-legged] cauldron, we are the elk!”
“Die,” he boy said, “Just a few days ago you taught me that the phrase ‘others are the sacrifical knife and altar, we are the fish and the meat’ carries the meaning that other people behead, cut and massacre us. Others are the cutting cleaver, the hot iron plate, and we are the fish, the meat. These few words ‘Others are the cauldron, we are the elk’, is the meaning also more or less the same?”
“Exactly!” the scholar replied. Seeing the officers and men, along with the prisoner carriages have already far away, he pulled the boy’s hand and said, “It’s too windy outside, let us go back into the house.” Right away father and son entered the study room.
The scholar picked up a writing brush and dipped it into the ink, and then he wrote a character ‘deer’ on a piece of paper. He said, “This beast, the deer, although they are huge, their temper is extremely gentle, they only eat grass and leaves, they never harm other animals. When the fierce animals want to harm them, eat them, they can only run. If they cannot run, then they will be eaten by others.”
And then he wrote two more characters ‘zhu lu’ [pursue the deer, fig. to vie for supremacy], and said, “For this reason the ancients often used the deer as a metaphor of the world. Common people on the earth are all docile, good and honest; their allotted share in life is only to be bullied and slaughtered by others. The ‘History of Han Dynasty’ says, ‘Qin lost its deer, people all over the world chase after it.’ What it means is that the Qin Dynasty lost the world, the heroes rose together, everybody fought over, finally Han Gaozu defeated Chu Bawang [overlord/hegemon Chu], and thus he obtained this big and fat deer.”
The boy nodded and said, “I understand. There is a novel talking about ‘hunting deer in the central plain’, the idea is that everybody struggle to become the Emperor.”
The scholar was delighted; he nodded repeatedly. He drew a picture of a cauldron on the paper and said, “When people of old cooked their food, they did not use pot on the stove, but used this kind of three-legged cauldron, with firewood underneath it. When they caught a deer, they cooked it in the cauldron and ate it. Emperors and high-ranking officials were very cruel, if they did not like someone, they would say that man committed a crime and boiled him alive in the cauldron. There is a written account in the ‘Record of the Grand Historian’ about Lin Xiangru saying to the King of Qin, ‘Chen [I, your servant; a minister referring to himself when talking to a ruler] is aware that I have offended the Great King and deserve to be punished by death, Chen asks for a cauldron.’ In other words, ‘I deserve to die, just burn me to death in a cauldron!’”
The boy said, “The novel often says about ‘to inquire of the cauldron’. This phrase seems to have more or less the same meaning as ‘hunting deer in the central plain’.”
“That’s right,” the scholar said, “King of Xia Yu collected metal from the nine divisions [of China during the earliest dynasties] and cast nine large cauldrons. At that time, the so-called ‘metal’ was actually copper. Each cauldron was cast with the names of the nine divisions and a map of the mountains and rivers. When later generations became the ruler of the world, they retained the nine cauldrons. ‘Mr. Zuo’s Annals’ noted: ‘Viscount of Chu inspected his troops at the Zhou border. The present King sent the king’s grandson Man to console Viscount Chu. Viscount Chu inquired the size and weight of the cauldron.’ Only the ruler of the world can keep the nine cauldrons. The King of Chu was merely a feudal prince from the State of Chu, he inquired about the size and weight of the cauldron, it means he harbored intention to rebel, thinking of taking the King of Zhou’s position for himself.”
The boy said, “So ‘inquiring of the cauldron’ and ‘pursuing the deer’ means someone wanted to be the emperor. ‘Not knowing to whom the deer falls’ means not knowing who might become the emperor.”
“Exactly,” the scholar said, “Later on, ‘inquiring of the cauldron’ and ‘pursuing the deer’, four characters [wen ding, zhu lu] can also be used elsewhere, but the original idea was pointing especially to one who wanted to be the emperor.” Speaking to this point, he sighed and said, “We, as common people, are always at the death’s door. ‘Not knowing to whom the deer falls’ simply say that nobody knows who would kill the deer, but this deer is bound to die.”
Finished speaking, he walked over to the window and looked out. He saw the sky was overcast, apparently it was going to snow. He sighed and said, “Why is Laotianye [God/Heaven] so heartless? Several hundred innocent people walk on this ice and frost covered earth, when the snow falls, it will add to their torment.”
Suddenly he saw on the southern end of the main road two men wearing conical bamboo hat, walking side by side to this direction. When they were near, he could recognize their faces. The scholar was delighted; he said, “Your Huang Bobo [father’s elder brother] and Gu Bobo are here!” Quickly he went outside to meet them; he called out, “Lizhou Xiong [brother, generic term], Tinglin Xiong, which good wind has blown the two of you to honor me with your presence?”
The man on the right was short and stout, his chin was covered in black beard; his surnamed was Huang, given name Zongxi, alias Lizhou [lit. pear island], a native of Yuyao [county level city in Ningbo], Zhejiang. The one on the left was slim and tall, his face dark, surnamed Gu, given name Yanwu, alias Tinglin [lit. pavilion forest], a native of Kunshan [county level city, Suzhou], Jiangsu. Huang and Gu, two people were great scholars of the present age. After the Ming [dynasty] perished, their hearts were broken over the changes to their country, they went to live in seclusion and quit their official posts; this day they ‘join sleeves’ to uphold virtue.
Gu Yanwu walked several steps closer before saying, “Wancun [lit. evening village] Xiong, there is an urgent business we need to discuss with you.”
The scholar was surnamed Lu, given name Liuliang, his alias was Wancun; in all his life he resided in Chongde County of Hangzhou Prefecture, Zhejiang. He was also a very famous hermit in the late Ming, early Qing dynasties. He noticed Huang and Gu, two men’s grim countenance; he also knew that Gu Yanwu was always very adaptable and was always calm in facing anything; therefore, when he said it was urgent, naturally it was indeed not a small matter. Cupping his fist, he said, “Gentlemen, please come in and drink three cups first to dissolve the cold air.”
Immediately he took the two men inside and ordered the boy, “Baozhong, tell your Niang [mother], Huang Bobo, Gu Bobo are here; cut two dishes of lamb in paste first to down the wine.”
Shortly afterwards, the boy, Lu Baozhong and his brother Yizhong came out with three sets of cups and chopsticks and arranged them on the study room’s table. An old servant came out with the food and drink. Lu Liuliang waited until the three people withdrew before he closed the study room’s door and said, “Huang Xiong, Gu Xiong, please drink three cups first!”
Huang Zongxi looked distressed; he shook his head. Gu Yanwu poured a drink for himself and downed six cups in one breath.
Lu Liuliang said, “Gentlemen came here this time, does it have something to do with the case of ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’?”
“Exactly!” Huang Zongxi said.
Gu Yanwu picked up the wine cup and loudly moaned, “’Although cool breeze is fine, it cannot blow me, why can’t the bright moon illuminate people?’ Wancun Xiong, this poem of yours is indeed the most perfect song! Everytime I drink wine, I always recite this poem, and I am always moved big time.”
Lu Liuliang always had the old country in his heart, he was unwilling to take official post with the Qing dynasty. Local high-ranking government officials admired his reputation and sponsored and recommended him as the ‘mountain hermit’, to be recruited as official of the imperial court. Lu Liuliang adamantly refused. The local official did not dare to force him. Later on another high-ranking official sponsored and recommended him as the ‘profound scholar’. Lu Liuliang saw that if ke kept refusing, it would appear that he was disparaging and insulting the imperial court; inevitably he would bring the disaster of execution upon himself. Thereupon he shaved his head to become a fake Buddhist monk. The local officials saw his determination and henceforth no longer urging him to ‘leave the mountain’.
The poem about ‘cool breeze, bright moon’ was to mock the Manchurian Qing [lit. clear/cool] and cherish to memory of former Ming [lit. bright]. Although he did not dare to have it printed and circulated, it spread far and wide among the like-minded friends and colleagues, and this moment Gu Yanwu recited it again.
“Really good poem!” Huang Zongxi said, as he picked up the wine cup and downed it in one gulp.
“Gentlemen praised wrongly.” Lu Liuliang said.
Gu Yanwu looked up and saw a scroll of painting hanging on the wall, about five chi [Chinese foot, approx. 1/3 of a meter] tall, and almost a zhang wide, a painting of a wide expanse of landscape. The brush stroke moved unhindered, the scene looked grand; he could not help but loudly shouted his praise. The painting only had four large characters on it, ‘ru ci jiang shan’ [lit. in this way the rivers and mountains; loosely translated: ‘this is our country’]. He said, “Looking at the brush stroke, it is Mr. Erzhan’s painting.”
“Exactly,” Lu Liuliang said. This ‘Erzhan’ was surnamed Zha, given name Shibao, a great painter of the late Ming, early Qing dynasties; he was also a good friend of Gu, Huang and Lu.
Huang Zongxi said, “This kind of good painting, how come there is no annotation?”
Lu Liuliang sighed and said, “This painting of Mr. Erzhan’s has a rather deep meaning. Only he is a very staid and prudent man; since he did not put any signature on it, he did not put any annotation either. He stayed in my humble abode last month, for a short while he was happy and painted this for me. How about the two gentlemen inscribe several sentences on it?”
Gu and Huang, two men stood up and walked over to have a closer look at the painting. They saw the grand river flowing expansively to the east, with countless ridges and peaks on both sides, sprinkled with wonderful trees and strange rock formations. Only the scenery was covered in a mist; although the mountains and the rivers were beautiful, there was a sense of dismal feeling deep in the hearts of the people who look at it.
Gu Yanwu said, “This beautiful land sinks into oblivion in the hands of barbarians. Our generation submit to humiliation and live without purpose; it’s really stuffing our breasts with grieve and indignation. Wancun Xiong, if it is not inconvenient, why don’t you inscribe a poem to display Mr. Erzhan’s meaning?”
“Alrght!” Lu Liuliang said. Immediately he took down the painting and spread it out on the table. Huang Zongxi ground the ink. Lu Liuliang pondered deeply for half a day, and then his brush started to dance on the painting. In a short time it was finished:
“Is it the Song (dynasty) crossing to the south? In this way the rivers and mountains are in disgrace. Is it after the cliff of the mountain? In this way the rivers and mountains cannot bear to be looked at. Only today I comprehend the meaning of the painting, weeping bitter tears seems the right thing to do. Because today I looked at former times just like now, swallowing my cries need not bridle my mouth. The painting spread on the table is a western platform for tears, delving deeply into the picture taking up my pen brightly and brilliantly. Therefore, a picture without poetry and literatture, poetry and literature being exhausted in just four characters. Once grew accustomed to come across the beginning of Hong Wu, as if undiscerning, ignorant pupil of the eye and the lame able to tread on. Mountains and rivers clear up, the former wall completed, how can looking at scenic place not bring ecstasy?”
The poem completed, he tossed the brush to the floor and burst into tears.
Gu Yanwu said, “Delightfully uninhibited. It is indeed an exquisitely good ballad.”
“This poem is not subtle at all,” Lu Liuliang said, “It can’t be considered good, I was merely spelling out Mr. Erzhan’s original idea, so that people who look at the painting may know.”
Huang Zongxi said, “When the former country will repeat its light, that the ‘mountains and rivers clear up, the former wall completed’ part. Even thought it was full of barren hills and treacherous rapids, those who look at it will have their bosom greatly free; it is indeed ‘how can looking at scenic place not bring ecstasy?’”
Part 2 Gu Yanwu said, “This poem is written very well! There will come a day when the barbarians will be driven out and taken captives, and our great Han’s mountains and rivers will be restored. Compared to believers like us pouring out grief and indignation, the people’s spirit will be even more strengthened.”
Huang Zongxi slowly rolled the painting and said, “This painting can’t be hung anymore, Wancun Xiong must hide it well. Supposing crafty scoundrel like Wu Zhirong saw it, the authorities will investigate, while admittedly Wancun Xiong will be inconvenienced, Mr. Erzhan will be weighed down as well.”
Gu Yanwu slapped the table and cursed, “That dog thief Wu Zhirong, I really wish I could eat his meat raw.”
Lu Liuliang said, “Gentlemen are neglecting the urgent matter you mentioned earlier. We, the scholars, fall into an old habit, composing poem and inscribing painting, and put aside proper business. I wonder what is it?”
Huang Zongxi said, “This time the two of us came, it was for the sake of Mr. Erzhan’s distant relative [of the same surname], Mr. Yihuang. The day before yesterday Xiaodi [little brother, referring to self] and Gu Xiong received news that in this big case of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, unexpectedly Mr. Yihuang is also implicated.”
Lu Liuliang was alarmed. “Yihuang Xiong is implicated?” he asked.
“That’s right,” Huang Zongxi said, “The day before yesterday the two of us rushed toward Yuanhua town in Haining [county, Jiaxing, Zhejiang], but Mr. Yihuang was not home at all, they said he was out to visit a friend. Seeing the urgency of the situation, Yanwu Xiong hastily urged Mr. Yihuang’s household to go into hiding that very same night. Remembering Mr. Yihuang and Wancun Xiong are good friends, we came with the specific purpose to inquire of you.”
Lu Liuliang said, “He … he did not come here. I don’t know where he went.”
Gu Yanwu said, “If he was in your respected residence, he would have come out already to meet us. I already inscribed a poem on the wall of his study room, if he came back home, he would have understood and hastened to go into hiding. What I am afraid of is that the did not hear the news and appeared in public, then the authority would arrest him; it would be terrible.”
Huang Zongxi said, “In this case of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, nearly all our western Zhejiang’s famous scholars have met with evil scheme. The Qing court’s intention is really vicious, Wancun Xiong’s fame is really too great, Tinglin Xiong and Xiaodi’s thought is that we want to urge Wancun Xiong to leave home and travel far for the time being, to take shelter from the wind.”
Lu Liuliang indignantly said, “If the Tatar Emperor arrest me and take me to Beijing, I don’t care if he makes mincemeat out of me, in any case I will be able to curse him a bit to vent this resentment in my chest, and then I’ll die without a moment’s hesitation.”
Gu Yanwu said, “Wancun Xiong’s heroism reaching to the clouds, you make other people filled with admiration. I am afraid you will not see the Tatar Emperor but will die under some lowly slaves’ hands. Furthermore, the Tatar Emperor is only a child, he doesn’t understand anything, the political power of the imperial court is entirely in the powerful minister Oboi’s hands. Xiongdi and Lizhou Xiong reckon that this time the case of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ is exposed with great fanfare, it passes like thunder and moves like the wind, it is because Oboi wants to dampen our Jiangnan scholars’ spirit.”
Lu Liuliang said, “Gentlemen’s view is correct. Ever since the Qing troops entered the Pass, they went on the rampage in Jiangbei [area north of the River] unhindered, as soon as they came to Jiangnan, they encountered resistance everywhere, particularly the intellectuals who know how to guard against Chinese-Barbarian relationship, constantly giving them trouble. Oboi is seizing this opportunity to suppress us, Jiangnan scholars. Humph, even a prairie fire cannot destroy the grass, it grows again when the breeze blows; unless he wipes out us all, Jiangnan intellectuals.”
“That’s right,” Huang Zongxi said, “For this reason we want to retain useful people to deal with the Tatars to the end. If we flaunt our blood and vital breath and show bravery for a period of time, we will fall prey to Tatars’ scheme.”
Lu Liuliang understood immediately, Huang and Gu two people braved the cold, one was to look for Zha Yihuang, two was to urge him to flee; they were afraid he might not be unable to hold back and thus would deliver his life in vain. Good friends made painstaking effort, he was deeply grateful. “Gentlemen’s gems of wisdom, how can Xiongdi dare not to follow?” he said, “Early in the morning tomorrow Xiongdi’s entire family will leave.”
Huang and Gu, two people were greatly delighted. “That is only proper,” they both said.
Lu Liuliang hesitantly said, “But I don’t know where should I go?” He felt that in the boundless horizon, everywhere was the Tatars’ world; there was really not a single clean soil. “Where is Taoyuan [the Garden of the Peaches of Immortality] that I can escape from cruel Qin? Where is Taoyuan that I can escape from cruel Qin?” he muttered irresolutely.
Gu Yanwu said, “In the world today, if there really exists Taoyuan paradise, we still cannot liberate ourselves and go into hiding …”
Without waiting for him to finish, Lu Liuliang slapped the table and stood up; he said in a loud voice, “Tinglin Xiong’s reprimand this time is so true, the rise and fall of the nation concerns everyone, we can temporarily flee from disaster, but if we hide in Peach Flower Garden, freely and leisurely, while the millions and millions common people suffer under the Tatars’ iron hoof, how can our hearts be at peace? Xiongdi has a slip of the tongue.”
Gu Yanwu smiled and said, “In recent years Xiongdi has roamed far and wide, I indeed make not a few friends. On both sides of the Great River, as far as I can see and hear, not only the intellectuals are opposing the Tatars, even peddlers and carriers, butchers and marketplace people, everywhere people’s hearts are filled with hot blooded heroic spirit. If Wancun Xiong so desires, the three of us can go to Yangzhou together. How about Xiongdi introduce you to several kindred spirits?”
Lu Liuliang was greatly delighted. “Wonderful, wonderful!” he exclaimed, “Tomorrow all of us are going to Yangzhou. Gentlemen please sit back and relax, Xiongdi is going to inform my humble wife, let her pack.” Finished speaking he hurried inside.
Shortly afterwards Lu Liuliang returned to the study room and said, “About the case of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, although there are rumors everywhere on the outside, but one, rumors are not necessarily true, two, people are in a lot of apprehensions, they do not dare to speak everything openly. Xiongdi lives alone in a snail’s home, I do not know the details; what exactly was the cause?”
Gu Yanwu sighed and said, “This book the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, all of us have seen it. The content is not too respectful toward the Tatars, that much is true. This book originated from our Great Ming’s Prime Minister Zhu Guozhen’s hands. Speaking about establishing an administrative division outside the Pass; how can it be polite toward the Tatars?”
Lu Liuliang nodded and said, “I heard the Zhuang family of Huzhou has spent several thousand taels of silver to buy the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ manuscript from Prime Minister Zhu’s later generations’ hands to be published; unexpectedly it brewed this kind of catastrophe.”
Western Zhejiang’s Hangzhou, Jiaxing, and Huzhou, three prefectures were located on the bank of Lake Tai, the land was flat, the soil fertile, abound in rice and natural silk. Huzhou prefecture’s principal county magistrate is known as Wuxing County today, during the Qing dynasty, it was divided into Wu Cheng and Gui An, two counties. From the beginning its literary style was extremely flourishing, people of talents and scholars of successive generations came forth in large numbers. During the Liang period, Shen Yue [441-513, writer and historian] divide the Chinese characters into four tones, namely level or even tone, third tone, fourth tone and entering tone. During the Yuan era, painting and calligraphy reached its best quality in Zhao Mengfu’s work. These were all Huzhou natives. Writing brush produced locally was well-known; Huzhou’s writing brush, Huizhou’s ink, Xuancheng’s paper, and Zhaoqing Duanxi’s [lit. end/extremity creek of Zhaoqing] ink-stone were famous all over the world as the ‘Four Treasures of the Study’.
There was a city in Huzhou prefecture called Nanxun. Although it was a small town, it was bigger than ordinary county capitals. There were a lot of rich families in town, among the famous rich families and big clans, there was one family by the surname of Zhuang. By this time the head of the Zhuang household was called Zhuang Yuncheng. He had several sons; the oldest was called Tinglong, who loved literature since his childhood, and had made quite a number of friends among famous and gifted scholars of Jiangnan. During the Shunzhi years [second Qing emperor, 1644-1662], due to excessive reading, Zhuang Tinglong suddenly went blind. Famous doctors were searched, but no one was able to cure him; since then he grew melancholy and was depressed.
One day suddenly a young man surnamed Zhu from their neighborhood came with a manuscript, saying that it was his paternal grandfather, Prime Minister Zhu’s bequeathed draft that he wanted to mortgage to the Zhuang family, begging to borrow several hundred taels of silver. The Zhuang family was usually generous; they always showed consideration to Prime Minister Zhu’s later generations. Since he came to borrow money, they agreed immediately, without asking any surviving manuscript as collateral. But the young man surnamed Zhu said that after receiving the money, he was going on a journey to a distant land; if he carried his ancestor’s manuscript with him, he was afraid it would get lost, while he did not feel at ease to leave it at home, therefore, he wanted to keep it in the Zhuang family. Zhuang Yuncheng agreed.
After the young man surnamed Zhu left, to relieve his son’s boredom, Zhuang Yuncheng had the guests who settled in his house to read it aloud to him. For the most part, Zhu Guozhen’s manuscript of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ had been published and was widely available. This time the manuscript that his grandson brought to the Zhuang family to be mortgaged was actually the last of many articles of historical biography.
After listening to the guest [see footnote] reading for several days, Zhuang Tinglong was very interested. Suddenly he remembered, “In the past Zuo Qiuming [556-451 BC], who was also a blind man, was able to write ‘Mr. Zuo’s Annals’ and hence enjoy the benefit of great name for a thousand years. Today I am blind and bored of staying idle at home, why not composing a history book to be circulated to the later generations?”
For rich families, everything was easy. Since he had the desire to do this, immediately he hired quite a few scholars to have the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ manuscript read to him from top to bottom. He considered which section needed to be expanded, and which section needed to be deleted; he recounted his thought orally and had the guests write it down. However, thinking that being blind he was incapable to extensively examine the written record, when this ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ was finished and published, if there were a lot of errors in it, not only he would not enjoy the fame, he might be ridiculed instead. Thereupon he spent large quantities of money to employ many scholars who knew this subject very well, to amend and revise, to research this subject and bring the book to perfection. Some of the great scholars were people who could not be invited with wealth, Zhuang Tinglong passed this matter through many hands and humbly invited them. The banks of Lake Tai were always teeming with literary scholars, those who received the Zhuang family’s invitation, on one hand they took pity of the blind and was touched by his sincerity, on the other hand they believed that compiling the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ was a beautiful thing. Most of them stayed in the Zhuang family’s home for ten days or half a month to work on the manuscript; some correcting the errors, some adding notes or even one or two sections. For this reason the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ was definitely a collective power of not a few writing brushes of many great hands. Not long after the book was completed, Zhuang Tinglong passed away.
Grief-stricken by his beloved son’s death, Zhuang Yuncheng immediately published the book. Publishing books during the Qing dynasty was really not easy, one must recruit artisans to engrave wood blocks one by one before printing the book. This book ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ was voluminous, the cost to hire the engravers and the printers was considerable. Fortunately the Zhuang family had plenty of money, they set aside several large houses as factories and invited many artisans. Several years later the books and publications were completed.
The book was titled ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’, with Zhuang Tinglong listed as the compiler, famous scholar Li Lingxi was asked to write the preface. All scholars who have helped with this project were also listed: Mao Yuanxi, Wu Zhiming, Wu Zhirong [different characters from Wu Zhirong mentioned by Huang Zongxi and Gu Yanwu above], Li Qitao, Mao Cilai, Wu Chu, Tang Yuanlou, Yan Yunqi, Jiang Linzhi, Wei Jinyou, Wei Yiyuan, Zhang Juan, Dong Eryou, Wu Yan, Pan Chengzhang, Lu Qi, Zha Jizuo, Fan Xiang; eighteen people altogether. The book also mentioned that the content was based on Zhu clan’s manuscript, which was expanded and deleted. However, Zhu Guozhen was a prime minister of the Ming Dynasty, his fame was too great, it was unsuitable to mention his full name; therefore, it was mentioned vaguely as ‘Zhu Clan’s manuscript’.
Having undergone so many scholars composing, verifying and revising, the ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’ had a very exquisite style, its coverage was comprehensive and clear, the script was magnificent, the layout was in good taste; its publication has garnered praise from literary community. The Zhuang family’s aspiration was to become famous, the books were sold at a very inexpensive price.
When the manuscript touched upon Manchuria, there were originally not a few of criticism and exposures of past misdeeds, which the editors had already deleted one by one, but sentences showing approval to the Ming Dynasty were inevitable. At that time the Ming had not fallen for too long, the intellectuals still cherished the memory of their former country; as soon as the book went into publication, it immediately reached best-seller status, Zhuang Tinglong’s name was buzzing north and south of the Great River. Despite the pain of the death of his son, seeing his son became famous after his death, Zhuang Yuncheng’s old heart was greatly comforted.
Troubled times are when lowly people accomplish their ambition, while people of noble character meet calamity. The county head magistrate of Huzhou’s Gui An County was one surnamed Wu, given name Zhirong, who committed corruption and abuse of the law during his tenure. Common people gnashed their teeth in anger toward him, eventually someone lodged an accusation and the imperial court had him deposed.
Although when he was the county head magistrate of Gui An, Wu Zhirong raked in more than ten thousand taels, during the court proceeding and investigation of his disposal, he bribed to the east and sent a gift to the west, spending money everywhere to avoid being searched and his possession confiscated, these ten thousand taels booty were obliterated completely, even the people in his household left him, their whereabouts unknown.
With his official post and his wealth gone, he had no choice but to go from house to house to seek gratuitous financial help, saying that he was a just and honest official who had fallen hard and lost his post, that he did not even have enough travel expenses and was incapable of embarking on the journey home. Some rich people simply wanted to avoid trouble and gave him ten taels or eight taels. When he got to the rich Zhu family, the master of the home, Zhu Youming was an upright person of noble character who shunned evil. Not only he did not give him anything, he ruthlessly derided Wu Zhirong, saying that Sire took an official post in Huzhou, you have caused common people a great deal of hardship; even if I, the Ol’ Zhu, have some money, I would rather donate it to the poor people who suffer under Sire’s administration.
Although Wu Zhirong was enraged, he was incapable of lashing it out. Since he was already deposed, he had no power and no influence; how could he take a case against a rich and powerful family? Thereupon he paid a visit to Zhuang Yuncheng. Zhuang Yuncheng usually made friends with impoverished scholars, but he looked down upon corrupt official like this. Seeing his arrival and request, he laughed coldly and gave him a tael of silver, saying, “Based on Sire’s conduct, I should not have given you this tael, but common people of Huzhou are hoping Sire would leave, the sooner the better. If this tael can hasten your departure just a moment sooner, then it will be good.”
 Lit. ‘old man’; 'I, your father' or simply 'I', used arrogantly or jocularly.
 Posthumous name of the first Han Emperor Liu Bang (256 or 247 – 195BC, reigned 202-195BC).
 ‘Alias’ – my dictionary gives this explanation: ‘courtesy or style name traditionally given to males age twenty in dynastic China’.
 Gu Yanwu (1613-1682), late Ming/early Qing Confucian philosopher, linguist and historian, played a founding role in phonology of early Chinese, author of ‘Record of Daily Study’. Huang Zongxi (1610-1695), scholar and writer of the Ming-Qing transition.
 Emperor Hong Wu, regnal name of first Ming emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398), reigned 1386-1398). Temple name Ming Taizu.
 I seem to remember reading about rich families in ancient China who had guests staying in their homes for an extended period of times. Interestingly, Bing Translator gives this definition: protégés of the powerful who stay with their benefactors like parasites.