Complaining of his physical endowment, he laments with hand on groin;
Hoping to rectify his failing, he prays on bended knee.
Men’s desires, how hard to satisfy!
They weep, who’ve never known adversity.
And other unfortunates there are,
Who in the midst of joy will heave a sigh:
“I have no luck!: they’ll cry,
All because their desires are set too high.
(To the tune “Dreamlike Song”)
Let us tell how Vesperus’s joyous mood was swept clean away by what the Knave had said. After the latter’s departure, he was like a dead man, unable to bring himself either to speak or eat. He sat alone in his room, turning the following thoughts over and over in his mind: In the course of my twenty-odd years I’ve seen a great many things in this world, but I’ve rarely seen another man’s penis. Ordinary people keep theirs tucked away under their clothes, where naturally they can’t be seen. The only time anyone showed me his was when those nancy-boys took down their trousers and did it with me, but they were younger than I was and naturally their things were smaller than mine. Since the only ones I ever saw were smaller, mine appeared larger. When I was young and played the nancy-boy myself with my schoolmates, we did see each other’s things, but we were all of an age and naturally we were about the same size. I came to regard that size as normal and assumed from my own experience that everybody’s was much the same. But he claims he has never seen one as small as mine. If so, it’s utterly useless! What good is it?
There’s one thing that puzzles me, though, Vesperus reflicted. When I had sex with my wife, she enjoyed it every bit as much as I did. And in the days when I used to visit courtesans and seduce maids, they would cry out with passion and spend, too, which they never would have done if this thing hadn’t brought them pleasure! If it’s so useless now, why wasn’t it useless then? Why has it become useless all of a sudden? Obviously he must have been deceiving me in order to get out of his commitments.
Thus a moment of suspicion was followed by a moment of wild hop, after which Vesperus suddenly awoke to the truth: No, that’s not it, he said to himself. My wife’s vagina was quite unformed before I developed it. Now its dimensions match my own exactly-a perfect fit, with no room to spare, between my shortness and thinness and her smallness and shallowness, which is why she enjoys it. It’s like cleaning your ears. If a tiny cleaner is inserted in a tiny ear and twiddled about, it gives a pleasant sensation, whereas in a large ear it may have little or no effect.
The Knave told me the other day that women have ways of faking their cries. Who knows whether the maids and courtesans I slept with may not have felt obliged to flatter me after accepting my money and presents? In fact perhaps they didn’t even want to give any cries at all, but just faked them to deceive me. And if their cries can be faked, why not their spending too? The things he told me may not be entirely reliable, but whenever I meet someone, I’ll make a point of looking at his penis to see if it bears out what the Knave says.
Henceforth, whenever he attended a literary gathering and one his friends went out to relieve himself, Vesperus would follow along and do likewise, glancing first at his friend’s penis and then back at his own. It was true; everybody’s was more impressive than his. Even when he was going along the road and noticed someone relieving himself outdoors, he would be sure to scrutinize the man’s organ out of the corner of his eye.
Nothing in the world is proof against self-doubt. Before, when he thought he had a large penis, even if he had met up with a Xue Aocao, he would have concluded his was better because Xue’s was mainly for show and might be of no practical use. But now that he was consumed with fears about his own size, even if he had seen a boy’s he’d have felt, The boy’s is better than mine, for even if mine is the same size, it may not be as firm as his.
For these thoughts, gentle reader, you must not laugh at him. This was a golden opportunity to purge himself of evil and lay a foundation for cultivating his virtue and reforming his conduct. Who knows, perhaps Lu Nanzi, who shut his door against an importunate widow, and Liuxia Hui, who kept his self-control with a girl on his knee, may have shared these very thoughts of his, thoughts that have made them the leading paragons of all time.
After Vesperus had completed his comparative studies, his desires began to slacken and he became less and less inclined to run risks for the sake of sex. Although the Knave’s advice was harsh medicine, he thought, I shall just have to swallow it. At least he is a man! I felt like hiding my face in shame when he laughed at me, but think how I’d have felt if I’d been having sex with a woman and right in the middle she had come out with some scathing remark! What should I have done then, stopped and withdrawn, or stayed on until I was ejected? From now on, I’m going to give up all thought of seduction and devote myself wholeheartedly to my proper task. If I can succeed in the examinations, I’ll put up some money and by a couple of virgins as concubines. Theirs will be smaller than mine, and naturally, I’ll earn their appreciation rather than their contempt. Why waste my energy on all these religious exercises?
After this decision, he gave up his frivolous pursuits and concentrated on his studies. If he noticed any women coming to burn incense, he no longer rushed off to look at them. In fact, if he met any outside the temple, he would duck inside to avoid them, lest they discern his contours through his unline summer gown and have a private snicker at his expense. Needless to say, if he met a woman in the street, he would hand his head and pass quickly by.
However, because he was a young man in his prime, a certain tumescence made itself felt after a week or two if this harsh regime. His answer was to add a cummerbund to hide this one shortcoming of his from women’s prying eyes. As for his other, outstanding features, he was still more than willing to flaunt them.
One day while walking along one of the streets, he observed a young woman open her door curtain and start chatting with a neighbor across the street, revealing her profile as she did so. Seeing this from a distance, he at once shortened his pace and advanced very slowly to listen to her voice and look at her face. Her enunciation was as clear, sweet, and perfectly cadenced as the sound of a panpipe or a flute; every word she uttered left an echo lingering in the ear. On reaching her doorway, Vesperus looked closely at her face and figure. She bore a strong resemblance to the woman the Knave had described: her face was like a priceless pearl radiating light while her figure was like a great beauty’s portrait swaying in the breeze behind the curtain. “perhaps she is the one he mentioned, “he surmised.
After a moment’s observation, he walked past a few more houses and then asked a bystander, “Is there a silk merchant here by the name of Honest Quan? You wouldn’t happen to know where he lives, I suppose?”
“You’ve just passed his house,” said the bystander. “Inside that curtain there, where the woman is talking – that’s his place.”
His hunch confirmed, Vesperus turned around and took another good look at her before going back to his lodgings. When the Knave described her beauty to me, he thought, I didn’t believe him. I felt that, although he claimed to be a connoisseur, he might not be the best judge of quality. I never dreamed he’d have such a marvelous eye! Since he judged this one so perfectly, it goes without saying that his judgment of the other two will be equally reliable. To think that such classic beauties are available and such an extraordinary gallant stands ready to help, and yet I’m missing out on three heaven-sent chances just because this thing of mine has let me down! Oh, the frustration of it all!
After a moment’s fury he shut his door, undid his belt, and taking out his penis, examined it from every angle. Then rage seized him again and he longed to fetch a sharp knife and cut it off, ridding himself forever of this sorry excuse for a penis that was attached to his boy for all to see. After a moment he launched into a bitter tirade: “This is all the Lord of Heaven’s fault! If you wanted to indulge me, you have to leave me with this handicap? My looks and talent are only for show, they’re of no practical use. You endowed me liberally enough with them, but in the case of this all-important item you wouldn’t even lift a finger to help! Do you mean to tell me that adding a few inches to its length and circumference would have you any endowment? Why not use someone else’s surplus to make up my shortage? Even if bodily material can’t be exchanged once people have been endowed, why not take some flesh from my own legs, some sinew from under my skin, some of my body’s strength, and redistribute it here? That would have been ample. Instead, why did you take the material needed here and distribute it elsewhere, so that what I really need becomes useless and the things I don’t need I have too much of? No doubt about it, this is all the Lord of Heaven’s fault! I’ve seen this beautiful girl, but I don’t dare make a move. I’m like a starving man who sees a dish of food with the most wonderful aroma but can’t swallow it because his mouth is full of sores. It’s enough to make one weep!” And he began to sob bitterly.
Later he went over to the temple, where he strolled about trying to shake off his depression. There he happened to notice a new poster stuck on the screen wall outside the temple gate. its message, cast in the form a four-line verse, differed from all the other messages; it was as if the Lord of Heaven had heard his piteous weeping and sent an immortal down to Earth to relieve his misery. it read,
A true man from a distant land has come to teach the bedroom art.
He can take a puny groin and turn it into a mighty part.
The space beneath the poem, which was in large script, as filled with a line or two of tiny characters:
Passing through this area, I have taken lodging in room __ in the ___ temple. Those interested in receiving instruction should make haste to honor me with a visit. If they delay, they will be too late for a consultation.
Vesperus read both the poem and postscript several times. So great was his astonishment that he burst into wild laughter. “What an amazing thing! Just when I’m at my wit’s end about the size of my penis, along comes this immortal peddling his art and puts up a poster where I happen to see it! It has to be Heaven’s will!”
He flew into the temple, sealed up some introductory gifts, and put them into a small box, which he had one of his pages carry while he found his way to the address given in the poster.
The adept in question proved to be an old man of awe-inspiring appearance, with a boyish face and white hair. At the sight of Vesperus he folded his hands in front of him and asked, “Well, my good sir, have you come to study the bedroom art?”
“Yes,” said Vesperus.
“Which program are you interested in, the one in altruism or the one in egotism?”
“Let me ask, venerable sire,” said Vesperus, “what you mean by altruism and egotism?”
“If your sole desire is to serve the woman and bring her pleasure without attempting to gain any yourself, that is an easy art to learn. You just take a little sperm-suppressant to make your semen come more slowly, rub some analgesic ointment on your penis to numb it until it has no more feeling than a lump of iron, and you’ll no longer care whether you spend or not. That’s what I mean by altruism.
“If, on the other hand, you wish to attain pleasure with the woman, so that every sensation her vagina feels your penis feels too, and so that with every withdrawal you both come back to life and with every thrust, you both begin to die, now that is mutual pleasure, true enjoyment. The trouble is that at the height of pleasure you will both inevitably want to spend, and the woman will be afraid of spending too late and the man of spending toom soon. The most difficult art of all is to get the man to spend less the more he enjoys himself and the woman to enjoy herself more the more she spends. That kind of pleasure is much harder to attain; self-cultivation is the main requirement, supplemented by medication. If you wish to study it, you will have to accompany me on my travels for several years and gradually reach enlightenment before you attain the reality. It is not something that can be mastered in a day or a night.”
“In that case I can’t study it,” said Vesperus. “it will have to be the course in altruism. I already have some of that vital medicine in my lodgings and I won’t presume to ask you for more. But it’s a commonplace technique at best, one that enables you to hold out but not to increase your size. Your poster claimes that you can “take a puny groin and turn it into a mighty part,’ and that was what brought me here to seek instruction. What method is it, I wonder, that can actually effect a change?”
“There are various methods, from which one must choose according to the client’s capacity. First, one must see the original size. Second, one must ask how much of an increase the client wants. And third, one must ask if he can bear it and if he is prepared to make the sacrifice. Only when those three questions have been answered can one decide which procedure to use. it is not a casual decision, by any means.”
“What if it is large to begin with?” asked Vesperus. “Or small to begin with? What happens if you enlarge it a lot? Or a little? What if one can bear it and is prepared to make the sacrifice? And what if one can’t? Please advise me on all these points so that I can make my choice.”
“If the original size is not particularly small and only a modest increase is sought, the treatment is quite simple. You needn’t even ask the client any question. All you have to do is rub some analgesic on his member to make it insensitive and then fumigate and cleanse it with medication. With every fumigation and cleansing it must be kneaded and pulled. The fumigation is to make it firmer and the cleansing to make it stronger; the kneading is to make it thicker and the pulling to make it longer. If you do this for three days and nights, you can increase the original size by up to a third. This is a procedure that people are happy to consent to and that they need have no qualms about, so you apply it right off without asking any questions.
“If the original is small and the client wants to increase it by a large amount, the procedure involves an operation, hence the client must be asked if he can bear it and is prepared to make the sacrifice. If he is a timid soul unwilling to take the risk, you should stop right there. But if he puts lovemaking above life itself, you proceed without hesitation to a restructuring. For that you need a dog and a bitch, which you shut up in an empty room, where they are right in the middle of the act, then pull them apart. A dog’s penis is an extremely hot organ that expands, on entering the vulva, to several times its former size; even after ejaculation it cannot be withdrawn for a long time, let alone before. You seize this moment to amputate it with a sharp knife, after which you cut open the bitch’s vagina and extract the dog’s penis, slice it into four strips, and then, after quickly numbing the client’s penis with an analgesic to render it insensitive to pain, make four deep incisions on the sides, top, and bottom. You force one of the strips from the dog’s penis, still hot, into each incision and promptly apply a miracle dressing to close the wound. In all this your one fear is that the incision be done incorrectly, for that would harm the client’s penile vessels and render him impotent. But so long as the vessels are unharmed, there is no cause for concern. After a month of recuperation, the parts inside the dressing will have grown together so completely that they are no longer recognizable as human or canine. When, after a further period of recuperation, the patient engages in sex, the heat generated will be as intense as a dong’s. Before the penis enters the vagina, it will look several times its original size, but once it enters, it will grow several times as big again. In effect one penis has been turned into dozens of penises. You don’t think the vagina feels any pleasure, eh? You don’t think the woman enjoys it?”
On hearing these words, Vesperus felt as if resurrected from the dead. Before he could so much as reply, he found himself on his knees, pleading, “If you can do this for me, you will be restoring me to life！”
The adept quickly helped Vesperus to his feet. “You need only recognize me as your teacher. Why this elaborate ceremony?”
“Your student has a highly lecherous nature and regards sex as life itself. Unfortunately I am handicapped by a natural endowment that prevents me from fulfilling my aspirations. This meeting with an immortal is the luckiest encounter ever! I wouldn’t dare give you anything less than a royal obeisance before imploring you to help me.” He then called to the page to bring forward the gifts, which he proferred with his own hands. “Just a few unworthy presents to mark your acceptance of me as a student. After the restructuring, I shall make every effort to reward you. I will never go back on my obligations.”
“But what I told you is only the way it works in theory; there is a ninety-percent chance that it won’t be possible. I’m afraid I cann’t accept your magnificent gifts without further assurances.”
“But it has to be possible!” exclaimed Vesperus. “It’s my nature to disregard life itself for the sake of lovemaking. If, by the grace of Heaven, the restructuring turns out well and a puny groin is transformed into a mighty part, I shall of course be immensely grateful to you and sing your praises everywhere. But even if there’s a mistake in the course of the operation and a slip of the scalpel costs me my life, that will be the fault of my destiny and I’ll bear you no ill-will from the Nine Springs. Please, venerable sir, there’s no need to hesitate a moment longer.”
“If I weren’t familiar with this procedure and confident of the outcome, I wouldn’t dream of gambling with a man’s life! What concerns me is not the danger but the three drawbacks that result from restructuring, all of which will give you trouble. That is why I don’t take this decision lightly. Let me explain those drawbacks, for only if you consent to all three of them will I accede to your request. If there is a single one you don’t consent to, I shall be unable to proceed.”
“What are they? Please tell me.”
“The first is that you must wait a hundred and twenty days after the operation before having sex. If you have sex just once within that period, it will damage you internally and cause the human and canine parts to rupture. And not only will the implants fail to take, your own penis will fester and drop off. That was why I raised the question of whether you could bear it. What I meant was not whether you could bear the pain but whether you could bear to abstain from sex.
“The second drawback is that only a woman in her twenties or thirties will be able to accommodate you. A girl under twenty, even if she has lost her maidenhead, will suffer terribly during her first encounter with you, unless she has already given birth. The same caveat applies with even greater force to virgins, needless to say. You will be killing every one of them that you sleep with. There will be no chance survivors. Unless you undertake not to marry a virgin and not to sleep with any young women, I shan’t proceed with the operation. Otherwise, not only will your moral credit be damaged, I, too, as your accessory, will be guilty of a grievous sin.
“The third drawback is that, although your acquired strength will be more than ample, some of ytour innate supply of vital energy will inevitably escape during the operation. There will certainly not be enough left, and hence no guarantee that you will ever be able to have children. Any children you do have will ten to die young. That is what I meant when I spoke of making a sacrifice. I was not asking whether you were prepared to sacrifice your life, or even whether you were afraid of death, but whether you would sacrifice your chances of marrying a virgin and having children.
“I’ve observed that you are a young man of great ambition. In the first place your sexual desires are too urgent to allow you to go three months without sex. Secondly your sexual appetites are too great for you to guarantee not to sleep with a virgin at some point. And thirdly you’re still very young. I daresay you don’t have any sons yet, or at least not more than one or two. That is how I know that these three things will give you trouble. When you first heard of the operation, you thought only of its benefits, not of its dangers, and you got excited and wanted to start at once. Now that you know the dangers as well as the benefits, you’ll not be so quick to experiment.”
“None of those drawbacks troubles me in the slightest,” said Vesperus. “Set your mind at rest, my good sir, and get on with the restructuring.”
“How can they not trouble you?”
“I’m living in rented rooms,” said Vesperus, “Which is very different from living at home. If I don’t have the operation, I’ll still be sleeping on my own every night, so if I do have it, what will I be giving up? Your first drawback doesn’t bother me and is no reason for not going ahead. As for women, it is only one’s first wife who has to be a virgin; with maids and concubines it doesn’t matter. Since I already have a wife, there’s no need for me to worry. Moreover, virgins make the least satisfactory sexual partners. They know nothing whatever of sex or passion, and the men who sleep with them are just trying to make a name for themselves; they certainly derive no pleasure from it. For real enjoyment you need a woman in her twenties who will know something about opening, development, reversal, and closure. Because sex is really like an essay, in which each section has its mode of organization and each stage its type of parallelism. This is well beyond the capacity of a child just learning how to write.
“Thus your second drawback doesn’t bother me either; in fact it suits me. It is certainly no reason for not going ahead. As for sons, other men may set great store by them, but I don’t. Worthy, filial sons are far fewer than the unworthy, incorrigible kind. How many sons are there like King Wu, who excelled at continuing the family line? How many sons are there like Master Zeng, who scrupulously honored his parents’ wishes? If I were lucky enough to have a good son, I’d give him a free start in life and he’d support me in my old age, but that would be merely a fair exchange – nothing out of the ordinary. If I had an unworthy, unfilial son, he’d lose the property and make me die of apoplexy, and when that happened, I’d bitterly regret having had sex once too often, emitting my sperm and blood to such a sorry end.
“That is what happens to people with sons. However, at least one or two men in every ten will have no sons at all, because that is their fate. You’re surely not going to tell me it’s because all their vital energy escaped during penile reconstruction? The mere fact that I have this wish is a sign that I’m not due to have any sons. I am quite prepared to have none, I definitely want to have the operation, and I assure you that I’ll have no second thoughts. Obviously Heaven and Earth, as well as my ancestors, are aware that it’s my fate to have no sons, so they’re not trying to stop me. It’s yet another sign that I’m not due to have any.
“And if I’m not fated to have sons, it doesn’t make any difference whether I have the operation or not. If by some chance I should be fated to have a son, my vital energy may congeal during the operation and not escape completely, and I may still father a child who will survive to maturity. These are things that cannot be anticipated, and I won’t set my heart on them, just resign myself to being childless.
“So as to your two requirements, sir, I can bear to wait and I am willing to make the sacrifice. In my eyes your drawbacks are actually advantages. There is no need for any further doubts about me. Please go ahead with the restructuring.”
“Since you are so set on it,” said the adept, “I shall certainly go ahead. I have no desire to create difficulties. Well, now, we shall have to set a date for surgery and decide whether it should be done at your honorable establishment or in my humble abode. It must be done in secrecy, without a soul knowing, because if someone heard about it and came along to spy on us, we would find it impossible to carry on.”
“My humble quarters are very cramped,” said Vesperus, “and there are people coming by all the time. It would be embarrassing if they saw us, and we could hardly continue. It would be better to use your honorable abode.”
Once the arrangements had been agreed on, the adept accepted the gifts. Then, asking Vesperus his age and date of birth, he took out an almanac and chose three or four dates, all of which were fire days. (The penis belongs to the fire element, because ‘in the time of fire, the yang is strongest.’) From among the dates he chose one for the surgery that did not clash with his patient’s destiny. Vesperus then took his leave and returned to his lodgings in a euphoric mood.
This incident was the root cause of all the evil he was to do during the rest of his life. Clearly it is wrong to study the bedroom art, for once learned, it tends to corrupt our thinking. If officials wish to apprehend adulterers, all they need do is lie in wait for them at the sex-aids shop. For the man has not been born who buys sex tonics and studies the bedroom art for the sole purpose of pleasing his wife.
If anyone else were writing this book, he would certainly have told us how, after the Knave dashed his hopes, Vesperus realized that his penis was inadequate and sought desperately for someone to rectify it. After the rectification, this writer would have enjoyed telling how Vesperus lusted after women, in order to excite his readers and silence any criticism that his narrative had too many branches and too little trunk. Such a writer would never have been willing to insert the passage in which Vesperus stops looking at women, the passage in which a young libertine is suddenly transformed into a puritan. Only our author, with the eyes of a dispassionate observer, would devote his attention to such an episode, looking back and lingering over it, reluctant simply to tell it and be done with it. No doubt there is a profound meaning here. The author is not merely concocting an interesting turn of events to liven up his narrative, he is providing adulterers with a way to turn back. Had Vesperus really changed his ways, he would not be about to lose his reputation or moral credit, nor would his wife and concubine be about to pay for his sins of the flesh. It is clear that even the worst sinner becomes good man once he wishes to repent his sins, but that he must not have a further change of heart after repenting.
Readers should pay particular attention to this kind of passage, chewing the olive inside the date until they can taste its flavor. The author’s profundity is apparent well before the end of his book.