Liu Yao – Yuanxiao Festival Extra

Translated by: SassyStrawberry
Edited by:  


 

FOR THE BEST READING EXPERIENCE, WE RECOMMEND READING THE CHAPTERS IN THE ORIGINAL FORMAT INSTEAD OF THE WORDPRESS READER.

六爻 元宵番外

On the evening of the Shangyuan Festival[1], the small town at the foot of Fuyao mountain will hold a small flower lantern exhibition. Han Muchun, still a disciple at the time, was unwilling to merely watch the red dust of the mortal world from the sidelines. Every year, he would join in the fun and add to the Lantern Festival[1] festivities; At the first watch[2] , numerous flower lanterns would float down from the top of Fuyao Mountain, landing on the heads of their fated owners and when plucked off, can be exchanged for a prize[3].

[1] shàng yuán dēng jié (上元灯节)– It is also known as yuán xiāo jié (元宵节), it marks the end of the lunar new year. The Lantern Festival is the final event of the Spring Festival (春節|春节), held on the 15th of the first month of the lunar calendar. We eat sticky rice dumplings (tangyuan) to celebrate, this festival symbolizes harmonious and joyous reunions. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns cāi dēng mí (猜灯谜), these lanterns are often in the shape of animals. 

[2] yī gèng tiān  (一更天) The first watch, about 19:12. During the Han Dynasty, staff was separated into shifts, there were five shifts,

[3 cǎi tóu (彩头) this refers to prizes obtained from entertainment/games or gambling. Good luck omen, auspicious. If you’re not reading this on sassystrawberrytranslates.wordpress.com, its a stolen TL.

Such prizes[3] include herbal medicines with the ability to expel evil spirits or pain-relief, or maybe a panacea that promotes the growth and development of one’s innate physique[4], or perhaps an immortal eternal fire lamp[5] that can burn continuously for many years. A casually carved amulet or talisman by a cultivator is considered a great treasure in the hands of the poverty-stricken common people. In times of hardship or famine, they can pawn it and use the proceeds to sustain themselves for a long time.

[4] gēn gǔ (根骨) – literally referring to “root bones”. This is a Taoist concept referring to one’s innate quality or qualifications, which include their physical and psychological health, which are the foundations for future formation and development of their psychology and recognition/enlightenment. If the foundation is poor, it will be difficult to build upon.

[5] cháng míng dēng (长明灯) – lit.” Everbright lamp”,  this refers to a lamp that burns day and night, generally placed on an altar. There is a tradition of “eternal fire’, where people light such lamps on New Year’s Eve, and they cannot be blown out once they are lit. People will let the lamp oil run out and the flame will go out on its own. 

Early in the morning on the fifteenth day of the first month[1], Tong Ru pushed aside the door of the pavilion and brushed aside the chilly winds with his long sleeves. He caught sight of his disciple setting up a stall.

The source of Xiao Chun[6] ‘s merchandise was unknown,  There were more than a hundred lanterns lined up in a row, there were tall ones, short ones, fat ones and skinny ones. Square, round, long and flat, there were all kinds. Some were suspended in mid-air, and others were spread out on the ground. He was unbothered by this, and was busily writing lantern riddles[7] on each of them.

[6] xiǎo chūn (小椿) or Xiao Chun/Little Chun, is a diminutive nickname for Han Muchun hán mù chūn (韩木椿). The character (椿) of his name, can be used to describe longevity, and also refers to a species of tree. 

[7] dēng mí  (灯谜) lit. “Lantern riddles” Part of the traditional folk entertainment, where riddles are written on paper and pasted on the lanterns for other people to guess.

Tong Ru held his hands behind his back as he peered over at the scene, it was indeed a rather elegant word riddle. He paused for a moment to ponder on it, before understanding and coming to an answer. He couldn’t help but smile and ask,:”Juren[8]-laoye[9], how many of the people who pick up your lanterns are literate? Casting pearls before swine[10].”

[8] jǔ rén (举人) – Juren is a rank obtained by people who have passed the provincial portion of the imperial examinations, one rank below Jinshi (the highest degree). 

[9] lǎo yé (老爷) an honorific title for officials, wealthy or influential people or the gentry. Servants also use this to refer respectfully to their masters.

[10] duì niú tán qín (对牛弹琴) lit.”playing guqin to an audience of cows”, to describe trying to argue with someone who is unreasonable, or explain elegance to someone who cannot understand beauty. Derogatory. Read this on sassystrawberrytranslates.wordpress.com

Han Muchun’s lanterns would always fall on the most destitute people’s heads. Some people’s lives are extremely ill-fated, and may just need that bit of good fortune to get out of their troubled circumstances. With this little push from a ‘treasure’ like the lantern, perhaps they may be able to turn their lives around. Thus, a saying started circulating around the foot of Fuyao Mountain: Anyone who picks up an “Immortal Lantern” will find that their misfortunes have come to an end, with the future stretching ahead of them.

 This is a fortuitous event, but those impoverished folk are exhausted by simply trying to survive, and may not be able to comprehend Han Muchun’s elegance and refinement.

Han Muchun smiled at this, saying,:” Shifu, these words aren’t entirely accurate.” 

En?” Tong Ru raised an eyebrow and waited to listen and see which direction this conversation would take.

“The Shangyuan festival[1]‘s lanterns must always come with lantern riddles.” Han Muchun used a brush made of lamb hair to dab at some ochre pigment from the gamboge tree, and drew some yellow wintersweet flowers.Then he wrote down the answer to the riddle “plum”, his written words as beautiful as the painting, bearing a cosy and harmonious feeling.

“It’s not as if I make a living by my art. Playing the guqin is for one’s own pleasure, who cares about who listens to it? Can it be that every time Shifu plays the guqin, he must clear the venue and deny entry to the pigs, cows, horses and sheep?”

 “What nonsense.” Tong Ru jokingly scolded him, “How is it that on normal days when I have you carve talismans, or ask you to cultivate diligently, I’ve never seen you put in this much effort? Such a letdown.”

Shifu, our sect has you[11] to lead it, even the Four Saints are not good enough. How is it that you are still waiting for me to become worthy?” Han Muchun was the very image of a steady and unflappable old god, not at all afraid of his shifu‘s feigned displeasure. “Seizing all the worthiness within our family, how will others live? Truly bullying others to the extreme!”

[11] nín (您) – The respectful form of ‘you’ is generally used for elders or people of a higher status. 

 Tong Ru’s heart was extremely fatigued by this, he said,:” What can I hope for from you? Cultivation and seeking the Dao is for……:

“Yes, yes, yes. For one to become enlightened and gain wisdom,” Han Muchun didn’t wait for Tong Ru to finish his sentence before cutting in,” And what is the purpose of gaining enlightenment and wisdom? It’s to be happy.” ssasdadsadsa

Whilst speaking, he again wrote on a very fat and round lantern, he flicked his fingers once, and the lantern floated into mid-air. A part of his sleeve that he had tucked away came undone, so he folded up again at this time, before replying with a smile,: “But I’m also happy now.”

 The ice-covered mountain was transformed,  the yao valley’s cloud cover also dissipated. Some people may not have world-class talents and abilities[12], nor the ability to shock and awe others, but they do have the talent of causing others to forget all their woes and cast aside their worries in their presence.

[12] jīng tiān wěi dì (经天纬地)  to have heaven and earth under one’s control, possess great ability; highly talented. 

Hence even his worried Shifu cast aside his own cares, only pointing at him and speaking in a half-joking manner,:” With the impermanence of the world, what if this teacher is no longer around?  In the future when the Fuyao Sect falls into your hands, what would happen then? It can’t be that you will rely on your disciples to prove worthy?”

Tong Ru was a great power of his generation, and couldn’t be considered to be someone who would act wilfully or behave unscrupulously. However, his attitude in life and how he conducts himself has always been somewhat careless, since those people who were worthy of him “paying particular attention to” , were few and far between. He blurted out such words, and now somewhat regrets having spoken without a filter. Such words should not be said during the spring festival due to their inauspicious nature. While he himself is unbothered by such things, other people may find it uncomfortable and vexing.

Had it been Jiang Peng, his expression would have definitely changed at these words. He would then speak in fear and trepidation, and refute it by saying things like “Shifu is in his prime[13]” and other similarly useless platitudes.

[13] chūn qiū dǐng shèng (春秋鼎盛) lit.” Spring-Autumn peak prosperity” describing a person in the prime of one’s life.

Han Muchun didn’t even turn his head, and replied,:” Sigh, if that day really comes, the Sect will truly have long fallen into decline, what’s the point in struggling then. Everyone at the end of the year, just being able to feast and drink well in this “pheasants’ nest”, peacefully and harmoniously warming ourselves by the fire and offering up sacrifices- isn’t it great? Shifu can rest assured!”

Tong Ru said,:” ……how am I to rest assured?” asdasd asdasdasdas asdasda 

Dying but being unable to “Rest In Peace”[14] – kind of assured, is it.

[14] sǐ bù míng mù (死不瞑目) lit.” To be unable to close one’s eyes in death”, it means to die with regrets or un-redressed injustice, unable to die in peace.

Han Muchun laughed at this, saying:” At that time, this disciple will definitely bring the little ones along to make offerings to you, with Osmanthus candy-filled tangyuan, the kind that has been generously and enthusiastically sweetened. Guaranteed to be sufficient. I know you[11] really enjoy such food, but look down on it for not being sufficiently fittingly heroic, hence are too embarrassed to indulge by eating more… Hey Shifu , don’t ruin the lanterns, calm down, calm down!”

 Dusk with its afterglow has fallen upon the land. When it was time to release the lanterns down the mountain, Han Muchun attached a little umbrella to each lantern, each of them looking as if they were wearing hats, looking charmingly naive and silly.

Tong Ru asked,:” What’s this for? Afraid of your precious[15] lanterns getting frozen?”

[15] bǎo bèi (宝贝) lit.” precious shell/cowrie”, it means precious, treasured object or person. jkhjkhjkjh

“It will snow tonight.” Han Muchun said,:” I’ve prepared umbrellas in advance, so my pigments don’t get wet.”

Tong Ru raised his head and gave the sky a glance, saying,:” There won’t be snow tonight.”

“There’s sure to be, the old farmer’s proverb says that ‘if the clouds cover the moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, then the snow will fall upon the lanterns during the Lantern Festival.’ Last year during the Mid-Autumn Festival it rained for the entire day, so it will definitely snow tonight.”

Tong Ru was stunned speechless for a moment, and sighed,:” Xiao Chun[6], if you could use that brain of yours on cultivation instead of remembering the weather on the last year’s Mid-Autumn Festival- I expect that you’d be able to feel the resonance and variations in of Heaven and Earth’s temperament, and the changes in the weather already.”

“The farmer’s proverb has its own basis……”

“No snow.”

What if, Shifu let’s bet on it.” Han Muchun pushed the last lantern down Fuyao Mountain, and said,” If I win, then Shifu must make a lantern for me.”

Tong Ru said with a straight face,:” If you lose, an additional hour will be added to tomorrow’s homework.”

Han Muchun’s face fell at this, and Tong Ru laughed,:” If we don’t leave now, the lantern exhibition will be over before we get there.”

Later, in the midst of the chaos of war, with the yao and demons rampaging, the gods and saints falling to diabolism, and the immortals turning into monsters – Fuyao Mountain’s lantern exhibition was discontinued for many years. It was only until the manners and morals of the world thrashed about for several cycles, and the 48th generation Sect Leader reopened the Fuyao Mountain Gate, that the people at the foot of the mountain again started to prosper. 

Eight years later, the Shangyuan Festival started up again. During the preparations for the festivities, there was an old man who went to the foot of Fuyao Mountain to offer incense and pray for blessings. He secretly made a wish for the immortals on the mountain to again bestow good fortune upon the people like in the legends of old.

When Yan Zhengming first entered the sect, it was already a “pheasant’s nest”, and this was the first time that he’d heard of this matter. That night he sent his consciousness into the sect leader’s seal to investigate this so-called tradition.

After seeing it, he sat silently at dawn for some time. The day after, the Sect Leader gathered his junior disciple brothers, disciple sister, and all the disciples together in a circle: Shuikeng took the juniors to make lanterns, Li Yun wrote the riddles, and took inventory of the storerooms in order to put together prizes in the lanterns. Cheng Qian was in charge of carving the amulets that their Shifu had used to place on the lanterns, in order to prevent the lanterns from falling into the hands of ill-intentioned people. The Sect Leader was in charge of sitting cross-legged and behaving in a very particular and picky manner towards everyone…… Cough, no, he was in charge of auditing the entire process.

Shifu used to do all of this on his own?” Li Yun thought of lantern riddles until his brains felt like mush, and started to cheat a little by copying – with the aid provided by the faraway Han Yuan from Southern Xinjiang, which created even more chaos since they were mostly riddles from the underworld that couldn’t be used,:” This grand elder[16] is too idle……in his literary pursuits.”

[16] lǎo ren jia (老人家) – “old person” or “old man”. A respectful way of referring to an elder.

 Shuikeng, however, was not displeased. The flying lanterns and the flying Tong cranes seemed to almost be from the same family – they were all extremely beautiful, shining richly in a display of dazzling lights and colors– in her own opinion — whilst happily making her handcrafted lanterns, she asked,:” Then as for that bet between Shifu and Shizu, who won?”

 Yan Zhengming thought for a moment before replying,:” Shifu.”

Shuikeng asked,:” Oh, Shifu is so powerful. This year I also want to read more books.”

Li Yun said,:” That’s impossible. Someone as formidable as our Shizu, not to speak of five hundred years ago or five hundred years later, but for the next ten days or half a month to predict cloudy, sunny, rain or snow – he would definitely not make any errors.”

Only Cheng Qian raised his head, and muttered “Oh” in an ambiguous manner of unclear significance.        46h5#%把5#

Yan Zhengming raised his eyebrows and glanced over at him,:” What do you know?”

 Cheng Qian skilfully carved an invisible charm on the lantern handed over to him by Nian Dada, and replied in an unhurried manner,:” Controlling the forces of nature is not difficult, the challenge is in not being found out. Since Shizu was able to accomplish this even then, I am still not his match. It seems that this year I must work even harder.”

The entire Fuyao Sect – including the Sect Leader, all felt their spine shrink away tightly at this– as if they had been collectively stung by an intangible whip. Even Yan Zhengming couldn’t continue cracking open his melon seeds for a time.

After a long while, Shuikeng finally gathered up her courage to nervously and softly ‘squeak’ up in a solemn and earnest tone,:” So that day, Shizu called down the snow?” 

Near the stroke of midnight, Han Muchun started to look more and more worried whilst continuously gazing up at the sky, unable to continue his shopping anymore. Tong Ru then took this opportunity to secretly send up a charm – the East Wind blew, causing all the lantern flames on the street to flicker once. A quarter of an hour later, the water vapor poured in silently, and snow, like salt crystals, started to fall.

It was exactly the third watch[17].sefsesres

[17] sān gēng (三更) referring to the third of the five watch periods between 23:00 to 1:00. Midnight.

Li Yun found the lantern that Tong Ru had made then with his own hands in the nine-story Scripture building.  This was a very dignified octagonal lantern, it was traditional and modest. Upon it was written a lantern riddle with only the words: Where the heart is at ease.

The wooden plaque below this was blank, the riddle had not been solved.

 “Huh, isn’t it easy, even I know this,” Shuikeng touched the wooden plaque lightly and wrote: My old hometown.

As soon as the characters were written, they immediately disappeared– Incorrect.

Shuikeng made a “Yi” sound in surprise and tried again “My original hometown”, “my hometown” and variations of the same, and even tried to find out where Shizu Tong Ru’s ancestral home was located, but it was still wrong.

Cheng Qian was not good at guessing riddles, so he asked,:” Is it Fuyao?”

It wasn’t. jpjkm

“Maybe it’s a word riddle.” Li Yun stretched his head over, and said,:” This place where the heart is at ease, if we deconstruct it……”

Shuikeng said” Aiya, er-shixiong, you mustn’t spout nonsense. It can’t be a word riddle, can’t you see that even Shifu couldn’t guess it? Are you more well-learned than his grand elder?”

The group of them squabbled and quarreled noisily, and ultimately were unable to come to a result in the end. After hearing that the lantern display at the foot of the mountain was about to commence, Shuikeng was the first to lose all patience,:” Not guessing, not guessing anymore. Hurry up, let’s go to the lantern display and play something easier.”

 Li Yun was the weakest link and unable to resist, thus was dragged away by his great yao monster shimei, but he was still unwilling to let it go, and said:” Wait, let me think about it again, where the heart feels at ease……where the heart feels at ease……”

Cheng Qian silently smiled, and turned his head, asking Yan Zhengming almost tenderly,:” Da-shixiong, are we going together?”

 Yan Zhengming snapped out of his thoughts with this call, made an “Ah” sound, before replying,:” Going – wait for me to change clothes……”

Even before he finished speaking, Cheng Qian had already left without a trace, only leaving behind a sentence,:” I’ll pick you up at the foot of the mountain in the wee hours, see you later.”

Yan Zhengming:”……”

You unreasonable bastard, what do you mean by this!

In the twinkling of an eye, everyone had already run off. Yan Zhengming gathered himself and with a complicated look in his eyes, he looked towards the lantern that had been burning brightly for hundreds of years on the nine-story scripture building. 

The next moment, he picked up the pen whose ink had not yet dried and wrote on the blank wooden plaque the word: 椿 [18].

[18] This Chun (椿) is part of Han Muchun’s name. awdawedw

With a soft ‘click’ sound, the lantern’s charm dissipated, and the octagonal lantern opened. Within the never-before-solved riddle box, was a tiny jade peace plaque.

 Yan Zhengming was silent for a while, and then quietly and without a trace sealed the jade plaque back, and erased the words on the wooden plaque. He turned to leave, locking up the door of the scripture building.

By this time, the first batch of immortal lanterns must have already drifted over the lantern display.

The fireworks set off at the foot of the mountain soared into the air and illuminated half the sky. Yan Zhengming also caught sight of Cheng Qian, who in spite of having said that he would leave first, was still waiting outside the door of the wen rou xiang[19].

[19] wēn róu xiāng (温柔乡) lit.” the gentle/tender town”, this is often used to refer to a place of gentle, considerate and charming women – it is a tender and gentle place for men. The statement is ambiguous. It is also used as a cautionary tale against men falling into the trap of the wiles of women and being consumed by lust. In this case, it is the name of Yan Zhengming’s chambers – because he would only be able to live in a soft and gentle place in his youth, but the rest of his life would be difficult and arduous.

Under the fiery trees and silver flowers, the world’s reunions are beautiful and happy.                pjgfjgfjgf


(original post)

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