Great Tang Idyll – v1-c027

Have To Strike At People From Within The Heart

Idler’s Note: I have to apologize beforehand for my rough translation skill in this chapter as there were a lot of poetry and quotes that lead to footnoting because I inevitably couldn’t capture it in a succinct enough translation that bore up well to the poetry of the original words in Chinese… 😦

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!


The dark clouds rolled as the fierce winds rose with one look that could behold the horizon. The flash of lightning and rumble of thunder gave birth to the rain that seemed to blanket the distant mountains.

Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan, the two of them stood on top of a little stool, leaning against the windowsill to look outside. The great rain poured down in buckets, hitting the ground in drips and drops as water bubble after water bubble appeared and disappeared. Resembling a fine mist, countless rivulets of water gathered together, undulating towards the low-lying areas.

“I originally thought to give some carrots to the people at the manor. But it looks like we can only wait till the weather’s clear to speak of it again.” Wang Juan bit on a carrot strip in her mouth, speaking with a muffled voice.

“Unh, I heard people mention this before. With carrots, this stuff requires oil when cooking them to be able to better let people absorb the nutrition. How could peasants have that much oil, ~ah? Carrot seeds themselves can produce oil, right?” Upon speaking of the peasants, Zhang Xiaobao crinkled up in an appearance of worried concern.

“They can. They’re actually rather expensive, ~ne. I’ve bought it before. You know how to make it?” Wang Juan used a handkerchief to wipe her mouth as she spoke; the drool was a natural phenomenon.

“No, but I know how to make soybean oil.1 It’s very easy. Just get something like a bucket and place the soybeans inside. Then, don’t stop adding wedges inside. The oil is forced out using physical pressure, leaving behind the soybean press cake.2 Some unscrupulous people would use this soybean press cake to make tofu but it’s not good tasting at all.”

“You~! You also know quite a few things?” Wang Juan had never seen this kind of method to press soybean oil before so was a bit disbelieving.

Zhang Xiaobao didn’t argue, either, and only slowly said: “What does this count for? There are some elderly people who, if they spoke of the things that they knew how to do, would scare you. Some simple herbal medicine recipes, acupuncture and moxibustion,3 cupping,4 scraping,5 brick-laying work, the breeding and rearing of animals, different kinds of crop planting experience, woodworking, charcoal burning, brick firing, basket weaving—they know all of this.

While some people use this knowledge to show off with, those honest people were already passing it down from generation to generation until it had been assimilated within their own lifestyle as a way to continue on living and a matter of instinct.

Other than the ones that I’ve mentioned, my Director Grandpa also knew how to paint, do brush calligraphy,6 engraving, feng shui7 reading; all the things to do with repairing the cracked jars, pots, and bowls8 as well as grinding the scissors and polishing the kitchen knives9 within the courtyard house were all done by him.”

As Zhang Xiaobao spoke, he seemed to sink into nostalgia once again as the expression on his face didn’t stop changing until finally, he exhaled a long, deep breath and smiled at Wang Juan. That meaning was to tell her not to worry.

“It can’t be? I’m not saying that there’s no people that know these things, I’m saying that orphanage of yours can’t have not even been able to afford a single bowl? To actually need to repair cracks—who still knows how to repair cracks? Hearing my mom and dad [modern] speak of it, whenever they broke a dish or bowl during their childhood, they would get beaten. Then later on, there was simply no one who’d care.” Wang Juan was a bit surprised.

“Let’s not speak of these matters. When light appears, the other side always has darkness. A good environment is nothing more than shadowless light, which is to obscure the darkness even more and nothing more than not allowing it to be easily found. Above the shadowless light is also darkness. This time, the money gotten from Swindler Song was a lot. Have people collect soybeans tomorrow. I want to extract oil.”

Zhang Xiaobao wiped away a droplet of rainwater that had fallen upon his face, returning to a child’s expression as he lightly spoke.

The sound of the two speaking was rather low so Xiaohong who was sitting by that place at the doorway only knew that the little ancestors were there speaking of whatever matters but was unclear as to the particulars.

Now, she was no longer worried that danger would appear with Little Mister and Little Miss. The thing that she needed to do was to act as an assistant by their side. It was raining outside today so she could sit here and learn her characters. This was requested by Little Mister—each and every one of the people within the courtyard house must know how to read and write as well as how to calculate simple accounts.

As well as this, Little Miss Juan-Juan had also said that in the future, people would be hired to teach the children of the two manors with all of the expenses being wholly managed by the two families of Zhang and Wang. The only request was no matter whether the education had been completed or not, they all had to treat the manor’s honor as their honor, shame as their shame.

Xiaohong couldn’t figure it out at all how the two little ancestors were actually thinking as the things they did always felt a bit like antelopes hanging their horns10 or celestial steeds traveling the skies.11 Unh, these were the words that the manor’s accountant had said—learned people were really not the same.

When the three people split into two groups to do their own work, Steward Zhang’s voice rose from within the rain outside.

“Mister Song, It’s raining today. You [honorific] see? It’s so much that Little Mister has no way to come out to play and is currently inside the room. If you [honorific] could wait a moment till I can go in to report.”

“If that’s so, then Steward Zhang has been troubled.” Song Jing-gong’s voice spoke afterward, giving off a listless impression to the listener.

Steward Zhang entered the exterior door and when he walked inside, he saw Xiaohong sitting there thinking on things. According to his usual inclination, he would give a scolding here. He had just opened his mouth to speak when he raised his head to catch sight of the two little ancestors standing close by the window so he swallowed his words.

He certainly knew that Little Mister wasn’t a person who was that easily fooled. If such actions from Xiaohong hadn’t been given implicit permission by Little Mister, then Xiaohong would definitely dare not to do so. If he really had opened his mouth to rebuke Little Mister’s maid servant, that consequence… Just thinking about it was scary. Song Jing-gong was such an intelligent man but look at the state that Little Mister had bullied him into?

“Steward Zhang, is there something? Little Mister and Little Miss Juan-Juan typically don’t allow people to bother them.” Xiaohong had also seen Steward Zhang and was a bit afraid, moving the book in her hand behind her back as she spoke.

“An urgent matter—Song Jing-gong, Mister Song has arrived. He’d arrived at the manor yesterday night but didn’t dare to come over and interrupt Little Mister’s rest, so he endured the rain to arrive here today. Unh, you go and speak of it. Study the books well. The people by Little Mister’s side can’t be lacking in comparison to other families.”

Steward Zhang saw that Xiaohong had a book to read so that had certainly been arranged for by Little Mister. He really didn’t know how to evaluate this little ancestor. Such a formidable person as Song Jing-gong had actually been frightened to the point that he hadn’t slept well yesterday night. His eyes were still ringed with black, ~ne.

“Unh, you’ve come? Please come in, then. Go make tea according to the method that I taught you. Here now, I can busy myself over matters a little less.” Zhang Xiaobao had actually already heard the sound of Song Jing-gong talking outside but he still waited for Xiaohong to finish talking before speaking up.

Song Jing-gong held up an umbrella while he stood in the rain, allowing that rainwater flowing downward to soak his own shoes, not moving one bit. Even if the wind blew in at an angle and brought with it rain that saturated the lower half of his body, he still didn’t feel it.

He kept on thinking of the words that Yingtao had said when he had arrived yesterday. He had asked Yingtao which adept had plotted against him. At that time, Yingtao had curled her lips and said what adept is needed to plot against you? My family’s Little Mister will do. That day, when you set foot upon the bridge, you’d already had no path of retreat.

How she said this was frightening, ~ah. Those in the know clearly understood that bridge was the one connecting Ge Manor and the two manors of Zhang and Wang; those who didn’t know would assume that it was the Bridge of Helplessness,12 ~ne.

Of course, Song Jing-gong didn’t believe it. But then, Yingtao reminded him that could it be that he had forgotten how he had given away the money and given away the jade ornament when he had arrived that day? To take care of this kind of you, my Zhang Manor only needs to send out a one year old child.

This was the cause for Song Jing-gong’s conflict. Today, he wanted to see if that child could really be as formidable as how Yingtao had described.

“Mister Song, my family’s Little Mister invites you.” Just as Song Jing-gong was still in the middle of his thoughts, Steward Zhang came out and spoke in greeting.

“Good, many thanks to Steward Zhang. Steward Zhang, wait. This Song has some doubts in his heart and kindly asks Steward Zhang to help with one or two of them.” Song Jing-gong was about to go inside but then, stopped Steward Zhang.

“Mister Song, please speak freely.”

“This Song wants to know if the words that Steward Zhang said to your noble manor’s Mistress outside of this Song’s window that day was intentional? What connection is there with your noble manor’s Little Mister?” Song Jing-gong had thought of a few particular details.

“Mister Song, we will be working together from now on so please take care of me.” Steward Zhang answered what was not asked, stretching out a hand in a gesture of invitation before turning around to leave.

Filled with misgiving, Song Jing-gong stepped inside. After bypassing the outer room, he saw that in the inner room there, a cushion had already been prepared. In between the cushion and the little couch opposite it was an end table.13 Song Jing-gong naturally knew that the cushion was for him to sit on so not bothering with manners, he walked in and sat down.

When he looked toward the couch, there was actually nobody on it. At this time, his eyes had just adjusted to the brightness in the room so when he looked around again, he saw the two little kids from that day standing by the window there looking at the rainy scenery outside, ~ne.

“Xiaobao, what do you say—is going outside for a turn better than staying inside?” Song Jing-gong heard the little girl’s voice.

“No, the rain outside is too big. Besides, using an umbrella is tiresome, too.” Song Jing-gong also heard the little boy’s activity.

“Use what umbrella? Wearing a straw raincoat14 will do, ~ah. Look at the mountains, gaze at the rainy view. How is that phrase said? Oh, it’s called ‘in straw bearing a lifetime of smoke and rain.’”15 The little girl’s voice.

“No, I’ll get sick. By then, it’ll be ‘the flowing wind is to always be buffeted by the rain and blown away by the wind.’”16 The little boy’s voice.

Song Jing-gong heard this and for a moment, he felt like he had gone to the wrong place. This wasn’t Zhang Manor; this was the Imperial Academy.17 Before the window weren’t little kids but were clearly two xiucai.18

“Ya~, Mister Song has arrived. Pardon me, pardon me. Xiaohong, serve tea.” As if just discovering that there was another person in the room, Zhang Xiaobao, pulling along Wang Juan, jumped down from the stool as they both came over to this side with the couch and sat there while giving greeting.

“Well said, well said. Mister Zhang here was too absorbed. Wonder who this little miss by Mister Zhang’s side is…?” Song Jing-gong unwittingly and inadvertently treated this little kid in front of him like an adult, only realizing after he had spoken that these were clearly two children.

“Oh, this one is this Zhang’s green plum and bamboo horse,19 Wang Manor’s Juan-Juan.” Zhang Xiaobao gestured with his hand as he gave an introduction.

“Green plum and bamboo horse?” Song Jing-gong was confused again. What was the meaning?

Wang Juan spoke up at this time: “It’s the meaning of ‘boy comes riding a bamboo horse; winding around the bed are green plums; two little ones with no suspicions.’20 So stupid. And you’re even a Juren, ~ne. With learning, there’s no learning; with swindling, you still can’t beat others in swindling.”

Wang Juan had already lowered her voice with those last words but Song Jing-gong could still hear them clearly. If it were anyone else saying this, he would debate this point but facing these two kids today, he only felt a kind of helplessness. Where had the ancestral tombs of the two families of Zhang and Wang been buried?21

At this time, Xiaohong had already served the tea. In front of Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan was hot tea. In front of Song Jing-gong were two kinds of tea, one hot and one cold. Regardless of whether they were hot or cold, they were all very green and different from the ones that Song Jing-gong had drank before in the past.

“Mister Zhang, this is…?” Song Jing-gong pointed at the cold tea22 as he asked.

“Cold tea.” Zhang Xiaobao explained.

“Oh, then why does only this Song have it?” Song Jing-gong asked again.

“With people of status, who would drink cold tea? You joking? Juan-Juan and I are too young; it’s too easy to get an upset stomach from drinking cold things.” Zhang Xiaobao said while smiling.

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12 thoughts on “Great Tang Idyll – v1-c027

    • Yeah, I can’t seem to help it–explaining so much. XD I do try to keep the number of footnotes to a minimum but I also worry about too much of the context being missing if it’s just a straight translation…

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      • Oh please don’t. These footnotes are exactly what we readers want or at least what I want. If possible you can just leave the literal translations of the idioms as much as you can while using the footnotes as explanations just like the usual. It helps us to be more understanding of Chinese culture and literature. Many thanks comrade.

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