“Excellent!” cried Shih-yin with a loud voice, after he had heard

“Excellent!” cried Shih-yin with a loud voice, after he had heard these lines; “I have repeatedly maintained that it was impossible for you to remain long inferior

to any, and now the verses you have recited are a prognostic of your rapid advancement. Already it is evident that, before long, you will extend your

footsteps far above the clouds! I must congratulate you! I must congratulate you! Let me, with my own hands, pour a glass of wine to pay you my compliments.”

Yü-ts’un drained the cup. “What I am about to say,” he explained as he suddenly heaved a sigh, “is not the maudlin talk of a man under the effects of wine. As far as the subjects at present set in the examinations go, I could,

perchance, also have well been able to enter the list, and to send in my name as a candidate; but I have, just now, no means whatever to make provision for

luggage and for travelling expenses. The distance too to Shen Ching is a long one, and I could not depend upon the sale of papers or the composition of essays to find the means of getting there.”

Shih-yin gave him no time to conclude. “Why did you not speak about this sooner?” he interposed with haste. “I have long entertained this suspicion;

but as, whenever I met you, this conversation was never broached, I did not presume to make myself officious. But if such be the state of affairs just now,

I lack, I admit, literary qualification, but on the two subjects of friendly spirit and pecuniary means, I have, nevertheless, some experience. Moreover, I rejoice

that next year is just the season for the triennial examinations, and you should start for the capital with all despatch; and in the tripos next spring, you will, by

carrying the prize, be able to do justice to the proficiency you can boast of. As regards the travelling expenses and the other items, the provision of everything

necessary for you by my own self will again not render nugatory your mean acquaintance with me.”

Forthwith, he directed a servant lad to go and pack up at once fifty taels of pure silver and two suits of winter clothes.

“The nineteenth,” he continued, “is a propitious day, and you should lose no time in hiring a boat and starting on your journey westwards. And when, by your

eminent talents, you shall have soared high to a lofty position, and we meet again next winter, will not the occasion be extremely felicitous?”

Yü-ts’un accepted the money and clothes with but scanty expression of gratitude. In fact, he paid no thought whatever to the gifts, but went on, again drinking his wine, as he chattered and laughed.

It was only when the third watch of that day had already struck that the two friends parted company;

and Shih-yin, after seeing Yü-ts’un off,

retired to his room and slept, with one sleep all through,

never waking until the sun was well up in the skies.

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Yü-ts’un lost no time in smiling and replying “It would be

Yü-ts’un lost no time in smiling and replying. “It would be presumption in my part to think so,” he observed. “I was simply at random humming a few verses

composed by former writers, and what reason is there to laud me to such an excessive degree? To what, my dear Sir, do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

he went on to inquire. “Tonight,” replied Shih-yin, “is the mid-autumn feast, generally known as the full-moon festival; and as I could not help thinking that living, as you my worthy brother are, as a mere stranger in this Buddhist temple,

you could not but experience the feeling of loneliness. I have, for the express purpose, prepared a small entertainment, and will be pleased if you will come to my mean abode to have a glass of wine. But I wonder whether you will entertain

favourably my modest invitation?” Yü-ts’un, after listening to the proposal, put forward no refusal of any sort; but remarked complacently: “Being the recipient of such marked attention, how can I presume to repel your generous consideration?”

As he gave expression to these words, he walked off there and then, in company with Shih-yin, and came over once again into the court in front of the library. In a few minutes, tea was over.

The cups and dishes had been laid from an early hour, and needless to say the wines were luscious; the fare sumptuous.

The two friends took their seats. At first they leisurely replenished their glasses, and quietly sipped their wine; but as, little by little, they entered into conversation, their good cheer grew more genial, and unawares the glasses began to fly round, and the cups to be exchanged.

At this very hour, in every house of the neighbourhood, sounded the fife and lute, while the inmates indulged in music and singing. Above head, the orb of the

radiant moon shone with an all-pervading splendour, and with a steady lustrous light, while the two friends, as their exuberance increased, drained their cups dry so soon as they reached their lips.

Yü-ts’un, at this stage of the collation, was considerably under the influence of wine, and the vehemence of his high spirits was irrepressible. As he gazed

at the moon, he fostered thoughts, to which he gave vent by the recital of a double couplet.

’Tis what time three meets five, Selene is a globe!

Her pure rays fill the court, the jadelike rails enrobe!

Lo! in the heavens her disk to view doth now arise,

And in the earth below to gaze men lift their eyes.

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When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back

When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back to rejoin Yü-ts’un, as he had come to know that he had already left.

 

In time the mid-autumn festivities drew near; and Shih-yin, after the family banquet was over, had a separate table laid in the library, and crossed over, in the moonlight, as far as the temple and invited Yü-ts’un to come round.

The fact is that Yü-ts’un, ever since the day on which he had seen the girl of the Chen family turn twice round to glance at him, flattered himself that she was friendly disposed towards him, and incessantly fostered fond thoughts of her in his heart. And on this day, which happened to be the mid-autumn feast, he could not, as he gazed at the moon, refrain from cherishing her remembrance. Hence it was that he gave vent to these pentameter verses:

Alas! not yet divined my lifelong wish,

And anguish ceaseless comes upon anguish

I came, and sad at heart, my brow I frowned;

She went, and oft her head to look turned round.

Facing the breeze, her shadow she doth watch,

Who’s meet this moonlight night with her to match?

The lustrous rays if they my wish but read

Would soon alight upon her beauteous head!

Yü-ts’un having, after this recitation, recalled again to mind how that throughout his lifetime his literary attainments had had an adverse fate and not met with an opportunity (of reaping distinction), went on to rub his brow, and as he raised his eyes to the skies, he heaved a deep sigh and once more intoned a couplet aloud:

The gem in the cask a high price it seeks,

The pin in the case to take wing it waits.

As luck would have it, Shih-yin was at the moment approaching,

and upon hearing the lines,

he said with a smile:

“My dear Yü-ts’un, really your attainments are of no ordinary capacity.”

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“Excellent! first rate!” exclaimed the Bonze. And at the conclusion

“Excellent! first rate!” exclaimed the Bonze. And at the conclusion of these words, the two men parted, each going his own way, and no trace was again seen of them.

“These two men,” Shih-yin then pondered within his heart, “must have had many experiences, and I ought really to have made more inquiries of them; but at this juncture to indulge in regret is anyhow too late.”

While Shih-yin gave way to these foolish reflections, he suddenly noticed the arrival of a penniless scholar, Chia by surname, Hua by name, Shih-fei by style

and Yü-ts’un by nickname, who had taken up his quarters in the Gourd temple next door. This Chia Yü-ts’un was originally a denizen of Hu-Chow, and was also

of literary and official parentage, but as he was born of the youngest stock, and the possessions of his paternal and maternal ancestors were completely

exhausted, and his parents and relatives were dead, he remained the sole and only survivor; and, as he found his residence in his native place of no avail, he

therefore entered the capital in search of that reputation, which would enable him to put the family estate on a proper standing. He had arrived at this place since

the year before last, and had, what is more, lived all along in very straitened circumstances. He had made the temple his temporary quarters, and earned a

living by daily occupying himself in composing documents and writing letters for customers. Thus it was that Shih-yin had been in constant relations with him.

As soon as Yü-ts’un perceived Shih-yin, he lost no time in saluting him. “My worthy Sir,” he observed with a forced smile; “how is it you are leaning against the

door and looking out? Is there perchance any news astir in the streets, or in the public places?”

“None whatever,” replied Shih-yin, as he returned the smile. “Just a while back, my young daughter was in sobs, and I coaxed her out here to amuse her. I am just now without anything whatever to attend to, so that, dear brother Chia, you

come just in the nick of time. Please walk into my mean abode, and let us endeavour, in each other’s company, to while away this long summer day.”

After he had made this remark, he bade a servant take his daughter in, while he, hand-in-hand with Yü-ts’un, walked into the library, where a young page served tea.

They had hardly exchanged a few sentences,

when one of the household came in,

in flying haste, to announce that Mr.

Yen had come to pay a visit.

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“The spirit of malignity and perversity, unable to expand

“The spirit of malignity and perversity, unable to expand under the brilliant sky and transmuting sun, eventually coagulates, pervades and stops up the deep gutters

and extensive caverns; and when of a sudden the wind agitates it or it be impelled by the clouds, and any slight disposition, on its part, supervenes to set itself in

motion, or to break its bounds, and so little as even the minutest fraction does

unexpectedly find an outlet, and happens to come across any spirit of perception and subtlety which may be at the time passing by, the spirit of right does not yield

to the spirit of evil, and the spirit of evil is again envious of the spirit of right, so that the two do not harmonize. Just like wind, water, thunder and lightning, which, when they meet in the bowels of the earth, must necessarily, as they are both to

dissolve and are likewise unable to yield, clash and explode to the end that they may at length exhaust themselves. Hence it is

that these spirits have also forcibly to diffuse themselves into the human race to find an outlet, so that they may then completely

disperse, with the result that men and women are suddenly imbued

with these spirits and spring into existence. At best, (these human beings) cannot be generated into philanthropists or perfect men; at worst, they cannot also embody extreme perversity or extreme wickedness. Yet placed among one million beings, the spirit of intelligence, refinement, perception and subtlety will be above

these one million beings; while, on the other hand, the perverse, depraved and inhuman embodiment will likewise be below the

million of men. Born in a noble and wealthy family, these men will be a salacious, lustful lot; born of literary,

virtuous or poor parentage, they will turn out retired scholars or men of mark; though they may by some accident be born in a

destitute and poverty-stricken home, they cannot possibly, in fact, ever sink so low as to become runners or

menials, or contentedly brook to be of the common herd or to be driven and curbed like a horse in harness. They will become, for a certainty, either actors of

note or courtesans of notoriety; as instanced in former years by Hsü Yu, T’ao Ch’ien, Yuan Chi, Chi Kang, Liu Ling, the two families of Wang and Hsieh, Ku Hu-

t’ou, Ch’en Hou-chu, T’ang Ming-huang, Sung Hui-tsung, Liu T’ing-chih, Wen Fei-ching, Mei Nan-kung, Shih Man-ch’ing, Lui C’hih-ch’ing and Chin Shao-yu, and

exemplified now-a-days by Ni Yün-lin, T’ang Po-hu, Chu Chih-shan, and also by Li Kuei-men, Huang P’an-cho, Ching Hsin-mo, Cho Wen-chün; and the women

Hung Fu, Hsieh T’ao, Ch’ü Ying, Ch’ao Yün and others; all of whom were and are of the same stamp, though placed in different scenes of action.”

“From what you say,”

observed Tzu-hsing,

“success makes (a man)

a duke or a marquis; ruin, a thief!”

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He was about to come in, when he caught sight of two priests

He was about to come in, when he caught sight of two priests, one a Taoist, the other a Buddhist, coming hither from the opposite direction. The Buddhist had a head covered with mange, and went barefooted. The Taoist had a limping foot, and his hair was all dishevelled.

 

Like maniacs, they jostled along, chattering and laughing as they drew near.

As soon as they reached Shih-yin’s door, and they perceived him with Ying Lien in his arms, the Bonze began to weep aloud.

Turning towards Shih-yin, he said to him: “My good Sir, why need you carry in your embrace this living but luckless thing, which will involve father and mother in trouble?”

These words did not escape Shih-yin’s ear; but persuaded that they amounted to raving talk, he paid no heed whatever to the bonze.

“Part with her and give her to me,” the Buddhist still went on to say.

Shih-yin could not restrain his annoyance; and hastily pressing his daughter closer to him, he was intent upon going in, when the bonze pointed his hand at him, and burst out in a loud fit of laughter.

He then gave utterance to the four lines that follow:

You indulge your tender daughter and are laughed at as inane;

Vain you face the snow, oh mirror! for it will evanescent wane,

When the festival of lanterns is gone by, guard ‘gainst your doom,

’Tis what time the flames will kindle, and the fire will consume.

Shih-yin understood distinctly the full import of what he heard; but his heart was still full of conjectures. He was about to inquire who and what they were, when he heard the Taoist remark,—“You and I cannot speed together; let us now part company, and each of us will be then able to go after his own business. After the lapse of three ages,

I shall be at the Pei Mang mount, waiting for you;

and we can, after our reunion,

betake ourselves to the Visionary Confines of the Great Void,

there to cancel the name of the stone from the records.”

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Tzu-hsing upon perceiving the weighty import of what he

Tzu-hsing upon perceiving the weighty import of what he propounded, “Please explain,” he asked hastily, “the drift (of your argument).” To which Yü-ts’un

responded: “Of the human beings created by the operation of heaven and earth, if we exclude those who are gifted with extreme benevolence and extreme

viciousness, the rest, for the most part, present no striking diversity. If they be extremely benevolent, they fall in, at the time of their birth, with an era of

propitious fortune; while those extremely vicious correspond, at the time of their existence, with an era of calamity. When those who coexist with propitious fortune

come into life, the world is in order; when those who coexist with unpropitious fortune come into life, the world is in danger. Yao, Shun, Yü, Ch’eng T’ang, Wen

Wang, Wu Wang, Chou Kung, Chao Kung, Confucius, Mencius, T’ung Hu, Han Hsin, Chou Tzu, Ch’eng Tzu, Chu Tzu and Chang Tzu were ordained to see light

in an auspicious era. Whereas Ch’i Yu, Kung Kung, Chieh Wang, Chou Wang,

Shih Huang, Wang Mang, Tsao Ts’ao, Wen Wen, An Hu-shan, Ch’in Kuei and others were one and all destined to come into the world during a calamitous age.

Those endowed with extreme benevolence set the world in order; those possessed of extreme maliciousness turn the world into disorder. Purity,

intelligence, spirituality and subtlety constitute the vital spirit of right which pervades heaven and earth, and the persons gifted with benevolence are its

natural fruit. Malignity and perversity constitute the spirit of evil, which permeates heaven and earth, and malicious persons are affected by its influence. The days of perpetual happiness and eminent good fortune, and the era of perfect peace

and tranquility, which now prevail, are the offspring of the pure, intelligent, divine

and subtle spirit which ascends above, to the very Emperor, and below reaches the rustic and uncultured classes. Every one is

without exception under its influence. The superfluity of the subtle spirit expands far and wide, and finding nowhere to betake itself to, becomes, in due course,

transformed into dew,

or gentle breeze; and,

by a process of diffusion,

it pervades the whole world.

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Shih-yin received it. On scrutiny he found it, in fact

Shih-yin received it. On scrutiny he found it, in fact, to be a beautiful gem, so lustrous and so clear that the traces of characters on the surface were distinctly

 

visible. The characters inscribed consisted of the four “T’ung Ling Pao Yü,” “Precious Gem of Spiritual Perception.” On the obverse, were also several

columns of minute words, which he was just in the act of looking at intently, when the Buddhist at once expostulated.

“We have already reached,” he exclaimed, “the confines of vision.” Snatching it violently out of his hands, he walked away with the Taoist, under a lofty stone

portal, on the face of which appeared in large type the four characters: “T’ai Hsü Huan Ching,” “The Visionary limits of the Great Void.” On each side was a scroll with the lines:

When falsehood stands for truth, truth likewise becomes false,

Where naught be made to aught, aught changes into naught.

Shih-yin meant also to follow them on the other side, but, as he was about to make one step forward, he suddenly heard a crash, just as if the mountains had

fallen into ruins, and the earth sunk into destruction. As Shih-yin uttered a loud shout, he looked with strained eye; but all he could see was the fiery sun shining,

with glowing rays, while the banana leaves drooped their heads. By that time, half of the circumstances connected with the dream he had had, had already slipped from his memory.

He also noticed a nurse coming towards him with Ying Lien in her arms. To Shih-yin’s eyes his daughter appeared even more beautiful, such a bright gem, so

precious, and so lovable. Forthwith stretching out his arms, he took her over, and, as he held her in his embrace,

he coaxed her to play with him for a while;

after which he brought her up to the street to

see the great stir occasioned by the procession that was going past.

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Tzu-hsing gave a faint smile. “One and all,” he remarked,

Tzu-hsing gave a faint smile. “One and all,” he remarked, “entertain the same idea. Hence it is that his mother doats upon him like upon a precious jewel. On

the day of his first birthday, Mr. Cheng readily entertained a wish to put the bent of his inclinations to the test, and placed before the child all kinds of things, without

number, for him to grasp from. Contrary to every expectation, he scorned every other object, and, stretching forth his hand, he simply took hold of rouge, powder and a few hair-pins, with which he began to play. Mr. Cheng experienced at once

displeasure, as he maintained that this youth would, by and bye, grow up into a sybarite, devoted to wine and women, and for this reason it is, that he soon began to feel not much attachment for him. But his grandmother is the one who, in spite

of everything, prizes him like the breath of her own life. The very mention of what happened is even strange! He is now grown up to be seven or eight years old,

and, although exceptionally wilful, in intelligence and precocity, however, not one in a hundred could come up to him! And as for the utterances of this child, they are no less remarkable. The bones and flesh of woman, he argues, are made of

water, while those of man of mud. ‘Women to my eyes are pure and pleasing,’ he says, ‘while at the sight of man, I readily feel how corrupt, foul and repelling they

are!’ Now tell me, are not these words ridiculous? There can be no doubt whatever that he will by and bye turn out to be a licentious roué.”

Yü-ts’un, whose countenance suddenly assumed a stern air, promptly interrupted the conversation. “It doesn’t quite follow,” he suggested. “You people don’t, I

regret to say, understand the destiny of this child. The fact is that even the old Hanlin scholar Mr. Cheng was erroneously looked upon as a loose rake and

dissolute debauchee! But unless a person, through much study of books and knowledge of letters,

so increases (in lore) as to attain the talent of discerning the nature of things,

and the vigour of mind to fathom the Taoist

reason as well as to comprehend the first principle,

he is not in a position to form any judgment.”

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“It is indeed ridiculous,” interposed the Taoist

“It is indeed ridiculous,” interposed the Taoist. “Never before have I heard even the very mention of restitution by means of tears!

Why should not you and I avail ourselves of this opportunity to likewise go down into the world?

and if successful in effecting the salvation of a few of them, will it not be a work meritorious and virtuous?”

“This proposal,” remarked the Buddhist, “is quite in harmony with my own views. Come along then with me to the palace of the Monitory Vision Fairy, and let us deliver up this good-for-nothing object, and have done with it! And when the

company of pleasure-bound spirits of wrath descend into human existence, you and I can then enter the world. Half of them have already fallen into the dusty

universe, but the whole number of them have not, as yet, come together.”

“Such being the case,” the Taoist acquiesced, “I am ready to follow you, whenever you please to go.”

But to return to Chen Shih-yin. Having heard every one of these words distinctly, he could not refrain from forthwith stepping

forward and paying homage. “My spiritual lords,” he said, as he smiled, “accept my obeisance.” The Buddhist and Taoist priests

lost no time in responding to the compliment, and they exchanged the usual salutations. “My spiritual lords,” Shih-yin

continued; “I have just heard the conversation that passed between you, on causes and effects, a conversation the like of which few mortals have forsooth listened to; but your younger

brother is sluggish of intellect, and cannot lucidly fathom the import! Yet could this dulness and simplicity be graciously

dispelled, your younger brother may, by listening minutely, with

undefiled ear and careful attention, to a certain degree be aroused to a sense of understanding; and what is more, possibly

find the means of escaping the anguish of sinking down into Hades.”

The two spirits smiled, “The conversation,” they added, “refers to the primordial scheme and cannot be divulged before the proper season; but, when the time

comes, mind do not forget us two, and you will readily be able to escape from the fiery furnace.”

Shih-yin, after this reply, felt it difficult to make any further inquiries. “The primordial scheme,” he however remarked smiling, “cannot, of course, be

divulged; but what manner of thing, I wonder, is the good-for-nothing object you alluded to a short while back? May I not be allowed to judge for myself?”

“This object about which you ask,”

the Buddhist Bonze responded, “is intended,

I may tell you, by fate to be just glanced at by you.”

With these words he produced it, and handed it over to Shih-yin.

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