Great Tang Idyll – v1-c041

Selling Vegetables By The County Seat’s Entrance

Idler’s Note: First post of the month! I’m toying with making a Discord channel but I don’t know if it would be useful or needed. What do you guys think? Also, I will be clearing out the chapter queue so keep your eyes peeled for an extra release courtesy of the kind readers who contributed to sponsor it!

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 Solitary Idler’s 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 sky was black and the clouds dark as the flying snow flooded the air with the blowing wind tinting their appearance.

Kaiyuan year 2, the 26th of the 12th lunar month,1 three days after the Little New Year2 had passed, winter’s fourth snowfall floated downward. This snowfall was a bit heavier than the several ones prior as sheet after sheet fell down like scraps of paper.

Magistrate Cheng Lingxiang was the busiest these days as not only did the affairs of the yamen [govt. offices] have to be arranged for, he also had to help sell the cucumbers as the over 5,000 catties of cucumbers that had been accumulated had to be sold off over these next few days. These had all been transported over here by Song Jing-gong successively for these past few days.

Other than these cucumbers that had to be sold off, there were also 200 catties that had been left solely to Magistrate Cheng. As for who he gave them to, that wasn’t anything anyone else should control.

When it had reached noon, Cheng Lingxiang donned his official robes3 and led a group of his subordinates to the site of a warehouse in the county. These people from the yamen [govt. offices] up to now still didn’t know what the Lord Magistrate wanted to do. They had all gone on holiday here but they had still been called out here.

Following the warehouse door opening with a squeaking “zhi-ya-ya” sound, countless baskets that had been woven out of bamboo appeared in front of their eyes. Cheng Lingxiang knew that there were cucumbers that had been processed using some preservation methods and the older ones were all over a dozen days old with the fresh ones having just been shipped over here this morning.

“Milord, you [honorific] called us over here just for the sake of looking at these baskets?” Sanshui County Deputy Magistrate4 Zhang Mingsheng5 asked what everyone else was thinking in their hearts.

Cheng Lingxiang enigmatically shook his head and used one of his hands to point at one of the baskets: “Someone come and open up the basket.”

Over there, person naturally came forward to carefully open up one of the baskets in front of them. What appeared in front of their eyes was a layer of silk. Turning their head to look at the Lord Magistrate, they with his encouragement lifted away this layer of silk only to suddenly cry out uncontrollably in astonishment.

Only to see that under this silk were cucumbers bearing flowers and thorns on top that had been neatly stacked in place one after another. They turned their head around to look at the snow that was still drifting about outside. This person felt like they themselves hadn’t gotten the season wrong as it really was winter. But the cucumbers in front of their eyes were also not fake.

“Mi-Milord, cucumbers, this, these are all cucumbers?” This person turned his head to look at the Lord Magistrate, stammering a bit as he spoke yet still seeming to wish to receive confirmation from the county magistrate’s mouth.

“Unh, they are cucumbers. These are all cucumbers with a total of over 5,000 catties. The Heavens sent down an auspicious favor, ~ah. There is a manor that actually had those cucumbers vines that originally should have died bear new cucumbers. Yesterday night, this official, I already wrote the imperial report.6 After a while, I will have someone send it out.”

What Cheng Lingxiang wanted was this kind of result. Back when he first saw the cucumbers and was clear on which season it was, he was also like this. Seeing this, his own surprise back then wasn’t so excessive; other people were also the same way.

The other people from the yamen [govt. offices] also stepped forward in succession to look as each and every one wanted to use their hands to touch them but feared that they’d knock off the thorns and flowers on top of the cucumbers. So they all deeply inhaled there to enjoy the aroma that the cucumbers brought along with them.

Deputy Magistrate carefully used his hand to pinch the bottom part of a cucumber to raise in front of his face to take a closer look. Then, sticking his nose closer to smell it, he nodded: “An auspicious favor, it really is an auspicious favor. Just don’t know which manor has had an auspicious favor appear?”

“Which manor is not urgent at this time. By then, everyone will naturally know. Right now, help this official, I carry the cucumbers out; we’ll take to the streets to sell them at 1 catty for 30 wen [cash]. At most, 5 catties can be bought at one time. If they wish to buy more, they will have to line up in the back.”

Magistrate Cheng didn’t wish to let other people know of Zhang Manor’s location right now. There, some cucumbers could still be produced, ~ne. If there were to be people who went investigating right now, that side would immediately make all of the cucumbers vines die off. It’d be a pity.

At this moment, what needed to be done was to help with selling them off. 30 wen [cash] for 1 catty was the price that the adept over there had set. They’d initially agreed that people with no money wouldn’t enjoy this stuff—even if you were to sell them at 10 wen [cash] for 1 catty, there’d still be no one who’d be willing to buy them. People with money didn’t care if it was 10 wen [cash] or 30 wen [cash].

This was still the price for a single day today in order to allow some of the people buying them to take them back to try first. Only the earliest 2,000 catties had been brought out to sell today. If they weren’t completely sold off, then tomorrow it’d be for 50 wen [cash]; the day after would be 80 wen [cash]; the next day after that would be 100 wen [cash]. The closer it got to the New Year, the higher the price would get.

“Milord, to do this doesn’t seem to be good. We’re all government officials of the Imperial Court; if we go selling vegetables, this will get us impeached7 by others.” Deputy Magistrate, upon hearing that he himself and these people would need to personally sell cucumbers, felt that it was a bit difficult on his face so tried persuasion beside him.

“How is it selling vegetables, ~ne? What we’re selling are auspicious favors. Quickly go get the scale.8 That kind that can measure up to 1 qian [mace] in weight is needed. Carry out 2,000 catties for this official, I and move them to the yamen [govt. offices] entrance. This official, I want to promote the auspicious favors there for the sake of the Imperial Court.”

Cheng Lingxiang had already considered this point well in advance so he simply didn’t even mention the matter of selling the vegetables.

“But Milord, this price is also a bit too expensive.” Deputy Magistrate was still a bit hesitant.

Cheng Lingxiang glared at him: “What’s to say it’s selling? Speaking to you guys, it’s selling but to the outside, it’s not selling. It’s giving—giving auspicious favors. Those people spending money are requesting auspicious favors and at 30 wen [cash] for 1 catty, they can receive them.”

Understood. The other people all understood. The Lord Magistrate here was playing a pretty hand—he’d have the reputation as well as the fortune. The Deputy Magistrate also couldn’t deny it that this truly was a good excuse. So he focused his attention on the sale—oh, no—the matter of the gifted money.

“Milord, don’t know the money gained after they’re all given away, will it…? Will it be fine to just give that manor a little bit?”

When Cheng Lingxiang heard the Deputy Magistrate’s words, he instinctively retreated a step as if afraid of being implicated by the Deputy Magistrate. How could he dare touch that sum of money? He didn’t fear that manor; he feared that adept. This money added up was several hundred taels. They were waiting for the New Year, ~ne. If it really got embezzled, those consequences…

Upon thinking of this, he glared at the Deputy Magistrate and said: “This money all has to be given to that manor. We are government officials who are promoting the benevolence of the Imperial Court a little and only have auspicious favor. Wait until the day of the 30th; everyone will still have to go out with me. That manor is virtuous and took out on their own 1,000 dan [stone] of food and 100 piculs [hundredweight]9 of vegetable oil to let us all show kindness to the impoverished families of the county.”

“Milord, we understand.” Deputy Magistrate had finally cleared it up here now. The Lord Magistrate had already talked it over with that manor; by then, they’d help the county come out with an auspicious favor and even gave a chance to net political achievements.

Once the matter was decided, the people of the yamen [govt. offices] began to act as they moved basket after basket of cucumbers to place into the horse carriage outside that had followed them here. A basket was around 50 catties and they moved a total of 40 baskets. They didn’t need other people to remind them and were consciously careful. 30 wen [cash], ~ah! A single cucumber could be exchanged for several dou [gallon]10 of rice.

The snow outside didn’t show any signs of stopping though it did allow the weather to not be so cold. Four large carriages hauling the cucumbers returned to the front of the county seat where someone had already taken out the scale and prepared to start selling.

Everyone was rather not concerned about them not selling. Don’t just look at how scarily expensive they were. To eat cucumbers in the heavy winter, that was a rather unique thing. People with money were plentiful; what fear was there that they wouldn’t spend the money to buy them?

It was only that these people were all thinking that since the cucumbers were so expensive, if their own families were to buy 2 catties, whether they’d be willing or not. Really wanted to eat them, ~ah!

“Unh, the person from that manor said that everyone here and this official, I have managed the people in the county with hard effort and high merit so wait until the selling is finished on the 29th of the 12th lunar month and every person will be able to bring 5 catties of cucumbers home. It’s New Year’s so try something fresh.”

Cheng Lingxiang seemed to understand his subordinates’ thinking and began to leisurely speak there while at the same time, he sighed over Zhang Manor knowing how to act.11 Last time when giving him silver, they were like this. This time, they were also like so.

When everyone heard this, they all grew happy while being simultaneously surprised at the generosity of that manor. The entire yamen [govt. offices] added up was a hundred or more people, ~ah! And they directly gave away so much. They’d wait until after they found out which family’s manor it was; when there were problems, whatever help was needed, they’d have to help out with.

Cheng Lingxiang observed his subordinates’ expressions with satisfaction as he continued to speak: “That manor also said that to just have vegetables isn’t enough. Every person will also bring home 3 catties of vegetable oil and 5 catties of carrots. After returning, those carrots will need to be fried using oil as they said that they are good for the body. Don’t eat them together with other radishes and they also shouldn’t be eaten when drinking wine.”

Everybody nodded their heads in succession. Of course, they knew of those carrots and vegetable oil, especially how the carrots were to be eaten. Earlier, the people selling them had already advised that eating them when drinking wine, it actually was nothing. It was just that there was a possibility of getting sick.

At the same time, the prices of these two types of things were all not cheap—especially those carrots at 20 wen [cash] for 1 catty. Only a little was sold to the restaurants each day. Looking at it here, this vegetable oil, cucumbers, spicy sauce, and carrots all should have originated from one family, Zhang Manor.

This time, they had all guessed it but when they looked at the Lord Magistrate’s eyes and the good stuff that they got from this time, each and every one of them all chose to be oblivious. They weren’t foolish, either. They knew that once this matter was spread, then Zhang Manor wouldn’t do well. If the manor wasn’t doing well, then did they still want to get any stuff in the future?

Magistrate Cheng regretted it after he finished speaking. They’d already told him in advance to speak of the matter of the carrots and vegetable oil on the final day. In the end, he hadn’t been able to hold himself back at the moment. So seeing that each and every one of his subordinates all seemed to understand, he could only add:

“The people of that manor also don’t have it easy. Wait until the 29th, the items will be given to you all together then. When you go home, bring them out to let your family members taste them. If you have close relatives and good friends, you can have another sort of dish when dining, too.”

These words were spoken extremely clearly. When you go home, you can show off but you can’t speak of the manor even to friends and relatives. Everybody naturally nodded and agreed.

Finished with these dealings, a basket full of cucumbers was opened. The constables12 of the yamen [govt. offices] didn’t require instructions and straight away began to call out: “Auspicious favors! Our dynasty’s auspicious favors! Winter cucumbers! Fellow villagers should all come and see! Just 30 wen [cash] for 1 catty and you can invite it into your homes.”

Selling cucumbers in heavy winter by the entrance of the yamen [govt. offices]—this was something new. Just after a voice yelled out, quite a few people suddenly gathered around with a “hua-la” sound to watch.

“Xiaobao, add a bit less gunpowder—the strength is too much. Come over and help me make the wicks.” Within Zhang Manor, Wang Juan and Zhang Xiaobao both found an extremely isolated room and were currently inside making firecrackers with Shiliu.

It was snowing outside and the sky was overcast so it was a bit dark inside the room but they all didn’t dare to light even a single lamp. All of the tables, stools, and other things inside the room had been moved out so that it was empty with only four walls and a flat ground.

On the ground, paper that had already been cut was placed. There was also some powdery stuff evenly mixed out of the three items of sulfur, saltpeter, and charcoal. Shiliu wrapped a bit more powder inside the larger papers while on that side, Zhang Xiaobao and Wang Juan packed these powders into some narrow papers. Once one was packed, some more powder was rolled onto the exterior.

Zhang Xiaobao helped Wang Juan make several pieces before going over there again to roll firecrackers. Inside one, quite a few had already been rolled up and more was still being placed. When he was pulled back over again by Wang Juan, he continued to make wicks.

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30 thoughts on “Great Tang Idyll – v1-c041

  1. When you go home, you can show off but even to friends and relatives, you couldn’t speak of the manor. Everybody naturally nodded and agreed.

    Aka “It’s OUR cow and WE milk it. Outsiders can fuck off.” The Rule. There are always idiots though…

    Liked by 1 person

      • Speaking of non-grammar… I’m not native English speaker, but wouldn’t “You can show off when you (will) go home, but you couldn’t speak of the manor even to friends and relatives.” be better?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not sure how to explain it but the whole sentence is a supposition made in the present tense, hence why adding “will” wouldn’t be correct. I should have used “can’t” rather than “couldn’t” so that’s where the error is.


      • “When you go home” is correct.

        Now the part that is wrong is your choice of “couldn’t speak” which is past tense. What you should have is “but you can’t speak of the manor even to friends and relatives.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh derp! I read his comment and thought the error was still there… oops! TY!

        Well here “When you go home, take them out to let your family members taste.” this sentence would make more sense in English if the end was “let your family members have a taste.” then again it could be right in Chinese?

        My Mandarin sucks. I can barely speak and listen. Reading and writing is impossible for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, thanks for pointing it out. I’m trying to do another editing pass for any weird grammar errors that I missed. It’s why I sometimes need a day to distance my mind from it so I can properly edit.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is why we love you. ;D

        Sometimes I drop novels so the chapters have a chance to accumulate before a jump back into it. Sometimes it’s fifty chapters or a hundred… all for that one binge reading session. A lot of those chapter have glaring errors everywhere. Ugh. So thank you for being awesome enough to fix it.

        Probably gonna stop commenting so other people don’t have to see me everywhere. Cya!

        Liked by 1 person

      • No, I am grateful when readers take the time to point out errors because it’s something I do try hard to avoid but it’s inevitable that I miss a few since I’m doing all the editing and proofreading on my own. So it’s only right that I return a reader’s consideration with some action. Besides, that little error will be itching at the back of my mind if I leave it alone… 😛

        Thanks for commenting! Please feel free to comment whenever you want to! I try my best to respond to everyone but sometimes I have to prioritize translating or my freelance work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL, sorry, I won’t be spoiling it. I will unbend just a bit to warn that the story will be slow paced in comparison to other more action-y novels. You can understand why some more tech buildup is necessary because the Tang dynasty era they’re currently in is ~714-715 AD. So yeah… pretty far back in the past.

        P.S. Just to put it into context, during the 8th century, the Mayans had just peaked, when Chinese papermaking techniques were introduced to Europe from the Arabs, when horse collars and shoes were invented, and probably when the poem of Beowulf was composed. The novel is currently set around the second decade of the 8th century before any of the above truly gets started.


    • LOL, sorry. I’ve never mined any cryptocurrency before so have no advice or suggestions to give on the topic. I only have <$0.05 in altcoin and that’s from randomly being tipped through the altcoin subreddits or through faucets. I just make it an option on here in case people do wish to use it since it’s a neat concept.


  2. Thanks for the new chapter! Discord is probably a good idea if you want to chat with readers. I’ve been avoiding Discord still since I’m mostly inactive in chats anyways, so it’s a bit of a waste of space for me to jump in. >_>

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I am not definite on pulling the trigger here (I’m not really sure why I keep using gun-related metaphors… maybe I’m subconsciously in a punning mood :P). I really don’t know if a Discord chat would just be something only mildly useful but ultimately forgettable so not worth the effort to set it up and maintain it or it if would be something that readers would enjoy and make into a lively chat room. So I shall have to see…


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