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01 CHAP. I

IN the city of Tah-ming[1] , formerly lived a student named Tieh-chung-u, of great endowments of body and mind: for the beauty of his person, which equaled that of the finest woman, he was called the handsome Tieh: yet was his temper no less rough and impetuous than his form was elegant and pleasing: bold and resolute in resenting affronts, without any regard or awe of his superiors; yet strictly just, humane, generous, and noble, never so happy as when employed in assisting and relieving the distressed.

His father, whose name was Tieh-ying, was a Mandarine of justice: his mother's name was Sheh-sheh: his father belonged to one of the tribunals in the palace, but because of the violent temper of his son, confined him at his house in another city [2], lest he should involve him in any trouble at court. There he lived and kept house, pursuing his studies, and at proper intervals unbending his mind with company. When he had attained his sixteenth year, his father and mother began to think of marrying their son [3]. They acquainted him with it; but he was no way disposed to concur with their intentions: on the contrary, he urged that marriage was not like an acquaintance or friendship, which could not be quitted on any dislike or disagreement [4]: that whenever he should incline to marry, he would take more than common care in his choice: but should hardly think of it 'till he could meet with a lady possessed of every perfection of mind and person. These arguments weighed so deeply with his parents, that they left him to himself.

When he had arrived at his twentieth year, one day as he was amusing himself with reading an ancient history, and drinking between whiles [5], he met with the story of an Emperor, who sent to one of his Mandarines, named Pé-kan, for his heart [6] to make a medical potion for his queen, who was sick. Pé-kan immediately suffered himself to be opened, and his heart to be taken out in obedience to the Emperor's order. Here the young Tieh-chung-u saw how much the great were exposed to the fatal caprice of Princes, and how far more desirable was a life of obscurity. But more particularly struck with the great resignation of Pé-kan, he was led to reflect on that duty and obedience he had been wanting in to his parents. So deeply was he stung with remorse, that he passed the night without sleep. At length he resolved to go and throw himself at their feet; and to implore their pardon for that stubbornness of temper, which had kept him so long apart from them.
Full of these resolutions he arose in the morning, and taking with him only one servant named Siow-tan, left his house and set out for the court. He had been now two days on the road, and so impatient to see his father, as to neglect almost all repose and refreshment, when he found himself on the approach of night far from any house of reception for travellers [7]. At length he came where at some distance was a large village, but near were only a few scattered cottages of very poor people: at one of these he alighted, and calling, an old woman came to him: who seeing him drest in his student's habit, said to him, "Siang-coon, or young gentleman, I suppose you are come from court hither to visit Wey-fiang-coon, or our young student of this village." He said he knew no such person. She enquired what then could bring him thither. He told her he had lost his road, and intreated her to give him room in some part of her house to pass the night. She said he was welcome, and that she was only sorry she could not entertain him as he deserved. His servant Siow-tan brought in his bed and other travelling furniture: and the old woman shewed him a place for his horse, furnished out a room for him with clean straw, and brought him tea.

Tieh-chung-u having refreshed himself a little, asked why she was so inquisitive at his arrival, and who the young student was whom she had mentioned. "You don't know perhaps, said she, that this village was not formerly called as, as it was at present, Wey-tswün[8], but received that name from a family that lives here, who were once great people at court, but are now reduced to the meanest condition. But thank heaven, there is one of the family, who altho' poor, understands letters: he went to court to undergo his examination [9]: there he met with a friend, a learned man, named Han-yuen, who conceived a great fondness for him; and having one only daughter would give her to him in marriage: for which purpose he caused him to take a pledge. 'Tis now four years since he was betrothed, without ever fetching home his wife, not having wherewithal to maintain her. Some time since she happened to be seen by a great Mandarine, who fell in love with her, and would have her for a second wife, or concubine, which the father and mother would by no means consent to. This enraged the nobleman, who contrived many ways to get her, and at last carryed her off by force. Wey-siang-coon was advised of his loss, and repaired to the court to make his complaint: but not knowing how to apply for relief, and unable to learn news of his wife or her relations, all whom the Mandarine had secured, he returned home in despair. Since that time, his mother, fearing he might make himself away, hath desired the assistance of her neighbours to prevent such a misfortune."

While she was yet talking, they heard a great noise and disturbance in the street: they looked out and saw a crowd of people, and in the midst of them a young man clad in blue [10], who wept and lamented. In the crowd the old woman saw her husband, whom she called to her, and informed of their guest: he blamed her for having delayed to provide a supper for the stranger, and commanded her to hasten it. Of this man Tieh-chung-u enquired whether the student's wife was carried off by night or by day? He told him, in the day time. He then asked if there were none that saw it. He was answered there were several, but none that durst open their lips: for who would be forward to appear against so great and powerful a Mandarine? Here the old woman interrupted, begging them to talk no more of it, for that now there was no remedy. Tieh-chung-u smiled and said, "You people of the villages are so fainthearted and doubtful! but perhaps you know not the truth of the story, and all you have been telling me is a fiction." "By no means, she replied, nettled at his affected incredulity; I know it to be true: a cousin of mine who sells straw at the court, by great chance was present, and saw both the young woman and also her father and mother carried into the Mandarine's house, which is a palace of retirement given him by the Emperor, who hath made it sacred to every body but himself and to whom he pleases." "Why did not you advise the young man of this?" said Tieh-chung-u. "To what purpose?" said the other: "it is in vain for him to contend." He then enquired where this palace stood: she told him without the city: but though he should find it, no one durst look into it. Supper being ready they ended talking: after which he called his servant Siow-tan to lay his bed, being fatigued and sleepy.

In the morning when he had breakfasted, he ordered his servant to weigh out five mace [11] to pay the old woman: he then took leave of her with many thanks for her kind treatment: she in return asked him pardon for any thing that was amiss; but particularly intreated him not to open his lips about what she had told him, as well for his own safety as hers. —"What is that affair to me? he replied: your kind entertainment of me is all I have to remember: fear nothing." The old woman waited on him to the great road, and there took her leave of him.

Tieh-chung-u mounted his horse, and was got two or three lee [12] on his way, when he perceived at some distance before him Wey-siang-coon stamping and raving by himself, calling out to heaven and complaining of his fate. Tieh-chung-u no sooner discovered who he was, but he made all haste to come up to him: when dismounting [13] from his horse, he ran to him and clapped him on the shoulder: "Brother, said he, yield not up to despair: your cause of grief may be removed: I'll use my endeavours, and doubt not but to get your fair mistress restored to you." Surprised at being accosted in this manner, the student lifted up his eyes and looked stedfastly at him; when seeing him to be a person of good and genteel aspect, but utterly unknown to him, he was the more astonished: nevertheless, he said, "Sir, you seem to be a man of rank and consideration: I am a poor and mean person. Till this moment I never had the honour to see you. I am plunged in the deepest sorrow and affliction: but I cannot account for your knowledge of it. The words you spoke just now have so rejoiced me, that I think they could only come from Heaven. But, alas! 'tis all in vain! my misfortune is so great that it is not possible for you, tho' you were an angel [14], to afford me relief." Tieh-chung-u laughed, and said, "This is no more than the sting of a bee: if I can't untye this knot, let the world laugh at me. In former times there were heroes who could perform great achievements: and why not now?" Wey-siang-coon thought there was something in this more than ordinary: "Sir, said he, I perceive you are a person of uncommon merit: I ask your pardon: pray, how am I to call you?" "That, replied Tieh-chung-u, it is not necessary for you to know at present: but I must beg to be informed of your own original name [15], and where you would betake yourself, for I have something to say to you farther." "My name, said he, is Wey-phey, and I should go find out some way to end my life, but for my mother, who is a widow, and depends on me alone for her support. For her sake I endure my misfortunes, and have sought all means of relief: none offers now but to write a petition and carry it to court, there to present myself with it to some Mandarine: if he refuses to accept it I will go to another; and so on 'till I find one that will: if none will do me justice, I can then but dye: I shall dye in the face of the world, and not meanly in secret." And taking out his petition, he gave it to Tieh-chung-u; who read it, and found the wife's father to be a Doctor of law [16], of the second degree. The Mandarine also, who had committed the violence, was not unknown to him. "Very well, said he, this petition is right, and must be presented to the Emperor; he has power: to apply to any other audience beside will be to no purpose: nor would it avail to carry it to the Emperor yourself. Intrust it to my care, perhaps I may have an opportunity to serve you." Wey-phey bowed down and embraced his feet. "Sir, said he, the joy your compassion excites in my heart is like the springing forth of tender leaves from the withered branches of a tree. If you do me this favour in procuring my petition to be seen, 'tis not fitting I stay here: let me rather follow your horse's feet and wait on you to court." "Should you go with me, answered Tieh-chung-u, it might alarm the world: it is much better for you to return to your village: within ten days expect to hear from me." "Sir and brother, said Wey-phey, this favour you do me is as great as the heaven and the earth." He then shed some tears, and made him a profound reverence. Tieh-chung-u exhorting him to be comforted, took the petition and put it in his sleeve; then bidding him adieu, mounted his horse and put forward. Wey-phey stood amazed and motionless, with his eyes fixed on Tieh-chung-u 'till he was out of sight, not knowing whether what had happened was real or a dream.  [1] Tah-ming-foo or Tai-ming-fou, as it is written by Du Halde, is a city of the first order, and is south of Pe-king, being in the same province with it. See Pere Du Halde's Description of China, in 2 vols. folio, printed for Cave 1738, which is the translation always referred to in the following notes.

[1] N. B. Foo or fou signifies a city.
[2] 'Tis the custom in China for Mandarines to have their houses in a different place from that where they hold their office. Translator.
[3] The Chinese drink often between meals. Trans.
[4] See the notes at the end of the vol. p. 231.
[5] The Chinese drink often between meals. Trans.
[6] See note among the additions at the end of the vol.
[7] The inns in China are commonly mean, being generally four walls made of earth, without plaster or floor, except in the greatest roads of all, where they are large and handsome: but it is necessary for travellers to carry their beds with them (commonly a quilt or two) or they must lie on a mat. See P. Du Halde, &c.
[8] Tswün in the Chinese language signifies a village. Trans.
[9] Called by the Chinese Kow-shé. As all civil offices in China are bestowed according to personal merit, no wonder that the study of letters is in the highest esteem, and that the examinations of students are conducted with the greatest decorum, solemnity, and exactness. There are several lesser examinations before the students are admitted to be examined for the degree of Sieou-tsai (answering to Batchelor of arts in our universities): the examination for which is made once in three years in each of the largest districts of the province before the Mandarines, who seldom conser it on more than four or five out of a hundred.—The examinations for the second degree, or Kiu-gin (answering to Master of arts or Licentiate in Europe) are also once in three years at the capital of the whole province, at which all the Sieou-tsai are obliged to attend: out of ten thousand of whom perhaps only sixty are admitted. This degree intitles them to lower offices: but the highest employments are sure to be conferred on those who can obtain the degree of Tsin-seé (or Doctor) which they are examined for the year after they have obtained the former degree (but this they are not obliged to attend) at Pe-king before the Emperor himself: who seldom confers this degree on more than one hundred and fifty out of five or six thousand candidates. Each of these degrees is conferred according to their proficiency in history, politics, morality, but a particular regard is had to their skill in composing in their own language, and the knowledge of their laws. Similar examinations and degrees are also appointed for their military people.
P. Du Halde, Vol. 1. p. 376.
[10] The habit of those who have taken the lowest degree, or Sieou-tsai, is a blue gown, with a black border round it, and a pewter or silver bird on the top of their cap.—Those who have taken the second degree, or Kiu-gin, are distinguished by a gown of a dark colour with a blue border: the bird in their cap is gold, or copper gilt.—The first degree, or that of Tsin-seé, is also distinguished by a habit different from the former, but more particularly by a girdle which they always wear at their governments, but is more rich and precious according to the offices they are advanced to.
P. Du Halde ubi supra. Semedo's hist. p. 46. &c.
[11] About 3s. 4d. English money. Trans.
[12] A lee is as far as a voice can be heard: ten of them make a league. Trans.
N. B. The French missionaries write it ly, or li.
[13] 'Tis the custom in China to dismount, when they salute equals or betters. Trans.
[14] The Chinese believe there are a kind of tutelar spirits, or good Genii: in the cities there are temples to them, in which the Mandarines offer sacrifice: as also to the spirits of the rivers, mountains, four parts of the world, &c.
P. Semedo's hist. part. 1. chap. 18. p. 86.
[15] The other was his complimental name, bestowed on account of his profession. Trans.
[16] The second degree, called Kiu-gin, perhaps answers better to the degree of Master of arts or Licentiate in the European universities: however, as it is rather a civil distinction, Doctor of law seems to convey a more adequate idea. See note above.
See P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 377.