Chapter 373: "Ode of Mulan" is Born!
The mood of the annual gathering had soured.
Everyone who was in attendance to the gathering could only look on at each other as they observed the situation in the back yard.
As Chen Mo's teacher, Master Wei could only step forward to Wu Zeqing saying, "President Wu, I'm sorry. My disciple does not know better. Don't take what a junior does to heart."
Wu Zeqing smiled, "It's okay, Little Mo's words are quite well written."
Master Wei sighed, saying, "The words are good, but the attitude is far from good."
Master Zhou said from the side, "He still needs to hone himself. It's too early for him to stray from the cover of his master's wing." Saying that, he shook his head.
As for the calligraphers that had gathered around, there was nothing they could say either. Because as a disciple of Master Wei, it would not be good for them to lecture him. Using a folk song poem to insinuate that women should stay home and fulfill their homely duties? Chen Mo's words were indeed well written and he was also an outstanding literary talent, but his character was less so. Did he care about President Wu's status? She was a heroine amongst women and even these calligraphers did not dare to make a scene in front of her, so what's with this junior that was Chen Mo? It was a good thing that President Wu did not hold him it against him. Such magnanimity would not have come from anyone else. Writing something like that would have already gotten him a stare and smack on the table. You'd have to know that in the field of culture and education, Wu Zeqing's influence was much larger than all of those present put together!
They could only be considered as passers-by in these fields.
Wu Zeqing was the only one who held true power!
If he did not even recognize this, then his future achievements would definitely not be any good either. Everyone had their own judgments about Chen Mo. Sigh, young people always act impulsively and go astray. Sometimes, you'd have give them a chance to let the them grow up and learn from their own mistakes.
Master Zhou looked at Chen Mo, "What are you waiting for? Apologize to President Wu."
Chen Mo hesitated for a moment before looking to Wu Zeqing and saying, "President Wu, if I had offended you in any way, I apologize, but this folk song poem of mine really does not have any ulterior motives at all. I just wanted to show my teacher and let him assess the fruits of my learnings." He was still unwilling to admit his mistake.
Old Master Wei eyes turned cold as well.
Chen Mo was also a victim of his own pride. He had already gone so far, so all he could do was to just continue standing there and admitting that he was not in the wrong. He did not know that Wu Zeqing had already presented Master Zhou's calligraphy piece to his teacher. All he wanted to do now was to get back at them for his teacher. He did not care about the consequences anymore. What's done was done. The folk song poem had already been written and nothing could be done about it.
Su Na said angrily, "He can't tell chalk from cheese! To think you still are so adamant when President Wu did not take it to heart?!"
Father Su reprimanded her a little, "Sit down. Why are you getting so agitated for?"
Su Na said, "He has already denigrated women! Am I not allowed to say anything!"
A female calligrapher snorted, "What day and age are we currently in and yet there's still such discrimination?! Old Master Wei, today is the anniversary of our Calligraphy Association and also your birthday. We came here to congratulate you, not to get angered like this. It's already a new era of society and yet there are still such people with such old fashioned mindsets still around? If I didn't see this for myself, I wouldn't have believed it. What's the matter with us women?"
"In what way are we good for nothing?"
"The person who wrote such a folk song poem can't possibly have good character!"
"Still adamant? Don't know how to repent? He dares to do it, but doesn't dare to admit his mistakes!"
"Master Wei. We respect you a lot, but this disciple of yours is...really not much!"
A group of female family members and female calligraphers were still grumbling about Chen Mo. President Wu did not get offended by him because of her status, but for them, they did not have any reasons to hold back. They were all women and they would have already let him off easy if they spat on him. Chen Mo's calligraphy writing was really infuriating!
Teacher Wang said to his wife, "Old Qu, why are you causing a commotion."
The woman frowned, "What's the matter? Can't I speak my mind?!"
Teacher Wang pursed his lips, "Just don't say so much. Is there not enough rice to stop you from talking? Eat more then." He did not want the issue to keep going on as it was, after all, still Master Wei's birthday. The more they spoke, the uglier it would become for Master Wei.
Another calligrapher said to his daughter, "Xiaojiang, don't say anymore. Just eat!"
The girl, who was sitting at the same table as Su Na, slammed her chopsticks onto the table, "Do you think I can still eat! Dad, that Chen fella's actions are completely uncalled for! I was just quietly eating and did not offend anyone, yet he came out and insulted all women? If his calligraphy was about any other topic, it would be fine, but what did he do? He wrote the folk song poem in a way that says the men must be determined to follow their dreams and not listen those around them spouting rubbish. Yet most of the descriptions were talking about how women are wicked and like to cause trouble! He basically looks down on women from the bottom of his heart! If this poem were to be posted and spread around in public, how will others think of the Calligraphy Association? Hmmph, they would definitely think that this place is ruled by old feudal lords!"
Her father got angry, "What are you saying! Eat your meal!"
Xiaojiang said, "If he doesn't explain himself, I won't eat!"
The woman beside her hugged Xiaojiang and said, "Old Sun, don't shout at your daughter. You allowed him to write something like that, yet you won't let us say a word?"
"Big Sis Yu, Little Mo doesn't seem like he was intending to do that." The father smiled bitterly.
Big Sis Yu said, "Still, he ought to apologize."
All of the women present did not agree with his explanation. The men looked as though as they were all having a bad headache.
Master Wei's other disciples could only sit still.
Chen Mo had no way back except to say, "Sisters and aunties, I really do not have any other meaning. I was just imitating the ancients in writing a folk song poem for my teacher's birthday, so that I could show how much I have learned. I have been composing this for the past month and wanted to give my teacher a surprise!"
Still giving excuses!
This time, even the men could no longer stand him!
Suddenly, someone said something. Zhang Ye casually grabbed a mouthful of food and swallowed it down. He calmly glanced at Chen Mo, "You had one month of research and all you came up with was this piece of rubbish? Looks to me like your studies did not take you far!"
Chen Mo sneered, "Rubbish?"
Zhang Ye's mouth was extremely toxic. "Saying that it's rubbish was only to leave face for Master Wei. If I were to speak freely, this folk song poem is absolute f**king trash. Do you even know what a folk song poem is? Do you know how to write a folk song poem? With this sort of standard for an essay, you still dare to call it a folk song poem? Don't tease us anymore. In the future, should you have something else like this again, you should just leave it at home. Don't bring it out and embarrass yourself. If someone who really understands poetry well sees this, wouldn't it make them laugh their heads off? Your words only so-so and just barely OK, but the literary standards are very poor. Let me tell you, a real folk song poem does not put too much focus on the passage format and is not so strict about tonal patterns, with a lot of freedom from rules, but it is not so simple as to be considered an unstructured passage that, when paired with music, will automatically qualify it to be a folk song poem. A poem such as the folk song poem does not fully depend on pairing it with music either. Our nation's literature is so profound and deep and it is definitely not as simple as you think it is!"
Su Na cheered, "Well said!"
As for what was so good about it? Su Na did not know either!
Those who were present felt the same. Speaking of it, they really did not understand much about the structure of a folk song poem either. There were no restrictions on the type of sentences used, no tonal pattern requirements either, yet the standard for the words used were very high. There could be storyline characters in it and even exchanges of sentences between the characters. It was very difficult to write - Everyone's concept of it was also as such. After all, they were all involved in calligraphy and not in folk song poems. They couldn't possibly be so well-learned about a topic like this.
A youth could no longer bear to listen any longer, "You're saying my senior bro is writing rubbish?"
"Is it my senior bro or you that doesn't understand!" Another of Master Wei's disciples rebutted.
Zhang Ye was tickled, "I don't understand?"
When she heard this, Su Na also burst out laughing!
Seeing Zhang Ye accusing him, Chen Mo no longer kept silent. Those aunties and sisters who had been giving him a ticking off were all his elders and it wasn't good for him to argue back, but who did Zhang Ye think he was? Chen Mo said directly, "Sure, you put it so well, then why don't you show us what you've got? If what I wrote is not a folk song poem, then show us how it should be written!"
Zhang Ye smiled, "It's President Wu's birthday today, so I will be happy to teach you something. I won't ask for tuition fees either." After saying so, he turned around to Wu Zeqing and said, "President Wu, I did not prepare a present for you today. Coming here empty handed, I feel a little embarrassed, so let me write a little something for you as your birthday present."
Wu Zeqing laughed and said, "Sure."
Master Zhou was a little stunned, "What will you write?"
Zhang Ye replied relaxingly, "After saying all that I did earlier, I will naturally be writing a folk song poem. I wanted to give the poems from earlier to President Wu, but she didn't seem too satisfied with them, saying that those poems didn't fit the occasion. Alright then, this folk song poem should be suitable. I would also like to tell everyone a story."
Wu Zeqing watched him with a soft gaze. "OK, I will be waiting to see your folk song poem. If it's not up to my standards, I will not accept it." She said so jokingly, but there was not a single doubt in her eyes.
A lot of people gasped. What the f**k, you really want to write a folk song poem? This was not a poem that could be compared to other 5 or 7 word poems. A folk song poem was usually used to tell a story. It needed character planning, a storyline, a main plot, and lastly a conclusive question.It needed thoughtful literary planning and the largely depended on the phrasing of words. Everyone had witnessed Zhang Ye's prowess in composing poems, but most poems only numbered a few dozen words. Each one was short and easy to come up with, but a folk song poem was entirely different. Without at least a month to think and prepare, how could he come up with a long poem that would consist of hundreds to thousands of words? It was not possible to write on the spot! Everyone knew that this sunglasses youth obviously spoke without thinking. He could not have possibly composed something like this, yet he claimed that he would immediately start writing one right now? Composing on the spot?
This was a folk song poem we're talking about!
How could something like that be composed spontaneously?
Everyone had no concept of such a thing. It was nothing they had ever heard about before. Could someone even do that? That's impossible!
Yet Su Na felt confident as she cheered, "Go, Teacher Zhang! Show them what you can do! Those frogs in a well, how dare they debate with you on verse structures? It's laughable!" She really wanted to laugh out loud.
Zhang Ye said, "Please help me prepare a longer piece of Xuan paper. The word count might be a little more than usual."
"What size do you require?" Master Zhou asked.
Zhang Ye not knowing it either, "Hmm, anything will do I guess."
Master Zhou was a left a little speechless, but still said, "How many words will there be?"
Zhang Ye answered, "I'm not too sure either. Let's just write and see how it goes."
Well, he was composing it on the spot after all, so how could he possibly know how many words there would be? So, Master Zhou instructed his disciples to go prepare and soon after, everything was ready.
Everyone stopped eating and went over to spectate.
"Let's go downstairs!"
"There's something exciting to watch again!"
"Wait for me, I'm coming too!"
People who were upstairs came down, many of which were family members and members of the association.
This time, it wasn't a match, but somehow, it felt more exciting than one. Everyone's soul was stirred. Su Na squeezed in front to find a spot near the happenings.
Chen Mo was waiting to see Zhang Ye make a fool of himself. His few disciple brothers thought so too, thinking, how a person without any preparation even write a folk song poem? A few hundred to thousands of words that he hadn't even planned for? Wasn't this an immense joke!? And you even want to use it to tell a story? The ancient stories have already been written so much that people are sick of them!
Master Zhou stood in the innermost row.
Master Wei and Wu Zeqing were seated and watching.
All eyes were focused on Zhang Ye.
Zhang Ye dabbed the brush in ink and then looked up to find Chen Mo. "Watch carefully and see what a folk song poem really looks like!" Saying this, he landed his brush and began describing it verbally.
"In ancient times, there was a girl named Mulan."
Didn't ancient styles of writing always write about men? Why are you writing a woman as the protagonist?
When Chen Mo and his fellow disciple brothers heard it, they sneered. Everyone else was dumbfounded. Their faces wore an expression of bewilderment and probably thought that Zhang Ye really was crazy. Not only did he want to compose a folk song poem on the spot, he was even going to use a woman as the main character? A story about getting married and teaching their children how to farm? What was there to write about?
"Tsiek tsiek and again tsiek tsiek,
Mulan weaves, facing the door. You don't hear the shuttle's sound,
You only hear Daughter's sighs."
When the first line was written, Su Na knew what she had to do. She walked and stood behind Zhang Ye. As he wrote another line, Su Na read it aloud so that everyone in the outer rows, who could not see, could hear it.
"It's really about weaving and farming?"
"What's so interesting about the happenings of a household?"
"Quiet, don't disturb him. Let's keep watching on."
A few women and girls were discussing behind him.
Without any thought, Zhang Ye wrote word after word in a very fast fashion. His flicks were firm, as if he did not even need to think or conceptualize.
"They ask Daughter who's in her heart,
They ask Daughter who's on her mind. No one is in Daughter's heart. No one is on Daughter's mind. Last night I saw the draft posters,
The Khan is calling many troops,
The army list is in twelve scrolls,
On every scroll there's Father's name. Father has no grown-up son,
Mulan has no elder brother.
I want to buy a saddle and horse,
To serve in the army in Father's place."
Chen Mo was stunned!
Serve on her father's behalf?
Disguised as a man to serve in the army?
Everyone suddenly became quiet. No one spoke anymore!
Zhang Ye began to write even faster.
"In the East Market, she buys a spirited horse,
In the West Market, she buys a saddle,
In the South Market, she buys a bridle,
In the North Market, she buys a long whip. At dawn, she takes leave of Father and Mother,
In the evening she camps on the Yellow River's bank.
She doesn't hear the sound of Father and Mother calling,
She only hears the Yellow River's flowing water cry tsien tsien. At dawn, she takes leave of the Yellow River,
In the evening she arrives at Black Mountain.
She doesn't hear the sound of Father and Mother calling,
She only hears Mount Yen's nomad horses cry tsiu tsiu."
A slightly plump, middle-aged woman's eyes turned red.
A few other women, who had heard up to here, were also greatly touched!
What a pitiful girl! What a filial daughter! What a brave woman!
Upon reaching this point, Zhang Ye's brush suddenly turned sharply. It was as if the characters in his folk song poem were about to jump out with the change of his strokes. The atmosphere heated up.
"She goes ten thousand miles on the business of war,
She crosses passes and mountains like flying. Northern gusts carry the rattle of army pots,
Chilly light shines on iron armor. Generals die in a hundred battles,
Stout soldiers return after ten years. On her return she sees the Son of Heaven,
The Son of Heaven sits in the Splendid Hall. He gives out promotions in twelve ranks
And prizes of a hundred thousand and more. The Khan asks her what she desires.
"Mulan has no use for a minister's post.
I wish to ride a swift mount
To take me back to my home."
All of them froze again!
After so many people had died, Mulan was so lucky to have survived?
When the Khan wanted to reward her, she had rejected the chance to become a minister?
Zhang Ye wrote:
"When Father and Mother hear Daughter is coming
They go outside the wall to meet her, leaning on each other.
When Elder Sister hears Younger Sister is coming
She fixes her rouge, facing the door.
When Little Brother hears Elder Sister is coming
He whets the knife, quick quick, for pig and sheep."
An image formed in everyone's heads!
It was a scene of an excited family in a jubilant mood! Their family member had escaped death and came home with military honors!
When Su Na read this, her voice also began to choke up. It was as if the story had hit her soft spot and she could barely continue narrating!
Zhang Ye took over Su Na's job and began narrating as he wrote.
"I open the door to my east chamber,
I sit on my couch in the west room,
I take off my wartime gown
And put on my old-time clothes. Facing the window she fixes her cloudlike hair,
Hanging up a mirror she dabs on yellow flower powder She goes out the door and sees her comrades.
Her comrades are all amazed and perplexed.
Traveling together for twelve years
They didn't know Mulan... was a girl!"
Xiaojiang felt her blood boil with passion!
At the side, another woman started to tear up.
The scene depicted in the folk song poem had caused many people to be unable to hold their emotions in anymore!
Finally, Zhang Ye chuckled and as he wrote, he seemed to ask everyone:
"The he-hare's feet go hop and skip,
The she-hare's eyes are muddled and fuddled.
Two hares running side by side close to the ground..."
His final words were written more forcefully one after the other.
"How can they tell if I am he or she!?"
He finished writing!
There was total silence!
Zhang Ye held up "Ode of Mulan" and left it to dry before putting down his brush!
When Chen Mo finished reading, his face turned purple! His few disciple brothers were also left speechless!
Master Wei's hand slammed down on the chair he was sitting in as he laughed heartily, "What a good 'How can they tell if I am he or she'! Great! Great! Great!"
Master Zhou's feeling at this moment could not be described with words either. He looked in shock at Zhang Ye, having been totally stunned by this great poem called "Ode of Mulan"!
He had truly been stunned!
Wu Zeqing eyes flashed!
The women present were all amazed!
"Hua Mulan? She is definitely a role-model to all women!"
"Right! This is what a woman is! Who says a woman can't be equal to a man?!"
"Anything a man can do, anything a man can achieve, we women can do just as well!"
The women were all visibly agitated. This "Ode of Mulan" was so well written, that it had already made its way into their hearts!
That's right! You people always want to judge with bias. Unless you hold up a rabbit by its ears, you would not be able to tell if it was male or female. A male rabbit's two legs would always move, while a female rabbit's eyes were usually squinting. Only then could you differentiate, but when male and female rabbits ran alongside each other, who could tell the difference?! Everyone was the same!
"Splendid!" Master Zhou started applauding!
In that moment, the sound of claps resounded as applauses began one by one, "It's too awesome! We've truly been enlightened today! Indeed, however strong you are, there is always someone stronger!"
"Ode of Mulan" was too excellent!
It was so excellent that it reached the point of stunning amazement!
The worse thing for anything was comparison. There were people, who had felt that Chen Mo was good, since he could compose a folk song poem that almost had a thousand words, but now, this poem, which was written by the youth in shades, when placed beside Chen Mo's piece, had made his look like crap! Chen Mo's praising of men and their dreams had used women as a burden to contrast it. The work itself was a petty one and the thought behind it did not deserve to be brought up. Right now, it even looked like Chen Mo's usage of words and phrases were like that of a child's and should not be praised at all! Just look at how the folk song poem, that was given by the youth in shades for Wu Zeqing, was written? When he wrote about women, he did not belittle anyone. The man you wrote about wanted to become an official? Yet the woman that the other person wrote about just did not want to be one. She did not want merit or reward and just wanted to go home to her family! The man you wrote about complained about things every time? Cursing women who are not good at this or that? While the other person's female character risked the chance of being beheaded by serving in the army on her father's behalf while disguised as a man! For her father and family, she fought with the enemy as a girl. In the midst of knives and swords, she wore her brains as armor to kill the enemy soldiers before returning home as a warrior after more than 10 years!
A weak woman!
She had done what a man might not have been able to achieve!
Comparatively, the levels between Chen Mo and the youth in shades were clearly too far apart. The youth's "Ode of Mulan" was clearly written in opposition to Chen Mo's work! Every sentence was a smack to the face! Every word refuted Chen Mo's essay, repressing and smacking him hard!
Chen Mo's expression turned very ugly. He never expected Zhang Ye woul be able to write such a poem!
Zhang Ye looked at Chen Mo and said impolitely, "I can tell you once again. What you wrote is nothing at all. It cannot be called a folk song poem, nor is there any literary or entertainment value." Saying that, he pointed at his own Xuan paper. "This, is a folk song poem. It is nowhere close to anything like yours."
Chen Mo said coldly, "What qualifications do you have to evaluate my poem?"
Suddenly, Master Zhou's eyes flickered. After some thought, for some reason, he laughed with enlightenment. "Little Chen, the person in front of you really has the qualifications to evaluate your poem. If he says your folk song poem is not orthodox, then it definitely is the case. If he doesn't have the qualifications, then not many in this country have the qualifications. In the realm of literature, even all of us present combined are not his match!" Then, he looked at Zhang Ye and chuckled. "Young lad, I know who you are already!"
Chen Mo was stunned. What was Master Zhou saying?
He had the qualifications? What qualifications did he have!?
Furthermore, what was that about all of us combined would not be his match in literature? Impossible!
"Elder Zhou knows?"
Everyone was curious. Who was this youth!?
Master Wei and those calligraphers looked over. Some began ruminating!
Master Zhou roared out with laughter. "I should have guessed earlier. In this country, to be able to write an ancient poem in such manner, and also be proficient in couplet culture, to the point of not needing any thought or drafts to produce such an amazing piece like 'Ode of Mulan' on the spot! There is only one person in the country that can do it!"
Finally, a few smarter people suddenly realized it!
Few people in the country were both proficient in poetry and couplets. In addition to this, he was invited by President Wu? And he knew Su Na, a Peking University teacher?
"I know who he is!"
"Heavens! It's Zhang Ye!"
"You are Teacher Zhang Ye!!!"
Everyone was stunned. This was something no one expected!