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Thursday, August 19, 2010

無題 Untitled

Best while listening to the main theme of the "Last Emperor"

無題 Untitled

遲疑慢步許心願 Stepping forth slowly in hesitation, desiring a wish,
飛騰烟火報九霄 Incense smoke reporting fast to the Nine Heavens1.
玉手共奉金鐲垂 Jade hands raised in supplication, golden bracelets slid,
暗思偷望有誰在 Secret thoughts, furtive looks… Wondering who's in sight…

黑光四射眼神威 Flashing black eyes radiating with prestige,
白顏五官劍眉齊 Winsome features, fair of complexion, brows knitting like swords.
笑容偷偷奪我魂 His smiles secretly robbing me of my very soul,
若能宵宵伴吾心 Longing that each and every night his heart is near.

侯爺宫闈深似海 Palaces of nobility are deep as the ocean,
德配天地淺如紗 Paragons of virtue to them are silk gauze thin.
祥雲渺遠難此到 Auspicious clouds far and misty can never step into here,
戀意沉沒化為灰 The thought of loving him sank, haplessly turning into ashes.

羅網疏疏而不漏 Silken nets though sparse yet nothing slips through,
耀武征東謝皇恩 Glorious might subdued the East2 thanking Imperial favours.
光劍平西拜為爵 Naked swords agleam, the West pacified and nobility granted,
戰戈掃北能一臉 War halberds swept the North, yet only a glance I get of you.

鳳凰臺上鳳凰泣 A phoenix weeps on the Phoenix Terrace3,
牡丹亭中牡丹寵 Peonies are only beloved in the Peony Pavilion4.
梨花帶雨慕蝶夢 Pear blossoms dripped wet with rain5, envying the dream of butterflies6,
誤認淚灑江山穩 As others mistook my tears for the welfare of the empire.

Inspired by the main theme of the “Last Emperor”.  18 Aug 2010

A myriad of questions is left unanswered. On the surface we know she is in a temple burning incense and praying. Why at a hesitating pace? Why the furtive looks? Was she hiding something or looking for someone? The mystery deepens.

In the 2nd stanza we find out that there is a handsome man in her life. By chance did she just saw him on her the way to the temple? An accompanying guardsman perhaps? Or someone she had known before? Was going to the temple a pretext to get out of her surroundings for another glimpse of him? Was there any mutual attraction? Did he even know of her yearning for him? Finally who is this lady? All we know that she is from a rich family background.

In the 3rd stanza we finally find out that this mysterious lady was from the palace. But of what rank and marital status? The palace is a place where only the Emperor and the castrati may freely enter. All other males are forbidden though there may be exceptions made in the day but not at night. It is a viper's nest filled with intrigue, steeped in danger and where life is cheaper by the dozen. It is a giant cage where youth and beauty are pined away and they may not even get a glimpse of the emperor in their entire lives. However the successful ones will ride to the clouds and mount the pinnacle of undreamt power and luxury.

Now we have a better understanding of her feelings but we still do not know of her true intention. Praying for the welfare of the country or just for his safety? At least now we know her affection was returned. He had to elevate his social standing by distinguishing himself in battlefields so as to become ennobled. To be granted an imperial banquet in his honour is the only way he could enter the palace. Still non-physical barriers are insurmountable. We are still not sure of her status. Was she an imperial concubine? Or just someone born into such loftiness that even with all his merits he could not fly to her side? Or is it because of the futility that she would not give him a second look?

In the last stanza her identity was finally revealed - a woman belonging to the most august station of the empire. Whether she belonged to the emperor before the temple offerings were made we do not know. Could it be during the warring years that she was selected into the imperial harem? Only the lovers know of their plight whereas everyone else thinks her tears are the joy for the stability and prosperity of the empire... Each of them now burdened by their own responsibility to the country, their family and everyone else except being true to themselves. The allusion to the three different stories also meant to reinforce that true love is intended for the destined one. For example love will not blossom if the couples were mixed.

A plausible scenario but actually it is a gay inspired theme; hidden in the style of a straight classical Chinese allegorical story. Just like in the story there are insurmountable non-physical barriers. Yes, a glimpse from his black flashing eyes caused a heartbeat to stop. The names or rather the name of the guilty are encoded in the original text and is for the interested astute reader to discover. But then in real life things are much more complex and not straight forward. So many questions still remain in one's mind...


1. It is believed that there are 9 levels of heavens. Beyond that, it is nothingness or Nirvana where senses no longer exist.

2. An illusion to the campaigns of the Seet (薛)family of Ren Gui (仁貴) and his son Ding San (丁山) during the Tang Dynasty in expanding the borders of China. The East refers to the Korean campaign, the Turks in the West and the Huns in the north. There is debate whether Ding San is a real historical character as he was not recorded in the annals of Tang Books as a son of Ren Gui. The Seet family was ennobled to the highest military ranks.

In popular culture, a son of Ding San killed the mule headed son of Empress Wu Zetian who then proceeded to exterminate the entire clan of over a hundred people. Hence the Chinese word for “seed of sin” is written with the character of the surname, Seet with the character of son underneath it 孽. In the story, the wife of Ding San, Fan Lihua (樊梨花) once killed the Green Dragon Spirit of the East (in the form of the barbarian enemy) on the battlefield while she was pregnant. The spirit entered her to become her son to wreck revenge.

3. An allusion to lyrics in the story, "Recalling Flute Sounds On The Phoenix Terrace", 鳳凰臺憶簫. During the Age of Warring States, the daughter of Duke Mu (秦穆公) of the Chin State (the 22nd ruler before Chin Shih Hwang Ti - the first emperor of China) grew up loving jade. Thus she was named "Toying with Jade" 弄玉. She was beautiful and a skilled musician especially playing the Chinese panpipes 笙. When her father wanted to marry her off, she steadfastly refused to marry anyone who is not skilled in panpipes. The loving father allowed her to her whims. One night as she was playing the panpipes under the moon, she heard flute music wafting and harmonizing divinely with her panpipe music. This happened again and again for the next few nights. The princess reported the news to her father who then ordered his prime minister Meng Ming to follow the direction indicated by the princess to find out the mysterious player.

The prime minister searched until he came to Mt. Hua (華山) a hundred or so miles away where he heard from a woodcutter that there was a young hermit named Xiao Shi (蕭史) who made his home at the mountain top and also a flute player. The prime minister found him at the Bright Stars Cliff and brought him back to the palace. The couple got married under the blessing of the Duke. Xiao Shi taught his wife flute music. Within a decade she attained the level of imitating sounds of phoenixes. When they played flute music together, male and female phoenixes responded.  From the heavens they descended and danced
around the couple. The Duke then built this Phoenix Terrace for them. One day as they played, the husband mounted on a dragon and the princess mounted on a phoenix.  Together they ascended into the realms of immortality.

The lyrics was set to an earlier song which is now lost. To distinguish this poem from others with a similar structure, it was called "Separation set to the tune of Recalling Flute Sounds On the Phoenix Terrace".

4. An allusion from the opera, "Peony Pavilion". A girl of sixteen fell asleep under the Peony Pavilion in her summer house at Ningnan (Nanjing). In her dream, she met a young man whom she had never seen in her life and became lovers and as they were about to embark on a life together when she was rudely woken by a falling peony petal. She pined for the lost life and from this unrequited love she fell sick. Knowing her impending doom, she drew a portrait of herself and had it buried under a stone in the garden. When she died, she was buried under a nearby plum tree.  Soon afterwards, the father, Governor Tu left Hangchow to quell a rebellion.

Three years later, on a journey from Canton to Hangchow for the imperial examinations, a young scholar stopped at Nanan where he fell ill. He was given a resting place in the summer house in the Tu family garden. The discovery of the dead girl's portrait under the stone led to many hours of yearning for her until at last she appeared to him in a dream.

As destined lovers, she was allowed by Yama, the Lord of the Hades to return to earth to renew where they had left off in the dream. Following her bidding, he opened her coffin and she came back to life.

Later the scholar left for Hangchow to take his imperial examinations. However there was a delay in the announcement of the successful candidates due to invasion of northern Jiangsu led by a rebel leader with assistance from the Jurchen Tartars. The daughter was worried for her father and sent the husband to see him taking her portrait as identification and surety. Unfortunately for the son-in- law, the governor accused him for being a grave robber as the news of the opened coffin had by now reached him. After returning to  Hangchow, the Sung capital to have an imperial audience, the son-in-law was given a flogging but
was prevented from execution when a party of officials came looking for the missing Number One Scholar. Finally in an audience with the emperor, the son-in-law was able to prove his innocence with the help of his wife. The opera ends with the usual official promotion, family reconciliation and reunion.

5. A reference to a line in the Tang poem, Po Chuyi's "Eternal Sorrow (長恨歌), "A sprig of pear blossom drenched in spring rain" (梨花一 枝春带雨) to describe the beauty of Yang Guifei (楊貴妃) in a tearful posture. Now it is used to describe a beauty in sorrow.

6. A reference to the ill-fated pair of lovers in the "Butterfly Dream" (蝴蝶夢). A girl disguised herself as a man for further studies (in those days women were not allowed to study abroad!). She fell in love with her classmate. However, for three years he did not realize her identity even when she gave him hints whe she departed for home (the parents faked illness, as a ruse to get her home). When he realized his mistake after she had gone, he hurried after her. By the time he reached her, it was too late as she had been betrothed to another man through an
arranged marriage by her parents. He pined away and died. In order to get her to agree to the marriage willingly, the two families allowed her bridal sedan to pass by her lover's grave. As the procession neared the vicinity, a thunderstorm broke out and the grave was suddenly split open where upon she leapt into it. Then the grave immediately resealed itself whence a pair of butterflies was seen hovering from the grave before flying away. The lovers had turned into butterflies to be united forever. A pair of butterflies now symbolizes ill-fated lovers.

I did not use the character 媢 as it has a negative connotation.

For more details see

UPDATE - 29 Aug 2016

It has been six years since I had visited this poem.  Now it is time for an update as knowledge of the language has increased.  The changes were made as I used the poem to practised my Chinese brush writing that I started to learn about two years ago. The changes are highlighted in red.


但願夜夜侍君郎. If only that each and every night that I may serve by your side.



牡丹亭下牡丹. Peonies are glorious only under the Peony Pavilion

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic - Chapter 7


Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic

Chapter 7

Testing Divination Trigrams, Fateful News Arrives.
Seeking Special Help, A Death Sentence Reprieved.

The poem says,

Speak not of accuracy in Lord Chou’s predictions,
But the marvelous way Peach Blossom breaks them.
Stronger within the strong will always exist,
Pointing to a maze’s exit, Pang Jiang’s life is saved.

Let’s not talk about how Lord Chou divined Pang Jiang’s fortunes but on the divination result. Lord Chou was dumbfounded for a long while and his face darkened abruptly. He stared straight at Pang Jiang with no gesture of any sort except for a great sigh of pity. Pang Jiang was greatly alarmed at his grave looking countenance and asked,

“Milord! Is the harbinger of things to come that disastrous? If you remain silent, how would Pang Jiang understand his plight and avert this impending disaster?”

At this point, Lord Chou gave another long sigh and explained,

“Ever since I started giving predictions, nothing was held back; always a straightforward answer from me. As I had divined for you, how could I withhold the truth from you? This divination augurs great calamity. I’m afraid your life will be forfeited as well. This is fate and the will of Heaven. In three days’ time, on the night of the hour of Chou, at the fifth period and three minutes, it is time for you to depart for the nether world! Pain will first fill your head and you will die from vomiting blood. Alas what a pity - you had long served me with such loyalty and I feel like a hapless bystander!”

Subconsciously, Lord Chou teared up. Ah… since time immemorial even ants and crickets crave for life. When Pang Jiang heard his master’s words, so shocked was he that his upper soul1 flew beyond the sky and his lower soul dispersed throughout the Nine Heavens2. With a word of ‘Aiyah”, Pang Jiang plopped down in a stupor. After a long time, he began wailing,

“Milord! Is this divination for real?”

“Why would I lie to you? You had waited on me all your life and I had never given anything great to you. Here are ten taels of silver to go have a good time feasting and drinking heartily before your time is up! Worry not about your funeral arrangements! I shall take care of them.”

Lord Chou then summoned ten taels of silver to be brought to him. Pang Jiang always knew his master’s predictions were never wrong and on seeing his seriousness that day, he was convinced that the prediction was true. He knelt down begging,

“My master! Such a flagitious result, please, please! Can you save this Pang Jiang?”

“A man’s life is fated. How can I save you? Take the silver quickly. Have a good time and drive away the blues!”

Pang Jiang long knew how steadfast Lord Chou could be. It was futile to plead for mercy from him. Taking the silver and putting them in his waist sash, Pang Jiang walked crestfallen out of the main gate. He soon found a grand wine shop and sat down. He ordered two good jugs of wine and fine food and began to feast alone. As he drank, he thought to himself,

“Today a man I’m still but in three days’ time a ghost I will become. How exceedingly annoying!”

With this thought, tears welled up in his eyes. Those at the wine shop who knew Pang Jiang saw his current state and approached him, asking,

“Old Lord Pang, we’ve not seen you in a long time come in for a drink. Why such sorrowful tears today? Could it be that your master closed his divination business for a few days and you had no money to spend?”

Pang Jiang merely answered,

“It’s not that. Just some private matters.”

Moodily, Pang Jiang drank a few cups of wine in succession. As the adage goes: Wine entering sorrowful intestines will get one drunk easily. Lo and behold Pang Jiang was drunk before the two jugs were emptied. After paying his bill, Pang Jiang staggered home. As he entered his room, he plopped down on his bed fully clothed and slept through the night.

Upon wakening the next day, he thought of his soon-to-be rendezvous with Death himself and started to weep again. Slowly he rose from his bed and muttered to himself as he sat down on a chair,

“Lord Chou’s prediction is indeed never wrong. When one knows of one’s date with death, how can one escape from it? Well, entertainment?? here I come! Only wish he had told me earlier so that I can have a few more days of merriment.”

He changed his attire and instead of going into the study to serve his master as usual, he locked his room and headed out. For two days, Pang Jiang walked downcast and in a sullen mood. Other servants did not know the reason and were too embarrassed to ask. In no time they were gossiping among themselves behind his back.

Meanwhile as he left the main door he walked absent-mindedly to another wine shop and thought to himself,

“Shi Tsung Fu. Lord Chou predicted that you’ll die and yet you are still alive. Now he had predicted my death, have I really to die? Would a fake one suffice? Maybe I can learn to fake death like Shi Tsung Fu. I must find out how.”

He also remembered,

“His death was to occur in the cave dwelling. Had he not run out suddenly to relieve himself, he would surely have been crushed to death by the wall. He avoided death by running away. I am to die by vomiting blood, how can I escape like him?”

Again tears welled up as he continued walking, thinking of his impending death. Just then there was a sudden tap on his shoulder. The gods of death must be upon him! No small fright that was! He yelped and screamed,

“So you have come for me?”

A person it was as he turned his head around. After a moment’s concentration, he recognized that it was Shi Tsung Fu!

This Shi Tsung Fu was walking behind old Pang and saw him sighing and muttering to himself in a beaten manner as if in deep thought. Strange it was to see Pang Jiang raising his head now and then looking around absent-mindedly. So Shi Tsung Fu stepped up his pace to catch up with Pang Jiang. Upon reaching him, Shi Tsung Fu gave him a friendly slap on the shoulders and asked,

“Old lord Pang, why so absent mindedly in deep thought?”

On seeing his tears, Shi Tsung Fu continued,

“Why, you are in tears too!”

Still tearing, Pang Jiang replied to his questioning,

“Hard to explain in a word, it’s a long story. By the way, where is my good brother heading?”

“Back home.”

“Great, we are on the same way then.”

There was chatter and laughter as the two men journeyed together. “Maybe it is fate,” Pang Jiang suddenly thought to himself,

“When he didn’t die as predicted, my lord was damn sure there was a reason for it. Maybe he knew of a way out. After all, drinking alone is no fun, why don’t I buy some food and wine, have a feast in his place and plead for a solution? If indeed there’s one, this calamity of mine may turn into a lucky day for me!”

Upon reaching the market, Pang Jiang quickly suggested,

“Brother, since you came back from a long trip, I haven’t treated you to wine nor had a good chat with you. Today we have nothing to do so why don’t I bring some food and wine to your place? I shall inconvenience old sister-in-law to do to some cooking. We brothers can sit down and have some idle chat. How about it?”

As he spoke, Pang Jiang took out some silver to buy food and wine. Shi Tsung Fu could not stop him in time and had no choice but to let Pang Jiang do whatever he wanted.

Happily, the two men carried the food and wine back to the Shi family and Shi Tsung Fu called his mother to let them in. When Mrs. Shi opened the door and saw it was old Pang, she smiled and asked,

“Old man Pang, how are you? Why such delicacies?”

“Old sister-in-law, as you know, we have known each other for so long. Just a few cups of wine with my good brother to discuss some private matter.”

Old Mrs. Shi then took the food stuff into the kitchen to prepare them.

The two men sat in the main hall chatting idly and soon Shi Tsung Fu realized that Pang Jiang was just babbling away, one word to the east, another from the west, a sentence with a head but no conclusion. As the unrelated talk prolonged, Shi Tsung Fu became suspicious,

“Hmmm… I wonder if he’s sent here by Lord Chou to fish for information. Need to watch out for him”.

Not long afterwards, Mrs. Shi beckoned her son to bring the food into the hall. Pang Jiang invited the mother to sit and eat with them3. After some pushing and declining she finally relented and sat down. Pang Jiang repeatedly filled his cup and drained them right away before the food was touched. Then all of a sudden he burst into tears. Mrs. Shi was puzzled and inquired,

“Old master Pang, what’s the matter with you? Some personal problems bothering you? If not, why such tears soon after your drink?”

Pang Jiang shook his head in silence. Shi Tsung Fu gave a laugh and commented,

“Old master Pang! Brothers in drink should be a joyous affair, why such sorrow? There must be a good reason for this! Did older brother suffer some grievance from others?”

“My brother does not know. My heart is burdened with some grave matter, hence these tears.”

Old Mrs. Shi chimed in,

“Old master Pang, what really is the matter? Whether true or not that you were bullied, you need not be in such a sorrowful state! Why don’t you tell us?”

Pang Jiang replied,

“Old sister-in-law, please don’t even mention it! Today I’m a man yet tomorrow at the fourth watch, a ghost I shall become. No longer will I see you both mother and son!”

Tears flew like a weaving shuttle and streamed down his face.

Both mother and son promptly asked,

“Why such words?”

Pang Jiang began recounting what a vicious omen Lord Chou had predicted: that tomorrow night at the fourth hour; he would meet his end by vomiting blood. He continued,

“Venerable sister-in-law, I know that Lord Chou’s divinations are never wrong. I’m afraid that I can no longer protect my life. Today I met brother Shi, remembering how the other day he was able to escape from his death. Surely there must be a way out. I beg both of you to instruct a way out for me. If so, you two will be my saviours!”

At first Shi Tsung Fu thought that Pang Jiang had come to wheedle information on Lord Chou’s orders but on hearing those words of death and seeing the thousand rows of tears being shed, Shi Tsung Fu and his mother began to feel for him and started sobbing as well. Reflecting on himself and then looking at Pang Jiang, Shi Tsung Fu began to grieve for him and said,

“Lord Chou’s predictions are indeed accurate. That night if I didn’t hear my mother call me, I’d not have gone out of the broken shelter. I’d have definitely been crushed to death in that spot by the wall. What he said about his death at the fourth hour of tomorrow night, I’m afraid his predictions will ring true again.”

“Brother when you were at the broken shelter, how could you hear your mother calling you?”

Shi Tsung Fu was stunned into silence on hearing those words. His two eyes stared unflinchingly at Pang Jiang. This fact did not escape Pang Jiang. As he observed Shi Tsung Fu’s demeanor he realized the reason. How can Pang Jiang miss such a presented opportunity? He quickly stood up and made a bow with clasped hands and pleaded,

“Venerable sister-in-law, please have pity on me, teach me a way to save my life. Never in this life will I forget your greatness!”

Old Mrs. Shi replied,

“How could there be a way to save one’s life?”

Seeing her excuses Pang Jiang quickly knelt down and pleaded once more,

“Venerable sister-in-law, an adage says, ‘saving a life surpasses in building a seven-storied stupa.”

More tears rained from Pang Jiang’s face as if from peeling onions. Old Mrs. Shi quickly ordered his son to help Pang Jiang up and continued,

“How could this old body have the ability to save any life? Someone had indeed come to my son’s aid by instructing me a way to avoid his fate at the broken shelter. Many times I had been warned about disclosing that person’s identity for fear of retribution if Lord Chou ever found out!”

Pang Jiang heard the explanation and he suddenly realized and asked,

“Venerable sister-in-law, would this person be a lady who taught you the way out?”

Old Mrs. Shih was greatly taken aback and her face immediately ashen.

Would mother and son spill the beans on Miss Ren? How would Pang Jiang be saved? Please read the next chapter.


1. … the commonest view among the Chinese is that man has two souls: the Hun (魂) or the superior soul, which has much in common with the Shen (神), or good spirits, and is often designated by the latter name; and the P’o (魄), or inferior soul, which is greatly feared for its powers of mischief, and partakes of the nature of the Kuei (鬼) or evil spirits. A third ‘soul’ is vaguely believed, in some districts to dwell in the mortuary table set up in the memory of the deceased, and is the source of sundry weird tales.

Chinese Ghouls & Goblins, G. Willoughby-Meade, 1928, pg 1, “Chinese Idea Of The Soul”

Different sources have different theories on the soul and may be in conflict with each other.

Superior soul has 3 parts; again different sources have different names,

Heaven 天 (魑) Yang
Earth 地 (魁) Ying
Life 命 (魍) Yang

Inferior soul has 7 parts,

Heaven Dashing 天沖 Ying Heaven
Efficacious Intelligence 靈慧 Ying Heaven
For Vital Breath 為氣 Yang Life
For Energy 為力 Yang Life
Central Backbone 中樞 Yang Life
For Vitality 為精 Yang Earth
For Gallantry 為英 Yang Earth

Other names for inferior soul parts are Harmony (和), Righteousness (義), Wisdom (智), Virtue (德), Strength (力), Vital Breath (氣) and Evil (惡). Heaven and Earth superior souls may reside outside the body while the Life part alone resides in the body. The superior souls need not always come together in the head. The inferior souls reside in the seven vital meridian points of the body. When a person dies, the 7 inferior souls leave first before the 3 superior souls. When one is ill, the Harmony soul disperses, thus the need to use medicine to stop it from leaving. When the Harmony and Strength parts leave, the body is easily possessed by demons or ghosts.

2. 九霄 - Different sources cite different names for the 9 levels of Heaven. Beyond these 9 levels is the invisible heaven called Darkness天以不見為玄。 From the lowest to the highest,

a. Divine Heaven 神霄
b. Blue Heaven 青霄
c. Green Heaven 碧霄
d. Red Heaven 丹霄
e. Bright Heaven 景霄
f. Jade Heaven 玉霄
g. Quaking Heaven 振霄
h. Purple Heaven 紫霄
i. Supreme Heaven 太霄

3. In the old days, women are expected to eat in another room when entertaining male guests to avoid impropriety. However this is not the case when male guests are relatives even though in this case they are not truly related. This is a gesture to endear themselves as a part of the family to honour the host.

Original Text





話說周公不與彭剪卜卦猶可,今這一卜了出來,只唬得周公呆了一回,面色改變,半晌方才轉了過來,兩眼直視著彭剪,不止的點頭,大有嘆惜之意。彭剪在旁一見周公佔了卦,半響不言語,竟有淒慘之形,不免吃了一驚,問道:“公爺!莫非此卦兇多吉少。何不說明,使彭剪防避取吉如何?”當時周公長嘆—聲,道:“孤從來卜卦,並無隱藏,定必直言判斷。孤既與你推詳卜了,豈有不說明之理?你今這一卦,不但主卦兇象,連性命也是不能保的。此乃天數大限,只在三日內下午這一夜丑時五刻正三分的時候,就是你的歸陰之期也!必先要頭痛,然後吐血而死。可憐你侍候孤多年,為人一生忠厚,孤今日竟似袖手旁觀,不能救你!”話言未畢,不覺落下淚來。呀,自古螻蟻尚且貪生,彭剪一聞周公之言,真唬得魂飛天外,魄散九霄,“哎喲”一聲,竟坐在地下,半晌,哭將起來道:“公爺!此卦果然是真的麼?”周公道:“孤豈有欺你?你侍候了孤一輩子無別,又無一些好事與你,今與你白銀十兩,趁著大限未臨,你去歡歡喜喜多吃幾杯酒罷!你一切後事,自有孤與你辦理。且放心,不必慮著後事!”說罷,便叫人去取出白銀十兩,即交與彭剪。但彭剪素知周公的神卦萬無一失,今日見他如此,知是真的,便雙膝跪下,道:“公爺!卦內既有此大凶,何不救救彭剪?”周公道: “人之死生大數,孤焉能救得你?快快拿銀子去,外面散散心煩罷!”







石氏母子二人連忙問道:“這話從何處說起?”彭剪便把周公替他起卦,說知大凶,今夜四更時分要吐血而死云云,說了一遍,又言: “老嫂,我想周公的卦乃萬不失一的,只怕我的大命真個難保了。因此在路上遇了石兄弟,想起他前日是死裡逃生,必有個方法,要求你母子教會我,得脫此災厄,真是我彭剪的活命恩人矣!”  石宗輔起初只道彭剪受了周乾之命,前來打聽桃花女之事因,今聽他言卜卦,又言明日準死,直哭得流淚千行,也引動起他流淚,他的母親也陪著流些眼淚,想想自己,看看他人,由不得也傷心起來,道:“周公爺的占卜實在靈應,那一晚我在破窯中,若不聽見我母呼喚,我若不走出外來,便準準的壓死在裡頭。他今說你明日四更要死,只怕又應驗也!”彭剪道:“兄弟,你在這破窯中,如何聽得見老嫂呼喚?”他這句說話,說得石宗輔啞口無言,兩眼直視老彭。彭剪見此光景,知有因緣故。他怎肯錯過機關?急忙立起來,向著石婆子一揖道:“老嫂,可憐恤憫,教教我個法兒,救我性命,沒世不忘!”石婆子道:“那有方法救得人性命? ”彭剪見他推卻,即忙脆下道:“老嫂,自古道:救人一命,勝造七級浮圖。”便叩頭如摘蒜—般。石婆子連忙喚兒子扶攙起,道:“你想老身如何能教人之命?我孩兒是有個人救他,給個方法,我兒才得不死在破窯中。他再三再四叫我不要說出他的名姓,恐怕你公爺知道了,要與他鬥氣!”彭剪聽罷,猛然想起道:“老嫂,可是個陰人教你個法兒麼?”石婆子聽了大驚,不覺失色。


Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic - Chapter 6

Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic

Chapter 6

With Refunded Divination Fees, Mother and Son Give Thanks
A Faulty Divination, Master and Servant In Detailed Discussion.

The poem says,

Great are your magical skills; you shall face greater ones who can turn Heaven upside down.
In a battle of wits, expect the unexpected.
Even when you strike first,
Be wary lest your opponent seizes the prize!

The moment Pang Jian heard Old Mrs. Shi’s words; he understood clearly that the mother and son are here for the refund inspite of the ‘kind words” they gave. He therefore answered coldly,

“Interesting, indeed interesting! Now milord won’t be able to boast so loudly!”

Smiling at the same time, he entered the hall complaining,

“Fees refund! Always be careful with your divinations, I say. But what says he? ‘Nary in a hundred would my divination not be accurate.’ Today’s trouble you brought upon yourself!”

On hearing the words, Lord Chou who was still at his seat became annoyed and rebuked,

“Have you gone mad? What you are babbling about!”

Pang Jian laughed out mockingly,

“What did I say? People are here for the ten-fold refund!”

Lord Chou was angry and reproved,

“What nonsense! Who wants a refund?”

Pang Jian replied,

“Milord, need not be angry. Those people demanding their refund are at the door now.”

Not waiting for further instruction, Pang Jian left and led in Shi Tsung Fu and his mother.

Seated, Lord Chou recognized widowed Shi and saw a man at her side, most probably her son. Greatly startled, Lord Chou murmured to himself,

“Yesterday my divination had foretold the son would be crushed in the cave dwelling on the third hour of the watch. How could he be alive and standing right in front of me? The refund is a small matter but my divinations are never wrong. Why is it so today? Surely there must be a reason.”

Lord Chou questioned from his seat,

“Widow Shi, who is that person at your side? What are you doing here?”

Old Mrs. Shi replied,

“My lord, this is the son of this old woman. Last night he did not die and came home this morning. I brought him along to pay his respects to your Lordship.”

Shi Tsung Fu was a smart chap on hearing how his mother spoke; he quickly knelt down and kowtowed to Lord Chou, and stood aside after the obeisance. This respectful kowtow smacked squarely into the jaw of Lord Chou, whose black face immediately turned red, utterly embarrassed to the core. Pushing some silver across the table he said,

“Old Mrs. Shi! Bilking a poor woman I shall not. Take the silver!”

On seeing Lord Chou’s actions Shi Tsung Fu quickly stepped forward and took the ten taels of silver. Lord Chou interrogated,

“Shi Tsung Fu, did you not rest last night in an abandoned cave dwelling near the city’s southern border? Whose magical arts did you learn to dissolve the impending doom? Speak the truth and you shall be rewarded lavishly!”

Shi Tsung Fu heard the cross-examination and merely replied,

“Last night this nobody was hurrying home and as there was no inn on the way, I tarried in this abandoned cave dwelling. Some time in the middle of the night, I had a stomach ache and needed to relieve myself. The moment I ventured out, the place collapsed and therefore I was not crushed inside.”

“Not so! I predicted last night at the hour of Shen great rains will fall; not until the hour of Yu will it cease and at the third hour the skies will be cleared. Also predicted that you are alone in the cave dwelling and be crushed to death with no saviour in sight. How was it possible that a big inconvenience1 suddenly arose? I believe not your words!”

On seeing the silver had been refunded to Mrs. Shi, Pang Jian sneered at his Lord’s lame excuses and said,

“Milord, the divination was not inaccurate; it just got bested by a stomach full of shit thus saving his life. As the refund has been made, just tell the mother and son to leave, why so much questioning?”

Lord Chou felt the sting right in his face when he heard the words, so ashamed and embarrassed that he could hardly speak. Old Mrs. Shi got the picture and quickly bade farewell with Pang Jian following suit.

Shi Tsung Fu then said,

“The sign said the refund is ten taels of silver and thirty pennies. How come there are only ten taels?”

Pang Jian heard the remark and stopped dead in his tracks,

“For a measly thirty pennies you want to drain me! Wait here and I shall get it for you!”

Old Mrs. Shi quickly said,

“My old lord, please don’t tally with this child. We are very delighted on getting back our capital. Now with this ten-fold refund that Lord Chou paid us, we are extremely elated. How can we subject your lordship to more inconvenience?

With such sarcasm, Pang Jian could no longer bear the words and relented instead to save face,

“My good brother, although these words are unintentionally spoken, your words are not unreasonable too. Since my lordship has refunded, how can I Pang Jian not do the same?”

Pang Jian then took out ten packets of pennies and handed over to Shi Tsung Fu who in a thick-skinned face took the cash. After some polite and humility talk, the mother and son left merrily.

Pang Jian was stunned like a fool momentarily before he could enter the inner hall, sulking in stony silence. Lord Chou was not amused because of the sass he had received earlier from Pang Jian. When he saw his sullen face, he almost wanted to lash out but had a change of heart and said to himself,

“If I rebuke him, tongues will wag. ‘Just because your divinations are wrong, so you vent your anger on others’? I’d be a laughing stock.”

Lord Chou had no choice but to stew in anger. Finally he bellowed,

“Pang Jian! Take down the sign from the main entrance. From now on, no more divination business!”

Pang Jian detected anger in his lordship and dared not disobey. The signs were then taken down. This is really,

Drawing all the waters from the Three Rivers2,
Still not possible in washing away this morning of shame!

Joy flooded their hearts as Mrs. Shi and son took the ten taels of silver and thirty pennies. On their way home, they bought a goat and some wine. Putting on their Sunday best they paid a visit to the Ren family to thank them. Ren Tai Kung tried to decline the lavish gifts but after three rounds of giving and declining3 he had no choice but to accept them. Ren Tai Kung then ordered his servants to prepare a feast in their honour. Half a day went by before mother and son finished their feast with the Rens. On their way back, Ren Tai Kung and wife reminded them time and again that they must not mention their daughter to anyone. About this we shall not talk anymore. In the meantime, ever since the refund incident, Lord Chou was very unhappy. The divination business had been closed for a few days straight, all divination requests were refused. Sitting in his study feeling bored, he thought to himself,

“My Eight Trigram Divination is never wrong. I must get to the bottom of this. How is the hour of death for Shi Tsung Fu in error?”

The more he thought the more suspicious he became,

“The divination has no flaws!”

Suddenly he realized something and laughed aloud,

“How stupid I can be! Why don’t I divine it again? Then I shall know the truth instead of letting my imagination run amuck.”

Quickly he took out his divination cylinder, waved it a few times and soon a divination was formed. Looking closely he saw that ‘Pure Yin (female) was in ascendancy”.

Lord Chou gasped,

“That day, when I made a divination for myself, it said there was trouble in encountering females. Today, it is pure female essence!” Does it mean that the one who broke my prediction is a female?”

Once more Lord Chou checked and no error was found and yet the divination could not identify the culprit’s name. He became very impatient and fretful. [‘If Peach Blossom had a way in transmitting the way out to Mrs. Shi, how could she not suppress the hours of her birth to prevent Lord Chou from finding out her identity?‘ – The author.] No matter how hard Lord Chou tried to divine with his fingers, he had no success. Muttering angrily in hate,

“If I ever find out the identity of this person, I shall cut her into half or else I swear that a man I shall never be!”

Angrily, he slammed down the divination box. No matter what other methods he tried, he could not find out who the culprit was. From then onwards Lord Chou sat alone stewing in anger. With each passing day, his wrath was so great that no one dared to bring his food, to enter in his presence or to come forward in trying to placate him.

In a bat of the eye, it was around the first ten days into the lunar month. As usual Lord Chou was sitting alone in the garden pavilion when Pang Jian entered. On seeing his master’s seething wrath, he knew that it still had something to do with Shi Tsung Fu. He said with a smile,

“Milord, I have been thinking. If Shi Tsung Ren had not come out of the cave dwelling, wouldn’t he be a crushed duck inside? Or maybe that he had done some good deeds on his journey? An old adage said, ‘A little hidden merit done, a decade of longevity increased.’ He must have met some saviour who instructed a way out for him. However all this is conjecture so why doesn’t milord simply make another divination to get to the bottom of things?”

“Don’t you think I have already done this for myself? According to its form, it clearly indicated that a woman helped him out and thus broke my prediction. No matter how much I try, I cannot find out who she is!”

Pan Jian continued,

“In this city of Morning Song, don’t say it was a woman. Even if the divination had said it was an outstanding man, Milord could not have easily identified him. So many accurate divinations you have given, how can one inaccuracy amount to anything? Right now there are so many people waiting at the main door each day for divine guidance. My mouth has become dry and sour in trying to shoo them away and yet no one wants to leave. All want a divination in earnest. Those who had come from afar will be in anger when turned away. I am getting worried that things will get out of hand. Please reconsider before it’s too late. Originally milord’s goal was to un-befuddle the masses. Now because of such a trifle matter, you have abandoned your goal. A laughing matter to all it shall become. How now? How now?”

Lord Chou heard the advice and reflected,

“Your advice is sound. I wanted to find out who saved Shi Tsung Fu. Seems there’s something wrong with the Eight Trigrams. Let me divine myself a few more times to test its accuracy. I cannot be too careless!”

Pang Jian gave a hearty laugh on hearing his master’s words,

“Milord, why not divine me instead and see how lucky or ill-fortuned I’m going to be?”

Sneeringly, Lord Chou replied,

“Pang Jian, you have served me for a long time. You are honest and thrifty. I shall grant you a boon today. First go and burn some incense before the sages. Then bring me the divination box and we shall begin your divination.”

Pang Jian was overjoyed. Quickly he burnt some incense and brought out the accoutrements. Six times, Lord Chou began to shake the divination box and as he peered into it, all at once, his countenance changed. Stupefied, his tongue hung out in disbelief and he shook his head sadly. Great is today if no divination was made but now the black face of Lord Chou turned yellow, two spirals of purple cloud rising between his thick eyebrows.

What has the divination in store for Pang Jian? Good or bad, please read the next chapter.


1. Or rather the great convenience - bowel movement 大便. 小便 “Lesser convenience is urination”.

2. The 3 great rivers of China, the Yellow River (黃河), the Yangtze (楊子江) and the Pearl River (珠江)

3. One of the unspoken rules in Chinese society is that one cannot accept a gift immediately. This is considered rude and greedy. One has to decline three times before acceptance. The giver on the other hand must do his obligatory insistence to give face to the receiver. If the gift was not accepted, it would be considered an insult to the giver as it is construed to be too shabby to be accepted. This tango of display must be observed at all costs. However this custom applies only to people of equal rank. When one receiving a gift from a superior, the gift must be accepted with both hands immediately. Of course a different dance routine is ensued.

Original Text





當時彭剪一聞石婆子之言,明知他母子商酌定來討賠還卦資的“好話”,即冷笑一聲道:“有趣,我趣!我家公爺今日可是講不得響嘴了! ”一面笑著,一面走進裡面說道:“快把卦金還人家罷!我也說過要小心看卦才好,你道'百不失一',今日算出這件事來了!”周公此時還坐在座上,見彭剪如此話來,便喝道:“你瘋了麼?口中亂講些什麼話!”彭剪笑道:“講什麼?人家要倒賠十倍銀子來了! ”周公聞言,大怒道:“胡說!有誰來要賠還銀子?”彭剪道:“公爺不消發怒。要賠銀子的人現在門外。”他也不聽周公吩咐,竟出來領了石宗輔母子二人進去。

周公在座上看得明白,真是石寡婦,旁邊立著個漢子,大約是他兒子。心中吃了一驚。暗道:“孤昨日算他兒子三更時候壓死在破窯之內,如何得命回來?今日來討回銀子到也小事,只是孤的陰陽無錯,如何今日不應了?其中必有緣故。”便在座上開言道:“石寡婦,你身旁是你什麼人?到此何干?”石婆子聞言道:“公爺,這是老婦人之子石宗輔。昨日晚間並沒有死,今早才回家,老婦人帶他來的,特與公爺叩頭。”石宗輔為人伶巧,他聽得母親這般說,便忙跪下叩了一個頭,復又站將起來,仍是立在一旁。這一個頭,磕得座上周公的烏臉反變了紅色,不由得含羞帶愧,用手將桌上的起卦銀子一總推開,道:“石婆子!孤不賴你貧婦,你且拿去!”石宗輔見周公如此說,即上前把十包銀子拿了收領。周公又問道:“石宗輔,你昨晚可是在城南破窯中歇下的麼?是何人傳授你的法術,得了解法,保全性命?你可實實的說明,孤知還另重重有賞!”這個石宗輔聽此盤詰之言,即道:“昨晚小民趕急回歸,在中途趕不及店家,果然宿在破窯中的。只因半夜中肚內一時疼痛,要想出恭,起來剛剛出了窯門口,那間破窯就倒陷了,故此未曾被壓在裡面。”周公道:“不然。孤昨日算得申時大雨,至酉刻方止,三更時候天晴。又算你獨自一人在窯中命喪,並無救星。何有出來大便?此言孤不信了!'彭剪見周公賠還了石婆子的銀子,只聽仍然辯駁,即冷笑道:“公爺,卦是靈的,今反吃虧了!石宗輔實得肚子疼痛,竟是一肚子屎兒,救了他的性命。銀子已經給了他,叫他母子去罷,只管問他則甚? ”周公聽了此言,就像挨了一頓嘴臉,羞的低頭不語。石婆子知趣的,忙別了出來。彭剪亦跟了出來。

宗輔又言:“招牌上寫的十兩三錢,為何止有十兩?”彭剪聽得,打一頓足道:“三錢頭要我賠還的,待我來給與你。 ”石婆子忙道:“老爺,休要同他孩子這般見識。我們只望得回本銀,就算好了。公爺反一賠十,這是十分足矣。倒反累老爺又賠還,豈可受得起?”當時彭剪好難受此話,便慢慢的道:“好兄弟,此話雖係無心,我想來甚是有理。公爺既賠了,我難道不賠的? ”便向身中把十個小包兒也拿出來,遞與石宗輔。那石宗輔老著臉兒接了。母子也說了些好話,便歡歡喜喜的去了。


憑君汲盡三江水,難洗今朝滿面羞。當時石家母子得了十兩三錢銀子,滿心喜悅,就在路上市肆買了羊、酒回家。母子們又換了新衣,一同進至任家,與任太公夫妻叩謝,任太公見他禮物甚重,再三推辭。石家母子只是不依。太公無奈,只得收下。又吩咐家人備了一桌酒筵,與他母子二人接風。吃了半日酒,方才辭了出去。臨行時,太公夫妻又是再三囑咐。教他母子切不可說出是他女兒設法救的。這話且暫按下。再說周公自從那日被石家母子來討回卦資,心中甚是不樂,便把卜市一連關了幾日,不與人卜卦,止是悶坐書房,心裡想道:“孤的八卦有準,一定的判決,豈料算石宗輔之死期竟然不靈!”復又細想:“前卜之卦,判的一些不錯。”心中愈加狐疑。忽然猛醒,反把自己笑了一笑,道:“好呆呀!何不蔔一卜看?就可知道了。何用如此胡思亂想?”忙取了卦筒,搖了幾搖,起一卦,細細一著,著得是“純陰持世”,心中吃驚道:“那日孤自佔時,也是不利陰人,今日又占得純陰之卦!難道有什麼陰人破我的八卦? ”左右推詳,一些不錯,但只再算不出這陰人姓名,心中焦燥起來。 —做書的又言:桃花女既能傳法與石婆子,他自己的八字早已按住了,周公那裡推得出桃花女的姓名來?所以他掐來算去,算去掐來,再也推詳不出,暗暗恨道:“孤訪出這個人的姓名來,不斬他為兩段,誓不為人!”恨恨的把卦盒丟下,氣了一回,無計可施,無可奈何,只得罷了。自此之後,終日悶坐,差些兒連飲食也不進。左右的人知道周公的性子不好,不敢前來勸他。

轉眼之間,已七月初旬。那日周公在花亭上獨坐。彭剪進來,見他悶悶不樂,知道為石宗輔之事,便大笑開言道:“公爺,想來石宗輔若不出破窯外面,豈不壓死在裡廂?或者,他在路上想必行了些好事。自古道:'一點陰功,可增十年長壽。'他必定遇了吉人,暗中救護了他,也未可知。公爺何不自卜—卜,看是與不是?就明白了。 ”周公聞言,即道:“孤何嘗不自卜來?按卦象內明明現有個陰人,救他脫災,破了孤的八卦,只是推算不出他的姓名來!”彭剪又道:“這朝歌城裡,莫說是陰人,就是頂天立地奇男子漢,也未必破得公爺的神明八卦,況且算來多步卦來,無一不靈。縱使這一卦不驗,有何干礙?如今卜市的人俱在門首,天天等候卜卦,回得口都乾酸了,他們仍不散去,懇求不已,更言遠方特來此的,不得占卜,不勝忿忿而去。在我十分悔意不及。公爺的占卜,原是指點愚人的迷津。今日為這小事便悔了初心,豈不被人恥笑?奈何,奈何?”周公聽了這番言語,想了一想道:“你說的雖是有理,只是孤想算出那個救脫石宗輔的人姓名,到也推算了不出,似乎八卦有些不放心。待孤先自己蔔一、二卦,看看準也不准,再開卜市也不遲。不可不小心!”彭剪聽了,便笑道:“公爺,你自卜不如代彭剪佔一卜,看我後來幾個月吉凶如何也。”周公聞言,冷笑道:“彭剪,你與孤相處多年,又是忠誠,一生勤儉,孤今日賞你一卦也罷。你且親目焚香先聖之前,取卦盒來,待孤與你蔔一卜,以定吉凶休咎。”彭剪聽了大喜,連忙焚起片香,把卦盒遞上。周公將卦筒一連搖了六次,內裡細細搜其卦象,登時顏色一變,吐舌搖頭。此日不卜猶自可,當下這卦一卜,把那一個周國公烏臉轉了個黃臉了,濃眉起了兩股的紫氣。


Friday, August 6, 2010

Peach Blossom GIrl Dueling Magic - Chapter 5

Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic

Chapter 5

A Way Out Sent From Afar, A Filial Son Escapes Calamity,
Relying On Magical Arts, A Loving Mother Reunites With Her Son.

The poem says:

White clouds are no different from those seen from the Han Palace in autumn.1
Far away war beacons are burning bright – setting souls a fear in lofty watch towers.
My general, where art thy war horses now?
Only grasses and wild flowers grow in despair.

Let’s talk about Shi Tsung Fu in the broken cave dwelling. Just as he was about to drift off to sleep during the early part of the hour when suddenly he heard a voice crying from outside,

“Shi Tsung Fu, my son! Come home quickly!”

His heart gave a jump and opened his eyes immediately. He was all alone and silence swirled around him. He thought to himself,

“This is really strange. A moment ago, I distinctly heard someone called my name. Did I imagine it?”

The rain stopped, he got up and walked out of the place. The sky was filled with stars and the new moon looked like a hook glowing faintly. The grass was wet and slick like oil. He wanted to leave this place and hurry on with his journey even though he knew there was no shelter ahead. Finally he went back in the abandoned cave dwelling and sat down thinking,

“Perhaps I’m just imagining things. It must be that I was thinking about mother too much and so the whistling wind sounded like her voice. I’m this far away from home, how can I hear her calling me?”

Pondering left and right and in grogginess he soon fell asleep. Right in the middle of a dream, he heard someone calling him again and pondered,

“Strange indeed! Is my imagination running amuck again?”

And at that, he jumped and shouted,


Unconsciously his tears rained from his face but he rationalized his silly predicament. Then he burst out laughing,

“This is so ludicrous! Just now in my dreams, I heard mother calling me. It’s not possible that she’s here in the middle of nowhere. As I can see, I am the only person here. No one knows how hard it is to endure this loneliness! O mother! Not even you know that your son’s in such a desolate place.”

The more he pondered, the more his feelings became mixed. Very soon he became anxious and was fully awake,

“All this worry about mother! Don’t think I’ll have any peace in my sleep. When dawn breaks, I shall be in the city. Why don’t I just sit and wait till the fifth watch? This way, I can determine if indeed someone is calling me.”

He sat down and concentrated for a moment. The moon was still glowing softly outside. Around the third watch he became tired. Then he heard clearly in the night,

“Shi Tsung Fu, my son! Come home quickly!”

He could no longer contain himself and cried out loudly,

“Mother! Your son’s here! The voice is definitely mother’s. Could she really be here in this desolate wilderness?”

He got up to have a look outside. As he stepped out, a thunderous roar rose behind his brains. Shi Tsung Fu was so blown away that his soul almost flew out to Heaven’s beyond. Quickly he looked back and saw the shelter had collapsed completely.


He was so overwhelmed that he plopped down to the ground, sitting in horror. After a while, he gave a sigh,

“This abandoned cave dwelling has been neglected for so many years and with this torrential rain its walls are so soaked and weakened. How could they remain up any longer?”

It was fated that Shi Tsung Fu was crushed to death in this cave dwelling, but fortunately Peach Blossom had instructed Old Mrs. Shi on how to save him. Even though Peach Blossom’s magical powers were awesome, it was fortunate that Shi Ren Fu was a filial son. Otherwise he could not have escaped from this ill-fated calamity.

Shi Tsung Fu was fully awake by then. After gathering his thoughts he let out a sigh of relief,

“O great deliverer of sorrow and perils, Divine Honorable of the Second Heavenly Stem2!”

Then on second thought, he bemoaned,

“A second later, I would be crushed to death inside there! How long would it be before my corpse is dug out? Mother would never know what had happened to me. One life lost and so would another. No one else will take care of my aged mother!”

Just then, distant sounds of the fourth hour were carried by the wind to Shi Tsung Fu’s ears and he suddenly realized what had happened and laughed out aloud,

“What a fool I am! I should be considered lucky in having the protection of Heaven and escaped from this calamity. Early in the morning, I can enter the city and see mother soon. We’ll be reunited. There will be joy and smiles in our conversations. Isn’t that a grand affair?”

As a result, sorrow departed and happiness flowed into Shi Tsung Fu. Right there and then, he sat on a rock until the five drum beats of the fifth watch were heard emanating from Morning Song. Highly excited, he exclaimed,

“One more hour and dawn will be here. Alas my luggage is buried deep inside and there’s no way to dig it out. Fortunately, my twenty taels of silver are with me. No use to wait here any longer. Might as well hurry to the city walls and wait there instead.”

He stood up, tidied his clothes and in quick large steps, he raced to the City of Morning Song with just his life and two empty hands. Shi Tsung Fu arrived at the city gates and waited alone. Soon the sky brightened and the gates opened. With winged-like feet, he flew home and in no time he arrived at the main entrance and began to knock on the door. There was immediate response. You see, old Mrs. Shi although long ago was in bed could not sleep. On one hand Lord Chou’s words coursed through her mind; on another hand, she worried that Peach Blossom’s instructions were useless. Tossing and turning she had found no peace. It was deep into the fifth hour when she was about to doze off when there was a sudden knock on the door. Almost immediately she jumped up from the bed fully awakened and answered the knock. Great joy filled her heart when she realized that her son had come home alive. To the main entrance she raced and upon opening it, she shouted,

“Shi Tsung Fu, my son! Is that really you? Great anxiety and anticipation are killing me!”

Was this an ordinary reunion between mother and son? Of course not, it was a reunion that was snatched from the jaws of death. Boundless joy was on hand but at the same time the weight of immense sorrow was too much to bear. Old Mrs. Shi did not say a word but with one great step forward, she hugged her son crying out in angst,

“My son! You really did come home alive! Did you not?”

Shi Tsung Fu was greatly puzzled on hearing his mother’s words, through his tears he asked,

“Mother, your son really did escape from death and came home alive. Let’s go inside and let me explain the details to you slowly.”

Old Mrs. Shi held his hands and went into the inner hall. Shi Tsung Fu related to his mother how he was caught in the rain; had sought shelter in an abandoned broken cave dwelling; then at such and such a time, thrice heard his mother calling; then had run out for a look when the place collapsed, just avoiding being crushed to death; that his luggage was still buried under the debris but luckily he had his money on him. When the narration ended, old Mrs. Shi could not help herself and started sobbing again. Soon both mother and son were in lament together. Finally when they were done, old Mrs. Shi said,

“We mustn’t be this sorrowful; you have a great saviour to thank. She is our next door neighbour. Let’s go quickly and give thanks to Miss Ren!”

Shi Ren Tsung quickly asked,

“Mother, who is this saviour you are taking me to?”

Old Mrs. Shi explained how she yearned for her son’s return; had gone to Lord Chou for a divination to be told that on the third hour of last night her son would be crushed to death in a cave dwelling with no hope of escape; that her cries had caught the attention of the daughter of the neighbouring Rens who then instructed her on how to save him and thus he was able to escape death.

“You see the paper horses are still on the table, isn’t this a chicken and that a winnowing sieve? Well, here’s the lamp, your clothes, a mirror and your shoes!”

As Shi Tsung Fu listened and compared the night’s events in the cave dwelling, he had an epiphany and exclaimed,

“Mother, if all you said is true, we owe our lives to Miss Ren. We must go and thank her but not like this. Won’t other people chide our bad manners? Your son now has 20 taels of silver; we must spend two or three taels of silver to buy a goat and some sacrificial wine. These will be our gifts of thanks to show them our most sincere gratitude.”

Old Mrs. Shi heard her son’s words and was in deep thought before replying,

“My son in wanting to buy a goat and wine is really a filial sign and respect for others. Bless you. Why use our money? Didn’t that Lord Chou charge such high fees of one tael of silver and three pence because his predictions are always accurate? He boasted to refund ten times the amount if his divinations proved wrong. Wouldn’t it be better to collect the refund to buy a goat and wine instead? The problem is that Miss Ren warned me about disclosing her name. In demanding a refund he would surely ask questions. Then how would I be able to respond?”

Shi Tsung Ren replied,

“Mother, don’t worry. Just say that I came back by myself and that’s that. How could he possibly know that it was Miss Ren who saved me?”

When mother and son finishing planning, they had breakfast, locked up the home and together they headed toward the divination stall.

Just then Lord Chou had finished his ten divination consultations for the day. Pang Jiang was taking down the sign when Old Mrs. Shi called out to him. Pang Jiang looked in the direction from where the voice had come. He saw it was from Old Mrs. Shi and asked,

“Old sister-in-law, what brings you here again?”

The moment he finished asking that he espied Shi Tsung Fu standing beside her. He gasped in shock and exclaimed,

“My good brother! Are you a man or a ghost? Is today the day you return to claim someone’s life?”

Shi Tsung Fu feigned innocence and with a face full of smiles he answered,

“How are you my Lord Pang? Having not been around for half a year, it really suits me in having some fun now. Sorry to bother you to go in and ask for the divination fee refund.”

Pang Jiang heard the words but feigned ignorance. He approached and laughing out merrily in sarcasm,

“My good brother, you came back. So nothing happened on the third watch of last night? Milord’s divination was proven wrong and such a coincidence that mother and son would come here today to ask for a refund.”

Old Mrs. Shi being more experienced, knowing what is good from the bad, quickly chimed in,

“Lord Pang, we are poor people, how could we dare ask Lord Chou for a ten fold refund? We plead only for the return of the original sum. You see, this was a borrowed sum. This old body would like to return what was owed. Our gratitude to Lord Pang will be deep.”

Can old Mrs. Shi get her refund back? Please read the next chapter.


1. 白雲猶是漢宮秋,

    An allusion to a play named, The Autumn Han Palace (漢宮秋). The full name is破幽夢孤雁漢宮秋. In
    some sources, the word秋 was replaced by the word for sorrow (愁). The story is about the Han
    Dynasty Emperor Yuan dreaming about Wang Chao Chun (王昭君) and their love affair being broken up
    by her marriage to a Hsiung Nu barbarian.

    For a more scholarly paper, see

2. Usually 太乙天尊 is translated as the Great Monad. Mine is a more literal translation. 乙 is the
     second of the Heavenly Stems, a system used to denote calendars, hours etc.

Original Text






他正出了窯門,只聽腦後響聲,猶如天崩地塌一般。把個石宗輔唬得魂飛天外,忙回頭一看,只見那一間破窯,已倒將下來。 “噯喲”一聲,身不由主,便坐在地下。定了半晌神,方轉嗟嘆了一番,又言:“這間破窯因日久年深,今又遇著這場破塊大雨,是濕透了。四面牆壁如何站得住?”實前生造定石宗輔今晚這時候該在這破窯壓死,偏偏就有個桃花女教了石寡婦這個解法,致石宗輔才能脫了這一場大災難。雖是桃花女的道法通神,也幸虧石宗輔是個孝子,方才有這一段因果。那石宗輔是晚醒定神思,念了一聲:“救苦救難太乙天尊!”心中一想,反痛哭起來道:“我若走遲—步,豈不壓死在裡面!不知何年拖出我的屍首?母親在家如何知道?活活的就盼望死了!豈不是因一命又害一命?況且誰來收拾他的老身呢?”正在言哭之際,忽有一陣風速速的送來,城上的更鼓已是打四下了。石宗輔翻然醒悟,又笑起來道:“我呆也!我今得皇天庇佑,脫了這場大災,就算是萬幸。明早進城,就與母親相見。那時候娘兒們又說又笑,豈不是一件大好的事?”於是破悲為喜,就坐在路旁一塊石頭上。一刻,等待朝歌城內更鑼暗暗的送了五下,心中大悅,便想道:“再等一更,天是能亮了,但只是我的行李被埋覆在裡面,料想此時不能扒出,幸得二十兩白銀帶在身邊,如今守著這間破窯也是無用,不如且奔到城下,在那裡等侯,倘天明城門一開,就好進城去見母親。 ”想罷,便忙站起身來,穿好了衣服,大步如飛的直奔朝歌城而來。只落個隻身得命,兩手空空。






Monday, August 2, 2010

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic - Chapter 4

Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved   

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic

Chapter 4

Old Lady Shi Pleads To Save Her Lonely Son,
The Beauty of Ren Uses Her Magical Skills.

When old Mrs. Shi entered the inner hall, Mr. and Mrs. Ren rose to greet her. They sat down together and were attended to by servant girls. After tidying her clothes, Mrs. Shi quickly knelt down on both knees and begged,

“Please Lord and Mistress, you must save my little one. My debt to you will be boundless!”

Right then, Mr. and Mrs. Ren quickly helped Old Mrs. Shi to her feet and explained,

“Old sister-in-law, did you not see the storm? It is but a stab in the dark by our daughter. .

Old Mrs. Shi argued,

“Lord and Mistress, if this is only a rambling of your daughter, how it can be so deadly accurate? I beg you to beckon the young miss out quickly. Any further delay and my son will be in danger.”

Tears flowed as she finished speaking.

With no other choice, Ren Tai Kung ordered a servant girl to bring his daughter out from her room. The moment Mrs. Shi espied her she exclaimed,

“Young miss, please have pity and save my son!”

When she was about to kneel down again Mrs. Ren stopped her, admonishing her gently,

“How can you be like this?”

And then to her daughter she said,

“My daughter, if you are capable of saving his life, please do so.”

After seeing her parents and Mrs. Shi to their seats, Peach Blossom began her instructions,

“Indeed there is a way to save him but you must never ever speak of my name to the outside world. If Lord Chou gets wind of it, he will never forgive me. In enmity he will come after me. Instead of returning kindness, would you, madame, bring evil to me?”

Old Mrs. Shi heard the words and swore gravely,

“Young Miss, please be assured! How could this old bag be an ingrate? Your name will never come out from my lips!”

Peach Blossom replied,

“Alright then, madame, please listen carefully to this lowly girl: According to the Eight Trigrams your son will die as predicted. However I do possess a certain magic skill of the immortals that will destroy the outcome of the condemned and break his Eight Trigram Prediction. Believe not in my power! Your son will surely die.”

Old Mrs. Shi bursts into joy with great hope,

“Young Miss, what is it? Please explain to this old bag so that I can quickly arrange for the needed things.”

Peach Blossom continued,

“No special preparation is needed but you must buy one Lord of Earth1 paper horse and another of the Lord of Fire. Put them together in a room and light two candles. Under a table, place a bowl of clean water and a live chicken. Fasten a winnowing sieve2 under which a lighted oil lamp is placed. This lamp is known as the Lamp of Increased Longevity. Its light must not be allowed to extinguish. If it does, so will your son’s life! Place a mirror on top of a folded piece of his clothing. With an old shoe of his in hand, sit in the room and wait. The rain will come and go during the night and the sky will be cleared when it stops. Fill the bowl with water, walk to the main entrance and use the old shoe to beat on the door. With each beat, call out your son’s name and beckon him to come home. Repeat the process at each beat of the watch until the third watch has passed. You may then, my elder, sleep at ease, knowing that your son’s safety is guaranteed and you will see him next morning.”

This really is,

A beauty’s magical skill knownst only by her,
This secret transmission from Heaven.

After listening to Peach Blossom’s instructions, old Mrs. Shi hurried home after bidding Mr. and Mrs. Ren farewell as the wind and rain continued unabatedly. With such detailed instructions, they were not sure if they could believe what their daughter had instructed. Together they prodded her,

“Our precious daughter, a person’s life and death had been determined by heaven’s will. That Shi Tsung Fu is going to be crushed to death in the cave dwelling somewhere south of the city. Why instruct the mother to cry half the night and that by next morning mother and son will be reunited? We can’t really believe in this mumbo jumbo.”

Afraid that heaven’s secrets would leak out in answering her parents, she merely replied,

“At this time, it is not convenient to say anything more. When the time comes, everything will be clear to you all.”

Mr. and Mrs. Ren did not pester their daughter any further after her caution. The young miss excused herself and entered the peach garden to rest.

Let’s talk about Shi Tsung Fu. He left home on the ninth month and had planned to return in three months’ time but then who knew that he would hook up with another vendor and travel together to Meng Jin? He decided to go sightseeing when he made a three-fold profit from his few pieces of silver. Two months later, he was homesick and thought about his worried mother. After gathering his belongings, he parted with his partner. He travelled day and night as he headed home to Morning Song as quickly as possible. Hunger and thirst were his companions, with the moon and stars as his roof. He wished he could run all the way back so that he could see his mother sooner.

After a few days, it was already the fifteenth of the third month. He was leaving the inn and he calculated the distance to Morning Song - still about a hundred and fifty six miles away. He thought to himself,

“I think it’s better to enter the city by today.”

He made up his mind and quickened his steps. He was in no mood to enjoy any scenic beauty. As the hour of Shen approached, dark clouds gathered swiftly and suddenly. Shi Tsung Fu agonized in his thoughts,

“With this rain, it is still about ten or twenty miles away, how can I hurry myself into the city?”

The more he thought, the more anxious he became and the slower his pace became. After travelling frantically for a few miles, he was profusely covered in sweat. Gusts of gale winds hit him from time to time and bursts of heavy rain pelted him. Cold and soaked to the core, he tumbled. Ren Shi Tsung knew that there were no inns ahead or he had not seen any dwelling where he had passed. Nary a place he could use for shelter. Even with the straw raincoat he had on, he was not completely protected from such hostile elements. He had no choice but to brave forward and walk as fast as he could. Each step forward was a step in difficulty. He struggled and hoped for some temporary refuge nearby. Finally he espied an abandoned cave dwelling ahead. Though damaged beyond repair, it was nevertheless a haven from the elements. He entered, put down his luggage and began wringing out his wet clothes. There was nothing on which he could hang his wet clothes so he decided to leave them on. He sat down and sighed,

“How hateful this rain is! The more anxious I am, the later I am able to enter the city. Heaven does not convenience anyone.”

Night was falling and the rain continued. Realizing that entering the city that day would not be possible, he decided to spend the night in the cave dwelling. He rationalized to himself,

“Do I really have to enter the city by today? Does it really matter? So many days have passed. Surely I can tarry for one more night.”

After much deliberation, he felt better and was more at ease. Finally with his back against the wall, he closed and rested his eyes. We shall talk more about him later.

Returning to old Mrs. Shi. She was half in belief and half in doubt with Peach Blossom’s words. Still she braved the rain and bought two paper horses of the Star Gods before heading home. A live chicken was brought into the room. Not long afterwards, the rain seemed to be abating gradually. She felt more at ease as the words of Peach Blossom rang true. After fifteen minutes or so, the sky cleared up and she was excited,

“This Miss Peach Blossom is truly a goddess! Her words must not be taken lightly. I guess it’s time for me to cry for my son!”

Her wails were loud and the more she cried, the sight of her became more pitiful. What a great crier she was! She stopped crying when the first watch struck. With an old shoe of Shi Ren Tsung in hand, she walked to the front door and began to beat on it with the old shoe, shouting away,

“Shi Tsung Fu, my son, come home quickly. I’m longing for your return in great anticipation! Think of your parents. A child, you should not travel so far away and make me wait for you at the door. Please hurry back!”

When this story was written, a song came into vogue. Let me recite it for you. The words are:

First watch comes,
Moon is low,
A widow’s room, sob sobbing heard.
Call, calling my son Shi Tsung Fu:
My son, my heart, my liver3 and more!
Where now art thou?
For commerce ye say thou must go,
Cutting from a beloved4, thou hast left me.
Mother’s here,
Pinching my fingers, longing for my son.
Twelfth month past, still not here.
Already it’s the third day of the third month,
Call thy mother now,
So urgent it is to her!

Second watch comes,
Moon is high,
A widow’s room, wail wailing all there is,
Call, calling my son Shi Tsung Fu:
My son, why dost care not for thy life?
With so many other ways to die,
In a desolate cave ye shall not!
Of what crime thou hadst committed?
Destined in throwing a life far from home5.
When Lord Chou divined thy life,
My heart resisted pain from a thousand knives.
A mistake ye wouldst make,
Abandoning thy mother with no branch to rely!

Third watch comes,
Moon in the center,
A widow’s room, pain paining galore,
Call, calling my son Shi Tsung Fu:
Know not thou hast provoked the stars of calamity?
From Miss Ren’s magical methods I use,
Not knowing if they wouldst work!
Alive if ye return to me,
Mile high silver candles I burn to thank ye gods!

Old Mrs. Shi followed Peach Blossom’s instructions of one wailing followed by one chant. Only until the fourth watch had come and gone did she stop and go to sleep. Now leaving Mrs. Shi’s sleep aside, we return to Shi Tsung Fu. The sky had cleared in about an hours’ time. He was bored sitting in the dwelling and reflected on how he hurried home since the fifth watch of the previous night till the night’s hour of Shen. He was dead tired and was soon asleep with his back against the wall. His snores began to rival those of thunder, drifting into the arms of sweet dreams…

Wall collapsing tonight, that’s the danger. How his fate awaits, please continue to the next chapter.


Once when walking in Singapore’s Chinatown in the 1960’s with my maternal grandmother, I was amazed and alarmed on seeing a mad woman in bereavement. She was crying and shouting out something unintelligible while beating with a shoe on a door. My grandmother explained that the woman is from the Samsui (三水) area in Canton (no wonder I did not understand what she was saying, it’s a slightly different Cantonese dialect) using this method to ensure the safe return of their loved ones. Of course in those days mass communication is almost non-existent or too expensive for ordinary families to use.

Samsui women dressed in the characteristic red headgear and blue samfu (tunic & trousers)

1. The Five Virtuous Star Lords (五德星君).These gods preside over a direction and element, influencing the lives of men in fortunes good or bad, meting out rewards and punishments.

Direction Element   Name

East          Wood     重華
South        Fire         熒惑
West         Metal      太白
North        Water     司晨
Center       Earth      日侯

2. Winnowing Sieves

3. Chinese equivalent of “my honey”, “my darling” etc.

4. Chinese believe that in previous lives, nemesis becomes one’s spouse and debtors become one’s children.

5. Chinese would rather be buried in their hometown. Ideally the body should be brought back otherwise the ghost will be wandering in eternity without peace.