A Dream of Red Mansions – Chapter 116

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Chapter 116

Baoyu, His Divine Jade Recovered,

Attains Understanding in the illusory Realm

Jia Zheng Escorts His Mother’ 5 Coffin Home

to Fulfil His Filial Duty

At Sheyue’s reference to his jade, Baoyu fell backwards and fainted away again. Lady Wang and the others cried out in consternation, and although they did not reproach her Sheyue knew that her ill-considered comment was to blame. Weeping, she resolved that if Baoyu died she would follow him to the grave. When the others failed to revive him, his mother sent to ask the monk to save him; but when Jia Zheng looked for him, the monk had disappeared. Taken aback and hearing a fresh com­motion from the inner apartments, he hurried in and found Baoyu once more in a coma. His teeth were clenched and his pulse had stopped, though when they felt his heart it was still warm. In desperation Jia Zheng summoned a doctor to administer medicine and restore him to life.

By then Baoyu’s spirit had taken flight. Do you think he was really dead? As if in a dream he sped to the front hall where he paid his re­spects to the monk who was seated there. The monk at once rose to his feet and led him away. Baoyu felt as light as a leaf floating through the air, and somehow without passing through the main gate they left the mansion.

After a while they came to a desolate region with a distant archway which struck Baoyu as familiar; but before he could ask the monk their whereabouts, the nebulous figure of a woman approached them. “How could there be such a beauty in a wilderness like this?” he wondered. “She must be a goddess come down to earth.” Going closer and gazing at her more intently, he thought he knew her yet could not identify her. The woman greeted the monk, then disappeared, and as she did so he realized that it was Third Sister You. Marvelling at her presence there, he was again about to question the monk when the latter pulled him through the archway. On it was inscribed in large characters “Happy Land of

Truth” flanked by the couplet:

When false gives way to true, true surpasses false.

Though nothingness exists, being differs from nothingness.

Once through the archway they came to a palace gate, on its lintel the inscnption “Fortune for the Good, Calamity for the Licentious.” Another couplet on the two sides read:

Even sages cannot change the past and future; Causes and effects tear the closest kin apart.

Having read this, Baoyu thought, “So here is my chance to find out about karma, past and future.” At this point he saw Yuanyang standing there beckoning to him. “Apparently after coming all this way I’m still in the Garden,” he mused. “But why is it so changed?” He wanted to accost her, but to his astonishment in a flash she was gone. Going over towards where she had stood, he saw a row of side courts with tablets over their gates. In no mood to read their inscriptions, he hurried to the place where Yuanyang had vanished. The gate of this court was ajar, but not liking to intrude he decided to ask permission from the monk. When he turned round, however, the monk was nowhere to be seen. He gazed abstractedly at the magnificent hall which he had certainly never seen in the Garden, and halted to look up at the inscription “Enlightenment for the Infatuated.” The couplet on both sides read:

Joy and sorrow alike are false; Desire and longing are folly.

Baoyu nodded to himself, sighing, and wanted to go in to ask Yuanyang what this place was. Then realizing that it looked familiar he summoned up courage to open the gate and step in. Yuanyang was nowhere in sight and the whole building was so eerily dark that he was about to slip away when his eye fell on a dozen or so large cabinets, their doors half open. It suddenly occurred to him. “When I was young, I dreamed that I came to a place like this. What a stroke of luck my coming here again today!”

In a daze he forgot his search for Yuanyang and boldly opened the first cabinet, in which he found several albums. Elatedly he told himself, “Most people think dreams are false, but this one was based on fact! I never expected to have the same dream again, yet today I’ve recaptured

it. I wonder whether these albums are the same as those I saw last time?”

He took the topmost album entitled First Register of Twelve Beau-ties of Jinling. Holding it he thought, “I have a faint recollection of this; it’s too bad that I can’t remember clearly.” He opened it at the first page and saw a picture, too blurred to make out distinctly. On the back were a few lines of indistinct writing, but by straining his eyes he deciphered a few words about a jade belt, and over these what seemed to be the word un.” Could this refer to Cousin Lin?” he wondered, then read about a golden hairpin in the snow and marvelled at the resemblance to Baochai’s name. But when he reread the four lines consecutively, he could make no sense of them except that they seemed to suggest Daiyu and Baochai, which in itself was nothing extraordinary. Only the words “pity” and ‘~sighing” were ominous. How to interpret this? Then he rebuked him­sel{ “I’m doing this on the sly. If I rack my brains too long and some­body comes, I shan’t be able to read the rest.” So he leafed through the register without paying much attention to the pictures, and finally found the lines:

When Hare and Tiger meet,

From this Great Dream of life she must depart.

At that, the truth dawned on him. “Right! This prediction came true! It must mean Sister Yuanchun. If all the others were equally clear and I could copy them down to study them, I’d be able to find out the life-spans and fortunes of all these girls. When I went back I’d keep it se­cret, but knowing in advance would save me worrying so much for noth­ing.”

He looked round but could see no writing-brush or ink, and for fear of being disturbed he read rapidly on. One of the pictures showed a shad­owy figure flying a kite, but he did not trouble to examine it carefully. Instead he read hastily through all the twelve verses. Some he under­stood at a glance, some after reflectiom; others baffled him and he tried to memorize them. Then, sighing, he picked up the third register of the beauties of Jinling. At first he did not understand the lines:

This prize is borne off by an actor,

And luck passes the young master by.

But when he saw the picture of flowers and a mat, he wept in consterna­tion.

Before he could read on he heard someone calling, “You’re playing the fool again. Your Cousin Lin wants you.”

It sounded like Yuanyang’s voice, yet when he turned he could see no one. While he was vacillating she suddenly beckoned to him from outside the gate and he hurried joyfully over. Yuanyang’s shadowy figure walked ahead so fast that he could not overtake her.

“Good sister, wait for me!” he cried.

She paid no aflention, continuing on her way, so that Baoyu was forced to put on a spurt. Then he saw another fairyland with high pavilions, stately mansions with hanging eaves, and among them the indistinct fig­ures of palace maids. As he feasted his eyes on this scene he forgot Yuanyang and his legs carried him through a palace gate. Inside were all manner of exotic flowers and herbs unknown to him, while in a flower-bed surrounded by a white stone balustrade grew a green plant, the tips of its leaves a light red. He wondered what rare plant this could be that it was so specially treasured, observing that the faintest breeze set it sway­ing incessantly, and that though it was so small and had no blossoms its delicate grace was utterly enchanting.

He was looking on raptly when someone beside him demanded, “Where did this oaf come from to spy on our fairy plant?”

He swung round in dismay to see a fairy maid and explained to her with a bow, “While looking for Sister Yuanyang I blundered into this fairy realm. Please pardon my presumption! May I ask what place this is? Why did Sister Yuanyang come here to tell me that Cousin Lin wants me? I beg you to enlighten me.”

“Who knows your cousins?” the fairy maid retorted. “I am keeping watch over this fairy plant, and no mortals are allowed to loiter here.”

Reluctant to leave he pleaded, “Sister Fairy, if you are in charge of these fairy plants you must be the Goddess of Flowers. Do tell me what makes this plant unique!”

“That’s a long story,” she answered. “This plant, Vermilion Pearl, used to dwell on the shore of the Sacred River and was withering away

until it was revived by being watered every day with sweet dew by the attendant Shen Ying. Because of this, it went down to the world of men to repay Shen Ying’s kindness. Now that it has returned to the realm of truth, the Goddess of Disenchantment has ordered me to watch over it and not let butterflies or bees molest it.”

Baoyu could not fathom this. Convinced that he had met the Goddess of Flowers and determined not to let slip this chance, he persisted, “If you are in charge of this plant, Sister Fairy, there must be others in charge of those countless rare flowers. I won’t trouble you to tell me who all of them are, but which fairy is in charge of the hibiscus?”

“That I can’t tell you, but my mistress may know.”

“Who is your mistress, sister?”

“The Queen of Tear-stained Bamboos.”

“That’s it!” Baoyu exclaimed. “The Queen of Bamboos, I’d have you know, is my cousin Lin Daiyu.”

“Nonsense! This is the celestial abode of goddesses. Even if you call your cousin the Queen of Bamboos she’s no Ehuang or Nuying how could my mistress be related to mortals? If you go on talking so wildly, I’ll call guards to drive you out!”

In abashed dismay Baoyu was just withdrawing when a messenger arrived to announce, “The attendant Shen Ying is invited to enter.”

The fairy maid said, “I’ve been waiting all this time, but he hasn’t put in an appearance. So how can I send him in?’

“Isn’t that him leaving now?”

Then the fairy maid hurried out calling, “Please come back, Shen Ying!”

Baoyu, thinking it was somebody else she wanted and afraid of being driven away, made off as fast as he could.

Suddenly his way was barred by a sword and he was ordered to halt. In panic he looked up and saw Third Sister You. Slightly reassured he pleaded, “Sister, why should you threaten me too?”

“All the men of your house are a bad lot, spoiling people’s reputations and breaking up marriages! Now that you’re here I’m not going to let you off!”

Reduced to despair by this threat, Baoyu beard a voice behind him

call, “Sister, stop him! Don’t let him get away!”

‘On my mistress’ orders,” Third Sister You told Baoyu, “I’ve been waiting for a long time. Now that we’ve met, with one stroke of my sword I’m to cut through your involvements in the mundane world!”

This made Baoyu even more frantic, not that he fully understood her meaning. Turning to run, he found Qingwen behind him and torn between sorrow and joy appealed to her, “I’ve lost my way all on my own, and run into enemies. I want to go back but have none of you with me. Thank goodness you’re here, Sister Qingwen! Do take me home at once.”

“Don’t be so alarmed, sir,” she said. “I’m not Qingwen but have come on our Queen’s orders to take you to her. No one is going to harm you.

Nonplussed he replied, “You say your Queen wants to see me. Who is she?”

“This is no time to ask questions. You’ll know when you meet.”

Baoyu had no choice but to follow her, and watching her carefully he felt certain she was Qingwen. “No doubt about it, that’s her face and her voice,” he told himself. “So why should she deny it? Well, I’m too confused to bother about that now. When I see her mistress I’ll beg her to forgive me for anything I’ve done wrong. After all, women are so kindhearted, she’s bound to excuse my presumption.”

By now they had reached a fine palace blazing with colour, with a clump of bamboos in the courtyard, outside the door several pines. Under the eaves stood maids dressed like palace attendants who at sight of him murmured, “Is this the attendant Shen Ying?”

The maid who had brought him there said, “Yes, it is. Go in quickly to announce him.”

One of the waiting-maids beckoned Baoyu with a smile, and he fol­lowed her through several buildings to the main apartment which had a pearl curtain over its lofty door.

“Wait here till you’re sent for,” she told him, and in abject silence he did so while she went in, reappearing soon to say, “You may go in to pay your respects.”

Another maid rolled up the portiere, and Baoyu saw a garlanded young lady in embroidered robes seated inside. Raising his eyes to her face he

saw it was Daiyu.

“So here you are, cousin!” he blurted out. “How I’ve been longing for you!”

The waiting-maids outside expostulated, “This attendant has no man­ners! Out you go, quick!” One of them lowered the portie re again.

Baoyu longed to go in but dared not, yet was reluctant to leave. He wanted to question the waiting-maids, but none of them knew him and they drove him out. Qingwen, when he looked round for her, was no­where to be seen. Filled with misgivings he left disconsolately, still with no one to guide him, unable to find the way by which he had come. He was in a quandary when he caught sight of Xifeng under the eaves of a house beckoning to him.

“Thank goodness!” he exclaimed. “I’m home again! What flummoxed me so just now?” He ran towards her crying, “So this is where you are, sister. The people here have been plaguing me, and Cousin Lin refused to see me, I don’t know why.”

As he reached her he saw it was not Xifeng but Qin Keqing, the first wife of Jia Rong. He halted and asked where Xifeng was. Instead of answering, Keqing went inside.

Not venturing to follow her, he stood there woodenly in a daze and sighed, “What have I done wrong to make them all cut me like this?” He burst out crying.

At once guards in yellow turbans with whips in their hands bore down on him demanding, “Where is this fellow from that he dares intrude into this fairy realm of bliss! Off you go!”

Afraid to protest, Baoyu was trying to find a way out when in the distance he saw a group of girls approaching, chatting and laughing. He was pleased to see that one of them looked like Yingchun.

“I’ve lost my way,” he called to her. “Come to my rescue!”

At once the guards behind gave chase, and as he dashed off headlong the girls changed into demons too and joined in the pursuit.

Baoyu was desperate when along came the monk who had returned his jade. Holding up a mirror he declared, “I have come on orders from the Imperial Consort to save you.”

The demons instantly vanished all left was the desolate plain.

Seizing the monk by the arm, Baoyu implored him, “I remember you were the one to bring me here, but then you disappeared. I met many people dear to me, but they all ignored me and suddenly turned into de­mons. Was that a dream or did it really happen? Please explain this to me, father.”

“Did you pry into any secrets here?” asked the monk.

Baoyu thought, “Since he brought me to this fairy realm, he himself must be an immortal; so how can I hide anything from him? Besides, I want him to elucidate this.” He therefore answered, “Yes, I saw some registers.”

“There you are! After reading them can’t you understand? All earthly ties of affection are bewitchments. Just bear what has happened care­fully in mind, and I shall explain it to you later on.” He gave him a violent shove. “Now go back!” Baoyu lost his balance and fell with a cry of dismay.

His whole household was in tears when Baoyu regained conscious­ness. At once they called out to him. He opened his eyes to find himself on the kang and, seeing that the eyes of Lady Wang, Baochai and the rest were red and swollen from weeping, he calmed himself and thought, “Why, I must have died and come to life again!” Recalling all that had befallen his spirit, and pleased that he could still remember it, he laughed aloud and exclaimed, “That’s it, that’s it!”

His mother summoned a doctor, thinking he was deranged again, at the same time sending maids to report to Jia Zheng that their son had recovered from his heart attack and now that he could talk there was no need to prepare for the last rites. At this, Jia Zheng hurried over and saw that Baoyu had indeed regained consciousness.

“You luckless fool!” he cried. “Trying to frighten us to death!” All unwittingly he shed tears. Then, sighing, he called in the doctor to exam­ine Baoyu’s pulse and administer medicine.

Sheyue, who had been thinking of suicide, was equally relieved by his recovery. Lady Wang sent for a longan cordial, and when he had taken a few sips he felt calmer. In the general relief no one blamed Sheyue, but Lady Wang had the jade given to Baochai to hang on Baoyu’s neck.

“I wonder where that monk found the jade,” she remarked. “It’s

odd the way one moment he was asking for silver and the next he van­ished. Could he be an immortal?”

Baochai said, “Judging by the way he came and left, he can’t have found the jade. When it was lost before, it must have been this monk who took it away.”

“But it was here in our house,” objected Lady Wang. “How could he have taken it?”

“If he could bring it back, he could have taken it too.”

Xiren and Sheyue reminded them, “That year when the jade was lost, Lin Zhixiao consulted a fortune-teller; and after Madam Bao married into our house we told her that the character he came up with was the shang1 meaning reward. Do you remember, madam?”

“Yes,” said Baochai thinking back. “You all said it meant we should look for the jade in a pawnshop. Only now is it clear that it meant that the jade had been taken by a monk, as the upper part of that character is the shang for ‘monk.’

“I just can’t get over that monk!” remarked Lady Wang. “When Baoyu fell ill that time, another monk came and said we had a treasure in our house -meaning this jade -which could cure him. Since he knew that, there must be more to this jade than meets the eye. Besides, your husband was born with it in his mouth. Have you ever heard of such a thing before? But who knows after all what this jade can do or what will become of him? It was this jade that made him fall ill, this jade that cured him, this jade that he was born with…. “She broke off here in a fresh fit of weeping.

Baoyu, who had been following their conversation, was better able now to understand what had happened when his spirit took flight. He said nothing, however, just fixing it in his mind.

Then Xichun joined in, “When the jade was lost, we asked Miaoyu to try the planchette and it wrote ‘By the ancient pine at the foot of Blue Ridge Peak… entering my gate with a smile you will meet again.’ I think ‘entering the gate’ is most significant. Buddhism is the gate to saint­hood; I’m only afraid Second Cousin can’t enter that gate.”

Baoyu laughed sarcastically at this but Baochai knitted her brows, lost in thought.

%~. ~

I . ~

“There you go harping on Buddhism again!” scolded Madam You. “Haven’t you dropped your idea of becoming a nun?”

Xichun smile. “The truth is, sister-in-law, I’ve been abstaining from meat for some time now.”

“Good gracious, child!” exclaimed Lady Wang. “You mustn’t have these notions.”

Xichun said nothing, but Baoyu could not help sighing as he recol­lected the verse “By the dimly lit old shrine she sleeps alone.” Then suddenly recalling the inscription for the painting of a mat and flowers, he glanced at Xiren and tears started to his eyes. His abrupt transitions from smiles to tears puzzled the others, who could only assume that he was unhinged again, not knowing that his agitation arose from the verses he had memorized from the registers into which he had pried. Though un­willing to speak of them, he was convinced of ~e truth of these predic­tions. But we can return to this later.

The others saw that after Baoyu’s revival his mind had cleared, and by taking medicine every day he steadily recovered his health. This being the case, Jia Zheng turned his mind to other matters. As there was no knowing when Jia She would be pardoned, and he did not like to leave the old lady’s coffin in the temple for too long, he decided to escort it back to the south for burial and called in Jia Lian to consult him.

“Your decision is quite correct, sir,” said Jia Lian. “Not being in office now you are free to see to this important business, whereas once you take off your mourning you will probably have other demands on your time. In my father’s absence I couldn’t presume to suggest this; but although your decision is excellent, this is going to cost several thousand taels and it’s useless to expect the police to recover our stolen property.”

“I have made up my mind,” said Jia Zheng, “but since the Elder Master is away I wanted to consult you on how to handle this. You can’t leave home or there would be no one in charge here. In my opinion all those coffins should be conveyed to the ancestral graveyard, and as I can’t cope single-handed I’m thinking of taking Jia Rong along, the more 50 as his wife’s is one of the coffins. Then there is your cousin Lin’s. The old lady left instructions that it should go south with hers. I suppose

we shall have to borrow a few thousand taels to covef these expenses.

“Nowadays we can’t count on others help~ng us out,” replied Jia Lian. “As you are not in office, sir, and my father is away, we’re in no position to raise a loan at present. All we can do is moitgage some prop­erties.”

“How can we, when this mansion of ours was built by the govern­ment?”

“I don’t mean this mansion we live in, but there are houses outside which can be mortgaged and redeemed again after you resume office, sir. If in future my father returns and is given a post, that will make it easier. My one regret is that you should have to exert yourself in this way at your advanced age, sir.”

“I’m simply doing my duty by the old lady. But you must be more prudent in running the household!”

“You can rest assured about that, sir. I shall certainly do my best, incompetent as I am. Besides, you will need to take quite a few servants south, and as that will leave fewer here I can cut down on expenses and get by. If you should find yourself short of funds on the’ way, sir, since you will be passing Lai Shangrong’s place you can enlist his help.”

“It’s my own mother’s funeral. Why should I asIC other families to help?”

“Yes, sir,” muttered Jia Lian, then withdrew to raise the money.

Jia Zheng told Lady Wang his plans and asked her to take charge of

domestic affairs, then chose an auspicious day to start this long journey.

By now Baoyu had completely recovered his health, while Jia Huan and

Jia Lan were studying hard. Jia Zheng entrusted all three to the care of

Jia Lian.

“This is a year for the triennial examination,” he told him. “Huan can’t sit for it while in mourning for his mother. Lan is only a grandson, so after the mourning is over he’s still entitled to take the examination and you must send Baoyu there too with his nephew. If he is a successful candidate, it will help to atone for our faults.”

Jia Lian and the boys assented. After giving furthef instrutions to other members of the family, Jia Zheng bade farewell to tbe ancestral shrine, had sutras chanted for a few days at the temple outside the city, then

boarded a boat with Lin Zhixiao and others. He did not take leave of his friends and relatives, not wanting to put them out; thus only family mem­bers saw him off.

Lady Wang reminded Baoyu from time to time of his father’s instruc­tions, and checked up on his studies. Baochai and Xiren too, it goes with­out saying, encouraged him to work hard. Though he was in better spirjts after his illness, he took more fantastic notions into his head: not only was he averse to rank and an official career, he had lost much of his former interest in girls. But this was not too apparent to other people as he did not voice these views.

One day, after returning from seeing off Daiyu’s coffin, Zijuan stayed disconsolately in her room to weep. “How unfeeling Baoyu is!” She thought. “When he saw Miss Lin’s coffin taken south he showed no sadness, shed not a tear, and instead of consoling me when I sobbed he actually laughed at me. So all this heartless fellow’s honeyed talk before was to fool us! It’s a good thing I didn’t take him seriously the other night, or I’d have been taken in by him again. One thing I can’t make out, though, is his coolness towards Xiren nowadays as well. Madam Bao has never liked too much show of feeling, but don’t Sheyue and the rest resent his behaviour? What fools most of us girls must be to have cared so much for him all that time – what can come of it in the end?”

Just then Wuer came in to see her. Finding Zijuan in tears she asked, “Are you crying for Miss Lin again? I see now that it’s no good basing your opinion of somebody on hearsay. Because we’d always heard how good Master Bao was to girls, my mother tried time and again to get me into his service; and since coming here I’ve nursed him devotedly each time he was ill, yet now that he’s better he hasn’t a single kind word for me – he doesn’t even so much as look at me!”

Tickled by this, Zijuan laughed. “Bah, you little slut!” she spat out. “How do you want Baoyu to treat you? A young girl should have some shame! When he shows so little interest in all those who belong to his household by rights, what time has he to waste on you?” Laughing again, she drew one finger over her cheek to shame her. “Tell me, what’s the relationship between you and Baoyu?” she demanded.

Aware that she had given herself away, Wuer blushed furiously. She

was about to explain that she wanted no special consideration from Baoyu but he had recently shown too little’ to his maids, when someone outside the courtyard gate shouted, “That monk is back again. He wants ten thousand taels of silver! The mistress is worried and wanted Master Lian to talk to him, but master Lian isn’t at home! That monk is ranting crazily outside. The mistress asks Madam Bao to go and discuss what to do.”

To know how they got rid of the monk, read the next chapter.

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