One thing alone marred his happiness.He had lived over

One thing alone marred his happiness.

He had lived over half a century and had, as yet, no male offspring around his knees. He had one only child,

a daughter, whose infant name was Ying Lien. She was just three years of age. On a long summer day, on which the heat had been intense, Shih-yin sat leisurely in his library. Feeling his hand tired,

he dropped the book he held, leant his head on a teapoy, and fell asleep.

Of a sudden, while in this state of unconsciousness, it seemed as if he had betaken himself on foot to some

spot or other whither he could not discriminate. Unexpectedly he espied, in the opposite direction, two priests coming towards him: the one a Buddhist, the other a Taoist. As they advanced they kept up

the conversation in which they were engaged. “Whither do you purpose taking the object you have brought away?”

he heard the Taoist inquire. To this question the Buddhist replied with a smile: “Set your mind at ease,” he said; “there’s now in maturity a plot of a general character involving mundane pleasures,

which will presently come to a denouement. The whole number of the votaries of voluptuousness have, as yet, not been quickened or entered the world, and I mean to avail myself of this occasion to

introduce this object among their number, so as to give it a chance to go through the span of human existence.”

“The votaries of voluptuousness of these days will naturally have again to endure the ills of life during their course through the mortal world,” the Taoist remarked; “but when, I wonder, will they spring into existence? and in what place will they descend?”

“The account of these circumstances,” the bonze ventured to reply, “is enough to make you laugh! They amount to this:

there existed in the west, on the bank of the Ling (spiritual) river, by the side of the San Sheng (thrice-born) stone, a blade of the Chiang Chu (purple pearl) grass. At about the same time it was that the

block of stone was, consequent upon its rejection by the goddess of works, also left to ramble and wander to its own gratification, and to roam about at pleasure to every and any place. One day it came

within the precincts of the Ching Huan (Monitory Vision) Fairy; and this Fairy, cognizant of the fact that this stone had

a history, detained it, therefore,

to reside at the Ch’ih Hsia (purple clouds) palace,

and apportioned to it the duties of attendant on Shen Ying,

a fairy of the Ch’ih Hsia palace.

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Hence it was that K’ung K’ung, the Taoist, in consequence of his

Hence it was that K’ung K’ung, the Taoist, in consequence of his

perception, (in his state of) abstraction, of passion, the generation, from this passion, of

voluptuousness, the transmission of this voluptuousness into passion, and the apprehension, by means of passion, of its unreality, forthwith altered his name for

that of “Ch’ing Tseng” (the Voluptuous Bonze), and changed the title of “the Memoir of a Stone” (Shih-t’ou-chi,) for that of “Ch’ing Tseng Lu,” The Record of

the Voluptuous Bonze; while K’ung Mei-chi of Tung Lu gave it the name of “Feng Yüeh Pao Chien,” “The Precious Mirror of Voluptuousness.” In later years, owing

to the devotion by Tsao Hsüeh-ch’in in the Tao Hung study, of ten years to the perusal and revision of the work, the additions and modifications effected by him five times, the affix of an index and the division into periods and chapters, the

book was again entitled “Chin Ling Shih Erh Ch’ai,” “The Twelve Maidens of Chin Ling.” A stanza was furthermore composed for

the purpose. This then, and no other, is the origin of the Record of the Stone. The poet says appositely:—

Pages full of silly litter,

Tears a handful sour and bitter;

All a fool the author hold,

But their zest who can unfold?

You have now understood the causes which brought about the Record of the Stone, but as you are not, as yet, aware what

characters are depicted, and what circumstances are related on the surface of the block, reader, please lend an ear to the narrative on the stone, which runs as follows:—

In old days, the land in the South East lay low. In this South-East part of the world, was situated a walled town, Ku Su by name.

Within the walls a locality, called the Ch’ang Men, was more than all others throughout the mortal world, the centre, which held the second, if not the first place for fashion and life. Beyond this

Ch’ang Men was a street called Shih-li-chieh (Ten Li street); in this street a lane, the Jen Ch’ing lane (Humanity and Purity); and in this lane stood an old temple, which on account of its

diminutive dimensions, was called, by general consent, the

Gourd temple. Next door to this temple lived the family of a

district official, Chen by surname, Fei by name, and Shih-yin by style. His wife, née Feng, possessed a worthy and virtuous

disposition, and had a clear perception of moral propriety and good conduct. This family, though not in actual possession of

excessive affluence and honours, was, nevertheless, in their district, conceded to be a clan of well-to-do standing. As this

Chen Shih-yin was of a contented and unambitious frame of mind, and entertained no hankering after any official distinction,

but day after day of his life took delight in

gazing at flowers, planting bamboos,

sipping his wine and conning poetical

works, he was in fact, in the indulgence

of these pursuits, as happy as a supernatural being.

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Still more loathsome is a kind of pedantic and profligate

“Still more loathsome is a kind of pedantic and profligate literature, perfectly devoid of all natural sentiment,

full of self-contradictions; and, in fact, the contrast to those maidens in my work, whom I have, during half my lifetime,

seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. And though I will not presume to estimate them as superior to

the heroes and heroines in the works of former ages, yet the perusal of the motives and issues of their experiences,

may likewise afford matter sufficient to banish dulness, and to break the spell of melancholy.

“As regards the several stanzas of doggerel verse, they may too evoke such laughter as to compel the reader to blurt out the rice, and to spurt out the wine.

“In these pages, the scenes depicting the anguish of separation, the bliss of reunion, and the fortunes of prosperity

and of adversity are all, in every detail, true to human nature, and I have not taken upon myself to make the slightest addition,

or alteration, which might lead to the perversion of the truth.

“My only object has been that men may, after a drinking bout, or after they wake from sleep or when in need of relaxation

from the pressure of business, take up this light literature, and not only expunge the traces of antiquated books, and obtain

a new kind of distraction, but that they may also lay by a long life as well as energy and strength; for it bears no point of

similarity to those works, whose designs are false,

whose course is immoral. Now, Sir Priest, what are your views on the subject?”

K’ung K’ung having pondered for a while over the words, to which he had listened intently, re-perused, throughout, this record of

the stone; and finding that the general purport consisted of nought else than a treatise on love, and likewise of an accurate

transcription of facts, without the

least taint of profligacy injurious to the times,

he thereupon copied the contents,

from beginning to end, to the intent of

charging the world to hand them down as a strange story.

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What characters may I ask,” it consequently inquired

The stone listened with intense delight.

“What characters may I ask,” it consequently inquired, “will you inscribe? and what place will I be taken to? pray, pray explain to me in lucid terms.” “You mustn’t be inquisitive,” the bonze replied, with a smile,

“in days to come you’ll certainly understand everything.” Having concluded these words, he forthwith put the stone in his sleeve, and proceeded leisurely on his journey, in company with the Taoist priest. Whither,

however, he took the stone, is not divulged. Nor can it be known how many centuries and ages elapsed, before a Taoist priest, K’ung K’ung by name, passed, during his researches after the eternal reason and

his quest after immortality, by these Ta Huang Hills, Wu Ch’i cave and Ch’ing Keng Peak. Suddenly perceiving a large block of stone, on the surface of which the traces of characters giving, in a connected form,

the various incidents of its fate, could be clearly deciphered, K’ung K’ung examined them from first to last. They, in fact, explained how that this block of worthless stone had originally been devoid of the

properties essential for the repairs to the heavens, how it would be transmuted into human form and introduced by Mang Mang the High Lord, and Miao Miao, the Divine, into the world of mortals, and how it would

be led over the other bank (across the San Sara). On the surface, the record of the spot where it would fall, the place of its birth,

as well as various family trifles and trivial love affairs of young ladies, verses, odes,

speeches and enigmas was still complete; but the name of the dynasty and the year of the reign were obliterated, and could not be ascertained.

On the obverse, were also the following enigmatical verses:

Lacking in virtues meet the azure skies to mend,

In vain the mortal world full many a year I wend,

Of a former and after life these facts that be,

Who will for a tradition strange record for me?

K’ung K’ung, the Taoist,

having pondered over these lines

for a while, became aware that this

stone had a history of some kind.

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Among the natives of this district bamboo fences and wooden

Among the natives of this district bamboo fences and wooden partitions were in general use,

and these too proved a source of calamity so ordained by fate (to consummate this decree).

With promptness (the fire) extended to two buildings, then enveloped three, then dragged four (into ruin),

and then spread to five houses, until the whole street was in a blaze, resembling the flames of a volcano.

Though both the military and the people at once ran to the rescue, the fire had already assumed a serious hold,

so that it was impossible for them to afford any effective assistance for its suppression.

It blazed away straight through the night, before it was extinguished, and consumed, there is in fact no saying how many dwelling houses.

Anyhow, pitiful to relate, the Chen house, situated as it was next door to the temple, was, at an early part of the evening,

reduced to a heap of tiles and bricks; and nothing but the lives of that couple and several inmates of the family did not sustain any injuries.

Shih-yin was in despair, but all he could do was to stamp his feet and heave deep sighs. After consulting with his wife,

they betook themselves to a farm of theirs, where they took up their quarters temporarily. But as it happened that water had of late years been scarce,

and no crops been reaped, robbers and thieves had sprung up like bees, and though the Government troops were bent upon their capture,

it was anyhow difficult to settle down

quietly on the farm. He therefore had no other resource than to convert, at a loss,

the whole of his property into money,

and to take his wife and two servant girls and come over for shelter to the house of his father-in-law.

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Remembering the occurrence of the previous night

Remembering the occurrence of the previous night,

he meant to write a couple of letters of recommendation for Yü-ts’un to take along with him to the capital,

 

to enable him, after handing them over at the mansions of certain officials,

to find some place as a temporary home.

He accordingly despatched a servant to ask him to come round, but the man returned and reported that from what the bonze

said, “Mr. Chia had started on his journey to the capital,

at the fifth watch of that very morning, that he had also left a message with the bonze to deliver to you,

Sir, to the effect that men of letters paid no heed to lucky or unlucky days,

that the sole consideration with them was the nature of the matter in hand, and that he could find no time to come round in person and bid good-bye.”

Shih-yin after hearing this message had no alternative but to banish the subject from his thoughts.

In comfortable circumstances, time indeed goes by with easy stride. Soon drew near also the happy festival of the 15th of the 1st

moon, and Shih-yin told a servant Huo Ch’i to take Ying Lien to see the sacrificial fires and flowery lanterns.

About the middle of the night, Huo Ch’i was hard pressed, and he forthwith set Ying Lien down on the doorstep of a certain house. When he felt relieved,

he came back to take her up, but failed to find anywhere any trace of Ying Lien. In a terrible plight, Huo Ch’i prosecuted his search throughout half the night;

but even by the dawn of day, he had not discovered any clue of her whereabouts. Huo Ch’i, lacking,

on the other hand, the courage to go back and face his master, promptly made his escape to his native village.

Shih-yin — in fact, the husband as well as the wife — seeing that their child had not come home during the whole night,

readily concluded that some mishap must have befallen her.

Hastily they despatched several servants to go in search of her, but one and all returned to report that there was neither vestige nor tidings of her.

This couple had only had this child, and this at the meridian of their life,

so that her sudden disappearance

plunged them in such great distress that day and night they mourned her loss to such a point as to well nigh pay no heed to their very lives.

A month in no time went by. Shih-yin was the first to fall ill, and his wife, Dame Feng, likewise, by dint of fretting for her daughter, was also prostrated with sickness.

The doctor was, day after day, sent for, and the oracle consulted by means of divination.

Little did any one think that on this day,

being the 15th of the 3rd moon,

while the sacrificial oblations were being prepared in the Hu Lu temple,

a pan with oil would have caught fire,

through the want of care on the part of the bonze,

and that in a short time the flames would have consumed the paper pasted on the windows.

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Yü-ts’un lost no time in smiling and replying “It would be

Yü-ts’un lost no time in smiling and replying. “It would be presumption in my part to think so,” he observed. “I was simply at random humming a few verses

composed by former writers, and what reason is there to laud me to such an excessive degree? To what, my dear Sir, do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

he went on to inquire. “Tonight,” replied Shih-yin, “is the mid-autumn feast, generally known as the full-moon festival; and as I could not help thinking that living, as you my worthy brother are, as a mere stranger in this Buddhist temple,

you could not but experience the feeling of loneliness. I have, for the express purpose, prepared a small entertainment, and will be pleased if you will come to my mean abode to have a glass of wine. But I wonder whether you will entertain

favourably my modest invitation?” Yü-ts’un, after listening to the proposal, put forward no refusal of any sort; but remarked complacently: “Being the recipient of such marked attention, how can I presume to repel your generous consideration?”

As he gave expression to these words, he walked off there and then, in company with Shih-yin, and came over once again into the court in front of the library. In a few minutes, tea was over.

The cups and dishes had been laid from an early hour, and needless to say the wines were luscious; the fare sumptuous.

The two friends took their seats. At first they leisurely replenished their glasses, and quietly sipped their wine; but as, little by little, they entered into conversation, their good cheer grew more genial, and unawares the glasses began to fly round, and the cups to be exchanged.

At this very hour, in every house of the neighbourhood, sounded the fife and lute, while the inmates indulged in music and singing. Above head, the orb of the

radiant moon shone with an all-pervading splendour, and with a steady lustrous light, while the two friends, as their exuberance increased, drained their cups dry so soon as they reached their lips.

Yü-ts’un, at this stage of the collation, was considerably under the influence of wine, and the vehemence of his high spirits was irrepressible. As he gazed

at the moon, he fostered thoughts, to which he gave vent by the recital of a double couplet.

’Tis what time three meets five, Selene is a globe!

Her pure rays fill the court, the jadelike rails enrobe!

Lo! in the heavens her disk to view doth now arise,

And in the earth below to gaze men lift their eyes.

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When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back

When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back to rejoin Yü-ts’un, as he had come to know that he had already left.

 

In time the mid-autumn festivities drew near; and Shih-yin, after the family banquet was over, had a separate table laid in the library, and crossed over, in the moonlight, as far as the temple and invited Yü-ts’un to come round.

The fact is that Yü-ts’un, ever since the day on which he had seen the girl of the Chen family turn twice round to glance at him, flattered himself that she was friendly disposed towards him, and incessantly fostered fond thoughts of her in his heart. And on this day, which happened to be the mid-autumn feast, he could not, as he gazed at the moon, refrain from cherishing her remembrance. Hence it was that he gave vent to these pentameter verses:

Alas! not yet divined my lifelong wish,

And anguish ceaseless comes upon anguish

I came, and sad at heart, my brow I frowned;

She went, and oft her head to look turned round.

Facing the breeze, her shadow she doth watch,

Who’s meet this moonlight night with her to match?

The lustrous rays if they my wish but read

Would soon alight upon her beauteous head!

Yü-ts’un having, after this recitation, recalled again to mind how that throughout his lifetime his literary attainments had had an adverse fate and not met with an opportunity (of reaping distinction), went on to rub his brow, and as he raised his eyes to the skies, he heaved a deep sigh and once more intoned a couplet aloud:

The gem in the cask a high price it seeks,

The pin in the case to take wing it waits.

As luck would have it, Shih-yin was at the moment approaching,

and upon hearing the lines,

he said with a smile:

“My dear Yü-ts’un, really your attainments are of no ordinary capacity.”

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Shih-yin at once stood up. “Pray excuse my rudeness

Shih-yin at once stood up. “Pray excuse my rudeness,” he remarked apologetically, “but do sit down; I shall shortly rejoin you, and enjoy the pleasure

of your society.” “My dear Sir,” answered Yü-ts’un, as he got up, also in a conceding way, “suit your own convenience. I’ve often had the honour of being

your guest, and what will it matter if I wait a little?” While these apologies were yet being spoken, Shih-yin had already walked out into the front parlour. During

his absence, Yü-ts’un occupied himself in turning over the pages of some poetical work to dispel ennui, when suddenly he heard, outside the window, a

woman’s cough. Yü-ts’un hurriedly got up and looked out. He saw at a glance that it was a servant girl engaged in picking flowers. Her deportment was out of

the common; her eyes so bright, her eyebrows so well defined. Though not a perfect beauty, she possessed nevertheless charms sufficient to arouse the

feelings. Yü-ts’un unwittingly gazed at her with fixed eye. This waiting-maid, belonging to the Chen family, had done picking flowers, and was on the point of

going in, when she of a sudden raised her eyes and became aware of the presence of some person inside the window, whose head-gear consisted of a

turban in tatters, while his clothes were the worse for wear. But in spite of his poverty, he was naturally endowed with a round waist, a broad back, a fat face,

a square mouth; added to this, his eyebrows were swordlike, his eyes resembled stars, his nose was straight, his cheeks square.

This servant girl turned away in a hurry and made her escape.

“This man so burly and strong,” she communed within herself, “yet at the same time got up in such poor attire, must, I expect, be no one else than the man,

whose name is Chia Yü-ts’un or such like, time after time referred to by my master, and to whom he has repeatedly wished to give a helping hand, but has

failed to find a favourable opportunity. And as related to our family there is no connexion or friend in such straits, I feel certain it cannot be any other person

than he. Strange to say, my master has further remarked that this man will, for a certainty, not always continue in such a state of destitution.”

As she indulged in this train of thought, she could not restrain herself from turning her head round once or twice.

When Yü-ts’un perceived that she had looked back, he readily interpreted it as a sign that in her heart her thoughts had been of him, and he was frantic with irrepressible joy.

“This girl,” he mused, “is, no doubt, keen-eyed and eminently shrewd, and one in this world who has seen through me.”

The servant youth, after a short time, came into the room;

and when Yü-ts’un made inquiries and found out from him that

the guests in the front parlour had been detained to dinner,

he could not very well wait any longer,

and promptly walked away down a side passage and out of a back door.

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“Excellent! first rate!” exclaimed the Bonze. And at the conclusion

“Excellent! first rate!” exclaimed the Bonze. And at the conclusion of these words, the two men parted, each going his own way, and no trace was again seen of them.

“These two men,” Shih-yin then pondered within his heart, “must have had many experiences, and I ought really to have made more inquiries of them; but at this juncture to indulge in regret is anyhow too late.”

While Shih-yin gave way to these foolish reflections, he suddenly noticed the arrival of a penniless scholar, Chia by surname, Hua by name, Shih-fei by style

and Yü-ts’un by nickname, who had taken up his quarters in the Gourd temple next door. This Chia Yü-ts’un was originally a denizen of Hu-Chow, and was also

of literary and official parentage, but as he was born of the youngest stock, and the possessions of his paternal and maternal ancestors were completely

exhausted, and his parents and relatives were dead, he remained the sole and only survivor; and, as he found his residence in his native place of no avail, he

therefore entered the capital in search of that reputation, which would enable him to put the family estate on a proper standing. He had arrived at this place since

the year before last, and had, what is more, lived all along in very straitened circumstances. He had made the temple his temporary quarters, and earned a

living by daily occupying himself in composing documents and writing letters for customers. Thus it was that Shih-yin had been in constant relations with him.

As soon as Yü-ts’un perceived Shih-yin, he lost no time in saluting him. “My worthy Sir,” he observed with a forced smile; “how is it you are leaning against the

door and looking out? Is there perchance any news astir in the streets, or in the public places?”

“None whatever,” replied Shih-yin, as he returned the smile. “Just a while back, my young daughter was in sobs, and I coaxed her out here to amuse her. I am just now without anything whatever to attend to, so that, dear brother Chia, you

come just in the nick of time. Please walk into my mean abode, and let us endeavour, in each other’s company, to while away this long summer day.”

After he had made this remark, he bade a servant take his daughter in, while he, hand-in-hand with Yü-ts’un, walked into the library, where a young page served tea.

They had hardly exchanged a few sentences,

when one of the household came in,

in flying haste, to announce that Mr.

Yen had come to pay a visit.

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