Chapter 365: First question, a poem beginning with the word Ceng/Zeng*!
Just one person was enough? That sounds too boastful!
Why was President Wu so confident today?
The crowd was amused. Many of the spectators became excited too!
Master Wei glanced at Wu Zeqing with a fleeting smile. "Looks like Little Wu's calligraphy skills have improved recently? Then we really can't underestimate you?"
Wu Zeqing smiled without saying a word.
Master Zhou, who had been rendered speechless for a long while, said, "Little Wu, are you sure you don't need any others?"
Wu Zeqing nodded her head slightly. "Hur Hur, there's no need."
Since it was put that way, Master Zhou could not do anything about it. He had been trying to help Wu Zeqing, so it would, at least, appear fair. This way, the competition would also be more exciting. However, Wu Zeqing's attitude made many extremely curious. Most people nearby did not understand either. Everyone understood Wu Zeqing's skill, and knew she was not much weaker than most calligraphers present. As long as Wu Zeqing did not slack, in a decade or two, she would join the others as one of the top masters in calligrapher in the country. However, now wasn't the time yet. Now, Wu Zeqing was facing dozens of calligraphers and a calligraphy master. Why did she think she could beat so many people alone? She was so confident?
Just one person was enough?
What do you mean enough!? Even adding another few dozen would not be enough! To think she said one person?
Everyone thought when Wu Zeqing said "just one person is enough", she meant herself.
Only Su Na understood that the "one person" mentioned by President Wu was not referring to herself, but referring to the only teammate behind her!
Could Teacher Zhang be up to their standard?
Although he previously said he could...
But does he really know calligraphy? He said he could, and President Wu really believed him?
Su Na clenched her fist and pumped it in the air. It was a stance to cheer on President Wu and Teacher Zhang. At this moment, she was not beside her father. They were bullying President Wu with numbers, and also women. Su Na's position was firm. She shot her father a despising stare.
Father Su coughed.
The other calligraphers looked somewhat disconcerted.
"It's not like they will miss me. I'll just stand off to the side to watch the bustle."
"Me too. Old Yu, let's drink some tea."
"They won't miss me with so many people already. Haha, I also do not want to bully Little Wu. It's not nice bullying her with seniority already, but to bully her with numbers as well just isn't right."
"It's just all for fun."
"Come over, let's take a rest."
Immediately, a few people also decided to quit, knowing the situation. Even though President Wu did not need any teammates, they decided to stand aside to watch and not choose sides.
However, the difference in numbers was still rather large.
After ruminating for a moment, Master Zhou said, "I actually wanted both sides to compete in twenty rounds, but since the numbers are a bit disparate, let's decide the victor in three rounds?"
Wu Zeqing said, "Elder Zhou, do it however it should be. I won't change the usual rules."
Just three rounds were too few, and not much to see. After all, today was the Calligraphy Association's anniversary party. If it wasn't interesting, it would be quite disappointing. Master Zhou then said, "Since Little Wu said so, then alright. Let me decide it. Let's divide it by two, and have ten rounds instead. The team with the most number of wins will be the victor, how about that?"
Wu Zeqing said, "I'll leave it up to Master Zhou."
"Alright, then let's begin. Hur Hur." Master Wei also said.
Master Zhou cleared his throat and said loudly, "Maybe some people here are new, so let me reiterate on the rules. The topics will be drawn through a lottery process. Both teams will draw one each. After the topic is confirmed, the competition will begin. Each round will have one question, and an answer has to be provided within ten minutes. It also has to fulfill the requirement of meeting the topic. If it is a long poem or essay, the amount of time needed to answer can be extended accordingly. Every question, in principle, should not exceed twenty minutes. As for the judgment, I will reserve the right. My reputation is still quite passable. Hur Hur. I believe everyone can rest assured about the fairness."
"Elder Zhou, you must be joking."
"That's right, we are, of course, not worried!"
"If you aren't fair, then no one is fair!"
Everyone joked a bit. Firstly, Master Zhou's character and experience was known by all. Secondly, the auspicious item was provided by Master Zhou, so it was very natural for him to be the judge.
"Then I'll thank everyone for your love and trust." Master Zhou said with a smile. Then, he instructed his disciples to bring over two wooden boxes that had previously been prepared. Inside were many folded slips of paper. There was no way to see the words written on them from the outside. The scope of the question was probably written on them.
Wu Zeqing and Zhang Ye sat next to each other.
She tilted her head and said with a smile, "Ten rounds, we each take half?"
Zhang Ye shrugged his shoulders. "I'm fine with anything."
"Alright." Wu Zeqing gave a faint chuckle. "I really like that calligraphy piece by Master Zhou."
Zhang Ye spat the melon seed's shell out. "Anyway, I'm fighting alongside you today, so I will definitely win that calligraphy piece back for you. I happened to not have prepared a birthday gift for you, so I hope this will make do."
Wu Zeqing looked at him. "It's quite difficult."
"I'll give it a try." Zhang Ye was actually not very confident, but he did not lose to others in terms of his stance.
Oh, so Master Wei's birthday is a birthday, but my President Wu's birthday isn't? Bullsh*t, this bro refuses to have his beliefs shaken today!
You can bully me!
I won't care if you bully others too!
But you bunch of respectful calligraphers are bullying Old Wu? No way!
In fact, the other party was not intending on bullying Wu Zeqing. What sort of leader was Wu Zeqing? They wouldn't dare either. They were just giving Master Wei face. An old man's birthday and a young person's birthday was quite different in terms of importance. However, with Zhang Ye's temperament, he was like a gunpowder keg. Just a spark would blow him up. He didn't care for that. He had to win face for President Wu this time. According to their relationship, Zhang Ye felt obligated to help Old Wu.
The lottery began.
Master Zhou was sitting in the middle and shook a box in each hand. "Let's do it?"
Master Wei was sitting by his side and stretched his hand in to grab a slip. After flipping it open, there was a word " (Ceng/Zeng)" written on it.
Wu Zeqing also gently got up and gracefully walked over. She then grabbed a paper slip from the second box. She then opened it for Master Zhou to see. On it was written two words,"first word".
Master Zhou announced, "The first round's topic is out. You have to use either the word 'Zeng' or 'Ceng' as the first word to write a piece of poetry."
Their calligraphy competition might be a competition in calligraphy, but it was not as simple as it was. If it something stupid like "Ceng, the teacher is a good man", it wouldn't be right. So needless to say, their competition's topic was all about writing poems or melody poems. Even if it were not written according to a certain story or ancient poems, it had to follow the tonal patterns of ancient poetry. Modern words or epigrams were prohibited. These were unspoken rules, or else, what was the point with those topical restrictions? It was all to add difficulty!
"And it has to be the first word?"
"The first question isn't that difficult."
"But it's not easy either. Let's see how each side answers it."
The spectators began thinking and had an answer on their minds.
Wu Zeqing came over and said to Zhang Ye. "There are quite a few poems that have Ceng/Zeng as their first word, but they aren't famous. It's just some trivial poems or phrases. This question isn't easily answered. Calligraphy isn't all about the strokes that make up a word. It also has feelings behind it. If the text isn't well chosen, it would be useless no matter how well-written it is. Give me a moment to think about it."
On Master Wei's side, people were also thinking.
Wu Zeqing was also repeatedly ruminating over an answer.
Zhang Ye did not have any reactions. He carried on chewing his melon seeds comfortably. He did not have the bearing of an artist. In fact, he looked like a person here to scrounge for food.
The onlooking crowd was at a loss of whether to laugh or cry as they glanced at President Wu's only teammate. What sort of f**king teammate are you? Are you purely there to make up the numbers? You haven't stopped munching on your seeds since you sat down. Have you never eaten in your entire life? At this exciting moment in the competition, it was alright to forget that you were not helping Wu Zeqing come up with ideas. Your team was about to go up soon, could you at least have some competitive spirit? Why do you only have melon seeds in your eyes!?
Su Na was also breaking out in a sweat. Teacher Zhang was too relaxed.
Master Zhou smiled and said, "Countdown of five minutes begins."
The platform, together with the ink and paper had already been prepared. It was placed in the middle of the two teams.
On the other side, a middle-aged suddenly stood forward. He said with quite a bit of confidence, "Old Wei, why don't I answer this question?"
Master Wei looked at him, "Little Wang, you want to go up? Alright, I wish you success!"
Teacher Wang loosened his wrist. "There's just a matter of course. Let me take down the first round."
There were not many famous poems that met the requirements. The choice of the poem became a difficult problem. You had to at least know that you could recite the poem from memory. This was also a tough part of the competition. They were not permitted to search online. If that were the case, the competition would lose its meaning. Hence, most of the time, what was being used to compete was not an individual's skill in calligraphy, but many other things. Hence, having more people on the team became a natural advantage. This was because no one was adept at having such good memory at knowing all the famous and unknown poems. They had to draw on collective wisdom. Hence, Teacher Wang from Master Wei's team came forward to answer. He happened to know an ancient poem that met the requirements. It did not have a title, but was a poem recorded in an ancient test. It did not have much mood to it, but it was not bad.
He began writing:
Ever once our soldiers secured our borders, the appointment of civil officials with poor foundations.
If Wen Chang** knew of this, a disappointment it would be to him.
As he put the brush down, Teacher Wang smiled and looked over at Wu Zeqing. "Teacher Wu, it's your turn?"
"The poem isn't bad too."
"Sis Wu is in trouble."
"This poem is probably one of the most famous poems that meet the requirements. It is also relatively one of the most well known ones too. With Teacher Wang already writing it, what is there for Teacher Wu to write?"
Everyone discussed in whispers, trying to avoid affecting the competition with their voices.
Master Zhou looked at his watch. "There's only three minutes left."
Wu Zeqing was having an exchange with Zhang Ye. "I know a poem, but it's lacking in meaning. It is inferior to Teacher Wang's. There's also no background to support it, so we might not win if we use it."
Zhang Ye asked, "Then let me do it?"
Wu Zeqing glanced at him. "You remember a better poem that begins with Ceng? I have never seen your calligraphy skills. Why don't you tell me, and I'll write it."
Zhang Ye said, "I don't remember. I don't read ancient poetry too much. Since you said there's no better poem beginning with Ceng, then there definitely isn't anything better." Zhang Ye trusted Wu Zeqing's judgment.
Wu Zeqing said calmly, "Since there isn't any, how are you to write?"
Zhang Ye said in a matter-of-fact manner, "Of course I can write one myself."
"Write one yourself?" Wu Zeqing chuckled. "Alright, then it's all on you."
*The word (Ceng) usually has the meaning of once upon a time, in the past. It can also be a surname, Zeng.
**Wen Chang is known as the God of Culture and Literature Chinese mythology. Thank you to Loki for helping translate this poem.