Great Tang Idyll – v1-c029

People & Money In Position About To Takeoff

Idler’s Note: This is a make up chapter since I had nothing up for Friday (July 29th, 2016) during my week away. Also, here’s wishing a happy Qixi Festival (七夕節) to everyone today! This festival was the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day since it celebrates the reunion of the two star-crossed (literally!) lovers, Zhinü (織女) who represents Vega and Niulang (牛郎) who represents Altair. You can read more about the Chinese folk tale behind their story, the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, here. You might also recognize this festival under its Japanese name of Tanabata.

Also, I have to apologize for the footnotes… There were a lot this time, too. ^_^;

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!


Song Jing-gong carefully observed Zhang Xiaobao before he rolled up a flat cake, slowly eating it bite by bite as if savoring it and yet, not as if he was simply savoring this flat cake and spicy sauce.

Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan, the two of them didn’t bother him, either, as they tore off a thin piece of flat cake there, dipping it into the sauce before they carefully started eating.

“The taste is still a bit poor.” Wang Juan licked her fingertips as she smacked her lips twice.

“Unh, I also think so. It wasn’t fried using oil so it’s considered raw paste sauce. Wait till it’s been fried and it’ll be better.” Zhang Xiaobao nodded as he agreed with her.

“In a while, use oil to fry it for a bit. We’ll eat it for lunch. Send some to my family, too. Yesterday night, my mom even sent us peaches, ~ne.” Wang Juan said once she had stuffed that little bit of flat cake into her belly.

Over here, Zhang Xiaobao had also just finished eating and nodded: “Send it, definitely have to send it. But without the soybean oil, the flavor is worse by quite a lot. Last time when we went to the kitchen, I saw that there was some beef tallow over there. Use that, then. Let’s think of a way for when an ox can fall down dead so we can use the beef to make sauce with.”

“Have to keep them for plowing the land, ~ne. Killing the ones on the manor isn’t allowed. Buying an old ox to kill it would be cheaper.” Wang Juan added there.

In this moment, Song Jing-gong’s inner heart was filled with mixed feelings.1 From the words of that manservant who had just left, he’d already discovered that this sauce had been produced by the little kid in front of him. From the start, he himself had really been ridiculous for still wanting to swindle them. Look at them—they could think of one after another idea for legitimate business.

His loss wasn’t a bit unwarranted—they were basically not even on the same level. One year old, ~ah. Could it be that they were the reincarnation of saints?2 When he listened to the words that these two kids were saying again, how were these children who hadn’t even been weaned off milk? They were clearly just like adults.

No wonder Yingtao had such a pride-filled face whenever she spoke of Little Mister and Little Miss Juan-Juan. If he himself had such masters, he presumed he’d be the same way, too. All right, he wouldn’t argue from now on and just be an aide to this little kid. By following him, perhaps he’d see even more splendid things.

Just as Song Jing-gong was thinking on matters, Zhang Xiaobao had already instructed Xiaohong to go to the kitchens to get some things. She had just brought them over when Song Jing-gong was finished with his thoughts, only to see Zhang Xiaobao place some scallions and cucumber slices on top of the flat cake and then smear on some sauce before saying to him:

“[Older] Brother Zijin, try this. In the future, I’m prepared to sell this stuff to every restaurant and snack shop. Unh, just selling the sauce—if it’s just a little more expensive, people can still accept it. After all, wait until after we’ve extracted the soybean oil. Then, only our family will have it. Juan-Juan and I are still little and can’t eat so many things. [Older] Brother Zijin, please.”

The flat cake was small. Song Jing-gong hadn’t eaten his full after having two, much less after having not eaten anything at all since yesterday afternoon. He was hungry right now, ~ne. So right then, he wasn’t polite at all as he accepted the flat cake and gobbled it down in two or three gulps. Exhaling with satisfaction, he moved to roll up another two cakes and eat them as he said:

“Little Mister, from now on, wherever you [honorific] say to go, then Zijin will go there. As for that Noteworthy House, Little Mister, please don’t bother with it. The store is small but can still support three families of people, ~ne.”

“What is Zijin talking about? The store affairs naturally are up to Zijin to decide. I’m so little, how can I manage so many things? These flat cakes are tasty. In the future, I’ll have people get a small stall specifically to sell them—just like spring platters,3 only I know how to add some vegetables that no one else knows how to make yet.”

Zhang Xiaobao looked at Song Jing-gong and seeing that he didn’t seem to be pretending, explained a bit more. He wasn’t afraid of people deceiving him as he wasn’t lacking in the ability to keep his subordinates in check.

Song Jing-gong was still eating over there. This kind of stuff was really too good to eat as it was delicious and spicy, making him want to eat more the more that he ate. Only until he really couldn’t continue eating did he stop and then, looking at the two kids facing him, he said: “All right, I’m full so I’ll leave now to go collect the soybeans.”

Having said this, Song Jing-gong stood up to leave but Zhang Xiaobao suddenly spoke up: “Hold on. It’s raining hard and the wind is cold outside; Zijin will need to take care of your health. Xiaohong, is the wine with the added ginger strips warmed up yet? Serve it to Zijin to fend off the cold. I’ll have to trouble Zijin—Juan-Juan and I are still too small so we can’t do a great many things. Everything will depend on Zijin handling it and exhausting himself out there so Juan-Juan and I give our thanks.”

As they spoke, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan saluted in gratitude to Song Jing-gong together as they used those small hands to tremblingly carry and place the wine in front of Song Jing-gong.

Hearing this, Song Jing-gong looked at those weak little hands and accepted the warmed wine. Not having yet drunken it, ~ne, he already felt that his heart had been warmed up. With a tilt of his head, he drank the wine down to the dregs and then, cupping his hands in salute to Zhang Xiaobao: “Thou treats this one like a gentleman of the state so this one must repay thee as a gentleman of the state.4 Farewell.”

Having said these words, Song Jing-gong turned and left, not even using an umbrella as he directly charged into the torrential rain with that pair of steady and powerful legs.

Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan followed along until the doorway until Song Jing-gong’s silhouette had disappeared before turning around to return. But suddenly seeing Xiaohong over there with red-rimmed eyes, they asked in surprise: “Xiaohong, why are you like this? Were your eyes burned by the ginger? Quick, go use water to rinse it out.”

“No, I’m fine. I just feel like my heart’s been comforted. Mister treats people so well—no matter if it’s Yingtao, Shiliu, me, or that Mister Song—Mister treats them all sincerely. For Xiaohong to be sent to Mister’s side is Xiaohong’s fortune.”

Xiaohong shook her head there but she hadn’t even finished speaking, ~ne, and the tears had already started falling. Don’t just look at how her age wasn’t that big, she also knew of the coldness and warmth of human emotion.5 Little Mister was not only smart, he also treated people well—to serve such a master must certainly be due to the good deeds from a previous life.

“Don’t cry, don’t cry. The good days are still yet to come, ~ne! There’s still flat cakes left so you can eat them while they’re still hot and help me try out the taste to see if it’s still missing anything.” Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan exchanged a look as they inwardly sighed. The people here were so good, ~ah.

“Unh, tasty. The things Mister makes are so tasty. When I smelled the aroma just now, I knew.” Xiaohong wiped her eyes as she enthusiastically nodded her head and helped the two children back on top of the couch, already starting with her praises though she hadn’t eaten it yet.

Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan didn’t make a sound either as they watched Xiaohong eat three flat cakes in a row before they said: “Xiaohong, wait until the rain’s stopped as you still have other things to do. You’ll need to find people to dig in that lowland area by the river on the manor. Also, open up a hole in the river and channel the water flow into it. The manor needs to raise a lot more ducks and geese as well as plant some lotuses. Once it’s winter, we’ll have more types of vegetables.”

“Unh, Xiaohong understands. Little Mister, rest assured. There are quite a few people on the manor. As long as a meal is covered, they’ll come over to work. Tomorrow, I’ll go digging.” Xiaohong said in confirmation.

But Wang Juan shook her head: “Not only will you need to cover a meal but you will also need to give a wage. You decide on the number and return to get it. In the future, the two manors of Zhang and Wang will also be opening up a general goods store here to let the people of the manor do their purchases and trading more easily. It’s not for the sake of making money but it’s so the people of the manor can walk a step or two less.”

“Little Miss is righteous and kind; Xiaohong gives thanks on behalf of the elder patriarchs6 of the manor.” Xiaohong had eaten her fill so she was full of motivated energy. When she thought of the days to come, she felt like the rain outside was also so joyous.


The next day, the white clouds were puffy, the sunlight was brightly shining, and the river was clear as the children happily played within it.

The laborers of the manor had all been summoned by Xiaohong. Plotting out the area and not even caring about the muddiness in the aftermath of the rain there, they brought their tools and started working, each and every one all acting as if they didn’t know what fatigue was.

At this time, Xiaohong had people set up the big pot to the side that was simmering fragrantly tasty large bones. There were also people making the dough in preparation for pan-frying7 the flat cakes. The sauce had also been placed to the side as the shredded pork was stir-fried using oil. When it was time to eat, it just needed to be returned to the pan to add some chopped scallion rolled up inside the flat cake so the taste would be even better. This had been due to Wang Juan’s guidance since she loved shredded meat with * sauce.8

“[Older] Brothers and uncles, work hard. You certainly need to do justice to Little Mister’s 3 wen [cash] in daily wages. Wait until noon as there’ll be enough big flat cakes rolled up with vegetables to eat.” Xiaohong stood to the side as she yelled—she even knew to drum up morale.

The people working could already smell the fragrant aroma rising from the pot so while they gulped down their saliva and vigorously shoveled, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan was also standing nearby as they observed. This could be considered a kind of method to rally the people’s hearts.

“From now on, the days will be better. Xiaobao, I want to transform the two manors of Zhang and Wang into an otherworldly paradise.9 The elderly will be provided for;10 the young will receive an education;11 every family can build new homes; every person can eat their fill and be warmly clothed—is that hard?” Wang Juan said with a face full of yearning.

“If it’s only two manors, it’s not hard. But I’m prepared to expand this place a bit later on so the things to manage would be a lot, ~ne. It’ll be necessary to cultivate some talent. What we need to do is to give them hope and confidence. By that time, you can train the footmen.” Zhang Xiaobao was also making calculations there; he also wanted to let the people of the manor live well.

“Little Mister, do you [honorific] still want to eat toads?” Just when Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan were both imagining the future, a child in the river built up the courage to ask this.

Zhang Xiaobao knew that these children wanted to get some benefits in exchange so nodding and then, shaking his head: “Want to eat but not toads. You guys get me some river snails. In a while when it’s time to eat, you guys can also eat, too—you can even take home a portion.”

Once Zhang Xiaobao said this, the children all cheered and one after another, they plunged headlong into the water and started to spread out to catch river snails. They all knew what was cooking inside the pot and that shredded meat which had already been stir-fried. To eat a portion themselves and then bring home another portion simply through getting some river snails, it was really too easy.

“Xiaobao, there are parasites in the river snails. I heard that there were people who ate it and worms grew in their brain.” Wang Juan was a little averse to this stuff.

“No fear. When we go back, use some clean water with some salt added to store them in. Use boiling water to scald them twice over and then, dress them using parsley, garlic, and scallions to give to my dad to eat as wine appetizers. We’ll give a portion to your family as well. We’ll just drink a bit of soup. That stuff is tough so we won’t be able to chew it.” Zhang Xiaobao had already thought it through on how to make them.

“Then, we’ll eat them tomorrow. Let’s keep them for today and have the river snails expel the stuff in their stomachs first before talking about it. You, hurry up with bakery cakes. Otherwise, nothing can be eaten with us like this.” Wang Juan was dismayed whenever she thought of their current age.

The children moved quickly and within 2 quarter-hours, they’d already grabbed a large bowl full of river snails. After having people use a wooden bowl to store and keep them in to send back home, they found Xiaohong and had her also prepare food for the children when it was time for lunch. Then, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan went back to start training.


In the morning, Erniu got up very early and ate some porridge. Together with his older brother Daniu, they brought that small jar filled with the spicy sauce and found a carriage to leave for Sanshui County. Because it was adjacent to a river that wasn’t considered too small, there was a lot of traffic there and there were also quite a few hotels and such. Today, Erniu was ready to go sell the sauce.

For the sake of being able to sell it for a good price, Erniu continued to follow Little Mister’s instructions by pan-frying some flat cakes and bringing some chopped scallions along with him. Hurrying along the road, they finally arrived at Sanshui County when it was nearly noon.

“[Younger] Brother, how do we sell it? Do we need to yell out our pitches?”12 Daniu wasn’t as clever as Erniu for he was rather simple and honest so when they arrived, he didn’t know what to do.

“No need, Little Mister already planned for this. Let’s go. Drive the carriage to Waterview House13 over there. They and the Hundred-Flavored Pavilion14 next door are the two largest restaurants in the county. They’re both competing over customers so there’s no fear that they won’t buy.” Erniu recalled Little Mister’s words to find two competing restaurants to sell to so he had set his eyes on Sanshui County’s two landmark restaurants.

When the carriage had stopped in front of the Waterview House, Erniu and Daniu jumped down from the carriage separately while carrying their things before walking inside. By the entrance, an employee15 had already come over to arrange for the carriage’s parking spot before leading who he assumed to be two dining customers inside, walking as he talked.

“Would both respected guests like to drink wine or check in? According to the restaurant owner,16 the head chef of one’s business has studied under an Imperial Chef.”17

“Unh, having studied under an Imperial Chef is good, ~ah. Is your noble owner in? Find a single room on the second floor. The two of us have some matters to discuss with your noble owner.” Today, Erniu was dressed well so he was emboldened as he held his chest high and used what he thought were the most elegant words with the employee.

“He’s in, he’s in. The two of you [honorific], please go upstairs; this little one will go and invite the restaurant owner over here now.” The employee didn’t know what the two of them wished to do, either. But seeing that they had requested a single room on the second floor, he respectfully invited them upstairs. Then, waiting until the two of them had entered the room, he called over another employee to serve them as he ran to go find the restaurant owner.

The newly arrived employee served tea before standing ready to the side. Erniu and Daniu were afraid of spending money so they basically didn’t order any food as they sat there and waited. After around the duration of the span of an incense stick,18 the owner of the Waterview House hurriedly rushed over here. He wasn’t surprised either upon seeing the two men waiting there as he politely greeted them: “Oneself19 is the owner of the Waterview House and didn’t know for what matter that both noble personages are calling about. Let’s drink tea, drink tea.”

Erniu was a little nervous. After all, this was his first time dealing with the owner of a big restaurant. So using the method that Little Mister had taught him, he slowly inhaled two deep breaths as he silently chanted that he could do it before he felt a bit better. Then, along with his older brother, he placed the item on top of the table and flipped open that fine silk covering it before taking out that jar of soybean paste sauce.

“Coming here today was to invite Owner to try this item.” As he spoke, Erniu prepared that still hot flat cake as he coated it with a layer of spicy sauce on top and then placed scallions inside, using chopsticks to roll it up bit by bit.

After this was done, he made another two to share with his older brother. Picking up one for himself, he said: “Please, Owner.”

Upon saying this, Erniu and Daniu directly started to eat in order to show the restaurant owner that there was no poison. Besides, the two of them was also rather hungry as they had only that little bit of porridge to fill them up with since morning till now.

The restaurant owner looked at the two men eating in front of him there, then glanced at this flat cake placed close by himself and understood what these two men came over to do. But with this stuff, he could make it after just one look so why split some of the benefits with other people? After thinking on it, he still picked up the flat cake to take a bite.

Once the bite of flat cake entered his mouth, the restaurant owner was immediately surprised. What was this sauce? It was delicious and there was even a kind of fresh, spicy flavor. No wonder these two men dared come to his place here to sell stuff. So it was like that. Thinking of this, the restaurant owner put down the flat cake that he was holding.

“It’s all right. It’s edible. Leave this sauce’s recipe behind. I can give you two 200 wen [cash].”

Erniu and Daniu froze as they thought of the words that Little Mister had said when they left and had even more respect for Little Mister in their hearts. Even this could be predicted.

Right then, Erniu and Daniu got up simultaneously, putting away the flat cakes that hadn’t been rolled up and the sauce before turning around to leave. As he walked by, Erniu said: “As expected, Owner knows his wares. Since it’s like that, the two of us will first go to that Hundred-Flavored Pavilion to dine, then. We’ll return to speak of the recipe in detail with Owner after.”

“Hold on! Since the two of you have come here, how can you go elsewhere to eat? Liuzi,20 quickly, have the head chef in the back make the signature dishes to send over here. I’ll accompany the two noble guests at their meal.” Upon hearing this, the restaurant owner immediately knew that they weren’t stupid. So seeing that the two of them were about to leave, he hurriedly intercepted them and invited them back.

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26 thoughts on “Great Tang Idyll – v1-c029

    • Yeah, I’m aware. Thanks for letting me know.

      Trying not to let the frustration get to me because it’ll cause another calamitous drop in my motivation and output. But so far, it looks like any of the preventative measures I can currently take is stymied by my being on a free WordPress blog. I can probably do more to prevent it if I were on my own hosting but I can’t afford that right now. The only comfort I can take is that they can’t really do the hyperlinking because of how their bot scrapes the content.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just add lines in the middle of the chapter stating that this material is to be read only on [solitary idler.com…] or something like that a few times and a maybe a few good hearted readers will stop reading there.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The content theft is automated through bots so they can filter out for that kind of stuff. I’m still throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks but right now, the stuff I can do is a bit limited. Thanks for the suggestion though! 🙂

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    • LOL, glad you liked it. It was a bit dizzying for me to compile but I thought it was an interesting window into how feudalism worked back then in China. The names are also a good illustration of why Chinese history can be confusing.

      Like

  1. Based on the time explanation isn’t an incense stick then 5 minutes? If a shichen is 2 hours which has 4 quarters then that is 30 minutes each, then 3 cups of tea is 10 mins each so 1 cup being two sticks mean a stick is 5 minutes?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That seems to be the math. Of course, this is what I pulled off a Baidu page and traditional measurement units being what they are, there might be another way of calculating things that I haven’t pulled up yet.

      Although what Baidu says doesn’t really correlate with what I know about the ke/刻 as it is divided into the long ke which is ~15 minutes and the short ke which is around ~2.5 minutes. So I’ll have to look more into it.

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  2. That moment when you read a chapter and the footnotes seens to be bigger than the chapter XD
    Great work at it, by the way, I’ve paid for translated books that didn’t have that kind of good work put into them and here you’re doing it for free. But I’m curious now, are you a professional translator in your private life? Your care in this story translation seens really professional.

    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL, I do try to keep the footnotes short and sweet but sometimes it is hard to. 😛

      I’m not a professional translator and I don’t have any licenses or anything. I just double-check my work to see if I missed anything beyond the surface reading is all since Chinese is a language of that nature. Sometimes, it’s still hard to convey everything in a straight translation so I have to explain the nuances that couldn’t be carried over in an aside or in a footnote.

      Thanks for your compliment though! XD

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