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05 CHAP. V

CHAP. V.[33]

Tieh-chung-u was already upon the road, and had gone forward for some time, before he could resolve on the course of his journey: at last he determined in favour of Shan-tong[34] , a province no less noted for the beauty and fertility of its lands, than for the courtesy and integrity of its inhabitants. He called therefore to Siow-tan, and bade him hire the first ass he could meet with on the road[35] , and follow him to Shan-tong: whither we shall at present leave him, pursuing his journey.
In the city of Tséé-nan, the capital of that province, lived at that time a great Mandarine, aged about sixty, who belonged to the Ping-pû, or tribunal of arms[36] ; his name was Shuey-kew-yeh: he had lost his wife, and had no other children, but only one daughter, who was so exquisitely beautiful, that it would exceed the power of the most masterly pencil, to express the exactness of her proportion: nor could the whitest lilly, or richest carnation among the flowery tribes, exhibit tints so lovely, as were blended in her cheeks. She was no less distinguished for the rare endowments of her mind, and greatness of her capacity, in which she equalled the most eminent of the opposite sex. Shuey-ping-sin[37] , for that was her name, was the darling of her father, who loved her with an affection, equal to that he would have had for a son of the same accomplishments[38] , and gave her the entire management of his house: where she governed his family with such admirable skill, that Shuey-kew-yeh, who was continally at court, gave himself no longer any care on that head. She was now a young maid of about seventeen years, and yet the great business of his office so intirely ingrossed her father's attention, as to make him neglect to dispose of her in marriage.

This young lady had an uncle, named Shuey-guwin, who affected the appearance of a man of letters, and had great respect shewn him on account of his brother. But he was very illiterate, and the whole aim of his studies was by any indirect means to extort money to spend on his pleasures. He had three sons, as ignorant and illiberal as himself; and also one daughter, in manners and disposition still more unamiable than her brothers, and in person as disagreeable as her manners. She was called Ghiang-koo[39] , and was born in the same year with Shuey-ping-sin; than whom she was about two months older.

"My brother, said Shuey-guwin, is a very rich and honourable man, but he has never a son: if he dies, all his riches must fall to me: the only obstacle is this girl of his, who remains unmarried, and has the sole possession of my brother's house. Could I once get her disposed of, the whole then would be mine[40] ." Upon this, he contrives among his acquaintance to get her married, and prevailed on several of their relations, to come and propose to her a great many matches with men, distinguished for their persons, their possessions, or accomplishments: to all offers of this kind, she gave neither encouragement nor answer[41] ; burying her thoughts in profound and invincible silence. This conduct of hers very much perplexed her uncle, who found she was not to be managed in that manner. At last he bethought himself of a young man of quality belonging to the same place, for whom his friends were looking out a wife. The father of this youth, who was of the second order of Mandarines which compose the Emperor's privy council[42] , was called Kwo sho-su: Kwo-khé-tzu was the name of the son.

Shuey-guwin went to pay a visit to the young gentleman, and taking an opportunity to tell him of his niece, asked him how he should like her for his wife: "I know nothing of her, said the youth, whether she be handsome or ugly." "She is very handsome, said her uncle, and has a fine understanding." Kwo-khé-tzu expressed some doubt of this. "To convince you of the truth of what I have said, answered he, you shall go home with me: I live next door to her, and she often comes through the garden to visit my daughter, where you will have a good opportunity of seeing her." "If it be so, replied the other, I will attend you." When they were arrived at his house, Shuy-guwin desired him to wait a little in the outward apartment, while he went to see if Shuyping-sin was with his daughter: he returned immediately, crying out, "This is a very favourable opportunity, my fair niece is now with her sister[43] : come, let us go see them together." "How can that be? said the other." "I'll carry you, replied he, to a door that has a crevice in it, through which you may see them perfectly well." When Kwo-khé-tzu had seen her; "She is indeed, said he, as you told me; exquisitely charming and beautiful. I will hasten home, and immediately order a person proper for this occasion to come and discourse about the marriage." All the way home, he did nothing but revolve in his mind the charms of the young lady he had seen, which had made the deepest impression on his heart: eager to obtain her, he rested not a moment to send proposals of marriage. She refused them, and slighted his fairest offers.

Kwo-khé-tzu was plunged in the greatest concern, but found no other remedy, than to visit and make his court to the Che-foo, by friends and presents; desiring him to use his interest to make him acceptable to the young lady, he being equally acquainted with both their fathers and families. The Che-foo, unwilling to disoblige him, with some difficulty complied, and made her two visits: but for all he could say he was not able to prevail with her[44] . He acquainted Kwo-khé-tzu with his success: "Very well: we cannot help it: 'tis sufficient:" said the youth with an indifference but ill dissembled; while his heart felt the deepest uneasiness.

In a short time after, arrived news from court, that the father of Shuey-ping-sin was fallen into disgrace, and sent an exile into Tartary: and that the father of Kwo-khé-tzu was advanced to the dignity of Co-lau, or Minister of state[45] . Transported with this news, his son was encouraged once more to sollicit the Che-foo, and to intreat him to try again some way to accomplish a marriage between him and the young lady. The Che-foo sent for her uncle: "Your niece, said he, is of age to be married: you are a man of sense, and must know the world: you cannot be ignorant that time is not to be neglected: and that when young persons are arrived at the marriageable age, it ought not to be deferred. While her father was at liberty to direct her, she did right in waiting for his pleasure therein: not knowing perhaps, but he was looking out a proper match for her at court. But she has now no longer that pretence: his office is taken away, he is disgraced and sent into Tartary: no one knows whether he's dead or alive. Besides, as she is grown up, and has a great many servants and young men in her house, 'tis to be feared that people will give a liberty to their tongues that will hurt her reputation: you are her uncle, and nearest in blood, cannot you lay your commands upon her, now in the absence of your brother? Kwo-khé-tzu is a youth of great spirit, capacity and worth; and his father's advancement renders him still more respectable: if she persists in refusing him, she will not easily meet with so valuable an offer: go home therefore, and persuade your niece to accept of him." "Sir, replied Shuey-guwin, you speak with great judgment; I shall obey."

Taking leave of the Che-foo, he went to her house with such visible marks of displeasure in his countenance, that she enquired the reason: he told her it was because she had slighted the offers of marriage that had been made to her in favour of Kwo-khé-tzu; especially as the Che-foo had come in person to propose them to her with the greatest marks of courtesy and respect. "Now your father is in disgrace, proceeded he, you must not expect that Magistrate will give himself the trouble of waiting on you any more: he will not shew you so much complaisance. He sent for me to-day to upbraid me with your contemptuous treatment of the young gentleman; and even exhorted me to use the authority I have a right to exert in my brother's absence." He ceased speaking, and Shuey-ping-sin stood fixed in profound silence,: he urged her to answer: "Well, replied she sighing after some time, "as my father is banished, and the Che-foo commands me to respect you as my father, whatever you are pleased to order I must obey: 'tis in vain to resist: you must do in this matter whatever you please." "This ready compliance, answered her uncle overjoyed at her submission, shews your good sense and judgment: you don't perhaps know how wealthy and considerable the house of Kwo-khé-tzu is: he is a youth of great merit and understanding: his father is lately promoted to a very high office; and should you marry his son, he may be able to restore my brother." "'Tis indeed possible, said the young lady."— "Well then, replied Shuey-guwin eagerly, I'll go and acquaint the Che-foo that you consent to the proposals: give me here the Nean-kung[46] , or writing of eight letters." "If it must be so, said Shuey-ping-sin, please to let me have the paper[47] , and I will write it." It was presently brought, and she wrote upon it according to form.

Shuey-guwin took the paper, and folded it up with great content: then bidding her adieu, he hasted home to his house, and acquainted his sons and daughter that his niece had at last given her consent. They were too well acquainted with her aversion to the match to be over-ready in believing him: "Surely, said they, it must be a work of more difficulty than this to procure her compliance: you may be deceived in her, for she is very artful: she will seem to consent to-day, but put you off to-morrow." He told them, that she had submitted to obey him as her father: "Beside, said he, here is the Nean-kung, as an acknowledgment of the marriage." They saw it and had no farther scruples: "'Tis very well, said they, and yet there is one thing wanting; as it is the marriage of persons of quality, and in a Mandarine's family, the eight letters ought to be in gold upon scarlet taffaty, and not upon paper." He agreed it was proper, and ordered them to be fixed on accordingly. He then carried it to the Che-foo, who when he saw it was very well pleased, but told him he could not order the marriage [farther]; he must take the writing to the Che-hien.
The latter of these Mandarines received the writing, as sent by the other; and carried it the day after to the youth whom it concerned. Kwo-khé-tzu was no less transported, than if he had found the most valuable jewel in the world. He instantly ordered a Nean-kung to be drawn up on his part, and looking in the calendar for a fortunate day[48] , made a great entertainment, wherein the Che-foo and Che-hien were the principal guests. When the feast was over the latter of those magistrates went with the writing to the house of Shuey-guwin.

He immediately acquainted his niece of it: and told her, "The day after to-morrow, is a fortunate or good day, when Kwo-khé-tzu designs to send you the nuptial present: command your house to be put in order, and sit out your hall to receive it." "Sir, replied she, if the present should come, order it to your own house. As my father is not at home it will be more proper: and whether it is brought hither or there the difference will be little." "Very well, said her uncle, and what name shall be prefixed to the letter of thanks to be returned for the present?" "Yours, Sir, said she; let your name be to it: you are my father here; my own father being disgraced and banished the prefixing of his name may occasion some discourtesy. And whatever relates to the paying of compliments, or the like, on this occasion it will be proper for you to take upon you." "It is true, said Shuey-guwin, it ought to be so."

He then sent to buy a great number of Tieh-tse, or red and gilded papers, to write invitations upon[49] , and desired Shuey-ping-sin to write them. She said, "I will do it as you cannot write yourself, but you must not let any one know but that you wrote them." "Very well, said he; there must also be the letter of compliments[50] ." "I will write that likewise, said the young lady." When she had finished, she desired her uncle to read it. He obeyed and began thus; "My daughter"—
"How, says he, my daughter! what do you mean by that? am not I your uncle?" "Yes, said she, but is not my own father banished, and don't you tell me I must obey you as my father?" Shuey-guwin was satisfied: then he took the papers, and went home rejoicing. "These writings, said he to his children, are in my name, and your cousin is in them stiled it my daughter: by which not only her house, but whatever she is now presented with, will be ours."

After two days Kwo-khé-tzu sent the customary present[51] : at which Shuey-guwin rejoiced, and put on his habit of ceremony, ordering music to be provided, his house to be adorned, and the great gates thrown open to receive it. The Che-hien accompanied it in person: Shuey-guwin sent for his friends and acquaintance in order to receive him with the greater respect. He made a grand feast on the occasion; and to the servants that brought the present he gave gifts of money; expressing throughout the whole day the supreme content and satisfaction of a man who is near the accomplishment of a favourite project.

Shuey-ping-sin heard all these rejoicings without any emotion. When the feast was over and the guests retired, her uncle invited her to go see the present: she complied with his request. He asked her, who now must take it? "Certainly, said she, it belongs to you, you are my uncle and father; you have been at great expence and trouble; this is but a small return; a trifle hardly worth mentioning, since my house, my people, and my land, and whatever else belongs to me is yours." "Why, said he, should you think they are mine?" "My father, she replied, has no son, and is now in banishment: I only am left, and under your direction as your daughter, therefore all I have is yours: but as I only govern in my father's absence, and cannot learn whether he is dead or alive, I dare not yet deliver up my charge." "Niece, said Shuey-guwin, you have great generosity and penetration, and shew an uncommon knowledge of the world." He then called his three sons and daughter, and bade them take the present and lay it up; and upon her offering to go, entreated her to sit down and drink something with them. This she waved on pretence of some late indisposition, and begged to retire. Shuey-guwin attributed her refusal to that shyness and modesty, which commonly prevails among young ladies upon so delicate an occasion as the receiving of the nuptial present; and permitted her to withdraw. 

[33] CHAP. III. in the Translator's manuscript.
[34] Shan-tong is one of the most fertile provinces of the empire: it contains six cities of the first rank, which have under them, one hundred and fourteen of the second and third order. The capital Tséé-nan-foo is a very great and populous city. P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 104, &c.
[35] It should seem that in short journeys, their servants follow them on foot; which, as they carry only a quilt or two for their master to lie on, they can easily perform.
[36] In the Translator's manuscript he is called Ping-pû, or Lord Lieutenant of the province of Shan-tong: but, beside that Ping-pû has no such meaning, (see P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 249.) this is both contradicted by what follows in the course of this history, and is contrary to that refined maxim of Chinese policy, which prescribes it as an invariable law, that no Mandarine be preferred to any office, either in the city he belongs to, or in the province where his family dwells; or within fifty leagues of the province he came from. An admirable expedient to prevent partiality, and procure them respect. See P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 257. N. B. The council of Ping-pû takes cognizance of all the military affairs of the whole empire. It provides all sorts of stores for the armies, disposes of all military employments, &c.
P. Du Halde, supra. P. Semedo, p. 124.
[37] i. e. water, ice, heart. — It is essential to a Chinese beauty, to have a large forehead, a short nose, and little eyes: in other respects, their women don't yield to the ladies of Europe. P. Le Compte. Memoires. Amst. 1697. 12mo. tom. 1. p. 192. P. Du Halde, &c.
[38] The Chinese value their daughters so little, that when they have more children than they can easily maintain, they hire the midwives to stifle the females in a bason of water as soon as they are born. P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 278.
[39] That is, sweet young woman. Du Halde observes, (vol. 2. p. 221. note) that no nation in in the world abounds with more fantastical names than the Chinese: this is a proof that they have unmeaning and improper ones.
[40] The women don't inherit in China.
[41] Altho' the Chinese Author hath not assigned any reason for this conduct of hers; it may be collected from other parts of the history, that she was unwilling to give up the trust reposed in her by her father, or to marry at all in his absence: and she might be unwilling to assign her reasons, lest they should apply to her father to lay his injunctions upon her.
[42] The Nwi-yuen, or inner court, is composed of three orders of Mandarines, which form the Emperor's privy council. The second of these are called Ta-hio-se, or Magistrates of approved capacity. Out of their number are appointed Vice-roys of provinces, and Presidents of other tribunals. P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 248.
[43] So cousin germans are called in China. Trans.
[44] Beside the reason assigned in the note p. 73. the reader will find ample cause for this pertinacious refusal of Kwo-khé-tzu, in the dissoluteness of his manners and badness of his character: of which he will find remarkable instances in the course of this history.
[45] The first order of Mandarines, is that of the Co-laus, i. e. Ministers of state, or Chief Presidents of the supreme courts. This is the highest dignity the Literati can arrive at. They are seldom more than five or six, and have each of them a magnificent hall of audience assigned them in the palace. They have no particular office, but have an eye over the government of the whole empire.
P. Du Haide, vol. 1. p. 138. 248. P. Semedo, p. 127.
[46] The Nean-kung is a writing of eight letters or characters, containing an account of the year, month, day, and hour of a person's birth. Trans. —These are called in P. Du Halde's hist. Pa-tse; and also the eight letters of good luck, because fortune-tellers and diviners calculate nativities by them, &c. It is one of the usual ceremonies before marriage for these to be sent to each party; which is done in order that the good luck attending them may be examined into.
P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 304, 664. v. 2. p. 45, &c.
[47] A red paper usual in such cases. Trans.
[48] In the calendar or almanac, which is published every year in great form, by the Emperor's authority, beside astronomical calculations, &c. the days and hours are divided into lucky and unlucky by judicial astrology, to which the Chinese are much addicted; therein is marked by characters, the time to let blood, &c. nay the lucky minute to ask a favour of the Emperor, to honour the dead, offer sacrifice, marry, build, invite friends, and every thing else relating to public and private affairs. This calendar is in every body's hands, and is regardded as an oracle.
See P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 133.
[49] Tieh-tse is also a general name for visiting or complimentary billets of any kind.
P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 296, 7.
[50] 'Tis the custom for the parents of the young people, to write a paper of compliments three times to each other, with great professions of courtesy and respect, and with much affected humility, declaring themselves unworthy of the honour intended their son or daughter. Trans.
[51] The Chinese give no portions with their daughters: on the contrary the father receives from the bridegroom a certain sum agreed upon beforehand; of which however a great part is laid out in cloaths, &c. for the bride. This ceremony seems as essential with them as the giving of a ring is with us, only among the great it is managed with more generosity, "for with these (says P. Semedo) there is no talk of money." By which expression it should seem that the nuptial present is not necessarily restrained to money. However both he and P. Du Halde agree, that presents of jewels, &c. are sent to the bride on this occasion.
P. Semedo. p. 71. P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 304.