Archive for February 20th, 2011


Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 31 Xia wife

No. 31 Xia wife: no need for [offering of] gold, when there is this robe.

Dong Guodu, formal name Yuanqing, of Jiangxi province, passed the national exams in the sixth year of Song emperor Huizong, and became Jiaoshui (in Shandong province) county governor’s secretary. Upon Jin army’s incursion south, he stayed at his post by himself, while his family remained in Jiangxi. After the central plains fell to the Jin army, he became stranded. Abandoning his post, he sought refuge in the neighboring countryside. He became good friends with his landlord who, sympathetic toward his situation, arranged the purchase of a concubine for him.

It’s not clear where that concubine is from, but she is smart as well as beautiful. Seeing Dong’s financial straits, she started to plan a way out. She used the entire savings to purchase donkeys and wheat. She would mill the wheat using the donkeys, then every couple of days, would ride the donkey into the city to sell the flours, returning in the evening with money. Three years passed like this, a lot of money was earned, enough to purchase house and land.

Never less, separated from his mother, wife, and two sons, with all communications cut off, Dong was often melancholic, rarely joyful. Over the years the concubine often asked him reasons for his poor mood, now he told her everything: “I was actually a Song official, my whole family is in the south, I alone am drifting outside, not sure when I would return. My heart breaks every time I think about this.” The concubine replied “why didn’t you say so earlier. I have an older brother who loves to help people. He will arrive soon, and we can ask him for help.”

In ten days or so, a tall man with big curly beards showed up. He rode in on a tall horse, trailed by ten or so carriages. The concubine said “Here he is, my older brother has arrived!” She rushed out to greet the man, and introduced him to Dong. The three of them drank until deep into the night. Only then did the concubine brought up the issue of returning to the south.

But now Dong started to become afraid. At this time there was a standing order by the Jin government, anyone who was a Song official must volunteer his status. If it was revealed by others, he would be put to death. Afraid to let this secret come out, Dong started to deny he was a Song official. The curly bearded man started to become angry, but held it in check “You and my younger sister had been a couple several years now. You are like my flesh-and-blood now. This is why I’m willing to risk my life to help you return south. If you’re discovered, I would be in trouble because of you. Seeing how you are behaving now, how can I be sure you won’t betray me when we encounter trouble? Here, hand over the official order for you assignment as collateral, otherwise I will turn you over first thing in the morning.” Dong, becoming even more afraid, thinking he would be dead no matter what he does, handed over the document. After the curly bearded man was gone, he spent the rest of the night in tears, panicking, not knowing what to do, what to expect.

Early next morning, the bearded man showed up with an additional horse, telling Dong “Let’s go.” Surprised and overjoyed, Dong rushed back inside to get the concubine. But she said to him “I have some urgent matters that I must take care off, I can’t leave just yet, I shall come looking for you next year. I’ve sewn a quilted robe for you. I wear it and go with older brother. When you arrive in the south, my brother will attempt to give you money, perhaps in the hundreds of thousands, but you must refuse it no matter what. If he persists, hold up this robe and show it to him. The reason for this is I’ve done a big favor for him before. Escorting you back to the south by itself is not enough to return that favor. If he accepted his money, he’d think we’re even and he won’t bother helping me come over as well. So be careful, take care not to lose this robe.”

Dong was stunned, all of this is just too bizarre. Afraid to draw the curiosity of neighbors, he hastily bid his concubine a teary farewell. They sped to the coastline, where a large ship is about to leave. The bearded man ordered Dong to board immediately, and bid farewell himself. The ship immediately sailed south.

Alone on his journey, with hardly any money on him, Dong felt awkward. However everyone on the ship was extremely courteous toward him, offering him food, drink, everything he needed. Yet no one asked a word about his destination.

Several days later, the ship arrived in the Song territory. When they docked, the bearded man was already waiting by the bank. He took Dong to a restaurant to celebrate his arrival, where he offered Dong twenty ounces of gold. Remembering what the concubine told him, Dong firmly declined. The bearded man was equally firm: “You arrive home with empty pockets. What are you planning to do, have your wife and children starve together with you?!” With that said, he got up and left. Dong chased him down outside, and held up the quilted robe. Staring at the robe, the bearded man was astonished, but he quickly recovered and laughed, “Sigh, she is indeed smarter than me. Looks like my work is not done yet. I will escort your beauty back here next year.” With that, he turned around and left.

Upon returning home, Dong Guodu found everyone to be fine. They spent much time talking about what had transpired since the separation. At one point Dong’s wife held up the robe to examine it closely, and saw yellowish light dimly emanating from it. Upon taking it apart, they saw there’s a gold leaf inside each quilted patch.

After settling things at home, Dong reported back to the central government, where he received a promotion as a county level junior military officer. In the second year of his return, the big curly bearded man brought over his beloved concubine as promised. The two of them lived together to happy old age.







February 2011
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