Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

By Kam Louie; Louise Edwards et al. | Go to book overview

Scholar Zhuang

Ye Xiangliu, a provincial scholar famous for his filial piety, once told me a strange tale regarding the household of a friend of his, a Mr. Chen. Chen had hired a scholar by the name of Zhuang to be the family's private tutor.

At dusk one August evening Zhuang's two charges, the young Chen brothers, were sitting in their study engaged in a game of chess, their studies being over for the day. For a while scholar Zhuang observed the game, but gradually he tired of this and decided to make his way home.

His home was about a mile from the Chen residence and separated from it by a bridge. While crossing the bridge Zhuang tripped and fell. He brushed himself off and hurried on his way.

When he finally did reach home, however, he couldn't get in. Nobody responded to his repeated knocking, so in frustration he decided to go back to the Chen residence.

The young Chen boys were still intent on their game of chess, so Zhuang strolled out into the courtyard. At the far end of the garden he noticed a small doorway, which to his great surprise led to another courtyard, this one filled with banana palms.

"Mr. Chen has such a beautiful house and yet he hardly has time to appreciate it," he sighed.

He walked up some steps towards a pavilion and there he saw a beautiful young woman giving birth. Zhuang found this vision of beauty and fecundity immensely desirable but he restrained himself, thinking,"I shouldn't be in the inner quarters of my master's house. It would be quite scandalous if I stayed to watch such a private event!"

Thus resolved, he hurried back to the boys' chess game. At one point the younger Chen brother was poised to defeat the elder, who remained oblivious to the threat, concentrating as he was on another section of the board. Zhuang tried to tell him about the danger, but

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