Chapter 71: Half-Day Tour at Guangji Temple (1)
Proofread by DragonRider
This day, Sheng family planned to offer incense for blessings. Early in the morning, the inner mansion was put in uproar. In front of the second gate, three paulownia lacquered carriages driven by giant steeds were prepared, one for Old Madam, Wang shi and Old Madam Hai, one for the three young ladies and one for the girl and woman servants. Another eight strong woman servants and a dozen of body guards were demanded by Wang shi to escort the carriage.
As they all got up early in the morning, Molan and Rulan were too tired to bicker, so they looked as sleepy as Minglan and tried to take a nap while leaning onto soft cushions along the swaying carriage. Disliking Molan, Rulan leaned towards Minglan as best as she could, making Minglan so tortured by pressing pains in her slumber that she woke up by the lasting pain. Hearing the bell and chants from outside, she knew they were about to arrive at the destination.
Minglan played the trick that had been picked up when she was back in school and woke her roommates up for morning study—she proficiently pinched the noses of the two sisters who, after a while of suffocation, woke up quickly and both glared at Minglan. She smiled, “Sisters, we’re arriving at Guangji Temple.”
Hearing what she said, Molan bowed down and started to groom her hair and check her makeup in a hurry. Rulan followed right after her, reaching out to push upright a shining lotus-shaped double-head hairpin near her temple. The three sisters inside the carriage noticed louder sound of people from outside, most was that of women amidst some little children. It seemed that there were many people coming to offer incense and the fragrance of sandalwoods gradually flowed into the carriage.
Listening to the hustling noise outside, the three girls looked at one another, all feeling itchy but none of them dared to lift up the curtain to take a look. Minglan sighed: The classic group psychology indeed made sense.
The climate in the carriage was inactive when suddenly the carriage was given a nasty shove and the three girls, losing balance, rushed forward together and were almost thrown to the ground. In a second, they heard a burst of loud cursing from outside. Minglan was excited, wondering if the ancient carriage could also be rear-ended.
Rulan as the most agile one climbed up first, touching her head. Though there paved fur blanket in the carriage, she still felt the pain in her head from knocking and shouted out, “What’s going on?” Of course, nobody would answer her.
After Molan got up, she, out of vigilance, leaned aside and lifted up the curtain a bit to look outside. Rulan had no time to satirize her and also leaned over. Minglan, the last one to climb up, also followed them to crowd her head near theirs to take a look. Luckily, the carter of the Sheng mansion drove the carriage to behind a big tree which formed a cover, so the three girls weren’t caught of peeking.
The sight outside startled them. Old Madam’s carriage was halted in front where rose bursts of shouting and crying, putting everything in a mess and stopping the carriage from running over. Not far away a few young lords dressed up luxuriously on big horses were cursing and teasing. Minglan listened up to them and learnt that just now they rushed by on horse and knocked over several stalls at the crossroad. They rode too fast that a lot of passers-by were also knocked down. For a time, children and women cried, and people and horses lay on the ground, thus blocking the road.
Molan scorned, “Dandies!”
Rulan snorted, “Fops!”
Minglan thought to herself, “City admin?”
They saw a young man in red robe waving a whip who kept spitting out curses, “You dirty slaves! Are you blind? How dare you block my way! Let me tread you to death in a way I kill a grasshopper!”
Below him was a man holding his dying mother whose head was covered with blood from the crash. He huffed, “You...you... Aren’t there laws? How could you do evil things and trample people like this?”
The man in red slammed a whip and immediately on the man’s face appeared a blood mark. The man bowed down to hold his old mother while the man in red, with shaking fat on his face, opened his mouth wide and spat, “Laws? I’m the law! Get out of my way!” The man seemed to be provoked and stubbornly stepped forward to hold fast the leg of the man in red, and the repeated whipping didn’t force him to let go.
The other noble youths on horse started to laugh, “Rong Xian! Your whips are not tough enough!”
“Are you suck dry by Cuixian last night? Hahaha...”
“Hey bro. Be careful! Don’t hurt your back, otherwise Fairy Brothel will lose half its business!” All the young lords present that dressed up decently on horseback burst into laughter.
The man called Rong Xain got more ferocious and slammed the poor man even harder as if he was planning to tear the man up. As others laughed about it, a cold voice of man rose, “If you want to beat someone up, go back and find a servant. No one cares even if you kill him, but don’t make a scene of yourself here! Today the young lord of Cabinet Yang set up a poem party at the plum tree forest at the back of mountain and people are on their way!”
Minglan had decided to ignore them and pulled herself back when she suddenly heard this familiar voice, so she peeked out again. What she saw in the middle of the road was a man in a gown with sapphire blue collar. He looked tall with wide shoulders even on horseback—apparently, he was Gu Tingye.
At this moment, carriages began to gather at the crossroad. All of them were luxuriantly decorated with strong horses and coachmen. There were already servants from several families stepping forward to ask about the situation. The noble young lords smelled a rat, so they left a bunch of silver and with a whip, galloped on away, leaving on the site a group of crying folks that were hurt and trampled out of blue but still struggled to collect the silver on the ground.
Minglan, shaking her head, retreated back to the carriage. It seemed that the rumors weren’t false. What risk Yanran had been at!
Most of the females in the carriages were from noble or wealthy families. Seeing the crying folks on the ground, they all gave out great deal of silver to those who had been hurt. Then the crowd began to disperse. The carriages moved on toward the top of the mountain.
Guangji Temple, as one of the Three Renown Temples in the capital, was seated at the left top of the Yumei Mountain in the city west. It was reputed by the epigraph “To Save All Beings” wrote by the first emperor in the beginning of this dynasty. The temple itself wasn’t too grandeur nor magnificent, with only three main halls from front to rear, dedicating to Tathagata Buddha, Avalokitesvara, and Maitreya Buddha respectively. On both sides stood a bell tower. The incense offered here was less than in the other two temples, so Old Madam Sheng decided to offer incense here due to its quietness.
Minglan was familiar with the incense-offering and Buddha-worshipping procedure, so the group followed the usher monk into the main hall to meet with the head monk Miaoshan who welcomed them in person. The two sides exchanged conventional greetings before Old Madam Sheng donated a great amount of incense money, followed by Wang shi and Hai shi. Then all females started, at the main hall, from left to right, to worship Buddhas one by one in order. All of them made wishes and burnt much paper as offerings.
As most of those that came to worship Buddhas were females and children, the monks in the temple were either too old with few teeth or too young with new teeth, at the sight of which there were no man in the prime of the life. Minglan exclaimed to herself: How professional!
When she kowtowed to Avalokitesvara with a populus branch in the last hall, Minglan thought of her real parents and brother, so she kowtowed a few more sincerely, hoping everything went well with them. By the time she raised up her head, she saw Wang shi was pulling Hai shi to the children-sending Avalokitesvara at the rear corner. Hai shi, with a red face, worshipped repeatedly while Old Madam Sheng was standing by her side, watching the Avalokitesvara statue in silence. Minglan turned back, finding that Molan was staring at a bamboo draw tube, eager to have a try. At the sight of Minglan’s gaze, she smiled behind her sleeve, “Do you want to have a try my sister?”
Before Minglan said anything, Rulan took over the bamboo draw tube and kneeled down, shaking it while chanting something. Molan bit her lips because she shouldn’t make any trouble in a public place, so she just watched Rulan shake off a draw. Rulan held it tight in her hands before Molan could read it, and then looked at the other two girls, “Do you want to make a draw? Let’s get the draw interpreted afterwards together.”
Preceded by Rulan, Molan wasted no time and took over the tube and kneeled down at once. Kowtowing three times in a row, she began to carefully shake the tube, then a draw came off it. Still, the draw was held in the hand before others could read it. Then it was Minglan’s turn.
Minglan shook her head and said, “I don’t want to. Let’s go and have them interpreted.” Rulan disagreed and pushed Minglan down onto the kneeling cushion, “I don’t agree. You must make a draw.” Molan also pretended to echo with Rulan, “My sister, you’d better make one, otherwise, if this is known by grandmother, she must be blaming me for not caring about you.”
Minglan smiled bitterly and kneeled down before Bodhisattva. As she shook the draw tube, she was suddenly reminded of what Old Madam Sheng told her after He Hongwen left on that day and couldn’t help but flush a bit. In fact, she also considered her future, but in this isolated world where she knew few people, she decided it’d better to trust those who were trustworthy.
After the half-life hurts, Old Madam found that wealth and fame were just floating clouds that couldn’t be held in hands. People didn’t necessarily have to lead a luxurious life but must live with someone kind and benevolent. At first, she considered Cousin Taisheng as a candidate for her marriage. Though Hu family was a businessman family, Uncle Hu and his son couldn’t be kinder and more honest. Besides, Aunt Sheng Yun owed Old Madam Sheng some favor. Therefore, if Minglan married Taisheng, she would definitely live a peaceful and happy life.
Unexpectedly, two men popped up in the middle way. She first met with the young lord and old madam of the He family who liked Minglan very much and revealed her intention to tie the knot. Then Minglan got to know Aunt Li who also wanted her son to forge a marriage with Minglan. After living in the Sheng mansion in hometown, Old Madam Sheng found through careful observation that Big Old Madam Sheng and Li shi also secretly showed their intention of making a marriage between Pinlan and Taisheng. Therefore, in order not to put relatives in dilemma, Old Madam rolled out Taisheng as the candidate.
Thus, the candidates for Minglan’s husband turned two, He Hongwen and Li Yu.
Although Li family was well-off, it was a businessman family without high-ranking family background after all (Minglan: Why would a man with both wealth and family background marry me?). He Hongwen, a handsome gentleman of scholarly elegance, was favored by Old Madam Sheng, yet she worried that his wife would inevitably have to endure hardships in the future since he had lost his father at a young age and had an ill mother.
On that day, after Old Madam He diagnosed Hualan, she revealed the truth to Old Madam Sheng that first and foremost, Old Master and Madam He loved this youngest grandson most. As soon as his father passed away, the couple had separated the clan into smaller ones out of concern about their grandson’s future life. The real estate and cash of the third house had made clear long ago and was now managed temporarily by Old Madam He. Once the old couple passed away, the three houses would share the property evenly. He Hongwen himself was a doctor and, with an official uncle and other relatives to depend on, his life would be worry-free.
Later, the straight-forward Old Madam He talked more, revealing that He Hongwen’s mother had been suffering incurable disease and could survive no more than five years, but, on her mother-in-law’s medical care, she struggled to live on to witness with her own eyes her son getting married and building a family. Thinking of this, Minglan felt deeply sinful because at that time she had been a bit happy that she wouldn’t have to deal with a mother-in-law in the future.
Molan and Rulan always laughed at her for having no ambition. In fact, from Minglan’s point of view, they became misled after witnessing this hustling and bustling capital and meeting with numerous high-ranking officials and imperial aristocrats. However, a man like Sheng Hong, though a huge figure in Youyang, was an insignificant one in the capital.
Just let He Hongwen learn more in the capital and spread his fame emerging from the Imperial Hospital. Then he could lead a leisurely life by opening a clinic in a small county with enjoyable scenery. Speaking of that, He family’s hometown was situated in a county near Youyang.
According to Old Madam He’s feedback, He Hongwen also liked Minglan very much. Based on the situation in the several meetings, they would make a nice couple after getting married. By then, she would take care of the family property and strive to become the richest family in the county. Then, she would keep four dogs to guard her. What fun to run amuck on the street!
However, Old Madam Sheng also said: no hurry, let’s have a look at other people. What if there were someone even more proper for her out there? In a word, she would still observe He Hongwen more and consider longer about Li Yu. There might be some other guys rushing up halfway.
Molan and Rulan found that Minglan kept shaking the bamboo tube with a smirk on her face. Rulan pushed her impatiently and then shook out a draw at random. Minglan stood up and the three sisters began to disclose their draws, which said, in the order of their age from old to young, better than moderate, moderate, and worse than moderate respectively.
Both Molan and Rulan looked complacent and then showed pity to Minglan who held the worse-than-moderate draw in her hand, comforting, “It’s just a stupid draw. Don’t take it to heart.”
Minglan was calm: The draw was a real reflection of what she had undergone.
At the entrance of the temple was the place to interpret draws where seated several old monks. After reporting to Old Madam and Wang shi, the three sisters went there accompanied by girl and old servants. As they approached, they saw a group of women sitting around a young girl dressed up luxuriously. Her face couldn’t be seen because she sat facing the same direction as the three sisters headed, but her conversation with the old monk sitting opposite her could be heard, “...Every cloud has a silver lining. Out of the depth of misfortune comes bliss. Though things run tough for you right now, just follow the trend, things at the worst will mend in the end...”
Minglan burst into laughter. All draw interpretations worked under Barnum effect and would be useful all the time.
Molan and Rulan were excited and each found an old monk to interpret draw for them. Minglan stood at behind and made a summary after listening for a while: the future was bright but the road towards it was bumpy; as long as you tried hard, however stupid you were, you would succeed in either marriage, career or health. A principle applicable to almost everything.
Minglan felt that she shouldn’t behave differently from others, so she went ahead for draw interpretation. There was an old monk that was unusually ugly with a withered face even dryer than dried orange peel and facial expression that was extremely hideous and horrible. He sat alone at the corner with no one turning to him. Minglan was impatient to wait in lines, so she headed right to him, sat down, and gave him the draw with both hands. The old monk took a casual glance and was about to speak when he suddenly saw clearly Minglan’s face. Frowning, he seemed a bit shock. Throwing the draw away, he waved to drive Minglan away as if she were a fly, “This draw is not yours. You don’t have to make a draw in the future because it won’t be useful.”
Minglan was astounded, wondering if she met a half-immortal. Just as she intended to ask, the old monk shouted impatiently, “Go away! The more I say, the more mistakes I make. Don’t do harm to me!”
Minglan only got a hazy notion about what he meant and still wanted to say something, but Rulan and Molan had finished and a servant came to take them back. Minglan was pulled forward by You Mama and when she looked back, she found the old monk rush away in a hurry as if he was chased by a tiger. Minglan was pissed off: Who said half-immortals were ready to help others?!
The three girls were first taken to a wing-room to have tea where Od Madam Sheng, Wang shi, Hai shi and the temple head were there. Near them seated a few noble women who kept chitchatting all the time. Some topics were forbidden from under-aged, so Wang shi sent the three girls to a side-room next door to take a rest.
A little monk found a vacant and clean side-room for them. Surprisingly, the moment Rulan stepped her feet in, she saw the room was already occupied by a girl who sat at a round table and enjoyed tea. By her dress, she was the girl that had her draw interpreted just now. At around fifteen, she had fair skin, slim eyebrows, and round eyes from where charm emerged.