John Bowring.

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

. (page 5 of 16)
Online LibraryJohn BowringHwa tsien ki. The flowery scroll, a Chinese novel → online text (page 5 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


me. I wrote some verses in the summer-house
to-day, and brought away two sheets of flowery
letter paper in my sleeve. Let me have a look
at them. How fragrantly the paper smells,
and what pretty pictures are painted upon it ;
what a gifted maiden she must be ! She may
well be called 'the nymph of the precious
stone.' 1 I saw the nymph that beautiful
being but now a thick, black cloud divides
us ! " He crumpled up the flowery sheets and
held them fast in his gripe. u To whom can I
confide my sorrow?" His tears burst forth.
" 0, Yao Sien ! for you shall I die, die in this
garden of flowers." He had been so absorbed
in thought, that he was insensible to the cold
blast, till overcome with shivering, he flung
himself on his bed, and passed a night which
he thought would never come to an end. He
closed the window frame to shut out the light,
but the darkness brought no rest.

1 The literal meaning of the name Yao Sien.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE LADIES AND THEIR CHAMBER-MAIDS READ
THE VERSES.

WE have said enough, too much, perhaps, of
Liang's woes. Yao Sien rose early in the morn-
ing to take her accustomed walk among the
flowers. Both the ladies, with their chamber-
maids, went into the Bella Vista summer house.
" What is this? " they exclaimed, " more verses
upon the wall." They ran forward, as fast as
the golden lilies 1 would allow them, and read the

1 Many are the traditions as to the origin of this designation.
One says : " An Emperor of the Tung Dynasty, (who reigned about
1000 years ago) was so enamoured with the small feet of one of his
concubines, that he spread flowers of leaf-gold wherever she was to
tread, that the impress of her footsteps might be left. He carried
the fancy farther, and had flowers engraved on tbe soles of her shoes.
Hence the name of c golden lilies.' "



THE LADIES READ THE VERSES. 71

verses out aloud. Both Yun Liang and Pi Yue
cried out, "Who can have been here, who
wrote the verses, who hung them upon the
wall? Do the young ladies know anything
about them? The old gentleman cannot write
like this ; and see, Miss ! they are written upon
your own letter paper ! " Yao Sien smiled, and
said to Yun Liang : "I will tell you what the
chamber-girl told me. A new student's apart-
ment has been built hereabouts, and yesterday
the student came to pay his respects to papa,
and said he was my brother's cousin. Papa
asked him to take a meal in the back garden.
I dare say Papa requested him to draw a pic-
ture. 1 So it was that the girl came to me for
writing paper. See ! there is his name, Liang,
written at the side. I should not wonder if I had
been in his thoughts when he wrote the verses.
Do not you observe that the lines about the
willows are echoes of mine? I dare say he
means that I, in my boudoir, do not care about
his sufferings. I think his love must have
made him a little crazy. Is he not cunning to



1 In China, albums are common. Verses are written, pictures
are drawn, and interchanged as memorials of friendship.



72 THE FLOWERY SCROLL.

have located himself so near our door?" Pi
Yue burst out, "Well, Miss! I should not
wonder if you were predestined to one another.
Certain it is, that these are very pretty verses.
May not a clever lad and a pretty maid"- here
Miss Yao Sien stopped her, but did not frown.
"What do you know about such matters?
You should take care of Jhe proprieties 1 within
the boudoir! Nobody must look upon the
nymph of the moon. 2 I dare say he does not
know all that the sages have said about forbid-
den pleasures, and what has happened to those
who have overstepped the prohibited boun-

1 Womanly proprieties another name for virtues are laid down
in an authoritative book, written by a lady in the first century of
our era, whose name was Hwai Pan. " The excellences of women
do not consist altogether in the possession of extraordinary abilities
or superior acquirements, but in being becomingly grave and in-
violably chaste. Woman must observe all the requirements of virtuous
widowhood. She must be neat in her person and in all her sur-
roundings. She must be unassuming and decorous, whether she
sits or moves."

2 Upon the maiden, whose chastity is in the guardianship of the
nymph of the moon, so Shakespeare

" The chariest maid is prodigal enough,
If she unveil her beauty to the moon."

Hamlet, Act III.

To the " chaste moon" everything is to be confided by a maiden
in China.



THE LADIES READ THE VERSES. 73

daries. But we are maidens, and we must not
prattle, nor think about these things. We
must not allow the driving clouds that cover
the moon to disturb us, but look out upon the
bright hills and the clear streams." And so
they went back to their apartments, accom-
panied by their waiting-maids. But there is
an old proverb which says : " There are ears
on the other side of the wall." 1

1 Another proverb says : "Deafness is a virtue, especially in the
neighbourhood of a woman's apartments."



CHAPTER XY.

MAJOR-GENERAL YANG RETURNS THE VISIT.

WE will wait a little before we relate what
happened, when the gifted girl returned to her
boudoir.

Liang rose early, looked out of the win-
dow, and held a colloquy with himself as to
whether, according to the laws of courtesy, 1 he

1 There is a supreme board at Peking, called the Li Pu, to which
all questions of ceremony and courtesy are referred, whose decrees
are published in the Imperial Gazette, for the advancement of the
national education. They settle all questions of precedence, and
regulate all ritual observances all forms of official correspondence
all gradations of rank and title all modes of dress and fashions, and
the position of candidates in competitive examinations. One depart-
ment has charge of the religious field the modes of worship the
government of the temples, and all matters belonging to the national
cultus. The book of rites, a voluminous production, is the offi-
cially recognised code. Confucius laid down as a maximum, " Cere-



GENERAL YANG RETURNS THE VISIT. 75

might expect a return visit from the Major-
General. Having determined that it was pro-
per such visit should be made, and that he ought,
in consequence, to prepare for him a becoming
reception, he ordered an elegant collation to be
got ready, -invited young Lao to be present,
directed the garden walks to be cleaned, and
the flower-beds to be put in proper trim.

He was not mistaken in his calculations.
Towards mid-day, the announcing cards were
brought, and the two students went to the
door to welcome their guest, and to conduct
him to the hall of reception. Tea having been
served, Liang requested he would honour the
garden with his presence. The summer-house 1

monials belong to everything." To be unacquainted with the " laws
of courtesy" to be ignorant of the exact sort of attentions required
on a particular occasion, would be an opprobrium to a man pre-
tending to good breeding. The Siao HioJi book of primary
lessons gives instructions as to the usages between hosts and
guests the doors by which the guests are to enter how they are
to be received where they are to sit the number of bows the
foot that is to be put foremost the postures to be observed the
manner in which the courtesies of the host are to accommodate
themselves to the ranks of the guests. I have sometimes seen terri-
ble scuffles between the servants of persons of distinction, each con-
tending for the precedence of their masters, or for the right to claim
certain attentions which other servants refuse to proffer.
1 Literally, perfumed evening hall.



76 THE FLOWERY SCROLL.

was ornamented with shrubs and flowers, and
they filled the place with fragrance, while the
guests partook of the dainties of the table.

Conversation was lively, compliments flowed,
and mutual esteem and confidence were
strengthened. At last, the old gentleman said,
smiling when he said it, " Worthy nephew
of mine ! Are you betrothed ? When will you
conduct a beautiful woman into the golden
temple?" 1 "How can I think of betrothing,
who have not tasted of fame or glory?" 2 The

1 When the Emperor Wu Ti was young, one of the princesses, em-
bracing him, said : " Won't you wed ? " " Willingly," he answered.
She pointed to her daughter, A Kiao. "Does she please you ? " "If
she will wed me, she shall dwell in a golden temple ! " But A Kiao's
history was a melancholy one. Her husband got tired of her, and
confined her in the palace of Chang Mun. From thence, she bribed
the poet, Sze Ma, with a thousand pieces of gold, to write various
odes, still celebrated in the poetical annals of China, whicli she sent
to the Emperor, pathetically painting her love for him, and pouring
out lamentations over her solitude. They touched him for a time
and brought about a reconciliation, but as her beauty had fled, his
fidelity was not of long duration.

2 Ordinary conversation, in China, is imbued with the many well-
known proverbs, which point to literary reputation, as the ladder
which must be mounted in order to obtain official promotion.
Many of these proverbs have a poetical character, for example :

" When pursuing your studies, you must not fall asleep in the
garden of the butterflies, for flies and mosquitos are there, (to dis
tract you), and you will not be able to look through the per-
spective which leads to honourable office."

" He, who has succeeded in obtaining literary honours, is as gold
ten times purified, and more brilliant than the brightest gem."






GENERAL YANG RETURNS THE VISIT. 77

General felt, however, that he was on delicate
ground, and that it was not quite the occasion
for giving utterance to his secret wishes, but he
ventured to say : " Mr. Liang ! my garden is on
the other side of the wall. Come to me like a
son or a nephew. Let my house be your house.
Why should not our two gardens be in common ?
Make you a door through the wall. I shall
not object. Let it be at the end of the narrow
path, and, whenever it suits you, come through
into my garden. We can, if need be, cause the
door to be locked. But out of the two gardens we
may make an earthly paradise." l Liang could
not express his delight, but he feared that re-'
consideration might come, and that, in a more
quiet moment, old Yang might alter his pur-
pose ; so he determined to lose not a moment,
sent immediately for a mason, told him to
abandon all the works which had been com-
menced in the southern hall, in order that the
communication might speedily be made between
the two gardens, and joyfully exckimed : " Now,
indeed, will the breezes of spring play among
the peach blossoms ! "

1 One of the Chinese commentators remarks, " This was bringing
serpent into the house, to devour the chickens."



CHAPTER XVI.

TALK ABOUT A SON-IN-LAW.

THE old veteran, who had greatly enjoyed the
collation, and had taken not a drop too little
of the eloquence-inspiring wine, found his
way safely home, and began to convey to his
wife the overflowings of his uppermost thought.
u That's a clever fellow, that young student
Liang, a wonderfully clever fellow. I am
sure he will make his way to the presence
of the Supremely August. 1 But how shall we

1 Various are the adulatory names of the Emperor, the usual
title is Tien Tze, " Son of heaven," or, Hivang Ti, the " august
ruler." Another title is, Wan sui, wan wan sui, "Ten thousand
times ten thousand, ten thousand years," in other words, " The
everlasting." He is sometimes called Tien Hwang, " Divinely
august," or, Tien Ti t " celestial ruler," and there are other designa-



TALK ABOUT A SON-IN-LAW. 79

tions, associating his name with the attributes of deity. " The golden
mouth" is employed, when his Majesty is supposed to speak. His
countenance is called "the dragon's face ;" "the vermilion pencil"
is that with which he writes. But he speaks of himself in terms
of extreme humility, and, though sometimes using " Chen" "We,"
or " ourself," the titles he ordinarily employs, are " Kwa Jin"
" The solitary man," or " Kwa Kiun" " The lonely prince." The
sovereignty over all the earth, claimed by the Emperor of China
has received an awful shock by the visitations of western nations.

The position of the Emperor of China is very extraordinary.
Invested with an authority, believed by the multitudes to be super-
natural and divine, honoured with titles which can only be properly
applied to the Godhead, the checks which have been placed upon
his despotism by the sanction of tradition, and even by official
machinery, are as curious as they are instructive. In the Siao Hioh
the universally accredited manual for the instruction of youth,
obedience to the Prince is made contingent on his observing " the rule
of reason."

Of Yao, whose reign began, B. c. 2356, it is recorded in the His-
torical Classics :

" The Emperor, having ruled over the empire fifty years, rambled
through the highways and byeways, when the boys sang a ballad*
saying, " He, who has established the multitude of us people is none
other than your highness ; we know and understand nothing but to
obey the Emperor's laws." There were some old men, however,
who smote the clods, and sang along the roads, saying, ' At sunrise
we engage hi labour, and at sunset we rest ; we dig our own wells,
and drink ; we plough our own fields, and eat ; what does the Em-
peror's strength avail us ?' He then made the inspection of the Hwa
mountain, when the warden of Hwa felicitated him, saying, ' May
the august individual become rich, enjoy longevity, and have many
sons.' The Emperor said, ' I had rather be excused : he who has
many sons has many tears ; he who is rich has a load of anxieties,
and longevity is frequently attended with much disgrace.' The
warden said, ' When heaven produces people, it always affords them
employment ; thus, should you have ever so many sons, if you will
give them something to do, what need you fear ? Be rich, and di-



80 THE FLOWERY SCROLL.

Tide your wealth among others ; then, what anxiety will you have?
Should the empire possess the right way, you may prosper with the
rest ; but should the world be wicked, you have only to cultivate
virtue, and retire into obscurity ; then, when life is done, disgusted
with mankind, you depart and join the genii ; and whilst you ascend
yonder bright cloud, and mount to the regions of the Supreme,
where will be the disgrace ? ' " MedJwrstfs Translation of the Shoo
King, p. 331.

And, again, of the Emperor Shun, (B. C. 2254) :

" The Emperor encouraged the expression of public opinion, and
sought for men of talent to aid him in his government ; he was
willing to receive reproofs in order to be made acquainted with his
mistakes, and set up a board, on which people might state their com-
plaints, that all his subjects might expose his faults ; while he ap-
pointed a drum for those who dared to animadvert on his measures,
so that everyone had an opportunity of expressing his opinion."

" Shun married two of the daughters of Yao, who resigned to him
the Imperial throne. A curious account is given of the manner in
which his father-in-law " tested his talents and virtue" before the
abdication in his favour. He was called upon to explain and give
evidence of his obedience to the five fundamental laws of the Empire.
He was required to solve a hundred arithmetical questions, which he
did without a mistake. He was ordered to receive guests at the four
portals of the palace, and he observed all the becoming ceremonials
and preserved perfect harmony. He was sent, in the midst of violent
storms, thunders and rain, on a tour of agricultural inspection, at
the foot of the mountains, and he discharged his duty most satis-
factorily." p. 332.

A festival is held on the fifth day of the fifth moon, called the
Dragon festival, in which, processions of boats, with great display and
noisy music, are seen on all the rivers of China. It is in honour of
a martyr minister, who, having vainly exhorted one of the Emperors
to discontinue his evil courses, and, instead of listening to his con-
cubines, to attend to the councils of his ministers, presented a
written protest to his master, saying, he would not live to see the
ruin of the Empire, and that he had determined to drown himself,
on a certain day, which he did ; his body not having been discovered,
the anniversary of the day is still kept, in the expectation that the



TALK ABOUT A SON-IN-LAW. 81

induce him to send the crimson card 1 to our
house? "

" It would really be a good match," said the
lady, "his father is a Minister of State, and a

corpse will be found, when honourable burial will be given to it,
and the spirit of the dead find repose.

1 Crimson cards, in China, play a very important part in matri-
monial arrangements. I have known more than a dozen employed
in the progress of the negotiations, by which every stage and step is
recorded, up to the final consummation. They are mostly about a
foot in breadth, and some are many feet in length, with various
adornings. In the Chi Hwa (Poetical Apophthegms) is the following
legend." In the time of the Tung dynasty, (A. D. 874-88), Yu Yu
found, floating in the moat of the Imperial palace, a red leaf of a
tree, on which the following verse had been written with a stile.

Why do the waters so swiftly flow ?
I live in my chamber and dwell on my woe,
On the wandering waters the red-leaf I throw,
Will no generous mortal pity my woe ?

Upon which, Yu Yu took up another leaf, and wrote

Your message of grief I have read, pretty one !

To whom shall I answer ? Just say and tis done !
At the ebb of the waters, a Court lady, named Han, saw the
swimming leaf, and picked it up. Soon after, Yu Yu became the
governor of the children of Lord Han, who was the Imperial minis-
ter. At the time when the Emperor dismissed three thousand offi-
cials, Yu Yu was taken into favour, and Han gave him his relative,
Lady Han, for a wife. During the progress of the espousals, each
produced a casket, with a red leaf. " How strange ! " everybody
exclaimed. " Here is predestination ! " " Was it not," said Han,
" a very pretty poem that floated to me on the water, after my ten
years of solitary musings? It is as it should be, the phoenix hag
found a wife. The red leaf is a benevolent match -maker ! "

4*



82 THE FLOWERY SCROLL.

distinguished man. It is a capital chance,
cannot you drop a word quietly, and arrange for
a visit to him from the go-between. 1 We can
find many ways to help the matter forward,
which will fulfil the wish of our hearts. " The old
gentleman nodded to his wife : u He has got a
handsome gar den with hundreds of rare flowers.
Do you know he is opening a passage into ours ?
If the days lengthen, depend upon it, I shall
find a reasonable excuse for visiting him. I
already love him as if he were my own son ; to
talk with him will be the delight of my old
age."

1 The Mei Jin or match-makers. All marriages between persons
of rank, in China, are arranged by professionals, who settle the con-
ditions, so that the parents of the bridegroom and bride may have no
personal controversy. The correspondence is often carried on over a
considerable period, and it frequently happens that the wife is never
seen by the husband, until, after the final arrangements, she is con-
veyed to her future domicile, in a splendid, closed sedan chair,
followed by her dowry, and accompanied by a long procession of
friends, with various emblems, flags, and music.



CHAPTER XVII.

OUR HERO MEETS WITH THE CHAMBER-MAID
AND CONFESSES TO HER HIS LOVE.

LET us return to our boudoir. Yun Liang
rose up early, and in obedience to the orders of
her mistress, went to the garden to gather
chloranthus flowers. The morning mists co-
vered and concealed the trees, but she heard
the little birds singing on the branches, as if
pouring out their matin songs to heaven. She
passed along the eastern hedge, and entered
upon a winding path. She saw what she had
never before observed, a double red door in
the wall. Curiosity impelled her steps. On
the other side of the door entrance was an alley



84 THE FLOWERY SCROLL.

of shady willows-. u I have heard something,"
she said, " about this door, and that there is a
pretty garden beyond it-." Her golden lilies
moved more quickly, and she determined to
draw nearer and to peep in. Beautiful flowers
were there in such abundance that they almost
stopped the way. The clear water of the pond
was covered with lotus leaves, and surrounded
by willow trees, whose branches were dancing
in the wind. She saw a stranger sitting in the
shade of one of the weeping willows. His
looks were melancholy; his eyes were closed.
When he raised his head, he seemed startled
with the appearance of a lady, but he observed
that her "hair-clouds" 1 were not in order. 2

She was young, pretty, and he advanced to-
wards her and presented a chloranthus flower.
He remembered that he had seen her before.
It was she who had been playing at draughts
with her mistresses, amidst the shadows of the
trees in the garden. Though he then traced her
somewhat indistinctly in the light of the moon, he

1 Yun Pin. The Chinese word for the chignons of the ladies.

2 She had risen too early to attend to her toilette, and had walked
forth with her hair uncombed and her dress neglected.



OUR HERO CONFESSES HIS LOVE. 85

was persuaded it was the very lady he now saw
in the full brightness of the day, and her presence
sorely agitated him. " True, it is, that Yao
Sien is the real cause of my misery, yet the
sight of this girl makes me almost crazy, but
why does she hurry away? I hear her silken
garments rustled by the western wind." He
ran after her, exclaiming, " Stay, stay ! Why
should you be alarmed? Why should you
avoid me ? It was I who saw the lady playing
at draughts. It is I who am languishing for the
nymph of the moon. Take pity upon me.
My flesh and bones are decaying. I cannot
eat nor drink by day, nor find sleep at night.
Tell all this, I beseech you, tell it to the lady
of the boudoir. Help me, or I shall perish.
What is the moonlight, what are the flowers
to me, whom love has blinded ? I came here to
seek consolation. Let me not faint and die in
this garden ! " Yun Liang looked upon him
with a smile, and answered him with a sweet
voice: "Who would dare to utter the unbe-
coming word in the boudoir? My mistress is
an angel of the Jasper lake. 1 She has no un-

1 Yao Chi, a lake in fairy land, in which the celestials bathe.



86 THE FLOWERY SCROLL.

maidenly thoughts, no longing for prohibited
things. If you will listen to my council, you
will not talk wantonly. Depend upon it, no
indiscreet message will ever be allowed to pass
the painted screen. " 1

Liang was sadly perplexed by her words.
Some pearly tears dropped down his cheeks, but

1 A screen or curtain inside the door of the lady's apartment,
which keeps out the wind, and prevents the intrusion of strangers.
The domestic relations between the sexes, in the highest social grade
of China, are little known to foreigners, and the cases are very rare
in which English ladies have been admitted to personal intercourse
with ladies in the superior ranks of the Mandarin families. Some of
the missionaries and their wives have found access to the middle
class circle, and we know of a few instances, where our countrywo-
men have been received by the families of Chinese dignitaries. The
Chinese, though they avoid naming ladies in conversation, have not
the same unwillingness to talk about their inner domestic life, which
is exhibited by all the Mahomedan and Braminical peoples. There
is no absolute separation between the sexes in Chinese families, but
the education of boys and girls is so very dissimilar, that their minds
are trained to models wholly unlike. Commissioner Yeh, the
viceroy over thirty millions of people, being asked, what were the
subjects of conversation in the families of the higher orders, he
answered, by a maxim of Confucius, " Waste not words ! " Being
farther pressed, he said : " The principal business of women is to
learn the various arts of embroidery," but when it was remarked that
they could not be embroidering from morning to night, he replied :
"They must attend to the cookery of the family." It was then re-
torted : " But, surely, ladies of high rank cannot be expected to at-
tend to the details of the kitchen. You, a Viceroy, would not allow
your wife to prepare your meals !" " Yes, she must, and, as a mother,
ought to do so, as a matter of course. Many great families have no
cooks. The women understand the thing, and there's an end of it !"


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryJohn BowringHwa tsien ki. The flowery scroll, a Chinese novel → online text (page 5 of 16)