Monday, August 2, 2010
Right then, Mr. and Mrs. Ren quickly helped Old Mrs. Shi to her feet and explained,
“Old sister-in-law, did you not see the storm? It is but a stab in the dark by our daughter. .
Old Mrs. Shi argued,
“Lord and Mistress, if this is only a rambling of your daughter, how it can be so deadly accurate? I beg you to beckon the young miss out quickly. Any further delay and my son will be in danger.”
Tears flowed as she finished speaking.
With no other choice, Ren Tai Kung ordered a servant girl to bring his daughter out from her room. The moment Mrs. Shi espied her she exclaimed,
“Young miss, please have pity and save my son!”
When she was about to kneel down again Mrs. Ren stopped her, admonishing her gently,
“How can you be like this?”
And then to her daughter she said,
“My daughter, if you are capable of saving his life, please do so.”
After seeing her parents and Mrs. Shi to their seats, Peach Blossom began her instructions,
“Indeed there is a way to save him but you must never ever speak of my name to the outside world. If Lord Chou gets wind of it, he will never forgive me. In enmity he will come after me. Instead of returning kindness, would you, madame, bring evil to me?”
Old Mrs. Shi heard the words and swore gravely,
“Young Miss, please be assured! How could this old bag be an ingrate? Your name will never come out from my lips!”
Peach Blossom replied,
“Alright then, madame, please listen carefully to this lowly girl: According to the Eight Trigrams your son will die as predicted. However I do possess a certain magic skill of the immortals that will destroy the outcome of the condemned and break his Eight Trigram Prediction. Believe not in my power! Your son will surely die.”
Old Mrs. Shi bursts into joy with great hope,
“Young Miss, what is it? Please explain to this old bag so that I can quickly arrange for the needed things.”
Peach Blossom continued,
“No special preparation is needed but you must buy one Lord of Earth1 paper horse and another of the Lord of Fire. Put them together in a room and light two candles. Under a table, place a bowl of clean water and a live chicken. Fasten a winnowing sieve2 under which a lighted oil lamp is placed. This lamp is known as the Lamp of Increased Longevity. Its light must not be allowed to extinguish. If it does, so will your son’s life! Place a mirror on top of a folded piece of his clothing. With an old shoe of his in hand, sit in the room and wait. The rain will come and go during the night and the sky will be cleared when it stops. Fill the bowl with water, walk to the main entrance and use the old shoe to beat on the door. With each beat, call out your son’s name and beckon him to come home. Repeat the process at each beat of the watch until the third watch has passed. You may then, my elder, sleep at ease, knowing that your son’s safety is guaranteed and you will see him next morning.”
This really is,
A beauty’s magical skill knownst only by her,
This secret transmission from Heaven.
After listening to Peach Blossom’s instructions, old Mrs. Shi hurried home after bidding Mr. and Mrs. Ren farewell as the wind and rain continued unabatedly. With such detailed instructions, they were not sure if they could believe what their daughter had instructed. Together they prodded her,
“Our precious daughter, a person’s life and death had been determined by heaven’s will. That Shi Tsung Fu is going to be crushed to death in the cave dwelling somewhere south of the city. Why instruct the mother to cry half the night and that by next morning mother and son will be reunited? We can’t really believe in this mumbo jumbo.”
Afraid that heaven’s secrets would leak out in answering her parents, she merely replied,
“At this time, it is not convenient to say anything more. When the time comes, everything will be clear to you all.”
Mr. and Mrs. Ren did not pester their daughter any further after her caution. The young miss excused herself and entered the peach garden to rest.
Let’s talk about Shi Tsung Fu. He left home on the ninth month and had planned to return in three months’ time but then who knew that he would hook up with another vendor and travel together to Meng Jin? He decided to go sightseeing when he made a three-fold profit from his few pieces of silver. Two months later, he was homesick and thought about his worried mother. After gathering his belongings, he parted with his partner. He travelled day and night as he headed home to Morning Song as quickly as possible. Hunger and thirst were his companions, with the moon and stars as his roof. He wished he could run all the way back so that he could see his mother sooner.
After a few days, it was already the fifteenth of the third month. He was leaving the inn and he calculated the distance to Morning Song – still about a hundred and fifty six miles away. He thought to himself,
“I think it’s better to enter the city by today.”
He made up his mind and quickened his steps. He was in no mood to enjoy any scenic beauty. As the hour of Shen approached, dark clouds gathered swiftly and suddenly. Shi Tsung Fu agonized in his thoughts,
“With this rain, it is still about ten or twenty miles away, how can I hurry myself into the city?”
The more he thought, the more anxious he became and the slower his pace became. After travelling frantically for a few miles, he was profusely covered in sweat. Gusts of gale winds hit him from time to time and bursts of heavy rain pelted him. Cold and soaked to the core, he tumbled. Ren Shi Tsung knew that there were no inns ahead or he had not seen any dwelling where he had passed. Nary a place he could use for shelter. Even with the straw raincoat he had on, he was not completely protected from such hostile elements. He had no choice but to brave forward and walk as fast as he could. Each step forward was a step in difficulty. He struggled and hoped for some temporary refuge nearby. Finally he espied an abandoned cave dwelling ahead. Though damaged beyond repair, it was nevertheless a haven from the elements. He entered, put down his luggage and began wringing out his wet clothes. There was nothing on which he could hang his wet clothes so he decided to leave them on. He sat down and sighed,
“How hateful this rain is! The more anxious I am, the later I am able to enter the city. Heaven does not convenience anyone.”
Night was falling and the rain continued. Realizing that entering the city that day would not be possible, he decided to spend the night in the cave dwelling. He rationalized to himself,
“Do I really have to enter the city by today? Does it really matter? So many days have passed. Surely I can tarry for one more night.”
After much deliberation, he felt better and was more at ease. Finally with his back against the wall, he closed and rested his eyes. We shall talk more about him later.
Returning to old Mrs. Shi. She was half in belief and half in doubt with Peach Blossom’s words. Still she braved the rain and bought two paper horses of the Star Gods before heading home. A live chicken was brought into the room. Not long afterwards, the rain seemed to be abating gradually. She felt more at ease as the words of Peach Blossom rang true. After fifteen minutes or so, the sky cleared up and she was excited,
“This Miss Peach Blossom is truly a goddess! Her words must not be taken lightly. I guess it’s time for me to cry for my son!”
Her wails were loud and the more she cried, the sight of her became more pitiful. What a great crier she was! She stopped crying when the first watch struck. With an old shoe of Shi Ren Tsung in hand, she walked to the front door and began to beat on it with the old shoe, shouting away,
“Shi Tsung Fu, my son, come home quickly. I’m longing for your return in great anticipation! Think of your parents. A child, you should not travel so far away and make me wait for you at the door. Please hurry back!”
When this story was written, a song came into vogue. Let me recite it for you. The words are:
First watch comes,
Moon is low,
A widow’s room, sob sobbing heard.
Call, calling my son Shi Tsung Fu:
My son, my heart, my liver3 and more!
Where now art thou?
For commerce ye say thou must go,
Cutting from a beloved4, thou hast left me.
Pinching my fingers, longing for my son.
Twelfth month past, still not here.
Already it’s the third day of the third month,
Call thy mother now,
So urgent it is to her!
Second watch comes,
Moon is high,
A widow’s room, wail wailing all there is,
Call, calling my son Shi Tsung Fu:
My son, why dost care not for thy life?
With so many other ways to die,
In a desolate cave ye shall not!
Of what crime thou hadst committed?
Destined in throwing a life far from home5.
When Lord Chou divined thy life,
My heart resisted pain from a thousand knives.
A mistake ye wouldst make,
Abandoning thy mother with no branch to rely!
Third watch comes,
Moon in the center,
A widow’s room, pain paining galore,
Call, calling my son Shi Tsung Fu:
Know not thou hast provoked the stars of calamity?
From Miss Ren’s magical methods I use,
Not knowing if they wouldst work!
Alive if ye return to me,
Mile high silver candles I burn to thank ye gods!
Old Mrs. Shi followed Peach Blossom’s instructions of one wailing followed by one chant. Only until the fourth watch had come and gone did she stop and go to sleep. Now leaving Mrs. Shi’s sleep aside, we return to Shi Tsung Fu. The sky had cleared in about an hours’ time. He was bored sitting in the dwelling and reflected on how he hurried home since the fifth watch of the previous night till the night’s hour of Shen. He was dead tired and was soon asleep with his back against the wall. His snores began to rival those of thunder, drifting into the arms of sweet dreams…
Wall collapsing tonight, that’s the danger. How his fate awaits, please continue to the next chapter.
Direction Element Name
East Wood 重華
South Fire 熒惑
West Metal 太白
North Water 司晨
Center Earth 日侯