“There’s nothing new whatever,” answered Tzu-hsing

“There’s nothing new whatever,” answered Tzu-hsing. “There is one thing however: in the family of one of your worthy kinsmen, of the same name as yourself, a trifling, but yet remarkable, occurrence has taken place.”

“None of my kindred reside in the capital,” rejoined Yü-ts’un with a smile. “To what can you be alluding?”

“How can it be that you people who have the same surname do not belong to one clan?” remarked Tzu-hsing, sarcastically.

“In whose family?” inquired Yü-ts’un.

“The Chia family,” replied Tzu-hsing smiling, “whose quarters are in the Jung Kuo Mansion, does not after all reflect discredit upon the lintel of your door, my venerable friend.”

“What!” exclaimed Yü-ts’un, “did this affair take place in that family? Were we to begin reckoning, we would find the members of my clan to be anything but limited in number. Since the time of our ancestor Chia Fu, who lived while the Eastern Han dynasty occupied the Throne, the branches of our family have been numerous and flourishing; they are now to be found in every single province, and who could, with any accuracy, ascertain their whereabouts? As regards the Jung-kuo branch in particular, their names are in fact inscribed on the same register as our own, but rich and exalted as they are, we have never presumed to claim them as our relatives, so that we have become more and more estranged.”

“Don’t make any such assertions,”

Tzu-hsing remarked with a sigh, “the present two mansions of Jung and

Ning have both alike also suffered reverses,

and they cannot come up to their state of days of yore.”

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“Up to this day, these two households of Ning and of Jung,” Yü-ts’un suggested, “still maintain a very large retinue of people, and how can it be that they have met with reverses?”

“To explain this would be indeed a long story,” said Leng Tzu-hsing. “Last year,” continued Yü-ts’un, “I arrived at Chin Ling, as I entertained a wish to visit the

remains of interest of the six dynasties, and as I on that day entered the walled town of Shih T’ou, I passed by the entrance of that old residence. On the east

side of the street, stood the Ning Kuo mansion; on the west the Jung Kuo mansion; and these two, adjoining each other as they do, cover in fact well-nigh

half of the whole length of the street. Outside the front gate everything was, it is true, lonely and deserted; but at a glance into the interior over the enclosing wall, I

perceived that the halls, pavilions, two-storied structures and porches presented still a majestic and lofty appearance. Even the flower garden, which extends over

the whole area of the back grounds, with its trees and rockeries, also possessed to that day an air of luxuriance and freshness, which betrayed no signs of a ruined

or decrepid establishment.”

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This stone would, however, often stroll along the banks of the

“This stone would, however, often stroll along the banks of the Ling river, and having at the sight of the blade of spiritual grass been filled with admiration,

 

it, day by day, moistened its roots with sweet dew. This purple pearl grass, at the outset, tarried for months and years; but being at a later period imbued

with the essence and luxuriance of heaven and earth, and having incessantly received the moisture and nurture of the sweet dew, divested itself,

in course of time, of the form of a grass; assuming, in lieu, a human nature, which gradually became perfected into the person of a girl.

“Every day she was wont to wander beyond the confines of the Li Hen (divested animosities) heavens.

When hungry she fed on the Pi Ch’ing (hidden love) fruit — when thirsty she drank the Kuan ch’ou (discharged sorrows,) water.

Having, however, up to this time, not shewn her gratitude for the virtue of nurture lavished upon her,

the result was but natural that she should resolve in her heart upon a constant and incessant purpose to make suitable acknowledgment.

“I have been,” she would often commune within herself, “the recipient of the gracious bounty of rain and dew,

but I possess no such water as was lavished upon me to repay it! But should it ever descend into the world in the

form of a human being, I will also betake myself thither, along with it; and if I can only have the means of making restitution to it,

with the tears of a whole lifetime, I may be able to make adequate return.”

“This resolution it is that will evolve the descent into the world of so many pleasure-bound spirits of retribution and the experience of fantastic destinies; and this crimson pearl blade will also be among the number. The stone still lies in its original place, and why should not you and I

take it along before the tribunal of the Monitory Vision Fairy,

and place on its behalf its name on record,

so that it should descend into the world,

in company with these spirits of passion, and bring this plot to an issue?”

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“What a strange meeting! What a strange meeting!” he exclaimed

“What a strange meeting! What a strange meeting!” he exclaimed aloud.

Yü-ts’un speedily looked at him, (and remembered) that this person had, in past days, carried on business in a curio establishment in the capital, and that his surname was Leng and his style Tzu-hsing.

A mutual friendship had existed between them during their sojourn, in days of yore, in the capital; and as Yü-ts’un had entertained the highest opinion of Leng Tzu-hsing, as being a man of action and of great abilities, while this Leng Tzu-hsing, on the other hand, borrowed of the reputation of refinement enjoyed by Yü-ts’un, the two had consequently all along lived in perfect harmony and companionship.

“When did you get here?” Yü-ts’un eagerly inquired also smilingly. “I wasn’t in the least aware of your arrival. This unexpected meeting is positively a strange piece of good fortune.”

“I went home,” Tzu-hsing replied, “about the close of last year, but now as I am again bound to the capital, I passed through here on my way to look up a friend of mine and talk some matters over. He had the kindness to press me to stay with him for a couple of days longer, and as I after all have no urgent business to attend to, I am tarrying a few days, but purpose starting about the middle of the moon. My friend is busy to-day, so I roamed listlessly as far as here, never dreaming of such a fortunate meeting.”

While speaking, he made Yü-ts’un sit down at the same table, and ordered a fresh supply of wine and eatables; and as the two friends chatted of one thing and another, they slowly sipped their wine.

The conversation ran on what

had occurred after the separation,

and Yü-ts’un inquired,

“Is there any news of any kind in the capital?”

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One thing alone marred his happiness.He had lived over

One thing alone marred his happiness.

He had lived over half a century and had, as yet, no male offspring around his knees. He had one only child,

 

a daughter, whose infant name was Ying Lien. She was just three years of age. On a long summer day, on which the heat had been intense, Shih-yin sat leisurely in his library. Feeling his hand tired,

he dropped the book he held, leant his head on a teapoy, and fell asleep.

Of a sudden, while in this state of unconsciousness, it seemed as if he had betaken himself on foot to some

spot or other whither he could not discriminate. Unexpectedly he espied, in the opposite direction, two priests coming towards him: the one a Buddhist, the other a Taoist. As they advanced they kept up

the conversation in which they were engaged. “Whither do you purpose taking the object you have brought away?”

he heard the Taoist inquire. To this question the Buddhist replied with a smile: “Set your mind at ease,” he said; “there’s now in maturity a plot of a general character involving mundane pleasures,

which will presently come to a denouement. The whole number of the votaries of voluptuousness have, as yet, not been quickened or entered the world, and I mean to avail myself of this occasion to

introduce this object among their number, so as to give it a chance to go through the span of human existence.”

“The votaries of voluptuousness of these days will naturally have again to endure the ills of life during their course through the mortal world,” the Taoist remarked; “but when, I wonder, will they spring into existence? and in what place will they descend?”

“The account of these circumstances,” the bonze ventured to reply, “is enough to make you laugh! They amount to this:

there existed in the west, on the bank of the Ling (spiritual) river, by the side of the San Sheng (thrice-born) stone, a blade of the Chiang Chu (purple pearl) grass. At about the same time it was that the

block of stone was, consequent upon its rejection by the goddess of works, also left to ramble and wander to its own gratification, and to roam about at pleasure to every and any place. One day it came

within the precincts of the Ching Huan (Monitory Vision) Fairy; and this Fairy, cognizant of the fact that this stone had

a history, detained it, therefore,

to reside at the Ch’ih Hsia (purple clouds) palace,

and apportioned to it the duties of attendant on Shen Ying,

a fairy of the Ch’ih Hsia palace.

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On this particular day, he, by some accident, extended his

On this particular day, he, by some accident, extended his walk beyond the suburbs, and desirous to contemplate the nature of the rustic scenery

, he, with listless step, came up to a spot encircled by hills and streaming pools, by luxuriant clumps of trees and thick groves of bamboos. Nestling in the dense foliage stood a temple. The doors and courts were in ruins. The walls, inner and outer, in disrepair. An inscription on a tablet testified that this was the temple of Spiritual Perception. On the sides of the door was also a pair of old and dilapidated scrolls with the following enigmatical verses.

Behind ample there is, yet to retract the hand, the mind heeds not, until.

Before the mortal vision lies no path, when comes to turn the will.

“These two sentences,” Yü-ts’un pondered after perusal, “although simple in language, are profound in signification. I have

previous to this visited many a spacious temple, located on hills of note, but never have I beheld an inscription referring to

anything of the kind. The meaning contained in these words must, I feel certain, owe their origin to the experiences of some

person or other; but there’s no saying. But why should I not go in and inquire for myself?”

Upon walking in, he at a glance caught sight of no one else, but of a very aged bonze, of unkempt appearance, cooking his rice.

When Yü-ts’un perceived that he paid no notice, he went up to him and asked him one or two questions, but as the old priest

was dull of hearing and a dotard, and as he had lost his teeth, and his tongue was blunt, he made most irrelevant replies.

Yü-ts’un lost all patience with him, and withdrew again from the compound with the intention of going as far as the village public

house to have a drink or two, so as to enhance the enjoyment of the rustic scenery. With easy stride, he accordingly walked up to

the place. Scarcely had he passed the threshold of the

public house, when he perceived some one or other

among the visitors who had been sitting sipping their wine on the divan,

jump up and come up to greet him,

with a face beaming with laughter.

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Hence it was that K’ung K’ung, the Taoist, in consequence of his

Hence it was that K’ung K’ung, the Taoist, in consequence of his

perception, (in his state of) abstraction, of passion, the generation, from this passion, of

 

voluptuousness, the transmission of this voluptuousness into passion, and the apprehension, by means of passion, of its unreality, forthwith altered his name for

that of “Ch’ing Tseng” (the Voluptuous Bonze), and changed the title of “the Memoir of a Stone” (Shih-t’ou-chi,) for that of “Ch’ing Tseng Lu,” The Record of

the Voluptuous Bonze; while K’ung Mei-chi of Tung Lu gave it the name of “Feng Yüeh Pao Chien,” “The Precious Mirror of Voluptuousness.” In later years, owing

to the devotion by Tsao Hsüeh-ch’in in the Tao Hung study, of ten years to the perusal and revision of the work, the additions and modifications effected by him five times, the affix of an index and the division into periods and chapters, the

book was again entitled “Chin Ling Shih Erh Ch’ai,” “The Twelve Maidens of Chin Ling.” A stanza was furthermore composed for

the purpose. This then, and no other, is the origin of the Record of the Stone. The poet says appositely:—

Pages full of silly litter,

Tears a handful sour and bitter;

All a fool the author hold,

But their zest who can unfold?

You have now understood the causes which brought about the Record of the Stone, but as you are not, as yet, aware what

characters are depicted, and what circumstances are related on the surface of the block, reader, please lend an ear to the narrative on the stone, which runs as follows:—

In old days, the land in the South East lay low. In this South-East part of the world, was situated a walled town, Ku Su by name.

Within the walls a locality, called the Ch’ang Men, was more than all others throughout the mortal world, the centre, which held the second, if not the first place for fashion and life. Beyond this

Ch’ang Men was a street called Shih-li-chieh (Ten Li street); in this street a lane, the Jen Ch’ing lane (Humanity and Purity); and in this lane stood an old temple, which on account of its

diminutive dimensions, was called, by general consent, the

Gourd temple. Next door to this temple lived the family of a

district official, Chen by surname, Fei by name, and Shih-yin by style. His wife, née Feng, possessed a worthy and virtuous

disposition, and had a clear perception of moral propriety and good conduct. This family, though not in actual possession of

excessive affluence and honours, was, nevertheless, in their district, conceded to be a clan of well-to-do standing. As this

Chen Shih-yin was of a contented and unambitious frame of mind, and entertained no hankering after any official distinction,

but day after day of his life took delight in

gazing at flowers, planting bamboos,

sipping his wine and conning poetical

works, he was in fact, in the indulgence

of these pursuits, as happy as a supernatural being.

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By his wife, née Chia, he had a daughter, to whom the

By his wife, née Chia, he had a daughter, to whom the infant name of Tai Yü was given. She was, at this time, in her fifth year. Upon her the parents doated as

much as if she were a brilliant pearl in the palm of their hand. Seeing that she was endowed with natural gifts of intelligence and good looks, they also felt solicitous

to bestow upon her a certain knowledge of books, with no other purpose than that of satisfying, by this illusory way, their wishes of having a son to nurture and of

dispelling the anguish felt by them, on account of the desolation and void in their family circle (round their knees).

But to proceed. Yü-ts’un, while sojourning at an inn, was unexpectedly laid up with a violent chill. Finding on his recovery, that his funds were not sufficient to

pay his expenses, he was thinking of looking out for some house where he could find a resting place when he suddenly came across two friends acquainted with

the new Salt Commissioner. Knowing that this official was desirous to find a tutor to instruct his daughter, they lost no time in recommending Yü-ts’un, who moved into the Yamên.

His female pupil was youthful in years and delicate in physique, so that her lessons were irregular. Besides herself, there were only two waiting girls, who

remained in attendance during the hours of study, so that Yü-ts’un was spared considerable trouble and had a suitable opportunity to attend to the improvement of his health.

In a twinkle, another year and more slipped by, and when least expected, the mother of his ward, née Chia, was carried away after a short illness. His pupil

(during her mother’s sickness) was dutiful in her attendance, and prepared the medicines for her use. (And after her death,) she went into the deepest mourning

prescribed by the rites, and gave way to such excess of grief that, naturally delicate as she was, her old complaint, on this account, broke out anew.

Being unable for a considerable time to prosecute her studies,

Yü-ts’un lived at leisure and had no duties to attend to.

Whenever therefore the wind was genial and the sun mild,

he was wont to stroll at random,

after he had done with his meals.

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Still more loathsome is a kind of pedantic and profligate

“Still more loathsome is a kind of pedantic and profligate literature, perfectly devoid of all natural sentiment,

 

full of self-contradictions; and, in fact, the contrast to those maidens in my work, whom I have, during half my lifetime,

seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. And though I will not presume to estimate them as superior to

the heroes and heroines in the works of former ages, yet the perusal of the motives and issues of their experiences,

may likewise afford matter sufficient to banish dulness, and to break the spell of melancholy.

“As regards the several stanzas of doggerel verse, they may too evoke such laughter as to compel the reader to blurt out the rice, and to spurt out the wine.

“In these pages, the scenes depicting the anguish of separation, the bliss of reunion, and the fortunes of prosperity

and of adversity are all, in every detail, true to human nature, and I have not taken upon myself to make the slightest addition,

or alteration, which might lead to the perversion of the truth.

“My only object has been that men may, after a drinking bout, or after they wake from sleep or when in need of relaxation

from the pressure of business, take up this light literature, and not only expunge the traces of antiquated books, and obtain

a new kind of distraction, but that they may also lay by a long life as well as energy and strength; for it bears no point of

similarity to those works, whose designs are false,

whose course is immoral. Now, Sir Priest, what are your views on the subject?”

K’ung K’ung having pondered for a while over the words, to which he had listened intently, re-perused, throughout, this record of

the stone; and finding that the general purport consisted of nought else than a treatise on love, and likewise of an accurate

transcription of facts, without the

least taint of profligacy injurious to the times,

he thereupon copied the contents,

from beginning to end, to the intent of

charging the world to hand them down as a strange story.

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As luck would have it, on a certain day while making

As luck would have it, on a certain day while making a second journey through the Wei Yang district, he heard the news that the Salt Commissioner appointed this year was Lin Ju-hai.

This Lin Ju-hai’s family name was Lin, his name Hai and his style Ju-hai. He had obtained the third place in the previous triennial examination, and had, by this time, already risen to the rank of Director of the Court of Censors.

He was a native of Kú Su. He had been recently named by Imperial appointment a Censor attached to the Salt Inspectorate, and had arrived at his post only a short while back.

In fact, the ancestors of Lin Ju-hai had, from years back, successively inherited the title of Marquis,

which rank, by its present descent to Ju-hai, had already been enjoyed by five generations. When first conferred,

the hereditary right to the title had been limited to three generations;

but of late years, by an act of magnanimous favour and generous beneficence, extraordinary bounty had been superadded; and on the arrival of the

succession to the father of Ju-hai, the right had been extended to another degree. It had now descended to Ju-hai,

who had, besides this title of nobility, begun his career as a successful graduate. But though his family had been through uninterrupted ages the recipient of imperial bounties, his kindred had all been anyhow men of culture.

The only misfortune had been that the several branches of the Lin family had not been prolific, so that the numbers of its members continued limited;

and though there existed several households, they were all however to Ju-hai no closer relatives than first cousins.

Neither were there any connections of the same lineage, or of the same parentage.

Ju-hai was at this date past forty; and had only had a son,

who had died the previous year, in the third year of his age.

Though he had several handmaids,

he had not had the good fortune of having another son;

but this was too a matter that could not be remedied.

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“Brother stone,” he forthwith said, addressing the stone

“Brother stone,” he forthwith said, addressing the stone, “the concerns of past days recorded on you possess, according to your own account, a considerable amount of interest, and have been for this

 

reason inscribed, with the intent of soliciting generations to hand them down as remarkable occurrences. But in my own opinion, they lack, in the first place, any data by means of which to establish the name

of the Emperor and the year of his reign; and, in the second place, these constitute no record of any excellent policy, adopted by any high worthies or high loyal statesmen, in the government of the state,

or in the rule of public morals. The contents simply treat of a certain number of maidens, of exceptional character; either of their

love affairs or infatuations, or of their small deserts or insignificant talents; and were I to transcribe the whole collection of them,

they would, nevertheless, not be estimated as a book of any exceptional worth.”

“Sir Priest,” the stone replied with assurance, “why are you so excessively dull? The dynasties recorded in the rustic histories, which have been written from age to age, have, I am fain to think, invariably

assumed, under false pretences, the mere nomenclature of the Han and T’ang dynasties. They differ from the events inscribed on my block, which do not borrow this customary practice, but, being based on my own experiences and natural feelings, present, on the contrary, a novel

and unique character. Besides, in the pages of these rustic histories, either the aspersions upon sovereigns and statesmen, or the strictures upon individuals, their wives, and their daughters, or the deeds

of licentiousness and violence are too numerous to be computed. Indeed, there is one more kind of loose literature, the wantonness and pollution in which work most easy havoc upon youth.

“As regards the works, in which the characters of scholars and beauties is delineated their allusions are again repeatedly

of Wen Chün, their theme in every page of Tzu Chien; a thousand volumes present no diversity; and a thousand characters

are but a counterpart of each other. What is more, these works, throughout all their pages, cannot help bordering on extreme licence. The authors, however, had no other object in view

than to give utterance to a few sentimental odes and elegant ballads of their own, and for this reason they have fictitiously

invented the names and surnames of

both men and women, and necessarily introduced,

in addition, some low characters, who should,

like a buffoon in a play, create some excitement in the plot.

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