Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 20 Old man on Weiyang River street

No. 20 Old man on Weiyang River street: not going to kill Yongzhi, order [him] to return your wife.

Lu Yongzhi worked under King of Bohai Gao Pian in Weiyang. He was a corrupting influence on the political scene, wielding his powers however he liked, bullying and oppressing people with his secret police.

In the Fourth Year of Zhong He, a merchant named Liu Sun arrived in Weiyang on a huge ship, bringing along his family and many treasures. It was not long when Lu Yongzhi was informed about all of this by his secret police. They told him the merchant’s wife had a beauty rare in this world. So Lu had the merchant thrown in jail on some trumped up charges, and took his wife as well the merchandise.

Lu eventually managed to bribe his way out of jail, but his wife was taken away from him by force by another man, he could not help but be angry and sad. He wrote three poems about it*. After writing them, he often sat by himself, humming those lines.

One night, while starring out the window of the boat, he saw a curly-bearded old man on the street by river. His walked at a brisk pace, spirit strong but reserved, eyes bright as lightening, his skin light and translucent as that of snow and ice. Sensing something unusual, Liu took a couple more glances at him. The old man jumped aboard. Bowing, he inquired “What injustice is troubling you sir, why do you look so angry and sad?” So Liu told him everything. The old man said “I will get your wife and merchandise back tonight. However, as soon as they’re back, you must leave immediately. This is dangerous ground, you cannot stay.”

Liu guessed the old man must be a xia with unusual abilities. He bowed down right away: “Sir, if you can right wrongs in this mortal world, why not eliminate the root of evil, why let him live and carryout more lawless acts?” The old man replied: “Lu Yongzhi oppresses the people, and he took away your wife by force. It wouldn’t be hard to kill him, it take but one swipe of the sword. However, his crimes are too great; incurring the great wrath of both gods and men, that would be letting him off easy. As his crimes pile up, so are the karmic retributions. He will not be able to keep his head to his body, dooming not just his own fate but that of his ancestors as well. Right now I will only help you get your wife back; as to his fate, the gods will take care of that, I dare not interfere in that with my hands.”

The old man went to Lu Yongzhi’s house, secreted himself on top of the ceiling arch and shouted “Lu Yongzhi! You betrayed your emperor and your father, acting as a force of demonic evil in this world, raping and pillaging, bullying and oppressing. Your crime stinks to high heavens. The Lord of Underworld has recorded every one of these crimes, the gods have already ordered your punishment. Death is but breaths away, while you still dream of eternal life through alchemy. I’ve been sent to observe you, to report back to the Celestial Emperor. You must answer for every one of your crimes, starting with the latest one: release Lu Sun’s wife and properties right away, if you hesitate out of greed, the executioner’s sword will shall immediately!”

The old man then flew out of the house and disappeared.

Lu Yongzhi, only hearing the voice from midair and not seeing anyone, thought it really was a warning from heaven. Panicking, he lit incense for the altar, praying and koutouing countless times. That night he released Lu Sun’s wife and properties.

Ecstatic, Lu left Yang Zhou before dawn. The curly-bearded old man disappeared as well.

Notes and commentary
* So far I have done a word by word literal translation of these tales. But these three poems are very bad, and as Jin Yong said “very low level, but befitting Liu’s station”. Since this is only for my amusement, I won’t bother translating these.

According to historical records, the real person’s name is Huang Sun, not Liu Sun. And he was engaged to the girl, not yet married. However, she was rescued in a manner similar to one described here, except not by a bearded old man, but by an foreign Buddhist priest.

As for Lu Yongzhi, decapitation was too good for him. When Yang Xingmi (Zhang Xun‘s superior) conquered the city, he executed Lu slowly by cutting him off at the waist. His many innocent victims then ‘chopped up his body until it was reduced to meat sauce’. Lu Yongzhi felt for the trick here because he was just like his boss Gao Pian, extremely superstitious and fearful of death. Both of them in their later years focused their time and energy primary on achieving immortality, their neglect and indifference to the people eventually caused their premature deaths.






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