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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Presented him with a cricket which


[1] The term "sea-market" is generally understood in the sense of _mirage_, or some similar phenomenon.

[2] A famous General who played a leading part in the wars of the Three Kingdoms. See No. XCIII., note 127.

[3] A hit at the hypocrisy of the age.

[4] Shewing that hypocrisy is bad policy in the long run.

[5] The tears of Chinese mermaids are said to be pearls.

[6] See No. XIX., note 135.

[7] Good ink of the kind miscalled "Indian," is usually very highly scented; and from a habit the Chinese have of sucking their writing-brushes to a fine point, the phrase "to eat ink" has become a synonym of "to study."

[8] This all-important point in a Chinese marriage ceremony is the equivalent of our own "signing in the vestry."

[9] Literally, "if you have no one to cook your food."

[10] "Dragon Palace" and "Happy Sea," respectively.

[11] Alluding to an old legend of a letter conveyed by a bird.

[12] See No. V., note 49.

[13] The "Spinning Damsel," or name of a star in Lyra, connected with which there is a celebrated legend of its

annual transit across the Milky Way.

[14] These are of course only the equivalents of the Chinese names in the text.

[15] To keep off the much-dreaded wind, which disturbs the rest of the departed.

[16] For which a very high price is obtained in China.



During the reign of Hsuean Te,[17] cricket fighting was very much in vogue at court, levies of crickets being exacted from the people as a tax. On one occasion the magistrate of Hua-yin, wishing to make friends with the Governor, presented him with a cricket which, on being set to fight, displayed very remarkable powers; so much so that the Governor commanded the magistrate to supply him regularly with these insects. The latter, in his turn, ordered the beadles of his district to provide him with crickets; and then it became a practice for people who had nothing else to do to catch and rear them for this purpose. Thus the price of crickets rose very high; and when the beadle's[18] runners came to exact even a single one, it was enough to ruin several families.

Now in the village of which we are speaking there lived a man named Ch'eng, a student who had often failed for his bachelor's degree; and, being a stupid sort of fellow, his name was sent in for the post of beadle. He did all he could to get out of it, but without success; and by the end of the year his small patrimony was gone. Just then came a call for crickets, and Ch'eng, not daring to make a like call upon his neighbours, was at his wits' end, and in his distress determined to commit suicide. "What's the use of that?" cried his wife. "You'd do better to go out and try to find some." So off went Ch'eng in the early morning, with a bamboo tube and a silk net, not returning till late at night; and he searched about in tumble-down walls, in bushes, under stones, and in holes, but without catching more than two or three, do what he would. Even those he did catch were weak creatures, and of no use at all, which made the magistrate fix a limit of time, the result of which was that in a few days Ch'eng got one hundred blows with the bamboo. This made him so sore that he was quite unable to go after the crickets any more, and, as he lay tossing and turning on the bed, he determined once again to put an end to his life.

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