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Chinese Text Project
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-> -> -> In which an introductory story of a good scholar points the moral of the book

《说楔子敷陈大义 借名流隐括全文 - In which an introductory story of a good scholar points the moral of the book》

Library Resources
1 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
Men in their lives go on different ways;
Generals, statesmen, saints and even immortals
Begin as ordinary people. Dynasties rise and fall,
Mornings change to evenings; winds from the river
Bring down old trees. From a former reign;
And fame, riches, rank may vanish without a trace.
Then aspire not for these, wasting your days;
But drink and be merry, for who knows
Where the waters carry the blossom cast over them?

2 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
The idea expressed in this poem is the commonplace one that in human life riches, rank, success and fame are external things. Men will risk their lives in the search for them; yet once they have them within their grasp, the taste is no better than chewed tallow. But from ancient times till now, how many have accepted this?

3 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
However, at the end of the Yuan Dynasty a really remarkable man was born. His name was Wang Mian, and he lived in a village in Zhuji County in Zhejiang. When he was seven his father died, but his mother took in sewing so that he could study at the village school. Soon three years had passed and Wang Mian was ten. His mother called him to her and said, “Son, it's not that I want to stand in your way. But since your father died and left me a widow, I have had nothing coming in. Times are hard, and fuel and rice are expensive. Our old clothes and our few sticks of furniture have been pawned or sold. We have nothing to live on but what I make by my sewing. How can I pay for your schooling? There's nothing for it but to set you to work looking after our neighbour's buffalo. You'll be making a little money every month, and you'll get your meals there too. You start tomorrow.”
“Yes, mother,” said Wang Mian. “I find sitting in school boring anyway. I'd rather look after buffaloes. If I want to study, I can take a few books along to read.” So that very night the matter was decided.

4 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
The next morning his mother took him to the Qin family next door. Old Qin gave them some breakfast, and when they had finished he led out a water buffalo and made it over to Wang Mian.
“Two bow shots from my gate is the lake,” he said, pointing outside. “And by the lake is a belt of green where all the buffaloes of the village browse. There are a few dozen big willows there too, so that it is quiet, shady and cool; and if the buffalo is thirsty it can drink at the water's edge. You can play there, son; but don't wander off. I shall see that you get rice and vegetables twice a day; and each morning I shall give you a few coppers to buy a snack to eat while you're out. Only you must work well. I hope you'll find this satisfactory.”
Wang Mian's mother thanked Old Qin and turned to go home. Her son saw her to the gate, and there she straightened his clothes for him.
“Mind now, don't give them any reason to find fault with you,” she charged him. “Go out early and come back at dusk. I don't want to have to worry about you.”
Wang Mian nodded assent. Then, with tears in her eyes, she left him.

5 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
From this time onwards, Wang Mian looked after Old Qin's buffalo; and every evening he went home to sleep. Whenever the Qin family gave him salted fish or meat, he would wrap it up in a lotus leaf and take it to his mother. He also saved the coppers he was given each day to buy a snack with, and every month or so would seize an opportunity to go to the village school to buy some old books from the book-vendor making his rounds. Every day, when he had tethered the buffalo, he would sit down beneath the willows and read.

6 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
So three or four years quickly passed. Wang Mian studied and began to see things clearly. One sultry day in early summer, tired after leading the buffalo to graze, he sat down on the grass. Suddenly dense clouds gathered, and there was a heavy shower of rain. Then the black storm clouds fringed with fleecy white drifted apart, and the sun shone through, bathing the whole lake in crimson light. The hills by the lake were blue, violet and emerald. The trees, freshly washed by the rain, were a lovelier green than ever. Crystal drops were dripping from a dozen lotus buds in the lake, while beads of water rolled about the leaves.
As Wang Mian watched, he thought, “The ancients said, 'In a beautiful scene a man feels he is part of a picture.' How true! What a pity there is no painter here to paint these sprays of lotus. That would be good.” Then he reflected, “There's nothing a man can't learn. Why shouldn't I paint them myself?”

7 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
Just then, he saw in the distance a fellow carrying two hampers over his shoulder and a bottle of wine in his hand. Hanging from one hamper was a rug. The man spread the rug under the willows, and opened the hampers. Behind him came three men in scholars' square caps, all some forty to fifty years old. Two were dressed in dark grey, and the third in a blue linen gown. Fanning themselves with white paper fans, they advanced slowly. The one in blue was fat. When he reached the willows he asked one of the men in grey, one with a long beard, to take the seat of honour, and another, a thin one, to sit on the rug opposite. He himself was evidently the host, for he sat in the lowest place and poured the wine. They began eating.

8 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
After a while, the fat man said, “Mr. Wei has come back. His new house is even bigger than the one in Bell Tower Street in the capital. The price was two thousand taels of silver, but, because the purchaser was so distinguished, the owner allowed him several dozen taels discount for the sake of the credit he would get from this transaction. On the tenth of last month Mr. Wei moved in. The prefect and the county magistrate called to congratulate him, and stayed there feasting until nearly midnight. There is nobody who does not respect him.”
“The magistrate used to be Mr. Wei's pupil,” said the thin man. “It was only right for him to pay his respects.”
“My son-in-law's father is an old pupil of Mr. Wei's, too,” said the fat man. “He has a post as magistrate now in Henan Province. The day before yesterday my son-in-law came to visit me, bringing two catties of dried venison—that's it on this dish. When he goes back, he's going to ask his father to write a letter of introduction so that I can call on Mr. Wei. Then, if Mr. Wei condescends to come to the village to return the visit, the villagers won't dare to turn their donkeys and pigs loose to eat the grain in our fields any more.”
“Mr. Wei is a real scholar,” said the thin man.
“Recently, when he left the capital,” said the man with the beard, “I heard the emperor himself escorted him out of the city, taking his hand and walking nearly twenty steps with him. It was only after Mr. Wei had repeatedly bowed and entreated him to go no further that the emperor got into his sedan-chair and returned to the city. Judging by this, Mr. Wei will probably soon become a great official.”
The three men talked on and on.

9 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
Wang Mian saw that it was growing late, and led the buffalo back. After that, Wang Mian no longer spent his savings on books, but asked someone to buy paints for him in the city, and learnt to paint lotus flowers. At first he did not do too well, but after three months he succeeded in capturing the very essence and shades of colour of the lotus. Though he painted on paper, his flowers seemed to be growing in the water, or as if freshly plucked from the lake and placed on a scroll. When the villagers saw how well he painted, some even bought his pictures. And when Wang Mian had money he bought good things for his mother. One person told another, until the whole of Zhuji County knew that he was a famous flower painter, and people vied with each other in their eagerness to buy. By the time he was eighteen he had stopped working for Old Qin, and spent every day doing some painting or reading old poems and essays. By degrees he no longer had to worry about his livelihood, and his mother was happy.

10 说楔子敷... :
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Wang Mian had genius. While still in his teens, he mastered the whole field of astronomy, geography, the classics and history. He was, however, eccentric. He did not look for an official post, and did not even have any friends. All day he studied behind closed doors; and when he saw in an edition of the poems of Chu Yuan a picture of the poet's costume, he made himself a very high hat and a loose flowing gown. In the fresh and flowering spring he would take his mother out in a buffalo cart, and, dressed in his high hat and loose gown, flourishing the whip and singing songs, would drive all over the countryside and around the lake. Small groups of village children would tag after him, laughing; but he did not mind them. Only his neighbour, Old Qin, realized how remarkable he was; for Old Qin was an intelligent man, though a peasant, and he had seen Wang Mian grow up. He respected and loved Wang Mian, and often asked him to his thatched cottage to talk with him.

11 说楔子敷... :
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One day Wang Mian was sitting in Old Qin's cottage when a man wearing a bailiff's cap and blue cloth gown came in. Old Qin welcomed him, and after an exchange of courtesies they sat down. This newcomer's name was Zhai. He was a county runner and also a bailiff, but since Old Qin's son was his godchild he often came to the village to visit their family. Old Qin hastily called his son to make tea, kill a chicken and cook some meat to entertain the bailiff, and asked Wang Mian to accompany them.
When Bailiff Zhai heard Wang Mian's name, he asked, “Is this Mr. Wang the flower painter?”
“Yes,” said Old Qin. “How did you get to know of him?”
“Is there anyone in the county who doesn't know him?” retorted the bailiff. “The other day the county magistrate commissioned me to get twenty-four paintings of flowers to send to a superior. Knowing Mr. Wang's great reputation, I've come straight here; and now I'm lucky enough to meet Mr. Wang himself.” Then he turned to Wang Mian and said: “I must trouble you to do some paintings. In two weeks I shall come to fetch them, bringing the payment from Magistrate Shi.”
Old Qin pressed Wang Mian to consent and, to please the old man, he agreed.
He went home and took infinite pains to paint twenty-four pictures of flowers, each with a poem appended. Bailiff Zhai reported his meeting with Wang Mian to the magistrate, who gave him twenty-four taels of silver. Of this sum Zhai appropriated half, giving twelve taels only to Wang Mian. He took the flower album away with him, and then the magistrate sent it with some other presents to Mr. Wei.

12 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
When Mr. Wei accepted the gifts, the album alone attracted his attention. He looked at the paintings again and again, liking them so much that he could scarcely take his eyes off them. The next day he invited Magistrate Shi to a feast to thank him. They exchanged greetings, and drank several cups of wine.
“Yesterday I received your gift of a flower album,” said Mr. Wei. “Is it the work of an old master or of a contemporary?”
Not daring to conceal the truth, the magistrate told him, “It was painted by a peasant in one of the villages in my county. His name is Wang Mian, and he is quite young. I believe he has just learnt to paint; but his work is unworthy of your distinguished notice.”

13 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
Mr. Wei sighed and said, “I left home so long ago that, though my native place has produced so great a man, I did not know it. I am ashamed. He shows not only remarkable skill but exceptional insight, and in future his fame and rank will at least equal ours. I wonder if you would invite him to pay me a visit?”
“What could be simpler?” replied Magistrate Shi. “When I leave I shall send a man to invite him. He will be only too pleased to come.”
When Magistrate Shi had taken his leave of Mr. Wei, he returned to his yamen and ordered Bailiff Zhai to take an invitation card couched in most respectful terms to Wang Mian.

14 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
Zhai hurried down to the village to Old Qin's house, and sent for Wang Mian to step over. Then he told him what his business was.
Wang Mian smiled and said, “I must trouble you to inform the magistrate that Wang Mian is only a peasant and dare not accept such an invitation.”
The bailiff's face fell. “When the magistrate invites, who dare refuse?” he demanded. “Especially as it was I who did you this favour! If I hadn't recommended you, how would His Honour know you could paint? You ought by rights to be rewarding me! Instead, after coming all this way, I don't see so much as a cup of tea, and you fob me off with excuses. And why won't you go, pray? Do you mean to say a county magistrate can't summon a common man? What am I to say to the magistrate when I get back?”

15 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
“It's not that, sir,” said Wang Mian. “If I receive a summons from the magistrate, how dare I refuse? But you have brought an invitation, which means I am under no compulsion. I don't want to go. His Honour must excuse me.”
“That doesn't make sense!” exclaimed the bailiff. “Served with a summons, you go. Asked by invitation, you don't. You simply don't know what's good for you!”

16 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
“Mr. Wang,” put in Old Qin, “if the magistrate sends an invitation, he must mean well. So why not go? The proverb says, 'Magistrates can ruin families.' Why ask for trouble?'
“The bailiff doesn't understand, uncle,” said Wang Mian, “but haven't you heard me tell the stories of the two ancient sages who refused to see their rulers? No, I'm not going.”

17 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
“You are making it very difficult for me,” said the bailiff. “What can I say to the magistrate when I go back?”
“In fact, it is difficult for you both,” said Old Qin. “Mr. Wang doesn't want to go. But if he doesn't go, that'll be very embarrassing for Bailiff Zhai. Now I have a plan. When you go back to the yamen, bailiff, don't say that Mr. Wang refuses the invitation, but just that he is ill and can't go. He will go in a few days when he is better.”
“If he were ill,” objected the bailiff, “I should have to get a signed statement to that effect from the neighbours.”

18 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
They argued for some time. Then Old Qin prepared supper for the bailiff, and while he was eating told Wang Mian secretly to ask his mother for a little silver as messenger's fee. Only then did Zhai consent to go back.

19 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
When Magistrate Shi heard the bailiff's report, he thought, “How can the fellow be ill? It's all the fault of this rascal Zhai. He goes down to the villages like a donkey in a lion's hide, and he must have scared this painter fellow out of his wits. Wang Mian has never seen an official before in his life. He's afraid to come. But my patron charged me personally to get this man, and if I fail to produce him, Mr. Wei will think me incompetent. I had better go to the village myself to call on him. When he sees what an honour I'm doing him, he'll realize nobody wants to make trouble for him and won't be afraid to see me. Then I'll take him to call on my patron, and my patron will appreciate the smart way I've handled it.”

20 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
Then, however, it occurred to him that his subordinates might laugh at the idea of a county magistrate calling on a mere peasant. Yet Mr. Wei had spoken of Wang Mian with the greatest respect. “If Mr. Wei respects him, I should respect him ten times as much,” Magistrate Shi reflected. “And if I stoop in order to show respect to talent, future compilers of the local chronicles will certainly devote a chapter to my praise. Then my name will be remembered for hundreds of years. Why shouldn't I do it?” So he decided to go.

21 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
The next morning the magistrate called for his chairbearers. Taking only eight runners in red and black caps, and with Bailiff Zhai in attendance, he went straight down to the village. When the villagers heard the gongs, young and old flocked round to see the chair. Then the procession reached a cluster of huts. Wang Mian's door, of unvarnished wood, was firmly fastened. Bailiff Zhai hurried forward to knock at the door, and after some time an old woman came out, leaning on a stick.
“He is not at home,” she said in reply to Zhai's inquiry. “Early this morning he took the buffalo out to water it, and he has not come back.”
“The magistrate himself is here to speak with your son,” said the bailiff. “How can you be so offhand? Tell me quickly where he is, so that I can fetch him back.”
“He is really not at home,” answered the old woman. “I don't know where he is.” This said, she went in, closing the door behind her.

22 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
During this conversation the magistrate's chair had come up. Bailiff Zhai knelt before the chair and said, “I asked for Wang Mian and found he is not at home. Won't Your Honour go to the local office to rest for a little, while I make further inquiries?” Then he escorted the chair past the back of Wang Mian's cottage.
Behind the cottage were a few strips of arable land and a big lake, its banks thickly grown with elms and mulberry trees. Then more fields could be seen, stretching to the horizon. There was a hill too, covered with fresh green trees, only a few hundred yards away. If you shouted, your voice would carry there. And round the foot of this hill, as the magistrate's chair advanced, came a little cowherd riding back to front on a water buffalo.

23 说楔子敷... :
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Hurrying over, Bailiff Zhai called, “Little Qin! Did you see where Old Wang from next door went to water his buffalo?” The small boy replied, “Uncle Wang has gone to Wang Market, seven miles away. He went to a feast with a relative there. This is his buffalo that I'm bringing home for him.” When Magistrate Shi heard this, he flushed angrily and said, “In that case, I need not go to the local office. Let us go back to the yamen.” Thoroughly annoyed, his first impulse was to tell his attendants to arrest Wang Mian and punish him. Afraid, however, that Mr. Wei would call him hotheaded, he decided to swallow his anger and go back to explain to his patron that Wang Mian did not deserve to be honoured. He could punish the fellow later. Having reached this decision, he left.

24 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
Wang Mian had not really gone far. He came back presently and was reproached by Old Qin, who said, “You are too obstinate. He is the head of a county; how can you show such disrespect?”
“Please sit down, uncle,” said Wang Mian, “and I will explain. This magistrate relies on Mr. Wei's authority to tyrannize over the common people here, and do all kinds of bad things. Why should I have anything to do with such a man? But now that he has gone back, he will certainly tell Mr. Wei; and if Mr. Wei becomes angry he may want to make trouble for me. So now I shall pack up my things, leave my mother, and go into hiding for a time. The only thing that worries me is leaving my mother here by herself.”

25 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
His mother said, “Son, all these years, thanks to the poems and paintings you have sold, I have saved nearly fifty taels of silver. I don't have to worry about fuel and rice; and, old as I am, I'm hale and hearty. There's no reason why you shouldn't leave home and lie low for a time. You haven't committed any crime. The officers can't arrest your mother.”
“She's right,” agreed Old Qin. “Besides, if you bury yourself in this village, who will recognize your talents? Go to some big place, and who knows but what you may meet with recognition. I'll keep an eye on everything here for you, and see that your mother is all right.”
Wang Mian bowed his thanks to Old Qin, who went home to fetch food and wine for his friend. They feasted late into the night.

26 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
The next day Wang Mian got up before dawn, packed his belongings, and had breakfast; and then Old Qin arrived. Wang Mian bowed to his mother and to Old Qin; then, in tears, son and mother bade each other farewell. Wang Mian was wearing hempen sandals and carrying his possessions on his back. Old Qin, holding a small white lantern in his hand, saw him to the end of the village and, shedding tears, bade him goodbye. Then he stood, lantern in hand, gazing after Wang Mian until he could see him no more.

27 说楔子敷... :
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Braving the wind and dew, Wang Mian travelled day after day past large posting stations and small, till he came to the city of Jinan. Although Shandong is a northern province, its chief city was rich and populous, packed with buildings. By the time Wang Mian arrived here, his money was spent, and he had to rent a small front room in a temple and tell fortunes there. He also painted pictures of flowers, and posted up a couple to sell to passers-by. Every day he told fortunes and sold paintings, and customers flocked to him. In this way six months flew by.

28 说楔子敷... :
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Now there were some rich men in Jinan who took a fancy to Wang Mian's paintings and became regular customers. They did not come to buy themselves, but would send rough servants who shouted and wrangled and gave Wang Mian no peace. Finally, in exasperation, he painted a picture of a big ox and pasted it up in his shop, appending some satirical verses. After that he knew he could expect trouble, and planned to move to another town.

29 说楔子敷... :
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One morning, as he was sitting in his room, his attention was attracted by a number of men and women, many of them in tears, passing down the street. Some were carrying pans, others had children in baskets suspended from a pole over their shoulders. Group after group passed, haggard, half-starved, their clothes in rags. They filled the streets, and some of them sat on the ground to beg. When Wang Mian asked where they were from, he found that they came from the villages by the Yellow River. Their fields and homes had been flooded, so now they were refugees; and since the government would do nothing for them, they were reduced to beggary.

30 说楔子敷... :
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Distressed by this sight, Wang Mian sighed and said, “Now the river has left its course again. This has invariably been a prelude to a period of great confusion. Why should I stay here?” Putting together his money and belongings, he started for home. When he reached Zhejiang Province, he heard that Mr. Wei had gone back to the capital and Magistrate Shi had been promoted to another post. He could, therefore, feel easy in his mind about going home.
He bowed before his mother, and was happy to see that she was as healthy as ever. She told him that Old Qin had been very good to her, whereupon Wang Mian hastily unpacked a whole bolt of silk and a package of dried persimmons which he gave to Old Qin to express his thanks. And Old Qin prepared a feast for his home-coming. After that Wang Mian lived as before, chanting poetry, painting pictures and taking care of his mother like a good son.

31 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
Six years later, his mother, weak from old age, took to her bed. Every means was tried to cure her, but in vain. One day she called him to her and said, “I am near the end. The last few years everybody has been telling me that as you are so learned, I should advise you to go out and become an official. Of course, being an official would reflect credit on your forefathers. But the officials I have seen have all come to a bad end. And you are so proud that if you got into trouble it would be serious. Listen, son, to my dying wish: Marry, have children and care for my grave; but don't become an official. Promise me this and I shall die in peace.”
In tears, Wang Mian assented. Then his mother breathed her last. Wang Mian mourned and wept so bitterly that all the neighbours shed tears. Old Qin helped him prepare the burial clothes and coffin, while he himself carried earth to make the grave. For three years he mourned.

32 说楔子敷... :
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A year after the period of mourning was over, the whole empire was plunged into confusion. Fang Guo-zhen occupied Zhejiang, Zhang Shi-cheng occupied Suzhou, and Chen Youliang occupied Huguang. They were mere rebels. But at the same time, Zhu Yuan-zhang, who later became the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, raised soldiers in Chuyang, took Nanjing, and established himself as Prince of Wu. His was a kingly army. He led his troops to defeat Fang Guo-zhen, and ruled over the whole province of Zhejiang, so that villages and towns were at peace once more.

33 说楔子敷... :
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One day at noon, just as Wang Mian was returning from his mother's grave, he saw a dozen horsemen entering the village. The leader of the band wore a military cap and flowered silk costume. He had a clear complexion, his beard was fine, and he looked every inch a king. When this man reached Wang Mian's door, he alighted from his horse, saluted and said, “May I ask where Mr. Wang Mian lives?”
“I am he,” replied Wang Mian, “and this is my humble house.”
“I am in luck then,” said the stranger, “for I have come specially to pay my respects.” He ordered his followers to dismount and wait outside, and they tethered their horses beneath the willows by the lake.

34 说楔子敷... :
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The stranger took Wang Mian's hand and went into the house with him. They sat down in the positions of guest and host, and Wang Mian asked, “May I know your honourable name and what has brought you to this village?”
“My name is Zhu. I raised troops in Jiangnan and was known as the Prince of Chuyang; but now, because I hold Nanjing, I am called the Prince of Wu. The campaign against Fang Guo-zhen brought me here, and now I have come to pay my respects to you.”
“I am an ignorant villager,” said Wang Mian, “and did not recognize Your Highness. This is indeed an overwhelming honour for a simple peasant like myself.”
“I am a rough and ready fellow,” answered the Prince of Wu, “but at the sight of your scholarly bearing, my thirst for fame and wealth has vanished. When I was still in Jiangnan your fame reached my ears, and now I have come to consult you. The people of Zhejiang have rebelled many times. What can I do to win their love?”

35 说楔子敷... :
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“Your Highness is far-sighted,” said Wang Mian. “There is no need for a humble person like myself to say much. If you use goodness and justice to win the people, you will win them all — not only those in Zhejiang. But if you try to conquer by force, weak as the people of Zhejiang are, I am afraid they will not submit. Look at the case of Fang Guo-zhen whom you defeated.”
The prince nodded and expressed approval; and sitting face to face they talked till evening. The prince's followers had brought rations, and Wang Mian went to the kitchen to make bread and fry leeks for the prince, sharing the meal with him. The prince then thanked him for his advice, mounted his horse and rode away.
That day Old Qin had gone to the county-seat. On his return he asked Wang Mian who his visitors had been; but instead of telling him that it was the Prince of Wu, Wang Mian simply said, “It was an army officer I knew when I was in Shandong.”

36 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
In a few years the Prince of Wu pacified the country and established his capital at Nanjing, so that once more the empire was united. His dynasty was called Ming, and his reign Hong Wu. Once more the villagers could live at peace, enjoying the fruits of their labour. During the fourth year of the reign Old Qin went to the county-seat again, and on his return told Wang Mian, “Mr. Wei is in disgrace and has been sentenced to exile in Hochow. I have brought a bulletin to show you.”

37 说楔子敷... :
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Wang Mian read it, and discovered that, since his surrender, Mr. Wei had continued to indulge in foolish display, calling himself his sovereign's old and trusted servant, until the emperor in anger had banished him to Hochow to look after the grave of Yu Que. This decree was followed by the rules of the Board of Ceremonies for the civil service examinations. Candidates would be tested every three years, and required only to write paGu essays on the Confucian classics.

38 说楔子敷... :
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Pointing this out to Old Qin, Wang Mian said, “These rules are not good. Future candidates, knowing that there is an easy way to high position, will look down on real scholarship and correct behaviour.” By now dusk had fallen. It was early summer and the weather was turning warm. Old Qin set a table on the threshing floor, and they drank wine. Soon the moon came up from the east, and shone so brightly that everything seemed made of glass. The water-birds had gone to their nests, and all was quiet. Holding his cup in his left hand, Wang Mian pointed to the stars with his right, and said, “Look! The Zhains have invaded the Scholars. That shows that scholars of this generation have hard times ahead.”
As he spoke, a strange wind sprang up. It soughed through the trees, and made the waterfowl take wing, crying in alarm, while Wang Mian and Old Qin hid their faces in their sleeves for fear. Soon the wind dropped, and when they looked again they saw about a hundred small stars in the sky, all falling towards the south-east horizon.
“Heaven has taken pity on the scholars,” said Wang Mian. “These stars have been sent down to maintain the literary tradition. But we shan't live to see it.” Then they cleared away the things and went to bed.

39 说楔子敷... :
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Later on, many rumours were heard to the effect that the government had ordered the Zhejiang authorities to offer Wang Mian an official appointment. At first he ignored these rumours; but when more and more people began to talk of it he secretly packed his belongings and, without telling Old Qin, slipped away by night to Kuaiji Mountain. After another six months an envoy with an imperial decree, followed by retainers carrying silk and brocade, did actually come to Old Qin's door. They saw an old man of more than eighty, with a white beard and white hair, leaning on a stick. The envoy greeted him, and Old Qin invited him into his cottage to take a seat.
“Does Mr. Wang Mian live in this village?” asked the envoy. “His Majesty has appointed him Commissioner of Records. I have brought the imperial decree.”
“He belongs to this village,” replied Old Qin, “but he disappeared long ago.
After Old Qin had served tea, he led the envoy to Wang Mian's house, and pushed open the door. The rooms were filled with cobwebs and the yard with weeds, so they knew it was true that Wang Mian had been gone for a long time. The envoy expressed regret, and went back to report to the emperor.

40 说楔子敷... :
In which an introductory...:
Wang Mian lived as a hermit in Kuaiji Mountain, and never disclosed his real name. When later he fell ill and died, his neighbours there collected some money and buried him at the foot of the mountain. During the same year, Old Qin died of old age in his home. Curiously enough, writers and scholars nowadays refer to Wang Mian as the Commissioner of Records, though actually he never served as an official for a single day, as I have tried to make clear. The foregoing is only the introduction to the story which I shall now begin.

URN: ctp:rulin-waishi/1