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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Seven in ten were opposed to the Manchu dynasty


FOOTNOTES:

[165] It would be more usual to "renew the guitar string," as the Chinese idiom runs. In the paraphrase of the first maxim of the _Sacred Edict_ we are told that "The closest of all ties is that of husband and wife; but suppose your wife dies, why, you can marry another. But if your brother were to die," &c., &c.

[166] This, as well as the staff mentioned below, belongs to Buddhism. See No. IV., note 46.

CIII.

JUSTICE FOR REBELS.

During the reign of Shun Chih,[167] of the people of T'eng-i, seven in ten were opposed to the Manchu dynasty. The officials dared not touch them; and subsequently, when the country became more settled, the magistrates used to distinguish them from the others by always deciding any cases in their favour: for they feared lest these men should revert to their old opposition. And thus it came about that one litigant would begin by declaring himself to have been a "rebel," while his adversary would follow up by shewing such statement to be false; so that before any case could be heard on its actual merits, it was necessary to determine the status both of plaintiff and defendant, whereby infinite labour was entailed upon the Registrars.

Now it chanced that the yamen of one of the officials was

haunted by a fox, and the official's daughter was bewitched by it. Her father, therefore, engaged the services of a magician, who succeeded in capturing the animal and putting it into a bottle; but just as he was going to commit it to the flames, the fox cried out from inside the bottle, "I'm a rebel!" at which the bystanders were unable to suppress their laughter.

FOOTNOTE:

[167] The first Manchu ruler of the empire of China. He came to the throne in A.D. 1644.

CIV.

THEFT OF THE PEACH.

When I was a little boy I went one day to the prefectural city.[168] It was the time of the Spring festival,[169] and the custom was that on the day before, all the merchants of the place should proceed with banners and drums to the judge's yamen: this was called "bringing in the Spring." I went with a friend to see the fun; the crowd was immense, and there sat the officials in crimson robes arranged right and left in the hall; but I was small and didn't know who they were, my attention being attracted chiefly by the hum of voices and the noise of the drums. In the middle of it all, a man leading a boy with his hair unplaited and hanging down his back, walked up to the dais. He carried a pole on his shoulder, and appeared to be saying something which I couldn't hear for the noise; I only saw the officials smile, and immediately afterwards an attendant came down, and in a loud voice ordered the man to give a performance. "What shall it be?" asked the man in reply; whereupon, after some consultation between the officials on the dais, the attendant inquired what he could do best. The man said he could invert the order of nature; and then, after another pause, he was instructed to produce some peaches; to this he assented; and taking off his coat, laid it on his box, at the same time observing that they had set him a hard task, the winter frost not having broken up, and adding that he was afraid the gentlemen would be angry with him, &c., &c. His son here reminded him that he had agreed to the task and couldn't well get out of it; so, after fretting and grumbling awhile, he cried out, "I have it! with snow on the ground we shall never get peaches here; but I guess there are some


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