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.







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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