Philanthropist That Swindlers Do Not Mind
Idler’s Note: I’m going to do my best to put out more translated chapters than what is promised with the schedule I have already set. I can’t promise I will be able to do it because of the other requirements on my time (i.e. making a living) but I’ll definitely try! Let’s hope I pull it off! 🙂
Disclaimer: This translation is by a fan for fans. Any opinions or commentary presented here are translated as is written by the original author. Any remarks by the translator will be in footnotes or in an editorial aside. The original work is the property of the author and any other associated copyright holders in their respective territories. Please do not reproduce, redistribute, or resell this translation anywhere else without permission! If you are reading this anywhere else but on WordPress, then it is being reposted without permission from the translator! If you are the copyright holder and/or have licensed this work for English publication and wish for this translation to be removed, please contact me to do so. Thank you!
When Zhang Xiaobao said those words, many thoughts formed within his mind in that moment. Seeing Yingtao’s puzzled look, he said: “If it’s solely free-range, the growth will be slow. I must accumulate within a short time a large amount of money to do stuff. How about this, you listen to me talk. You return to find several servants. Have them gather up the rotten rice straws or wheat stalks.
Especially the firewood piles that other people of the manor use for fuel. The weather’s just right. It even rained before. Those firewood piles underneath must all be sodden. They’ll have to flip and dry them. So you’ll use money to get them. Give some spare money;1 that stuff isn’t worth much money. You judge how much to give. Collect it all and transport it to the worst of the lands lying fallow behind my house. Use dirt to bury it.
Then, go and find people to catch earthworms—unh, they’re called night crawlers.2 Throw them in there to raise. Also, put some dung droppings in there, too. Once it’s almost night time—you yourself can do it or finding others to do it is fine—pick up the foul fish and shrimp that’s been discarded by people at the market fair. If there are river snails or whatever, that’s even better. Take it all back here and find an empty spot to air dry.”
“Little Mister, what do you [honorific] want to do? Those fish or whatever are already inedible.” Yingtao was muddled. She felt that this Little Mister’s thinking really couldn’t be regarded with an ordinary perspective.
“How dumb, ~ne. Before, didn’t I speak of raising chickens? Of course, it’s to have these things ground into powder to feed the chickens. That way, our family’s chickens will grow the fastest, lay the most eggs, and won’t even have soft-shelled eggs appear.” Zhang Xiaobao discovered that the most painful thing in life was when you are speaking but others had no way of understanding. If this was his own subordinates from before, he would definitely die from anger. Why couldn’t they crack it3 themselves, ~ne?
“Oh, I understand. Little Mister, you [honorific] are really almighty. Though I don’t know if this will be fine or not but whatever you [honorific] say, I just feel like it is right. At that time, we’ll sell the chicken eggs. If the chickens don’t lay eggs, we can still sell the chickens. Stuff that’s picked up doesn’t cost money—it’s a no-cost business, ~ah.” Yingtao felt like she had thought it through herself.
Zhang Xiaobao raised his hand to smack his forehead with the discovery that if he really had Yingtao lead on her own,4 she was still too far off. Fortunately, he didn’t directly gripe at Yingtao. He felt that it was he himself who hadn’t brought up his subordinates well and could only patiently groom them slowly so he said to Yingtao: “My family won’t sell chicken eggs. Those chicken eggs, I am keeping to make cakes, ~ne. Otherwise, if you go buy chicken eggs, you already lose a sum of money during the process of the purchase. If we keep this portion of the profit for ourselves, wouldn’t that be better? That item that I had Erniu’s family produce can make cakes—talking about it with you, you wouldn’t understand. Learn it bit by bit.”
That caused Zhang Xiaobao to start worrying at once. So he himself and Wang Juan had already caught the notice of others and rumors of devil spirits reincarnating had already spread out—who was it? Was it on purpose or without intent? This one day, ~ah! Doing a bit of stuff even required a cover up, needing to waste quite a bit of attention. How much money could be earned with this energy? This matter must be investigated thoroughly and moreover, a means to seal the leak thought of.
The reasoning behind the prominent rafters rotting first7 anyone should know. What to do, ~ne? Might as well seek out Mother to discuss this. Anyone could harm him but his own mother wouldn’t harm him. Of course, the Wu Meiniang8 that had already died being an exception—that was a genuine devil spirit, ~ne.9
“Little Mister, just this? Is there anything else? ” Yingtao, seeing that Little Mister was silent at this moment, was a bit afraid. Little Mister’s face was powerfully overcast. An adult made this expression to let others know that he was angry; a child making this expression was a bit too piercing, especially those eyes of the child—just meeting their gaze would basically cause insecurity. They really were too pure, too devoid.
“There is. There’s still something. I want to ask now. From whose mouth did you hear about us being monsters or devil spirits?” At this time, Zhang Xiaobao didn’t have any smile at all. Usually, he would use a baby’s expression and a child’s smile when speaking to others.
“Little Mister, what is it? It, it was Xiaoqi—the Xiaoqi10 who chops firewood behind the kitchen. He said, he said when he was carrying firewood, he heard the words that Master spoke in the backyard11 saying that Little Mister was a monster.” Yingtao was scared.
“Xiaoqi? How long has been working in my house, what did he do before?” Zhang Xiaobao didn’t think that the source of this matter was actually due to his own father. He naturally couldn’t upbraid Father. Father must have been speaking to Mother at the time. That Xiaoqi, how could his ears be so sharp? His mouth that loose?
He and Wang Juan were already doing their best to be careful lest other people would know too many things by having Erniu seal his mouth tight like a jar,12 letting Yingtao keep it secret, and handing over business for others to do. Mother was intelligent so she found out. That was nothing. Anybody else finding out—that would be troublesome. A tree apart from the forest, the wind surely would destroy it; a shoal higher than the shore, the waves surely would disturb it.13 He himself being a swindler, the most important thing was concealment. A swindler being captured, was there a need to describe what consequences there would be? He didn’t even consider that the problem would come from the inside.
When thinking on this, Zhang Xiaobao could only sigh. After all, this house hadn’t been built by his own hands. The personnel quality varied too greatly. Before him, the only matter to be accomplished was to figure out this person, Xiaoqi. If it was a campaign of deliberate intent, then there was only a single result—death. Without intent, then he’d need to think of a way to organize the manor. This was aggravating, ~ah. Using these people, even if it wasn’t like directing your own arms, but they still shouldn’t constantly create trouble for him.
“Little Mister, the matter you [honorific] just spoke of—what did you want me to do?” Yingtao followed up with a question.
“Oh, speaking of the main business. That, I’ll ask you. Our manor and the Wang Manor’s people, after eating the chicken eggs, where do the eggshells go? After eating the chicken, where do the chicken feathers go?” Zhang Xiaobao wasn’t one of those people who had never seen great turbulence before after all. He wouldn’t let a single matter affect the entire plan.
“Thrown out, of course. My family’s courtyard house is also like this. Always have to throw out a bit every day.” The ‘my family’s courtyard house’ that Yingtao spoke of was Zhang Xiaobao’s family’s.
“Thrown out? It’s really thrown out? That’s to say, those wine-houses and restaurants also throw them all out? Good, that’s great. Yingtao, giving you a new mission. You find other people—you’re too busy to. Go collect those things that have been thrown out for me.” Zhang Xiaobao was that happy. These were all good playthings for creating fodder. If he didn’t understand how to create down-filled clothing and was afraid that the current clothing materials would shed the down, he could have even made down-filled clothing.
“How come it’s all rotten stuff that doesn’t need money?” Yingtao said in a low voice. Raising her head to see Little Mister was currently looking at her, she then hastily said: “All right, Little Mister, wait till I return and I’ll arrange for people to collect those things that you [honorific] spoke of. Little Mister, it’s too hot here. Let’s go under the tree shade to sit.”
“Unh, that’s fine. This plot is also my family’s? Why is it all planted with trees?” Zhang Xiaobao was led by Yingtao to the bottom of a big tree. Sitting on top of a piece of rock that Yingtao had used a cushion to pad it with, he asked this while pointing a finger at a plot of woods in the distance.
“In reply to Little Mister’s words, that plot is an eternal industry field14 that those above had us plant trees on.”
“Oh, could it be that they have this kind of awareness now? That’s not right. I remember that this time period is deforestation to create farmlands, ~ah.” Zhang Xiaobao was a bit unclear.
Yingtao also didn’t understand exactly what Little Mister was saying. Assuming that Little Mister was asking about those woods, she said: “Planted in these places are mulberry15 trees—have to hand over quite a bit of silk every year.”
With this one mention, Zhang Xiaobao understood. So it wasn’t a simple grove. It required an output and it wasn’t even the product from processing wood. Then that said, he could exercise his brains when it came to the woods inside.
Zhang Xiaobao started executing the next step of the plan. The insides of his skull had nearly all turned into paste—especially that Xiaoqi, too detestable.
Wang Juan’s mission was to observe the native environment and population. Carried by Shiliu while walking around the place, they walked and walked until they reached the vicinity of the little bridge outside of the manor. Crossing this bridge was considered leaving the sphere of influence of the Wang Manor and Zhang Manor. Shiliu didn’t dare move and carrying Wang Juan, she sat down on the stool by the bridge on this side. Pointing at that stream trickling by, she said to Wang Juan: “Juan-Juan, see this water? It’s so refreshing. Wait till you’re a bit bigger and you can go down to play.”
Wang Juan could care less if the water was refreshing or not. She wanted to hear other people making small talk but the problem was that there were no other people in the surrounding area. If she chatted with Shiliu, then she might as well just go home, ~ne. Looking around in all directions, she discovered that there were several black dots where the river downstream was gentler in the distance. Raising a hand to point over there, she asked: “What is that?”
“Those are rude boys16 swimming.” Shiliu had naturally seen them. Not just the children from the two manors were playing over there; even the children belonging to some of the families that lived by the bridge were there, too. Their butts were bare as they fought water battles. She felt that she shouldn’t let the Wangs’ Little Miss see that.
“I want to see.” Wang Juan strained towards that direction, trying to break free from Shiliu’s embrace. Shiliu patiently offered advice but the end result didn’t need to be declared. Wang Juan was victorious. Shiliu carried Wang Juan while walking toward there.
Wang Juan prepared to look at the physical conditions of the children—do they get enough nutrition? Also, looking at the clothing placed on the banks—were the households rich? Just as they were visibly about to reach the spot, at this time, a child suddenly ran over from that side of the bridge to yell out at his other companions still in the water: “Quickly go look, ~ah! Great Philanthropist Song17 is coming.”
Upon hearing this, the children came out of the water with a “hua-la” sound. Deftly donning their clothes and regardless of which manor they were from, they all ran over towards that side.
“What philanthropist?” Wang Juan asked.
“Ai, more people got taken in. What philanthropist? It’s just a swindler. This Swindler Song is formidable, tricking so many people and yet, there are so many people who call him a philanthropist. Let’s go back. Otherwise, if he sees Juan-Juan, he’ll even trick you along with the rest. He can’t be messed with but we can still hide away.” Shiliu sighed once, a swindler with each breath, holding Wang Juan intending to leave.
If it was something else, Wang Juan really would leave. But upon hearing philanthropist and then swindler, she suddenly smiled as she said to Shiliu: “Where is there a swindler? He’s definitely a philanthropist.”
“Little Miss, he really is a swindler. You really mustn’t go over there. Upon meeting this person, I hear that there’s no one who wasn’t tricked.” Shiliu was frightened.
“Wrong, he is definitely not a swindler. With such a good place, how could there be swindlers? Go. Flag down a child that hasn’t run far. Have him return to the manor there with a greeting. Have Xiaobao carried over here. When Xiaobao gets here, you ask Xiaobao where there is a swindler—there are only good people.” Wang Juan said with certainty.
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The original Chinese used was “xian qian” (顯錢), which is a bit nonsensical since it translates to “display money.” The author likely made a typo since a homophone, “xian qian” (閒錢), means “spare money” which would make much more sense in context with the rest of the dialogue. ↩
Xiaobao first uses “qiu yin” (蚯蚓) before using the casual/ancient term, “di long” (地龍), which means “earth dragon.” To produce a similar effect, I used “night crawler,” which is an alternate name in English that’s slang for earthworm. ↩
The author literally uses “break shell” (kai ke/開殼) as a description. It isn’t a standard expression or idiom though it is similar to the phrase commonly used to describe receiving an epiphany or gaining enlightenment, “kai qiao” (開竅). I chose to interpret the author’s choice of words similarly and translate it as an euphemism for enlightenment or understanding. ↩
The Chinese used here is “du dang yi mian” (獨擋一面), which translates to “solitarily block a side/face.” It’s generally used to describe someone who can make judgment calls or decisions independent of any guidance or specific orders and/or lead one side of the battlefield. ↩
I’ve translated “yao jing” (妖精) as “devil spirit” because “demon” matches up more with “mo” (魔) in my mental lexicon. “Yao” (妖) tended to be indiscriminately applied as a label to anything that was heretical to the mundane so it could encompass evil spirits but it could also include amoral or benign spirits. In those cases, the label was usually applied to beings of non-human or fantastical origins that later gained sentience or a humanoid appearance. ↩
I’ve used bootlicking as the translation for the idiom of “pai ma pi” (拍馬屁), which literally translates to “pat/clap horse ass” since bootlicking has a metaphorical image that is also synonymous with the same meaning of fawning or being a toady to someone. ↩
I translated this expression, “chu tou de chuan zi xian lan” (出頭的椽子先爛), literally since its meaning is explained by its usage in text. It describes how the first person to step forward gets taken down more easily like the rafters in a house that stand out more are exposed to the elements and thus, tend to rot more easily. It is an adage adapted from the Ming dynasty era Chinese novel, “Jin Ping Mei” (金瓶梅), which is written by an anonymous author who used the pseudonym of “Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng” (蘭陵笑笑生). The title of this novel is normally translated as “The Plum in the Golden Vase” or “The Golden Lotus.” It was a spin-off of the classic novel, Water Margin or “Shui Hu Zhuan” (水滸傳), by Shi Nai’an (施耐庵), which itself is considered one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. In contrast to the classical source it is based off of, Jin Ping Mei is infamous for its lewd material (hence the multiple porn adaptations that it has spawned) but similarly, it has also added greatly to the Chinese vernacular including idioms such as the one Xiaobao uses here. However, people using the phrases or idioms this book spawned are likely not aware of the source just like most people probably don’t realize that Shakespeare invented the word “elbow” or that the word “sadistic” was derived from the name of the Marquis de Sade due to the nature of his autobiographical sex memoirs. ↩
“Wu Meiniang” (武媚娘) is how Wu Zetian is called when people are referring to her in her youth, which entails her time as a concubine of both Emperors Taizong and Gaozong of Tang (Yes, you read right—she was concubine for both the father and the son though she only had children with the son so at least there were no messed up relationships where the half-siblings were also nieces/nephews and aunts/uncles). She is referred to as Empress Wu when discussing her time as Empress-Consort of Gaozong while Wu Zetian is how she is referred to when discussing her time as Empress Regnant of China. Her rule interrupted the Tang Dynasty government ruled by the Li (李) Clan and historical opinion of her has been mixed. Needless to say, she is a very controversial figure in Chinese history. ↩
Xiaobao’s calling Wu Meiniang/Wu Zetian a devil spirit and implication that she is an untrustworthy mother is a reference to two historical events, both involving the death of Wu’s children. One of the major obstacles to Wu first gaining power and becoming Empress was Empress Wang, Gaozong’s original wife, and Consort Xiao, another one of Gaozong’s favored concubines and mother of one of his favorite sons, both of whom had teamed up against Wu. Their faction fight culminated in Wu accusing them of being responsible for the death of her newborn daughter who had been mysteriously found dead. There is no definitive proof, even retrospectively using current technologies, about how the daughter died so scholarly speculation is rife on who was actually responsible. One of the prominent theories is that Wu killed her own daughter herself to discredit two of her rivals in a move that was two birds with one stone—three if you consider that Gaozong believed Wu’s accusations, deposing Wang from her position, and crowning Wu as Empress soon afterwards. The other event was the death of Li Hong (李弘), the eldest son of Wu. He was Crown Prince when he died suddenly, leading many traditional scholars to believe that he was poisoned to death by Wu due to his growing independence and defiance of her as they speculate that her motivation was to prevent a future power clash that she would have lost since her son was the legitimate heir. However, it is arguable that this could be unfounded slander being retrospectively made by scholars and historians after her death due to the millennia of patriarchal tradition that Wu’s own life flouted though it is also possible that this accusation is true though unproven. ↩
Xiaoqi means (小七) “little seven.” ↩
Here, “hou yuan” (後院) is being used for its literal meaning as a backyard but it is also commonly used to refer to the back courtyard houses that the concubines and consorts of the men of the household resided in as an unofficial harem setup. In those cases, I will translate it as back courtyard house or backcourt or something similar. I will most likely reserve the word “harem” for situations involving royalty or nobility where the women are literally cloistered away with eunuchs standing guard over them. ↩
The idiom used here is “shou kou ru ping” (守口如瓶), which literally translates to “guard mouth like jar.” ↩
The meaning of this quote can basically be paraphrased plainly as standing out from the crowd will cause trouble for the one standing out. The first half of this quote is most commonly used and thus better known than the last half; it is to the point where mention of a “tree apart from the forest” is enough of a keyword to get the meaning of the entire quote across. The expression “mu xiu yu lin, feng bi cui zhi; tan gao yu an, liu bi tuan zhi” (木秀於林，風必摧之；灘高於岸，流必湍之) is from the “Yun Ming Lun” (運命論) by Li Kang (李康) of Wei from the Warring States period. The title of the text roughly translates to “Discussion of Fate.” The text itself survived because it was included in an anthology of works called “Wen Xuan” (文選), which is usually translated as “Selections of Refined Literature,” that was compiled by Xiao Tong (蕭統), the Crown Prince of the Liang Dynasty. This compilation was very influential on later scholarly education with its relevance occasionally refreshed by new annotated editions. It was later imported into Japan and became a source of many loanwords in Japanese. ↩
I’ve translated the term, “yongye tian” (永業田), literally. It can also be referred to as a “shiye tian” (世業田) or “generational industry field,” which was its predecessor. This first appeared in the Sui dynasty as a form of land system. It was granted according to rank with a corresponding obligation in giving the land’s output to the state. In return, this land typically couldn’t be confiscated by the government, was inheritable (hence its name of eternal), and could also be used as an exemption from conscription. ↩
Shiliu uses “ye xiaozi” (野小子) to refer to them. The “ye” (野) that I have translated here as rude has the connotation of uncivilized, feral, and wild. ↩
The original Chinese used for the nickname, “Song Shan Ren” (宋大善人), combines the surname of Song (宋) with da/大, meaning big or great, and the word that means philanthropist or do-gooder (shanren/善人 literally translates to “benevolent person”). It more directly correlates to “Good Samaritan” but since this term is actually Biblical in origin while the Chinese phrase has no religious connotations, I felt that it would not be a good translation choice in this case.