[Madam (Cui Yingying’s mother)] The other day, I gave the master some money, asking him to help do a service at the temple for the death of my husband. I have not received any feedback. Tell the maid to go and pass my words to the master: when is he going to do the good things for my husband? Ask him what kind of things we need to prepare for the service; tell me when she comes back.
[Master] My holy name is Faben; I am the abbot of the Temple of Universal Salvation. This temple was built by Emperor Wu Zetian. Later it collapsed and renovation was done by the Prime Minister Mr. Cui. In recent days Madam Cui led her family home, carrying the coffin of her husband back to Boling Mausoleum. They passed by the temple and stopped to reside at the West Chamber because of a road blockage. When the road is cleared, they will continue their way and carry the coffin to Boling Mausoleum.
Madam Cui is a warm-hearted lady, a saving housewife with intelligence to manage a household. She knows what is right and what is wrong, and all her family members obey her. Last evening, I went for a fast. Was there anyone coming in for a visit?
[Monk] Yesterday a young gentleman from Western Luoyang has come for a visit. He asked to see the master and left without seeing you.
[Master] Go to the gate and have a look. If he comes back again, just let me know.
[Zhang Junrui] Yesterday I met the young lady. I can feel she somewhat likes me. Today, I am going back to the temple, to ask the master if he could lease me a room for study. If I can see the young lady again, I must have a careful look at her.
[Thoughts of Zhang Junrui] My dear monk! Please lease me a small room in the chamber, so that I have a residence facing the doorway. Although I might be able to have a love affair with the beautiful young lady, I must be able to have a close look at her.
In the past, I have seen many young girls, but none of them looks beautiful as they all have put on too much makeup, or have their eyebrows poorly painted. I am feeling kind of excitement today, after seeing this loving lady. My intestines feel itching, my eyesight blurred, and my heart like a running monkey.
[Monk] My master is back and expecting you. Please wait a while and I shall go tell him.
[Zhang Junrui] You are such a good monk!
[Thoughts] This monk has grey hair but a young face. I guess he has been well-nourished since childhood. He is a handsome man with a high and clear voice, only that his head is bold. To me, he is just like a monk statue made of mud.
[Master] Gentleman, please come to my office. Yesterday evening I was not here. Please excuse me!
[Zhang Junrui] I have heard about your reputation, Master. And I have come here for your lecture. Unfortunately I did not see you yesterday. But it’s my great honor to meet you today.
[Master] Please tell me about your family ….your name and why you are here?
[Zhang Junrui] My surname is Zhang, given name Gong, and people call me Junrui.
Let me tell you, master. I have come from Western Luoyang, travelling about the country. My hometown is Xianyang; my father was the Minister of Rites with good fame. Unfortunately he was deceased a bit over fifty.
[Master] When your father died, he must have left something behind.
[Zhang Junrui] My father was an upright and honest official. He left nothing behind for me.
[Thoughts of Zhang Junrui] How stupid my father had been! Such honest and upright like clear wind and clean moon!
[Master] I guess you are going to the capital for the national examination?
[Zhang Junrui] I have no intention to become an official although I am truly going for the exams. I have come a long way here to pay my respect to you, Master. But I am sorry to say that I have nothing to contribute to the temple. I am a poor student, with only some papers for my study, without any loads of gold or silver. I don’t mind your laughing at me; this is what I am now. I have a silver coin here to donate to the monks and to express my gratitude. Please accept it!
[Master] Gentleman, as our guest of honor, how could you have said that?
[Zhang Junrui] Please do not say no to this tiny little thing. I need to pay for the tea.
I have come for a visit; please do not decline.
[Master] You do not have to give us money.
[Zhang Junrui] This is not enough for firewood or the meals, only for some tea.
[his thoughts]This silver coin is just a small present. If you can help me pass a message to the beauty, I shall remember your goodness for the rest of my life.
[Master] You need any help? Please tell me.
[Zhang Junrui] I do have a request. You know, staying at the busy hotel, I shall have difficulties to study my historic books and other classics. I want to lease a room here, so that I can listen to your lecture too, morning or afternoon. I shall pay you a monthly rent, whatever it costs.
[Master] We do have some empty rooms in the temple. Just choose the one you like.
[Zhang Junrui] I don’t need a room near the fragrant kitchen or the quiet temple hall. Further the courtyard, away from the east wall, near to the west chamber, that’s what I want. Or close to the main walkway, near to the side chamber, the rooms are all fit for me.
[Master] Do you mind sharing the same room with me?
[Zhang Junrui] Up to you! You are the master.
[Maid] Madam has sent me to ask the Master when he is ready to do the service for her decease husband. I need to go for an errand.
[Master] My greetings to you, Master! Madam has sent me here to ask: when is the good time for a service? I want your response.
[Zhang Junrui] She is such a pretty girl!
Hongniang is a ladylike maid, so calm and modest, nothing frivolous. She bows deep with good rites, her speech from the pink lips so fine and appropriate.
Look at her lovely cheeks, a little makeup, a white and clean dress. She is not an ordinary girl. She steals a glance of Mr. Zhang.
[Thoughts of Zhang Junrui] I wish I could share the same bed with this loving girl; I don’t mind making bed for her. I will beg a favor of my beautiful young lady, or Madam Cui, to spare her. If they don’t agree, I shall give her freedom myself.
[Master] The fifteenth day of February; please tell Madam that this is a good time for service.
[Scene] The maid is going to visit the temple hall, accompanied by the master. After that, she would report to her Madam.
[Master says to Zhang Junrui] Gentleman, please stay here while I go for a moment with this young lady to the temple hall.
[Zhang Junrui] After you, dear young lady!
[Master] He’s a modest gentleman.
[Zhang Junrui] I have one word, please.
[Master] Go ahead, young man.
[Zhang Junrui] This young lady from the Cui family is so beautiful with her makeup. Is she having a relation with you, Master?
[Master] I am a Buddhist monk. How could I have a relation with her?
[Zhang Junrui] Why she has come in such beautiful clothes at a time your bold head is shining like a Buddha?
[Master] You are making fun of me, young man! Luckily the little girl has not heard of what we talk. Otherwise, that’s embarrassing!
They are on the way to the temple hall.
[Song of Zhang Junrui] After the main walkway, we arrive at the wedding chamber; a love affair starts from heaven. I stand at the door watching while you enter.
[Master] Gentleman! This is not a place for making fun of the sages! I am an old man now. How could I have done such kind of things?
[Zhang Junrui] You look good and are well dressed, but behave like a countryman. If you does not have a relation with her, that’s fine. You know the Tang monk in Journey to the West, does he have similar worries? Don’t blame me for making fun of you. In such a huge temple hall, how can it be without a handsome young man who may attract a go-between for a love affair?
[Master] Madam Cui is strict with her family members. Within this west chamber, there has never been a male going in and out, as I assure you.
[Zhang Junrui] You can’t fool me. At your presence, I can … I am trying to … I brace myself to flirt with her!
[Master says to maid] I shall have the temple fully prepared for the service. Please tell Madam and her young daughter to come on the fifteenth to burn incense.
[Zhang Junrui] For what reason, could I ask?
[Master] The daughter of Prime Minister Cui is a person of complete filial piety. She is still mourning for the death of her father the Prime Minister. She will be changed to dress in funeral clothes for the service.
[Zhang Junrui cries] My dear parents, you have brought me to this world and raised me up. But I have not been able to pay my debt of gratitude. She is just a young lady, but she shows a heart of filial piety. I have been wandering the country for years. Ever since the death of my parents, I have never burnt a piece of paper money in their respect. Please have mercy on me, Master, I shall prepare five thousand dollars and fast for my parents too. If Madam Cui knows, just tell her I am doing the same as a son to his parents.
[Master says to his disciple] Please help this gentleman for a fast.
[Zhang Junrui asks the monk] Is the young lady coming tomorrow?
[Monk] It relates to her parent; she must be coming.
[Zhang Junrui] My five thousand dollars shall not be spent in vain.
[Scene] Down the earth and up the heavens, my desire is only to have a look at Yingying rather than the service. Her skin must be soft as jade and her fragrance warm. I must smell that sitting by her side. If I could feel her body warmth, it would be much better than having Buddha eliminating the ill fortunes.
[Master] Please come to my office for some tea.
[Zhang Junrui] I need to get changed.
The young lady must have come out already. I shall just wait here for her.
[Maid] I am not going for tea. I am afraid Madam would be anxious to see me back.
[Zhang Junrui welcoming the arrival of the young ladies] Mr. Zhang bows to the young lady.
[Maid] My greetings to you, gentleman!
[Zhang Junrui] Are you Miss Yingying’s housemaid?
[Maid] Yes, I am. Why are you asking?
[Zhang Junrui] My surname is Zhang, given name Gong, and people call me Junrui. I come from Western Luoyang, today twenty three years old, born on the seventeenth of January, single ……
[Maid] Who cares!
[Zhang Junrui] Is your hostess out here often, may I ask?
[Maid says in anger] Gentleman, you are a scholar of honor. The sage Mencius says, “men and women shall not come too close; that’s against morality.” As a man of honor, “you shall not manage your shoe lace in a melon field; neither shall you manage your hat under a plum tree”. Don’t you remember the Confucius’ teaching, “Don’t observe without proper rites; don’t listen without proper rites; don’t speak without proper rites; don’t move without proper rites.” My Madam is strict in family rules, her management strict like frozen ice. Within her house, there is no male servant taller than five feet, or anyone older than twelve or thirteen must not be allowed to go into the central hall without permission.
One day in the past, Yingying secretly came out of her room. When Madam learned about that, she ordered to call her back to the central hall where Yingying was scolded, “As a young lady, you should report before leaving your own room. If you happen to be met by some sort of male visitor or monk, it’s a shame of you.” Yingying replied, “I was wrong. I am not doing that anymore.”
Yingying is her own daughter, and Madam treats her as such, not to mention servants like us! Gentleman, you have studied moral rules from the sages, the rituals from the Duke of Zhou, you should abide by these rules. How dare you think this way? I am a humble maid and what you have said can be excused here. If Madam Cui knows about this, she would not have forgiven you. In the future, ask what you can ask; never ask what you should not!
[Zhang Junrui] My thinking of her has made me suffer!
After I hear these words of the maid, I feel really sad. My sadness can be seen on my eyebrows. She says, “Madam is strict with morality, like frozen ice. Without her permission, how can I enter the central hall?” When I think of this, and the harshness of Madam Cui, my dear young lady, you should not have given me that glance! How can I give up thinking of you! My love for you has wetted my heart and lungs; my thoughts of you have hurt my liver and intestines. If in this life I cannot win your love, I must have burnt a piece of broken incense my past life! When I win your love, I shall hold you tight in my palms, warm you within my heart and raise you up on my eyebrows.
[Thoughts of Zhang Junrui] I used to think that those legendary romantic stories called Clouds and Rains at Mount Wu were far away from me, like in heavens; now I reckon they are right here with me. My body now stands at the winding walkway, but my little soul has gone far away. I was supposed to prepare how to pass my message of love quietly to that young lady, but I am scared that my secret about romance would be made know to Madam Cui. Madam Cui must be cautious of her daughter being tempted by this romance, be alert that orioles are courting with each other, or the pinky butterflies are flying in pairs.
[Thought of Maid] My hostess is a young lady, eager for a love affair. If Mr. Zhang sits beside her, both offering the incense to Buddha, their meeting must be followed by a secret affair. If this romance can turn into marriage, you do not have to be afraid of her parent.
[Zhang Junrui] Madam has her worries while I have my dreams, but a gentleman like myself and a beauty like her daughter make a perfect couple. I do not want to wait until her thinking of me comes over to her eyebrows, or until the color of spring has faded and memories have become faint. I have many reasons to be proud of myself: she has the beauty and virtues of a fair lady; me too has the qualities of honesty and kindheartedness.
I am thinking of her slightly painted eyebrows, light makeup on her face, and pinky jade-like neck; I am thinking of her green dress and tiny feet in embroidered shoes. Her red sleeves rolled over, I could see her tender long hands. I have tried not to think of you, but I just cannot stop it: you have showed me your gracefulness; I have to pick up those memories in my thoughts.
He almost forgets the Master.
[Zhang Junrui] How is the room for me, Master? May I ask?
[Master] Next to the pagoda courtyard, we have an empty room in the West Chamber with good view. You can stay in that room; we already have the room ready for you.
[Zhang Junrui] Then I shall go to the hotel to get my stuff.
[Master] Please go after meal.
[Zhang Junrui] Master, you can wait for me, while I go and get my luggage.
[Master] Take your time then. I will prepare meal and await your return.
[Thoughts of Zhang Junrui] The hotel is a busy place where I can find some leisure. If I move to the quiet temple, how can I kill my time of loneliness?
The Buddhist temple is very quiet and my beddings are cold. A shadow of mine reading a book can be reflected by a lonely candle light. Although I might be able to fulfill my wish, this is definitely a long night. I roll over the bed, with ten thousand sighs and five thousand hits on my pillow.
The shy flowers understand what I think; I can smell the fragrance of the jade-tender lady. I am thinking of our meeting the other day, her charming look not very clear in my mind. On bed, I put my hand under my cheek to think of her, slowly thinking of her.
To be continued..
Translation by Yingxiong Feng