Nao fan lou to ch’ing sheng hsien (Chou Victorious-Immortal, of abundant love, overthrows the Pavilion of the Fan). Hsing shih heng yen (1627), 14th Tale.
THE ERROR OF THE EMBROIDERED SLIPPER
The sun is in our eyes
And we think we are running out towards joy;
Our heart pulls us down
And we shall never know the way of the sky
Or the end of all things.
During the Hung-Chih period of our Dynasty there lived at Hang-chow a young man who was called Chang Loyalty. After his parents died, leaving him a great fortune, he no longer had anyone to guide him, and therefore, throwing away his books, he spent his time with gallants of the sort we name fou-lang-tzu, that is to say “floating-on-the-waves.” They do not know how to profit by opportunity. So Chang no longer studied anything but various ball games, he abandoned himself to the pleasures of the theatre, and took his delight in those gardens where the breezes of love blow in the moonlight. In a word, he followed the changing flowers of illusion; and, as he was himself seductive, as impassioned as expert in pleasure, and rich and generous, he became the favorite of all the women of the town. One day, when spring had but just caused all the flowers to come out on the amiable banks of the Lake of the West, Chang invited a company of singing girls and idlers to spend the afternoon on the blue waters.
He put on a gauze bonnet with floating wings, after the fashion of the time. His great transparent silk robe was of purple and silver, over a second embroidered one of pure white. White gauze stockings and red slippers completed the elegance of his appearance.
He went out, walking unhurriedly, gently waving a fan decorated with paintings. Behind him walked his little slave, Clear-Lute, who carried over his shoulder a mantle in case the weather should freshen, and a long guitar with which to accompany the singing girls.
As they were approaching the gate of Ch’ien-t’ang, Chang looked up, for no particular reason. On the first story of a house a maiden held back her window curtain and looked at him. From her whole person emanated so troubling a charm that he stopped in his walk, and felt a tremor in his body. For a long time they remained gazing at each other, until she slowly broke into a smile, and he felt his soul fly from him.
At this moment the door of the house opened below, and a man came forth; so Chang hastened to resume his walk, and returned in a few moments. The curtain was drawn back over the window. He waited, but there was no sign. At length he drew away, turning his head, and walking as slowly as if he had already gone a hundred leagues on the mountains.
Yet eventually he passed the town gate and rejoined his friends on the boat, which was at once steered to the middle of the lake. The banks were smiling with peach blossom: the willow leaves were a mist of gold and green. Little boats, with brightly-dressed passengers, crossed and re-crossed like ants. In very truth: