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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

139 Thereupon Chi sheng became dangerously ill


[132] From a poem by Wang Wei, a noted poet of the T'ang dynasty. The second line is not given in the text.

[133] From a poem by P'an T'ang-shen, which runs:--

"Her rustic home stands by the Tung-t'ing lake. Ye who would there a pure libation pour, Look for mud walls--a roof of rushy make-- And Judas-tree in flower before the door."

The Chinese believe that the Judas-tree will only bloom where fraternal love prevails.

[134] I have already observed that men and women should not let their hands touch when passing things to each other (see No. XL., note 233); neither is it considered proper for persons of different sexes to hang their clothes on the same clothes-horse. (See _Appendix_, note 381.)

With regard to shaking hands, I have omitted to mention how hateful this custom is in the eyes of the Chinese, as in vogue among foreigners, without reference to sex. They believe that a bad man might easily secrete some noxious drug in the palm of his hand, and so convey it into the system of any woman, who would then be at his mercy.

[135] Alluding to Wang's breach of etiquette in visiting the father himself, instead of sending a go-between, who would have offered the same sum in due form as the usual dowry or present to the bride's family.

[136] Witnesses in a Chinese court of justice take no oath, in our sense of the term. Their written depositions, however, are always ended with the words "the above evidence is the truth!" In ordinary life people call heaven and earth to witness, or, as in this case, the sun; or they declare themselves willing to forfeit their lives; and so on, if their statements are not true. "Saucer-breaking" is one of those pleasant inductions from probably a single instance, which may have been the fancy of a moment; at any rate, it is quite unknown in China as a national custom. "Cock-killing" usually has reference to the ceremonies of initiation performed by the members of the numerous secret societies which exist over the length and breadth of the Empire, in spite of Government prohibitions, and the penalty of death incurred upon detection.

[137] Adoption is common all over China, and is regulated by law. For instance, an adopted son excludes all the daughters of the family. A man is not allowed to marry a girl whom he has adopted until he shall have given her away to be adopted in a family of a _different surname from his own_; after which fictitious ceremony, his marriage with her becomes legal (see No. XV., note 109); for the child adopted takes the same surname as that of the family into which he is adopted, and is so far cut off from his own relations, that he would not venture even to put on mourning for his real parents without first obtaining the consent of those who had adopted him. A son or daughter may be sold, but an adopted child may not; neither may the adopted child be given away in adoption to any one else without the specific consent of his real parents. The general object in adopting children is to leave some one behind at death to look after the duties of ancestral worship. For this boys are preferred; but the _Fortunate Union_ gives an instance in which these rites were very creditably performed by the heroine of the tale.



Now Chi-sheng, or Wang Sun, was one of the cleverest young fellows in the district; and his father and mother, who had foreseen his ability from the time when, as a baby in long clothes, he distinguished them from other people, loved him very dearly. He grew up into a handsome lad; at eight or nine he could compose elegantly, and by fourteen he had already entered his name as a candidate for the first degree, after which his marriage became a question for consideration. Now his father's younger sister, Erh-niang, had married a gentleman named Cheng Tz[)u]-ch'iao, and they had a daughter called Kuei-hsiu, who was extremely pretty, and with whom Chi-sheng fell deeply in love, being soon unable either to eat or to sleep. His parents became extremely uneasy about him, and inquired what it was that ailed him; and when he told them, they at once sent off a match-maker to Mr. Cheng. The latter, however, was rather a stickler for the proprieties, and replied that the near relationship precluded him from accepting the offer.[139] Thereupon Chi-sheng became dangerously ill, and his mother, not knowing what to do, secretly tried to persuade Erh-niang to let her daughter come over to their house; but Mr. Cheng heard of it, and was so angry that Chi-sheng's father and mother gave up all hope of arranging the match.

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