Translated by Foxs.
Crooked bunch went on a rampage courting disaster, discussing early morning moon during high wind.
Northern wind as sharp as a blade, ice and frost covered the earth.
Along a Jiangnan [area south of the River, i.e. Yangtze] coastal road, a company of Qing troops with sabers and spears in their hands was escorting seven prisoner carriages, braving the wind and the cold as they travelled northward. The first three carriages in the front separately held three men, all dressed as scholars. One was an old man with white hair, the other two were middle-aged men. The four carriages on the rear held women, the very last prisoner carriage held a young woman, holding a baby girl in her bosom. The baby was crying incessantly. Her mother comforted her with tender voice, but the baby kept crying loudly. A Qing soldier by the prisoner carriage got angry, he lifted his leg and kicked the carriage. “Keep crying, keep crying,” he shouted, “Laozi1Lit. ‘old man’; ‘I, your father’ or simply ‘I’, used arrogantly or jocularly. will kick you dead!” The baby was scared, she cried even louder.
There was a big house several dozen zhang [unit of length, approximately 10 ft or 3 m], away from the road; under the eaves of the house stood a middle-aged scholar and a boy about eleven or twelve. Seeing this situation, he could not help heaving a deep sigh, his eyes also turned red as he said, “Have mercy, have mercy!”
“Die die [pronounced ‘dee-eh’ – Dad],” the boy asked, “What crime have they committed?”
“What crime have they committed?” the scholar echoed, “Yesterday and this morning they already arrested more than thirty people, all are our Zhejiang’s famous intellectuals, each and every one is innocent and is only guilty by association.” When he said the four words ‘innocent, guilty by association’ [wu gu zhu lian], he lowered his voice considerably, afraid that the officers and men escorting the prisoner carriages would hear it.
The boy said, “That little baby girl is still sucking the breast, could it be that she also committed the same crime? Really does not make any sense.”
The scholar said, “You understand that the officers and men do not make any sense, you are a really good child. Ay, others are the sacrifical knife and altar, we are the fish and the meat; others are the [tree-legged] cauldron, we are the elk!”
“Die,” he boy said, “Just a few days ago you taught me that the phrase ‘others are the sacrifical knife and altar, we are the fish and the meat’ carries the meaning that other people behead, cut and massacre us. Others are the cutting cleaver, the hot iron plate, and we are the fish, the meat. These few words ‘Others are the cauldron, we are the elk’, is the meaning also more or less the same?”
“Exactly!” the scholar replied. Seeing the officers and men, along with the prisoner carriages have already far away, he pulled the boy’s hand and said, “It’s too windy outside, let us go back into the house.” Right away father and son entered the study room.
The scholar picked up a writing brush and dipped it into the ink, and then he wrote a character ‘deer’ on a piece of paper. He said, “This beast, the deer, although they are huge, their temper is extremely gentle, they only eat grass and leaves, they never harm other animals. When the fierce animals want to harm them, eat them, they can only run. If they cannot run, then they will be eaten by others.”
And then he wrote two more characters ‘zhu lu’ [pursue the deer, fig. to vie for supremacy], and said, “For this reason the ancients often used the deer as a metaphor of the world. Common people on the earth are all docile, good and honest; their allotted share in life is only to be bullied and slaughtered by others. The ‘History of Han Dynasty’ says, ‘Qin lost its deer, people all over the world chase after it.’ What it means is that the Qin Dynasty lost the world, the heroes rose together, everybody fought over, finally Han Gaozu2Posthumous name of the first Han Emperor Liu Bang (256 or 247 – 195BC, reigned 202-195BC). defeated Chu Bawang [overlord/hegemon Chu], and thus he obtained this big and fat deer.”
The boy nodded and said, “I understand. There is a novel talking about ‘hunting deer in the central plain’, the idea is that everybody struggle to become the Emperor.”
The scholar was delighted; he nodded repeatedly. He drew a picture of a cauldron on the paper and said, “When people of old cooked their food, they did not use pot on the stove, but used this kind of three-legged cauldron, with firewood underneath it. When they caught a deer, they cooked it in the cauldron and ate it. Emperors and high-ranking officials were very cruel, if they did not like someone, they would say that man committed a crime and boiled him alive in the cauldron. There is a written account in the ‘Record of the Grand Historian’ about Lin Xiangru saying to the King of Qin, ‘Chen [I, your servant; a minister referring to himself when talking to a ruler] is aware that I have offended the Great King and deserve to be punished by death, Chen asks for a cauldron.’ In other words, ‘I deserve to die, just burn me to death in a cauldron!’”
The boy said, “The novel often says about ‘to inquire of the cauldron’. This phrase seems to have more or less the same meaning as ‘hunting deer in the central plain’.”
“That’s right,” the scholar said, “King of Xia Yu collected metal from the nine divisions [of China during the earliest dynasties] and cast nine large cauldrons. At that time, the so-called ‘metal’ was actually copper. Each cauldron was cast with the names of the nine divisions and a map of the mountains and rivers. When later generations became the ruler of the world, they retained the nine cauldrons. ‘Mr. Zuo’s Annals’ noted: ‘Viscount of Chu inspected his troops at the Zhou border. The present King sent the king’s grandson Man to console Viscount Chu. Viscount Chu inquired the size and weight of the cauldron.’ Only the ruler of the world can keep the nine cauldrons. The King of Chu was merely a feudal prince from the State of Chu, he inquired about the size and weight of the cauldron, it means he harbored intention to rebel, thinking of taking the King of Zhou’s position for himself.”
The boy said, “So ‘inquiring of the cauldron’ and ‘pursuing the deer’ means someone wanted to be the emperor. ‘Not knowing to whom the deer falls’ means not knowing who might become the emperor.”
“Exactly,” the scholar said, “Later on, ‘inquiring of the cauldron’ and ‘pursuing the deer’, four characters [wen ding, zhu lu] can also be used elsewhere, but the original idea was pointing especially to one who wanted to be the emperor.” Speaking to this point, he sighed and said, “We, as common people, are always at the death’s door. ‘Not knowing to whom the deer falls’ simply say that nobody knows who would kill the deer, but this deer is bound to die.”
Finished speaking, he walked over to the window and looked out. He saw the sky was overcast, apparently it was going to snow. He sighed and said, “Why is Laotianye [God/Heaven] so heartless? Several hundred innocent people walk on this ice and frost covered earth, when the snow falls, it will add to their torment.”
Suddenly he saw on the southern end of the main road two men wearing conical bamboo hat, walking side by side to this direction. When they were near, he could recognize their faces. The scholar was delighted; he said, “Your Huang Bobo [father’s elder brother] and Gu Bobo are here!” Quickly he went outside to meet them; he called out, “Lizhou Xiong [brother, generic term], Tinglin Xiong, which good wind has blown the two of you to honor me with your presence?”
The man on the right was short and stout, his chin was covered in black beard; his surnamed was Huang, given name Zongxi, alias3‘Alias’ – my dictionary gives this explanation: ‘courtesy or style name traditionally given to males age twenty in dynastic China’. Lizhou [lit. pear island], a native of Yuyao [county level city in Ningbo], Zhejiang. The one on the left was slim and tall, his face dark, surnamed Gu, given name Yanwu, alias Tinglin [lit. pavilion forest], a native of Kunshan [county level city, Suzhou], Jiangsu. Huang and Gu4Gu Yanwu (1613-1682), late Ming/early Qing Confucian philosopher, linguist and historian, played a founding role in phonology of early Chinese, author of ‘Record of Daily Study’. Huang Zongxi (1610-1695), scholar and writer of the Ming-Qing transition., two people were great scholars of the present age. After the Ming [dynasty] perished, their hearts were broken over the changes to their country, they went to live in seclusion and quit their official posts; this day they ‘join sleeves’ to uphold virtue.
Gu Yanwu walked several steps closer before saying, “Wancun [lit. evening village] Xiong, there is an urgent business we need to discuss with you.”
The scholar was surnamed Lu, given name Liuliang, his alias was Wancun; in all his life he resided in Chongde County of Hangzhou Prefecture, Zhejiang. He was also a very famous hermit in the late Ming, early Qing dynasties. He noticed Huang and Gu, two men’s grim countenance; he also knew that Gu Yanwu was always very adaptable and was always calm in facing anything; therefore, when he said it was urgent, naturally it was indeed not a small matter. Cupping his fist, he said, “Gentlemen, please come in and drink three cups first to dissolve the cold air.”
Immediately he took the two men inside and ordered the boy, “Baozhong, tell your Niang [mother], Huang Bobo, Gu Bobo are here; cut two dishes of lamb in paste first to down the wine.”
Shortly afterwards, the boy, Lu Baozhong and his brother Yizhong came out with three sets of cups and chopsticks and arranged them on the study room’s table. An old servant came out with the food and drink. Lu Liuliang waited until the three people withdrew before he closed the study room’s door and said, “Huang Xiong, Gu Xiong, please drink three cups first!”
Huang Zongxi looked distressed; he shook his head. Gu Yanwu poured a drink for himself and downed six cups in one breath.
Lu Liuliang said, “Gentlemen came here this time, does it have something to do with the case of ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’?”
“Exactly!” Huang Zongxi said.
Gu Yanwu picked up the wine cup and loudly moaned, “’Although cool breeze is fine, it cannot blow me, why can’t the bright moon illuminate people?’ Wancun Xiong, this poem of yours is indeed the most perfect song! Everytime I drink wine, I always recite this poem, and I am always moved big time.”
Lu Liuliang always had the old country in his heart, he was unwilling to take official post with the Qing dynasty. Local high-ranking government officials admired his reputation and sponsored and recommended him as the ‘mountain hermit’, to be recruited as official of the imperial court. Lu Liuliang adamantly refused. The local official did not dare to force him. Later on another high-ranking official sponsored and recommended him as the ‘profound scholar’. Lu Liuliang saw that if ke kept refusing, it would appear that he was disparaging and insulting the imperial court; inevitably he would bring the disaster of execution upon himself. Thereupon he shaved his head to become a fake Buddhist monk. The local officials saw his determination and henceforth no longer urging him to ‘leave the mountain’.
The poem about ‘cool breeze, bright moon’ was to mock the Manchurian Qing [lit. clear/cool] and cherish to memory of former Ming [lit. bright]. Although he did not dare to have it printed and circulated, it spread far and wide among the like-minded friends and colleagues, and this moment Gu Yanwu recited it again.
“Really good poem!” Huang Zongxi said, as he picked up the wine cup and downed it in one gulp.
“Gentlemen praised wrongly.” Lu Liuliang said.
Gu Yanwu looked up and saw a scroll of painting hanging on the wall, about five chi [Chinese foot, approx. 1/3 of a meter] tall, and almost a zhang wide, a painting of a wide expanse of landscape. The brush stroke moved unhindered, the scene looked grand; he could not help but loudly shouted his praise. The painting only had four large characters on it, ‘ru ci jiang shan’ [lit. in this way the rivers and mountains; loosely translated: ‘this is our country’]. He said, “Looking at the brush stroke, it is Mr. Erzhan’s painting.”
“Exactly,” Lu Liuliang said. This ‘Erzhan’ was surnamed Zha, given name Shibao, a great painter of the late Ming, early Qing dynasties; he was also a good friend of Gu, Huang and Lu.
Huang Zongxi said, “This kind of good painting, how come there is no annotation?”
Lu Liuliang sighed and said, “This painting of Mr. Erzhan’s has a rather deep meaning. Only he is a very staid and prudent man; since he did not put any signature on it, he did not put any annotation either. He stayed in my humble abode last month, for a short while he was happy and painted this for me. How about the two gentlemen inscribe several sentences on it?”
Gu and Huang, two men stood up and walked over to have a closer look at the painting. They saw the grand river flowing expansively to the east, with countless ridges and peaks on both sides, sprinkled with wonderful trees and strange rock formations. Only the scenery was covered in a mist; although the mountains and the rivers were beautiful, there was a sense of dismal feeling deep in the hearts of the people who look at it.
Gu Yanwu said, “This beautiful land sinks into oblivion in the hands of barbarians. Our generation submit to humiliation and live without purpose; it’s really stuffing our breasts with grieve and indignation. Wancun Xiong, if it is not inconvenient, why don’t you inscribe a poem to display Mr. Erzhan’s meaning?”
“Alrght!” Lu Liuliang said. Immediately he took down the painting and spread it out on the table. Huang Zongxi ground the ink. Lu Liuliang pondered deeply for half a day, and then his brush started to dance on the painting. In a short time it was finished:
“Is it the Song (dynasty) crossing to the south? In this way the rivers and mountains are in disgrace. Is it after the cliff of the mountain? In this way the rivers and mountains cannot bear to be looked at. Only today I comprehend the meaning of the painting, weeping bitter tears seems the right thing to do. Because today I looked at former times just like now, swallowing my cries need not bridle my mouth. The painting spread on the table is a western platform for tears, delving deeply into the picture taking up my pen brightly and brilliantly. Therefore, a picture without poetry and literatture, poetry and literature being exhausted in just four characters. Once grew accustomed to come across the beginning of Hong Wu5Emperor Hong Wu, regnal name of first Ming emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398), reigned 1386-1398). Temple name Ming Taizu.
, as if undiscerning, ignorant pupil of the eye and the lame able to tread on. Mountains and rivers clear up, the former wall completed, how can looking at scenic place not bring ecstasy?”
The poem completed, he tossed the brush to the floor and burst into tears.
Gu Yanwu said, “Delightfully uninhibited. It is indeed an exquisitely good ballad.”
“This poem is not subtle at all,” Lu Liuliang said, “It can’t be considered good, I was merely spelling out Mr. Erzhan’s original idea, so that people who look at the painting may know.”
Huang Zongxi said, “When the former country will repeat its light, that the ‘mountains and rivers clear up, the former wall completed’ part. Even thought it was full of barren hills and treacherous rapids, those who look at it will have their bosom greatly free; it is indeed ‘how can looking at scenic place not bring ecstasy?’”
Gu Yanwu said, “This poem is written very well! There will come a day when the barbarians will be driven out and taken captives, and our great Han’s mountains and rivers will be restored. Compared to believers like us pouring out grief and indignation, the people’s spirit will be even more strengthened.”
Huang Zongxi slowly rolled the painting and said, “This painting can’t be hung anymore, Wancun Xiong must hide it well. Supposing crafty scoundrel like Wu Zhirong saw it, the authorities will investigate, while admittedly Wancun Xiong will be inconvenienced, Mr. Erzhan will be weighed down as well.”
Gu Yanwu slapped the table and cursed, “That dog thief Wu Zhirong, I really wish I could eat his meat raw.”
Lu Liuliang said, “Gentlemen are neglecting the urgent matter you mentioned earlier. We, the scholars, fall into an old habit, composing poem and inscribing painting, and put aside proper business. I wonder what is it?”
Huang Zongxi said, “This time the two of us came, it was for the sake of Mr. Erzhan’s distant relative [of the same surname], Mr. Yihuang. The day before yesterday Xiaodi [little brother, referring to self] and Gu Xiong received news that in this big case of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, unexpectedly Mr. Yihuang is also implicated.”
Lu Liuliang was alarmed. “Yihuang Xiong is implicated?” he asked.
“That’s right,” Huang Zongxi said, “The day before yesterday the two of us rushed toward Yuanhua town in Haining [county, Jiaxing, Zhejiang], but Mr. Yihuang was not home at all, they said he was out to visit a friend. Seeing the urgency of the situation, Yanwu Xiong hastily urged Mr. Yihuang’s household to go into hiding that very same night. Remembering Mr. Yihuang and Wancun Xiong are good friends, we came with the specific purpose to inquire of you.”
Lu Liuliang said, “He … he did not come here. I don’t know where he went.”
Gu Yanwu said, “If he was in your respected residence, he would have come out already to meet us. I already inscribed a poem on the wall of his study room, if he came back home, he would have understood and hastened to go into hiding. What I am afraid of is that the did not hear the news and appeared in public, then the authority would arrest him; it would be terrible.”
Huang Zongxi said, “In this case of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, nearly all our western Zhejiang’s famous scholars have met with evil scheme. The Qing court’s intention is really vicious, Wancun Xiong’s fame is really too great, Tinglin Xiong and Xiaodi’s thought is that we want to urge Wancun Xiong to leave home and travel far for the time being, to take shelter from the wind.”
Lu Liuliang indignantly said, “If the Tatar Emperor arrest me and take me to Beijing, I don’t care if he makes mincemeat out of me, in any case I will be able to curse him a bit to vent this resentment in my chest, and then I’ll die without a moment’s hesitation.”
Gu Yanwu said, “Wancun Xiong’s heroism reaching to the clouds, you make other people filled with admiration. I am afraid you will not see the Tatar Emperor but will die under some lowly slaves’ hands. Furthermore, the Tatar Emperor is only a child, he doesn’t understand anything, the political power of the imperial court is entirely in the powerful minister Oboi’s hands. Xiongdi and Lizhou Xiong reckon that this time the case of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ is exposed with great fanfare, it passes like thunder and moves like the wind, it is because Oboi wants to dampen our Jiangnan scholars’ spirit.”
Lu Liuliang said, “Gentlemen’s view is correct. Ever since the Qing troops entered the Pass, they went on the rampage in Jiangbei [area north of the River] unhindered, as soon as they came to Jiangnan, they encountered resistance everywhere, particularly the intellectuals who know how to guard against Chinese-Barbarian relationship, constantly giving them trouble. Oboi is seizing this opportunity to suppress us, Jiangnan scholars. Humph, even a prairie fire cannot destroy the grass, it grows again when the breeze blows; unless he wipes out us all, Jiangnan intellectuals.”
“That’s right,” Huang Zongxi said, “For this reason we want to retain useful people to deal with the Tatars to the end. If we flaunt our blood and vital breath and show bravery for a period of time, we will fall prey to Tatars’ scheme.”
Lu Liuliang understood immediately, Huang and Gu two people braved the cold, one was to look for Zha Yihuang, two was to urge him to flee; they were afraid he might not be unable to hold back and thus would deliver his life in vain. Good friends made painstaking effort, he was deeply grateful. “Gentlemen’s gems of wisdom, how can Xiongdi dare not to follow?” he said, “Early in the morning tomorrow Xiongdi’s entire family will leave.”
Huang and Gu, two people were greatly delighted. “That is only proper,” they both said.
Lu Liuliang hesitantly said, “But I don’t know where should I go?” He felt that in the boundless horizon, everywhere was the Tatars’ world; there was really not a single clean soil. “Where is Taoyuan [the Garden of the Peaches of Immortality] that I can escape from cruel Qin? Where is Taoyuan that I can escape from cruel Qin?” he muttered irresolutely.
Gu Yanwu said, “In the world today, if there really exists Taoyuan paradise, we still cannot liberate ourselves and go into hiding …”
Without waiting for him to finish, Lu Liuliang slapped the table and stood up; he said in a loud voice, “Tinglin Xiong’s reprimand this time is so true, the rise and fall of the nation concerns everyone, we can temporarily flee from disaster, but if we hide in Peach Flower Garden, freely and leisurely, while the millions and millions common people suffer under the Tatars’ iron hoof, how can our hearts be at peace? Xiongdi has a slip of the tongue.”
Gu Yanwu smiled and said, “In recent years Xiongdi has roamed far and wide, I indeed make not a few friends. On both sides of the Great River, as far as I can see and hear, not only the intellectuals are opposing the Tatars, even peddlers and carriers, butchers and marketplace people, everywhere people’s hearts are filled with hot blooded heroic spirit. If Wancun Xiong so desires, the three of us can go to Yangzhou together. How about Xiongdi introduce you to several kindred spirits?”
Lu Liuliang was greatly delighted. “Wonderful, wonderful!” he exclaimed, “Tomorrow all of us are going to Yangzhou. Gentlemen please sit back and relax, Xiongdi is going to inform my humble wife, let her pack.” Finished speaking he hurried inside.
Shortly afterwards Lu Liuliang returned to the study room and said, “About the case of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, although there are rumors everywhere on the outside, but one, rumors are not necessarily true, two, people are in a lot of apprehensions, they do not dare to speak everything openly. Xiongdi lives alone in a snail’s home, I do not know the details; what exactly was the cause?”
Gu Yanwu sighed and said, “This book the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, all of us have seen it. The content is not too respectful toward the Tatars, that much is true. This book originated from our Great Ming’s Prime Minister Zhu Guozhen’s hands. Speaking about establishing an administrative division outside the Pass; how can it be polite toward the Tatars?”
Lu Liuliang nodded and said, “I heard the Zhuang family of Huzhou has spent several thousand taels of silver to buy the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ manuscript from Prime Minister Zhu’s later generations’ hands to be published; unexpectedly it brewed this kind of catastrophe.”
Western Zhejiang’s Hangzhou, Jiaxing, and Huzhou, three prefectures were located on the bank of Lake Tai, the land was flat, the soil fertile, abound in rice and natural silk. Huzhou prefecture’s principal county magistrate is known as Wuxing County today, during the Qing dynasty, it was divided into Wu Cheng and Gui An, two counties. From the beginning its literary style was extremely flourishing, people of talents and scholars of successive generations came forth in large numbers. During the Liang period, Shen Yue [441-513, writer and historian] divide the Chinese characters into four tones, namely level or even tone, third tone, fourth tone and entering tone. During the Yuan era, painting and calligraphy reached its best quality in Zhao Mengfu’s work. These were all Huzhou natives. Writing brush produced locally was well-known; Huzhou’s writing brush, Huizhou’s ink, Xuancheng’s paper, and Zhaoqing Duanxi’s [lit. end/extremity creek of Zhaoqing] ink-stone were famous all over the world as the ‘Four Treasures of the Study’.
There was a city in Huzhou prefecture called Nanxun. Although it was a small town, it was bigger than ordinary county capitals. There were a lot of rich families in town, among the famous rich families and big clans, there was one family by the surname of Zhuang. By this time the head of the Zhuang household was called Zhuang Yuncheng. He had several sons; the oldest was called Tinglong, who loved literature since his childhood, and had made quite a number of friends among famous and gifted scholars of Jiangnan. During the Shunzhi years [second Qing emperor, 1644-1662], due to excessive reading, Zhuang Tinglong suddenly went blind. Famous doctors were searched, but no one was able to cure him; since then he grew melancholy and was depressed.
One day suddenly a young man surnamed Zhu from their neighborhood came with a manuscript, saying that it was his paternal grandfather, Prime Minister Zhu’s bequeathed draft that he wanted to mortgage to the Zhuang family, begging to borrow several hundred taels of silver. The Zhuang family was usually generous; they always showed consideration to Prime Minister Zhu’s later generations. Since he came to borrow money, they agreed immediately, without asking any surviving manuscript as collateral. But the young man surnamed Zhu said that after receiving the money, he was going on a journey to a distant land; if he carried his ancestor’s manuscript with him, he was afraid it would get lost, while he did not feel at ease to leave it at home, therefore, he wanted to keep it in the Zhuang family. Zhuang Yuncheng agreed.
After the young man surnamed Zhu left, to relieve his son’s boredom, Zhuang Yuncheng had the guests who settled in his house6I seem to remember reading about rich families in ancient China who had guests staying in their homes for an extended period of times. Interestingly, Bing Translator gives this definition: protégés of the powerful who stay with their benefactors like parasites. to read it aloud to him. For the most part, Zhu Guozhen’s manuscript of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ had been published and was widely available. This time the manuscript that his grandson brought to the Zhuang family to be mortgaged was actually the last of many articles of historical biography.
After listening to the guest [see footnote] reading for several days, Zhuang Tinglong was very interested. Suddenly he remembered, “In the past Zuo Qiuming [556-451 BC], who was also a blind man, was able to write ‘Mr. Zuo’s Annals’ and hence enjoy the benefit of great name for a thousand years. Today I am blind and bored of staying idle at home, why not composing a history book to be circulated to the later generations?”
For rich families, everything was easy. Since he had the desire to do this, immediately he hired quite a few scholars to have the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ manuscript read to him from top to bottom. He considered which section needed to be expanded, and which section needed to be deleted; he recounted his thought orally and had the guests write it down. However, thinking that being blind he was incapable to extensively examine the written record, when this ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ was finished and published, if there were a lot of errors in it, not only he would not enjoy the fame, he might be ridiculed instead. Thereupon he spent large quantities of money to employ many scholars who knew this subject very well, to amend and revise, to research this subject and bring the book to perfection. Some of the great scholars were people who could not be invited with wealth, Zhuang Tinglong passed this matter through many hands and humbly invited them. The banks of Lake Tai were always teeming with literary scholars, those who received the Zhuang family’s invitation, on one hand they took pity of the blind and was touched by his sincerity, on the other hand they believed that compiling the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ was a beautiful thing. Most of them stayed in the Zhuang family’s home for ten days or half a month to work on the manuscript; some correcting the errors, some adding notes or even one or two sections. For this reason the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ was definitely a collective power of not a few writing brushes of many great hands. Not long after the book was completed, Zhuang Tinglong passed away.
Grief-stricken by his beloved son’s death, Zhuang Yuncheng immediately published the book. Publishing books during the Qing dynasty was really not easy, one must recruit artisans to engrave wood blocks one by one before printing the book. This book ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ was voluminous, the cost to hire the engravers and the printers was considerable. Fortunately the Zhuang family had plenty of money, they set aside several large houses as factories and invited many artisans. Several years later the books and publications were completed.
The book was titled ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’, with Zhuang Tinglong listed as the compiler, famous scholar Li Lingxi was asked to write the preface. All scholars who have helped with this project were also listed: Mao Yuanxi, Wu Zhiming, Wu Zhirong [different characters from Wu Zhirong mentioned by Huang Zongxi and Gu Yanwu above], Li Qitao, Mao Cilai, Wu Chu, Tang Yuanlou, Yan Yunqi, Jiang Linzhi, Wei Jinyou, Wei Yiyuan, Zhang Juan, Dong Eryou, Wu Yan, Pan Chengzhang, Lu Qi, Zha Jizuo, Fan Xiang; eighteen people altogether. The book also mentioned that the content was based on Zhu clan’s manuscript, which was expanded and deleted. However, Zhu Guozhen was a prime minister of the Ming Dynasty, his fame was too great, it was unsuitable to mention his full name; therefore, it was mentioned vaguely as ‘Zhu Clan’s manuscript’.
Having undergone so many scholars composing, verifying and revising, the ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’ had a very exquisite style, its coverage was comprehensive and clear, the script was magnificent, the layout was in good taste; its publication has garnered praise from literary community. The Zhuang family’s aspiration was to become famous, the books were sold at a very inexpensive price.
When the manuscript touched upon Manchuria, there were originally not a few of criticism and exposures of past misdeeds, which the editors had already deleted one by one, but sentences showing approval to the Ming Dynasty were inevitable. At that time the Ming had not fallen for too long, the intellectuals still cherished the memory of their former country; as soon as the book went into publication, it immediately reached best-seller status, Zhuang Tinglong’s name was buzzing north and south of the Great River. Despite the pain of the death of his son, seeing his son became famous after his death, Zhuang Yuncheng’s old heart was greatly comforted.
Troubled times are when lowly people accomplish their ambition, while people of noble character meet calamity. The county head magistrate of Huzhou’s Gui An County was one surnamed Wu, given name Zhirong, who committed corruption and abuse of the law during his tenure. Common people gnashed their teeth in anger toward him, eventually someone lodged an accusation and the imperial court had him deposed.
Although when he was the county head magistrate of Gui An, Wu Zhirong raked in more than ten thousand taels, during the court proceeding and investigation of his disposal, he bribed to the east and sent a gift to the west, spending money everywhere to avoid being searched and his possession confiscated, these ten thousand taels booty were obliterated completely, even the people in his household left him, their whereabouts unknown.
With his official post and his wealth gone, he had no choice but to go from house to house to seek gratuitous financial help, saying that he was a just and honest official who had fallen hard and lost his post, that he did not even have enough travel expenses and was incapable of embarking on the journey home. Some rich people simply wanted to avoid trouble and gave him ten taels or eight taels. When he got to the rich Zhu family, the master of the home, Zhu Youming was an upright person of noble character who shunned evil. Not only he did not give him anything, he ruthlessly derided Wu Zhirong, saying that Sire took an official post in Huzhou, you have caused common people a great deal of hardship; even if I, the Ol’ Zhu, have some money, I would rather donate it to the poor people who suffer under Sire’s administration.
Although Wu Zhirong was enraged, he was incapable of lashing it out. Since he was already deposed, he had no power and no influence; how could he take a case against a rich and powerful family? Thereupon he paid a visit to Zhuang Yuncheng. Zhuang Yuncheng usually made friends with impoverished scholars, but he looked down upon corrupt official like this. Seeing his arrival and request, he laughed coldly and gave him a tael of silver, saying, “Based on Sire’s conduct, I should not have given you this tael, but common people of Huzhou are hoping Sire would leave, the sooner the better. If this tael can hasten your departure just a moment sooner, then it will be good.”
In his heart Wu Zhirong was extremely angry. Taking a glance he saw a copy of the ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’ lying on a table in the main hall; he thought, “This man surnamed Zhuang loves to hear flattery, as long as people praise this Ming History as such and such good, he will present shining white silver with both hands, no more knitting of his brows.” Thereupon he laughed and said, “Something that old gentleman Zhuang generously bestows, refusing it would be impolite. Today Xiongdi will leave Huzhou, what I regret the most is that I am not able to bring ‘Huzhou treasures’ with me, so that ignorant and inexperienced people of my humble hometown may greatly broaden their horizons.”
Zhuang Yuncheng asked, “What are ‘Huzhou treasures’?”
Wu Zhirong laughed and said, “Old gentleman Zhuang is too modest. Among the literary community, everybody says that your esteemed son, Tinglong Gongzi [young master] has personally composed that book the ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’. In terms of historical talent, historical knowledge, historical composition, not a single one is not a rarity since the dawn of time. Zuo Ma Ban Zhuang, those are ancient and modern times’ four great historical experts. This ‘Huzhou treasure’ is naturally the book ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ your esteemed son personally composed.”
Hearing Wu Zhirong mentioned ‘your esteemed son personally composed’ in the front, another ‘your esteemed son personally composed’ at the end, Zhuang Yuncheng was bursting with joy. He was fully aware that this book was not really composed by his son, inevitably there was regret in the deepest part of his heart. By saying those words, Wu Zhirong had thrown himself in a favorable light. Zhuang Yuncheng thought, “People are saying that this man is greedy of bribes, is a dirty lowly person, but he is, after all, a scholar; contrary to what one might expect, he has some perspective. Turns out people on the outside call Long’er’s [‘dear Long’, referring to Zhuang Tinglong, term of endearment] book a ‘Huzhou treasure’. This is the first time I have ever heard it.” He could not refrain smile from appearing across his face. He said, “Old gentlemen Rong mentioned something about Zuo Ma Ban Zhuang, four great historical experts of ancient and modern times; Xiongdi does not understand, would you please give your advice?”
Seeing his expression softened considerably, Wu Zhirong knew his flattery had hit the target; he was secretly delighted. “Old gentleman Zhuang is rather too modest. Zuo Qiuming wrote ‘Mr. Zuo’s Annals’, Sima Qian [145-86 BC] wrote ‘Record of the Grand Historian’, Ban Gu [32-92] wrote ‘History of the Former Han Dynasty’. These are all widely-known masterpiece, which garnered thousand praises. After Ban Gu, there was no more great historian. Ouyang Xiu [1007-1072] wrote ‘History of the Five Dynasties’, Sima Guang [1019-1086] wrote ‘A mirror for the wise ruler’ [or ‘Comprehensive Mirror for aid in Government’]; although the writing was fine, in the end the ability and insight is rather lacking. Until our Great Qing’s flourishing period, your esteemed son personally composed this brilliant masterpiece ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’, which people say can run neck to neck with Zuo Qiuming, Sima Qian and Ban Gu, three qianbei [older generation], as the ‘four great historical experts’. The term ‘Zuo Ma Ban Zhuang’ came from this fact.”
With smiling expression across his face, Zhuang Yuncheng repeatedly cupped his fist and said, “Erroneous praise, erroneous praise! However, this term ‘Huzhou treasure’ is, after all, not worthy to be mentioned.”
With serious expression Wu Zhirong said, “What do you mean not worthy to be mentioned? People outside are saying, ‘Huzhou treasures are history, silk and writing brush’; isn’t Zhuang’s history ranked to be the first?”
Natural silk and writing brush were two famous products of Huzhou, although Wu Zhirong’s character was contemptible, he was still somewhat talented, and was able to speak like a printed book; he lumped ‘Zhuang History’ together with Huzhou’s silk and Huzhou’s writing brush, hearing it, Zhuang Yuncheng was even more delighted.
Wu Zhirong continued, “Xiongdi came to your precious place to take an official post, both sleeves flowing in the breeze [i.e. having clean hands/uncorrupted], gaining nothing. Today I am wearing my old face to ask Old gentleman Zhuang a copy of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, to be passed on as my family treasure. Someday my Wu family’s offsprings will read it day and night, certainly their imaginative power will greatly increased, they will bring honor to their ancestors. I am hoping for Old gentleman Zhuang’s generosity in bestowing one.”
Zhuang Yuncheng laughed and said, “Naturally I can give one as a present.”
Wu Zhirong talked several more sentences, but did not see Zhuang Yuncheng was about to take any action. Thereupon he launched another speech, giving great compliments to the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’. Actually, he had not even read one page of the book; therefore, how amazing this history book was, how beyond understanding the writing of this history book was, everything was not to the point, he merely talked drivel.
Zhuang Yuncheng said, “Old gentleman Rong, please sit back and relax.” And then he went into the inner hall.
After a good while, a manservant came out, holding a bundle with both hands, and put it down on the table. Seeing Zhuang Yuncheng did not come out, Wu Zhirong hurriedly weighed the bundle in his hand. Although the bundle was big, it was as light as a feather, apparently it contained no silver; in his heart he was quite disappointed.
Shortly afterwards, Zhuang Yuncheng returned to the main hall, he presented the bundle with both hands and said with a laugh, “Old gentleman Rong thinks much of our local products; hence I sincerely present this to you.”
Wu Zhirong thanked him and took his leave. Before he was even back at the inn, he reached into the bundle and groped around. What he found was one book, a bundle of natural silk, and several dozen of writing brushes. He wasted a lot of words, the idea was that other than the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ book, Zhuang Yuncheng would also give several hundred taels of silver, but the gifts were unexpectedly the crazy nonsense he invented, the so-called ‘Huzhou Three Treasures’. He cursed in his heart, “Damn it, these moneybags of Nanxun are all this stingy! But I did say the wrong thing; if I said the ‘Huzhou Three Treasures’ are gold, silver and the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, wouldn’t I have reaped great harvest?”
Still fuming, he returned to the inn and tossed the bundle to the table, and then he put his head down and slept. When he woke up, it was already dark, the inn’s dinnertime had passed. He did not want to order special dinner; with anxiety and hunger burning, he was tortured on both sides, and could not return to sleep. Thereupon he untied the bundle, opened up the ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’, and started to read.
After reading several pages, he saw a glimmer of gold, a sheet of golden leaf suddenly appeared. Wu Zhirong’s heart was thumping wildly, he rubbed his eyes; but what was it if not a golden leaf? Trembling with excitement he shook the book and ten golden leaves came out, each sheet was at least five qian [1/10 of a tael], ten sheets of golden leaves equal to five tael of gold. At that time gold was precious, five taels of gold worth four hundred taels of silver. Wu Zhirong was unable to contain his joy; he thought, “This surnames Zhuang is indeed very sly, he is afraid that after getting this book I would casually toss it aside and would not even flip a single page, thereupon he hid golden leaves among the pages, so that those who read his son’s book would have the good fortune of finding the golden leaves. Right, I am going to read several sections, tomorrow I will drop in again, both to express my thanks for the gold, and to recite several paragraphs from the book, heap some more praise on it. If he is happy, maybe he would give me several more taels of gold.”
Thereupon he trimmed the oil lamp and flipped the pages to read. When he reached Emperor Wanli’s [1573-1619] fortieth year, the Later Jin dynasty’s Taizu [Great Ancestor, founder of a dynasty] Nurhachi succeeded the throne, the title of current dynasty was changed to Jin, establishing the primary ‘Mandate of Heaven’, suddenly his heart shivered, “Our Taizu establishing the primary in the year bingchen [53rd year of the 60-year cycle, i.e. 1616]. From that year on, we should not use Ming Dynasty’s Wanli era name anymore; it should be the Great Jin Mandate of Heaven’s primary year [first year of emperor’s reign].”
Thumbing through the book, he saw the dingmao [4th year of 60-year cycle, i.e. 1627] year of Later Jin’s Taizu on the throne, the book still said ‘Ming’s Tianqi7Tianqi Emperor, fifteenth Ming emperor Zhu Youxiao (1605-1627, reigned 1620-1627).Emperor’s seventh year’, and not ‘Great Jin’s Tiancong’s first year’. In the bingzi [13th year of 60-year cycle, i.e. 1636] year, Later Jin changed the title of the dynasty to Qing, and changed the Emperor’s reign title to Chongde. The book still said ‘Chongzhen’s ninth year’, and not ‘Great Qing’s Chongde’s first year’. In the jiashen [21st year of 60-year cycle, i.e. 1644] year, the book said ‘Chongzhen seventeenth year’, and not ‘Great Qing’s Shunzhi’s first year’. Also, he could see that after the Qing troops entered the Pass, the book mention the yiyou [22nd year of 60-year cycle, i.e. 1645] year as ‘Longwu’s first year’, the year dinghai [24th year of 60-year cycle, i.e. 1647] was called ‘Yongli’s first year’. Longwu and Yongli were Ming Dynasty’s King Tang and King Gui’s era names, the authors of the book plainly called them ‘Ming Dynasty’ still, they did not consider the Qing Dynasty at all.
Reading to this point, he could not help slapping the table and shouted, “Rebellion, rebellion, this is an outrage!” This slap had caused the table to shake, the oil lamp fell down, the oil splashed his hand, as well as the lapel of his robe. In the dark, suddenly a bright idea occurred; he could not help feeling crazy with joy, “Isn’t this Laotianye giving me easy money? I can be promoted and gain wealth, all because of this.”
Thinking about this, he could not help shouting in joy. Suddenly he heard the inn worker banged the door, “Mister guest, mister guest, what happened?”
Wu Zhirong laughed and said, “Nothing!” Lighting the oil lamp, he flipped through the book again. He read all night until the rooster crowed in the morning, before he finally took off his clothes and went to bed. He found about seventy or eighty taboo words in the book, so that even in his dream he could not help giggling and laughing.
When dynasties changed, the current political ruler paid most attention to correct the era name. The biggest taboo was in speech and in writings, since the implication was that the people were still thinking about the previous dynasty. The narrative in the ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’ was about the Ming Dynasty, there was actually nothing out of ordinary of the usage of era name and calendar of the Ming Dynasty. However, during the time when it was a taboo, it could bring enormous disaster. Most of the scholars who participated in writing the history book only helped with several sections, they could not be expected to go through the entire book, while those who compiled the last few sections were the ones who hated the Qing Dynasty to the bones, naturally they would not be willing to use the Great Qing’s era names in the book. Zhuang Tinglong was a young master of a rich family, plus he was blind, unavoidably he was rather careless, so that in the end a lowly person was able to seize the opportunity to exploit the loopholes.
By noon the next day, Wu Zhirong took a boat to Hangzhou on the east. In the inn he wrote a report, which he delivered, along with the History of the Ming Dynasty, to General Songkui’s mansion. He expected that when Songkui received the report, he would be summoned for an interview. At that time the Manchurian Qing used to give generous reward to people who report treasons. By rendering this great merit, Wu Zhirong was expecting his former official post to be reinstated, perhaps he could even enjoy three grades promotion as well. Who would have thought that after waiting left and right at the inn, all the way to more than half a year, every day he went to the general’s mansion to make discreet inquiries, it was as if he had thrown a stone and saw it sank without a trace in the ocean? Later on even the doorkeeper reprimanded him severely and did not allow him to drop in and create a disturbance at the door anymore.
Wu Zhirong was extremely anxious; he was about to exhaust the money he obtained by exchanging the golden leaves Zhuang Yuncheng gave him, yet the accusation did not give him the least bit of result. He was distressed, but was also astonished. One day he wandered around the city of Hangzhou and happened to stroll by the door of Wen Tong Tang [lit. literary expert hall] bookstore. He walked in to browse and kill the long day. Seeing three copies of ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’ on the shelf, he thought, “Could it be that the faults I found in the book are not enough to indict Zhuang Yuncheng? I’d better find some more treason and heresy writings and tomorrow write another report and deliver it to the general’s mansion.”
The inspector-general of Zhejiang at that time was a Han, but the general was a Manchu. He was afraid the inspector-general would not be willing to prosecute this literary case, hence he made up his mind to lodge the accusation to the Manchurian general.
He opened the book and only read several pages, and could not help but jumped in fright; he felt as if his entire body had just entered an icehouse. Momentarily he felt like stupid monk, unable to make any sense of the matter. He saw all the offending texts had disappeared completely from the book, from the Great Qing Taizu onward, the book used the Great Jin, Great Qing’s era name and calendar. As for exposing Jianzhou Guardian Commander-in-chief’s faults (a relative to the Manchurian Qing Emperor’s ancestor), as well as any reference to Longwu, Yongli, and others’ era name, not even a single character was left. But the text was strung together, the pages were clean, there was not a single trace of any alteration. How did they conjure this magic trick? It was indeed very strange.
Holding the book in his hands inside the bookstore, he stared blankly as if he was entranced for half a day. And then he suddenly cried out, “That’s it!” He saw the cover and the pages of this book were spotlessly white and looked brand new; when he asked the shopkeeper, as expected, the books were new delivery, sent from Huzhou book distributor, arrived not even seven or eight days ago. He said in his heart, “This Zhuang Yuncheng is really formidable! Indeed money can reach anything. He pulled the books back, redid the engraving, and printed another set of new books, removing all the taboo in the original edition. Humph, do you think I will drop it just like that?”
Wu Zhirong’s guess was indeed not wrong. What happened was that Hangzhou general Songkui did not know Chinese characters, when the administrative secretary saw Wu Zhirong’s report, he was so scared that cold sweats broke on his entire body; he knew that the implication of this matter was very grave, without realizing it, his hands holding the report did not stop trembling.
This secretary was surnamed Cheng, given name Weifan, a native of Shaoxing [prefecture], Zhejiang. During Ming and Qing dynasties, eight or nine out of ten aids and advisors to top feudal officials were Shaoxing natives, therefore, often times two characters ‘Shaoxing’ were added in front of the word ‘secretary’, became ‘Shaoxing secretary’ [i.e. experts in legal briefs]. These secretaries first learned the trade secret from their hometown former generations, afterwards, they would be very experienced and careful in handling criminal law, money and grain. All documents in the feudal office were handled by these secretaries. Since they all were from the same town, documents prepared by low ranking administrative assistants to be presented to their superior in yamen8The term yamen is practically used to describe any local government office in feudal China.
seldom met with nitpicking criticism. As a result, when new officials, big and small, took office, the most urgent business was to employ the service of a Shaoxing secretary. During Ming and Qing dynasties, the number of Shaoxing natives who became high-ranking officials was really not many, yet they held control over numerous government affairs in China for several hundred years; they could be considered a marvel in Chinese political history.
This Cheng Weifan was honest and considerate, he believed in ‘religious practice in public life’. That is to say that the feudal officials grasped the life-and-death power over common people, the several characters drafted by the secretaries were serious, it could cause common people’s family bankrupt and the people dead, it could justify or condemn, it could help people to escape alive from mortal danger. Consequently, helping people in public office was more effective than performing religious practice in the temple. He saw that if this case of ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ led to investigation, countless people in southern Jiangsu and western Zhejiang would lose their lives and had their families destroyed. Thereupon he asked for several days off from the general, and left that very same night by boat to Nanxun town in Huzhou, and informed Zhuang Yuncheng about this matter.
Suddenly faced with imminent catastrophe, Zhuang Yuncheng’s soul flew to the outer sky, he was so scared that his whole body went weak, his saliva trickled down his chin, he was completely at a loss. After a long while he finally stood up, bent his knees and kowtowed to Cheng Weifan to express his gratitude, afterwards he asked for advice.
During his journey from Hanzhou to Nanxun, Cheng Weifan had already gone through this matter over and over, and he thought of a good plan. Since the book ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’ had been in circulation for quite a while, they could not conceal it; they had to take drastic measures to deal with this situation: while sending people to book shops everywhere to purchase these books back and destroyed them completely, they had to hasten day and night to engrave new printing blocks, delete all the taboo phrases and print new books, and sell them outside. If the authorities investigated this matter, they would look into the new edition, and would discover that Wu Zhirong’s accusation was unsubstantiated; hence they would put an end to this unexpected calamity.
Immediately they put this plan into action. Zhuang Yuncheng was frightened but happy at the same time, he repeatedly kowtowed to say thanks. Cheng Weifan also taught him quite a bit of urgent matters, how to give a present to government official so-and-so, how to clear away obstruction and communicated with such-and-such yamen, et cetera. Zhuang Yuncheng diligently did everything.
Cheng Weifan returned to Hangzhou. He waited more than half a month before transferring the original book, along with Wu Zhirong’s report, to the inspector-general of Zhejiang, Zhu Changzuo. He downplayed the report, saying that the submitter was a deposed county head magistrate due to corruption, who appeared to hold a grudge and hence blowing his whistle to vent his resentment, asking Futai [inspector-general] Daren9‘Daren’ (lit. big person), a term used by common people (or an officer of lower rank) to address government official (or his/her superior). to investigate in details.
While Wu Zhirong painstakingly waited for news in an inn in Hangzhou, Zhuang Yuncheng’s money flowed out like water. By this time Zhuang Yuncheng’s heavy bribery had already reached the general’s yamen, inspector-general’s yamen, and literary office yamen. Upon receiving this case, Zhu Changzuo thought that this kind of publication matter belonged to the literary office; after another ten-day delay, he transferred the documents to Hu Shangheng of the literary office. Literary office yamen’s secretary put it on the shelf for more than half a month, and then he took another month sick leave, before finally slowly he drafted the official document and sent it to Huzhou prefecture.
In the Huzhou prefecture office, the case sat for more twenty days before it was passed on to Gui An and Wu Cheng counties’ literature offices, asking these offices to respond. The two literary offices had already received Zhuang Yuncheng’s bribe, by this time the new edition of ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ had been printed. The two officers handed over the new edition to their superior with this report: ‘The book is mediocre and is of low quality, it will not help the ways of the world or the heart of human being in any way. We have gone through the entire book and did not find any taboo or offending words.’ And thus by stretching and delaying the matter was settled by leaving it unsettled.
It was not until he found the new edition of ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ in the book store that Wu Zhirong found out the inside story. He thought if only he could find the original edition of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ he would be able to re-expose this case. In all the book stores in Hangzhou the original edition had been bought back by the Zhuang family, thereupon he went to remote counties in eastern Zhejiang trying to find it; who would have thought that even there he failed to find a single copy? Destitute and troubled, he had no choice but to return home dejectedly.
As chance has it, along his journey home, he stopped by an inn, where he saw the innkeeper was swaying his head while reading a book. When he looked at the cover, it was indeed a copy of ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’. He asked to borrow the book, and found out that it was unexpectedly the original edition. He was overjoyed at unexpected good news, and thought that if he wanted to buy it from the innkeeper, on one hand he might not be willing to sell, on the other hand Wu Zhirong did not have any money, he could not afford it anyway. Without any better option, he had to steal.
In the middle of the night he quietly got out of bed, stole the book, and slipped out of the inn. Thinking that in the whole province of Zhejiang all government officials had received Zhuang Yuncheng’s bribe, he had to either give up, or go through to the end; hence he might as well go to Beijing to report this case.
Upon his arrival in Beijing, Wu Zhirong wrote the report and sent it to the Ministry of Rites, the Capital Investigative Bureau, and the General Secretary Office, three yamen. He explained how the Zhuang family bribed local officials and published the new edition by altering the printing. Unexpectedly, in just less than a month one after another all three yamen refuted his claim. They all stated that Zhuang Tinglong’s ‘Compilation of Ming Documents’ has been investigated carefully and the content did not have any taboo in it, the deposed county head magistrate Wu Zhirong’s report was not based on truth, obviously he held a grudge and has accused someone falsely. As for the government officials received bribes and so on, it was chasing the wind and clutching at shadows, groundless accusations that should be dismissed.
The General Secretary Office’s rebuttal was even more severe; it said, “The deposed county head magistrate Wu Zhirong is corrupt and hence was expelled from office, thereupon he considers all honest and upright officials in the world as corrupt as he is.” Turned out Zhuang Yuncheng had received Cheng Weifan’s instruction and had early on sent the new edition of ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ to the Ministry of Rites, the Capital Investigative Bureau, and the General Secretary Office, three yamen; he had also sent generous gifts to the officers and secretaries in charge of this matter.
Once again Wu Zhirong had bumped into a wall; he had no travel expensed to return home, and was wandering destitute in a place far from home. At that time the Qing court treatment of Han intellectuals was extremely strict, if they found the slightest bit of taboo in their writings, they would be immediately put to death. If Wu Zhirong’s accusation was against an ordinary scholar, he would have succeeded early on; it’s just happened that his opponent was a very rich and powerful family that he was thwarted again and again. Since he had no way to retreat, even if he risked imprisonment, he simply must continue this case to the end. Thereupon he wrote four reports to be sent separately to the four Advisroy Board Ministers; while in the inn he simultaneously writing several hundred accusation letters exposing this matter and posted the letters everywhere in the city of Beijing. This was a very risky move, since if the authorities decided to investigate, he might be charged with spreading frightening words to scare people, trying to disturb the people’s mind, inevitably a serious crime punishable by execution.
At that time the four Advisory Board Ministers were Suoni, Suksaha, Ebilong and Oboi, all were Manchuria’s outstanding founding ministers. When Emperor Shunzhi passed away, the posthumous edict was to appoint these four high-ranking ministers to assist in running the government. Among these four, Oboi was the most vicious and harsh, his henchmen among the imperial court were extremely numerous, his power in the imperial court was great, it was almost as if the power was in his hand alone. He was always afraid the party of his opponents was against him, hence he sent out countless informants inside and outside the Capital to make discreet inquiries and listen to the sound of people’s acitivities. One day he received a secret report about the appearance of many posters in the city of Beijing, exposing Zhejiang’s civilian surnamed Zhuang writing a book scheming rebellion, treason and heresy, Zhejiang’s officials received bribe and ignored the situation, and so on.
As soon as Oboi was notified, he investigated immediately; his people passed like thunder and moved like the wind. Right this moment Wu Zhirong’s report arrived at Oboi’s mansion. He summoned Wu Zhirong at once, asked him about this matter in details, and he also had his secretary, a Han, to inspect in details the original edition of the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ presented by Wu Zhirong; the result was that the report was true.
Oboi achieved his dukedom and became a high-ranking official from his meritorious service in military, he always looked down on Han officials and intellectuals. After he grasped power, he wanted to run a few big cases to suppress and intimidate the hearts of the people, not only to make the Han people not dare to have any thought of rebellion, but also to make his political opponents in the imperial court not dare to act against him. Immediately he dispatched an imperial commissioner to Zhejiang to follow up. Naturally the entire Zhuang family was arrested and brought to the Capital, but even General Songkui of Hangzhou, Inspector-general Zhu Changzuo of Zhejiang, along with the government officials under them, big and small, were all deposed and investigated. All the scholars listed on the ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, not a single one escaped shackles and imprisonment.
At Lu Liuliang’s house, Gu Yanwu, Huang Zongxi, two people narrated this case’s sequence of events [orig. ‘mountain has a connecting pulse throughout like a dragon’, an idiom from fengshui] in details. Lu Liuliang listened while sighing incessantly.
That evening the three of them lay on the couch and continued their long talk about the affairs of life. When they talked about how during the late Ming period Wei Zhongxian10Wei Zhongxian (1568-1627), infamous eunuch politician of late Ming. (See also ‘White Hair Demoness’, translated by Faerie Queene and yours truly.)and the others eunuchs framed loyal and good subjects, how they gained control of the imperial court and committed all kinds of things against the tide, until finally the House of Ming perished, how after the Qing entered the Pass Han people suffered massacre and unbearable and deep misfortune; none did not wring their hands and gnash their teeth in anger.
Early in the morning the next day, Lu Liuliang’s entire family, along with Gu and Huang, two people, took a boat heading east. In Jiangnan, middle-class families or higher owned their own boat. Jiangnan countryside was criss-crossed with water, river ways opened in all directions, dense like spider web. Average people travelled afar by boats; it was called ‘northern people ride horses, southern people ride boats’, and it has always been so since ancient times.
Upon reaching Hangzhou, the canal branched to the north. One evening they stopped outside the city of Hangzhou to hear the news. The Qing court had already executed not a few government officials and common people because of this case; Zhuang Tinglong had already died, they opened his coffin and mutilated his remains; Zhuang Yuncheng could not endure the mistreatment in prison and died; several dozen of Zhuang family members, fifteen years old and up, were beheaded, their wives and children were sent away to Shenyang [Liaoning, northeast China] to serve a penal sentence, becoming Manchurian soldiers’ slaves.
The former assistant minister of the Ministry of Rites Li Lingxi who wrote the preface of the book was executed by death of a thousand cuts, his four sons were beheaded. Li Lingxi’s youngest son had just turned sixteen, when the prosecutor saw that the number of people to be killed was a lot, his heart softened; he ordered him to reduce his age by a year, because according to Qing law, fifteen years and under were exempt from execution or banishment. The youngster said, “My Die-die and Gege are all dead, I don’t want to live alone.” In the end he refused to change his confession and was beheaded as well.
Songkui and Zhu Changzuo were sent to prison awaiting trial. The secretary Cheng Weifan was executed by lingering death. The two literary officers of Gui An and Wu Cheng were beheaded. The number of people implicated in this case, including those who were accused wrongly and died, really cannot be counted. Huzhou’s prefectural magistrate Tan Ximin had just taken office for half a month, the imperial court said that he knew the facts but did not report it, he accepted bribe to cover it up; along with the prefectural judge Li Huan, and director of discipline Wang Zhaozhen, he was executed by hanging.
Wu Zhirong harbored a deep hatred toward Nanxun rich man Zhu Youming. That day he came to seek gratuitous financial help, he was severely reprimanded and chased out of the door. Now he reported to the prosecutor of this case that the book clearly indicated that ‘the content was based on Zhu clan’s manuscript, which was expanded and deleted’. He said that this ‘Zhu clan’ was indeed Zhu Youming; he also said that the name ‘Zhu Youming’ [Zhu was the family name of Ming emperors, ‘you’ means assist/protect, ‘ming’ bright, the same character as in ‘Ming Dynasty’] clearly showed that his heart was still in the former Ming dynasty, that he was cursing the current dynasty. And thus Zhu Youming and his five sons were beheaded together, Zhu family’s estate, worth more than a hundred thousand taels, was rewarded to Wu Zhirong by the Qing court.
The most tragic thing was: all the engravers who carved the printing blocks, the printers, the book binders, as well as the book distributors, the owners of the bookstores, the shop assistants who received the books, the readers who purchased the books, were all investigated and beheaded.
According to historical records, at that time there was a tax officer working on a tollbooth (a custom officer) at the bank of a river in Suzhou, by the name of Li Shangbai. He loved to read, and heard that the Chang Men [gate of heaven] Bookstore in Suzhou had the newly published ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’, which the reviewers said was very good, hence he sent one of his workers to go and buy. When the worker arrived, the bookstore owner was out, hence the worker went next door, to a house of an elderly man surnamed Zhu to sit and wait. When the bookstore owner returned, he purchased the book and went back home. Li Shangbai read several chapters and did not think more of it. Several months later, this case broke out, the investigation included people everywhere who bought the books. By this time Li Shangbai was in Beijing on official work, he was charged with purchasing treasonable book and was immediately executed in Beijing. The bookstore owner and his purchasing assistant were also beheaded. Even the next door old man surnamed Zhu was implicated, they said that he knew someone was buying a seditious book, yet why he did not report it but let him sit around his house instead? He should have been beheaded, but since he was over seventy years old, he was excused from execution, but he, along with his wife and children, were banished to an army post in a remote place.
As for the famous scholars of Jiangnan, because Zhuang Tinglong admired their names and listed them as the editors of the book, they were put to death by a thousand cuts on the same day, including Mao Yuanxi and the others, fourteen men. The so-called ‘executed by death of a thousand cuts’ means blade by blade, the person’s entire body, his limbs and flesh, was slowly cut off, until the convict suffered enough pain, and then he was put to death. The number of people whose family went bankrupt and died because of this book was really difficult to count.
When Lu Liuliang and the others received the news, their hatred was unbearable; they gnashed their teeth in anger and cursed incessantly. Huang Zongxi said, “Mr. Yihuang was listed as the editor, I am afraid it will be difficult for him to escape this time.” The three of them and Zha Yihuang had always been good friends, they were extremely concerned.
One day the boat reached Jiaxing. Gu Yanwu bought an imperial bulletin in the city, which contained a detailed list of the names and surnames of people who were guilty in the case of ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’. They saw a sentence in the imperial edict that said, ‘Although Zha Jizuo, Fan Xiang, Lu Qi, three people are listed as the editors, but they have never seen the book, hence they are exempt from punishment and will not be investigated anymore.’ Gu Yanwu brought the bulletin back to the boat to be reviewed together with Huang Zongxi and Lu Liuliang; they clicked their tongue in amazement.
Huang Zongxi said, “This must be Da Li Jiangjun’s [lit. general with great power] doing.”
“Who is Da Li Jiangjun?” Lu Liuliang asked, “Please advise.”
Huang Zongxi said, “Two years ago, Xiongdi went to visit Mr. Yihuang’s home. I saw that his mansion house looked completely new, the flower garden was spacious, the furnishing was luxurious and beautiful; it was completely different from before. The mansion even had a group of Kunqu11Kunqu opera, influential musical theater originated in Kunshan, Jiangsu province during the Yuan [Mongol] dynasty. theatrical troupe performing folk musical theater, which is hard to see in Jiangnan. Xiongdi and Mr. Yihuang have always been good friends, we can be considered sharing liver and gallbladder, thereupon I asked him what happened. Mr. Yihuang told me a story, a really happy encounter in the windblown dust [i.e. vicissitudes of life].” Hence he narrated the story.
One day, Zha Jizuo, alias Yihuang (In the book ‘Goblet Remains’ there is an article ‘Unexpected Meeting in the Snow’, which talks about this marvelous story. The opening paragraph says, “Zha Xiaolian12Xiaolian – successful second degree candidate in imperial exam. of Haining [county], Zhejiang, alias Yihuang, was a man with splendid literary talent, as well as elegant and graceful demeanor, often speaks in long drawn out manner, unbearably melancholy, an unusually distinguished person throughout the land, not at all looking like he is coming out of the dust, or that he is obtainable.’) was at home at the end of the year, drinking wine alone. Not long afterwards the snow started to fall; the more it fell, the harder it became. Zha Yihuang was bored drinking alone, so he went out the door to enjoy the snowy scenery, and saw a beggar standing underneath the eaves to shelter from the snow. The beggar was big and tall, his bone structure looked unusually powerful, he was wearing tattered clothes, yet did not seem to mind the cold wind at all, only his face seemed to bear some anger, grief and indignation.
Zha Yihuang felt strange in his heart, thereupon he said, “The snow will not stop for a while, how about coming in for a cup of wine?”
“Very good!” the beggar replied.
Thereupon Zha Yihuang invited him to come into the house and ordered the page boy to prepare cups and chopsticks. Pouring the wine, he said, “Please!”
The beggar raised the cup to toast him and downed it. “Good wine!” he praised.
Zha Yihuang poured three cups in succession, the beggar drank in a frank and straightforward manner. Zha Yihuang loved frank and straightforward people the most; he was inwardly very happy. “Xiongtai’s [brother, generic term] wine capacity is superb,” he said, “I wonder how much can you drink?”
The beggar replied, “When drinking with a bosom friend, a thousand cups will still be too little; when the conversation gets disagreeable, to say one word more is a waste of breath.”
Although these two lines were familiar polite set of phrases, but spoken by a beggar made Zha Yihuang felt strange. Immediately he ordered the page boy to fetch a large earthen jar of Shaoxing Nu’erhong [lit. blushing young woman (or young woman’s red) from Shaoxing] wine; he said with a laugh, “Zaixia13Lit. ‘under’; lowly one, a humble way of referring to self. has limited wine capacity, and just now I have drunk enough, I can’t accompany brother in enjoying the drink. Laoxiong [old brother] drink a large bowl, I accompany with small cup, what do you say?”
“That will work,” the beggar said. Thereupon the page boy warmed the wine and separately poured it into the bowl and the cup. Zha Yihuang drank a cup, the beggar drank a large bowl. By the time the beggar already drank more than twenty bowls, his face still did not show any sign of tipsiness, but Zha Yihuang was already drunk.
It should be known that as it entered the mouth, Shaoxing Nu’erhong was mild, but the wine character was quite powerful. When people of Shaoxing gave birth to a son or a daughter, they brewed wine, ranging from just a few to several dozen earthen jars, and buried the wine in the ground. When the daughter grew up and get married, the wine would be taken out and served in the wedding feast. The wine had an amber color, hence it was called ‘blushing young woman’. Since the wine was buried for seventeen, eighteen years, sometimes for more than twenty years, its nature was extremely mellow and rich. When the family gave birth to a son, the buried wine was called ‘zhuangyuan hong’14Zhuangyuan – top scorer in palace examination, ‘hong’ means red., with the hope that in the future the son would serve the wine during the feast celebrating he becoming a ‘zhuangyuan’. Since not everybody could be a ‘zhuangyuan’, most would simply serve it during the son’s wedding. The wine that was brewed to be sold later also took the name ‘zhuangyuan hong’ and ‘nu’erhong’.
The page boy helped Zha Yihuang into the inner hall to sleep. The beggar went out on his own accord to stand underneath the eaves again. The next morning Zha Yihuang woke up, hastily he went out to see the beggar; he saw the beggar was still standing with his hands behind his back, enjoying the snow. A burst of north wind blew, Zha Yihuang felt the cold penetrated his bones and marrow, yet the beggar showed no sign of nerves.
Zha Yihuang said, “Cold weather, frozen ground, Xiongtai’s clothes is unavoidably too thin.” Thereupon he took off the sheepskin coat he was wearing and draped it on the beggar’s shoulder. He also took ten taels of silver and presented it with both hands, saying, “Just a little bit to buy some wine, please Xiongtai do not refuse. If it pleases you, please come again to drink wine. Last night Xiongdi was drunk, and failed to sweep the couch to retain the guest, please do not blame me for my negligence.”
The beggar received the money and said, “Well said.” Without even say thanks, he shook his sleeve and left.
The following spring, Zha Yihuang went to Hangzhou on a leisure visit. One day he saw an enormous ancient bell in a broken-down temple, he estimated the bell weighed at least four hundred catties [1 catty is approximately 1 pound or 0.5kg]. While he was enjoying the decorative design, the inscription carved onto the surface of the bell, suddenly a beggar entered the Buddha hall in big strides, grabbed the bottom of the bell with his left hand, and lifted it up. The big bell unexpectedly was raised several chi [Chinese foot, approximately 1/3 of a meter] off the ground. The beggar took a large bowl of meat and a large bowl of wine from underneath the bell and put the bowls aside, and then he put the ancient bell back to its original place.
Seeing his divine strength, Zha Yihuang could not help gasping with astonishment. When he looked carefully, unexpectedly the beggar was the one he drank wine with the previous winter. He laughed and asked, “Xiongtai, do you still remember me?”
The beggar cast him a glance, and then he also laughed and said, “Ah, it is you. Today I will be the host, we will all drink and be merry. Come, come, come, drink wine.” While saying that, he handed over the earthen bowl.
Zha Yihuang received the bowl and took a mouthful. “This wine is really not bad,” he said with a laugh.
The beggar took a large piece of meat from the tattered bowl; he said, “This is dog meat, will you eat it or not?”
Zha Yihuang felt squeamish, but he thought, “Since I already regard him as a drinking buddy, if I decline, it would mean I am looking down on him.” Thereupon he reached out to grab it, took a bit and chewed; it was actually quite sweet and delicious. So the two of them sat on the floor of the broken-down temple, passing the tattered earthen bowl back and forth, you drink one mouthful, I drink one mouthful, while reaching into the meat bowl and ate the dog meat piece by piece. Not too long afterwards the meat and wine were finished.
The beggar laughed aloud and said, “Too bad the wine is not enough to make Xiaolian Gong [master Xiaolian (see above)] drunk.”
Zha Yihuang said, “Last winter we met by chance at my humble residence, today we met again without any previous appointment, we are indeed brought together by fate. Xiongtai’s divine strength is astonishing, turns out you are a world-class extraordinary man. To be able to make friend with such a gentleman, Xiaodi is very delighted. If it is alright with Xiongtai, how about we go to a restaurant and drink some more?”
“Wonderful, wonderful!” the beggar replied.
The two of them went to a restaurant by the bank of Xihu [West Lake, Hangzhou], where they sat on a table outside on the second floor, ordering wine and drinking together. Not too long afterwards Zha Yihuang passed out again. By the time he sobered up, the beggar had disappeared.
That was during the final years of Emperor Chongzhen of the Ming dynasty. In several years, the Qing troops entered the Pass, the Ming dynasty fell. Zha Yihuang decided not to forge ahead, he simply spent his days leisurely at his house. One day suddenly a military officer leading four soldiers arrived at the Zha mansion. Zha Yihuang was alarmed, thinking that disaster was knocking at his door. Who would have thought that the military officer was very respectful? He said, “We received order from the Wu Military Office of Guangdong province to deliver a meager present.”
“Your honorable superior and I are total strangers,” Zha Yihuang said, “I am afraid there is a mistake here.”
The military officer took out a visiting case and extracted a sheet of crimson-colored, gilded with gold, business card; on it were written, ‘Paying my respect to Mr. Zha Yihuang, alias Jizuo’, underneath it said, ‘Junior [orig. ‘wan sheng’ – later generation] Wu Liuqi kowtows to pay a hundred respect’. Zha Yihuang thought, “I have never even heard about this name Wu Liuqi, why is he sending a present to me?” Thereupon he was speechless, not knowing what to say.
The military officer said, “My humble superior said that this is a meager gift, asking Mr. Zha not to ridicule it.” While saying that he produced two vermillion-lacquered, gold-lettered round cases, put them on the table, and bowed to pay his respect before taking his leave.
Zha Yihuang opened the gift boxes, and to his amazement he found fifty taels gold in one box, and six bottles of foreign wine in the other, the wine bottles were embelished with pearl and emerald; it was extraordinarly luxurious. Zha Yihuang’s shock was growing even deeper; he ran outside trying to get the military officer to take the present back, but military people moved fast, they were already far away.
Zha Yihuang was puzzled, “Ill-gotten gains flew in, there won’t be any good fortune, only disaster. Could it be that someone is trying to frame me?” Thereupon he closed the gift boxes, resealed them, and hid them in his private room. Zha family was comparably well-off, they did not have any use of the gold, but the foreign wine was of a very famous brand; since he did not dare to open it, he could not stop his heart from itching.
Nothing happened in the next several months. One day, a gongzi [young master, son of official] wearing magnificent clothing arrived. The young master was only seventeen or eighteen years old, full of vigor, and had an impressive appearance; he brought eight attendants with him. As soon as he saw Zha Yihuang, he kneeled down to kowtow; he said, “Zha Shibo [uncle, an affectionate name for a friend older than one’s father], nephew Wu Baoyu paying his respect.”
Zha Yihuang hastily helped him up and said, “Your calling me Shibo, I really do not dare to accept the honor. I wonder who is your honorable Daren?”
Wu Baoyu replied, “My humble father’s name is Liu on top and Qi on the bottom, presently residing in Guangdong province, taking office as Tidu [local commander] of the entire province’s land and sea. He sends little nephew with the specific purpose of respectfully invite Shibo to stay for several months in Guangdong.”
Zha Yihuang said, “I have previously received your esteemed father Daren’s generous gift, in my heart I feel uneasy. I am ashamed to say, Xiongdi’s natural disposition is forgetful, I do not remember when did I make your esteemed father Daren’s acquaintance? Xiongdi is a scholar, I do not usually make friends with honorable government officials. Gongzi please sit down for a moment.” Finished speaking he went into the inner room. When he returned, he brought those two giftboxes out, saying, “Would Gongzi please bring these back? I really do not dare to receive such a generous gift.”
He thought that as the Tidu of Guangdong, this Wu Liuqi must have admired Zha Yihuang’s name, and thus used very expensive give to hire him to be his secretary. This man held a high position in government, he was Manchu people’s eagle and dog to bully Han people; if Zha Yihuang received his gold and silver, he would corrupt his own innocence, thereupon his expression looked quite displeased.
Wu Baoyu said, “My humble father instructed that I must invite Shibo. If Shibo forgot my humble father, there is one thing here, please Shibo take a look.” From his attendant’s hand he took a bundle and opened it up. It was an extremely worn-out sheepskin coat.
When Zha Yihuang saw this old coat, he remembered he gave this coat to the strange beggar in the snow. He suddenly realized that this General Wu Liuqi was actually his drinking buddy in the past. His heart was moved, “The Tatars occupy our land under the heavens, if there is someone with authority over the troops raising righteous banner, with response from every direction, perhaps we could drive the Tatars out of the Pass. This strange beggar unexpectedly still remembers my favor of a meal and a coat of the former days, he is not someone without any conscience, if I can move his righteousness, it’s not necessarily a hopeless case. Men establish meritorious service by dedicating our lives to the service of our country. At this point, the worse that can happen is that he would kill me, so what?” Thereupon he gladly set off on a journey to Guangzhou.
General Wu Liuqi welcomed him into the mansion, his manner was extremely respectful; he said, “Liuqi wandered destitute in Jiangnan, Mr. Zha did not abandon me, and treated me as a friend. You invited me to drink wine and gave me a leather coat, that is trivial matter; but in that broken-down temple you drank wine from a tattered bowl and grabbed dog meat with me, that showed how high you regarded me. At that time Liuqi was poor and dejected, everywhere I went I met with people’s cold eyes, yet Mr. Zha was treating me with such a warm heart, Liuqi was able to raise my spirits to great height. What I have accomplished today is entirely thanks to Mr. Zha.”
Zha Yihuang indifferently said, “In Junior’s [‘wan sheng’, see above] eyes, the General Wu’s brilliance of today is not necessarily comparable to the amazing beggar in the snow of the past’s.”
Wu Liuqi was startled, but he did not ask, he simply said, “Yes, yes!”
There was a large banquet that night, all civil and military officials in the city were invited, Zha Yihuang was made to sit in the seat of honor, while Wu Liuqi himself sat in the next seat to accompany him. The civil and military officials in Guangdong province, from inspector-general down, saw how respectful the Tidu Daren was to this Zha Yihuang, no one was not secretly astonished. The inspector-general even thought that Zha Yihuang was an imperial envoy minister sent by the Emperor incognito to investigate something; otherwise, Wu Liuqi usually was very arrogant toward other people, why would he be this respectful toward an ordinary scholar from Jiangnan?
After the wine had made its round, the inspector-general quietly inquired of Wu Liuqi, whether this honorable guest was a favored member of the imperial court. Wu Liuqi smiled and said, “Laoxiong [old brother] is really smart, you can recognize color just by its appearance; your guess is ninety percent correct.” These words of him were meant to ridicule the inspector-general by saying that the tenth time he guessed, it was incorrect. Who would have thought that the inspector-general really believed that Zha Yihuang was an imperial envoy? He thought that if this Zha Daren stayed in Wu Tidu’s mansion, he would be able to curry favor with him. Wu Tidu and me are always not in a good terms with each other; if when the imperial envoy returned to the Capital and submitted an unfavorable report on me, won’t that be terrible? Therefore, as soon as he was back into his mansion, he prepared a hefty gift, which he delivered in person to the Tidu mansion early in the morning the next day.
Wu Liuqi came out to receive the guest, saying that the previous night Mr. Zha was drunk and was not awake yet; Futai’s gift would definitely be delivered to his hand, please be assured and do not worry too much. When the inspector-general heard this, he was greatly delighted; he left after repeatedly expressed his thanks.
The news spread, all government officials knew that the inspector-general delivered generous gifts to Mr. Zha. Nobody knew this Mr. Zha’s origin, yet if even the inspector-general sent him a generous gift, how could they not do the same? Within the next several days, the gifts in the Tidu mansion piled up like a mountain. Wu Liuqi ordered his people to duly record every single gift, but he did not want Mr. Zha to know about it. Every day, other than managing military and public affairs, he would always accompany Zha Yihuang for a drink.
One late evening, the two of them were drinking wine in the flower garden pavilion. After a few rounds of wine, Zha Yihuang said, “I have disturbed your honorable home for many days, experiencing your great kindness. Tomorrow Wan Sheng is going to return to the north.”
“How could Mister say those words?” Wu Liuqi said, “It was not easy to get Mister to the south, if you do not stay a year or a half, I will not let Mister go back. Tomorrow I am going to accompany Mister to five-story pagoda for a visit. Guangdong has so many scenic and historical spots, you won’t be able to visit them all in a few months.”
Zha Yihuang was rather drunk, he boldly said, “Although mountains and rivers are good, it has sunk into the barbarians’ hands; looking at it will only add grief to my heart.”
Wu Liuqi’s countenance changed slightly; he said, “Mister is drunk, let us take a rest a bit early tonight.”
Zha Yihuang said, “When we first met, I respected you as a hero in windblown dust [i.e. hardships of travel], hence it was enough for me to make you my friend; who would have thought that actually my eyes have failed me?”
“How did you eyes fail you?” Wu Liuqi asked.
In a loud and clear voice Zha Yihuang replied, “You have great skills, yet you do not strive for the country, for the people, but helping tyrant Zhou in his oppression, by becoming the Tatars’ eagle and dog, bullying our Great Han’s common people; this moment you are still immensely pleased with yourself, without any sense of shame. Ol’ Zha inevitably is ashamed to be your friend.” While saying that he suddenly stood up.
Wu Liuqi said, “Mister please hold down your voice, if others hear this, it will bring disaster.”
Zha Yihuang said, “Today I still regard you as a friend, I have some good words and encouragement. If you don’t want to listen, there is no harm in killing me. Ol’ Zha has no strength to truss a chicken, in any case I cannot resist.”
Wu Liuqi said, “Zaixia is listening with respectful attention.”
Zha Yihuang said, “General holds power over the military and government of the entire Guangdong province in your hand, you have a golden opportunity for an uprising and come over from the enemy’s side. Make a public appeal, the whole world will respond; even if the great undertaking is not successful, it will bust the Tatars’ guts. Only by dealing with them in large-scale operation will it fit your natural disposition of divine bravery, your great head.”
Wu Liuqi poured a bowl of wine and downed it in one gulp. He said, “I am delighted to hear what Mister has to say!” With both hands he reached down, ‘rip’ he tore the front piece of his own gown, exposing his black-hair-covered chest; parting the chest hair, he exposed eight small characters cut into his flesh: ‘Tian Fu Di Mu, Fan Qing Fu Ming’. [Heaven is my father, Earth is my mother, Fighting the Qing, Restoring the Ming.]
Zha Yihuang was startled and delighted at the same time. “This … what is this?” he asked.
Wu Liuqi closed his lapel well before answering, “Just now listening to Mister’s magnificent speech, I honor and respect you. In spite of the danger of perishing and extermination of your entire family, Mister opens up your liver and drip gall, giving Zaixia directions, Zaixia no longer dare to cover up the truth. Previously Zaixia belonged to the Beggar Clan, but this moment I am the Red Banner Xiangzhu of the Great Obedience Hall of Tian Di Hui [Heaven and Earth Society]. I took an oath to use the hot blood in my entire body to fight the Qing and restore the Ming.”
Looking at the tattoo on Wu Liuqi’s chest, Zha Yihuang had no more doubt; he said, “Turns out General lives in Cao camp but have your heart in Han camp. Just now my words were offensive, I have greatly offended you.”
Wu Liuqi was greatly delighted, thinking that by saying ‘live in Cao camp but have the heart in Han camp’, Zha Yihuang was comparing him to Guan Yunchang; he said, “This comparison, I dare not to accept the honor.”
Zha Yihuang said, “I wonder what is the Beggar Clan, what is Tian Di Hui? Please advise.”
“Mister please drink another cup,” Wu Liuqi said, “Zaixia will explain it slowly.” Thereupon the two of them drank another cup.
Wu Liuqi said, “The Beggar Clan already exists for a long time, since the Song Dynasty, it is a big clan in Jianghu. The brothers in the Clan beg to make a living, even people from rich and powerful families, upon entering the Beggar Clan, they must totally disperse their family resources and live as beggars. Within the Clan, under the Bangzhu [Clan Leader] there are four Zhanglao [elder], and then front, rear, left, right and middle, five directions, Hufa [protector of the law]. Zaixia held the Left Protector position, an eight-pouch disciple in the Clan, a position that can’t be considered too low. Afterwards, because I did not get along well with an Elder surnamed Sun, we had a fight. At that time Zaixia was drunk, I accidentally beat him that he was seriously hurt. Disrespecting superior is a big violation of the Clan’s law, beating up and injure an elder is an even bigger violation. Bangzhu and the four Zhanglao held a meeting, they blamed Zaixia and expelled me from the Clan. That day when we met at your mansion, Mister invited me for a drink, Zaixia has just been reprimanded and expelled, in my heart I was quite depressed, yet Mister did not abandon me, and treated Zaixia as a friend instead. My mind was eased quite a bit.”
“So that’s how it is,” Zha Yihuang said.
Wu Liuqi continued, “Spring of the following year, we met again by chance by the bank of West Lake, Mister made a comment, praising me as a world-class extraordinary man. Zaixia thought hard for many days, thinking that since the Beggar Clan could not tolerate me, all the friends in Jianghu looked down on me, every day I was as drunk as mud, abandoning myself to despair, in just several years I would die of intoxication. Yet this gentleman, Mr. Zha, said that I am an extraordinary man; could it be that I, Wu Liuqi, once stumbled, am unable to rise, and would not stick out my head to see the sun? Not long afterwards, the Qing troops marched southward, my heart was outraged, I did not know right from wrong, unexpectedly I went to surrender to the Qing army, and rendered quite a bit of military service, massacred my fellow citizens. When I think about it, I am quite ashamed.”
With grim expression Zha Yihuang said, “That is wrong. Xiongtai does not belong to the Beggar Clan, you may come and go alone, you may establish your own faction, why make such an unwise move, offering your service to the Qing army?”
Wu Liuqi said, “Zaixia is simple-minded, at that time I did not have Mister to give me directions, I have done not a few wrong things; I really deserve to die.”
Zha Yihuang nodded, “Since General knew your own mistakes, it’s still not too late to atone for your crimes by meritorious acts,” he said.
Wu Liuqi continued, “Later on the Manchurian Qing swept the north and south, I was promoted to become a Tidu. Two years ago, suddenly someone broke into my bedroom in the middle of the night to assassinate me. This assassin’s martial art skill was not my match, I captured him. When I lighted a lantern to look, to my surprise he was the Beggar Clan’s Sun Zhanglao, whom I injured in the past. He rained curses on me, saying that I was despicable and shameless, that I was willing to be the barbarians’ eagle and dog. The more he cursed, the more vicious he was, each sentence hit the bottom of my heart. Actually I already knew it, and every now and then I thought about it, I knew perfectly well that my conduct and deeds were very wrong. When I searched my soul deep in the night, I was very ashamed; it’s just that what I thought was far less clear compared to what he cursed me. I sighed, and unsealed his acupoint. ‘Sun Zhanglao,’ I said, ‘Your cursing is very true. You may go now!’ He was quite surprised, but then he leaped out the window and left.”
“You have done the right thing!” Zha Yihuang said.
Wu Liuqi said, “At that time, there were quite a few good anti-Qing men locked up in the Tidu yamen prison. First thing in the morning the next day, I looked for some excuses to release them one by one; some I said mistaken identity, some I said not the main culprit, hence I was being lenient in dealing with them. A month or so later, that Sun Zhanglao came back in the middle of the night to see me, he got right to the point [orig. ‘open the door and see the mountain’], asking me whether I had a repentant heart and wanted to set up merit by fighting the Qing. I pulled my saber and chopped two of my left hand fingers, saying, ‘Wu Liuqi is determined to completely correct my former misdeeds, from now on I will listen and obey Sun Zhanglao’s order.’” Stretching out his left hand, indeed his ring finger and little finger were gone, only three fingers remained on it.
Zha Yihuang raised his thumb, “Good man!” he exclaimed.
Wu Liuqi continued his story, “Seeing my sincerity, Sun Zhanglao knew that even though I am hot-headed, I have never eaten my own words; thereupon he said, ‘Very good. Let me go back to report to Bangzhu, I’ll ask Bangzhu to issue his order.’ Ten days later, Sun Zhanglao came back to see me, saying that Bangzhu and the four Zhanglao have had a meeting, and they decided to take me back into the Clan, but I have to start as a one-pouch disciple. He also told me that the Beggar Clan has formed an alliance with Tian Di Hui, to work for a common purpose, fighting the Qing restoring the Ming. Tian Di Hui is founded by Taiwan’s Guoxing Ye [Koxinga, ‘Lord of the Imperial Surname’] Grand Marshal Zheng’s subordinate, the military strategist Chen Yonghua, Mr. Chen. In the recent years it is thriving in Fujian, Zhejiang and Guangdong regions. Sun Zhanglao went to see the Society’s Great Obedience Hall’s Xiangzhu [incense master] on my behalf, to sponsor me into Tian Di Hui. Tian Di Hui checked me up for one year, they had me handle several important matters. After seeing that I was absolutely loyal and not double-hearted, recently Mr. Chen issued an order from Taiwan, promoting me into the Red Banner Xiangzhu of the Great Obedience Hall position.”
Although Zha Yihuang did not understand Tian Di Hui’s background, but the army of Guoxing Ye Yanping Jun Wang [king of Yanping] Zheng Chenggong of Taiwan resisted the Qing alone; their loyalty and bravery, nobody under the heavens did not know or hear. Since Tian Di Hui was established by his military strategist Chen Yonghua, naturally they were of kindred spirit. Thereupon he repeatedly nodded his head.
Wu Liuqi continued, “In the previous years, Guoxing Ye commanded a large army to besiege Jinling, too bad the few are no match for the many, they were driven back to Taiwan. But the number of officers and soldiers under his command who found it too late to retreat and thus remained in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian, three provinces, are indeed not a few. Mr. Chen contacted these old brothers in secret, and established this Tian Di Hui. The slogan of the Society is ‘Tian Fu Di Mu, Fan Qing Fu Ming’, which is the eight characters Zaixia cut onto my chest. Ordinarily the Society brothers do not tattoo their bodies, Zaixia voluntarily tattooed my body to imitate Yue Wumu’s idea of ‘loyal to the end, dedicate oneself to the service of the country’ in the past.”
Zha Yihuang was very happy in his heart, he downed two cups in succession and then said, “By your action, Xiongtai is indeed worthy of the praise ‘world-class extraordinary man’.”
“These five characters ‘world-class extraordinary man’ [hai nei qi nan zi], I am ashamed and dare not accept the honor,” Wu Liuqi said, “As long as Mr. Zha is willing to recognize me as your friend, the one surnamed Wu will be eternally happy. Our Tian Di Hui Zongduozhu15‘zong’ – chief, ‘duo’ – helm/rudder, ‘zhu’ – master or host, manager, someone who is in charge. Translator’s note: My apology. I do not know how to translate it properly. I am aware that you guys do not like ‘helmsman’, so until we can agree on a good translation, I am going to stick with ‘zongduozhu’. Chen Yonghua, Mr. Chen, has another name, Chen Jinnan; now he is the real famous hero and warrior. In Jianghu, no one speaks about him with disrespect; there’s even a saying that said it well: ‘Whoever never knew Chen Jinnan, he calls himself a hero in vain.’ Zaixia has never seen Chen Zongduozhu’s face, hence I can’t be considered anybody.”
Imagining Chen Jinnan’s lofty quality as a hero, Zha Yihuang could not help having a longing in his heart to see him. He poured two cups of wine and said, “Come, let us drink to Chen Zongduozhu!” The two of them downed their cups in one gulp.
Zha Yihuang said, “Ol’ Zha is only a scholar, I have no benefit to the country and to the people. Only on the day General seizes the opportunity to make your move, rising vigorously to fight the Qing, the Ol’ Zha will definitely offer my service in front of the righteous army, to exhaust what little I have, my tiny toil.”
From that date onward, staying at Wu Liuqi house, Zha Yihuang had secret chat with him day and night, discussing the strategy on how to fight the Qing. Wu Liuqi said, “Tian Di Hui’s influence progressively expands to the northern provinces, every major province now have a fragant hall.”
In total, Zha Yihuang stayed at Wu Liuqi’s mansion for six or seven months, and then he returned to his hometown. When he reached home, he was greatly surprised, unexpectedly there was a huge new building right next to his former residence. As it turns out, Wu Liuqi sent people to take all the gifts and gold that Guangdong officials, big and small, presented to Zha Yihuang to Zhejiang, with which they carried out a large scale construction to build a multi-story house.
Zha Yihuang knew very well that Huang Zongxi and Gu Yanwu’s aspiration was definitely to awaken and restore the Ming, they rushed about all directions to assemble the world’s heroes and warriors, together they drew a plan to fight the Qing. For this reason he told them this story without concealing anything. On the boat Huang Zongxi recounted the ins and outs of the entire story to Lu Liuliang; he said, “If this matter is leaked out, the Tatars might strike first and gain the upper hand, while Mr. Yihuang and General Wu will definitely meet the calamity of extermination along with their entire families, the great undertaking of fighting the Qing will lose one pillar.”
Lu Liuliang said, “Other than you and me, three people, this matter must never be revealed even for one word, even when we see Mr. Yihuang, we must not mention the name of Guangdong’s General Wu.”
Huang Zongxi said, “Mr. Yihuang and General Wu have this kind of relationship, the high-ranking ministers of the imperial court want to be hospitable to General Wu, when General Wu appeared in person to intercede and clear the charge on Mr. Yihuang, the imperial court will definitely not want him to lose face.”
Lu Liuliang said, “What Huang Xiong said is very true, it’s just that I was wondering how did Lu Qi, Fan Xiang, two people, also obtain the same verdict as Mr. Yihuang, ‘never seen the book, exempt from punishment and will not be investigated anymore’? Could it be that they also have a powerful figure in the imperial court who intercede for them?”
Huang Zongxi said, “When General Wu interceded on behalf of Mr. Yihuang, if he singled him out, perhaps it would arouse suspicion, thereupon he pulled along these two people to serve as sidekicks; we will never know.”
Lu Liuliang laughed and said, “In that case, perhaps until now Lu and Fan, two people still do not know how they still get to keep their lives.”
Gu Yanwu nodded and said, “For each life of Jiangnan scholars preserved, our strength will also increase by one person.”
(Book note: In the book ‘Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio’ [Qing dynasty book of tales by Pu Songling, 1640-1715], there is a section about ‘Powerful General’, narrating the story about how Zha Yihuang encountered Wu Liuqi. The concluding remarks said, ‘Later on Zha was cleared of this legal case, his guilt by asccociation was withdrawn, finally he was exempted of future investigation, it was all due to the General’s power.’ The commentary stated, ‘Profound act of disregarding one’s reputation was indeed chivalrous achievements of ancient real men. Moreover, it is reported that this General was generous, outspoken and straightforward, outstanding and a rarity throughout all ages. This kind of aspiration ought not to be outdated or thrown into the ditch. Accordingly, these two worthy people’s encounter was not an accident at all.’ In the book ‘The Remainder of the Law’ there is this narrative: ‘Formerly there was a rich man by the name of Zhuang Tinglong in the ‘reed grass’ [not sure, perhaps a place’s name], who purchased the history manuscript of Prime Minister Zhu. He obtained the help of three famous scholars surnamed Wu to increase and polish the written piece, and then he printed and circulated the book. The front page listed the family names of a dozen people, with the renowned Xiaolian [see note 12 above] also listed to add credibility. Disaster struck before personal opportunity was achieved, all because of this ordinary book was discussing extreme literary allusions. The powerful Wu presented a report to the throne to intercede for this Xiaolian so that he was exempted.’ As for Wu Liuqi participated in Tian Di Hui, it was not mentioned in true history, as well as past official government records.)
What the three of them were talking about was top secret at that time, they were on a boat floating on the canal, in the rear cabin there were only Lu family’s mother and children, three people, plus Huang Zongxi was talking in very low voice, hence they did not expect anybody else to eavesdrop, the boat did not have any wall, they were not afraid of any ear on the other side of the wall. Unexpectedly, Gu Yanwu had just finished talking, suddenly they heard strange laughter from above their heads. The three men were shocked. “Who’s there?” they shouted together. But there was not the least bit of sound. The three of them looked at each other in dismay; they all thought, “Could it be that ghosts and demons really exist?”
Among the three, Gu Yanwu was the boldest, plus he had trained a little bit of superficial martial art for self-defense; after calming himself down, he reached into his bosom and pulled a dagger. He pushed open the cabin door and walked toward the bow. Focusing his eyes he looked at the top of the sail. Suddenly a dark shadow suddenly appeared from the sail and pounced down on him. “Who’s there?” Gu Yanwu shouted, while lifting his dagger to stab at the dark shadow. But suddenly he felt pain on his wrist, as it was grabbed by the shadow, followed by his back went numb, since his acupoint was sealed. The dagger fell from his hand, while he was pushed back into the cabin.
Seeing Gu Yanwu was pushed back into the cabin, and that behind him stood a man wearing black clothing, Huang Zongxi and Lu Liuliang were shocked. They noticed the man was big and tall, with malicious laugh across his face. Lu Liuliang said, “In the middle of the night, Sire charged in without permission, what is your intention?”
With a cold laugh the man said, “Thanks to the three of you, Laozi will be promoted and gain wealth. Wu Liuqi is about to rebel, Zha Yihuang is about to rebel, When Ao Shaobao [Junior Guardian Ao – referring to Oboi] receives the secret report, won’t he reward me handsomely? Hey, hey, the three gentlemen may come with me to Beijing as witnesses.”
Lu, Gu and Huang, three people were secretly fearful; they had deep regret in their hearts, “We whispered in the night on the boat, he still heard it. We were too reckless, death is nothing to be resented, but this time we implicate General Wu, we may spoil the great undertaking.”
Lu Liuliang said, “Sire, what are you talking about? We don’t understand it the least bit. If you want to frame good people, go ahead and do it yourself, but if you are thinking of dragging other people along, that will not work.” He has made up his mind to disregard everything; if the man killed him, then it would be ‘the dead cannot testify’.
The big man let out a cold laugh, suddenly he lunged forward and sealed the acupoints on the pit of Lu Liuliang and Huang Zongxi’s stomach. Immediately Lu and Huang, two people were unable to move a single step. The big man laughed aloud and said, “Brothers, come into the cabin. This time we, Vanguard Battalion, are rendering great meritorious service.” From the stern several men responded together, and four men entered the cabin, all wearing clothes commonly wore by people who live and make a living on a boat; they all laughed heartily.
Gu, Huang and Lu, three persons looked at each other in dismay. They knew that Vanguard Battalion was the Emperor’s personal guard, for some reason, unexpectedly these people had been able to catch up with them early on, dressed as boatmen, all along eavesdropping on them outside behind the sail. Huang Zongxi and Lu Liuliang could not be blamed, but for the past several years Gu Yanwu has been tracking all over Shenzhou [old name for China], everywhere he went he got to know heroes and warriors, it could even be said that his vision was not weak, yet toward this several boatmen he was unexpectedly not being careful.
One of the personal guard called out, “Boatmen, turn the boat around, we are going back to Hangzhou. If you do something strange, watch your dog life.”
The boatman holding the rudder at the stern responded, “Yes!”
The helmsman was a sixty, seventy years old man, when Gu Yanwu hired the boat, he had had a talk with him, the boatman’s face was full of wrinkles, his back was bent like a bow, certainly he looked like someone who row and pull the boatman’s tow-rope all year round; at the time of the meeting, he did not have any suspicion. What he did not expect, however, was that although this old boatman was genuine goods at fair prices, his helpers, the other boatmen had been swapped with these personal guards under threat. With no way out, Gu Yanwu could only blame himself for having a loud arrogant talk with Huang and Lu, two people, that they fell into this perilous situation without knowing it.
The man in black laughed and said, “Mr. Gu, Mr. Huang, Mr. Lu, the three of you, gentlemen simply have too great of a reputation, that even those old men in the Capital have heard about you; otherwise, we would not have been following you. Ha ha …!” Turning his head toward his four subordinates he said, “We have obtained the conclusive evidence that Wu Tidu of Guangdong is plotting a rebellion. Now we must hasten to Haining [county, Zhejiang] to arrest that man surnamed Zha. These three rebel thieves are extremely obstinate, since they are not able to escape, we must guard against them taking poison or drowning themselves by jumping into the river. Each one of you must keep your eyes on each one of them, if there is any mishap, your responsibility might not be small.”
“Yes,” the four of them replied, “We will carefully obey Gua Guandai’s [not sure what it is, must be military rank] instruction.”
Gua Guandai said, “When we are back in the Capital and see Ao Shaobao, we won’t have to worry about promotion and gaining wealth.”
A personal guard laughed and said, “All of us rely entirely on Gua Guandai’s cultivation for promotion. Based on the four of us alone, how can we have this kind of good fortune?”
From the bow suddenly someone let out a ‘hey, hey’ laugh; the man said, “Based on the four of you, indeed you do not have that kind of good fortune.”
‘Whoosh!’ suddenly the cabin’s door flew open, a thirty-something man dressed as a scholar appeared on the doorway. He had his hands behind his back, his face carried a smiling expression.
Gua Guandai shouted, “There are officers at work here; who are you?”
The scholar smiled without answering; he took a step into the cabin. Saber’s light flashed, two single-blade sabers chopped down on him from left and right. The scholar sidestepped the attack, his palm hacked down onto the top of Gua Guandai’s head. Gua Guandai hastily raised his left arm to block, while his right hand clenched into a fist and he punched it forward with all his might.
The scholar’s left foot kicked backward, the kick hit a personal guard on the pit of his stomach; the personal guard screamed while spurting a mouthful of blood. The other three personal guards raised their sabers, sweeping across and chopping down. The space inside the cabin was too narrow, the scholar fully used his qin na [grab and capture, grappling] skill, as he hacked, struck, hooked and hit. ‘Crack!’ a hack with the edge of his palm hit a personal guard on the neck, breaking his neckbone.
Gua Guandai struck with his right palm toward the back of the scholar’s head. The scholar parried with a backhand left palm. ‘Bang!’ two palms collided, Gua Guandai was thrown backward, his back heavily crashed onto the cabin’s wall, a section of the wall immediately collapsed. The scholar sent out two palm strikes in succession, striking the remaining two personal guards on the pit of their stomach. ‘Crack, crack!’ two persons’ ribs immediately broke. Gua Guandai leaped out through the hole on the cabin’s wall. The scholar shouted, “Where do you think you are going?” He sent out a left palm strike. It seemed that the palm would strike Gua Guandai’s back, unexpectedly right this moment Gua Guandai’s left foot kicked back, the palm happened to strike the sole of his foot, the palm force sent him flying out instead.
Gua Guandai urgently leaped and ran away. He saw a weeping willow on the bank of the river, with its branches drooping down into the river. Immediately he grabbed the willow branch and somersaulted over the willow tree. The scholar rushed to the bow of the boat, he picked up the bamboo pole for punting boats, and hurled it out. Under the moonlight the bamboo pole appeared like a flying snake, as it was shooting forward. “Ahhh!” they heard Gua Guandai let out a long scream. The bamboo pole pierced his back, and nailed him to the ground. The pole did not stopped swaying.
The scholar entered the cabin. He unsealed Gu, Huang and Lu, three people’s acupoints, and then pushed the bodies of four personal guards into the canal before finally lighting the lantern again. Gu, Huang and Lu, three people did not stop expressing their gratitude, and asked his name and surname.
The scholar laughed and said, “My lowly name has just been mentioned my Mr. Huang. Zaixia surnamed Chen, my coarse name Jinnan.”
[The following part is beyond me, my apology for bad translation.] Book Note:
Our book was written from October 23rd, 1969 to September 22nd, 1972. When it was planned out at the beginning, involuntarily I thought about literary inquisition. In my home I have a well-known historical literary inquisition. One of my ancestors was Zha Siting. He was made the imperial examiner of Jiangxi province by the assistant minister of the Ministry of Rites in the fourth year of Yongzheng of Qing. One of the exam questions he came out with was ‘Holding the people together’ [维民所止 wei min suo zhi]. This sentence came from the ‘Book of Songs’, ‘Eulogy of Shang Dynasty’, ‘Mysterious Bird’: “A thousand li of the country’s territory, holding the people together.” The idea was that the country’s vast territory is the place where common people reside, it is to cherish the people.
It was actually a very common subject, but someone lodged an accusation to Emperor Yongzheng, saying that the two characters ‘wei zhi’ [维止] were actually ‘yong zheng’ [雍正] with the head removed [i.e. the radical stroke removed]. By producing this exam question, the idea was to remove the Emperor’s head. At that time Yongzheng had just ascended the throne, he became the Emperor after intense struggle and he himself had chopped not a few people’s heads. Inevitably he had a guilty conscience, and had gone as far as depending on ‘fortune telling by unpicking Chinese characters’ in his conducts.
He had Zha Siting’s entire family arrested and dealt with severely. Zha Siting was tortured badly, and finally died in prison. Yongzheng still issued an order to have his body mutilated. His son also died in prison. His family exiled. The scholars in the entire Zhejiang province were banned from taking palace examinations for six years. Later on Zha Shenxing was released from prison and allowed to return to his hometown, but he passed away not long afterwards.
Another argument was that Zha Siting had written a book called ‘Wei Zhi Lu’ [Diary of holding together]. There was a eunuch telling Yongzheng that ‘wei zhi’ was removing the head of ‘yong zheng’. He also said that in the ‘Wei Zhi Lu’ there was a paragraph, “Kangxi’s sixty-first year, on such and such month and such and such date, there was a major thunderstorm; I was on furlough at home, suddenly I heard great traveling, the Emperor’s fourth son succeeding the throne, it’s very strange.” ‘Great traveling’ was the Emperor passing away, ‘the Emperor’s fourth son’ was precisely Yongzheng. The book said ‘very strange’, obviously it was ridiculing Yongzheng seizing the throne by dishonest method.
‘Wei Zhi Lu’ also documented in the vicinity of Zhu Qiao [Zhu bridge] town near Hangzhou, there was a Guan Di [Emperor Guan’s] Temple; it was said about the Temple: “An ancient temple in an abandoned village just like the remains of man [汉 – han, also means ‘Han ethnic group’]; only the field, shop and pontoon bridge have various [诸 – Zhu] surnames.” The character ‘Zhu’ [诸 – various] and ‘Zhu’ [朱 – vermillion, also the surname of Ming Emperors] are homophone, Yongzheng thought that Han people cherished the memory of the former Ming.
As for Zha Siting’s exam question in Jiangxi, actually the poem in the exam subject was from the ‘Analects of Confucius’: “Person of noble character do not use words to raise other people, do not reject words because of the speaker.” The third topic was from Mencius: “Mountain path among the footpath, anything useful can become a road, anything useless in between are no more than reeds and grass. Today the reeds and grass are the heart.” At this time ensuring any action would take five days. The palace courtyard said that he was intentionally slandering the imperial decree; the third subject ‘reeds and grass as the heart’ was akin to saying that ‘not knowing what it pointed to, the palace courtyard was bent on not asking anything’.
Yongzheng’s imperial decree said, “Zha Siting … Zhen [I, an emperor referring to self] ordered to walk in the inner palace courtyard, afterwards to instruct the scholars in the government cabinet. Seeing his words tricky and hypocritical, while at the same time hold the notion of looking out for the wolf [i.e. watch one’s back], presumably his intentions are dishonorable. Upon reviewing Jiangxi’s examination subject today, it is obvious that he harbors the thought of resentment, and intents on mocking the present situation. In anticipation of the aforementioned, his daily perverse ideas were be recorded, and officers were dispatched to search his dwelling and belongings, two books of diary were found, rebellious and confusing beyond belief, with fabricated words of complaint and slander in abundance. Also toward the administrative personnel and servants of the divine ancestor, he ridicule and slander wantonly … the flooding disaster of Rehe [Qing imperial resort at Chengde], this book says more than eight hundred government officials were drown, it also says flying locusts in the rain covered the sky; this is a preposterous statement, there is no such thing … He is to be arrested and interrogated immediately, handed over to the Three Judicial Chief Ministries for them to strictly examine and draft the final plan.”
Yongzheng’s criminal charge, which he announced publicly was: looking at his appearance as well as deducing his dishonorable designs, mocking the present situation, recording natural disaster in his journal.
When our book was first published in ‘Ming Pao’ [newspaper, Hong Kong], the first chapter was called ‘Prologue’, the chapter title was Zha Shenxing’s poem, ‘In this way is the ice and frost, in this way is the road’ [‘ice and frost’ is allusion to moral integrity]. Zha Shenxing’s original name was Silian, he was Zha Siting’s older brother. He, as well as his second brother Sili and third brother Siting, were all Hanlin [i.e. graduate of Hanlin Imperial Academy]. Their paternal older male cousin Sihan was a Bangyan16Bangyan – candidate who came second in the Hanlin examination (Zhuangyuan was the first place, Tanhua was the third place)., their paternal nephew Zha Sheng was a Shi Jiang [侍讲 I don’t know what this is.], also Hanlin. Zha Shenxing’s oldest son Kejian, younger paternal male cousin Sixun, were all Jinshi [successful candidate in the highest imperial civil service examination/palace graduate]. At that time they were called ‘One family seven Jinshi, paternal uncle paternal nephew five Hanlin’, the extended family was very prosperous.
Because Zha Shenxing and Sili were implicated in their younger brother’s literary inquisition, they were brought from their hometown to the prison in the Capital on imperial orders during a severe winter. At that time the number of famous scholars implicated by this case was really not a few. En route to the prison Zha Shenxing penned a poem which he gave as a present to a friend in disaster, another Jinshi in his extended family, part of it says, “In this way is the ice and frost, in this way is the road, seven full periods apart from two of the same year.”
Zha Shenxing could be considered first-class poet of the Qing Dynasty, among the people of Tang and Song dynasties, probably he could be considered second-class. Qing people Wang Shizhen, Zhao Yi, Ji Xiaolan, and the others considered his poem to be on par with Lu You [1125-1210, widely regarded as the greatest of Southern Song poets], both had their own strength and weakness; perhaps this praise was a bit too much.
Emperor Kangxi loved his poems. He took the provincial level imperial examination three times but failed to reach Jinshi. Kangxi summoned him into the Palace, and drilled him at the Southern Study Room. After entering the Palace he took the exam again, and finally he scored second place and became the second Jinshi. At that time his older paternal male cousin, his second brother, paternal nephew, and son had already become Jinshi. Taking the exam together with Zha Shenxing and became Jinshi in guwei year [twentieth year of 60-year cycle, i.e. 1703] (or Kangxi’s forty-second year) was his younger paternal male cousin Sixun, as well as his fellow hometown scholar Chen Shiguan (the father of Chen Jialuo from ‘The Book and The Sword’). Both Zha Shenxing and his second brother Sili were disciples of Huang Zongxi.
Zha Shenxing also wrote ‘Poetry Anthology Dedicated to Paternal Cousin’, fifty chapters, with six-chapter sequel. When in Beijing prison, he did not stop writing poems. Today his journal of prison poem numbered several, the poetic style looked similar:
‘Weeping over Third (younger) Brother Runmu [lit. moist/damp wood]’: “Family gathered together in difficulty, more to come to deliver thine ends, swallowing my cries from my brothers, sobbing blood into my child. The earth exudes its cold yin [shady/negative (of yin and yang)] hole, the sky cries out its wretched placid wind. No sigh reaches to distant netherworld, father and son capture accidental encounter.” (Original note: the aforementioned nephew died one day earlier.) Note: Runmu was Zha Siting, his son died one day earlier.
‘Leap day at the beginning of the third month’: “The year ended and elderly man wearing mourning garments, it is something that one constantly has to deal with. Concern over less spring rain for the grass, in place of more dawn breeze cherished by thousand flowers.” Note: ‘less spring rain’ was an allusion to less kindness of the imperial court, ‘more dawn breeze’ was pointing at the harsh government affairs.
Five-character-quatrain17Poetic form consisting of four lines of five syllables, with rhymes on first, second and fourth line.: “A place in the south to the supervisor in the north, the one being passed on was the embroidered prison garment. What’s left surrounded the people on the outside, chasing after the memory of summer after summer of ruthless disaster.” (Note: ‘disaster’ clearly pointed to Wei Zhongxian [see note 10 above] and the other eunuchs framing the innocents.) “The bugs get their name from the stench, rampant crimes are difficult to conceal, all doing harm to the flesh and blood, contemptible people [orig. ‘louse’] at the end of degradation.” “Human world has peach and apricot, gazing in despair toward preserved spring sunset. The rolling wind brought flowers flying over, under which family’s tree will it land?” (Original note: There was a storm one day before Qingming18A traditional festival to pay respects to the deceased by visiting the tombs., apricot flower spread underneath the tree, blown into the wall.)
‘Defeated flock of magpies’: “’Cha, cha’ in the morning, ‘luo, luo’ in the evening, magpies happily sang, over the ugly cry of crows. Children shoot crows, they do not shoot magpies; the reason was tasseled shield produced cheerful south. (Note: tasseled shield, mountain name, snow-covered and extremely cold). Two magpies, heartless birds of prey, occupying a nest on a tall tree with no neighbor next to it, just like a hawk changed into a turtle-dove, but its eyes had not changed, having a voracious desire to look around and scheming to swallow the neighbor up with a sudden cross-over. Every time it feeds the flock withdraw, how can six states dare to struggle against the powerful Qin? I desire to press on, to light a fire to burn the nest, while at the same time moving back and forth with a sigh. Which creature wishes to lose its flock? Alas! Which creature wishes to lose its flock?”
‘At the end of spring, a lone willow has not stretched its branch, hard-pressed walk underneath enjoys accidental success’: “New leaves and trees outside the encirclement, out of the wall came high pavilion, the drawing on the ground thus became a prison, coming alone the companions are captured behind bars. I became feeble no matter which road I take, day and night looking towards thine glory. Already after the third month, in the end, all eyes have not turned green. Desiring for the unlearned old man, why did thou appear to be disorganized? Furthermore, living between the heaven and the earth, grass and trees are not heartless. After sending forceful words, accordingly ask the prisoner office in haste.”
In his poems, Zha Shenxing sympathized with common people’s pain and difficulties a lot, so much so that he also had compassion toward birds and animals, grass and trees. When the ‘Poetry Anthology Dedicated to Paternal Cousin’ was published, the poems written in prison were also retained.
All the titles of our book’s fifty chapters are taken from the couplets of Zha Shenxing’s poems. Although the ‘Poetry Anthology Dedicated to Paternal Cousin’ has rich variety of writings, to pick fifty seven-character lines that are related to each chapter’s content is not easy. [Translator’s note: the original titles of each chapter consist of two lines, seven characters each.] The method that was used here is not picking similar lines from different poem of different journal, or even gathering lines from poetry anthologies of different authors; rather, it was selecting and using completely related lines of one person’s poem. Sometimes the upper line was correct, the bottom part was unrelated, or the bottom line was very suitable, but the upper part could not be used; hence the entire lines had to be abandoned. For this reason, inevitably some chapter titles are not too close-fitting.
The reason why I want to collect of Zha Shenxing’s poems was because Kangxi had seen most of it (except the ‘prison poems’); Kangxi had even written the ‘Dedicated to Paternal Cousin’ [jing ye tang19The character ‘tang’ [堂] here can also mean ‘hall’, hence ‘jing ye tang’ can also be translated as ‘Hall of Dedication’.] three characters on a horizontal inscribed board for Zha Shenxing. Of course, I also have a personal desire to proclaim my own ancestor’s poems. Modern scholars are aware that Zha Shenxing was a major poet of the Qing dynasty, but as for how he wrote the poems, I am afraid very few people have ever read about it; after all, he must not be compared to genuine great poets.
When people from ancient times wrote literary work mentioning their own ancestors, they would never dare to address the ancestor by name; usually they would add a character ‘Gong’ [公 – duke/father-in-law/honorable gentleman] after their nickname (honorary title) of official rank. I remember growing up listening to my elders talking about our ancestors in the memorial hall, when it comes to Zha Shenxing, they said ‘Chu Bai Tai Gong’ [lit. the first white great-grandfather’; when it comes to Zha Sheng, they said ‘Sheng Shan Tai Gong’ [lit. sonorous mountain great-grandfather’. When modern writers write in vernacular, we do not need to be such literal-minded, if we want to revere our ancestors, revering them in our hearts is enough.
In the title of this chapter, the ‘crooked bunch’ refers to ‘people who implicate and frame others’, the meaning of ‘crooked bunch wend on a rampage courting disaster’ is the persecution of many well-known scholars charged with guilt by association by such people. The ‘high wind’ is ‘high and steep, and clear-cut’, describing lofty personality with elegant manner, smart and bright; the idea behind ‘discussing early morning moon during high wind’ is: only virtuous hero, scholar with strength of character, can obtain the acclaim as ‘man with excellent knowledge and experience’.
- 1Lit. ‘old man’; ‘I, your father’ or simply ‘I’, used arrogantly or jocularly.
- 2Posthumous name of the first Han Emperor Liu Bang (256 or 247 – 195BC, reigned 202-195BC).
- 3‘Alias’ – my dictionary gives this explanation: ‘courtesy or style name traditionally given to males age twenty in dynastic China’.
- 4Gu Yanwu (1613-1682), late Ming/early Qing Confucian philosopher, linguist and historian, played a founding role in phonology of early Chinese, author of ‘Record of Daily Study’. Huang Zongxi (1610-1695), scholar and writer of the Ming-Qing transition.
- 5Emperor Hong Wu, regnal name of first Ming emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398), reigned 1386-1398). Temple name Ming Taizu.
- 6I seem to remember reading about rich families in ancient China who had guests staying in their homes for an extended period of times. Interestingly, Bing Translator gives this definition: protégés of the powerful who stay with their benefactors like parasites.
- 7Tianqi Emperor, fifteenth Ming emperor Zhu Youxiao (1605-1627, reigned 1620-1627).
- 8The term yamen is practically used to describe any local government office in feudal China.
- 9‘Daren’ (lit. big person), a term used by common people (or an officer of lower rank) to address government official (or his/her superior).
- 10Wei Zhongxian (1568-1627), infamous eunuch politician of late Ming. (See also ‘White Hair Demoness’, translated by Faerie Queene and yours truly.)
- 11Kunqu opera, influential musical theater originated in Kunshan, Jiangsu province during the Yuan [Mongol] dynasty.
- 12Xiaolian – successful second degree candidate in imperial exam.
- 13Lit. ‘under’; lowly one, a humble way of referring to self.
- 14Zhuangyuan – top scorer in palace examination, ‘hong’ means red.
- 15‘zong’ – chief, ‘duo’ – helm/rudder, ‘zhu’ – master or host, manager, someone who is in charge. Translator’s note: My apology. I do not know how to translate it properly. I am aware that you guys do not like ‘helmsman’, so until we can agree on a good translation, I am going to stick with ‘zongduozhu’.
- 16Bangyan – candidate who came second in the Hanlin examination (Zhuangyuan was the first place, Tanhua was the third place).
- 17Poetic form consisting of four lines of five syllables, with rhymes on first, second and fourth line.
- 18A traditional festival to pay respects to the deceased by visiting the tombs.
- 19The character ‘tang’ [堂] here can also mean ‘hall’, hence ‘jing ye tang’ can also be translated as ‘Hall of Dedication’.