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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 19


Chapter 19
Nine divisions[1] amass metal to be cast in a row, hundred-gold set up timber to provoke a flock of devils.

The eighteen Shaolin monks, along with Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er, went down the Jin Xiu Peak. Cheng Xin returned the sutra to Wei Xiaobao; he asked, “Will Benefactor return to Beijing immediately?”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Cheng Xin said, “I received Yulin Dashi’s request to escort Benefactor until you arrive safely to the Capital.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “That’s wonderful,” he said, “I was worrying that that bamboo-pole toutuo is not willing to give up and thus will come again to give me trouble. But if you all come with me, will someone protect Xing Chi Dashi?”

“Benefactor may set your heart at ease,” Cheng Xin said, “Yulin Dashi has other arrangement.”

Now Wei Xiaobao was in complete admiration toward the old monk Yulin. He was always sitting in meditation with his eyes closed, so much so that he would not even care if the sky collapsed, but without a word or movement, he had made appropriate arrangement for everything in secret. With the Shaolin’s Eighteen Lohan escorting him, there was no danger whatsoever along the way. Not only the tall and thin Fat Toutuo did not appear, they did not even meet a single Wulin character along the way.

One day they arrived outside Beijing. The eighteen Shaolin monks bade their farewell to Wei Xiaobao. Cheng Xin said, “Benefactor has arrived at the Capital, the old monk and my brothers say our goodbye to return to our temple.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “All the great monks have bore suffering to escort me to this place, I … I really can’t thank you enough, please accept my deepest respect.” While saying that, he kneeled down to kowtow.

Cheng Xin busily helped him up, saying, “Along the way, Benefactor has treated us very well. From Shanxi to Beijing we were roaming the mountain playing on the water [i.e. going on a scenic tour], where is the suffering?”

What happened was that as soon as they left Mount Wutai, Wei Xiaobao immediately hired nineteen large carriages. He and Shuang’er rode on one, each one of the eighteen Shaolin monks rode on one carriage. He ordered Yu Ba, on a fast horse, to go ahead of them, a day in advance, to arrange the lodging along the way, preparing tea, delicacies, vegetarian dishes, etc. Everything was top-notch. On each place they stopped, Wei Xiaobao always splurged on tips, so that the shopkeeper and the attendants treated the eighteen Shaolin monks as if they were deities Bodhisattva. Shaolin monks exercise self-control and lead ascetics life, they do not seek after these food and drink, but seeing Wei Xiaobao treated them with respect and looked very sincere, inevitably they were quite happy. Although Wei Xiaobao was glib-tongued, his natural disposition was friendly, easy to make friends, and contrary to what one might expect, he was sincere towards his friends. Along the way he chatted with the monks and got along very well with them. Now that suddenly they have to say good-bye, his heart ached and he could not stop the tears from flowing down.

“Shanzai, shanzai! [good, peace]” Cheng Xin said, “Why is young benefactor grieving? If there’s karma, another day you can visit us at Shaolin Temple and we can chat.”

With a sob Wei Xiaobao said, “Indeed I must come.”

By the time Cheng Xin and the other monks had left and they entered the city, it was already late in the evening, hence it was inappropriate to enter the Palace. Wei Xiaobao went to a large inn at the Xizhimen[2] district, the ‘Ru Gui[3] Inn’. He asked for the best room, planning to spend the night there, and see Kangxi the next day, to report everything. He thought, “That thin and annoying Fat Toutuo is desperate to get his hand on my sutra, maybe he is still following me in secret. The eighteen Shaolin monks have already left, if he came back to get it by force, Shuang’er and I would not be able to stop him. I had better work a little bit to hide the sutra first. Tomorrow when I get to the Palace, I can take a large group of Imperial Bodyguards here to get it, then present it to the young emperor. This is called ‘not one in ten thousand failures’ [wan shi wu yi]!”

Thereupon he ordered Yu Ba to make preparation and sent Shuang’er out of the room, bolted the door and closed the window, before making sure that Fat Toutuo was not peeking outside. And then he wrapped the sutra in oilcloth, pulled the table, took out his dagger, and cut a hole on the brick floor underneath the table. The dagger was able to cut iron like mud, naturally it could cut mud effortlessly. After putting the sutra inside the hole, he put the brick back and mixing ash and water, he spread the paste over the brick slit. When the paste was dry, no one would ever find it unless one was deliberately looking for it.

Early in the morning the next day, he ordered Yu Ba to hire a carriage, he wanted to take Shuang’er for a sumptuous light breakfast first. He wanted to spend a lot of money to let this little servant girl broaden her outlook. Afterwards, he needed to buy a set of eunuch clothes and hat before entering the Palace. But buying eunuch clothes and hat in the marketplace was not really easy. If he could not buy one, he thought he would wear Imperial Bodyguard uniform and a yellow Magua on top of it, then he would look very impressive as he swaggered into the Palace. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the Imperial Bodyguards and the eunuchs’ dumbstruck expression when they see him? After all, his Deputy Chief of Imperial Bodyguards was bestowed personally by His Majesty, was it not? He said in his heart, “With this idea, why would I toil myself to become an eunuch? That’s it, Laozi will enter the Palace wearing the yellow Magua.”

With Shuang’er he climbed into the carriage, bent his tongue, and spoke in Beijing accent, “We’ll go to the ol’ Kuixing [the great bear constellation] Shop in Xidan[4] first. Their deep-fried sheep tail and mutton dumpling are not bad at all.”

“Yes!” the carriage driver respectfully said.

With a straight back Yu Ba sat by the carriage driver. “Hey,” he said, “In the Capital, even the mule is standing out from the masses, not even one of such a pitch-black mule with large eyes can be found within our Shanxi province.”

As he returned to the Capital, Wei Xiaobao’s heart had a different feeling of self-satisfaction.

After traveling for a while, the carriage suddenly went out of Xizhimen. Wei Xiaobao said, “Hey, we are going to Xidan, why are we going out of town?”

“Yes,” the cart driver said, “I am sorry Daye [big master]! Xiaoren’s mule is stubborn, when we reach the city gate, he always wants to slip out of town.”

Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er laughed. Yu Ba said, “Hey, in the Capital, even the mules are putting on official airs.”

As the large carriage left the city gate, it travelled straight to the north. After about a li, it still had not turned back. Wei Xiaobao knew something was amiss; he said sternly, “Driver, what trick are you playing? Quickly go back!”

The driver repeatedly said yes, he shouted, “Go back, mule, hu, hu, mule, go back!” The cart driver lashed his whip randomly, but the mule forcefully ran to the north, it bolted faster and faster. The cart driver cursed, “Damn it stinky mule, I told you to go back! Mule, stop, stop! Your granny’s bastard mule!” His shout became more and more urgent, but how could the mule be willing to stop?

Right this moment, there was sound of horse’s hoof, two riders from the side rushed over and rode close to the mule carriage. The riders were two tall and sturdy men. In a low voice Wei Xiaobao said, “Make your move!”

Shuang’er leaned forward and stretched out her finger to poke the middle of the cart driver’s back. His body swayed, he fell down from the carriage with a loud cry, and was trampled by the rider head on. The rider flew up and landed on the carriage driver’s seat. Shuang’er stretched out her finger again. The man turned his hand around to catch her wrist. Shuang’er flipped her palm and slapped his face. The man parried with his left palm, while trying to grab her shoulder with his right hand.

The two of them exchanged eight, nine moves, while the mule was still running fast. The rider on the left called out, “What happened? Why are you still playing?”

‘Bang!’ the man on the carriage got hit by Shuang’er right palm on the pit of his stomach, he fell down. The other man raised his whip to strike. Shuang’er reached out and caught the whip and in one fluid motion wound it around the carriage. The mule carriage was rushing forward, the whip was pulled, the man was immediately thrown down from the horse that he hastily let go of the whip and let out a loud ‘wah wah’ cry.

Shuang’er picked up the reins. She did not know how to drive a cart, so she handed it over to Yu Ba and said, “You drive the cart.”

“I … this I can’t,” Yu Ba said.

Wei Xiaobao jumped onto the driver seat, and took over the taut rope; he did not know how to drive cart either, but he imitated the cart driver’s ‘mule, mule’ calls, left hand loosened the reins, right hand tightened it, just like riding a horse. As expected, the mule turned around; where had the stubbornness gone?

They heard another sound of horse’s hoof, a dozen or more riders rushed over. Wei Xiaobao was greatly alarmed, he pulled the mule that the cart swerved in an oblique angle. The riders also turned their horse to pursue from behind. The horses were fast, the carriage was slow, not too long afterwards, those dozen or so riders had surrounded the mule cart.

Seeing each one of the horse riders was holding a weapon, Wei Xiaobao called out, “Under the bright sunny sky, near the throne of the Son of Heaven, you want to cut our way and rob us?”

A man said with a laugh, “We are envoys to invite you to dinner, not to rob you. Wei Gongzi, our master is inviting you to drink several cups of wine!”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. “Who is your master?” he asked.

The man replied, “As soon as Gongzi see him, you will naturally recognize him. If our master is not Gongzi’s friend, why would he invite you to drink wine?”

Seeing these men acted strange, Wei Xiaobao knew that most likely they were harboring ill intentions. “How can there be such invitation?” he called out, “Excuse me, let me pass!”

Another man laughed and said, “Let you pass? We’ll let you pass, then!” Raising the saber in his hand, he chopped the mule’s head; the mule’s body swayed sideways and fell to the ground, pulling the carriage along with it. Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er hurriedly leaped down. Shuang’er moved like the wind, it’s just that the enemies were on horsebacks, while she was short, so she could not reach the enemies. One by one she jabbed with her finger, if not the horse’ eyes, then the acupoints on those men’s legs. Instantly there was a clamor of horses neighing in confusion. Several men jumped down from their horses, they charged forward with brandished sabers. Shuang’er was extremely agile and nimble, poking to the east striking to the west, she knocked down seven, eight men. The remaining four or five men looked at each other in dismay, at a loss of what to do.

On the main road a small carriage galloped over, a woman’s voice from the carriage called out, “We are on the same side, don’t fight!”

As soon as Wei Xiaobao heard the voice, his heart blossomed and his anger subsided. “Aha!” he called out, “My wife is here!”

Shuang’er and the men immediately stopped fighting. Shuang’er was greatly puzzled, she did not expect this xianggong had already had young mistress. But at that time, marrying too early was prevalent, it was not uncommon for a fourteen, fifteen years old man to get married, it’s just that Wei Xiaobao had never told her that he had a wife.

The small carriage arrived, from inside jumped a person, it was none other than Fang Yi. Wei Xiaobao was grinning from ear to ear, he stepped forward and pulled her hand, saying, “Good Jiejie, I miss you very much, where have you been?”

Fang Yi smiled and said, “We’ll talk about it later. Why did you fight each other?” She saw a lot of men were lying on the ground, the mule’s blood splattered everywhere; she was quite stunned.

A man bowed and said, “Miss Fang, we are here to invite Wei Gongzi for a drink, I suppose our manner was not satisfactory and we have offended Gongzi. If Miss Fang could invite him personally, it would be best.”

Fang Yi was amazed, “Did you knock these people down?” she asked, “Your martial art skill must have been increased a hundred-fold.”

“Even if I made progress, it wouldn’t be this quick,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “It was Miss Shuang’er who protected me. She is young, but her skill is prominent.”

Fang Yi turned toward Shuang’er. Noticing Shuang’er was about thirteen, fourteen years of age, with gentle and shy appearance, she did not believe her martial art skill to be this superior. “Meimei, what’s your surname?” she asked. When she was at the Zhuang’s house, she did not see Shuang’er at all, therefore, the two of them did not know each other.

Shuang’er stepped forward, kneeled down and kowtowed, saying, “Your maid servant Shuang’er is paying her respect to the Young Mistress.” Wei Xiaobao burst out in laughter.

Fang Yi was so embarrassed that her entire face turned red; hastily she dodged and said, “You … what did you call me? I … I’m … not.”

Shuang’er stood up and said, “Xianggong said that you are his wife, your maid servant is serving Xianggong, naturally I am calling you Young Mistress.”

Fang Yi cast a vicious glance toward Wei Xiaobao; she said, “This man’s mouth always talks nonsense, don’t believe him. How long have you been serving him? Don’t tell me you do not know his character by now. I am Miss Fang.”

Shuang’er showed a faint smile and said, “In that case I won’t call you that for now, but someday I will.”

“Someday you will call me wh …” Fang Yi started, but then she blushed again, and swallowed the last word ‘what’.

Shuang’er looked at Wei Xiaobao, he was having an immensely proud of himself expression on his face, suddenly Shuang’er also blushed. She remembered how at Mount Wutai he had also told Fat Toutuo that she was his wife. Turned out he had this habit of calling young ladies his wives. So that when she heard him laughing and then asking, “How’s my young wife?” Shuang’er did not think differently.

Fang Yi cast him another malicious look; she said, “We have not seen each other for such a long time, as soon as we meet, you did not speak decent words, but act garrulously instead.” Immediately she ordered the men to tidy up to continue on their journey. These men’s acupoints were sealed by Shuang’er, they were unable to move a single step, hence Shuang’er had to release them one by one.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “If I had known that you are inviting me for a drink, I would have wished I could grow wings and fly to you.”

Fang Yi cast him another malicious look; she said, “You have already forgotten me, naturally you would not have thought that I am inviting you.”

Wei Xiaobao felt sweetness in his heart; he said, “How can I forget you? If I had known you are looking for me, forget about drinking wine, even if you want me to drink horse’s pee or poison, I would willingly come, without the slightest delay.”

Fang Yi’s pair of beautiful eyes gazed at him; she said, “Don’t just say things that are good to hear, what if I really want you to go to the ends of the earth and drink poison?”

Wei Xiaobao saw that when she said those words, her expression was like smiling, yet she was not smiling, under the morning sun she looked unspeakably gorgeous; he felt his whole body was comfortably warm. He said, “Let’s not mention the ends of the earth, even go up the mountain of blades or go down a deep fryer, I would still go.”

“Alright,” Fang Yi said, “A real man gave his words, some horses cannot chase it.”

Wei Xiaobao slapped his own chest and loudly exclaimed, “A real man gave his words, some horses cannot chase it.” The two of them burst out in laughter.

Fang Yi ordered a man to get a horse for Wei Xiaobao to ride, she let Shuang’er sit on her own little carriage, while she rode another horse and travelled side-by-side with Wei Xiaobao. Facing the morning sun, they let their horses gallop leisurely. The men followed behind them.

Fang Yi said, “Your talent is really good, you managed to pick such a powerful flower, obtaining a servant girl with such superior martial art skill.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “What do you mean picking such a powerful flower? It was her who is most willing to follow me.” Wei Xiaobao then asked about Mu Jianping, Xu Tianchuan and the others’ whereabouts. “In that haunted house,” he said, “You were captured by those Shen Long Jiao fellows. Afterwards, how did you escape? Was it the Third Mistress of the Zhuang Family who sent people to help you?”

“Who’s the Third Mistress of the Zhuang Family?” Fang Yi asked.

“She is the master of the Zhuang house,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Fang Yi shook her head, “Master of the Zhuang house?” she asked, “All along we did not meet anybody. Shen Long Jiao only want you, but they did not have any ill-intention toward you. When that Zhang Laosan failed to find you, he let us go. Xiao Junzhu and the others are ahead of us, very soon you will be able to see them.” Turning her head toward him, there was a sullen look on her face as she said, “In your heart you only have Xiao Junzhu; we have only met for a short time, yet you have already asked about her seven, eight times.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “When did I ask you seven or eight times?” he said, “I have really suffered injustice. If I saw her but did not see you, by this time I would have asked her seventy, eighty times.”

Fang Yi smiled and said, “Even if you grew ten mouths, you would not be able to ask seventy, eighty times in such a short time. But knowing you, one mouth is more formidable than ten mouths.”

The two of them chatting and joking, in a short while they already travelled more than ten li, winding around Beijing’s city wall, and went straight to the east. “Are we almost there?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Fang Yi looked hurt, “It’s still far away,” she said, “Even if you are anxious to see Xiao Junzhu, you don’t have to be this impatient. If I had known it, it would have been much better to let her to come and pick you up, so that you wouldn’t be deeply worried.”

Wei Xiaobao stuck out his tongue and said, “Henceforth I won’t ask another word.”

Fang Yi said, “Your mouth won’t ask, but your heart is anxious; you will make me angry even more.”

It appeared that her vinegar [jealousy] was getting thicker; the more Wei Xiaobao listened, the happier he was. He laughed and said, “If I have just half a part of anxiety in my heart, I am not your husband, but your son.”

“Pfft!” Fang Yi stifled her laughter; she said, “Good …” her face turned red, she could not push the following word ‘son’ out of her mouth.

They travelled until noon, when they arrived at a small town to take a rest before continuing their journey to the east. Wei Xiaobao did not dare to ask where they were going anymore, he realized they had left Beijing far behind, and that he would not have time to hurry back to the Palace to see Kangxi that day, but he thought, “Xiao Xuanzi did not tell me when I should be back anyway, I could be delayed on Mount Wutai, or was captured and detained by that Fat Toutuo. What’s the harm in returning to the Palace several days late?”

Along the way Fang Yi kept him company by having idle talks with him. When they were together in the Imperial Palace, although the two of them were in the same room, a third person, Mu Jianping, was also present, so that Fang Yi was quite reserved. This time they were riding slowly side-by-side, she was talking and laughing eagerly and attentively. The rest of their party were being tactful, they lagged quite far behind.

Wei Xiaobao was at the stage of ‘first awakening of love’. When he called her ‘his wife’ at the Palace, he was 60% joking, 30% being frivolous and taking advantage of her precarious situation, only 10% was being driven by faint attraction between opposite sexes. Today they met again after separation, seeing sometimes Fang Yi was annoyed and angry, sometimes she was talking and laughing tenderly, Wei Xiaobao could not help but was aroused by passion. He saw after riding for most of the day, her cheeks were flushed, tiny beads of sweat appeared on her face, she looked unspeakably dainty and cute. He could not help but staring at her with a blank expression on his face.

Fang Yi laughed and said, “Why are you staring with blank expression like that?”

“Good Jiejie,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You … you look really pretty. I think … I think …”

“What are you thinking?” Fang Yi asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “If I tell you, you must not get angry.”

“If you are speaking properly, I won’t get angry,” Fang Yi said, “But if you are being indecent, naturally I will get angry. What are you thinking?”

“I think, if you really become my wife, I don’t know how much happier I will be,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Fang Yi cast him a sidelong glance with a wooden face, and then turned her head away. Wei Xiaobao anxiously said, “Good Jiejie, are you angry?”

“Naturally I am angry,” Fang Yi said, “I am a hundred and twenty percent angry.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “But nothing could be more proper than this, I … I spoke very sincerely.”

Fang Yi said, “In the Palace, I have already made an oath; I will follow you for the rest of my life, I will serve you. Do you think that was real, or fake? By saying that, aren’t you thinking to cease being faithful?”

Wei Xiaobao was ecstatic; if not for the fact that both of them were on horsebacks, he would embrace her immediately and kiss her tender and beautiful, desirable face. Immediately he stretched out his right hand to pull her left hand, saying, “How can I cease being faithful? A thousand years, ten thousand years, I will never cease to be faithful.”

“You are clearly lying,” Fang Yi said, “How can a man live for a thousand years, ten thousand years? Unless you are a turtle …” When speaking the word ‘turtle’, she broke into laughter, and turned her head away, but she still let him holding her hand.

Holding her soft, warm and tender palm, Wei Xiaobao’s heart was bursting with joy. He laughed and said, “With you treating me this well, I will never be a turtle.” When one’s wife is having an affair with another man, then the husband becomes a ‘turtle’; Fang Yi also understood this sense of pride.

With a sweet face she said, “Not three sentences of good words, a dog’s mouth will never grow ivory.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “If you marry a chicken follow the chicken, if you marry a dog follow the dog,” he said, “If you wish to see your husband grow ivory in this lifetime, it will be very hard to come by.” Fang Yi bent over the saddle in laughter, her left hand tightly gripped his palm.

The two of them chatting and laughing all the way until evening, when they lodged for the night in a large inn in a rather large town. The next morning Wei Xiaobao ordered Yu Ba to hire a large carriage, so that he could ride with Fang Yi inside. The conversation between them was thick with passion. Wei Xiaobao embraced her waist and kissed her face. Fang Yi did not resist, but she categorically forbade him to overstep the boundary. In the matter between male and female, actually Wei Xiaobao seemed to understand, but not really understood, so far he was quite happy. His only wish was that the large carriage would never stop moving, so that he could sit embracing a beautiful woman [orig. jade person], traveling to the ends of the earth, and then turn around, and travel to the other ends of the earth, that the road under the heavens would continue forever; or even if it ends, what’s the harm of going anywhere on foot?

Every day they would travel until night fall, where they lodged for the night, and then the next morning they would continue their journey. His only fear was that Fang Yi would finally say that they had arrived. In the middle of this cozy surrounding, the Emperor’s imperial order, the Forty-two-chapter Sutra, the Old Emperor on Mount Wutai, everything was pushed away to the back of his mind. In his daze, he did not know how many days had passed.

Toward the evening one day, the carriage and the horses finally arrived on the ocean’s shore. Taking his hand along, Fang Yi walked to the seaside and softly whispered in his ear, “Good Didi [younger brother], what do you say you and I board a ship, roaming the four seas, passing the days just like deities?” While saying that, she held his hand and rested her head on his shoulder.

Her body was so soft that it felt like she did not have any strength. Wei Xiaobao stretched out his left arm around her waist, to guard against her falling down. He felt her silky hair brushing against his cheek, her waist was so soft and tender, shivering slightly. Although the thought of boarding a ship and sailing to the sea was a bit too overwhelming, plus he had a faint feeling that something was not right, but at this time and this place, how could he bear to say this one word ‘no’?

A large ship was anchored by the seaside. Seeing Fang Yi’s subordinates waving dark green cloth, the sailors on the ship lowered a small boat to meet them at the shore. First they took Wei Xiaobao and Fang Yi on board, and then successively brought the rest of the people on board. Seeing they were about to embark on a voyage, Yu Ba said that he was seasick and would not want to go to the sea no matter what. Wei Xiaobao did not force him, he gave him a hundred taels of silver. With a thousand gratitude and ten thousand thanks, Yu Ba returned to Shanxi.

As Wei Xiaobao entered the cabin, he noticed that it was luxuriously furnished; the floor was covered in thick carpet, there were tea, fruits and delicacies on the table, just like the parlor in the homes of princes, dukes, or high ranking officials. He mused, “Good Jiejie is treating me like this, inevitably there will be an intention to harm me.”

Two servants on the ship offered steamed towel for the two of them to wipe their faces with, followed by the serving of two bowls of noodles. The noodles were covered with shredded chicken; it was very delicious, the taste was different from ordinary noodles. And then he felt the hull swayed, obviously they set sail and went out to sea.

As the boat left the shore, another world was before their eyes. Fang Yi accompanied him drinking wine and playing finger-guessing game, they never stopped talking and laughing until very late at night. She took care of him first and tucked him into bed before retreating to separate room to rest for the night. The next day, she came back to help him dress and combed his hair. Wei Xiaobao thought, “Until now she does not know that I am not a eunuch; she only knew that our being husband and wife is a fake. When should I tell her the truth?”

The boat sailed for several days. One particular day the two of them were leaning on the window, enjoying the sunset on the sea. They saw the reflection of the sun like tens of thousands golden snake slithering on the surface of the sea, it was indescribably weird and wonderful. Fang Yi sighed and said, “When I go to assassinate the Tatar Emperor that day, I was so sure that I would lose my life in the Palace. Who would have known that Laotianye still protected me, unexpectedly I met you and today we enjoy this good fortune together. Good Didi, I am not clear of your lot in life. When did you enter the Palace? How did you learn martial art?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I was just going to tell you, but I was afraid you might jump in fright, or perhaps you are so happy that you pass out.”

Fang Yi leaned closer to him; with a low voice she said, “If I like what I hear, that will be best. But even if I don’t like what I hear, I only want you to tell me the truth, then … then I won’t care.”

“Good Jiejie,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I will be honest with you, I was born in Yangzhou, Mama is from a brothel.”

Fang Yi was shocked; with a trembling voice she asked, “What is your mama doing in the brothel? Is she doing laundry, cook rice, or … or sweep the floor and pour tea?”

Wei Xiaobao saw her countenance underwent great change, her eyes showed a frightened look, instantly his heart turned ice-cold, knowing that she extremely despised the ‘brothel’. If he said honestly that his own mother was a prostitute, perhaps for the rest of his life she would never have even half a part of respect and affection. Immediately he laughed aloud and said, “When my Mama entered the brothel, she was only six or seven years old, how could she did laundry or cook rice for the people?”

Fang Yi’s countenance softened somewhat; “She was only six or seven years old?” she asked.

Wei Xiaobao said whatever came into his mind, “After the Tatars entered the Pass, they killed not a few people in Yangzhou; do you know this?” While saying that, his mind was trying to find a way to raise his mother’s dignity somewhat.

“That’s right,” Fang Yi said.

“My (maternal) grandfather was a high ranking official of the Ming Dynasty,” Wei Xiaobao said, “He took office in Yangzhou. When the Tatars broke through Yangzhou, my grandfather died in the resistance against the enemy. That time my Mama was only a little girl, wandering destitute on the street. There was a heroic, rich brothel’s patron who took pity on her, so he took her to become his servant girl. Upon further inquiry, he had a deep respect toward grandfather, so he took my Mama as his foster daughter [orig. yi nu – righteous female/daughter] and brought her home. My Mama became a ‘thousand gold’ young lady, later she married my Papa, who was a gongzi [young master/son of nobility] of Yangzhou’s famous and rich family.”

Fang Yi was half-believing, half-doubting. “So that’s how it is,” she said, “You did indeed scare me that I jumped in fright, thinking that your Mama was destitute in the brothel, being female maid of the people, serving those people who knew no shame, an extremely … bad woman.”

Growing up in the brothel, Wei Xiaobao had never thought that his own Mama was a ‘bad woman who knew no shame’, hearing Fang Yi said such things, he could not help but was secretly angry. He said in his heart, “Do you think your Mu Palace women are so great? Damn it, in my opinion they are also people who knew no shame, extremely whatever.”

Originally he was thinking of telling her his real life story in a calm, undisturbed manner, and would not hide anything from her; but now he simply boasted unguardedly, telling her how extravagant was his family in Yangzhou, giving her an exaggerated account of everything. But when he told about the halls and the rooms of his residence, the setup of the furniture, inevitably he was talking about the layout of the Lovely Spring Courtyard.

But Fang Yi did not pay any attention to his story; she said, “Is this the thing you meant when you said that you wanted to tell me something that will make me happy that I might pass out?”

Wei Xiaobao felt as if she was splashing a bucket of cold water on his head. Also, noticing how indifferent she was toward his bragging, he could not restrain his excitement from dying out; he was disinclined to tell her that he was not an eunuch. “That was it,” he said casually, “Turns out you are not happy at all.”

Fang Yi said unenthusiastically, “I am happy.” It was clear that she did not mean it.

The two of them were silent for a moment. Suddenly a stretch of land appeared on the northeastern direction. This ship was heading exactly on that direction. Fang Yi said in amazement, “Uh, what kind of place is that?”

Less than two hours later, they were getting closer to the land, and saw the verdant trees on the shore, which stretched out in both direction as far as eyes could see, the beach was covered in snow white fine sands. Fang Yi said, “We have been sailing for a few days, our heads are muddled, what do you say we go up and look around?”

“Very good,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “It looks like a big island, I wonder if there is some fun things on the island.”

Fang Yi summoned the helmsman to the cabin and asked him the name of the island, as well as its specialty. The helmsman replied, “In answer to Miss’ question, this island is a well-known immortal island of the Eastern Sea. I heard there are immortal fruits on the island, those who ate it will have long life and won’t grow old, it’s just that only blessed people will be able to obtain it. There is no harm in Miss and Wei Xianggong to go up and try your luck.”

Fang Yi nodded. When the helmsman had left the cabin, she softly said, “I don’t care about long life and won’t grow old. These last few days I am happier than being an immortal.”

Wei Xiaobao was ecstatic; he said, “You and I can live on the island for the rest of our lives. Immortal fruits and what not, it’s not a big deal, as long as you are willing for accompany me forever, I feel like an immortal.”

Fang Yi leaned closer to him and said in gentle voice, “Me too.”

The two of them rode a small boat to go ashore, and treaded on the fine sand of the beach. Their noses caught the whiff of fragrance of flowers floating from the forest. They felt they had indeed arrived at a fairyland. “I wonder if there are people living on this island?” Fang Yi said.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I don’t think there are people, but there is a fairy whose beauty is matchless, taking her little servant along, who has just arrived on the island.”

With a very sweet smile Fang Yi said, “Good Didi, you are my little servant, and I am your little maid.”

When Wei Xiaobao heard the word ‘maid’, Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered Shuang’er. Turning his head around, he did not see her following to the island. These past few days he had given Shuang’er a cold treatment, in his heart he was quite remorseful, but thinking that if she tagged along, he would not be too comfortable to be affectionate toward Fang Yi; hence it was better that she did not come along.

Hand in hand the two of them entered the forest, the air was very thick with the fragrance of the flowers. Wei Xiaobao said, “This fragrance of the flowers is exceptionally thick, could the flowers be immortal flowers?” Taking a few steps forward, suddenly he heard rustling noise of the grass, followed by a yellow shadow flashed before his eyes, seven or eight yellow with black stripes vipers fled out. “Aiyo!” Wei Xiaobao cried out. Pulling Fang Yi’s hand, he turned around and ran. But after taking only one step, seven or eight snakes blocked their way, their bodies were blood red, their tongues flicking in and out, hissing noisily. The snakes’ heads were all triangular, an obvious sign that they all had acute poison.

Fang Yi stepped in front of Wei Xiaobao’s body, pulling her saber and brandishing it she called out, “Run away quickly, I’ll block the vipers!”

But how could Wei Xiaobao be willing to forgo yi qi like this, running for his life alone? Busily he drew his dagger and said, “We’ll go from this side!” Pulling Fang Yi along, he bolted off to the side. But after only two steps, he felt something cold on his neck, a snake dangled down from a tree and coiled itself around his neck, scaring him that his soul flew out to the sky, he cried out loudly.

Fang Yi reached out to pull the snake’s body. “No, you can’t do that!” Wei Xiaobao cried out. The snake turned its head around and bit the back of Fang Yi’s hand firmly and did not let her go. Wei Xiaobao brandished the dagger and chopped the snake’s head clean. By this time, a viper had wrapped itself on each one of their legs. Wei Xiaobao brandished his dagger to chop their heads, but he felt his left leg went numb, a viper had bitten him.

Fang Yi tossed away her single-blade saber and embraced him, crying, “We, husband and wife, will die in here today.” Relying on the sharpness of his dagger, Wei Xiaobao chopped one snake with every wave of the dagger, but more and more snakes came out of the forest. The two of them desperately trying to get out of the forest, their bodies had been bitten seven eight times each. Wei Xiaobao felt a dizzy spell, he was gradually losing his consciousness. Looking toward the ocean, he saw the little boat was sailing back to the big ship, it was already quite some distance away from the shore. Fang Yi called several times, but how could the sailors on the boat hear her?

Fang Yi rolled up Wei Xiaobao’s trouser, she bent down and sucked up the snake venom from his leg. Wei Xiaobao was startled, “No … don’t!” he said.

Suddenly they heard footsteps behind them, someone was saying, “What are you doing here? Aren’t you afraid to die?”

Wei Xiaobao turned his head around, and saw three middle-aged men. “Dashu [big uncle] help,” he hastily called out, “We are bitten by the snakes.”

One man took out a pill from his pocket, put it in his own mouth and chewed it for a moment, and then spread it on the snake bites on Wei Xiaobao’s body. Wei Xiaobao said, “Please … please help her first.” By now his own legs had already turned black, his entire body had lost its senses. Fang Yi received the medicine from the man and applied it on her own wounds. “Good Jiejie …” Wei Xiaobao said, his eyes blackened, ‘crash!’ with a loud cry he fell backward.

When he woke up, he felt his lips were parched and his tongue dry, there was a sharp pain on the pit of his stomach; he could not help but groaning loudly. He heard someone spoke, “Good, you’re awake!” Wei Xiaobao slowly opened his eyes, and saw someone with a bowl of medicine, which he held in front of Wei Xiaobao’s mouth. This medicine was exceptionally smelly, but without hesitation he drank it down. As it entered his mouth, it tasted strangely bitter. After he finished the medicine, he said, “Thank you Dashu, for saving my life. I … how is my Jiejie?”

“Fortunately we saved you in time,” the man replied, “If we arrived just a bit late, the two of you would have lost your lives. You are too daring, why did you come to this immortal island?”

Hearing Fang Yi was saved, Wei Xiaobao was greatly relieved, he did not stop expressing his gratitude. Only then did he realize that he was lying underneath a quilt, his entire clothes were gone, his legs were still numb. The man’s appearance was unsightly, his face was full of scars, but in Wei Xiaobao’s eyes, he looked like a Bodhisattva who saved his life. He let out a breath and said, “The sailors on the ship said that there are immortal fruits on this island, those who ate it will have long life and won’t grow old.”

“Hey,” the man laughed, “If there were indeed such immortal fruits, why didn’t they come to pick the fruits themselves?”

“Aiyo!” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed, “Those sailors harbor malicious intentions. I still have a companion on the ship, I am afraid … I am afraid she might fall into those bad people’s hands. Dashu, please think of a way to rescue her.”

The ugly man said, “That ship has already left three days ago, how could I find it?”

Wei Xiaobao was puzzled; “Three days ago?” he asked in bewilderment.

The ugly man said, “You have been in coma for three whole days and nights, most likely you did not know it?”

Although Shuang’er’s martial art skill was high, she was all alone on the boundless ocean, how could she escape the wicked men’s evil scheme? Remembering her, Wei Xiaobao could not help but was very anxious. The ugly man comforted him, “Feeling anxious this moment is useless. You’d better take a good rest, the snakes on this island are not a small matter, you will need at least seven days of treatment before the venom can be eradicated.” He asked Wei Xiaobao’s name, and introduced himself as having a surname of Pan.

By the third day, Wei Xiaobao was able to get up and walk slowly by holding on to the wall. The ugly man surnamed Pan took him to see Fang Yi. Turned out she was being taken care of by another woman, but her jade countenance was wan and sallow, her spirit was weary. When the two of them met, they were both happy and grieved at the same time, and thus they embraced each other and cried together. Henceforth the two of them share the same room during the day. When talking about the fierceness of the vipers’ venom, the hair on their bodies stood up.

By the sixth day, the man surnamed Pan said, “The physician of our island, Mr. Lu, has returned from his journey out to the sea, I have already invited him to examine Wei Xiongdi.” Wei Xiaobao thanked him.

Not too long afterwards, a man in his forties walked in, he dressed as a scholar, his expression is friendly; he asked Wei Xiaobao how the snakes bit him. He said, “The residents of this island always have realgar snake medicine handy, when this medicine is applied on the vipers, the snakes will immediately run away, and will not dare to bite people.”

“So that’s how it is,” Wei Xiaobao said, “No wonder Pan Dage and the others are not afraid.”

Mr. Lu examined his wound, and took out six pills, he said, “You take three pills, and give the other three to your companion. Take one pill every day.”

Wei Xiaobao thanked him profusely. He took out two hundred taels worth of banknotes. “A little bit of treatment fee,” he said, “I ask Mister not to laugh.”

Mr. Lu was startled; he said, “Why so much? Gongzi gives me two taels, and I am already grateful.” Wei Xiaobao insisted on giving him the whole thing, Mr. Lu thanked him and accepted. He said with a laugh, “Gongzi is so generous, to refuse would be impolite. Perhaps Gongzi feels stifled staying here, what do you say tonight Gongzi and your female companion come to my humble home to have a cup of wine?” Wei Xiaobao was delighted and readily accepted the invitation.

That evening, Mr. Lu sent two sedan chairs to pick up Wei Xiaobao and Fang Yi. These bamboo sedan chairs were actually bamboo chairs with two bamboo poles attached on each side, carried by two men, one in the front and the other on the back. The residents of the island were simple and crude, they did not have real sedan chairs.

The two sedan chairs travelled along a mountain stream. The water of the creek gurgled, the vegetation was fresh and clean, they both felt completely relax. Only when they saw tall grass did Wei and Fang, two people, shuddered in apprehension, for fear that some vipers would come out of the grass. After traveling for seven, eight li, the sedan chairs arrived in front of a cluster of three bamboo buildings. The building’s walls and roofs were made of coarse bamboo poles about the size of a bowl in diameter weaved together, it looked very firm and solid. Wei Xiaobao had never seen a bamboo construction like this in Jiangnan and Hebei [Translator’s note: I am not sure about this. Jiangnan can also mean ‘south of Yangtze’, Hebei can also mean ‘north of yellow river’.]

Mr. Lu went out to welcome them, and invited the two of them to enter. At the hall, a woman in her thirties came out to welcome the guests, she was Mr. Lu’s wife. The woman pulled Fang Yi’s hand; she appeared very friendly. Mr. Lu invited Wei Xiaobao to sit in his study room.

The bamboo bookshelf in the study room was full of books, the four walls were also full of hanging calligraphy and painting, apparently Mr. Lu was an elegant scholar. Mr. Lu said, “Zaixia is an uncouth resident of a barren island, extremely ill-informed and narrow-minded. Wei Gongzi came from a well-known scenic spot on the Central Plains, a younger generation of a noble family, your view must be broad, your appreciation must be exquisite. Please look at these several painting and calligraphy; in your opinion, will they be passable to enter your house?”

These several sentences were scholarly talk, Wei Xiaobao did not understand even half a sentence, but seeing he was pointing to the painting and calligraphy on the wall, he looked up and saw a scenery painting [orig. mountain and water], and another one with painting of red-crowned crane and a turtle. He laughed and said, “That old turtle looks very amusing.”

Mr. Lu was slightly startled; he pointed to a scroll on the table and asked, “Wei Gongzi, what do you think of my Shigu script[5]?”

Wei Xiaobao saw the characters were curvy, just like the writing on a talisman. He nodded and said, “Good, very good!”

Mr. Lu pointed to another scroll of large brush-written characters; he said, “This painting is Qin Dynasty’s stone engrave of Lang Ya [clean and white ivory] Platform, what does Wei Gongzi think about it?”

Wei Xiaobao thought that if he blindly agreed to everything, it would not be interesting, so he shook his head and said, “This calligraphy is not too good.”

Mr. Lu felt a deep veneration as he said, “Would Wei Gongzi please give directions? Where is the faulty stroke and weak points of this calligraphy?”

“There are too many faulty strokes, there are too little superb strokes!” Wei Xiaobao said. He thought that since there are ‘faulty stroke’, then naturally there are ‘superb stroke’ as well.

It was the very first time that Mr. Lu heard the term ‘superb stroke’, he was taken aback and was at a loss momentarily.

“Brilliant, brilliant!” he said. Pointing to a grass script calligraphy on the western wall, he said, “This is wild grass script, what does Wei Gongzi think about it?”

Cocking his head, Wei Xiaobao looked at the painting for a moment, and then he shook his head and said, “These several characters are out of ink, you should rub some more ink stick. Um, this thread here is being dragged here and there, but you did not wipe it clean.”

As soon as Mr. Lu heard this, his countenance changed greatly. Grass script pays particular attention to the application of dry and wet ink. When the brush is moist, the character is wet, when the brush is dried up, the character looks parched; dry and wet alternates, creating delicate shades of strokes. There is conspicuous wetness in the dry character, and contrasting dry stroke in the wet character, yin and yang complements each other, just like the red cloud obstructing the sky, the square makes a wonderful letter. As for the thread of strokes joined together, calligraphers call it ‘transparent’ lines; sometimes it joins several brush strokes together, sometimes it joins several letters together. Particular attention must be paid to both sides, the angles change irregularly, sometimes the brush floats, or turns abruptly to create all kinds of different look. By saying those words, Wei Xiaobao had revealed his background.

Mr. Lu pointed to another scroll of calligraphy and said, “This one is entirely oracle bone inscriptions, Xiongdi‘s knowledge is shallow, I don’t even know a single character, would Wei Gongzi please give directions?”

Wei Xiaobao saw that all characters on the paper look like tadpoles, just like the characters engraved on the stone tablet in the Pu Ji Temple on Jinxiu Peak of Mount Wutai; his heart was moved, he said, “I know these several characters, it says ‘Hong Jiaozhu of Shen Long Jiao will not be old for ten thousand years, he will enjoy the good fortune of the immortals forever, his magical power is extensive, his long-life is the same as the Heaven’s’.”

A delighted expression spread across Mr. Lu’s face; he said, “Thank Heaven and thank the Earth, you indeed know these characters!”

Seeing his extreme delight, so much so that his voice was trembling, Wei Xiaobao’s suspicion arose: “I only know several characters, why is he this happy? Could it be that he also belongs to Shen Long Jiao? Aiyo, not good! Snake … snake … spirit snake … could it be that this is the Divine Dragon Island?” He blurted out, “Where is Fat Toutuo?”

Mr. Lu was shocked; he withdrew several steps and with a trembling voice said, “You … you know it?”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. Actually, he did not know anything. Mr. Lu’s expression became serious as he said, “Since you know it, then it’s very good.” Walking toward the desk, he ground some ink and said, “Please translate these tadpole scripts one by one. Which one is ‘Hong’ character, which one is ‘Jiao’ character?” Lifting the brush, he beckoned him to come over.

Asking Wei Xiaobao to take up a pen to write was more cruel than asking him to surrender his life. Wei Xiaobao groaned inwardly, but seeing Mr. Lu’s unsightly expression, he did not dare to disobey. Bracing himself, he walked over to the desk and sat down. He took the pen and held it inside his fist. The way he hold the pen was thirty percent similar to holding chopsticks when he eat, but the way he clench his fist was also similar to the way people holding a knife to butcher a pig, or holding a hammer to pound the nail; how could there be such a way to hold the pen in the world?

Mr. Lu’s angry look was growing, he struggled hard to control it. Slowly he said, “Write down your name first!”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly stood up and tossed the pen onto the floor, the ink splattered everywhere, he said in a loud voice, “Laozi does not know dog’s fart, I can’t write ‘fart’ character. All those ‘Hong Jiaozhu’s long-life is the same as the Heaven’s’, laozi was simply boasting unguardedly to swindle that bad toutuo. If you want laozi to write, wait for my next reincarnation. You want to kill me or chop me, if laozi even frown, just consider me not a real man.”

Mr. Lu coldly said, “You don’t know any character?”

“I don’t,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I don’t know the ‘gui” character from your turtle [wu gui] or the ‘dan’ character from your bast@rd [wang ba dan].” Since his trickery had been unmasked, his shame turned into anger. Besides, he was on Snake Island, there was only death for him without any chance to live. Begging for mercy was useless, he might as well took some advantage first.

Mr. Lu was silent for half a day. He picked up the brush and wrote several tadpole characters on the paper. “What characters are these?” he asked.

“F*ck your mother!” Wei Xiaobao said in loud voice, “I said I don’t know, that means I don’t know. Do you think I am lying?”

Mr. Lu nodded. “Very well,” he said, “Turns out Fat Toutuo has fallen into your big trick. But this matter has been reported to Jiaozhu. Little thief!” Suddenly he pounced and wrapped his fingers around Wei Xiaobao’s neck, his hands squeezed tighter and tighter. With a clenched teeth he said, “You have made us cheating Jiaozhu, everybody will die without a burial site because of you. It would be better if we will all die together to avoid those endless, ruthless punishment.”

Strangled by him, Wei Xiaobao could not breathe, his face swollen purple, his tongue stuck out. If Mr. Lu added a little bit more force into his hands, this child would take his last breath and die. Thinking that he had an enormous responsibility in this matter, he was startled and immediately released his fingers. Pushing with both hands, he sent Wei Xiaobao tumbling to the floor, and then filled with hatred, he left the room.

After quite a long time, Wei Xiaobao was finally able to get up. “Dead turtle, f*ck his thief mother,” perhaps he uttered these curses several hundred times, while thinking that since he was on this poisonous Snake Island, there was no other place he could escape to. If he ran toward the underbrush in the woods, he would die even faster. Walking toward the door, he pushed the door only to find that the bamboo door was barred from the outside. Looking out of the window, he saw a deep valley. Indeed there was no way out. Turning his head around, he saw the calligraphy and painting hanging on the wall. “What’s so good about these fart characters and fart drawings?” he mused. Picking up the brush, he dipped it into the ink, and drew countless ‘big turtles’ and ‘little turtles’ on each scroll of calligraphy and paintings.

After drawing several dozen turtles, Wei Xiaobao’s hand was tired, he tossed the pen to the floor and curled up in a chair, very soon he fell asleep. When he woke up, the sky had turned dark, but unexpectedly nobody came to check him up. His tummy was growling from hunger. “This green-haired turtle wants to starve laozi to death,” he mused.

After a long time, he suddenly heard footsteps outside the door, and saw light penetrating the cracks on the door, followed by the bamboo door was pushed open and Mr. Lu entered the room with a candle in his hand. He cast him a sidelong glance. Wei Xiaobao saw there was no trace of anger on his face, so the fear in his heart subsided considerably.

Mr. Lu put the candle on the table, took a quick glance around the room, and saw that Wei Xiaobao had smeared the calligraphy and paintings hanging on the walls so that they were no longer presentable. He could not restrain his anger from flaring up. “You … you …” he shouted, while raising his hand high, ready to strike down, but his palm stopped midair. Finally he was able to control his anger and said, “You … you …” the word choked in his throat and he could not speak.

“What do you think?” Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Is my drawing good?”

Mr. Lu heaved a deep sigh, he sat down dejectedly and said, “Good, your drawing is good.”

Surprisingly, not only he did not hit him, but he said his drawing was good. It was completely beyond Wei Xiaobao’s anticipation. Seeing his distressed expression, Wei Xiaobao knew Mr. Lu was extremely troubled, he could not help but somehow feel sorry. “Mr. Lu,” he said, “I … I’m sorry, I destroyed your paintings.”

Mr. Lu shook his head. “No … it’s nothing,” he said. He crouched on the table with his head between his hands. After quite a while, he said, “You must be hungry, let’s eat first and we’ll talk later.”

In the reception room, four dishes and a bowl of soup were arranged on the table; there were chicken and fish, the dishes were sumptuous. Soon afterwards Fang Yi and Mrs. Lu came out to accompany them. Four people ate dinner together.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly surprised, “Could it be that my dozens of turtle drawings are so good and Mr. Lu is so happy that he invited me to eat?” But he had a vague understanding in his heart that the situation did not always look like it really was. Several times he opened his mouth wanting to ask, but seeing Mr. Lu’s mixed [orig. ‘cloudy and clear’] expression, he was afraid to provoke his anger; he had not ate his fill, Mr. Lu might snatch his bowl away, then it would not be worth it. Thereupon he held his peace and ate in silence until he was full.

After dinner, Mr. Lu took him back to the study room. Mr. Lu picked up the brush from the floor and wrote ‘Wei Xiaobao’ three characters on the paper. “This is your own name,” he said, “Can you write it yourself or not?”

“It recognizes me, but I don’t recognize it,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “How can I write it?”

“Hm,” Mr. Lu looked out the window and was deep in thought for half a day. With his left hand he picked up the candle and walked toward the tadpole script calligraphy. Carefully he looked at it, pointed to the characters one by one, while with his mouth he read the characters. Returning to the table, he fetched a blank piece of paper, lifted up his brush and started to scribble rapidly. He counted the number of tadpole characters with his index finger, and then counted the number of characters he wrote on the paper. And then he rapidly scribbled again on the paper, turned his head around to look at the tadpole characters, all the while he was mumbling to himself, “Those three characters are identical, these two look the same. It must be flawless, or it won’t be believable!” He pondered for half a day, then scribbled again on the paper, and said delightedly, “Got it!”

Wei Xiaobao did not know what trick he was playing, but he did not care since his tummy was full. He saw Mr. Lu picked up another sheet of blank paper and then carefully wrote several characters. This time he wrote very slowly. Finished writing, he softly read what he wrote, swaying his head rhythmically. Wei Xiaobao only heard words like ‘Divine Dragon Island’, ‘Hong Jiaozhu’, ‘long life the same as the heaven’s’, and so on. Finally he heard something like ‘the first copy is in such and such place on such and such mountain’, ‘the second copy is in such and such place on such and such mountain’. Suddenly it dawned on him that those words were the exact words he boasted wildly to Fat Toutuo at the Pu Ji Temple. Unexpectedly Fat Toutuo believed it wholeheartedly and spread it out as soon as he returned here. He also thought, “That day Fat Toutuo invited me to the Divine Dragon Island to see Hong Jiaozhu. I told him that I did not want to come, no matter what. Unexpectedly, with the demons and deities at work, the ship was sailing to this place. Now that my trickery is exposed, Hong Jiaozhu will know about it. He will definitely throw a fit; perhaps he would throw Good Jiejie and me to the snake pit, so that tens of thousands of vipers could feast on us that even our bones cannot be saved.” Thinking about endless stream of poisonous snakes crawling over his body, he was shivering all over although it was not cold.

Mr. Lu turned around with a very pleased-of-himself expression on his face. He smiled and said, “Wei Gongzi, you know the tadpole script written on the stone tablet, it is certainly a cause of delight and a reason to congratulate you. It is also our Cult’s Hong Jiaozhu’s flood of good fortunes fills up the heavens that such a child prodigy like you dropped in from the sky, that you are able to read the tadpole script.”

“Humph,” Wei Xiaobao snorted, “You don’t need to make fun of me,” he said, “How could I tell tadpole script from frog script? Laozi did not even know scabies toad script. I was simply talking nonsense to swindle that thin, bamboo-pole like toutuo.”

Mr. Lu smiled and said, “Wei Gongzi, why be too modest? This is simply the writings on the stone tablet that I wrote down from memory. I am asking for Gongzi’s direction whether I made any mistake or not.” Finished speaking, he started reciting: “In the tenth month of the Zhen Guan’s second year Jiazi[6] of the Great Tang, Distinguished (National) Duke Wei, Li Jing, along with Chief of Right Army Great General (National) Duke Su, Cheng Zhijie, Glorious Grand Master Ministry of War Duke Shang Shoucao, Li Ji, Commander-in-chief of Xuzhou (National) Duke Hu, Qin Shubao, had visited the Jinxiu Peak of Mount Wutai, to see the glorious red eastern sky, which appeared like big golden lettering on the border of the clouds, the writing says: ‘In a thousand years, there will be the Great Qing. In the East, there will be an island, Divine Dragon is its name. A certain Hong Jiaozhu will obtain favor, his supernatural spirit reaches out to relieve, his grand, awe-inspiring might is all powerful. Subduing monsters conquering demons like a rising sun. The feathered wings support his rule, breathing out stale air and breathing in fresh air. Ten thousands luck a hundred good fortune, there will never be a year without plentiful harvest. He will enjoy immortal happiness forever, universal evil spirit will venerate him. His long life will be the same as the Heaven’s, a kind sage of both pen and sword.’ In a moment, dark green characters appeared in the sky, the writing says: ‘The Heaven bestows this certain Hong by eight copies of the Forty-two-chapter Sutra. The first is stored in Dang Mo Temple [lit. sweeping away demons] on Mount Funiu in Henan, the second is kept in Tianxin Nunnery [lit. center of the sky, the will of heaven] on Mount Bijia in Shanxi, the third is in Ling Xiao Taoist Monastery [lit. rising high firmament] on Mount Qingcheng in Sichuan. The fourth is kept in Shaolin Temple on Mount Songshan in Henan, the fifth in Zhenwu Taoist Monastery on Wudang Mountain in Hubei, the sixth is stored in Jiaye Buddhist Temple in Kongtong, Sichuan border. The seventh is in Mu Palace, Kunming of Yunnan, the eighth is in Ping Xi Wang Mansion of Kunming, Yunnan.’ This tranquil revelation by the Heaven is engraved on the stone tablet, waiting for the future.”

Mr. Lu read in a pattern of falling, remaining even, and rising in pitch and rhythm. When he finished, he asked, “Is there any mistake?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “That was a stone tablet from the Tang Dynasty, how did they know that in later generation there will be Ping Xi Wang Wu Sangui?”

Mr. Lu replied, “God is intelligent and wise, He is omniscient, nothing escape his knowledge. Since He knew that in later generation there will be Hong Jiaozhu, naturally He also had foreknowledge of Wu Sangui.”

Wei Xiaobao was secretly amused; he nodded his head and said, “That’s true.” While in his heart he thought, “I wonder what trick are you playing?”

Mr. Lu said, “The inscription on this stone tablet must be accurate to the last character. Although Wei Gongzi is gifted and smart, but in my opinion, it was also the holy spirits at work, so that you understand these tadpole script. Someday in the future, perhaps some mistakes will be found. It would be best if Wei Gongzi know this writing inside-out, so that when Hong Jiaozhu summons you, you can recite it from memory fluently. If Hong Jiaozhu is happy, naturally he will heap you with rewards.”

Wei Xiaobao rolled his eyes; immediately he understood. Repeatedly nodding his head, he said, “So that’s how it is, so that’s how it is!” He guessed that Fat Toutuo and Mr. Lu had reported to Hong Jiaozhu, telling him that a child knew the writing on a stone tablet, hence Hong Jiaozhu was determined to summon him to verify. Who would have thought that it was entirely bogus? Mr. Lu was afraid the Cult Leader would place the blame on him, he had no choice but to forge the inscription on the stone tablet to deceive the Cult Leader.

Mr. Lu said, “And now I will read one sentence, Wei Gongzi reads one sentence, always remember to read it correctly from start to finish. ‘In the tenth month of the Zhen Guan’s second year Jiazi of the Great Tang …’”

Wei Xiaobao did not want to read, he did not have the ability, much less wanted to be in cahoots with Mr. Lu in deceiving Hong Jiaozhu; but he thought it was amusing, so he repeat after Mr. Lu anyway.

His natural disposition was quick-witted and clever, for him, listening to a segment of several hundred characters and then repeating it, would not require the least bit of effort, but asking him to study was akin to asking for his life. Although this segment of writing was only several hundred characters long, it had sentences that were very difficult to pronounce, with the meanings that were even harder to comprehend, for instance ‘his grand, awe-inspiring might is all powerful’, ‘breathing out stale air and breathing in fresh air’; he was completely clueless as to their meaning. Therefore, he did not have any choice but to follow Mr. Lu one sentence at a time. Fortunately, Mr. Lu did not mind the repetition and he was very patient in instructing him. Nevertheless, it took more than thirty times going through the entire writings before he could recite it without any mistake.

That evening he slept in Mr. Lu’s home, the next morning he recited again. Seeing he was able to memorize everything, Mr. Lu was very pleased, thereupon he picked up a pen and a sheet of paper and started to write the tadpole characters one by one, asking him to identify which one was the ‘wei’ character, which one was the ‘zhen’ character. This time Wei Xiaobao could not help but whining incessantly. These tadpole characters twisted to the left and to the right, they all looked almost the same. Asking Wei Xiaobao to tell one character from the other and rewrite it one by one was as hard as asking him to climb the heaven, as painful as having his head chopped off. He was not able to sit quietly even for a moment, how could he have the patience to learn the tadpole script?

While Wei Xiaobao was frowning and worried, Mr. Lu was even more anxious. By this time Mr. Lu was already aware that the inscription on the stone tablet had a totally different meaning. He had counted the number of characters from the rubbing Fat Toutuo obtained from the stone tablet, and had composed another set of writings as best as he could, with only the exact number of characters as the rubbing, with the sole purpose to win Hong Jiaozhu’s favor, he could not care about what the original inscription really mean. Composing the writing this way, naturally there were hundreds of holes in his work. For example, in the sentence ‘In the tenth month of the Zhen Guan’s second year Jiazi of the Great Tang’, the word ‘second’ (二) was the sixth character, but on the stone tablet, the sixth character had altogether eighteen strokes, no matter how you say it, it could not be a ‘second’ character. The fifth character only had three strokes, so it would be extremely hard to say that it was the ‘Guan’ (观) character. However, taking everything into consideration, even if Mr. Lu had more talent, he could not possibly fabricate a flawless article in such a short time. Hong Jiaozhu was extremely intelligent, most probably this fake article would not escape his eyes, but with the imminent great catastrophe, it was the best he could do to avoid it for the time being. About the disaster of the future, he had no choice but to wait and see.

Teaching Wei Xiaobao to write that day, the progress was painstakingly slow. By afternoon, he could only write four characters. Luckily that the tadpole characters looked very strange to begin with, so that with Wei Xiaobao’s extremely ugly penmanship, the characters did not look too unsightly. If it were regular script, and it was written by a child who had never learned to write, people would be able to see if it was true or bogus as soon as they saw it.

That afternoon he learned three more characters. That evening he learned two more. That day he learned nine characters altogether. Wei Xiaobao did not stop making loud ruckus and shouting, several times he threw the brush and refused to learn. Mr. Lu threatened him, coaxed him, finally he asked Fang Yi to come and sit by his side to keep him company, only then did Wei Xiaobao reluctantly able to endure and continue to study.

While teaching him, Mr. Lu was anxious, he was afraid Hong Jiaozhu would summon him at any time. If Wei Xiaobao had not finished learning the entire writings and the Cult Leader already summoned him, no doubt Wei Xiaobao’s head could not be guaranteed, but it would also be difficult for his own entire family to avoid losing their lives. However, this learning process could not be hurried at all; the more he was expected to learn faster, the slower Wei Xiaobao’s progress was. His brain was stuffed full with these tadpole characters, it was like the tadpoles were actually swimming and moving, so that it was really hard for him to differentiate one character from another.

After studying for several days, the viper bite injury on Wei Xiaobao’s body was completely healed, but after so much difficulty, he only managed to learn about twenty, thirty characters; not only that, he was so confused that out of ten characters, often times he would make seven or eight mistakes.

While in distress, Mr. Lu suddenly heard Fat Toutuo’s voice calling out, “Mr. Lu, Jiaozhu is summoning Wei Gongzi!” Mr. Lu’s countenance turned ash-grey, his hand trembled, the writing brush, which he had just dipped into ink, fell onto his lapel. An extremely tall and extremely thin man entered the study room, Fat Toutuo had indeed arrived.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Fat Reverend Monk, how come you have not seen me until today? I have been waiting for you for a long time.”

Seeing Mr. Lu’s expression, Fat Toutuo knew their important project was far from good; he did not answer Wei Xiaobao, but muttered to himself, “I should have known this little demon was talking nonsense. I was so confused and lost my capacity of clear thinking, in my eagerness to set up a great merit to protect my own life, unexpectedly I will die sooner instead.”

With a cold laugh Mr. Lu said, “You are just a single person, the one surnamed Lu has eight people in my household, all of us will accompany you in delivering our lives.”

Fat Toutuo heaved a deep sigh and said, “Everybody’s fate should be like this, this is called ‘destiny is inexorable, there is no fleeing it’. Even if this matter did not happen, Jiaozhu will not necessarily allow us to live a few days longer.”

Mr. Lu cast a quick glance toward Wei Xiaobao; he said, “It’s those people who are in power, we are already old, it’s time for us to die, what can we do?” The tone of his voice was full of resentment.

Fat Toutuo sighed and said, “I’ll say he is young, but happened to obtain a good position, and then he just report everything, disregarding seniority, to our superior. Ay!”

Mr. Lu stared at him for a moment, and then said, “Young people should know their place.”

“Lu Xiong,” Fat Toutuo said, “Things have gotten to this point, you and I have lived and will die together, if real men have to die, we will simply die, what are we afraid of?”

Wei Xiaobao clapped his hands and said, “The Fat Reverend Monk is right, for hero and warrior, what is there to be afraid of? If I am not scared, you must not be scared even more.”

“Ignorant child,” Mr. Lu said with a sneer, “You don’t know the immensity of heaven and earth. By the time you know the meaning of fear, it will be too late.” After being lost in thought for half a day, he said, “Fat Reverend Monk, please wait a moment, I have some instructions I’d like to leave to my humble wife.”

A moment later, Mr. Lu returned to the study room, there were traces of tears on his face. Fat Toutuo said, “Lu Xiong, please give me one of your Sheng Tian [lit. to ascend to heaven/to die] pills.”

Mr. Lu nodded; he took a porcelain bottle from his bosom, pulled the cork, and tipped a red pill out. He gave it to Fat Toutuo and said, “This pill will stop your breathing as soon as it enters your mouth, you must wait for the very last moment, do not act blindly without thinking.”

Fat Toutuo received the pill; with a bitter laugh he said, “Many thanks! Fat Toutuo does not consider his own life lightly; I am not in a hurry to ascend to the heavens.”

On Mount Wutai, Wei Xiaobao had witnessed Fat Toutuo’s awe-inspiring power as he took on the Shaolin Temple’s Eighteen Luohan; but now he was asking for a poison. Obviously he would rather kill himself than being blamed by Hong Jiaozhu. Only now did Wei Xiaobao understand the urgency of the situation; he could not help feeling afraid.

The three of them walked out the door. Wei Xiaobao heard a faint weeping sound coming from the inner hall. “Where is Miss Fang?” he asked, “She is not going?”

“Humph,” Fat Toutuo snorted, “Your age is so young, but actually are a very affectionate person. On Mount Wutai you had Shuang’er, here you have Miss Fang.” With his left hand he grabbed Wei Xiaobao and lifted him up, “Let’s go!” he shouted. In large strides he rushed to the east. In just a little while, he had already run faster than a speeding horse. Mr. Lu was also running by his side, he still had a distressed look on his face.

Wei Xiaobao noticed that he appeared effortless; actually he was able to run side-by-side with Fat Toutuo and did not fall behind even for half a step. Only now did Wei Xiaobao realize that this frail-looking scholar actually possessed an excellent martial art skill. “Fat Reverend Monk, Mr. Lu,” he said, “The two of you has such a high level of martial art, why would you be afraid of Hong Jiaozhu? You …”

Fat Toutuo stretched out his right palm to cover his mouth. “This is the Divine Dragon Island; you dare to say such treason and heresy, are you bored of being alive?” he said angrily.

As soon as his mouth was covered, Wei Xiaobao could not breathe. “Damn it,” he cursed in his heart, “You fear Hong Jiaozhu like this, but still call yourself a hero [ying xiong]; a coward [gou xiong] is more appropriate.”

The three of them were heading toward a mountain peak on the north. Before long, he saw vipers everywhere; on the trees, in the grass, on the road, one on the east, another on the west. The strange thing was that those vipers did not give the three of them any trouble. After winding around two hillsides, when he looked up, Wei Xiaobao was able to see several big bamboo buildings on the distant peak. Fat Toutuo was carrying Wei Xiaobao toward that peak.

At this moment, the mountain path narrowed, so that Mr. Lu was unable to walk side by side with Fat Toutuo, he fell about a zhang behind. Fat Toutuo put his mouth next to Wei Xiaobao’s ear and said in a low voice, “Where is your copy of ‘Forty-two-chapter Sutra’?”

“I don’t have it with me,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

“Do you have to tell me that?” Fat Toutuo said, “I have already searched you everywhere. Where is it?”

“The Eighteen Luohan of Shaolin Temple have the sutra, naturally they gave it to their Abbot,” Wei Xiaobao replied. He thought that since this thin bamboo pole toutuo was not a match for the Shaolin’s Eighteen Luohan, if he heard that the sutra was in the hands of the Abbot of Shaolin Temple, naturally he would not dare to demand the sutra from the Abbot; even if he dared to demand it, he would definitely be expelled by those Shaolin monks.

That day Fat Toutuo had personally handed the sutra over into Monk Cheng Xin’s hand, he did not have the slightest suspicion to Wei Xiaobao’s words. He said in a low voice, “When we see Jiaozhu in a moment, you must never mention this matter. Otherwise Jiaozhu might force you to hand over the sutra, and when you cannot give it to him, Jiaozhu will definitely throw you into the vipers’ nest.”

Wei Xiaobao could hear the fear in his voice, not only that, evidently Fat Toutuo was afraid Mr. Lu would hear him; thereupon he said, “Clearly it was you who seized the sutra from me, and then you gave it to the Shaolin monks, if Jiaozhu finds out, he would definitely throw you into the vipers’ nest. Humph, humph, even if he won’t punish you for the time being, he would definitely send you to Shaolin Temple to get the sutra back; that would be enough punishment for you.”

Fat Toutuo shivered without saying anything. Wei Xiaobao said, “The two of us will deal with this matter together. Whatever happens, you take care of me, I will also take care of you. Otherwise, we split up, and we’ll perish together.”

From behind Mr. Lu suddenly interrupted, “What split up and perish together?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “The three of us will enjoy blessing and endure misfortune together.” Thinking that right now they were in a messy situation, he must not lose his wits; if he could implicate these two martial art masters, he would have a slightly better chance of survival.

Fat Toutuo and Mr. Lu did not say anything. A moment later, they both heaved a deep sigh together.

After walking for the time needed to eat rice, they arrived at the peak. They saw four youngsters in black, hand in hand, came near, each person carried a long sword on his back. The one furthest to the left asked, “Fat Toutuo, what is this little child doing in here?”

Fat Toutuo let Wei Xiaobao down; he said, “Jiaozhu’s order: he is being summoned.”

From the west came three young girls in red, laughing and giggling; they also carried long swords on their backs. Seeing the three people, they came over to meet them. A girl said with a laugh, “Fat Toutuo, is he your illegitimate child?” While saying that, she pinched Wei Xiaobao’s cheek.

“Miss must be joking,” Fat Toutuo said, “This child is being summoned by Jiaozhu, the Senior, there is an important matter he’d like to ask him.”

Another girl with round face pinched Wei Xiaobao’s right cheek and said with a laugh, “Looking at this baby’s appearance, he must be Fat Toutuo’s illegitimate child. You can’t deny it.”

Wei Xiaobao was angry. “I am your illegitimate child,” he shouted, “You and Fat Toutuo are having an illicit intercourse and you gave birth to me.”

The girls were startled, and then they burst out in laughter. The round-faced girl’s turned deep red. She spat and said, “Little demon, you are asking for death!” She raised her hand to strike. Wei Xiaobao leaned his head sideways to dodge. Right this moment more than a dozen young people, boys and girls, had heard the noise and rushed in to tease the round-faced girl. The girl was ashamed and angry, her left foot flew up, she gave Wei Xiaobao’s buttocks a hard kick.

“Ma,” Wei Xiaobao called out loudly, “Why did you beat your son?” The youngsters laughed even louder.

‘Dang, dang, dang!’ suddenly the bell tolled; everybody fell silent immediately. These young boys and girls, about twenty in total, rushed toward the bamboo building. Fat Toutuo said, “Jiaozhu is calling an assembly.” To Wei Xiaobao he said, “When you see Jiaozhu, you must not speak any nonsense.”

Wei Xiaobao saw his melancholy expression. Those youngsters were rather rude toward him; thinking that his martial art skill was extremely high, why would he be afraid of these teenage babies? He could not help but having a pity on him somewhat; thereupon he nodded his head.

He saw from all directions people were streaming into the bamboo building. Fat Toutuo and Mr. Lu also took Wei Xiaobao into the building. Crossing a corridor, suddenly a large hall appeared before his eyes. This hall was incomparably huge, it was big enough to hold a thousand-people assembly. Wei Xiaobao had lived in the Imperial Palace in Beijing for quite a long time, even an assembly hall bigger than this one would not impress him. But this hall was really gigantic, as soon as he saw it, he could not help but had a feeling of respect.

He saw groups of teenagers, boys and girls, wearing five different colors standing on five different locations. The groups wearing blue, white, black, yellow, four colors were all boys, the group wearing red was all girls. Each one carried a long sword on his or her back, each group had approximately a hundred people. On the other end of the big hall there were two bamboo chairs standing side by side, draped in brocade cushion. On both sides of the chair stood several dozen people, men and women; the younger ones were approximately thirty years old, the old ones were about sixty, seventy years old, not one of them carried any weapon. There were about five, six hundred people gathered in the hall, but unexpectedly not the least bit of sound was heard, not even a single cough. Wei Xiaobao cursed in his heart, “Damn it, what an air! You think you are having an audience with the Emperor or what?”

After quite a while, the bells tolled again nine times, there were footsteps from the inner hall. “The ghost Jiaozhu is out,” Wei Xiaobao mused. Who would have thought that ten men came out, all were in their thirties, they wore five different colors clothes, and then they stood on either side of the chairs, five colors on each side.

After another long while, the bells and the drums were struck together loudly, followed by the tinkling of several hundred small silver bells. Everybody in the hall kneeled down together and chorused, “Jiaozhu will enjoy immortal good fortune forever, his long life the same as the heaven’s.”

Fat Toutuo pulled Wei Xiaobao’s lapel, telling him to kneel down. Wei Xiaobao did not have any choice but kneeling down. He stole a glance and saw a man and a woman came out from the inner hall and sat on the chairs. Another bell stroke, everybody slowly stood up.

The man looked very old, the white hair from his temples drooped down to his chest, his face was full of scars and wrinkles, he looked very ugly; Wei Xiaobao presumed this must be the Cult Leader. The woman, on the other hand, was a good-looking young woman. Looking at her appearance, she was no older than twenty two or twenty three, she was smiling slightly, overflowing with charming attitude, and was incomparably gorgeous. Wei Xiaobao praised in his heart, “She is exceedingly smart-looking! This woman is more beautiful than that Good Jiejie of mine. Even in the Imperial Palace or Lovely Spring Courtyard, there is no woman as pretty as she is.”

A man wearing black clothes on the left took two steps forward; holding a piece of dark green paper with both hands he read loudly, “Respectfully reading Hong Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching, whose compassion and kindness illuminate everything, whose power encompasses four directions: ‘Numerous aspirations work as one will be able to build the city, incomprehensible might shakes the world!’”

The crowd in the hall repeated in chorus, “Numerous aspirations work as one will be able to build the city, incomprehensible might shakes the world!”

Wei Xiaobao was mesmerized with the beautiful woman, the voices of the crowd chanting together had startled him that he jumped in fright.

The man in black clothes continued reading, “Jiaozhu’s immortal good fortune is as high as the sky, illuminating the heads of the devoted cult members. Jiaozhu sails the boat steadily for ten thousand years, riding the wind breaking the waves to show off his heroic bravery! Flying to the sky, the divine dragon looks up at him with hope, Jiaozhu’s prestige covers the eight directions. Everybody lives because Jiaozhu lives, everybody dies because Jiaozhu dies, Jiaozhu’s order is to be followed, Jiaozhu is like the light of the sun and the moon!”

As the man read one sentence, the crowd followed by reciting one sentence. Wei Xiaobao said in his heart, “What Hong Jiaozhu’s teaching? A loud blow of his own horn. Our Tian Di Hui’s secret verse is much more pleasant to hear that this.”

When they finished reciting, everybody shouted in one voice, “With Jiaozhu’s treasured teaching always in our hearts, we can set up meritorious deed and subdue the enemy, nothing is unachievable!” Those young boys and girls were particularly enthusiastic in shouting their creeds. Hong Jiaozhu’s ugly face carried an indifferent expression, while the beautiful woman by his side recited with a smile on her face.

Finished reciting, the hall fell into complete silence.

Book note:

When the powerful troops of Luo Shaowei of the late Tang Dynasty took the towns of Wei prefecture, he commanded his five thousand elite troops to kill everything. Afterwards he felt a deep remorse, realizing that he had committed an enormous mistake; he said, “In the forty-three counties of six prefectures, we cannot make the same mistake.” During the time of Wang Mang [usurped power and reign 9-23 AD, between the former and later Han periods], he cast cooper and iron money into a saber, he then carved characters plated with gold on it, and called the saber ‘Cuo Dao’ . Luo Shaowei used the ‘Cuo’ character of the ‘Cuo Dao’ as an analogy of his ‘mistake’, saying that it was such a big mistake that even he amassed all the iron in the forty-three counties of six prefectures, it would be difficult to cast the metal. ‘Nine divisions amass metal to be cast in a row’, the word ‘a row’ is comparable to a big ‘mistake’; the chapter’s title borrows this expression to describe Wei Xiaobao being deceived into coming to the Divine Dragon Island, but without any regret.

During the Warring States period, the Qin State carried out the Shang Yang political reform. Afraid that the people would not obey the reform, they set up a three zhang long wood at the southern gate, claiming that if anybody could move it out of the northern gate, he would be rewarded fifty taels of gold; no one believed it. There was a man who tried to move the wood, and sure enough, Shang Yang rewarded him with the money, thereupon everybody believed. Shang Yang’s legislation was rigorous, the people did not dare to disobey.

[1] Referring to administrative division of China during earliest dynasties, or ancient China.

[2] Xizhimen neighborhood of Beijing, the main northwest gate of Beijing.

[3] Ru gui means ‘as if returning’.

[4] Xidan neighborhood of central Beijing.

[5] Lit. stone drum, early form of Chinese characters inscribed in stone, from spring and autumn period.

[6] The first of 10 heavenly stems and the first of 12 earthly branches of the Chinese calendar, a cycle of 60 years. The last Jiazi year was 1984, by a quick calculation, since the Tang Dynasty was 618-907, the Jiazi during that period was the year 664.

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