31
Mar
10

Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 4 Lady in the Chariot

No. 4 Lady in the Chariot: [you] went through quite a fright, why not give up quest for office.

Tang Dynasty, middle of Kaiyuan period (712-756), scholar from Wu County (western part of Zhejiang province) went to the capitol for the national service exam. After arriving in Changan, during a leisurely stroll on the streets, the candidate suddenly encountered two youths dressed in linen. They bowed to him respectfully as if they knew him. Thinking they got the wrong person, he didn’t really mind.

Several days later, he ran into them again. They said to him “Sir, we have not fulfilled our obligations as hosts since you arrived. We were on our way over to extend the invitation. It’s great that we ran into you just now.” They were very insistent while being extremely polite. Even though the candidate fell suspicious, seeing the obvious sincerity, he followed them nonetheless.

Crossing several streets, they came to a hutong on the east side of the city. There were several stores facing the street, they all went in. Inside the rooms were very neat. The two youth invited him to sit down, and produced a very elaborate meal. Several other young men sat with them, all exceedingly polite. But they kept going outside to look, as if waiting for someone very important. This went on until pass noon, when every started saying “[they’re]coming, [they’re]coming”.

From outside the door came the sound of a chariot. A luxurious chariot, decorated fully with gold inlay, came to a full stop in front. The chariot was followed by several youths. As the curtain came up, a young woman appeared. She’s approximately 17, 18, radiantly beautiful. She wore her hair high – they were completely covered in flowers and jeweleries. Her cloth were silk, in muted color. The two youths greeted her on their knees, she did not return their salute as she did when the candidate saluted her. The young lady invited the candidate to an inner room.

She sat down in the center facing outside, and invited the three of them to sit down. After they had saluted and sat down again, another ten or so youths joined them at the table. They all wore light, brand new clothing.

The servants brought in more food, all of which extremely refined. Several rounds of drinks later, the young lady raised a cup to the candidate “most honored guest, so glad we made our acquiescence today. I heard you possess the most extraordinary skill, may we be blessed with a performance?”

The candidate felt extremely humble, “since childhood I’ve been studying nothing but Confucian classics, I am untrained in either voice or instrument.” The young lady: “I’m not talking about those. Xian Gong (term of respect for man) please think carefully about other extraordinary skill you may have.”

The candidate though long and deep, finally “when I was at school, I was a naughty child. I used to practice walking on the walls while wearing my boots. I’m good for a few steps. Other than that, I really am not familiar with any games or entertainment.” The young lady was delighted “that’s what I want you to show, if you please.”

The candidate rose from his seat, took a deep breath, and ran straight up onto the wall. He took several steps before leaping down. The lady said “very difficult indeed.” She turned her head to the other youths at the table, and asked they perform their skills.

Bowing deeply, each youth in turn performed their skills: some can walk on the wall, some can grab the ceiling beam and walk with their hands that way,.. all of them have light body skill, and looked like birds in flight. All of these things the candidate has never seen before. Shocked and in awe, I knew not what to do. Shortly after, the stood up and left. The candidate returned to his lodging house in a state of shock. Still in a trance-like state, he did not know what type of people he just ran into.

Several days later, he ran into the two youths again. They asked him if they could borrow his horse, to which he agreed to immediately.

The next day, a big news came out. There has been a theft in the emperor’s palace. The authorities conducted a most intense and rigorous investigation. They found but one clue, the horse used for carrying the loot. They traced the horse to its owner – the candidate.

The candidate was arrested, escorted to the most inner sanctum of the government office. There, after being forced through a tiny door, a heavy push sent him tumbling into a put tens of feet deep. When the candidate looked up, he can see the ceiling was at least 70, 80 feet high, with a tiny opening just over a feet in diameter.

Full of anxiety and fear, the candidate can do nothing but wait. After a long while, a bowl of food was sent down with a rope. Starving, he ate quickly. Afterward, the bowl was raised back up through the hole.

Deep into the night, the candidate could not sleep. He started to get angry “I am an innocent victim of some kind of trap, chances are this is how my life will end.” Still frustrated, he looked up and suddenly saw a thing, looking like a bird, flew right through the tiny opening and landed in the pit next to me. It was actually a person.

“You went through quite a fright, but I’m here, so no worries”. It’s voice of the lady in the chariot. Her voice again: “I will get you out of this.” Out came a bolt of satin, which she tied around his arms and chest, the other end she tied to herself. She flew straight up, through the ceiling, and over the high walls of what the candidate can now see is the imperial palace. She kept on flying, carrying the candidate, not landing until they were tens of miles outside the city. She said to him “Xiang Gong, return to your hometown now, as for dreams of higher office, let’s hold off until sometimes in the future.”

Grateful he has been freed, the candidate beg his way back to the south, never daring to venture west again in search of fame and fortune.

車中女子

開元中,吳郡士人入京應明經。至京,閑步曲坊,逢二少年,著大麻布衫,揖士人而過,色甚恭敬,然非舊識,土人謂誤識也。

后數日,又逢之,二人謂曰:“公到此境,未為主,今日方欲奉迓,邂逅相遇,實獲我心,揖請便行。”士人雖甚疑怪,然強隨之。抵數坊,于東市一小曲內,有臨路店數間,相与直入。舍宇極整肅,二人攜引升堂,列筵甚盛。二人与客据繩床對坐,更有數少年各二十余,禮亦謹,數數出門,若伺貴客。

及午后,方云:“至矣!”聞一車直門來,數少年擁后,直至堂前,乃一鈿車。卷帘,見一女子從車中出,年可十七八,容色甚佳,梳滿髻,衣則紈素。二人羅拜,女不答。士人拜之,女乃拜。遂揖客入。女乃升床,當席而坐,揖二人及客,乃拜而坐。又有十余后生,皆衣服輕新,各設拜列坐于客之下。陳以品味,饌至精洁。酒數巡,女子捧杯顧謂:“二君奉談,今喜得展見承,有妙技可得觀乎?”士人遜謝曰:“自幼至長,唯習儒經。弦管歌聲,實未曾學。”女曰:“所習非是也。君熟思之,先所能者何事?”客又沉思良久,曰:“某為學堂中,著靴于壁上,行得數步。自余戲劇,則未為之。”女曰:“然矣,請君試之。”士乃起行于壁上,不數步而下。女曰:“亦大難事。”乃回顧坐中諸少年,各令呈技。俱起設拜,然后有于壁上行者,有手握椽子行者,輕捷之戲,各呈數般,狀如飛鳥。此人拱手惊懼,不知所措。少頃,女子起,辭出。士人惊恍不安。

又數日,途中复見二人,曰:“欲假駿騎,可乎?”士人許之。至明日,聞官苑中失物,掩捕失賊,唯收得馬,是將馱物者。驗問馬主,遂收士人,入內侍省勘問。驅入小門,吏自后推之,倒落深坑數丈,仰望屋頂七八丈,唯見一孔,才見尺余。自旦至食時,見繩垂一器食下。土人餒,急取食之。食畢,繩乃引去。

深夜,悲惋之極。忽見一物如鳥飛下,覺至身,乃人也。以手撫士曰:“計甚惊怕,然某在,無慮也。”听其聲,則向所遇女子也。云:“共君出矣。”以絹重縛士人胸膊訖,以絹頭系女身,女縱身騰上,飛出宮城,去門數十里乃下,云:“君且歸江淮,求仕之計,望伺他日。”土人幸脫大獄,乞食而歸,后竟不敢求名西上矣。

Wuyizidi: as Jin Yong had pointed out, everything about this tale feels modern: a gang of supremely-talented thieves, headed by a charismatic young woman; all young, all beautiful, all extremely well-dressed, aristocratic in manners… One imagine the candidate fit their profile, hence their effort to recruit him. Unfortunately they found his gongfu lacking. So they set this clever trap for him. Having been freed, he’s still a fugitive, so he can never reveal what happened to him.

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