Last time on Zhui Xu: Su Tan Er learns that Guye was responsible for the He Family business, and that his students are actually doing well. Meanwhile, Ning Yi is nowhere to be found.
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Chapter 26 – Examination
The fire stoves near the Su Compound’s library tower burned hot. The atmosphere was heavy. Right now, almost all of the educated people in the Su Family were gathered here. The one with the highest status was naturally the present prefect of the Shen Prefecture, Song Mao. This person was a graduate, and among the common people, he could be considered to be a very talented person. Because the Su students knew that he would come each year, they had prepared for a long time under the supervision of their teachers.
Those that had money might not be able to buy education, but they would be able to buy books. Due to this, the library tower of the Su Family was very large and dignified. If one had to say what hopes Old Master Su had, he hoped that one day, the Su Family would become a true family of scholars with many educated people. When the descendants saw this library tower, they would remember the efforts that the generation who had been merchants had made — this was a very magnificent thing to think of. When people grew old, they would become interested in matters like this.
At this time, the first half of the relatively systematic exam had been completed. This was just asking some political questions to the older students, and giving some phrases to the younger students to explain the meaning. Something like sample answers did not exist during this era. No one could accurately tell you what each sentence of the Analects of Confucious meant. Each person had their own understanding, and the judgement was a free process. Of course, people who had knowledge would be able to see many things, if the teachers had just drilled the students systematically, or if the students were creative and had their own thoughts.
This year’s exam was slightly different from other years.
After the preliminary test, the one called to the center of the library tower by Song Mao was a child not yet ten. It was obvious that he was very nervous and stammed. He did not seem very confident in his answers, but he still managed to continue speaking.
“Analects of Confucious … the Yong Ye says … the wise find pleasure in water, the virtuous in the hills. The wise are active, the virtuous are tranquil. The wise are joyful, the virtuous are long-lived 1 … this means … the wise pursue the changes of all things, the virtuous … the reason the wise pursue the change of all things is in search of the truth that all things are one. The virtuous do not ask for change, and can use the lack of change against the changes in all things. The wise and the virtuous are one … Teacher .. Teacher says those virtuous that have no wisdom are not truly virtuous. The wise that do not understand virtue have just unorthodox knowledge. Ugh … one day, they will suffer a loss …”
This child was about nine years old, and looked honest. He had a difficult time constructing his rhetoric, and after a while, he used words like “Teacher said” as well as some common vernacular to speak. If this was used in a test, it naturally was unacceptable, but this was different. Song Mao was near forty, and looked honest and straightforward. As he listened, he nodded.
“Xunzi said, all remains the same despite the apparent changes; Zhuangzi said, those not separate from the primal source is what is called the heavenly man. All things remain essentially the same despite the apparent changes … is so.” “Xiao Heizi, did your teacher teach this to you?”
Hearing him ask this, the nervous Xiao Heizi was slightly happy because the question was simple. He nodded. “Yes, Prefect, Teacher once said all phenomenons cannot escape their basic essence, and all things remain essentially the same.”
“All phenomenons cannot escape their basic essence, all things remain essentially the same … this is enough ..” Song Mao nodded and then said with a smile, “The explanation for this wise one likes water was what your teacher said?”
Xiao Heizi nodded. “Teacher once mentioned it. This student … this student does not remember well ..”
The child thought and shook his head. Then he carefully nodded. “I understand … a bit …”
“Haha, I thought so.” Song Mao laughed. “Then the interpretations you were tested on before were all from your teacher?”
The child nodded and then shook his head. “Teacher … teacher once spoke about this … but not in specifics. These are … what this student thinks …”
Song Mao saw him shaking and nodding his head, and also nodded with a smile as well. He, Su Chong Hua, and the others exchanged some opinions. Old Grandfather Su had been watching from the side and discovered the situation was different. “Prefect, this is …”
“Congratulations, Uncle Su, this child and the child tested just now will definitely have success someday.”
It was not easy to hear Song Mao say something like this. Old Grandfather Su was overjoyed, but did not show much of it on his face. He only watched the development of events. Song Mao looked at the surrounding teachers and the professors from the school. He raised his folded hands to Su Chong Hua. “Brother Su, who is the teacher that taught Xiao Heizi …”
He had some contact with the teachers of Mount Yu School in the past, and no one was of value. At this time, he looked towards the few unfamiliar faces. Su Chong Hua’s expression was hesitant. But looking at Old Grandfather Su, he still spoke, “He does not seem to be here. This Xiao Heizi and the previous child are all Li Heng’s students.”
Old Grandfather Su stilled slightly and then showed a joyous expression. Song Mao’s expression also changed slightly. Then he flipped through some of the paper tests, having a child beside him select, and then picked out five to review. He put them in front of Old Grandfather Su and Su Chong Hua. “Brother Su, read these. Are these students all taught by the same person?”
Su Chong Hua looked at the name and nodded. Song Mao explained to Old Grandfather Su. “The same question, the students taught by the same teacher, the same classes in school. But these five all have different answers, and own understandings…”
One did not have to say much. Old Grandfather Su himself did not have much education, but when he heard this, he understood what the other meant. Then Song Mao looked at the people standing around before asking Su Chong Hua, “The Li Heng Brother Su speaks of is Ning Yi of the Prelude to the Water Melody, Ning Li Heng?”
” … It is that person.”
“This person is greatly talented. Where is he? Please invite him to sit with me on the stage, how can he stand down there to watch?”
The people on stage at the moment were middle-aged and senior people. Ning Yi should also be present. If he was not on stage, he was naturally among the crowd of family members watching. Old Grandfather Su looked down from the stage. His eyesight was not good. At the same time, he asked Su Bo Yong, “Where is Li Heng?”
Su Bo Yong had already been searching. He immediately shook his head, “He seems … to not be here.”
In the past, in the second stage where students were asked questions individually, usually the older students were called up. This time, two children had been called. While they had been very nervous, in the eyes of the surrounding people, this was the sign of being educated, and an honor. As the people on stage talked, the people watching below had been whispering among themselves. Juan’er, who had come over to watch, was motivating one of Ning Yi’s students. “See how good Heizi and Zhong Ming are. If you are called to answer questions, do well, and do not embarrass your teacher.”
These children frequently demanded Ning Yi tell stories and were familiar with Chan’er and Juan’er. He said with a stressed expression, “But Sister Juan’er, I am afraid. It is the prefect up there.”
“He does not govern our prefecture or cut off your head. See how friendly he is. Heizi and the others were afraid … if you are an embarrassment, this sister will not spare you …”
Before she finished speaking, Su Bo Yong had found Juan’er among the crowd and called her over with a chuckle. “Where is your guye?” When she was sent out the door to find Ning Yi, Song Mao was already asking about the stories Ning Yi told in class, and was having Xiao Hei Zi tell one on the spot …
When Juan’er finished recovering her breath and describing this to Su Tan Er and the others, they were astounded. Then Juan’er asked Chan’er, “Where is Guye. Eldest Master and the others are waiting. I went to the courtyard and didn’t find him there.”
Chan’er was also distressed. “But … Guye seemed to have left in the morning … I, I do not know …”
After teaching for a few months in Mount Yu School, Ning Yi had learned a bit about the exam at the end of the year from Xiao Chan. But with his personality, he naturally would not put such things on his mind. When he told stories to children in class, he could see everyone’s doubts, amusement, displeasure and Su Tan Er’s puzzlement and dislike. He knew. He was just too lazy to explain. But if Xiao Chan really had asked him about his thoughts on the exam, he would likely say, “If they cannot pass something like this, then I really have no need to do anything …”
There were not many things he wanted to do at present, but if he was going to do them, he just needed to wait for the result. After experiencing so much, he naturally had his vanity, but vanity was not something that could influence his actions. To people who had good perspectives and could understand slightly or attempt to understand, people like Elder Qin and Elder Kang, he would speak of various things during idle chatter, and feel good when he watched their expressions. But if the other wasn’t able to understand, and the other would say you were unorthodox when you said something, that was just asking for abuse.
Today, if Ning Yi had been at home, it was hard to say if he would have gone to watch the exam. But regardless, he had left in the morning and did not know the development of the entire matter. The Su Family had been busy recently, and he had some things he wanted to do. He had been idle for too long, and it was time to find something to play with. It was hard to say whether this would have results, but it would at least prove: he, a CEO from the modern times, would struggle for a while for his beautiful life in this terrifying era that had no MSG.
When he thought about it, it looked like a pig struggling …
As wind and snow fell, he thought to himself in boredom as he walked along the snow-covered streets. Dressed in blue robes, he held a paper umbrella. If this was a painting, and the streets around him were covered in snow, it did have some aura of a scholar. There were many shops still open on the two sides of the street. The passersby moved quickly on the streets. A carriage moved by him. There were several stalls at the intersection. Behind a small pushcart, a woman with an ugly headscarf blinked, and looked over in puzzlement. Ning Yi waved his hand, and the other side gave an embarrassed smile.
Nie Yun Zhu’s crepe stall that did not fit her air at all had opened. Ning Yi had known the location long ago, but this was the first time he was strolling around.
- Zhui Xu Chapter 26 “Examination”
- Zhui Xu Chapter 25 “Gather Clouds In One’s Hand”
- Zhui Xu Chapter 24 “First Cousin”
- Zhui Xu Chapter 23 “Despicable Mouth”
- Zhui Xu Chapter 22 “Autumn End, Winter Start (2)”
- Translation by James Legge ↩