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The middle aged man who had shouted out strolled out from the door with his hands behind his back, he was dressed very orderly, the way he walked was very orderly, even his facial expressions were strict, just one look and one could tell that he was the kind of person that would not tolerate anyone breaking the rules.
Just as expected, when he saw Zhao Su who wasn’t swift enough to make an escape, he sneered: “I’ve been wondering who has been hanging around outside day in and out secretly listening. So it’s you, you petty thief!”
Zhao Shenyu is a member of the Zhao family. He was hired as a teacher to teach the Zhao children to study. He was a scholar and had failed the Provincial Exam several times, but he hadn’t given up, and he still went to the exams every time despite his continual failure to pass. In ancient times, there were also scholars, like Zhao Shenyu, in their seventies who could not pass the Provincial Examination, so this wasn’t uncommon at all at this time.
Naturally he had heard about Zhao Su, and he couldn’t help but look down upon this son of a concubine.
Having heard all this outside, the students inside all rushed to the door to see what all the fuss was about.
Zhao Su even saw his half-brother Zhao Jin among them, tilting his head and whispering to the person next to him, turning his head to look at him from time to time, without hiding his contempt.
“Why am I a thief?” Zhao Su couldn’t get away from the stares anyway so he simply just stood there and let them stare.
Zhao Shenyu sneered: “Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety1A quote from the Analects of Confucius -really well explained here; that’s why you’re a thief. Even a son of a concubine like you wants to learn how to read and write?
Zhao Su didn’t flinch, he simply asked: “Zhao Su is arrogant, may I ask the teacher a question?”
Zhao Shenyu originally didn’t want to pay attention to Zhao Su but now his students were there watching, he thought to himself if I leave I’ll lose face so he said “Go ahead and ask!”
Confucious says education for everyone, irrespective of background. How do you explain this?”
Zhao Shenyu scoffed “It’s in vain that you have been hiding here for so long eavesdropping secretly that you can’t even understand the famous saying of Confucius. It means that no matter if you’re rich or poor, noble or lowly, wise or stupid, all people can be taught…”
Only after the words had been spoken did he realise that he had been set up.
Sure enough, Zhao Su asked back: “Since Confucius also says that education is for everyone, irrespective of background, why does the teacher go against him? Although Zhao Su is born of a lowly background, my desire to learn is not lacking. Since ancient times, we have never questioned the origins of heroes. The founder of our Great Ming2Hongwu Emperor was also from humble beginnings, what do you think Teacher?”
Zhao Shenyu never thought that Zhao Su would dare to refute him, and was shocked for a while. All the Zhao children in the school stared at him with wide eyes.
Zhao Su stood there with the bamboo basket on his back, not too far away from the crowd, his figure was thin and weak, but he was still neither haughty nor humble, with a smile on the corner of his mouth.
At this moment, some people were laughing.
Zhao Shenyu was furious and was about to attack, but suddenly noticed a few people standing not far behind Zhao Su.
The man who was walking in front was wearing a blue robe and had a short beard, clasping his hands together, he walked slowly, his face was full of smiles, his eyes stayed on Zhao Su for a while before they moved away.
Behind him were two other people. Amongst those two was Zhao Shenhai, the Clan Leader of the Zhao clan.
“Xian-xiong, your Zhao clan really has so many talented people, even the youths have such knowledge!”
Zhao Shenhai smiled and said “Zhan da-ren must be joking, this is merely the son of a concubine, he shouldn’t be seen out in public, and he’s even disturbing the two of you. I’ll get him to leave right away!”
The new County Magistrate of Changle had just taken office and Zhao Shenhai wanted to visit him on a whim. He’d also wanted to lead the County Magistrate to the Zhao clan school to not only show off a bit and solidify the Zhao clan’s reputation in Changle. He could never have imagined that they’d run straight in Zhao Su in the midst of contradicting the teacher.
The other person didn’t reply, instead looking at Zhao Su he said “What’s your name? How old are you?”
“In response to da-ren, Zhao Su, thirteen years old this year.”
That person was taken aback. He originally thought that Zhao Su was only eight or nine years old.
He thought, just from the way that he was talking earlier, this young boy didn’t seem to be someone who had never studied before. He couldn’t help but feel pity for the boy.
“Are you also from the Zhao family?”
“Then why can’t you enter the Zhao clan school?”
Zhao Shenhai stammered, but he did not dare to interrupt him, because although this person currently has no official position, he couldn’t afford to offend him.
Zhao Su said faintly: “I’m the son of a concubine.”
Zhan Lai replied: “Even if you are the son of a concubine, you also have the right to study, it must be because your family situation is poor and you can’t afford the tuition.” He then turned to Zhao Shenhai: “I can see that this is a quick-witted young man, with a strong literary aptitude, if he can’t afford the tuition, this Official is willing to provide financial aid.”
Without waiting for Zhao Shenhai’s answer, Zhao Su had already greeted Zhan Lai: “da-ren has misunderstood. Since the death of my father, my mother and I have been living in a separate residence. Although Zongbo is the clan leader, it is not easy to interfere.”
Zhao Shenhai’s expression looked better now. He took a look at Zhao Su and found that this son of a concubine who had never really paid attention to before, was in fact smart and quick-witted.
“I was negligent. You can start attending school tomorrow.”
Zhao Su bowed and said, “Thank you, Zongbo.”
Zhan Lai was no stranger to the ups and downs of fortunes, so how could he not see the contempt of the young man? At first, he just heard him responding interestingly, so he casually enquired, but after a few words, he really became interested.
Looking back at his old friend, he saw that he was also looking at Zhao Su with interest.
“Why do you want to study? Is it to pass the Imperial Examinations and become an Official?”
It’s too fake to say that it’s not true. Scholars all over the world have almost all dreamed of becoming famous going down the Imperial Examination route, like the current Senior Grand Secretary of Ming, Yan Song, or to be like his son, Yan Shifan who married countless beauties and then went come back to his hometown to bask in all his glory, with thousands of acres of fertile land to his name, no regrets in this life.
Zhao Su smiled and said “If I said that no, would you believe me?”
This person was surprisingly not angry and also smiled: “Of course, I wouldn’t believe it.”
Zhao Su thought for a while: “Mencius once said if they were poor, they attended to their own virtue in solitude; if they achieved dignity, they made the whole kingdom virtuous. This kid is young and ignorant, and only hopes that while improving my family situation and allowing my mother to live a good life, I can also do something for my country and people to fulfil my civic duty. Studying can cultivate reason, cultivate one’s moral character, can change one’s destiny, and can do things for the country. I think the two are not contradictory.”
Everyone looked at him in surprise.
Zhan Lai touched his hands together and smiled: “Zhongfu-xiong, I think you and this young man must be related, or at least he is destined to be your student!”
The man nodded slightly and even asked Zhao Su, “Would you be willing?”
Zhao Su had been talking to them for a while, and he could naturally see that the person in front of him had an extraordinary identity and knowledge, and he was not inferior to the county magistrate next to him. What was rare was that when Zhao Su had replied with a question of his own he didn’t get angry, showing that he was open-minded.
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Thinking of this, he hurriedly bowed: “This student greets teacher, but I don’t know teacher’s name?”
The faces of Zhao Shenhai and Zhao Shenyu turned green.
They knew that with this teacher, Zhao Su’s identity would no longer be ordinary.
Changle County is not big, and Zhao Su’s behaviour outside Zhao family’s school would soon spread.
If one was to say that before today, nobody knew who Zhao Su was, then from this day forward, more than half the county would know that this young man was personally appraised by their County Magistrate.
Even if they didn’t know Dai Gongwang, it didn’t stop everyone from adding little pieces of extra information around the dinner table.
And the impact of this incident on the Zhao family was far greater than on the others.
“What did you say?” Lady Wu shouted out loud, on the verge of screeching, only then realising that she had completely forgotten her manners. She took a deep breath to calm herself: “Where did you hear this from?”
Maiden Li hurriedly handed over a bowl of iced sour plum soup: “Fu-ren, please calm down, it’s said that at the time shaoye… Zhao Su was being appraised by the County Magistrate, Er -shaoye was also present.”
What Er-shaoye! In this house, there is only one shaoye!” Lady Wu smacked the table “Li-ma, go and get shaoye now!”
“Okok, I will go right away! Fu-ren, please don’t get so worked up!”
Zhao Jin was brought over to her very quickly.
He was a year younger than Zhao Su and had just turned twelve this year. Compared to his half-brother who was skinny and frail, Zhao Jin could be considered to be taller than the average for his age. His eyebrows were quite similar to Zhao Su, but the corners of his eyes slanted upwards with an air of arrogance.
“This son pays respect to mother.”
The anger from Lady’s Wu face had dissipated and been replaced with a face filled with a mother’s love for her son, she motioned him to come closer with her hand. “What did you learn at school today?”
Zhao Jin didn’t even take a second to ponder, he replied clearly: “Today he explained Mencius’《Gong Sun Chou》.
“Have you memorised it all?”
“Yes, your son will recite out loud to you. Opportunities of time vouchsafed by Heaven are not equal to advantages of situation afforded by the Earth, and advantages of situation afforded by the Earth are not equal to the union arising from the accord of Men. There is a city, with an inner wall of three li in circumference, and an outer wall of seven.…”
Zhao Jin had the right to be arrogant. He came from a good background, his family had money, and his mother came from a family of a Court Official. He studied arduously and was often praised by the teacher for his natural talent. Amongst his peers, he could be considered a cut above the rest.
Next year, he would take the County Examination, this was the first step down the road of imperial examinations. If there were no roadblocks on the way, Zhao Jin would continue upon this road all the way until he won top marks at the imperial examinations.
Lady Wu smiled hearing that he had finished reciting and asked: “I heard that Zhao Su was appraised by the County Magistrate today and was even taken in as one of his disciples?”
Zhao Jin’s face immediately changed and angrily said: “It wasn’t the County Magistrate, it was only the County Magistrate’s friend!”
Lady Wu was concerned: “Oh? Do you know anything about this person?”
Zhao Jin shook his head and frowned: “Mother, is this important? Zhao Su is just a concubine’s son, even if the County Magistrate appreciates him, in the future he won’t be able to give him the answers to the imperial exam. Plus, he has never actually studied properly, he can’t even recognize a Chinese character. He was just relying on luck to impress the County Magistrate with a few fancy words, he still shouldn’t be allowed to show his face in public!”
Lady Wu thought to herself, her own husband spent all those years studying for the imperial examination and never passed. Even if Zhao Su was smart, learning to read and write wasn’t something that could be achieved overnight. Not to mention, trying to produce an essay worthy of the Imperial Exam. She had been too worried for nothing.
“Your son will try his best.”
“Clan Leader, who exactly is this Dai Gongwang, why would he take that concubine’s son as a disciple based on one encounter. He clearly has no respect for our clan!”
It wasn’t just Lady Wu who was wondering this, Zhao Shenyu was also pondering this. At this very moment, he was sitting in Zhao Shenhai’s study with his anger boiling over.
Zhao Shenhai stroked his beard and said slowly, “This is a very esteemed person. In the twenty-sixth year of Jiajing he was ranked twelfth in the second rank of the Court Examination of that year and is very well-known amongst his peers.”
Zhao Shenyu was gobsmacked: “He’s worked for the Hanlin Academy?”
Zhao Shenhai nodded.
During the Ming Dynasty, the Court Examination results list was divided into three ranks. Most people are familiar with Zhuangyuan, Bangyan, Tanhua – these three people are in fact in the first rank, the rest were placed into second and third rank. To be placed in the second rank was not easy, meaning that this person had some political standing.
The most important thing was that the people ranking the best amongst the 2nd rank, would be chosen to enter Hanlin Academy. After a few years in Hanlin Academy, they’d either be assigned to the Six Ministries or would be placed as an Official outside of the Capital.
After the reign of Yingzong, a new rule was added. Only those who had passed the court examination could enter Hanlin Academy, and anyone who wasn’t from Hanlin Academy could not enter the Grand Secretariat. If you were chosen to enter the Hanlin Academy this signified a bright and promising future and even having the chance of becoming a future Grand Secretary.
Zhao Shenyu would never have thought that Dai Gongwang would have such a strong background.
This kind of person, not to say one Zhao Shenyu, even if there were ten Zhao Shenyu added together, it was definitely not someone to be messed with.
“So, so..” mumbled Zhao Shenyu: “Why would he come here then?”
“It’s a long story, this Dai Gongwang, was originally assigned to the Ministry of Revenue in the capital, but he offended Senior Grand Secretary Yan so he was dismissed from office. Our County Magistrate and he are great friends, so he came over to seek help from his old friend.”
Zhao Shenyu breathed a sigh of relief: “So that’s to say that this person is just a commoner now?”
“Then why would he take Zhao Su as his disciple, it can’t just be a whim?”
Zhao Shenhai frowned: “I’m really not too clear on this, either he finds Zhao Su a real diamond in the rough, or there is some other undisclosed reason.”
They sat there not saying a word. It was Zhao Shenyu who broke the silence: “Luckily, this person is no longer in office, otherwise, having berated Zhao Su as a concubine’s son in front of him like that, I don’t need to be afraid that he might reprimand me?”
Zhao Shenhai replied “No need to worry, he doesn’t seem like a petty-minded person. But whilst we’re on the subject, now that Zhao Su is his disciple, his status has changed. You mustn’t speak of him like that again. I certainly overlooked him before, I would never have thought that this child actually had some talent, maybe in the future, his achievements may not be inferior to the other Zhao children.”
Zhao Shenyu nodded and then shook his head, he was still not convinced: “He’s already thirteen years old, at his age, some people have already achieved scholarly honor in the imperial exams. In the end, starting to study at twelve years old is still too late, even if he is to have future achievements, they won’t be that extraordinary.”
Zhao Shenhai didn’t retort, he just smiled silently.
After a while, Zhao Shenyu was still a bit apprehensive: “This orphan Zhao Su and his widowed mother, should we send some people over to help them?”
Zhao Shenhai said “No need yet, what you said is right, he is just beginning to learn to read now, we don’t even know his abilities yet. This favour shouldn’t be done too late, but also not too early.”
Today’s little story, let’s introduce a marvel.
Everyone knows Yan Song, the treacherous Court Official of the Ming Dynasty, who with the Emperor Jiajing’s leniency ran amok in the Imperial Court for twenty years.
Although he was a bad person, he also had his merits, and that was that he was very much faithful to his wife Ouyang Chen. The two of them went through thick and thin, never to leave each other until they were old and grey.
But today I don’t want to talk about him but about his son, Yan Shifan. This guy was super lecherous. He had twenty-seven wives, and other innumerable unofficial ones, so much so, he could sleep with three different ones every night for the month.
It is said that he invented the “Meirenyu”.
What is a “Meirenyu 3美人盂 lit. Beauty basin”?
It is this: When it was time to get up in the morning, he’d call a beautiful naked woman to run to him, open their mouth and look up, he’d clear his throat, and spit into the woman’s mouth.
That woman still had to thank him for his favour.
He gave the disgusting thing he offered to the beauty a name called “Xiang tuo hu”4香唾壶 lit. fragrant saliva pot
*Puke*……. Let me go throw up = =
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