06
Apr
10

Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 12 Wang Jinghong’s Servant

No. 12 Wang Jinghong’s Servant: Pipa came wrapped in embroidered pouch, [the pillow thief is) one Tang Penglang .

Tang Dynasty: Emperor Wenzong has a favorite pillow made of white jade. It was a tribute from Yudian (ancient kingdom near western frontier, famous for jade) during Dezong’s time. The carvings are extremely ingenious and intricate, a rare treasure indeed. Normally it’s on the bed within emperor’s sleeping chamber. But one day it just disappeared. The sleeping chamber was of course tightly guarded, no one besides the most favored wives and concubines has access. None of the many other precious objects in the room was missing.

Wenzong found it hard to remain calm. He summoned the most trusted ministers and two first lieutenants of the imperial guard: obviously this is not the work of some outsider, the thief must be very close by. If we don’t capture him, I’m afraid other misfortunes are imminent. The theft of a pillow is nothing. But you are responsible for the security of the palace, you must apprehend the person responsible. Otherwise, if such a person can just walk in and out of my chamber at will, why do I need so many of you guards?!”

With fear and trepidation, the officials begged for forgiveness, as well as more time to apprehend the thief. They offered a huge reward, but could not find any clues. The imperial order was very strict, anyone who is under the slightest suspicions were jailed and questioned. They searched every street and alley with no results. So everyone was in a state of high anxiety.

General Wang Jinghong of Longwu Army (part of Army of North, a branch of imperial army under the command of eunuchs) always had a young servant close by. He’s about 18, 19, handsome and sharp, no matter what he was sent to do, he always get it done just right. One day, Wang was at a banquet for several colleagues, he had with him one of his servants who was a pipa expert. When the guests started getting buzzed, they demanded her performance. But the instrument available on hand were unsuitable, the servant refused to play. It was very late in the night already, the main gate of the garrison was closed already, so they cannot get her favorite pipa. Everyone was very disappointed.

The young servant said “if you want the pipa, I’ll just get it for you.” Wang said “once the closing drum sounds, the gate would be locked, didn’t you see that. So what’s this nonsense?” The young servant did not say anything more, and withdrew. Several rounds of drinks later, he came back with an embroidered pouch. Opening the pouch, it was the pipa the performer demanded. Everyone seated were elated, the other servant played, the sound was clean and beautiful, everyone had a great time.

It’s more than 30 li (15 km) round trip between the Southern Army Garrison and Zuoguang. After dark, the path is blocked. But apparently this was no problem for the young servant. Everyone was already under high alert because of the pillow theft, Wang cannot help but be highly suspicious, afraid the servant was the thief. The morning after the banquet, he asked the servant: “you’ve followed me for more than a year, I had no idea you are so quick and agile. I hear there are xia’s in this world, are you one?”
The young servant: “No, I am not. I merely walk very fast. My parents live in Sichuan. A year ago by chance I came to the capitol, now I want to return to the hometown. General has been so magnanimous to me, I want to do something to express my gratitude. The person who stole the pillow, I already know who that is. I will make him submit to law within three days.”
Wang Jinghong: “This is an extraordinary affair. If the real culprit is not captured, who knows how many innocent people will get unsnarled and killed? Where is this criminal, can’t we report him to the appropriate agency and have them apprehend him?”
Young servant: “The jade pillow was stolen by Wang Penglang. Sometimes he hides himself amongst the streets, sometimes with the military camps. It’s all very random. He is much stronger and braver than average, and runs like the wind. Unless his foot is broken, even an army of thousands cannot prevent his escape. Two days from now, I will wait at Wangxian gate. I will wait in ambush, capture him when the opportunity arises. It should work. The general can come to observe. But you must be discreet, lest he gets wind of this and escapes.”

On that day, because of the drought, the wind blew the dust high. One cannot see but few paces in front of him. Tian Penglang and several youth showed up, arms in arms, they entered the city gate. The young servant had with him a polo mallet. He swung it from just inside the gate, with a loud crack Tian Penglang’s left foot was broken.

Collapsing to the ground, Tian looked up to the young servant and sighed “when I stole the pillow I was concerned about no one but you. Here we are, what else can I say?” When he was brought into the arm camp, he confessed to everything.

Reports were immediately sent to emperor Wenzong, that the pillow was recovered and culprit captured by the imperial guard. The emperor had Tian Penglang brought to him for questioning. Again Tian confessed to everything. Wenzong said “This is the work of a xia, not the average person.” The hundreds of suspects currently jailed were immediately released.

Once Tian Penglang was captured, the young servant immediately bid farewell to General Wang and returned to Sichuan. The government could not find him despite all efforts, so the big reward went to Wang Jinghong instead.

田膨郎

唐文宗皇帝嘗寶白玉枕,德宗朝于闐國所貢,追琢奇巧,蓋希代之寶。置寢殿帳中。一旦忽失所在。然禁衛清密,非恩渥嬪御莫有至者,珍玩羅列,他無所失。上惊駭移時,下詔于都城索賊。密謂樞近及左右廣中尉曰:“此非外寇所入,盜當在禁掖。苟求之不獲,且虞他變。一枕誠不足惜,卿等衛我皇宮,必使罪人斯得。不然,天子環衛,自茲無用矣。”內宮惶栗謝罪,請以浹旬求捕。大懸金帛購之,略無尋究之跡。圣旨嚴切,收系者漸多,坊曲閭里,靡不搜捕。

有龍武二蕃將王敬弘嘗蓄小仆,年甫十八九,神采俊利,使之無往不屆。敬弘曾与流輩于威遠軍會宴,有侍儿善鼓胡琴。四座酒酣,因請度曲。辭以樂器非妙,須常御者彈之。鐘漏已傳,取之不及,因起解帶。小仆曰:“若要琵琶,頃刻可至。”敬弘曰:“禁鼓才動,軍門已鎖,尋常汝起不見,何見之謬也?”既而就飲數巡,小仆以繡囊將琵琶而至,座客歡笑。南軍去左廣,往复三十余里,入夜且無行伍,既而倏忽往來。敬弘惊异如失。時又搜捕嚴急,意以盜竊疑之。

宴罷,及明,遽歸其第,引而問之曰:“使汝累年,不知矯捷如此。我聞世有俠士,汝莫是否?”小仆謝曰:“非有此事,但能行耳。”因言父母皆在蜀川,頃年偶至京國,今欲卻歸鄉里,有一事欲報恩。偷枕者早知姓名,三數日當令伏罪。敬弘曰:“如此事,即非等閑,遂令全活者不少。未知賊在何許,可報司存掩獲否?”小仆曰:“偷枕者田膨郎也。市廛軍伍,行止不恒,勇力過人,且善超越。苟非便折其足,雖千兵万騎,亦將奔走。自茲再宿,候之于望仙門,伺便擒之必矣。將軍隨某觀之,此事仍須秘密。”

是時涉旬無雨,向曉塵埃頗甚,車馬騰踐,跬步間人不相睹。膨郎与少年數輩,連臂將入軍門,小仆執球杖擊之,歘然已折左足。仰而窺曰:我偷枕來,不怕他人,唯懼于爾。既此相值,豈复多言。于是舁至左右軍,一款而伏。上喜于得賊,又知獲在禁旅,引膨郎臨軒詰問,具陳常在營內往來。上曰:“此乃任俠之流,非常之竊盜。”內外囚系數百人,于是悉令原之。

小仆初得膨郎,已告敬弘歸蜀。尋之不可,但賞敬弘而已。

Advertisements

0 Responses to “Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 12 Wang Jinghong’s Servant”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: