Who Is Facing Heaven Raising Up A Storm
Idler’s Note: Just as an interesting note, the “Facing Heaven”1 used in the title is likely a play on words that will make more sense once you’ve read the footnote along with this chapter. If possible, can people vote on the poll I posted here? I need some feedback. Thanks!
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Erniu still had no way of appreciating the profound implications of this sort of bluff by Zhang Xiaobao. So his answer was not the three words of “I have confidence” and not even “I guarantee mission completion.” Instead, he vigorously nodded his head as he said: “Little Mister, please say so. Whatever you [honorific] say, I, Erniu will do it. Letting my [Older] Bro do it is fine, too.”
“What are you having Daniu do?” Wang Juan nervously asked.
“Don’t worry. Keep listening. I wouldn’t actually let him commit murder or arson.” Zhang Xiaobao turned his head to continue talking to Erniu: “Over the next few days, have your [Older] Bro and [Younger] Sister go up the mountain to find some mountain chili sprouts. After gathering them, then…”
“Little Mister, what kind of thing is this mountain chili sprout that you [honorific] speak of?” Erniu didn’t wait for Zhang Xiaobao to finish talking before he interrupted with a question.
“Oh, it’s like this. See my hand? It’s a plant that’s this big. Green like grass. Basically, the mountains here should all have them. When you chew it in your mouth, it’s spicy. If you soak it in water and then eat it, it’s not as spicy. Seen it before?” Zhang Xiaobao gestured as he spoke.
Erniu watched for a while and nodded: “In reply to Little Mister, I’ve seen it before—even eaten it before.”
“That’s good, then. Pick this thing—pick lots of it. Have your parents go buy some fish for me. Try to get fish with as few bones as possible and buy lots of them. I’ll get some money for you and give it to you tomorrow. Anything else…? Yes, there is. Go and find a blacksmith from our manor and have them make stuff for me. Like this. I’ll draw it for you. You, look.”
Zhang Xiaobao couldn’t explain it well at the moment so he tightly gripped a little wooden stick in his hand to draw on the ground. Only now did he discover how inconvenient it was to do anything when so small. He clearly knew how it should be drawn in his mind. It was actually an iron case, the sort with a flap, that could be used to grill or bake things.
After drawing for a while, he finally finished. But upon seeing it, Erniu wrinkled his brow as he quietly said in a low voice: “Little Mister, this thing you [honorific] want is entirely iron? This won’t be so easy to do. So much iron… It can’t be kept hidden from people. I…”
“No matter what method you use, do this job for me. If you do it well, there’ll be a reward. After money is made, your family can split it. If you do it poorly, I’ll find someone else and you won’t need to follow us anymore.” Zhang Xiaobao didn’t listen to this kind of rationale at all. He didn’t believe that such a clever person as Erniu could do poorly. There was some difficulty but that didn’t mean that it couldn’t be solved.
“Little Mister, I’ll go do it. I dare not split the money. Working for the master-family is what I should do. Just when the time comes, calculating my wages as rice grains will do.” Erniu still agreed. He wasn’t prepared to ask for that rice at first. But he discovered that all of the people in his family had to work, meaning that they couldn’t do any other jobs and that would lead to a huge difference. So he worked up the guts to say this.
“I said for your family to get a cut so your family should get a cut. Refuting our words is not allowed. Understand?” Wang Juan, seeing that Zhang Xiaobao seemed to not be scamming for money and was expanding into business, spoke up as well. Don’t just look at how small they were, they were naturally not lacking in airs.
Erniu nodded and, not caring that it was still drizzling outside, immediately ran out to go home to set this up. Wang Juan now had the time to interrogate Zhang Xiaobao.
“What are your arrangements today for?”
“What else is it for? To make money, ~bei.2 In this world, the most fundamental is military power. Other than military power, it’s money. Right now, military power is not doable. So let’s get money.” Seeing that Erniu had left to do the job, Zhang Xiaobao also loosened up as he leisurely replied.
“Order after order come out after just a brow wrinkle and an eye blink? The International Criminal Swindler definitely doesn’t have an unearned reputation. Tell me, what kind of profit?” Looking at that cute face of Zhang Xiaobao’s right now, Wang Juan felt that this person was all right as she asked, smiling.
“Insulting people, ~ne?3 Don’t keep saying swindler, Comrade Wang Juan. Right now, I must solemnly request of you to please respect me. At this moment, I am a good citizen, a good person.” Zhang Xiaobao looked at Wang Juan who was just as cute. But who let the two of them both be children? They were children of affluent families as well with no lack in their diet and were well-dressed so that they were white and plump.
Seeing the face full of disapproval on Wang Juan, he continued speaking: “Buying fish is for the sake of making grilled fish strips to sell to other people. No, to exchange with others. Things aren’t easy to sell but bartering is simpler. That case is going to be used to dry the fish strips. It can be used as an oven later on, too—to bake breads, cakes, whatever. It can also be used to exchange for things.”
“Don’t grilled fish strips use filefish?4 You had them go buy it but where can they get that type of fish? Isn’t that a marine fish? Then, what did you get the chili sprouts for? To rub on the fish strips?” Wang Juan still had this little bit of common sense as she knew the fish that grilled fish strips used.
“Who am I? According to you, a big swindler. How can the idea I thought up be that simple? Even if other people don’t know grilled fish strips are dried using an iron case, there are other methods to dry it with. As long as they find it good, they’ll study it. There’s no patent protection, either. The fish over here is cheap. We can buy quite a few with only a little money. But food grain5 is expensive. I can ask my mom [modern] for a little bit of money to use to buy fish but I have no way of using it to buy enough food grain.
Actually, any fish is fine. Exchange the grilled fish strips for soybeans.6 The real money-maker is in making soybean paste sauce.7 Specifically, in making spicy soybean paste sauce. Add in douban8 and diced meat. We’ll sell the soybean paste sauce. This soybean paste sauce won’t be used for bartering but sold for money. Or for silk textiles—who let it be so that this stuff could be used just like money?9
After we have enough money, we can go forward with the next step. The more capital there is, the better deals I can make. First, clear up the matter of the land. Then, buy land, plant stuff, buy more things, make some more deals. Of course, if you don’t object to my using a few little tricks, I can directly make currency exchange deals using money and silk textiles. You should get my meaning.” Zhang Xiaobao explained with the same slow leisure as before.
“What do you mean, currency exchange deals? You want to swindle again? No, when you make currency exchanges, there’s no resource generation. It’s nothing more than to get your hands on money and it needs to be done with speed. I won’t allow it. What if you get caught? Arresting you won’t even need any legality. There’s too much abuse of power in this time period. You can’t even run to escape.” Wang Juan firmly opposed it.
Zhang Xiaobao thought Wang Juan didn’t wish for him to run scams. Only now did he understand that Wang Juan was afraid he would get in trouble. His mood naturally not the same, he thought for a bit before speaking again: “Then, I won’t do anything like that. In regards to the actual capital, I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry. I won’t do anything that would harm others. When forbidden to accumulate capital through pure robbery, I, as an International Criminal Swindler, can think of a lot of ways to slowly earn it. This slowness is relative. I will work through the production and processing method.”
In listening to Zhang Xiaobao’s words, Wang Juan suddenly discovered that the attitude of this swindler who had violence and caring, brain and brawn that everything was all in his hands at this very moment was such a dazzling sight.
How could Zhang Xiaobao know Wang Juan what was thinking? Even if he had studied so much psychology, he had never come in contact with the field of female psychology. He was currently pondering how to ask for money from his mother as the funds were all controlled by Mrs. Zhang-Wang. He at last decided to bite the bullet10 and just ask.
The next day, the sky was clear. Erniu had already told everything to his family members and even stayed overnight at his house. Knowing that Little Mister was in a hurry over this matter, he rushed back. At this time, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan usually got ready to go to sleep after having finished their milk.
Today, Zhang Xiaobao who normally readily went to sleep suddenly said to Mrs. Zhang-Wang: “Mom, Juan-Juan and I want to buy some things. We need 1 guan [string] of cash11 prepared to let Yingtao go buy it.”
“So much? Tell Mom, what does my Baolang want to buy? Mom will go buy it for you.” Upon hearing it was 1 guan [string] of cash, Mrs. Zhang-Wang was also a bit hesitant. Thinking that the children didn’t know what to buy so they had just casually said 1 guan [string], she wanted to clarify so she could purchase it or maybe trade for it as there was basically no need to spend too much money.
Zhang Xiaobao certainly did not agree. He hoped to use this money to buy fish. One guan [string] of cash or 1,000 wen [cash] could buy several hundred fish. Southern fish, Northern sheep;12 the fish here had always been very cheap. He said: “Mom, we need to buy lots and lots of things. I can’t think of it all for now. Give money for Yingtao to buy it.”
Hearing this, Mrs. Zhang-Wang looked at Wang Juan as well. Wang Juan felt unable to ask for this. After all, this money wasn’t being taken from her family. So she could only nod.
“All right. Mom will give it. If Baolang wants to buy it, Mom will give it. Mom will come along and see then—the things my Baolang buys will definitely be better than anyone else’s.” Seeing her son speak like this, Mrs. Zhang-Wang didn’t reject it, either. One guan [string] of cash was a bit much but who else had children that knew how to spend money when they were so small? So just let him spend it. Whatever things he bought back would be fine. It wasn’t like that 1 guan [string] of cash would suddenly disappear.
Giving permission to her son on the one hand, she then called over Yingtao on the other hand. Removing a wooden piece that had 1 guan [string] written on it, she placed it in Yingtao’s hand as she said: “Yingtao, take this money. Whatever you buy, remember to account for it. Remember, prices that should be bargained over still need to be negotiated.”
“I understand, Mistress.” Yingtao accepted the wooden piece. After glancing over at Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan and seeing the two of them nod slightly, she respectfully answered.
Having settled their concerns, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan naturally wanted to sleep. Waiting until his mother had left, Zhang Xiaobao sighed as he said: “I keep feeling like I deceived my Mom.”
“No, it’s not even deception. You really do need to use this money to buy things. You’re not squandering it and you can even make money later on.” Wang Juan comforted him.
“The deception I’m talking about isn’t this. It’s that I didn’t tell my Mom the things that I want to do.”
“You stupid? If you really told your mom [modern], would she agree? You must know that deception can be divided into good and bad intentions. Your deception is for the sake of making money for the family to spend. This is a good intention. It’s at least much better than how you were before. Over 30 billion, ~ah! And it’s even U.S. dollars. All just stolen by you. Those officials all deserve to die.” Wang Juan continued reassuring him.
“The total is over 200 billion. Your investigations are not detailed at all. Domestically, it’s over 30 billion.” Zhang Xiaobao explained.
“I have nothing to do with overseas. You should have—the more, the better. Justice belongs to the whole of humanity but my citizenship has me belonging to my own homeland.” It looked like Wang Juan was not suited to work for Interpol as she was a bit radical.
Having gotten money, everything was easy to accomplish. Zhang Xiaobao had Yingtao take the money out and give it to Erniu. He told him that when buying in bulk, he could further lower the price and even to try credit billing13 after making two purchases. After letting Erniu go off to work, he and Wang Juan continued exercising their bodies as they considered their future development.
Ten days quietly passed. Something called grilled fish strips began getting popular in the surrounding manors. It used no currency but trading in soybeans or other things like millet, which was foxtail millet,14 wheat, meat, and eggs was possible.
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The “Zhi Tian” (指天) in the chapter title is likely a pun that is referring to the facing heaven chili pepper or “zhi tian jiao” (指天椒) while the phrase itself literally means to “point at the skies,” which can have the connotation of directing or ordering the heavens in order to control fate. ↩
I retain “~bei” (唄) sometimes in the translation because it’s an ending sentence particle that shows the speaker’s nonchalance or casual attitude. It’s a deliberate verbal tic whose purpose is to add a light or flippant tone to the speaker’s speech. This is similar to use of the “~ne” ending sentence particle in Japanese sometimes, which can be used to seek agreement or add a playful tone and so on. Or in terms of the Internet, it is like appending LOL or emoticons after a sentence to show when one is being facetious since body language or vocal tone isn’t available for interpretation to the reader online. ↩
Here, “~ne” (呢) is similar in usage as ~ne is in Japanese (though it isn’t necessarily the same character or word and is pronounced differently) in that it’s meant to soften the meaning of speech that would otherwise sound harsher if read literally (similar to how people use LOL or emoticons online a lot more than they would in more formal writing to keep the tone light). It’s meant to add a more joking or playful tone and can also be used as an interrogative sentence particle. ↩
“Ma Mian Tun” (馬面魨) or literally “horse-faced fish (Tetraodontiformes)” can refer to either filefish or black scraper. Since the Chinese tend to name things by compounding characters with descriptions, names for animals can be applied to multiple species that aren’t actually biologically related (i.e. the words for panda, “xiong mao” (熊貓) or “mao xiong” (猫熊), which literally means bear-cat or cat-bear; or for hippopotamus, “he ma” (河馬), which means river-horse). I went with filefish since it is a broad category of fish used for consumption in Asia that happens to be made into the type of snack food that they are speaking of here. ↩
The term Zhang Xiaobao is using here is “liang shi” (糧食), which specifically refers to the grains that made up the majority of the diet in ancient China. The grains were either wheat in northern China or rice in southern China (hence why certain regional cuisines emphasized noodles or breads over rice) with other grain crops like barley or millet to supplement them. Meat was considered a luxury and only showed up with any regularity in the diet for affluent households to the point to which fatty oils were considered a luxury. So even though meat is also food, it was not something that was considered a necessity or jumped immediately to mind as food to the general populace in ancient China like the grain crops were (it was slightly different for military provisioning though). This would be similar to how foods like potatoes, pasta, or bread are normally considered the main and filling portion of Western diets. ↩
Soybeans or soya bean is called “da dou” (大豆) in Chinese meaning “big bean.” It can be referred to as yellow beans or “huang dou” (黄豆), too. Because it was the main bean crop in ancient China, the use of the generic term of “dou” (豆) or bean typically referred to soybeans. ↩
Soybean paste sauce is a fermented paste sauce made from soybeans, salt, and water. The term Zhang Xiaobao uses to refer to it here is “Da Jiang” (大醬) or literally “big paste/sauce,” which is an abbreviation of “big bean paste/sauce” (da dou jiang/大豆醬). Other names for it are “bean paste/sauce” (dou jiang/豆醬) or “yellow paste/sauce” (huang jiang/黃醬). ↩
“Douban” (豆瓣) is the term for the mashed up remnants of the soybeans after they are processed and literally means “bean parts,” similar to how bits of fruits or vegetables are left behind once processed and made into jams or sauces. Douban Jiang (豆瓣醬) is a paste sauce comprised of douban like how some tomato sauces have bits of tomato added to become chunky sauces. ↩
Zhang Xiaobao is referring to the fact that in order to guarantee its value, the government of ancient China allowed silk textiles (no matter the quality) to be used as legal tender, even accepting it as payment for taxes in a process similar to how the U.S. Federal Reserve takes tattered dollar bills out of circulation. Keep in mind that China had a near monopoly on silk in the world at the time and it required centuries of repeated international espionage to even come close to loosening that monopoly. You can read more here on sericulture, the method in which Chinese silk was and still is produced. ↩
I translated “ying zhe tou pi” (硬著頭皮) as biting the bullet. This idiom literally translates to “hardening the head skin/scalp,” which is likely a tangential reference to the concept of face and how one had to have thick (facial) skin in order to ignore any embarrassment or shame or humiliation that might need to be endured. ↩
“Yi guan qian” (一貫錢) or one string of cash was usually 1,000 coins (wen/文) strung together though the exact amount could vary from time to time or with regional custom. A string was subdivided into 10 sections of 100 coins each with the entire string being equivalent in value to 1 silver tael. If 1 coin (wen/文 or cash) was the equivalent of 1 dollar, then a string of cash was the equivalent to 1,000 dollars. This was derived from the fact that ancient Chinese coins were usually cast with a hole in the center, making it easy to thread a string through them. I will refer to it in text as guan [string] to differentiate it as a monetary unit from actual strings of thread or rope. ↩
“Nan yu Bei yang” (南魚北羊) or “Southern fish, Northern sheep/goat” is a saying that refers to the meat that each regional cuisine is famed for since they were in plentiful supply in those areas. The phrase also alludes to a visual pun made in Chinese with the character for “fresh” or “xian” (鮮), which is created by combining the characters for fish and sheep/goat into one. ↩
“She zhang” (賒帳) is a method of purchase where the merchant trusts the buyer to pay them back later while allowing the buyer to receive the goods beforehand. This is the principle that credit cards or a bar tab is based on. ↩
“Su” (粟) refers to millet in general, which is a plant that has several cultivars. The common name of “xiao mi” (小米), meaning “little rice,” refers to the foxtail millet which is the variant common in China that is traditionally said to have been cultivated by the mythical ruler, Shennong (神農), in Chinese folklore.