Chapter 03

A puritanical father errs in taking a libertine as son-in-law,
And a proper young lady falls for a faithless rake.

Though woman’s nature has ever been prone to sin,
From herself alone no evil thoughts arise.
Without the pillow talk of Yingying’s fall,
Who’d pluck Zhou’s lyre beyond the wall?
So mind you stage no plays of love at home,
Nor murmur languorous songs in your lady’s bower.
And novels corrupt her virtue, people hold;
One day you’ll find that every word is gold.

Let us tell how Versperus, after parting from Lone Peak, spent the entire journey grumbling to himself, “What a colossal bore! Here am I in my twenties, a bud that’s just in bloom, and I’m supposed to have my head shaved and start on a course of self-denial and mortification of the flesh! I’ve never heard of anybody so unreasonable as this priest! My only thought in coming here was that, as a noted intellectual who had joined the Buddhist order, he was bound to hold some unusual views, and I wanted to understand some of his Zen subtleties and an aid in my own writing. What I got instead was one insult after another! The carping was bad enough, but when he gave me that cuckold’s gatha, it was simply too much to bear!

“Any manly, self-respecting husband who becomes an official is going to have to govern the people of the empire. Surely he wouldn’t be given any job at all if he couldn’t even govern his own wife? Anyway, I’m going to take him up on this. If I don’t meet any suitable girls, never mind; but if I do, I certainly won’t let the opportunity slip. I;ll commit a few sins of the flesh while controlling my own women’s quarters as strictly as possible, and then we’ll see who comes to collect my debts! Far be it from me to boast, but when a woman marries a man as handsome as I am, I doubt that she’ll be attracted by any would-be seducer, let alone lose her chastity to him! By rights I ought to have torn that gatha of his into shreds and thrown it right back at him. But I shall need it to prove my point when we meet again, to stop up that wicked mouth of his. When I show it to him, we’ll see whether he’ll admit he was wrong.” Having reached this decision, he crumpled up the poem and stuffed it in his pocket.

Arriving home, he sent servants out in all directions to notify matchmakers that he was conducting a search for the most beautiful girl in the world. Since he came from a distinguished family and was blessed with the looks of a Pan An and the literary gifts of a Cao Zhi, there was no father unwilling to accept him as a son-in-law and no girl unwilling to have him as a husband. Every day following the notification brought several matchmakers to his door with marriages to propose. Humble families allowed him to go to their houses and look their daughters over from head to toe, while great families, if they were concerned about appearances, would arrange a meeting at a temple or in the countryside. Both parties knew the meeting was contrived, but they pretended it was accidental. In any case they got a good look at each other, and many were the girls who went home badly smitten. None of them. however, appealed to Vesperus in the slightest.

“It looks as if no one will meet your standards,” remarked one of the matchmakers, “except Master Iron Door’s daughter, Jade Scent. The problem with her is that her father is an ultraconservative who will never let anyone view his daughter, while you would insist upon it. So I’m afraid that’s hopeless, too.”

“Why is he called Master Iron Door?” asked Vesperus. “And how do you know she is beautiful? And if she is so beautiful, why won’t he let anyone see her?”

“He’s the most celebrated old schoolman in the county, and terribly eccentric. He owns lots of property but holds himself quite aloof-never had a single friend his whole life. He just sits at home immersed in his studies and won’t open his door to visitors, no matter who they are. There was one very distinguished visitor who was a great admirer of his and came a long way to see him, but despite knocking at the door for ages, he got no response, let alone a welcome. All he could do was write a poem on the door, part of which ran,

I know that righteous eremites have huts of matting made,
But I never thought that you, sir, would have an iron door.

When the old man noticed these lines, he said, “Iron Door-I find that quite original, and rather apt too.’ And then and there he adopted it as his sobriquet and called himself Master Iron Door.

“He has no son, just a daughter who is as fair as jade and as pretty as a flower. Matchmakers like me see thousands of girls, but none of us has ever seen one to surpass her. What’s more, she’s studied a lot, with her father as tutor, and she can pick up her brush and write you any kind of poem you please. But the door to her chamber is always securely guarded. She never goes to temples to burn incense or out into the street to watch precessions. In fact in all her fifteen years she has never once shown her face in public. As for women visitors such as nuns and the like, it goes without saying-they couldn’t get inside the house even if they grew wings.

“But on one occasion the old man caught sight of me from his doorway as I was going by and stopped me. ‘Are you a matchmaker, by any chance?’ he asked me. ‘yes,’ I replied. Then he took me inside and pointed to Jade Scent: ‘This is my daughter. I want to find a presentable son-in-law who will be a son to me and look after me in my old age. You might give some thought to finding me one.’ I mentioned your name, and he made the comment: ‘I’ve heard of his literary reputation, but I wonder what his morals are like?’ ‘He has a wise head on young shoulders,’I replied, ‘and his conduct is irreproachable. The only problem is that he insists on viewing the girl himself before agreeing to marriage. Since your daughter is so beautiful, naturally she’ll appeal to him. I wonder if you’d be willing to let him visit? When he heard me say that, his face darkened. ‘Preposterous!’ he said. ‘Only the lean ponies they raise in Yangzhou will let you view them. No respectable girl would ever consent to meet with a man!’ Faced with this reaction, I could hardly pursue the matter, so I came away. But that is how I know the marriage is hopeless.”

Verperus pondered: I’m quite alone in the world, without parents or brothers, and when I do marry, I’ll have no one to supervise my wife. I can’t play the custodian myself all the time, because there are bound to be occasions when I’m away from home. In view of the old man’s disposition, I can well imagine what his domestic regime will be like, If I were to marry into his family, I’d have no need to keep watch-his daughter would be well and truly supervised. In fact it wouldn’t matter if I was never at home. What a piece of luck! The only thing that worries me is having to do without a viewing. How can I trust anything a matchmaker says?

“The match sounds very suitable indeed,” he said. “But I do beg you to find some way for me to get a glimpse of her. So long as you’re essentially right about her, I’ll be satisfied.”

“Absolutely impossible!” said the matchmaker. “If you don’t believe what I say, you’d better consult the spirit and take their advice as to what to do. You certainly won’t get through that iron door of his.”

“Good idea! I have a friend who summons immortals to settle questions like this, and the answers are very reliable. I’ll get him to help, and then I’ll be in touch with you again.”

The matchmaker assented and left.

Next day, after fasting and purification, Vesperus invited the friend to his house, where he burned incense and kowtowed and then whispered the following prayer:

“The disciple wishes to ask about Master Iron Door’s daughter, Jade Scent. I have heard that she is supremely beautiful and I would like to marry her. But my information is only hearsay, since I have not set eyes on her myself, and that is why I am asking thy bidding, O Great Immortal. What concerns me is not her virtue, nor her accomplishments. And as to whether she will bear any sons, that is a matter of destiny, anyway, and I don’t need to know it in advance. All I’m asking about is her beauty. is she is really as beautiful as they say, I’ll marry her, but if she falls even slightly short, I’ll decline. I humbly beseech thee, Great Immortal, to be clear and straightforward in thy guidance. Don not, I pray thee, leave me with some vague message that I cannot understand.”

HIs prayer over, he made four obeisances, then rose and grasping the crosspiece, ket the stick trace its message. Sure enough, it traced out a poem:

Among all lovely women she is first;
No need for baseless fears by night or day,
Fear only lest her beauty to adultery lead;
In times of moral crisi, ask the way.
—Poem Number One

“So her looks are fine,” thought Vesperus. “However, the last two lines clearly state that her beauty will lead to adultery. Surely the girl can’t have lost her maidenhead already? But since the poem has NUmber One at the end, there must be more to come. let’s see what the stick writes next.”

After pausing a moment, the stick proceeded to write another poem:

Whether woman’s good or bad is not the point,
One needs a man who runs his household right.
If he shuts his door and lets no green flies in,
How can any smut on his jade alight?
—Poem Number Two (Inscribed by The One Who Returned to the Way)

Vesperus know that The One Who Returned to the Way was the sobriquet of Lu Dongbin, and he was thrilled. That worthy is an expert on wine and women if ever there was one, he thought. If he approves of her, she must be good. What’s more, the second poem removes any doubts I may have had about her chastity. Clearly the girls’ still intact and he just wants me to keep a close eye on her. But with such a stickler of a father-in-law to supervise her, I shouldn’t have any trouble in that regard. The last two line-“If he shuts his door and lets no green flies in, How can any smut on his jade alight?’ – clearly state that nobody can penetrate his iron door. I needn’t hesitate a moment longer.

Facing the heavens, he bowed in gratitude to Lu Dongbin, then told a servant to summon the matchmaker.

“The immortal’s poem gave a very favorable judgment,” he told her, “and I no longer feel it necessary to hold a viewing. Kindly go ahead and arrange the match.”

The matchmaker went gleefully off to Master Iron Door’s house, where she reported Verperus’s desire to marry.

“He insisted before on coming for a viewing,” said the Master, “which shows that he places beauty above virtue in a woman. He’s obviously a frivolous young man. What I want is a son-in-law with character, not some popinjay.”

In her anxiety to secure the commission, the matchmaker was driven to try any means, no matter how devious, so she came to Vesperus’s defense with the ingenious argument that his desire for a viewing had nothing to do with beauty but sprang solely from a concern that the daughter might be flighty and have inauspicious features and prove in the long run not to be a good wife. “But lately he has heard how strict her upbringing has been and what a paragon of the feminine virtues she is, and that is why he has changed his mind and sent me here with this proposal.”

Convinced by her reasoning, the Master agreed to the match and chose an auspicious date for the wedding. Despite the matchmaker’s report and the immortal’s poem, Vesperus still felt some qualms, not having seen Jade Scent himself. Not until the wedding night, when, after exchanging their bows, they entered the bridal chamber and he got a close-up view of her, did he exult in his good fortune.

What was the bride’s beauty like? Here is a new lyric testifying to it:

Winsome is she,
And her person full of charms, 
Full of charms.
Her tearful face, how easy to caress,
But how hard to imitate, her frown!
Unfit to play the bride, he fears,
Too slight she is, to fold into his arms,
Into his arms.
She’s soft as though of flesh alone,
And he’ll rest this night on a bed of down.
(To the tune “Remembering the Maid of Qin”)

What was the new couple’s pleasure like as they joined together in marriage? Here is another new lyric:

Tight shut her eyes, for she’s too shy to look;
Two crimson petals on the pillow lie.
Lips that were pursed to keep her fragrance in,
Are quickly breached at the tongue’s first try.

Her cries have ceased, but passion has no end;
Her breast lies soaked in lovers’ sweat.
As opened eyes flare hot, and hotter yet.
(To the turn “Spring in the Jade Bower”)

Jade Scent’s looks were indeed unrivaled anywhere in the world-on that score Vesperus had nothing to complain of. But he did have one grave disappointment. Abundant as her beauty was, she fell short in terms of passion and failed to please her husband to the full. Due to her father’s strict upbringing and the severe example set by her mother, she had never been exposed to any of the more licentious aspects of life. Her reading, in particular,had been confined to The Lives of Virtuous Women and The Grils’ Classic of Filial Piety, both of which were full of strictures against the very acts that Vesperus had in mind. As a result there was a good deal of her father in her speech and attitudes, for which her husband dubbed her “the puritan maid.” As soon as he said anything in the least suggestive, she would blush furiously and leave the room.

Vesperus happened to be particularly fond of daytime sex, because the sight of his partner’s genitals added to his own excitement, but on the several occasions he tried to pull down his wife’s trousers, she screamed at the top of her lungs as if he were trying to rape her, and he was forced to desist. As for nighttime sex, although she acquiesced, she conveyed the distinct impression that she did so only because she had no choice. Her distress affected his enjoyment too. Because she was unwilling to try any novel or exotic techniques, Vesperus found himself able to practice only the Doctrine of the Mean. When he proposed Fetching the Fire from the Other Side of the Mountain, she protested that it violated the taboo on a wife’s turning her back on her husband, and when he suggested Dousing the Candle, she objected that it inverted the principle of the husband’s superiority.

If he did manage, much against her will, to hoist her legs over his shoulders and then, by herculean efforts, to reach a climax of pleasure. she would refuse even to call out “dearest” or “darling,” almost as if she lacked the power of speech-let alone beg for mercy so as to enhance his powers. Vesperus was greatly upset, and reflected to himself, What a shame such a strikingly beautiful girl should so entirely lack the pleasure of active participation and lie there like a statue! Where’s the pleasure in that? There’s nothing else for it; I’ll just have to put in some time educating her out of this behavior.

Visiting the art dealer’s he bought an album of exquisite spring-palace pictures by the had of Academician Zhao Mengfu of the Yuan Dynasty. There were thirty-six pictures in all, after the line in the Tang poem, “In the thirty-six palaces all is spring.” He brought them home and put them in her bedroom, meaning to look through them with her and get her to understand that sexual intercourse is not a single entity but takes a multitude of forms for our enjoyment. “It is obvious from this book that those techniques I showed you were not invented by me but were practiced long ago by the ancients. I’ve brought you these model examination answers to prove my point.”

As she took the album from him, Jade Scent had no idea of its subject matter, but assumed it contained landscapes or flower paintings. On opening the album, she saw that the two opening pages bore a title in large scripts: Picture From the Han Palace. There were many virtuous women in the Han Palace, she thought, and these must be their portraits; let me see what they looked like, to have been able to do the virtuous things they did.

But when she turned to the third page and saw a man and a woman copulating stark naked on top of an ornamental rock, her face flushed and she lost her temper:

“Where did you get such pernicious stuff? Just having it here is enough to pollute a lady’s chamber. Have the maid take it out at once and burn it!”

Veperus put out a hand to restrain her. “This is a rare item worth a hundred taels that I borrowed from a friend. if you can afford to repay him, go ahead and burn it. If you can’t kindly put it down and let me enjoy it for a day or two before I have to give it back.”

“If you want to improve your mind, do it by looking at famous paintings or calligraphy! What’s the point of looking at this sort of frivolous stuff?”

“If this were a frivolous thing,” said Vesperus, “the artist wouldn’t have painted it, nor the collector have paid a large sum to buy it. It is precisely because it is the most serious subject since the Creation itself that literary men have chosen to paint it, mount it on silk, put it on sale in the art shops, and preserve it in libraries-all for the purpose of advising posterity on the right models of behavior. Otherwise, in the course of time, all knowledge of the mutual reinforcement of yin and yang would gradually be lost. husbands and wives would spurn each other, reproduction would cease, and humankind would eventually become extinct. The reason I borrowed it was not just to look at it myself, but to let you understand that this principle is what makes it possible to conceive and give birth, and also to prevent you from being misled by a puritanical father into never bearing any children. Why get so upset?”

“I simply don’t believe this behavior is respectable. If t were, why didn’t the ancients who established our code of ethics have people practice it openly by daylight in front of others? Why did they insist on its being done secretly at dead of night in dark places as if we were burglars? That shows it’s not respectable.”

Vesperus laughed. “You can’t be blamed for these opinions. It’s all your father’s fault, for keeping you locked up inside the house without an experienced woman friend to tell you about sex. That’s why you’re so abysmally ignorant. You think I’m the only man in the world who’s romantically inclined, and that all the women in the world are as puritanical as you are and never do it in the daytime but insist on waiting until night. You don’t realize that every couple does it in the daytime and that every time they do so, they’re open and aboveboard about it and let people know. Tell me this: if men and women didn’t do it in the daytime, how did the artist learn about these techniques? How did he paint the figures so marvelously, getting them so lifelike that it excites us just to look at them?”

“Well. my parents are husband and wife, too. Why don’t they do it in the daytime?”

“Tell me, how do you know they don’t?”

“If they did, I would surely have come upon them while they were doing it. How do you explain the fact that in all my fifteen years I’ve never once done so? I’ve neither seen them nor heard them.”

Vesperus laughed uproariously. “You poor, benighted soul! Children are the only ones who don’t see and hear what’s going on. There’s not a single maid or servant who’s unaware of it! When your parents want to do it, they just wait until you’re somewhere else before they bot their door and set to. They’re afraid that if you see them at it, your sexual desires will be stimulated and you’ll start pining for a lover and fall into a state of depression; that’s why they deceive you. If you don’t believe me, just ask your mother’s personal maid whether they do it in the daytime or not.”

Jade Scent thought for a moment. “They do often shut their door during the day and take a nap, and I suppose they might be doing it then. But the very idea is os embarrassing! You looking at me, me looking at you, how could we ever do it like that?”

“It’s ten times more enjoyable in the daytime, and the wonderful thing is that it’s precisely when we’re looking at each other that we get really excited. There are only two kinds of couples who ought never to perform in the daytime; but apart from them everyone should.”

“Which are they?”

“An ugly husband married to a beautiful wife and an ugly wife married to a handsome husband.”

“And why can’t they do it in the daytime?”

“Our enjoyment depends on your loving me and my loving you, as well as on the interaction of our vital forces and blood vessels. If the wife has snow-white skin that is soft and delicate, skin like jade polished to perfection, when her husband takes off her clothes and clasps her to his chest, he will be looking at her all the while and naturally his excitement will be increase tenfold, and that thing in his loins will automatically get harder, stiffer, thicker, and longer. But suppose the wife sees her husband looking like an ogre, with dark, coarse skin. While he has his clothes on. she won’t have noticed, but now that he undressed, his ugliness will be fully visible. In fact it can’t be hidden. Moreover, it forms such a contrast with her own snow-white skin that what would have seemed merely ugly now looks hideous. Don’t you imagine she’ll react with disgust? He disgust will show in her voice and in her face, and when her husband notices, his hardness and stiffness will automatically soften and his thickness and length shrink. Far from gaining any enjoyment, he will feel humiliated. He’d have been much better off having intercourse at night, when he could have hidden his defects.

“So much for the beautiful wife married to an ugly husband. A handsome husband sleeping with an ugly wife violates the same rule, and we don’t need to discuss it. Anyway that’s why I say there are only two kinds of couples who ought not to do it in the daytime. But in the case of couples like you and me – equally white, pink, soft, and delicate – if we don’t take our pleasure in the daylight and show our bodies to one another, but burrow under the bedclothes and grope about in the dark, aren’t we hiding our talents the whole of our lives, exactly like the ugly couples? If you don’t believe me, let’s try it together and see how it compares with the nighttime for enjoyment?”

By this time Jade Scent was half-convinced, even though she was unwilling to admit it. However, a pinkish glow suffused her cheeks and a sensual glint appeared in her eye.

She’s beginning to show a little interest, thought Verperus. I was planning to start at once, but this is the first time her desires have been aroused and her appetite is still quite undeveloped. If I give her a taste of it now, she’ll be like a starving man at the sight of food – she’ll bolt it down without savoring it and so miss the true rapture; I thin I’ll tantalize her a little before mounting the stage.

Pulling up an easy chair, he sat down and drew her onto his lap, then opened the album and showed it to her picture by picture. This album differed from others in that the first page of each leaf contained the erotic picture and the second page a comment on it. The first part of the comment explained the activity depicted, while the rest praised the artist’s skill. All the comments were in the hand of famous writers.

Vesperus told Jade Scent to try to imagine herself in the place of the people depicted and to concentrate on their expressions so that she could imitate them later on. While she looked at the pictures, he rad out the comments:

Picture Number One. The Releasing the Butterfly in Search of Fragrance position. The woman sits on the Lake Tai rock with her legs apart while the man sends his jade whisk into her vagina and moves it from side to side seeking the heart of the flower. At the moment depicted, the pair are just beginning and have not reached the rapturous stage, so their eyes are wide open and their expressions not much different from normal.

Picture Number Two. The Letting the Bee Make Honey position. The woman is lying on her back on the brocade quilt, bracing herself on the bed with her hands and raising her legs aloft to meet the jade whisk and let the man know the location of the heart of the flower so that he will not thrust at random. At the moment depicted, the woman’s expression is almost ravenous, whole the man seems so nervous that the observer feels anxiety on his behalf. Supreme art at its most mischievous.

Picture Number Three. The Lost Bird Returns to the Wood position. The woman leans back on the embroidered couch with her legs in the air, grasping the man’s thighs and driving them directly downward. She appears to have entered the state of rapture and is afraid of losing her way. The couple are just at the moment of greatest exertion and show extraordinary vitality. This scene has the marvelous quality of “flying brush and dancing ink.”

Picture Number Four. The Starving Horse Races to the Trough position. The woman lies flat on the couch with her arms wrapped aroudn the man as if to restrict his movements. While he supports her legs on his shoulders, the whole of the jade whisk enters the vagina, leaving not a trace behind. At the moment depicted, they are on the point of spending; they are about to shut their eyes and swallow each other’s tongues, and their expressions are identical. Supreme art indeed.

Picture Number Five. The Two Dragons Who Fight Till They Drop position. The woman’s head rests beside the pillow and her hands droop in defeat, as soft as cotton floss. The man’s head rests beside her neck, and his whole body droops too, also as soft as cotton floss. She has spent, and her soul is about to depart on dreams of the future. This is a state of calm after furious activity. Only her feet, which have not been lowered but still rest on the man’s shoulders, convey any trace of vitality. Otherwise, he and she would resemble a pair of corpses, which leads the observer to understand their rapture and think of lovers entombed together.

By the time Jade Scent reached this page, her sexual desires were fully aroused and could no longer beheld in check. Vesperus turned the page and was about to show her the next picture when she pushed the book away and stood up.

“A fine book this is!” she exclaimed, “It makes one uncomfortable just to look at it. Read it yourself if you want to. I’m going to lie down.”

Vesperus caught her in his arms. “Dear heart, there are more good ones. Let’s look at them together and then go to bed.”

“Don’t you have any time tomorrow? Why do you have to finish today?”

Vesperus knew she was agitated, and he put his arms around her and kissed her. When kissing her before, he had tried to insert his tongue in her mouth but her tightly clenched teeth always prevented him. As a result, she was still unacquainted with his tongue after more than a month of marriage. But on this occasion he had no sooner touched her lips than that sharp, soft tongue of his had somehow slipped past her teeth and entered her mouth.

“Dear heart,” said Vesperus, “There’s no need to use the bed. Why don’t we take this easy chair as our rock and try to imitate the picture in the album. What do you say?”

Jade Scent pretended to be angry. “People don’t do things like that!”

“You’re right,” said Vesperus, “people don’t do them. Immortals do! Let’s be immortals for a little while.” He put out his hand and undid her belt. Jade Scent’s heart was willing, even if her words were not, and she simply hung on his shoulder and offered no resistance. Taking off her trousers, Vesperus noticed a large damp patch in the seat caused by her secretions while she was looking at the pictures.

Vesperus took off his own trousers and pulled her over to the chair, where he made her sit with her legs apart. He then inserted his jade whisk into her vagina before removing the clothes from her upper body.

Why did he not start at the top and work his way down instead of taking off her trousers first, you ask. You must realize that Vesperus was an experienced lover. Had he taken her top off first, despite all the agitation in her heart she would still have felt shy and indulged in all kinds of coy pretense. He chose instead to seize the key position first and let the rest of the territory fall into his hands later, a strategy that corresponds in military terms to seizing the rebel leader and destroying his stronghold. In fact Jade Scent put up no resistance, but let him loosen her gold bracelets, undo her silk sash, and strip off all her other clothes, including her underwear and breastband, everything but her leggings.

Why did he take off all her other clothes but leave her leggings on? You must understand that everything a woman is wearing can be removed except her leggings. Why is that? Because inside the leggings are the foot-bindings, and when women are binding their feet, they see that the lower part looks neat but leave the upper part untidy and hence unattractive. Moreover, in the last resort tiny feet need a pair of dainty little leggings above them if they are going to appeal. Without leggings, they would be as unsightly as a flower with no leaves around it, and that was why Vesperus shrewdly left the leggings on.

After undressing her, he took off every stitch of how own clothing and then, in full battle array, parted her tiny feet and, placing them over the sides of the chair, thrust his jade whisk forward and began to drive to left and right inside her vagina, searching for the heart of the flower as shown in the first picture. After he had done this for a while, Jade Scent stretched out her arms and pressed down on the chair, gradually forcing her vulva upward to meet the thrust of the jade whisk. If the whisk went to the left, she moved left to receive it; if it went to the right, she did likewise. Suddenly it reached a place where it gave her a rather different sensation, something between a sharp pain and a tantalizing itch, a sensation that she could neither endure nor forgo.

“Just keep it there,” she said to Vesperus, “Don’t go thrusting all over the place, or you’ll stab me to death.”

Vesperus knew he had reached the heart of the flower and did as she asked, concentration his forces and attacking in just that one place. He ceased his diversionary tactics and gradually brought all of his techniques into paly, thrusting faster and deeper than before. After a few hundred strokes, he noticed her hands moving instinctively behind him to grasp his thighs and drive them directly downward with a strength she summoned from goodness knows where. Before, she had been consciously imitating the erotic picture, but this development was an unintentional reaction of which she was quite unaware. Apparently it was something beyond even the album’s powers to depict.

To get on even terms, Vesperus stretched his arms out and pulled her thighs toward him. He was surprised to find them drenched in the surging seas, as slippery as oil and impossible to grasp.

Her excitement is just at its peak, he thought. By rights I ought to make things hard for her now, but since this is the first time she has broken her vegetarian fast, I must let her eat her fill and acquire a taste for meat before I start to apply my falcon-training methods.

Lifting her feet and placing them over his shoulders, Vesperus put his arms around her slender waist and plunged in to the hilt. This time the jade whisk seemed larger than ever, cramming the vagina full and leaving not the slightest gap. After several hundred more thrusts, he noticed her starry eyes glazing over and her cloud-puffs in disarray. She looked as if she were falling asleep. He tapped her twice.

“Dear heart, I know you are about to spend, but this chair is rather awkward. Let’s finish up on the bed.”

Jade Scent, who was just at the critical stage, feared that if they moved he would have to take out the jade whisk and her pleasure would be short-lived. In addition, her limbs felt so sore and weak she could not have moved anyway, even to walk to the bed. When she heard his suggestions, she shut her eyes and shook her head.

“Dear heart, is it because you can’t move?”

She nodded.

“I can’t bear to part with you either. Let me carry you over.”

He locked his arms securely around her waist and picked her up with her tongue still in his mouth and his jade whisk still in her vagina. Then, thrusting as he went, doing t Looing at the Flowers from Horseback routine, he walked her to the bed and deposited her across it.

He then reached for a pillow to place under her middle, propped up her legs, and began again. After several hundred more thrusts, Jade Scent suddenly cried, “Dearest, I’m done for!” Clutching him tightly, she began mumbling incoherently, like a dying man in his last throes. Vesperus know that her essence had come and he set the jade whisk against her glower’s heart and, with her legs trailing in the air, kneaded it with all his might until he ejaculated together with her.

After they had slept in each other’s arms a short whole, Jade Scent awoke.

“Dearest, I died just now. Did you know?”

“How could I help knowing? But it’s not called dying; it’s called spending.”

“why is it called spending?”

“Men have male essence and women female essence, and when they reach the height of pleasure, their essence comes out. But just before it does, you whole body-including your skin, flesh, and bones-is overwhelmed by a sensual languor and your mind becomes hazy as if you were falling asleep. That’s when the essence emerges, and that’s what is meant by spending. it was shown in the fifth picture in the album. You saw it, so surely you know what I mean?”

“And according to you, one can come back to life after spending? One doesn’t really die?”

“A man and a woman spend every time they do it. There are some women whose essence comes very quickly and who spend dozens of times while the man spends only once. Now that’s what I call pleasure! Of course you don’t die!”

“For pleasure like that I’d be willing to die. And to think one doesn’t even have to! In that case, from now on I’m going to spend every day and every night.”

Vesperus laughed gaily. “Didn’t I give you the right advice, though? Isn’t this album a treasure?”

“Oh, it is! It would be so nice if we’d bought our own copy and could keep it and look at it often. I’m afraid your friend may come and take this one back.”

“That was just a fib. The truth is I did buy it.”

Jade Scent was overjoyed.

They got up and dressed and then looked at the erotic album again until they became excited and had sex once more. From that day forward they were perfectly adjusted and more deeply in love than ever. After looking at the erotic pictures, Jade Scent was converted from puritanism to libertinism. When making love at night, far from practicing the Doctrine of the Mean, she favored the novel and the exotic. She was quite amenable to Dousing the Candle and Fetching the Fire from the Other Side of the Mountain, and so insistent was she on putting her tiny feet over her husband’s shoulders that next morning he had to exert herculean efforts to get them down again. Needless to say, in time she became adept at uttering passionate cries during intercourse and also at the kind wanton behavior that enhanced his excitement.

In order to enhance hers, Vesperus paid a visit to the bookstore and bought a quantity of erotic works, such as The Unofficial History of the Embroidered Couch, The Life of the Lord of Perfect Satisfaction, and The Foolish Woman’s Story, a dozen or so titles in a boxed set, which he left on the table for her to peruse. The books she had been studying he put away, lest she revert to her old ways and display her puritanical nature again.

The lute and the zither are inadequate symbols for the harmony of their bedroom bliss, just as the bell and the drum are incapable of expressing their joy. Even if you were to paint three hundred and sixty erotic pictures, they would not suffice to depict the lovemaking of Vesperus and Jade Scent. In later times a poet composed a lyric on the pleasure this couple took in looking at their album. it ran,

She’on his lap by the bedroom window,
while he on her scented shoulder leans.
As they open the book and linger upon its scenes,
She finds these joys aren’t secrets, after all,
But age-old lore.

Her hair disordered more and more,
They tumble like a phoenix pair;
Nine times in ten the lotuses point up.
Immortal-like, she’d play the scenes forever,
With joys as rare.
(To the tune of “The Flowerseller’s Cry”)

With one exception Vesperus could be described as having reached the pinnacle of happiness. But although his marriage was exceptionally harmonious, his relations with his father-in-law were difficult. Why was that? Because Master Iron Door was a staunchly conservative gentleman who preferred austerity to luxury and who liked to discuss moral issues while abominating all talk of love. He had regretted his choice of son-in-law from the moment Verperus arrived in the house with his brilliant clothes and frivolous manner.

“The fellow is all show, no substance,” he sighed to himself, “He’ll never amount to much, and my daughter won’t have a husband worthy of the name. The trouble is that the betrothal gifts have all been received and the match arranged, and it cannot be undone. I’ll have to make the best of a bad situation by letting him marry her and then trying to mold him into a gentleman with a father’s firm hand.”

He was unsparing in his criticism. Not only did he scold and lecture his son-in-law for every slip in speech or action, he would carry on if Vesperus showed the slightest impropriety of carriage or posture.

However, as the proverb says, “Mountains and rivers are easier to change than a man’s nature.” Not only did Vesperus have a young man’s temperament, he had never known an adult’s restraint since losing his parents many years before. How could he endure this daily torture? Several times he came close to fighting back, but because he did not want to embarrass his wife and jeopardize his marital bliss, he felt obliged to suffer in silence.

But at length the abuse became too much to bear. It was only because I admired his daughter’s beauty, he said to himself, and because he refused to let her marry out of the family but insisted on live-in-son in law that I pocketed my pride and joined his household. I was not some half-starved, ill-clad pauper with design on his father-in-law’s property, so why does he have to use his position to tyrannize me like this? It’s enough that I don’t try to change him, pedant though he is. Why is he so determined to change me? What’s more, a romantic young genius like myself will want to enjoy a few celebrated amours at some stage. That daughter of his is hardly going to be enough wife for me! But if he keeps me under such strict supervision, I’ll never be able to put a foot wrong or say a word out of place! If I stop out of line, he’s sure to sentence me to death!

I must think this through carefully. I can’t stop him and I can’t endure him, either, so there’s just one solution: I’ll have to leave her in his care while I go off somewhere else on the pretext of furthering my studies. I already have the most beautiful woman in the world as my wife, but if I met up with the second most beautiful, even if I couldn’t marry her, I wouldn’t mind fulfilling my destiny with a brief affair.

Having made up his mind, he was about to tell Jade Scent and then ask her father’s permission, when the thought occurred to him that, because of her craving for sex, she would never let him go and, once she was against it, he could hardly go and ask permission from her father. The only course was to consult his father-in-law first behind her back.

“Your son-in-law is living is a remote place and has been poorly educated,” he said, “I lack enlightened teachers and helpful friends, and I will never make any progress in my studies or succeed in the examinations. I am thinking of taking leave of you, father-in-law, and travelling about the country to broaden my mind. When I find an enlightened teacher and helpful friends, I’ll set to and study. Then, at examination time, I’ll travel to the provincial capital and take the examinations. Perhaps I’ll succeed and justify your inviting me to be your son-in-law. Would you permit me to go?”

“In the six months you’ve been living here as my son-in-law,” replied the Master, “this is the first sensible observation you’ve made. Normally it’s only dissolute stuff that you come out with. I find it admirable that you are willing to leave home for the sake of your studies. Why shouldn’t I permit it?”

“Father-in-law, you may agree, but I’m afraid that your daughter will say I’m lacking in affection for proposing to go away so soon after our marriage. May I suggest that we maintain that the idea originated with you rather than me? That way I’ll be able to carry out my plan without any obstacle.”

“Very well,”said the Master.

In his daughter’s presence he urged Verperus to travel fro the sake of his studies. When Vesperus feigned reluctance, the Master put on a stern expression and gave him a severe dressing down, after which he assented. At the unexpected news that her husband was leaving, Jade Scent, who was just then at the height of her enjoyment, felt like a baby being weaned of the breast, her anguish was so unbearable. Of course she threw farewell party after farewell party for the traveler and gave him gift after parting gift. She also insisted that he pay in advance all the debts for which he would have been liable after his departure. And Vesperus, mindful of how lonely he might be on the journey and of how at any given time he might have no woman to console himself with, made every effort to oblige, like someone who puts on a banquet for a guest and then enjoys it himself. They made love several nights in succession, and only they could know how indescribably blissful those nights were.

Before his departure Vesperus thought of leaving one of his servants behind to attend to the chores. Because the Master was a miser who begrudged providing board for his servant,  his whole household consisted of only the three family members and two maidservants, who had been part of the wedding settlement. He had no manservant at all, which was the reason for Vesperus’s concern. Summoning his pages, Vesperus stood them in front of the Master and invited him to choose one. To his surprise neither was acceptable.

What was the reason? Vesperus was amphibious – that is to say, given to both homosexual and heterosexual pleasures. His pages were always under twenty, handsome young fellows with slicked hair or sly young rogues who were beautifully dressed. Master Iron Door had often in his mind urged Vesperus to sent them packing, and now that he was to choose one of them as a servant, he was troubled.

We do need someone to fetch and carry for us, he thought, but with my son-in-law away and my daughter on her own, how can I have these pretty boys in and out of the house? Looking after her is far more important than getting the chores done. I must on no account do something I’ll come to regret.

To Vesperus he replied, “You’re the only one who has any use for these good-for-nothings. I certainly don’t want them, so see you take them off with you. If I need help, I’ll always be able to get someone. Don’t worry about the chores.”

Since Master Iron Door was so adamant, Vesperus did not dare press the point. But knowing that his father-in-law might be too stingy to hire any help, he thought it best to leave a few taels behind to pay for a servant. Then he departed, accompanied by the pages he had brought with him.

This chapter has told the full story of Vesperus’s first match with a beautiful girl. There are many more extraordinary encounters to come, so listen carefully as the chapters unfold.


When the author is exhorting his audience with talk of moral principle, he makes their hair stand on end, and when he sets out to move them with accounts of sexual passion, he drives them wild. Ignorant people will regard this ambivalence of his  as a flaw, thus missing the point that the passages where he moves his audience to ingeniously are precisely the occasions when he is most intent on exhorting them to moral behavior. Think what a virtuous girl Jade Scent was before she saw the erotic pictures and how wanton she became after reading their comments! Chastity and wantonness, nobility and baseness, decided in just a moment of time! And all of it the man’s fault, for leading her into temptation! Can husbands afford not to pay heed?


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