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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Which Kuo drank off at a draught


FOOTNOTES:

[22] The name here used is the _Heng_ or "ceaseless" river, which is applied by the Chinese to the Ganges. A certain number, extending to fifty-three places of figures, is called "Ganges sand," in allusion to a famous remark that "Buddha and the Bodhisatvas knew of the creation and destruction of every grain of dust in Jambudwipa (the universe); how much more the number of the sand-particles in the river Ganges?"

[23] Drunkenness is not recognised in China as an extenuating circumstance; neither, indeed, is insanity,--a lunatic who takes another man's life being equally liable with ordinary persons to the forfeiture of his own.

[24] A favourite Chinese figure expressive of old age. It dates back to the celebrated commentary by Tso Ch'iu Ming on Confucius' _Spring and Autumn_ (See No. XLI., note 237):--"Hsi is twenty-three and I am twenty-five; and marrying thus we shall approach the wood together;" the "wood" being, of course, that of the coffin.

[25] See No. VIII., note 63.

[26]

"... Move these eyes? ... Here are severed lips."

--_Merchant of Venice_, Act iii., sc. 2.

[27] See No. LIII., note 288.

[28] This method of arranging a matrimonial

difficulty is a common one in Chinese fiction, but I should say quite unknown in real life.

LXVII.

THE MAGIC PATH.

In the province of Kuangtung there lived a scholar named Kuo, who was one evening on his way home from a friend's, when he lost his way among the hills. He got into a thick jungle, where, after about an hour's wandering, he suddenly heard the sound of laughing and talking on the top of the hill. Hurrying up in the direction of the sound, he beheld some ten or a dozen persons sitting on the ground engaged in drinking. No sooner had they caught sight of Kuo than they all cried out, "Come along! just room for one more; you're in the nick of time." So Kuo sat down with the company, most of whom, he noticed, belonged to the literati,[29] and began by asking them to direct him on his way home; but one of them cried out, "A nice sort of fellow you are, to be bothering about your way home, and paying no attention to the fine moon we have got to-night." The speaker then presented him with a goblet of wine of exquisite bouquet, which Kuo drank off at a draught, and another gentleman filled up again for him at once. Now, Kuo was pretty good in that line, and being very thirsty withal from his long walk, tossed off bumper after bumper, to the great delight of his hosts, who were unanimous in voting him a jolly good fellow. He was, moreover, full of fun, and could imitate exactly the note of any kind of bird; so all of a sudden he began on the sly to twitter like a swallow, to the great astonishment of the others, who wondered how it was a swallow could be out so late. He then changed his note to that of a cuckoo, sitting there laughing and saying nothing, while his hosts were discussing the extraordinary sounds they had just heard. After a while he imitated a parrot, and cried, "Mr. Kuo is very drunk: you'd better see him home;" and then the sounds ceased, beginning again by-and-by, when at last the others found out who it was, and all burst out laughing. They screwed up their mouths and tried to whistle like Kuo, but none of them could do so; and soon one of them observed, "What a pity Madam Ch'ing isn't with us: we must rendezvous here again at mid-autumn, and you, Mr. Kuo, must be sure and come." Kuo said he would, whereupon another of his hosts got up and remarked that, as he had given them such an amusing entertainment, they would try to shew him a few acrobatic feats. They all arose, and one of them planting his feet firmly, a second jumped up on to his shoulders, a third on to the second's shoulders, and a fourth on to his, until it was too high for the rest to jump up, and accordingly they began to climb as though it had been a ladder. When they were all up, and the topmost head seemed to touch the clouds, the whole column bent gradually down until it lay along the ground transformed into a path. Kuo remained for some time in a state of considerable alarm, and then, setting out along this path, ultimately reached his own home. Some days afterwards he revisited the spot, and saw the remains of a feast lying about on the ground, with dense bushes on all sides, but no sign of a path. At mid-autumn he thought of keeping his engagement; however, his friends persuaded him not to go.


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