John Bowring.

Hwa tsien ki. The flowery scroll, a Chinese novel online

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lover to sympathise with me, and to lighten the

burthen of my woes. My father is beleaguered,

my life as brittle as paper. Anxiety upon

anxiety, disaster upon disaster! Tears ever

flowing, which will never be dried. Under

what fatal horoscope was I born? What were

my sins in my former existence, to be so

heavily punished in this? The sages have

wisely said, that: 4 to be beautiful, is to be

wretched.' Alas! I must break away from

life, and return to the yellow earth. But how

should my spirit find repose, if I abandon my

mother, leaving her friendless and alone?

And, perhaps, my father may yet return to his

native city. If he die, who shall perform the

funeral rites, who shall carry the fragrant

lamp to his grave? Wretched as I am, I

must live, and the world shall know that, in

his death, I did not abandon my father! m

1 No misery or disgrace is held to be greater than that a parent
should leave no child to present the funeral oblations at his grave.
Hence, the passionate desire to have a son and successor is universal in
China. Indeed, the moralists teach it as a peremptory duty of
any childless wife to assist in providing a young concubine whose off-
ering may render proper services to the manes of the departed.
When there is no son, a daughter or a step-son is expected to bring
3 odonferous oil lamp to the grave. If there be only one des-
lant, as in the case of Yao Sien, suicide would be deemed a fear-
I sin, as the funereal ceremonies could not be becomingly performed
the spirit would be condemned to be a wandering ghost, for
whom there is no rest in the tomb.



WE must leave the daughter bewailing the
wretched fate of her father, and visit the
student in his chamber, where he was placed,
exhausted, upon a sick bed. Many a day he
passed, wearied and weeping over his forlorn
fate. He pined through the whole spring-
season, and when summer came, it brought him
no consolation, he could not rid himself of
his melancholy thoughts, nor help dreaming of
his belovedc One morning, his cousin Yao
came to see him in his study, and to inquire
about the state of his health.


" The examiner is coming," said Yao, " and
you must go in and mount up the ladder, and
you must mount high. You must busily read
your books, and study the annals. Of what
avail is it, to waste your days with frowning
eye-brows? Eouse yourself. Tell me what
you are doing. Nothing is so mischievous as
secrecy and gloom."

But Liang dared not tell his cousin the true
state of matters. If he did, it would -bitterly
wound him. So he quietly answered : " Dear
cousin! listen for a moment. Where can I
find spirits to pursue my studies ? I shall fail,
I cannot be promoted. Did ever a sick man
succeed? " Yao responded : " You have great
talents, they will bring you success and glory.
You will ride upon the neck of the whale, you
will be close to the Chwang Yuen." 1 " No! "

1 When in China, I received an autograph communication from
the Chwang Yuen, who stood at the head of all who had passed the
'iterary examinations of the year. Now, when it is considered that
there are probably not less than thirty millions of children in the
village or primary schools, that, of these, not more than one
hundred and thirty thousand pass to the first examinations, and, of
these again, only about one-tenth, say thirteen hundred, pass to the
second rank, and that the Chwang Yuen, is the first of the thirteen
hundred, it will be seen what his position must be, in a country where
literary pre-eminence is the great object of ambition. In the case



answered Liang: "but I am hopeless. I am
not fit for competition. I am sinking. My
wretched life will terminate before the arrival
of another spring."

Yao laughingly replied : " Nay, cousin of
mine! You talk like a demented man. I
know you to be a clever fellow, who can con-
quer difficulties, and succeed if he will. Now,
I am sure there is something on your mind
that you have not communicated to me, some
secret sorrow. You say you will not venture
into the competitive struggles. Are your ten

mentioned, the Chwang Yuen was the son of a person who kept a
small stationer's shop, in an obscure street, at Ningpo, his fore-
fathers, as a matter of course, were crowned with titles ; for, in
China, hereditary honours do not descend to children, but ascend to
parents and forefathers, and all the influential people in the dis-
trict, as well as the highest functionaries, personally presented them-
selves, to congratulate the family on the distinction they had obtained
through the merits of their son. The meaning of Chwang Yuen is
" adorned head," the head being garlanded with flowers when the
announcement is made of his success. I would mention here, in
reference to the great neglect of good writing, and sometimes even
of correct spelling, in many of our educational establishments, that
any inattention to the perfect formation of the Chinese characters,
in the exercises submitted to the competitive examinations, would
be altogether fatal to the success of the student. It were well if a
little more regard were paid to this matter in our own country, in
which the cacography of many of our young men is disgraceful alike
to their tutors and to themselves.


years of study to be thrown away ? The trien-
nial examinations are at hand. Lives there a
man who does not long to walk upon the azure
clouds? You have not had the stupendous
adversity of seeing your name excluded from
the lists. Listen to my counsels. Surrender
not yourself to listlessness and dreariness.
Think of your father, and of the misery you
may cause to him. Remember that, from the
oldest times, we have been taught that it is the
very first of our duties to obey and to honour
our parents, and he must be a fool or worse
who neglects to do so."

Yao could have employed no arguments
more irresistible. Moreover, the thought of
his beloved gave additional force to Yao's
words. His determination was taken. He
would visit the capital, he would pursue his
studies. Yao left him with friendly salutations.
Soon after, it was announced that the Imperial
examiner would hold his sittings. So the two
students determined to take leave of their
parents, and to hasten to the metropolis.



LIANG packed up his travelling gear, and made
his way to his native city. He saluted his
parents, returned to his study, and devoted
himself to the reading of the classics and the

The autumnal winds were summoning the
youths to their examinations. Liang went to
the family hall, to take leave of both his parents.

Father and mother gave him their last ex-
hortations. " Be careful in all you do, and sepa-
rate not yourself from your cousin. Be dili-
gent in your studies, and steadily pursue them



on your voyage. Be not enticed by the flowers
and willows 1 of the capital, and when you have
the good fortune to be placed on the tiger-
board, be not impatient to bring home the
news, but wait in the capital, and strive to be
placed in the highest ranks. Persevere, and
mount, step after step, higher into the azure
clouds of heaven." 2

Having received their blessing, he embarked
for Chang Chow, in order to accompany his
cousin Yao, who took leave of his mother, and
they departed together. Up went the sails,
and forward the boat on the river. The land-
scapes on the banks were beautiful, but they
had other work to do than to be admiring hills
or rivers. They were little encumbered with
travelling trunks, and, at last, they safely
reached the capital. 3

1 Profligate women.

2 The names of those who are elected to the second grade of
Master or Km Jen, is published on Tiger-day, the ninth of the ninth
moon. Hence, the list is called the Tiger Board, the Golden
Board, the Yellow Board. The lower grade corresponding to our
Bachelor degree, are the Siu Tsai.

3 As popular education is so frequently referred to in this novel,
and the question of elementary instruction now occupies so much of
the public attention in this country, it may not be intrusive here to
speak of that remarkable book, the San Tze Ching, or Trimetrical


classic, which, written in the 5th century, is used in every primary
school in the Chinese empire, and in which, probably, not a single
character has undergone either a change of form or of sound in the
last thirteen hundred years. The lines are intoned by the teacher,
and repeated in chorus by the whole of the scholars, laying an em-
phatic accent on the last word, thus :

Tan chi tsu . . Men at birth,
Sing pun shen . . Life-fount good,
Lingsiang chin. . All alike;
Si siang yuen . . Then all far.

which Dr. Bridgman translates : " Men at their birth are in nature
pure. In this, all are alike, but in practice they differ,"

The book consists of 346 lines, or 1068 words, representing about
500 characters ; these are universally known, and are sufficient for
the ordinary business of life. A tolerably instructed man is supposed
to know from four to five thousand, which is only about one-tenth
of the whole number which covers the literary field. Kang Hi's
Dictionary, of which the common edition consists of 21 volumes, has
about 22,000 characters. The great Thesaurus of characters and
sound occupied seventy-six learned men, under the reign of the
great Kang Hi, for eight years, and comprises 130 thick volumes,
printed at the public expense, in 1711. (Callery Sys. Phon : part I.)
Thus, the book begins by asserting the purity of childhood, and
that neglected education is the cause of the deterioration of man.

The third and fourth lines are a maxim of Confucius, having the
condensed antithetical character of most of his teachings, of which
the more elaborate meaning is : " that men all resemble one another
by their common nature ; but all become different from one another
by pursuing different courses." The fifth and sixth lines : " Life un-
taught, Nature droops ; (in) teachings path, first is toil," may be lite-
rally translated : " Suppose no teaching, nature is deteriorated." The
seventh and eighth, " (In) Education's path, noble (most important)
is application." Then, examples are given of the good conduct of
Mencius and Lao Tze, and the poem continues :

Youth untrained . . Gem unwrought,
Father's fault . . . Gives no light j
Teach, no rod . . Man untaught,
Master bad : . Knows not right.


Child not learn . . Man a child,
Must not be ; . . Tender age ;
Not learn young, . . Teacher, friends,
What when old ? . . Manners learn.

Or, " If a child is uneducated it is the fault of the fathers ; and if
in teaching there be no punishment, it is by the neglect of the master.
It is most improper that the child should not learn, and if he learn
not when young, how can he when he is old ? " Then follows a
quotation from the Book of Changes. " The unwrought gem is a
useless article ; the unlearned man knows nothing." " A man, when
a child, being of tender (susceptible) age, should, by his teachers and
friends, be taught politeness."

Here, again, examples are given in illustration. Then the social
duties are enforced, then the decimal system :

Powers are three . Lights are three
Heaven, earth, man ; . Sun, moon, stars.
The four seasons, the cardinal points, the five elements water, fire,
wood, metal, earth ; the five virtues benevolence, justice, propriety,
wisdom, truth ; six kinds of grain for man's food, six species of ani-
mals for his service ; seven passions which move him, joy, anger,
sorrow, fear, love, hatred, and desire ; eight musical instruments,
nine degrees of kindred ; rules of precedence, the ten duties which
every teacher should clearly point out ; a description of the writings
of Confucius, Mencius, Tsz'sz, and Tsang ; first the four books, then
the six classics, other books are also recommended. Next come
the Imperial and ministerial laws, instructions, injunctions, vows,
and mandates ; character of the Chinese government, the ritual,
national music, odes, the annals, commentaries after the classics,
the philosophers, important parts to be committed to memory, and
concludes by study of general history.

Such is the broad outline of the most important book employed in
China for initiating education . It is the synopsis of the Chinese
curriculum. Being rhythmical, it is easily retained in the memory,
and, from constant repetition, it is so engraven in the mind of every
child, that, if two or three words are quoted from any portions of it,
he will go on repeating what follows, like a clock running down.



ON reaching Nan King, 1 they hired a neat, but

1 Late newspapers from China give some interesting particulars
of the resumption of competitive examinations in Nan King, where
they had been long interrupted by the presence of the Tae Ping in-
surgents. An Imperial decree directed the examination hall to be
opened in the ancient capital of China. No less than two thousand
sludents presented themselves as candidates for the Kiu Jen, or
Master of Arts degree, and in consequence of the time which had
passed since the last examination, an unusual number, not less than
248 students, were promoted. So severe was the competition, that
great numbers committed suicide, and many others died from over
exhaustion and anxiety. It is said that, no less than 75 corpses
were carried out from the examination halls. They were removed
by secret, underground passages, lest the great entrance should be
profaned by the presence of the unhappy dead, who are supposed
to pay this most awful penalty for undivulged offences, which ought
to have prevented them from entering into the competitive field.


simple chamber for their abode. They passed
through their courses of examination in the
halls, and returned home with satisfaction and
gladness, and when the list of the successful
candidates was published, the name of Liang
0, joy of joys ! appeared as promoted to
the rank of Kuai Yuen, 1 and the name of
Yao stood the thirtieth in the golden list.
Messengers were immediately dispatched to
their families, announcing the auspicious event.
After the festival of honour 2 was over, they

Perhaps, in the whole administration of China, the least corrupt is
the educational department. The Imperial examiners have frequently
been beheaded for acts of favouritism, but, notwithstanding this
severity, it is believed that, about one tenth of the successful candi-
dates obtain their promotion by bribery, or by other unwarrantable

1 The first place among the Kiu Jen.

2 When the examinations are over, the list of the promoted is
hung up in the Palace of the Governor of the Province, and saluted
with three salvos of artillery. The Governor presents him, and
bows before the list, and a second discharge of artillery takes place.
A few days after this, " the promoted" are invited by the Governor
and the high provincial authorities, to a feast of honour in the
palace. They are served by all the subordinate functionaries, and
two youths, fantastically attired, hold olive branches over the heads
of " the promoted." The festival is called Lu Ming Yen" Stag
Shouting Festival," from an old tradition that, when the stag hears
certain joyful songs, he breaks out into cries or shouts. The
Emperor also gives a feast, called the "Jewel-forest Feast." To it,
the greatest literary celebrities are invited, who are compared to a
forest of precious stones. Schlegel, p. 99.

9 *


hired a boat, and embarked on the river. Then
thought the Kuai Yuen of his beloved Yao
Sien, with globular tears, in which sadness was
mingled with delight.

" And, now, were it but my happiness to be
united to my beloved, I should enjoy an ever-
lasting spring-time of fame and honour. To-
day, is my name pronounced as worthy of note,
still, I cannot see the blue waters, nor the
green hills, for my thoughts are concentrated
on her who is absent."

But he concealed his anxieties, fearing that
Yao might perplex him with inquiries. When
lie was alone, he gave way to his emotions, and
at night, his dreams were filled with images of
his mistress. So absorbed was he with his many
reflections, that he scarcely noticed that the boat
had reached the end of the voyage, and anchored
at the city wall.

The first enquiries Liang made were about
the Yang family, and he was informed that the
Major-General had been sent to the frontiers,
and was there beleaguered by the accursed
rebels. Nobody knew what had become of his
daughter, and it would be very difficult to dis-


cover where she was. Sorrowful, indeed, was
this information to Liang.

"What can I do to find my beloved? Be-
tween us are clouds of dust and stormy winds,
and I know not whether she is alive or dead.
Where can I seek her? Why did we ever
separate? Have I not met her love with in-
gratitude? What care I for fame? I will
not proceed farther with these examinations."

But Yao gave him better councils, and en-
couraged him to enter again into the competitive
field. The list of the conquering candidates
was proclaimed. Liang's name was the eighth.
Yao's was in the middle. They were taken
to be examined on the golden steps, 1 and, on
the day when the Son of heaven addressed
the students, Liang was raised to the third
grade. 2 Yao obtained the first grade in the
second class. 3 The Emperor graciously in-
vited them to the Jewel-forest Feast. Yao

1 In the presence of the Emperor.

2 The third on the list of the Han Lin (Doctors) hears the title
of Than Hwa, " the flower seeker." The second is the Pang Yen,
"Accepted graduates eyes." For the highest, the Chwang Yuen,
" the ornamented head." See p. 193.

3 A Tsin Tze.


was appointed to an office in the Ministry of
the Home Department, and Liang was named
a member of the Han Lin College, and took his
seat in that distinguished place.

A beautiful palace was appointed for his
residence, a stud of fine horses was given him
and he was called to the service of the Court.
There was a noble park behind his palace, and,
after the evening twilight, it was his delight to
walk in the moonshine, and to look upon the
fragrant flowers. 1

1 Evidence of his fidelity to his mistress.



LEAVE we the academician to his repose, and let
us visit the sorrowful lady. She had heard of
the straits in which her father was placed, and
it was a heavy, additional burthen upon her
already too sorely oppressed heart. She sighed
over the melancholy condition of the love-lorn.
"And he," she said, "has doomed me to sit
for ever by my lonely lamp." Yun Liang and
Pi Yue, when they saw their mistress' grief,
invited her to walk in the garden. So she slowly
raised her golden lilies, and, as the door of the
garden was opened, she entered, accompanied


by her maids. And they wandered among
the flowers, while she cast anxious glances
around. Beautiful she was, but her very
shadow showed that she was the victim of
melancholy. Her head drooped, when she
called to mind the events of the past year, and
tears, which she could not restrain, moistened
the sleeves of her silken garments.

" Well do I remember the spot where I met
him ! The bright full moon smiled upon us
sanctioned our union, with my whole heart I
felt that we were pledged to each other, and
who could have thought that our hopes were
to be blasted? Where is he, from whom that
weeping separation, under the willows, took
place? Not a word have I heard about him,
and there can be no doubt he has broken the
oath which he swore under the flowers. If
we meet in the street, it will be as mere chance
passengers. From none of them could I seek
solace for my sorrows. My beauty is departed,
my spirits sink when I think of him. I have
seen the peach blossoms blown away by the
winds of spring. They are carried off "by the
stream, or scattered over the flat roofs. Who


will condole with the bitter thoughts of this


And then, sobbing, she turned to the moon,
but only to think of him who was so far away.

Who could have fancied that Liang's house
was just on the other side of the wall ? And
he, too, was there, and heard the sweet sounds,
that were brought to him by the soft breeze.
He listened, and said :

" What is that heavenly voice which I hear
among the flowers? It is the song of the
mango-bird, when he flies through the branches.
It is the moon-goddess speaking in her palace,
and lamenting that she is in Kwang Hang,
deserted and lonely." l

He wandered over the garden, endeavouring
to discover the spot whence the sounds had
proceeded. Yet he saw nothing but dreaming
herons and sleeping flowers, there was no trace
of man. There were bright clouds floating
over the distant hills, light as the silk- worms'
threads, and, in the ponds, the gold-fish were
quietly disporting.

Again, he heard the voice, but saw not the

1 Notes to Chapter VI.


speaker. The wind shook his silken robe, and
he seated himself under the willows.

"Somebody, surely/ 7 said he, "must be
wandering in the garden ! "

He mounted the rock-work 1 by the side of
the pond, that he might look over the garden,
and saw, in the distance, a maiden, whom he
could, at first, hardly distinguish from the
flowers, and he remarked that the silk sleeves
of her robe were wet with tears. He fancied
there was a resemblance to Yao Sien, but
could she have become so thin and pale ! He
saw that her shadow was lessened, her dress
was simple, and she stood like a modest statue
in the wind. She looked around, and he was
touched with the sorrowful expression of her

There were two serving girls in the summer
pavilion, and he noticed that they were smiling,
and pointed to the moon as it peeped through
the dispersing clouds.

They were, indeed, the two chamber-maids,
Yun Liang and Pi Yue.

1 The fish ponds which ornament the gardens of the Chinese are
generally walled round with rock- work, in whoso interstices shrubs
and flowers are planted.


" It must be the beloved one," he exclaimed.
"What can have brought her here?"

And he thought, shudderingly, of the events
of the past year, he could hardly support him-
self as they passed before his memory.

" Mine is an accursed fate. Our hair will
grow grey, and we shall not be united. My
oaths, high as the hills and deep as the ocean,
are scattered like dust. Could I have foreseen
this, never would I have allowed myself to be
so entangled in the perplexities of love ! How
can I scale the high wall that separates us?
Yet it would be cowardly and foolish to turn
away, now that I have discovered her. I will
approach her. I will speak to her. What care
I for these seven feet of clay. 1 May I not risk
my life, in order to be united to my beloved? "

And he suddenly sprang over the wall, and
fell among the flowers. Yao Sien shrieked
out, her heart trembled.

She called out to her chamber-maids to see
what had happened. The timorous Yun Liang
beckoned to Pi Yue, who shouted : " What
thief is that, who dares to frighten the chamber-

' My body.


Liang made a low bow. " Fair ladies ! Can
it be that you have forgotten Liang? A whole
spring has passed since I met you among the

The moonlight enabled Yun Liang to see
that it was no other than Liang, and she knew
that it was his voice to which she had been
listening, so she hurried away to her mistress
to tell her the news.

So the lovers met, met with overflowing
tears, and the sleeves of their silk garments
were bedewed.

Yet they were speechless. What words
could express their feelings? Yun Liang and
Pi Yue were equally moved. At last, Liang
dried his tears, and said : "I was separated
from you by a heavy mountain of sorrow. It
was covered with clouds and storms. I was
torn by a hundred miseries when, last year, I
parted from you to return to my home. And
now I have the bliss of looking again upon

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Online LibraryJohn BowringHwa tsien ki. The flowery scroll, a Chinese novel → online text (page 11 of 16)