Copyright © 2010 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
After pronouncing his verdict, Lord Chou handed over a piece of paper to the landlord. On it was written,
Against conscience, you forcibly wrestle a youthful kiss,
Know not your scheme had been exposed from the start?
On the third watch, night of tomorrow a tryst has been made.
Two corpses flung far and wide to all directions!
How are his predictions?”
The landlord pushed through the crowd crying out loudly,
“Indeed everything is true, incredibly accurate!”
With that he disappeared like a gust of wind. The soldier approached the divination table and likewise made a silent prayer at the side. Lord Chou wrote his prediction on a piece of paper and handed it to the soldier.
On it was written:
Someone’s ten strings of cash you did get,
Illicit lovers you wouldst catch.
Such immoral wealth you snatch,
Lover’s web you be latched.
Lord Chou spoke,
“Soldier, did someone not give you some ten strings of cash yesterday? That tomorrow night, on the third watch, to catch some illicit lovers? When the deed is completed, another reward of ten strings of copper cash will follow. Isn’t this true?”
Flabbergasted, the soldier could only nod his head and answered,
“My Lord, you are a living God! ‘Tis the reason this Nobody came to seek your advice.”
Lord Chou smilingly said,
“Don’t think of accepting this kind of wealth. Help catch illicit lovers in the act? When the adulterer is caught, hate will dissipate, whence money would come to thank your efforts. In not catching him, why should you be paid? I’m pointing a road for you to walk: Just go and meet the man as planned. After that, give this written divination to him. Someone would then present you ten strings of copper. Stop all wishful thinking from now on lest you encounter more disasters.”
The soldier kowtowed quickly and said,
“With your Lordship’s advice, no more delusion for this nobody!”
As he left, he did not talk to anyone about his situation but muttered out aloud,
“Such accuracy, a real living God indeed! If you people don’t believe me, just go and test him out.”
With those words, he quickly left the place and disappeared. Who would have thought that upon listening to Lord Chou’s words, the landlord and soldier would later meet. Two different people walking on the same road: The soldier’s hirer is none other than a servant of the landlord. At tonight’s meeting, all present will be surprised and shocked yet thoroughly awed by Lord Chou’s divinations. The landlord invited the two men back to his home for a drink and the soldier became a peacemaker between them. After the written predictions were brought out for all to see that any ill feeling was cast away and yes, the landlord did give the soldier ten strings of copper.
Soon the events were known and the entire city of Morning Song was abuzz with gossip. From then onwards, that street was jammed packed with inquirers wanting to know what their fortunes may be. One question, one prediction true. Four questions asked, two pairs of answers true. Each day after ten inquiries asked, the doors were closed; caring not if more people were still waiting outside. Peng Jian was overjoyed, each day thirty easy pennies were made come rain or shine. Every morning after the divination sessions had ended, signs were taken down and since he had no children, he walked to the street market wine store for a cup or two. He would then return home after all the money had been spent. If there was any left, he gave them to the poor and needy. Days came and months passed. Soon more than half a year had gone by. Who knew that in midst of complete happiness there would be trouble popping out in front of his eyes. Readers, let me explain.
In this city of Morning Song, there lived a widow named Mrs. Shi whose husband had died early on in their marriage. They had a son named Tsung Fu. Being poor, they managed to scrape by a few pieces of silver. She bade her son go to the city of Meng Jin to do some buying and selling. Before he left, they decided that business should conclude within three months. Six months had now elapsed and there was no news of him. Each day old lady Shi thought of her son deeply; standing by the door waiting eagerly for his return. As each day passed, there was no sign of him. Finally she decided to seek divine intervention. In the end, nothing was efficacious and she was deeply depressed. One day while standing in her doorway, she overheard a passerby commenting,
“Lord Chou is selling his divination services on the Cloud Dwelling Street. Very accurate are his skills but too pricey. He charges one tael of silver and three pennies!”
On hearing, she thought to herself,
“Why don’t I go and seek help from him?”
She borrowed the necessary money from neighbours and rose before dawn. She washed and combed her hair, had a little bite to eat1 and tied her hair with a black damask silk ribbon. After locking up her home she headed towards Lord Chou’s place. Dawn broke just as she reached the city. Coincidentally, Peng Jian had opened the door, put up the signs and was sweeping when old Mrs. Shi came and recognized Pang Jian. Crying out aloud,
“Master Peng, can you come out please?”
On hearing someone calling his name, Peng Jian looked up and recognized old Mrs. Shi as they were once upon a time neighbors from the same village,
“Old Mrs. Shi, such an early hour you come. Must be something very important. Is it not? Do you wish for a consultation?”
Old Mrs. Shi burst into tears when she heard the words,
“Rightly so. All because of this old widow’s son, Tsung Fu. He has been gone for some commerce and said he would return within three months. Half a year passed and no news at all. This old lady is too worried. No choice but to borrow that tael of silver and three pennies to plead for Lord Chou’s advice. Whether my son is happy or sad, alive or dead, I need to know and not have my intestines all wrenched up.”
As she spoke, money was pressed into Peng Jian’s hands. After the money was accepted, he counseled,
“Old sister, the lucky will have the protection of heaven. I’m sure your son is safe. Whether he is delayed or not, we do not know. As a mother, your worries are natural. Please come in.”
With these words, she was led into the inner hall. Old Mrs. Shi raised her head and saw a table on which were the Four Treasures of the Study2, a divination cylinder, an incense burner and such. In the middle sat a noble-looking person. Just look at his countenance, so different from others, so dignified and impressive. One can see,
A three tiered hat3 on his head,
An Eight Treasure4 design emblazoning,
Black gauze robes adorning,
Sewn with serpent dragons5.
A face so black and shiny like a pot’s bottom,
But eyes aglitter like stars.
Sitting upright, divining the Eight Trigrams,
Looking more like a god than an immortal.
The moment Mrs. Shi saw Lord Chou’s countenance, she quickly knelt before him. Lord Chou was not thrilled to see a worried old woman hobbling right into the middle of his hall and kneel before him. Why was he not pleased to see her? This is because earlier on, he made a divination and found that there was an overpowering sense of Yin. He was just about to order Peng Jian to not accept any female inquirer for the day when she appeared before him. Lord Chou was annoyed and said,
And to Peng Jian he asked,
“Why did you not report to me first before bringing her?”
Peng Jian replied,
“This is lady Chia from the Shi family. Her dead husband was an acquaintance of mine. Today she came to inquire about her son. This is why I did not report to you first.”
When old lady Shi heard the words, she began to sob,
“This old lady came because her son Shi Tsung Fu was away on business, half a year later and he hasn’t returned. This old body has only this son. In not knowing if he is dead or alive, it’s vexing me to no end. I am in error by not following the norm, I beg for my Lord’s boundless mercy.”
Lord Chou nodded his head and said,
“So be it. Information about the traveler? Let me divine and see what happens.”
With that, he picked up the divination cylinder and shook it a few times and made some detailed calculations6 and after a while he looked at her and sighed,
“If I don’t speak to you frankly, won’t you be waiting on false hope? Your son will die tonight at the third watch of the hour!”
Old lady Shi gasped when she heard the words,
“My Lord, I merely asked when my son is coming back, why did you say he’s going to die?”
Lord Chou replied,
“This predication was conceived by using Ying and Yang principles that came before heaven was created and the rules of Eight Trigrams that came after heaven was formed. All that there is to know about your son are shown here, so why not those of his death as well? You son had already started his journey home. Mother and son reunion… that I’m afraid will not be possible!”
Mrs. Shi wept uncontrollably,
“My son will die tonight, where will that be? Did he die from an illness?”
“I had divined that tonight on the third watch of the hour, your son will be crushed to death inside a broken cave dwelling7.”
On seeing the severity of the words, her sorrow doubles and she kept on knocking her forehead on the ground, begging Lord Chou to save her son.
Lord Chou had no choice but to answer,
“Let me have your son’s Hour of Eight Characters8, his age and let me see how his horoscope for the year will be.”
Old lady Shi quickly gave the information – the son was born on the twelfth month, on the eighteenth day at the hour of the Ox (1am – 3am) and fourteen years of age this year. Lord Chou took away the divination box and studied the given information and exclaimed,
“What a pity! Evil spirits overhead with the White Tiger9 watching life. Even if he’s an immortal, it is not possible to pass this door! Not even a life saviour in sight. What can I do? Old lady Shi, you better lay your heart to rest and forget about your son.”
This is: “If Yama10 wants you to die at the third hour, who will dare retain his life till the fifth watch!”
Immediately upon hearing Lord Chou’s words, old lady Shi wept tearfully and left for home in a pitiful state.
To know if her son was going to live or die, please see the next chapter.
1. The original text was 食過點心. I don’t think they had dim sum the way we have today!
2. Four essential things a scholar needs for writing, the brush, ink, ink slab and paper.
3. 粱冠 – Tiered or beamed hats originate from the Han Dynasty as part for official court
dress. It is also known as 進賢冠. In Chin Dynasty there are known as 緇布冠. There
are different kinds to indicate different ranks with the smallest number for the lowest
rank. One tiered is for scholars or small ranking officials. Two tiered are for middle
rank officials and three are for the high officials. During the Ming Dynasty, all civil and
military officials are required to wear these hats during important ceremonies like
sacrificial rituals together with red silk robes and other accompanying
accoutrements. Finally the number of tiers was increased to seven.
4. 八寶 also known as the 8 Auspicious Things (八吉祥). They are
a. Right-coiling White Conch (右旋螺) symbolizing the deep, far-reaching and
melodious sound of the Dharma teachings, which being appropriate to different
natures, predispositions and aspirations of disciples, awakens them from the deep
slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own and others’ welfare.
b. Precious Umbrella (寶傘) symbolizing the wholesome activity of preserving beings
from illness, harmful forces, obstacles and so forth in this life and all kinds of
temporary and enduring sufferings of the three lower realms, and the realms of men
and gods in future lives. It also represents the enjoyment of a feast of benefit under
its cool shade.
c. Victory Banner (勝幢) symbolizing the victory of the activities of one’s own and
others body, speech and mind over obstacles and negativities. It also stands for
the complete victory of the Buddhist Doctrine over all harmful and pernicious forces.
d. Twin Fish (雙魚) symbolizing the auspiciousness of all living beings in a state of
fearlessness, without danger of drowning in the ocean of sufferings, and migrating
from place to place freely and spontaneously, just as fish swim freely without fear
e. Dharma Wheel (法輪) The golden wheel symbolises the auspiciousness of the
turning of the precious wheel of Buddha’s doctrine, both in its teachings and
realizations, in all realms and at all times, enabling beings to experience the joy of
wholesome deeds and liberation.
f. The Auspicious Knot(吉祥結) or the Unending Knot(無盡結) symbolizing the mutual
dependence of religious doctrine and secular affairs. Similarly, it represents the
union of wisdom and method, the inseparability of emptiness and dependent arising
at the time of path, and finally, at the time of enlightenment, the complete union of
wisdom and great compassion. It is a stylized intertwining of the ”卍” character.
g. Lotus Flower (蓮花) symbolizing the complete purification of the defilements of the
body, speech and mind, and the full blossoming of wholesome deeds in blissful
h. Vase of Treasure (寶瓶) symbolizing an endless reign of long life, wealth and
prosperity and all the benefits of this world and liberation.
5. 蟒龍 – symbols of nobility.
6. The original text is 把子午卯酉推算 which I translated as “detailed calculation” so as
not to obfuscate the reader with the background meanings of the phrase. These are the
twelve earth stems which ancient Chinese used as a system to name for hours, years
etc. In this case they represent the cardinal directions, the associated element and
子 – north, water, rat, 23:00 – 1:00
午 – south, fire, horse, 11:00 – 13:00
卯 – east, wood, rabbit, 5:00 – 7:00
酉 – west, metal, rooster. 17:00 – 19:00
子 clashes with 午and so are 卯and 酉.
Other meanings of 子午卯酉 include, “the reason or because” (as is 就不告訴你怎麽
個”子午卯酉), the entire day (吭嚇了半天，也没有說出個子午卯酉), from beginning to
the end, from start to finish, get to the bottom of things (問個子午卯酉), all directions
and result or achievement (没混出個子午卯 酉)
7. 窰: A manmade hollowed out opening on hill slopes used for dwelling place.
8. 時晨八字: The 8 birth characters in determining one’s fortunes in life etc.
9. The white tiger is usually depicted as a very ominous sign and denoting west.
10. One of the kings or judges of Hades.