All Under Heaven – Chapter 18

Zhao Su smiled faintly: “You really did your homework, huh?”
When Zhao Su arrived home it was close to midnight, he had just washed up and wanted to go to sleep when he saw Zhao Nuan opening the front door to come in.

“Why are you just coming back now?”

“I met a lost child on the road, so I took him home.” Zhao Su played down the story. He saw that Zhao Nuan was brimming with excitement. “What’s the matter with you? Your face is flushed, and brimming with peach blossoms1 Idiom to describe how a man looks after he falls in love for the first time, did you fall head over heels?”

Zhao Nuan was annoyed: “Could you not say it like that?”

“Isn’t that right? If not, I’ll take my leave.”

“No don’t, I have something to tell you.” Zhao Nuan looked a bit embarrassed, something Zhao Su had not often seen before. “Well the thing is, tonight after we lost each other, I was walking around by myself and in the end, well.. I bumped into a lady.”

That look, it was remarkably like a youth’s first awakening of love.

Zhao Su’s eyebrows twitched: “You could meet a lady from a prominent family this easily? Don’t tell me it’s someone from a lowly background?”

Zhao Nuan hurriedly said: “Who said she’s not from a good family. I asked around, she’s the daughter of Yu da-ren from the Ministry of Justice.”

After that, he continued to recount how they had met and the happenings following that.

It was nothing more than Zhao Nuan when he came to the temple market and met the sweet maiden. He helped her a little, and she personally saluted and thanked him. It was with this one encounter that made Zhao Nuan fall head over heels.

It’s just that when the protagonist of this cliché story was his own xiongdi, the situation is a little different.

Zhao Su looked at him grinning from ear to ear and he sighed: “I don’t want to pour a bucket of ice over your head but the girl’s father is from the Ministry of Justice, a fifth rank official2Government officials in the Ming Dynasty were ranked from 1-9. First-rank Officials being the highest grade..”

And Zhao Nuan, he hadn’t even passed the county exam yet.

Firstly, without considering whether the girl reciprocated his feelings, just by looking at the status of the two, the difference was heaven and earth.

In this era, things were not as closed off as modern generations imagined.

For example, Yan Song had only one wife all his life, even with his status and power and this was not considered surprising. Or Hongzhi Emperor, who only had one Empress, and there was no such thing as the ministers hounding him every day with memorials to select a concubine such as in the contrived novels which shows that this was just a common occurrence at the time.

Amongst the high officials in the imperial court, some were from poor backgrounds, and some were born of merchant families. Many restrictions have long become fuzzy.

However, if Zhao Nuan wanted to marry a fifth rank official’s daughter, there were still some difficulties ahead.

If Zhao Nuan had passed the provincial exams right now, the chances would have been much greater.
But since he had no scholarly achievements and his family was back in Fuzhou, under these circumstances whose parents would be willing to marry off their daughter to him?

But Zhao Nuan’s expression was very serious and solemn, Zhao Su could understand better than anyone, when he had such an expression, it meant he’d put all his efforts into achieving what he set out to do.

“Are you serious about this?”

Zhao Nuan thought he was being made fun of, his face reddened: “Of course, I’m serious, in fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen her… anyway, this Lady Yu, I’ll not marry anyone but her.”

He paused then continued: “She is really nice, cute and benevolent. Even though her father is a court official, they are an honest family and don’t have much surplus money. She also isn’t like those other arrogant girls of wealthy families…”

Zhao Su smiled faintly: “You really did your homework, hey?”

Zhao Nuan immediately stopped talking.

“Marriage is a serious matter, it is decided by parents, however great she is, how are you going to get her parents to agree?”

Zhao Nuan said coyly: “I’ve already come up with a plan, but I’ll need your help… next year, when you officially get your government position, you can go with me to their home to ask for her hand in marriage. Even if Yu da-ren doesn’t agree immediately, at least, we can make a deal with him to give me two or three years to start my business and make some money so that I can make maiden Yu live a lifetime of happiness without worries.”

Zhao Su said calmly: “Just a couple of questions, first, how do you know that I’ll succeed in the exam, second, what if they have already made an engagement long ago. Finally, the reason why upright officials are upright officials is that they refuse to follow the crowd. Can such a person accept a businessman as son-in-law? ”

Zhao Nuan’s heart was filled with excitement, he couldn’t even speak.

Zhao Su patted him on the shoulder: “Destined to meet but not fated to be together, you should think things over carefully.”

Zhao Su didn’t know if Zhao Nuan had even heard what he said. After this night, they didn’t see each other often and even when they bumped into each other, Zhao Nuan would be busy dealing with opening a shop in the Capital.

He knew that Zhao Nuan was resolute in his decision, and he also wanted to help his xiongdi, so he tried to help find a solution.

The rent in the Capital was expensive, with the savings of both of them, it was only enough to rent a tiny space.

Opening another branch of Tang Song Ju was not a possibility at this time, because in the Capital, no one had seen their products before. Relying on small snacks and cakes to attract customers, there would be no business for a while, and the money they had on hand could only support the shop for three months. After three months, if there is no income, they would have lost everything.

In the end, from the advice of Zhao Su, Zhao Nuan decided to open a second-hand Shop.

Useless and shabby things are cleaned out every once in a while, but within wealthy households, these things are still pretty much like new and can be sold to ordinary people and still be used for several years. So Zhao Nuan could acquire these things, and then resell them. As the end of the year is approaching, there are more people replacing things. As a result, even with a small profit but a quick turnover could also earn him some money.
However, Zhao Nuan had no contacts in the Capital and it wasn’t exactly easy just to make friends with these Functionary families.

Zhao Su thought of Chen Yiqin.

Since the day he had taken Zhu Yijun home, Zhao Su was often invited to the Prince of Yu Manor, and had a good relationship with Gao Gong and Chen Yiqin.

Even though the Prince of Yu was a Prince, he was hard pressed for money so Zhao Su didn’t dare to ask him. Gao Gong’s current post meant that he also did not earn a good salary. The only person he could turn to was Chen Yiqin. Chen Yiqin was from a very good family background, his family were wealthy and even had a few old properties in their possession. So Zhao Su searched for an opportunity to speak with him about Zhao Nuan’s new business. Chen Yuqin was not only helpful but even introduced him to a few of his colleagues.

Business at the beginning is always difficult but this thread of hope, Zhao Nuan’s little business was starting to get off the ground. and gradually became more profitable. He was flexible in his mind and was adaptable enough to deal with people and things. Although he wasn’t a good student, he was not a bad businessman. Within a few months, he had become acquainted with the servants of many large households in the capital. The master of these servants who wanted to sell and clean up some old things would mostly sell them to him. And the officials wanted to buy some things at a lower price, also went to him.

Zhao Su, seeing that he was putting his head down, thinking about making money to marry Maiden Yu, he didn’t have the heart to tease him, so he allowed him to do what he needed to do with the business and occasionally offered him some advice.


Yan Manor.

“Little Gelao3小阁老 xiǎo gélǎo Lit. Little/Junior Grand Secretary. It is a nickname for Yan Shifan, but Yan Shifan was never in the Grand Secretariat he only made it to the Ministry of War, because his father is the Senior Grand Secretary or a “Gelao” 阁老, some of his followers called him Little Gelao because he was known to be very arrogant , I heard that the emperor wants to choose an heir from the vassal princes?” Yan Maoqing4This is a real person in history, no page in English though – note that his surname Yan is not the same Yan as Yan Song and Yan Shifan (鄢 versus 严) said quietly, leaning slightly closer.

Yan Shifan sat on the couch stacking one leg over the over, a beautiful concubine was standing behind him, massaging his shoulders. His eyes were half-closed.

“Where did you hear this from?”

“From the palace.”

Yan Shifan smiled: “It’s already been a few days, you only just heard. From the day that the little prince went missing, word had already got out.”

Yan Maoqing laughed: “Little Gelao really has eyes and ears everywhere. This official is in awe.”

“In this world there are no secrets that I, Yan Shifan cannot find out.”

“Little Gelao, right now, we are supporting the Prince of Jing, this official is afraid…”

“Afraid of what?” Yan Shifan cut him impatiently: “The Emperor said it offhandedly, do you know what type of man he is, perhaps you don’t know but how would I not know? Back then, in order to give his father an honorific title, he made a fuss about it in court for three years. Do you really think that this type of person would be willing to give up the throne to an outsider. You must be daydreaming!”

He spoke these treacherous words without the least bit of fear, which made Yan Maoqing a little fearful, he meekly said: “This can’t go on, the emperor still hasn’t named an heir, in case something happens, then there will be chaos.”

“Let me put your mind at ease. The Prince of Jing has already gone to the Palace to see the Emperor.”


The 40th year of Jiajing, Winter. The Prince of Jing entered the palace and offered auspicious white foxes and goshawks. Jiajing was pleased and praised the Prince of Jing and even said “my son can be useful“.

As soon as the news came out, the officials had a lot of discussions, but the people who were the most shocked were the people in the Prince of Yu’s manor.

At this moment, in the imperial court and even in the whole of the Capital, there was an unprecedented calmness that was restrained and treacherous.

There was a slam against the table, the Prince of Yu was in a daze. The noise had given him an unexpected shock. He looked up and saw the person who patted the table and couldn’t help but smile bitterly.

“Tutor Gao, this prince isn’t particularly courageous, so it’s best you don’t scare me.”

Gao Gong was a bit apologetic and had a solemn look on his face: “I’m not trying to blame the prince, it’s that vile character Yan Shifan.”

Chen Yiqin’s face changed: “The walls have ears…”

Gao Gong smiled coldly: “What is there to be afraid of? They have long ignored the Prince of Yu Manor. Besides, now that the prince has practically completely retreated, there are only a few of us here. If word got out, then I’m afraid we have a spy amongst the few of us.”

He was so angry that he didn’t hesitate to say anything. Chen Yiqin and Yin Shidan, who were also officials of the Prince of Yu, looked at each other and shook their heads.

They were not unaware of Gao Gong’s hot temper after working together for several years. This was a particularly delicate time, so they didn’t take it to heart.

The Prince of Yu scratched his head and then sighed: “I heard news from the palace yesterday, that my father also bestowed some gifts on my brother. We should also send some auspicious gifts.”

Gao Gong scrunched up his forehead, the Emperor was indeed superstitious, but auspicious items were hard to come by, you couldn’t just acquire them when you wanted.

He didn’t say anything, the person who spoke was Chen Yiqin: “The Prince of Jing has already sent over gifts, if you jump on the bandwagon and copy him, his Majesty may not appreciate that. Plus, the items from the Prince of Jing were definitely acquired by Yan Shifan, where would we go to get any?”

The Prince of Yu hesitated: “What can be done then? What if the father is so happy that he names my brother as the Crown Prince…”

Zhu Zaihou’s indecisive character was fully exposed in this sentence, or perhaps, showing between two sons of Emperor Jiajing, neither of them have not inherited his wisdom and trickery.

Between the two princes, the Prince of Yu’s vice was the love of beautiful women whilst the Prince of Jing was hot-tempered and vicious.

Yin Shidan persuaded: “Your Highness does not need to worry too much. If His Majesty has this idea, aside from us, the Imperial Censors will also not like it slide. Your Highness is the eldest son, it is not without reason that you should be the next in line for the throne.”

He achieved jinshi in the 26th year of Jiajing, the same year as Zhao Su’s teacher Dai Gongwang. Between the three officials of the Prince of Yu manor, his status was the lowest and unlike Gao Gong, he spoke very slowly and quietly.
Gao Gong cut in: “After Zuo Shun Gate, there isn’t a single Imperial Censor that would dare speak up, plus Yan Song and his son went rampant, so now there is even less chance of these officials speaking up!”

The Zuo Shun Gate incident he was referring to happened during the third year of Jiajing. The officials gathered outside Zuo Shun Gate and knelt down to ask Jiajing not to confer posthumously his father Xingxian as Emperor. Following this, Jiajing gave an order – more than 180 officials had their assets seized, or were flogged or some other form of punishment. Amongst these, seventeen of them were beaten to death. Since then, hearing the three words Zuo Shun Gate struck fear in everyone’s hearts.

The cause of this incident is actually very nonsensical. Emperor Jiajing was originally the heir of the vassal prince, and he had to be adopted by his uncle, Emperor Hongzhi, to be considered orthodox. But he had wanted to bestow a posthumous title for his own father as emperor, and the officials disagreed. He was dead set on this and in the end, after a bloody battle, the emperor won. From then on, he acted arbitrarily and went his own way. After decades of not attending court, no one dared to say anything.

Later, when Yan Song came to power, another group of civil officials were dismissed for impeaching him. As time passed, no one was willing to put their life on the line.

However, this does not mean that the Imperial Censors have nothing to do. Although Yan Song and his sons cannot be touched, their subordinates are not so lucky. In addition, there are countless trivial things inside and outside the court.

Some people even say that after Zuo Shun Gate, the Ming Dynasty Imperial Censors lost all of their authority.

As soon as the Prince of Yu was calmed down by Yin Shidan’s words, he had a bucket of cold water thrown over his head by Gao Gong’s words. Chen Yiqin smiled bitterly: “I say Lao Gao, do you have to go against us?”

I just managed to calm the prince down with much difficulty, and you’re coming back with another bucket of ice, what’s with that?

Gao Gong hummed a few words, and finally fell silent.

Yin Shidan grinned and said, “The Prince of Ying has Yan Shifan, but we have a treasure that they don’t have.”

Seeing all three of them looking at him, Yin Shidan said unhurriedly: “The little princely heir.”

Chen Yiqin was taken aback, and then laughed: “Wonderful! No matter what, his Majesty only has one grandson and such a clever one! But just in case,” he changed his mind and hesitated: “If Yan Song said something in front of his Majesty, and his Majesty doesn’t want to see him, then what?”

Gao Gong said: “It’s not that simple. Spread the word out that the little prince was frightened after he came back, and he kept shouting that he wanted to see his grandfather. No matter how cruel his Majesty is, he still longs for domestic bliss. This most likely will work in our favour.”

The Prince of Yu was overjoyed: “My three tutors are indeed brilliant!”
13/12/21 – Updated, links added
28/12/21 – Translation notes edited, rewording.
07/05/22 – Name edit.

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