John Bowring.

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

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your lovely countenance, and I will repeat the
vows of my unchanged love."

Yao Sien answered, sorrowfully :

" The distinguished man is no longer what


he was, and honoured as you are, you may
claim a bride from the goddess of the moon. 1
It is sad, indeed, that our hopes should be
scattered to dust. Where is the oath now,
which you swore amidst the flowers ? Liang !
you are truly an ungrateful man. I once
fancied that there was faithfulness in the world,
and little thought you would be found among
the unfaithful and the unloving. Thanks to
you, I am condemned to loneliness, but when
I am hidden behind the curtains of my chamber,
will your heart be at rest? Can you, who
have destroyed the happiness of my life, find
comfort for your own? I scarcely believe that
the pure heaven will look complacently upon
the untruthful. I know I am only a poor girl,
yet I value truth and honour more than a
thousand pieces of gold, and if I am not your
wife, I will consecrate myself to the flower god-
dess who recorded the history of our love. I
heard you had been betrothed to Liu's daughter,
and I gave all my belongings to the flames.
" And now will I resign myself to my soli-

1 i.e., I am unworthy to be the wife of one who has been elevated
to such honour .


tude, for it would break my heart to think of
any other alliance. I have had the fortune of
meeting you once more, and of telling you all,
and now I am ready to die, and to wait for you
in another world.

" Think not of me when your marriage rites
are celebrated. Be happy in the embraces of
another woman. I know that the new flower is
more fragrant than the old. You will forget
her, to whom you pledged your faith, upon
whom the bright moon shines upon the green
hillock, but whether for her, you will not care
to ask. Is it her doom to envy another? "

She uttered these words in a soft, sweet
tone, but her tears stopped her farther utter-
ance. She leaned mournfully on the balus-
trade, and her spirits sank. The dim moon,
the silent flowers, the stifled buzz of the in-
sects, were the sole but fitting companions of
the abandoned one. Yet there was another
being not less distressed than herself. The
grief, the misery of both are not to be 'des-

At last, Liang found a voice. " I humbly
implore you, fair lady ! to listen to what I have


to say. Why should you do me the injustice
of supposing that I have forgotten your kind-
ness and your promises? The difficulties in
the way of marriage are not the work of man.
How often have I desired to convey to you the
feelings of my soul, but I could find no way
of passing to you over the blue bridge. Heaven
and earth have taken pity upon us, and now
we meet, and though heart-broken I will tell
you all.

" After I had taken leave of you last year,
and returned to my native city, I found that
my parents had contracted a marriage engage-
ment for me. I dared not inform them of my
secret affection, but concealed a sorrow which
was likely to destroy my life. I had nearly
determined to seek you out, and to confide to
you all my cares, and longed for death as my
sole relief.

"I returned to the way which leads to the
celestial terrace. 1 I heard that your father
had been promoted, and had been summoned
to the capital, and therefore did not find my
beloved in the back garden. Such was my

1 The Lady's garden.


distress, that I swooned in the summer-house.
Thanks to the gardener who found me, and
brought the needful help, I was restored to life.

u I had no courage to seek for honour or for
glory, but my cousin Yao counselled me with
much earnestness not to abandon my studies,
but to go in to the triennial examinations, and
struggle for the highest rank. I then went to
the capital specially in search of you, and there
I heard that your honoured father was be-
leaguered by the rebels .Thus, mists and rain,
clouds and mountains, separated me from my
beloved, and I began to think that my life was
worthless as an autumnal leaf, for whichever
way I turned, I could learn nothing of you.

" Since then, sickness and sadness have taken
possession of me, J and I scarcely retain the like-
ness of man. In the cold, I forgot to clothe
myself, and, though hungry, I did not care to
eat. It was all wretchedness, from the rise of
the morning to the twilight fall of evening. I
knew that my earthly career would soon be
closed, and of my many gloomy thoughts, the
gloomiest was that I had made you unhappy.

1 I am white as the Mei flower.


But I persevered with my studies, and my
name stands on the golden list. I was an-
nounced as one of the selected for the flowery

" And now the moon is at its full, and we
have met again. Is our meeting anything but
a dream?

" I beseech you to tell me, from the beginning,
what has brought you here to dwell? "

Yao Sien, after sighing deeply, said : " What
could induce me to believe that you had not
forgotten my love? I know, now, that the
blame belongs to your parents, and how can
you induce them to change their plans?

" But it is the will of heaven, and not that
of man, which settles all events. Was the link
between us, in the former world, so weak, that
it must be broken in this ? 1 for the moon has
looked down coldly upon us, the blossoms are
scattered, and we cannot be one. A west
wind and a heavy rain have torn the inter-
twined branches asunder, and we are delivered
over to a boundless misery.

1 The Chinese, who believe that " marriages are made in heaven ? "
say that the predestination belongs to a former state of existence,
and that the consummation takes place in the present stage.


" When my father went to the borders, I
could not remain at home, but went with my
mother to dwell with an academician. He is
an uncle of mine on the mother's side, and his
name is Tsien. For me, I am like the weeds
which are driven on the surface of the water
over lakes and seas now floating, and now

" Of my father, I have no news from the
other side of the great wall. I know not
whether he is alive or dead. He was a thousand
miles away in the frontier town.

" And, to-day, Sir ! I have the bliss of meet-
ing you, but our meeting is in a strange city.
I doubted, till to-day, whether I should ever
see you again, and thought the chill moon
would soon be looking down on my solitary
grave. "

To which Liang replied : " Lady Yao Sien !
My life is like an autumnal cloud, and I had
rather perish on the sandy waste, 1 and repay
your kindness by the sacrifice by my life, than
be unthankful or untruthful to you. I will
seize the three-feet long dragon-pool-sword, 2

1 The wilderness of Sim Mo.

2 The twisted, flaming sword of victory. It is supposed to typify
the crooked movements of a dragon in a pool.


and destroy the accursed rebels, and thus prove
my gratitude to you. I will rescue your
honoured father, and bring him safely back to
his native city. And when I have rendered
this service, I shall be ennobled, and perhaps he
will consent to our espousals, and if I fail to
redeem him, I can die upon the battle field, for
such a death will not be unwelcome to me. 1
Most beloved of beloved women ! You have
read the books of the classics, you have studied
our history. We will be true to one another,
and the world shall hear of our fame."

A tear of pleasure dropped from the eye-lids
of Yao Sien. " Now, I know that your love
and fidelity are as deep as the ocean, and mine
as firm as metal or rock. The goddess of
flowers will acknowledge the sincerity of our

And they talked over their disappointments
and their difficulties. The shadows of the
flowers showed that the night was near. They
looked up to the moon, and held one another
by the hand. But the fainting stars began to give

1 The ancient annals of China are full of records of self-sacrifice to
love and to duty, and no appeal could be stronger or more compli-
mentary than this.



notice to the moon that it should disappear,
and soon the crowing of the cocks announced
that it was time to separate, and they heard
the voices of Yun Liang and Pi Yue, summon-
them to depart. " The people are awaking,"
they said, " and putting on their garments.
You must leave now, and arrange for another
meeting, or you will be disturbed by the ser-

Yao Sien wept again, and said: "I know
not when we may meet. Do not hanker after
the enjoyment of the clouds of Wu, 1 and let not
the night be hateful to me ! "

Liang checked his tears, but sobBed heavily,
and said : " Beautiful one ! have you not yet
read my heart? "We must separate now but
not to meet again is the doom of death."

And they sought, together, the shadows of
the flowers, holding each other by the hand
and sleeve. They said: "Would it not have
been happiness had we never met? Then we
could not have loved one another, nor would
our dreams have been so dreary. Alas ! that
a pitiless sword should sever our affections!

1 Note to Chapter VI.


If we are to be apart, what matter it whether
it be but a step or a thousand miles ? "

They heard the birds sing, they saw the
blossoms blown about by the breeze, yet thought
of nothing but their own grief; hanging down
their heads, they both departed to their homes.



ON Liang's return to his study -chamber, he sat
down by the lamp-light to prepare a memorial,
that he might be allowed to proceed to the
frontier, to attack the accursed rebels, and to
give peace to the land. He desired, in this
way, to testify his gratitude for the favours
with which Imperial goodness had honoured
him. And he clothed himself in his gala gar-
ments, and sought an audience from the Son of

The Emperor was much rejoiced when he
read the memorial. u That this youth should


offer to proceed to the overthrow of the accursed
rebels, is it not an opprobrium to my do-nothing
courtiers? But if you succeed in giving peace
to the land, I will raise you in the ranks of the
nobility, and my rewards shall not be parsi-
moniously bestowed upon your exalted person."

And the Emperor gave him the sword of
dukedom, and directed that a hundred thousand
soldiers should accompany him to the borders.
Having received the mandates of the Supreme
Ruler, he took leave of His Majesty, and was
invited by all the courtiers, great and small, to
a, parting collation. When the festival was over,
he mounted his horse, and departed. Columns of
sand, blown about by the winds, frequently
darkened his path. Often looking round, he
could not perceive a living soul in all the wide
waste. But he was ready, for his beloved one, to
sacrifice his life on the battle field.

We know not yet whether he is destined
to live or die, for it is heaven alone that
disposes of all the vicissitudes of defeat and



As soon as he reached the borders he prepared
for the fight. He sent a message to the
governor of the frontier fortress, directing him
to expedite auxiliary forces, in order, at once,
to annihilate the rebels. The messenger hurried
off without delay.

Liang meditated gloomily : " The mountain
paths are steep and rough, and my soldiers are
little accustomed to them. I must so manage
that the rebels may not know that the Imperial
troops are coming to attack them. It is an
old maxim that "you should pounce upon the
enemy when he is unprepared." Meanwhile,


many of the robber chiefs pressed upon him.
He mounted his horse, in order to overthrow the
rebels. He had not reckoned on the cowardice
of the Chinese soldiers, who fled to save their
lives. The rebels took advantage of their pol-
troonery, followed, and destroyed multitudes
of them, leaving only a few thousand men
under Liang's command. Not knowing the
plans of the rebels, he retreated into the moun-
tains, to avoid farther disaster. He thought he
might find some means of escape, but the rebels
cut off his passage*

It is an old military saying, that : u The few
cannot resist the many." He saw no chance of
safety, and, in the unknown mountain passes,
where he was beleaguered, hero though he
was, the chances were sadly against him.

Happily for him, he was intrepid, cautious,
and persistent, so that the rebels were unable
to reach his person, though they surrounded
him with some thousands of cavalry and in-
fantry. They spread a false report that he
had been killed, and invited his troops to sur-
render themselves.

The report reached the capital, and the Em-


peror immediately ordered the Minister of War
to send supplies and aid to the commandant of
the frontiers, that all the border passes should
be watched, all mutiny suppressed, and that a
good General should be hurried off to the
locality. 1

1 These insurrections represent the normal state of things in
China. For many centuries this imperial authority has feebly main-
tained itself on the frontier provinces, and this Chapter may be
taken as a veritable fragment of every day history.



YAO was removed from the War Adminis-
tration and charged with the transport service
of the victualling department.

Knowing that his aunt had taken up her
abode in Tsien's palace, he went thither to pay
her his respects, and to bid her farewell.

When the Lady had admitted him, she wept
while he told her the purpose of his journey.

" The rebels have broken out into rebellion
on the frontiers, and a Han Lin doctor was dis-
patched in order to subdue them. That doctor
is my own nephew, Liang, But who could

10 *


have believed that his soldiers would be van-
quished, and the rascally rebels triumph? It
is sorrowful to think that such a youthful hero
should have forsaken his parents, and have
been thus sacrificed.

" By Imperial command, the Minister of War
is sending stores and provisions, and I am
ordered to accompany them. Therefore, have
I come to bring my salutations, to bid you
farewell, not knowing whether I shall ever

The Lady, hearing this, burst into loud
wailings : " The road to the frontiers is long
and perilous. But when you reach the frontier
you will write, and give us all the news about
your uncle."

Having promised this, Yao departed, but
Yun Liang had overheard all the conversation.



SHE could scarcely contain her tears when she
went to seek her mistress, and, with an agitation
she could not control, she entered the boudoir.
She screamed out : " my Lady ! What a
disaster what a frightful disaster ! It was on
your account that Master Liang took the com-
mand of the troops. He has been slain on the
battle field, and his soul is departed to the spirit-
land. Mr. Yao is gone to convey provisions
to the troops, and has just been here to say
farewell to our old lady. He related, in the
saloon, what had happened to Master Liang.
Your slave was present, and overheard it all ! "


When Yao Sien heard this, it seemed as if
life had departed from her, there were streams
of tears which indicated a broken heart. "It
was for me that, careless of his own life, for
me, that he sacrificed himself. I will live no
longer. I will not cannot live alone. I will
go to another world. I will join him there,
for he shall not be left to wander desolate on
the earth. Alas! alas! that such a youth
should have perished on my account. He is
now a lonely and abandoned ghost." l

She loosened and shook her hair, bent her
head, over her ivory bed, and poured out
mournful lamentations. Never were there
bitterer sobs, never a more broken heart ; at
last, she sighed out :

" Liang ! wait for me in the yellow waters,
till I can join you. I cannot remain in this
wretched world. I would fain thank you for
all your devotion to me, but here we can never
be united, never rest on the same pillow,

1 Wu Chu, Without a master. If a person dies, leaving a son,
the son becomes a Chu, (master) who directs all the funeral rites for
his ancestors. If he hare no son, he is Wu Chu, and no one is
allowed to direct the services over the dead. The spirits of the child-
less dead are doomed to misery.


never repose under the same coverlet. Never
shall we sport in the garden together ! Again
to see you is but a dream. I call upon you
with a thousand sobs, but there is no answer."

Exhausted and fainting, she fell upon her
bed, and, though she had been long weeping,
her tears flowed forth afresh.

But her body lost its strength, and her face
its beauty, and she was scarcely to be recog-
nised. Night after night, hidden behind her
silken curtains, she pined away, from the dawn-
ing of the day to the departure of the evening.
As she refused all food, even a handful of
rice, or a drop of tea, what wonder that her
lips were dry and her frame wasted !

Pi Yue, fearing that death would result from
the sufferings of her mistress, approached her
bedside, and said :

" Lady ! arise, and take but a mouthful of
rice and tea! Do not make your parents
wretched on account of your truth and love.
If Liang have sacrificed himself for you, all
your grieving will not bring him back to life.
It is true, that the affection between lovers is
strong, bat the heavenly goodness which our


parents have shown us, has a still stronger
claim. Dear lady! Your mother bore you,
and your father is in the midst of perplexities
and difficulties, from which he is not returned.
They expect you to perform for them the
funeral rites, and that you will attend their
departed spirits with the fragrant lamp. 1 If
you give way because your lover is no more, on
whom is your grey-headed father to depend?
My old lady, too, has, for the last few days,
had many griefs, and is mourning over her
husband's absence. You must console her.
You must not leave her to her sorrows, and
break her heart, for your sickness will bring
sickness to her, and make her very miserable." 2

And thus, and in many other ways, did Pi
Yue endeavour to comfort and to support her

Yao Sien sighed, and replied :

"Liang has died on my account, and the

1 This is regarded as the highest of social duties, to which every
other must be made subservient. Reverence for ancestors is of
primary obligation, and its neglect is deemed infamous.

2 Confucius insists on the necessity of filial obedience, on every
occasion. He says: "In serving your parents, advise them with
respectful gentleness, observe and be attentive to all their wishes.
Even if they deal harshly with you, do not murmur."


espoused husband has sacrificed himself to his
espoused wife. If I do not preserve my faith
and my chastity, how can I present myself to
him in the yellow waters? I feel, indeed, all
the goodness of my parents, but in spite of all,
I cannot continue in this world. You tell me
I must serve my mother when she is dead, and
yet my parents insist on my betrothal. Now,
if I obeyed them, and allowed them to betroth
me, I shall have led my lover to a violent
death. No! this can never be, for I should
for ever hate myself in the world below, while
his bleached bones would remain on the battle-
field. Though I must be disobedient, and re-
fuse to be betrothed, I cannot tell my parents
the true state of things. In whatever direction
I turn, there is nothing but death before me,
and through the portals of death I shall re-
join my love."

Then, Yun Liang responded to the beautiful
mourner :

" If this be the case, let us reconsider what is
to be done! Master Liang has perished for
your sake on the frontier, and you are deter-
mined that you will not be betrothed. Now,


your father is besieged by the rebels, and we
have no news of him : in his absence, the old
lady will not venture to ask for the birth-certi-
ficates. 1 When my Lord returns, the family
will be all gathered together, and it will be a
day of rejoicing, and if the marriage is spoken
of, it will be a good time to discuss it."

Yao Sien turned over these councils in her
heart. She thought there was propriety in the
suggestions of her maid. " I really must do
honour to my mother, and bear the burden of
life, that I may serve her from morn to night.
But I cannot forget the history of my lover.
I will not forsake my betrothed, for that would
break my heart. Truly, my sorrow has no
limit, my tears no end. All my life is linked
to a heavy, heavy heart."

1 A needful step towards marriage. The record of birth is called
Sing King. It is accompanied with eight astrological signs, out of
which the thaumaturgist reads the horoscope of the party, and
decides whether, or not, the projected union is to be auspicious.



LEAVE we the young lady to her sorrows, and
let us visit Liang's father and mother.

They had heard that their son's name had
been placed on the golden list, with smiles,
congratulations, and transports of joy.

One morning brought them a letter from
their son, advising them that he had taken
leave of the Emperor, and had gone to the
borders to annihilate the accursed rebels. When
the old gentleman had read it, his heart was
sorrowful, and he said : " My son regards his


life as of no more value than dust and dirt.
The rebels, I know, are in great force on the
frontier, and I do not believe that the ministers
have taken any efficient measures for their sub-
jugation, and for the protection of the public
peace. I fear that my poor son will be sacri-

And this was the sole topic of conversation
between the old people, from morn to. night,
and from day to day. But, on a certain day,
when their brows were somewhat less furrowed
with care, and their hearts somewhat lightened,
there came undoubted information that their
son was placed in the midst of difficulties and
dangers. They smote their bosoms, and, in
their distress, fell to the ground

" sorrow of sorrows ! the youth is dead,
and none is left to bear the fragrant lamp to
our funeral rites. Never shall our knees again
feel the pressure of our son, a son so noble
and so virtuous, who, in search of fame, has
thrown his green youth away." They arose to
mingle their tears, and it seemed as if they
were to die together, and then each encouraged
and consoled the other, read the sacred lessons,


and made the needful preparations for the
mourning. They clad themselves in funeral
garments, set up the soul-plank, and poured
out lamentations over their departed son. 1

1 On the death of relatives, the Chinese clothe themselves in
coarse, unbleached garments, and exhibit an utter neglect of the
toilet. They place a wooden plank, called Lang Pai, (soul-plank)
on the altar table in the ancestral hall, upon which they display
their offerings to the manes of the dead. The rites connected with
reverence for ancestors, sometimes called " worship," are less of a
religious, than a social character. They are practised alike by the
Buddhists and Taoists, and by the free-thinkers, who call themselves
followers of Confucius, for it is an error to suppose that Confucius
founded a religious sect, or ever assumed the authority of a religious
teacher. The Jesuits, who settled in China nearly two centuries,
rightly estimated the national character of the ancestral observances,
and refused to denounce them as irreligious or unchristian ; but
when two of the Popes, misled by the representations of the more
ignorant monks who had penetrated to Peking, instructed the
Catholic missionaries to proclaim those observances as idolatrous
and intolerable, the whole body of missionaries many of whom,
particularly those of the Society of Jesus, had obtained great
influence at Court, were expelled, and the fond hopes in which
they had indulged, of Christianising the Chinese people, were scat-
tered to the winds.

In the Institutes of the Chow dynasty, written for the promotion

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Online LibraryJohn BowringHwa tsien ki. The flowery scroll, a Chinese novel → online text (page 12 of 16)