[Zhang Junrui] [Riding a horse]Humbly my surname is Zhang, given name Gong; people call me Junrui. I come from Western Luoyang. My father was the former Minister of Rites. Unfortunately he died of illness a bit over fifty. One year later, my mother also died.
I have been wandering about the country, carrying a sword and a few books, without any official title or fame.
Early days this February, the 17th year of Emperor Dezong of the Tang Dynasty, or the year of Zhenyuan, I wanted to go for the national examination in the capital city, passing by the city of Hezhong. At Puguan Pass, I happened to meet an old friend of mine called Du Junshi, his given name Que. When we were students at the same county, we were friends like brothers.
Du Junshi gave up his cultural study to practice martial arts. Later he won the first place at the national martial arts competition and was awarded the Grand General Suppressing the West. He is now commanding a troop of a hundred thousand, safeguarding Puguan Pass.
I only wanted to see my brother for some moment before proceeding to the capital.
I have been thinking that after so many years of hard study, reading so many books, I shall be up to something great, instead of wandering around the rivers and lakes.
This precious sword on my back is so sharp that it cuts through all the hard things; my sadness is so great that it is now a heavy weight on the shoulder of my horse.
[Scene] Mr. Zhang is wandering around the middle of the country, without a base, like a small plant in the wilderness. He looked around himself and into the sky, the capital city is still very far away.
[Story] Mr Zhang has studied the Book of Songs, the Book of History and other ancient classics. Still he is like a fish stretching hard in a fish net. He has kept himself in a straw house for so long that he has warmed his bed over and over sitting by a fire, and his ink-stone has showed signs of scrubs. He wanted to fly high, like a bird into the sky. He has suffered a lot in twenty years of hard work. He is so intelligent so ordinary people could not understand him, but he has not fulfilled his dreams as a man. His hard work is not paid off, although he has been skillful in the details of his carving.
This morning, Mr. Zhang arrives at the ferry place of Pu River. The Yellow River has nine twists; this Pu River is one of its branches at the inner land of the Yellow River. It has beautiful scenery here.
[Scene] The wind is blowing softly in the morning at the ferry place of the nine-twisted Yellow River; this place is very beautiful although a bit too remote. This river area is bordered to the ancient State of Liang, a place which separated the State of Qin and the State of Jin, and a passage to the State of Yan. You see the waves on the river so graceful like snowflakes, and the clouds in the sky too. Across the river, there is a suspension bridge with bamboo chains, floating like an old dragon. This place connects the whole country in four directions by the rivers. Now we can see boats passing one by one, so busy like arrows just shooting out of bows.
I wonder this is a wonderland, like the Milky Way in the universe. The springs are so deep, the clouds far away; this river leads to oceans in the east. In the city of Luoyang, we have thousands of flowers; at the Liang Garden, we have many hectares of fertile land. I used to go boating in the lakes there, like going towards the sun and the moon.
As he was thinking of this, Mr. Zhang has arrived at the city. At the door of a hostel, his young servant helped him off the horse. He was looking for a waiter.
[Waiter] This is the Champion Hotel. I am the waiter of this hostel. Gentlemen, you are welcome. We have nice and clean guest rooms here.
[Zhang Junrui] Hi, boy! Please feed my horse first. And come, let me ask you: do you know any good place here for pleasure? Like famous mountains, scenic spots, temples, any place of historical interests?
[Waitor] Here in the city we have a Buddhist temple, called Temple of Universal Salvation. It used to be an incense chamber built by Emperor Wu Zetian. It is a magnificent construction: its glass windows reflect the clear sky and stupa pagoda stands tall into heaven. Visitors coming from afar, people from all walks of life, all pay their respect there. You can go there for a visit.
[Zhang Junrui talks to his servant] You can stay here and prepare for lunch while I go out for a visit.
[Servant] Yes sir! I will prepare lunch, feed the horse and wait for your return.
[At the temple]
[Monk Facong] My name is Facong, a monk and disciple of the master of Temple of Universal Salvation. The master has gone for a fast. He has told me to stay and record the names of visitors. I am now standing at the gate of the temple, seeing if there is any visitor.
[Zhang Junrui] Good morning!
[Monk] Where are you from?
[Zhang Junrui] I come from Western Luoyang. I was told that there is a quiet and graceful temple nearby, so I have come to pay respect to Buddha and to the master. Is the master at the temple?
[Monk] The master is not at the temple. I am his disciple. Would you like a cup of tea in his office?
[Zhang Junrui] Since the master is not here, I am not going to drink tea. But could you accompany me for a visit around the temple? It shall be my great honor.
[Monk] Ok. Let me get the keys first. We shall have a look at the Buddha Hall, the Bell Tower, the Hall of 18 Arhats, the Chamber of Incense and wander around for some time, waiting for the return of the master.
[Zhang Junrui] Such a magnificent temple!
[the Tour] Following the monk, Mr. Zhang first visits the Buddha Hall, then the chamber for monks, later to the temple hall west of the kitchen, in front of the bell tower. He goes on to visit the meditation room, climb up the pagoda, and walk around the walkways. He counts the number of arhats, pays respect to the Bodhisattvas and other sages and men of virtue.
(He happens to meet …)
[Cui Yingying leads her maid to pick a flower from a tree]
[Cui Yingying speaks to her maid] I want to go up to the Buddha Hall for fun.
[Zhang Junrui] Oh, my God! My destined lover for five hundred years!
[Scene] I am totally astonished! I have seen tens of thousands of girls, but never such beauty. Her beautiful face seems familiar to me. My eyes are blurred; I am speechless; my soul is hung mid-heaven. Looking at her fragrant shoulders, he wants to flirt with her while she is busy picking a flower.
This is like the Tusita Palace, and I shall not make it the Heaven of Separated Lovers. How do I have known that I can meet such a fairy beauty at this temple! Her face is like breeze in spring, with smiles nor happy nor angry. Look at her beautiful ornaments! Her eyebrow is like a new moon; her hairpin clasped to her temple gracefully at an angle.
[Cui Yingying speaking to her maid] The chamber of the monks is so tranquil that few people shall come here. See the stairs; they are filled with moss covered by fallen flowers and leaves.
[Zhang Junrui] Damn it! I shall not be shy as such.
[First meeting]Her face blushes like cherry blossom; he can see her white teeth. He stands there still for a long while, without speaking a word.
Her voice sounds like birds twittering among the bush and flowers, her steps so mercifully soft and lovely. Her waist of a dancer is tender and soft, so graceful, so delicate, like weeping willows moving about against the wind at dawn.
[Maid] I can hear people next door. Shall we go home now?
[Cui Yingying looks around]
[Zhang Junrui says to the monk] Look! There is the Goddess of Mercy here.
[Monk] Don’t you say that! She is the daughter of the Prime Minister residing at the government house of Hezhong.
[Zhang Junrui] How come there is such a beauty on earth? Look at her, that tiny pair of feet, worthy of millions of gold coins.
[Monk] We are away from them. She is at the other side of the wall, and you this side. She is wearing a long dress; how can you see her feet?
[Zhang Junrui] Come, come, come! Let me tell you how I know about her feet.
If not for the fallen flowers and leaves covering the walkways, how can I feel her fragrant steps so soft on the other side? Even that I am not going to say her eyes showing a kind of love, her little feet have delivered a loving message.
In a moment, they both walk towards the side gate. They meet face to face! Mr. Zhang is made crazy. She looks like a fairy returning to her residence. What is left behind are the foggy willows and chirping birds.
[Songs of willow leaves] Behind the closed door is a courtyard of pears and the flowers, the painted walls as tall as the blue sky. I hate you heavens, you does not make things easy for us lovers. You make us suffer. I have come here to kill time. My dear miss, you have taken my heart and soul away!
[Monk] Don’t make any trouble. The lady from Hezhong city has gone far away.
[Songs of Zhang Junrui] The fragrance of orchid and musk remains, the voice of ornaments far away. The willow leaves moving against the east wind, my sadness can be seen on the petals of cherry flowers. I can still recall your beautiful face behind the curtain. You are the daughter of the Prime Minister residing at Hezhong government house, but to me you are the Goddess of Mercy from the South China Sea.
As an old song reads, “For over ten years she has not met the Emperor; she starts to believe that she has been deceived by the moon.”
He is thinking that “I would rather stay here than going to the capital for the national examination.”
[Zhang Junrui says to the monk] Please tell the master that I want to lease a small room for study. Here is a much better place than the noisy hotel. I shall come back tomorrow.
[Thoughts of Zhang Junrui]
I am anxiously awaiting the return of the beauty. I feel thirsty for her coming back to me. I will fall sick thinking of her. How can I forget her last wink? Anyone in the world would be tempted by her. I walk close to the courtyard; the flowers and willows are competing for beauty. It’s noon time now and I can see sunshine in the middle of the courtyard. The beauty of spring is before me, but my beauty is out of sight. This Buddhist temple shall be my paradise of romance.
To be continued…
Translation by Yingxiong Feng