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Published at 2nd of May 2019 05:32:03 AM


Chapter 80

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Seniority, Legitimacy and Kong Rong the Good Boy (1)

After Old Madam left escorted by Taisheng, Minglan was still immersed in the sorrow of separation when Rulan came to the House of Clear Dusk with a fanfare. In the moment, Minglan was lying on the soft bench, looking tired and numb holding a big cushion in her arms. Rulan walked over and patted her face, “Hey! Wake up, stop being sad! Alright, you’re the only filial granddaughter and we’re heartless ones!”

Minglan had no strength to argue with her, just answering wearily, “Don’t say that. You’re sad inside, but I’m too naïve to hold it back and put it all on my face.”

Rulan’s punch was met with a cloud of soft cotton. She had nothing to reply, so she headed right to the point, “Emm, I bet Pinlan sent a letter again. Tell me what happened to the scholar Sun.”

Minglan rolled her eyes to the roof.

The series of Pinlan’s letters had two themes, one was ‘the record on the decline of the family of a heartless conscienceless scum’ and the other was ‘the record on the recovery of Sheng Shulan, a kind and elegant lady mistreated’. Ever since Minglan mentioned these for once, Rulan had become a loyal audience of this serial story.

Speaking of it, on that year after Sun Zhigao gained half of Pinlan’s dowry with a letter of divorce, he immediately welcomed the accordingly innocent dancer-prostitute into his family as his legitimate wife while Shulan was sent to the village where Guijie’er (Sheng Yun’s daughter) lived after getting married. It was a place with abundant natural resources and full of rich yet simple folks. Besides, Guijie’er’s father-in-law was the head of the village, so there were no gossips about Shulan there.

Without Shulan’s deterring and the prevention from Shulan’s hands, Sun Zhigao started to spend all his day drinking and calling prostitutes, frequently throwing a party at fancy restaurants and inviting a bunch of men with a pose of learning to get drunk and hang out with prostitutes. Really enjoyed his life to extremity! Yet, his behavior was known to the local official who, out of rage, denounced him, during a seminar of local scholars on the theme of local examination, as ‘immoral and unconscientious’ and ‘a scum among scholars’. Sun Zhigao went back with the humiliation and acted worse since then.




Sun’s mother was easy to coax. Having no idea as to what to do with the great deal of money, she decided to follow others to do investment, for one time into cosmetics shops, for another into grain shops and sometimes even into the dear money industry. Though a wide range of industries were touched upon, the result was all the same, that was losing money. Minglan suspected that uncle Sheng Wei must have added fuel to the fire secretly.

Hence, after the dancer-prostitute gave birth to a boy, Sun family’s situation became much worse than before. Yet, Sun Zhigao was a superficial man who wanted to impress others as rich and classy. Therefore, in order to continue his extravagant life, he had to sell out much of his family property. Though his mother tried to prevent him, he always refuted her with the remark that once he passed further exams, he would blahblahblah….

However, his wife apparently turned impatient. One day after Sun and his mother turned back home from a dinner party, they all passed out into dead sleep after taking drunk-cure soups. When they woke up, they found the many belongings and boxes of silver money were all gone, except for a touching long letter left by the rare girl and Madam Sun’s nephew: It said that they two had known each other long ago and the son she gave birth to was also the nephew’s. They had fallen in love with each other long ago. Though the love was deep enough to move everyone, fate didn’t do them a favor to let them have each other. Having suffered for all these days, they finally couldn’t cheat themselves into denying their true emotion and decided to be together. They begged the ‘benevolent and generous’ madam Sun and the ‘noble and great’ Sun Zhigao to understand their relationship as well as the behavior of taking away all of the property.

Once the incident was known to the public, Sun and his mother immediately became the laughing stock in Youyang. The love birds left in hasty, with no time to sell out the house but was able to sell all the lands and other valuable properties. Since then, Sun Zhigao’s life turned miserable at once. No restaurants allowed him to pay on credit any longer, and book and stationery stores came at him one after another to collect debts. Looking at the porridge and pickled vegetables, Sun and his mother began to realize how nice Shulan was and tried to reach her in Cangxiang. At first, Sun even intended to put on airs to indicate that his willingness to marry Shulan again was degrading for him. To their surprise, by the time they arrived, they found that Shulan had not only gotten married but also been pregnant for long.

Shulan’s in-laws was a big family in the neighboring village, boasting houses and lands. Her new husband was an honest and friendly guy. This time, Sheng Wei and Li shi carefully examined the character of their son-in-law as well as enjoying the respect as parents-in-law, happily married their daughter to him.

Sun and his mother were stunned at Shulan’s swelling stomach. Sun said something ugly out of anger, but Shulan, no longer the mousy girl she used to be, sneered and gave them a good mocking. Guijie’er was even tougher to point out Sun’s problem— “Maybe it’s you who are interfile. Go to see a doctor and don’t ruin the life of your girl.”

Sun Zhigao almost died of humiliation when a group of honest and well-built countryside men arrived. They didn’t waste time in speech and went right to the point in beating him up and throwing him out.


The latest news was that Shulan gave birth to a pair of twins, one daughter and one son while Sun Zhigao, on the other hand, became a regular visitor to pawnshops.

Rulan, having produced a table of melon seeds crust, didn’t have enough of the story and, at the same time, was dissatisfied about Minglan’s dull way of telling the story. Minglan was also unhappy about that and picked up the account book that Old Madam gave her to read carefully.

Question 1: One acre of medium-quality non-irrigated land was worth about five taels of silver while one acre of irrigated land doubled that. However, one acre of top-quality irrigated land could be sold for twenty taels of silver. The question was: If you had one thousand taels, how to use them to achieve best result?

Answer: It depended on the actual situation and existing policies.

Question 2: The family had ten household of servants who accompanied the bride upon marriage. After three generations, excessive in-house servants were produced who over-evaluated themselves and occupied a larger proportion of domestic expenditure. How to cut it down?

Answer: The best solution: family planning and stricter disciplining; medium-good solution: let them leave; the last solution: sold them out. 

Question 3: There was a large population in the family. The males didn’t have earnings and lived beyond their means. How to deal with that?

Answer: Separate the smaller clans and let them depend on themselves.


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Question 4: Parents-in-law couldn’t think straight, referring side clans and not willing to separate the family. Sisters-in-law were greedy and brothers-in-law lust for women. The family property was in great deficit. The husband favored concubines to wife while her maternal families didn’t care about her. There was no way out for her.

Answer: Wait for reincarnation…

What reflected on account books was not only financial situation, but also complicated interpersonal relationships which always ended up in a mess. Minglan read the book the whole day and felt her head was to explode. A big family was doomed with troubles, each smaller clan having its own intention. Therefore, many problems were no way to be solved. What you could do was to wait until there was a younger generation to hand over the hot potato who would then wait for the next generation.

“Young lady.” Danju lifted up the curtain and came in, reporting with a smile, “Madam sent maid to tell that we have new spring clothing and accessories. You can select some there.”  

Minglan got off the bench. While Danju helped her tidy up hair and clothes, she asked, “Is everything good in the courtyard?” 

Danju thought for a while and answered in a low voice, “Of course it’s no better than when Old Madam is around. A few little girls are gossiping.” 

Minglan smiled and told her, “You don’t have to scold them specially. Just keep an eye on them.” Danju didn’t understand while Minglan just smiled with the corner of her mouth curved, “People in the inner courtyard are good-weather people with whom you can share fortune but not misfortune. Let’s just wait and see.” 

In order to nurse Minglan’s body, Old Madam used to be extremely careful in her food. Daily snacks, either cream, crispy, or steamed, kept changing in turn. Night meal, soup of bird’s nest in crystal sugar or red jujube porridge or other best dessert were all served until Minglan’s skin turned as fair and smooth as porcelain. Even her servants could have a share of the benefit, but now they were provided the same as all other people. 


Danju understood and said seriously, “How nice you treated them ever! If they hated you because of no more getting the benefit, I’d curse them to hell! My lady, I’ll keep an eye on them.”  

Xiaotao held Minglan to Wang shi’s room. Wang shi was lying on the Xiangfei bench and chitchatting with Liu Kun’s wife. In the middle of the room were two square tables putting together. On them placed folded new-colored clothes made of brocade in brilliant new patterns. Molan and Rulan were standing by the tables and examining these clothes with eyes. At the sight of Minglan, they both gave her a stare.

Wang shi knew that Minglan was always a moment slower in doing everything. It was understandable that she was slower in greeting seniors, but she even came later for staff distribution. Therefore, for each time she only got what others didn’t want, and also because of this, no one criticized her for being late. Wang shi put down the teacup, took up a small black pitch wood case, and let Liu Kun’s wife hand it to them, smiling, “This is the latest sample from the Shop of Crystal Jewels. Your eldest sister had it customized before the Spring Festival. She liked its brilliant color, so she sent it here for you to choose.”

Liu Kun’s wife opened the case and put it near the brocade on the table. What greeted them was dazzling brilliance from inside the case. Minglan took a look at it and found in the case three hairpins. One was love-flower tassel hairpin inlaid with glaze; one was golden dangling hairpin inlaid with southern pearl and carved with bat pattern; and one was honey-colored crystal hairpin. All of them were in the latest style and shone with crystal brilliance.

The three Lans then looked at one another before Rulan pouted her mouth, “Go ahead, fourth sister. Father says that we should have respect for seniority.”

Molan smiled lightly, stepped forward to examine the three hairpins carefully, and finally chose the most dazzling golden dangling one. Rulan burst into laughter suddenly and turned to Minglan, “Sixth younger sister, do you know in the story of Kong Rong the Good Boy, who is the good boy? The younger brother or elder brother?”

T/N: Kong Rong the Good Boy is related with a well-known story commonly used to educate children – even in contemporary times – on the values of courtesy and fraternal love, which involves a four-year-old Kong Rong giving up the larger pears to his older and younger brothers. This story, commonly known as "Kong Rong giving up pears", is also mentioned in the Three Character Classic, a text used for elementary education since the Song dynasty.

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