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Thread: The Deer and The Cauldron - Unabridged Thread

  1. #381
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Default Chapter 49 - Part 5

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Dage, quickly lead the troops to urge them to stop fighting. This time you can grab the Ol’ Tai’s pigtail, I guarantee that from now on the Vanguard Battalion will never dare to go against us, the Imperial Bodyguards.”

    Reminded by Wei Xiaobao, Dolong was greatly delighted. He slapped his own forehead and said with a laugh, “I am such a muddle head! Such a good opportunity and I almost miss it. Brothers, let us all go to watch the excitement.” Leading the Imperial Bodyguards, he rushed toward Tian Shui Jing Alley.

    Wei Xiaobao looked at Feng Xifan who was still lying on the floor; he pondered, “How am I going to handle this fellow? If I release him, he would definitely report to His Majesty. Even if he did not mention my name, His Majesty would definitely guess that I have something to do with it.” With his hands behind his back he paced back and forth in the hall. He thought further, “Come dawn, Mao Dage will be executed. How can I save his life? A big name mansion attacking the execution ground, that won’t do. Execution ground, execution ground …” Suddenly he remembered the opera ‘exchanging a child on the execution ground’. “That’s it! Xue Gang ran into misfortune, he was executed along with his whole family unto the third generation. There was a white-bearded old man, Xu somebody, who took his own child to the execution ground and exchanged the child with the baby Xue somebody and took him out …”

    The number of opera he watched was indeed not a few, he might not be able to metion the names of the character in the play, but he remembered the stories very well. As soon as he recalled the ‘exchanging a child on the execution ground’, another opera came into his mind, “The ‘Searching alone saving alone’! This story is also not bad, there was this black-bearded man called Cheng Ying, who exchanged his own son with his master’s son, he let his own son be beheaded in order to save his master’s son’s life. It’s desperately serious. Fortunately Mao Dage’s age is not the same as my son’s. Otherwise, I would have to deliver Hutou, Tongchui to the execution ground to be beheaded in exchange for Mao Dage’s life. Although yi qi to a friend is most important, I can’t ever do this kind of matter. Very good, very good!” He kicked Feng Xifan, who was still lying on the floor, heavily and said, “Your luck is not bad, Wei Daren hereby accept you as my adopted son. Wei Daren’s real son I can’t bear to exchange, adopted son I can exchange as I wish.”

    Immediately he summoned the captain of his personal guards and gave him secret orders, he gave him one thousand taels, and another thousand taels to be divided among the other personal guards who were going to handle this matter. The captain bowed to express his thanks; he said, “Daren set your heart at ease, everything will be handled properly, there will be no mistake.”

    Finished making arrangement, Wei Xiaobao entered the inner hall. His seven wives and sons and daughter were summoned into the Palace by the Empress Dowager, the house was cold and cheerless. Still fully clothed he lay down in his bed for a while, soon dawn would arrive.

    By the chenpai hour [5th earthly branch, 7-9am] the Palace issued an imperial edict, “Jiang Yang Da Dao [notorious criminal, see also note 6 of Chapter 2] Mao Shiba has committed treason and heresy, insulted a high-ranking minister, he is to be beheaded. The Great General Fuyuan, First-class Duke of Luding Wei Xiaobao is hereby ordered to supervise the execution.”

    Wei Xiaobao received the imperial decree. Outside his mansion’s gate he selected several personal guards to accompany him. He saw Dolong, leading several dozen Imperial Bodyguards with Mao Shiba in custody, arrived. Mao Shiba’s eyes were blue, his nose swollen, his face was full of blood. It was obvious that he had received quite a beating. As soon as he saw Wei Xiaobao, he cursed and scolded, “Wei Xiaobao, you are a shameless traitor (to China). Today you become the supervising officer of Laozi’s execution, Laozi will die without any regret. Who told me that day to be so blind, that from a wh0re nest in Yangzhou I took you, this little traitor all the way to Beijing?”

    The personal guards shouted at him, but Mao Shiba’s cursing was growing more vicious. Wei Xiaobao did not pay him any attention, he asked Dolong, “How was Ol’ Tai?”

    Dolong laughed and said, “Last night I rushed over there, Ol’ Tai has already been grabbed by his Madame, his face was full of blood traces. As soon as he saw me, his face looked very awkward. I persuaded using all possible arguments, urging his Madame. I also took his eighth concubine into my home, and let my two concubines accompany her. Ol’ Tai showered me with a thousand thanks and ten thousand gratitudes, his appreciation was boundless.”

    “What does the eighth concubine look like?” Wei Xiaobao asked with a laugh.

    Dolong raised his thumb and said, “Hey, hey, amazing!”

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You must not ‘seing a beauty conceive a scheme’, taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune!”

    Dolong laughed aloud and said, “Xiongdi, set your hundred and twenty hearts at ease, how can your Dage be like that? Although Ol’ Tai is my longstanding opponent, this kind of shady business your Dage will definitely never do.”

    Presently the two of them brought Mao Shiba to the execution ground at the mouth of the food market. Dolong rode a horse, Wei Xiaobao rode a large carriage. Mao Shiba sat on an open top ox cart, his hands were tied behind his back, a piece of wooden signboard was on his neck; it said, “Offender to the throne: Mao Shiba.”

    The ox cart travelled along the main street from the horse and mule market westward, common people crowded by the street to watch. Along the way Mao Shiba was shouting and yelling, “After eighteen years, Laozi is still a hero, that’s why I am called Mao Shiba. I already knew that I was going to be beheaded.”

    The common people by the street cheered; they praised him, “He has guts, a really tough man.”

    They reached the execution ground at the mouth of the food market, at the intersection between the horse and mule market and the Xuan Wu Gate main street. That same night Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards had erected raised canopy. In front and at the rear of the canopy the security was very tight. Dolong received Kangxi’s instruction that there was a possibility Tian Di Hui would attack the execution ground, thereupon he had the Jiu Men Tidu deployed two thousand officers and men to guard all around the execution ground.

    Mao Shiba stood boldly at the center of the execution ground; he shouted, “We all are the people of the Great Han, our beautiful rivers and mountains are occupied by the Tatars. There will come a day that the Tatars will be wiped out completely!”

    Wei Xiaobao got down from his carriage and entered the canopy. The carriage was parked right next to the canopy. Wei Xiaobao took his seat, and then he invited Dolong to sit right next to him. Dolong knitted his brows and said, “This criminal is shouting treason and heresy, he is inciting the people in here. We must chop his head as quickly as possible.”

    “Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied. He shouted, “Bring the prisoner!”

    Four personal guards pushed Mao Shiba into the canopy and pushed him down to kneel, but Mao Shiba refused to kneel no matter what.

    “No need to kneel,” Wei Xiaobao said. Turning to Dolong he said, “Dage, please identify the prisoner, is he the one?”

    “He is!” Dolong said.

    “He is identified,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Offender to the throne: Mao Shiba.”

    Picking up a vermillion brush he drew a large circle on the wooden signboard, and threw it out. A personal guard picked up the signboard and dragged Mao Shiba out.

    “Duo Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I want to show you something interesting.” While saying that, he took out a fold of handkerchiefs from his sleeve pocket and showed it over in front of Dolong’s face.

    The handkerchief was embroidered with erotic picture. The man and woman featured in the picture looked beautiful and handsome, their posture was vivid. As soon as Dolong saw it, his eyes were glued to it. He flipped the handkerchief over, underneath was another embroidered handkerchief with different erotic picture, the posture was very strange. Dolong laughed and said, “This style looks very weird.”

    Flipping the handkerchiefs over, he found more embroidered erotic pictures, the posture in each picture was weirder than the previous ones; there was one man with two women, two men and three women, and so on. Dolong just looked on and his blood was boiling. “Xiongdi,” he said with a laugh, “Where did you get this treasure? Please buy another set for your Gege.”

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “This is Xiongdi’s gift to show filial respect to Dage.”

    It was as if Dolong had just acquired the most precious treasure, smiling broadly he repeatedly said thanks, while folding the handkerchiefs and carefully put it into his pocket.

    Right this moment, they heard ‘bang, bang, bang!’ the cannon fired three salvos. The captain of Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards came to report, “The time has come. Daren please supervise the execution.”

    “Alright!” Wei Xiaobao replied. He stood up and pulled Dolong’s hand to walk out of the canopy together.

    They saw Mao Shiba kneeling in the execution ground with his head hung dejectedly, as if he had lost his consciousness. The drummer began to beat the drum. When the drum stopped, the executioner, draped with red hood over his head, raised his arm, and swung the ghost-headed saber down. Immediately the convict’s head rolled. The executioner’s left foot flew, he kicked the head away. The convict’s body slumped forward with blood gushing out of his neck.

    “It’s done,” Dolong said, “Let us part now. I am going to see His Majesty to report the completion of the imperial decree.”

    Wei Xiaobao choked with sobs. “Duo Dage,” he said, “This man had deep friendship with me. It’s just that His Majesty’s order was very strict that I was not able to save him. Ay!” While saying that, he used his sleeve to wipe the tears; sobbing and sniffling, he cried loudly.

    Dolong sighed and said, “Xiongdi indeed has enough yi qi. You may prepare his body for burial well; give him proper burial, this way you are not letting the dead down.” Wei Xiaobao complied, then he continued crying.

    When Wei Xiaobao used his sleeve to wipe the tears, he actually had fresh ginger in his sleeve, with which he rubbed his eyes. The pungent ginger made his eyes red and made him shedding tears continuously, but in his heart he was laughing, delighted that his scheme was successful. Dolong comforted him some more and walked him to his carriage before he himself mounted his horse and left. Surrounded by his personal guards he rode the carriage back to his duke mansion. Several personal guards rolled the convict’s body in a straw mat and placed the body in a coffin that was prepared earlier on the side, and then they nailed the coffin’s lid solid.

    The common people who were witnessing the execution expressed their opinions. They all said that at the death’s door Mao Shiba still dared to swear and curse, he was a real hero. Yet some who were afraid of getting involved reprimanded the others, saying that the offender to the throne spoke treason and heresy, hence they should not praise him to avoid any disaster befalling them.

    When Wei Xiaobao reached his mansion, he got off the carriage; but the carriage quietly continued southward, out of Beijing, all the way to the south, heading toward Yangzhou. Wei Xiaobao then went to the Palace to report the completion of the imperial decree. Kangxi immediately granted him an audience.

    Kangxi had received Dolong’s report, and knew that when supervising the execution of Mao Shiba, Wei Xiaobao did not stop crying. This time, seeing Wei Xiaobao’s red eyes, Kangxi felt sorry and rather uneasy; he thought that Wei Xiaobao attached most importance to loyalty, it was a rare trait. After consoling him warmly for a bit, Kangxi said, “Xiao Guizi, those Luocha troops you captured, the majority asked me to set them free to return to their country. I have already released them, but there are about two hundred who wish to remain in China.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “Beijing is livelier and more fun compared to Moscow. Following His Majesty and working for you will be a lot better-off than working for those two unfit for anything Luocha young Tsars.”

    Kangxi smiled and said, “I organized these Luocha troops into two ‘Russian Companies’, and put these two companies under your command. You must control them well, don’t let them create any trouble in the Capital.”

    Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he kneeled down to express his gratitude. Outside the Palace, the two Luocha companies had already been waiting outside the Gate of Supreme Harmony by the Jinshui [golden water] Bridge. The Luocha troops were wearing new Qing troop uniform, bright, neat and well-fitting; they looked really impressive. Wei Xiaobao issued his order: each man received twenty taels and was granted three days furlough. The Luocha troops cried out, “Wula!” incessantly.

    Until the end of Kangxi’s reign, these Luocha troops were serving in the Qing army, they were loyal and were not double-minded. When foreign nation’s ambassador came to Beijing, they saw Chinese Emperor employed Luocha officers and men, no one was not impressed. It was not until these Luocha troops gradually died of old age that the ‘Russian Company’ organizations began to dissolve.

    (Book note: Concerning the details of the captured Luocha troops serving in the Qing army, please see Yu Zhengxie’s ‘Guizi [thirtieth year of the 60 year cycle] Class Manuscript’ volume IX, ‘Examining the Russian Company’. In Xiao Yishan’s [1902-1978] ‘General History of the Qing Dynasty’, it was written that ‘the prisoners were offered to stay in the Capital, to receive the Emperor’s pardon and were organized into companies, comprised solely of Russian ethnicity. Their offspring still exist today.’ These Russian men intermarried with Chinese women and produced children.)

    Back to his mansion, Wei Xiaobao saw that the Princess, along with his six other wives and three sons and daughter, had returned from the Palace. Every one received not a few rewards from the Empress Dowager, but the Princess did not look happy. Wei Xiaobao asked, and learned that the Empress Dowager treated everyone equally favorably, although the Princess was her own daughter, she did not utter half a word of affection to her. Naturally Wei Xiaobao understood the reason behind it; he thought, “Empress Dowager did not particularly treat you badly, it was because she was looking at your husband’s face.” He said, “Empress Dowager is very thoughtful, she was afraid that if she is particularly good to you, the six Meimei would be jealous.”

    The Princess angrily said, “She is my own mother, if she is a bit good to me, how can they be jealous?”

    Wei Xiaobao embraced her and said with a laugh, “I am particularly good to you, let’s see if they are going to be jealous or not?” The women chattered continuously, they all laughed together. The Princess was a frank person, as soon as everybody broke into chatting and laughing, she felt better already.

    Hereafter in the next ten days or so, one after another the princes, dukes and high-ranking ministers invited Wei Xiaobao for a banquet to congratulate him on his meritorious service. He went to the opera, he gambled; not a single evening he was idle.

    One day Dolong paid him a visit, telling him that Feng Xifan had been missing for more than ten days. His family had already reported to Shun Tian Fu[1]. Dolong asked in a low voice, “Xiongdi, what happened after we beat him up that night?”

    “Afterwards I sent him home,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I wonder where has that fellow gone?”

    “You didn’t kill him, did you?” Dolong asked.

    Wei Xiaobao replied, “If I sent people to kill him, you would be standing at the side, watching. Duo Dage, did you see me doing that?”

    “No, no,” Dolong said, “We only beat him up severely; when did we kill him?”

    “That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Ever since Xiongdi received the imperial order to lead the troops, although I have given up the Fu Zongguan [deputy chief] position, but as long as it is related to the Imperial Bodyguards, no matter what kind of responsibility, Xiongdi will definitely face it together with Dage.”


    [1] See Note 13, Chapter 34. Shuntian Fu can be used to refer to either Shuntian Prefecture or the prefect’s office, or even the prefect himself. Prefect of Shuntian Prefecture title was fǔyǐn (府尹) and of rank 3a. Prefects of other prefectures such as Yangzhou and Huizhou title was zhīfǔ (知府) and of rank 4b. Jin Yong used zhīfǔ for Prefect of Shuntian. (Additional info courtesy of Ace High)

  2. #382
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    Default Chapter 49 - Part 6

    Dolong smiled and said, “Nothing’s wrong. The Feng family insists that that night it was the Vanguard Battalion’s Ol’ Tai who sent his men to pick him up, but he never returned. Shun Tian Fu personally paid a visit to Ol’ Tai, asking him about that night. Ol’ Tai was very embarrassed, he hummed and hawed but was unwilling to tell the truth. Later on Ol’ Tai became angry and lost his temper, Shun Tian Fu did not dare to investigate further.” While saying that, he stood up and patted Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder. “Xiongdi,” he said with a laugh, “You are a good-luck general. Who would have thought that in this matter you can be so lucky? Madame Ol’ Tai did not come earlier or later, but right that night she was prompted by a sudden impulse to lead the armed women going to attack Tian Shui Jing Alley. This way, everything will fall into Ol’ Tai’s responsibility.”

    He was certain that Feng Xifan must have been killed in secret by Wei Xiaobao. Although in this matter he shared some responsibility, putting the blame on the Vanguard Battalion’s Tai Dutong fit very well with his own intention. Naturally he did not know that the fact that Madame Tai Dutong did not come earlier or later and sent out her troops right that moment was actually not a coincidence at all. Wei Xiaobao had calculated the precise moment and sent people to tip her off. Naturally Dolong would never know that when Wei Xiaobao dispatched the Qing troops to supervise the execution, he had the canopy constructed with double wall, and hid Feng Xifan inside. Once Mao Shiba was identified, when he was dragged away from the canopy, Wei Xiaobao took out the handkerchiefs with erotic pictures to divert Dolong’s attention, while Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards immediately swapped Mao Shiba and Feng Xifan. By this time Feng Xifan was still unconscious, his face was full of blood, the guards put the exact same clothes as Mao Shiba’s on him; he was made to kneel down on the execution ground with head hanging low, and was immediately beheaded. Although Feng and Mao, two men’s appearances and statures were not the same, nobody detected the difference. The head the executioner chopped actually belonged to Feng Xifan.

    In the meantime, the personal guards locked Mao Shiba inside Wei Daren’s carriage, which was parked next to the canopy; they gagged his mouth, and then carried him nonstop to Yangzhou. It was after they crossed the Yellow River that they explained everything to him clearly; they also gave him three thousand taels. In mortal danger Mao Shiba escaped alive, his acute spirit was dampened; he also realized that Wei Xiaobao staked his own life to save him, that Wei Xiaobao was not a person who violated yi qi. Henceforth he went into hiding and did not appear in public anymore.

    Day after day Wei Xiaobao exchanged toasts, he was somewhat tired; he was also concerned about Tian Di Hui brethren. The Emperor was more and more formidable, while Wei Xiaobao lived comfortably in his mansion, he knew that he must not let the Emperor catch the Green Wood Hall brethren in one net; therefore, he must discuss a plan to guard against this. As a result, he disguised himself as a young master of a rich family, with Shuang’er disguised as his personal attendant.

    The two of them went to the Heavenly Bridge, and mingled with the crowd there for an hour before they saw Xu Tianchuan, carrying a medicine box on his back, sitting in a small teahouse, drinking tea. Wei Xiaobao entered the teahouse at once and sat down in front of Xu Tianchuan. “Xu Dage!” he greeted in a low voice.

    Xu Tianchuan stood up suddenly, and strode out with an angry look on his face. Wei Xiaobao was startled; he followed out, and saw Xu Tianchuan was heading toward a secluded spot. Immediately he and Shuang’er followed from a distant.

    Xu Tianchuan passed through three lanes, two small streets, and came to an alley; at the end of the alley there were two big ginkgo trees. He entered the alley, and knocked on the gate of the fifth house several times. The wooden door opened, Fan Gang came out to greet him. As soon as Fan Gang saw Wei Xiaobao, he was startled, but immediately anger filled his face.

    Wei Xiaobao stepped forward and said with a laugh, “Fan Dage, how are you?”

    “Humph!” Fan Gang snorted, but he did not reply.

    With a wooden face Xu Tianchuan asked, “Wei Daren, do you bring troops to catch us all?”

    Wei Xiaobao hastily said, “Xu San Ge, how can … how can you joke like that?”

    Fan Gang quickly walked to the mouth of the alley and looked. Back to the house, he quickly closed the door. Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er followed the two of them across the courtyard and into the main hall. They saw Li Lishi, Qi Biaoqing, Priest Xuanzhen, Gao Yanchao, Qian Laoben and the others were congregating in the hall. As soon as they saw Wei Xiaobao, everybody let out an ‘Ah!’, and sprang up.

    Wei Xiaobao cupped his fist and said, “Gentlemen, Gege, how are you all doing?”

    Priest Xuanzhen angrily said, “We haven’t been killed by you, I consider our situation not too bad!” ‘Shua!’ he pulled the saber hanging on his waist.

    Wei Xiaobao took a step back and said in a trembling voice, “Why are you … you like this to … to me? I did not do … do anything to wrong you.”

    Priest Xuanzhen loudly shouted in anger, “Zongduozhu was killed by you, Feng Er Ge was also killed by you, just a few days ago you killed Mao Shiba! I … we really wish we could rip your tendon and peel your skin.”

    Wei Xiaobao was greatly anxious. “There’s no … no such thing,” he hastily said, “Those are all lies.”

    Xuanzhen rushed one step forward; with his left hand he grabbed Wei Xiaobao’s lapel, and said sternly, “We couldn’t figure out how we are going to kill you, today you … you this little traitor drop in to deliver your own life. Indeed Zongduozhu’s spirit in heaven has blessed us.”

    Seeing the situation turned from bad to worse, Wei Xiaobao turned his head around; he wanted to unleash his ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ [divine walk hundred changes] skill to escape, but he saw Xu Tianchuan and Fan Gang, both with weapons in their hands, were standing right behind him. He had no choice but to say, “We are all brothers, why be … why be this impatient?”

    “Who wants to be brothers with you, little traitor?” Xuanzhen said, “Your, this little demon, graceful words, flowery speech, we don’t want to hear it. I want to cut open your heart of wolf and lungs of dog to be offered as sacrifice to Zongduozhu and Feng Er Ge first, and then we’ll talk later.” Withdrawing his left arm, he pulled Wei Xiaobao closer.

    “Injustice, injustice!” Wei Xiaobao cried out.

    Seeing the situation was critical, Shuang’er took the Luocha short gun from her pocket and fired it toward the roof. ‘Bang!’ the room immediately filled with smoke. She grabbed Wei Xiaobao’s back and tore him off Priest Xuanzhen’s grab. In the past Xuanzhen had suffered greatly under western firearms; his father and brothers had died from guns. As soon as he heard the gunshot, his heart was shaken, and Wei Xiaobao was snatched away by Shuang’er.

    Shuang’er leaped to the corner of the room and stood in front of Wei Xiaobao. Pointing the muzzle of the gun to the crowd she shouted, “Are you going to listen to reason or not?”

    Xuanzhen’s eyes turned red; he cried, “Everyone, charge! We’ll fight them to the death!”

    Raising his sword, he wanted to charge forward. Qian Laoben reached out to pull him back; he said, “Daozhang [priest], hold it!” Turning to Shuang’er he said, “What reason you want to talk, speak up, let us hear it.”

    “Alright!” Shuang’er said. Thereupon she narrated in details how Wei Xiaobao went into exile because he tried to save Chen Jinnan and the heroes in his house; how he was captured by Divine Dragon Cult and ended up on Tong Chi Island; how Chen Jinnan was killed by Zheng Keshuang and Feng Xifan, two people; how Feng Jizhong’s plot fell through and his treachery was exposed, and how he was killed by Shuang’er’s gunshot; how Kangxi repeatedly ordered Wei Xiaobao to destroy Tian Di Hui, but he simply refused to follow orders; and finally how recently he saved Mao Shiba’s life by swapping him with someone else. She was not an articulate person, her story was not particularly pleasant to hear, but this group of warriors had known her for a long time, they all knew that she was honest and never committed fraud; plus she was speaking casually, without the slightest hint of hesitation. They knew she did not have the ability to fabricate all these things in intricate details. Besides, in order to save them all Wei Xiaobao had lost his official position, his earl mansion was blasted flat, these people had experienced it firsthand. Now that they thought about Feng Jizhong’s conduct, everything fit together; they could not help but to believe.

    Xuanzhen said, “Since that’s the case, in Tatar Emperor’s imp … imp … damn it, imperial edict, why did he say that Wei Xiangzhu killed Zongduozhu?” By changing the way he addressed Wei Xiaobao as Wei ‘Xiangzhu’, it goes to show that in his heart he had 90% believed.

    Shuang’er shook her head and said, “This, I don’t understand either.”

    Qi Biaoqing said, “It must be the Tatar Emperor’s plot. He wanted Wei Xiangzhu to make a clean break with our Society; hereafter his mind would be firmly made up, with no possibility to change, to become Tatar high-ranking official.”

    “Qi Xiongdi is right,” Xu Tianchuan said. Returning the saber into its sheath, he bent his knees in front of Wei Xiaobao and said, “We are a bunch of muddleheaded maggots and were hot-headed to the extreme, we have offended Wei Xiangzhu, a crime deserving ten thousand deaths; we are willing to receive punishment.”

    The rest of the warriors also kneeled down together. Xuanzhen repeatedly slapped his own face and cursed, “Deserve to die, deserve to die!”

    Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er hastily kneeled down to return the propriety. Now that Wei Xiaobao was not in panic, he said, “All Gege, please rise. There is a common saying, ‘One who does not know is not guilty.’ It was just temporary misunderstanding, what’s the big deal?”

    The group of warriors stood up and repeatedly apologized. By this time Wei Xiaobao was very proud of himself, with his hands danced his feet tripped, he recounted the past events. Naturally his narrative was very lively and in full color, everything was a hundred times more exciting; but in the warriors’ ears, it was far less credible than Shuang’er’s.

    The group of warriors huddled together and talked in low voices for a while. Li Lishi said, “Wei Xiangzhu, Zongduozhu was unfortunate and died under the crafty scoundrel’s hands. Tian Di Hui is like a dragon without a head, the brothers of the ten Halls have been in deliberation to elect a new Zongduozhu. We, the brothers of the Green Wood Hall, want to nominate you as the Zongduozhu. It’s just that we are afraid the other nine Halls’ brothers would not accept, or perhaps they would be suspicious. We all agree to ask you to set up a great merit.”

    Wei Xiaobao shook his hand repeatedly. “I definitely don’t want to be Zongduozhu,” he said. But his curiosity was piqued; he asked, “I wonder what great merit you want me to accomplish?”

    Li Lishi said, “The three feudatories rebellion have been crushed, Taiwan has fallen into the Tatars’ hands, in the north, Luocha people have been repelled by Wei Xiangzhu. Our great undertaking of fighting the Qing restoring the Ming has been increasingly more difficult.”

    Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “That’s right.” But in his heart he mused, “Since it is very difficult, let’s everybody just sit back, relax, and not doing fighting the Qing restoring the Ming.”

    Li Lishi said, “Although the Tatar Emperor is young, he is very able and efficient, plus he is able to win the people’s hearts. The common people throughout the world gradually forget about the previous dynasty. If this situation drags on for several more years, I am afraid Tatars’ rivers and mountains will be more stable.”

    Wei Xiaobao sighed again and said, “That’s right.” In his heart he said, “Xiao Xuanzi stabilizing the rivers and mountains, there is nothing bad about it.”

    Li Lishi continued, “The Emperor dotes on and trusts Wei Xiangzhu very much, we all want to ask you to think of a plan, to bring the brothers into the Palace to assassinate the Emperor.”

    Wei Xiaobao was greatly alarmed. “This … this is impossible,” he said in a trembling voice.

    Fan Gang said, “May I ask Wei Xiangzhu, what’s the difficulty?”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “There are too many Imperial Bodyguards in the Palace, and then there is Valiant Cavalry Brigade, Vanguard Battalion, Hu Jun [Protecting-Army] Battalion, Firearm Brigade, Jian Tui [Strong and Acute] Battalion, Tiger Spear Battalion, and so on, to protect the Emperor; it’s desperately serious. Just the Imperial Bodyguards alone, there are Yu Qian Shiwei [lit. Bodyguards in front of the Imperial], Gan Qing Men Shiwei [lit. Imperial Bodyguards in charge of Qing Gate], San Qi Shiwei [lit. Imperial Bodyguards of the Three Banners]. That day heroes like Shen Quan Wu Di [divine fist without equal] Gui Xinshu Laoyezi and the others still failed and met violent death, much less me? To assassinate His Majesty is difficult above difficult.”

    Hearing he flatly refused, the crowd of warriors was displeased; plus the way he mentioned ‘His Majesty’, which showed that he had enough slave mentality, put an angry look on everybody’s face.

    Fan Gang cast a glance toward the brethren and then said to Wei Xiaobao, “Wei Xiangzhu, assassinating the Tatar Emperor is without a doubt very difficult; however, we have you to take charge of the operation, so it’s not like we do not have any hope of success. We, brothers, who are going into the Palace, not a single one of us is hoping to come out alive, but whatever happens we will protect Wei Xiangzhu and keep you safe and sound. You have rendered not a few of great merits for our Society, among the tens of thousands brothers in our Society, in all honesty not a single one is as good as you. Tian Di Hui and the Tatars cannot live under the same sky. Hereafter the great undertaking of fighting the Qing restoring the Ming will rely solely on Wei Xiangzhu’s inspiration.”

    Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “This matter I definitely don’t want to so. His Majesty wanted me to wipe out Tian Di Hui, I was unwilling, because I am holding up yi qi. Now all of you want me to assassinate the Emperor, I am also unwilling, because I am holding up yi qi still.”

    Xuanzhen angrily said, “You are a Han, yet you are holding up yi qi for the Tatar Emperor; won’t that make you … make you a Han …” He was about to curse him the ‘Hanjian’ [traitor to China], two characters; but in the end he forced himself to hold back.

    Fan Gang said, “This matter is extremely important. It’s hard for Wei Xiangzhu to agree immediately, that is very reasonable. Please give it a careful consideration and then give us your instruction.”

    “Very well, very well,” Wei Xiaobao busily said, “I will think about it carefully, I will think about it carefully.”

    Seeing that he was not being sincere at all, Xu Tianchuan said, “I hope Wei Xiangzhu will not forget the late Zongduozhu’s aspiration, you must not forget the terrible tragedy of our vanquished nation. We are Han people, we must never be Tatars’ slaves.”

    “Right, right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “We must not forget that.”

    The crowd of warriors knew that he was speaking without meaning it; they all fell silent.

    Wei Xiaobao looked this way, and then he looked that way; finally he laughed and said, “Why are all Gege not talking?” The group of warriors stayed silent.

    Wei Xiaobao felt extremely awkward; it was as if there were thorns and brambles on his back. He said, “In that case, let us part for the time being. I will go back and think about it carefully, and then I will discuss it with all Dage.” While saying that he stood up.

    The crowd of warriors walked him off to the mouth of the alley, respectfully saluted him, and then took their leave.

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    Default Chapter 50 - Part 1

    Chapter 50 - Fish hawk soared high in the clouds gallantly, eastern bean goose flew to the outer sky mysteriously.
    (Translated by Foxs)


    Lu Ding Ji 50.jpg

    On both eastern and western banks of the canal several dozen of riders galloped toward the official boats. They heard over the dike of both banks the whistling boise of bamboo whistle calling and answering each other. From the western bank someone called out, “Wei Xiaobao, come out!”

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    Default Chapter 50 - Part 2

    Wei Xiaobao returned to his mansion, he sat in the side room feeling depressed. By the afternoon, an imperial edict arrived, the Emperor was summoning him to the Palace. Wei Xiaobao went to the Upper Study Room and kowtowed. Kangxi asked, “Feng Xifan is suddenly missing, what is going on here?”

    Wei Xiaobao was shocked; he thought, “Why ask me?” He said, “Reporting to His Majesty: the night Feng Xifan went missing, all along your servant was having fun with Duo Zongguan and the Imperial Bodyguards. Later on I heard Vanguard Battalion’s Tai Dutong was looking for Feng Xifan. I don’t know for a fact, but this Feng Xifan was then gone without a trace. These surrendering people from Taiwan are sneaky, their behavior is very strange, we don’t want them to conspire against the law in secret, let your servant investigate carefully.”

    Kangxi smiled and said, “Very well, I give you the task of investigating this Feng Xifan’s whereabouts clearly, come back here in a few days to report. I promised the surrendering people of Taiwan that I will protect them thoroughly. This man suddenly disappeared mysteriously, if I cannot give a clear account, it would mean that I break my promise to the world.”

    Cold sweats suddenly appeared on Wei Xiaobao’s forehead; he thought, “His Majesty is this serious, could it be that he knew I killed Feng Xifan?” Without any choice he responded, “Yes, yes.”

    Kangxi asked further, “Earlier today you went to Yinxing [Ginkgo] Alley, was it fun?”

    Wei Xiaobao was taken aback, “Yinxing Alley?” he asked. Immediately he recalled that at the mouth of the alley where Tian Di Hui warriors had their temporary lodging there were two big ginkgo trees; apparently that alley is called ‘Ginkgo Alley’. The Emperor even knew the name of the alley, what else could he conceal from him? This time the cold sweat appeared on Wei Xiaobao’s entire body, his legs went weak, he kneeled down at once, kowtowed and said, “Your Majesty can see clearly for ten thousand li. All in all, your servant is loyal to you.”

    Kangxi sighed and said, “Those rebel thieves forced you to harm me, but you refused to comply no matter what. You are holding yi qi toward me very much; however … however, Xiao Guizi, in your whole life, will you always have your feet on two boats like this?”

    Wei Xiaobao repeatedly kowtowed; he said, “Your Majesty please understand, becoming the Tian Di Hui Zongduozhu, your servant will never do. Your Majesty may set your hundred and twenty hearts at peace.”

    Kangxi sighed again. Looking up, he stared blankly for half a day, and then slowly said, “I become the Emperor of China, although I am not as good as Yao Shun Yu Tang [See Chapter 14], I cherish common people, I strive for good governance. Among the emperors of the Ming Dynasty, which one was better than I am? Now three feudatories rebellion has been crushed, Taiwan has been taken over, Luocha country won’t dare to violate the border anymore, from now on the whole world is at peace, common people live in peace and work happily. Tian Di Hui’s rebel thieves still determine to restore Zhu family’s Ming Dynasty, do you think under an emperor surnamed Zhu common people’s daily life will be better than today?”

    In his heart Wei Xiaobao said, “This, I do not know.” He said, “Your servant heard Fengyang [county, Chuzhou, Anhui] flower-drum[1] people sang about ‘ever since Zhu Emperor came out, there was scarcity nine out of ten years. Rich families sold their land, poor families sold their children.’ Right now the wind changes, the rain’s favorable, the country prospers, the people at peace, Your Majesty is raw bird fish soup [see ‘yao shun yu tang’ above], Zhu emperors were 108,000 li apart from you, even patting the horse’s bottom they would not be able to chase after you.”

    Kangxi smiled slightly and said, “Stand up.” He also stood up and paced back and forth in the Upper Study Room. He said, “Fu Huang [father emperor] is a Manchu, but my birth mother Empress Xiao Kang was a Han army banner person, so I am half Han. I treat common people under the heavens equally, I have never treated Han people unfairly the slightest bit, why do they hate me that much, and determine to kill me?”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “These rebels commit treason and heresy, they are totally muddleheaded, Your Majesty must not take them to heart.”

    Kangxi shook his head, suddenly there was a depressed and lonely expression on his face. After quite a long time, he said, “There are good and bad Manchu people, there are also good and bad Han people. Bad people in the world are too many, we can’t kill them all, but to guide them back to the path of righteousness, I do not have that kind of ability. Ay, becoming an emperor is very difficult.” He stared at Wei Xiaobao for half a day before finally he said, “You may go!”

    Wei Xiaobao kowtowed and took his leave. He felt his entire body was cold. Turned out just now he was so scared that his undergarment and underpants were soaked with cold sweats. It was not until he was out of the Palace that he took a deep breath. “There is a spy infiltrating Tian Di Hui,” he pondered, “We killed one Feng Jizhong, another one appeared in his place. Otherwise, how could he know that they wanted me to assassinate the Emperor? But I wonder who is this spy?”

    Returning to his mansion, he sat down and pondered carefully, but he could not find any clue. He thought further, “His Majesty gave me the task of investigating Feng Xifan’s whereabouts, looking at His Majesty’s expression, he suspects that this is my doing, it’s just that he does not have any incriminating evidence. How am I going to fob him off in this matter? Just now at the Yinxing Alley Shuang’er mentioned how I swapped people at the execution ground to save Mao Dage’s life; fortunately I have not told her that I swapped him with Feng Xifan. Otherwise, this naïve girl would certainly blurt it out, and then the spy would report it to His Majesty. If my First-class Duke of Luding did not repeatedly demoted seventeen or twenty eight levels, my surname is surely not Wei.”

    Thinking to the east, pondering to the west, he was deeply troubled. Prior to entering the service in the Palace, he and Kangxi could chat and laugh, the two of them were very happy. Now they all grew up, the Emperor was very imposing; Wei Xiaobao talked a lot of nonsense, he got so scared that he was not able to talk anymore. All these high-ranking positions, Great General Fuyuan, First-class Duke of Luding, are not fun to do anymore, not as interesting as when as a kid he became a little servant at Lovely Spring Courtyard; so free, unfettered and happy.

    He thought, “Tian Di Hui brothers are forcing me to assassinate the Emperor, the Emperor is forcing me to wipe out Tian Di Hui. His Majesty said, ‘Xiao Guizi, in your whole life, will you always have your feet on two boats like this?’ His granny, Laozi won’t do it anymore! I won’t have anything to do with everything anymore!” As soon as these five characters ‘Laozi won’t do it anymore’ emerged in his heart, he felt unspeakably relax and at ease.

    Taking dice from his pocket, he threw the dice on the table and shouted, “If I have to quit, let me throw a ‘hall full of red’ [i.e. success across the board]!” Four dice rolled around, three dice landed with red dots facing up, but the fourth die landed on six dots; nothing can be blacker than that. Actually, when he threw the dice, he already cheated, but still he was unsuccessful.

    “Damn it!” he cursed. Picking up the dice, he threw several more times; it was not until the eighth throw that he managed to get all dice landed on red. He cheerfully said, “Turns out Laotianye [God] wants me to do seven things for His Majesty before I quit.” He mused, “I have accomplished seven things early on. Killing Oboi was the first, saving the Old Emperor was the second, blocking in front of His Majesty’s holy self on Mount Wutai was the third, rescuing the Empress Dowager was the fourth, contacting Mongolia and Tibet was the fifth, destroying Shen Long Jiao was the sixth, capturing Wu Yingxiong was the seventh, recommending Zhang Yong, Zhao Liangdong, and the others for service that they defeated Wu Sangui was the eighth, capturing Yakesa was the ninth … too many, too many. If I don’t count the small things, the big things must be exactly seven. No more, no less.” But this time he did not feel like thinking of which seven things could be considered big things. In short, “Laozi won’t do it anymore!”

    “One, I won’t be government official; two, I won’t rebel. So what is Laozi going to do?” Thinking back and forth, he still thought that he was happiest back in Yangzhou. As soon as he thought about returning to Yangzhou, he could not help bursting with joy. “Guards!” he called loudly.

    He ordered his personal guards to fetch food and wine. He drank alone while figuring out what he ought to do so that there would not be any future danger, that Kangxi could not send anybody to capture him, Tian Di Hui also could not pressure him to rebel. He thought that if he asked the Princess to come with him to Yangzhou, to spend her life in drinking and pleasure, she would definitely refuse. But if he wanted to open a brothel in Yangzhou, very likely Su Quan, Ah Ke, Fang Yi, Mu Jianping and Zeng Rou would not agree. “Alright,” he thought, “We’ll take it one step at a time. Laozi has several million taels of family property, not opening a brothel will not starve me to death; it’s just that I won’t have anything fun to do.”

    During the family dinner at the mansion that night, the seven wives saw him smiling in high spirit, he talked cheerfully and wittily, totally different from his frowning and always on the edge these past several days; they all asked, “Why are you so cheerful?”

    Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Mysteries of heaven must not be revealed.”

    The Princess asked, “Did Huangdi Gege [emperor older brother] promote you again?”

    Zeng Rou asked, “Did you win big in gambling?”

    Shuang’er asked, “Tian Di Hui matter did not trouble you anymore?”

    “Pei,” Ah Ke spat, “Most likely this fellow fancies some young lady and wants to take her as the eighth wife.”

    Wei Xiaobao simply shook his head.

    After all his wives had stopped asking questions, Wei Xiaobao said, “Originally I did not want to tell you, but you all insist on knowing; I have no choice but to tell you.”

    The seven madames stopped whatever they were doing and listened attentively. With a serious expression Wei Xiaobao said, “I have become a high-ranking officer, become a Duke, but am unable to distinguish good from bad, it is indeed too inappropriate. Starting tomorrow, I am going to study literature, take the exam to be a zhuangyuan [top scorer in imperial exam] and enter the Hanlin Academy.”

    The seven wives looked at each other, followed by all of them roared in laughter. Everybody knew that this husband of theirs could kill and burn, steal, rob and swindle; he could do anything in the world but one thing: he definitely could not study and learn to read.

    Early morning the next day, Shun Tian Fu [see Chapter 49] came to pay a visit, saying that they received instruction from their superior and were informed that the Emperor appointed Duke Wei to investigate the missing of Earl of Zhongcheng Feng Xifan; therefore, they especially came to await instruction.

    Frowning, Wei Xiaobao asked, “Your Shun Tian Fu yamen has captured criminals and obtained information a lot, what clue did you find these past few days?”

    The prefectural magistrate replied, “Reporting to Gongye [duke]: Feng Bojue [Earl] went missing, the circumstances are very peculiar. Day after day lowly officer supervised, direct and led the operation, opened enquiries and secret search, but failed to obtain the slightest clue; indeed we are extremely anxious. Today we found out His Majesty issued special decree appointing Wei Gongye to be in charge, lowly officer is happier than obtaining promotion three levels in a row. Wei Gongye is our Dynasty’s number one brilliant and competent high-ranking minister, on the horseback you manage the army, down the horseback you manage the people; regardless how thorny the big problem that fell into Gongye’s hands, the bamboo will split upon contact with the knife’s edge [i.e. solved immediately]. To be able to work for Gongye in a case like this, truly my ancestors had accumulated a lot of merit. In lowly officer’s yamen, everybody is overjoyed, saying that this time we are very fortunate to take a shelter under the big tree’s shade. When Wei Gongye went into action, even Luocha demons were defeated and driven away in confusion, would we be afraid of not finding Feng Bojue’s whereabouts?”

    Wei Xiaobao was aware that although the prefectural magistrate’s flattering words surged like the tide, everything he said was very pleasant to hear, in actuality he was pushing the responsibility on Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder. He thought, “I don’t know where that Feng Xifan’s body was hidden, tonight I must use the 'Corpse Transforming Powder' on it, don’t let it fall into other people’s hands. As long as there is no evidence, nobody can point fingers at me. I should have transformed the corpse early on, these past few days I have been too busy and did not expect this matter. But how am I going to explain it in His Majesty’s presence? His Majesty assigned me to do it. I, Xiao Guizi, am not bragging, but there is not a single mission I failed to accomplish.”

    The prefectural magistrate continued, “Every day Madame Earl of Zhongcheng sends people to lowly officer’s yamen, and will not leave until they get an answer. Lowly officer really have a hard time dealing with them. Yesterday the Feng Mansion people came to report another case to the authorities, saying that one of Bojue’s concubines by the name of Lan Xiang [orchid fragrance] ran away with some stable boy; they stole quite a few of gold, silver and jewelry. If the Earl of Zhongcheng did not reappear, perhaps one by one all the concubines, maidservants and menservants in the house would leave and none would remain.”

    “Humph,” Wei Xiaobao snorted, “I don’t know where this Feng Xifan is hiding, having fun with women. Send more people to search low-grade brothels everywhere. Perhaps he is dining, wining, whoring and gambling and forget to go home. His mistress eloped with another man, he deserves it.”

    “Yes, yes,” the prefectural magistrate replied, “It is reasonable to say that if Feng Bojue is enjoying himself in the red-light district at Willow Lane, it has been many days, he ought to be home by now.”

    “It’s hard to say,” Wei Xiaobao said, “That fellow Feng Xifan is an old pervert, he is not like Laoxiong here, who is an upright gentleman; if you stroll into a low-grade brothel, you will only visit for a day or half a night.”

    With a forced laugh the prefectural magistrate hastily said, “Lowly officer does not dare, lowly officer does not dare.”

    Just then Earl of Zhongcheng’s Madame Feng sent her brother to deliver eight kinds of gifts, saying they wanted to kowtow to Duke Wei, thanking Duke Wei for striving to investigate this case. Wei Xiaobao instructed his guards to stop the visitor, he did not wish to see them, and he did not wish to receive the gifts either.

    The personal guard reported back, “Reporting to Daren: the man from Feng family is very rude, ever since he arrived he did not stop sneering, saying something like grievance will be recompensed, enmity will be avenged; saying that His Majesty is already aware of this matter, in the end it will be ‘as the water recedes, the rocks appear’, that other people must not think his hand will cover the heaven, concealing everything from the Enlightened Sage, the Son of Heaven. Reporting to Daren: this man has the audacity to come to our door and display shockingly bad behavior, Xiaode [lowly one] really wants to give him several slaps on the ear.” This personal guard also took part in swapping people at the execution ground the other day, hearing the Feng mansion people’s fierce speech, as if he already guessed the inside story, the guard could not help feeling nervous.

    Wei Xiaobao also felt guilty as a thief; he could not stop his countenance from changing. He thought, “If they continued making noise like this, I am afraid the hanky-panky would be exposed. Your granny, Feng Xifan himself was killed by Laozi, could it be that Laozi is afraid of your, dead demon’s wife?”

    Suddenly he thought of an idea, immediately his face was all smiles. He said to the prefectural magistrate, “There’s no hurry in your honor leaving now, please wait here for a moment.” Returning to the inner shall, he summoned the captain of his personal guards and gave him detailed instructions. The captain received the order and left.

    Wei Xiaobao returned to the main hall and said, “His Majesty sends me to handle this matter, we as his servants must spare no effort to repay our holy lord. Let us go right now to the Feng house to have an on-site survey.”

    The prefectural magistrate was startled; he thought, “Earl of Zhongcheng went missing, what is there to survey in his house?” Yet his mouth repeatedly agreed.

    Wei Xiaobao said, “This case is very difficult, we need to interrogate Feng family people, from big to small, one by one, carefully. Perhaps we can find some prospect of solution.”

    “Yes,” the prefectural magistrate replied, “Gongye’s opinion is very true. Lowly officer is stupid to the extreme, from beginning to end did not think of doing it.”


    [1] Fengyang flower-drum: folk art involving singing and dancing.

  5. #385
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    Default Chapter 50 - Part 3

    Actually, since he was a lowly prefectural magistrate, how could he dare to go to the Earl of Zhongcheng’s mansion and conduct comprehensive cross-examination? While at the same time, the people of Shun Tian Fu yamen, from top to bottom, knew that Feng Xifan was the Great General Fuyuan Duke Wei’s arch-enemy. This man disappeared, nine out of ten it was Duke Wei who sent people to kill him. Duke Wei was the most favorite person of the reigning sovereign, he held the seal of authority over the military, who would have the gall to grow hair on his side, have the guts to swat the fly on the tiger’s head? Therefore, in investigating this case, nobody was taking it seriously; they all hoped to stretch this case as long as possible until finally they could settle this matter by leaving it unsettled.

    This moment the prefectural magistrate thought, “Wei Gongye murdered Feng Bojue, and still want to make things difficult for his family. That Madame Feng is really not being too tactful, she is sending people here to talk rubbish; no wonder Wei Gongye is angry.”

    Accompanied by Shun Tian Fu prefectural magistrate and his people, Wei Xiaobao arrived at the Earl of Zhongcheng mansion in an eight-man big sedan chair. He saw the mansion was already surrounded by several hundred personal guards all around. Upon entering the mansion, the captain of the personal guards stepped forward to report, “Reporting to Daren: There are altogether 79 people in the Feng family, men and women; they are all waiting in the western hall to be questioned by Daren.” Wei Xiaobao nodded. The Captain added, “Reporting to Daren: the court of law is being held in the eastern hall.”

    Wei Xiaobao went to the eastern hall, and saw the courtroom was duly prepared, with a judge’s desk arranged in the middle. Thereupon he took his seat, and ordered the prefectural magistrate to sit in the right-hand seat to accompany him.

    The personal guards took a young woman in, approximately twenty-three or twenty-four years old, her appearance and demeanor was really not bad; delicately and gracefully she kneeled down before the Court. “Who are you?” Wei Xiaobao started the cross-examination.

    The woman replied, “Humble woman is Bojue Daren’s fifth young concubine.”

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Please sit down, please sit down; I do not dare to accept you kneeling down in front of me.”

    The woman did not dare to stand up. Wei Xiaobao stood up and said with a laugh, “You won’t stand up, I will have to kneel down in front of you.” The women smiled sweetly and stood up. Wei Xiaobao sat back down.

    The prefectural magistrate thought, “Wei Gongye does not treat the Feng family viciously, it’s just that his lecherousness is not too dignified.”

    Wei Xiaobao asked, “What’s your name?”

    The woman replied, “I am called Ju Fang [lit. chrysanthemum fragrance].”

    Wei Xiaobao sniffed around a few times and said with a laugh, “Good name! No wonder as soon as you came in, there’s a whiff of chrysanthemum flower’s fragrance in here.”

    Ju Fang also laughed and said in a tender voice, “Gongye is making fun of me.”

    Wei Xiaobao shook his head while staring at her intently for half a day before asking, “I heard that a concubine has run away from your precious home?”

    “That’s right,” Ju Fang replied, “She is called Lan Xiang. Humph, that s1ut has no sense of shame.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “Husband suddenly disappeared, she followed the second man. Um, that is quite understandable, not altogether … not altogether …” Turning to the prefectural magistrate he asked, “Not altogether what is it?”

    The prefectural magistrate replied, “Reporting to Gongye: not altogether inexcusable.”

    Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud; he said, “That’s it, not altogether inexcusable. Ju Fang Jiejie, why didn’t you run away?”

    Hearing this, the prefectural magistrate frowned immediately; he mused, “This is more and more inappropriate; how could he use this appellation ‘Jiejie’ [older sister]?”

    Ju Fang lowered her head. But she cast Wei Xiaobao a coquettish glance. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he felt as if he was visiting a low-grade brothel. He laughed and asked, “Can you sing ‘eight …’” the word was right at the tip of his tongue, but in the end he swallowed it back. Turning to his personal guards he ordered, “Reward this Miss Ju Fang twenty taels.”

    Several personal guards responded in chorus; they called out, “Daren gives reward, thank him for the reward!”

    Ju Fang was pleasantly surprise for the good fortune; she charmingly said, “Thank you very much Daye [big master]!” Turned out originally she was a prostitute in a brothel; as soon as someone gave her tip, out of habit she called him ‘Daye’ instead of ‘Gongye’.

    Wei Xiaobao summoned the Feng family people one by one to be cross-examined, all females. The young and good-looking ones he questioned and cajoled a bit; the old and ugly ones he reprimanded a bit, saying that they did not serve the Earl well, to such an extent as to drive him out to find merriment outside and unwilling to go home.

    When the questioning had been going on for almost an hour, the captain of his personal guards entered the hall and stood behind Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao continued giving two more people cursory questioning before he stood up and said, “We shall examine all places.” He took the prefectural magistrate, Shun Tian Fu (legal) clerk, special force chief [lit. ‘capture quick’], and his personal guards to examine each pavilion, hall, and room.

    When they entered the third western side room, as usual the personal guards opened the trunks and turned the storage baskets upside down to be searched. A personal guard suddenly cried out, “Ah!” and picked up a saber from underneath the trunk. The blade was stained with quite a bit of dried blood. Bending one knee in half-kneel posture he raised he saber with both hands and said, “Reporting to Daren: we found the murder weapon.”

    “Um,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Continue the investigation.” Turning to the prefectural magistrate he said, “Laoxiong, please look at this. Is this stain really blood?”

    The prefectural magistrate received the saber, brought it to his nose and sniffed a bit. Sure enough, it was still reeking of blood albeit faintly. “Reporting to Gongye,” he said, “It seems to be blood.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “There’s a hole on the head of this saber, what kind of saber is this?”

    The Shun Tian Fu clerk examined the saber carefully and then said, “Reporting to Gongye: this is a lever-style guillotine to chop fodder, it is used mainly in stables.”

    Wei Xiaobao nodded. “I see,” he said.

    The captain of personal guards ordered his subordinates to get a bucket of water and sloshed it on the ground. “What are you doing?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

    The captain replied, “Reporting to Daren: if there is any place that was dug, the soil is not solid, the water will seep quickly in.” Before he finished talking, they saw that under the bed the water quickly seeped into the soil. The personal guards cheered in chorus. They lifted up the bed, took pickaxe, hoe and shovel and dug the earth. Shortly afterwards, a body was dug out.

    The corpse’s body was intact, but the head was missing. It was already rotten, obviously it had died many days. The body was wearing earl attire. As soon as the prefectural magistrate saw it, he exclaimed, “This … this is Feng Jueye!”

    “Is it Feng Xifan?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “How do you know?”

    “Yes, yes,” the prefectural magistrate said, “We must find the head, and then we can reach a verdict.” Turning his head he asked the special force captain by his side, “Whose room is this?”

    The captain said, “Xiaoren will find out immediately.” He went to the western hall and called a Feng family member to be questioned. Turned out that room used to be the run away Lan Xiang’s room.

    The captain returned and said, “Reporting to Gongye, reporting to Futai [inspector general] Daren: the murder weapon is the machete used to slice fodder in the barn, the one who took Lan Xiang along with a bundle of valuables and ran away was this mansion’s stable hand Xing Si [lit. ‘Xing the fourth’]. Let Xiaoren go to the stable and investigate.”

    Everybody went to the stable to search. As expected, from underneath the trough they dug out a head. They asked Madame Feng to identify the corpse; there was no doubt that it was Feng Xifan. Immediately the coroner tested and determined: Feng Xifan was wounded with the saber, his body and head were separated and he died.

    By this time the Feng mansion people had been released from the western hall, the cries of grief in the mansion shook the heavens, everybody cursed Xing Si and Lan Xiang as heartless for killing their master. The news spread out; in less than half a day, the city of Beijing was bubbling and gurgling, everybody was talking about this matter.

    The prefectural magistrate was both ashamed and grateful, thinking that were it not for Duke Wei rapidly solving the case, perhaps his own future prospect would be greatly hindered. He profusely expressed his gratitude, while issuing the order to capture the ‘fugitive who killed his master’, Xing Si and Lan Xiang, and composing the report to his superior.

    Only the special force captain was suspicious; he noticed that the cut wound on the neck was neat, apparently it was cut by a sharp blade, it did not look like it was cut by a fodder machete. He also noticed that in both places, the soil in which the body and the head were buried was relatively fresh, obviously the holes were dug not too long ago; the holes did not look like they were dug more than ten days ago. But Duke Wei had helped him solve this major case, the reward he received was generous, the Feng mansion also rewarded him with quite a lot of money, asking him to wrap up the case as quickly as possible, so that close relatives of the Feng mansion would not make a fool of themselves in yamen. Even if he had gargantuan suspicion, how could he dare to expose even half a sentence? He could only pondered in his heart, “During the investigation in the Feng mansion, Wei Gongye’s personal guards were everywhere, nobody was allowed to move around, if they wanted to move corpse and plant evidence, it would be very easy. Forget about burying one corpse, even if they wanted to bury a hundred or eighty corpses, it’s not difficult at all.”

    Wei Xiaobao took the Shun Tian Fu prefectural magistrate’s closing document and went to see Kangxi to report the details of the conclusion of this case. Kangxi smiled and said, “Xiao Guizi, your ability in solving a case is not bad, everybody praised you as the reincarnation of Bao Longtu [see note 9, Chapter 39].”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “It was all due to Your Majesty’s flood of good fortune, your servant just happen to uncover a criminal plot.”

    “Humph,” Kangxi snorted. He stared at Wei Xiaobao and coldly said, “Grafting flowers onto a tree has nothing to do with my flood of good fortune.”

    Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright; he thought, “How did His Majesty know?” But he immediately understood, “Of course, it is only natural that His Majesty has a secret agent within my personal guards.”

    He was still thinking of how to respond when Kangxi sighed and said, “The case is closed this way, it’s also very good, so that there won’t be any criticism from the people outside. It’s just that you have brazenly taken rash action, I really don’t know what to do with you.” Wei Xiaobao was relieved; he knew the Emperor spared his life this time. Immediately he kneeled down and kowtowed repeatedly.

    Kangxi said, “Presently all four oceans are peaceful, there is no need of troop movement, your title of Great General Fuyuan may be removed.”

    “Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said. He knew that the Emperor was punishing him for acting willfully and making a scene; he added, “Your servant’s First-class Duke of Luding may also be degraded.”

    “Alright,” Kangxi said, “I demote you to be a second-class duke.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant made a lot of trouble, my heart is uneasy, would Your Majesty please degrade me to be a third-class duke.”

    Kangxi burst into loud laughter. “Damn it,” he said, “I am surprised that your heart can be uneasy; the sun must be rising from the west.”

    When Wei Xiaobao heard the three-character ‘tamade’, he knew the Emperor’s anger had subsided; he stood up and said, “Although your servant does not have too much conscience, I always have a little.”

    Kangxi nodded and said, “Precisely it was because I saw that you still have a bit of conscience; otherwise, I would have chopped your head early on and bury it under your wives Ah Ke, Shuang’er’s bed.”

    Wei Xiaobao anxiously said, “This must never happen.”

    Kangxi asked, “What must never happen?”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “Ah Ke and Shuang’er will never run away with the stable hand.”

    Kangxi laughed and said, “They won’t run away with a stable hand, they might run away with …” Speaking to this point, he stopped talking; thinking that if this talk continued, inevitably it would turn frivolous and senseless. Besides, although Wei Xiaobao had disregard of the law and natural morality, after all is said and done, he was very loyal to him. A ruler and his minister may chat and laugh with each other, but must not bring dishonor upon himself. Momentarily at a loss of what to say, Kangxi decided to ignore him. Lowering his head, he flipped through the memorial on his desk.

    Wei Xiaobao stood on the side with hands hung down. He saw Kangxi’s brows were slightly knitted, he looked to be in deep concern. Wei Xiaobao thought, “Oftentimes His Majesty is not happy. Although being the Emperor one has an awesome prestige, it is not necessarily a fun thing to do.”

    Kangxi thumbed through the memorial for a while; he lifted up his head and sighed. Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty, whatever it is, please send your servant to deal with it. Let your servant atone for his crimes by meritorious acts, repaying my master’s dragon kindness.”

    “In this matter,” Kangxi said, “I cannot send you. Shi Lang presented the memorial, saying that Taiwan has been hit by a hurricane, on the plain the water is four chi deep, common people’s houses are damaged, families went bankrupt and the people died, the disaster is very serious.”

    Wei Xiaobao saw that while talking, Kangxi’s eyes were glistening with tears; he thought, “We are good friends since childhood, I cannot not helping him.” He said, “Your servant has a way.”

    “What way?” Kangxi asked.

    Wei Xiaobao said, “To be honest with Your Majesty, when your servant served as an officer in Taiwan, I made a small fortune. More recently, I recovered a number of old debts from a Taiwan moneybags. By Your Majesty’s grace your servant was able to hold with both hands the golden rice bowl that was damaged and was restored. For a lifetime I will not die of starvation. Too much money is useless, I would rather present it as an offering, asking Your Majesty to comfort and give relief to the victims of disaster in Taiwan.”

    Kangxi smiled and said, “The number of people affected by the disaster is a lot, your small fortune, no matter what, cannot be used. I will issue an edict at once, the Palace will cut down on palace maids and eunuchs, reduce the clothes, reduce the meals, let the Palace Internal Affairs make a plan to save four, five hundred thousand taels to be used as emergency relief for the victims.”

    “Your servant deserves to die,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Indeed it is desperately serious.”

    “What is it?” Kangxi asked.

    Wei Xiaobao replied, “As a government official, your servant has committed corruption, in Taiwan I got one million taels, recently the debt I collected, which was from Zheng Keshuang actually, amounted to another million taels …”

    Kangxi was shocked. “That much?” he asked.

    Wei Xiaobao lightly slapped his own mouth and cursed, “Xiao Guizi deserves to die!”

    Yet Kangxi laughed and said, “Your ability in debt collection is really superior; I had no idea at all.”

  6. #386
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    Default Chapter 50 - Part 4

    Wei Xiaobao cursed again, “Xiao Guizi deserves to die!” But his face showed that he was pleased with himself. He mused, “When a government official reaches out to take money, how can he let you as the Emperor, know? You planted a spy among my subordinates, you can only investigate whether I dare to revolt or not. Your Meifu [younger sister’s husband] collect money with his right hand, put money in the bag with his left hand, even your Da Meizi [oldest younger sister] does not know, you, this Da Jiuzi [wife’s older brother], absolutely cannot know.” In his mouth he called himself ‘your servant’, in his heart he considered himself ‘meifu’.

    Kangxi pondered for half a day. He said, “You have a heart that is loyal to your lord and loving to the people, it is indeed hard to come by. Let’s do it this way: you contribute one million five hundred taels, I will add five hundred taels. We, the ruler and his minister, collect two million taels. Taiwan victims number about ten thousand or so households, each family will receive more than a hundred taels, that will be plenty.”

    Impulsively Wei Xiaobao was feeling generous and wanted to donate, but just as quickly his heart ached and he already regretted it; when he heard that Kangxi would save five hundred taels for him, immediately he was overjoyed and hastily said, “Yes, yes. Your Majesty love common people as your own children, Laotianye bless and protect Your Majesty with favorable weather, the country prospers, the people at peace.”

    Because of serious disaster in Taiwan, this past half day Kangxi’s heart was heavy; now that without rhyme and reason he suddenly obtained a lot of money, he was truly happy. He smiled and said, “Also bless and protect you to be promoted and gain wealth, lots of good fortune and long life.”

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Thank you very much for Wanshui Ye’s [Lord of Ten Thousand Years] golden mouth. Your servant will be promoted and gain wealth, lots of good fortune and long life, it is entirely due to Your Majesty’s grace. Besides, your servant’s small fortune originally belonged to Taiwan people, now that we return it to the common people of Taiwan, it is no more than returning the jade annulus to … to Tai.”

    Kangxi roared in laughter and said, “It’s the saying ‘returning the jade annulus to Zhao’ [i.e. return something intact to its rightful owner]. Damn it, you change it to ‘returning the jade annulus to Tai(wan).’”

    “Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “It was ‘returning the jade annulus to Zhao’. Just now I could not recall this character ‘Zhao’. Zhao Qian Sun Li, Zhou Wu Chen Wang. The ‘Hundred Family Names’ lists ‘Zhao’ as the number one, no wonder they are flourishing so much, turns out the jade annulus and what have you are all returned to their Zhao family.”

    Kangxi was even more amused; he thought that this man was ‘without learning or knowledge’, and he could not be taught too much either. Kangxi laughed and said, “Very true, very true. There is another saying, ‘Wei bian san jue’ [lit. the leather binding of the bamboo scrolls has broken three times; fig. to study diligently.]. It speaks about your Wei family being industrious in studying. Their learning is very good. You, surnamed Wei, are also very remarkable.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant’s learning is very lacking, I am letting my old Wei ancestors down.”

    (Book note: In the saying ‘the leather binding of the bamboo scrolls has broken three times’, the character ‘Wei’ [which is Wei Xiaobao’s surname, ‘wei’ itself means ‘soft leather’] points to the leather strap boring through and joining the bamboo writing slips in ancient China. Kangxi deliberately distorted it to make fun of Wei Xiaobao.)

    Kangxi said, “This time going to Taiwan for disaster relief effort …” Originally, according to reason, he should have sent Wei Xiaobao to handle this matter; but then he had a second thought, “This man contributes this large amount of money, only because he holds yi qi toward me, not necessarily because he really has love toward common people. I am afraid that as soon as he is out of the Palace’s gate, he would immediately regret it. If he went to Taiwan to distribute two million taels disaster relief, most probably he would want to recover his capital to avoid suffering loss. Perhaps he would even add one percent or two as the interest.” He knew Wei Xiaobao as well as he knew himself, immediately he changed his statement, “… is a very easy mission; there is no need for you to handle it personally. Xiao Guizi, your First-class Duke of Luding need not be degraded. Let my sister’s son light the lantern, business as usual.”

    Wei Xiaobao kneeled down to express his gratitude. After kowtowing, he stood up and said, “Your servant donate a little bit of money, it is only returning the jade annulus to … to Zhao Qian Sun Li, but Your Majesty consider it as meritorious service. Your Majesty reduces the clothes, reduce the meals, that is real saving, and that is really not easy to do.”

    Kangxi shook his head and said, “Wrong. Everything in the Palace, each tael of silver comes from common people under the heaven. Common people supply my brocade garments, jade meals. I lord over all the people, I should spare no effort in working for the common people. You eat official salary from your ruler, you should be loyal to your master. I eat official salary from the people, I should be loyal to the people. The ancient book says, ‘four oceans exhausted, possession of the empire will be used up’. If common people are destitute, that means the Emperor is no good, the Heaven will be furious, then I can’t be the Emperor anymore.”

    “That must not happen,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Absolutely must never happen.”

    Kangxi said, “You became a high-ranking minister, it was due to my grace. I became the Emperor, it was due to the Heaven’s grace. If you are not being loyal, I will chop your head. If I don’t become a good Emperor, the Heaven may replace me with someone else. The ‘Book of History’ says, ‘Heaven and Earth will correct their primary son’. Primary son [yuan zi] here means the Emperor. If the Emperor is not good, the Heaven might oust him.”

    “Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are called Xiao Xuanzi; turns out ‘xuan zi’ means the Emperor.” [See also note 3 of Chapter 42: in Cantonese, ‘xuan’ and ‘yuan’ are homophone.]

    Kangxi said, “This character ‘xuan’ [玄] is not the same as that character ‘yuan’ [元].”

    “Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said. But in his heart he thought, “In round dumpling [圆子 - yuanzi] soup, all the dumplings look the same.” In any case, he did not know the character ‘yuan’ [元] from ‘xuan’ [玄], so why bother explaining it to him?

    From his desk Kangxi picked up a book and said, “The inspector-general of Zhejiang presented a book to me, called ‘Ming Yi Dai Fang Lu’ [investigative record of Ming-barbarians dealing][1], written by Zhejiang man Huang Lizhou just recently. Zhejiang’s inspector-general reported that the book contains a lot of treason and heresy, and is asking for stricter investigation. I was just looking at the book, but I think this book makes a lot of sense. I have already written my comment on the report to Zhejiang’s inspector-general, telling him not to be meddlesome.”

    While saying that, he opened the book and said, “In his book he said that as a ruler, ‘one man receives order from the world’, and not ‘the world receives order from one man’; this idea is well said. He also said, ‘The Son of Heaven is not necessarily right, the Son of Heaven is not necessarily wrong.’ This is also very true. Which man is not? The Son of Heaven is also a man, how could as soon as he became the Emperor, ‘everything is right, he is never wrong’?”

    After speaking for a while, Kangxi noticed that although Wei Xiaobao repeatedly voiced his agreement, his face showed that he was at a loss; he could not help feeling amused inwardly. Kangxi thought, “I am talking about big principles with this little ruffian, how can he understand? If I continued on, I am afraid he would yawn repeatedly.” Thereupon he waved his left hand and said, “You may go.” But his right hand was still holding the book, his mouth was still reading aloud, “To think that the authority over the land under the heavens, good or bad, is in my hand, I must not use the world’s goodness entirely for myself, and use the world’s badness entirely for the people. I must not dare being selfish in employing the people under the heavens, must not dare to use it for my own benefit. If I use my private life to be fair to the world, only then will the shame gone, and long-term peace come, regarding the world as the most important estate, to be passed on to my offspring, for endless enjoyment.”

    To Wei Xiaobao, all these were unfathomable mystery; but the Emperor was reading a book, so he had no choice but to repeatedly praised him, how could he not sing Kangxi’s praise from the side? Seeing Kangxi putting down the book, he asked, “Your Majesty, what is the book talking about? What is so good about it?”

    Kangxi replied, “He said that the person who became the Emperor was calling the people under the heavens not to be selfish, must not seek their own benefit, only he, the Emperor, may have no regard for others, as well as have everything for self and selfish profit; he could go as far as saying that he was the great ruler of the world. At first the person who became the emperor did not feel right, he felt rather ashamed instead, but later on the habit became nature, unexpectedly he thought he was absolutely right, other people were wrong.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “This man must be talking about bad emperor. Applied to a raw bird fish soup emperor like Your Majesty, what he said is wrong.”

    “Hey, hey!” Kangxi said, “Everybody who became the emperor thought that he was a raw bird fish soup; who has ever resigned himself to be called a cruel, tyrannical ruler? To say nothing of by each muddleheaded ruler’s side, there must be a lot of shameless high-ranking ministers to sing him praises, elevating the muddleheaded ruler to be a raw bird fish soup.”

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Fortunately Your Majesty is genuine goods at fair prices, an unalterable raw bird fish soup. Otherwise, your servant would become one of those shameless high-ranking ministers.”

    Kangxi’s left foot stomped the ground and he said with a laugh, “You have a lot of shame; get your egg out of here!”

    “Your Majesty,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant wants to ask for your grace, would Your Majesty grant your servant a leave, so that I can go to Yangzhou to see my mother.”

    Kangxi smiled and said, “You have this filial piety; that is how it should be. Besides, ‘riches and honor do not return to the homeland, it is like wearing brocade clothes on a night walk’. You ought to go back in grandiose. The sooner you leave, the sooner you will return. Bring your mother back to Beijing. I will have an imperial decree to confer your mother the title of one-pin rank grand madame. Your deceased old man’s name, submit a report to the Ministry of Appointments, let him be conferred an official position posthumously. We should have had this matter dealt with the last time you went to Yangzhou, it’s just that Wu Sangui happened to rebel at the same time that it is delayed until now.”

    He thought that most likely Wei Xiaobao did not know how to write his father’s name, and thus he did not inquire. Although Kangxi was brilliant, in this matter he only ‘knew one but did not know two’. While it was true that Wei Xiaobao did not know how to write his father’s name, the actual fact was: he did not even know who his father was.

    Wei Xiaobao thanked Kangxi for his grace, and left the Palace. He returned to his mansion to fetch the million and a half taels banknotes, and handed it over to the Ministry of Revenue’s ‘silver warehouse’. And then he went to the Ministry of War to return the official seal of authority of the ‘Great General Fuyuan’. Lastly, he asked Su Quan to pick a name of his father on his behalf, as well as names of his ancestors up to the third generation, along with their wives and concubines. He had everything copied clearly, and then he submitted it to the Ministry of Appointments to be conferred posthumous, inherited, government-appointed hereditary official title of ‘Yan Feng Si’ [lit. officer in charge of examining titles bestowed by the imperial court].

    Everything was settled, travel preparation was completed. Wei Xiaobao was quite popular in the imperial court, plus he was a grand relative of the holy family; princes, dukes and high-ranking ministers held a send-off banquet for him, it was very lively. At the point of departure Wei Xiaobao remembered the million and a half taels he donated, and his heart ached; thereupon he sent his personal guards to extort more than ten thousand taels from Zheng Keshuang as the ‘old debt’. Only then did they leave the Capital.

    From Han Lu [Han Street] they reached Tongzhou [district, east of Beijing], where they boarded boats, and sailed along the canal southward, passing Tianjin, Linqing, crossing the Yellow River, passing Ji Ning, and one day arrived at Huaiyin [district, Jiangsu]. The official boat anchored at Siyangji [county, Jiangsu] to spend the night there.

    Wei Xiaobao and his seven wives sat on the boat, chatting while having dinner. Su Quan said, “Xiaobao, tomorrow we will arrive at Huaiyin. In the old days, there was one man whose nobility title was Marquis of Huaiyin …”

    “Um,” Wei Xiaobao said, “His rank was not as high as mine.”

    Su Quan smiled and said, “That is not so. His original title was King, he was conferred the nobility title King. Afterwards the Emperor was afraid he might revolt, he removed his King title and changed it into Marquis of Huaiyin. This man was surnamed Han, given name Xin[2]. He was very famous.”

    Wei Xiaobao slapped his thigh and said, “I know him. ‘Chasing after Han Xin under the dreary moon’, ‘Ambush from ten sides’, ‘Overlord need not worry about concubine’. All those plays have Han Xin in them.”

    “Exactly,” Su Quan said, “This man was very capable, his meritorious service was very big, even a hero like the Overlord of Chu was defeated under his hands. It’s a pity that his end was not good, he was killed by the Emperor and the Empress.”

    Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “What a pity, what a pity! Why did the Emperor kill him? Did he want to rebel?”

    Su Quan shook her head and said, “No, he did not. The Emperor was jealous of his ability, he was afraid he might rebel.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “Fortunately my ability is very low, in everything His Majesty is better than I am, and thus he can’t possibly be jealous of me. I have only one thing better than His Majesty, apart from this, in everything else I absolutely fall short of him.”

    Ah Ke asked, “In which aspect you are better than the Emperor?”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “I have seven wives as flower as jade, in all the world, you won’t find the eighth of such beautiful women. His Majesty’s flood of good fortune fills the heavens, I, Wei Xiaobao has romantic good fortune that fills the heaven. We, the ruler and his minister, two people each has his own strength, hence we are somewhat even.” He had thick skin and loved to toot his horn; the seven wives roared in laughter.

    Fang Yi said with a laugh, “The Emperor’s flood of good fortune fills the heavens, you are the Great Sage the Equal of Heaven[3].”

    “Right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am the Beautiful Monkey King of Shuilian [water curtain] Cave, leading a bunch of female monkeys and little monkeys, passing the days freely and leisurely.”

    While they were chatting and laughing, outside the cabin a servant said in a loud and clear voice, “Reporting to Gongye: there are guests requesting an audience.”

    The maid entered to present four visiting cards. Su Quan received the cards and said in low voice, “The visitors are Gu Yanwu, Zha Jizuo, Huang Lizhou, and Lu Liuliang, four gentlemen.”

    “It’s Mr. Gu and his friends,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I must see them.” After instructing his servant to receive the guests in the large boat’s cabin and serve them tea, he immediately changed his clothes and came out to meet them.


    [1] Waiting for the Dawn (明夷待訪錄; Ming Yi Dai Fang Lu) was a summary of ideas about political reform that had been advanced by various scholars since the reign of Wan Li (1573–1619). The political tract begins with a condemnation of selfish autocratic rule, and declares that the world should belong to the people.

    The third and fifth section of the work, "On Laws" and "Schools", respectively, are particularly famous. In the former, Huang declares that all laws and regulatory bodies should be an outgrowth of local needs, not imposed by leaders with a political agenda. In the latter, he advocates using the education system as a semiofficial forum for educated opinion on public affairs.

    In the sixth and seventh sections of the work, entitled "Selecting Good Men", Huang also lays out his ideas for reform of the Imperial examination system. In later sections, he discusses equitable distribution of landholdings, the division between men of civil and military background, fiscal reform, and the problem of eunuch power during the Ming dynasty. (Courtesy of Ace High)


    [2] Han Xin (-196BC), famous general of first Han emperor Liu Bang.

    [3] Great Sage the Equal of Heaven was the self-proclaimed title of the Monkey King Sun Wukong (Journey to the West).

  7. #387
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    Default Chapter 50 - Part 5

    In the past, Gu, Zha and Huang, three men were arrested by Wu Zhirong in Yangzhou and nearly lost their lives; fortunately Wei Xiaobao saved them. As for Lu Liuliang, it was the very first time that they met. Behind him there were two young men in their twenties; they were Lu Liuliang’s sons, Lu Baozhong and Lu Yizhong. After greeting each other, they sat down as host and guests. Lu Baozhong and Lu Yizhong stood behind their father.

    Gu Yanwu spoke in low voice, “Wei Xiangzhu, this time we came to pay you a visit, there is one very important thing we’d like to discuss with you. There are numerous eyes and ears in Siyangji, it’s inconvenient for us to talk. Is it possible to ask you to instruct the boat to sail out several li and anchor in some secluded, uninhabited place where we can talk?”

    In the Turtle-slaying Assembly in Hejianfu that year, Gu Yanwu was elected the Chief Military Counselor by the heroes of various paths; in Jianghu, his reputation was very resounding, Wei Xiaobao had always been admiring him. He immediately went back to tell Su Quan and the others about their plan. Su Quan said, “We can’t be overly cautious. Our boat will follow. Anything happen, we can provide good support.”

    Thinking about he was going with Gu Yanwu and the others to ‘some secluded, uninhabited place’, in his heart Wei Xiaobao was actually rather scared. With the seven wives escorting him, he felt he had something to depend on; thereupon he repeatedly agreed and ordered the boatmen to sail southward, telling them that they wanted to drink wine and admire the full moon amidst the elegant scenery along the canal. When Duke Wei was in a refined and elegant frame of mind, he might come up with some good poems. The remaining boats stayed in Siyangji, waiting for their return.

    Wei Xiaobao returned to the big boat to accompany the guests. The two boats sailed south for about seven, eight li; they saw flat and empty land on both sides of the river, illuminated by the bright moon in the sky, no other human beings everywhere they looked. Wei Xiaobao ordered the boatmen to drop the anchor and told the boatmen and the attendants to go to the stern, so that they would not spoil Duke Wei and the six gifted scholars’ mood in creating poetry.

    When there were no other people around, Gu Yanwu and the others expressed their gratitude once again for Wei Xiaobao’s great kindness in saving their lives in the past. Wei Xiaobao modestly responded, and then he told them about how Wu Liuqi and Chen Jinnan met their ends one after another. Everybody sighed endlessly. Gu Yanwu said, “The rumors floating around in Jianghu all said that Wei Xiangzhu coveted riches and honor and murdered your master to gain glory. But Huang Xiong, Zha Xiong and Xiongdi knew that it was not true. The three of us were total strangers to Wei Xiangzhu, yet unexpectedly Wei Xiangzhu was willing to brave great danger by killing that servant Wu Zhirong and saved our lives. How can someone whose righteousness reaches the clouds and the sky murder his benevolent master?”

    Zha Jizuo said, “When we heard Jianghu friends mentioning this matter, we always do our best to defend Wei Xiangzhu against the accusation. But they said that Tatar Emperor’s imperial edict said so, how could it be false? Yet we know that Wei Xiangzhu live in Cao camp but have your heart in Han camp, you cannot always explain everything to the outsiders. From the beginning all heroes and warriors must undertake a task despite criticism. In order for Duke of Zhou to be a great sage great virtuous person, he still had to manage Cai spreading rumors, much less other people? For this reason, Wei Xiangzhu need not take it to heart.” Wei Xiaobao did not understand what he was talking about, the Duke of Zhou managing Cai and so on; he could only say ‘yes, yes’.

    Lu Liuliang said, “Wei Xiangzhu made painstaking effort in planning great undertaking, actually you do not need to seek the people of the whole world’s understanding. As long as in the end you come out with a world-shaking achievement, everybody will understand that previously they have accused you wrongly.”

    Wei Xiaobao mused, “What kind of world-shaking achievement I can possibly do? Aiyo, not good, they want to persuade me to assassinate the Emperor. How can I ‘refuse three obstruct four’ [i.e. use all sorts of excuses], refuse five obstruct six toward them? My way out is already bolted.” He said, “Xiongdi does not have any ability, literary knowledge is even less, whatever I attempted to do, I always did not get the desired outcome on both sides. Xiongdi is very discouraged, this time I am ‘announcing old age and returning home’ [i.e. to retire from public life]; later on I won’t do anything.”

    “Pft,” Lu Yizhong saw that Wei Xiaobao was a few years younger than himself, yet unexpectedly he spoke about ‘announcing old age and returning home’, he stifled a laughter, but in the end could not help bursting in laughter. Gu Yanwu and the others were also amused; they looked at each other with smile on their faces.

    Huang Lizhou smiled and said, “Wei Xiangzhu is a young hero, your future prospect is immeasureable. Ignorant people’s temporary misunderstanding needs not be bothered about.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “This one comparatively has to be regarded as important. Mr. Huang, you wrote a good book, called … called … Ming … Ming something something Huahualulu?”

    Huang Lizhou was greatly surprised, “This man’s eyes cannot recognize the letter ‘T’, how did he know about my book?” He said, “It’s ‘Ming Yi Dai Fang Lu’.”

    “That’s right, that’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In your book there are a lot of words reprimanding the Emperor, is that right?”

    Huang Lizhou and the others where shocked; they all thought, “Even this man knew about it. I’m afraid there will be another big literary inquisition.”

    Gu Yanwu said, “It’s not reprimanding the Emperor. In his book Huang Xiong wrote his clear and penetrating opinion, he explained which road the ruler ought to take.”

    “That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “These days His Majesty read Mr. Huang’s book every day, he did not stop praising you for writing the book so well, maybe he is going to invite you to become a Zhuangyuan, become the prime minister.”

    “Wei Xiangzhu is making fun of me,” Huang Lizhou said, “How can there be such thing?”

    Thereupon Wei Xiaobao explained how Kangxi greatly praised the ‘investigative record of Ming-barbarians dealing’; only then did everybody feel relieved. Huang Lizhou said, “Turns out the Tatar Emperor is able to distinguish right from wrong.”

    Wei Xiaobao seized the opportunity by saying, “That’s right. The Young Emperor said, although he is not a raw bird fish soup, compared to those Ming Dynasty Emperors, he is not necessarily inferior; perhaps he is even a bit better. With him being the Emperor, common people throughout the world pass their days better than during the Ming Dynasty. Xiongdi is unlearned, I have no knowledge and experience, I don’t know if what he was saying is right.”

    Gu, Zha, Huang, and Lu, four people ‘you look at me, I look at you’, recalling each emperor of the Ming Dynasty; from the founder of the Dynasty, Ming Taizu all the way to the last emperor of the dynasty, Emperor Chongzhen. If not a cruel tyrant, then it must be a muddleheaded emperor; which one was as good as Kangxi? These four people were the great scholars of the present age, they were well acquainted with history. Unwilling to rule out conscience, they could not help but nodding their head silently.

    “Therefore,” Wei Xiaobao continued, “The Emperor is good, Tian Di Hui is also good. The Emperor wanted me to exterminate Tian Di Hui, I determined not to do it. Tian Di Hui brothers wanted me to assassinate the Emperor, I also made up my mind not to do it. The outcome is that both sides are blaming me. Xiongdi has thought it through from different angles, hence I want to ‘announce old age and return home’.”

    “Wei Xiangzhu,” Gu Yanwu said, “We came this time, not to ask you to assassinate the Emperor.”

    “That’s very good,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “As long as it is not assassinating the Emperor, Xiongdi will not shirk without dishonor in everything else. I wonder what four senior gentlemen, two young gentlemen want me to do?”

    Gu Yanwu pushed the cabin’s window open, looked out, and saw that all around them was peace and quiet. He looked back and said, “We came to persuade Wei Xiangzhu to be the Emperor!”

    ‘Bing, bang!’ the teacup in Wei Xiaobao’s hand fell down to the floor and shattered. He was shocked. “This … this is not a joke?” he asked.

    “Definitely not a joke,” Zha Jizuo replied, “A few of us have been deliberating over this matter for several months, we all feel that the Great Ming’s fortune is gone, common people throughout the world will not go back to the previous Ming. In all honesty all the emperors of the former Ming had caused too much suffering to the common people, everybody remembers them with hate. But the Tatars are occupying our Han family’s rivers and mountains, they want Han people all over the world to have our heads shaved and tie a braid, changing our clothes to barbarians’ attire; this is always hard to swallow. Wei Xiangzhu holds the power over the military, plus you are the Tatar Emperor’s trusted aide. As long as you are willing to raise the righteous banner and stand on your own feet as the Emperor, the people throughout the world will certainly look at you for direction.”

    Wei Xiaobao was still in panic mode; he repeatedly shook his hand and said, “I … I don’t have that kind of good fortune, I cannot be the emperor.”

    Gu Yanwu said, “Wei Xiangzhu always uphold justice, your good fortune is even more profound. Look around the world, if not you becoming the emperor, among the Han people there is nobody that has this kind of good fortune.”

    Lu Liuliang said, “We, Han people, are a hundred times more numerous than the Manchus. One hundred people against their one person, how can we not achieve victory? That day Wu Sangui rose in rebellion, it was only because he forfeited the Great Ming’s rivers and mountains and became a big traitor that the Han people all over the world gnashed our teeth in bitter hatred and thus he could not succeed. Wei Xiangzhu has the heaven and the people on your side, recently you pacified Luocha, setting up an amazing merit to China, your prestige is rising, like the sun in the middle of the day. As soon as Wei Xiangzhu nod your head, we will immediately contact the heroes and warriors of Jianghu, together we draw a plan for this great undertaking.”

    Wei Xiaobao’s heart was thumping madly, not even in his wildest dream would he expect that anybody would exhort him to be the Emperor. After staring blankly for half a day, he finally said, “I came from a small hoodlum background, my expertise is in cursing people and gambling. I became a general and a high-ranking officer, already other people are not happy about it; how can I be the Emperor? The Son of Heaven is ordained by the Heaven, he has to have gargantuan good fortune. My birthdate characters[1] [used in fortune-telling] are not right, the fortune-teller has already calculated that if I became the Emperor, I will not live pass three days.”

    Hearing him talking nonsense, Lu Yizhong stifled another laughter. Zha Jizuo said, “What are Wei Xiangzhu’s birthdate characters? Let us find a brilliant fortune-teller and have him make calculation.” He knew that Wei Xiaobao did not have any profound knowledge, hence reasoning with him, they could only speak about little righteousness, not big righteousness. Describing virtuous cause to him, he would only understand little potential, and would not understand big potential. But if they bribed a fortune-teller to say that he was indeed the Son of Heaven ordained by the Heaven, that he received the mandate of Heaven to sit on the Dragon Throne, he might believe instead.

    Who would have thought that Wei Xiaobao said, “The time of my birth and my birth characters are known only to my mother. When we get to Yangzhou, I am going to ask her.”

    Everybody knew he did not mean it; he was merely making excuses. Lu Liuliang said, “Among the heroes and warriors, most do not confine themselves to particulars. Han Gaozu [first Han emperor Liu Bang] was open-minded and generous; compared to Wei Xiangzhu he was a lot more easygoing.” In his heart he said, “You came from a small hoodlum background, it is nothing. Han Gaozu came from big hoodlum background; he cursed people and gambled, compared to you he was a lot more troublesome, yet in the end he became the King who founded the Han Dynasty.”

    Wei Xiaobao shook his hand and said, “We all are good friends, let me tell you the truth.” While saying that, he stroked his own head. “This guy here has a mouth,” he continued, “This mouth still want to eat damned several dozen of years of rice. This guy also has a pair of eyes, they like to watch a play and look at beautiful women. On it grew a pair of ears, they want to listen to stories, listen to songs. If I became the Emperor, this guy most likely cannot be protected, once it is chopped down, everything will collapse silly. Besides, becoming an emperor is not much fun. Taiwan suffers a hurricane, he was anxious; someone in Yunnan rose up in rebellion, he had to mind him. The job as an emperor is exhausting but not fun. I absolutely don’t want to do it.”

    Gu Yanwu and the others looked at each other in dismay; they felt what he said made a lot of sense. Since Wei Xiaobao did not have any ambition in his heart, and he was unwilling to step forward bravely for the sake of the country and the people, to move his heart was indeed a very difficult matter.

    After half a day, Gu Yanwu said, “This is a big matter, it is not easy to make decision in such a short time …” Speaking to this point, suddenly they heard faint hoof beats, several dozen of riders approached from the north along the western bank; in the dead of the night, the sound was twice as clear.

    Huang Lizhou said, “Very late at night, how can there be a large group of riders?”

    Lu Liuliang said, “Could it be the night patrol?”

    Zha Jizuo shook his head and said, “Can’t be. Night patrol will ride their horses very slow, not galloping like this. Could it be Jianghu visitor?”

    While they were still talking, they heard several dozen more riders on the eastern bank. The canal was not too wide, when there were horses galloping on both sides of the river, the people on the boat could hear it clearly. The boatmen of the boat on the rear received order to use the punting pole to get two boats close to each other. Su Quan and Shuang’er leaped onto the bow.

    Xianggong,” Su Quan said, “I am afraid the incoming people harbor malicious intentions, let’s gather everybody together.”

    “Alright!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Mr. Gu and the others are old gentlemen, they don’t look like lechers. Everybody come in, even if they see them it won’t be a big deal.”

    In their hearts Gu Yanwu and the others said, “Rubbish!” They felt it was inappropriate for them to meet the females in Wei Xiaobao’s family; therefore, they moved to the stern. The Princess, Ah Ke and the others, seven women, carried their children into the bow cabin.

    They heard over the dike of the eastern and western banks the whistling sound of bamboo whistle calling and answering each other. Wei Xiaobao happily said, “It’s Tian Di Hui whistle.”

    Several dozen of riders on both sides galloped toward the official boats. From the western bank someone called out, “Wei Xiaobao, come out!”

    “Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao cursed in low voice, “No respect for seniors at all, they don’t even call ‘Wei Xiangzhu’ once.”

    He was about to walk toward the bow, Su Quan pulled him back and said, “Let me question them clearly.” Walking toward the door of the cabin she asked, “Which heroes are here to see Wei Xianggong?” Looking toward both banks, she saw all riders were wearing dark green cloth headband, while holding weapons in their hands.

    The leader of the people on the western bank said, “We are from Tian Di Hui.”

    Su Quan lowered her voice, “What is the secret code when you meet Tian Di Hui people?”

    Wei Xiaobao went to the cabin’s door and said in a loud and clear voice, “Five men separately compose a poem, nobody knows the Hong Ying [lit. great courage. See also Chapter 8 for more info on Tian Di Hui.] on their body.”

    The man on the horse replied, “That is Tian Di Hui’s old secret code. Ever since Wei Xiaobao betrayed the Society and surrendered to the enemy, murdered his master to seek honor, all the secret code of the Society have been changed.”


    [1] Eight Characters of Birth Time or the Four Pillars of Destiny is conceptual term that describes the four components creating a person's destiny or fate. The four components within the moment of birth are year, month, day, and hour. It is called BāZì (八字), Eight Characters, because each of the four pillars (representing the year, month, day, and hour of one's birth respectively) is represented by two characters; one character for a Heavenly Stem and one character for an Earthly Branch. There are 10 Heavenly Stems (天干; TiānGān) and 12 Earthly Branches (地支; DìZhī). (Courtesy of Ace High)

  8. #388
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    Default Chapter 50 - Part 6

    Wei Xiaobao was startled. “Who are you?” he asked, “How can you say such thing?”

    The man said, “Are you Wei Xiaobao?”

    Wei Xiaobao thought there was no use in denying; he said, “I am Wei Xiaobao.”

    The man said, “Then I can tell you this: I am from Great Transformation Hall of Tian Di Hui, my surname is Shu.”

    “Turns out it’s Shu Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “There is a lot of misunderstanding here. Is your honorable Hall’s Li Xiangzhu around?”

    The man surnamed Shu hatefully said, “Your evil crimes fill the heavens. Li Xiangzhu died of anger because of you.”

    The people on the western bank shouted loudly, “Wei Xiaobao betrayed the Society and surrendered to the enemy, murdered his master to seek honor; Shu Dage does not need to talk to him too much. Today we are going to chop his body into ten thousand pieces, to avenge Chen Zongduozhu and Li Xiangzhu.”

    When the people on the eastern bank heard this, they also shouted in loud voices. Suddenly ‘whoosh!’ someone threw a piece of flying locust rock. Wei Xiaobao hastily withdrew into the cabin, while groaning inwardly, “Turns out Great Transformation Hall’s Li Xiangzhu has passed away; without distinguishing red-blue or black-white these brothers are acting recklessly, what should I do?”

    He heard a series of ‘pi pi pai pai’ on the sail of their boat, secret projectiles from both sides continuously arrived. Finally the official boat stopped in the middle of the canal, the distance from either side was equally far, some secret projectiles fell into the water, even if they reached the sail, the momentum was very weak. Wei Xiaobao said, “This is ‘straw boat to borrow arrows’, I … I am Lu Su, I can only trembling with fear. Which one of you is Zhuge … Zhuge Liang? Quickly … quickly think of a plan.”

    Seeing the secret projectiles were shot one after another, Gu Yanwu and the others, along with the boatmen, were hiding in the hold of the boat. Suddenly a flame flickered, several flaming arrows were shot toward the sail. Immediately the sail caught fire. “Aiyo!” Wei Xiaobao cried out, “It’s desperately serious, Wei Xiaobao is on fire!”

    Su Quan shouted loudly, “Mr. Gu Yanwu is in here, you must not be rude.” She thought that Gu Yanwu’s prestige in Jianghu was quite resounding, presumably Tian Di Hui people would not dare to offend him. But amid the noise over the river, her voice was drowned.

    Wei Xiaobao said, “Wives, let us shout together, ‘Mr. Gu Yanwu is here!’ One, two, three!”

    Seven madams followed after Wei Xiaobao, “Mr. Gu Yanwu is here!”

    After they had shouted three times, the noise of the people ashore gradually died down, the secret projectiles attack also stopped at once. The man surnamed Shu asked in loud voice, “Is Mr. Gu Yanwu on the boat?”

    Gu Yanwu stood on the bow, cupped his fist and said, “Xiongdi Gu Yanwu is here.”

    “Aiyo!” the man surnamed Shu cried out, and hastily issued his order, “Brothers with water skill, quickly jump into the river and tow the boat to the shore.”

    They heard continuous splashing noise as dozens of Society members jumped into the canal and pushed and pulled the official boat toward the western bank. By this time the fire on the boat was burning high. Shuang’er pulled Wei Xiaobao and took him jumping to the shore, the remaining people also went ashore one after another. With unsheathed weapons in their hands, Tian Di Hui people surrounded them all around.

    The man surnamed Shu cupped his fist and bowed to Gu Yanwu; he said, “Zaixia Tian Di Hui Great Transformation Hall’s Shu Hualong paying his respect to Mr. Gu Yanwu.”

    Gu Yanwu cupped his fist to return the salute. An old man from Tian Di Hui bowed and said, “That year in the Turtle-Slaying Assembly of Hejianfu, the heroes all over the world elected Mr. Gu as Zong Junshi [Chief Military Counselor], Zaixia has seen Mr. Gu’s face once. We brothers are being reckless, please pardon our offense.”

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You are indeed too reckless.”

    The old man said in stern voice, “I am talking to Mr. Gu; who spoke to you, this little traitor?” Stretching out his hand, he wanted to grab Wei Xiaobao’s chest. Su Quan blocked with her left hand, followed by a hand-flip, she caught and twisted the man’s wrist; borrowing the momentum, she pushed forward. The old man was unable to hold his stand; he was thrown down outward. Two Tian Di Hui members hastily rushed forward to hold him up.

    Gu Yanwu called out, “If you have something to talk, let’s talk. Don’t use force, don’t use force!”

    By this time the inside of the cabin had already caught fire. Under the blazing fire the faces of the people on the shore could be seen clearly. Su Quan felt that she and Shuang’er had superior martial art skill, to protect their husband and break the siege was not a difficult matter. Tian Di Hui people only wanted to deal with Wei Xiaobao, one person; all they need to do was to ensure he could escape, these Jianghu warriors would certainly not give trouble to women and children. Thereupon she and Shuang’er stood on Wei Xiaobao’s left and right. They already had their eyes on three horses, as soon as the talk reached a deadlock, they would immediately make their move to snatch the horses.

    Gu Yanwu pulled Shu Hualong’s hand and said, “Shu Dage, please step aside to talk.” The two of them walked off several zhang. Shu Hualong listened to Gu Yanwu’s explanation, and then with a loud voice he called six or seven names to come forward. Looking at their appearance, these men were the leaders of this group. The old man who was thrown down by Su Quan was one of them, the remaining forty or so men were still surrounding Wei Xiaobao all around.

    Wei Xiaobao said, “My valuables in the boat are indeed not a few, you burned it down. Hey, hey, if the Great Transformation Hall wants to compensate for my loss, it will break your money coffer big time.” Some of the people raised their sabers to threaten; some opened their mouths in cursing. Wei Xiaobao did not pay them any attention; he expected Gu Yanwu would explain the truth to Shu Hualong.

    As expected, when Shu Hualong and the other Great Transformation Hall leaders heard Gu Yanwu’s explanation, they found out that there were many twists and turns in this story, Wei Xiaobao worked as a high-ranking officer in the imperial court, although they did not understand everything, but the murder of Zongduozhu Chen Jinnan was not done by him, hence the bitter hatred in their hearts disappeared.

    They came together to him. Shu Hualong cupped his fist and said, “Wei Xiangzhu, just now we misunderstood you. If not for Mr. Gu’s enlightenment, we all nearly committed an offense.”

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “To really offend me is not that easy.” While saying that, he leaned sideways, unleashing the ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ [divine line hundred changes] he charged to the left, passed through to the right, went up and down twice or three times, and already he was about five, six zhang away from the Great Transformation Hall’s encirclement, and then with one leap he landed on a horseback.

    Shu Hualong and the others were shocked; nobody expected that his lightness skill was surprisingly marvelous beyond measure. This man had such an outstanding martial art, no wonder although he was young, he had become Tian Di Hui Green Wood Hall’s Xiangzhu. Admittedly famous master would produce brilliant student, Zongduozhu’s direct disciple indeed was not a small matter. That old man from Great Transformation Hall’s martial art was also very strong, the brothers had always admired him, but with one twist and one push by Su Quan, he had no room to parry, and was narrowly thrown down to the ground. It appeared that each and every one of the other six ladies was also martial art expert. If they really had to fight, although their sides had more people, perhaps they would be beaten and had their heads and faces filthy with grime.

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Excuse me, I must leave now!” Raising the reins, he galloped the horse away. But after rushing to the west about a dozen zhang, he swiftly leaped down from the horse and charged northwest; slipping to the left ducking to the right, somehow he returned to the encirclement and stood at his original spot with a grin on his face. Nobody could see clearly when did he come in.

    Tian Di Hui members looked at each other, overwhelmed with amazement. Shu Hualong cupped his fist and said, “Wei Xiangzhu’s martial art is superb. My utmost admiration, my utmost admiration.”

    Wei Xiaobao also cupped his fist and said with a laugh, “It was just a shameful display.”

    Shu Hualong said, “Mr. Gu has explained to us that Wei Xiangzhu live in Cao camp but have your heart in Han camp, and is about to attempt a world-shaking great undertaking, to raise aspiration of the Han people throughout the world. When Wei Xiangzhu is ready to stage an uprising, although we, the Great Transformation Hall’s brothers, do not have much skill, as long as Wei Xiangzhu has anything for us to do, we will go through water and tread on fire, under no circumstances will we decline to do it.”

    “Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

    Shu Hualong noticed Wei Xiaobao’s unenthusiastic expression. Suddenly he raised his right index finger, ‘pop!’ he poked his own left eye. Immediately blood flowed out. Everybody screamed in fright. Wei Xiaobao, Gu Yanwu, and the others asked in alarm, “Shu Dage, what … what are you doing?”

    Upright and unafraid Shu Hualong replied, “Xiongdi has offended Wei Xiangzhu, violating our Society’s commandment against disrespecting superior. I should have poked both of my eyeballs as a reprimand that I have eyes but failed to see. But Xiongdi wants to leave the other eye, I want to see how will Wei Xiangzhu accomplish the world-shaking great undertaking in the end.”

    The old man said awe-inspiringly, “Supposing Mr. Gu and the others were deceived, Wei Xiangzhu only talked without actually doing it, all along he covets riches and honor, and only wanted to be a high-ranking officer; then what?”

    Shu Hualong said, “Then Wei Xiangzhu also has to dig his own eyeball to compensate for mine.” Finished speaking he turned to Gu Yanwu and Wei Xiaobao, bowed and saluted, and said, “We are waiting for good news from Wei Xiangzhu.” Waving his left hand, everybody withdrew, mounted their horses and galloped away.

    The old man turned his head around and called out, “Wei Xiangzhu, when you are home, ask your Niang [mother], is your Laozi [old man] a Han, or a Manchu? As a human being you must not forget your own ancestor.”

    The bamboo whistle was blown, the crowd of warriors on the eastern bank also galloped away southward. In a short period of time, the riders on both banks had completely gone. The boat on the water was still burning.

    Gu Yanwu sighed and said, “These brothers are still suspicious toward Wei Xiongdi. They are warriors of the wilderness, inevitably their speech is boorish, but they have loyal and righteous hearts, other people cannot help but feeling respect. Wei Xiangzhu, we have not finished what we wanted to talk to you about. We only hope that you will not forget the Great Han’s descendants. We are taking our leave now, I am sure we’ll meet again some day.” Finished speaking he cupped his fist, and then with Huang, Zha and the Lu’s they bade farewell.

    Wei Xiaobao stood dejectedly at the riverbank, the autumn wind was bringing slight chill, the fire on the official boat gradually died down, occasionally the burning boat emitted some crackling noise, the flame roared for a moment, and then slowly getting smaller and smaller. He mumbled to himself, “What should I do? What should I do?”

    Su Quan said, “Luckily we have the other boat. Let us go back to Siyangji, we’ll think about it and make decision later.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “That old man told me to go home and ask my Niang, my Laozi is a Han or a Manchu. Hey, hey, it’s not a bad idea.”

    “Xiaobao,” Su Quan consoled him, “This kind of uncouth people’s random talk, why do you take it seriously? Let us get on the boat.”

    Wei Xiaobao stood motionless, his heart was in turmoil. Looking down, he saw drops of blood on the ground, blood from Shu Hualong’s self-inflicted wound on his left eye. Suddenly he cried out, “Laozi don’t want to do it, Laozi don’t want to do it!”

    The seven madams were startled. Wei Shuangshuang was already fast asleep in her mother’s arms, because of his loud shout, she woke up with a start and cried.

    Wei Xiaobao said in a loud voice, “The Emperor forces me to strike Tian Di Hui, Tian Di Hui forces me to strike the Emperor. Laozi’s feet are treading on two boats, both sides do not give me any fruitful outcome to reward my labor. One side wants to chop my head, the other side wants to dig my eyeball. How many heads and how many eyeballs can one person have? You come to chop, I come to dig, what else will Laozi have left? I quit. No matter what Laozi don’t want to do it anymore!”

    Seeing his abnormal expression, Su Quan advised him in tender voice, “Becoming an imperial court official, your days are spent in fear and always on edge, there is nothing fun about it. Becoming a Tian Di Hui Xiangzhu is also not fun to do. You decide to quit, nothing can’t be better than that.”

    Wei Xiaobao happily said, “So all of you advise me to quit?”

    Su Quan, Fang Yi, Ah Ke, Zeng Rou, Mu Jianping, and Shuang’er, six women nodded their heads. Only Princess Jianning said, “You have only achieved dukedom, how can you think of quitting your government position? You must be conferred the title King, becoming chief assistant great learning scholar [not sure, 首辅大学士], have both civil and military authorities, and then it would be a good time to announce your retirement. Besides, if you resign your post right now, I am sure Huangdi Gege won’t allow it.”

    Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “I don’t want to be government official, I don’t need the Emperor to care about it. He is no more than my Dajiuzi [wife’s older brother]. Damn it, why bother and talk too much? I don’t even want this Dajiuzi anymore.” Not wanting the Emperor as Dajiuzi means he did not want the Princess to be his wife. The Princess was scared; how could she dare to talk too much?

    Seeing his seven wives did not have anything else to say, immediately Wei Xiaobao was happy and excited. He said, “The Great Transformation Hall burned my boat, they really burned it well, burn it swell, burn it all the way to hell. We can quietly hide, the local officials will report to the imperial court, they will say that I am burned to death by the bandits. From now on my Dajiuzi can’t find me anymore.”

    Su Quan and the others clapped together, only the Princess was silent. Immediately the eight of them discussed a plan. Wei Xiaobao, the Princess, and Shuang’er, three people would change their clothes, go to Huaiyinan inn and wait there. Su Quan would lead Fang Yi, Ah Ke, Mu Jianping and Zeng Rou, four women, to go back to Siyangji to collect the gold, silver and valuables, as well as other things they wanted to take from the remaining boats, and then spread rumor that Duke Wei’s official boat was attacked by a gang of bandits in the night, the boat was burned, the people perished. However, those several boatmen saw that Wei Xiaobao did not die; they would create danger later. In Su Quan’s opinion, they should be killed to shut their mouths, and have their bodies abandoned at the riverbank; then it would be even more believable. Mu Jianping could not bear to do it, she insisted on not murdering the innocent.

    “Very well,” Su Quan said, “Jianping Meizi has good conscience, Laotianye will bless you with many healthy sons. Xiaobao, I’ll lift my sword to kill you, you run into the woods, scream loudly, pretend that I am killing you.”

    Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You are a brutish woman, you want to murder your own husband?” Raising his voice he cried out, “Murder, murder!” And started to run. After running in circle several times, he fled to the woods. With a sword in her hand, Su Quan ran after him into the woods. They heard Wei Xiaobao screamed, “Help, help! He …” the last ‘help’ was abruptly cut-off and then suddenly he went silent.

    Mu Jianping was fully aware that they were pretending, but hearing Wei Xiaobao’s mournful cry, she could not refrain her heart from thumping madly. “Shuang’er Meizi,” she asked in a low voice, “It’s … it’s not real, is it?”

    Shuang’er said, “Don’t be afraid. Nat … naturally it’s not real.” But she could not help feeling afraid herself.

    They saw Su Quan walked out of the woods with the sword still in her hand; she called out, “Kill all the boatmen!”

    All along the boatmen were squatting on the shore. Seeing Tian Di Hui people set the boat on fire, and Su Quan killing Wei Jueye, they were already trembling with fear. Seeing Su Quan came with sword in her hand to kill them, they scattered in all directions to protect their lives; instantly they all disappeared without a trace.

  9. #389
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    Default Chapter 50 - Part 7

    Shuang’er was worried over Wei Xiaobao, she rushed toward the woods, and saw him lying on the ground, motionless. Shuang’er was so scared that her body and soul separated, thinking how could she kill him for real? Throwing herself on him she called out, “Xianggong, Xianggong!”

    Seeing Wei Xiaobao’s body was stiff, she panicked even more. Hastily she reached out to lift him up. Suddenly Wei Xiaobao opened up his arms and embraced her tightly, while calling out, “Great success, you deserve a kiss!”

    Husband and wives, eight people proceeded according to plan; they fetched their belongings, and continued on to Yangzhou in disguise. After picking up Wei Xiaobao’s mother, the whole family went to Yunnan. Henceforth they lived incognito, spending their free and leisure days in Dali city.

    In his free time, Wei Xiaobao often felt bored, and remembered the huge amount of treasures hidden in Mount Luding under the city of Yakesa that had not been dug yet. He thought that if he could be the richest man in the world, he would be perfectly satisfied. However, remembering his friendship with Kangxi, he could not bear to sever his dragon’s vein.

    Kangxi was well aware of Wei Xiaobao’s character and ability; he knew he would not be easily harmed by the bandits, let alone even though they searched, they could not find his body. Hereafter Kangxi unceasingly sent people on open enquiries and secret search, yet there were no result.

    Later generation historians wrote an account on Kangxi went down to Jiangnan six times, with the purpose of inspecting the work on Yellow River. But he had never been to Jiangnan before; why was it that as soon as Wei Xiaobao went missing, that very same year he went to Jiangnan? If he was inspecting the river work, why did he go as far as Hangzhou? Why did each time he stop over in Yangzhou for so long? And why did each time he send out a large number of Imperial Bodyguards to every brothel, casino, teahouse and wine shop to inquire about Wei Xiaobao? When the inquiry failed to get any result, why was he depressed?

    Based on later generation research, the ‘Hong Lou Meng’ [Dream of Red Mansions] author Cao Xueqin’s paternal grandfather Cao Yin was originally an Imperial Bodyguard, who was once serving under Wei Xiaobao’s command. Later on Kangxi sent him to Suzhou’s weaving industry, and also appointed him to be in charge of Jiangning’s weaving industry, ordering him to set his headquarters in a bustling city in Jiangnan, to enable him to search for news of Wei Xiaobao in the neighboring areas.

    That day when Wei Xiaobao finally reached Yangzhou, he brought his wives, sons and daughter to Lovely Spring Courtyard to see his mother. Mother and child met in person, their joy was unbearable. Wei Chunfang saw her seven daughter-in-laws were all as beautiful as flower and as jade; she thought, “Xiaobao, this little thief’s eyesight in selecting women is not bad. If he opened up a courtyard, he would certainly make a lot of money.”

    Wei Xiaobao pulled his mother into her room and asked, “Ma, actually, who is my laozi?”

    With eyes opened wide Wei Chunfang said, “How do I know?”

    Knitting his brows, Wei Xiaobao said, “Before you got me in your belly, what kind of visitors did you receive?”

    “At that time your Niang was a very pretty woman,” Wei Chunfang replied, “Every day I received several visitors. How could I remember that many people?”

    “Were all those visitors Han people?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

    Wei Chunfang replied, “Naturally there were some Han, but there were some Manchu officers, and some Mongolian military officers too.”

    “Were there any foreign demons?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

    Wei Chunfang was angry. “You think your Niang is a rotten wh0re that I would receive foreign demons? ” she said, “Hot piece mama, if Luocha demons, red-haired demons came to Lovely Spring Courtyard, Laoniang would swat them out with a big broom.”

    Wei Xiaobao was relieved. “That’s very good!”

    Wei Chunfang looked up, recalling past events. She said, “At that time there was a Hui kid, he often came here looking for me; his appearance was very handsome. I often said in my heart, my Xiaobao has a good nose, it looks a bit like him.”

    Wei Xiaobao said, “There were Han, Manchu, Mongol and Hui men; was there any Tibetan?”

    “Why not?” Wei Chunfang proudly said, “That Tibetan Lama, before he went to bed, he always chanted Buddhist scripture. While chanting, his eyeballs ran all over me. Your eyes are wily and too happy, just like that Lama’s!”

    THE END.

  10. #390
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    Default Appendix

    Appendix

    Kangxi Imperial Court’s Secret Memorials

    In the story ‘The Deer and the Cauldron’, Kangxi was said to have secret agents among Wei Xiaobao’s subordinates, so that he knew a lot of Wei Xiaobao’s covert activities. The tale in the novel is a bit exaggerated. At the beginning of Qing, the government structure was equivalent to Qing-Ming. The Ming Dynasty’s Eastern Faction, Western Faction, Internal Faction, Brocade-clothed Guard, and other special assignment military units were disbanded; the Emperor did not have personal special agents. All the way until the demise of Qing, there was no special intelligence unit. Legend has it that Yongzheng established the ‘Flying Guillotine’, but it was only in the novel, there was no historical evidence.

    However, it was a fact that Kangxi paid particular attention to the activity of his ministers and the condition of the local people; for this, the ruler must have had informants. From the beginning, ever since before Kangxi ascended the throne, the Qing court established ‘secret memorial (to the emperor)’ system. In the original system, the imperial court had a so-called ‘General Secretarial Institution’. Memorials submitted by ordinary officials in the Capital, reports from local officials, everything must be submitted to the General Secretary first, after he reviewed it, then it would be transferred to the Emperor. Kangxi thought that this system could lead to constriction and leakage of classified information; therefore, he had a minister whom he extremely trusted to review the memorials. Reports no longer went through the General Secretary, but were submitted directly to the Emperor. On the cover of secret reports, the name and surname of the people who submitted it was not written clearly, it was only stamped with ‘Solemnly Submitted to the South Study Room[1]’. And thus the memorial was personally delivered to the Imperial Study Room and handed over to the court eunuch. After the Emperor gave the official reply, it would be hand-delivered back to the Imperial Study Room.

    Later on, the scope of this system of memorials was extended; it was not limited to trusted minister who could submit secret memorial to the emperor, ordinary local governor generals, high officials in the Capital, could now submit memorials directly to the emperor. By Yongzheng’s years, the provision was extended further to ‘class officers’ (middle level officials), every day one person would take turns to submit the memorial to the emperor. Big matter, small matter, everything must be reported, even if there was nothing to report, they still had to explain why there was nothing to report. With this system, the Emperor’s power was greatly expanded, while at the same time government officials of all levels did not dare to conceal anything.

    Looking at the memorial submitted during Kangxi’s reign, in most part the contents of the memorial were grain prices in all parts of the country, the rain water, the harvest, public opinion, and whether the government officials were just and honest or corrupt. It can clearly be seen that Kangxi was most concerned about the common people’s economy and life quality, as well as whether the officials governing the people were corrupt or not. Naturally he also paid particular attention to rebellion or insurgency in any place.

    On the memorials, Kangxi would write comments using vermillion ink. Most of the time he only wrote “Noted”, three characters [zhi dao le – lit. “I know.”], but sometimes he would write detailed directives. From these directives, it is clear that Kangxi was brilliant and very prudent, while at the same time his treatment toward his ministers and the common people was very lenient and considerate.

    Wang Hongxu's memorials

    Wang Hongxu was nine years older than Kangxi, a native of Huating [county], Jiangsu province. He graduated as a Jinshi in Kangxi’s twelfth year, and became compiler and editor of Hanlin Academy, the Minister of Department of Transport & Irrigation, Minister of Revenue, and several other high-ranking official positions; he was a minister whom Kangxi trusted very much. On the memorial that he submitted to Kangxi, he only wrote ‘Confidential Report. Subject Wang Hongxu solemnly presents.’ He did not write his official rank, it was completely without any polite set of phrases usually used by government officials. He took an official post in the Capital, the secret reports he submitted were mostly about the state of affairs of Beijing’s government officials.

    Kangxi dispatched his trusted aides to gather information, at first he only sent high-ranking ministers, but the number was extremely limited, furthermore, he repeatedly warned these people to keep it top secret. On the memorial submitted by Wang Hongxu, he personally wrote, “The matter that can be heard in the Capital, Qing [term used by the emperor for his subjects] submitted in confidential report, with the wish for good health in the memorial, must not be known by other people. If it flows out swiftly (leak out), the repercussion will be substantial. Careful, careful.”

    “In the years before the tour to the south, there were many unworthy people deceiving Suzhou women. Even at home, Zhen [I, imperial use] knows. This year I am afraid such thing will happen again, thou shall carefully investigate, if there is indeed such thing, personally write a memorial secretly. This matter must not be known by other people. If someone finds out, thou will be inconvenienced.” (Suzhou women were well known for their beauty; probably some people were taking the opportunity of Kangxi’s tour to the south to hold a beauty contest and offer it as a tribute, or perhaps borrowing their names to cheat Suzhou women’s families.)

    “If there is any problem later on, submit the memorial using the southern tour as precedent. There are numerous ears and eyes in the Palace, inevitably people will know, in which case, do not submit any memorials.”

    “If you hear any information, treat it in accordance with the previous memorial.”

    Having received the Emperor’s commission, Wang Hongxu absolutely did not dare to leak anything. In the memorial he said, “By being selected from among the scholars, Chen [minister/subject, term of address used when speaking to a ruler] experiences and receives the sage’s grace, there is no way I can render service to repay kindness, no matter what; for which I am really ashamed. Now entering the palace courtyard on the thirteenth day of the month, miao ke [4th earthly branch, 5-7am] hour, respectfully received imperial confirmation along with the sealed secret order, by this time Cai and Zha, two ministers have not arrived. Acting with reverence Chen opened it and read it silently, I cannot bear to be extremely grateful and frightened at the same time. I have to admit that Chen was ignorant, and have been ignorant several times, and thus it is my responsibility to look up to the Heaven’s kindness, for breaking the rule in appointing the confidential, only by exhausting myself by being a dog or a horse I vow my strength in loyalty, looking up to repay the holy sage’s ten-thousand and one kindness. To find favor and untiring instruction from above, to think over how Chen somehow exposed some rumor, the responsibility is indeed too great, all the more Chen feels like weeping, forever strictly abide by this moment, three times sealing my mouth, even toward my own flesh and blood like father, son or brothers, I will also never tell, I will make doubly sure to look up to the monarch’s will in understanding your idea. From now on, any affair that I hear in the Capital, at any time Chen will respectfully request the holy sage to transcribe tiny suitable memorial, a confidential report to be reviewed. As for confidential matter related to the imperial decree, it will be reported in accompanying memorial. I have been instructed.” (Kangxi noted: ‘Yes’.)

    For the most part, the memorials submitted by Wang Hongxu pertaining to land tax, transportation, money minting, salt trade, and other public financial matters. He was especially interested in finance and economics affairs; therefore, for a long time afterwards, he served as the Minister of Department of Transport & Irrigation and the Minister of Revenue. Originally, these finance and economics affairs may be reported via formal memorial to the throne, but since secret memorials were mostly dealing with corrupt practices, violations in matters that those government officials had vested interest in, confidential reports seemed to be more appropriate.

    Apart from corrupt practices in finance and economics, the nature of Wang Hongxu’s secret memorials was extremely extensive. There were several secret memorials related to ‘The Chen Rubi Case’. This legal case started when Chen Rubi took three thousand taels bribe, and later on it developed into a big case, ‘The minister political affair, the Nine Ministers’ zhan shi [lit. excellent matters] Ke Dao, and the others visited the Ministry of Justice yamen for a joint hearing.’

    Wang Hongxu participated in the joint hearing, and wrote the proceedings in detail in a secret memorial to Kangxi. Among other things he spoke about the dispute between Manchurian and Han officials: “… in Chen Rubi’s case, the decision was to have him beheaded, all Manchurian Daren already agreed. Li Zhenyu and Chen said: convicting without oral confession, all Daren ought to deliberate, what words Chen Rubi wrote in his letter yesterday. Chen also said: not to conceal anything. Manchurian Daren should have the officer in charge of this case to come over and let all Daren listen to him … Manchurian Daren said, it has nothing to do, there is no need to get oral confession. Han Daren said, these four characters ‘pretending to be dead’ [jia zhuang shen si] ought to go, the former muddle-headedness and confusion of yesterday must also go. For this reason these four characters are deleted. Tu Cuizhong said: concealing records and the crime of obtaining stolen goods are not enough to warrant beheading. The political affair minister said: Change it. Thereupon Shu Lu changed it to ‘Execution by hanging’. Ke Dao said: Still, we must execute under the San Fa Si’s [three judicial chief ministries in imperial China] supervision. Before the group of Manchurian Daren responded, a messenger from Chen Rubi’s household arrived to deliver the oral confession he personally wrote, but Manchurian Daren did not accept it. Li Luyu said: Previously the San Fa Si failed to obtain Chen Rubi’s personal confession, today his own family came to deliver it, yet we do not want to accept it. How are we going to deal with it? … This confession actually contains very few words compared to what Shu Lu actually wrote … For the interrogating officer to change confession or make up confession, it has always been a crime deserving disciplinary action, the regulation about this is very serious … All Manchurian Daren are afraid to attract blame, they were unwilling to speak up. The political affair minister has no choice but to listen to Shu Lu’s ruling …”

    Kangxi remarked, “This memorial is very good, it profoundly adheres to high-ranking minister’s style. Zhen understood.”

    The principal content of the memorial was to say that ‘Manchurian Daren’ accused wrongly the defendant’s circumstances, while the ‘Han Daren’ did everything in their power to exonerate him. How this case was subsequently closed is unclear, it is believed that Kangxi was being comparatively lenient in his ruling. It’s worth noting that although Manchu officials traditionally held more power in the imperial court, yet Kangxi did not side with Manchu officers at all. At the same time it is worth seeing that deciding on death penalty at that time was a very serious business, that it could not be decided based on one high-ranking minister’s words.

    Occasionally there are some trivial matters in Wang Hongxu’s secret memorials; reading it today, it is quite fascinating: There is a lengthy report about the transportation [orig. ‘horse’] affair, the last paragraph says, “… Li Xiu, Yin Debu, two people, I don’t know who told them this, but they said that on the outside Your Majesty says that they are big gangsters; Li Xiu and Yin Debu panicked and said other things. Afterwards Chen explain in a secret memorial, and beg Your Majesty to keep it in sealed envelope, and put imperial seal on it, to guard against people take a peek and disclose it to create harm …” (Kangxi remarked: Noted.)

    And then there is a lengthy confidential report about whether the Chief Examiner, the Deputy Chief Examiner have committed fraud. The last paragraph says, “A certain Song Yunxi, young son of Song Luo, a successful candidate in the imperial provincial examination, went to capital to take the metropolitan examination on the twenty-first day of the eleventh month. He told people: all these years his father has dizziness that usually flare-out only once in a long while, but this year he had a dizzy spell in the military once, and then when he went to Yangzhou he got another one, which were a bit more tense compared to the previous ones; fortunately after it passes, he is still able to work. This report asks for new grace, in the future when he requires approval he would come to the Capital to explain other things …” (Kangxi remarked: Noted.)

    Song Luo was originally the inspector-general of Jiangning (district, Nanjing, Jiangsu), the new appointment was the Shangshu [department head] of the Ministry of Appointments. He was very capable. Kangxi cared about his health.

    There was a secret memorial reporting a government official who was guilty and was banished to an army post as a punishment, the guards who escorted him extorted money from him, ten taels of silver per person. The government official did not want to give, but raining insult on them instead. One night the official was suddenly tied up, all money in his possession was taken away. This is an insignificant matter, yet Wang Hongxu reported it just the same.


    [1] The Southern Study (Chinese: Nánshūfáng, 南書房) was an institution that held the highest policy-making power after its establishment in 1677. It was abolished in 1898. The Southern Study was built by Kang Xi in the south-western corner of the Palace of Heavenly Purity. Members of the Hanlin Academy, selected on the basis of literary merit, were posted to the Study so that the Emperor had easy access to them when he sought counsel or discussion. When posted to the Study, officials were known as ‘[having] access to the Southern Study’ (南書房行走). Because of their proximity to the Emperor, official posted to the Study became highly influential to the Emperor. After the establishment of the Grand Council, the Southern Study remained an important institution but lost its policy advisory role. Officials regarded secondment to the Southern Study as an honorable recognition of their literary achievements. In Chinese, the term ‘access to the Southern Study’ in modern usage indicates a person who, through channels other than formal government office, has significant influence over leaders of the government. (Courtesy of Ace High)

  11. #391
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    Default Appendix - Part 2

    Li Xu’s memorials

    Li Xu was Kangxi’s trusted aide, he held the official post as the supervisor of weaving industry in Suzhou for thirty years. Li Xu’s brother-in-law [lit. younger sister’s husband] Cao Yin was the supervisor of weaving industry in Jiangning for more than twenty years. Cao Yin was the paternal grandfather of Cao Xueqin, the author of ‘A Dream of Red Mansions’. Li Xu, Cao Yin, as well as the supervisor of weaving industry in Hangzhou Sun Wencheng, three people constantly presented secret memorials to Kangxi, reporting about the situation in Jiangnan. For the large part, the reports pertaining to rain water, harvest, the price of rice, epidemic, the situation of the people, the reputation of the government officials, et cetera. At that time there was no newspaper, Kangxi’s main source of information about the actual situation in all parts of the country was these memorials to the throne.

    In the summer of Kangxi’s thirty-second year there was drought at Huai and Xu rivers in Jiangnan, with rainfall in the sixth month, Li Xu reported the harvest and the price of rice. Kangxi noted: “I heard the sun rose erroneously south of Huai and Xu rivers in the fifth month, the summer failed to arrived at the appointed time, the people are flustered and in panic, especially in the two Zhejiang. Morning and night Zhen anxiously consider this matter, my lying down and eating are disturbed, yet in the visit to the south, must ask for details, hearing thy memorials, the night and evening’s toil is lessened. After the harvest, write more memorials.”

    Forty-seventh year, nineteenth day of the first month, Li Xu sent a memorial like this: “Respectfully wish the Ten-thousand Year ten thousand of peace. Early twelfth month, on the seventh day, last year, humble official got wind of the robbery case in Taicang [county, Suzhou, Jiangsu], while dispatching people to investigate, I promptly write a report, together with non-jointed bamboo strips, and send Wang Kecheng of my household to present it to superior. Today is the seventeenth day of the first month, Wang Kecheng returned and stated, ‘All the non-jointed bamboo strip memorials have been submitted, folded report [usually in accordion form] have not been issued.’ Hearing this, Chen Li Xu panicked. Thinking that all the folded reports have been imperially distributed, that is, if they haven’t received comments from superior, the original report must have been issued. learning that they have not been issued today, Chen’s heart is extremely bewildered. Repeatedly extracting information rigorously, only learned about this: ‘The folded report was hidden inside the pouch, in the hastening on the journey all night, the fastening was not tight, the pouch was lost along the way to Dezhou, nowhere to be found. Because the bamboo strips are critical, did not dare to delay, Xiaode [the lowly one] went to the Capital, hazily delivered the bamboo strips, muddle headedly said there is no folded report. This is the truth.’ And other similar confessions. Accordingly Chen Li Xu had Wang Kecheng severely locked up and flogged, while waiting for the imperial decree on how to deal with him. Yet Chen is unable to employ people appropriately, to such an extent as to commit mistakes. Alarmed, frightened, scared; this guilt is really cannot be dismissed, asking the Ten-thousand Year to promptly bestow punishment. Hereby the original report is re-transcribed and submitted, begging the Holy Sage to review. Waiting for the blame Chen Li Xu cannot bear to tremble extremely.”

    Kangxi remarked in vermillion ink: “Thy memorial was no more than secret report that cannot be associated with the local officials. Be lenient with thy household person. If outsiders hear about it, it would not be too good.”

    It is worth noting that it was not so much as Kangxi’s clemency; rather, it was his fundamental attitude: the Emperor sent people out to make secret inquiry and received secret memorial was a dishonorable matter, a disreputable matter, not an upright and frank work, not a just and honorable way to handle matters, that no matter what no outsiders were to find out. In replying officially to the secret memorials sent by his subordinates, Kangxi has never used other people’s hand. There was one time when his right hand was hurt and he could not write, with difficulty he replied officially with his left hand. In today’s world, the ruler of every country dispatches spies and inquires secret reports for private reasons, yet the public accepts it as the way it should be, although it could be said that it is politically a great fall. This kind of system of values toward the ‘special task operatives’ was perhaps a clear dividing line between the Qing and Ming political corruptness. Wu Zetian [624-705, Tang empress, reigned 690-705] used special agents excessively, Qin Hui [1090-1155, Song Dynasty official who betrayed Yue Fei] used a lot of special agents, during the late Ming, special agents went on the rampage; later generations mostly believe that it led to downward spiral of the Ming Dynasty’s political system. In order to increase the antipathy toward Emperor Yongzheng, later generation people fabricated a legend that he had used the ‘flying guillotine’, a special assassin team to kill people.

    Kangxi’s forty-eighth year, sixth day of the seventh month, in his report to wish good health, Li Xu also included the news of Jiangnan’s Tidu [local commander] Zhang Yunyi’s death due to sickness. To wish good health to the Emperor means ‘to wish the Lord of Ten-thousand Years good luck and success, ten thousand good fortunes and peace like gold’, wishing great luck, great profit is a proper thing to do, the news of death must be reported in separate memorial, certainly these two cannot be mixed together, otherwise, it would implicitly cursing the Emperor to die. Li Xu’s memorial has violated the fundamental taboo, it was an extremely muddleheaded report.

    In the memorial he said, “Respectfully wishing the Ten-thousand Years ten-thousand of peace. The Tidu over the military affairs of the whole province of Jiangnan, subject Zhang Yunyi, fell ill on Kangxi’s forty-eighth year, eighteenth day of the sixth month, with carbuncle on his lower back. He did not recover and died on the ‘si’ hour [9-11am] of third day of the seventh month, at the age of fifty-eight; it is included here for your information. The weather in Suzhou during the sixth month is also included in the report, begging the Holy Sage to review.”

    Seeing this greatly ominous memorial, naturally Kangxi was greatly displeased, but his reprimand to him still carried a humorous tone. He wrote in vermillion ink, “Report of wishing good health must not be mixed together with this kind of matter, it is extremely irreverent. Thou knew several foul words, I wonder which one I should use?”

    Seeing the imperial remark, naturally Li Xu was scared that his soul flew away and scattered; hastily he wrote another memorial to apologize for the offense, while thoroughly confessed his guilt. Kangxi remarked, “Noted.”

    Kangxi’s fifty-first year, seventh month, weaving supervisor of Jiangning, Cao Yin (Cao Xueqin’s grandfather) received order to go to Yangzhou to manage the engraving of the ‘Pei Wen Yun Fu’ [lit. government mansion of ‘respectful cultural charm’] when he caught malaria and his condition was very serious. Li Xu promptly went to visit him, Cao Yin asked him to write a memorial, asking for some medicine from Kangxi.

    As soon as Kangxi received the memorial, he replied in vermillion ink, “Thy memorial has been received well. I hereby bestow the medicine to treat malaria. Afraid that it would be delayed, I bestow post horse to rush overnight. Yet if the malaria does not turn into diarrhea, it won’t be bad. If the illness changes, this medicine must not be used. The charlatans of the south often use a dose of this medicine, the number of people they harm cannot be counted, you must be careful. If Cao Yin originally ate ginseng, he may caught present illness from the ginseng. Jinjina (that is ‘quinine’, the original text used Manchurian script) is used specifically for the treatment of malaria. Use two qian [1 qian = 1/10 of a tael], that’s it. And then take a dose of wine. If the illness is getting somewhat lighter, take another dose; it should control the sickness. After it is under control, take perhaps one qian or eight fen. Take two doses in succession, may even take the roots. If it is not malaria, this medicine must not be taken; you must take this seriously. Urgent, urgent, urgent, urgent!”

    Kangxi wrote four ‘urgent’ words in succession, he also dispatched post horses to expressly deliver the medicine to Yangzhou, so that it arrived in nine days; it can clearly be seen that he cherished and extremely concerned about Cao Yin. Quinine was the correct medicine to be prescribed to cure malaria; however, it is possible that Cao Yin had other complications that in the end he succumbed to the illness and died. Kangxi deeply lamented his passing, he ordered Li Xu to properly take care for the family Cao Yin left behind.

    In his memorials, Li Xu also talked a lot about the experiments in new kind of rice. Kangxi attached great importance to the quality of rice. After growing crops on a trial basis in many other ways, they managed to breed a good variety, and then they sent the seeds to various regions for the government officials and members of the gentry to do the test planting. Li Xu then presented the memorials reporting the progress of the test planting, official so-and-so planted how many mu [unit area, approx. 1/15 of a hectare], each mu produced how many dan [unit volume, approx. 100 liters] how many dou [1/10 of a dan]; merchant so-and-so grew how many mu, each mu yielded how many dan, how many dou, and so on. Take the memorial submitted on Kangxi’s fifty-eighth year, the twenty-forth day of the sixth month for example: “Your humble servant has planted imperial paddy one hundred mu, and gathered in the crops on the fifteenth of the sixth month. Each mu obtains approximately four dan two dou three sheng [1/10 of a dou], respectfully milled one dou of the new rice to be presented. The original field was put in order without delay, by the twenty-third day of the sixth month the second seedling has been planted. As for the imperial paddy planted by Suzhou’s squires, all have also been harvested. The breakdown of the harvest in place of the original, the breakdown of the new crops, is respectfully submitted for imperial review.” It can clearly be seen that Li Xu was still responsible for the task of ‘planting imperial paddy on experimental fields’.

    Kangxi assigned this ‘imperial paddy’ test-planting task to government officials, members of the gentry, and business people in various regions of the country, each person planted at least two, three mu of field. Li Xu planted a hundred mu, he had the largest experimental farm. At that time the crop was called ‘imperial park’s rouge rice’, the color was red and it was sweet smelling; made into rice porridge it looked pleasing to the eye. In the ‘Dream of Red Mansions’, the gift presented by the village head Wu to the Jia Mansion was precisely this kind of rice.

    During his tour to the south, Kangxi saw that the people loaded the boats full of pig’s hair and chicken feather. Upon asking about the purpose of those things, he found out that people used it as fertilizer in paddy fields. Later on he issued an imperial decree to perform experiments; the result was very good. Compared to later generation who did not pay attention to fertilizer, who did not go through experiments and large scale testing in satellite fields but submitted fraudulent report to conceal the truth, Kangxi’s practice in developing paddy was much more scientific.

    Li Lincheng’s memorials

    Kangxi had considerable sense of humor; even in giving criticism in serious documents, he often used humor.

    On Kangxi’s fortieth year, twenty-fourth day of the tenth month, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces’ Tidu Li Lincheng submitted a memorial to the throne. This man’s official title was: ‘Tidu of Shaanxi, Gansu, and other places’ Zongbing [regional commander] and Right Dudu [provincial military governor], plus first class downgraded to second class bearing the guilt of pursuing meritorious service’. The memorial said, “Your Majesty inquired, ‘Is Tidu well, your body well? All officers are well? Formerly, from time to time the one holding Tidu position submitted a memorial about the situation of rainwater, now that you came to take up the post, why you did not submit any memorials? From now on you ought to send memorials from time to time about the situation in your place to let the Emperor know. The Emperor also bestows you deer tongue, deer tail, dried meat and so on, you may inspect and receive’, and so on. Although Chen respectfully setting up an incense burner table, leading fellow generals and other government officials, gazing toward the imperial city watchtower to thank the Emperor’s favor, the receiving is finished. Apart from Chen respectfully offering silky noise and conferring foodstuff, looking at other ways to present memorials to thank the Heaven’s kindness, I will also present and announce the matters of this place, the situation of rainwater, to declare the imperial edict to the subjects; Chen will solemnly obey Your Majesty’s decree and reply in everything. Admittedly Chen has been stupid, fortunately it is the time when the Holy Sage is born that I encounter Yao Shun lord [from ‘yao shun yu tang’ - see Chapter 14], that I undergo years of peace and security, not in the least getting what I deserve, morning and night being fearful and in terror …”

    This man did not understand Kangxi’s character, his memorial contained a great amount of polite phrases to sing Kangxi’s praises; concerning local issues and situation of rainwater, he only reported the good news and not the bad news. Most probably this man was a military officer of the Han army banner, and he had employed a secretary, who did not understand the customs; he also put an official seal on the cover of his memorial.

    Kangxi’s remarked in vermillion ink: “Noted. Next time in your report use Qing character, no need to use seal.” ‘Qing character’ was Manchu scribe, Kangxi’s meaning was: this kind of memorial was a secret report, not a formal document at all; he wanted Li Lincheng to write it himself, if he did not know Han characters, then he should have used Manchu characters.

    Upon receiving the imperial criticism, Li Lincheng submitted another memorial: “… Looking up only toward my Emperor who is continuing on to the utmost heaven, having divine martial art skill and brave literary knowledge; although during the day the Emperor’s holy body has ten thousand crucial points, it is as if there is not a time when you do not remember the people’s welfare. In former times because Hedong [lit. river east; not sure, perhaps his alias?] apologize for ages, since in Holy Sage’s bosom above there are abundant compassion and special favor, in reply leniency has been issued, sincere merit lofty ten-thousand ages, virtuous steps a hundred rulers, encompassing inside and outside of the ocean, not uncommon to the Yao [see above] in heaven … In responding to the imperial decree, it is only proper that Chen use Qing character in writing the memorial; however, although Chen knew a little bit Qing character, over the years my eyes have become weak and I am muddle-headed, I cannot write, plus Qing words’ construction make no sense, if I have other people transcribing it, Chen is not well-versed in its profound meaning, honestly I am afraid the words and sentences will be improper. I further ask in earnest for the imperial kindness, to let Chen from now on when presenting matters in memorials, to be allowed to still use the Han characters, to avoid the crime of contradicting the multitude of common people.”

    Kangxi’s comment: “Noted. These Han characters thou may not necessarily able to use either.” He was fully aware that this military employee had limited ink in his belly, the memorial must have been written by other people, thereupon he mocked him a little bit. Afterwards he also did not expect to receive memorials or local secret report written personally by him.

    Although Li Lincheng had his secretary wrote the memorials, he still did not follow the rule. For example, ‘although Chen knew a little bit Qing character, over the years my eyes have become weak and I am muddle-headed, I cannot write, plus Qing words’ construction make no sense’. It should be ‘plus I do not understand Qing words’ construction’. [Translator’s note: in the original text, the difference is in the placement of the word ‘make no sense’. 又兼清字之文理不通 vs. 又兼不通清字之文理.] The original sentence in the memorial actually criticized Manchu words as ‘make no sense’. Fortunately Kangxi was magnanimous, he did not pursue; if it were the meticulous and deep-probing Emperor Yongzheng, perhaps he would issue an imperial decree to harshly reprimand him, to punish him by ‘downgrading him one class bearing the guilt of pursuing meritorious service’.

  12. #392
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    Default Afterword

    Afterword


    The Deer and The Cauldron was first published as a serial in Ming Pao newspaper (Hong Kong) on October 24, 1969, and ended on September 23, 1972; altogether it was serialized for two years eleven months. My usual practice in writing this serial was to write a segment a day, and publish it the next day, so this novel was also written continuously in two years eleven months. If there is nothing extraordinary happens (in life, there will always be extraordinary things happen), this will be my last wuxia novel.

    However, ‘The Deer and The Cauldron’ already does not look too much like a wuxia novel, rather, it is a historical novel. When this novel was published in the newspaper, the readers unceasingly wrote to ask: “Is ‘The Deer and The Cauldron’ written by someone else?” Because they found that this novel is greatly different than my former work. The fact is that this novel was written completely by myself. I am very grateful for the readers who doted on me and pampered me; when they don’t like certain book or certain passage that I write, they concluded: “It is written by others.” They would reserve positive review for myself, and push the unfavorable review to some ‘ghost writer’.

    ‘The Deer and The Cauldron’ is completely different from my previous wuxia novels; it was intentional. An author should not always repeat his style and form, he should try to create something new as far as possible.

    Some readers were not happy with ‘The Deer and The Cauldron’, because of the main protagonist Wei Xiaobao’s moral character, and because of excessive violation of system of values. Readers of wuxia novels are accustomed to substitute themselves into the hero of the book, yet Wei Xiaobao cannot be substituted. In this regard, some readers were deprived of some fun, for which I apologize.

    However, it is not necessary that the protagonist of a novel is a ‘good guy’. One of the primary missions of a novel is to create characters: good guys, bad guys, good guys with shortcomings, bad guys with good merits, and so on, anything can be written. In China during Kangxi’s era, a character like Wei Xiaobao is not out of question. When an author writes about a character, the intention is not to make this character necessarily typical. Hamlet’s indecision, Luo Ting who can speak but cannot do, the priest in ‘Scarlet Letter’ who took part in adultery, Anna Karenina who betrayed her husband; the authors are simply portraying characters like them, not at all encouraging the readers to imitate their behavior. It would be best if the readers do not act like Li Kui of ‘The Water Margin’, who lost in gambling and stole money, or like Song Jiang, who chopped the mistress who unceasingly blackmailed him to death. Lin Daiyu [from ‘The Dream of Red Mansions’] is clearly not a role model for the modern female readers. The sexual relations Wei Xiaobao had with women were not as many as Jia Baoyu at all, to say the least, Wei Xiaobao was not as gay as Jia Baoyu, who already had Qin Zhong, but also had Jiang Yuhan. Lu Xun [1881-1936, one of the earliest and best known modern Chinese writers] wrote ‘The True Story of Ah Q’ [1921], it was not to agitate the vitality of victory at all.

    If the characters in the novels are perfect, unavoidably it is not realistic. Novels reflect the society; in real-life society there is no such thing as absolutely perfect person. Novels are not textbooks in morality at all. It’s just that a lot of the readers of my novels are teenage girls, hence I ought to remind these naïve young friends this one thing: Wei Xiaobao attached most importance to yi qi, indeed this is a good moral character; as for his other actions, absolutely must never be copied.

    Altogether I wrote twelve long wuxia novels, two novelettes, and one short story. The fourteen characters of the first character of the titles make a rhyming couplet:

    飞雪连天射白鹿
    笑书神侠倚碧鸳

    [from Wikipedia: Loose translation: Shooting a white deer, snow flutters around the skies; Smiling, [one] writes about the divine chivalrous one, leaning against bluish lovebirds (or lover)]

    The last insignificant short story ‘The Sword of Yue Maiden’ was not included.

    I started to write the earliest ‘The Book and The Sword’ [Translator’s note: actually, the literal translation of the title is ‘the story of book and sword, debt of gratitude coupled with duty to avenge’] in 1955, and finished writing the last book ‘The Deer and The Cauldron’ in September 1972; fifteen long and short novels written in seventeen years. The revision work began in March 1970, and finished in mid-1980, a total of ten years. Of course, during all that time I also did many other things, primarily managing ‘Ming Pao’ and writing editorials for ‘Ming Pao’.

    During encounters with early readers, the most often asked question was: “Which of your own novels do you like best?” This question is very difficult to answer, therefore, I often did not reply. Speaking about ‘personal preference’, I prefer several books with comparatively intense emotion: ‘Divine Eagle Gallant Knights’, ‘Heavenly Sword and Dragon-slaying Saber’, ‘The Other Tales of The Flying Fox’, ‘Smiling Proud Wanderer’, ‘Demi Gods and Semi Devils’. People often asked, “Which of your own novel you think is the best?” This is a question about technique and value. I believe that over the course of my writing career I have made some progress: the long novels are slightly better than the novelettes and the short story, the later works are somewhat better than the early ones. But many readers did not agree. And I really like it that they do not agree.

    1981-6-22

    My fifteen wuxia novels are finally revised by the beginning of the 21st century, the project is completed in July of 2006, mainly it was revision of writing style, there are no major changes on the plot. I seriously considered major change on ‘The Deer and The Cauldron’, but in the end I decided not to, because this novel tells the story of the golden age of the Qing Dynasty during Kangxi’s reign, the main focus was the era itself rather than the people. In that era, this kind of story is plausible. I definitely do not encourage present-age young people to imitate Wei Xiaobao: not opposing mother becoming a prostitute, not knowing Han script, bribing and being corrupt, exchanging people at the execution ground, contempt of the law, after killing someone using drug to dispose the body, even taking seven wives. Just as ‘The Dream of Red Mansions’ and ‘The Water Margin’ are good novels, but in modern society, Jia Baoyu and Li Kui’s actions cannot be imitated.

    2006-7-15

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