Chapter 37: Event on the Boat
Translator: Translation Nation/chuchutrain Editor: - -
North Sang Village, Little East River
Chen Yuan and Pei Zi Yun were strolling along the river when Chen Yuan halted, "Master, if you wish to purchase lands that are scattered, it's not difficult."
"However, if you wish to buy a plot of linked lands, it won't be easy. The lands owned by different families are all overlapping with each other. In order to acquire linked lands, you need to approach and deal with at least ten different families, based on the size of land you need. It's extremely troublesome."
"But take a look, the Little East River were prone to bandit attacks a few years ago, and hence many people have fled the area. The lands beside the river are high quality lands due to the presence of water, making it extremely fertile."
"Master can take advantage of this opportunity and purchases these lands. The price per mu of land is only 3 taels of silver."
Pei Zi Yun looked across, deep in his heart he agreed with him, 'This Chen Yuan is indeed capable and opportunistic.'
'It seems like the government has fixed the dam in Little East River, and caused the plants around the area to flourish. The barren land around the river then became fertile due to the presence of water. This caused the price of land to price to 10 taels of silver per mu of land. Additionally, if the lands were to be purchased for agriculture, the first two years aren't liable to taxes, and only after the third year would normal taxes be implemented.'
'And Chen Yuan could unexpectedly see this fact.'
'Mother used to stay at home most of the time, she might have troubles if she were to take care of the social side.' Pei Zi Yun thus agreed, "Good, take my seal and go to the county to buy this plot of land."
"Master, how many should I buy?" asked Chen Yuan eagerly.
"Since it's so cheap, buy 500 mu of land. I shall give the 50 mu of land closest to the shrine to my clan folks." Pei Zi Yun said plainly.
The plot of land would be their livelihood. They can use it to build a school, to pay respects to their ancestors and provide financial aid to poorer members of the clan. It's the proper thing to do.
"Master, in the vicinity of the Little East River there are three thousand mu of land..." Chen Yuan said with some unease.
Pei Zi Yun closed his fan with a "smack" sound and pointed, "Idiot. I am just an Elementary Scholar and not a High Scholar. Even if I were a High Scholar it would go against convention to own the entire stretch."
"If I were to purchase all three thousand mu of land under my own name, even if I were a High Scholar, the county officials would start scrutinizing me. That would cause plenty of unwanted attention and problems. One of your downfalls is that you are short-sighted."
Something that hadn't been mentioned yet is that, although Chen Yuan was capable and resourceful, abilities that eventually allowed him to become rich, he didn't know when to press on and when to back down. This caused him to eventually be sent to jail, with his properties confiscated.
Chen Yuan was still unable to grasp this concept but still replied, "Yes!"
Pei Zi Yun stopped walking, and turned around to leave. He noticed that the villagers around were all busy with their livelihood. On the other side of the river, he could see that the clansman had already started building the ancestral shrine. From afar he could see tens of people getting busy.
"I've already bade farewell to mother."
"As for the matter regarding the land, I'll leave it to you. Hopefully when I get back, it will be settled." Seeing an oxcart nearby, he walked toward it and hopped on, giving instructions to the driver.
He was thinking, 'Once I become a High Scholar, I should hire some maids and manservants. I would need my own oxcart too.'
'That would be only befitting of my status.'
Pei Zi Yun looked far across and saw fancy boat docking. The river was rippling and reflecting the sunlight. A glance at the boat and he saw that many Elementary Scholars had already arrived and were on the boat, admiring the scenery from its deck, they had also split into groups of two or three and were talking to each other.
When Pei Zi Yun boarded the boat, he noticed that many Elementary Scholars had surrounded the Mentor and were speaking to him. It seems like the Mentor had arrived early. From afar, the Mentor's face looked extremely strict and fierce. He spoke little and only occasionally nodded his head.
"Junior pays his respects to the Mentor!" Pei Zi Yun bowed before him and remained in that position for some time.
Seeing Pei Zi Yun, the Mentor smiled and nodded his head without speaking a word.
"Brother Pei, you've finally arrived. Come, let me introduce brother Chen to you. He was the second place in the middle band during the last examination." Tang Zhen appeared and said while smiling.
"Respects to brother Chen!" This person was Chen Yi Gui. Pei Zi Yun laughed heartily, "This is my first time here, and thus I'm unaware of the customs of such an event, Is there anything I should know?"
Chen Yi Gui smiled genuinely and replied, "This is in fact a spot for other Elementary Scholars to make friends and have fun on board a fancy boat. The county's scholars will participate in a poem competition where the Mentor will preside as judge. After which there will be banquet and even an opera."
"As new Elementary Scholars, they are all raring to show off their talents, this is a good way to get noticed and recognized by the county's officials present."
He then continued, "The Provincial Examinations are around the corner, once the event ends, many candidates will make their way to the provinces to prepare. Thankfully we are from Slow River County, where we have the river as a means of transport. Many other scholars have to travel for almost half a month just to make it for this event."
Pei Zi Yun nodded his head, the old roads were treacherous and long. What if someone fell sick on the way? This was why many candidates would rather be in the province way earlier. If he had any minor illnesses, it could take ten days to half a month to treat. This way, they wouldn't miss the examinations.
Tang Zhen laughed again, "Brother Chen offers good advices, and is a kind-hearted person."
As they spoke, many people entered the main hall within the boat. There were many fascinating paintings lined along the interior of the hall. Pei Zi Yun met many people he knew, and they exchanged pleasantries.
In the middle of their conversation, a waiter approached with a tray and said, "Masters, these are the poems written in the previous literary event. Please take a look."
Pei Zi Yun picked up a little booklet and flipped through it. There were three words written on the cover page indicating the venue and purpose of the meet. Poems filled the books and were written by over thirty Elementary Scholars from the previous meet.
"The poems are average!" Pei Zi Yun read them and realized that they were only ordinary based on his current standards. However he understood the gestures of the organizers, compiling the poems into a book.
Social interactions and literary exchanges was the main goal of the event. Clearly if someone was exceptional in this regard, this would be a good platform to broadcast his talents and earn recognition and fame, as information always spreads quickly throughout the county.
Chen Yi Gui flipped through the book as well and laughed. He looked back and said, "All the ink and paper around here can be used by anyone. If you are feeling confident, you can even write directly on the screens."
He pointed to the several screens around, "When you write on the screens, there's no need for little booklets, everyone will be able to see and appreciate."
Pei Zi Yun took a closer look at some of the works written on the screen. Just as he was thinking about their meanings, a sudden sweet smell wafted into the entire room.
"Eh, what is that smell?" Pei Zi Yun had already realized what was happening and paused in surprise.
"What scent is this, I don't know. But once the incense has been burnt, the literary event will start. Look, everyone is already focused." Chen Yi Gui said while smiling.
Pei Zi Yun looked around and found the source of the smell. It was an incense burner placed inconspicuously in a corner. Smoke was rising from it, filling the entire hall with the scent. Deep down he thought to himself, 'Here it comes!'
The curtains withdrew and the Mentor swept into the hall, everyone bowed to him. Once he was in the Mentor said, "In this annual literary meet, I urge everyone to think broadly. Don't confine your ideas solely to the topic. As long as you have a good idea, please voice it out, as it is a good thing. Work hard fellow scholars."
Within the hall, the grinding sound of the ink being prepared could be heard. The wind was blowing in from the window, causing the curtains to sway back and forth. The incense was still burning in the corner as the event started.
Some scholars rolled up their sleeves and started writing. This wasn't a spontaneous thing, the event was hosted once a year and it was a good chance to gain some fame and recognition. Hence it was clear that many people had been preparing for this, and thus knew what they were going to write beforehand.
Pei Zi Yun took out a piece of paper, focused his thoughts, prepared his ink and quill and started writing. Why should he be afraid of people plagiarizing his words. He had already mastered the arts of of Han Lin writing, and was certain nobody would copy his unorthodox style of writing, as that would seem too obvious.
- People are born into this world in order to acquire knowledge. Nobody is born with perfect reasoning, and doubts will inevitably surface. What's important is that these doubts are discussed with a mentor, for if not done, wisdom will never come. -
These five hundred words written by Pei Zi Yun took some time to complete. People had already submitted their poems, and even some people writing essays finished, satisfied with their work. Pei Zi Yun then handed up his essay.
The Mentor glanced at his paper and raised his head to look at Pei Zi Yun in the eye without saying anything. Pei Zi Yun bowed to him, and backed away.
The Mentor took a closer look at the works written by these students. He wrote his views and gave critique to some of these works. He left Pei Zi Yun's essay for last. Standing before his essay, he stood there silently, expressionless.
As the event ended, it was time for the banquet.
Tang Zhen was sneakily planning his next step, the Qian household luxury boat was close by, gradually approaching.
The banquet was hosted on the deck. The Mentor had personally given a toast to the scholars and they were overwhelmed by the gesture of a superior.
While Pei Zi Yun was feasting on some steamed fish and drinking the wine provided, the Qian family luxury boat could be seen approaching as the sound of a chinese flute could be heard. The audience from the literary boat turned their heads to look. It seemed like the Qian luxury boat was putting up a performance on its deck.
The afternoon sun shone down onto the river, sending rays upon both boats. Everyone at the banquet was tipsy to a certain extent as the Qian boat drifted even nearer. That was when everyone realized that the person on the stage performing was a famous literary person, who had achieved top scores in the Grand Examinations in the previous dynasty.
The audience looked at the stage which had flowers scattered all over it. He was dressed in the traditional robe for ministers and looked very impressive. The audience started cheering, and were extremely envious of him. Tang Zhen then said, "Mentor, how can there be wine but no music. The Qian family has always respected High Scholars and Elementary Scholars. Since there's now a performance for us, let's join the boats side by side and enjoy the performance."
The Elementary Scholars in amongst the audience started cheering and shouting their approval. Pei Zi Yun however gave a cold laugh. Tang Zhen appeared to have gusto, and didn't appear to be suspicious in any way. Everyone felt everything was normal, even the Mentor was nodding his head in approval.
The two boats leaned against each other, side by side. Luxury boats usually have wide decks for enjoyment purposes. Now that the two boats are side by side, the decks looked much bigger.
"Looks like the second master of Qian family brought an entourage of performers."
The cold wind blew across as several waiters set up the banquet. The audiences gathered around the stage and were enjoying themselves, with regular cheers erupting.
To achieve literary talents and skills is the dream and life of every student.
The second master of Qian house seemed very generous, constantly ordering his waiters to provide wine and dishes and would foot the bill on behalf of these Elementary Scholars. Right at this moment, everyone was relishing in pleasure and cheering.
Pei Zi Yun glanced across and saw the daughter of Qian house along with her maid. She was watching the performance and enjoying the scenery.
This lady was kneeling down in a sitting position and was dressed impeccably. With half her body glistening in the sunlight, and a preoccupied expression, as though she was lost in thought. Her beauty was ravishing, but Pei Zi Yun had already investigated her. He sighed, 'This lady is a prominent woman of the city, with her beauty and wisdom, who would ever imagine what was hidden under such a guise?' (TN : for more information about the Qian family, refer to chapter 32)
Pei Zi Yun was lost in thought as he enjoyed the food. At this point, a waiter brought along some wine. Tang Zhen then came up to him enthusiastically and pointed as his glass, "Come Brother Pei, let's have a drink together."