[Cui Yingying] Madam has sent the maid to ask the favor of the Master. That lazy girl should have been back to report this.
[Maid] I have just brought back the words for Madam; now I am going to report to my hostess.
[Cui Yingying] Hongniang, did you ask the Master？ When is the right time for service?
[Maid] February the fifteenth, miss. The Master has set this date for you and Madam to burn incense.
[Maid] Miss, you don’t know, let me tell you something interesting. The other day we met the young man at the temple; I saw him again at the Master’s office today. He was the first to be out at the door waiting for me, introducing himself seriously: “My surname is Zhang, given name Gong, people call me Junrui. I come from Western Luoyang, age twenty three, born on the seventeenth of January, single…” Miss! No one has asked him anything. And he continued to ask me, “Are you the housemaid of the young lady next door? Is your miss often out here?” I said none of his business and came back. Miss! This is out of my imagination. I have never met such a funny man on earth!
[Cui Yingying] Hongniang, you matchmaker, don’t tell Madam about this. It’s getting late now; please arrange a table, I shall burn some incense in the garden.
[Zhang Junrui] Since I moved into the temple, I have been residing next to the West Chamber. I have asked the Master about the ladies and he told me that the young lady comes to the garden every evening to burn incense. This garden connects the temple. I am thinking that when the young lady comes out, I shall be waiting for her at the corner with rocks from Taihu Lake.
All the monks have fallen asleep. Night is deep; everything is quiet. The moon is high in the sky. The wind is cool and clean. What a beautiful night! Taking my casual steps, it’s hard to hear the Master’s words; with a leisure heart, I repeat my songs against the high moon over the West Chamber.
[Scene] The universe is a paradise without a bit of dust; I can see the shadow of the moon flowing on the Milky Way, and shadows too of the flowers all over the garden. I feel cold in my clothes, but being alert, my heart is beating with warmth. I lean over the rocks to listen carefully for the steps coming from afar; quietly and slowly, waiting for her appearance.
[Thought] I have been waiting, and waiting for her, the well-dressed, graceful, loving miss, Yingying. At midnight, tranquility is all over the place, reaching every corner of the courtyard. I wish I could see her at the corridor where I shall hug her tight, telling her how much I miss her, whether you are human or ghost.
[Maid accompanying Yingying] I open the corner door and am preparing the incense table.
[Murmurs of Zhang Junrui] All of a sudden, I hear the corner door open. Along with the wind, I can smell the fragrance of her dress. I stand up on my toe and look carefully, at a face more beautiful than the first time we met.
[Cui Yingying] Hongniang, please move the incense table closer to the Taihu rocks.
[Zhang Junrui] I think this beautiful young lady must be tired of being confined by her Madam; she is a fairy flying out of the heavenly Frozen Palace. Let me have a careful look at her! She is in a thin dress; and I can see half of her shoulder. Speechless, she rolls over her sleeves; her long dress touches the earth. She looks like the emperor’s concubine, leaning on the red railing of the imperial palace. She is like fairy Chang’e of the Heavenly Palace，making her fine appearance out of her cold residence. What a good looking young lady!
[A flirting song] I truly am an able beauty, may be more beautiful than the fairy Chang’e. Slowly I walk along the pathway with plants and flowers; my tiny feet make my steps forward difficult. I have a beautiful face; your soul shall be intimidated.
[Cui Yingying says to her maid] Fetch me the incense.
[Maid] Miss, what are you praying for?
[Cui Yingying] This stick for my deceased father wishing him a good rebirth; this stick for my old mother wishing her good health; this stick for ….
[Maid] Let me take your words: this stick for a good husband, and me too your matchmaker!
[Cui Yingying sighs] I have all the sadness in my heart, and deeply in my bows.
[Zhang Junrui] The young lady sighs, leaning on the railing; I can see she is touched.
[Song of Zhang Junrui] Night is quiet, a thin smog spreading over the garden. The east wind has stopped too. I also make some bows and sighs. The moon is still high in the sky. There is no cloud, nor thick fog, only the human breaths of hers and myself.
I dare not compete with the handsome Sima Xiangru as a scholar, but this young lady is a complete match to his beautiful lover Wenjun. Let me recite a piece of poetry and see how she response.
“Sighing night, sighing sky, the moon is fine; flowers’ quiet, spring’s quiet, your heart resembles mine. Why amid the moon light, my lover is out of sight?
[Cui Yingying] Someone at the corner is reciting a poem.
[Maid] That must be the twenty three years old single guy.
[Cui Yingying] His poetry sounds good. Let me do the same as a response.
[Maid] Yes, you should.
[Cui Yingying] Lonely girl, lonely night; nothing to do, just killing time. I guess you are speaking your mind; this response is from the heart of mine.
[Zhang Junrui] She’s quick in response!
Look at her lovely face; I did not expect her to have a smart mind. But her response is just right for me, word by word, she speaks her mind and touches my soul.
[Thought of Yingying] I know I have a beautiful voice; and I am good at music; otherwise my named won’t be called Yingying (the singing bird). If he is kind of a scholar, I can respond with songs the whole night. I believe in the saying, “the learned appreciates the learned.”
I just come out, and see how he reacts.
[Scene in dream] She is about to take her dress and walk forward.
He welcomes her with all smiles.
[Maid] Miss, shall we go home? Someone is over there. I am afraid Madam won’t like it.
[Zhang Junrui] This matchmaker is cold-hearted. She says “follow Madam’s instructions”.
When I hear these words of hers, I am shocked. She is like a thorn bird flying around, annoying the flowers and their shadows, making the walkway filled with the color red.
My dear Miss, if you are leaving, how can I spend the rest of the night?
[Scene] The sky is left empty, same as the moss-coated stairs. The moon is lonely, same as the shadows of flowers. During the day time, I have been lonely; now in the depth of night, I am again left alone.
The window curtain is lowered; the door is closed. The story has only a beginning, now it is about to end. The moon is still high; the wind is still cold and clear. It’s almost day break: she has no luck and I am badly destined.
[Story] Zhang Junrui walks backward. He stands in the emptiness of the courtyard, looking at the bamboo leaves moved by the wind, and the stars covered by the clouds. Ai! This is a sad night. She did not give me the chance. What shall I do the rest of my life? Although our eyes met with affection, we have not been able to speak a word to each other.
For the rest of the night, I hope you would go into my dream!
[Zhang Junrui] I sit in bed, facing the little light. I pick up a fan; it is as cool as the old screen. The light is dim, so is my dream. Outside my window, a light wind has started to blow, as I can hear the wind chimes sing. On the pillow is a lonely head; within the quit, a lonely me. Our sad story shall move the stones.
I have no one to blame; I just feel uneasy. I hope one day we shall meet under the willow trees or among bushes of flowers. I wish we could share the same bed at a quiet night, making life promises to each other. We can also make a romantic story, a satisfactory marriage. I wish our figures would appear together within the frame of one picture.
Our love affair is destined. It has become poetry. Either I pursue you in my dreams, or await your appearance under the blossoming peach trees.
To be continued…
Translation by Yingxiong Feng