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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Fearing the future vengeance of Hsing

was not till thirty years afterwards

that Hsing appeared to answer to the charge. Then, because he had made light of the lives of his people, he was condemned to be born again as a brute-beast; and our hero, too, inasmuch as he had been known to beat his father and mother, was sentenced to a similar fate. The latter, fearing the future vengeance of Hsing, persuaded the King to give him the advantage of size; and, accordingly, orders were issued that he was to be born again as a big, and Hsing as a little, dog. The big dog came to life in a shop in Shun-t'ien Fu, and was one day lying down in the street, when a trader from the south arrived, bringing with him a little golden-haired dog, about the size of a wild cat, which, lo and behold! turned out to be Hsing. The other, thinking Hsing's size would render him an easy prey, seized him at once; but the little one caught him from underneath by the throat, and hung there firmly, like a bell. The big dog tried hard to shake him off, and the people of the shop did their best to separate them, but all was of no avail, and in a few moments both dogs were dead. Upon their spirits presenting themselves, as usual, before the King, each with its grievance against the other, the King cried out, "When will ye have done with your wrongs and your animosities? I will now settle the matter finally for you;" and immediately commanded that Hsing should become the other's son-in-law in the next world. The latter was then born at Ch'ing-yuen, and when he was twenty-eight years of age
took his master's degree. He had one daughter, a very pretty girl, whom many of his wealthy neighbours would have been glad to get for their sons; but he would not accept any of their offers. On one occasion, he happened to pass through the prefectural city just as the examination for bachelor's degree was over; and the candidate who had come out at the top of the list, though named Li, was no other than Mr. Hsing. So he led this man away, and took him to an inn, where he treated him with the utmost cordiality, finally arranging that, as Mr. Li was still unmarried, he should marry his pretty daughter. Everyone, of course, thought that this was done in admiration of Li's talents, ignorant that destiny had already decreed the union of the young couple. No sooner were they married than Li, proud of his own literary achievements, began to slight his father-in-law, and often passed many months without going near him; all of which the father-in-law bore very patiently, and when, at length, Li had repeatedly failed to get on any farther in his career, he even went so far as to set to work, by all manner of means, to secure his success; after which they lived happily together as father and son.


[70] See _Appendix_ A.

[71] If there is one institution in the Chinese empire which is jealously guarded and honestly administered, it is the great system of competitive examinations which has obtained in China now for many centuries. And yet frauds do take place, in spite of the exceptionally heavy penalties incurred upon detection. Friends are occasionally smuggled through by the aid of marked essays; and dishonest candidates avail themselves of "sleeve editions," as they are called, of the books in which they are to be examined. On the whole, the result is a successful one. As a rule the best candidates pull through; while, in exceptional cases, unquestionably good men are rejected. Of the latter class, the author of this work is a most striking instance. Excelling in literary attainments of the highest order, he failed more than once to obtain his master's degree, and finally threw up in disgust. Thenceforward he became the enemy of the mandarinate; and how he has lashed the corruption of his age may be read in such stories as _The Wolf Dream_, and many others, while the policy that he himself would have adopted, had he been fortunate enough to succeed, must remain for ever a matter of doubt and speculation.

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