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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Canton's #1 Scholar - Chapter 6 - Heaven's Gate - Flung Wide Open For All To See!

Copyright © 2011 - Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

Ah Chui continued,

“Why should I lie? When the Governor General heard my answer, not only did he praise me, he also said that upon returning to the Yamen, he would send for his soldiers for your arrest!”

The monks thought that the words were true and exclaimed,

“Waa! This time you have done us the most harm. Good words you don’t say but bad ones you spill. You have thrown a doozy at us!”

Ah Chui retorted,

“Who asked you baldies to bully me all the time? Today is the day for revenge.”

With those words, Ah Chui quickly left for home with the fifty taels of silver in hand. Let the truth be known - along the front of West Zen temple are households and orchards from which some of the monks steal pigs, dogs and vegetables. No wonder they trembled in fright upon hearing these words.

Now Mrs. Lun had never seen so much money in her life and her eyes immediately looked at her son for explanation. As she heard his story being unfurled, her smiles were so big with glee that only her teeth and not her eyes could be seen. A slight tremor was felt as she jumped up and down with joy! This ruckus alerted the gossipy women in the neighbourhood. These so-called ‘Three Ladies and Six Hags”1 came to see what was happening. In one voice from different mouths, they cried out at once,

“We are so glad and happy for you.  Such an intelligent son!”

Eighth Aunt (Ah Chui’s mother) was very proud of her son but at the same time she lamented that ever since Ah Chui’s father had passed away they did not have any chicken for dinner. So she decided to cook one that night to give thanks to the ancestors. Of course everyone was invited to the evening feast and drinks. After the celebration, Eighth Aunt began thinking about Ah Chui’s future. It would not be good for her son to be without any formal education. With all this money she could now talk to a certain Mr. Ho to see if this experienced teacher would take Ah Chui as his student. This Mr. Ho was a learned man but not a scholar. Due to adverse fate and circumstances, he was unable to attain a green collar2 even though he spent all his time in study and his hairs had turned white. He became disheartened and no longer wished to seek glory through the imperial exams. He would rather fulfill the human desire to become a teacher3. He settled in Blessed Earth Lane and opened a school4. Neighbours knew of his great learning and because he was a stern teacher many sent their sons to be under his tutelage. Soon Mr. Ho unwittingly became a baboon troupe leader, able to sit on a tiger’s skin chair5 and be a south-facing monarch6 even though teaching them was not an easy job.

Ever since Ah Chui entered his school, Teacher Ho had observed that the boy was very intelligent though very mischievous. However the teacher was more than happy to teach his pupil and on his part, Ah Chui studied hard. Within half a year’s time, he made such great progress that he was almost as good as the teacher himself. One day, being his usual self, Ah Chui hopped, skipped and jumped his way back home from school for lunch and headed straight into his mother’s room to greet her. Unexpectedly, right at this moment, Eighth Aunt was changing into her trousers7 and was about to tell him not to enter… Too late! Ah Chui had already barged in to hug his mother. In her haste to return the hug from her son, she forgot to hold onto her trousers… Down they came, tumbling to her ankles. Even the hole whence Ah Chui came from was clearly seen by all!

Though they are mother and son and he was only seven years old, Eighth Aunt was still a woman at heart and gasped a loud “choy”8. Unexpectedly, still at a tender age, Ah Chui understood such inappropriate situations. To leave some dignity for his mother, he actually began reciting a poem right then and there! Do you know what sort of poem did he recite? Well, he hummed aloud to her,

Teacher let school out, back to home: Here I come.
Only to see Heaven’s gate flung wide open.
From time immemorial, whence Emperors came,
So too will the Number One Scholar, Two and Three!

The moment Eight Aunt heard his words, her shame immediately turned to joy. Even though she was no poet, she could still understand a word here and a word there. Such sweet and yet funny were the words that she could not help herself but burst out a hearty laugh. Although she could not directly praise her son, joy was brimming out from her heart. Alas, this poem that made a mother so happy, was also the cause that a life was almost lost.


1. 三姑 : 尼姑 (Buddhist nun), 道姑(Taoist Nun) and 卦姑 (a female fortune teller)


牙婆 (tooth hag, a go-between for handling transactions),
媒婆 (match maker)
師婆(female shaman, dispensing charms, amulets etc),
虔婆 (mama san, a procuress)
药婆 (female herbal dispenser) and
稳婆 (midwife).

Since these women were from all walks of life and had daily dealings with the general populace, they knew every bit of minutia and tended to be gossipy.

2. A green collar, a distinguishing mark of being a scholar, i.e. having passed the imperial exams.

3. This phrase came from Mencius. See Note 6 of the Cantonese section.

4. The original text used was “Confucius Sayings Place”

5. 皋比 is a chair covered with tiger’s skin. A chair of importance where generals sat.

6. Chinese emperors sit facing south because that direction is considered auspicious. This may be due to the geography of China where the south has a milder climate, more fertile plains etc.

7. More like pantaloons. Remember they are poor folks and so women do not wear skirts as they are too cumbersome for daily chores.

8. An exclamation to something inappropriate, or an expletive not quite unlike the ‘Egad’, “gracious me” etc. This exclamation was usually used by uneducated women in the old days.

Original Text



“呃你乎? 巡撫大人聞得我呢句對之後, 除佐讚我好野之外, 重話返到衙門, 必定派兵拉你地添!” 眾和尚信以為真, 個個曰:

“嘩, 今回俾你害得慘矣! 乜你好嗡唔嗡, 撚1單敢(咁)野”


“鬼叫你班禿奴, 週時欺負我, 今日報仇咁報也”

說完, 一向関(班)人, 捧住五十両銀, 飛跑回家, 原來西禪寺前, 有幾間民房, 亦有菓圃幾個, 西禪寺不肖僧人, 果然有偷猪偷狗偷芥菜行為, 早已坊人側耳, 今被倫文敘一語道破, 無怪眾和尚皆為之發茅也, 亞敘捧住五十両銀,回家, 話俾八嫂知, 八嫂成世人, 未見過大拿拿五十両銀咁多, 當堂雙眼為之發擒青2, 問亞敘去邊處得來, 亞敍乃將經過情形, 一五一十說與八嫂知, 笑到八嫂有牙冇眼, 跳起三丈幾高, 地都震埋, 早已驚動隔鄰一班三姑六婆安人大娘, 齊來觀看, 異口同聲, 都說:

“八嫂, 今回戥3你安樂咯! 生得個咁叻4嘅仔!”

八嫂亦歡天喜地, 話自從亞敘老豆過身到如今, 未曾(層)食過一件雞肉, 今晚都要劏雞拜吓祖先, 請大眾飲番杯矣, 一番高興之後, 八嫂既有錢, 認為無正式老師, 終非辦法, 乃帶阿敍去一位姓何的老師宿儒入學, 呢位何老師, 是個不第秀才, 文學甚好, 只因時乖命蹇, 屢困塲屋, 讀書讀到乜野毛都白晒, 無非撈個青一衿5因此心灰意冷, 不求進取, 就在福地巷附近, 開間子曰館, 做起人之患來6, 附近的人, 知道何老師好文才, 管教又嚴, 紛紛送其子來就讀, 所以何老師這個猢猻王, 倒能坐擁皋比, 真個南面王之不易, 自從阿敘入學後, 何老師見阿敘雖頑皮, 却聰明伶俐, 於是特別用心教之, 阿敍亦努力學習, 讀得半年, 文思更加大進, 幾乎有青出於藍之勢矣, 一日, 阿敍放宴(晏) 7晝學, 回家食飯, 阿敘行路照例連跳帶跑的, 返到家中, 两步跳入八嫂房中, 想叫聲阿媽! 不料此時八嫂正在房中換緊褲, 想嗌阿敘咪入來住! 但阿敘經已入左嚟, 攬到八嫂抽褲唔切, 當堂連生阿敘出來個處都俾阿敘睇見, 雖然八嫂同阿敘係兩仔乸, 而且阿敍年紀只七歲大, 但女人即係女人, 照例未免釆(啋)8 一聲, 不料阿敍人仔細細, 早已懂得好多野, 為要留回阿媽的面子, 居然就地吟起一首詩來, 你估個首詩點話去? 佢話


八嫂聞言不覺化羞為喜, 八嫂雖然唔識吟詩, 但亦曉聽幾句, 聽見阿敍呢首詩咁好, 亦為之大笑起來, 雖然唔敢當面誇讚個仔, 但個心則歡喜之極矣, 不料因為阿敍吟呢首詩引起八嫂歡喜, 幾乎弄出一條命案.

Cantonese Notes:

1. To handle. Here it is means to “play a trick” or 撚化 means “to trick”

2. Hurriedly. 趕不及的样子.

3. 戥 means “for you” as in, 戥你歡喜 – (We are) happy for you. For a more traditional meaning see

4. Clever, smart

5. 未青一衿〞就是說連個秀才都没有中過。還是普通百姓的身份。

6. 人之患則是出於孟子。孟子說: 「人之患,在好為人師」,意思即是指人最大的弊病是喜歡當别人的老師、以“人師”的傲態自居。 所以〝人之患〞便是說人最大的弊病或問題的意思。所以撈個青一衿便是想求得一官半職的意思!

7. Lunch

8. See general Note 8 above

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