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Friday, July 23, 2010

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic - Chapter 3

     


Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved


Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic

Chapter 3

In Angering Heaven, A Girl1 Was Reincarnated2,
In Understanding The Way, A Beauty Reveals Secrets of Heaven.

Let us focus not on Mrs. Shi’s weeping but to turn to Lao Tzu who was meditating in his Tushita Palace on the Thirty third level of Heaven. He was sitting on his bulrush prayer mat when the Golden Boy3 burst in reporting,

“The Attendant to the Divination Box is nowhere to be found and hasn’t been back at all.”

Upon hearing the report, Lao Tzu let out his divine light and understood all that had happened and nodded his head,

“What a vile creature you are, my Attendant of the Divination box! Instead of cultivating the true way and attain enlightenment quietly, you seek your own torment and misery by today’s rash action. It’s not that I have no compassion to save you!”

Lao Tzu then reported the incident to the High Emperor of Summer Heaven4 who then commanded the Peach Garden Fairy to be sent down to earth. On receiving the Jade Edict5, she turned into a ball of divine light and rushed straight towards the destined family of Ren Tai Kung6 in Morning Song to be born as his daughter. She is now grown up and sixteen years of age. Her face looked like a peach blossom; she was slender-waisted like the weak branches of the willow, such an indescribable beauty. How do we know?

There is a poem describing her beauty,

Cherry Peach-shaped mouth, teeth white as jade,
An understanding flower7 whose beauty is unique.
A fate from previous life causes all this,
So easily that a fairy be reborn into a mortal’s family?

Around the time of her birth, Ren Tai Kung’s wife dreamt and saw the sky was filled with colored clouds and from there descended a fairy holding a luminous peach blossom. The fairy then gave the blossom to the lady of the house8. When she started to inhale the fragrance of the flower she awoke and within three days, a daughter was born. For this reason the baby was named Peach Blossom. Being the old couple’s only child, their love for her was greater than that of having a pearl in hand. Brought up in a lap of luxury, her every whim was catered to. On this we shall not dwell on any longer.

One day, as the husband and wife were sitting in the main hall a pitiful wailing was heard in the streets. Ren Tai Kung hurriedly went out to see what it was all about. He recognized it was their wall-adjoining neighbour9, old widow Mrs. Shi, who was weeping loudly. A crowd was consoling her but he could not hear a thing as too many people were jabbering at the same time. In midst of the crowd, he started to address Old Mrs. Shi,

“Old auntie10, why are you weeping so sorrowfully? Why not come to my humble abode and have a seat? Explain exactly what had transpired so that this old man may understand one thing or two. We may be of help.”

When the crowd saw Ren Tai Kung invite old widow Mrs. Shi into his home, they dispersed in no time. As she was being led into the main entrance, Mrs. Ren came out to welcome her. On seeing the state Old Mrs. Shi was in, she quickly helped her into the main hall and bade her sit down.

Mrs. Ren asked,

“Old sister-in-law, who had you been quarreling with? Did someone wrong you?”

Old Mrs. Shi wiped her tears,

“Madame, this concubine never quarreled with anyone. It is because my son is going to die tonight on the third hour of the watch! You tell me, who can this old life depend on?”

She wept again when her words ended.

Mrs. Ren gasped in shock and inquired,

“Was the terrible news sent by your son?”

Old Mrs. Shi waved her hands explaining,

“Not yet, no, not yet. My son had left home and told me that he would be back within three months. Now half a year has gone by and there is no news. This old body could not be at peace and so this morning, I went for a divination. It is terrible – tonight, on the third watch, my son will be crushed inside an abandoned cave dwelling. How can I not be this sad!”

Mrs. Ren laughed out loud upon hearing the explanation,

“Old sister-in-law, here I thought that you received some very grave news, it’s only an unlucky horoscope. How can you be this sad? That fortune teller is not a living god, how can you possibly believe him?”

Old Mrs. Shi replied,

“If it’s some other person, I would not have believed but this is from Lord Chou. His predictions on the Yin and Yang are most accurate and whether in bliss or calamity he does not err. Whatever he says will become true. I had been imploring him most painstakingly but he only remarked that, ‘Unless you plead with King Yama himself, I’m afraid there is no chance of your son being alive!’”

When Ren Tai Kung heard the words, he was stunned for a moment and said,

“Old sister-in-law, I too have heard of this Lord Chou. His divination skills are like those from God. According to what he said, then there is no hope of saving your son. If Lord Chou knows that your son is to be crushed, why did you not ask him for a clarification? Where is this place? Why not ask someone go there immediately and stop your son from entering the place? Then you have nothing to fear.”

Mrs. Ren chimed in,

“You are getting senile and understand nothing! Lord Chou is not a living god. His prediction merely follows the principles of divination. By not knowing the exact location of the place, he just pronounced that there’s no hope at all.”

Old Mrs. Shi became even more sorrowful upon hearing those words. The pain was unbearable and she started to sob again. As husband and wife looked at her sorrow, they began to think: he is the only son and with the family being this poor, who could this old bag of bones rely on should his son really die? The more they thought about it, they too could not refrain from tears.

In the meantime, let’s talk about Miss Peach Blossom. From the age of five onwards, while playing at the door with a servant girl, a priest came begging for alms. He gave her three celestial scrolls and a pill. Upon swallowing it, she was able to read. For a few months, each night, this priest visited her in her dreams to instruct her and to teach her magic skills of immortals. Hardly a year had passed and she was well versed with all that were in the scrolls. Up to the age of sixteen, she did not reveal anything to her parents and did not meet people readily. As she loved peach blossoms, the father planted several hundred trees in the backyard where each day together, he enjoyed the garden while she tended the trees or did her embroidery.

The day of Old Mrs. Shi’s visit, she was just clearing the table after lunch and was about to enter the garden when she heard a woman’s incessant sorrowful sobbing coming from the inner hall. Her curiosity was piqued,

“Someone is wailing so bitterly in the hall. I shall have a look.”

On her golden lilies11 she walked quickly into the inner hall and was surprised to see her parents and their wall adjoining neighbour weeping. She greeted them and on seeing the young miss, old Mrs. Shi stopped her crying and said,

“Young Miss, you don’t come out often to see people. Not having seen you for a few years, your hair is now long and you have such pretty eye brows too.”

The husband and wife on seeing their daughter also wiped off their tears and said,

“Daughter dear, why are you here.”

Miss Peach Blossom inquired,

“Father, mother, why are you two crying with old Lady Shi?”

Mrs. Ren replied,

“Daughter, what you did not know is this: old Lady Shi’s son had gone away for some commercial enterprise. Half a year has gone by and he has not returned. Old Lady Shi went to Lord Chou for a divination to see when he will return. She never anticipated that Lord Chou would divine that her son would die on the third watch of tonight and determined that there is no hope for her son. Hence her immense grief. Your father and mother tried to console her but we were so moved that we started to cry too.”

Miss Peach Blossom gave a sigh of relief and said,

“Here I thought there was some grave matter. So that was it!”

She turned to Old Mrs. Shi and said,

"Noble lady, no need to be so sad, I’m sure if elder brother is destined to die, your cries won’t bring him back to life. Lord Chou’s predictions may not be that accurate. Why don’t you tell me the hours of birth of elder brother? This girl knows how to divine as well. Let me see if that’s really the case and if that there is really no hope for him.”

When the husband and wife heard their daughter’s words,

“My child, please don’t jest with Old Lady Shi. Since when have you started to learn such things?”

Miss Peach Blossom replied,

“Father and mother, you do not know what your daughter has learnt recently. Old Lady Shi, don’t worry. Just give me the birth hours. Is there any harm?”

Having no alternative Old Mrs. Shi provided the information. For a while Miss Peach Blossom touched the tip of her thumb with her other jade finger tips. All there is to know about life and death, fortune good or bad, became clear to her. She nodded and exclaimed,

“What a great Duke of the Chou country! Such accuracy. No wonder everyone in Morning Song has so much respect for him. It is true that on the third watch of tonight, your son will surely be crushed inside the broken cave dwelling. This is because the White Tiger is overhead, the gate of Death is watching his life, and the year start and the lunar command12 are not favourable. There is no doubt about his death. According to my calculation, there is a broken cave dwelling about 15 miles from the south of the city. Tomorrow you will find his corpse.”

Old Mrs. Shi began to weep again upon hearing the words. Ren Tai Kung quickly counseled and smiled,

“Old sister-in-law, listen not to my young daughter’s nonsense. Now that we know where the place, this old man will send someone there and save your son. Why be so hard on yourself. My daughter’s words can hardly be believed.”

Peach Blossom smiled,

“How can the efforts of man fight against heaven? Father, mother and old Lady Shi do not believe me now. However, when the hour of Mei13 is over, in the early hour of Shen, there will be a storm. If there’s none, then what I have said will be proved false. If indeed there is a storm, invite Old Lady Shi over again. This lowly girl will teach her a way to save her son.”

With that, she left the hall and entered the peach garden. Ren Tai Kung upon hearing his daughter’s words could not help himself but laughed,

“Mama, just look at the bright and sunny sky, how can there be rain? Old sister-in-law need not be so sad. Just as my daughter said, if indeed your son dies, crying won’t bring him back to life. According to this old man’s words, relax and go home, tomorrow I shall ask someone to inquire.” Old Mrs. Shi had no choice but to bid farewell, and alone in her home, she let her imaginations run amuck.

The moment the hour of Shen arrived, the weather began to change suddenly. In a second, winds began to howl and the rain beat down mercilessly without stopping. Old Mrs. Shi upon seeing this change was stunned and exclaimed,

“Just as expected, this prediction of the coming rain only proves that Miss Peach Blossom’s divination is just as accurate. She believed that my son can be saved. I must go and plead with her. Surely there is a way to save him now!”

Braving the rain, she went straight to Ren Tai Kung and flung open the doors and entered. Ren Tai Kung and his wife were sitting in the hall talking about the accuracy of their daughter’s prediction and not understanding where and how their daughter had learnt that divine skill. In the midst of their conversation, old Mrs. Shi burst in and they knew exactly the reason.

Not knowing if Old Mrs. Shi’s son could be saved, please proceed to the next chapter.

Notes:

1. Readers would be puzzled by the direct term, “soft matter” (柔物). A term used
    for young females as they are so soft, pliable and desirable.

2. Gods and immortals unlike mortals are not reincarnated. When Mortals die they must
    first drink the Soup of Oblivion before going through the Wheel of Transmigration in
    Hades. On the other hand divine beings on a mission or punishment are sent directly
    from heaven into the womb.

3. 金童玉女–Golden Boy and Jade Girl. A generic term for immortal attendants to the
    Gods.

4. 昊天上帝 . Chinese pantheon of Gods is modeled directly after the imperial
    system on earth. The term 上帝 is usually translated as God but has a different
    connotation in the east. These Emperor Gods have a higher rank than those termed
    as 神. Mortals and lesser gods can be elevated to such high status by the ruling
    emperor. Thus Kuan Yu, a historical general during the period of Three Kingdoms was
    conferred the title of Kuan Ti by various emperors in different dynasties. Gods with
    the imperial title of emperor (帝) has its own court and administration of lesser gods
    to serve them.

    Spring is the azure heaven, summer is Hao heaven, autumn is Wen heaven and
    Winter is the upper heaven.

    “春為蒼天,夏為昊天,秋為旻天,冬為上天。”

5. Edicts from heaven are termed jade edits especially issued by the Jade Emperor 玉帝
    while those by the earthly counterparts are termed as holy or saintly edicts (聖旨)
    often translated as imperial edicts.

6. 任太公. Either Tai Kung is the name a person surnamed Ren or a title – Ren the grand
    duke. However I chose to translate it as his name because for such powerful nobility
    how could a poor woman be his wall-adjoining neighbour.

7. 解語花 is a literary term for a woman who knows and understands about worldly
    affairs etc.

8. 院君 - an entitled woman of nobility or a wife of a very rich person. Nowadays it
    means wife. Here I translate it as a wife of a rich person because a poor family like
    Mrs. Shi could not possibly be a next door neighbour to nobility.

9. In old Chinese buildings, each home is separated by a common wall on a lot. There is
    no lane or space separating the two homes. I shall use the shorter term next door
    neighbour throughout the text.

10. It is considered very improper in old Chinese to speak in the first person unless his
      rank is higher. Familial relationships are very well defined and strict. Everyone has a
      ranking and as such formal addresses are used and every child is expected to know
      all these familial relationships. Even today, one does not address an older person by
      name but rather by their rank such as 5th maternal uncle etc. This formality
      extends to strangers as well. After the social status had been determined, correct
      titles are used.

     In proper social etiquette, one usually uses self deprecating terms, such as “welcome
     to my cold (humble) house”, “my ugly yellow faced wife” and “my stupid son” etc. At
     the same time preventing one from committing hubris. More polite, flattering or
     endearing terms are used for the other person who is considered on equal status,
     such as, “elder wife of my younger brother (sister-in-law)” for an older woman even
     though they are not related.

     Concubine is another self deprecating term used by a married woman even though
     she is the main wife. Similarly, “your slave girl” is used to describe even though the
     speaker is not one.

     Aunties, uncles and such terms are polite addresses used for strangers. It is a term of
     endearment to foster a bond so that they may request things or service easily.
    
     Unlike western culture, old age is held in high esteem in oriental cultures because
     old age is difficult to attain and therefore warrants respect. Hence calling some one
     old is not an insult. I shall keep the word old as it appears in the original text as an
      honorific i.e. Old Mrs. Shi from the narrator’s point of view.

11. Euphemism for the woman’s feet. Foot binding was not in vogue when the story
      took place. This fetish became popular a few thousand years later during the Ming
      and Ch’ing Dynasties. Those tiny but formed feet are known as “3 inch golden lilies”.
      The smaller the sexier is to the males. Even in intimate situations, these golden lilies
      remain unwrapped. Unwrapping be considered the ultimate sexual arousal for
      the frenzied male!

12. 月令 – the seasonal and monthly influences on a person’s life.

13. The 12 Chinese hours, each roughly equivalent to 2 modern hours. The time
       intervals are approximations.

      Number Name      Animal       Time Interval    Month  Direction
          1        子 zi          Rat           11pm–01am     Nov      N
          2        丑 chou     Ox            01am–03am     Dec      NNE
          3        寅 Yin       Tiger         03am–05am     Jan       ENE
          4        卯  Mao     Rabbit       05am–07am     Feb      E
          5        辰 Chen    Dragon      07am–09am     Mar     ESE
          6        巳 Si         Snake        09am–11am    Apr      SSE
          7        午 Wu      Horse        11am–01pm     May     S
          8        未 Wei     Goat          01pm–03pm     Jun       SSW
          9        申 Shen    Monkey    03pm–05pm     Jul        WSW
         10       酉 You     Rooster     05pm–07pm     Aug      W
         11       戌 Xu       Dog          07pm–09pm     Sep       WNW
         12       亥 Hai      Pig            09pm–11pm     Oct       NNW





Original text



桃花女陰陽鬪傳/第三回 



觸天怒柔物降生 

明道術佳人透機

不說石婆子一程哭回,再言三十三天兜率宫的太上老君,那日正蒲團上打坐,忽見金童來报道:“看卦盒的童子不知往那里去了,至今走了未回。”老君一聞,即運動神光一看,早知其故,點頭道:“好孽障啊!孽障你不思養静修真,成其正果,今日妄動,自寻苦惱。非是我不慈心救你!”說罷,便去启奏昊天上帝,就有上帝命桃園仙子下凡。仙子領了玉旨,一點靈光,見朝歌城里有任太公家,與他家有缘,便投往太公處為女。至今已長成十六歲,只生得臉似桃花,身如弱柳,說不盡的標致。怎見得?有詩句言詞為証:

樱桃為口玉為牙,獨佔人間解語花。

夙世有缘方種此,仙姬豈易到凡家?



那位任太公夫妻初生他時,夢見满天彩雲,從雲中降下一個仙子,手中拿着一枝燦爛桃花,交與院君。這院君接上一嗅而醒,不出三日,就生下他來,故此取桃花名叫唤他。老夫妻止得此女,真個是愛之如掌上明珠,百般的嬌養。這且不言。



他夫妻二人,此一日正同坐在堂上,聽見街坊土喧闹,哭聲惨切。任太公忙出一看,認得是隔壁住的石寡婦。只見他淚流满臉,大放悲聲;又見衆人勸着他,一五一十的數個不清,聽不明。心中詫異,也迎將出來,從衆人中勸道:“老嫂何故悲傷?且到寒舍去坐坐,把心事對老漢說說,或者老漢可開解一二,也未可定。”當下便讓石寡婦進他家去。衆人見任太公讓石寡婦進他家去,便一哄而散了。



任太公引石寡婦進了大門,任太太便迎將出來。見了石寡婦這般模样,忙上前扶着,同進中堂坐下。任太太道:“老嫂,你與誰人口角?受了那人的委屈?”石婆子聞言拭淚道:“老夫人,妾身不是與人口角,只因小兒今晚三更即死了,你叫我這条老命倚靠何人了?”說罷,又哭將出來。任太公夫妻聞言大驚道:“想是令郎有凶信到了麽?”石婆子连连摇手道:“未也,未也。只因小兒出門,原說不過三個月就回來的,如今真正去了半年多,并不見音信,老身放心不下,今早去起了一卦,卦爻甚凶——今夜三更被破窑壓死了。我想想安得不傷心哩!”任太公聞言,不覺大笑道:“老嫂,我只道凶信回家,原來是起卦起的不利。老嫂,你何苦過于傷心?那起卦的人不是個活神仙,他如何知道到這样真哩?”石婆子道:“若是别人說,我也不信,只因是個公爺占的。他判陰陽有准,断禍福無差,說甚麽就是甚麽。我也苦苦哀求,他便說甚麽 ‘除非去阎王跟前求情,只怕还不能生的呢!’”任太公聞言,呆了一呆道:“老嫂,我聞得這位公爺断卦如神。据他說來,只怕果然無救了。老嫂,公爺既知令郎壓死在破窑中,何不问他個明白?再问他那個破窑中?就叫人连夜赶到那里去,止住了他,不要他進窑中,就不妨了。”任太太聞言道:“你年老了,世事都不懂得!周公又不是活神仙,他不過按爻理推詳,如何定得在那一個破窑里?就算得没法救了。”



石婆子聽了任太太這一番言語,更覺傷心起來,忍不住便放聲大哭。任太公夫妻見他如此悲傷,又想他只有一個兒子,家道貧難,徜或真死了,叫他這老骨頭倚靠何人憐恤他?想到此處,不由的也就流下淚來。



話分两頭。再讲桃花小姐自從五歲上在門外與丫环們玩耍,就遇着一個化齋的道士,給他三卷天書,又給他一丸丹药食了,他就認得字了。每夜夢中,那道士又來叫他参解——在夢中真正教了數月,方才不夢見那道士。又得仙術,不消一年,把三卷天書就念會了心中。直至到十六歲上,也不對爹娘言知,他又不輕易見人。只因小姐素愛的桃花,故任太公就在后園上種了數百株桃樹,與他朝夕賞玩。桃花小姐每日只在花園中修理桃樹,或作些針黹。那日早飯畢,收拾了一回活計。



正欲到桃花園内去,忽聽得中堂上哀哭之聲不止,象一個婦人的聲音,心中暗想道:“何故今日堂上有人哭泣呢?待我去看看。”随即款動金蓮,來至中堂之上。一看見两位爹娘伴着隔壁住的石婆子在那里啼哭,心中也見詫異,忙上前道了萬福。石婆子見是小姐出來,便止了悲哀音,又道:“小姐,你怎輕易出來見人的啊?兒年不見你妝容,今越发長的嬌媚了。”任太公夫妻見女兒出來近前,也擦乾眼淚,叫聲:“女兒,在一旁坐下。”桃花小姐便问道:“爹娘何故伴着石大娘在此悲淚哩?”任太太忙接口道:“女兒,你有所不知。只因石大娘的令郎在外經商,一去半年不回,石大娘往周國公那里起卦,看看兒時回歸。不想公爺推詳爻理,决定他今夜三更必死,没得解救的,故他老人家所以傷心。你父親同為娘的在此勸他。到打動了我們無兒的心腸,故此下淚。”桃花小姐聞言,叹了一口氣道:只當做甚麽大事,原來為此!”便對石婆子道:“大娘不必苦切,哥哥若是當該死,你哭也哭他不活的。那周國公也未必有這样妙算神明。你且把哥哥的八字說來,奴也會算。待奴與他算算,看着命中果有救没有救的?”

太公夫妻聞言,即道:“我兒,你休要捉弄大娘。你兒時又會起课了呢?”桃花小姐道:“爹娘未知,女兒是新學的。大娘,你只管告诉奴聽,即算算,又有何妨碍呢?”石婆子無奈,只得把他兒子的八字,對桃花小姐說知。桃花小姐即伸出玉指尖尖掐一掐,一刻時,死生禍福俱已明白了然矣,不住的點頭道:“好個周國公!算的一些不错,怪不得朝歌城里人人敬服。果然今夜三更,定被破窑壓死。此乃白虎當頭,喪門守命,年頭、月令俱不利,决死無疑。按方向推來,只在城南十五里之遥,有一座破窑,明日在那里就有他的尸骸了。”石婆子聽了,又哭起來。任太公忙勸住,笑道:“老嫂,你休要聽小小年纪的混話。既知方向,老漢這里差個家人去,就救得令郎了,何用這般作難?只是我女兒的話,是難准信。”桃花小姐笑道:“人力豈能回天?爹娘與大娘不能准信,也罷了。惟今時刻已交未時了,一到申初,便有一场大雨,如無風雨,便是女兒亂說虚詞;如有風雨,大娘再作速請回來,奴家教你一個法兒,自能解救。”說完,即忙辭别了,一直進桃園里去了。



任太公聽了女兒言語,不由的大笑起來,道:“媽媽,你看這個天時氣晴,豈是有雨的?老嫂,你也不必過傷,豈可因小女方才所說,令郎若果死了,便哭也哭不回。依老漢說:老嫂且寬心回家,待老漢這里明日叫人去打聽回來便了。”石婆子無奈,只得告辭,回家中獨自在那里胡思亂想。



一到申刻時,忽然天氣大变起來:一霎時之間雨大風狂,淋漓不止。石婆子一見天忽下此狂風大雨,吃了一驚,說道:“果然天下此大雨了,如此看將起來,桃花小姐的卦爻甚是有准了。他又言有法可救我兒,今何不去哀求于他?或者得其有救我的孩兒方法,也未可知。”當下即冒着雨而來,至太公門外,把門扣開而進。  此刻,任太公與任太太老夫妻正在堂前,谈及女兒卦下有准,又不明他怎生學習得來,有此神術。正言間,忽見石婆子冒雨而來,早已知他為着兒子之故。



但不知如何求救得他兒子,且看下回分解。

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