Friday, July 23, 2010
Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic
In Angering Heaven, A Girl1 Was Reincarnated2,
In Understanding The Way, A Beauty Reveals Secrets of Heaven.
Let us focus not on Mrs. Shi’s weeping but to turn to Lao Tzu who was meditating in his Tushita Palace on the Thirty third level of Heaven. He was sitting on his bulrush prayer mat when the Golden Boy3 burst in reporting,
“The Attendant to the Divination Box is nowhere to be found and hasn’t been back at all.”
Upon hearing the report, Lao Tzu let out his divine light and understood all that had happened and nodded his head,
“What a vile creature you are, my Attendant of the Divination box! Instead of cultivating the true way and attain enlightenment quietly, you seek your own torment and misery by today’s rash action. It’s not that I have no compassion to save you!”
Lao Tzu then reported the incident to the High Emperor of Summer Heaven4 who then commanded the Peach Garden Fairy to be sent down to earth. On receiving the Jade Edict5, she turned into a ball of divine light and rushed straight towards the destined family of Ren Tai Kung6 in Morning Song to be born as his daughter. She is now grown up and sixteen years of age. Her face looked like a peach blossom; she was slender-waisted like the weak branches of the willow, such an indescribable beauty. How do we know?
There is a poem describing her beauty,
Cherry Peach-shaped mouth, teeth white as jade,
An understanding flower7 whose beauty is unique.
A fate from previous life causes all this,
So easily that a fairy be reborn into a mortal’s family?
Around the time of her birth, Ren Tai Kung’s wife dreamt and saw the sky was filled with colored clouds and from there descended a fairy holding a luminous peach blossom. The fairy then gave the blossom to the lady of the house8. When she started to inhale the fragrance of the flower she awoke and within three days, a daughter was born. For this reason the baby was named Peach Blossom. Being the old couple’s only child, their love for her was greater than that of having a pearl in hand. Brought up in a lap of luxury, her every whim was catered to. On this we shall not dwell on any longer.
One day, as the husband and wife were sitting in the main hall a pitiful wailing was heard in the streets. Ren Tai Kung hurriedly went out to see what it was all about. He recognized it was their wall-adjoining neighbour9, old widow Mrs. Shi, who was weeping loudly. A crowd was consoling her but he could not hear a thing as too many people were jabbering at the same time. In midst of the crowd, he started to address Old Mrs. Shi,
“Old auntie10, why are you weeping so sorrowfully? Why not come to my humble abode and have a seat? Explain exactly what had transpired so that this old man may understand one thing or two. We may be of help.”
When the crowd saw Ren Tai Kung invite old widow Mrs. Shi into his home, they dispersed in no time. As she was being led into the main entrance, Mrs. Ren came out to welcome her. On seeing the state Old Mrs. Shi was in, she quickly helped her into the main hall and bade her sit down.
Mrs. Ren asked,
“Old sister-in-law, who had you been quarreling with? Did someone wrong you?”
Old Mrs. Shi wiped her tears,
“Madame, this concubine never quarreled with anyone. It is because my son is going to die tonight on the third hour of the watch! You tell me, who can this old life depend on?”
She wept again when her words ended.
Mrs. Ren gasped in shock and inquired,
“Was the terrible news sent by your son?”
Old Mrs. Shi waved her hands explaining,
“Not yet, no, not yet. My son had left home and told me that he would be back within three months. Now half a year has gone by and there is no news. This old body could not be at peace and so this morning, I went for a divination. It is terrible – tonight, on the third watch, my son will be crushed inside an abandoned cave dwelling. How can I not be this sad!”
Mrs. Ren laughed out loud upon hearing the explanation,
“Old sister-in-law, here I thought that you received some very grave news, it’s only an unlucky horoscope. How can you be this sad? That fortune teller is not a living god, how can you possibly believe him?”
Old Mrs. Shi replied,
“If it’s some other person, I would not have believed but this is from Lord Chou. His predictions on the Yin and Yang are most accurate and whether in bliss or calamity he does not err. Whatever he says will become true. I had been imploring him most painstakingly but he only remarked that, ‘Unless you plead with King Yama himself, I’m afraid there is no chance of your son being alive!’”
When Ren Tai Kung heard the words, he was stunned for a moment and said,
“Old sister-in-law, I too have heard of this Lord Chou. His divination skills are like those from God. According to what he said, then there is no hope of saving your son. If Lord Chou knows that your son is to be crushed, why did you not ask him for a clarification? Where is this place? Why not ask someone go there immediately and stop your son from entering the place? Then you have nothing to fear.”
Mrs. Ren chimed in,
“You are getting senile and understand nothing! Lord Chou is not a living god. His prediction merely follows the principles of divination. By not knowing the exact location of the place, he just pronounced that there’s no hope at all.”
Old Mrs. Shi became even more sorrowful upon hearing those words. The pain was unbearable and she started to sob again. As husband and wife looked at her sorrow, they began to think: he is the only son and with the family being this poor, who could this old bag of bones rely on should his son really die? The more they thought about it, they too could not refrain from tears.
In the meantime, let’s talk about Miss Peach Blossom. From the age of five onwards, while playing at the door with a servant girl, a priest came begging for alms. He gave her three celestial scrolls and a pill. Upon swallowing it, she was able to read. For a few months, each night, this priest visited her in her dreams to instruct her and to teach her magic skills of immortals. Hardly a year had passed and she was well versed with all that were in the scrolls. Up to the age of sixteen, she did not reveal anything to her parents and did not meet people readily. As she loved peach blossoms, the father planted several hundred trees in the backyard where each day together, he enjoyed the garden while she tended the trees or did her embroidery.
The day of Old Mrs. Shi’s visit, she was just clearing the table after lunch and was about to enter the garden when she heard a woman’s incessant sorrowful sobbing coming from the inner hall. Her curiosity was piqued,
“Someone is wailing so bitterly in the hall. I shall have a look.”
On her golden lilies11 she walked quickly into the inner hall and was surprised to see her parents and their wall adjoining neighbour weeping. She greeted them and on seeing the young miss, old Mrs. Shi stopped her crying and said,
“Young Miss, you don’t come out often to see people. Not having seen you for a few years, your hair is now long and you have such pretty eye brows too.”
The husband and wife on seeing their daughter also wiped off their tears and said,
“Daughter dear, why are you here.”
Miss Peach Blossom inquired,
“Father, mother, why are you two crying with old Lady Shi?”
Mrs. Ren replied,
“Daughter, what you did not know is this: old Lady Shi’s son had gone away for some commercial enterprise. Half a year has gone by and he has not returned. Old Lady Shi went to Lord Chou for a divination to see when he will return. She never anticipated that Lord Chou would divine that her son would die on the third watch of tonight and determined that there is no hope for her son. Hence her immense grief. Your father and mother tried to console her but we were so moved that we started to cry too.”
Miss Peach Blossom gave a sigh of relief and said,
“Here I thought there was some grave matter. So that was it!”
She turned to Old Mrs. Shi and said,
"Noble lady, no need to be so sad, I’m sure if elder brother is destined to die, your cries won’t bring him back to life. Lord Chou’s predictions may not be that accurate. Why don’t you tell me the hours of birth of elder brother? This girl knows how to divine as well. Let me see if that’s really the case and if that there is really no hope for him.”
When the husband and wife heard their daughter’s words,
“My child, please don’t jest with Old Lady Shi. Since when have you started to learn such things?”
Miss Peach Blossom replied,
“Father and mother, you do not know what your daughter has learnt recently. Old Lady Shi, don’t worry. Just give me the birth hours. Is there any harm?”
Having no alternative Old Mrs. Shi provided the information. For a while Miss Peach Blossom touched the tip of her thumb with her other jade finger tips. All there is to know about life and death, fortune good or bad, became clear to her. She nodded and exclaimed,
“What a great Duke of the Chou country! Such accuracy. No wonder everyone in Morning Song has so much respect for him. It is true that on the third watch of tonight, your son will surely be crushed inside the broken cave dwelling. This is because the White Tiger is overhead, the gate of Death is watching his life, and the year start and the lunar command12 are not favourable. There is no doubt about his death. According to my calculation, there is a broken cave dwelling about 15 miles from the south of the city. Tomorrow you will find his corpse.”
Old Mrs. Shi began to weep again upon hearing the words. Ren Tai Kung quickly counseled and smiled,
“Old sister-in-law, listen not to my young daughter’s nonsense. Now that we know where the place, this old man will send someone there and save your son. Why be so hard on yourself. My daughter’s words can hardly be believed.”
Peach Blossom smiled,
“How can the efforts of man fight against heaven? Father, mother and old Lady Shi do not believe me now. However, when the hour of Mei13 is over, in the early hour of Shen, there will be a storm. If there’s none, then what I have said will be proved false. If indeed there is a storm, invite Old Lady Shi over again. This lowly girl will teach her a way to save her son.”
With that, she left the hall and entered the peach garden. Ren Tai Kung upon hearing his daughter’s words could not help himself but laughed,
“Mama, just look at the bright and sunny sky, how can there be rain? Old sister-in-law need not be so sad. Just as my daughter said, if indeed your son dies, crying won’t bring him back to life. According to this old man’s words, relax and go home, tomorrow I shall ask someone to inquire.” Old Mrs. Shi had no choice but to bid farewell, and alone in her home, she let her imaginations run amuck.
The moment the hour of Shen arrived, the weather began to change suddenly. In a second, winds began to howl and the rain beat down mercilessly without stopping. Old Mrs. Shi upon seeing this change was stunned and exclaimed,
“Just as expected, this prediction of the coming rain only proves that Miss Peach Blossom’s divination is just as accurate. She believed that my son can be saved. I must go and plead with her. Surely there is a way to save him now!”
Braving the rain, she went straight to Ren Tai Kung and flung open the doors and entered. Ren Tai Kung and his wife were sitting in the hall talking about the accuracy of their daughter’s prediction and not understanding where and how their daughter had learnt that divine skill. In the midst of their conversation, old Mrs. Shi burst in and they knew exactly the reason.
Not knowing if Old Mrs. Shi’s son could be saved, please proceed to the next chapter.
1. Readers would be puzzled by the direct term, “soft matter” (柔物). A term used
for young females as they are so soft, pliable and desirable.
2. Gods and immortals unlike mortals are not reincarnated. When Mortals die they must
first drink the Soup of Oblivion before going through the Wheel of Transmigration in
Hades. On the other hand divine beings on a mission or punishment are sent directly
from heaven into the womb.
3. 金童玉女–Golden Boy and Jade Girl. A generic term for immortal attendants to the
4. 昊天上帝 . Chinese pantheon of Gods is modeled directly after the imperial
system on earth. The term 上帝 is usually translated as God but has a different
connotation in the east. These Emperor Gods have a higher rank than those termed
as 神. Mortals and lesser gods can be elevated to such high status by the ruling
emperor. Thus Kuan Yu, a historical general during the period of Three Kingdoms was
conferred the title of Kuan Ti by various emperors in different dynasties. Gods with
the imperial title of emperor (帝) has its own court and administration of lesser gods
to serve them.
Spring is the azure heaven, summer is Hao heaven, autumn is Wen heaven and
Winter is the upper heaven.
5. Edicts from heaven are termed jade edits especially issued by the Jade Emperor 玉帝
while those by the earthly counterparts are termed as holy or saintly edicts (聖旨)
often translated as imperial edicts.
6. 任太公. Either Tai Kung is the name a person surnamed Ren or a title – Ren the grand
duke. However I chose to translate it as his name because for such powerful nobility
how could a poor woman be his wall-adjoining neighbour.
7. 解語花 is a literary term for a woman who knows and understands about worldly
8. 院君 - an entitled woman of nobility or a wife of a very rich person. Nowadays it
means wife. Here I translate it as a wife of a rich person because a poor family like
Mrs. Shi could not possibly be a next door neighbour to nobility.
9. In old Chinese buildings, each home is separated by a common wall on a lot. There is
no lane or space separating the two homes. I shall use the shorter term next door
neighbour throughout the text.
10. It is considered very improper in old Chinese to speak in the first person unless his
rank is higher. Familial relationships are very well defined and strict. Everyone has a
ranking and as such formal addresses are used and every child is expected to know
all these familial relationships. Even today, one does not address an older person by
name but rather by their rank such as 5th maternal uncle etc. This formality
extends to strangers as well. After the social status had been determined, correct
titles are used.
In proper social etiquette, one usually uses self deprecating terms, such as “welcome
to my cold (humble) house”, “my ugly yellow faced wife” and “my stupid son” etc. At
the same time preventing one from committing hubris. More polite, flattering or
endearing terms are used for the other person who is considered on equal status,
such as, “elder wife of my younger brother (sister-in-law)” for an older woman even
though they are not related.
Concubine is another self deprecating term used by a married woman even though
she is the main wife. Similarly, “your slave girl” is used to describe even though the
speaker is not one.
Aunties, uncles and such terms are polite addresses used for strangers. It is a term of
endearment to foster a bond so that they may request things or service easily.
Unlike western culture, old age is held in high esteem in oriental cultures because
old age is difficult to attain and therefore warrants respect. Hence calling some one
old is not an insult. I shall keep the word old as it appears in the original text as an
honorific i.e. Old Mrs. Shi from the narrator’s point of view.
11. Euphemism for the woman’s feet. Foot binding was not in vogue when the story
The smaller the sexier is to the males. Even in intimate situations, these golden lilies
11 戌 Xu Dog 07pm–09pm Sep WNW
12 亥 Hai Pig 09pm–11pm Oct NNW
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
After pronouncing his verdict, Lord Chou handed over a piece of paper to the landlord. On it was written,
Against conscience, you forcibly wrestle a youthful kiss,
Know not your scheme had been exposed from the start?
On the third watch, night of tomorrow a tryst has been made.
“The husband of this lady stole some of your money and had bribed a killer. Tomorrow night when you rendezvous with her, you will be caught red handed and be killed. Now that you have pleaded me to save you, my advice is that you must sever all carnal desires for her and cultivate good thoughts from now on. Heaven will protect you and turn this calamity into bliss. Here’s my pronouncement: Leave your home tonight on the third hour of the watch and head east for thirty miles. On seeing a lantern hanging on a door, knock and be let in. Meet the person there face-to-face and invite him to your home for a drink. Someone will come along to straighten out everything. Calamity will dissipate after the next morning.”
Upon the advice, the landlord kowtowed, thanked Lord Chou and left hurriedly through the main door. The crowd was excited and blocked the landlord asking noisily,
How are his predictions?”
The landlord pushed through the crowd crying out loudly,
“Indeed everything is true, incredibly accurate!”
With that he disappeared like a gust of wind. The soldier approached the divination table and likewise made a silent prayer at the side. Lord Chou wrote his prediction on a piece of paper and handed it to the soldier.
On it was written:
Someone’s ten strings of cash you did get,
Illicit lovers you wouldst catch.
Such immoral wealth you snatch,
Lover’s web you be latched.
Lord Chou spoke,
“Soldier, did someone not give you some ten strings of cash yesterday? That tomorrow night, on the third watch, to catch some illicit lovers? When the deed is completed, another reward of ten strings of copper cash will follow. Isn’t this true?”
Flabbergasted, the soldier could only nod his head and answered,
“My Lord, you are a living God! 'Tis the reason this Nobody came to seek your advice.”
Lord Chou smilingly said,
“Don’t think of accepting this kind of wealth. Help catch illicit lovers in the act? When the adulterer is caught, hate will dissipate, whence money would come to thank your efforts. In not catching him, why should you be paid? I’m pointing a road for you to walk: Just go and meet the man as planned. After that, give this written divination to him. Someone would then present you ten strings of copper. Stop all wishful thinking from now on lest you encounter more disasters.”
The soldier kowtowed quickly and said,
“With your Lordship’s advice, no more delusion for this nobody!”
As he left, he did not talk to anyone about his situation but muttered out aloud,
“Such accuracy, a real living God indeed! If you people don’t believe me, just go and test him out.”
With those words, he quickly left the place and disappeared. Who would have thought that upon listening to Lord Chou’s words, the landlord and soldier would later meet. Two different people walking on the same road: The soldier’s hirer is none other than a servant of the landlord. At tonight’s meeting, all present will be surprised and shocked yet thoroughly awed by Lord Chou’s divinations. The landlord invited the two men back to his home for a drink and the soldier became a peacemaker between them. After the written predictions were brought out for all to see that any ill feeling was cast away and yes, the landlord did give the soldier ten strings of copper.
Soon the events were known and the entire city of Morning Song was abuzz with gossip. From then onwards, that street was jammed packed with inquirers wanting to know what their fortunes may be. One question, one prediction true. Four questions asked, two pairs of answers became true. Each day after ten inquiries asked, the doors were closed; caring not if more people were still waiting outside. Peng Jian was overjoyed, each day thirty easy pennies were made come rain or shine. Every morning after the divination sessions had ended, signs were taken down and since he had no children, he walked to the street market wine store for a cup or two. He would then return home after all the money had been spent. If there was any left, he gave them to the poor and needy. Days came and months passed. Soon more than half a year had gone by. Who knew that in midst of complete happiness there would be trouble popping out in front of his eyes. Readers, let me explain.
In this city of Morning Song, there lived a widow named Mrs. Shi whose husband had died early on in their marriage. They had a son named Tsung Fu. Being poor, they managed to scrape by a few pieces of silver. She bade her son go to the city of Meng Jin to do some buying and selling. Before he left, they decided that business should conclude within three months. Six months had now elapsed and there was no news of him. Each day old lady Shi thought of her son deeply; standing by the door waiting eagerly for his return. As each day passed, there was no sign of him. Finally she decided to seek divine intervention. In the end, nothing was efficacious and she was deeply depressed. One day while standing in her doorway, she overheard a passerby commenting,
"Lord Chou is selling his divination services on the Cloud Dwelling Street. Very accurate are his skills but too pricey. He charges one tael of silver and three pennies!”
On hearing, she thought to herself,
“Why don’t I go and seek help from him?”
She borrowed the necessary money from neighbours and rose before dawn. She washed and combed her hair, had a little bite to eat1 and tied her hair with a black damask silk ribbon. After locking up her home she headed towards Lord Chou’s place. Dawn broke just as she reached the city. Coincidentally, Peng Jian had opened the door, put up the signs and was sweeping when old Mrs. Shi came and recognized Pang Jian. Crying out aloud,
“Master Peng, can you come out please?”
On hearing someone calling his name, Peng Jian looked up and recognized old Mrs. Shi as they were once upon a time neighbors from the same village,
“Old Mrs. Shi, such an early hour you come. Must be something very important. Is it not? Do you wish for a consultation?”
Old Mrs. Shi burst into tears when she heard the words,
"Rightly so. All because of this old widow’s son, Tsung Fu. He has been gone for some commerce and said he would return within three months. Half a year passed and no news at all. This old lady is too worried. No choice but to borrow that tael of silver and three pennies to plead for Lord Chou’s advice. Whether my son is happy or sad, alive or dead, I need to know and not have my intestines all wrenched up.”
As she spoke, money was pressed into Peng Jian’s hands. After the money was accepted, he counseled,
“Old sister, the lucky will have the protection of heaven. I’m sure your son is safe. Whether he is delayed or not, we do not know. As a mother, your worries are natural. Please come in.”
With these words, she was led into the inner hall. Old Mrs. Shi raised her head and saw a table on which were the Four Treasures of the Study2, a divination cylinder, an incense burner and such. In the middle sat a noble-looking person. Just look at his countenance, so different from others, so dignified and impressive. One can see,
A three tiered hat3 on his head,
An Eight Treasure4 design emblazoning,
Black gauze robes adorning,
Sewn with serpent dragons5.
A face so black and shiny like a pot’s bottom,
But eyes aglitter like stars.
Sitting upright, divining the Eight Trigrams,
Looking more like a god than an immortal.
The moment Mrs. Shi saw Lord Chou’s countenance, she quickly knelt before him. Lord Chou was not thrilled to see a worried old woman hobbling right into the middle of his hall and kneel before him. Why was he not pleased to see her? This is because earlier on, he made a divination and found that there was an overpowering sense of Yin. He was just about to order Peng Jian to not accept any female inquirer for the day when she appeared before him. Lord Chou was annoyed and said,
And to Peng Jian he asked,
“Why did you not report to me first before bringing her?”
Peng Jian replied,
“This is lady Chia from the Shi family. Her dead husband was an acquaintance of mine. Today she came to inquire about her son. This is why I did not report to you first.”
When old lady Shi heard the words, she began to sob,
“This old lady came because her son Shi Tsung Fu was away on business, half a year later and he hasn’t returned. This old body has only this son. In not knowing if he is dead or alive, it’s vexing me to no end. I am in error by not following the norm, I beg for my Lord’s boundless mercy.”
Lord Chou nodded his head and said,
“So be it. Information about the traveler? Let me divine and see what happens.”
With that, he picked up the divination cylinder and shook it a few times and made some detailed calculations6 and after a while he looked at her and sighed,
“If I don’t speak to you frankly, won’t you be waiting on false hope? Your son will die tonight at the third watch of the hour!”
Old lady Shi gasped when she heard the words,
“My Lord, I merely asked when my son is coming back, why did you say he’s going to die?”
Lord Chou replied,
“This predication was conceived by using Ying and Yang principles that came before heaven was created and the rules of Eight Trigrams that came after heaven was formed. All that there is to know about your son are shown here, so why not those of his death as well? You son had already started his journey home. Mother and son reunion… that I’m afraid will not be possible!”
Mrs. Shi wept uncontrollably,
“My son will die tonight, where will that be? Did he die from an illness?”
“I had divined that tonight on the third watch of the hour, your son will be crushed to death inside a broken cave dwelling7.”
On seeing the severity of the words, her sorrow doubles and she kept on knocking her forehead on the ground, begging Lord Chou to save her son.
Lord Chou had no choice but to answer,
“Let me have your son’s Hour of Eight Characters8, his age and let me see how his horoscope for the year will be.”
Old lady Shi quickly gave the information – the son was born on the twelfth month, on the eighteenth day at the hour of the Ox (1am – 3am) and fourteen years of age this year. Lord Chou took away the divination box and studied the given information and exclaimed,
“What a pity! Evil spirits overhead with the White Tiger9 watching life. Even if he’s an immortal, it is not possible to pass this door! Not even a life saviour in sight. What can I do? Old lady Shi, you better lay your heart to rest and forget about your son.”
This is: “If Yama10 wants you to die at the third hour, who will dare retain his life till the fifth watch!”
Immediately upon hearing Lord Chou’s words, old lady Shi wept tearfully and left for home in a pitiful state.
To know if her son was going to live or die, please see the next chapter.
1. The original text was食過點心. I don’t think they had dim sum the way we have today!
2. Four essential things a scholar needs for writing, the brush, ink, ink slab and paper.
3. 粱冠 - Tiered or beamed hats originate from the Han Dynasty as part for official court dress. It is also
known as 進賢冠. In Chin Dynasty there are known as 緇布冠. There are different kinds to
indicate different ranks with the smallest number for the lowest rank. One tiered is for scholars or
small ranking officials. Two tiered are for middle rank officials and three are for the high officials.
During the Ming Dynasty, all civil and military officials are required to wear these hats during
important ceremonies like sacrificial rituals together with red silk robes and other accompanying
accoutrements. Finally the number of tiers was increased to seven.
4. 八寶 also known as the 8 Auspicious Things (八吉祥). They are
a, Right-coiling White Conch (右旋螺) symbolizing the deep, far-reaching and melodious sound of the
Dharma teachings, which being appropriate to different natures, predispositions and aspirations of
disciples, awakens them from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own
and others' welfare.
b. Precious Umbrella (寶傘) symbolizing the wholesome activity of preserving beings from illness,
harmful forces, obstacles and so forth in this life and all kinds of temporary and enduring sufferings of
the three lower realms, and the realms of men and gods in future lives. It also represents the enjoyment
of a feast of benefit under its cool shade.
c. Victory Banner (勝幢) symbolizing the victory of the activities of one's own and others body, speech
and mind over obstacles and negativitities. It also stands for the complete victory of the Buddhist
Doctrine over all harmful and pernicious forces.
d. Twin Fish (雙魚) symbolizing the auspiciousness of all living beings in a state of fearlessness, without
danger of drowning in the ocean of sufferings, and migrating from place to place freely and
spontaneously, just as fish swim freely without fear through water.
e. Dharma Wheel (法輪) The golden wheel symbolises the auspiciousness of the turning of the precious
wheel of Buddha's doctrine, both in its teachings and realizations, in all realms and at all times,
enabling beings to experience the joy of wholesome deeds and liberation.
f. The Auspicious Knot(吉祥結) or the Unending Knot(無盡結) symbolizing the mutual dependence of
religious doctrine and secular affairs. Similarly, it represents the union of wisdom and method, the
inseparability of emptiness and dependent arising at the time of path, and finally, at the time of
enlightenment, the complete union of wisdom and great compassion. It is a stylized intertwining of the
g. Lotus Flower (蓮花) symbolizing the complete purification of the defilements of the body, speech and
mind, and the full blossoming of wholesome deeds in blissful liberation.
h. Vase of Treasure (寶瓶) symbolzing an endless rain of long life, wealth and prosperity and all the
benefits of this world and liberation.
5. 蟒龍 – symbols of nobility.
6. The original text is 把子午卯酉推算 which I translated as “detailed calculation” so as not to obfuscate
the reader with the background meanings of the phrase. These are the 12 earth stems which ancient
Chinese used as a system to name for hours, years etc. In this case they represent the cardinal directions,
the associated element and year.
子 – north, water, rat, 23:00 – 1:00
午 – south, fire, horse, 11:00 – 13:00
卯 – east, wood, rabbit, 5:00 – 7:00
酉 – west, metal, rooster. 17:00 – 19:00
子clashes with 午and so are 卯and 酉.
Other meanings of 子午卯酉 include, “the reason or because” (as is 就不告訴你怎麽個"子午卯酉),
the entire day (吭嚇了半天，也没有說出個子午卯酉), from beginning to the end, from start to finish,
get to the bottom of things (問個子午卯酉), all directions and result or achievement (没混出個子午卯
7. 窰: A manmade hollowed out opening on the slope of a hill to be used as dwelling place.
8. 時晨八字: The 8 birth characters in determining one’s fortunes in life etc.
9. The white tiger is usually depicted as a very ominous sign and denoting west.
10. One of the kings or judges of Hades.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
On Mount Wandering Demons, the Buddhist Monk Blade transforms.
A Virtuous Gentleman Hides in Morning Song1 to become a fortune teller.
The Blade continued its unorthodox transformation in Mount Wandering Demons while the scabbard continued her training in the Cave of Primordial Darkness. Yet another few centuries had passed before the Scabbard was summoned by the Queen Mother of Western Paradise to take charge of her peach garden. She was given the name, “Peach Blossom Fairy”. However the Blade did not attain enlightenment from the orthodox path and was furious. With other demons on the mountain, he caused troubles like belching out fire to rival the light of the sun and moon. At other times, he would summon clouds to make rain4, thus angering heaven. Soon divine soldiers were dispatched. The Blade was captured and bound at the Demon Execution Terrace. Luckily for him, Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism took pity on his thousand year hardship in attaining spirituality and pleaded for his case. He took the Blade back to his Tushita5 Palace and appointed it as the Keeper of the Divination Box. One day the Blade peeped into the Secret Formulae of the North Star and descended to earth secretly.
The true spirit of the Blade did not diminish and headed straight towards a noble family. This happened during the time of the Shang Dynasty. Chou Heng was a minister to the Court and had a wife named Feng. Heng became a father when he was over the age of fifty. The wife dreamt that the room was filled with blinding brilliance and when she woke up, a son was born unto her. He was given the name of Kan whose face was black as the bottom of a pot and had brows shaped like a pair of swords. Even as a child, there was a divine aura around him. At the age of seven, while playing in the backyard a heavenly mystic descended and gave him a celestial book. Because of his background, he was able to understand the contents at a glance; thus enabling him to discern events of the past and future, to call upon the gods and immortals alike; and to be able to soar and ride the clouds. When he reached the age of thirty, his parents died and he inherited his father’s position in the Court. From then, he was known as Lord Chou; an upright and well respected person in the Court. However the Shang ruler was not virtuous. Each time he remonstrated to his Lord, his advice went unheeded and he finally became disheartened.
One day after the Court audience had ended, he thought to himself,
“I could neither make my liege see the light of his errors nor am I able to sacrifice my life for the sake of the country. I am no different from the vulgar masses. Why don’t I just leave my post, find a quiet place somewhere in Morning Song and live in seclusion? I can become a diviner to help people, to become a master in the field of divination and dissecting the mystery of the Eight Trigrams. Although I am unable to help my country and its populace, at least this way, I would be able to leave my footprint through the millennia. Isn’t this a wonderful idea?”
With that thought in mind, he quickly wrote his letter of resignation in the night and presented his intent to the king at dawn. Due to his frequent remonstrations, the Shang ruler was not fond of him but was immensely elated upon hearing the news of his retirement. The petition was granted immediately. After his Court audience Chou Kan quickly went home, gathered a few items of clothing, locked up the mansion and led his retainers to a secluded place in Morning Song. He felt at ease with his newly found leisure life of no restrictions. The poem stated:
In becoming officials it is natural to make this world a better place,
But in hermitage, I know the secrets of heaven.
Clouds accompanying the mountains where there’s no danger,
Unlike before, worries I had to endure day and night6.
After ten days of leisure and carefree living, he called upon his old steward named Chien Peng Jian, an old family retainer who came to live in seclusion with his master. He was an honest person who never took advantage of anyone. Whether in asking him to draw water from the well or to plant vegetables, he is never unwilling. On hearing his master’s beckoning, he hurried into the main hall and asked,
“Milord, what need do you have of old Peng Jiang?”
“I am not capable in serving the country and its people well. Therefore I left my post to live in seclusion. I have decided in seeking another venue in life to fulfill the teachings of my ancestors and be someone of renowned ability. I shall establish my business here and you can help by opening another door on the left side of the main entrance to the house. Take three bars from the side room and erect it outside, clean the place and place a seat there. Do this immediately.”
Peng Jiang laughed out loud when he heard the words,
“Milord, I Peng Jiang, never in my life have I seen nobility set up shop to do any buying and selling.”
“I’m not doing any commerce at all!” smiled Chou.
“I am going into divination and fortunetelling to enlighten the befuddled so that they won’t commit crimes. At the same time, I dislike having too many people disturb my peace. I have a way – to charge a tael of silver for each session. After the charges have been paid you shall lead the inquirer to me and I shall begin my divination. However, only ten people a day I shall see and three pennies you may take as gratuity for leading them to me. What say you?”
Peng Jian was silent when he heard the words but kept smiling with a lowered head.
“Why do you not utter a single word?”
Peng Jiang laughed out loud,
“It is not Peng Jiang who is not answering you milord. You are just under one person but above thousands of others, why are you demeaning yourself in this way? For one, it is beneath your station to do so, secondly, I’m afraid you may be accused of bewitching the masses and thirdly people may not want to come to have their fortunes told as your charges are too high. Why all this fuss?”
“You know not my true intent. How would my dignity suffer by divulging the secrets of heaven? How enlightening and persuading the befuddled be construed as bewitching the masses? Worry not my divination capability. I tell you people will come knocking down the door to see me. Go quickly and do as you are told.”
Pang Jiang had no choice but to hire some carpenters. After a few days, when everything was done he reported to Lord Chou,
“The divining enterprise is completed”.
Then Pang Jiang smiled and continued,
“Milord, since you insisted upon one tael of silver as fee, everything would be fine if your predictions come true but what happens if they do not? Won’t you become the laughing stock? People will bad mouth you for using divination as a ruse to cheat people out of their money.”
Lord Chou laughed out loud and said,
“I am a reasonable person. If my predictions are not accurate, then ten times the amount paid will be refunded!”
“This is impermissible! If milord refunds the amount ten fold, then my gratuity of three pennies will be also ten fold. I cannot afford it. Surely you jest.”
Laughing out loud again, Lord Chou said,
“You have no idea know how good my predictions are. If a refund is to be made, I shall pay for you as well. Now what do you think about that!”
Pang Jiang was delighted on hearing those words and kowtowed before his lord. A large bamboo slip was ordered to be brought before him and Lord Chou wrote the following four words,
“Amazing Eight Trigram Divination”7
And on the left side, a column of smaller words,
“All predictions for death and fortunes both good and bad”.
And on the right was written, “One tael of silver for divination, three pennies gratuity to my servant as go between.”
Then on another large bamboo slip,
“Divination will be limited to ten each morning. Absolutely no inquirer after midday. If predictions proved inaccurate, a refund of ten taels of silver and thirty pennies!
After writing, he commanded Peng Jiang to sit at the cross-section of the main road to wait for customers. With such a move, the entire city of Morning Song was rocked with gossip; spreading like wild fires as one person informed ten and from ten into a hundred. Everyone on the street was saying,
“Strange, this is really strange. Never before had a nobleman parted their grand career for such measly divination business. Regardless if his predictions are accurate or not, it’s too much to shell out that one tael of silver!”
As no one would part their one tael of silver, none knew if any prediction is accurate. All day long Lord Chou sat serenely and smartly dressed in his cap and gown. No servant was in attendance except for a stick of burning incense. Three days gone by and nary a soul had come to have his fortunes told. Yet always a crowd of onlookers gossiping nearby. Then one local gentry landlord remarked,
“This Lord really knows how to jest; I’ll show him that I too can jest! I shall shed my one tael of silver and three pennies and see how good he is.”
Yet another, a soldier thought to himself,
“Yesterday, I came across some money and I haven’t decided what to do with it. I shall have my fortune told instead!”
So they entered the premise. As Lord Chou is from the nobility, they dared not make him wait by having small talk with Peng Jiang but handed the money quickly over to him who was smiling gleefully,
“How interesting… Today’s the propitious start of business!”
And with that, he laid the taels of silver in front of Lord Chou and explained the situation to him. Lord Chou then bade him to let one of inquirers enter. On seeing the landlord, Lord Chou said,
“Need not stand on ceremony nor explain anything to me. Just a silent prayer on the side will do.”
With those words, the landlord stood aside and prayed silently. Looking at the man, Lord Chou said,
“I understand your problem fully. Just because your servant has a beautiful wife, you wanted to break up their marriage and bade him marry another. The husband is unwilling and so now you wanted to harm him. Am I not correct? I’m afraid that you would not succeed but you get yourself killed first!”
This landlord was dumbfounded when his inner thoughts were exposed. His face was ashen into the color of mud. Immediately he knelt down on both his knees and pleaded,
“My Lord, this nobody did indeed harbor such intentions. I beg your Lordship point a way out for me to escape this calamity!”
Lord Chou nodded his head and said,
“Since you repented, there is a way out. Had you not seen me today, you will be dead tomorrow!”
Lord Chou then wrote a few lines of words on a piece of paper, handed it over to the landlord and spoke,
“This is your problem…”
The landlord took the paper and looked at the words…
What did Lord Chou write? How he is going to save the landlord? Please read the next chapter.
1. Chaoge (朝歌) Capital of the Shang Dynasty. It may also means “facing the song” i.e. embracing a song.
3. In Taoism, the Three Regions (三界) are
The Limitless Region (無極 region of no senses, upper)
The Ultimate Region (太極region of senses, middle)
The Present Region (現世region of needs, lower)
In Taoist philosophy these regions are located in the human body. If one can refine (smelt)
away essence away (煉精), one can leave the region of needs; refining away Prana (煉) one can
escape away from the region of senses and refining away the spirit, one will leave the region of no
sense. In popular stories, they are actual regions.
4. Ancient China is an agricultural society and therefore rains are of utmost concern. Therefore they
are regulated by edicts from the Jade Emperor. Any unauthorized scheduling is considered as a
crime against heaven.
5. 兜率 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tushita
The poem compares his present and former life. Even though he is a minister of the court and can
make the world a better place but it is all but an illusion. Day and night he has the burden of the
court affairs and the weight of the world bearing down on him. These are the least of his worries
for one loses his life easily under an unjust ruler. Carefree and living in harmony with nature is the
secret to a better life.
7. The four characters are卦理通神. Of course translating these four characters will not result in 4
English words. The phrase literally means “Eight Trigrams divination principles connected to gods”.
那周公終日俱在，穿得衣冠齐整的，在卜市中間座位上坐着，一個從者俱不用，止焚一爐好香，净净的清坐。彭剪自然是一個人坐在大門内。一連坐了两三日，并無一個人來占卦，止圍着無數的閑人，在那里乱講。内有一個土豪道：“這一位公爺也會玩耍，我小可却也会取笑。我舍着一两三分銀子，與他試試罷了。”又有一個軍漢道：“我昨日有一股財帛，却忘了一件事情，難以决断。我也去算一算！” 這二人就是先後進去了。只因國公是個有爵位的人，誰敢與他對坐閑談？故此不待人說，就將一两三分銀子交與彭剪。彭剪接了銀子，心中暗笑道：“有趣，今日發利市了！”随將一两銀子放在周公面前座位上。禀明了周公。周公便叫他先領了一個進來。那土豪先就跟了進來。周公道：“你不须行礼，也不用禀明何事，只在旁暗暗祷告便了。”土豪聞言，就立旁邊暗祝了一遍。周公看了一回，道：“你的心事，孤已明白了。只因你家下人的妻子貌美，你要拆散他夫妻，叫他丈夫另娶，他丈夫不從，你今想将他丈夫害死，是也不是？孤只怕你害人不死，先害死自己！”土豪聽周公道出他的私心，直唬得目定口呆，面如土色，忙双膝跪下，道：“公爺！小人果有此事。求公爺指明条路，小人好去趋吉避凶！”周公聞言点頭道：你既有悔心，自有生路。若不遇孤，你明日决死无生了！” 說罷，取了一張紙來，寫上幾行，递过與土豪，道：“這是你的心事——。”土豪接來一看，未知周公寫的什么，怎生指点，救得土豪如何，
Sometime ago, after reading the superb scholarly translation of "The Journey To The West", aka "The Monkey King" by Anthony C. Yu, I was inspired to translate short articles and stories from newspaper articles and other sources. I think it was time for me to try my hand in translating some obscure Chinese books about popular folklore and myths. "Peach Blossom Girl's Magic Duel" is such a book. Its story is quite popular in Southern China in the form of operas. There is even an old Cantonese opera movie starring Tang Bik Wan. I chose this as my first book primarily because of its small number of chapters - 16 compared to the 100 or so in a typical book of this genre.
There will be mistakes made! Therefore I included the original text in Chinese so that other translators can point out my errors.
It would not be possible for me to embark on this sort of project without the existence of the Internet; especially when this genre contains many very obscure and difficult terms. For example, twenty five years ago, just for the fun of it, I tried translating, "The Tale of Investiture of Gods". My effort was thwarted by a four character phrase in a poem on the first page! Not until now with the ease of research on the internet was I able to decode its meaning. Still, it is extremely time consuming to research antiquated Chinese terms especially those that deal with alchemy and historical allusions. So please bear with me in my slowness to get the chapters posted.
Once again thanks to the enormous effort of Anthony C. Yu's translation of the Monkey King, that I learnt more of my own culture by reading the English translation than by original Chinese version.
24 November 2012