John Bowring.

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

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" From ancient times," she said, " there has
been mourning for the dead, and the mourn-
ing is gloomier when we are separated, for the
whole of our lives, from those we love ; then is
man like the cuckoo, whose blood tinges the


flowers with scarlet. 1 Woe is me! who look
from the balustrade, and see the swallows
happily united in pairs, as they fly before me.
For me, the world has nothing left to please.
He, to whom my faith was pledged, is returned
to the yellow waters, and I have nothing to
support, nothing to comfort me. Nothing of
my former comeliness remains but skin and
bones, and the overflowing fountain of my
tears will never be exhausted. The flowers
fall into the water and are carried away by
the stream. Sickness and sadness oppress me,
and whence should comfort come?

" I am wavering and perplexed. My head
is wandering, and I dare not leave my bed-
chamber, and if, for a moment, my brow is
unwrinkled, the phoenix cannot but lament the
absence of her mate; and while I sit at the
window, I envy the butterflies who sport in
couples among the flowers.

" To whom can I unbosom myself but to my
chamber maidens? When they are absent, I
sit in my loneliness to weep and to wail."

1 The Chinese believe that, when the end of spring arrives, the
cuckoo is so overpowered with his wailings, that blood flows forth
from his throat, and, falling on the flowers, gives them a vermilion hue


And in this irrepressible, unbearable torment
she passed her days; when, suddenly, Yun
Liang entered the room, giggling and laughing,
and dancing with joy. " Happiness ! happi-
ness ! congratulations ! Liang is alive. Your
honoured father has subdued the rebels. Liang
will come to claim my mistress, A messenger
is arrived, and has brought the joyful news,
Liang is not dead. Liang has saved himself
and overthrown the enemy. Liang will speedily
appear in silken garments, he will appear

among us."

Yao Sien answered : " Nay ! nay ! these
must be falsehoods. Do not thus deceive me,
and make my bitter woes more bitter. Liang
is a wandering spirit in other worlds ; he thinks
no more of me or of my troth." Yun Liang
only laughed the more : " Did I ever tell a lie
from my childhood upward? And when I
have heard what is true, shall I not repeat the
truth? You will soon see whether I am to be

Yao Sien's spirits revived, and, from that
hour, she began again to paint her eyebrows.



ENOUGH, for the present, of the ladies, whom
we left rejoicing over the glad news. Let us
accompany the victory-crowned heroes on their
homeward way.

Yao and his uncle were engaged in most
animated conversation, and Yao rewarded his
curiosity by narrating all the events* of the
days lately passed. How often Liang had
spoken about him, and of all the distress he


had felt, on hearing of his being beleaguered
in the border city, and how willingly he had
offered to sacrifice his life for the General's
redemption, and for that purpose had headed
the succouring army ; how he had himself been
surrounded by the rebels in the mountains,
and now that a time of peace and rest had
returned, it was well he should recognise the
sacrifices which had been made on his behalf.
The Major- General made a deep and grateful
bow, and said : " Seldom is it the privilege of
old age to meet with such friendship."

With discourses like these, they reached the
Imperial city, and Yang hastened to send in
his official report to the Son of heaven.

When the Emperor read it, his dragon coun-
tenance brightened : " The energy of this ex-
cellent man," he exclaimed, " is indeed most
meritorious. Liang swore that he would never
submit to the rebels, and Yang has faithfully
and loyally defended the frontier-city. Yao
has behaved most bravely. Services like these
are rare in a thousand ages."

And he issued his Imperial decree, that these
three men should be raised to the rank of earl-


dom, and that their descendants should inherit
the title, and take up their abode at Court. 1

After thanking the Emperor for these gracious
manifestations, each of them made his arrange-
ments for returning home. 2

On the arrival of her husband, Lady Yang's
sorrow was turned into joy.

But when Yao Sien had saluted her father,
she trembled in the presence of her family, and

1 In China, honours are usually conferred on the ancestors, and
not on the descendants of those who are raised to nobility. The
Imperial decrees fix the titles which are to be given to the progeni-
tors of illustrious men. The reverence of ancestors has been called
the natural religion of China, and the ancient sages declare that it is
an opprobrium not to know who are our forefathers, for seven gene-
rations at least. The ancestral halls, in which the genealogies of the
families are kept, and the division of the people into classes, whose
history, for centuries, is a matter of record, as well as tradition, make
it easy to trace the origin of all but the humblest classes. As mar.
riages are strictly prohibited where there is any affinity of blood, and
the number of family names is few, the lineages are more easily de-
fined ; but the honours which belong to the past, are soon absorbed
by the inQux of newer distinctions, which are the result of the com-
petitive examinations.

2 Before occupying the posts to which they are promoted, it is
usual for the fortunate individuals to return to the place of their
nativity, there to receive, from their families, friends, and neigh-
bours, congratulations on their good fortune. A Chinese proverb
says : " The fortunate man brings fortune to all that surround him."
Another : " The accumulation of merits, from generation to genera-
tion, brings felicity to a whole household."


her forehead did not lose the impress of her

The palace was put in order, and all the
family gathered together.

Great and wonderful, and beyond example,
were the rejoicings with which the news of
the Emperor's favour was welcomed.



LIANG, too, after paying his reverential respects
to the Emperor, entered upon his homeward

But he could not get rid of the misery with
which the remembrance of Yao Sien afflicted
him. True, he had acquired fame and title,
but what hope had he of being united to his
lady-love, for matters in that respect seemed as
hopeless as before.

He made acquaintance, however, with a cer-
tain Liu, the son of the Minister of the Interior,
who came to the provincial city, in order to do


honour to the promoted warrior. For he had
heard the whole history of his exploits on the
frontier, and came to congratulate Liang on
his safety and success, and that, being so
young, he had been raised to such rare dis-
tinction. But Liu's heart was troubled with
sorrow for the loss of his daughter, whose inno-
cent life had been so sadly sacrificed.

Fancying that Liang had no knowledge of
the sad event which had happened to young
Liu, his daughter went to visit Liang, and
narrated to him the whole history.

Liang was touched with sympathy. " What
a pitiful story ! Why did she not preserve her
reputation? Why did she not marry some
opulent person? It is very unfortunate for
me that I cannot be united to her to the end of
my days, for there are very few in the world
who are so loveable and so loving as your

When Liu saw that he had carried so much
sorrow to Liang, he made a low bow, and took
his departure. Liang accompanied him, with
the accustomed courtesies, to the door, and
returned to his chamber, shedding tears that


descended to his outer garment. " How could
I have supposed," he exclaimed, " that her
love for me was so deep, that she should have
drowned herself in the river, because she could
not become my wife?"



HE was so lost in his melancholy reflections,
that he did not observe Yang, who had entered
his apartment, and asked him the cause of
his despondency. "I am the most unfor-
tunate of men," was Liang's reply. " Listen,
most honoured Sir! to the tale I have to tell
you. Last year, my father promised me in
marriage to the daughter of Liu. When I
went to the borders, in pursuit of the rebels,
she was informed that I had been killed.

" Whereupon, the maiden determined that
she would be faithful to her honour and her



vow; and when her mother urged her to a
second betrothal, she resisted. She flung her-
self into the water, and was drowned. Her
brother has just narrated to me the sad story.
Is it a wonder, then, that my heart should be
torn to pieces, and that I should turn in des-
pair towards the east wind, which has carried
away the Hai Thang branches?" 1

Hearing this, the General could not restrain
his tears : "So much fidelity, in one so young,
is seldom to be found, even in the records of
ancient times. 2 It was, indeed, a sin and a
shame that so pure and beautiful a jewel should
have fallen into the abyss. But her name will
become illustrious throughout the world. Still,
there is no use in your indulging in grief, for
what cannot be changed or remedied. My
council is, that you should console yourselves,

1 The Cidonia Japonica. A flower, which, like that of the chlo-
ranthus, the peach, the lotus, and the almond, is frequently intro-
duced into the love romances of the Chinese. Dr. Hooker informs
me that, the plant is generally known in this country as the Pyrus

2 The very highest compliment that can be paid, is to declare that,
any action equals or exceeds in merit those which illustrate the
annals of the past, to which all the Chinese look, not only as the
golden age of happiness, but as furnishing the great models of
exalted virtue.


and that you should report the touching history
of this incomparable woman to the Emperor

" That is, indeed, an excellent idea, and I
will not delay making a report to His Imperial
Majesty, 1 and to repair with it to the Court." 2

He rose early the following morning, and
himself presented his memorial at the palace.

This was the answer of the vermilion pencil :

" Chastity like this, such fidelity and virtue
are very rare in this world. Let a monument

1 The Emperor of China is supposed to be always accessible to
his subjects, to receive, and to read, all the reports that are pre-
sented to him. On those he notices, he writes his decree with the
vermilion pencil. The Emperor's autographs find a ready sale
among collectors, for the autograph collecting passion is as widely
spread in China as in Europe. The Peking Gazettes sometimes
contain copies of the memorials which are addressed to the Sovereign,
with his remarks thereon. There are cases in which the memorialists
deal very severely with his Majesty, and he condescends to enter
upon self- justification. In our last war, remonstrances were officially
printed, which represented that the national disasters were atari- 1
butable to the neglect and profligacy of the Emperor.

8 It is a not unfrequent practice, in China, for memorialists to re-
pair to the Court, in order to present their petitions, and to wait for
the result. The paternal relation in which the Emperor is supposed
to stand to' his subjects, with all whose individual wants and woes
he desires to be acquainted, in order to afford redress, is maintained
in all the phraseology employed. On great occasions, he consents
to make supplications to the gods, on behalf of the people, to whom
lie reports his failures or his successes.


be raised, to send down the history to future

The golden mouth deigned to enquire of
Yang : " How many distinguished sons, how
many comely daughters have been born to you?"

Yang held his tablet before his eyes, 1 and
reverently replied :

u Your slave has only one daughter, who is

1 Those who are admitted to an audience with the Emperor,
carry with them a tablet of about a foot long and three inches broad,
which they place before their eyes when His Majesty addresses them.
It is not allowed to any one to look on the celestial countenance of
the Son of heaven, no doubt to preserve them from being over-
dazzled with its lustre. The tablets are called " Tsao Pan," and
have written on them the object of the petition. This is to prevent
the necessity of speaking, lest the ears of the " Pure and Holy"
should be wounded by any vulgar or unbecoming utterances. I
enquired of one of the Viceroys, what passed when he was admitted
to the celestial presence. He told me that the Emperor addressed
a few words to him in Manchoo, (he being a Tartar) which he
answered in the same language. What was said, was a recognition
of past services, and the announcement of the new appointment. In
all the higher offices, the functionary must repair to the Court,
before entering upon his duties. I learnt that the language em-
ployed to the Chinese, was the Mandarin idiom, with the Peking
pronunciation, which differs considerably from that anciently used
when Nanking was the capital. For example : King> the metro-
politan city, is pronounced Ching, in the northern mandarin dialect.
Pe-ching (which we erroneously write, Pekin) is the capital of the
north. Nan Ching, pronounced Nanking, in the southern idiom, is
the capital of the south. The soft &, that is, the Tc followed by e or
i t is invariably pronounced as CA, at the Peking Court.


just nineteen years old. She still dwells in the
maiden- chamber, and has not yet knit the silken
scarlet thread." l

The Emperor laughed, and said :
"Well, then, I will undertake the office of
Yue Lao, 2 and I give your daughter to Liang
for his wife. They must honour one another
till they are separated by death; and I hope
she will imitate the wife who carried the plate
above her eye-brows." 3

1 She is yet unmarried.

2 The Chinese have the proverb : " Marriages are made in heaven,"
and the divinity, charged with these celestial arrangements, is Yue
Lao. Earthly match-makers bear the same name, and the Emperor
could very appropriately use it.

3 The modest wife of Liang Hung was the daughter of Ming, of Yu
Fu Fung. Her name was Wang. She was not beautiful, but she was
lauded for her eminent virtues, and there were many aspirants for
her hand, but she was unwilling to be married.

Her mother reproached her for her prudery, but urged her in vain
to consent to be betrothed. She reached the age of thirty, when she
answered her mother's entreaties, by saying that she would never
marry until she found so deserving a man as Liang Hung.

Liang Hung had never been betrothed, but when he heard of the
many excellences of Wang, he asked her in marriage, and obtained
the consent of her parents. After the wedding day, she appeared
splendidly attired. On being conducted to his house, Liang took
no notice of her for seven days. Unable to account for his neglect,
she flung herself at his feet, and asked why she was treated with
such disregard.

He said, " he had intended La to marry a woman who would be
satisfied with plain and simple garments, to take charge of his
household, and not an ornamented, modish doll."


The Emperor sent them magnificent pre-
sents of pearls and jewellery, and himself se-
lected an auspicious day for the wedding. 1

She answered: "I was always accustomed to be simply clad, and
if I put on gay apparel, it was because I feared you might be offended
if I woi'e no adornings, but knowing your pleasure now, I shall
willingly doff this gay apparel."

Upon which, she dressed herself in coarse raiment, and changed
her name from Kwang (brightness), to Teh Yao, (trembling virtue).

They went together to the Pa Ling mountain, where she provided
food for both, by agricultural labour and weaving.

Afterwards, he brought her to Hwui Ki, where he hired himself
to attend upon a rice mill. He was only a day labourer, yet she
took to him his plate of victuals daily, with hands raised above her
eye-brows, that she might not look on his face.

She thus paid to him a most respectful obedience, and, notwith-
standing his poverty, treated him with the highest regard.

Wang's history is given in the biographies of virtuous women, as
an example of wifely excellence.

A Chinese proverb says : " He, who owes his reputation to his
fine garments, is no better than a clothes-horse."

1 A pretty bridal song is given in the Book of Odes :

Hark ! hark ! for the voice of the beautiful bird,
Singing hymns from the isle, midst the waters is heard ;
He sings to the praise of the modest, the fair,
To whom the exalted will look for an heir.
On the top of the stream, as it languishing glides,
The lotus flowers dance up and down with the tides.
On the banks, the sweet maiden is walking, and he
Is sighing, not sleeping, but seeking. 'Tis she
'Tis she, whom he seeks, yet he cannot discover,
But restless he longs, and still looks for his lover.
But the lotus flowers dance on the top of the stream,
They are dancing, delighted, a welcome for him.


Think of the joy of both, and of their grati-
tude to the grace of His Majesty, when they
returned home to tell the tale to the mother
and the daughter. The whole house was full
of gladness, and brighter with smiles than any,
was the face of Yao Sien, rejoicing in her own
happiness, and in the favour of the Son of
heaven. She was, in truth, rescued from death.
Again she opened her jewel casket, again
she hung up and dusted the phoenix -adorned

Yun Liang and Pi Yue shared in the gene-
ral delight. They laughed with one another,
and said their mistress would no longer be
leaning all the day long with her head upon
her hand, taking no care whatever of her eye-

He walks by the stream, and she hears from afar,

The music, sweet music of lute and guitar.

He gathers the lotus flowers, wreathes them for her,

Fit offering of worship from love's worshipper.

Hark ! hark ! drums and bells are rejoicing and ringing,

To her home the sweet maiden the minstrels are bringing.




LIANG prepared himself for the wedding, and
apparelled himself in his gala garments, orna-
mented with snakes and dragons. He wore a
belt of jasper around his waist, to celebrate the
auspicious day. 1

A great crowd of functionaries and officers
escorted him.

1 The state garments of the Mandarins are very costly, orna-
mented, according to their rank, with embroideries of dragons, pea-
cocks, storks, serpents, and flowers, both before and behind. They
wear silken boots, and caps adorned with a ball of ruby, coral plain
or flowered, light and dark blue, opaque and transparent glass,
gold, unornamented or ornamented, each marking the grade of
honour held by the wearer.


Seldom has there been a display of joy equal
to that which was exhibited on the occasion.
Surrounded with flowers, the waxen lights
were blazing. Bands of music paraded the
streets, which were crowded with many colored

All the guests gentlemen as well as ladies,
natives as well as strangers, whispered to
one another : " Wonderful ! wonderful ! His
Majesty, His Majesty is the Yue Lao. 1 Was
there ever such a wonder?"

The loving maiden bore a crown on her
head, adorned with phoenixes. She wore a
beautiful scarlet wedding robe. Bride and
bridegroom were old acquaintances, and they
were soon wearied with the noise of the watch-

They retired to talk over the events of the
past year, and to compare their present felicity
with their past misery. They paid less and
less attention to the interrupting noises, though
the songs and the music continued to the break
of day. They washed and combed, and offered
to heaven their grateful thanksgivings. The

1 The match-maker.

13 *


face of the bridegroom was bright as if he had
been one of the genii ; that of the bride, 1 lovelier
than the countenance of a fairy. Pi Yue and
Yun Liang were retained in the lady's service,
and the dread of separation no longer afflicted
the happy pair.



LIVELY and happy, as fishes in water, were the
united pair, but we have something to say of
the Examiner, who had arrived at the capital

He had become the provincial treasurer of
Peking, and he had heard the whole of Liang's
history. Returned home, he thus addressed
his wife and the young Lady Liu.

" Liang has been victorious. He has anni-
hilated the rebels. The report of his death,
which every one believed, turned out to be a
falsehood. A memorial monument is ordered


to be raised, and only think ! it is to be for
our adopted daughter. The Emperor made
himself the match-maker, and has allowed him
to marry.

"What can now be done? I will go to
Court to-morrow. I will ask for an audience
from the Emperor, and lay the whole matter
before him." l

Yu Khing bowed, and said: " Take no
trouble, father ! he is now wedded to another
maiden, and I will think no more about binding
my hair. Let him enjoy his happiness and
leave me to my affliction."

The old lady said, laughingly : u Nay ! my
pretty maiden ! You speak without considera-
tion. He cannot have forgotten your good-
ness, he proclaimed everywhere your virtues ;
but as the Emperor has become the match-
maker, we are in his hands. But we both
counsel you to bind up your hair."

1 Prostrate reverence, before parental authority, is laid down in
the Chinese codes as one of the primary social obligations. Mis-
conduct or disobedience on the part of a son, is said invariably to
bring down curses upon the father or mother. It was quite in the
natural course of things that Lung should appeal to the Emperor,
and that the Emperor should require that the marriage contract
entered into by the father, should be respected by the son.


Not a word of answer did Yu Khing give ;
but when night came, she bade them farewell,
and withdrew to her chamber.

The treasurer went early next day, asked an
audience, and delivered his memorial to the
Emperor, who burst into laughter, and said:
u What wonderful things happen in this world !
Liang shall also marry the other girl."

And so he gave his sanction to the union;
he gave to each the rank of legitimate wife,
and ordered that the second wedding should be
celebrated with all the festivities and demon-
strations which had accompanied the former,
and that the celebration should take place with-
out delay.



WHEN the mandate of the Emperor had been
communicated to Liang, he left the Court,
and returned home, to convey to his beloved
the important news. He entered her chamber,
calling out : " Yao Sien ! I have somewhat to
tell you, which may not be pleasing, but is
most wonderful. Yu Khing is not dead. She
was rescued from drowning, and is now alive in
Peking. His Majesty has been pleased to
order that I should marry her." 1 "What!"

1 It need scarcely be here remarked that, the will of the Emperor
is a peremptory law, and that, in his decision that Liang should
espouse Yu Khing, after he had sanctioned the marriage with Yao
Sien, there was nothing which is not wholly accorded with Chinese
habits and with the patriarchal polygamic usages which still prevail.


Yao Sien answered, " When the dragon was
surrounded by the waters, 1 the young lady, for
the love of you, flung herself into the river,
willing to sacrifice her life. Her exemplary
purity and faithfulness are known to all the
gods, and now that you are wedded to me,
you speak so coldly of her virtues. But His
Majesty has settled the matter. I will be your
hand-maid, it is fitting that we be divorced."
Liang sweetly smiled: "Was there ever
such disinterested virtue? Rare, indeed, is it
in this world."

1 A common phrase, to express a difficult or embarrassing position.
In this case, referring to the beleagt;ering of Liang by the rebels.

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Online LibraryJohn BowringHwa tsien ki. The flowery scroll, a Chinese novel → online text (page 15 of 16)