The spirit of Mrs. Chia Shih-yin departs from the town

The spirit of Mrs. Chia Shih-yin departs from the town of Yang Chou — Leng Tzu-hsing dilates upon the Jung Kuo Mansion.

To continue. Feng Su, upon hearing the shouts of the public messengers, came out in a flurry and forcing a smile, he asked them to explain (their errand); but all these people did was to continue bawling out: “Be quick, and ask Mr. Chen to come out.”

“My surname is Feng,” said Feng Su, as he promptly forced himself to smile; “It is’nt Chen at all: I had once a son-in-law whose surname was Chen, but he has left home, it is now already a year or two back. Is it perchance about him that you are inquiring?”

To which the public servants remarked: “We know nothing about Chen or Chia (true or false); but as he is your son-in-law, we’ll take you at once along with us to make verbal answer to our master and have done with it.”

And forthwith the whole bevy of public servants hustled Feng Su on, as they went on their way back; while every one in the Feng family was seized with consternation, and could not imagine what it was all about.

It was no earlier than the second watch, when Feng Su returned home; and they, one and all, pressed him with questions as to what had happened.

“The fact is,” he explained, “the newly-appointed Magistrate, whose surname is Chia, whose name is Huo and who is a native of Hu-chow, has been on intimate terms, in years gone by, with our son-in-law; that at the sight of the girl Chiao Hsing, standing at the door, in the act of buying thread, he concluded that he must have shifted his quarters over here, and hence it was that his messengers came to fetch him. I gave him a clear account of the various circumstances (of his misfortunes), and the Magistrate was for a time much distressed and expressed his regret. He then went on to make inquiries about my grand-daughter, and I explained that she had been lost, while looking at the illuminations. ‘No matter,’ put in the Magistrate,

‘I will by and by order my men to make search,

and I feel certain that they will find her and bring her back.’

Then ensued a short conversation,

after which I was about to go,

when he presented me with the sum of two taels.”

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Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings

Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings, had such a fit of weeping that she hung between life and death; but her only alternative was to consult with her father,

and to despatch servants on all sides to institute inquiries. No news was however received of him, and she had nothing else to do but to practise resignation,

and to remain dependent upon the support of her parents for her subsistence. She had fortunately still by her side,

to wait upon her, two servant girls, who had been with her in days gone by; and the three of them, mistress as well as servants,

occupied themselves day and night with needlework, to assist her father in his daily expenses.

This Feng Su had after all, in spite of his daily murmurings against his bad luck, no help but to submit to the inevitable.

On a certain day, the elder servant girl of the Chen family was at the door purchasing thread, and while there,

she of a sudden heard in the street shouts of runners clearing the way, and every one explain that the new magistrate had come to take up his office.

The girl, as she peeped out from inside the door, perceived the lictors and policemen go by two by two;

and when unexpectedly in a state chair, was carried past an official, in black hat and red coat, she was indeed quite taken aback.

“The face of this officer would seem familiar,” she argued within herself; “just as if I had seen him somewhere or other ere this.”

Shortly she entered the house, and banishing at once the occurrence from her mind, she did not give it a second thought. At night,

however, while she was waiting to go to bed, she suddenly heard a sound like a rap at the door. A band of men boisterously cried out:

“We are messengers, deputed by the worthy magistrate of this district, and come to summon one of you to an enquiry.”

Feng Su, upon hearing these words,

fell into such a terrible consternation that his eyes stared wide and his mouth gaped.

What calamity was impending is not as yet ascertained, but,

reader, listen to the explanation contained in the next chapter.

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Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings

Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings, had such a fit of weeping that she hung between life and death;

but her only alternative was to consult with her father, and to despatch servants on all sides to institute inquiries.

No news was however received of him, and she had nothing else to do but to practise resignation,

and to remain dependent upon the support of her parents for her subsistence. She had fortunately still by her side,

to wait upon her, two servant girls, who had been with her in days gone by; and the three of them, mistress as well as servants,

occupied themselves day and night with needlework, to assist her father in his daily expenses.

This Feng Su had after all, in spite of his daily murmurings against his bad luck, no help but to submit to the inevitable.

On a certain day, the elder servant girl of the Chen family was at the door purchasing thread, and while there,

she of a sudden heard in the street shouts of runners clearing the way, and every one explain that the new magistrate had come to take up his office.

The girl, as she peeped out from inside the door, perceived the lictors and policemen go by two by two;

and when unexpectedly in a state chair,

was carried past an official, in black hat and red coat, she was indeed quite taken aback.

“The face of this officer would seem familiar,” she argued within herself; “just as if I had seen him somewhere or other ere this.”

Shortly she entered the house,

and banishing at once the occurrence from her mind, she did not give it a second thought.

At night, however, while she was waiting to go to bed, she suddenly heard a sound like a rap at the door. A band of men boisterously cried out:

“We are messengers,

deputed by the worthy magistrate of this district, and come to summon one of you to an enquiry.”

Feng Su, upon hearing these words,

fell into such a terrible consternation that his eyes stared wide and his mouth gaped.

What calamity was impending is not as yet ascertained,

but, reader, listen to the explanation contained in the next chapter.

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When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back

When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back to rejoin Yü-ts’un, as he had come to know that he had already left.

In time the mid-autumn festivities drew near; and Shih-yin, after the family banquet was over, had a separate table laid in the library, and crossed over, in the moonlight, as far as the temple and invited Yü-ts’un to come round.

The fact is that Yü-ts’un, ever since the day on which he had seen the girl of the Chen family turn twice round to glance at him, flattered himself that she was friendly disposed towards him, and incessantly fostered fond thoughts of her in his heart. And on this day, which happened to be the mid-autumn feast, he could not, as he gazed at the moon, refrain from cherishing her remembrance. Hence it was that he gave vent to these pentameter verses:

Alas! not yet divined my lifelong wish,

And anguish ceaseless comes upon anguish

I came, and sad at heart, my brow I frowned;

She went, and oft her head to look turned round.

Facing the breeze, her shadow she doth watch,

Who’s meet this moonlight night with her to match?

The lustrous rays if they my wish but read

Would soon alight upon her beauteous head!

Yü-ts’un having, after this recitation, recalled again to mind how that throughout his lifetime his literary attainments had had an adverse fate and not met with an opportunity (of reaping distinction), went on to rub his brow, and as he raised his eyes to the skies, he heaved a deep sigh and once more intoned a couplet aloud:

The gem in the cask a high price it seeks,

The pin in the case to take wing it waits.

As luck would have it, Shih-yin was at the moment approaching,

and upon hearing the lines,

he said with a smile:

“My dear Yü-ts’un, really your attainments are of no ordinary capacity.”

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Shih-yin at once stood up. “Pray excuse my rudeness

Shih-yin at once stood up. “Pray excuse my rudeness,” he remarked apologetically, “but do sit down; I shall shortly rejoin you, and enjoy the pleasure

of your society.” “My dear Sir,” answered Yü-ts’un, as he got up, also in a conceding way, “suit your own convenience. I’ve often had the honour of being

your guest, and what will it matter if I wait a little?” While these apologies were yet being spoken, Shih-yin had already walked out into the front parlour. During

his absence, Yü-ts’un occupied himself in turning over the pages of some poetical work to dispel ennui, when suddenly he heard, outside the window, a

woman’s cough. Yü-ts’un hurriedly got up and looked out. He saw at a glance that it was a servant girl engaged in picking flowers. Her deportment was out of

the common; her eyes so bright, her eyebrows so well defined. Though not a perfect beauty, she possessed nevertheless charms sufficient to arouse the

feelings. Yü-ts’un unwittingly gazed at her with fixed eye. This waiting-maid, belonging to the Chen family, had done picking flowers, and was on the point of

going in, when she of a sudden raised her eyes and became aware of the presence of some person inside the window, whose head-gear consisted of a

turban in tatters, while his clothes were the worse for wear. But in spite of his poverty, he was naturally endowed with a round waist, a broad back, a fat face,

a square mouth; added to this, his eyebrows were swordlike, his eyes resembled stars, his nose was straight, his cheeks square.

This servant girl turned away in a hurry and made her escape.

“This man so burly and strong,” she communed within herself, “yet at the same time got up in such poor attire, must, I expect, be no one else than the man,

whose name is Chia Yü-ts’un or such like, time after time referred to by my master, and to whom he has repeatedly wished to give a helping hand, but has

failed to find a favourable opportunity. And as related to our family there is no connexion or friend in such straits, I feel certain it cannot be any other person

than he. Strange to say, my master has further remarked that this man will, for a certainty, not always continue in such a state of destitution.”

As she indulged in this train of thought, she could not restrain herself from turning her head round once or twice.

When Yü-ts’un perceived that she had looked back, he readily interpreted it as a sign that in her heart her thoughts had been of him, and he was frantic with irrepressible joy.

“This girl,” he mused, “is, no doubt, keen-eyed and eminently shrewd, and one in this world who has seen through me.”

The servant youth, after a short time, came into the room;

and when Yü-ts’un made inquiries and found out from him that

the guests in the front parlour had been detained to dinner,

he could not very well wait any longer,

and promptly walked away down a side passage and out of a back door.

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“Excellent! first rate!” exclaimed the Bonze. And at the conclusion

“Excellent! first rate!” exclaimed the Bonze. And at the conclusion of these words, the two men parted, each going his own way, and no trace was again seen of them.

“These two men,” Shih-yin then pondered within his heart, “must have had many experiences, and I ought really to have made more inquiries of them; but at this juncture to indulge in regret is anyhow too late.”

While Shih-yin gave way to these foolish reflections, he suddenly noticed the arrival of a penniless scholar, Chia by surname, Hua by name, Shih-fei by style

and Yü-ts’un by nickname, who had taken up his quarters in the Gourd temple next door. This Chia Yü-ts’un was originally a denizen of Hu-Chow, and was also

of literary and official parentage, but as he was born of the youngest stock, and the possessions of his paternal and maternal ancestors were completely

exhausted, and his parents and relatives were dead, he remained the sole and only survivor; and, as he found his residence in his native place of no avail, he

therefore entered the capital in search of that reputation, which would enable him to put the family estate on a proper standing. He had arrived at this place since

the year before last, and had, what is more, lived all along in very straitened circumstances. He had made the temple his temporary quarters, and earned a

living by daily occupying himself in composing documents and writing letters for customers. Thus it was that Shih-yin had been in constant relations with him.

As soon as Yü-ts’un perceived Shih-yin, he lost no time in saluting him. “My worthy Sir,” he observed with a forced smile; “how is it you are leaning against the

door and looking out? Is there perchance any news astir in the streets, or in the public places?”

“None whatever,” replied Shih-yin, as he returned the smile. “Just a while back, my young daughter was in sobs, and I coaxed her out here to amuse her. I am just now without anything whatever to attend to, so that, dear brother Chia, you

come just in the nick of time. Please walk into my mean abode, and let us endeavour, in each other’s company, to while away this long summer day.”

After he had made this remark, he bade a servant take his daughter in, while he, hand-in-hand with Yü-ts’un, walked into the library, where a young page served tea.

They had hardly exchanged a few sentences,

when one of the household came in,

in flying haste, to announce that Mr.

Yen had come to pay a visit.

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He was about to come in, when he caught sight of two priests

He was about to come in, when he caught sight of two priests, one a Taoist, the other a Buddhist, coming hither from the opposite direction. The Buddhist had a head covered with mange, and went barefooted. The Taoist had a limping foot, and his hair was all dishevelled.

Like maniacs, they jostled along, chattering and laughing as they drew near.

As soon as they reached Shih-yin’s door, and they perceived him with Ying Lien in his arms, the Bonze began to weep aloud.

Turning towards Shih-yin, he said to him: “My good Sir, why need you carry in your embrace this living but luckless thing, which will involve father and mother in trouble?”

These words did not escape Shih-yin’s ear; but persuaded that they amounted to raving talk, he paid no heed whatever to the bonze.

“Part with her and give her to me,” the Buddhist still went on to say.

Shih-yin could not restrain his annoyance; and hastily pressing his daughter closer to him, he was intent upon going in, when the bonze pointed his hand at him, and burst out in a loud fit of laughter.

He then gave utterance to the four lines that follow:

You indulge your tender daughter and are laughed at as inane;

Vain you face the snow, oh mirror! for it will evanescent wane,

When the festival of lanterns is gone by, guard ‘gainst your doom,

’Tis what time the flames will kindle, and the fire will consume.

Shih-yin understood distinctly the full import of what he heard; but his heart was still full of conjectures. He was about to inquire who and what they were, when he heard the Taoist remark,—“You and I cannot speed together; let us now part company, and each of us will be then able to go after his own business. After the lapse of three ages,

I shall be at the Pei Mang mount, waiting for you;

and we can, after our reunion,

betake ourselves to the Visionary Confines of the Great Void,

there to cancel the name of the stone from the records.”

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Shih-yin received it. On scrutiny he found it, in fact

Shih-yin received it. On scrutiny he found it, in fact, to be a beautiful gem, so lustrous and so clear that the traces of characters on the surface were distinctly

visible. The characters inscribed consisted of the four “T’ung Ling Pao Yü,” “Precious Gem of Spiritual Perception.” On the obverse, were also several

columns of minute words, which he was just in the act of looking at intently, when the Buddhist at once expostulated.

“We have already reached,” he exclaimed, “the confines of vision.” Snatching it violently out of his hands, he walked away with the Taoist, under a lofty stone

portal, on the face of which appeared in large type the four characters: “T’ai Hsü Huan Ching,” “The Visionary limits of the Great Void.” On each side was a scroll with the lines:

When falsehood stands for truth, truth likewise becomes false,

Where naught be made to aught, aught changes into naught.

Shih-yin meant also to follow them on the other side, but, as he was about to make one step forward, he suddenly heard a crash, just as if the mountains had

fallen into ruins, and the earth sunk into destruction. As Shih-yin uttered a loud shout, he looked with strained eye; but all he could see was the fiery sun shining,

with glowing rays, while the banana leaves drooped their heads. By that time, half of the circumstances connected with the dream he had had, had already slipped from his memory.

He also noticed a nurse coming towards him with Ying Lien in her arms. To Shih-yin’s eyes his daughter appeared even more beautiful, such a bright gem, so

precious, and so lovable. Forthwith stretching out his arms, he took her over, and, as he held her in his embrace,

he coaxed her to play with him for a while;

after which he brought her up to the street to

see the great stir occasioned by the procession that was going past.

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The narration may border on the limits of incoherency and triviality

The narration may border on the limits of incoherency and triviality, but it possesses considerable zest. But to begin.

The Empress Nü Wo, (the goddess of works,) in fashioning blocks of stones, for the repair of the heavens, prepared,

at the Ta Huang Hills and Wu Ch’i cave, 36,501 blocks of rough stone, each twelve chang in height, and twenty-four

chang square. Of these stones, the Empress Wo only

used 36,500; so that one single block remained over and above, without being turned to any account. This was cast down

the Ch’ing Keng peak. This stone, strange to say, after having undergone a process of refinement, attained a nature of

efficiency, and could, by its innate powers, set itself into motion and was able to expand and to contract.

When it became aware that the whole number of blocks had been made use of to repair the heavens, that it alone had been destitute of the necessary properties

and had been unfit to attain selection, it forthwith felt within itself vexation and shame, and day and night, it gave way to anguish and sorrow.

One day, while it lamented its lot, it suddenly caught sight, at a great distance, of a Buddhist bonze and of a Taoist priest coming towards that direction.

Their appearance was uncommon, their easy manner remarkable. When they drew near this Ch’ing Keng peak, they sat on the ground to rest, and began to

converse. But on noticing the block newly-polished and brilliantly clear, which had moreover contracted in dimensions, and become no larger than the pendant of a fan,

they were greatly filled with admiration. The Buddhist priest picked it up, and laid it in the palm of his hand.

“Your appearance,” he said laughingly, “may well declare you to be a supernatural object, but as you lack any inherent quality it is necessary

to inscribe a few characters on you, so that every one who shall see you may at once recognise you to be a remarkable

thing. And subsequently, when you will be taken into a country where honour and affluence will reign,

into a family cultured in mind and of

official status, in a land where flowers

and trees shall flourish with luxuriance,

in a town of refinement, renown and glory;

when you once will have been there . . . ”

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Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception

Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality — Chia Yü-ts’un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts of a beautiful maiden.

This is the opening section; this the

first chapter. Subsequent to the visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced, the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the

true circumstances, and borrowed the

attributes of perception and spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this purpose, he made use

of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?

Wearied with the drudgery experienced of late in the world, the author speaking for himself, goes on to explain, with the lack of success which attended every single concern, I suddenly bethought myself of the womankind of past ages. Passing one by one under a minute scrutiny, I felt that

in action and in lore, one and all were far above me; that in spite of the majesty of my manliness, I could not, in point of fact, compare with these characters

of the gentle sex. And my shame forsooth then knew no bounds; while regret, on the other hand, was of no avail, as there was not even a remote possibility of a day of remedy.

On this very day it was that I became desirous to compile, in a connected form, for publication throughout the world, with a view to (universal) information, how that I bear inexorable and manifold retribution; inasmuch as what time, by the sustenance of the benevolence of Heaven,

and the virtue of my ancestors, my apparel was rich and fine, and as what days my fare was savory and sumptuous, I disregarded the bounty of education and

nurture of father and mother, and paid no heed to the virtue of precept and injunction of teachers and friends,

with the result that I incurred the punishment, of failure recently in the least trifle, and the reckless waste of half my lifetime. There have been meanwhile, generation

after generation, those in the inner

chambers, the whole mass of whom could not, on any account, be, through my influence, allowed to fall into extinction, in order that I, unfilial as I have been, may have the means to screen my own shortcomings.

Hence it is that the thatched shed, with bamboo mat windows, the bed of tow and the stove of brick, which are at present my share,

are not sufficient to deter me from carrying out the fixed purpose of my mind. And could I, furthermore, confront the morning breeze, the evening moon,

the willows by the steps and the

flowers in the courtyard, methinks these would moisten to a greater degree my mortal pen

with ink; but though I lack

culture and erudition, what harm is there, however, in employing fiction and unrecondite language to give utterance to the merits of these characters? And were I also able to

induce the inmates of the inner chamber to understand and diffuse them, could I besides

break the weariness of even

so much as a single moment, or could I open the eyes of my contemporaries, will it not forsooth prove a boon?

This consideration has led to the usage of such names as Chia Yü-ts’un and other similar appellations.

More than any in these pages have been

employed such words as dreams and visions;

but these dreams constitute the main

argument of this work, and combine,

urthermore, the design of giving a word of warning to my readers.

Reader, can you suggest whence the story begins?

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