John Bowring.

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

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he answered : " Let me tell you that my love
has cost me the loss of a half year of my life.
Why is that love unnoticed, as if it were
written upon water ? " Then he sighed heavily
cried out, " heaven I" 1 wiped away his
tears with his silken sleeve, bent his head,
and silently descended the balustrade.

Yun Liang was by nature tender hearted,
and thought that Liang's love was sincere
enough to deserve her co-operation. So she
replied : "Do not sigh so, Mr. Liang. There
are multitudes of rosy-cheeked ladies in the
world. Why are you so obstinately bent upon
Yao Sien? " A sigh, still heavier, came from
the student. "Shall I tell you all? It was the
beauty of your mistress, it was the smile of
your mistress that fascinated me. How could
I forget that full moon, those blooming flowers ?

1 Appeals to Tien Ti heaven and earth are constantly made by
the Chinese: and even in their communications with foreigners*
when they want to give an impression of their veracity, they will
point with their finger upwards, then downwards, and then place
their hand on their heart. There is a famous aphorism which says,
that the fundamental principle of all things must be looked for in
" heaven, earth, and man." And the same idea is represented in
many forms : " Heaven above earth below man between." The
principle is symbolised by an equilateral triangle.


What pains have I taken, what misery I have
gone through, in order to approach her ! For
this I have exhausted every resource, for this
I have sharpened my vision. To meet her is
the delight of my three lives. 1 I wanted to
pour out my heart to you, that you might con-
vey my words to your divine mistress. I little
thought that, when I had the good fortune to
meet you, that you would utter to me such
cold and ungracious words. And so my life-
dreams are to be disappointed. The nuptial
tie is not to be linked. 2 I am never to see her

1 A common expression, meaning " the past, the present, and the

2 The linking together of bridegroom and bride with a scarlet,
silken thread, as part of the marriage ceremony, is traceable to a
tradition, that the Lao Yue, old lady of the moon, dropped a book,
which was found to contain some threads of scarlet silk. She was
asked what was her intention, and answered that, the threads were
to bind the feet of the affianced together. One of the Chinese
names for matrimony is " The old lady of the moon." When a
youth inquired of the goddess as to whom he was united, she
answered: "to a girl of three years old, the daughter of a fruit
seller, who is to be found at the northern gate of the city." The
youth went, found the child ugly and of mean birth : to escape the
degradation, he hired an assassin to kill her, who struck her on the
head, and left her for dead. Fourteen years passed, when the City
magistrate arranged for a marriage with a girl of seventeen, whom
he had adopted and treated as his daughter. When brought to-
gether, she was observed to wear an artificial flower, and on the
bridegroom inquiring what it meant, she answered, " it was to hide


again. Go, go, take her my writings, tell
her of one who is dying of a broken heart.
Tell her I cannot pass the closed double door.
Tell her that the forlorn one is gone to his
death-bed beneath the jasper peach trees. 1 "

Yun Liang answered : " Why torment your-
self so about a young girl, sighing and sobbing
all the day long among the flowers, wasting
the spring of your life ? I pity you, but I will
touch the pulse of my mistress' heart notwith-
standing. Perchance the wind may move the
clouds in the blue heavens. 2 But if, in the still
night, and in the cold water, the fish will not
take the bait, 3 then the handsome youth and
the beautiful girl are not predestined to one
another. 4 Pack up your thoughts go home

the marks of a wound she had received when a child." He thus
recognised the power of the old lady of the moon, and his destiny
was accomplished. The artificial flower is worn at weddings as a
memento of the event.

1 See Chapter VI.

The youth is the wind the maiden the cloud the heavens are
the temple of love.

3 The Chinese have a proverb " The fish will not bite in the
night when the water is cold."

4 The references to fate, or predestination, are almost as frequent
among the Chinese as among the Mohamedans. They do not, like
the Arabs, attach an Inshallah (if Allah will), to everything which
concerns the future j but they have a proverb constantly on their


do not waste any more time in flinging the peach
blossoms upon the running stream." But her
words, and the tone in which they were uttered,
threw over him a beam of pleasure, and he broke
out : u I thank you heartily, fair maiden, for your
friendly wishes. And if you bring me a kind
response from the boudoir, your goodness will
be greater than that of heaven itself, and I
shall never forget the blessed day never till
my body is crumbled into powder. I cannot
master my feelings, do you come to their
aid." She listened to his last words and hastily
hurried home after saying " Farewell ! " As
she passed through the willow alley he called
after her : "I forgot to ask your name and pre-

lips, "Jinshwo: joo tze joo tze : Tienshwo: weijen, weijen," of
which the verbal rendering is, " Man says, So ! so ! heaven says,
No ! no !" but the negation is singularly emphatic in the Chinese.
It may be remembered that the Emperor Napoleon said the sub-
limest word he had ever heard was the Ndo ! of the Portuguese
minister, when he proposed his schemes for the invasion of the
Peninsula. I believe, in almost every European language, the proverb
"Man proposes and God disposes," is to be found. The Germans
say, " Der Mensch denkts, Gott lenkts. Man thinks, God governs."
The Spaniards have the proverb in many shapes. One has all the
Castilian grandiloquent sonorousness, " Los dichos en nos, los
hechos en Dios." " The words are ours, the deeds are God's." The
Dutch have a very trading-like, but nationally characteristic, form,
" De Mensch wikt, maar God beschikt." " Man weighs (the com-
modity), God settles (the account)."


name, and how many beauties there are in the
boudoir." She stopped an instant. " My name
is Yun Liang, and there are eight of us, with
our young mistress. Your slave, with her
companion, Pi Yue, have dwelt for ten years
in the inner apartments of our mistress. None
of us have ever left her. And where could we
find her equal ? We live all like sisters together,
and every day are in the garden, as gay and as
happy as nymphs." 1 Having said this, she
passed through the garden, and he saw her
shadow vibrating to and fro as she lifted the
golden lilies. 2

1 Female slaves are so completely domiciled in China, that they
are seldom sold by their owners, except in cases of great adversity
and distress. The legal authority is, however, absolute, as may be
seen in an ancient proverb : "As the stocking cannot be freed while
the boot covers it, so cannot the slave be freed without the consent
of the master."

2 It is a compliment to a Chinese lady to say that she vibrates
with the breeze. The small feet makes her walk unsteady. I have
seen ladies take hold of a near object to prevent them from being
blown over by the wind.



WHEN Yun Liang returned to the toilette
chamber, and had saluted her mistress, the
cicadce were singing on the flower- stalks. 1 She
presented a chloranthus . flower to adorn the
hair of the young lady. Yao Sien said im-
mediately to her : "It was nearly dark when
you left, and now the sun is shining on the
balustrade. What made you stay so long in
the garden?" Yun answered: "I went to
the garden because you ordered me, and saw
what I had never seen before, a new door
which opened into another garden. I was

1 Shewing that the day was advanced, as the cicadse never appear
among the flowers till the morning dew is dried.


anxious, of course, to know what it meant, so
I approached, but very timidly, and discovered
a student's apartment. At every step there
were fragrant flowers and singing birds. I went
forward, and under the shade of a willow tree,
I saw a melancholy youth, quite silent, but
most sorrowfully weeping. Immediately on
his perceiving me, he came forward and told
me a long story about his secret love. He said
he had seen a lady playing at draughts, and that
the sight had cost him six whole moons of
idleness and misery, that his wretched life
was coming to an end, that he could neither
eat nor drink, he was, indeed, nearly crazed.
He said he had made a hundred attempts,
employed a thousand devices to approach you,
that he had spent a " thousand pieces of gold" 1
to buy the garden, that he might be near you,
but he was still too far off, yet dreamed that
your heart and his might be one, and that you
might both live together for a hundred years.
I reproved him, and said you were as cold as

1 In this, there is a recondite compliment, associating by a peri-
phrase the garden with the fair lady, one of the titles given to a
pretty girl being " A thousand gold pieces."


ice and pure as jade/ and could not allow his
love dreams to disturb your rest. Hearing this,
he broke out into loud lamentations, and rivers
of round pearly tears watered the flowers. And
he said : 4 Will this beauty bring me to perdition ?
Shall the falling of my peach blossoms be re-
corded on the white wall? ' 2 The words were
so impassioned, I could not bear to hear them.
His heart was sorely troubled. I could not
help pitying him. I remembered what a hand-
some youth he was when we first saw him in
the lamp-light, so gay, so charming; but
now he is reduced to a wretched skeleton ; and
I fear me he is doomed. Can it be of illicit
love?" These were heart rending words to
Yao Sien, and she rose up and looked very
miserable; she was silent, seemed lost in
thought, but soon her lovely lips uttered these
words : "I did believe there was some meaning
in those lines, but never knew that his affection
was deep as the ocean,. Youth easily becomes
demented. Is not his father a Minister at

1 " Unspotted as the purest jade," is the ordinary designation
of a chaste maiden.

2 Must my epitaph be written ?


Court? His talents and his bearing really re-
semble those of a sage of the ancient time. 1
He is truly like a golden branch with jasper
leaves. Is it not odd that such a man should
get entangled in the nets of love ? Well, let
him look about for a 4 go-between. 72 Perhaps
he may find some solace for his sorrow, per-
haps his moon will wax to the full." 3 And
then, in a low, sweet voice, she said, " Yun
Liang ! we must not talk about this. We
have been like sisters; we have been quite
alone. It was you, who, by your dolorous
story, forced me to say what I ought never to
have said. I have been very foolish. Do not
expose me ; never let a word escape you, not

1 The ne plus ultra of a Chinese compliment. The Book of Odes
says : " Have your ancestors the sages of old constantly on your
thoughts. Talk constantly of their virtues, and learn to imitate

2 The employment of a match-maker is represented in one of the
Chinese classical works as the distinction between men and beasts.
" Men employ a go-between for the arrangement of marital affairs,
which beasts do not." No doubt, the axiom has been found very
useful to the marriage brokers. It would be, however, a great breach
of decorum for a lady to be concerned in commissioning the match-

3 A full moon represents perfect success perfect happiness a
completeness, which leaves nothing to be desired.


a single word." 1 Something more might have
passed, but they were sent for to the presence
chamber. Yao Sien rose, and, followed by her
maid, the golden lilies left the odoriferous

1 Robert Thorn, to whom I am indebted for many elucidatory
notes, and whose contributions, for the aid of English students of
Chinese, are most valuable, remarks, in his translation of " The last-
ing (literally, hundred years) resentment of Miss Keaow Lwan
Wong, on the extreme familiarity which exists between young ladies
and their female attendants." Many of the Chinese waiting-maids
are very accomplished, and they often live on terms of great intimacy
with their mistresses. Some are the children of respectable families
who have been compelled by want to sell their daughters as domestic
slaves, others are bought by women who deal in feminine beauties,
have them trained in the needful accomplishments, and sell them to
become hand-maidens to the highest bidder.



THE conversation with Yun Liang had not
been altogether satisfactory to the student.
" She is light hearted, she will be forgetful,
she will be laughing with her mistress in the
fragrant boudoir, and for me, in my sleepless
solitude, why should she care for me ? Why
should she not be a cunning deceiver like the
rest of womankind ! It is in their nature to
sport with our sufferings, and the prettier they
are the more likely to do so. There was some-
thing deceitful in her eyes. The more I think
the more my thoughts are shrouded in gloom.
I put my elbows on my knees, and support my



aching head on my hands, and the more I ask
for aid the less I find it. And this is all about
a girl who is but a spring flower. And I pine
and pine away. I only prayed that I might meet
her. I met her, and the meeting has increased
my misery and multiplied my tears. What is to
be done?" He arranged his garments 1 and
walked into the garden. He looked around,
particularly towards the willow walk, but he saw
no one. The cawing crows were taking their
homeward flight, and the twilight of evening
was growing darker. He passed into the outer
garden and glanced at the flower beds. In
mournful mood, he made his way to the balus-
trade, looked upon the red bamboos, which were
waving in the wind, and on the little birds which
were singing on the branches. But he heard
the rustling of a silk garment in the bushes,
and, lo ! with graceful steps, he saw Yun Liang,
who had entered the garden . " B est of women ! ' '
he cried, for he was in a transport of joy,
u You are come to confide to me the sweet
secret, to bring the heavenly message from the

1 The arrangement of garments, according to " the proprieties,"
is an important matter in Chinese education.


heavenly nymph." " Not so fast, that is not
so easy not a word has she said, how dare
you to think so meanly of her? Do not you
know the difference between common grass
and beautiful flowers? No, Sir! the heart of
my mistress is harder than stone or steel, and
if you think that the goddess of the moon is to
condescend to look down towards you, you
must first mount above the mists and the
clouds in order to approach nearer to her. 1
However, I did say a friendly word 2 for you
after I left you yesterday, and entered the
odoriferous boudoir; in fact, I told her that
your heart was withering, that you were very
wretched, and that she was the cause. I do
think that I made an impression, and that she

1 " You must succeed in your competitive examinations." Such
are the ordinary counsels given to amorous and ambitious students.
In the " Lasting Resentment" we find similar advice. " I would
recommend you, Sir ! not to revel in foolish dreams. Exert your-
self, apply to your books, and obtain entrance into the forest of
pencils college." Thus explained by Thorn :

" The sound or symptom of levity ought not to enter the chaste
precincts of the harem. Study hard, try to become a Hanlin,"
(forest pencil) or member of the Imperial Academy, the highest
literary grade in China. p. 15.

2 Literally, " I helped you with the knife of my tongue and the
lance of my lips."


really began to think a little about you. She
has not opened to me her inmost heart, but
yet I do fancy there is for you a little bit of
secret love, but she will not own it. We may
see what is to be said and done bye-and-bye.
But as for you, Sir! you are impatient and
impetuous, and want to break down all becom-
ing boundaries ; and if you do not mind your
manners, you must look for another carrier-
goose to bear your messages, for I will have
nothing more to do with the matter ! "

Liang vehemently broke out: "Bear with
me bear with me. Let me say only one
word. Love thoughts cannot be trampled out
of the heart. In my solitary study, a day
seems whole years long; but to-day has been
a day of blessedness. I feel like a poor morta
who has been favoured with an angelic visit
I did, indeed, trust that you would help m
over the azure bridge, and then it was that
dared to raise my head among the flowers
You have brought me news to-day which ha
given me new life, which has made me young
again. And now, dear girl! do not abandon
me. You have helped me half-way forward


Pray help me still, for if you fail me, I shall
fling my bruised and broken life down at your

Yun Liang burst into loud laughter. " Well !
and if you die at my feet, I shall witness the de-
parture of a joyous and fortunate ghost. Love-
thoughts live eternally in this changing world,
though year after year the green spring takes
its departure." Notwithstanding the laughing
and the talking there was still darkness in the
heavens. She took leave of the student, and the
golden lilies conveyed her homeward. Liang
would have charged her with ten thousand
messages, but crowded them all into the words :
" No delay, my life is in your hands. Come
back to the garden soon soon." Yun Liang
just bowed her head, walked speedily away,
and Liang retreated to the eastern garden.



WE will now leave the youth among the
flowers and pay a visit to Yao Sien, in her

It was at the beginning of autumn, and the
moonlight was magnificent. She ordered Yun
Liang to roll up the ornamented curtain behind
the door, and, followed by her maiden, she
walked out upon the balustrade, to look upon
the beautiful orb. 1 Its beams were brightly

1 It is a Chinese fancy, that youths and maidens, when separated
from one another, may see the face of their lover reflected in the full
moon. This may excuse the perpetual and almost monotonous in-
troductions of the silver orb in the scenes of romance. One of the
common titles of the moon is " The jade stone mirror."


reflected on the water below, gentle breezes bore
towards the ladies a delightful fragrance, and
the shadows of the flowers were trembling on
the wall. And the young lady Yao remarked
to Yun, in a very soft voice : " It seems to me that
the four seasons linger in order to enjoy the
sweetness of the atmosphere. And we have
passed through half the autumnal season. I do
not see a single cloud, and the moon is at its full.
See how its beams dance upon the waters. Listen
how the breezes are playing among the willows."
Pi Yue, who was standing close to her mistress,
took up the theme. " But we are driven on-
ward year after year. The cold north wind
will soon blow through the painted door. As we
change our garments, so the world changes its
face. The flowers bloom, the flowers fade, as
summer and winter come. The moon is bright,
the moon is clouded by turns. The returning
springs bring old age to youth, and while men
sleep, their hairs grow white. 1 I recollect what
passed in the beginning of the year. More
than six months have fled in the twinkling of
an eye. Some years ago I planted a row of

1 A succession of proverbs.


weeping willows. They were small and weak,
but not as high as my shoulder. Not long
ago, I saw them tall and strong. I counted
the years upon my fingers, and wondered that
I had planted them so long ago, and now are
they torn and stricken by the western wind,
their leaves are yellow and withered, their
freshness gone. And the life of man resembles
a weeping willow. His middle life is like the
beginning of autumn. Autumn departs, the
tree withers the leaves fall the countenance
of man bears the marks of decay but who
shall renovate him ? The green willow will be
revisited by the reviving breath of spring ; but
who shall restore youth to the aged man? "

Yun Liang carried on the conversation:
" So, in truth, it is, like the wind which scat-
ters the clouds at the approach of evening ; but
why should we talk of these melancholy things,
that the trees lose their leaves, and that
young men grow old; let us rather converse
about the full moon, and about this lovely
night. The world is full of variety. There
are some who sit amusing themselves with the
red-sided guitar. There are others, delighting


themselves with idle revelries. There are hunt-
ing nymphs and nymphs running after ghosts,
who are groaning in helpless despair. Some
are invoking the moon goddess to take pity on
their woes. Some are travelling, thinking of
their beloved and distant home, and in their
sorrow would extinguish the very shadows of
the moon. Others are dreaming of the absent,
preparing warm garments for their return, but
who knows whether those garments will ever
be worn? 1 Then there are those whose thoughts

1 This refers to a famous maxim of Confucius. " While your pa-
rents live, do not travel far away," on which there is a popular
annotation, by a great authority, Ti Wen :

" He who travels far away is apt to forget his parents, and, hence,
is properly reprimanded by the sage. In truth, a long absence, can
it be anything but a forgetfulness of father and mother ? Ought he
not to remember that, in his infant helplessness, he was nurtured by
their hand, and what would have been his fate had they abandoned
him ? Could they have borne the sorrow of long separation, and
how can he ? The thoughts of the wanderer will be wandering
thoughts. And if absence be reprehensible, long absence must be
much more reprehensible. Can there be a greater privilege than to
sit at the feet of our parents and be partakers of their joys ? How
can they, who enjoy such a privilege, willingly abandon it ? If he
quit his country, will he not ascend a mountain whether barren or
green to get a look at the distant palace (home). What greater
pleasure for parents than to see obedient children around them,
enjoying, with them, their domestic happiness. How can they be
obedient if they desert their home ? Think of the sorrow which me-
mory will bring to parents, when they leave their door, look to the
end of their street, and then to heaven, but the son is far away.

5 *


cannot be reached, perhaps they are rambling
in their dreams to the terrace of the sun, and
they awake to see the moon in the sky. 1 And
these are truly worthy of compassion. Other
wanderers there are, who delude themselves
with the fancy, that after death, their emanci-
pated spirits may fly towards the place of feli-
city. Some miseries may be removed, but
love-thoughts are the worst of miseries, and
make men dread to be left alone. I do not
believe the full moon knows how many, and how
grievous are the sorrows of mankind, or she

And what apprehensions fill the parental mind ! The absent one is
driven by the storm he is blinded by the dust the nights are bitterly
cold and he is left in loneliness he travels over mountains he
meets with impediments, and they are not on liis homeward way ; he
speaks his voice cannot be heard his figure cannot be seen at the
distance of a thousand Li. Is he to be embraced by his father ?
It cannot only be in his father's dreams, the absent spirit is no
better than a phantasm. A day to him is longer than three autumns,
but, in his father's house, three autumns are no longer than a day.
The budding of the willows, the falling of the rain, all are re-
minders of him who is not there ; and, added to all that they know
of his positive sufferings, a thousand fancied sufferings accompany him.
Two hearts may be united, but what if ten thousand li separate two
bodies ? What, if tall mountains and wide seas divide them ? Years
pass, means of living are exhausted. Where is the recompense ?

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Online LibraryJohn BowringHwa tsien ki. The flowery scroll, a Chinese novel → online text (page 6 of 16)