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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。”



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