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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Yang Ta hung 297 was known to fame


FOOTNOTES:

[294] The city of Canton boasts several "cat and dog" restaurants; but the consumption of this kind of food is much less universal than is generally supposed.

[295] Not in our sense of the term. It was not death, but decapitation, or even mutilation, from which the trader begged to be spared. See No. LXXII., note 59.

[296] The Chinese dog is usually an ill-fed, barking cur, without one redeeming trait in its character. Valued as a guardian of house and property, this animal does not hold the same social position as with us; its very name is a by-word of reproach; and the people of Tonquin explain their filthy custom of blackening the teeth on the ground that a dog's teeth are white.

CXLVIII.

THE GREAT TEST.

Before Mr. Yang Ta-hung[297] was known to fame, he had already acquired some reputation as a scholar in his own part of the country, and felt convinced himself that his was to be no mean destiny. When the list of successful candidates at the examination was brought to where he lived, he was in the middle of dinner, and rushed out with his mouth full to ask if his name was there or not; and on hearing that it was not, he experienced such a revulsion of feeling that what he then swallowed stuck fast like a lump in his chest

and made him very ill. His friends tried to appease him by advising him to try at the further examination of the rejected, and when he urged that he had no money, they subscribed ten ounces of silver and started him on his way.

That night he dreamt that a man appeared to him and said, "Ahead of you there is one who can cure your complaint: beseech him to aid you." The man then added--

"A tune on the flute 'neath the riverside willow: Oh, show no regret when 'tis cast to the billow!"

Next day, Mr. Yang actually met a Taoist priest sitting beneath a willow tree; and, making him a bow, asked him to prescribe for his malady. "You have come to the wrong person," replied the priest, smiling; "I cannot cure diseases; but had you asked me for a tune on the flute, I could have possibly helped you." Then Mr. Yang knew that his dream was being fulfilled; and going down on his knees offered the priest all the money he had. The priest took it, but immediately threw it into the river, at which Mr. Yang, thinking how hardly he had come by this money, was moved to express his regret. "Aha!" cried the priest at this; "so you are not indifferent, eh? You'll find your money all safe on the bank." There indeed Mr. Yang found it, at which he was so much astonished that he addressed the priest as though he had been an angel. "I am no angel," said the priest, "but here comes one;" whereupon Mr. Yang looked behind him, and the priest seized the opportunity to give him a slap on the back, crying out at the same time, "You worldly-minded fellow!" This blow brought up the lump of food that had stuck in his chest, and he felt better at once; but when he looked round the priest had disappeared.[298]

FOOTNOTES:

[297] A celebrated scholar and statesman, who flourished towards the close of the Ming dynasty, and distinguished himself by his impeachment of the powerful eunuch, Wei Chung-hsien,--a dangerous step to take in those eunuch-ridden times.


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