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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mt. Rainier

This poem was written by my friend Eric She, 余明峯 while visiting Mt. Rainier. Most probably it was inspired by the above picture as the poem appeared as a comment to it. It was dated on 27 Sep 2010.

冷杉秋溪靜無語 Cold pines, autumn brook silent with no words,
空山黃葉飄靈雨 Empty mountains, yellow leaves dance in life giving rain.
千峰映潭淨如許 A thousand peaks reflecting in limpid pools of pure,
風高雲越人獨旅 Stronger winds come more clouds passed yet a lonely traveler that I am.

Perhaps I was reading too much between the lines but I felt he was writing about his sentiments of being ‘forced’ to leave the US and return to Taiwan soon. On the 3rd line, the character ‘feng’ meaning peak forms part of his name. His full name means ‘bright peak’.

Since his leave is beyond his control, he might as well make peace with himself and seek solace as reflected in the 3rd line. I love his last line. To me the winds represent the forces beyond his control while clouds represent his friends and people that he met. The more they pass through his life, the lonelier he becomes in his life.

His poem conveys too much sadness and no hope for the future. Hence my reply to his poem with another poem. Though mine reflects on his theme of loneliness and the haplessness of the situation, there is hope at the end of the tunnel.

The divine bridge of Heaven is just a more descriptive name for a rainbow. Although no one can walk on it, it represents hope. I used this contradiction to contrast his poem that the more people passing through his life, the lonelier he becomes.

I drew on the inspiration mainly from his picture and poem. The piece of music playing in the background was sent coincidentally by my sister Serene.

池中杉影無波浪, In pools of no ripples are the reflections of pine trees.
天上神橋未見人. Up in the sky no one walks on the divine bridge of Heaven.
風吹葉落破鏡映, Winds blew, leaves fall breaking the mirror’s light,
遠見行者快一雙. A far I see the traveler soon a loner no more.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What is Fairy Retaining Skirt?

Fairy Retaining Skirt, 留仙裙 was actually a part of the skirt hem that was deliberately made missing. It is commonly misunderstood that the term refers to the multitudinous creases on the hem of the skirt. This fashion of having a torn hem was very popular during the reign of Emperor Cheng of the Han Dynasty (漢成帝) .

According to legend, Zhao Feiyan (趙飛燕) was dancing on a giant platform made from boats lined up together on the imperial lake when a huge gust of wind blew across it. With her broad sleeves fluttering in the wind, she looked like a fairy about to take flight. The Emperor was so concerned that she would be blown away that he ordered the imperial court musician who was closest to her to grab hold of her. However in midst of haste he grabbed the hem of her skirt and torn part of it off.

At that moment, Feiyan cried out in a mellifluous voice exclaiming to the Emperor that had he not ordered someone to grab hold of her; she would indeed be blown away and turned into a fairy. As she continued to dance, she indeed looked like a fairy descending from the heavens; with the flaw magnifying her beauty. Soon every palace lady tore off a piece of their skirt hem in imitation and thus the term fairy retaining skirt was born. Later, the Emperor built a “Seven Precious Wind Evading Terrace” (七寶避風臺) for her to dance without the fear of her being blown away. Another term used to describe her beauty was “Dancing on Palms” (掌上舞). It was believed that she was so slender and has such small feet that she could dance on the palms of hands. In actuality, it was a carved crystal plate carried by attendants while Feiyan was dancing on it. Another favourite of hers was to dance on a platform supported by musically sized hollow vessels. Indeed her name was changed to flying swallow because of her daintiness.

Who was this Zhao Feiyan? Once upon a time she was a sandal maker, going through abject poverty. Later, she and her sister Hede were adopted by a rich man who saw their beauty and trained them in the arts of music, painting and pleasing the man. He was not disappointed in his investment as she became an attendant to the Emperor’s sister and from there rose in status to become his imperial concubine and in then end, the Empress after the Emperor demoted his Empress after being accused of some crime with another former favourite. The dethroned Empress’ life was spared because no proof was found.  The other former favourite was shrewder.  She refused to return to her former status but as a maid-in-waiting to the Emperor’s mother, the Empress Dowager. Later, Fei Yan's younger sister, Hede was introduced to the Emperor as a means to protect her status from other rivals.

Despite of their beauty and being the favourites of the emperor, they did not conceive. It was rumoured that they used some kind of aphrodisiac to put on their navels. As it dissolves, their bodies would exude fragrance and their skin became smooth and delicate, never to age. However it had a great side effect – reproductive systems were destroyed. Records indicate there were several attempts by imperial physicians to find a cure for them. There was even a story that her grave was robbed in order to secure this beauty enhancing secret. However, only most of the ingredients recorded on bamboo slips were decayed and only visible ones were 麝香, musk.

Feiyan became Empress Dowager when the Emperor died suddenly. Rumours abounded that her sister Hede had overdosed the Emperor with aphrodisiacs. Finally she committed suicide when an investigation was ordered by the Grand Empress Dowager to find out the validity about rumours that the dead Emperor had sons born by other concubines. Perhaps she was too frightened about her future when it was concluded that two infant sons died with tacit approval from the Emperor so as to please the sisters. Feiyan’s new position did not last long. When the second next emperor mounted on the throne, she was demoted back to Empress and not long afterwards she was stripped of her nobility and made a tomb server to her husband’s mausoleum. She committed suicide due to loneliness. Of course we never know the truth as her mother-in-law never liked her in the first place because she was not noble-born.

Yang Gui Fei – the favourite of the Tang Emperor Hsuan Tsung was often compared with Feiyan not because of their facial beauty but for their relative sizes – plumb Yang and slender Swallow; unflattering terms for the two ‘evil’ beauties – fat Yang and skinny Swallow.

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic - Chapter 9

Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic

Chapter 9

While saving himself, Pang Jian gains longevity,

Lord Chou seething in anger as his prediction was broken.

The poem says,

I dwell amongst the green hills: You asked me why,
My soul at ease I smile without reply.
Peach petals swept along the stream,
To other lands beyond this mortal dream1.

Let’s talk about Pang Jian who was hiding under the offerings table when he heard his name called followed by the pronouncement,

“On this night at the fourth watch, vomit blood and die”,

He was greatly shaken and kept on muttering the incantation of the Golden Light while striking at the golden knot. Then he heard the Star Lord of Virtuous Fire shout,

“Who dares use this incantation to subdue us?”

With that, Pang Jian popped his head out of the offering table and peered. He saw nine Gods in strange forms sitting in two rows, too bewildering to behold. Quickly he knelt in their midst incanting incessantly and beating the golden knot. Then one Star Lord spoke,

“Pang Jian! Stop thy incantation! Mutter no more! Requesting a boon for longevity? Then plead with the fifth Star Lord.”

The fifth Star Lord spoke,

“We had accepted his offerings and also he is a loyal and honest person. Nary a sin had been committed in his name. Furthermore he was under the guidance of the Peach Fairy to vanquish that wandering demon2. We the Gods shall change his name and extend his longevity. This way let the virtuous beget their rewards!”

“Pang Jian! Come forth and kneel. We the Gods shall now change thy name: Henceforth ye shall be known as Patriarch Pang3. I shall now grant ye a hundred years of age. The Left and Right Adjutants4 shall grant ye fifty years and each Star Lord shall grant ye one hundred years, totaling 850 years! Every third and twenty seventh day of each month, ye shall undergo a bathing purification ritual and abstain from all meat. Finally ye must perform the rites to the Big Dipper in an earnest and deferential manner. Divulge not this celestial secret or else be prepared to incur the wrath of Heaven and bring disaster upon thee!”

Pang Jian kowtowed and said,

“This mortal Pang Jian most thankfully accepts my Lords’ graciousness in changing my name and prolonging my longevity. However this mortal thinks that living to such a great age is burdensome without good fortune or children to enjoy. Therefore I beg my most High Lords to bestow some riches so that I can live comfortably!”

All the Gods murmured and said,

“There is merit in thy words.”

One of the Star Lords took out a pill from his bosom and bade Pang Jian to swallow it and said,

“This pill will change thy bones and transform thy body. Sickness will no longer touch thee so that ye can enjoy the meaning of the three words of happiness, prosperity and longevity!”

Then a second Star Lord took out a book and what was written in it no one knows. When he was done, all the Star Lords turned into a gentle breeze and left the temple. Pang Jian felt invigorated a hundred fold and was elated to no bounds. My dear readers, now this is what it is like to live more than 800 years: wedded to thirteen wives, enjoying great happiness and longevity in good health. This is really:

Mortals not eating the golden pill,
Difficult it is to live to a hundred.

At this time, the fourth watch approached and Pang Jian thought to himself,

“Miss Ren had instructed me that when things are accomplished, I should return home and rest. Her intention was that if I stayed out all night, Lord Chou will surmise that I had not died and he will get suspicious. He will interrogate me until the water subsides to reveal the rocks. Why don’t I just obey her advice and return home quickly.”

With that thought, Pang Jian quickly roused up the acolytes to open the temple doors and quickly ran home. Opening the doors secretly, he slipped into his room, jumped right into bed and slept. Now speaking of Lord Chou, he was sitting alone throughout the night till the fifth watch. Thinking that Pang Jian had died, he took out his celestial Big Dipper Star sword5 in hand and woke up a boy servant to bring a light. Then he entered Pang Jian’s room, pushing the door open and walk straight to Pang Jian’s bed. Lord Chou saw no movement in Pang Jian’s limbs; face turned upwards and both eyes tightly shut. Assuming that he was already a goner, Lord Chou let out a sorrowful sigh and lamented,

“Pity! Always so loyal and honest. Now gone like a whisper!”

Lord Chou removed his golden cap, disheveled his hair6, held his sword in a Big Dipper stance and began to recite an incantation. Just as he was about to hook together Pang Jian’s three six superior and inferior souls so that they could be easily directed to a better place of reincarnation, Pang Jian woke up. On opening his eyes he stared in astonishment at Lord Chou who was now holding a sword in hand, his long hair in disarray, muttering a strange incantation in an imposing stance. In a whoosh Pang Jian jumped out of bed. Lord Chou was startled, wielding the sword menacingly and shouted,

“Malicious demon7-1! Cease all trouble-making on the urgent orders of Lao Tzu!”

Pang Jian burst out laughing,

“Milord, what are you doing?”

The great Lord recomposed himself and exclaimed,

“Pang Jian! Art thou a man or a ghost?”

“I’m a man. I’m not dead. How can I be a ghost?”

Lord Chou bade the servant boy bring the light higher for a closer inspection and commented,

“This is strange! Really strange! Who taught you how to return to life? Quickly speak up!”

“Not ought to die yet, still a few more years for me to go. Why did my Lord come here in such rush? Are you getting your satisfaction to see me dead?”

On hearing such words, Lord Chou darkened in anger and said to himself,

“How dare this slave mislead and try to deceive me! I shall coax him to my study and start the interrogation. I must find out who is behind all this in breaking my predictions!”

“Come with me to the study!”

At this moment, Pang Jian dared not disobey and followed Lord Chou thinking to himself,

“He will interrogate me to no end. Even if I die, I will not utter the name of Miss Ren!”

On entering the study, Lord Chou sat down. He then tidied up his head knot and cap, put down his Big Dipper sword, and ordered the servant boy,

“Bring a few men here!”

Not long afterwards, a few men entered the study to whom Lord Chou commanded,

“Tie Pang Jian up!

The men dared not disobey and quickly had him bound in ropes.

Pang Jian screamed,

“Pang Jian is innocent!”

Lord Chou stared at Pang Jian in anger and thundered,

“Dare to deceive your Lord and Master! Isn’t this already a crime? Confess quickly who the schemer is in saving your life. If not I shall skin you alive!”

Pang Jian quickly knelt down and pled,

“Pang Jian is a stupid person. What power do I have? Tonight I was a waiting for my death and I fell asleep. How did I know when not to die?”

Lord Chou did not wait for Pang Jian to finish his words and gave a great shout,

“Pooi! Mouthful of nonsense! If I don’t thrash you, the truth will never come out. Men from the left and right! Give him a hundred strokes first!”

Following their Lord’s command, two servants went out and brought in two leather whips and started to give Pang Jian a hundred lashes. Pang Jian cried out in pain as he collapsed to the ground. Since most of the servants were from the courthouse, favouritism was not expected. Yet most of them got along quite well with Pang Jian. Who would really want to lash him that mercilessly? In actuality only twenty to thirty lashes were given instead of the ordered hundred lashes. Therefore Pang Jian did not suffer too much under them. He cried out,

“Milord! You beat Pang Jian unfairly! Your predictions came out wrong - why blame others?”

Lord Chou angrily replied,

“Ordinarily an honest person you are and yet today you dare lie to me! I shall further increase your punishment. Left and Right, bind him in the waist and hang him up in the eaves of the corridor!”

Pang Jian, though in pain, would not betray Peach Blossom out of gratitude for saving his life. He remembered how she had earnestly urged him to keep her identity secret. Therefore he endured the pain.

Lord Chou walked to the steps and advised,

“Better speak the truth - not only will I not punish you any further but Instead shall reward you handsomely. I see your face emanating with such ruddy light of health. Your longevity must have been lengthened. Someone must have taught you how to exchange your bones and transform your flesh. Speak up and give me all the details!”

When Pang Jian heard his words, he was frightened to the core,

“How formidable! Not only are his predictions deadly accurate, so are his skills in physiognomy. Today I shall refuse to confess and see how he is going to cross-examine me.”

With that in mind, Pang Jian shut his eyes tightly and closed his mouth into a line. When Lord Chou saw this, he flew into a rage and dragged the body into the main hall. With the Big Dipper sword in hand, he leapt towards Pang Jian and bellowed,

“Pang Jian, if you don’t confess, then you’ll be committing the crime of lying to your master!”

When he finished threatening, Lord Chou came bearing down his sword in menacing ferocity and was about to cut Pang Jian into two. On opening his eyes widely Pang Jian was so frightened that all his souls almost left his body and he shrieked,

“Milord, spare my life! I confess.”

Lord Chou replied venomously,

“Hesitate any longer and you shall be cut into two!

Pang Jian blurted quickly,

“It’s Shi Tsung Fu’s neighbour! Miss Ren Peach Blossom, daughter of Ren Tai Kung! She instructed me to go to the Temple of Three Officials last night on the third watch and wait for the Gods of the Big Dipper to beg for longevity. Hence I was able to survive and live. ”

On hearing the confession, Lord Chou ordered Pang Jian to be untied,

“Pang Jian! Why didn’t you say so earlier?”

Pang Jian apologized7,

“Lady Peach Blossom told me numerous times not to disclose her identify for the fear that my Lordship would become enraged and be vengeful. Shi Tsung Fu was also saved by her.”

Lord Chou bellowed and thundered on hearing the words,

“Vile woman, I can overlook you invalidating my predictions but how dare you bid both mother and son to insult me! I swear I will never let you go!”

Pang Jian quickly kowtowed to Lord Chou and pleaded,

“Milord please harbour not such trivial vengeance! If you do, Pang Jian will be dragged in as well. Milord! Please have pity on those two aged ones who have only one young daughter.”

Lord Chou asked,

“How old is this female?”

“Only sixteen, came Pang Jian’s reply.

Peach Blossom descended to earth not long after Lord Chou so how could their ages differ so much? An astute reader may ask. Here’s the author’s explanation: An hour in heaven is equivalent to a few autumns on earth. Lord Chou’s descent to earth is at most one or two hours earlier, hence resulting in a difference of a few decades. Let’s not discuss this but return to Lord Chou. After the truth was extracted from Pang Jian, Lord Chou rewarded him with ten taels of silver to heal his wounds. Pang Jian thanked his lord who then admonished,

“Do not go informing the Ren family of this. If I ever find out that you have, your punishment will be even more severe!”

Pang Jian nodded in promise and replied,

“I dare not, I dare not!”

With that he left the room and headed back to his own.

Lord Chou thought to himself,

“Such tender age and with such great powers this Ren Peach Blossom has. I don’t believe this. Why don’t I verify if indeed the Star Lords of the Big Dipper descended last night?”

On pressing his fingers in calculation, fear grew in his heart upon verification,

“Wow! This Peach Blossom’s abilities are indeed great. If the city of Morning Song has her, I’m afraid there’s no place for me to stand.”

Thinking here and there, Lord Chou became moody. He paced up and down in his pavilion and suddenly thought of something,

“Why don’t I do this and this… Only then will this hatred dissipate from my mind!”

With such a plan hatched, he called a servant named Hsu Cheng and instructed him,

“Go and fetch me an official matchmaker.”

Hsu Cheng followed his master’s orders and went to get the matchmaker.

What dastardly plan was formed to harm Peach Blossom? Please read the next chapter to find out.


1. This poem was composed by the great T’ang poet Li Po entitled, “Question and Answer In the Mountains”.

The translation is not mine and I do not remember where it came from. However it is so beautiful that I jotted it down during a flight to Los Angeles eons ago.

The unadulterated translation is:

You asked why I dwell in the green hills,
I smile without reply as my heart is at ease.
Peach blossoms sailed quietly on flowing waters,
To another land not of this mortal realm.

There are some discrepancies presented in the book.

山中問答 (Question and Answer in the Mountains)

Book version                Original version

問餘何棲碧山, 問餘何棲碧山,
笑而不答心自。 笑而不答心自
桃花流水然去,  桃花流水然去,
別有天地非人間。 別有天地非人間。

餘 is a variant form of 余 meaning I.

2. Referring to Lord Chou’s earlier days as in the form of a Buddhist knife on Mt. Wandering Demons.

3. Patriarch Pang is a well known figure of immense longevity in Chinese tales. However most sources about him differ from this story. Whatever is the case, it has no bearing on the story. Some sources claimed that he did not really live that long of 850 years because during the Shang Dynasty, when the story took place, a year meant a cycle of 60 days. So therefore he lived for 850 cycles, just short of 140 years in a 365-day year reckoning (850 * 60) / 365 which seems more plausible.

For more info see,

4. 左輔右弼 – Left and Right adjutants, originally the name of attendants to the emperor or to the crown prince. Later it became assistants to someone important or just helpers.

In the Chinese Parthenon of Gods, they are two of the 6 lucky stars and are the attendants to the Star Lord of the Big Dipper. In the Yin-Yang Five Element theory of Taoists, Left Adjutant belongs to the Yin-Earth position whereas the Right Adjutant belongs to the Yin-Water. For more info see!0wi2dLObQkUiv2b13vk-/article?mid=620&sc=1

5. Also known as Seven Star Sword (七星劍). Most probably a sword with the pattern of the Big Dipper etched on the blade.

6. Chinese males wear their hair long. The hair is then tied up as a head knot. A cap is worn if one belongs to the scholar class. Otherwise a piece of cloth may be used as a tying knot. A Taoist priest uses a kind of large pin. Of course Buddhists monks don’t have hair. The shaven head was a sign of leaving one’s family and all its worldly desires.

In the Confucian classic of Filial Piety, it states that “The body, skin and hair come from parents, filial piety begins in not harming them.” 孝經: "身體髮膚,受之父母,不敢毀傷,孝之始也. In other words don’t cut your hair! Or defile yourself.

This style continued until the Ch’ing Dynasty forced the Chinese to shave their foreheads and grow a queue as a sign of subservience. The exception to the law was with Taoist priests. The Manchus wore this hairstyle as a sign of respect and honour of the horse (the way they tie their horses’ tails) on which their backs the empire was won. In the beginning of the dynasty there was a popular saying, “Leave the hair but not the head” (留髮不留頭) as defiance to the Manchu government but when the dynasty ended, it was ironic that people refused to cut their queues!

However, shaving beards, moustaches, etc was not considered unfilial because one was not born with them – facial hair grew at puberty.

7-1 See footnote 1 in chapter 7.

7. The subordinate must apologize to their superiors regardless if they were at fault or not. Superiors are never wrong and subordinates should be grateful and thankful for the lesson learnt. This is the core of Confucianism – the relationship between the superior and inferior. This is defined as the relationship between the king and its subjects, the father and his children, and the master and his slaves.

Original Text





再說彭剪在供桌底下聽見一神叫他名字,又言“此夜四更應注吐血而亡”,唬得大驚,口中急急念咒,敲著金系子,又聞火德星君道:“誰敢用法咒來克吾等?”彭剪在桌底下鑽出頭來一看,只見兩旁坐著九位神聖,皆是奇形異狀,兇惡駭人。他即速忙跪在當中,口中不住的念咒,手中不住的敲金系子。只見第一星君開言呼:“彭剪!快住了響器,口中勿得念咒!你今想求壽麼?可向第五位星君面前去求。”只見第五位星君道:“吾等既受他的供享,況他為人忠厚,生平無惡果,又是桃園仙子教他求救的,要破蕩魔之數,吾神今把他名字改了,與他增壽,也見得善有善報!”便呼:“彭剪!你跪過來。吾神與你改過名字:從此以後,改名叫做彭祖。吾神賜你陽壽一百歲,左輔,右弼星君賜你陽壽五十歲,每位星君賜你一百歲,共賜你八百五十歲!每逢初三、廿七,須要齋戒沐浴,虔心禮斗,不可洩漏天機,以遭天譴! ”彭剪叩頭道:“凡夫彭剪既蒙上聖賜名添壽,但凡夫想活這個大年紀,若無祿無子,反是受罪也。求上聖賜些富貴,得養其終身方妙!”眾星君道:“這也說得是。”只見一位星君在懷中取出一粒丹藥來,教彭剪吞了,道:“此丹藥能換骨脫胎,百病不生,好享那福祿壽三字矣!”又見二位上聖各取出一本簿子,不知神聖們怎樣寫法,寫罷,化陣清風而去。彭剪此時覺得精神百倍,當時滿心喜悅。列君,如今這個就是活在人間八百多歲、娶一十三妻的彭祖——享大福壽之人也!正是:






周公走至階下,問他道:“你快快說出實話,不但不責治你,孤還要重重賞你。孤看你滿面紅光,又添壽限,必遇奇人傳授你換骨脫胎之法,你可細細說來!”彭剪聞言,心中吃驚道:“好利害也!不但占卦靈準,就是看相也準了。我今沒有推卻,只不言語,看他怎樣盤詰罷。”即便兩目緊閉,口亦不開。周公一見,心中大怒,即抽身回了大堂,取了天罡劍在手,奔至彭剪跟前,大喝:“彭剪!你若不說出,就有欺主之罪!”說罷,兇惡狠狠,就要舉劍砍下來了。彭剪睜目一看,唬得魂不附體,大叫:“公爺饒命!待我說就是了。”周公狠說:“少若遲延,孤就一劍分為兩段!”彭剪忙道: “是石宗輔左鄰任太公之女任桃花,教我昨晚三更至三官廟,等候北斗星君來求壽,故此得活的。”周公聞言,便叫人放了彭剪,即回中堂坐下,開言呼:“彭剪!何不早說?”彭剪謝罪,又言:“桃花小姐再三叮囑,教我不要對公爺說知,恐防公爺生怒,記仇於他。就是石宗輔,也是他教的。”周公聞言,不由得不大怒道。 “好陰人!破孤的八卦倒也罷了,又教石姓母子來羞辱於孤,我誓不與他幹休!”彭剪聽了,忙叩頭道:“公爺休要記小人之仇!若是記仇,就是彭剪連累他的。公爺!可憐他父母單生一女,年紀又幼小。”周公道:“這陰人多大年紀?”彭剪道:“今年才得一十六歲。”做書的又說明:桃花女與周公先後下凡,何以周公若大年紀?只因天上一刻,人間數秋,周公下凡多了桃花女一、二時辰,故此大了數十歲。  閒話休講。且說周公見彭剪說出了真情,便賞他十兩銀子,去調養傷痕。彭剪謝了賞,周公又吩咐他:“不許到任家去說破,若是去說破,孤若知道了,罪上加罪!”彭剪諾諾連聲道:“不敢,不敢!”自回房中去了。



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Peach Blosson Girl Dueling Magic - Chapter 8

Copyright © 2010 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic

Chapter 8

Old Mrs. Shi Leaks the Source Of Rescue,
Peach Blossom Divulges A Divine Incantation.

Old Mrs. Shi was a bit moved by Pang Jian’s most pitiful pleading but turned ashen on hearing his comment that Shi Tsung Fu’s saviour was a woman. She asked excitedly,

“Venerable Sir, how did you know that my son’s saviour was a woman?”

Pang Jian replied,

“How did I know? It’s because my lord and master made a divination. He discovered it was a woman who had invalidated his prediction but could not find out her identity. If old sister-in-law knows of this capable person, there’s no harm in letting me seek her help. Let this remnant of an old root, an ancient patch of residual grass get a second revival. Your augustness shall earn hidden merits1 and I’ll never disclose this secret to anyone.”

Once more he knelt down before Old Mrs. Shi pleading with her. Mrs. Shi remembered her previous plight while trying to save her son. History repeating itself in exactness so her heart grew soft, saying to herself,

“I shall advise him to seek help from Miss Ren. She can decide. I’ll just be vague in my words.”

After forming her thoughts, she said conveniently,

“Venerable Pang, you asked for the person’s identity, this I cannot do. However here’s a hint. Let your good luck find this person and your five elements2 will be saved!”

Overcame with joy, Pang Jian exclaimed,

“Old sister-in-law, please tell me quickly!”

“My next door neighbour is the Ren family of Tai Kung and his wife. Do you know them?”

“Why, of course, our families had been close friends for two generations. When my father was alive, he was a very close friend to Ren Tai Kung. I used to visit them quite often, usually once a month or so and each time they would bid us stay and dine with them. We know every male and female, adult and child in that family.”

Nodding her head old, Mrs. Shi continued,

“Since you are a family friend, this is really wonderful! Don’t go there today but wait till tomorrow early morning. See Ren Tai Kung and tell him of your plight. It is then up to your fate in meeting the one who has the power to save you. Don’t let them know that it was me who told you about seeing him.”

As he listened, Pang Jian lowered his head and thought to himself for a while before asking again,

“Old sister-in-law, the words from your old personage are confusing. So many people in that gentry’s family, how am I to know who is the one who can save me?”

Shi Tsung Fu chimed in from the side,

“Old father Pang, you really nag too much! Since you know it’s a female, then you should go and ask the ladies. Let’s have a few more cups of wine!”

Pang Jian’s cup was quickly refilled by Shi Tsung Fu when he finished talking and urged Pang Jian to eat more. Pang Jian began to relax now that he had hoped to wiggle out of his impending doom. After drinking a few more cups of wine, he bid his farewell. Mother and son both let out a sigh of relief and warned him again not to reveal their advice to pay the Ren family a visit. Pang Jian hurried home, while nodding his head in promise.

Talking in the day is easy but when night came, Pang Jian was tossing and turning in his bed. May be it was that he did not have enough to drink that he could not fall asleep readily. Once the sun rose high in redness did Pan Jian rouse himself from bed. After he washed his face and wore his best clothes he headed to the Ren family. Arriving at their door, he announced himself to the servants and was then led in the household. Ren Tai Kung personally came out to greet him with a smiling face,

“My worthy nephew! You have not come to my cold hut for such a long time. What a joyous occasion to see you so early in the morning. No need for such formal ceremony to be announced indirectly. Everyone here is eager to see you. Please come in!”

Pang Jian clasped his hands and quickly made a sign of respect before answering,

“Even though your unworthy nephew enjoys a profound relationship with your family, such manners are obligatory.”

Ren Tai Kung held Pang Jian’s hands and led him into the inner hall and shouted along the way,

“Old peace maker3, our worthy nephew is here!”

A servant girl had reported to Mrs. Ren and she was already emerging from the inner apartments. Because Mrs. Ren had no son, she always treated Pang Jian as though he was one and loved him dearly. You could see smiles beaming from her face from afar,

“What great wind of good fortune blew you here, my worthy nephew? Why a month has passed so quickly already. Why didn’t you come to see these two old biddies?”

Pang Jian gave an accompanying laugh and answered,

“My dear aunt, this unworthy nephew had too much work recently and could not come to pay his respects. Surely you must be in great health. Is my Peach Blossom sister hale and hearty as well?”

The old lady replied,

“Indeed, we are.”

With that the two old biddies led Pang Jian into the inner apartments4. The servants had already been told to prepare a feast. Just then, Peach Blossom who had wakened early, finished her toiletry and makeup and came to bid her parents a good morning5. Thus she was able to pay her respects to Pang Jian also. Old Mrs. Ren then bade her daughter to sit by her side. After servant girls served tea, old Mrs. Ren then lamented,

“My worthy nephew, your uncle, sister and I had always thought of you growing up in our family. So honest and thrifty you are. Time passes so quickly and suddenly here we are over fifty years of age.”

Pang Jian said,

“Your unworthy nephew has always been in receipt of great love and kindness from you. Our deep relationship is akin to pulse and body. Nary a day passed that I did not long to come and pay my respects. Unfortunately, too many official businesses intervened, vying for my attention. Once when things are settled…”

As he finished talking, Pang Jian sobbed. The husband and wife thought the tears were meant for their advancing years arriving too quickly and tried to soothe him,

“Our dear nephew, you need not be like this”

Pang Jian explained,

“This unworthy nephew of yours could not help seeing how my uncle and aunt have grown in years and is unable to serve them personally any more. My heart could bear it no longer.”

Ren Tai Kung and wife became sad6 also and commented,

“My worthy nephew, please say no more of such ill-foreboding words. Although we are high in our age, our health is still great. We can still be together for a few more years longer.”

Pang Jian shook his head tearfully,

“You two grandees will have much longevity but as for your nephew, after today, he’ll no longer able to see you two in your august ages!”

With those words, Pang Jian broke down in great sobs.

Both Ren Tai Kung and wife asked excitedly,

“Why my worthy nephew! You are in the prime of your life, how can you say such ill-omened words?”

Soon servant girls brought a trough of goosefoot spinach7. Ren Tai Kung took his proper seating and told Peach Blossom,

“My daughter. Brother Pang is not an outsider. When you were small, too numerous to count, he carried you around. Stay and eat with us8.”

Pang Jian sat across Ren Tai Kung, letting wife and daughter sit at their sides. After pouring a cup of wine for Pang Jian, Ren Tai Kung announced,

“My dear nephew, please open your chest and drink heartily in merriment!”

Pang Jian took over the cup but put it down and explained,

“Today your nephew didn’t come for a drink but to see my uncle, aunt and sister to express my token of affection and open thoughts. How can I be in a mood for such festivity?”

“My dear nephew, I detected melancholy in your face as you entered. Your earlier conversation didn’t make much sense, now your words are even more mysterious. What’s really going on?”

On questioning, more tears flowed and Pang Jian could not contain himself anymore and blurted out,

“Your unworthy nephew is going to die tonight at the fourth watch! Because I was thinking about the kindness you two had always showered on me that I came to pay my last respects to you two grandees. After this you both will see me no more!”

Both husband and wife gasped at once and asked,

“Why such words? You are always in good health. How can you die tonight?”

Pang Jian then proceeded to relate what Lord Chou had foretold about his fate. Both Ren Tai Kung and wife remarked,

“So t’is the reason. This prediction of Lord Chou may not come true!”

Peach Blossom had already seen how vexed and perplexed Pang Jian was with the prediction that she could not contain herself any more and blurted out as well,

“Big brother, your little sister knows a thing or two on divination. Please give me your eight characters and let me have a go at it!”

Ren Tai Kung chimed in and said,

“I remember them.”

As soon as Peach blossom had the information, her thumb began touching her jade finger tips and was thoroughly awed,

“This Lord Chou is really something! Such accurate prediction of his!”

Peach Blossom was deep in thought and her parents asked impatiently,

“My daughter, is the prediction that truly accurate?”

“It’s all too true! Precisely on the fourth watch of tonight, he will vomit blood and die.”

Both Ren Tai Kung and wife began to cry,

“Is there really no nope?”

Peach Blossom lowered her head in silence and after awhile replied reluctantly,

“Yes there is but the method is too elaborate.”

Ren Tai Kung and wife both exclaimed,

“Elaborate preparation should be of no importance. Please give face to your parents by saving brother Pang!”

“This method is meant only for the concerned ears, please follow me to the backyard garden and I shall explain the way.”

Pang Jian followed her into the backyard. As he enjoyed such a close friendship with the family and was treated like a nephew, there was no breach of propriety in being alone together in the backyard with Peach Blossom. So the two old biddies continued their feast in the inner apartments. Peach Blossom bade Pang Jian sit under the small backyard pavilion and asked,

“Is there not a temple of the Three Officials in the city9?”

“Yes indeed, there is such a temple. Always a busy place filled with incense smoke.”

“Your little sister had divined that tonight is the fifteenth of the seventh lunar month for the Victory Gathering10. T’is the time when the Star Lord of the Big Dipper presents himself to the Jade Emperor. He shall return at the second watch. In this temple he will preside over the cycle of comings and goings of mortals on this earth. Quickly prepare some good incense, seven cups of pure water and seven fighting lanterns11. Purify yourself through a ritual bath and put on clean clothes. Everything must be prepared by dusk. Start praying earnestly by reciting the grand title of ‘Great Sage, Northern Star; Lord of all Beginning’ continuously. When the second watch approaches, hide under the offering table and wait. Also, here’s a pouch of precious wonders.”

Quickly she took out a golden knot12 from a brocade chest and handed it to Pang Jian along with a scroll containing the incantation of Divine Light.

“Don’t be afraid when the Star Lord is descending into the temple. Wait until your name is called and recite this incantation under the table. Take out the golden knot and while striking it, beg for longevity from the Star Lord. He will then grant your wish. This golden knot and incantation are their nemesis. As you strike and recite the incantation, fear will grow in their hearts and pain will throb in their heads. You may then leave and retire for the night. I guarantee there will be no more problems. If Lord Chou interrogates, you must never give my name out. Take heed and quickly prepare the rituals.”

Pang Jian was overjoyed when he heard the solution,

“My little sister, you are my great benefactor! Once things are settled, I’ll come and kowtow for all the help you have given me!”

With those words, he left the garden quickly and bade Ren Tai Kung and wife farewell,

“Your unworthy nephew dares not disclose my life-saving solution. I have to leave quickly for my preparations!”

“We shan’t delay you any longer and when things blow over, come quickly to avoid unnecessary worries!”

“Of course I will! Of course I will!”

That night, following the instructions, Pang Jian purified himself and was carried13 to the Temple of the Three Officials. He ordered the temple acolytes in charge of the incense,

“Let no one enter here tonight!”

Alone in the temple, he burnt incense and recited the title of the Star Lord of the Big Dipper unceasingly. At the second watch, Pang Jian heard the sound of wind blowing. It must be about time and quickly he hid under the offering table. Soon a gust of wondrous fragrance leapt into his nostrils and he heard someone remark,

“Such nice offerings, I wonder who prepared them? How did they know that we, the Gods, would be descending here, and they have cleaned the place so meticulously? After a while, names were called out. Each and everyone could be distinctively heard when suddenly,

“Pang Jian!”

With that someone in the hall answered,

“Longevity at Fifty years of age. Tonight on the fourth watch, vomit blood and die!”

When Pang Jian heard the words great fear grew in his heart.

Please read the next chapter to see how Pang Jian fared.


1. 陰功 or陰德are anonymous or secret merits. These deeds are made to accumulate merits for the next life. For example, building a bridge across a river so that lives would not be lost when traveling by boat.

Chinese believe that life is to be born and die in an endless cycle until their souls are pure enough to enter heaven. Embracing Buddhism is the way to end this endless cycle. To die and be reborn are the greatest pains.

This is a story I heard from my grandmother,

A virtuous man who throughout his life did good deeds would go straight to hell should he commit a sin before his death. However, someone who does evil all his life will go to heaven merely by performing a virtuous deed before his death. The reason is that the virtuous man knows the difference between good and evil and yet he committed the sin. Therefore he is truly an evil person. On the other hand, the erstwhile sinner realizes his error and repents… This is the difference between western and eastern laws. In the west, ignorance is no excuse for the law, while in the East, those not in-the-know should not be punished (不知者不知罪). In the philosophy of Legalism, laws must be made most severely and broadcast clearly so that people are aware of them and have no excuse in not knowing the existence of such laws. Only when the mentally handicapped are accused of crimes are they handled in a Legalistic manner by Western laws.

2. The five elements of metal, fire, water, earth and wood. In Chinese astrology, the hours of one’s birth can influence one’s life. Time intervals of one’s birth hours can be represented by a particular element.

3. 安人 – an old term of respect for the mother-in-law or the elderly mistress of the house. It literally means a person of peace. When the wife ages, it was assumed that she would be at peace on seeing her family filled with sons, daughters and daughters-in-law knowing that she had fulfilled her responsibilities as a wife and mother.

In rich and large families, as matriarch of the family, she holds the absolute power in the household while the husband attends to external affairs, no different from the roles of the emperor and empress. She maintains peace and harmony in the family so that the males can concentrate on external affairs. Hence I prefer to translate the term as ‘peace maker’ rather than ‘the contented one’.

4. There are three main sections to a traditional Chinese household, the outer hall to receive guests of honour and strangers, and to conduct official business. The inner hall serves as a place for relatives or very close friends. Inner apartments are the innermost sanctums where the family lives. Only extremely close friends or relatives may enter. In some rooms such as the room of the married son, the father is denied entry to avoid any suspicion between him and the daughter-in-law.

In my family, this is the place where the TV set was hidden in the clothes closet so that our grandfather did not notice its existence. This was because he considered TV immoral until he himself got one after having been chided by one of his girl friends, a BOAC stewardess, that such a modern man like him did not own any modern appliances!

5. 請安 – to inquire peace. In old Chinese rich households, daughters and sons are given separate rooms. They are expected to present tea to the parents each morning and inquire about their health (as in having a peaceful night of sleep) as a sign of filial respect.  In days of old, for one's birthday and if the parents are still alive, a cup of tea is presented to them as a filial act of thanks for their upbringing instead of expecting presents! Of course there will be the usual red packet of money for good luck.

6. The actual words used were, 心酸 – the heart becoming sour. A very different connotation in English.

7. Chenopodium Album used in culinary or medicinal uses such as a laxative.

8. In the old days, dinners are eaten separately by the sexes when entertaining guests. For official entertaining or banquets, no female family member is present, only courtesans and geishas are allowed. Unless guests are considered close relatives that both sexes may dine together.

9. Of course with her powers, Peach Blossom should know if such a temple existed. However etiquette demands that she should ask felicitously. This is because as an unmarried maid of any standing, she is not allowed anywhere outside the house and hence should have no such general knowledge.

10. Chung Yuan (中元). This occurs on the fifteenth of the seventh lunar month. In the old days, Taoists celebrate this day as a vegetarian day. As this story occurs during the Shang Dynasty, Buddhism had not yet found its way to China until the 7th century or so. Hence it must be a Taoist ritual. In Buddhism it was celebrated as the Ullambana, a transliteration of the Sanskrit word meaning "deliverance from suffering," and specifically refers to the salvation of anguished souls in Hell. This concept originates from the story of "Mulien Saves His Mother from Hades."

The protagonist Mulien learns that his mother's ghost is being tortured in Hades through starvation and hanging. He embarks on a grueling journey to the underworld bringing food to ease her hunger. When he finally succeeds in finding his mother, Mulien offers the food to her but erupts into flames before she is able to eat. Despairing, he begs Sakymuni to show him a way to bring salvation to his mother. Buddha told him that the past sins of the mother are too great for him alone to save her. He must find ten monks to pray together on the 15th day of the seventh moon. On heeding Sakymuni's instructions, Mulien began a ritual Buddhist fast and chanted the sutras until finally he succeeded in releasing his mother from hell. This legend has been passed down through the ages and it is celebrated today on Chung Yuan by Buddhists around the world, holding ceremonies of charity so that famished ghosts may cross over to salvation. Also this date of the 15th day of the seventh moon has become an occasion for teaching the virtues of filial piety.

It is also a folk sacrificial custom and rite for departed members of the family.

11. 鬥燈 – Fighting lanterns, used for praying good luck.

12. 繫子: A knotted string that is attached to objects. In this case a bag or a pouch. Hence another name for a pouch.

13. Most probably Pang Jiang was carried in a litter to the temple to prevent clothes being dirtied or to avoid unnecessary perspiration, a sign of uncleanliness.

Original Text




想定主意,便道:“彭老爺,你要問這個人的姓名,我斷然不能說出。我如今指引你一條路去,憑你的造化去奔他。但能得見此人,你的五行就有救了!”彭剪聞言大喜道:“老嫂,你快快說來!”石婆子道:“我這隔鄰的任家,是太公夫妻。你可認識否?”彭剪言: “是兩代的故交。我父親在日,與任太公甚是交好,就是我也常去探望他們,只隔得一月。若到他家,定必留餐款待。男男女女,大大小小,無一個不認得,無一個不熟識。”石婆子點頭道:“你既云與他們世交,至妙不過矣!今日既不過去,明日你早晨過去,見了任太公,提起你怎生災厄事來,若有造化,遇那個能人,定然能救解了,他有法力救你。千萬不可說是我教你過去求救的。”彭剪聽了這話,低頭想了又想,即道:“老嫂,你老人家這話有些糊塗,在員外家的人多,我那得知誰是能人?去求那一個救我?”石宗輔在旁蹺了嘴道:“彭老爺,你好羅唣也!既知道是個陰人,你就往陰人那裡去問就是了。我們且多飲幾杯!”說罷,就連連斟上,勸彭老多吃數盃。惟彭老只因問了頭路,確實心中也略為放下,一連飲了數盃,即便告辭要去。石氏母子又叮囑了一回,叫他不可說出是他們教的。彭剪連連點頭諾諾,忙奔回府中。

一日說話易過,到晚間睡在床上,只因吃的酒少,再也睡不著,翻來覆去,直至紅日東昇,忙起來洗臉,換了兩件新衣,竟往任太公家中而來。到了門首,告訴管門之人,傳將進去。任太公親自出來迎他,笑道:“賢侄,許多日子不到寒舍走走,今日早晨到來,真也是個喜事臨門。你還舉什麼禮?何用人通傳?我家有何人迴避你呢?請進罷!”彭剪忙作揖道:“禮當如此,小侄雖是通家,然不可逾分。”任太公攜了彭剪的手到了後堂。一路說道:“老安人,彭賢侄來了。”原來任太太是個無兒之人,平素的最疼痛愛者是彭剪。有丫環們進去通報,他已迎了出來,遠遠的笑道:“今日好風,把賢侄吹來了。一向為何,一月之久不來看看我兩老?”彭剪陪笑道:“嬸母,小侄近因多事,不曾來問安,今幸康泰,桃花妹妹也安好?”老太太道:“到好。”兩老把彭剪請進後樓,早已吩咐內人備了酒飯。湊巧桃花女今日早妝罷來至後樓與父母請安,恰與彭剪見面,一同見禮。老太太就教女兒側肩下坐。侍女們遞了茶,任太太便呼:“賢侄,往常我與你叔叔、妹子談及你自小在我家多,在自家少,一自長成,樸質忠厚。今日瞬息間我兩老年已五十多。”彭剪道:“小侄向叨過愛,不異一脈之親,無日不思來請安。只因公門事煩,從前事緩。”言畢,即潸然下淚。任太公夫妻只想他是為彼兩老年邁悲感,忙解勸道:“賢侄何須如此?”彭剪道:“小侄見叔、嬸年紀高了,小侄不能久侍左右,心甚不忍舍。”任太公夫妻聞言,也心酸起來,道:“賢侄不須說此不利之言,我兩老雖然有了年紀,只是身體還壯健,與賢侄你尚可聚首幾年。 ”彭剪流淚搖頭道:“你兩老須有壽,侄兒從今日以後,就不能見兩尊年了!”說罷,竟嗚嗚咽咽的哭將起來。任太公夫妻就忙問道:“賢侄年方富,何出此不利之言?”有丫環們用托盆兒搬上萊來了。任太公便坐了座位,對桃花女道:“女兒,彭家哥哥不是外人,你幼時,他也不知懷抱過你多少,今日不須迴避,就同在此用膳罷。”太公與老彭對坐,任太太與小姐橫頭並肩坐。太公斟了酒,遞過與彭剪,呼:“賢侄,且開懷用酒!”

彭剪接了酒,放下道:“非是侄兒不吃酒,今日不過來看看叔、嬸、妹妹,以表我心,完我心頭口口,還有甚心飲酒?”任太公呼:“賢侄,我看你一進門來,面有憂色,才說的又是些斷頭話,如今說的更糊塗。到底為著什麼事?”彭剪見問,流淚道,“小侄今夜四更就死了。因想叔、嬸待我一場,故此來辭你兩老,從今再不見我了!”說罷又大哭。任氏夫妻齊道:“此話從何說起?好好的人,怎麼一夜便死?”彭剪便將周公與他卜卦的話說知。太公夫妻道:“原來為此。這周公之卦,未必全驗!”當下桃花女在旁見彭剪有此煩惱,後來方說知卜卦斷死之事,只令人按撩不住,即呼:“哥哥,小妹粗知卦理,你把八字說來,小妹與你推算看看!”任太公道:“我也記得你的生辰八字。”忙說出彭剪的八字。桃花女把玉手輪掐了一回,心下吃了一驚,道:“周公八卦,果也判決無差!”不覺沉吟起來。任氏夫妻忙問道:“女兒,莫非周公卦果真麼?”小姐道:“果然算的一些也不錯!今晚四更,吐血而亡。”太公夫妻與彭剪一齊垂淚道:“可有救否?”桃花女低頭無語,半晌,又掐了一回道:“有到有救,只是太費周折。”任太公夫妻道:“費周折也不妨。你看爹娘之面,救救彭家哥哥罷!”小姐道:“此法落耳不傳,你可跟我到後花園來說知。”便抽身同彭剪往後園去了。任家與彭剪是通家叔侄,便不管他二人,兩老仍在後樓飲酒。桃花女與彭剪來至後園小亭中坐下,便問彭剪:“城裡何方可有座三官廟否?”彭剪言:“此座三官廟香火甚旺。”桃花女道:“妹妹算定今夜七月十五中元勝會,北斗星君該朝玉京之期,定二更回來,落在此廟內,注人間的輪迴。你速辦好片香,另要淨水七杯,鬥燈七盞,沐浴更衣,日落時擺設在三官廟內,心虔秉祝,念'大聖北斗元君'寶號,不可住口。到了二更,你可在供桌下等侯。我再給你個寶貝袋。”忙向錦匣中取出一個金繫子,遞與老彭,又教他一卷神光咒:“等星君下降,不必害怕。只聽他們叫到你名字,就從供桌下念咒,敲起金系子出來,向星君討壽。星君必然準的。這個金系子與這篇神咒,是剋星君的。你在敲、念起來,他們就心驚頭痛。事完,你回府去安歇,保你的無事。若是周公追問你,切不可說出我來。至要至囑!你速去照此而行。”老彭聽了,喜之不盡,呼:“妹妹是我的大恩人也!待事暇,再來叩謝!”言罷便別出去,見任太公兩老,又言:“解法不能洩漏,侄兒要回去照辦!”兩老聽了,道。 “如此,我也不留你了!”任太公又言:“果也無事,明早賢侄必須來走走,免我兩老掛心!”彭剪連連應允道。 “這也自然。”



Wednesday, September 15, 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 Jian’s life is saved.

Let’s not talk about how Lord Chou divined Pang Jian’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 Jian with no gesture of any sort except for a great sigh of pity. Pang Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian?”

“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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian merely answered,

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

Moodily, Pang Jian 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 Jian was drunk before the two jugs were emptied. After paying his bill, Pang Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian raising his head now and then looking around absent-mindedly. So Shi Tsung Fu stepped up his pace to catch up with Pang Jian. 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian invited the mother to sit and eat with them3. After some pushing and declining she finally relented and sat down. Pang Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian, 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 Jian. This fact did not escape Pang Jian. As he observed Shi Tsung Fu’s demeanor he realized the reason. How can Pang Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian’s face as if from peeling onions. Old Mrs. Shi quickly ordered his son to help Pang Jian 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 Jian 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 Jian 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 the 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。