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The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 24

CSI

Chapter 24
The river of love dries up entirely from a thousand calamities, the sea of bitterness cannot be used to measure compassion.

After the Imperial Bodyguards left, Wei Xiaobao went to see the Abbot, telling him that since he had the Emperor’s order, he had to start the journey to Qingliang Temple the next day.

“So be it,” Abbot Hui Cong said, “Shidi has the innate intelligence, you have an amazing comprehension of Buddhist truth. It’s a pity that the days of our meeting are not many and now we have to part, we cannot learn from each other too much, to live the Buddhist law together. I suppose our destiny has brought us to this point of life. I wonder which fellow monks Shidi wants to take with you?”

“I want Head of Bo’re Hall Cheng Guan Shizhi, and the eighteen masters of Luohan Hall,” Wei Xiaobao replied. In addition, he also named more than a dozen more monks that he wanted to go with him, altogether there were thirty-six names.

Hui Cong did not have any objection, he summoned these thirty-six Shaolin monks, and told them that Hui Ming Chanshi was going to take over the head administrator position of the Qingliang Temple on Mount Wutai, he exhorted them to accompany him, to protect the Buddhist teaching and maintain orders, to obey Hui Ming Chanshi’s instruction, and not to go against him.

Early in the morning the next day, accompanied by thirty-six monks, Wei Xiaobao took his leave from the Abbot and the others. When they reach the foot of the mountain, he went alone to see Shuang’er.

Shuang’er had been boarding at a commoner’s home, and had not seen him for more than half a year. At the first glance, she was both surprised and happy. Although she had heard from Zhang Kangnian that her master was becoming a monk in Shaolin Temple, and had cried for him countless times, when with her own eyes she saw his bald head and his monk robe, she could not bear not to cry again.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Good Shuang’er, why are you crying? You are upset because I have not come to visit you these many days, aren’t you?”

“No … it’s not that,” Shuang’er replied, “You … you … Xianggong has left home …”

Wei Xiaobao pulled her right hand and lifted it up; he gently kissed the back of her hand. He laughed and said, “Silly girl, Xianggong did not become a monk for real.” Shuang’er was happy and bashful at the same time, even her ears had turned red.

Wei Xiaobao examined her face carefully; he noticed that she looked wan and sallow, she looked a lit thinner, but she had grown a bit taller, bringing out the grown-up gracefulness in her, she looked even more delicate and pretty. Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Did you lose weight? You were thinking about me every day, weren’t you?” Shuang’er blushed even deeper. She wanted to shake her head, but she lowered her head slowly instead.

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Quickly change into your boy’s clothes and come with me.” Shuang’er was greatly delighted. Without asking any question she immediately changed into men’s clothing and disguised herself as a young attendant.

Their journey does not need to be narrated. One day they arrived at the foot of Mount Wutai. They were just about to climb the mountain when they saw four monks coming down to meet them. The old monk at the front put his palms together and asked, “Are you all Shifus from Shaolin Temple?”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. The old monk said, “And I suppose you are the Chanshi whose Buddhist title is Hui at the top and Ming at the bottom?” Wei Xiaobao nodded again.

The four monks dropped down on their knees immediately and said, “Knowing that Chanshi is coming to administer Qingliang, the monks cannot contain our happiness and have been waiting at the foot of the mountain for many days.”

Since Cheng Guang had returned to Shaolin Temple, Qingliang Temple was administered by the old monk Fa Sheng. Kangxi had separately dispatch people to proclaim a secret imperial decree to Fa Sheng, transferring him to Ciyun Temple [lit. compassionate cloud] in Chang’an [modern day Xi’an] to be the head administrator there. He was to leave as soon as the Shaolin monks arrived. Ciyun Temple of Chang’an was a lot bigger than Qingliang Temple. Fa Sheng was very happy, he sent these four monks to wait at the foot of Mount Wutai.

When Wei Xiaobao and his party arrived at Qingliang Temple, Fa Sheng immediately performed the ceremony of handing over the administrator duty. All the monks came to pay their respect, only Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian, three monks did not personally come. Yulin only wrote a short letter to pay their respect to the new head monk.

Fa Sheng went down the mountain the next day, heading west toward Chang’an. Now Wei Xiaobao was officially the head of Qingliang Temple. Fortunately there were Cheng Guan and the other monks who at any time gave him directions on all kinds of ceremonial protocol and compass and set square. As a little monk assuming the role of the Abbot, he must emulate the manner of an abbot, and must not make any mistake.

When Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er drove off the enemies coming to attack Qingliang Temple the other day, they saved the lives of the monks in the Temple, all the monks knew it in their hearts. Now that he suddenly left home to become a monk, and came to Qingliang Temple to be the head monk, they were all baffled, yet since he had shown kindness to their Temple, everybody showed their gratitude by serving him. Wei Xiaobao ordered Shuang’er to live in a small hut outside the Temple, so that she would be just a shout away.

Since the most important mission for him in coming to be the head administrator of Qingliang Temple was to thoroughly protect the Old Emperor, he inquired from the monk on duty and found out that Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian, three monks still lived in a small vihara behind the mountain. He did not go to disturb them, only after discussing it over with Cheng Xin Dashi, he sent people to separately build four thatched hut about half a li on the east, west, south and north of the vihara, and assigned eight Shaolin monks to take turn on guard duty in the thatched huts.

All things were settled, the only thing he had to do was painstakingly waiting for Zhang Kangnian and Zhao Qixian’s letter, he was dying to know that girl in green’s name and surname, and her background. Yet after waiting for several months unexpectedly there was no news at all. In his loneliness, he sparred with Cheng Guan, treated the old monk as ‘that female benefactor’. Occasionally he would slip out to the little cottage to talk and joke with Shuang’er, to stroke her small hands. Sometimes he thought, “I have taken Hong Jiaozhu’s ‘leopard embryo tendon altering pill’. If within a year I did not deliver a copy of sutra to the Divine Dragon Island, the poison might flare-up then it won’t be fun. Come to think about it, only several months left. If I turn into an old and stupid man, I would look like Cheng Guan Shizhi. And then when that green-clothed wife of mine sees me, she would call me the ‘oily-mouthed and smooth talker old monk’. Worse yet, she would cut a piece of green cloth from her skirt and have me wear it on my head as a hat, that won’t be good at all!”[1]

One day he was overcome with boredom, so he went alone wandering about aimlessly on Mount Wutai; the only thing in his mind was that girl in green. He arrived at the bank of a mountain creek, and saw a weeping willow continuously swaying in the wind. “If this willow tree is that green-clothed wife of mine, naturally laozi would not show any politeness, I would step forward and hug her. She would definitely be unwilling, and use Kunlun Pai’s move ‘thousand rocks vying to be the most beautiful’, sending me a succession of palm strikes. That’s nothing, laozi will use the move ‘going begging from door to door’, to ward off her strike with poise. Cheng Guan Shizhi says that this move should be executed in such a way that the heavy will seem light, with the poise of famous, orthodox martial art school. Laozi lifts heavy stuff as heavy and light stuffs as light, why do I care about damn famous or secretive, orthodox or heretical sect? Once I launch this move, I will follow it up with ‘holding the pearl of wisdom’; left hand grabs her left hand, right hand grabs her right hand, and firmly hold on to her, even if my head is chopped, I won’t let her go …”

He was happily fantasizing, and thus his hands moved in the style he was thinking about, ‘puff, puff’, he grabbed two willow branches, one on each hand, and using all his strength he firmly hold on to the branches.

Suddenly he heard a deep and gruff voice of a man, saying, “Look at this little monk putting an act!”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; when he looked up, he saw three lamas wearing red clothes. They were walking toward him while gesticulating, chatting and laughing. Wei Xiaobao blushed, in that instant he thought that his heart’s content had been seen by those lamas. The Grand Abbot of majestic Qingliang Temple at a desolate, uninhabited part of the mountain was thinking of grabbing a beautiful girl, in all honesty it was too embarrassing. He turned around and left at once.

When he rounded a bend, he saw several more lamas walking straight toward him. There were so many temples of Tibetan Buddhism on Mount Wutai, Wei Xiaobao gave them no thought. Only because of what happened just now he was unwilling to meet with them. Turning his head around, he was pretending to enjoy the scenery, letting those lamas to pass behind him.

He heard one of the lamas said, “The order from above says that no matter what we must climb up Mount Wutai before wushi hour [between 11am-1pm]; it sounds so urgent. But there is nothing fun to do on Mount Wutai, could it be only a joke?”

Another lama said, “Our superior has made this arrangement, it must be for a reason. You just hate to part with that Datong town’s girl, don’t you?”

Wei Xiaobao took no notice; on the contrary, he had a favorable impression on them, he thought, “Those lamas drink wine and stroll around the pleasure house, at least they are not hypocrites. If laozi really want to leave home, I want to be a lama, not a monk.”

Back at Qingliang Temple, he saw Cheng Tong was waiting at the mountain gate. As soon as he saw Wei Xiaobao, immediately he met him and said in a low voice, “Shishu, I think something is going on.”

Looking at his serious expression, Wei Xiaobao hastily asked, “What happened?”

Cheng Tong beckoned, asking him to follow him along several stone steps toward a small peak at the side of the Temple. Wei Xiaobao took a glance, and saw on the south side there were countless yellow dots all around. He focused his eyes and saw that the spots were actually lamas wearing yellow robes. If not a thousand, there were at least nine hundreds of them, forming groups of three to five, scattered around the bushes and mountain rocks.

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright. “That many lamas!” he said, “What are they doing?”

Cheng Tong pointed to the west and said, “There are some more over there.”

Wei Xiaobao quickly looked to the west. Sure enough, he saw thousands of lamas. They were either standing or sitting in groups. The sun was shining from east to west, white light flickered, those lamas were all bringing weapons. Wei Xiaobao was even more shocked. “They are carrying weapons,” he said, “Could it be … could it be …” he looked at Cheng Tong.

Cheng Tong slowly nodded and said, “Shizhi’s guess is: it looks that way.”

Wei Xiaobao turned his gaze to the north and then to the east; each sides had several hundreds lamas. When he looked more carefully, he noticed that in each group of lamas, there was one wearing deeper yellow kasaya; those must be the leaders. “His granny,” Wei Xiaobao swore, “There must be at least four, five thousand men.”

Cheng Tong said, “One hundred twenty five leaders, altogether there are three thousand two hundred and eighty lamas.”

“Good for you,” Wei Xiaobao praised, “How did you count that clearly?”

“What should we do?” Cheng Tong asked.

Wei Xiaobao did not answer. Meeting difficulty face-to-face, lying and deceiving, slipping away from danger, Wei Xiaobao was an expert in all those things. But now the enemy had assembled more than three thousand men, surrounding them from every direction; evidently, it was the result of meticulous planning. As for how to handle them, he did not have the slightest idea. Hearing Cheng Tong’s question, he asked back, “What should we do?”

Cheng Tong said, “It seems to me that the enemy’s intention is to snatch away Xing Chi Dashi. Most likely they are waiting for the darkness, and then they will launch a four-way attack.”

“Why are they waiting for the darkness?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Cheng Tong replied, “On Mount Wutai, the yellow monasteries of the lamas are always in good relationship with our green Central Plains’ monasteries. Our green temples have many monasteries and many monks: the ten big monasteries on the platform’s peaks, the big monasteries outside the platform[2]. Although the lamas of yellow monasteries are overbearing, they won’t dare to push around. If they attack in bright day light, it will undoubtedly give rise to all green monasteries’ support.”

“In that case we’d better send people out immediately to notify the administrators of all the green monasteries,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Ask them to send great number of monks, we will fight these lamas to the death. Tell them also: Monks of Mount Wutai to arm ourselves, the monks of green monasteries are in war with the lamas.”

Cheng Tong shook his head and said, “About 80-90% of the monks of green monasteries of Mount Wutai do not know martial art. Those who do, their skill are only so-so, I haven’t heard about anybody with superior skill.”

“So they are not willing to lend a hand?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“I don’t believe anybody will be unwilling,” Cheng Tong said, “But I am afraid that they will only deliver their lives in vain.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Are you telling me that we just surrender like that?” His fighting spirit was not always strong, whenever he thought that he would not be able to defeat the opponent, he would immediately think about surrendering.

“Whether we are surrendering or not, it’s not important,” Cheng Tong said, “But Xing Chi Dashi will undoubtedly be captured by them.”

Wei Xiaobao carefully considered, “I wonder if Shaolin monks know the real status of Xing Chi Dashi.” Thereupon he asked, “They carried out a large-scale operation to capture Xing Chi Dashi previously, in the end, what was their intention? Several months ago they had come here once, it was fortunate enough that several good friends scared them off that they retreated. This time their number is actually much greater.”

Cheng Tong hesitatingly said, “Xing Chi Dashi must be a person with a long history behind him. If he is not involved in the prosperity and decline of the Wulin world of Central Plains, then he must have a significant correlation with the struggle between the green and yellow monasteries. Cheng Xin Shixiong has never mentioned anything about the affairs of the Central Plains. Since Shishu does not know about it, much less we.”

Wei Xiaobao remembered that he had with him the imperial note written with the Emperor’s personal handwriting; he could dispatch civil and military officials. He said, “The matter at hand is urgent, although our Shaolin monks’ martial art skill is superior, the few are no match for the many. How can our thirty seven monks fight more than three thousand lamas? I must go down the mountain to seek for help.”

“I am afraid distant water cannot quench nearby fire,” Cheng Tong said.

“Then we escort Xing Chi Dashi to break through their encirclement,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Cheng Tong nodded. “Looks like that’s the only way,” he said, “It’s impossible for our thirty seven Shaolin monks plus Shishu’s attendant to ward off more than three thousand lamas; but to rush through a gap in their midst is actually not too difficult.”

“My only fear is that Xing Chi Dashi and his Shifu Yulin Dashi are not willing,” Wei Xiaobao said, “They said life and death are just the same, escape or not does not make any difference.”

Cheng Tong frowned and said, “For that, we must ask Shishu to persuade.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “Persuading Xing Chi Dashi, I can still think of a way, but persuading that old monk Yulin, laozi admit defeat. It is called ‘the cat pulling a tortoise’, there’s nowhere I can put my mouth at.”

Looking down, he saw the lamas were scattered everywhere, seemingly in disorder and at random, but they were actually evenly distributed; the pathways up the mountain, down the mountain, were all packed with people. As soon as it was dark, these three thousand lamas would swarm up, the monks of Qingliang Temple could only cry out, “Buddha have mercy.”

“Damn it,” he mused, “Why did I become a monk? If I was a lama, won’t I be joyfully satisfied right now, without the slightest bit of load on my mind? Not to mention eating meat and strolling the pleasure house in normal time.”

As soon as he thought about ‘strolling the pleasure house’, it was as if a divine light flashing in his mind, he had an idea. Immediately he calmed down and said, “I am going back to my meditation room to have some damn sleep.” Cheng Tong was stunned; he stared at him with eyes open wide. Wei Xiaobao ignored him, without saying anything he went down the peak and returned to the Temple into his room.

Not too long afterwards, Cheng Xin, Cheng Guan, Cheng Guang and Cheng Tong, four monks came to see him. Wei Xiaobao let the four of them into his room. He noticed that all four of them had alarmed and frightened expression. He stretched and yawned, before languidly asked, “Gentlemen, what is it?”

Cheng Xin said, “The lamas have gathered down the mountain, obviously they have ill-intention toward our Temple, I wish to hear Fangzhang Shishu’s [abbot martial uncle] plan on how to deal with them.”

“I have thought about it for half a day,” Wei Xiaobao said, “And have not come up with any good plan; therefore, I decided to go to sleep. We are all doomed anyway, we’d better resign to adversity. The blade comes, the neck receives. Other people’s blades chop down, we use our necks to meet them head on, we need to see whether their blades are sharp enough to chop into our necks.”

Cheng Xin and the others, three monks, knew that he was blathering nonsense, but Cheng Guan thought he was serious; he said, “Those lamas’ blades look really sharp, I don’t think our necks can withstand. Shishu, those who have left homes stand aloof from worldly affairs, resign ourselves to adversity; that is actually the truth. But ‘the blade comes, the neck receives’ is a bit too much. In the past, even Damo Zushi [ancestor master] did not teach us to suffer the blade without fighting back. Otherwise, why would we learn martial art?”

Wei Xiaobao nodded, “So in Cheng Guan Shizhi’s opinion, ‘the blade comes, the neck receives’ is incorrect?” he asked.

“It is,” Cheng Guan replied, “But if ‘the fist comes, the chest receives; the kick comes, the abdomen receives’, that’s still alright.” His internal energy was profound, when the opponent punched or kicked, he did not need to fight back, all he needed to do was to direct his internal strength, and the opponent’s fist or foot would bounce back.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Those lamas are carrying jiedao and chanzhang[3]; I wonder if there is a way for us to ward them off without using any weapon?”

Cheng Guan was taken aback. “I am afraid those lamas won’t listen to reason,” he said, “Asking them to lay down the butcher knife is not a ‘dawn to dusk’ type of merit.”

“That’s difficult,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I wonder what excellent plan four Shizhi might have.”

Cheng Xin said, “The only plan for now is that for everybody to protect Yulin, Xing Chi, Xing Dian, three men, and rush out by exploiting a loophole. Their only target is to capture Xing Chi Dashi, the rest of the monks in the Temple do not know martial art, surely those lamas will not harm them.”

“Altright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Let’s go talk to those three old monks.” Leading the four monks, he went to the small vihara at the back of the mountain.

A young apprentice monk announced their arrival. As Yulin and the others heard that the head monk had arrived, they went out the door to receive them. When they saw him, Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian were greatly surprised. The three monks only heard that the new head monk Hui Ming Chanshi was Shaolin Temple’s Abbot Hui Cong’s martial brother, a very young eminent monk, but they did not expect it to be him. Yulin and Xing Chi immediately understood that it must be the Emperor who arranged all these, with the purpose of protecting his father.

Buddhist’s customs was very strict, the head monk was the master of the monastery, Yulin and the others immediately paid their respect. Wei Xiaobao respectfully returned the propriety, and then they all went into the meditation room together. Yulin invited him to sit on the middle putuan[4], while the remaining monks stood on either side.

Wei Xiaobao was very happy in his heart, “Laozi sits in the middle, the Old Emperor stands at the side to wait upon me; even the young emperor does not have this kind of awe-inspiring authority.” Trying hard to suppress his smiling face, he said, “Yulin Dashi, Xing Chi Dashi, please sit down.” Yulin and Xing Chi sat down.

Yulin said, “Fangzhang Dashi is the head monk of Qingliang, for us Xiao Seng [little monk] to pay our respect to our superior, Fangzhang has to toil your honorable self to personally pay a visit, indeed our hearts are disturbed.”

“You are too kind,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Xiao Na [little cassock] knew that the three of you did not like others to disturb you, for this reason I have not come to see you thus far. If not for today we have an important matter, Xiao Na would still not come here.” He often heard old monks referring to themselves as Lao Na [old cassock]; thinking that since he was young, he should refer to himself as Xiao Na. The other monks heard him having a weird idea, fabricating a way to refer to himself, they were secretly amused.

“Yes,” Yulin said; but he did not ask what the important matter was.

“Cheng Guang Shizhi,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Would you please tell the three gentlemen?”
Yulin knew that the knew head monk had a Buddhist title ‘Hui Ming’, and he knew that in Shaolin Temple, the ‘Hui’ generation was one generation higher than the ‘Cheng’ generation, yet he was still stunned to see that this young, cunning and glib monk addressed the former head monk of their temple, the stately and benevolent, virtuous old monk as ‘martial nephew’.

Cheng Guang respectfully complied, and then explained the situation of their temple, how it had been heavily besieged by several thousand of lamas. Yulin closed his eyes to think for half a day; finally he opened his eyes and asked, “May I ask Fangzhang Dashi, what is your plan to deal with it?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “These lamas are either sitting down or standing up, they are merely enjoying the scenery, they have no other intention. The scenery here is clear and elegant, they come here on scenic tour [orig. roaming the mountain playing (on) the water], that is all.”

Xing Dian could not bear not to speak up, “If they are enjoying the beauty of nature, they can’t be surrounding our Temple, and did not leave for several hours. They must be here to capture Xing Chi Shixiong.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Xiao Na thought that all the green and yellow temples under the heavens are disciples and family of our Buddha, if they wanted to invite Xing Chi Dashi, it must be because they are in admiration the three Dashi’s profound Dharma [the teachings of Buddha], and thus are inviting you to go to lama monastery to preach the sutra. Perhaps those lamas admire our Central Earth’s Dharma, perhaps they don’t want to be lamas anymore but to be monks; won’t that be an excellent opportunity?”

Xing Dian repeatedly shook his head, “Maybe not, maybe not,” he said.

Fangzhang Shishu,” Cheng Guan said, “If that’s the case, why are they bringing weapons?”

Wei Xiaobao put his palms together and said, “They brought chanzhang and jiedao, looking so fierce and imposing, perhaps they want to kill the head of our Temple’s monks. Buddha said, ‘If I don’t go to hell, who would go to hell?’ We will have the attitude ‘the blade comes, the neck receives’, this is called ‘if I don’t let others chop my head, who would be chopped by others?’. No life no perishes, no disgrace no purity. When there’s life, there will be death, when there’s head, there will be beheading. Buddha has three virtues: great determination, great wisdom, great sorrow. The lamas came with blades, we do not hear we do not see, we do not care we do not know. This is the great determination. They raise their blade to chop, we regard their blades as emptiness, the emptiness as the blades. This is the great wisdom. The blades chop down, chopping all our bald heads off, everybody perishes. This is the great sorrow.” He had lived in monasteries for a long time, and had heard quite a lot of Buddhist sutra being preached, thereupon he talked nonsense unguardedly.

Fangzhang Shishu,” Cheng Guan said, “I am afraid the ‘sorrow’ of the Great Sorrow refers to merciful sorrow, not grieving sorrow.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Shizhi is right. Remember that our Buddha cut his own flesh to feed a hawk, giving his own life to raise a tiger; it was indeed great compassion and great sorrow. Although those lamas are fierce and uncontrollable, compared to vicious hawk and fierce tiger they are somewhat better. If we give our lives for the sake of those wicked lamas, we are also showing ‘great compassion and great sorrow’ intention.”

Cheng Guan put his palms together, “Shishu is amazingly intelligent, I am full of admiration.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Yulin Dashi has once said, ‘Those who have left homes stand aloof from worldly affairs, resign themselves to adversity, if Qing Liang Temple is really facing a misfortune, we’ll leave it to fate to escape from calamity’. We will pass away together under the wicked lamas’ blades, we will go together to the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. It will be a lively journey, it must be very interesting.”

The monks looked at each other in dismay. They all thought that although Wei Xiaobao’s words sound reasonable, all in all he adhered to old ideas too much. Perhaps it was due to misinterpretation of the Buddhist doctrine. Cheng Xin and Cheng Tong felt that these words were completely incompatible with the way he usually talked. They suspected that he was simply making ironic remark; most probably he wanted to incite Yulin and Xing Chi to speak up, asking for help on their own accord. Cheng Guan was the only one who believed without any doubt; he sighed in admiration delightedly.

The monks were silent for half a day. Suddenly Xing Dian loudly said, “Shifu once said that the Tibetan Lamas want to capture Shixiong because they want to oppress and harm common people, to take possession of our beautiful world. Our own life or death is not important, but millions of common people will be bullied and oppressed by them, won’t it be an enormous guilt for us? Shifu once said that we must never let them commit outrages like that.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded and said, “Shixiong’s words are very rational; compared to what Xiao Na has just said, you are one level higher. It’s just that the lamas’ power right now is too great, I am afraid we are heavily outnumbered.”

Xing Dian said, “Protecting Shifu, Shixiong, we break through their lines. I believe those lamas won’t be able to stop us.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I am afraid in the battle we will inevitably kill and injure those lamas. Amitabha, our Buddha is virtuous, saving one person’s life is better than building a seven-floor pagoda; killing one life is like demolishing an eight-floor pagoda. Among various Buddhist monastic disciplines, the first one is abstaining from taking life. What should we do?”

Xing Dian said, “It is they who want to take life, we are compelled by circumstances and have to strive to defend ourselves. Naturally it would be best if we can avoid killing people, but we can’t simply helplessly let our hands tied and waiting for death.”

Suddenly there were footsteps outside the door, Shaolin monk Cheng Jue quickly walked in and said, “Reporting to Fangzhang Shishu: the crowd of lamas down the mountain has just gone uphill, they advanced for about a hundred zhang [approx. 1000ft/300m] and then stopped.”

“Why did they advance halfway and then stopped?” Wei Xiaobao wondered, “Perhaps they suddenly received our Buddha’s guidance that they repent and understood the truth about turning around and reach the shore.”

“No, no,” Xing Dian loudly said, “They are simply waiting for darkness; and then in a spurt of energy they will break in.” In the years past, he was a general of the Plain Yellow Banner, who had fought many battles when they were entering the Pass. He understood military strategy very well. Later on he became the commander [orig. zong guan – chief manager] of Shunzhi’s Imperial Bodyguards.

Wei Xiaobao said, “When they enter our Temple’s Hall of Great Strength and see our Buddha Tathagata’s stately treasured image, they will suddenly hang … hang something and reining their horses, or something like that.”

Xing Dian angrily said, “You, Xiao Fangzhang, you are really si … si …, ay, that’s impossible.” He was going to say ‘really silly’, but in the end thought that he should not be rude to the Abbot; the word was already at the tip of his tongue, but he was able to ‘rein the horse at the edge of the precipice’.

All along Yulin had been silent, listening to the debate; seeing the bulging blue veins on Xing Dian’s forehead, while his voice was getting louder, he smiled and said, “Xing Dian, you are the silly one; Fangzhang Dashi has already held the pearl of wisdom, he has the ‘success bamboo’ in his heart. Why are you worried too much?”

Xing Dian was startled. “Ah,” he said, “Turns out Fangzhang Dashi already has brilliant scheme.”

Showing a worried expression Wei Xiaobao said, “Brilliant scheme, that I do not have. The thirty-sixth stratagem: escape; since everybody agrees that we should break through, then let us break through! It’s just that unless we do not have any choice, we must not harm people’s lives too much.” Xing Dian, Cheng Xin and the others voiced their agreement.

Wei Xiaobao said, “In that case, let us get ready; we’ll wait for the dark, before they make their move, we’ll dash down the mountain, toward the east to Fuping county seat. Even if these lamas were more vicious than this, they won’t dare to attack the county seat openly.” Again Xing Dian and the others voiced their approval.

Suddenly Xing Chi said, “I am the unlucky one. Last time several lives were lost for my sake. Even if this time we can escape disaster, they will never give up and put this matter down. There will be many more lives lost, there will be no end to this.”

Shixiong,” Xing Dian said, “These evil lamas want to abduct you to cruelly devastate common people under the heavens.”

Xing Chi sighed and said, “I am the embryo of misfortune of the world; when they arrive here, I will set myself on fire, let them henceforth lose heart, and that’s the end.”

Xing Dian anxiously said, “Your … your … no, Shixiong, you must never do that. Let me burn myself on your behalf.” [He was going to say ‘your majesty’ – huang shang.]

Xing Chi smiled and said, “You want to burn yourself on my behalf? What’s the use? They only want me, to force me into submission. That’s all.”

The monks were silent for half a day. Yulin finally said, “Shanzai, shanzai[5]! Xing Chi has become aware of the Great Way. This is indeed the real meaning of what Buddha has said, ‘If I don’t enter the hell, who would enter the hell?’”

Wei Xiaobao cursed in his heart, “Stinky monk, so what he said is the real meaning, and what I said was the fake meaing?”

Yulin continued, “When those lamas arrive, Lao Na and Xing Chi will set ourselves on fire together. Fangzhang Dashi and numerous Shixiong must not stop us.”

Wei Xiaobao and the other monks looked at each other in dismay; they were all dumbstruck.

Xing Chi slowly said, “When we besieged towns and took over lands in the past, all living creatures were turned to coal; Xiao Seng should have been dead a hundred times to redeem the atrocity. Today I can give my life for the common people, it is merely to compensate the past sin. If for Xiao Seng’s sake the battle continues, many more lives are harmed, it will only add to my guilt. I have made up my mind, I am asking gentlemen to protect and support me to fulfill this destiny. If by doing this I can reform the lamas, transforming the wicked to virtue, this indeed is a good deed.” While saying that, he stood up, and bowed and put his palms together toward Wei Xiaobao and the other five Shaolin monks.

Looking at his expression, Cheng Xin and the others knew that his mind was firmly set, it would be difficult to persuade him; therefore, they had no choice but to take their leave and return to Wenshu[6] Hall. Wei Xiaobao summoned all thirty-six Shaolin monks to discuss this matter. All the monks agreed that they must not allow the two masters to set themselves on fire; if things had come to a head, they would have to use force to stop them.

“We are all in agreement that we must protect the three masters completely, are we not?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Yes!” all the monks replied.

Wei Xiaobao said, “That’s not difficult. Listen to me: all thirty-six of you rush out the Temple, attack the east side together, pretend that you want to break the siege and escape down the mountain, but since it is difficult, you have to retreat back to the Temple. However, while doing that, capture forty or fifty lamas and bring them up here.”

“I wonder if Fangzhang wants to use these lamas as hostage, so that they will not dare to act rashly,” Cheng Xin said, “If that’s the case, we might as well capture the lamas with high position; the higher the better.”

“I am afraid it won’t be easy to capture big lamas,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Inevitably we will kill and injure too many people. Capturing several dozen lamas is enough.” The monks were unclear of his intention, but since the Abbot had issued an order, they had to follow it and went out of the Temple.

Not too long afterwards, Wei Xiaobao heard loud commotion coming from the waist of the mountain. He stood on the drum tower to watch, and saw the thirty-six Shaolin monks were charging into the crowd of lamas. The blades flickered, the battle had begun.

These thirty-six monks were Shaolin Temple’s martial art masters, naturally any regular lama was not their match. After rushing out for several dozen zhang, the number of lamas blocking their way was growing exponentially. Cheng Xin and the others moved their fists to punch, their feet to kick, their palms to slap, and their fingers to jab; in an instant they had overthrown several dozen men. In a loud voice Cheng Xin shouted, “The enemy is too powerful, we can’t go through them, let’s go back to the Temple for the time being and talk it over.” His internal energy was deep, his voice travelled far and echoed on the valley.

Cheng Tong also called out, “We can’t go through, what should we do?”

Cheng Xin shouted, “Everybody grab a lama and go back, we must teach them not to act rashly and randomly harm other people.” The monks grabbed the lamas, some caught two by carrying them in their arms, some caught one by carrying them over their shoulders; together they retreated to the Temple. Cheng Xin and Cheng Guang brought up the rear, they sealed several more people’s acupoints. They heard from the back of the lamas someone shouted an order in Tibetan. The crowd of lamas was shouting, yelling, cursing, but nobody ran after them.

Grinning from ear to ear, Wei Xiaobao ran to the gate to meet them. Upon counting the prisoners, he found that they had captured forty-seven lamas. Returning to Wenshu Hall, Wei Xiaobao said, “Strip these fellows naked, each one to have his eighteen acupoints sealed, and lock them up in the firewood shed at the backyard.”

The monks all felt that their Abbot’s order was a profound mystery. They stripped the forty-seven lamas naked, and sealed their acupoints, and locked them up inside the firewood room.

Wei Xiaobao put his palms together and said, “Everything in the world is empty, everything is nothingness, no self, no people, no monk, no lama. Emptiness is real, realism is empty. Monk is lama, lama is monk. All Shizhi, I want you to take off your cassock, and put on these lama robes!”

All the monks were stunned; they looked at each other in dismay. Wei Xiaobao called out loudly, “Shuang’er, come here. Help me dress as a young lama.” Shuang’er had been waiting outside the hall, she immediately came in. Rummaging through the stack, she found the smallest lama’s robe, and helped him to change. Wei Xiaobao was short; the robe he wore was still too big, so he pulled his dagger and cut a section each off the lower part of the robe and the sleeves. He tied his robe on the waist and forced a lama hat onto his head, and thus turned into a young lama. He said to Shuang’er, “You also have to dress as a young lama.”

Cheng Guang asked, “Shishu wants us to dress as lamas, I wonder what your intention is.”

Cheng Guan said, “Could it be that we are going to surrender to the lamas and join their yellow monasteries?”

“Absolutely not!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Everybody dresses as a lama, we go to the little vihara at the back of the mountain, and seize Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian, three monks, and seal their acupoints. And then we force them to change into lama attire …”

Listening to here, Cheng Tong clapped his hands and laughed. He said, “Ingenious plan, ingenious plan! Several dozens of us, fake lamas, rushing down the mountain in the middle of the night, those lamas will have difficult time in distinguishing the real from the fake, hence it will be difficult for them to stop us.”

The rest of the monks also exclaimed in praise, immediately smile spread across their faces. Naturally nobody guessed that Wei Xiaobao’s ingenious plan was merely a repeat of the trick he played the other day by disguising himself as a prostitute to escape the great disaster.

Cheng Xin said, “This way we can rush out without too much killing and injuring; this is the best plan.”

Cheng Guang hesitantly said, “It’s just that we are going to offend Xing Chi Dashi and the others, three masters; it is rather disrespectful.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Amitabha, saving three lives surpasses building a three by seven, twenty-one level Buddhist stupa. Tiny offense is better than burning themselves in a raging inferno.”

Shishu is right,” Cheng Guang said.

Immediately the monks took off their monk robes and changed into lama attire. In all their lives, these monks had always adhered strictly to Buddhist monastic discipline, they always acted stern and dignified, yet this time they had to follow Wei Xiaobao fooling around. Seeing that after putting on lama clothing their appearances looked weird, they all could not bear feeling amused.

Wei Xiaobao said, “You all must wrap your monk robe into a bundle and carry it with you. We’ll change back after we escape. After we dash out down the mountain, if we are separated, well meet again at the Jixiang Temple in Fuping County.” He told Shuang’er to pack their money and other belongings, made it into a bundle and carried it on her back.

When the sky turned black, Wei Xiaobao said, “Let us smear some dust on our faces, and each one has to carry a bucket of water. Let’s move!”

Hearing the religious edict, the monks received it happily, and execute the order to the letter: immediately they smeared dust onto their faces, took a bucket of water and his weapon, and rushed toward the back of the mountain.

Arriving outside the small vihara, the monks babbled loudly and charged into the vihara. Yulin, Xing Chi and Xing Dian, three men, had determined to burn themselves. They piled up firewood in the middle of the courtyard, and drenched themselves with sesame oil. They only waited for the lamas’ arrival, to explain the purpose of their self-burning, and then they would ignite the fire. Who would have thought that the ‘lamas’ arrived so suddenly, without the least bit of forewarning? As soon as they heard the strange ‘wulu wulu huacha huacha’ shouts, which sounded like Tibetan, but not quite like Tibetan, dozens of lamas had already crashed into the vihara.

In a loud and clear voice Yulin said, “Gentlemen, please wait a bit, Lao Na has something to say …” Suddenly his head was drenched by a bucket of cold water, followed by several dozen buckets of cold water, one after another, were splashed onto the three of them.

It happened so quickly that not only the three of them did not have time to light the fire to burn themselves, even if they did, the fire would be quickly extinguished by the pouring of the water.

Shuang’er leaped to seal Xing Dian’s acupoint first. Xing Chi did not know martial art; Yulin’s martial art skill was not weak, but he was unwilling to fight back. In that confusion, their acupoints were quickly sealed. The monks quickly moved their hands and feet, they stripped the three monks, and put the lamas’ robe on. Wei Xiaobao was thinking of pretending to speak Tibetan by uttering some gibberish words, but he was afraid Yulin might recognize his voice; thereupon he restrained himself. He pursed his lips toward Shuang’er to signal her, she fetched a candlestick and lighted the firewood piled in the middle of the courtyard. Wei Xiaobao saw Xing Dian’s golden pestle lying on the floor at the corner of the room, he thought he would take it away, but to his surprise the golden pestle was very heavy, unexpectedly he could not even lift it up. Cheng Tong reached down and picked it up. Wei Xiaobao waved his hand, the monks rushed down the mountain eastwards, with Xing Chi, three monks, protected in the middle.

They were rushing only for several dozen zhang when the black smoke and the blaze from the small vihara shot up to the sky. The big pile of firewood had also been drenched with sesame oil that it was so easy to catch fire.

Halfway up the mountain, the lamas had also seen the fire, they shouted and yelling in alarm, immediately there was confusion everywhere. The leader of the lamas sent his men to fight the fire. Under the flame light they saw Wei Xiaobao and the monks, but they thought they were their own people. In the confusion, who had the thought of stopping and interrogating these people?

The monks reached the bottom of the mountain. After leaving the lamas a great distance behind them, they turned their head around and looked up toward the mountain. They saw the blaze illuminated the sky, the small vihara had been burned to the top of its roof. Cheng Tong said, “Once the small vihara is burned down, they will never find Xing Chi Dashi. They must have thought that he was burned to death inside the vihara, and thus they will lose heart and will not come to create trouble anymore. This is a very good deed indeed.”

Cheng Guang nodded and said, “What Shidi has said is very true.”

Wei Xiaobao asked Cheng Guan to unseal Xing Chi and the other two monks’ acupoints. He said, “We have offended you too much, please do not blame us.”

Xing Chi and the others had their acupoints sealed, they were unable to move a single step, yet their eyes and ears were open. Seeing what was going on around them, they had already understood it was the Shaolin monks who came to their rescue. Xing Dian cheered loudly, saying, “Brilliant scheme, brilliant scheme! All of us escaped easily. Fangzhang Dashi, you have just saved our lives, we are grateful you did not come too late, who would want to blame you?”

Xing Chi was determined to disappear by committing suicide by fire. Xing Dian was loyal and devoted, he had to accompany his master in death, but in his heart he was not really willing to die like this. Now that they escaped the great catastrophe, he was extremely delighted.

Xing Chi smiled and said, “We did not harm a single person in this matter, that is indeed remarkable.”

Suddenly they heard footsteps on the mountain road right in front of them, a large crowd of people were hurrying up the mountain. Cheng Tong said, “Shishu, a large group of lamas is coming to attack.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “We’ll continue walking forward, we’ll mumble some gibberish, and when we see them, show some smiling expression and point up the mountain. In short, do not fight with them.” The monks voiced their compliance, even Xing Chi and Yulin also nodded in agreement. In his heart Wei Xiaobao was very happy, “The Old Emperor is following my order, even the Old Emperor’s Shifu is also following my order.”

With Xing Chi in the middle, the crowd of monks rushed along the main road. They saw from the other side of a dip on the road a group of people was rushing their way. There were lanterns and torches in their hands; they were not lamas, but Buddhist pilgrims on their way to offer incense. There were yellow pouches hanging from their necks, on the pouches were written these characters: ‘devoutly submitting incense’ [or ‘going on pilgrimage devotionally’] and so on.

When the group of Shaolin monks came near, both sides were equally surprised. Cheng Tong and the others had already stopped talking, but Cheng Guan and some others whose brains were quick started mumbling some gibberish in ‘fake Tibetan’.

From among the pilgrims a man stepped out and shouted, “What are you doing here?”

This man was tall and powerfully built, his voice was loud and clear. As soon as Wei Xiaobao saw him, he was greatly delighted, for he recognized the man as the Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards, Dolong. He rushed forward immediately and called out, “Duo Dage [in Chinese, Dolong is spelled ‘Duo Long’], look here, do you know who Xiao Di [little brother] is?”

Dolong was startled; he took a lantern from someone by his side and lifted it up to illuminate Wei Xiaobao’s face.

Wei Xiaobao winked and him and burst into laughter. Dolong was surprised and delighted at the same time. “It’s … It’s Wei Xiongdi,” he said, “You … how come you are here? And dress as a young lama too?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “And how come you are here?”

While they were talking, from behind Dolong a group of pilgrims rushed over, the leader of these pilgrims was actually Zhao Qixian. As soon as Wei Xiaobao saw them, he recognized the pilgrims to be imperial bodyguards in disguise; in fact, he knew most of these people. The bodyguards surrounded Wei Xiaobao, they talked and laughed in an intimate way.

In a low voice Wei Xiaobao asked Dolong, “Did His Majesty send you here?”

Dolong also replied in low voice, “His Majesty and Empress Dowager are going to Mount Wutai to burn incense; right now they are at the Lingjing Temple.”

Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised. “His Majesty is coming to Mount Wutai?” he asked, “That’s wonderful! That’s wonderful!” While musing in his heart, “And what does that Old wh0re come here for? The Old Emperor can’t wait to kill her.”

Not long afterwards, a group of valiant cavalry troops arrived; all of them also dressed as pilgrims. Wei Xiaobao asked, “In total, how many pilgrims are coming from Beijing to Mount Wutai this time?”

In a low voice Dolong replied, “Apart from us, the Imperial Bodyguards, the Valiant Cavalry, the Vanguards, and the Personal Guards are accompanying the Emperor.”

“So there are about thirty, forty thousand troops?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“More than thirty-four thousand troops,” Dolong replied.

“And who is in command of this Emperor-protector force?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“It’s Prince Kang,” Dolong replied.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Another old friend.”

He beckoned Zhao Qixian. When he came near, Wei Xiaobao said, “Zhao Dage, please report to Prince Kang, I need to mobilize the troops for an important mission. This is urgent, there is not enough time to ask for instructions from him first.” Zhao Qixian obeyed the order and left.

Finally the Commander [orig. ‘du tong’, see previous note on Qing military] of Valiant Cavalry of Plain Yellow Banner, Chalju, also arrived. Wei Xiaobao said, “Duo Laoge [old brother], Dutong Daren, there are several thousand Tibetan lamas who found out about His Majesty’s pilgrimage. Just now they are surrounding Qingliang Temple with the intention to start a rebellion. I ask you, two gentlemen, to arrest these rebellious thieves. You are going to render an enormous service.”

The two of them were delighted; they thanked Wei Xiaobao, saying, “Wei Daren is handing us a great merit, how can we deserve it?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Everybody is devotedly working for His Majesty, why make any distinction between you and me? This is called ‘blessing we enjoy together, difficulty we bear together’.”

They issued the order immediately to guard all roads around the mountain, and send a group of elite cavalry to charge up the mountain. Wei Xiaobao called loudly, “The Holy Sage is benevolent and wise, he is also virtuous; you are to arrest the rebellious thieves only, you must not harm too many lives. Our Emperor is ‘raw bird fish soup’ [niao sheng yu tang], and not a bad Emperor.” The Imperial Bodyguards and the Emperor’s personal bodyguards acknowledged the order together.

Although Kangxi had explained briefly the four-word phrase ‘yao shun yu tang’ [see note 9 of Chapter 14], it was still very hard for Wei Xiaobao to understand; he always remembered the phrase as ‘niao sheng yu tang’. This bowl of soup is a very good soup, not a bad soup; every emperor who heard it would be extremely delighted.

Actually, he said those words for the benefit of the Old Emperor; he thought that today the old and the young Emperors, father and son, would meet, he needed to lick the Old Emperor’s behind, which he thought would be more effective that licking the young Emperor’s behind. He turned around and walked toward Xing Chi. “Three masters,” he said, “Our clothes are nondescript [orig. ‘neither fish nor fowl’], we need to go to Jing’e Temple ahead to change. We must find a peaceful and quiet place to rest, so that idle people will not disturb the three masters’ quiet meditation.” Xing Chi and the others nodded their approval.

They walked several more li and arrived at Jing’e Temple. As soon as he entered the gate of the monastery, Wei Xiaobao took out a thousand-tael banknote, which he handed it over to the head monk, saying, “We need to temporarily borrow your precious monastery to rest, you must not ask too much. If you ask one question, I will deduct ten taels; you do not ask any question, all these thousand taels are our offering. If you ask a hundred and one questions, you owe me ten taels. Fair and square, cheating neither young nor old.”

Seeing the huge sum of money, the head monk was surprised and happy at the same time; instantly he said ‘yes, yes’ repeatedly. “Shixiong,” he said, “You …” The words were at the tip of his tongue, suddenly he was startled and busily changed his statement, “You must drink a cup of tea.” And he hurriedly went in to serve the tea.

Originally, he was going to ask, ‘Shixiong, you want to drink a cup of tea or not?’ but his mind was quick and he changed his statement, and thus saved himself ten taels.

Wei Xiaobao went out the monastery and secretly passed an order to have more than a hundred Imperial Bodyguards to guard Jing’e Temple all the way around, he also dispatched two Imperial Bodyguards to report to the Emperor: “Your servant Wei Xiaobao is under great responsibility, does not dare to leave without permission, waiting your gracious presence at Jing’e Temple.”

One of the Imperial Bodyguards said, “Reporting to Wei Fu Zongguan [deputy chief]: as subjects, we should go and kowtow in front of His Majesty, we cannot wait for the Emperor to see us.”

Wei Xiaobao spread out his hands, and said with a laugh, “Can’t be help. This time good or bad I have to break the rules and have a bad manner.”

The two Imperial Bodyguards complied. They turned around and left, while sticking out their tongues and thought, “What a nerve, he does not even want his life anymore.” Right away they rushed to report to the Emperor.

After changing their clothes, the monks sat down to rest. They heard the battle cry on the mountain shaking the earth, the Imperial Bodyguards and the Emperor’s personal guards were rounding up the lamas. The commotion continued for quite a while. Finally the noise gradually died down, until more than an hour later suddenly not a sound was to be heard [orig. ‘ten thousand pipes are still’], but they heard a few dozen men’s footsteps from the distance approaching, and stopped in front of the monastery. And then there were the heavy thumping sound of boots as a group of men entered the monastery.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The young Emperor is here.” Pulling out his dagger, he held it tight as he stood in front of Xing Chi’s meditation room, while his face showed a determined expression to protect his master, the ‘ten thousand deaths will not prevent me’ look, one that would put Xing Dian’s loyalty and brave sacrifice, to shame.

The sound of footsteps continued from the outside to the inside, about a dozen Imperial Bodyguards in civilian clothes came over in quick steps, with lanterns in their hands. And then they stopped and stood on either side of the pathway. One Imperial Bodyguard hissed, “Quickly take your knife away.”

Wei Xiaobao retreated several steps, with his back against the door and the dagger in front of his chest, he struck a pose ‘one man guards the pass, ten thousand men cannot enter’, and shouted, “The masters are resting inside the meditation room, no one is allowed to come to create disturbance.”

A young man wearing blue garment stepped out, it was none other than Kangxi. It was only then did Wei Xiaobao put the dagger back to its sheath; he rushed forward to kowtow, and said in a low voice, “Your Majesty, rejoice. The old … old fashi[7] is inside.”

With a trembling voice Kangxi said, “You call … call [or ‘announce’] for me.” Turning around, he said, “All of you, get out!”

After the Imperial Bodyguards had left, Wei Xiaobao knocked twice lightly on the meditation room’s door, he said, “Hui Ming desires to have an audience.”

After a long time, there was still no response from inside. Kangxi could not bear not to rush ahead one step and knocked twice on the door. Wei Xiaobao shook his hand to him, signaling him not to speak. The cry ‘Fu Huang’ [father emperor] was already at the tip of Kangxi’s tongue, but he fought hard to swallow it back.

After a long time, they heard Xing Dian’s voice from behind the door, “Fangzhang Dashi, my Shixiong’s spirit is exhausted, please forgive him not to grant audience. His body has entered the gate of emptiness, there is no more earthly destiny. Please tell the outsider not to harm his peaceful cultivation.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Please open the door, we just want to see him one time.”

Xing Dian said, “My Shixiong’s meaning is: this is Jing’e Temple, where we all are guests here, we are not required to accept Fangzhang’s religious edict, please don’t blame us.”

Wei Xiaobao turned his head to look at Kangxi, he saw his miserable expression and thought, “You said that I am not the Abbot here and thus cannot tell you to open the door. How about I call this temple’s abbot to knock on your door? That will be too easy.” He was about to turn around to call the Abbot, when Kangxi could not endure anymore and suddenly broke into a loud cry.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “If I have this temple’s abbot telling you to open the door, that means I am forcing the old emperor. Beseeching him gently is better.” Thereupon he beat his own chest several times and cried out loudly. He cried and wailed at the same time, “In this world, I am an orphan with no mother and no father, alone and forsaken, no one loves me. What joy is there to stay alive? It would be better for me to crash my head against the wall and be done with it.” Faking a cry was the skill he had perfected since he was little, just by bawling a few more times, tears started to pour down like rain; it was exceptionally sorrowful.

Hearing him crying, at first Kangxi was startled, but then he could not bear his grief and cried out even louder.

Suddenly they heard a creaking noise, the meditation room’s door opened. Xing Dian stood at the door and said, “Xiao Shizhu [young benefactor], please come in.”

Kangxi was overwhelmed with mixed feelings of grief and joy; he rushed into the room and embraced Xing Chi’s feet, while crying loudly.

Xing Chi gently stroked his head while saying, “Chi’er, Chi’er[8].” Tears also streamed down his face.

With bowed head Yulin and Xing Dian went out of the meditation room and closed the door behind them. Without even looking at Wei Xiaobao, who was standing outside the door, they walked straight outside. Xing Dian felt he was being rude, especially since he was grateful to Wei Xiaobao; so after walking about a dozen steps, he turned his head around and called, “Fangzhang.”

Wei Xiaobao was focusing his attention to listen to the conversation between Xing Chi and Kangxi, father and son, inside the room, he completely ignored Xing Dian. He heard Kangxi was crying, “Fu Huang, child misses you very much.”

Xing Chi said something, but from behind the door Wei Xiaobao was unable to hear clearly. Afterwards Kangxi stopped crying and started talking, but the two of them spoke in a very low voice that Wei Xiaobao could not hear anything. Although he was curious, he did not have the audacity to shove the door open even a crack; without any choice he had to wait outside with his ear against the door.

A moment later, he vaguely heard Kangxi mentioning ‘Empress Duan Jing’, four characters. Wei Xiaobao thought, “Last time when the Old Emperor told me to pass on his message to the young emperor, he did not want me to give the old wh0re any trouble; therefore, following his order, I did not mention these words at all. Perhaps now the Old Emperor changed his mind?”

Another moment, he heard Xing Chi said, “Today you and I met, it was a mistake; it harms my cultivation considerably. Later, you must not come again.” Kangxi did not make any noise. Xing Chi continued, “You sent someone to wait upon me. Although it came from your filial piety, those who have left their homes experience strong opposition from the evil spirit. Although your intention was proper, having someone to serve me was very thoughtful, but it is inappropriate …”

The two of them talked some more. Finally Xing Chi said, “You may go now. Take a good care of yourself, by cherishing the common people, you are fulfilling your filial duty toward me.”

Kangxi apparently was reluctant to part, he did not want to leave yet. At last Wei Xiaobao heard footsteps toward the door. Wei Xiaobao hastily took several steps back, and turned his eyes away from the door, looking toward the front courtyard. ‘Creak’, the door opened. Xing Chi walked out, holding Kangxi’s hand. Father and son looked at each other for a moment. Kangxi was holding his father’s hand firmly. Xing Chi said, “You are very good, you are much better than I was. I feel very relieved, you must feel the same!” Gently he pulled his hand from Kangxi’s grip, and withdrew back to the room and closed the door. A moment later, ‘click’, he put the latch on.

Kangxi threw himself to the door, while sobbing uncontrollably. Wei Xiaobao stood by his side, accompanying him shedding some tears.

Kangxi cried for a while. He knew his father would not open the door again, but he was unwilling to leave just like that. Pulling Wei Xiaobao’s hand, they sat side by side on the stone steps in front of the main hall. Taking out a handkerchief, he wiped his tears, and looked up at the white cloud in the sky. When he had calmed down, he said, “Xiao Guizi, Fu Huang said that you are very good, but he does not want you to wait upon him anymore. Fu Huang said although having the subjects to guard was very thoughtful, but it will make him, Senior, not like those who have left home.” While saying the words ‘those who have left home’, he shed tears again.

Hearing the Old Emperor did not want him to serve anymore, Wei Xiaobao was extremely delighted, yet his face did not show the least bit of happiness, he also did not dare to appear extremely ‘loyal, dashing on bravely with no thought of personal safety’, for fear that it would give him future trouble. He said, “There are too many people who want to harm the Old Emperor, Your Majesty have to think of a way to protect him in secret.”

“Definitely,” Kangxi said, “Those evil lamas, humph, his granny, what scheme are they playing?” Originally he could only curse ‘damn it’ [ta ma de – lit. his mother]; several months they did not see each other, he had learned one more cussing word, ‘his granny’ [ta nainai de].

Shifu,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You have one more cuss word.”

There appeared a slight smiling expression on Kangxi’s face; he said, “It’s my Meizi [younger sister], she learned it from the Imperial Bodyguards. She and Empress Dowager came with me to the mountain …” his countenance sank, “Fu Huang does not wish to see them.” Wei Xiaobao nodded.

Kangxi continued, “Those lamas must want to kidnap Fu Huang, in an attempt to force me into submission, to put me under their control. Humph, they think it’s that easy? Xiao Guizi, you are very good, this time you saved Fu Huang, your merit is not small.”

“Your Majesty’s strategy is divine,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You have thought about everything early on, you sent your servant here to be a monk, it was exactly for this reason. Your servant does not have any merit, it does not matter who Your Majesty sent here, anybody can do it.”

“That is not necessarily so,” Kangxi said, “Fu Huang said you understood his wish not to harm anybody in your escape.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant saw the Old Emperor was about to light the fire to burn himself, saying that no matter what he wanted to give up his life and vanish; it scared me that my soul was about to leave me, I nearly pissed in my pants.”

Kangxi was startled, “What do you mean lighting the fire to burn himself? To give up his life and vanish?”

With a lot more spice Wei Xiaobao told him everything so that Kangxi broke into cold sweat. Wei Xiaobao said, “In a moment of desperation, your servant drenched the Old Emperor with a bucket of cold water; it was greatly disrespectful.”

Kangxi said, “Your intention was to protect your master. Very good, very good.”

He was silent for half a day. Turning his head to take a glance at the meditation room’s door he said, “The Old Emperor told me to cherish common people, never to raise tax. You have already passed on this message to me, this time the Old Emperor personally exhorted me. Naturally I will never dare to forget.”

“What is ‘never raise endowment’ [yong bu jia fu]?” Wei Xiaobao asked[9].

Kangxi smiled and replied, “It’s ‘fu’ from ‘fu shui’ – taxation. Those emperors from the Ming Dynasty indulged in lives of luxury, deployed troops to go to war, never had enough money; therefore, they issued imperial decree for the common people to pay more taxes. Ming Dynasty’s government officials were extremely corrupt, the Emperor wanted to raise one million taels in tax, the government officials, big and small, extorted at least two million taels. The common people were already poor, the imperial court raised taxes this year, and raised duties the next, how could the common people still have enough rice to eat? The millet and wheat crops harvested from the fields were all taken by the government officials, very soon the common people’s entire family would die of starvation; they had no choice but to revolt. This is called ‘the government official drive the people to revolt’.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “I understand,” he said, “So the common people of the Ming Dynasty revolted because the Emperor and the government officials were bad.”

“Isn’t that so?” Kangxi said, “During the last years of Ming Dynasty’s Chongzhen, everywhere in the world the common people did not have rice to eat; therefore, rebellion arose in the east and in the west. The Henan rebellion was crushed, Shanxi arose; Shanxi was suppressed, Sichuan arose. Those poor people migrated to the east and fled to the west just to scrape a living. The Ming Dynasty perished in these poor people’s hands, the Han people say it was roving bandits’ rebellion. Actually, those rebels and roving bandits were forced to existence by the imperial court.”

“So that’s what happened,” Wei Xiaobao said, “The Old Emperor wants Your Majesty never to raise tax, then there won’t be any roving bandits in the world. Your Majesty is ‘raw bird fish soup’, iron and barrels are like rivers and mountains, long live the Emperor!”

Yao shun yu tang; isn’t it easier said than done?” Kangxi said, “But we, Manchu people, came to be China’s Emperor, we must strive to be better than those tyrannical and muddle-headed rulers of the Ming Dynasty; only then will we not let down the common people of the world.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The people of Tian Di Hui and Mu Palace say that Manchurian Qing’s Tatars occupy our Han people’s rivers and mountains, there is no single person who does not hate them with clenched teeth. Yet the young emperor says that Ming Dynasty’s emperors were no good, and that he, a Tatar emperor, is better. That’s not strange, there are always people who like to praise themselves.”

Kangxi added, “Fu Huang also told me that over the years he quietly cultivate Zen meditation, whenever he recalled our Manchu people’s conduct and deeds in the years past, oftentimes he would feel so ashamed that cold sweats drenched his back. Chongzhen of Ming Dynasty was persecuted to death by Li Zicheng’s roving bandits. Wu Sangui came to lend his troops to us, the Great Qing, and defeated Li Zicheng, and thus he avenged the Ming Dynasty emperor’s great enmity. Yet not only the common Han people are not grateful to the Great Qing, they consider us as their enemy. Tell me, what kind of logic is that?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I suppose they are muddle-headed. In fact, in this world, muddle-headed people are many, smart people are a few. Or perhaps they simply forget favors and violate justice.”

“That’s not necessarily so,” Kangxi said, “Han people say we are barbarians, ethnic minority from outside, who are taking possession of their beautiful rivers and mountains. When the Qing troops entered the pass, they killed and burned everywhere, they murdered countless common people; it was the reason they hate us, Manchus, to the bones.”

Wei Xiaobao was actually a Han, but Kangxi bestowed him to be a Manchu person of the Plain Yellow Banner, when he talked to him, he always said ‘we or us’, treating him as a Manchu. Actually, speaking about national affairs, Wei Xiaobao did not understand anything. It’s just that Kangxi was excited since he had just met his father. Thinking about his Father Emperor’s earnest admonition, he discussed it with this little trusted aide.

Wei Xiaobao said, “When your servant was still in Yangzhou, I have heard people mentioning the tragedy of Qing troops massacring people.”

Kangxi sighed. “Yangzhou’s Ten Days, Jiading’s Three Slaughters, people were killed that their number cannot be counted; those are enormously evil deeds that we, the Great Qing, committed. I am going to issue an imperial edict to exempt Yangzhou and Jiading of land tax for three years.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Yangzhou people do not have to pay taxes for three years, everybody will be rich, Lovely Spring Courtyard’s business will greatly flourish. How can I get the young emperor to send me to handle this matter for him in Yangzhou? I will tell Mama not to be a prostitute anymore, I will open three brothels for her, laozi will be the boss, and then I will be a banker, I will open a big gambling event for ten days, it will be another ‘Yangzhou’s Ten Days’. Afterwards, I will bring a lot of money to Jiading and damn it, I will gamble three days. It will be ‘Jiading’s Three Gambles’[10].”

He also thought, “Both the Old Emperor and His Majesty said that during Jiading’s Three ‘du’ [see note 10 referred above] the number of people being killed is too many, this is an enormous disaster. How could they kill a lot of people by gambling three times? I wonder what kind of place Jiading is. In that place, the people’s gambling skill is very formidable, I must be very careful.”

“Xiao Guizi, what do you think?” Kangxi asked.

“Good, very good,” Wei Xiaobao busily replied, “That way, everybody will have rice to eat, have money … nobody will revolt.” He was about to say ‘have money to gamble’, but as the word was about to come out, he withdrew it.

Kangxi said, “Although everybody has rice to eat and has money to be used, not necessarily nobody will revolt. When you left Beijing, you sent the Imperial Bodyguards to escort a man, whom you said was a rebel from Mount Wangwu. I personally interrogated him several times.”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked in his heart; he stood up hastily and said, “Your Majesty ordered your servant not to meddle in other people’s business; henceforth I did not dare to do that.”

“Sit down,” Kangxi said, “You managed this matter very well. It was not other people’s business at all, in fact, from now on we must pay close attention to this matter.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, but in his heart he was unable to make head or tail of it.

Kangxi said in a low voice, “I sent those Imperial Bodyguards to rebuke you, it was to block the ears and eyes of the enemy, so that the rebellious thieves won’t guard against me.”

Wei Xiaobao was delighted. He sprang up, and then sat back down again and said in a low voice, “Your servant understands. Turns out Your Majesty are afraid this rebellious thief Wu Sangui would be alarmed.”

“Whether Wu Sangui wants to rebel, it is still hard to say,” Kangxi said, “But since the beginning he did not have a loyal heart; he took advantage of my young age and did not have me in his eyes at all.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty can always use little tricks here and there to let him know how formidable you are. Wu Sangui, his granny, what’s so great about him? Your Majesty only need to stretch out your little finger, you will sweep away a thousand army, high mountain flowing water.”

Kangxi smiled, “You did not use those two idioms correctly. You should say ‘stretch out your little finger, you will sweep away a thousand army, kill him to be utterly defeated[11]’.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant has become a monk for several months, my literary knowledge did not make any progress; from now on I must serve Your Majesty more often, so that my usage of idiom will be like ‘sweeping away a thousand army’, so that people who hear it will be ‘utterly defeated’.”

Kangxi could not help but bursting in laughter, his melancholy was somewhat reduced. In a low voice he said, “That servant Wu Sangui is very good at military strategy, the number of fierce generals and elite troops under his command is indeed not a few. If he really wanted to rebel and allied himself with Geng Jingzhong of Fujian and Shang Kexi of Guangdong, the three forces would make a thorny problem indeed. We can only take our time, must make our move only after fixing our plan, so that once we move, we will make his granny Wu Sangui utterly defeated and piss in his pants in terror.”

Kangxi was diligent and studious, every day after he personally attended the government affairs, he would have members of Hanlin Imperial Academy to attend upon him, to explore classic books in Confucianism, poetry and literature. He learned a lot about the writings and poems of Confucius; therefore, to suddenly hear him saying phrases like ‘his granny’ or ‘piss in his pants in terror’, it was clear that he was really not happy.

Meeting with his father today, he was both delighted and grieved; but after only less than an hour of intimacy, he was already thrown out of the door without knowing if he would ever see him again in the future, he was deeply wounded emotionally. Luckily there was this Wei Xiaobao whose words were amusing, so that the melancholy in his heart was somewhat relieved. Moreover, speaking about major political affair like crushing rebellion and restoring order had aroused the lofty aspiration in his heart.

He stood up, took four piece of stones from the courtyard, arranged them on the ground, and said, “Of the four kings of Han army, the east side, the south side and the west side must be separated from each other, they cannot be allowed to ally with each other. Luckily that fellow Ding Nan Wang[12] Kong Yude has died, leaving behind a daughter, hence it will be easy to deal with her.” While saying that, he lightly kicked a piece of stone.

He said, “Geng Jingzhong is bold but not very astute, nothing to worry about. Only he must be prevented from making an alliance with the Zheng clan of Taiwan.” And he kicked another stone.

He said, “Shang Kexi, father and sons, do not get along well with each other. His two sons are like fire and water, they are always in conflict with each other, rendering him powerless.” And he also kicked the third stone away, leaving one stone left, the biggest one, to which he stared while seeming lost in thought.

“Your Majesty,” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Is that Wu Sangui?” Kangxi nodded. Wei Xiaobao cursed, “That treacherous bandit, he is old but refuses to die, yet he gives my lord of ten thousand years a big headache. Your Majesty, soak him with your pee.”

Kangxi burst out laughing; his childish heart was aroused, he really untied his pants and peed on that piece of stone. He said with a laugh, “Come, your turn.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud and peed on the stone. He said with a laugh, “This chapter is called, ‘Lord of Ten Thousand Years High Mountain Flowing Water, Xiao Guizi … Xiao Guizi …’” He was going to say ‘sweeping a thousand army’, but thought that in this case this phrase was not appropriate. Suddenly he remembered the storyteller telling about the tale of Three Kingdoms, there was a chapter about ‘Guan Yunchang flooded seven armies with water’, thereupon he said, “Xiao Guizi flooded seven armies with water.”

Kangxi was amused even more. He tied up his pants and said with a laugh, “There will come a day we catch that stinky thief, then we will really pee on his body.”

Kangxi sat down on the stone steps again. They heard sound of footsteps outside; although nobody said anything, it was obvious that there were quite a number of people gathering outside. Wei Xiaobao said, “It looks like they have caught all those evil lamas. Your Majesty really have flood of good fortune filling the heavens; it was so fortunate that you have arrived just in time to catch all those evil lamas in one net.”

“Actually, that was not luck,” Kangxi said, “As soon as I received your secret report, I sent people to investigate. After I found out, I rushed here, but actually I was one step too late, so that those evil lamas have alarmed the holy sage. If not for your quick-wit, I will regret it for the rest of my life, and won’t escape from guilt.”

Wei Xiaobao was puzzled, “But your servant has never sent you any secret report,” he said.

Kangxi said, “When I sent the Imperial Bodyguards to Shaolin Temple to deliver the imperial edict, they said that they saw a Mongolian prince, several lamas, and several military officers; is that right?”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said.

Kangxi said, “You instructed them to investigate in secret, what were they up to, and what was their power. Under investigation, they found out that the Mongolian prince was called Galdan. The military officer was Ma Bao, a commander under that servant Wu Sangui. They were conspiring with the lamas in rebellious scheme, something that would not be good to Fu Huang.”

Wei Xiaobao slapped his thigh, “So that’s what happened!” he exclaimed, “Your servant saw that they were sneaky, definitely not good people, I did not know they are Wu Sangui’s people.” Actually, he had known about those people’s name and background, the reason he wanted Zhao Qixian and the others to investigate was to track down the girl in green, while bringing false charge against Wu Sangui. He did not think that it would lead the young emperor to catch up to Mount Wutai.

Kangxi said, “Later on those three groups went their separate ways. Imperial Bodyguard Zhang Kangnian followed the lamas. He heard that they were assembling a large group of manpower; they were going to Mount Wutai to kidnap an important person. He did not realize the significance of this matter. After following them for several more days, he returned to the Capital and presented a memorial to me. As soon as I heard it, how could I not be anxious? I wanted to set off at once; but when the Emperor leaves the Capital, there are so many formalities and rites that have to be performed. Although I issued an imperial decree to have everything conforms to simplicity, I was still one day late.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “That rebellious thief Wu Sangui is so brazen, he dares to dispatch several thousand lamas to come and offend the Old Emperor. That … won’t that be blatant rebellion?”

Kangxi sucked his breath. “Not too loud!” he hissed, “I only know that his officer was travelling together with those lamas. Whether he is rebelling or not, we can’t say for sure for the time being.”

“I am sure he is, I am sure he is!” Wei Xiaobao said, “If he was a good person, how could he send a general under his command to conspire with those evil lamas to secretly bring harm to the Old Emperor?”

“He is definitely not a good person,” Kangxi said. After hesitating for a moment, he slowly said, “It’s just that I am still too young, in deploying troops and fighting a battle, I am not his match. It would be best for us to wait several more years, wait till I grow up some more, and he grows older some more. When we fight that time, I am sure that victory will be within our grasp. Xiao Guizi, you need not be impatient, waiting one day longer will give us one day more advantage, while at the same time will give him one day more harm.”

Wei Xiaobao anxiously said, “What if he grows old and die? Won’t that be too easy for him?”

Kangxi smiled. “Then that is his luck,” he said. After a short pause he continued, “Just now Fu Huang admonished me: it would be best if I can not resort to arms and go to war; once we go to battle, it does not matter the outcome, soldiers will be dead and injured, that need not be mentioned, but the common people in all the world will suffer countless suffering. For that reason, if Wu Sangui died early and did not wait for me to take action against him, although it won’t be fun …”

While he paused for a moment, Wei Xiaobao interjected, “It’s definitely not fun at all.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “As far as common people and soldiers are concerned, war is not a good thing. Xiao Guizi, if you want something fun, I can take you to Liaodong (Peninsula) to hunt black bears, hunt tigers.”

Wei Xiaobao was delighted. “Wonderful, wonderful!” he called out.

Kangxi turned his gaze to the meditation room’s door and quietly said, “When I was six, Fu Huang took me to go hunting at Liaodong. And now …” Slowly he walked toward the door. His hand gently stroked the wooden door, while his throat choked and his eyes moist. After a while, he kneeled down and did obeisance several times, while saying in a low voice, “Fu Huang, take a good care of yourself, Child’s leaving.” Wei Xiaobao also kneeled down and kowtowed.

Kangxi went to the Hall of Great Strength. Prince Kang, along with prominent military leaders such as Valiant Cavalry Commander Chalju, Imperial Bodyguards Chief Dolong, several top ranking officers who accompanied the Emperor such as Songgotu, the Vanguard Regiment Commander, the Personal Guard Commander, and the others, have been waiting in the hall. Seeing the Emperor’s arrival, they all kneeled down to pay their respect. When the officers stood up, they took a furtive glance and noticed that the young emperor’s eyes were red, obviously he had been crying; they were all surprised.

Although the Emperor was young, he had outstanding knowledge and experience, he had demonstrated wise judgment in handling matters; the court official’s reverence to him was growing day by day, nobody dared to belittle him due to his age. Unexpectedly the young Emperor could cry; it was indeed an unusual happening. They also noticed the tearstains on Wei Xiaobao’s face, and thought, “This kid Wei Xiaobao must have teased the Emperor to tears. Two youngsters, I don’t know what kind of games they are playing.”

Kangxi tightly concealed the fact that Shunzhi has left home on Mount Wutai, even the closest family member, his own little sister Princess Jianning was not aware, naturally the court officials were in the dark even more.

Prince Kang stepped forward to present a memorial, “Submitting a report to Your Majesty: We found several thousand lamas creating havoc and disturbing peace outside the Qingliang Temple with unknown reason. Right now all of them have been captured and been brought here, awaiting the imperial decree on how to deal with them.”

Kangxi nodded. “Get the leader and bring him here,” he said.

Chalju dragged three old lamas, they were all shackled and handcuffed. The three lamas did not know that Kangxi was the ruling Emperor, they maintained their obstinate behavior and mumbled and grunted incessantly. Kangxi suddenly also mumbled and grunted. The officers were stunned; nobody expected that the Emperor could speak Tibetan. Actually, these lamas were Mongolian lamas, they did not come from Tibet at all. Kangxi was talking with them in Mongolians.

After talking for a while, the three lamas bowed their heads without saying anything; apparently they have surrendered. Kangxi said, “Take them to the side room, Zhen will investigate them confidentially.”

“Yes,” Dolong replied, and have the three of them brought to the scripture room [library] next to the main hall.

Kangxi beckoned to Wei Xiaobao, the two of them also entered the scripture room. Wei Xiaobao closed the door. Pulling his dagger, he continuously waved it in front of the lamas’ eyes, throats, noses and ears. Kangxi spoke several sentences loudly in Mongolian. Respectfully and submissively the oldest lama answered his questions one by one. The two of them were exchanging questions and answers for quite a while. As soon as Wei Xiaobao noticed that Kangxi raised his voice and had an angry look on his face, he drew his dagger threateningly. When he saw Kangxi’s expression turned gentle, he giggled while standing by the lama’s side, nodding his head in encouragement.

Kangxi’s interrogation lasted for more than an hour. Finally he ordered the Imperial Bodyguards to take the lamas away, and told Wei Xiaobao to close the door. “This is strange,” he muttered to himself.

Wei Xiaobao did not dare to interrupt his train of thought, he simply stood on the side without saying anything. Kangxi pondered for a moment, and then asked, “Xiao Guizi, how many people are aware that Fu Huang has left home and become a monk in here?”

“Other than Your Majesty and your servant,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Those who know this matter include the Old Emperor’s Shifu, Yulin Dashi, and his Shidi Xing Dian Dashi. There was also a eunuch, Hai Dafu, but he is dead. The former head monk of Qingliang Temple, Cheng Guang Dashi, did not seem to know the details, he only knew that the Old Emperor was a person of great background. Apart from these people, there is that old … old … that Empress Dowager.”

Kangxi nodded, “That’s right,” he said, “Those who know this matter, in this world, including Fu Huang himself, and the two of us, are not more than six people. But when I interrogated that Mongolian lama just now, he said that they received the order of the Living Buddha, Dalai Lama of Lhasa, Tibet, to go to Qingliang Temple to invite a monk and take him to Tibet. I interrogate him in details, which monk in Qingliang Temple, what kind of person he is, why did the Living Buddha of Lhasa want to invite him? I repeatedly asked the questions, he definitely does not know. Finally he said that it seems that this monk understands a lot of tantra’s religious chant and incantation, the Living Buddha wishes for him to teach these secret incantation, to help spreading the Dharma. Naturally it was all rubbish; but looking at his expression, I don’t think he was lying. Most likely other people are deceiving him, yet he believes it was the truth.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Whether that Tibetan Living Buddha knew the Old Emperor’s real identity, it is difficult to know at this moment, but the person who instigated the Living Buddha to come and offend the Old Emperor, I am afraid … I am afraid he knew the inside information.”

Kangxi nodded. Suddenly Wei Xiaobao was scared; he said, “Your Majesty, your servant will keep my mouth as tight as a … as something. I know this matter is of grave importance; even in my dream I won’t divulge half a word.”

“You won’t say anything,” Kangxi said, “I trust you completely. Naturally Yulin and Xing Dian also won’t say anything. Even if Shaolin Temple’s Abbot Hui Cong and Cheng Guang Dashi may have guessed something, they are virtuous eminent monks, they can’t possibly reveal it to anybody. After thinking it over, there is only that … that old … old s1ut.”

“Right! Right!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Must be that old … old …”

Kangxi muttered to himself, “She is concealing a man who dressed as a palace maid in the Palace of Compassionate and Peaceful; indeed I have seen it with my own eyes. It’s only natural that she is afraid her secret would be revealed. She murdered Empress Duan Jing, Fu Huang hates her to the bones. Although Fu Huang has already left home, he still sent Hai Dafu back to the Palace to investigate this matter. You knew all the details, and you are always by my side. Humph, how could that old s1ut sleep well at night? She simply must do harm to Fu Huang. Only after conspiring to murder Fu Huang, conspiring to murder me, and killing you, will she feel safe.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The old wh0re has long had relationship with Shen Long Jiao [Divine Dragon Cult]. Since she knew the Old Emperor has not died yet, she must have reported it to Hong Jiaozhu. Apparently this lamas arrival on Mount Wutai is somehow related to Hong Jiaozhu.” However, he must not mention to Kangxi that he had become the White Dragon Envoy of Divine Dragon Cult.

Kangxi saw the change in his countenance. “What is it?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao hastily said, “Your servant thought … thought … Your Majesty’s speculation is not the least bit wrong, it must be that old … the Empress Dowager who leak the secret. Other than she, there can’t be any other people.”

Kangxi stretched out his hand to slap the table heavily; gnashing his teeth, he said, “This s1ut murdered the Empress, my birth mother; she also caused Fu Huang to leave home, rendering me without a father or a mother. I … if I don’t make mincemeat of this s1ut, it will be difficult for me to purge the hatred in my heart; but … but Fu Huang clearly told me not to make things difficult for her. What should I do?”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The Old Emperor does not allow you to kill the old wh0re, but he did not tell me not to. Even if he told me not to kill her, laozi is his Abbot, he is obligated to follow my order, I don’t have to listen to his order. However, if this matter is exposed, it may not be effective.”

“Your Majesty do not need to worry,” he said, “This Empress Dowager has committed all kinds of evil, she won’t have a good end. Your Majesty may open your dragon eyes wide, open your dragon ears, you’ll just wait and see.”

Kangxi was very keen; he had already understood his meaning, he fixed his eyes on him for half a day, finally he nodded and said, “That’s right, that s1ut has committed all kinds of evil, she won’t have a good end.”

He paced back and forth in the scripture room. “Right now we must find a way to prevent the lamas from offending Fu Huang again,” he said, “It would be best if we can send a trustworthy man to be the Tibetan Living Buddha. All the lamas throughout the world will be under his management, then there won’t be any future danger. It’s just that Tibetan Living Buddha is always the reincarnation of the previous one, I am afraid the one the Emperor sends won’t work. There must be a way …”

Listening to this, Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his soul flew away and scattered; he mused, “Today I dressed up as a young lama, I must not turn a fake into reality. As soon as the Emperor opens his golden mouth, it will be hard to take back, I must strike first.” Hastily he said, “Your Majesty, your servant absolutely do not want to be a Tibetan Living Buddha.”

Kangxi burst out laughing. He said, “You are quick. Actually, what’s not good about being a Tibetan Living Buddha? His jurisdiction is a lot wider than Wu Sangui’s Yunnan; being a Living Buddha means becoming the king of Tibet.”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly shook his hand, he said, “I’d rather be an imperial bodyguard by your side. Once I become the Living Buddha, it will be hard for me to be with you. I don’t care if it is King of Xizang [Tibet, xi – west] or King of Dongzang [East Zang], even King of Dizang[13], I don’t want to be one.”

He was not lying. He had been with Kangxi for a long time, they were almost of the same age, they got along with each other well; although one was the young emperor, the other was a young imperial bodyguard, they were like best friends. Neither one was willing to be separated from each other.

Kangxi laughed and said, “How can you make such a irresponsible remark about the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name?” Shoving the door open, he walked out, and said to Chalju and Dolong, “The two of you have handled this matter well, Zhen wants to reward you.”

Chalju and Dolong were greatly delighted; they kowtowed to express their gratitude. Kangxi said, “Zhen respect and believe the Dharma. Sure enough, these last several years by the will of the Heaven and the blessing of the Bodhisattva, the country is safe and sound, the common people have peace and happiness. Wei Xiaobao is here as Zhen’s proxy, becoming a monk on my behalf, and has rendered a great merit.” Wei Xiaobao also kowtowed to express his gratitude.

Kangxi continued, “Now Wei Xiaobao’s time to be my proxy has been fulfilled, he will follow me returning to Beijing. It is Chalju’s turn to leave home for two years, but you won’t be a monk, rather, you will be the Great Lama of Mount Wutai. You may select 1000 competent officers and sergeants of Valiant Cavalry to be lamas with you, to be stationed on the ten major lama monasteries on the mountain. During your time leaving your homes, everybody’s pay will be doubled, and all of you will be generously rewarded.”

Chalju was startled; although he was not actually willing, he had no choice but thanking the Emperor for the kindness shown. Kangxi said, “If you are doing a good deed but announce it to the world, it won’t be really a good deed. You must tell everybody to guard his mouth like a closed bottle in this matter, no one is to reveal the secret, otherwise he will be dealt with according to the martial law, there won’t be any excuse. Dolong is to bring all Mount Wutai’s lamas back to the Capital, and have them locked up in detention. Send people to inform the Dalai Lama Living Buddha that the Emperor is inviting these lamas to Beijing to promote the Dharma, to make clear the mystery of the Buddhist doctrines. After seventy, eighty years, when the Dharma is flourishing, they will be sent back to Tibet.” For each sentence he said, Chalju and Dolong responded one time.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, “Laozi escapes the will of Heaven, henceforth I don’t have to be a monk anymore.” He also thought, “After seventy, eighty years, will these lamas still alive to return home? They brazenly offended the Old Emperor, His Majesty is being magnanimous by not chopping their heads. Imprisoned for life is a great convenience for them.”

Kangxi continued, “Wei Xiaobao, I promote you to be the Commander [du tong] of the Valiant Cavalry Regiment of the Yellow Banner, while concurrently holding your present Deputy Chief [fu zongguan] position of the Imperial Bodyguards. Chalju, if you are performing your duty as the Great Lama well, when you return to the Capital, I will send you to another province to be the provincial governor.” The two of them expressed their gratitude.

Wei Xiaobao did not care much; for him, being the commander or vice commander did not have any difference. On the other hand, Chalju was very happy; in Beijing, high-ranking officials were extremely numerous, it’s just that Valiant Cavalry Regiment Commanders were the Emperor’s trusted aide. He was only one Valiant Cavalry Regiment Commander; each one of the eight banners had one commander, a total of eight Valiant Cavalry Regiment Commanders. When they see the royal princes, the royal princes’ children, the dukes and marquis[14], he must bend his knees and pay respects. Other than his soldier’s pay, there was no extra income. If he was to be sent to other provinces and become the provincial governor, not only his prestige and authority would spread to eight directions, his financial resources would also increase tremendously.

In the meantime, it was daybreak. Kangxi give his order that he wanted to go to the Qingliang Temple to worship Buddha. When they reach the outside of the Temple, they saw sabers and spears scattered around, the grass and rocks were red with bloodstain. It was clear that the capture of lamas the previous night involved an intense battle; obviously they were fighting fiercely. Kangxi entered the Temple to worship the Tathagata and the Manjushri [orig. ‘ru lai’ and ‘wen shu pu sa’], before he went to the back of the mountain to visit the small vihara where Shunzhi sat in meditation. He saw charred wood and ruined bricks, the vihara had been burnt to the ground.

Kangxi was secretly scared, “If Fu Huang did not escape last night, he would be burned inside the temple. I … I …” He did not dare to continue his thought. He ordered Songgotu to donate two thousand taels of silver to reconstruct the vihara. He knew his father would not want to have this matter publicized; therefore, he did not dare to casually donate too much.

Returning to the Hall of Great Strength, the Shaolin monks came to see him. They saw this young benefactor had a lot of attendants, he carried an imposing aura around him; they thought he must be a person of great importance, perhaps he was one of the royal princes [qin wang bei lei]. Athough the monks did not curry favor with powerful people, they acknowledge the fact that this benefactor donated a large sum of money to reconstruct the small vihara, so they put their palms together to express their thanks. Cheng Tong and the others could also see that among those attendants disguised as pilgrims, there were quite a few who knew martial art.

Upon seeing the place where his father has left home, Kangxi was unwilling to leave so soon; he said, “I want to stay at your precious monastery for three, five days; I wonder if it is possible?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Da Shizhu [great benefactor] graces us with your presence, it is something that we seek but fail to get …”

Suddenly there was a loud crashing sound, dust and dirt fell down, a hole appeared on the ceiling of the Hall of Great Strength. A white shadow flashed, a white object dropped down from the roof; it was a monk wearing white robe, with a long sword in his hand, which was thrust swiftly toward Kangxi. “Today I am taking revenge for the Son of Heaven of the Great Ming!” the monk called out.

Kangxi hastily retreated. Because they were in the presence of the Emperor, Dolong, Chalju, Prince Kang, and the others did not carry any weapon. Greatly alarmed, they pounced on the monk. The monk swiftly flicked the left sleeve of his robe, a strong gust of wind swept Dolong and the others, seven, eight men, so that they could not hold their ground and were thrown down backward.

Cheng Xin, Cheng Guang and the others shouted together, “Must not harm people!” and moved to stop the monk.

The monk’s sleeve brushed away again. Each one of Shaolin Temple’s ‘Cheng’ generation monks used his own unique skill to parry, but these monks’ tiger claw, dragon claw, ‘picking flower qin na’ [grab and capture], ‘capturing dragon’ skill, and so on failed to seize the monk. The Shaolin monks were surprised, they all thought, “Unexpectedly there is such person in this world!”

The white-robed monk did not stop, his sword went straight toward Kangxi. Kangxi had his back against the sacrificial table in front of the image of Buddha, he could not retreat further.

Wei Xiaobao hastily leaped forward to block in front of Kangxi’s body. ‘Stab!’ the tip of the sword pierced his chest. The long sword bent, but unexpectedly it failed to enter Wei Xiaobao’s body. Wei Xiaobao felt severe pain on his chest. He had already had the dagger in his hand; by waving it randomly he managed cut the enemy’s sword into two pieces.

The monk in white was stunned. Cheng Guan called out, “Don’t hurt my Shishu!” His left palm flew toward the monk in white’s right shoulder. The monk in white threw his broken sword and turned around to meet Cheng Guan’s palm head on. Cheng Guan felt his blood bubbling up in his chest, while stars appeared in his eyes.

“Good skill!” the monk in white praised. Seeing that he was surrounded by martial art masters, while just a moment ago his sword failed to stab the little monk’s body, he was greatly shocked. No longer dare to prolong the fight, he stretched out his right hand to grab the back of Wei Xiaobao’s collar, and suddenly his body flew up, he escaped via the hole on the roof of the hall.

This turn of events happened so quickly that although there were thirty-six Shaolin masters in the hall, unexpectedly nobody had enough time to stop him. Cheng Xin, Cheng Guang, and the others hurriedly follow the monk through the hole on the roof. They saw the white shadow flashing at the back of the mountain, the monk was already more than a dozen of zhang away. This person’s qing gong [lightness skill] was amazing, it was indeed unbelievable.

The Shaolin monks realized they would not be able to catch up, but their Temple’s abbot was being kidnapped, although they could not catch up with him, they still had to run after him. Shouting loudly, the thirty-six monks ran to give chase. In the blink of an eye the white shadow disappeared behind a dip on the mountain path.

Book note: The title of this chapter came from a Buddhist saying, the word ‘jie’ [which I translated as ‘calamity’] is an extremely long period of time. The Buddhists believe that because human live is a sea of bitterness without boundary, which is difficult to break, even by relying on compassion and mercy.

[1] ‘Wearing green hat’ is an expression about a husband whose wife is having an extra-marital affair.

[2] Reminder: Mount Wutai literally means ‘five platforms’.

[3] Buddhist knife and Buddhist staff, respectively, neither are supposed to be used to kill.

[4] Buddhist round meditation mat, usually made of woven cattail.

[5] Lit. ‘good, peace’. Just like ‘amituofo’, I feel like this phrase should not be translated.

[6] Manjushri, the Boddhisattva of keen awareness.

[7] Reminder: fashi – one who has mastered the Buddhist sutras.

[8] The ‘chi’ character is the same as his name ‘Xing Chi’, meaning ‘imbecile / sentimental / stupid / foolish / silly’. ‘Er’ is a term of endearment. I don’t know why he called his own son ‘the silly one’.

[9] ‘Fu’ can mean ‘poetic essay / taxation / to bestow on / to endow with’.

[10] In original Chinese, the words slaughter ‘tu’ sounds like gamble ‘du’.

[11] Wei Xiaobao said ‘gao shan liu shui’ – high mountain flowing water [reminder: these two idioms were the name of Mu Palace’s stances], Kangxi corrected him ‘utterly defeated’ [‘luo hua liu shui’ – falling flower flowing water].

[12] Ding Nan Wang, the King who Stabilized the South. Kong Yu De (? – 1652) was given Guangxi Province for his services in conquering China. He was one of the three leaders of Chinese Bannermen who has went over the Manchus in early 1630’s. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[13] Lit. earth ‘zang’, Kṣitigarbha, the Bodhisattva of the Great Vow (to save all souls before accepting Bodhi) / also translated Earth Treasury, Earth Womb, or Earth Store Bodhisattva. All three words: Xizang, Dongzang and Dizang have the same ‘zang’ character.

[14] Orig. ‘qin wang bei lei’ (see note 15 of Chapter 13), ‘bei zi’ (son of ‘bei’), ‘gong’ (duke, the highest of five orders of nobility) and ‘hou’ (marquis, second of the five orders of ancient Chinese nobility).

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