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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Explaining that he was Kung sun Hsia


[142]

This occurs on the 5th of the 5th moon, and is commonly known as the Dragon-Boat Festival, from a practice of racing on that day in long, narrow boats. It is said to have been instituted in memory of a patriotic statesman, whose identity, however, is not settled, some writers giving Wu Yun (see _The Middle Kingdom_, Vol. II., p. 82), others Ch'ue Yuean (see _The Chinese Reader's Manual_, p. 107), as the hero of the day.

[143] A hare or rabbit is believed to sit at the foot of the cassia-tree in the moon, pounding the drugs out of which is concocted the elixir of immortality. An allusion to this occurs in the poems of Tu Fu, one of the celebrated bards of the T'ang dynasty:--

"The frog is not drowned in the river; The medicine hare lives for ever."

XCVII.

BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION.

At Pao-ting Fu there lived a young man, who having purchased the lowest[144] degree was about to proceed to Peking, in the hope of obtaining, by the aid of a little bribery, an appointment as District Magistrate. His boxes were all ready packed, when he was taken suddenly ill and was confined to his bed for more than a month. One day the servant entered and announced a visitor; whereupon our sick man jumped up and ran to the door as if there was nothing the matter with him. The visitor was

elegantly dressed like a man of some position in society; and, after bowing thrice, he walked into the house, explaining that he was Kung-sun Hsia,[145] tutor to the Eleventh Prince, and that he had heard our Mr. So-and-so wished to arrange for the purchase of a magistracy. "If that is really so," added he, "would you not do better to buy a prefecture?" So-and-so thanked him warmly, but said his funds would not be sufficient; upon which Mr. Kung-sun declared he should be delighted to assist him with half the purchase-money, which he could repay after taking up the post.[146] He went on to say that being on intimate terms with the various provincial Governors the thing could be easily managed for about five thousand taels; and also that at that very moment Chen-ting Fu being vacant, it would be as well to make an early effort to get the appointment. So-and-so pointed out that this place was in his native province;[147] but Kung-sun only laughed at his objection, and reminded him that money[148] could obliterate all distinctions of that kind. This did not seem quite satisfactory; however, Kung-sun told him not to be alarmed, as the post of which he was speaking was below in the infernal regions. "The fact is," said he, "that your term of life has expired, and that your name is already on the death list; by these means you will take your place in the world below as a man of official position. Farewell! in three days we shall meet again." He then went to the door and mounted his horse and rode away. So-and-so now opened his eyes


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