In the night he had a dream. A young woman rose from the troubled waters of the river, and he recognized Shih-niang. She drew near, wishing him ten thousand happinesses. Then she recounted the unworthy ingratitude of Li, and said:
“Of your bounty you gave me a hundred and fifty ounces. I have not forgotten your generosity, and I put this little box in the fishermen’s net as an offering of recognition.”
He awoke and, having learned thus of Shih-niang’s death, sighed for a long time.
Later, those who told me this story declared that Sun, since he thought he could acquire a beautiful woman for a thousand ounces, was evidently not a respectable man. Li Chia, they said, had not understood the sorrowful heart of Shih-niang, and was consequently stupid, without refinement, and not worthy of mention. Shih-niang alone was heroic. She was, in fact, unique since furtherest antiquity. Why could she not meet some charming companion, some phoenix worthy of her? Why did she make the mistake of loving Li Chia? An admirable piece of jade was thrown to him who did not deserve it; so that love turned to hate, and a thousand passionate impulses were drowned in the deep water. Alas!
Tu Shih-niang nu ch’en pai pao hsiang. (Tu Shih-niang, being put to shame drowns herself with her casket of a hundred treasures.) Chin ku chi’i kuan (17th Century.)
THE WEDDING OF YA-NEI
In the reign of the emperor Shen Tsung there lived an official named Wu, who was at that time, Governor of Ch’ang-sha. His wife, Lin, had given him a son named Ya-nei, or “In-the-Palace,” who had that year reached the age of sixteen. He was well endowed, although not without tendency to wantonness; yet he had from childhood diligently studied the classics and poetry. He had only one really extravagant failing; to satisfy his appetite he needed more than three bushels of rice every day, and over two pounds of meat. We will say nothing of his drinking. In spite of all this, he ever seemed half starved.
About the third Moon of that year, Wu was appointed Governor of Yang-chow, and the equipages and boats of his new post came up to meet him. He packed his belongings, said good-bye to his friends and went on board, following the course of the river. On the second day he had to stop, because of a storm of wind which raised up the waters of the river in great waves.
At the point on the river bank where the boat lay moored, there was already another official junk, before the cabin of which stood a middle-aged matron and a charming girl, surrounded by several women slaves. Ya-nei perceived the youthful beauty, and thought her so seductive that he immediately composed the following poem:
Her soul has the tenderness of Autumn
And her pure bones are made of jade.
The rose of the hibiscus lightens her,
Her eyebrows have the curve of willow leaves.
Is she not an Immortal from the Jasper Lake
Or from the Moon Palace?