Red Boudoir Dreams

Chapter 1

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Zhen ShiYin (secret distinguished sir) in a miraculous dream realizes enlightenment.

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Jia YuCun (rainy village merchant) in the wild world longs for ladies.

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That's how the first chapter begins. The author confesses having awoke from a miraculous dream, he thought to conceal the facts, and borrow "realize enlightenment", so to speak, and thus composed this "Story of the Stone" as a book even. So he says "secret distinguished sir" and so on.

But the book records what kinds of events, what sorts of people?

Himself, he says, " tired of this dust in the wind, accomplishing nothing, I suddenly recollected all the ladies of those days, carefully examining each more closely than the last, feeling that I had not meet with such bearing since, and all far superior to me.

How could all of my magnificent whiskers, honestly compare to one of their skirts or even their hairpins?

I am all the more ashamed, and regret is all the more useless, since there is nothing to do about it.

At that moment, I longed to look back on the past favors of heaven and my forefather's virtues, so relied on, the time wearing brocade shirts and silk pants, the days full of sweet fatty food, and how I turned my back on the kindness of my father's and elder brothers' instructions, and missed the moral of my teachers' and friends' scoldings, till today succeeding in nothing, and half my life drowned in guilt, to compose a narrative, to tell all the world: My guilt was undoubtedly unavoidable, but those certain folk who I knew in the ladies' chambers, must certainly not, for my unworthiness, to excuse my faults, be brought to extinction.

My thatched roof and grass windows, clay stove and rope bed, these days and nights of wind and dew, willow steps and flowered yard, haven't yet harmed my respect for writers. Though I am unstudied, and what flows from my brush lacks style, what harm could there be in using fiction and everyday language to tell a story, to pass on clearly the ladies' chamber, to return to the vision of those happy days, to alleviate people's misery, isn't that appropriate?" So he says "rainy village merchant" and so on.

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These chapters typically use words such as "dream" and "fantasy" to awaken the reader's awareness, and are this book's primary purpose.

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Dear readers, you wonder where this book came from? Although we may say that it is quite absurd, careful examination will uncover profound interests. Eventually the following history will be made clear, and the reader will surely understand without confusion.

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Originally, when Lady NuWa fashioned the stones to support heaven from the wild (Ta Huang) mountains and preposterous (WuJi) cliffs, shaping them taller than 120 feet, and wider than 240 feet, she made 36,501. Emperoress Lady Wa used just 36,500 stones, so only one was left all alone, unused, and cast aside here in this green mountain ravine, under a peak.

After who knows how many further refinements, the spirit of this stone had become quite developed, and from seeing the multitude of stones used to support heaven, and only his own meritless self unable to be selected, thus moaned and sighed day and night in miserable shame.

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One day, just as he was between his mournful sighs, he suddenly saw a buddhist monk and a daoist priest in the distance approaching, their comportment was out of the ordinary, their abundant auras unusual, speaking and laughing as they approached below the peak, they sat next to the stone, engaged in excited conversation. First they spoke about the mysterious fantasies of cloud mountain mist and sea spirits, and then the glory and riches found in the (mortal world's) red dust.

As the stone listened, he became uncontrollably infatuated, and thought he would very much like to enjoy these glories and riches, but despaired of his uncouthness, which there was no helping, but then finding the human words, said to the monk and priest: "Venerable masters, your humble admirer, crude as he is, has no offering for you. Having just heard you speaking of the human world's honors and abundance, my heart yearns for it. Though my nature is quite uncouth, my essence has made some connections, and seeing you two masters discussing immortal forms, most extraordinary, amazing materials which certainly must have the ability to hold up heaven and cross the earth, precious objects transcending human morality. If your poor servant could elicit a shred of sympathy, carry your devotee unto this red dust, to these fields of wealth, to enjoy a sweet home for a few years, then I would be eternally grateful, and would certainly not forget."

When the two sages had heard him through, they instinctively laughed together saying, "Oh my, Oh my! In the red dust, there are many happy affairs, but they can not be relied on forever; `In beauty never enough, and the holidays just bring more ghosts.' That saying makes an important point. In a flash, the most extreme happiness can turn to misery, and those beyond materialism eventually reach the same dream, 10,000 planes return to emptiness, but turning is not as good as never going."

The stone's infatuation was already afire, and having heard their speech, then returned to bitterly begging over and over. The 2 sages realized there was no convincing him, and so sighed: "So it is that nirvana is attained through many stages of arousal, and wandering souls are many. Since it is like this, we will take you to experience these pleasures, but if the time is not right, you must not regret it."

The stone said, "of course, of course."

The monk then also said, "If your spirit, as you say, is so vulgar and without strange precious ornamentation, then it will only do for you to stand up a bit. But, if I use the buddha's power to help you, in the end, you will return to your original essence; you must understand this condition. Do you agree?"

Having heard this, the stone couldn't stop thanking him.

The monk then cast a spell using mystical methods, which immediately turned the giant stone into a bright clear gem, furthermore shrunk to the size of a fan pendant, which could be worn or carried. The monk took him in the palm of his hand, and laughing said, "You make quite a fine treasure, though you still lack definite marks of quality; you just need a few characters engraved, so that people will know you are a miraculous object. Then I will take you to an prosperous nation's cultured family with yards of flowers and willows in a rich leisurely village where you may settle in and work happily."

When the stone heard, he couldn't contain his happiness, and then asked, "May your pupil not know what strange scripts you will inscribe, not even where you will carry him? Pray tell, so that your servant will not be confused."

The monk laughing replied, "Don't bother to ask. Afterwards, it will all be clear," and so saying, slipped the stone in his sleeve, and floated away, with the daoist, who knows where.

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Much later, after who knows how many eons and epochs, because a certain daoist named Kong Kong was seeking the way and chasing spirits, found himself by this DaHuang mountain near the WuJi cliff in a green ravine under a peak, and discovered that a giant rock had been clearly marked with characters, which recorded a passage of history. Kong Kong started from the very beginning, and it turned out that this was the story of being unable to support heaven, of fantastically taking form to enter the mortal world, of a humble lost scholar, and the remote people bound together in the red dust, a history, ultimately, of worldly concerns coming apart and together, in sorrow and joy, both warm and cold.

On the back, a verse also said:

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With no talent to support the blue heavens,
Vainly entered the red dust for a few years.

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This form's past and future affairs,
what copyist could help to conserve?

After the poem, there was the county where the stone fell, its birthplace, and a genealogy of his family. Among the ladies' affairs were basically complete love poems, which might be suitable for relieving boredom, but the year and the dynasty, and the state and country had been lost beyond recognition.

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The daoist Kong Kong then said to the stone: "Brother Stone, your story, according to yourself, has some interest, and so is written out like this, with the hope that is will be published as a legendary adventure romance. As I see it, for one, it's impossible to tell the year and dynasty, and for two, there are no wise rulings of virtuous loyal imperial policies, and nothing more than a few odd girls, whether passionate or stupid, perhaps exceptional, in their virtuous capabilities. Even if I copied it down, I fear people today really wouldn't care to read it."

The stone replied, "My teacher, how could one be so ridiculous? To speak of the dates, as if pretending to add to the records of the Han, Tang, or whatever dynasties, is that all that's the matter? To me, all these legendary histories, have been stuck in a rut, and I am better off not imitating them, and instead offering something strange, new, and unusual; even just to catch the sense of this subject, what good would the date do? Besides, the ordinary city folk appreciate treatise writers very little, but love amusing distractions especially much. The legendary histories up to now either slander lords back and forth, or disparage their wives, and the lewd sex and cruel violence are too much to bear. Then there is that sort of romantic writing, even more obscenely revolting. The poison works and the fools that read them are limitless. As for the books of ladies and scholars, 1000s of them are all alike, and even they, in the end, can't avoid excessive depravity, filling their pages with references to Pan An (who was famously followed by women everywhere), Zi Jian (who liked to compare his older brother's wife to Wen Jun), Xi Zi (who was so admired by fish that they kept her with them underwater), and Wen Jun (the widowed daughter of kings who eloped with Sima Xiang for his artistry only to become a wine-seller), just so the writers could publish some of their gaudy love poems, they invent names of men and women, introducing other minor roles to cause havoc, as plays introduce clowns. Even when the slave girl opens her mouth, she speaks in pretentious phrases, cliche platitudes. Take a look, they are all full of contradictions and barely sensible speeches. They are not at all like these women who I saw and heard for half my lifetime. Though I don't dare to claim them stronger than the characters from the books of previous ages, their feats and motivations should alleviate boredom and the various obnoxious poems of passion may succeed in provoking sprayed rice or spilt wine. The pains and joys of separation and reunion, the fortunes of prosperity and decline are here traced in every detail, on which I would not dare force any interpretation, and I pray that offering it for people's perusal will not diminish its authenticity. As for people today, the poor are tired everyday from seeking sustenance, and the rich are never satisfied, if they have a moment for leisure, they are greedy and perverted, their fine wares bring further depression, so who has the patience for these treatises? I don't hope for my story to be called miraculous, and I wouldn't even wish for contemporary people to engage in its exegesis; I just hope that when they are lasciviously drunk and so full they can't walk, immersed in escapism, they will pick up this toy -- couldn't it promote long life and physical strength? Compare that to those vainly absurd plans with their painful truth and falsehood, rushing about. Furthermore, one can't make people try new eyes with those convoluted plots, suddenly dragging characters apart and together, pages filled with scholars and ladies, the matchmaking and fine jewels of Zi Jian and Wen Jun, the tired cliches of those old books. What do you say about them?"

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The daoist Kong Kong heard these words and pondered them for a while, then reviewed this "Story of the Stone" once more all the way through and finding for the most part that though it contained some language referring to rape, crime, craft, curses, and other capital offenses, its aim was neither dangerous to the times nor critical of the state, and merciful lords and wise officials, compassionate parents, and loyal children, presented in everyday relationships, were all described quite respectably, with unlimited care, without comparison. Among its main points, it was strictly realistic, avoiding any false pretenses, and primarily about love, as compared to selfish plans and broken promises. Since there wasn't a hair which could interfere with the times, He copied it down from beginning to end and published this epic fantasy. After this, since Kong Kong the daoist had seen the passion, the passion stimulated feeling, and spread the feeling in the passion, and realized that the self's passion is empty, so his name was changed to the Emotional Monk, and "the Story of the Stone" became known as "the Record of the Emotional Monk". Kong MeiXi of DongLu then called it "Precious Mirror of Love". Then Cao XueQin in his tragic red loft read it over 10 times, editing it 5, and compiled the table of contents, divided the chapters, and took to calling it, "12 Jewels of NanJing" Also, a fragment was composed:

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Pages full of absurd words, A hand full of sour tears.

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All remark writers are fools; Who understands these flavors?

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So the origin has been made clear, but we still have yet to see what the story is about. The inscriptions on the stone said:

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Once upon a time, in the low-lands of the south-east, there was a place called GuSu, with a town called ChangMen ('heaven's gate gate'), and it certainly was one of the most pleasant places in the world of mortals. On the outskirts of ChangMen, there was a 10-Li Street, and off this street, there was an alley called Merciful Purity Alley, and in the alley, there was an old temple, and because the place was narrow, everyone called it the Gourd Temple. Next to the temple lived the family of a country official, surnamed Zhen, named Fei, called ShiYin. His wife's maiden name was Feng, and her disposition was proper with a great respect for propriety. Although the family was not extremely rich, in the area they were assumed to be of a good clan. Because Zhen ShiYin had a natural disposition that was indifferent to wealth and fame, he made no effort to achieve scholarly distinction, and merely spent the days gazing at flowers and raising bamboo, drinking wine and humming poems for fun, as if he were some immortal fairy.

Only one matter was unsatisfactory: to that day, already half a century, he'd no son underfoot, only a girl, called by the infant name of YingLian, just 3 years old.

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One hot long summer day, Zhen ShiYin was relaxing in the library, until his drooping hands dropped his book, as he unconsciously drifted into sleep.

As he entered the dream, he didn't know where he was. Suddenly from one side, he say a buddhist and a daoist approaching, both walking and talking. He could only hear the daoist ask, "So where do you intend to take this silly thing."

The buddhist laughed, "Don't you worry. Currently, there is a special case which needs to be resolved. That peculiar soulmate has not yet been reincarnated into the mortal world. So we still have time before delivering him into these experiences."

The daoist then said, "Why must this peculiar soulmate be cast into the world of experience? And where will she fall?"

The buddhist laughed, "It's a funny story. It's an unbelievably unusual situation. In the west, by the cobbleways of past, present, and future lives on the banks of the River of Souls, there was a solitary purple pearl grass.

At that time in the Palace of Naked Flaws, there was an attendant to the Crystal Goddess, who watered the grass everyday, so that its life was subsequently prolonged. Eventually, being endowed with a natural soul, to return the nourishing dew, she shed her plant essence, and took on human form, ultimately becoming a woman, and spending her whole days wandering outside of the heavens in painful separation. When hungry, she made her meals of unripened honey fruit, and when thirsty she drank the water of the Sea of Sorrows for soup. Because she had not repaid the kindness of the watering, she was completely filled with an endless longing.

It was just at this same time that the attendant of the crystal goddess had become passionately infatuated, seizing upon this prosperous peaceful epoch, and hoping to descend into the mundane world to experience a fantastic fate, as has already been registered with the Fairy of Wary Fantasies.

The Wary Fantasy Fairy has also inquired about the repayment of the irrigation, as if she had no clue. The purple pearl grass said, `The kindness of the sweet dew, as the same water, I can not return. If he enters the world to become a human, then I will also enter the world to become a human, moreover using all the tears of my entire life to repay him!'

For this reason, all these various wayward antagonists come together, to accompany them to the resolution of the matter."

The daoist said, "Really unbelievable. Certainly never heard of anyone speaking of repayments in tears. Presumably the outcome of this affair will be even more melodramatic than the romances of old." The buddhist replied, "Presentations of the romantic characters of old are hardly more than a verse or chapter, while what it's like to really eat and drink in the ladies' chambers has yet to be recorded. Furthermore, most romantic novels, just make off with the jewels, secretly eloping only, and don't begin to unveil even the abc's of a girl's true desires. Think of this fellow entering the world, his passions sick and perverted, unaware of his worth, having entirely diverged from his ancestors."

The daoist said, "Why not take this opportunity to descend into the world to free a few? Wouldn't that be virtuous?"

The buddhist said, "My thoughts exactly. Come with me now to the Palace of the Wary Fantasy Fairy, so we can set straight this blockhead's delivery, wait for these wayward sinners to make their way into this world, and then we will go in. So far only about half have fallen to earth, so the set is still not complete."

The daoist said, "Well, if that's the case, then I'll follow your lead."

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As for Zhen ShiYin, he had heard everything quite clearly, but had no idea what was referred to by "blockhead". So he could not resist stepping up to greet them, with a laugh saying, "Pardon me, immortal teachers". Both of them hastily replied. Zhen ShiYin then said, "I've just heard you immortals speaking of karma, which is hardly heard of in the human world. But your humble pupil is of cloudy intellect and cannot perceive clearly all you've said. If you would be so kind as to dispel my delusions, letting me listen in somewhat more detail, then I would scrub out my ears and hear the truth, could attain somewhat more awareness, and perhaps reduce the bitterness of descending into these human affairs."

The two immortals laughing said, "These mysteries cannot be prematurely divulged. But when the time comes, do not forget us, as you might thus avoid a fiery pit."

Having heard, ShiYin did not ask again. He then laughed, "The mysteries cannot be prematurely revealed, but what about this `blockhead' you spoke of, might I know what it is, or perhaps even take a look?"

The buddhist replied, "As for asking about this thing, in fact, it is a part of your destiny."

As he spoke, he held out his hand to ShiYin. As ShiYin took the object and looked, he saw it was a bright piece of beautiful jade, with 4 characters clearly inscribed on it, (which translated as) "Precious Attaining Enlightenment Jade", and on the back were further small characters. Just as he was hoping to take a closer look, the buddhist announced they had reached the fantasyland, and snatching the gem from his hand, walked with the daoist under a memorial arch on which was written "Great Empty Fantasyland". There were lines of a couplet on each side which read,

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When the false is made true, truth is then false.
Where emptiness is filled, fullness is still empty.

ShiYin intended to follow them, but just as he took a step, he heard a clap of thunder, as if mountains were crumbling and the earth caving in, and let out a shout, and stared, but he saw only the scorching day, the drooping plaintains, and the events of the dream were almost completely forgotten. As well, he saw the wet nurse come up holding YingLian. Seeing his daughter an ever more adorable gem, perceptive and happy, he reached out his arms and held her in his embrace, played with her for a while, and even took her to see the hustle and bustle of the street.

Just as he was about to go in, he saw from one side approaching a buddhist and a daoist. The buddhist had a scabby head and bare feet; the daoist had a lame leg and ratty hair. Crazy, spastic, they gesticulated and laughed as they talked wildly. When they reached them and saw ShiYin holding YingLian, they buddhist cried out, "Generous Sire, what are you doing holding this luckless creature, this burden on her parents?"

ShiYin took this for crazy talk and ignored him. The buddhist further shouted, "Give her to me! Give her to me!" This was too much for ShiYin and he turned to go in. The buddhist then pointed at him and laughing, spoke these lines.

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Indulging this delicate life and laughed at for your madness.
The hollow water chestnut will be drained by the snow.

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Beware the holidays,
For when the Lantern Festival concludes,
The fire will die and the smoke subside.

ShiYin heard him clearly, and thought to hesitate, and ask them where they came from. He only just heard the daoist say, "There's no need to travel together, so let's separate here, and we can each tend to our livelihoods. After these many tragedies, I will await you at the royal tombs, and we can return to the Great Empty Fantasyland together to be done with this affair."

The buddhist replied, "Fantastic, fantastic," and as soon as the words were out of his mouth, they disappeared without a trace.

ShiYin immediately thought to himself that these two men must be experienced, and that he should have inquired further, but it was too late.

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Just as ShiYin was so wildly speculating, he suddenly spotted the poor scholar who was staying in the temple next door -- surnamed Jia and named Hua, working under the pseudonym of Flying Moments (Time Flies), and also known as Rain (Yu), he was just walking by.

This Jia YuCun was related to the natives of HuZhou and came from a family of literary officials, though born at the end of an age, and his ancestors' progeny exhausted, their population depleted, was left to his own devices, and little profit remaining in his hometown, set out for the capital to achieve scholarly rank, and restore the family estate.

He'd brought himself hither the previous year, and was living under trying circumstances, and was temporarily reposing in the refuge of the temple, daily supporting himself by writing documents, and so ShiYin came in frequent contact with him.

As soon as YuCun saw ShiYin, he hurriedly greeted him, and joining him with a laugh, said, "Mister Elder, leaning on your door looking out, are you expecting some news from the street?" ShiYin laughed, "Not at all. Just since the little girl was crying, so I brought her out to play. In fact, I've been quite bored, so your brotherly arrival is quite spectacular; please come in for a chat, that we might make the best of whiling away this endless afternoon."

So saying, he had someone take in the girl in, while he drew ShiYin by the hand into the library. A young child served tea. Just as they had begun to exchange a few sentences, suddenly members of the household flew in reporting, "Master Yan has come to pay his respects". ShiYin hurriedly rose, and apologizing said, "How dreadfully regrettable, please remain seated, and I will promptly rejoin you." YuCun also hastened to rise, saying, "Please do as you wish. I've often been your guest much later, and what harm is there in waiting a little." As he spoke, ShiYin was already headed out through the front courtyard.

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YuCun flipped through a book to relieve his boredom, when he suddenly heard a woman's cough outside the window. So he got up and looked out the window. It turned out to be a servant girl there collecting flowers. Her appearance was not commonplace, and her eyes bright and clear. Though not completely beautiful, her manner was moving. YuCun couldn't help but stare. The servant girl collected the flowers, as she intended to leave, she abrubtly lifted her head and saw there was someone in the window, with a tattered hat and shabby clothes. Though unfortunately poor, he was naturally endowed with a round waist and broad shoulders, a wide face, and square mouth, as well as sharp eyebrows, starry eyes, a straight nose, and strong cheeks. The servant girl quickly turned and made her escape, while thinking to herself: "This man appears so majestic and yet so ragged, he must be that Jia YuCun that my master often speaks of. He has always wished to offer him some assistance, but has not found an opportunity. Our home has no other such distressed relative or friend, so it is undoubtably him. No wonder he also says that he will surely not be so troubled for long." As she thought this way, should couldn't help but look back twice. YuCun saw her looking back and thought to himself that the girl's heart had some feelings for him, and thus he felt a boundless ecstasy, that this girl must be a clear sighted heroine, one to truly recognize him in this wild, crazy world. At the same time, a child came in and informed YuCun that the previous guests had stayed for dinner, and since it wasn't suitable to wait much longer, he let himself out through a side gate. ShiYin waited until his guests dispersed, though knowing of YuCun's departure, he did not return to that meeting.

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One day, early on the mid-autumn festival, After the family feast, ShiYin had another banquet prepared in the library, and strolling under the moonlight over to the temple to invite YuCun to join him. In fact, since that day that the Zhen household servant had turned her head to look at him twice, he'd thought of her as a soulmate, and was immediately infatuated. That day being the mid-autumn festival, (aka 'the full moon festival') it was impossible not to think of the moon, and so his mouth was occupied by these verses:

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Unpredictable are our many lives' desires,
Often adding yet more anguish.

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I try to restrain the anxious hours.
You've gone with several glances back.

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I watch your shadow in the wind.
Who could be your moonlight companion?

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If the moonlight had a wish,
It would get to your house first!

[tran. note: in fact, the closest thing to a pronoun in this poem is 自, and that is anything but an unambiguous reference. I have essentially filled in the agents in the way that I feel is most 'reasonable', while the reader may observe that HBJ would dispute numerous points.]

YuCun moaned as he thought of all life's aspirations, bitterness still to come, and then scratching his head and sighing towards heaven,, he again loudly hummed this couplet:

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The jade with the ginger deserves a better price.
The hairpin in the dowry awaits its chance to fly.

Just then ShiYin walked up and hearing him laughed: "Brother YuCun you really are deeply inspired!" YuCun hastened to reply with a smile: "I just happen to be humming some ancient verses; what's so remarkably crazy about that?" ShiYin laughed: "Tonight is the autumn festival, commonly known as the reunion festival, and thinking that my noble brother traveler was living here in these monks' quarters, not without some feeling of loneliness, so I've specially prepared some refreshments, to invite my brother to my humble abode for a drink, without knowing if you will be able to accept these meager offerings or not." YuCun heard without any protest, and laughed: "Given such sincere affection, how could I refuse such magnificent hospitality?" So saying, he then returned together with ShiYin to the library.

After a quick tea, the cups and plates had already be set, the fine wine and luscious meats I should hardly need mention. Taking again their seats, the 2 men began to drink freely, gradually chatting with more intense enjoyment, the flying glasses wrapped them in the bounds of friendship. At that time, horn and string songs came from every house. With one glance at the moon, its radiance hypnotized. The 2 men became ever more exhilarated as their glasses were emptied. At this time YuCun was already well drunk and enthusiastically uninhibited, so that his inner feelings for the moon his mouth uttered as this double couplet:

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Time again for reunions to reoccur.
Happy holding clear light's treasure.

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As heaven spins, we offer our praise.
Everywhere everyone's head will raise.

ShiYin listened and cried out: "Bravo! I've always maintained you couldn't be kept down for long; These phrases you hum today already show how you will soar walking on clouds and over rainbows even. My congratulations, really!" Then he kindly poured out a toast. YuCun, having drained the glass, sighed: "It is not from late-night drunkenness, that I think of the current examinations; Of late, I could have entered my name, only currently the necessary traveling funds are basically unmanageable; the road to the divine capital (LuoYang) is far, and I could not rely on selling writing and documents to make it there."

ShiYin did not wait for him to finish speaking, saying: "Why didn't you say so sooner? I've foolishly been constantly harboring this feeling, but whenever we met, you never said anything about it, and so I was foolishly afraid to speak rudely, but now that it's come to this, though I may be incompetent, I understand words such as 'justice' and 'benefit'". In fact, happily, next year happens to be the major competition, and if my brother quickly gets to the capital, to compete in the spring entrance, then all his studies will certainly not be wasted. As for the traveling expenses and other matters, I can manage all that, and don't you worry about a thing!" He immediately called a boy in, to quickly wrap up 50 taels of white silver, and 2 suits of winter clothing. He also said, "The 19th is astrologically important, so my brother should buy his westward boat ticket then, and when you have attained your lofty heights, and we meet again next winter, how could it not be an incredibly happy event?!" YuCun received the silver and clothes without a word of thanks nor any shock, but simply continued eating, drinking, talking, and laughing. It was after midnight when they separated.

After ShiYin saw YuCun out, he returned to his room to sleep, and it was bright daylight with the sun high in the sky before he awoke. Thinking of the previous night's events, he had the desire to write a couple of recommendation letters for YuCun to carry to the capital, which he could take around to the homes of some officials, so as to find a place to stay. When he sent someone across to invite him over, the servant returned to say: "A monk said Old Jia left for the capital at the 5th drum, and asked the monk to tell sire that 'scholars don't care about astrology, and always act on reason, and he couldn't come to say goodbye.'" ShiYin having heard had no alternative but to accept it.

Leisure time certainly passes easily. Soon the lantern festival approached. ShiYin ordered the servant HuoQi to take YingLian to see the flowery ritual fire lanterns. In the middle of the night, HuoQi having to urinate, left YingLian sitting on a doorstep. When he returned for her, where was the slightest trace? A fearful HuoQi searched half the night, until before dawn, not daring to face his master, he fled for his native region. ShiYin and his wife, seeing that their daughter had not returned during the night, knew that something was wrong, and had sent people to search for her, but all returned to say that they had found no news. This couple, half their life past, having only given birth to this one daughter, suddenly lost, could not avoid dwelling on it, and cried continuously, as if they couldn't help but wish for death. A month passed, and ShiYin was the first to fall ill, and then the child of the Feng clan, due to her worrying about her daughter, was also struck sick. So the doctor was daily called to administer treatments.

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Unexpectedly on the 15th day of the 3rd month, in the middle of the ritual burnings, some of the monks not taking sufficient care, the fire escaped from the oil pot, and burned up the window paper. The homes of that area mostly made of bamboo fencing and wood walls, so aiding the inexorable doom, as the second led to the third, and the fifth followed the fourth, until the entire street was a mountain of flames. At that point, though soldiers and citizens came to help, the fire had already gained to much strength, so what could they do? It burned continuously through the night, gradually dying out after no one knows how many houses were burned. The pitiful Zhen home, being right next door, was early roasted into a pile of rubble. Only the couple with a few servants were uninjured. The hard-pressed ShiYin could only stamp and moan. After consulting with his wife, they went up to a country home of theirs to take shelter.

However, over the last few years, droughts had decimated harvests, and bandits were swarming, pillaging the fields, and plundering the land, like mice snatching, and dogs looting, so that no one was safe, and though the government troops pursued them, it was difficult to settle in. ShiYin had no choice but to sell the estate at a discount, and take his wife and two servant girls to stay with his father-in-law.

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Hi father-in-law was called Feng Su, a native of DaRuZhou. Although only engaged in agriculture, his home was prosperous. Seeing his son-in-law come to him in such a sorry state did not make him happy. Fortunately ShiYin still had some as yet unused silver from the discounted sale of his farmland, which he offered him to suitably put towards a humble place as necessary home and land and to provide food and clothes for the days to come. This Feng Su deviously kept half for himself, and only provided him some fallow land and a dilapidated house. ShiYin being just a bookish man, and unfamiliar with concrete matters of give and take, just barely carried on for a year or two, until descending into extreme exhaustion.

Whenever Feng Su met him, he would drop some ready made phrases, while to everyone else he complained of his inability to make a living, and that he could only eat and be lazy. ShiYin was aware that their relationship was problematic, and couldn't help but feeling regretful, and combined with the shocks of the previous year, the terrible misfortunes which had already piled on so much suffering, and being a man of advanced age, attacked by poverty and sickness, symptoms of approaching death gradually appeared.

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Fortunately one day, leaning on his staff, and struggling down the street seeking distraction, he suddenly saw on one side a lame daoist, insanely bedraggled, hemp sandals and ragged clothes, his mouth cluttered with words, saying:

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Commoners realize saints are good,
but the lure of fame have never withstood.

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Where are the generals till now from days past?
Buried beneath mounds of dead grass.

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Commoners realize saints are good,
but the lure of gold have never withstood.

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To the end they regret they've never enough;
From hoarding so much time, their eyes must shut.

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Commoners realize saints are good,
but the lure of wives have never withstood.

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While their lord lives everyday they faun,
but chase after new men as soon as he's gone.

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Commoners realize saints are good,
but the lure of sons have never withstood.

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Through the ages these daft parents are many;
As for loyal children, have you seen any?

ShiYin having heard, then greeted the monk saying, "What are you going on about? All I can hear is 'good...stood'"

The monk laughed, "If you've heard good-stood, then you understand. You know the world's many facets are good when stood, and stood when good. If not stood, not good. To be good, must stood. My song is called the good-stood song".

ShiYin was of an insightful nature, and with these few words, his mind was immediately opened. He laughed, "Hold on! Let me provide an exegesis for this good-stood song, okay?"

The monk laughed, "Please do. Please do."

ShiYin then spoke,

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Humble home, empty hall where once courtiers lay.
Whithered grass, dry fields, where once performers played.
Cobwebs in the rafters, the curtains now in tatters.
Despite the use of cream and cologne, frost your temples smatter.
Yesterday's yellow sands are uncovering white bones,
Tonight's red lanterns shine on love ducks.
Boxes filled with silver and gold,
Awaken beneath a beggar's contempt.
Just as you lament others' short lives,
Realize you too are headed for death.
Teach your children well, but they become thieves.
Select a fine home, but you find yourself in a brothel.
Look down on cloth hats and you find yourself in stocks.
Yesterday complaining your short, ripped coat's not warm enough,
Today your purple robe's too long:
Confusion reigns, I step on your toes,
mistake a distant land for your home,
Utter absurdity, all comes to this,
You're making someone else's wedding clothes.

Having heard, the crazy lame daoist applauded and laughed, "Completely explained, completely"

ShiYin then said, "Let's go." Shouldering the daoist's bag, he did not return home, and instead wandered off with the crazy daoist.

Quickly through the crowded neighborhood, everyone spread the news. Learning of it, Lady Feng cried herself between life and death, but could do nothing but consult with her father, who dispatched people to seek everywhere, but what could they find? It was no use, and she was left to rely on her father for support. Fortunately she still had two maids from the old days to care for her, and these 3 day and night made needlework to sell, and thus help with the father's expenses. Although Feng Su complained everyday, there was nothing else he could do.

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One day as the elder servant of the Zhen family was in front of their door selling thread, she suddenly heard shouts in the street, everyone saying that a new magistrate had been appointed. As the servant girl watched from the shade of the door, she could only see the officers rushing past in pairs, then suddenly a large sedan carrying a feather capped, fur gowned official. The maid was a bit startled, thinking the official's face was familiar, but unsure from where. Then returning to the house, she forgot about it. Towards evening, as they were preparing to rest, they heard a loud clatter at the door, and many people all shouting, "Head of the house, messengers have brought word." Feng Su hearing, was scared stiff, having no idea what doom lay in store.