A high mountain, a low-lying crag, a fresh spring, an ancient pine, a brightly burning oven, a pot of green tea, an old man, a young boy.
“What is the most fearsome weapon under heaven?” asked the young boy. “Is it Little Li’s flying dagger, which never misses its target?”
“It used to be, but not anymore.”
“Ever since Li Tanhua (1) passed on into immortality, his weapon can be considered lost forever.” The old man sighed dejectedly. “From this day forward, the world will never again see a person like Li Tanhua, and there will never again be a weapon like Little Li’s flying dagger.”
The young boy looked up at the mountain, at the white clouds floating slowly past the summit.
“So what is the most fearsome weapon in the world now?” asked the young boy again. “Is it the Great Mr. Lan’s Ancient Sword of the Blue Mountain?” (2)
“Is it the ‘God of the South China Sea’ Blade King’s Great Iron Awl?” (3)
“Is it Guangdong’s ‘Setting Sun’ Steward Ma Changfeng’s Silver Spear?”
“Is it the Moon Blade of Fei Xingyin, who three years ago killed 8 bandits while on horseback on the old main road of Handan?” (4)
“Ok, I know.” The young boy seemed very confident. “It’s Yang Zheng’s ‘Farewell Hook.’ It’s definitely Yang Zheng’s ‘Farewell Hook.’”
“No, it’s not,” said the old man. “Although the weapons you mentioned are indeed very fearsome, they are not the most fearsome.”
“Well, which is the most fearsome?”
“A solitary box.”
“A solitary box?” The young boy was amazed. “The most fearful weapon under heaven is a solitary box?”
(1) As I’m sure anyone familiar with the story of Little Li’s Flying Dagger knows, “Tanhua” is actually a title for someone who places third in the Imperial examinations of ancient China.
(2) This person’s surname “Lan” is the same character as the character for the color blue.
(3) Throughout this story I will consistently translate the Chinese character 刀 as “blade.” This character encompasses all kinds of blades, from butchers knives, to sword. I will only translate the character 剑 as “sword.”
(4) Handan is a city in Hebei Province, not very far from where I live in the capital of Hebei, Shijiazhuang!