Published at 13th of November 2016 07:05:58 PM

Chapter 1.1

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The Legend of the Concubine’s Daughter Minglan Chapter 1 Part 1


The watchman’s clapper is about to strike 7pm1, lights are being ignited one after another in Sheng Household of Quan Prefecture. A gray-haired old madame2 seated in the hall3 of the west courtyard’s central building4. Hands wrapped with rosary, dressed simply, rather incompatible with surrounding elegant riches. This moment, seated at the right hand, it is precisely the family in-charge, Sheng Hong.

“Ancestor’s blessings. This time, this son’s evaluation has been excellent. The imperial decree for promotion has been set to be passed at the end of the month.” Being early summer, Sheng Hong dressed in a thin ochre-coloured5 silk jacket. Speech between the two is extremely respectful.

“Your endurance all these years outside has not been in vain. It is most difficult to be promoted to a ranked six official. After this hurdle, you can be considered a mid-ranked official already. Regarding to where you will be promoted, do you have any idea?” Old Madame Sheng’s intonation flat, not fluctuating.

“Uncle6 Geng has already sent a letter to inform, should be senior provincial official of Deng Prefecture.” Sheng Hong has always been cautious in his conduct yet his current words cannot help but emit happiness.

“I have to really congratulate Master7 then. Usually the position of a senior provincial official has only been held those from rank five officials. Not only our ancestors’ merit, ought to also thank those who helped you get ready8.” Old Madame Sheng said.

“That is natural. This son has already drafted a gift list for the several uncles9 in the capital, request for mother to look over.” Sheng Hong took out a few sheets of paper from his sleeves, handing it over to the maid standing by the side.

“All these years, the way Master handles affairs is getting increasingly experienced. Go according to your decision. Bear these words in mind: friendship between gentlemen, insipid as water.10 Money has to be employed in the right way, etiquette must be thorough. Neither servile nor overbearing and must get close. Those excellencies are rolling about in officialdom for a lifetime, refining each and every one of them with discerning eyes. Over the past few years, they have cared for you, it is true that it is on the account of your father’s friendship with them whilst he was alive. You are also have worked hard that they are willing to help. After a few more sentences, Old Madame Sheng began to gasp. By the side, Mama11 Fang immediately carried the teacup close to the side of her mouth. The other hand gently following along the back of the old madame.

Upon seeing this, Sheng Hong was frightened, hurriedly said “Mother must take care of yourself by any means. This son can have today entirely relies on mother’s nurturing. At that time, if not for mother’s virtuousness, right now this son would only mix around and pass my days at the countryside. This son ought to be filial12 to mother.”

Old Madame Sheng did not speak, seemingly in a daze. After some time, “Cannot speak of virtuousness or not, merely because of the husband and wife’s affection with your father. In any case, it is not good to let his tomb be desolate a century later. Fortunately… you have made progress.” her faint voice gradually not heard.

Sheng Hong did not dare to reply, the hall was silent for a moment. After some time, Sheng Hong said “Mother upheld the Sheng all year round, it is certain that you will have continuous good fortune in the future. For the time being, relax yourself and properly rest.” Having said, looked all around and cannot help but frown. “Mother’s place is too simple and neat, not fixed to look like a nunnery. Mother, listen to this son’s words, there are other ordinary old madame who abstain from eating meat and pray to Buddha yet decorate with liveliness. Mother, why do you have to suffer in this way, if others would have to see, they would think that this son is unfilial.”

Old Madame Sheng said “Liveliness is in the heart. If the heart is uncultivated, disguising with more liveliness is useless. Merely just a deaf person’s ear, only decorative.”

Sheng Hong, in a low voice “All because this son is unfilial, unable to control daughter-in-law13.”

Old Madame Sheng said “Not blaming you, I know of your filial piety. Cannot blame your wife14 either. I am originally not her legitimate15 mother-in-law. Do not need to put on airs, seeing each other every three days, she is tired and I am vexed. You need not feel concerned that someone will say that you are unfilial. My early years reputation, outsiders knows my temperament. Being this distant, everyone would unexpectedly feel more comfortable.”

Sheng Hong worriedly said “What is mother saying, what is not legitimate mother-in-law. Mother is primary wife whom father officially married, is this son’s legitimate mother<16. Furthermore, graciousness of giving new life, all in all, it is the fault of this son and daughter-in-law17. Mother, please do not say such words.”

Old Madame Sheng seem to be somewhat impatient, lightly waved her hands “Such trifle matters, Master should not bother. On the other hand, with promotion imminent, Master should urgently organise things. You have been an official in Quan Prefecture all these years, have learnt a lot from others. Etiquette has to be to the end. Everyone gathered in the same officialdom, disappearing today, appearing tomorrow. Must not let the hearts of your fellow workers turn cold, must properly assemble and properly disseminate.”

“What mother said is right, this son thinks the same. Remembering that time when I first came to Quan Prefecture, still felt that this Lingnan brought a blistering atmosphere. Human interactions are straightforward, even if it is not outside civilisation, yet one cannot help but to be civilise. Not thinking that this favourable weather, the simple common folk, both depending on the ground  and sea, making profit from fish and salt, ordinary boat affairs. Although inferior to the Jiangnan affluent, the common folk’s wealth is considerably abundant. Staying all these years, this son actually hate to part with.” Sheng Hong smiled.

Old Madame Sheng smiled “That is right. I stayed in the north for a lifetime, even if Jiangnan is a thousand good, ten thousand good, I am unwilling to go. Unexpectedly I have been accustomed living in Quan Prefecture.  Mountains here are tall , the emperor is far, the days are carefree. Before leaving, sell off this large residence. Purchase a good deal of a small house with scenery. Both not bragging, there is also a place for retirement.”

“This plan is excellent, this son feels it is extremely clever. Will handle this matter later.” Sheng Hong smiled.

Old Madame Sheng’s rules are extremely strict, having this discussion, not the slightest noise from the room filled maids18. Both mother and son spoke for a while, Sheng Hong twitched his lips a couple of times, wanting to bring up an issue yet withdrawing repeatedly. After some time, the room turned cold again. Old Madame Sheng looked at him, lightly stirring the tea leaves in the teacup that she is carrying. Mama Fang, at the side, had extremely good insight19, quietly called the servants to leave the room. She personally hurried them to the secondary room, instructing a few first class maids before returning to wait upon the old madame just to hear her speak “……you are finally willing to say it, I originally thought you would still want to hide from this old woman till death.”

Sheng Hong dropped his head immediately, a face of terror “Regretting that I did not heed mother’s words at that time, leading20 to such disaster this day. It is all because this son has no virtue, resulting in no peace within the house.”

“Only no peace within the house?” Old Madame Sheng raised her voice, “Did not expect that you would be so muddle-headed, you clearly know that this matter can be either big or small!”

Sheng Hong was taken aback, bowing with his hands held in front “Request for mother to give directions.”

Old Madame Sheng raised herself from the red sandalwood couch, “I originally did not care, do not want to annoyingly meddle too. Whichever you like has nothing to do with me, never getting involved in your house’s quarrels. All these years, you have increasingly cross the propriety, just ask around outside, which established household has one who treats the concubines21 the way that you do! Giving her face privately22, giving her shops. Today, she has sons and daughters, only lacking in a status. Not one bit inferior to a legitimate daughter-in-law! You by not differentiating between legitimate and concubine, messing up the rules, how not to lead to disaster in the house! Good, good, finally resulting in someone’s death, that bloody corpse and the two lives. How do you want to explain!”

Sheng Hong face filled with shame, repeatedly bowing with his hands held in front “Mother’s lecture is right, it is all the fault of this son, this son is muddle-headed. Always thinking that she is alone apart from me, indeed pitiful. She let go being a legitimate madame23 outside, willing to be my concubine, my heart inevitably has some tenderness for her. In addition, she came from Old Madame’s place, more honourable compared to other concubines24. Never thinking that love can be harmful, allowing her to increasingly have no sense of propriety. This son indeed knows his mistakes.”

Hearing the later sentences, Old Madame Sheng lightly sneered, no long speaking and blowing the teacup. Upon seeing this, Mama Fang step forward “Master’s kindheartedness in the house, how can the Old Madame not know. This matter has been dragged on for a few years, the days ahead would not be smooth unless it is clearly said. Old Madame is an elder, some words are inappropriate for her to say. Allow this old woman to be entrusted with this big task, clearly speaking with Master, hope that Master would not blame.”

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Sheng Hong saw that Mama Fang has spoken, hurriedly said “What is Mama saying, Mama has spared no effort for the Sheng family all these years, doing your utmost in serving mother. You are as if my elder, do not hesitate to speak.”

1. 戌时 (Xu Shi): Period between 7-9 pm 
2. 老太太 (Lao Tai Tai): Literally means old lady, respectful way of referring to the master’s mother
3. 堂屋 (Tang Wu): Literally means central room so it is the main hall/living room
4. 正房 (Zheng Fang): Principal room meant for the legitimate wife
5. A pale brownish yellow colour.
6. 世叔 (Shi Shu): Not related to the family, more like a calling a family friend uncle
7. 老爷 (Lao Ye): Lord; Master, it is more of a respectful title as he is also the one in-charge of the household
8. 打点 (Da Dian): Bribe; Ready, later in the chapters there is no mention of Sheng Hong bribing anyone so translated as ready
9. 世叔世伯 (Shi Shi Shi Bo): 叔 for younger, 伯 for older than the person’s father, in this case Sheng Hong’s father
10. 君子之交淡如水 (Jun Zi Zhi Jiao Dan Ru Shui): Proverb from Zhang Zi, meaning that friendship between men of virtue involves no self-interest
11. 妈妈 (Ma Ma): Elderly maid, usually denotes a certain rank; Wet nurse

12. 孝敬 (Xiao Jing): Filial; In this context, also carries the idea of supporting one’s aged parents
13. 媳妇 (Xi Fu): Daughter-in-law, Sheng Hong is speaks of his wife in relation to the Old Madame
14. 媳妇 (Xi Fu): Wife (of a younger man), the same word as daughter-in-law but because Sheng Hong is the younger so the meaning changes
15. 正经 (Zheng Jing): According to standards, translated as legitimate because it better explains their relationship
16. 嫡母 (Di Mu): First mother; the primary mother, therefore translated to legitimate
17. 儿媳 (Er Xi): Daughter-in-law; unlike 媳妇, this can only mean daughter-in-law
18. 丫鬟婆子(Ya Huan Po Zi): 丫鬟 meaning servant girl, 婆子 meaning old woman basically an older maid
19. 眼色 (Yan Se): Meaningful glance; signal with the eyes, translated as insight because Mama Fang is the one who is at the receiving end
20. 酿 (Niang): Also has the idea of brewing; fermenting
21. 妾室 (Qie Shi): General term for concubines
22. 脸面体己 (Lian Mian Ti Ji): 脸面 literally means face, figuratively respect 体己 confidential, the conversation being about a concubine therefore she has no rights to show herself outside of the house so the respect she gives in within the house which is considerably better than normal concubines
23. 太太 (Tai Tai): Married woman
24. 姨娘 (Yi Niang) Concubine, unlike 妾室 it is title given to the concubines apart from royalty and usually within the household, hardly would refer to another as 妾 unless they have not officially married in or they want to talk about concubines in general

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