“Brother stone,” he forthwith said, addressing the stone

“Brother stone,” he forthwith said, addressing the stone, “the concerns of past days recorded on you possess, according to your own account, a considerable amount of interest, and have been for this

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reason inscribed, with the intent of soliciting generations to hand them down as remarkable occurrences. But in my own opinion, they lack, in the first place, any data by means of which to establish the name

of the Emperor and the year of his reign; and, in the second place, these constitute no record of any excellent policy, adopted by any high worthies or high loyal statesmen, in the government of the state,

or in the rule of public morals. The contents simply treat of a certain number of maidens, of exceptional character; either of their

love affairs or infatuations, or of their small deserts or insignificant talents; and were I to transcribe the whole collection of them,

they would, nevertheless, not be estimated as a book of any exceptional worth.”

“Sir Priest,” the stone replied with assurance, “why are you so excessively dull? The dynasties recorded in the rustic histories, which have been written from age to age, have, I am fain to think, invariably

assumed, under false pretences, the mere nomenclature of the Han and T’ang dynasties. They differ from the events inscribed on my block, which do not borrow this customary practice, but, being based on my own experiences and natural feelings, present, on the contrary, a novel

and unique character. Besides, in the pages of these rustic histories, either the aspersions upon sovereigns and statesmen, or the strictures upon individuals, their wives, and their daughters, or the deeds

of licentiousness and violence are too numerous to be computed. Indeed, there is one more kind of loose literature, the wantonness and pollution in which work most easy havoc upon youth.

“As regards the works, in which the characters of scholars and beauties is delineated their allusions are again repeatedly

of Wen Chün, their theme in every page of Tzu Chien; a thousand volumes present no diversity; and a thousand characters

are but a counterpart of each other. What is more, these works, throughout all their pages, cannot help bordering on extreme licence. The authors, however, had no other object in view

than to give utterance to a few sentimental odes and elegant ballads of their own, and for this reason they have fictitiously

invented the names and surnames of

both men and women, and necessarily introduced,

in addition, some low characters, who should,

like a buffoon in a play, create some excitement in the plot.

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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

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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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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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The mistress of the Chen family (Mrs. Chen Shih-yin)

The mistress of the Chen family (Mrs. Chen Shih-yin) could not but feel very much affected by what she heard, and the whole evening she uttered not a word.

The next day, at an early hour, Yü-ts’un sent some of his men to bring over to Chen’s wife presents, consisting of two packets of silver, and four pieces of brocaded silk, as a token of gratitude, and to Feng Su also a confidential letter, requesting him to ask of Mrs. Chen her maid Chiao Hsing to become his second wife.

Feng Su was so intensely delighted that his eyebrows expanded, his eyes smiled, and he felt eager to toady to the Magistrate (by

presenting the girl to him). He hastened to employ all his persuasive powers with his daughter (to further his purpose),

and on the same evening he forthwith escorted Chiao Hsing in a small chair to the Yamên.

The joy experienced by Yü-ts’un need not be dilated upon. He also presented Feng Su with a packet containing one hundred

ounces of gold; and sent numerous valuable presents to Mrs. Chen, enjoining her “to live cheerfully in the anticipation of finding out the whereabouts of her daughter.”

It must be explained, however, that the maid Chi’ao Hsing was the very person, who, a few years ago, had looked round at Yü-ts’un and who, by one simple, unpremeditated glance, evolved, in fact, this extraordinary destiny which was indeed an event beyond conception.

Who would ever have foreseen that fate and fortune would both have so favoured her that she should, contrary to all anticipation, give birth to a son, after living with Yü-ts’un barely a year, that in addition to this,

after the lapse of another half year, Yü-ts’un’s

wife should have contracted a sudden illness and departed this life,

and that Yü-ts’un should have at once raised her to the rank of first wife.

Her destiny is adequately expressed by the lines:

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Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception

Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality — Chia Yü-ts’un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts of a beautiful maiden.

This is the opening section; this the

first chapter. Subsequent to the visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced, the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the

true circumstances, and borrowed the

attributes of perception and spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this purpose, he made use

of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?

Wearied with the drudgery experienced of late in the world, the author speaking for himself, goes on to explain, with the lack of success which attended every single concern, I suddenly bethought myself of the womankind of past ages. Passing one by one under a minute scrutiny, I felt that

in action and in lore, one and all were far above me; that in spite of the majesty of my manliness, I could not, in point of fact, compare with these characters

of the gentle sex. And my shame forsooth then knew no bounds; while regret, on the other hand, was of no avail, as there was not even a remote possibility of a day of remedy.

On this very day it was that I became desirous to compile, in a connected form, for publication throughout the world, with a view to (universal) information, how that I bear inexorable and manifold retribution; inasmuch as what time, by the sustenance of the benevolence of Heaven,

and the virtue of my ancestors, my apparel was rich and fine, and as what days my fare was savory and sumptuous, I disregarded the bounty of education and

nurture of father and mother, and paid no heed to the virtue of precept and injunction of teachers and friends,

with the result that I incurred the punishment, of failure recently in the least trifle, and the reckless waste of half my lifetime. There have been meanwhile, generation

after generation, those in the inner

chambers, the whole mass of whom could not, on any account, be, through my influence, allowed to fall into extinction, in order that I, unfilial as I have been, may have the means to screen my own shortcomings.

Hence it is that the thatched shed, with bamboo mat windows, the bed of tow and the stove of brick, which are at present my share,

are not sufficient to deter me from carrying out the fixed purpose of my mind. And could I, furthermore, confront the morning breeze, the evening moon,

the willows by the steps and the

flowers in the courtyard, methinks these would moisten to a greater degree my mortal pen

with ink; but though I lack

culture and erudition, what harm is there, however, in employing fiction and unrecondite language to give utterance to the merits of these characters? And were I also able to

induce the inmates of the inner chamber to understand and diffuse them, could I besides

break the weariness of even

so much as a single moment, or could I open the eyes of my contemporaries, will it not forsooth prove a boon?

This consideration has led to the usage of such names as Chia Yü-ts’un and other similar appellations.

More than any in these pages have been

employed such words as dreams and visions;

but these dreams constitute the main

argument of this work, and combine,

urthermore, the design of giving a word of warning to my readers.

Reader, can you suggest whence the story begins?

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All men spiritual life know to be good,But fame to disregard

All men spiritual life know to be good,

But fame to disregard they ne’er succeed!

From old till now the statesmen where are they?

Waste lie their graves, a heap of grass, extinct.

All men spiritual life know to be good,

But to forget gold, silver, ill succeed!

Through life they grudge their hoardings to be scant,

And when plenty has come, their eyelids close.

All men spiritual life hold to be good,

Yet to forget wives, maids, they ne’er succeed!

Who speak of grateful love while lives their lord,

And dead their lord, another they pursue.

All men spiritual life know to be good,

But sons and grandsons to forget never succeed!

From old till now of parents soft many,

But filial sons and grandsons who have seen?

Shih-yin upon hearing these words, hastily came up to the priest, “What were you so glibly holding forth?” he inquired. “All I could hear were a lot of hao liao (excellent, finality.”)

“You may well have heard the two words ‘hao liao,’” answered the Taoist with a smile, “but can you be said to have fathomed their meaning? You should know that all things in this world are excellent, when they have attained finality; when they have attained finality, they are excellent; but when they have not attained finality, they are not excellent; if they would be excellent, they should attain finality. My song is entitled Excellent-finality (hao liao).”

Shih-yin was gifted with a natural perspicacity that enabled him, as soon as he heard these remarks, to grasp their spirit.

“Wait a while,” he therefore said smilingly; “let me unravel this excellent-finality song of yours; do you mind?”

“Please by all means go on with the interpretation,” urged the Taoist; whereupon Shih-yin proceeded in this strain:

Sordid rooms and vacant courts,

Replete in years gone by with beds where statesmen lay;

Parched grass and withered banian trees,

Where once were halls for song and dance!

Spiders’ webs the carved pillars intertwine,

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The green gauze now is also pasted on the straw windows!

The green gauze now is also pasted on the straw windows!

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What about the cosmetic fresh concocted or the powder just scented;

Why has the hair too on each temple become white like hoarfrost!

Yesterday the tumulus of yellow earth buried the bleached bones,

To-night under the red silk curtain reclines the couple!

Gold fills the coffers, silver fills the boxes,

But in a twinkle, the beggars will all abuse you!

While you deplore that the life of others is not long,

You forget that you yourself are approaching death!

You educate your sons with all propriety,

But they may some day, ’tis hard to say become thieves;

Though you choose (your fare and home) the fatted beam,

You may, who can say, fall into some place of easy virtue!

Confusion reigns far and wide! you have just sung your part, I come on the boards,

Instead of yours, you recognise another as your native land;

What utter perversion!

In one word, it comes to this we make wedding clothes for others!

(We sow for others to reap.)

The crazy limping Taoist clapped his hands. “Your interpretation is explicit,” he remarked with a hearty laugh, “your interpretation is explicit!”

Shih-yin promptly said nothing more than,—“Walk on;” and seizing the stole from the Taoist’s shoulder, he flung it over his own. He did not, however, return home, but leisurely walked away, in company with the eccentric priest.

The report of his disappearance was at once bruited abroad, and plunged the whole neighbourhood in commotion; and converted into a piece of news, it was circulated from mouth to mouth.

Through your dislike of the gauze hat as mean,

You have come to be locked in a cangue;

Yesterday, poor fellow, you felt cold in a tattered coat,

To-day, you despise the purple embroidered dress as long!

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