Hung Lou Meng, Book I
Part 7 out of 10
first see the outside and then go in."
Chia Chen directed a servant to close the gate, and Chia Cheng first
looked straight ahead of him towards the gate and espied on the same
side as the main entrance a suite of five apartments. Above, the
cylindrical tiles resembled the backs of mud eels. The doors, railings,
windows, and frames were all finely carved with designs of the new
fashion, and were painted neither in vermilion nor in white colours. The
whole extent of the walls was of polished bricks of uniform colour;
while below, the white marble on the terrace and steps was engraved with
western foreign designs; and when he came to look to the right and to
the left, everything was white as snow. At the foot of the white-washed
walls, tiger-skin pebbles were, without regard to pattern, promiscuously
inserted in the earth in such a way as of their own selves to form
streaks. Nothing fell in with the custom of gaudiness and display so
much in vogue, so that he naturally felt full of delight; and, when he
forthwith asked that the gate should be thrown open, all that met their
eyes was a long stretch of verdant hills, which shut in the view in
front of them.
"What a fine hill, what a pretty hill!" exclaimed all the companions
with one voice.
"Were it not for this one hill," Chia Cheng explained, "whatever scenery
is contained in it would clearly strike the eye, as soon as one entered
into the garden, and what pleasure would that have been?"
"Quite so," rejoined all of them. "But without large hills and ravines
in one's breast (liberal capacities), how could one attain such
After the conclusion of this remark, they cast a glance ahead of them,
and perceived white rugged rocks looking, either like goblins, or
resembling savage beasts, lying either crossways, or in horizontal or
upright positions; on the surface of which grew moss and lichen with
mottled hues, or parasitic plants, which screened off the light; while,
slightly visible, wound, among the rocks, a narrow pathway like the
intestines of a sheep.
"If we were now to go and stroll along by this narrow path," Chia Cheng
suggested, "and to come out from over there on our return, we shall have
been able to see the whole grounds."
Having finished speaking, he asked Chia Chen to lead the way; and he
himself, leaning on Pao-yü, walked into the gorge with leisurely step.
Raising his head, he suddenly beheld on the hill a block of stone, as
white as the surface of a looking-glass, in a site which was, in very
deed, suitable to be left for an inscription, as it was bound to meet
"Gentlemen," Chia Cheng observed, as he turned his head round and
smiled, "please look at this spot. What name will it be fit to give it?"
When the company heard his remark, some maintained that the two words
"Heaped verdure" should be written; and others upheld that the device
should be "Embroidered Hill." Others again suggested: "Vying with the
Hsiang Lu;" and others recommended "the small Chung Nan." And various
kinds of names were proposed, which did not fall short of several tens.
All the visitors had been, it must be explained, aware at an early
period of the fact that Chia Cheng meant to put Pao-yü's ability to the
test, and for this reason they merely proposed a few combinations in
common use. But of this intention, Pao-yü himself was likewise
After listening to the suggestions, Chia Cheng forthwith turned his head
round and bade Pao-yü think of some motto.
"I've often heard," Pao-yü replied, "that writers of old opine that it's
better to quote an old saying than to compose a new one; and that an old
engraving excels in every respect an engraving of the present day.
What's more, this place doesn't constitute the main hill or the chief
feature of the scenery, and is really no site where any inscription
should be put, as it no more than constitutes the first step in the
inspection of the landscape. Won't it be well to employ the exact text
of an old writer consisting of 'a tortuous path leading to a secluded
(nook).' This line of past days would, if inscribed, be, in fact,
liberal to boot."
After listening to the proposed line, they all sang its praise.
"First-rate! excellent!" they cried, "the natural talents of your second
son, dear friend, are lofty; his mental capacity is astute; he is unlike
ourselves, who have read books but are simple fools."
"You shouldn't," urged Chia Cheng smilingly, "heap upon him excessive
praise; he's young in years, and merely knows one thing which he turns
to the use of ten purposes; you should laugh at him, that's all; but we
can by and by choose some device."
As he spoke, he entered the cave, where he perceived beautiful trees
with thick foliage, quaint flowers in lustrous bloom, while a line of
limpid stream emanated out of a deep recess among the flowers and trees,
and oozed down through the crevice of the rock. Progressing several
steps further in, they gradually faced the northern side, where a
stretch of level ground extended far and wide, on each side of which
soared lofty buildings, intruding themselves into the skies, whose
carved rafters and engraved balustrades nestled entirely among the
depressions of the hills and the tops of the trees. They lowered their
eyes and looked, and beheld a pure stream flowing like jade, stone steps
traversing the clouds, a balustrade of white marble encircling the pond
in its embrace, and a stone bridge with three archways, the animals upon
which had faces disgorging water from their mouths. A pavilion stood on
the bridge, and in this pavilion Chia Chen and the whole party went and
"Gentlemen," he inquired, "what shall we write about this?"
"In the record," they all replied, "of the 'Drunken Old Man's Pavilion,'
written in days of old by Ou Yang, appears this line: 'There is a
pavilion pinioned-like,' so let us call this 'the pinioned-like
pavilion,' and finish."
"Pinioned-like," observed Chia Cheng smiling, "is indeed excellent; but
this pavilion is constructed over the water, and there should, after
all, be some allusion to the water in the designation. My humble opinion
is that of the line in Ou Yang's work, '(the water) drips from between
the two peaks,' we should only make use of that single word 'drips.'"
"First-rate!" rejoined one of the visitors, "capital! but what would
really be appropriate are the two characters 'dripping jadelike.'"
Chia Chen pulled at his moustache, as he gave way to reflection; after
which, he asked Pao-yü to also propose one himself.
"What you, sir, suggested a while back," replied Pao-yü, "will do very
well; but if we were now to sift the matter thoroughly, the use of the
single word 'drip' by Ou Yang, in his composition about the Niang
spring, would appear quite apposite; while the application, also on this
occasion, to this spring, of the character 'drip' would be found not
quite suitable. Moreover, seeing that this place is intended as a
separate residence (for the imperial consort), on her visit to her
parents, it is likewise imperative that we should comply with all the
principles of etiquette, so that were words of this kind to be used,
they would besides be coarse and inappropriate; and may it please you to
fix upon something else more recondite and abstruse."
"What do you, gentlemen, think of this argument?" Chia Cheng remarked
sneeringly. "A little while ago, when the whole company devised
something original, you observed that it would be better to quote an old
device; and now that we have quoted an old motto, you again maintain
that it's coarse and inappropriate! But you had better give us one of
"If two characters like 'dripping jadelike' are to be used," Pao-yü
explained, "it would be better then to employ the two words 'Penetrating
Fragrance,' which would be unique and excellent, wouldn't they?"
Chia Cheng pulled his moustache, nodded his head and did not utter a
word; whereupon the whole party hastily pressed forward with one voice
to eulogize Pao-yü's acquirements as extraordinary.
"The selection of two characters for the tablet is an easy matter,"
suggested Chia Cheng, "but now go on and compose a pair of antithetical
phrases with seven words in each."
Pao-yü cast a glance round the four quarters, when an idea came into his
head, and he went on to recite:
The willows, which enclose the shore, the green borrow from three
On banks apart, the flowers asunder grow, yet one perfume they give.
Upon hearing these lines, Chia Cheng gave a faint smile, as he nodded
his head, whilst the whole party went on again to be effusive in their
praise. But forthwith they issued from the pavilions, and crossed the
pond, contemplating with close attention each elevation, each stone,
each flower, or each tree. And as suddenly they raised their heads, they
caught sight, in front of them, of a line of white wall, of numbers of
columns, and beautiful cottages, where flourished hundreds and thousands
of verdant bamboos, which screened off the rays of the sun.
"What a lovely place!" they one and all exclaimed.
Speedily the whole company penetrated inside, perceiving, as soon as
they had entered the gate, a zigzag arcade, below the steps of which was
a raised pathway, laid promiscuously with stones, and on the furthest
part stood a diminutive cottage with three rooms, two with doors leading
into them and one without. Everything in the interior, in the shape of
beds, teapoys, chairs and tables, were made to harmonise with the space
available. Leading out of the inner room of the cottage was a small door
from which, as they egressed, they found a back-court with lofty pear
trees in blossom and banana trees, as well as two very small retiring
back-courts. At the foot of the wall, unexpectedly became visible an
aperture where was a spring, for which a channel had been opened
scarcely a foot or so wide, to enable it to run inside the wall. Winding
round the steps, it skirted the buildings until it reached the front
court, where it coiled and curved, flowing out under the bamboos.
"This spot," observed Chia Cheng full of smiles, "is indeed pleasant!
and could one, on a moonlight night, sit under the window and study, one
would not spend a whole lifetime in vain!"
As he said this, he quickly cast a glance at Pao-yü, and so terrified
did Pao-yü feel that he hastily drooped his head. The whole company lost
no time in choosing some irrelevant talk to turn the conversation, and
two of the visitors prosecuted their remarks by adding that on the
tablet, in this spot, four characters should be inscribed.
"Which four characters?" Chia Cheng inquired, laughingly.
"The bequeathed aspect of the river Ch'i!" suggested one of them.
"It's commonplace," observed Chia Cheng.
Another person recommended "the remaining vestiges of the Chü Garden."
"This too is commonplace!" replied Chia Cheng.
"Let brother Pao-yü again propound one!" interposed Chia Chen, who stood
"Before he composes any himself," Chia Cheng continued, "his wont is to
first discuss the pros and cons of those of others; so it's evident that
he's an impudent fellow!"
"He's most reasonable in his arguments," all the visitors protested,
"and why should he be called to task?"
"Don't humour him so much!" Chia Cheng expostulated. "I'll put up for
to-day," he however felt constrained to tell Pao-yü, "with your haughty
manner, and your rubbishy speech, so that after you have, to begin with,
given us your opinion, you may next compose a device. But tell me, are
there any that will do among the mottoes suggested just now by all the
"They all seem to me unsuitable!" Pao-yü did not hesitate to say by way
of reply to this question.
Chia Cheng gave a sardonic smile. "How all unsuitable?" he exclaimed.
"This," continued Pao-yü, "is the first spot which her highness will
honour on her way, and there should be inscribed, so that it should be
appropriate, something commending her sacred majesty. But if a tablet
with four characters has to be used, there are likewise devices ready at
hand, written by poets of old; and what need is there to compose any
"Are forsooth the devices 'the river Ch'i and the Chu Garden' not those
of old authors?" insinuated Chia Cheng.
"They are too stiff," replied Pao-yü. "Would not the four characters: 'a
phoenix comes with dignified air,' be better?"
With clamorous unanimity the whole party shouted: "Excellent:" and Chia
Cheng nodding his head; "You beast, you beast!" he ejaculated, "it may
well be said about you that you see through a thin tube and have no more
judgment than an insect! Compose another stanza," he consequently bade
him; and Pao-yü recited:
In the precious tripod kettle, tea is brewed, but green is still the
O'er is the game of chess by the still window, but the fingers are yet
Chia Cheng shook his head. "Neither does this seem to me good!" he said;
and having concluded this remark he was leading the company out, when
just as he was about to proceed, he suddenly bethought himself of
"The several courts and buildings and the teapoys, sideboards, tables
and chairs," he added, "may be said to be provided for. But there are
still all those curtains, screens and portieres, as well as the
furniture, nicknacks and curios; and have they too all been matched to
suit the requirements of each place?"
"Of the things that have to be placed about," Chia Chen explained, a
good number have, at an early period, been added, and of course when the
time comes everything will be suitably arranged. As for the curtains,
screens, and portieres, which have to be hung up, I heard yesterday
brother Lien say that they are not as yet complete, that when the works
were first taken in hand, the plan of each place was drawn, the
measurements accurately calculated and some one despatched to attend to
the things, and that he thought that yesterday half of them were bound
to come in.
Chia Cheng, upon hearing this explanation, readily remembered that with
all these concerns Chia Chen had nothing to do; so that he speedily sent
some one to go and call Chia Lien.
Having arrived in a short while, "How many sorts of things are there in
all?" Chia Cheng inquired of him. "Of these how many kinds have by this
time been got ready? and how many more are short?"
At this question, Chia Lien hastily produced, from the flaps of his
boot, a paper pocket-book, containing a list, which he kept inside the
tops of his boot. After perusing it and reperusing it, he made suitable
reply. "Of the hundred and twenty curtains," he proceeded, "of stiff
spotted silks, embroidered with dragons in relief, and of the curtains
large and small, of every kind of damask silk, eighty were got
yesterday, so that there still remain forty of them to come. The two
portieres were both received yesterday; and besides these, there are the
two hundred red woollen portieres, two hundred portieres of Hsiang Fei
bamboo; two hundred door-screens of rattan, with gold streaks, and of
red lacquered bamboo; two hundred portieres of black lacquered rattan;
two hundred door-screens of variegated thread-netting with clusters of
flowers. Of each of these kinds, half have come in, but the whole lot of
them will be complete no later than autumn. Antimacassars, table-cloths,
flounces for the beds, and cushions for the stools, there are a thousand
two hundred of each, but these likewise are ready and at hand."
As he spoke, they proceeded outwards, but suddenly they perceived a hill
extending obliquely in such a way as to intercept the passage; and as
they wound round the curve of the hill faintly came to view a line of
yellow mud walls, the whole length of which was covered with paddy
stalks for the sake of protection, and there were several hundreds of
apricot trees in bloom, which presented the appearance of being fire,
spurted from the mouth, or russet clouds, rising in the air. Inside this
enclosure, stood several thatched cottages. Outside grew, on the other
hand, mulberry trees, elms, mallows, and silkworm oaks, whose tender
shoots and new twigs, of every hue, were allowed to bend and to
intertwine in such a way as to form two rows of green fence. Beyond this
fence and below the white mound, was a well, by the side of which stood
a well-sweep, windlass and such like articles; the ground further down
being divided into parcels, and apportioned into fields, which, with the
fine vegetables and cabbages in flower, presented, at the first glance,
the aspect of being illimitable.
"This is," Chia Cheng observed chuckling, "the place really imbued with
a certain amount of the right principle; and laid out, though it has
been by human labour, yet when it strikes my eye, it so moves my heart,
that it cannot help arousing in me the wish to return to my native place
and become a farmer. But let us enter and rest a while."
As he concluded these words, they were on the point of walking in, when
they unexpectedly discerned a stone, outside the trellis gate, by the
roadside, which had also been left as a place on which to inscribe a
"Were a tablet," argued the whole company smilingly, "put up high in a
spot like this, to be filled up by and by, the rustic aspect of a farm
would in that case be completely done away with; and it will be better,
yea far better to erect this slab on the ground, as it will further make
manifest many points of beauty. But unless a motto could be composed of
the same excellence as that in Fan Shih-hu's song on farms, it will not
be adequate to express its charms!"
"Gentlemen," observed Chia Cheng, "please suggest something."
"A short while back," replied the whole company, "your son, venerable
brother, remarked that devising a new motto was not equal to quoting an
old one, and as sites of this kind have been already exhausted by
writers of days of old, wouldn't it be as well that we should
straightway call it the 'apricot blossom village?' and this will do
When Chia Cheng heard this remark, he smiled and said, addressing
himself to Chia Chen: "This just reminds me that although this place is
perfect in every respect, there's still one thing wanting in the shape
of a wine board; and you had better then have one made to-morrow on the
very same pattern as those used outside in villages; and it needn't be
anything gaudy, but hung above the top of a tree by means of bamboos."
Chia Chen assented. "There's no necessity," he went on to explain, "to
keep any other birds in here, but only to rear a few geese, ducks, fowls
and such like; as in that case they will be in perfect keeping with the
"A splendid idea!" Chia Cheng rejoined, along with all the party.
"'Apricot blossom village' is really first-rate," continued Chia Cheng
as he again addressed himself to the company; "but the only thing is
that it encroaches on the real designation of the village; and it will
be as well to wait (until her highness comes), when we can request her
to give it a name."
"Certainly!" answered the visitors with one voice; "but now as far as a
name goes, for mere form, let us all consider what expressions will be
suitable to employ."
Pao-yü did not however give them time to think; nor did he wait for Chia
Cheng's permission, but suggested there and then: "In old poetical works
there's this passage: 'At the top of the red apricot tree hangs the flag
of an inn,' and wouldn't it be advisable, on this occasion, to
temporarily adopt the four words: 'the sign on the apricot tree is
"'Is visible' is excellent," suggested the whole number of them, "and
what's more it secretly accords with the meaning implied by 'apricot
"Were the two words 'apricot blossom' used for the name of the village,
they would be too commonplace and unsuitable;" added Pao-yü with a
sardonic grin, "but there's another passage in the works of a poet of
the T'ang era: 'By the wooden gate near the water the corn-flower emits
its fragrance;' and why not make use of the motto 'corn fragrance
village,' which will be excellent?"
When the company heard his proposal, they, with still greater vigour,
unanimously combined in crying out "Capital!" as they clapped their
Chia Cheng, with one shout, interrupted their cries, "You ignorant child
of wrath!" he ejaculated; "how many old writers can you know, and how
many stanzas of ancient poetical works can you remember, that you will
have the boldness to show off in the presence of all these experienced
gentlemen? (In allowing you to give vent to) all the nonsense you
uttered my object was no other than to see whether your brain was clear
or muddled; and all for fun's sake, that's all; and lo, you've taken
things in real earnest!"
Saying this, he led the company into the interior of the hall with the
mallows. The windows were pasted with paper, and the bedsteads made of
wood, and all appearance of finery had been expunged, and Chia Cheng's
heart was naturally much gratified; but nevertheless, scowling angrily
at Pao-yü, "What do you think of this place?" he asked.
When the party heard this question, they all hastened to stealthily give
a nudge to Pao-yü, with the express purpose of inducing him to say it
was nice; but Pao-yü gave no ear to what they all urged. "It's by far
below the spot," he readily replied, "designated 'a phoenix comes with
"You ignorant stupid thing!" exclaimed Chia Cheng at these words; "what
you simply fancy as exquisite, with that despicable reliance of yours
upon luxury and display, are two-storied buildings and painted pillars!
But how can you know anything about this aspect so pure and unobtrusive,
and this is all because of that failing of not studying your books!"
"Sir," hastily answered Pao-yü, "your injunctions are certainly correct;
but men of old have often made allusion to 'natural;' and what is, I
wonder, the import of these two characters?"
The company had perceived what a perverse mind Pao yü possessed, and
they one and all were much surprised that he should be so silly beyond
the possibility of any change; and when now they heard the question he
asked, about the two characters representing "natural," they, with one
accord, speedily remarked, "Everything else you understand, and how is
it that on the contrary you don't know what 'natural' implies? The word
'natural' means effected by heaven itself and not made by human labour."
"Well, just so," rejoined Pao-yü; "but the farm, which is laid out in
this locality, is distinctly the handiwork of human labour; in the
distance, there are no neighbouring hamlets; near it, adjoin no wastes;
though it bears a hill, the hill is destitute of streaks; though it be
close to water, this water has no spring; above, there is no pagoda
nestling in a temple; below, there is no bridge leading to a market; it
rises abrupt and solitary, and presents no grand sight! The palm would
seem to be carried by the former spot, which is imbued with the natural
principle, and possesses the charms of nature; for, though bamboos have
been planted in it, and streams introduced, they nevertheless do no
violence to the works executed. 'A natural landscape,' says, an ancient
author in four words; and why? Simply because he apprehended that what
was not land, would, by forcible ways, be converted into land; and that
what was no hill would, by unnatural means, be raised into a hill. And
ingenious though these works might be in a hundred and one ways, they
cannot, after all, be in harmony."...
But he had no time to conclude, as Chia Cheng flew into a rage. "Drive
him off," he shouted; (but as Pao-yü) was on the point of going out, he
again cried out: "Come back! make up," he added, "another couplet, and
if it isn't clear, I'll for all this give you a slap on your mouth."
Pao-yü had no alternative but to recite as follows:
A spot in which the "Ko" fibre to bleach, as the fresh tide doth swell
the waters green!
A beauteous halo and a fragrant smell the man encompass who the cress
Chia Cheng, after this recital, nodded his head. "This is still worse!"
he remarked, but as he reproved him, he led the company outside, and
winding past the mound, they penetrated among flowers, and wending their
steps by the willows, they touched the rocks and lingered by the stream.
Passing under the trellis with yellow roses, they went into the shed
with white roses; they crossed by the pavilion with peonies, and walked
through the garden, where the white peony grew; and entering the court
with the cinnamon roses, they reached the island of bananas. As they
meandered and zigzagged, suddenly they heard the rustling sound of the
water, as it came out from a stone cave, from the top of which grew
parasitic plants drooping downwards, while at its bottom floated the
"What a fine sight!" they all exclaimed; "what beautiful scenery!"
"Gentlemen," observed Chia Cheng, "what name do you propose for this
"There's no further need for deliberation," the company rejoined; "for
this is just the very spot fit for the three words 'Wu Ling Spring.'"
"This too is matter-of-fact!" Chia Cheng objected laughingly, "and
"If that won't do," the party smiled, "well then what about the four
characters implying 'An old cottage of a man of the Ch'in dynasty?'"
"This is still more exceedingly plain!" interposed Pao-yü. "'The old
cottage of a man of the Ch'in dynasty' is meant to imply a retreat from
revolution, and how will it suit this place? Wouldn't the four
characters be better denoting 'an isthmus with smart weed, and a stream
When Chia Cheng heard these words, he exclaimed: "You're talking still
more stuff and nonsense?" and forthwith entering the grotto, Chia Cheng
went on to ask of Chia Chen, "Are there any boats or not?"
"There are to be," replied Chia Chen, "four boats in all from which to
pick the lotus, and one boat for sitting in; but they haven't now as yet
"What a pity!" Chia Cheng answered smilingly, "that we cannot go in."
"But we could also get into it by the tortuous path up the hill," Chia
Chen ventured; and after finishing this remark, he walked ahead to show
the way, and the whole party went over, holding on to the creepers, and
supporting themselves by the trees, when they saw a still larger
quantity of fallen leaves on the surface of the water, and the stream
itself, still more limpid, gently and idly meandering along on its
circuitous course. By the bank of the pond were two rows of weeping
willows, which, intermingling with peach and apricot trees, screened the
heavens from view, and kept off the rays of the sun from this spot,
which was in real truth devoid of even a grain of dust.
Suddenly, they espied in the shade of the willows, an arched wooden
bridge also reveal itself to the eye, with bannisters of vermilion
colour. They crossed the bridge, and lo, all the paths lay open before
them; but their gaze was readily attracted by a brick cottage spotless
and cool-looking; whose walls were constructed of polished bricks, of
uniform colour; (whose roof was laid) with speckless tiles; and whose
enclosing walls were painted; while the minor slopes, which branched off
from the main hill, all passed along under the walls on to the other
"This house, in a site like this, is perfectly destitute of any charm!"
added Chia Cheng.
And as they entered the door, abruptly appeared facing them, a large
boulder studded with holes and soaring high in the skies, which was
surrounded on all four sides by rocks of every description, and
completely, in fact, hid from view the rooms situated in the compound.
But of flowers or trees, there was not even one about; and all that was
visible were a few strange kinds of vegetation; some being of the
creeper genus, others parasitic plants, either hanging from the apex of
the hill, or inserting themselves into the base of the rocks; drooping
down even from the eaves of the house, entwining the pillars, and
closing round the stone steps. Or like green bands, they waved and
flapped; or like gold thread, they coiled and bent, either with seeds
resembling cinnabar, or with blossoms like golden olea; whose fragrance
and aroma could not be equalled by those emitted by flowers of ordinary
"This is pleasant!" Chia Cheng could not refrain from saying; "the only
thing is that I don't know very much about flowers."
"What are here are lianas and ficus pumila!" some of the company
"How ever can the liana and the ficus have such unusual scent?"
questioned Chia Cheng.
"Indeed they aren't!" interposed Pao-yü. "Among all these flowers, there
are also ficus and liana, but those scented ones are iris, ligularia,
and 'Wu' flowers; that kind consist, for the most part, of 'Ch'ih'
flowers and orchids; while this mostly of gold-coloured dolichos. That
species is the hypericum plant, this the 'Yü Lu' creeper. The red ones
are, of course, the purple rue; the green ones consist for certain, of
the green 'Chih' plant; and, to the best of my belief, these various
plants are mentioned in the 'Li Sao' and 'Wen Hsuan.' These rare plants
are, some of them called something or other like 'Huo Na' and 'Chiang
Hui;' others again are designated something like 'Lun Tsu' and 'Tz'u
Feng;' while others there are whose names sound like 'Shih Fan,' 'Shui
Sung' and 'Fu Liu,' which together with other species are to be found in
the 'Treatise about the Wu city' by Tso T'ai-chung. There are also those
which go under the appellation of 'Lu T'i,' or something like that;
while there are others that are called something or other like 'Tan
Chiao,' 'Mi Wu' and 'Feng Lien;' reference to which is made in the
'Treatise on the Shu city.' But so many years have now elapsed, and the
times have so changed (since these treatises were written), that people,
being unable to discriminate (the real names) may consequently have had
to appropriate in every case such names as suited the external aspect,
so that they may, it is quite possible, have gradually come to be called
by wrong designations."
But he had no time to conclude; for Chia Cheng interrupted him. "Who has
ever asked you about it?" he shouted; which plunged Pao-yü into such a
fright, that he drew back, and did not venture to utter another word.
Chia Cheng perceiving that on both sides alike were covered passages
resembling outstretched arms, forthwith continued his steps and entered
the covered way, when he caught sight, at the upper end, of a
five-roomed building, without spot or blemish, with folding blinds
extending in a connected line, and with corridors on all four sides; (a
building) which with its windows so green, and its painted walls,
excelled, in spotless elegance, the other buildings they had seen
before, to which it presented such a contrast.
Chia Cheng heaved a sigh. "If one were able," he observed, "to boil his
tea and thrum his lyre in here, there wouldn't even be any need for him
to burn any more incense. But the execution of this structure is so
beyond conception that you must, gentlemen, compose something nice and
original to embellish the tablet with, so as not to render such a place
of no effect!"
"There's nothing so really pat," suggested the company smiling; "as 'the
orchid-smell-laden breeze' and 'the dew-bedecked epidendrum!"
"These are indeed the only four characters," rejoined Chia Cheng, "that
could be suitably used; but what's to be said as far as the scroll
"I've thought of a couplet," interposed one of the party, "which you'll
all have to criticise, and put into ship-shape; its burden is this:
"The musk-like epidendrum smell enshrouds the court, where shines the
sun with oblique beams;
The iris fragrance is wafted over the isle illumined by the moon's
"As far as excellence is concerned, it's excellent," observed the whole
party, "but the two words representing 'with oblique beams' are not
And as some one quoted the line from an old poem:
The angelica fills the court with tears, what time the sun doth slant.
"Lugubrious, lugubrious!" expostulated the company with one voice.
Another person then interposed. "I also have a couplet, whose merits
you, gentlemen, can weigh; it runs as follows:
"Along the three pathways doth float the Yü Hui scented breeze!
The radiant moon in the whole hall shines on the gold orchid!"
Chia Cheng tugged at his moustache and gave way to meditation. He was
just about also to suggest a stanza, when, upon suddenly raising his
head, he espied Pao-yü standing by his side, too timid to give vent to a
"How is it," he purposely exclaimed, "that when you should speak, you
contrariwise don't? Is it likely that you expect some one to request you
to confer upon us the favour of your instruction?"
"In this place," Pao-yü rejoined at these words, "there are no such
things as orchids, musk, resplendent moon or islands; and were one to
begin quoting such specimens of allusions, to scenery, two hundred
couplets could be readily given without, even then, having been able to
exhaust the supply!"
"Who presses your head down," Chia Cheng urged, "and uses force that you
must come out with all these remarks?"
"Well, in that case," added Pao-yü, "there are no fitter words to put on
the tablet than the four representing: 'The fragrance pure of the
ligularia and iris.' While the device on the scroll might be:
"Sung is the nutmeg song, but beauteous still is the sonnet!
Near the T'u Mei to sleep, makes e'en a dream with fragrance full!"
"This is," laughed Chia Cheng sneeringly, "an imitation of the line:
"A book when it is made of plaintain leaves, the writing green is also
bound to be!
"So that there's nothing remarkable about it."
"Li T'ai-po, in his work on the Phoenix Terrace," protested the whole
party, "copied, in every point, the Huang Hua Lou. But what's essential
is a faultless imitation. Now were we to begin to criticise minutely the
couplet just cited, we would indeed find it to be, as compared with the
line 'A book when it is made of plantain leaves,' still more elegant and
of wider application!"
"What an idea?" observed Chia Cheng derisively.
But as he spoke, the whole party walked out; but they had not gone very
far before they caught sight of a majestic summer house, towering high
peak-like, and of a structure rising loftily with storey upon storey;
and completely locked in as they were on every side they were as
beautiful as the Jade palace. Far and wide, road upon road coiled and
wound; while the green pines swept the eaves, the jady epidendrum
encompassed the steps, the animals' faces glistened like gold, and the
dragons' heads shone resplendent in their variegated hues.
"This is the Main Hall," remarked Chia Cheng; "the only word against it
is that there's a little too much finery."
"It should be so," rejoined one and all, "so as to be what it's intended
to be! The imperial consort has, it is true, an exalted preference for
economy and frugality, but her present honourable position requires the
observance of such courtesies, so that (finery) is no fault."
As they made these remarks and advanced on their way the while, they
perceived, just in front of them, an archway project to view,
constructed of jadelike stone; at the top of which the coils of large
dragons and the scales of small dragons were executed in perforated
"What's the device to be for this spot?" inquired Chia Cheng.
"It should be 'fairy land,'" suggested all of them, "so as to be
Chia Cheng nodded his head and said nothing. But as soon as Pao-yü
caught sight of this spot something was suddenly aroused in his heart
and he began to ponder within himself. "This place really resembles
something that I've seen somewhere or other." But he could not at the
moment recall to mind what year, moon, or day this had happened.
Chia Cheng bade him again propose a motto; but Pao-yü was bent upon
thinking over the details of the scenery he had seen on a former
occasion, and gave no thought whatever to this place, so that the whole
company were at a loss what construction to give to his silence, and
came simply to the conclusion that, after the bullying he had had to put
up with for ever so long, his spirits had completely vanished, his
talents become exhausted and his speech impoverished; and that if he
were harassed and pressed, he might perchance, as the result of anxiety,
contract some ailment or other, which would of course not be a suitable
issue, and they lost no time in combining together to dissuade Chia
"Never mind," they said, "to-morrow will do to compose some device;
let's drop it now."
Chia Cheng himself was inwardly afraid lest dowager lady Chia should be
anxious, so that he hastily remarked as he forced a smile. "You beast,
there are, after all, also occasions on which you are no good! but never
mind! I'll give you one day to do it in, and if by to-morrow you haven't
been able to compose anything, I shall certainly not let you off. This
is the first and foremost place and you must exercise due care in what
Saying this, he sallied out, at the head of the company, and cast
another glance at the scenery.
Indeed from the time they had entered the gate up to this stage, they
had just gone over five or six tenths of the whole ground, when it
happened again that a servant came and reported that some one had
arrived from Mr. Yü-'ts'un's to deliver a message. "These several places
(which remain)," Chia Cheng observed with a smile, "we have no time to
pass under inspection; but we might as well nevertheless go out at least
by that way, as we shall be able, to a certain degree, to have a look at
the general aspect."
With these words, he showed the way for the family companions until they
reached a large bridge, with water entering under it, looking like a
curtain made of crystal. This bridge, the fact is, was the dam, which
communicated with the river outside, and from which the stream was
introduced into the grounds.
"What's the name of this water-gate?" Chia Cheng inquired.
"This is," replied Pao-yü, "the main stream of the Hsin Fang river, and
is therefore called the Hsin Fang water-gate."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Chia Cheng. "The two words Hsin Fang must on no
account be used!"
And as they speedily advanced on their way, they either came across
elegant halls, or thatched cottages; walls made of piled-up stone, or
gates fashioned of twisted plants; either a secluded nunnery or Buddhist
fane, at the foot of some hill; or some unsullied houses, hidden in a
grove, tenanted by rationalistic priestesses; either extensive corridors
and winding grottoes; or square buildings, and circular pavilions. But
Chia Cheng had not the energy to enter any of these places, for as he
had not had any rest for ever so long, his legs felt shaky and his feet
Suddenly they also discerned ahead of them a court disclose itself to
"When we get there," Chia Cheng suggested, "we must have a little rest."
Straightway as he uttered the remark, he led them in, and winding round
the jade-green peach-trees, covered with blossom, they passed through
the bamboo fence and flower-laden hedge, which were twisted in such a
way as to form a circular, cavelike gateway, when unexpectedly appeared
before their eyes an enclosure with whitewashed walls, in which verdant
willows drooped in every direction.
Chia Cheng entered the gateway in company with the whole party. Along
the whole length of both sides extended covered passages, connected with
each other; while in the court were laid out several rockeries. In one
quarter were planted a number of banana trees; on the opposite stood a
plant of begonia from Hsi Fu. Its appearance was like an open umbrella.
The gossamer hanging (from its branches) resembled golden threads. The
corollas (seemed) to spurt out cinnabar.
"What a beautiful flower! what a beautiful flower!" ejaculated the whole
party with one voice; "begonias are verily to be found; but never before
have we seen anything the like of this in beauty."
"This is called the maiden begonia and is, in fact, a foreign species,"
Chia Cheng observed. "There's a homely tradition that it is because it
emanates from the maiden kingdom that its flowers are most prolific; but
this is likewise erratic talk and devoid of common sense."
"They are, after all," rejoined the whole company, "so unlike others (we
have seen), that what's said about the maiden kingdom is, we are
inclined to believe, possibly a fact."
"I presume," interposed Pao-yü, "that some clever bard or poet,
(perceiving) that this flower was red like cosmetic, delicate as if
propped up in sickness, and that it closely resembled the nature of a
young lady, gave it, consequently, the name of maiden! People in the
world will propagate idle tales, all of which are unavoidably treated as
"We receive (with thanks) your instructions; what excellent
explanation!" they all remarked unanimously, and as they expressed these
words, the whole company took their seats on the sofas under the
"Let's think of some original text or other for a motto," Chia Cheng
having suggested, one of the companions opined that the two characters:
"Banana and stork" would be felicitous; while another one was of the
idea that what would be faultless would be: "Collected splendour and
"'Collected splendour and waving elegance' is excellent," Chia Cheng
observed addressing himself to the party; and Pao-yü himself, while also
extolling it as beautiful, went on to say: "There's only one thing
however to be regretted!"
"What about regret?" the company inquired.
"In this place," Pao-yü explained, "are set out both bananas as well as
begonias, with the intent of secretly combining in them the two
properties of red and green; and if mention of one of them be made, and
the other be omitted, (the device) won't be good enough for selection."
"What would you then suggest?" Chia Cheng asked.
"I would submit the four words, 'the red (flowers) are fragrant, the
green (banana leaves) like jade,' which would render complete the
beauties of both (the begonias and bananas)."
"It isn't good! it isn't good!" Chia Cheng remonstrated as he shook his
head; and while passing this remark, he conducted the party into the
house, where they noticed that the internal arrangements effected
differed from those in other places, as no partitions could, in fact, be
discerned. Indeed, the four sides were all alike covered with boards
carved hollow with fretwork, (in designs consisting) either of rolling
clouds and hundreds of bats; or of the three friends of the cold season
of the year, (fir, bamboo and almond); of scenery and human beings, or
of birds or flowers; either of clusters of decoration, or of relics of
olden times; either of ten thousand characters of happiness or of ten
thousand characters of longevity. The various kinds of designs had been
all carved by renowned hands, in variegated colours, inlaid with gold,
and studded with precious gems; while on shelf upon shelf were either
arranged collections of books, or tripods were laid out; either pens and
inkslabs were distributed about, or vases with flowers set out, or
figured pots were placed about; the designs of the shelves being either
round or square; or similar to sunflowers or banana leaves; or like
links, half overlapping each other. And in very truth they resembled
bouquets of flowers or clusters of tapestry, with all their fretwork so
transparent. Suddenly (the eye was struck) by variegated gauzes pasted
(on the wood-work), actually forming small windows; and of a sudden by
fine thin silks lightly overshadowing (the fretwork) just as if there
were, after all, secret doors. The whole walls were in addition traced,
with no regard to symmetry, with outlines of the shapes of curios and
nick-nacks in imitation of lutes, double-edged swords, hanging bottles
and the like, the whole number of which, though (apparently) suspended
on the walls, were all however on a same level with the surface of the
"What fine ingenuity!" they all exclaimed extollingly; "what a labour
they must have been to carry out!"
Chia Cheng had actually stepped in; but scarcely had they reached the
second stage, before the whole party readily lost sight of the way by
which they had come in. They glanced on the left, and there stood a
door, through which they could go. They cast their eyes on the right,
and there was a window which suddenly impeded their progress. They went
forward, but there again they were obstructed by a bookcase. They turned
their heads round, and there too stood windows pasted with transparent
gauze and available door-ways: but the moment they came face to face
with the door, they unexpectedly perceived that a whole company of
people had likewise walked in, just in front of them, whose appearance
resembled their own in every respect. But it was only a mirror. And when
they rounded the mirror, they detected a still larger number of doors.
"Sir," Chia Chen remarked with a grin; "if you'll follow me out through
this door, we'll forthwith get into the back-court; and once out of the
back-court, we shall be, at all events, nearer than we were before."
Taking the lead, he conducted Chia Cheng and the whole party round two
gauze mosquito houses, when they verily espied a door through which they
made their exit, into a court, replete with stands of cinnamon roses.
Passing round the flower-laden hedge, the only thing that spread before
their view was a pure stream impeding their advance. The whole company
was lost in admiration. "Where does this water again issue from?" they
Chia Chen pointed to a spot at a distance. "Starting originally," he
explained, "from that water-gate, it runs as far as the mouth of that
cave, when from among the hills on the north-east side, it is introduced
into that village, where again a diverging channel has been opened and
it is made to flow in a south-westerly direction; the whole volume of
water then runs to this spot, where collecting once more in one place,
it issues, on its outward course, from beneath that wall."
"It's most ingenious!" they one and all exclaimed, after they had
listened to him; but, as they uttered these words, they unawares
realised that a lofty hill obstructed any further progress. The whole
party felt very hazy about the right road. But "Come along after me,"
Chia Chen smilingly urged, as he at once went ahead and showed the way,
whereupon the company followed in his steps, and as soon as they turned
round the foot of the hill, a level place and broad road lay before
them; and wide before their faces appeared the main entrance.
"This is charming! this is delightful!" the party unanimously exclaimed,
"what wits must have been ransacked, and ingenuity attained, so as to
bring things to this extreme degree of excellence!"
Forthwith the party egressed from the garden, and Pao-yü's heart
anxiously longed for the society of the young ladies in the inner
quarters, but as he did not hear Chia Cheng bid him go, he had no help
but to follow him into the library. But suddenly Chia Cheng bethought
himself of him. "What," he said, "you haven't gone yet! the old lady
will I fear be anxious on your account; and is it pray that you haven't
as yet had enough walking?"
Pao-yü at length withdrew out of the library. On his arrival in the
court, a page, who had been in attendance on Chia Cheng, at once pressed
forward, and took hold of him fast in his arms. "You've been lucky
enough," he said, "to-day to have been in master's good graces! just a
while back when our old mistress despatched servants to come on several
occasions and ask after you, we replied that master was pleased with
you; for had we given any other answer, her ladyship would have sent to
fetch you to go in, and you wouldn't have had an opportunity of
displaying your talents. Every one admits that the several stanzas you
recently composed were superior to those of the whole company put
together; but you must, after the good luck you've had to-day, give us a
"I'll give each one of you a tiao," Pao-yü rejoined smirkingly.
"Who of us hasn't seen a tiao?" they all exclaimed, "let's have that
purse of yours, and have done with it!"
Saying this, one by one advanced and proceeded to unloosen the purse,
and to unclasp the fan-case; and allowing Pao-yü no time to make any
remonstrance, they stripped him of every ornament in the way of
appendage which he carried about on his person. "Whatever we do let's
escort him home!" they shouted, and one after another hustled round him
and accompanied him as far as dowager lady Chia's door.
Her ladyship was at this moment awaiting his arrival, so that when she
saw him walk in, and she found out that (Chia Cheng) had not bullied
him, she felt, of course, extremely delighted. But not a long interval
elapsed before Hsi Jen came to serve the tea; and when she perceived
that on his person not one of the ornaments remained, she consequently
smiled and inquired: "Have all the things that you had on you been again
taken away by these barefaced rascals?"
As soon as Lin Tai-yü heard this remark, she crossed over to him and saw
at a glance that not one single trinket was, in fact, left. "Have you
also given them," she felt constrained to ask, "the purse that I gave
you? Well, by and by, when you again covet anything of mine, I shan't
let you have it."
After uttering these words, she returned into her apartment in high
dudgeon, and taking the scented bag, which Pao-yü had asked her to make
for him, and which she had not as yet finished, she picked up a pair of
scissors, and instantly cut it to pieces.
Pao-yü noticing that she had lost her temper, came after her with
hurried step, but the bag had already been cut with the scissors; and as
Pao-yü observed how extremely fine and artistic this scented bag was, in
spite of its unfinished state, he verily deplored that it should have
been rent to pieces for no rhyme or reason. Promptly therefore
unbuttoning his coat, he produced from inside the lapel the purse, which
had been fastened there. "Look at this!" he remarked as he handed it to
Tai-yü; "what kind of thing is this! have I given away to any one what
was yours?" Lin Tai-yü, upon seeing how much he prized it as to wear it
within his clothes, became alive to the fact that it was done with
intent, as he feared lest any one should take it away; and as this
conviction made her sorry that she had been so impetuous as to have cut
the scented bag, she lowered her head and uttered not a word.
"There was really no need for you to have cut it," Pao-yü observed; "but
as I know that you're loth to give me anything, what do you say to my
returning even this purse?"
With these words, he threw the purse in her lap and walked off; which
vexed Tai-yü so much the more that, after giving way to tears, she took
up the purse in her hands to also destroy it with the scissors, when
Pao-yü precipitately turned round and snatched it from her grasp.
"My dear cousin," he smilingly pleaded, "do spare it!" and as Tai-yü
dashed down the scissors and wiped her tears: "You needn't," she urged,
"be kind to me at one moment, and unkind at another; if you wish to have
a tiff, why then let's part company!" But as she spoke, she lost control
over her temper, and, jumping on her bed, she lay with her face turned
towards the inside, and set to work drying her eyes.
Pao-yü could not refrain from approaching her. "My dear cousin, my own
cousin," he added, "I confess my fault!"
"Go and find Pao-yü!" dowager lady Chia thereupon gave a shout from
where she was in the front apartment, and all the attendants explained
that he was in Miss Lin's room.
"All right, that will do! that will do!" her ladyship rejoined, when she
heard this reply; "let the two cousins play together; his father kept
him a short while back under check, for ever so long, so let him have
some distraction. But the only thing is that you mustn't allow them to
have any quarrels." To which the servants in a body expressed their
Tai-yü, unable to put up with Pao-yü's importunity, felt compelled to
rise. "Your object seems to be," she remarked, "not to let me have any
rest. If it is, I'll run away from you." Saying which, she there and
then was making her way out, when Pao-yü protested with a face full of
smiles: "Wherever you go, I'll follow!" and as he, at the same time,
took the purse and began to fasten it on him, Tai-yü stretched out her
hand, and snatching it away, "You say you don't want it," she observed,
"and now you put it on again! I'm really much ashamed on your account!"
And these words were still on her lips when with a sound of Ch'ih, she
burst out laughing.
"My dear cousin," Pao-yü added, "to-morrow do work another scented bag
"That too will rest upon my good pleasure," Tai-yü rejoined.
As they conversed, they both left the room together and walked into
madame Wang's suite of apartments, where, as luck would have it,
Pao-ch'ai was also seated.
Unusual commotion prevailed, at this time, over at madame Wang's, for
the fact is that Chia Se had already come back from Ku Su, where he had
selected twelve young girls, and settled about an instructor, as well as
about the theatrical properties and the other necessaries. And as Mrs.
Hsüeh had by this date moved her quarters into a separate place on the
northeast side, and taken up her abode in a secluded and quiet house,
(madame Wang) had had repairs of a distinct character executed in the
Pear Fragrance Court, and then issued directions that the instructor
should train the young actresses in this place; and casting her choice
upon all the women, who had, in days of old, received a training in
singing, and who were now old matrons with white hair, she bade them
have an eye over them and keep them in order. Which done, she enjoined
Chia Se to assume the chief control of all matters connected with the
daily and monthly income and outlay, as well as of the accounts of all
articles in use of every kind and size.
Lin Chih-hsiao also came to report: "that the twelve young nuns and
Taoist girls, who had been purchased after proper selection, had all
arrived, and that the twenty newly-made Taoist coats had also been
received. That there was besides a maiden, who though devoted to
asceticism, kept her chevelure unshaved; that she was originally a
denizen of Suchow, of a family whose ancestors were also people of
letters and official status; that as from her youth up she had been
stricken with much sickness, (her parents) had purchased a good number
of substitutes (to enter the convent), but all with no relief to her,
until at last this girl herself entered the gate of abstraction when she
at once recovered. That hence it was that she grew her hair, while she
devoted herself to an ascetic life; that she was this year eighteen
years of age, and that the name given to her was Miao Yü; that her
father and mother were, at this time, already dead; that she had only by
her side, two old nurses and a young servant girl to wait upon her; that
she was most proficient in literature, and exceedingly well versed in
the classics and canons; and that she was likewise very attractive as
far as looks went; that having heard that in the city of Ch'ang-an,
there were vestiges of Kuan Yin and relics of the canons inscribed on
leaves, she followed, last year, her teacher (to the capital). She now
lives," he said, "in the Lao Ni nunnery, outside the western gate; her
teacher was a great expert in prophetic divination, but she died in the
winter of last year, and her dying words were that as it was not
suitable for (Miao Yü) to return to her native place, she should await
here, as something in the way of a denouement was certain to turn up;
and this is the reason why she hasn't as yet borne the coffin back to
"If such be the case," madame Wang readily suggested, "why shouldn't we
bring her here?"
"If we are to ask her," Lin Chih-hsiao's wife replied, "she'll say that
a marquis' family and a duke's household are sure, in their honourable
position, to be overbearing to people; and I had rather not go."
"As she's the daughter of an official family," madame Wang continued,
"she's bound to be inclined to be somewhat proud; but what harm is there
to our sending her a written invitation to ask her to come!"
Lin Chih-hsiao's wife assented; and leaving the room, she made the
secretary write an invitation and then went to ask Miao Yü. The next day
servants were despatched, and carriages and sedan chairs were got ready
to go and bring her over.
What subsequently transpired is not as yet known, but, reader, listen to
the account given in the following chapter.
His Majesty shows magnanimous bounty.
The Imperial consort Yuan pays a visit to her parents.
The happiness of a family gathering.
Pao-yü displays his polished talents.
But let us resume our story. A servant came, at this moment, to report
that for the works in course of execution, they were waiting for gauze
and damask silk to paste on various articles, and that they requested
lady Feng to go and open the depôt for them to take the gauze and silk,
while another servant also came to ask lady Feng to open the treasury
for them to receive the gold and silver ware. And as Madame Wang, the
waiting-maids and the other domestics of the upper rooms had all no
leisure, Pao-ch'ai suggested: "Don't let us remain in here and be in the
way of their doing what there is to be done, and of going where they
have to go," and saying this, she betook herself, escorted by Pao-yü and
the rest, into Ying Ch'un's rooms.
Madame Wang continued day after day in a great state of flurry and
confusion, straight up to within the tenth moon, by which time every
arrangement had been completed, and the overseers had all handed in a
clear statement of their accounts. The curios and writing materials,
wherever needed, had all already been laid out and everything got ready,
and the birds (and animals), from the stork, the deer and rabbits to the
chickens, geese and the like, had all been purchased and handed over to
be reared in the various localities in the garden; and over at Chia
Se's, had also been learnt twenty miscellaneous plays, while a company
of young nuns and Taoist priestesses had likewise the whole number of
them, mastered the intonation of Buddhist classics and incantations.
Chia Cheng after this, at length, was slightly composed in mind, and
cheerful at heart; and having further invited dowager lady Chia and
other inmates to go into the garden, he deliberated with them on, and
made arrangements for, every detail in such a befitting manner that not
the least trifle remained for which suitable provision had not been
made; and Chia Cheng eventually mustered courage to indite a memorial,
and on the very day on which the memorial was presented, a decree was
received fixing upon the fifteenth day of the first moon of the ensuing
year, the very day of the Shang Yuan festival, for the honourable
consorts to visit their homes.
Upon the receipt of this decree, with which the Chia family was
honoured, they had still less leisure, both by day as well as by night;
so much so that they could not even properly observe the new year
festivities. But in a twinkle of the eye, the festival of the full moon
of the first moon drew near; and beginning from the eighth day of the
first moon, eunuchs issued from the palace and inspected beforehand the
various localities, the apartments in which the imperial consort was to
change her costume; the place where she would spend her leisure moments;
the spot where she would receive the conventionalities; the premises
where the banquets would be spread; the quarters where she would retire
There were also eunuchs who came to assume the patrol of the grounds and
the direction of the defences; and they brought along with them a good
many minor eunuchs, whose duty it was to look after the safety of the
various localities, to screen the place with enclosing curtains, to
instruct the inmates and officials of the Chia mansion whither to go out
and whence to come in from, what side the viands should be brought in
from, where to report matters, and in the observance of every kind of
etiquette; and for outside the mansion, there were, on the other hand,
officers from the Board of Works, and a superintendent of the Police, of
the "Five Cities," in charge of the sweeping of the streets and roads,
and the clearing away of loungers. While Chia She and the others
superintended the workmen in such things as the manufacture of flowered
lanterns and fireworks.
The fourteenth day arrived and everything was in order; but on this
night, one and all whether high or low, did not get a wink of sleep; and
when the fifteenth came, every one, at the fifth watch, beginning from
dowager lady Chia and those who enjoyed any official status, appeared in
full gala dress, according to their respective ranks. In the garden, the
curtains were, by this time, flapping like dragons, the portieres flying
about like phoenixes with variegated plumage. Gold and silver glistened
with splendour. Pearls and precious gems shed out their brilliant
lustre. The tripod censers burnt the Pai-ho incense. In the vases were
placed evergreens. Silence and stillness prevailed, and not a man
ventured so much as to cough.
Chia She and the other men were standing outside the door giving on to
the street on the west; and old lady Chia and the other ladies were
outside the main entrance of the Jung mansion at the head of the street,
while at the mouth of the lane were placed screens to rigorously
obstruct the public gaze. They were unable to bear the fatigue of any
further waiting when, at an unexpected moment, a eunuch arrived on
horseback, and Chia Cheng went up to meet him, and ascertained what
tidings he was the bearer of.
"It's as yet far too early," rejoined the eunuch, "for at one o'clock
(her highness) will have her evening repast, and at two she has to
betake herself to the Palace of Precious Perception to worship Buddha.
At five, she will enter the Palace of Great Splendour to partake of a
banquet, and to see the lanterns, after which, she will request His
Majesty's permission; so that, I'm afraid, it won't be earlier than
seven before they set out."
Lady Feng's ear caught what was said. "If such be the case," she
interposed, "may it please your venerable ladyship, and you, my lady, to
return for a while to your apartments, and wait; and if you come when
it's time you'll be here none too late."
Dowager lady Chia and the other ladies immediately left for a time and
suited their own convenience, and as everything in the garden devolved
upon lady Feng to supervise, she ordered the butlers to take the eunuchs
and give them something to eat and drink; and at the same time, she sent
word that candles should be brought in and that the lanterns in the
various places should be lit.
But unexpectedly was heard from outside the continuous patter of horses
running, whereupon about ten eunuchs hurried in gasping and out of
breath. They clapped their hands, and the several eunuchs (who had come
before), understanding the signal, and knowing that the party had
arrived, stood in their respective positions; while Chia She, at the
head of all the men of the clan, remained at the western street door,
and dowager lady Chia, at the head of the female relatives of the
family, waited outside the principal entrance to do the honours.
For a long interval, everything was plunged in silence and quiet; when
suddenly two eunuchs on horseback were espied advancing with leisurely
step. Reaching the western street gate, they dismounted, and, driving
their horses beyond the screens, they forthwith took their stand facing
the west. After another long interval, a second couple arrived, and went
likewise through the same proceedings. In a short time, drew near about
ten couples, when, at length, were heard the gentle strains of music,
and couple by couple advanced with banners, dragons, with fans made with
phoenix feathers, and palace flabella of pheasant plumes; and those
besides who carried gold-washed censers burning imperial incense. Next
in order was brought past a state umbrella of golden yellow, with
crooked handle and embroidered with seven phoenixes; after which quickly
followed the crown, robe, girdle and shoes.
There were likewise eunuchs, who took a part in the procession, holding
scented handkerchiefs and embroidered towels, cups for rinsing the
mouth, dusters and other such objects; and company after company went
past, when, at the rear, approached with stately step eight eunuchs
carrying an imperial sedan chair, of golden yellow, with a gold knob and
embroidered with phoenixes.
Old lady Chia and the other members of the family hastily fell on their
knees, but a eunuch came over at once to raise her ladyship and the
rest; and the imperial chair was thereupon carried through the main
entrance, the ceremonial gate and into a court on the eastern side, at
the door of which stood a eunuch, who prostrated himself and invited
(her highness) to dismount and change her costume.
Having forthwith carried her inside the gate, the eunuchs dispersed; and
only the maids-of-honour and ladies-in-waiting ushered Yuan Ch'un out of
the chair, when what mainly attracted her eye in the park was the
brilliant lustre of the flowered lamps of every colour, all of which
were made of gauze or damask, and were beautiful in texture, and out of
the common run; while on the upper side was a flat lantern with the
inscription in four characters, "Regarded (by His Majesty's) benevolence
and permeated by his benefits."
Yuan Ch'un entered the apartment and effected the necessary changes in
her toilette; after which, she again egressed, and, mounting her chair,
she made her entry into the garden, when she perceived the smoke of
incense whirling and twirling, and the reflection of the flowers
confusing the eyes. Far and wide, the rays of light, shed by the
lanterns, intermingled their brilliancy, while, from time to time, fine
strains of music sounded with clamorous din. But it would be impossible
to express adequately the perfect harmony in the aspect of this scene,
and the grandeur of affluence and splendour.
The imperial consort of the Chia family, we must now observe, upon
catching sight, from the interior of her chair, of the picture presented
within as well as without the confines of this garden, shook her head
and heaved a sigh. "What lavish extravagance! What excessive waste!" she
But of a sudden was again seen a eunuch who, on his knees, invited her
to get into a boat; and the Chia consort descended from the chair and
stepped into the craft, when the expanse of a limpid stream met her
gaze, whose grandeur resembled that of the dragon in its listless
course. The stone bannisters, on each side, were one mass of air-tight
lanterns, of every colour, made of crystal or glass, which threw out a
light like the lustre of silver or the brightness of snow.
The willow, almond and the whole lot of trees, on the upper side, were,
it is true, without blossom and leaves; but pongee and damask silks,
paper and lustring had been employed, together with rice-paper, to make
flowers of, which had been affixed on the branches. Upon each tree were
suspended thousands of lanterns; and what is more, the lotus and aquatic
plants, the ducks and water fowl in the pond had all, in like manner,
been devised out of conches and clams, plumes and feathers. The various
lanterns, above and below, vied in refulgence. In real truth, it was a
crystal region, a world of pearls and precious stones. On board the boat
were also every kind of lanterns representing such designs as are used
on flower-pots, pearl-laden portieres, embroidered curtains, oars of
cinnamon wood, and paddles of magnolia, which need not of course be
They entered a landing with a stone curb; and on this landing was
erected a flat lantern upon which were plainly visible the four
characters the "Persicary beach and flower-laden bank." But, reader, you
have heard how that these four characters "the persicary beach and the
flower-laden bank," the motto "a phoenix comes with dignified air," and
the rest owe one and all their origin to the unexpected test to which
Chia Cheng submitted, on a previous occasion, Pao-yü's literary
abilities; but how did it come about that they were actually adopted?
You must remember that the Chia family had been, generation after
generation, given to the study of letters, so that it was only natural
that there should be among them one or two renowned writers of verses;
for how could they ever resemble the families of such upstarts, who only
employ puerile expressions as a makeshift to get through what they have
to do? But the why and the wherefore must be sought in the past. The
consort, belonging to the Chia mansion, had, before she entered the
palace, been, from her infancy, also brought up by dowager lady Chia;
and when Pao-yü was subsequently added to the family, she was the eldest
sister and Pao-yü the youngest child. The Chia consort, bearing in mind
how that she had, when her mother was verging on old age, at length
obtained this younger brother, she for this reason doated upon him with
single love; and as they were besides companions in their attendance
upon old lady Chia, they were inseparable for even a moment. Before
Pao-yü had entered school, and when three or four years of age, he had
already received oral instruction from the imperial spouse Chia from the
contents of several books and had committed to memory several thousands
of characters, for though they were only sister and brother, they were
like mother and child. And after she had entered the Palace, she was
wont time and again to have letters taken out to her father and her
cousins, urgently recommending them to be careful with his bringing up,
that if they were not strict, he could not possibly become good for
anything, and that if they were immoderately severe, there was the
danger of something unpropitious befalling him, with the result,
moreover, that his grandmother would be stricken with sorrow; and this
solicitude on his account was never for an instant lost sight of by her.
Hence it was that Chia Cheng having, a few days back, heard his teacher
extol him for his extreme abilities, he forthwith put him to the test on
the occasion of their ramble through the garden. And though (his
compositions) were not in the bold style of a writer of note, yet they
were productions of their own family, and would, moreover, be
instrumental, when the Chia consort had her notice attracted by them,
and come to know that they were devised by her beloved brother, in also
not rendering nugatory the anxious interest which she had ever
entertained on his behalf, and he, therefore, purposely adopted what had
been suggested by Pao-yü; while for those places, for which on that day
no devices had been completed, a good number were again subsequently
composed to make up what was wanted.
After the Chia consort had, for we shall now return to her, perused the
four characters, she gave a smile. "The two words 'flower-laden bank,'"
she said, "are really felicitous, so what use was there for 'persicary
When the eunuch in waiting heard this observation, he promptly jumped
off the craft on to the bank, and at a flying pace hurried to
communicate it to Chia Cheng, and Chia Cheng instantly effected the
By this time the craft had reached the inner bank, and leaving the boat,
and mounting into her sedan chair, she in due course contemplated the
magnificent Jade-like Palace; the Hall of cinnamon wood, lofty and
sublime; and the marble portals with the four characters in bold style:
the "Precious confines of heavenly spirits," which the Chia consort gave
directions should be changed for the four words denoting: "additional
Hall (for the imperial consort) on a visit to her parents." And
forthwith making her entrance into the travelling lodge her gaze was
attracted by torches burning in the court encompassing the heavens,
fragments of incense strewn on the ground, fire-like trees and gem-like
flowers, gold-like windows and jade-like bannisters. But it would be
difficult to give a full account of the curtains, which rolled up (as
fine as a) shrimp's moustache; of the carpets of other skins spread on
the floor; of the tripods exhaling the fragrant aroma of the brain of
the musk deer; of the screens in a row resembling fans made of pheasant
tails. Indeed, the gold-like doors and the windows like jade were
suggestive of the abode of spirits; while the halls made of cinnamon
wood and the palace of magnolia timber, of the very homes of the
imperial secondary consorts.
"Why is it," the Chia consort inquired, "that there is no tablet in this
The eunuch in waiting fell on his knees. "This is the main Hall," he
reverently replied, "and the officials, outside the palace, did not
presume to take upon themselves to suggest any motto."
The Chia consort shook her head and said not a word; whereupon the
eunuch, who acted as master of ceremonies, requested Her Majesty to
ascend the throne and receive homage. The band stationed on the two
flights of steps struck up a tune, while two eunuchs ushered Chia She,
Chia Cheng and the other members on to the moonlike stage, where they
arranged themselves in order and ascended into the hall, but when the
ladies-in-waiting transmitted her commands that the homage could be
dispensed with, they at once retraced their footsteps.
(The master of the ceremonies), in like manner led forward the dowager
lady of the Jung Kuo mansion, as well as the female relatives, from the
steps on the east side, on to the moon-like stage; where they were
placed according to their ranks. But the maids-of-honour again commanded
that they should dispense with the ceremony, so they likewise promptly
After tea had been thrice presented, the Chia consort descended the
Throne, and the music ceased. She retired into a side room to change her
costume, and the private chairs were then got ready for her visit to her
parents. Issuing from the garden, she came into the main quarters
belonging to dowager lady Chia, where she was bent upon observing the
domestic conventionalities, when her venerable ladyship, and the other
members of the family, prostrated themselves in a body before her, and
made her desist. Tears dropped down from the eyes of the Chia consort as
(she and her relatives) mutually came forward, and greeted each other,
and as with one hand she grasped old lady Chia, and with the other she
held madame Wang, the three had plenty in their hearts which they were
fain to speak about; but, unable as each one of them was to give
utterance to their feelings, all they did was to sob and to weep, as
they kept face to face to each other; while madame Hsing, widow Li Wan,
Wang Hsi-feng, and the three sisters: Ying Ch'un, T'an Ch'un, and Hsi
Ch'un, stood aside in a body shedding tears and saying not a word.
After a long time, the Chia consort restrained her anguish, and forcing
a smile, she set to work to reassure old lady Chia and madame Wang.
"Having in days gone by," she urged, "been sent to that place where no
human being can be seen, I have to-day after extreme difficulty returned
home; and now that you ladies and I have been reunited, instead of
chatting or laughing we contrariwise give way to incessant tears! But
shortly, I shall be gone, and who knows when we shall be able again to
even see each other!"
When she came to this sentence, they could not help bursting into
another tit of crying; and Madame Hsing hastened to come forward, and to
console dowager lady Chia and the rest. But when the Chia consort
resumed her seat, and one by one came again, in turn, to exchange
salutations, they could not once more help weeping and sobbing for a
Next in order, were the managers and servants of the eastern and western
mansions to perform their obeisance in the outer pavilion; and after the
married women and waiting-maids had concluded their homage, the Chia
consort heaved a sigh. "How many relatives," she observed, "there are
all of whom, alas! I may not see."
"There are here now," madame Wang rejoined with due respect, "kindred
with outside family names, such as Mrs. Hsüeh, née Wang, Pao-ch'ai, and
Tai-yü waiting for your commands; but as they are distant relatives, and
without official status, they do not venture to arrogate to themselves
the right of entering into your presence." But the Chia consort issued
directions that they should be invited to come that they should see each
other; and in a short while, Mrs. Hsüeh and the other relatives walked
in, but as they were on the point of performing the rites, prescribed by
the state, she bade them relinquish the observance so that they came
forward, and each, in turn, alluded to what had transpired during the
Pao Ch'in also and a few other waiting-maids, whom the Chia consort had
originally taken along with her into the palace, knocked their heads
before dowager lady Chia, but her ladyship lost no time in raising them
up, and in bidding them go into a separate suite of rooms to be
entertained; and as for the retainers, eunuchs as well as
maids-of-honour, ladies-in-waiting and every attendant, there were
needless to say, those in the two places, the Ning mansion and Chia
She's residence, to wait upon them; there only remained three or four
young eunuchs to answer the summons.
The mother and daughter and her cousins conversed for some time on what
had happened during the protracted separation, as well as on domestic
affairs and their private feelings, when Chia Cheng likewise advanced as
far as the other side of the portiere, and inquired after her health,
and the Chia consort from inside performed the homage and other
conventionalities (due to her parent).
"The families of farmers," she further went on to say to her father,
"feed on salted cabbage, and clothe in cotton material; but they readily
enjoy the happiness of the relationships established by heaven! We,
however, relatives though we now be of one bone and flesh, are, with all
our affluence and honours, living apart from each other, and deriving no
Chia Cheng, on his part endeavoured, to restrain his tears. "I
belonged," he rejoined, "to a rustic and poor family; and among that
whole number of pigeons and pheasants, how could I have imagined that I
would have obtained the blessing of a hidden phoenix! Of late all for
the sake of your honourable self, His Majesty, above, confers upon us
his heavenly benefits; while we, below, show forth the virtue of our
ancestors! And it is mainly because the vital principle of the hills,
streams, sun, and moon, and the remote virtue of our ancestors have been
implanted in you alone that this good fortune has attained me Cheng and
my wife! Moreover, the present emperor, bearing in mind the great bounty
shewn by heaven and earth in promoting a ceaseless succession, has
vouchsafed a more generous act of grace than has ever been displayed
from old days to the present. And although we may besmear our liver and
brain in the mire, how could we show our gratitude, even to so slight a
degree as one ten-thousandth part. But all I can do is, in the daytime,
to practise diligence, vigilance at night, and loyalty in my official
duties. My humble wish is that His Majesty, my master, may live ten
thousand years and see thousands of autumns, so as to promote the
welfare of all mankind in the world! And you, worthy imperial consort,
must, on no account, be mindful of me Cheng and my wife, decrepid as we
are in years. What I would solicit more than anything is that you should
be more careful of yourself, and that you should be diligent and
reverential in your service to His Majesty, with the intent that you may
not prove ungrateful of his affectionate regard and bountiful grace."
The Chia consort, on the other hand, enjoined "that much as it was
expedient to display zeal, in the management of state matters, it
behoved him, when he had any leisure, to take good care of himself, and
that he should not, whatever he did, give way to solicitude on her
behalf." And Chia Cheng then went on to say "that the various
inscriptions in the park over the pavilions, terraces, halls and
residences had been all composed by Pao-yü, and, that in the event of
there being one or two that could claim her attention, he would be happy
if it would please her to at once favour him with its name." Whereupon
the imperial consort Yüan, when she heard that Pao-yü could compose
verses, forthwith exclaimed with a smile: "He has in very truth made
After Chia Cheng had retired out of the hall, the Chia consort made it a
point to ask: "How is it that I do not see Pao-yü?" and dowager lady
Chia explained: "An outside male relative as he is, and without official
rank, he does not venture to appear before you of his own accord."
"Bring him in!" the imperial consort directed; whereupon a young eunuch
ushered Pao-yü in. After he had first complied with the state
ceremonies, she bade him draw near to her, and taking his hand, she held
it in her lap, and, as she went on to caress his head and neck, she
smiled and said: "He's grown considerably taller than he was before;"
but she had barely concluded this remark, when her tears ran down as
profuse as rain. Mrs. Yu, lady Feng, and the rest pressed forward. "The
banquet is quite ready," they announced, "and your highness is requested
to favour the place with your presence."
The imperial consort Yuan stood up and asking Pao-yü to lead the way,
she followed in his steps, along with the whole party, and betook
herself on foot as far as the entrance of the garden gate, whence she at
once espied, in the lustre shed by the lanterns, every kind of
decorations. Entering the garden, they first passed the spots with the
device "a phoenix comes with dignified air," "the red (flowers are)
fragrant and the green (banana leaves like) jade!" "the sign on the
apricot tree is visible," "the fragrance pure of the ligularia and
iris," and other places; and ascending the towers they walked up the
halls, forded the streams and wound round the hills; contemplating as
they turned their gaze from side to side, each place arranged in a
different style, and each kind of article laid out in unique designs.
The Chia consort expressed her admiration in most profuse eulogiums, and
then went on to advise them: "that it was not expedient to indulge in
future in such excessive extravagance and that all these arrangements
were over and above what should have been done."
Presently they reached the main pavilion, where she commanded that they
could dispense with the rites and take their seats. A sumptuous banquet
was laid out, at which dowager lady Chia and the other ladies occupied
the lower seats and entertained each other, while Mrs. Yu, widow Li Wan,
lady Feng and the rest presented the soup and handed the cups. The
Imperial consort Yuan subsequently directed that the pencils and
inkslabs should be brought, and with her own hands she opened the silken
paper. She chose the places she liked, and conferred upon them a name;
and devising a general designation for the garden, she called it the Ta
Kuan garden (Broad vista), while for the tablet of the main pavilion the
device she composed ran as follows: "Be mindful of the grace and
remember the equity (of His Majesty);" with this inscription on the
Mercy excessive Heaven and earth display,
And it men young and old hail gratefully;
From old till now they pour their bounties great
Those rich gifts which Cathay and all states permeate.
Changing also the text: "A phoenix comes with dignified air for the
Hsiao Hsiang Lodge."
"The red (flowers are) fragrant and the green (banana leaves like)
jade," she altered into "Happy red and joyful green"; bestowing upon the
place the appellation of the I Hung court (joyful red). The spot where
"the fragrance pure of the ligularia and iris," was inscribed, she
called "the ligularia and the 'Wu' weed court;" and where was "the sign
in the apricot tree is visible," she designated "the cottage in the
hills where dolichos is bleached." The main tower she called the Broad
Vista Tower. The lofty tower facing the east, she designated "the
variegated and flowery Hall;" bestowing on the line of buildings, facing
the west, the appellation of "the Hall of Occult Fragrance;" and besides
these figured such further names as: "the Hall of peppery wind," "the
Arbour of lotus fragrance," "the Islet of purple caltrop," "the Bank of
golden lotus," and the like. There were also tablets with four
characters such as: "the peach blossom and the vernal rain;" "the
autumnal wind prunes the Eloecocca," "the artemisia leaves and the night
snow," and other similar names which could not all be placed on record.
She furthermore directed that such tablets as were already put up,
should not be dismounted, and she forthwith took the lead and composed
an heptameter stanza, the burden of which was:
Hills it enclasps, embraces streams, with skill it is laid out:
What task the grounds to raise! the works to start and bring about!
Of scenery in heaven and amongst men store has been made;
The name Broad Vista o'er the fragrant park should be engraved.
When she had finished writing, she observed smilingly, as she addressed
herself to all the young ladies: "I have all along lacked the quality of
sharpness and never besides been good at verses; as you, sisters, and
all of you have ever been aware; but, on a night like this I've been
fain to do my best, with the object of escaping censure, and of not
reflecting injustice on this scenery and nothing more. But some other
day when I've got time, be it ever so little, I shall deem it my duty to
make up what remains by inditing a record of the Broad Vista Garden, as
well as a song on my visit to my parents and other such literary
productions in memory of the events of this day. You sisters and others
must, each of you, in like manner compose a stanza on the motto on each
tablet, expressing your sentiments, as you please, without being
restrained by any regard for my meagre ability. Knowing as I do besides
that Pao-yü is, indeed, able to write verses, I feel the more delighted!
But among his compositions, those I like the best are those in the two
places, 'the Hsiao Hsiang Lodge,' and 'the court of Heng and Wu;' and
next those of 'the Joyful red court,' and 'the cottage in the hills,
where the dolichos is bleached.' As for grand sites like these four,
there should be found some out-of-the-way expressions to insert in the
verses so that they should be felicitous. The antithetical lines
composed by you, (Pao-yü), on a former occasion are excellent, it is
true; but you should now further indite for each place, a pentameter
stanza, so that by allowing me to test you in my presence, you may not
show yourself ungrateful for the trouble I have taken in teaching you
from your youth up."
Pao-yü had no help but to assent, and descending from the hall, he went
off all alone to give himself up to reflection.
Of the three Ying Ch'un, T'an Ch'un, and Hsi Ch'un, T'an Ch'un must be
considered to have also been above the standard of her sisters, but she,
in her own estimation, imagined it, in fact, difficult to compete with
Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai and Lin Tai-yü. With no alternative however than that of
doing her best, she followed the example of all the rest with the sole
purpose of warding off criticism. And Li Wan too succeeded, after much
exertion, in putting together a stanza.
The consort of the Chia family perused in due order the verses written
by the young ladies, the text of which is given below.
The lines written by Ying Ch'un on the tablet of "Boundless spirits and
blissful heart" were:
A park laid out with scenery surpassing fine and rare!
Submissive to thy will, on boundless bliss bashful I write!
Who could believe that yonder scenes in this world found a share!
Will not thy heart be charmed on thy visit by the sight?
These are the verses by T'an Ch'un on the tablet of "All nature vies in
Of aspect lofty and sublime is raised a park of fame!
Honoured with thy bequest, my shallow lore fills me with shame.
No words could e'er amply exhaust the beauteous skill,
For lo! in very truth glory and splendour all things fill!
Thus runs Hsi Ch'un's stanza on the tablet of the "Conception of
The hillocks and the streams crosswise beyond a thousand li extend!
The towers and terraces 'midst the five-coloured clouds lofty ascend!
In the resplendent radiance of both sun and moon the park it lies!
The skill these scenes to raise the skill e'en essays to conceive
The lines composed by Li Wan on the tablet "grace and elegance,"
The comely streams and hillocks clear, in double folds, embrace;
E'en Fairyland, forsooth, transcend they do in elegance and grace!
The "Fragrant Plant" the theme is of the ballad fan, green-made.
Like drooping plum-bloom flap the lapel red and the Hsiang gown.
From prosperous times must have been handed down those pearls and
What bliss! the fairy on the jasper terrace will come down!
When to our prayers she yields, this glorious park to contemplate,
No mortal must e'er be allowed these grounds to penetrate.
The ode by Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai on the tablet of "Concentrated Splendour and
Accumulated auspiciousness" was:
Raised on the west of the Imperial city, lo! the park stored with
Shrouded by Phoebe's radiant rays and clouds of good omen, in wondrous
The willows tall with joy exult that the parrots their nests have
shifted from the dell.
The bamboo groves, when laid, for the phoenix with dignity to come,
were meant to rise.
The very eve before the Empress' stroll, elegant texts were ready and
If even she her parents comes to see, how filial piety supreme must
When I behold her beauteous charms and talents supernatural, with awe
One word, to utter more how can I troth ever presume, when shame
The distich by Lin Tai-yü on the tablet of "Spiritual stream outside the
world," ran thus:
Th' imperial visit doth enhance joy and delight.
This fairy land from mortal scenes what diff'rent sight!
The comely grace it borrows of both hill and stream;
And to the landscape it doth add a charm supreme.
The fumes of Chin Ku wine everything permeate;
The flowers the inmate of the Jade Hall fascinate.
The imperial favour to receive how blessed our lot!
For oft the palace carriage will pass through this spot.
The Chia consort having concluded the perusal of the verses, and
extolled them for a time: "After all," she went on to say with a smile,
"those composed by my two cousins, Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai and Lin Tai-yü,
differ in excellence from those of all the rest; and neither I, stupid
as I am, nor my sisters can attain their standard."
Lin Tao-yü had, in point of fact, made up her mind to display, on this
evening, her extraordinary abilities to their best advantage, and to put
down every one else, but contrary to her expectations the Chia consort
had expressed her desire that no more than a single stanza should be
written on each tablet, so that unable, after all, to disregard her
directions by writing anything in excess, she had no help but to compose
a pentameter stanza, in an offhand way, merely with the intent of
complying with her wishes.
Pao-yü had by this time not completed his task. He had just finished two
stanzas on the Hsiao Hsiang Lodge and the Heng Wu garden, and was just
then engaged in composing a verse on the "Happy red Court." In his draft
figured a line: "The (leaves) of jade-like green in spring are yet
rolled up," which Pao-ch'ai stealthily observed as she turned her eyes
from side to side; and availing herself of the very first moment, when
none of the company could notice her, she gave him a nudge. "As her
highness," she remarked, "doesn't relish the four characters,
representing the red (flowers are) fragrant, and the green (banana
leaves) like jade, she changed them, just a while back, for 'the joyful
red and gladsome green;' and if you deliberately now again employ these
two words 'jade-like green,' won't it look as if you were bent upon
being at variance with her? Besides, very many are the old books, in
which the banana leaves form the theme, so you had better think of
another line and substitute it and have done with it!"
When Pao-yü heard the suggestion made by Pao-ch'ai, he speedily replied,
as he wiped off the perspiration: "I can't at all just at present call
to mind any passage from the contents of some old book."
"Just simply take," proposed Pao-ch'ai smilingly, "the character jade in
jade-like green and change it into the character wax, that's all."
"Does 'green wax,'" Pao-yü inquired, "come out from anywhere?"
Pao-ch'ai gently smacked her lips and nodded her head as she laughed. "I
fear," she said, "that if, on an occasion like to-night, you show no
more brains than this, by and by when you have to give any answers in
the golden hall, to the questions (of the examiner), you will, really,
forget (the very first four names) of Chao, Oh'ien, Sun and Li (out of
the hundred)! What, have you so much as forgotten the first line of the
poem by Han Yü, of the T'ang dynasty, on the Banana leaf:
"Cold is the candle and without a flame, the green wax dry?"
On hearing these words, Pao-yü's mind suddenly became enlightened. "What
a fool I am!" he added with a simper; "I couldn't for the moment even
remember the lines, ready-made though they were and staring at me in my
very eyes! Sister, you really can be styled my teacher, little though
you may have taught me, and I'll henceforward address you by no other
name than 'teacher,' and not call you 'sister' any more!"
"Don't you yet hurry to go on," Pao-ch'ai again observed in a gentle
tone of voice sneeringly, "but keep on calling me elder sister and
younger sister? Who's your sister? that one over there in a yellow coat
is your sister!"
But apprehending, as she bandied these jokes, lest she might be wasting
his time, she felt constrained to promptly move away; whereupon Pao-yü
continued the ode he had been working at, and brought it to a close,
writing in all three stanzas.
Tai-yü had not had so far an opportunity of making a display of her
ability, and was feeling at heart in a very dejected mood; but when she
perceived that Pao-yü was having intense trouble in conceiving what he
had to write, and she found, upon walking up to the side of the table,
that he had only one stanza short, that on "the sign on the apricot tree
is visible," she consequently bade him copy out clean the first three
odes, while she herself composed a stanza, which she noted down on a
slip of paper, rumpled up into a ball, and threw just in front of
As soon as Pao-yü opened it and glanced at it, he realised that it was a
hundred times better than his own three stanzas, and transcribing it
without loss of time, in a bold writing, he handed up his compositions.
On perusal, the Chia Consort read what follows. By Pao-yü, on: "A
phoenix comes with dignified air:"
The bamboos just now don that jadelike grace,
Which worthy makes them the pheasant to face;
Each culm so tender as if to droop fain,
Each one so verdant, in aspect so cool,
The curb protects, from the steps wards the pool.
The pervious screens the tripod smell restrain.
The shadow will be strewn, mind do not shake
And (Hsieh) from her now long fine dream (awake)!
On "the pure fragrance of the Ligularia and Iris Florentina:"
Hengs and Wus the still park permeate;
The los and pis their sweet perfume enhance;
And supple charms the third spring flowers ornate;
Softly is wafted one streak of fragrance!
A light mist doth becloud the tortuous way!
With moist the clothes bedews, that verdure cold!
The pond who ever sinuous could hold?
Dreams long and subtle, dream the household Hsieh.
On "the happy red and joyful green:"
Stillness pervades the deep pavilion on a lengthy day.
The green and red, together matched, transcendent grace display.
Unfurled do still remain in spring the green and waxlike leaves.
No sleep yet seeks the red-clad maid, though night's hours be
But o'er the rails lo, she reclines, dangling her ruddy sleeves;
Against the stone she leans shrouded by taintless scent,
And stands the quarter facing whence doth blow the eastern wind!
Her lord and master must look up to her with feelings kind.
On "the sign on the apricot tree is visible:"
The apricot tree sign to drink wayfarers doth invite;
A farm located on a hill, lo! yonder strikes the sight!
And water caltrops, golden lotus, geese, as well as flows,
And mulberry and elm trees which afford rest to swallows.
That wide extent of spring leeks with verdure covers the ground;
And o'er ten li the paddy blossom fragrance doth abound.
In days of plenty there's a lack of dearth and of distress,
And what need then is there to plough and weave with such briskness?
When the Chia consort had done with the perusal, excessive joy filled
her heart. "He has indeed made progress!" she exclaimed, and went on to
point at the verses on "the sign on the apricot tree," as being the
crowning piece of the four stanzas. In due course, she with her own
hands changed the motto "a cottage in the hills where dolichos is
bleached" into "the paddy-scented village;" and bidding also T'an Ch'un
to take the several tens of stanzas written then, and to transcribe them
separately on ornamented silk paper, she commanded a eunuch to send them
to the outer quarters. And when Chia Cheng and the other men perused
them, one and all sung their incessant praise, while Chia Cheng, on his
part, sent in some complimentary message, with regard to her return home
on a visit.
Yuan Ch'un went further and gave orders that luscious wines, a ham and
other such presents should be conferred upon Pao-yü, as well as upon
Chia Lan. This Chia Lan was as yet at this time a perfect youth without
any knowledge of things in general, so that all that he could do was to
follow the example of his mother, and imitate his uncle in performing
the conventional rites.
At the very moment that Chia Se felt unable, along with a company of
actresses, to bear the ordeal of waiting on the ground floor of the
two-storied building, he caught sight of a eunuch come running at a
flying pace. "The composition of verses is over," he said, "so quick
give me the programme;" whereupon Chia Se hastened to present the
programme as well as a roll of the names of the twelve girls. And not a
long interval elapsed before four plays were chosen; No. 1 being the
Imperial Banquet; No. 2 Begging (the weaver goddess) for skill in
needlework; No. 3 The spiritual match; and No. 4 the Parting spirit.
Chia Se speedily lent a hand in the getting up, and the preparations for
the performance, and each of the girls sang with a voice sufficient to
split the stones and danced in the manner of heavenly spirits; and
though their exterior was that of the characters in which they were
dressed up for the play, their acting nevertheless represented, in a
perfect manner, both sorrow as well as joy. As soon as the performance
was brought to a close, a eunuch walked in holding a golden salver
containing cakes, sweets, and the like, and inquired who was Ling Kuan;
and Chia Se readily concluding that these articles were presents
bestowed upon Ling Kuan, made haste to take them over, as he bade Ling
Kuan prostrate herself.
"The honourable consort," the eunuch further added, "directs that Ling
Kuan, who is the best actress of the lot, should sing two more songs;
any two will do, she does not mind what they are."
Chia Se at once expressed his obedience, and felt constrained to urge
Ling Kuan to sing the two ballads entitled: "The walk through the
garden" and "Frightened out of a dream." But Ling Kuan asserted that
these two ballads had not originally been intended for her own role; and
being firm in her refusal to accede and insisting upon rendering the two
songs "The Mutual Promise" and "The Mutual Abuse," Chia Se found it hard
to bring her round, and had no help but to let her have her own way. The
Chia consort was so extremely enchanted with her that she gave
directions that she should not be treated harshly, and that this girl
should receive a careful training, while besides the fixed number of
presents, she gave her two rolls of palace silk, two purses, gold and
silver ingots, and presents in the way of eatables.
Subsequently, when the banquet had been cleared, and she once more
prosecuted her visit through those places to which she had not been, she
quite accidentally espied the Buddhist Temple encircled by hills, and
promptly rinsing her hands, she walked in and burnt incense and
worshipped Buddha. She also composed the device for a tablet, "a humane
boat on the (world's) bitter sea," and went likewise so far as to show
special acts of additional grace to a company of ascetic nuns and Taoist
A eunuch came in a short while and reverently fell on his knees. "The
presents are all in readiness," he reported, "and may it please you to
inspect them and to distribute them, in compliance with custom;" and
presented to her a list, which the Chia consort perused from the very
top throughout without raising any objection, and readily commanding
that action should be taken according to the list, a eunuch descended
and issued the gifts one after another. The presents for dowager lady
Chia consisted, it may be added, of two sceptres, one of gold, the other
of jade, with "may your wishes be fulfilled" inscribed on them; a staff
made of lign-aloes; a string of chaplet beads of Chia-nan fragrant wood;
four rolls of imperial satins with words "Affluence and honours" and
Perennial Spring (woven in them); four rolls of imperial silk with
Perennial Happiness and Longevity; two shoes of purple gold bullion,
representing a pen, an ingot and "as you like;" and ten silver ingots
with the device "Felicitous Blessings." While the two shares for madame
Hsing and madame Wang were only short of hers by the sceptres and
staffs, four things in all. Chia She, Chia Cheng and the others had each
apportioned to him a work newly written by the Emperor, two boxes of
superior ink, and gold and silver cups, two pairs of each; their other
gifts being identical with those above. Pao-ch'ai, Tai-yü, all the
sisters and the rest were assigned each a copy of a new book, a fine
slab and two pair of gold and silver ornaments of a novel kind and
original shape; Pao-yü likewise receiving the same presents. Chia Lan's
gifts consisted of two necklets, one of gold, the other of silver, and
of two pair of gold ingots. Mrs. Yu, widow Li Wan, lady Feng and the
others had each of them, four ingots of gold and silver; and, in the way
of keepsakes, four pieces of silk. There were, in addition, presents
consisting of twenty-four pieces of silk and a thousand strings of good
cash to be allotted to the nurses, and waiting-maids, in the apartments
of dowager lady Chia, madame Wang and of the respective sisters; while
Chia Chen, Chia Lien, Chia Huan, Chia Jung and the rest had, every one,
for presents, a piece of silk, and a pair of gold and silver ingots.
As regards the other gifts, there were a hundred rolls of various
coloured silks, a thousand ounces of pure silver, and several bottles of
imperial wine, intended to be bestowed upon all the men-servants of the
mansions, on the East and the West, as well as upon those who had been
in the garden overseeing works, arranging the decorations, and in
waiting to answer calls, and upon those who looked after the theatres
and managed the lanterns. There being, besides, five hundred strings of
pure cash for the cooks, waiters, jugglers and hundreds of actors and
every kind of domestic.
The whole party had finished giving expression to their thanks for her
bounty, when the managers and eunuchs respectfully announced: "It is
already a quarter to three, and may it please your Majesty to turn back
your imperial chariot;" whereupon, much against her will, the Chia
consort's eyes brimmed over, and she once more gave vent to tears.
Forcing herself however again to put on a smile, she clasped old lady
Chia's and madame Wang's hands, and could not bring herself to let them
go; while she repeatedly impressed upon their minds: that there was no
need to give way to any solicitude, and that they should take good care
of their healths; that the grace of the present emperor was so vast,
that once a month he would grant permission for them to enter the palace
and pay her a visit. "It is easy enough for us to see each other," (she
said,) "and why should we indulge in any excess of grief? But when his
majesty in his heavenly generosity allows me another time to return
home, you shouldn't go in for such pomp and extravagance."
Dowager lady Chia and the other inmates had already cried to such an
extent that sobs choked their throats and they could with difficulty
give utterance to speech. But though the Chia consort could not
reconcile herself to the separation, the usages in vogue in the imperial
household could not be disregarded or infringed, so that she had no
alternative but to stifle the anguish of her heart, to mount her
chariot, and take her departure.
The whole family experienced meanwhile a hard task before they succeeded
in consoling the old lady and madame Wang and in supporting them away
out of the garden. But as what follows is not ascertained, the next
chapter will disclose it.
In the vehemence of her feelings, Hua (Hsi Jen) on a quiet evening
While (the spell) of affection continues unbroken, Pao-yü, on a still
day, perceives the fragrance emitted from Tai-yü's person.
The Chia consort, we must now go on to explain, returned to the Palace,
and the next day, on her appearance in the presence of His Majesty, she
thanked him for his bounty and gave him furthermore an account of her
experiences on her visit home. His Majesty's dragon countenance was much
elated, and he also issued from the privy store coloured satins, gold
and silver and such like articles to be presented to Chia Cheng and the
other officials in the various households of her relatives. But
dispensing with minute details about them, we will now revert to the two
mansions of Jung and Ning.
With the extreme strain on mind and body for successive days, the
strength of one and all was, in point of fact, worn out and their
respective energies exhausted. And it was besides after they had been
putting by the various decorations and articles of use for two or three
days, that they, at length, got through the work.
Lady Feng was the one who had most to do, and whose responsibilities
were greatest. The others could possibly steal a few leisure moments and
retire to rest, while she was the sole person who could not slip away.
In the second place, naturally anxious as she was to excel and both to
fall in people's estimation, she put up with the strain just as if she
were like one of those who had nothing to attend to. But the one who had
the least to do and had the most leisure was Pao-yü.
As luck would have it on this day, at an early hour, Hsi Jen's mother
came again in person and told dowager lady Chia that she would take Hsi
Jen home to drink a cup of tea brewed in the new year and that she would
return in the evening. For this reason Pao-yü was only in the company of
all the waiting-maids, throwing dice, playing at chess and amusing
himself. But while he was in the room playing with them with a total
absence of zest, he unawares perceived a few waiting-maids arrive, who
informed him that their senior master Mr. Chen, of the Eastern Mansion,
had come to invite him to go and see a theatrical performance, and the
fireworks, which were to be let off.
Upon hearing these words, Pao-yü speedily asked them to change his
clothes; but just as he was ready to start, presents of cream, steamed
with sugar, arrived again when least expected from the Chia Consort, and
Pao-yü recollecting with what relish Hsi Jen had partaken of this dish
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