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Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

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

A Ghost Makes an Offering of Dumplings

Mr. Zhong of Hengtang, Hangzhou, employed a private tutor by the name of Wang Shengyu. Mr. Zhong's third son, Zhong Youtiao, was twenty years old, but he decided to trick his tutor and pretend to be only sixteen.

He asked Scholar Wang if it was all right for him to study even though he was only sixteen, and was given the reply that age was of no consequence; it was the degree of determination that mattered.

Youtiao thought this an astute answer and so he worked diligently at his studies from then on.

Zhong's father was the sort of merchant who wasn't keen on having his son spend all his time studying, so he insisted that Youtiao make regular business trips to Wumen. Youtiao was very unhappy about this, but he complied with his father's wishes all the same.

During the day he would work in the markets and in the evening he would rush home to catch up on his studies, working late into the night and often hiding in seclusion behind his bed curtains. The walls of his room were plastered with posters bearing words to the effect that "life has not been kind to me."

After four months of this busy life he became very ill, and on returning home one night, just before the Double Ninth Festival, he collapsed and died. His bereaved family placed his coffin in the main hall.

The next year, on the night of July seventh, Scholar Wang was awakened by the sound of his study door opening. A figure made its way towards his bed, and when Wang raised his bed curtains he saw it was his old pupil Youtiao. Youtiao walked towards him with a candle in his left hand and a steaming bowl of food in his right.

As he reached Wang's bed he said with a smile: "Teacher, you must be hungry, so I've prepared a small dish especially for you." Scholar Wang accepted the proffered bowl and saw that it held four dumplings and a copper spoon.

-190-

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