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Adventure of a US Girl in Ancient China

发表于 11/1/2016 12:10:31 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
The day broke fine and clear. The sun showed his ruddy face above the horizon and clambered out by degrees. His face then turned radiant and dazzling. It was the Valentine Day in 2004—the day for lovers to meet. Linda was a blonde with sky-blue eyes and a model's figure, exactly the type akin to a goddess in Greek mythology. She was a senior in a local high school in Bergen County, New Jersey, a girl full of fanciful whim. But she could still use her reason to deal with everything in reality and could restrain herself against impulses. She was also a cheerleader and a member of astronomy society in the school.
            She had a telescope set up in her room at the window. Of a clear night, she would watch the starry sky, imagining herself flitting among the sparkling stars like an angel. She always thought that the sky was really her home. Her great ambition since a little girl was to be a woman astronaut so that she could travel in a genuine spaceship to explore the mystic outer space. She wanted to see everything in the universe in person, not just on science movies. Once she dreamt that she was hovering in the nocturnal sky and approaching a sparkling star. She knew that stars should be fiery balls like the sun. But when she got close enough, she found that it was an enormous ruby reflecting the light of other stars. She was about to take it into her hands when she was awakened by the alarm clock. It was time to go to school.
A certain astrologist told her parents that a girl endowed with such a spirit and temperament might magnetize some mysterious force in the universe, but Linda did not care. As a matter of fact, she longed for it so that she could have some unpredictable change in her boring routine life. She often manifested that a day passed in an exciting adventure was more worth living than a hundred tedious years.
            Frank lived next door and was her playmate since childhood, and now in the same classroom of the same school. They went to school together every morning and came home together every evening. Their fellow students jested that Frank was the shadow of Linda as shadows cannot be separated from objects. Frank joined the school football team and every time he played in a contest Linda would cheer for him at the side of the court.
            That day, they exchanged gifts, a box of chocolate for her and a new tie for him to wear on the prom night a couple of months away. They would soon graduate from high school. They might go to separate colleges as their interest in the life's goal was different, but they could still get together during the vacations and after graduation since the love between them was a strong rope to tie them together. The eternal separation for them seemed impossible in their opinion.
One day Frank took Linda out for a spin in his new convertible that his father had given him as a gift for his seventeenth birthday. They went to the highway and Frank drove at a high speed.
“Don’t drive so fast. You’re way over the speed limit.” Linda warned.
“Watch out for the cops for me.” Frank suggested, “It’s all right. Only eighty. Most people drive at eighty on this highway.”
Linda knew that she could not dissuade him. Frank was sometimes very stubborn. The late afternoon wind blew Linda’s long golden hair flying behind her like the tail of a comet. Frank seemed to accelerate in his high spirits.   Linda had a last resort that she could take to make Frank listen to her.
“If you don’t decelerate, I won’t go with you any farther.”
“What do you mean?” Frank glanced at her face in doubt. He was at a loss to understand Linda.
“I’ll jump out.” Linda said calmly.
“You kidding?” Frank was surprised to hear it. He knew that Linda often did something out of his expectation. But this time it was too drastic. Before he could say anything else, Linda began to unbuckle her seat belt. Frank hastily lessened the speed, but when he turned to check on Linda to see if she had really jumped out, Linda was nowhere to be seen. She was not in the convertible. She was not on the surface of the road if she had jumped out. At that time there was not much traffic. She could not jump into the passing cars of other people. She just vanished into the thin air like the steam having evaporated.
He had to hurry back and inform her parents of the serious situation. They reported the accident to the police, who sent out the message throughout the nation, but Linda could not be found anywhere in the country. 
 楼主| 发表于 11/2/2016 07:24:57 | 显示全部楼层
chapter 1

Linda was sucked into a space tunnel by a mysterious cosmic force. She was in a state of dream. She dreamt that she was spinning in an airy whirlpool and feeling dizzy. She wanted to cry, but no sound escaped her mouth. She felt like being suffocated. She fell into a swoon. When she came to, she found herself outside a huge city in the broad daylight. She lay on a meadow half a mile away. She was not sure whether she was still in a dream or not. She pinched herself on the left forearm and felt pain. She closed her eyes and lay there for a few minutes longer. The sun shone on her face warmly and a gust of wind played on her long hair. It must be spring right now.
When she got to her feet she beheld people hurrying towards the city on the thoroughfare, which was paved with dry mud, and which, in her opinion, was too narrow, compared with the highways in America. All the people she saw on the thoroughfare were dressed in weird clothes, which looked like a kind of gowns. The gowns most people wore were shabby, in a single dull color of grey, blue or black. They were shod in cloth shoes with holes here and there, or in straw slippers. A few were donned in silk or brocade of red, green or colorfulness. No doubt, they were from rich families. Some horses with riders on them galloped towards the city and a horse-drawn carriage or two just rolled by in the opposite direction.
           Linda walked among the poor people into the city. She was aware that mingling with these people, she looked weird, like a queer fish out of water. People around her looked at her, too. To them she was dressed in weird clothes: a denim jacket and pants of jeans with a pair of snickers on her feet.
            She realized that somehow she had got into a strange land. She caught some broken words from the conversation between people around her. She decided that it was Chinese as she had had some Chinese girlfriends at school and had known a few Chinese words. And the faces she saw in the streets looked like those of Orientals. She wondered how she could have landed in China. Perhaps she had gone through the center of the Earth and emerged on the other hemisphere.
She strolled in the streets, not knowing what to do and where to go. She was a stranger in this big city. She could not guess what city it was as China had so many cities. She only knew Beijing, the capital, and Shanghai, the largest city in China. She wandered aimlessly. She estimated that this main street was fifteen feet wide, with shops lined on both sides. The shops did not have shop windows. They opened from wall to wall. She could look right into the shops and see what they were doing or selling. When she heard some striking noise like iron hitting iron, she looked into it. It was a blacksmith’s shop, swords and spears on the shelves against a shop wall and bows and quivers of arrows hanging on another wall. One shop displayed scrolls of colorful cloth, silk and brocade. A shop assistant was measuring a scroll of pink cloth with a ruler for a female customer. A confectioner across the street sold all sorts of sweets, from malt candy to sweetened dried fruits. One store she could not recognize, because it was an herb store (drugstore). Herbs were not supposed on display. There were cabinets with rows of small drawers in them standing against the rear wall. One kind of herb was stored in one drawer. There was a long counter in the middle of the shop facing the street and separating the shop into two parts. The shop assistants stood behind the counter and the customers before it. When a customer came with a prescription, a shop assistant would take the herbs one by one from the drawers and weigh them on a small steelyard to the right amount stated on the prescription. Every herb was put on a small piece of paper and wrapped up. Then all the wrapped herbs were laid on a large piece of paper and wrapped into a big package. So the prescription was ready to be picked. The Chinese herbs must be decocted in water in an earthen pot. No metal pot was allowed to use. It was said that the herbs might have some unexpected chemical reactions with the metal. When the water looked like a juice of a dark color, it was ready to be taken. The dark juice was poured into a bowl with the dregs left in the pot. The patient only drank the dark juice. The dregs were thrown away at night on the middle of the street just before the front door of the patient. It was believed that when a passerby stepped over the dregs left on the street, he would take the sickness away from the patient. As for whether the passerby would get sick or not, it was not known nor stated in this bad tradition.
Whenever she passed a restaurant, she could judge all right from the people sitting round tables covered with plates of food. For some she could easily find out by the cooking smell wafted out from the kitchen. Standing in front of a restaurant, a sudden feeling of hunger struck her. She looked at her watch on her left wrist. It was half past one. No wonder she felt starved.
Looking at the people inside busily swallowing food, she had wished that she could have eaten something in that restaurant, but she did not know how she could pay for the meal.
            From the fact that there were no cars running in the streets, no public phones anywhere and no modern equipments to be seen, she concluded that she had plunged in a different period of times than hers—times much earlier in the human history. She had watched enough movies about time machines in America and had enough knowledge to draw such a conclusion. Although she had not entered any time machine, she had no doubt about it.
            She had a 20 dollar bill in her pocket, but she was sure that she could not use it here. She felt the banknote in her pocket once more and fortunately she touched chocolate there. Frank had given her a dozen and she had six left. She took out one piece, and stripping it, put into her mouth. But she could not live on her chocolate for long.        
She walked on and on till she came to a place where she saw some women dressed in ancient Persian clothes, which she had seen on TV when at home. She went up to them for help. But as she approached, she heard them speaking a language she did not understand. Those were the wives and daughters of the Persian merchants who came here to trade their goods. So they were speaking Persian. Then she noticed a young man in the crowd looking like an Englishman. She went straight to him and said “Hello!” He did come from England, though the words and sentences he was using sounded like from Shakespeare’s plays. Luckily she had learned some Shakespeare’s works in high school. So they conversed for a while. From him she learned that it was in the sixteenth century and the city was Peking, the capital of China in Ming Dynasty (1368—1644). She could not understand why the capital was called Peking, not Beijing. Maybe it was a dialect.
            She asked, “What is the currency used here?” The young Englishman took out of his purse some broken silver and a few brass coins, each with a square hole in the middle so that the coins could be put on a string. People tied both ends of the string into a knot to form a coin ring. They would put an arm through the ring and move it up onto the shoulder. Thus it was easy to carry
Then he picked a big piece of broken silver from his open palm and said to her, “People just weigh the silver piece to decide its value. The basic unit is one tael, like a pound in English currency. They have smaller units, such as qian equal to one-tenth of a tael, and fen equal to one-hundredth of a tael, somewhat like shilling and pence in our system.”
            Linda thought how she could get some silver bits to tide her over till she found a job. She doubted whether she could be back at home in the future. She might live in China in the sixteenth century for life. So she must work to support herself. She felt that she could trust in the young man and consulted him. He said, “You can work for my father, who is a merchant coming here from England. Can you read and write?” She nodded. “You can be his secretary. You look so smart.” He remarked.
            The young man worked as a secretary for his father and he did not like this boring work. He aspired after adventures in a foreign land, wielding a sword, not sitting in an office and holding a quill all day long. Now he was happy to find a substitute.
            They walked side by side while talking. Suddenly she turned her face to him and said, “Can I borrow some money from you? I'll pay back when I get my salary.” Then she added, “I want to buy some food.”
            “You didn’t have your lunch yet?” He wondered. “It’s long past the lunch time.” He looked up at the sun in the sky, and fished a watch out of his fob to check the time.
            “I don’t have money.” She pleaded.
            “All right. I'll take you to a restaurant.” He observed. “It seems the first time you are here.”
            “Yes.” She replied curtly.
            “How did you come here?”
            “I came with my father.”
            “Where’s your father now?” queried the young man.
            “Last night we lost our way in the mountains and met a tiger. My father fought with it while signaling me to run away. I don't know how my poor father is now, or even alive.” She said in her heart, “Sorry, dad.” She began to pretend to weep. Surely, she had every reason to weep for herself, not for her father, who was now safe in America in the twenty-first century. She herself was away from sweet home, now in a strange country and in a strange time.
            She followed him into a restaurant. When at home, she had had Chinese food from time to time. So she was familiar with the smell and the taste. In fact, she liked Chinese food. She had some egg rolls and a bowl of wanton soup while he sat across from her, sipping tea. After she finished eating, he took her to his father’s house a few blocks away.
 楼主| 发表于 11/3/2016 08:22:29 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 2

Mr. Smith, the father of the young man, was shrewd and stingy. He had his son do the secretarial work for him so that he did not need to pay him salary, though he gave him monthly allowance, which was much less than the salary he would pay when he hired a secretary. But his son made a lot of mistakes, which caused him trouble and headache. He should know that cheap pay could not result in good work. Now his son brought home the girl to be his secretary. He only hoped that she could work better than his son, at least worth the pay he would give her. He would pay her less than the average salary, but Linda was contented with the little income as she did not know what the average pay was at that time.
Since he paid her salary, he thought that he must get his money’s worth. So besides the secretarial work, he bade the girl to do all the housework, including cleaning, cooking and washing.
How could Linda cook and wash clothes? When in America, she had ordered pizza when hungry and thrown all the dirty clothes into a washing machine. But there was no washing machine in the sixteenth century in China. She must wash them with bare hands. She carried the dirty clothes in a basket and went to the nearest stream. She watched other women how to wash clothes. They soaked the clothes in water and took them up and put on a smooth stone above the water. Then they beat the wet clothes with a wooden stick till the dirt on the clothes was squeezed out with water. Then they dipped the clothes in water again and shook them in water to let the dirt go with the current. After a while they took them up and wrung water out of the clothes. She followed suit. After washing, she put the clothes back into the basket and went home. She was told to hang the wet clothes on lines tied between trees to dry.
            As for cooking, she often forgot to add salt to the dishes and sometimes burned the meat. Mr. Smith would deduct some money from her salary for the meat burnt. For several times, Mr. Smith had half a mind to fire her, but he knew that he could not get any other person to do all the work with so low salary. At least her secretarial work was satisfactory.
The young man, Albert Smith, was always not at home. He was seeking adventures somewhere else. Once the young man returned home with a black eye. Although he had learned fencing before he came to China, yet fencing was nothing compared with Chinese kungfu. When one used kungfu, he could kick while practicing fencing, no one kicked. And a kungfu person could use any weapon, including heavy steel club, while a fencing person only used a thin rapier. There were so many advantages in kungfu over fencing. So he was now learning kungfu from a famous master. Linda wished that next time when he fought against anyone, he had better give black eye than get it.
As Mr. Smith was busy with his business and Albert was away from home, Linda felt lonely and had no one to talk to, though she never talked to the father unless necessary. She was a little afraid of him with a potbelly and a pudgy build. He stared at her with a fierce look in his eyes whenever speaking to her. Once she forgot to polish his shoes, he deducted some money from her salary for the negligence of her job.
She toiled from morning till night and worked her fingers to the bone. She began to hate the heartless old man. However, she had at least earned some money and bought some clothes of the Ming-Dynasty style. She did not want to be conspicuous with bizarre clothes on among other people. Attraction of public attention was not a good thing in ancient China, especially for a pretty girl, she was told. She threw her modern American clothes away.
One day she bought a fish from the market. She cut the head of the fish off and thought that it were Mr. Smith’s head. Then she felt a little better. Another day when she got a piece of meat, she would beat it as if she were beating Mr. Smith. When she felt much better, she cooked the meat while humming a pop song to herself.
            One afternoon she went out shopping for vegetables and meat for supper. As she looked so beautiful, almost everyone within the sight either glanced or gazed at her. Just then, a big guy came from the other end of the street. He had a sword hanging from the girdle round his waist. All the pedestrians stepped aside to let him pass. A miserable dog got in his way and he kicked it up with his big foot. The dog flew up like a bird, landed on a roof and rolled down onto the ground. It whined in pain and quickly limped away to escape a second kick. At that time in China, most houses were bungalows, and low.
            People in the street just looked on at the scene. No one dared to say anything to this huge guy, especially with a sword hanging on his side. When he got close to Linda, he exclaimed, “Oh, by Buddha! What a beauty! She belongs to me.” He roared in merry laughter. He came to her side and snatched her up and put her on his right shoulder like he were shouldering a sack of rice. Linda fisted him on the back, shouting, “Let me down! Let me down!” She said these words in Chinese, though the pronunciation was not so good, but understandable. She had known a little Chinese when at home because some of her classmates were Chinese-Americans. Since she arrived in China, she had started to learn some more Chinese. She knew that she must overcome the language obstacle, or her life here would be more difficult. She learned easily. She was really a language genius.
            The big guy was kidnapping a girl in the broad daylight before so many eyes. Although this was much more serious than the kicking of a dog, yet no one said anything to him. People just stared in silence. The big guy carried Linda away. Just then, the sound of galloping hooves was heard. People in the narrow street stepped aside to avoid any accident.
            Soon a white steed came into sight. A young woman sat steadily on the horseback. She was dressed in a dark green upper garment and light-green trousers, in a Chinese style, both of silk. Her little delicate feet were incased in so small shoes of greenish brocade. Ah, the stirrup was of silver. She came from a rich family. Her hair was done in a knot on the top of her head with pearls strung together in the shape of a butterfly stuck in it. In her right hand, she held a long whip. She halted the horse in front of the big guy and said in her ringing voice, “Let her down.”
            The guy sneered at her. “Who you think you are.”
            “You don’t know me personally, I'm sure, but you may have heard of my nickname.” At that time, kungfu people, both men and women, used nicknames. As a matter of fact, it was not they themselves who wanted to use nicknames. Other people in the karate circle gave them nicknames based on their own conducts. Therefore, the nicknames would reflect their personality and general behavior.
            “What's it?”
            “Green Phoenix.” She was famous in the kungfu world since she always helped the needy and gave money and things to the poor like some good knights in the middle age in England. Only in England there were no lady knights. Of course, the big guy had heard of Green Phoenix, but he was not afraid of her. He thought to himself, “I’m a big guy. You are only a tiny woman. How can you fight me without being defeated?” He forgot the fact that in kungfu world, it did not depend on the strength born with, but on the kungfu, which would produce great force even from a small stature. The higher one’s kungfu level was, the stronger he or she would be in fight, including kungfu maneuver skills.
            The big guy shifted Linda from his right shoulder to the left and drew out his sword with his right hand. He took the initiative and thrust his sword towards the right leg of Green Phoenix, who was still on the horseback with the guy at her right side. She cracked her whip at his right hand. As the whip was much longer, it hit the guy’s hand before he could reach her with his sword. The whip came so quick that he had no time to change his move. It meant that his kungfu level was much lower. Blood was seen on his hand and a sharp pain released the sword in his grip. It fell on the ground with a clang. He could not believe that he was defeated in the first round. He attributed his defeat to his slighting a woman.
            He let go of Linda, who was about to drop on the ground and might get hurt when the thin end of the long whip flitted by under her body and entwined on her waist. The young woman jerked back the whip with the girl entwined on the other end. As the girl flew over, she held out both her hands and caught her in the air. She let Linda sit behind her on the horseback.
            The big guy picked up his sword and rushed towards Green Phoenix. He would not acknowledge his defeat at the first round. He used his sword as an ax and cut at her hip. She twirled her whip tightly round the blade of his sword and gave a great pull. The force was so gigantic that the guy, though a giant as he was, could not hold his sword any longer. The sword flew away from his hand and landed on the nearby roof. This time the guy knew that he was no match for her and turned to run away for his dear life. Taking the advantage of her long whip, Green Phoenix gave his butts a final hit as a warning and a lesson as well as farewell bidding.
 楼主| 发表于 11/4/2016 07:44:06 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 3

Linda told Green Phoenix her distorted story when they sat in a tea room. She even shed a couple of tears like a crocodile. Green Phoenix sympathized with her and consoled her.
“Now tell me where you will go.” Green Phoenix asked the girl.
“I don’t know.” Linda was now in real tears. “I have no relatives, no friends in this city.”
Since such a nasty accident had happened to her, Green Phoenix could not let her go alone for fear that the big guy would be lurking somewhere to get the girl again when she left the girl alone. So she took her to her inn. She told the waiter to put up another bed for her. From now on she would keep an eye on her round the clock. She even tied a string round the wrist of Linda’s left hand and tied the other end of the string on her own right wrist when they went to bed so that if anyone wanted to snatch the girl away in their sleep, the pull at the string would wake her up. But nothing happened the whole night.
            Green Phoenix came from Soochow, a big city to the south of Yangtze River in an eastern province of China. She had been on a journey to the north on some private errand and now would be back to her home city. She would take Linda there and put her up for the time being in her house till she found her father, which she could never achieve since her father was away in America and in the distant future, almost four centuries ahead.
            Before they left the city, Linda went to see Mr. Smith, accompanied by Green Phoenix. She told him that she was quitting the job. Mr. Smith roared at her in wrath.
            “You can’t quit like that. You must give me at least a week’s notice.”
            “I can’t.” Linda pleaded, telling him the episode of the big guy kidnapping her.
            “That’s your problem. If you leave now, I won’t pay you a farthing.”
            Green Phoenix cut in, “Let’s go. We don’t need his stinking pelf.”
            Linda bade adieu to Mr. Smith. Albert was out as always. Linda felt that she owed something to him. It was he who pulled her out of her plight and gave her a job, which at least meant bread and board to her, though temporarily. So she was grateful to him.  
Green Phoenix and Linda started their journey south. They shared the horse, with Linda sitting behind. They let the horse amble through the busy streets. Linda gave her final glance around at all the things past her. She could never surmise that Fate would bring her back again in this city.
Once out of the city, the horse galloped on the thoroughfare. The pedestrians always kept at the side of the road. Some distance away, they saw a carriage lying in the middle of the road, on its side. There must be an accident. Two men dressed like servants were doing something at the carriage. Green Phoenix told Linda to hold her waist tight and spurred her horse to the full speed. The horse seemed to know the intention of its mistress, jumped over the carriage and continued its gallop.
They went along the Great Canal, which had been dug out by the order of Emperor Yang, the second and last emperor in the Sui Dynasty. (581—618 A. D.) It goes from north to south, from the Yellow River to the Yangtze River.
            On the way Green Phoenix told Linda a story about Emperor Yang. Once he sailed down the Great Canal on a dragon-shaped ship. He had the ship towed by a hundred young girls in colorful silk clothes and a hundred white sheep covered with multicolored cloth, a sheep before a girl. On both banks along the canal grew two rows of green willow trees. So the sight was really attractive and there were many spectators. Some of them were the parents or relatives of the girls. They wanted to be close to the girls to see that nothing serious would happen to them. They had had the promise that once the ship reached the destination, the girls could go home.
            Three days later they came across a bazaar outside a town in front of a temple building. The temple housed the town god. It was the tradition that every city or town had a temple built for the guardian god in suburbs and bazaars were always held in the wide space before it. In the bazaar there were all kinds of things on display on the ground for sale. Some food booths dotted here and there. Crowds of people were moving this way and that. Most people would go first into the temple to worship the town god for his blessing and then came out to bargain for things they wanted to buy or to stuff their stomachs with delicious food. In a corner place beside the temple a few people were performing some kungfu feats like in a circus, surrounded by many spectators. When they finished, one of the performers went round with his cap upside down for money. Spectators would throw a few coins in the cap. If the performers were lucky, some rich men would give them pieces of broken silver. Seizing this opportunity, one or two fortune-tellers would put up a small table somewhere in the bazaar. They would also write letters for the illiterate people to get a few coins.
            The collective noise was so great that one had to shout to be heard. Green Phoenix tied her horse to a tree before the temple and promised a beggar sitting against the temple wall some money if he could watch the horse till she was back. The beggar was glad to comply.
Green Phoenix and Linda roamed among the crowds. They came to a food booth and ordered a bowl of noodle for Green Phoenix and a plate of fried wonton for Linda. While eating, Green Phoenix saw a fortune-teller, an old man, not far from the booth. When finishing, they went to the fortune-teller’s table. There was a bench at the other side of the table for clients. Green Phoenix and Linda sat down on the bench.
            Chinese fortune-telling is different from that in other cultures. The gypsies will use a pack of tarot cards or a crystal ball. In Chinese fortune telling, besides palm-reading and face-reading, the fortune teller should acquire eight Chinese characters, two of them representing the year, two standing for the month, two for the date, which represent a person's birthday, and the last two for the hour the person was born in. The eight characters are the essentials in Chinese fortune telling. In ancient China, people didn't have the clock. They used the sundial or the water timer. The time of a whole day was divided into twelve equal sections, one equivalent to two hours of the present time count. Each section had a Chinese character to represent it. So there were twelve characters for the twelve sections of a day's time. These twelve characters formed a group called dizhi. Another group of ten Chinese characters, called tiangan, was invented. The first character of the tiangan group was used together with the first character of dizhi group to form a pair to mark the first date of the year and the first year when people first set up the lunar calendar. (The two characters are used for the month only in fortune telling. In everyday life the ancient people used the first moon or the second moon of the year, etc., in the lunar calendar.) Then the second pair of characters was chosen in the same way, and then the third pair till the tenth pair. As the dizhi group had twelve characters, while the tiangan group had only ten, the eleventh character in dizhi group was paired with the first character in tiangan group and the twelfth with the second, then the first character in dizhi group paired with the third character in tiangan group. Therefore, every sixty years, the same cycle was repeated. The year, the month, the date and the hour were each represented by two characters in fortune telling. When a fortune teller arranged the eight characters in a certain way, aided by other information from a fortune-telling book—like five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth—he could tell a person’s fortune year by year, or even month by month. But generally he told people’s fortune by five-year intervals. If one wanted him to do it year by year, okay, the charge was higher, because more work was involved. He could also write down all the details of one’s fortune so that he could keep it and consult it as often as he liked.
Green Phoenix advised Linda to have her fortune told. Just for fun, Linda agreed. The fortune-teller asked for Linda’s birthday and the exact time she had been born. But Linda did not know the time. So the old man could not tell her fortune; instead, he read her face and palms. He said that Linda had come from another country, which everyone could tell from her face and golden hair. He added that Linda would be a noble lady some day, but would experience a series of mishap. When asked what would be the misfortune, he refused to tell the details, saying that it was the Heaven's secrets and he should not reveal them to any mortals, or he would be punished by Heaven. “Some strange things will happen to you, young lady.” He concluded, “You will travel very far, perhaps to a foreign land in the end.” “Does it mean that I can go back to America in the end?” Linda thought. But she always doubted if any fortune teller could really foretell people’s future. Fate is really a mystery.
            Then the old man told the fortune of Green Phoenix, who gave him her birthday and the birth time. Linda didn’t even listen to it. She was attracted by all the novelties around her. At length Green Phoenix stood up and paid the old man. They went round to buy something. Linda chose a lovely colorful doll made of clay and Green Phoenix selected a white piece of jade in the shape of phoenix.
            They came to a circle, inside which a young guy was performing some karate feats. Linda applauded after the young guy finished, but Green Phoenix made some kind of derision, heard by the young guy. Young people are easily to flare up at even trifling things. The young guy said to Green Phoenix, “All right, my kungfu may be bad. You, young lady, must be very good at kungfu. Let's fight to see who’s better.” He did not even wait for Green Phoenix to say anything in refusal or acceptance and fisted her at her right shoulder. Green Phoenix had to defend herself and so they commenced to fight. The spectators retreated to a safe distance and watched, Linda among them.
            Green Phoenix chopped at his wrist with her right hand. The guy had to withdraw his fist, or the bone of his wrist would be broken by the force of the hit. Their moves became faster, but after some ten rounds, Green Phoenix crouched and kicked him at the calf. He fell on the ground. That meant that she was better in kungfu. As a general rule in the kungfu world, he must acknowledge the defeat. The fight stopped.
            Green Phoenix turned to go, but to her great astonishment and panic, she found that Linda was nowhere to be seen. She looked for her in the throngs and in the temple, but in vain. When she ran to and fro in a great hurry, some middle-aged woman stopped her and told her that she saw a girl with yellow hair, who was put into a carriage by two men and was carried away. Green Phoenix came to the immediate conclusion that Linda had been kidnapped. She asked the woman in which direction the two men had gone and the woman pointed to the east. Therefore, she rode eastward in pursuit of them.
 楼主| 发表于 11/5/2016 08:04:07 | 显示全部楼层
chapter 4

It seems in men’s disposition to prefer beautiful girls and always wish to possess them as their property. In the feudal China, women did seem to be men’s property. They could sell their women to anyone they wanted to or even give away as gifts. Quite a few men would bet their wives on the gambling table when they lost everything else. If they lost again, their wives would change hands like some goods.
            Since Green Phoenix and Linda arrived in the bazaar, two men had followed them everywhere. They were woman-mongers and planned to kidnap them and sold them for a handsome price as both girls were so beautiful. But when they saw that Green Phoenix had kungfu, they almost lost hope. Then they saw Linda alone among the crowd and so they sneaked close to her and put a handkerchief dipped in some kind of medicine akin to chloroform over her nose. When she would fall in a swoon, they gently supported her and pulled her away. They stuffed her into a carriage drawn by a horse, which they got ready all the time. They would sell her to a whorehouse.
            The carriage rolled to the notorious Qinhuai River in the southeast of China. It was well-known for the Flower Boat. Those boats were decorated pompously. Every boat, slowly gliding on the smooth water, was a floating brothel. The girls there were divided into classes. Girls of the lowest class would have sex with patrons while girls of the highest class only entertained their patrons with singing, dancing or chess-playing with them. The most famous ones could even draw pictures and write poems. If getting a poem or a painting from a famous girl, a patron would proudly show it to his friends because it meant that he had a special relationship with the girl. He would let them guess in what stage their relationship reached. Some friends might tease him with a fond surmise that he had had sex with the girl, who would never have that with any patrons except the one she was really in love with. Even for the lover, she would not have sex with him until after marriage. Of course, they kept the joke a secret among themselves and did not dare to let the girl know, or the girl would refuse to see the man again for spreading the rumor about her and marring her good reputation.
All the girls were bought young and taught singing and dancing, arts and literature. They could play some kind of musical instruments like lute or fife. And of course, the charges were much higher than those in the whorehouses on land.
            Since Linda was beautiful and special, any procuress would pay a high price for her though she was not so young. The two woman-mongers parked their carriage on the bank under a large tree. One of the men would go to a bawd, with whom they had done a lot of business. He rented a small boat and took Linda in it to a huge boat almost anchoring in the midstream.
            When Linda came to, she found herself in a dark space like in a tiny room. Only it was moving. She was bound hand and foot, but nothing gagged her mouth. She yelled “Help!”
            “Shut up!” A man climbed in, holding a bright sharp dagger. “If you do what we bid, we’ll treat you well. If you want to run away, we’ll kill you without hesitation. Understand?” Linda could not but nod her head in spite that she did not fully understand what he was saying. But she could guess under such circumstances. In the dim interior, she was not sure that the man could see her nodding. Since Linda kept silent and quiet, the man did not make any move or say anything more.
            Several days later, they reached the riverside. The man ordered her to come out and hurried her into a small boat. After a while they got on board a huge beautifully adorned boat. The man left Linda in the outer cabin in the custody of another guy working for the bawd when he himself entered an inner cabin where he met the bawd. There was only a velvet curtain hanging in the doorway between the two cabins.
            “Dear Madam,” said the man, “we have a precious piece of goods for you.”
            “I know.” Smiled the bawd. “You always keep the best girls for me, and I always pay you more than other madams. We both have what we want.”
            “So, it’s pleasure to do business with you.”
            “Where’s she? Show me the goods and we’ll see how much she’s worth.”
            The man pulled aside the curtain and beckoned Linda to come in. Linda obeyed. At the sight of the special girl, the eyes of the bawd became wide and bright. She had never seen a girl with golden hair, and so beautiful. Even her favorite girl, Peony (the bawd liked her girls to use nicknames picked from flowers), was pale in comparison to her. The girl was certainly a western beauty she had heard so much about and only today she witnessed one. Linda only knew that she was on a boat, but could not guess what they wanted from her. She had been taught Chinese all the way down here. But they seemed to talk in a jargon. She had to wait and see what would be the result. She did not have the least idea of the prostitute business in ancient China.
            Then they both left the inner cabin to finish their trade. The bawd came back after a long while. She told Linda that she must learn something. Linda did not care as long as she had food and board. She learned to sing Chinese classical songs and dances. She thought that they wanted her to perform these to make money. That was easy because she had won the second prize in a girl’s singing contest and had been trained in a ballet class, back in America. So she asked the bawd why not to let her sing and dance in her own way and thus might attract more people. Then she sang an American pop song while twisting her body in a modern American dance to the astonishment and satisfaction of the bawd. She had been endowed with a good sexy voice. Linda did not know that her existence and talent were already known to the outside world, beyond the bounds of the boat. News has wings and travels fast.
            All the way towards the east, Green Phoenix kept asking around who had seen a girl with golden hair. Someone said no and someone said yes. The one who said yes had seen such a girl coming out of an inn with two men and even pointed out the direction she had gone. So Green Phoenix followed the clues eastward.
            One day, the governor of this province came on the boat and asked to see Linda, now under the nickname of Water Lily. When Linda entered the big guest cabin, he loved her at the first sight. He was an old man and already had wife and three concubines. He wanted Linda to be her fourth concubine. He offered a large sum of money to the bawd, double or even triple to the price the bawd had paid for Linda. The bawd wanted to refuse because Linda was young and would earn her more money in the years to come, but she did not dare to reject as he was the governor.
            The governor could hire some experienced administrative persons as his counselors. They had helped all the ex-governors to deal with daily routine. One would help him with legal business. One would attend all the financial matters. And one would write all the documents for him like a secretary. It was especially important if the governor wanted to write reports or petitions to the emperor. If one word was used wrong, it might cost him his position or even life. This counselor was his first counselor. Now his first counselor accompanied him here. He also loved Linda at the first sight and thought of a way to discourage the governor.
            “As Your Excellency know, in this country, everything special must be sent to the emperor. If His Majesty knows that Your Excellency have such a special girl for a concubine instead of sending her to the palace, His Majesty may get angry, and think of the result when an emperor flares up.”
           The governor was, of course, afraid of the emperor. So he was contented with her singing and dancing. When he left, besides paying the bawd the dues, he gave Linda personally a ring with a big piece of emerald set on it. Linda thanked him and put the ring on her ring finger. She did not even know that some danger had approached her a while before.
            A few days later, the first counselor came and offered the bawd more money than the governor had offered. He was a middle-aged man and had wife and a concubine. The bawd was a clever woman and said to him, “What if the governor, His Excellency, knows that Your Counsellorship have the girl?” He did not think of that in his eagerness to get the girl. He left crestfallen. Now Linda was safe and raked in silver and gold for the bawd everyday. The bawd looked upon Linda as her Ali Baba’s cave, a never-exhausted treasure source. She even thought Linda’s golden hair worth some money. But Linda was contented, making her living by singing and dancing, better than doing wearisome and laborious housework in that old Englishman’s dwelling.
            Water Lily became famous. Many young men of rich families came to visit her and asked for her hand, but Linda gave rejection to every suitors. She did not want to marry in China in the sixteenth century, especially not to be a concubine. She had a boyfriend back home. Besides, she was still young, only eighteen. However, in China at that time, a girl became of age at sixteen, the right time to get married. The hair style would tell the difference. Before sixteen, a girl would comb part of her hair upward into pigtails like two horns, about two inches high, which was called fork-styled in Chinese. After that age, she would do her hair into one of many styles that an adult would wear. Therefore, everyone who knew Linda thought that she was already two years past the age she should get married.
            One of the young men was of a violent type and particularly unreasonable. He insisted on marrying Linda at any price as his second concubine. At that time in China, rich people only took a girl to wife from an equally rich family. So any girl, though very beautiful, but coming from a brothel or a poor family, could only be a concubine, even if the man had no wife yet. He would get a suitable wife later to help him to manage things of the household.
            One day, the young man brought a group of man-servants with him, declaring that he would take Water Lily home today by force if he met with another rebuff and could not get her peacefully. The bawd was terrified and could do nothing in her limited power to protect Linda. And it was futile to report the event to the district authorities, because government officials were always hand in glove with rich people even if they were wrong.
            The servants forced Linda to go with them and put her in a small boat they had come in. Linda felt like being kidnapped a second time. The young man and his servants rowed the boat to the river bank. There was a luxuriously decorated coach on the shore, waiting to carry the girl home. So many people were there watching that the traffic was blocked. All wanted to have a look at the girl with the golden hair, whom they had heard so much about.
            Green Phoenix stood among the crowds. When she came here, she learned that Linda was in one of the Flower Boats to be a whore. She must deliver her from a hell of a brothel. She had planned to rent a boat rowing around to search all the Flower Boats. Once she found Linda, she would take her away by force. Now she also learned that some violent young man wanted to snatch Linda away from the Flower Boat Linda was in and take her home.
            It was a chance and would save her a lot of trouble to search for her. She tied her horse on a tree behind and watched the young man and his servants with Linda among them. When the group approached the coach, Green Phoenix stepped forward, saying, “You can’t take her. She’s my friend.”
            “Who are you?” The young man asked. “How dare you to interfere with my business?” He made a sign with his hand to his servants and two of them came up to Green Phoenix. She knew that she could not dissuade the young man. So she just used her kungfu. She swirled her long whip and made the thin end go round the waist of a servant. Then she jerked up the whip and threw the servant into the river. She did the same with the other servants. Seeing this, the young man got into the coach and hurried the coachman to drive away, leaving Linda behind.
 楼主| 发表于 11/6/2016 08:21:03 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 5

Linda was glad to see Green Phoenix again, who was her sole friend in China. Linda had an impulse to hug Green Phoenix, but she knew that Chinese women in old time were not accustomed to such intimacy. So she restrained herself and was only satisfied with saying "thank you" again and again till Green Phoenix stopped her.
They had the horsepool (created after carpool) and left the spot. Green Phoenix explained to Linda what kind of a job she had been doing. Linda was ashamed of herself that she had been a prostitute without herself knowing it. It had been lucky for her that no patron had asked her to have sex. For that, she was grateful to the bawd to have placed her in the highest class of the business.
            They went further south and came to a city. When they sat in a restaurant having lunch, they heard the diners talking about a disease-healing marriage. Linda was curious to know what it was. So Green Phoenix explained to her.
            When a young man was seriously sick, his parents would arrange a wedding for him. If he had some girl already engaged, it was easy to proceed with the ceremony, but if none, the parents must find someone for that. It was a bad tradition in which people believed that the marriage would have a healing effect to any serious disease. Nevertheless, the result was often that the bridegroom died shortly after the marriage and the bride became a widow.
            “But” asked Linda, “since the bridegroom is seriously ill, how can he stand up for the ritual?”
            “Good question.” was the answer. “The parents will find a substitute for the ceremony. But the girl is still the wife of the sick person. After the ceremony, she is sent into the room the sick young man is lying in bed and waiting for his bride.”
            “What about the substitute?”
            “he’s sent away with some money. Generally they will find a poor young man for that.”
            Linda thought it very ridiculous. It was. However, every race has ridiculous traditions.
After the lunch, they continued on their trip. The next city they arrived in two days later was Yangchow City. Yangchow was a big city at the north side of the Yangtze River. It had a large population at that time and was famous for beautiful girls. It was said that a girl, once living in this city for a long time, would become beautiful if she had not been so before.
            Green Phoenix and Linda entered the city and took lodging in a big inn. As they were not in a hurry, they went to some scenic spots of renown for sightseeing. Linda saw a church and went in followed by Green Phoenix. She wanted to talk to the priest. She felt as if she had not spoken English for a long time. But when she found him, he spoke only Italian because he had come from Italy. Linda was disappointed.
One day when they roamed in the busy streets for the last time as they would leave the city that day, pulling the horse behind, they viewed all sorts of shops lined on either side. Linda had Chinese money now and she wanted to buy something for her parents and boyfriend if she could return there. She went into a shop that sold knickknacks. Green Phoenix stayed outside, being with a horse.
    All of a sudden there arose chaos at the far end of the street. People were running this way, shouting, “Girls, run!” Green Phoenix had known when she had been in the capital that the emperor had issued an order that he would have the beautiful girls in the country sent to the palace. As the women in the palace had grown old, he wanted young girls to replace them. He would select the most beautiful girls as his royal concubines, and less beautiful to be the palace maids. And those left from his selection would be given to his courtiers, the princes, dukes and earls to be their concubines or maids.
            A girl to be chosen had advantages and disadvantages. If she was chosen as a royal concubine, she would live in luxury, with eunuchs and palace maids to wait on her hand and foot. Her father or relatives might be appointed as government officials. But if as a maid, she was not permitted to leave the palace and to visit her parents until old age when her prime time of youth was gone. It was more miserable to be a palace maid, who always got scolding or even beating for petty offences or even for nothing at all when the emperor, the empress or the concubine she served was unhappy and wanted to vent their irritation. If she actually made some serious mistake she might lose her life, depending on the mood of the emperor, the empress or the concubine she served. Therefore, most girls would not like the idea to be sent into the palace, especially nor would their parents.
            When Green Phoenix had been in the capital, the emperor’s order had not been executed yet. The heralds were sent out just when she left for the south. Now a herald must arrive in this city. The mayor sent out his soldiers to seek and seize beautiful girls whenever they set their eyes on one. They would take the girls even in the streets and if it was not enough, they would search door by door. For such a big and famous city, the mayor got a quota bigger than the other cities. He might detain one or two for his own use at the risk of being found out and losing the position.
            Some soldiers dashed up from the other end of the street. Green Phoenix had no time to get Linda and she had to jump onto her horse and galloped away. She thought that if Linda was seized she could come back to deliver her later, if she was still free.
            The soldiers searched every shop, especially those that girls loved to visit. Many girls had already escaped and those who were in the shops stole away from the back doors helped by the owners. But Linda didn't know and was seized by the soldiers. She was taken to the presence of the mayor. As she was so special the mayor had to let her be sent to the palace though he had half a mind to detain her for himself if he dared.
For the time being, Linda lived in the mayor’s yamen and was treated well. The mayor thought that as she was so beautiful, the emperor would certainly like her. So he treated her well in hopes that she would throw in a few good words for him when she became the emperor’s favorite.
Now Linda came to know that she would be sent to the palace of the Chinese emperor. She had never been to a palace, any palace. It must be a beautiful place. And she was curious to see it and see the ancient Chinese emperor. It would be a fantastic experience in her life. Since she did not know any possible danger living in the palace, she was excited and longed to be there soon. When the mayor fulfilled the female quota, he sent all the girls, except two, on the way to the capital, escorted by a battalion of soldiers.
      Linda looked at the other girls. They were all beautiful and the only thing on them that was ugly and unnatural, in her opinion, was their little deformed feet, generally three inches long, and the sole was triangular. It was said that the tradition to bind the female feet had begun in Sung Dynasty (960—1279 A. D.) and lasted till the Republic of China was established. (1912 A.D.) But even when the tradition prevailed, it was only kept within a small circle, only in those families from well-to-do to wealthy ones. In the countryside, most peasant families would not force their girls to bind feet because they must work in the fields. Therefore, the little feet were really a token of richness, for the girls from poor families could not afford to bind their feet.
            When the girls reached the capital, they lodged in a pretty big house, particularly arranged for them. They would wait till all the girls from every corner of the country gathered here. Then the eunuch in charge of this assignment would report to the emperor, who would fix a day to summon all the girls to his presence.
            The girls were trained to perform all the palace etiquette. And on that day they would don palace clothes, specially made to fit each of them. Linda could speak more Chinese now, though in a foreign accent, but understandable. She had learned a little Chinese history in the high school and now she was continuing to learn it from life in China. There would be no better chance for her, if she was keen on it, but she was forced. She had nothing to do with China except that her destiny landed her here.
 楼主| 发表于 11/7/2016 09:18:56 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 6

The day came for the palace reception. All the girls were attired suitably. They were waiting in the large yard before the main hall of the palace. They must arrive early when the emperor was still having his breakfast. It was a long waiting and they must stand there. They were not allowed even to sit on the ground because their clothes would get dirty, and dirty clothes were a sign of disrespect in the presence of the emperor. In the history of China, on such an occasion, a feeble girl would indeed faint when the sun rose high and hot.
It was autumn then and the weather was comfortable. Linda’s curiosity was so keen that she kept her eyes wide open to take in all the details of the scenes she had passed on her way here. Once in the palace her excitement reached its apex. She had been told by other girls on their way to Peking that a Chinese emperor was said to be the impersonation of a dragon. She had seen a picture of the Chinese dragon, which was totally different from a Greek dragon. The Chinese dragon had two horns on the head and four talons on the side of the body, which was like a gigantic serpent and covered with huge bright scales. It could ride on the clouds and fly in the sky. Chinese people in the olden times believed that the rain from the sky was the function of the dragon that sucked the water from the ocean and spat it out to form the rain. The myth was so wonderful that Linda wanted to see if the emperor had really two horns on his head or his face would look fierce like that of the dragon.
            At long last the emperor came. Everyone must get down on their knees in his presence. Everyone must prostrate on the ground till he got into the hall. This etiquette must be designed for fear of some assassins. When anyone prostrated on the ground, an assassin would be slow in action and the palace guards had enough time to react. Anyway, it became part of the etiquette.
            The girls were summoned into the hall one by one. The emperor scrutinized every girl and sometimes asked a few questions. There were some groups formed. When the emperor finished with a girl, he would make a sign and the head eunuch would tell the girl to which group she belonged. The group having the fewest girls would be the emperor’s concubines and the group with the most girls would be sent out of the palace to the courtiers, princes, dukes or earls.
            Now it was Linda’s turn. She stepped into the hall with her eyes glancing at the emperor, who looked like anyone else, normal and handsome. The emperor watched her coming in. Her golden hair was very conspicuous, the first thing on her that attracted the attention of the emperor. The emperor liked her very much since she was so beautiful and elegant. He asked Linda where she had come from. Linda answered in a gentle voice, “From America, Your Majesty.” The emperor did not know where America was. He was map-illiterate. He asked, “Where is America?”
            “On the other side of the earth, Your Majesty.”
The emperor looked confused. At that time Chinese people also believed in the flat earth with an immense piece of land surrounded by the seas and beyond the sea in the east there was an island on which lived some gods and goddesses. There had been a story about the elixir that the gods and goddesses had. According to a legend, if whoever could get the elixir and drink it would become immortal. The First Emperor of Qin Dynasty (221—207 B. C.) sent a man by the name of Xu Fu to search for the island. The order was that he must bring back the elixir. He went with one hundred boys and one hundred girls in several ships. The history book recorded that he never returned, but settled down in Japan when he reached it. Therefore, these people were the ancestors of the Japanese. It could be true since there are so many similarities between Chinese and Japanese cultures.
Although the emperor did not know where America was, he at least knew that the girl was a western beauty. He had seen a few when some foreign delegations came to pay their respect to him. He liked the boldness of this girl. All Chinese girls were timid and hung their heads when speaking. The emperor could not really see all the faces clearly except that of Linda’s, who looked at the emperor in the eyes all the time.
The head eunuch told the emperor that this girl could sing and dance in a totally new style no one here had seen before. The head eunuch had asked every girl about her talents, which he had jotted down on his notebook, so that he could report to the emperor when he showed the interest to know. The emperor was very fond of singing and dancing performance. So Linda was directed to the group with the least girls.
            It almost took a whole day for the event. As the emperor retired to his royal study the girls were put up in different places for the night. Five girls, Linda among them, were led into a palace bedroom. They were decided to be the emperor’s concubines. But fate seemed against Linda, or in other words, helped Linda to avoid being a royal concubine in ancient China for the rest of her life.
            Next day, under the guidance of the head eunuch, the girls who would be the royal concubines should go to see the empress dowager, the emperor’s mother, the widow of the late emperor. When she saw all the five girls she frowned at Linda because there was a rule that the emperor must marry Chinese girls to keep the blood pure. He should not have a girl of the other race. So she told the head eunuch to erase Linda’s name from the list.
            The head eunuch liked Linda very much and so he begged the empress dowager to give Linda to him as his wife. The empress dowager gladly granted his wish. It solved her dilemma because she did not know how to dispose of the girl from another race. She could not kill her and could not send her back to her parents if she had her parents in China. To send a selected girl back to her parents was also against the rules. Now she gave her to the head eunuch. Everything would be fine.
But did it sound ridiculous? Since as a common knowledge, eunuchs were castrated, how could a eunuch have sex with a girl even if he married her? Such things did happen in the history of China. As a eunuch was also a man, only having a little something taken from him, he had all the more a desire to have a family and live like any other ordinary men. So a eunuch with a high position in the palace would have a house of his own, buy some poor girl as his wife and adopt sons and daughters to bear his surname, for the purpose to form a family and to enjoy the happiness of the family union. It looked like Linda’s fate was sealed. She would be the wife of a eunuch for the rest of her life.
            The emperor learned it, but he could do nothing against the decision of the empress dowager, his mother. He could only tell the head eunuch that he must treat her well. If anything befell her or he maltreated her, he would have his head cut off.
            A nuptial ceremony was held in the house of the head eunuch. A lot of guests were present. They were all courtiers, who came because perhaps some day they would need the help of the head eunuch to speak a few good words for them privately to the emperor. Of course, they sent precious wedding gifts. Even the empress dowager, the emperor and the empress sent them gold ingots, scrolls of brocade, satin and silk, and precious gems.
In accordance with the tradition, Linda must live separately from the eunuch before the wedding and so the emperor gave her a big house and some menservants and maidservants. On the wedding day some noble ladies, the wives of some courtiers, came to attire her in a red dress of an old Chinese style, embroidered with colorful flowers, and a coronet made of pearls on her head, which was then covered with a red cloth. She was put on a little makeup and her natural feet were encased in a red pair of embroidered brocade shoes especially made for her.
At noon a red palanquin came to pick her. She was led to it by one of the ladies because she could not see owing to the cloth covered on her head. She stepped into the palanquin and sat inside. The palanquin was carried toward the residence of the head eunuch. The wedding procession lasted for two miles. Musicians went ahead, followed by those who were carrying the dowry. The bride's palanquin was in the middle with other palanquins in the wake. The noble ladies rode in those palanquins of their own. Then some soldiers brought up the rear. The emperor ordered his royal troops to line up the streets from the bride’s house to where the head eunuch lived for protection.
            When Linda arrived, she was led into her bedroom. She must sit there till the ceremony began. The ladies kept her company, but they chatted among themselves. The bride should keep silent all the time. It was also the tradition. When the ceremony started, Linda was led out into the main room. On the wall opposite the door was pasted a big red Chinese character, meaning DOUBLE HAPPINESS, and underneath it there was a long table with red burning candles and joss-sticks. The bride and bridegroom knelt on a thick red rug and kowtowed toward the red character. Then they turned ninety degrees and kowtowed to each other. If they had had parents present, they should have kowtowed to them, too. Then they both got up on their feet. The bridegroom led the bride by a red cloth rope back to the bedroom. The bride should still sit there in the company of some ladies while the bridegroom returned to that main room where a wedding feast would be held.
            When the feast ended, the bridegroom went back to the bedroom to sleep with the bride. Once he appeared the ladies left the room after congratulating him. The bride was sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting for the bridegroom to come. She was still covered with the red cloth. Now the bridegroom used a short stick to lift the cloth away from the head of the bride. Generally only at that time did the bridegroom see the face of the bride. The tradition never allowed the bridegroom and the bride to meet each other before the wedding ceremony. So the bridegroom only knew whether the bride was pretty or not from the mouth of the matchmaker. But matchmakers were always not reliable. When they said that the bride was pretty, the bridegroom would find on the first night that the bride was ordinary or only tolerable. But the head eunuch had seen Linda in the palace. Therefore, there was no surprise waiting for him. Only his dream of a beautiful wife came true after so many years.
            Three days later, Linda went to the palace to thank the empress dowager and the empress for the gifts they had given her. She should not see the emperor. The head eunuch would see the emperor to express their gratitude.
Now Linda lived comfortably in the big house, bigger than her own home in New Jersey. Every evening the head eunuch came home from palace. He was off duty. They had dinner together. All the dishes were to Linda’s taste because she told the cooks what to prepare. She was the mistress of the household. Once at lunch she was served fried wonton, she asked for some catchup like she were eating French fries. She was used to having catchup to go with everything fried.
            “Catchup? What’s it?” The maid serving it looked perplexed.
            Linda forgot that she was now in the sixteenth century in China. Surely there was no catchup then and there. “Forget it!” She said evasively.
            When the maid asked the cooks what catchup was, one of the cooks said, “Never heard of.”
            At first Linda wanted to tell the cooks how to make catchup from tomatoes, but she did not have the recipe. So she had to give up.
            After dinner with the head eunuch, they talked for a while before bedtime. The head eunuch told Linda all the things in the palace, and also the interesting or sad stories that had happened there. The emperors in the Ming Dynasty all believed in Taoism, not Buddhism. The Taoists loved to practice alchemy. They used chemicals, especially mercury, to make pills. They called them Immortal Pills and declared that whoever took one would become immortal. One of the emperors did take one and died. The Taoists said that His Majesty was gone to Heaven and became immortal. So he was not immortal in this world, but immortal in Heaven. Everyone will be immortal in Heaven, or in Hell.
At bedtime they lay side by side on the big bed like king size. This was a special bed. In fact, all rich families had a bed of this kind. The bed had a huge canopy over it. The canopy hung down from all sides with a curtain in the front, by which they entered the bed area. The canopy with four-side hangings looked like a tent with square top. The bed was almost in the middle within the canopy with four posts to support it. Besides the headboard and footboard, there was a side board at the far side of the bed from the canopy curtain so that a person could only get off bed from one side that was near the curtain. In front of the bed beside the headboard generally stood a small cabinet with sweets and other necessary things inside the drawers and a tea set on top of the cabinet in case that the person was thirsty. Behind the bed there was some space to put a stool to be used at night.
Before going to bed, they would wash their mouths with tea because there was no toothbrush and toothpaste yet. Then they washed their faces and hands, and then some maid came in to wash their feet for them, first Linda’s and then the head eunuch’s.
Since the eunuch could not have sex, the best thing he could do was to feel her body to get some sort of sexual touch. Linda had to tolerate it though she felt disgusted. She did not dare to resist for fear of losing her life. She wanted to see how things would develop for her. She secretly harbored the hope that some day she could be back at home and reunite with her parents.
In bed the eunuch also stripped himself naked. Linda unconsciously had a glance at his lower torso. He had no genital. Linda almost forgot that he was a eunuch. How could a eunuch have a genital? Out of curiosity, she asked him about the genital thing.
“I came from a poor family." The eunuch told his own story. "I am the youngest. I have three brothers. As my parents could not support all of us, they had to give one away. My brothers were old enough to help with the work in the crop fields and that left only me, a boy of nine at that time. The choice was that they could send me to a Buddhist temple to be a monk or to some rich family to be a page. The coincidence was that someone in our neighborhood was a eunuch in the palace. He asked for a leave of ten days to come to visit his parents. When he met my mother, my mother who saw him well-dressed asked him to take me to the palace to be a eunuch. I did not know what a eunuch was at that time. I only knew that the palace was a beautiful place. So I agreed to go. But the custom was that I must have my genital cut off, which was dried and put in a jar. I wanted to back off, but it was too late. So I became a eunuch.”
It was a sad story, Linda thought. Now her curiosity turned toward his dried genital. Before she could ask the question, the eunuch continued, “I have kept the jug until now.”
“What will you do with it?”
“The tradition is like that when I die you should put the jar in my coffin so that my body will be buried as a whole.” What a ridiculous tradition!
Then the eunuch adopted a son of ten years old. Linda thought that the boy was too old to be her son, but she did not care. It would be too much trouble if they adopted a baby. The son must kowtow to Linda and call her mother. There were also rules of etiquette in this family, like every morning the son must kowtow to the parents while he said “Good morning”, and so must he in the evening when he said “Good night”. But Linda ignored those rules behind the back of the eunuch. She was a big girl herself.
            She often took the boy to play in the back garden. She had a swing set up there and a sliding tube made for the boy. She taught him how to play hopscotch and other simple games as she had played in America. She looked upon the boy as her brother, not her son. She felt that she was not mature enough to be a mother.
She had a two-horse-drawn coach to herself, with two guardsmen on horseback following her everywhere she would go. The coach was so luxurious as to befit her status as the wife of the head eunuch in the emperor’s palace. She could go in it anywhere as long as she was guarded.
            They got a tutor for the boy. At that time, a private tutor lodged in the house of the host, who treated the tutor as a special guest. Linda would sometimes go into the teaching room to listen in. She thought that if she would live here for ever, she should learn more Chinese. She even started to learn how to write Chinese characters, which were really difficult to write. It was much easier for her to write English though she had seldom had chances to write it when in America as she could have so conveniently typed everything on her laptop.
            The tutor was a learned scholar. The curriculum for any pupil in Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368—1644 and 1644—1911) comprised a collection of ballads, a book of quotations of what Confucius had said, a book of quotations of what Mencius had said and a history book, etc. Besides, a pupil must practice calligraphy with a Chinese brush. For the sons of nobilities, they must also learn the book of "Arts of War" by Sunzi and practice horsemanship and martial arts, including how to use a bow and arrows.
            The foster boy was only taught how to read and write with a brush. The foster father did not want him to learn how to fight. When Linda sat in the room, she just learned what she thought she needed. She was clever and learned fast. During a couple of months she could write short compositions. At first she had had some difficulties in handling the brush. She felt it was more difficult to use a brush than to use chopsticks. For chopsticks, Linda had at least practiced the usage of them when in America. But she had never used a brush until now. However, gradually she mastered the art of handling the brush. The tutor was surprised at fast-learning ability of Linda.
            The boy was trained to take the government tests. It was the intention of the head eunuch. Generally in the feudal China, the son would succeed the father to be engaged in whatever the father did for a living. Of course, no eunuch would have his son, though adopted, to be a eunuch, too. Luckily there was this system to choose government officials through the tests. Anyone, no matter he was the son of a peasant or a blacksmith, who could pass three tests held by the government, would be assigned a position as a government official. There was equal opportunity for that just like the employment policy in America.
            Once in a while Linda would receive some valuable gifts sent to the eunuch. She did not know why people wanted to send her so-called husband such valuable gifts. But once she overheard a conversation between the eunuch and a government official. The official wished to have a promotion and so bribed the eunuch to say a few good words before the emperor. Another time another official had done something against the law and would be put into prison. He gave the eunuch a large amount of money and begged him for help. Linda was not interested in such things.
            Once in a while Linda would go into the palace to visit the empress dowager. One day when she passed the study of the emperor, she saw someone kneeling before the study door and kowtowing from time to time. She heard him saying, “If Your Majesty don’t accept my advice, your humble servant will kneel here forever.” Then the emperor shouted from within, “You’re threatening me?”
            “Your humble servant doesn’t dare. He only considers the safety of Your Majesty.”
            At night when they lay side by side, Linda told the eunuch what she had seen in the palace and asked him what all this meant.
            “He is a prime minister. (In the official system of Ming Dynasty there were six ministers in respective charge of the appointment or removal of officials and officers, of the military affairs, of the setup of palace etiquette and arrangement of all state ceremonies, of the national finance, of the law enforcement and of the construction duties in the palace and capital. There were a few prime ministers and one of them was the chief prime minister who was in overall charge of the state affairs. The other prime ministers helped him. And the title of the prime minister was sometimes granted to some old and respected courtiers as an honorary one.) He did this only to beg the emperor not to go out alone in plain clothes. It’s not safe for the emperor.”
            “So the emperor often steals out of the palace in disguise?”
            “Seems so. It’s the sole way a courtier can take to advise the emperor not to do something improper.”
            “What if the emperor refuses to take the advice? Will he kneel there forever?”
            “Once a courtier knelt there for three days and three nights, even in the heavy rain.”
            “Then what happened?”
            “Then the empress dowager learned it and intervened. The emperor must listen to his mother.”
            “The courtier must have taken ill, I guess.”
            “You are right. He’s seriously sick for three months. The emperor sent royal doctors to him and gave him a lot of precious gifts as a reward for his loyalty.”
            “So he didn’t kneel there and get sick for nothing.”
            “I don’t want to get gifts this way.” The eunuch sighed.
            Another day, the eunuch came home unhappy. When Linda hinted her intention to know the reason of it, he said, “A petty eunuch, a smart boy, I like him. He offended the emperor today and was punished by kneeling in the courtyard before the emperor’s study for the whole afternoon and meanwhile he must slap his own face hard. The poor boy!”
            “Does the emperor like to punish people by ordering them to kneel on the ground for a long time and box their own ears?”
            “That’s only one way of punishment. The worse one is to get a good beating on the bare butts and the offender will be kept on bed for a month to heal the wound. Besides, he can only lie prone, or his butts will hurt.”
            “Will the palace maids be punished like that?”
            “Generally they are punished by kneeling and face-slapping, but never beating on the butts. It’s not suitable to beat a girl on the bare butts. Once two maids were punished. They knelt on the ground and slapped each other’s face. That’s only for minor offenses. For serious ones, an offender may be beheaded, which depends totally on the mood of the emperor.”
            Life in the palace as maids and eunuchs was not interesting, Linda thought. Luckily she had not been selected as a royal maid at the time.
            Linda had loved shopping when she had been in America. Although the shops here were small and shabby, she still went shopping a lot out of habit. Since she had abundance of money, she began to visit antique stores. All the antiques she loved were artworks, beautiful and wonderful. Even looking at them could give her a feeling of enjoyment. The colorful china plates and bowls had been made in Tang Dynasty. (618—907 A. D.) The paintings had been drawn in Sung Dynasty. (960—1279 A. D.) The bronze wine cups and bronze mirrors had been cast even earlier, in Shang Dynasty. (1765—1122 B. C.) In another store there displayed on the shelves big round pearls, rubies, emeralds and ivory carvings. She already had a lot of such things at home and so she bought only those curiosities that really took her fancy. The owners of the curiosity shops welcomed the wife of the head eunuch even though she did not buy anything. Her coming would be publicity for their shops. For Linda was now a celebrity that attracted the attention throughout the capital.
            She had heard so much about the Great Wall in China when she had been still in America. Now she was in China and so went one day to the Great Wall in her coach. The coach had to stop at the foot and she climbed the stone steps. It was amazing to stand on the Great Wall watching the scenes on both sides. She learned that it had been built in Qin Dynasty. (221—207 B. C.) The purpose was to hinder the invasion of the Mongols in the north. But the history showed that it did not. The Mongols got across the Great Wall and established their own empire in China, called Yuan Dynasty (1271—1368 A. D.) It was the founder of this Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, who had driven the Mongols back to the north. However, the fact bespoke that the Great Wall did not function as the original builder had supposed.
            Sometimes she took the boy along and would stop at a restaurant to have lunch. Every time when she went out, she would buy some sweets from a confectionery for her husband in name only.
            Now she had become a celebrity among the nobilities as well and there were quite a few young men from noble families following her everywhere. They did not dare to flirt with her, being afraid of the powerful head eunuch. Besides, Linda was the emperor’s favorite. Otherwise, they would pounce on her like hawks on a rabbit. They all felt sorry for her to marry a eunuch. In their opinion, she was like a beautiful flower sticking in a heap of manure as a Chinese saying goes. They only wanted to look at her or speak with her just like American teenagers running after the modern American celebrities they worshiped. The only difference was that those young men never asked Linda to sign her name on their bodies, their clothes, or even on a slip of paper. There was no such vogue yet in ancient China.
            She still had the watch with her because no one knew what it was and so no one took it away from her. She could keep up with the modern time and dates. She even remembered the time difference between America and China. As it was in the ancient China and there was no telephone, nor telegram, whatsoever, she could not make long-distance call or send a message to America. She could not even write to her parents because there was no mail service, either local, nationwide or international. Even if there did have had long distance calls to make, she could not have reached her parents across four centuries. She only dreamt twice that she was back at home. If she could have controlled the dreaming process, she would have dreamt more often than she was now. She was of course nostalgic.
 楼主| 发表于 11/8/2016 08:32:05 | 显示全部楼层
chapter 7

One day she was invited to the palace for a royal feast. Indeed, all the high officials and their wives were invited, because it was the birthday of the empress dowager. All the men sat with the emperor in the outer hall while all the women were with the empress dowager in the inner hall. In old China, generally the female and the male did not mingle together in a gathering.
            The whole palace was adorned with red streamers and lanterns. The color red was connected with happiness in Chinese culture, hence, with wedding and birthday parties. The color white was used in funeral.
            Long before the birthday, the presents flowed in from both the capital and all the provinces. All the high-rank officials in Peking and all the governors in the provinces sent in their most precious or priceless birthday gifts. Everyone wanted his gift appreciated by the empress dowager or the emperor so that the promotion would be certain.
            The ladies gathered in an anteroom before the banquet began. Then they were led into another room to look at all the birthday presents. There were a necklace of best biggest pearls, a statue of the God of Longevity carved from the best-quality white jade set with rubies and sapphires, and bracelets of best quality emerald.
Linda’s eyes were very busy to move from this item to the next. She had never seen so many sparkling precious gems on display all her life. That was her new experience and she would tell her parents and Frank all about them if she could return home. She regretted that she had not had a camera with her, or she could take in all these on the film.
It seemed that every item had a story. The statue, two feet high, was sent by the governor of Jiangsu Province, who had spent fifty thousand taels of silver to have it made. Such a big jade was worth a lot of money. It had originally belonged to the Zuo family. The governor wanted Zuo to donate it to him, not sell it to him. Of course Zuo rejected. A few days later Zuo was arrested because a burglar already in prison had confessed that Zuo was his accomplice. The governor questioned Zuo and wanted him to confess how he had done the burglary with the burglar. As Zuo had not done any such things, he refused to plead that he was guilty of it. The governor had Zuo tortured. Under the torments Zuo had to confess to whatever the governor wanted him to. Then he was put into prison. A counselor came to see him in the cell and advised him to donate the jade. Zuo had to part with his precious jade for his dear life. Then he was released, having been told that it was a mistake.
            "The empress dowager likes this gift. He will soon get promotion." A lady near Linda whispered to another lady. Then they all returned to the anteroom and were waiting there for the arrival of the empress dowager.
            Dressed up in red embroidered clothes with the crown on head, the empress dowager came out, ensued by the empress and all the royal concubines, all dressed up in almost the same color. The empress dowager took her seat on a dais at the far end of the inner hall. The empress was seated at her side. The concubines were positioned on the lower floor on both sides, but closest to the dais. Then all the ladies came in from the anteroom and sat one after another in two lines from the concubines down the hall almost to the door.
There was a table set before the empress dowager and the empress with fruits and sweets on it. There were two rows of small tables arranged on either side before every diner down the hall with an aisle in the middle for the eunuchs and palace maids to use to serve food. Every two ladies, including the concubines, shared a table. They sat behind it with their backs to the wall so that food could be served by a maid or a eunuch from the front side in the aisle. The order of the lady’s seat was arranged according to the rank of their husbands. Linda’s seat was in the middle, because the official rank of the head eunuch was not high though he had great power. Actually his power came from the emperor since the emperor believed him. He could say anything, even wrong things, about a courtier, who would then get blame, demotion or even imprisonment from the emperor.
Before the banquet began, all the ladies kowtowed to the empress dowager for her birthday. They shouted thrice in unison, "May Empress Dowager long live!"
            Each diner got the same food in an individual bowl or plate just like in the western style. Tables could be shared, but not the food. The dinner consisted of ten courses, including the final soup. Every course had only a small quantity for the ladies.
            The food service went on the same way in the outer hall. There were only two differences: instead of the empress dowager, the emperor sat on the dais alone and the food served to the men were in large quantity.
            Chinese wine was also served, but no one dared to drink to their heart's content lest they get drunk and do something against the palace etiquette, which might cost them their positions or even lives.
            The whole dining process was accompanied by music. There were rows of carillons set up in one innermost corner of the hall. The musicians struck the bronze bells with something like small drumsticks. The bells had different sizes so that they gave out different notes. Meanwhile, some girl dancers put on a performance in the center of the hall. They wore loose colorful silk dress with long sleeves. They flung the long sleeves into the air and drew them along as they made gliding movements like swans on the smooth lake. The colorful sleeves fluttered in the air like beautiful butterflies. Linda had never seen such performance before. It had a classical beauty, totally different from modern American dances. And the musical sound coming from the bells were resonant and lingered long as it was echoing in the colossal hall. Linda was intoxicated with the Chinese classical music.
            The royal feast went on until the empress dowager felt tired and wanted to rest. The ladies kowtowed to the empress dowager as thanks to her for the feast.
            Unlike other couples who left together, Linda came home alone because the head eunuch was doing overtime on such an occasion. Linda was happy to have such experience. The empress dowager and the empress both liked her. They often sent for her to the palace. They asked her about America though they did not know where it was. Linda told them American history only, the Independent Was and the Civil War, how the colonists took up arms against the Great Britain; how the Civil War broke out and as a result the slaves in the south were emancipated. As Linda now had better knowledge about China and the Chinese, especially those in power, she did not dare to tell them anything about modern America. She was afraid that they might call her a liar to her face if she did so. People anywhere living in the sixteen century certainly could not understand or even imagine such things as television, airplane, satellite and computer, etc.
            Linda was happy with her life in ancient China. She was liked by those VVIP's (very very important persons). Sometimes she felt that she could live the rest of her life like this in China. The only regret for her was to miss her family and Frank for ever.
            However, things would never develop so smoothly in life, at least for Linda. The head eunuch had stolen a precious bronze mirror from the palace storage room. What was so special with this mirror? In ancient China, before the glass mirror was introduced into it, people used bronze mirrors, polished bright on one side, and on the other there were always some pictures in relief. On the back of this mirror, there was a dragon. The specialty about this mirror was that when one held it in the sunlight just above the ground, an image of dragon would be seen on the ground under the mirror. It looked as if the sun’s rays could penetrate the bronze mirror on the part of the dragon picture and form the dragon shape on the ground. It was so wonderful and this mirror was a treasure.
            It happened like this. One day the eunuch in charge of the storage room found the mirror was missing and reported to the head eunuch, but he said that he would take care of it and never did anything to recover it. The eunuch in charge suspected something wrong and reported to a royal concubine, who told the empress, who told the emperor. When the emperor questioned the head eunuch, he did not dare to lie to the emperor and so confessed his theft.
            Therefore, he was put into prison. His estate was confiscated and his family, Linda and the adopted son, were exiled to the remotest province, Yunnan Province, in the southwestern China, bordering on Burma.
 楼主| 发表于 11/9/2016 08:24:18 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 8

 Two local yamen bailiffs escorted them to the destination. The two men rented a simple covered wagon drawn by a mule, together with the driver. The simple covered wagon was thus made: with a wooden bottom, a thick mat made of woven dry reeds with two ends bent down to be fixed on both sides of the wagon so that someone could sit under it, looking like a small short tunnel, each entrance covered with a piece of cloth curtain. It was because they were a girl and a boy that they could ride in such a wagon. If they had been two men, they should walk while the yamen bailiffs rode along to watch over them.
            They set out early in the morning. The emperor’s order was that the girl should not be ill-treated. It was not her fault that she got the punishment, which she could not avoid because it was the law. She was involved through her husband. Besides, the empress dowager insisted on banishing her so that she would be as far away as possible from the emperor. The emperor still had some good feelings toward her. So no one dared to ill-treat her. Generally the female exiles would be handcuffed and the male exiles would wear both handcuffs and fetters. But no such things were put on Linda.
            They traveled slowly on the thoroughfare. It was a long journey to that region, no need to hurry. Even if they hastened, anything could happen on their way that might delay their trip. Generally the exiles would have a time limit set by the distance, say, three months, to reach their destination. But for Linda there was no time limit and she was also allowed to take her own things with her. So she had jewelry and paper money. The paper money of that time in China was totally different from that of nowadays. They were certainly not printed. There were many banks, called money stores in ancient China, in almost every big city. They issued the paper money written by hand with bank seals on each piece. The bearers could redeem them in any banks other than the one issued them. People in small towns or villages should go to the big cities for the redemption. But in some places far from those big cities, people could refuse to take the paper money. The paper money was written in big sums. The least was ten taels of silver. But it saved people trouble and strength to carry heavy silver and gold when traveling. So people accepted this as currency, though it was not issued by the government.
            Since Linda had money, she could well afford to rent a nice carriage, but the two yamen bailiffs advised that they should travel like poor people so that the robbers would not attack them. What was the use of the two yamen bailiffs? Generally the robbers would outnumber the armed defenders. So it was wise not to show one’s wealth and pretended poverty.
            Every night they would stay in a lodging house built by the local government. Only those traveling on government business could lodge there and did not have to pay for it. To escort two law-offenders was the government business and the two yamen bailiffs were given money, though very little, for expenses on the way, by their local government. If they missed a lodging house, they had to stay in some private inn and pay for it out of their own pocket. Generally the law-offenders, if not poor, would pay for everything on the way. In this case, the yamen bailiffs could embezzle the money given by the local government. It was open secret and as the money was very little, no one cared.
            They moved forth like on a sightseeing tour. Since all the concerned persons knew that the emperor had a preference for the girl, they half-closed their eyes to whatever she wanted to do. One day they came to a small town in Henan Province. A passer-by told them that they could go to a wedding feast not far from here. The host would give food to everyone coming, no matter invited or not. It was the custom here. So they went to the big house with wedding ornaments hanging everywhere. They seated themselves at a round table and began to attack the food on it.
            Soon the bride came in a red palanquin with the musicians walking in front and her relatives behind. The palanquin resembled a miniature Chinese pavilion with a decorated roof and a sturdy wooden bottom with a wooden board as the back wall, two wooden sides, each with a small curtained window, and a curtain in the front doorway. Generally when the bride got to the front door of the bridegroom’s house, an old woman acting as the bride-receiver would pull aside the front curtain to let the bride step out. There were two poles attached to both sides for the shoulders of the carriers. The bride would sit inside it on a plank set into the sides.
The procession now lasted half a kilometer. In general a red cloth would cover the head of the bride, who had a bridal knot hairdo on the skull with a gold hairpin piercing through the knot. But this time when the palanquin stopped in the front courtyard, no one stepped out of it. Instead, an old woman reached her hand in and took out a piece of wood with a girl’s name written on it. It was a memorial tablet for a dead person. The girl with the name on it was dead. If the name of the dead person was engraved on a stone tablet, which would set in front of the grave, it was called the gravestone. But now the name was written on a wooden tablet, which was called a memorial tablet. All the memorial tablets of a family would put in a special room, lined up on a long table, if the family was not a poor one. If the family was very rich, a family temple would separately be built up for that purpose.
The old woman now held the tablet in both hands and walked solemnly into the hall, where the ceremony was supposed to take place. Linda looked in and saw another old woman holding another tablet. One of the two yamen bailiffs told her that the other tablet represented the dead boy. Linda thought how ridiculous it was for the two dead persons to get married. But later she was told that it was also the custom. The two families were friends and had wanted to marry the boy and the girl if they had still been alive. But unfortunately both were deceased. So the families married them according to the custom. It was believed that they would be husband and wife in the nether world after the holy matrimony.
            Next day they crossed the Yellow River on a ferry boat and went further south. One day they entered Hunan Province. Every province in China is like a state in America. The Yangtze River flows through this province.
            One night, they stayed in an inn at the roadside. They occupied two rooms, one for Linda and the other for the two men and the boy. Late in the night or very early in the morning, Linda heard the ringing of a bell outside, coming nearer and nearer. She was curious and got up to look through the window facing the road. Someone was ringing a bell and chanting something like magic words simultaneously. He was leading a procession towards another inn across the road. The weird thing was that all the men in the procession looked stiff when moving. They did not look like walking, but like leaping forth step by step. Everyone had a yellow piece of paper stuck on the face. The normal person at the head of the procession led the way into that opposite inn. Then all was silence. Nothing else happened.
            Next morning as they started on their way, she asked the two men escorting her about what she had seen last night. One of them answered, “We have a strange custom in this area. It is called ‘leading corpse’. Someone in this district has a power to make the corpse go with him by ringing his bell and chanting his magic words. When a person died far away from home, the family does not want to put the corpse in a coffin to be carried back. For it costs more money. The family just pays a little money to the person and asks him to ‘lead’ or ‘drive’ the corpse home. Then he waits till there are a few more corpses. Before he starts, he puts a piece of yellow paper on the face of each corpse so that no one can see the unnatural stiff face with eyes shut. He uses magic words to move the corpses into a single file and leads them in the direction he wants them to go. The procession always moves by night and stays put by day so that the stiff movement of the corpses won’t scare people. There are special inns for the corpses on the roads he frequents. Once the corpses get into that kind of inn, he makes them stand against the walls in an empty room set aside for that purpose and he himself goes to another room for a sleep. He will lead the corpses individually to his home and collects the money and goes his way.”
            Linda thought that it was an incredible story, but she had just witnessed it herself. Many things were so weird about this country. She decided that she should be ready to accept anything strange on her way to her terra incognita in the remote region.
 楼主| 发表于 11/10/2016 09:44:43 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 9

One day they came to a village in the afternoon and found a tea house. They went in to have some tea and snacks there. After finishing, the two yamen bailiffs told Linda and the boy to stay here till they were back. They wanted to look for an inn for the night. They went round the village and came across a gambling house. They were fond of this and strutted into it as if they were millionaires.
            The most popular gambling in any casino in China at that time was dice. There were many types of dice playing. People could play two dice, three dice, four dice or six dice. The simplest sort was to play “big” and “small”. In this case the gambling patrons played against the casino and the dealer would shake the container holding the dice. The patrons could bet their money on “big” or “small”. So the winning chance was fifty-fifty. In other cases a patron could shake the container after the dealer did it. Whoever got the more dots added up on all dice was the winner. In this case, the patron played against the house on huge bets. Sometimes, two patrons could play against each other without the dealer taking part in. In the last two cases the gambling was carried on in some special room.
            The second favorite gambling was something like mahjong, but it was called paijiu, which had thirty-two pieces only. On the faces of the paijiu pieces were engraved dots like on the dice, from two to twelve dots, which was really combinations of the dots on the dice. The play of paijiu was somewhat like dice. Only the paijiu pieces were used instead of dice. The two guys loved to play paijiu and they sat down to the paijiu table. Patrons could play against the casino or against each other between two patrons. They played and played, almost forgetful of Linda and the boy.
            Linda and the boy sat in the tea house, sipping tea and talking. After some time a middle-aged man came in. When he was about to sit down at the table next to Linda’s, he looked up and round at all the customers here. His eyes brightened up when he caught sight of Linda. “By Buddha! I’ve never seen such a beauty in my life.” He said to himself.
            There was a big rich family, Liu’s family, in the village. Actually, the village was called Liu’s Village. Most of the crop fields, the forest on the mountainside to the north of the village and most of the shops belonged to the family. Most of the villagers worked for the family, too.
Old Liu, the head of the household, was a retired government high official. He had embezzled a lot of money when in office. His daughter was married to the son of a prince. Therefore, when his corruption had been revealed, he had escaped from the punishment under the protection of the prince on the condition that he must retire from the office.
Then he came back to the village where he had been born. He had a great deal of money now and built a huge residence. He took over a large expanse of fields at a very low price at which he forced the original owners to sell him. Since he had been a government high official and had still the marital relationship with a prince, no one in the village dared to oppose him. Even the local government would listen to him, or he would write to the prince and had the local government officials removed from the office. His son, Young Liu, was worse. His sole hobby was sex. Whenever he saw a girl he took fancy to, he would order her to be brought to home and rape her. When he was tired of her, he just threw her out of his house and she had to return to her parents’ home, weeping.
There were quite a few people who lived on the hospitality of Liu family. They were called parasites. So for the sake of doing something in return, they always suggested some bad ideas to the son to please him. The middle-aged man who saw Linda in the tea house was one of them.
He no longer took tea and hastened back to report to the son as if he had found a treasure, which indeed was to the lewd son. So the son sent a group of his men led by the middle-aged man to fetch the girl from the tea house. When they reached the tea house, Linda was still there. She was waiting for the two yamen bailiffs and could never foresee the danger approaching her.
The group of men came into the tea house and took Linda by force to the carriage waiting outside. Linda screamed for help, but no one dared to interfere. The boy rushed forth to help his foster mother, but was kicked back and fell onto the ground. The carriage rumbled away and the boy got up and stared after it. He could do nothing now and had to wait for the two yamen bailiffs to come back. He held the hope that they could deliver Linda.
The two yamen bailiffs lost all the pocket money they had on the gambling table. They had to return to the tea house. They wanted to borrow some more money from Linda so that they could win back what they had lost. That is the common psychology of the gamblers, which only makes them lose more. When they entered the tea house, they did not see Linda anywhere. Only the boy was there. As they asked the boy where Linda was, the boy stammered out the sad story while sobbing. They learned from other customers who had taken the girl and hurried to the residence of Liu family.
When they arrived there, the butler received them. When he was told the reason why they came he was terrified and rushed in to report to Old Liu. Old Liu knew that the girl with the golden hair was the favorite of the emperor. How did his son dare to snatch her and bring her home? He then summoned his son to his presence and ordered him to release the girl to the escorting yamen bailiffs. At first the son refused to do so, saying that he liked the girl. But after his father explained why he must let the girl go, he had to give in because if the emperor learned that he had raped the girl, he would certainly be beheaded. Even his father would be punished for his neglect in educating his son. So Linda was freed and went back to the tea house with the two yamen bailiffs, where the boy was awaiting them. After the accident, the two guys lost interest to gamble and they took lodging in a nearby inn. They planned to start their long journey early next morning.
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