The Deer and the Cauldron Chapter 46-50 (End)

Chapter 46 Thousand li sail and mast going outside the country, nine firmaments wind and rain going through the city.

Looking up, Wei Xiaobao saw more than a dozen huge battleships, with their sails fully opened to ride the wind, sailing fast toward the island. Wei Xiaobao knew something was amiss; he pulled the string, but was unable to get the hook off, on the contrary, the hook went deeper into the back of his neck that it hurt. Immediately he moved his feet and dashed away, dragging the fishing pole behind him. He thought it must be that young fellow Zheng Keshuang coming with his troops to settle the debt. Settling debt was originally very good, but before the debtor dropped in, he sent several cannon blasts first in torrential rush, certainly it was not a good omen.

Before he even reached his house, Peng Canjiang [administrator/colonel] had already rushed over, flustered and exasperated. “Wei … Wei Jueye … things … things look bad, Taiwan warships have arrived,” he said.

“How do you know they are Taiwan’s warships?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Peng Canjiang replied, “Lowly officer just … just now used the telescope [orig. ‘thousand li lens’] to took, the ship’s … stern … no, no, the ship’s bow is painted with a sun and a moon; that is Taiwan’s Zheng … rebel Zheng’s insignia. If one ship carries five hundred troops and generals, two ships one thousand, thirteen ships means seven or eight thousands …”

Wei Xiaobao took the telescope from his hand and looked at the incoming ships. When he counted, there were indeed thirteen big ships. Looking at the bow, he also vaguely saw the painting of a sun and a moon insignia. “Quickly lead the troops for defense, guard along the shore,” he barked his order, “When the enemy come ashore on skiffs, release the arrows!”

Peng Canjiang repeatedly complied and rushed away. Hearing the commotion, Su Quan and the others came out. They heard the incoming ships fired their cannon again, ‘Boom, boom boom!’

“Ah Ke Meizi,” the Princess said, “When you go to Taiwan, are you going to take Hutou along or not?”

Ah Ke stomped her feet in anger. “You … what joke are you playing?” she said.

Wei Xiaobao was even angrier; he cursed, “Let the Princess strap her stinky Shuangshuang go to Taiwan …”

“Hey,” Su Quan suddenly exclaimed, “When the shells fall into the sea, why isn’t there any splash of water?”

They heard ‘boom, boom’ again, twice, smoke came out of the cannon’s mouth, but nothing hit the shore, nothing hit the sea either. Wei Xiaobao was stumped, but then he burst out laughing, “Those are gun salute; they are not here to give us trouble.”

“Peaceful measures before using force!” the Princess said.

“Where is that girl Shuangshuang?” Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “Quickly come out, laozi is going to spank her butt.”

The Princess was upset, “Without rhyme or reason, why do you want to beat your daughter?” she said.

“Who told her to have such an annoying Niang [mother]?” Wei Xiaobao retorted. [Translator’s note: I know I might annoy some readers too, but I just want to show the different words for ‘mother’: muqin, mama, niang … there’s more, but I don’t remember on top of my head.]

The ships were getting near. From the telescope he saw clearly that the flag rising above the ship was unexpectedly the Great Qing’s Yellow Dragon banner; it was not Taiwan’s sun and moon flag at all. Wei Xiaobao was pleasantly surprised, he handed the telescope over to Su Quan and said, “You look, it’s really strange.”

Su Quan looked for a moment and then she smiled and said, “They are the Great Qing’s Navy, not Taiwan’s.”

Wei Xiaobao received the telescope back and looked again; he said with a laugh, “That’s right! They are definitely the Great Qing’s Navy. Aiya! What is it? It damn hurts!” Turning his head around, turned out Wei Hutou, who was carried in Ah Ke’s arms, was grabbing the fishing rod and pulled it hard; the fishhook was still attached to Wei Xiaobao’s neck, naturally when he pulled it Wei Xiaobao yelped in pain.

Stifling her laughter, hastily Ah Ke gently took the hook off. “I am sorry,” she said with a laugh, “Please don’t be angry.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Good son, still very young, yet already have Jiang Taigong’s[1] trick. Amazing!”

“Humph!” the Princess snorted, “Partial (biased) ghost!”

They saw Peng Canjiang ran back and called out, “Wei Jueye, the ships actually raised Great Qing’s flag, I am afraid it’s a trick.”

“That’s right!” Wei Xiaobao replied, “As soon as they send men on a skiff to come ashore, we’ll interrogate them clearly first and talk later.” Peng Canjiang received the order and left.

The Princess said, “It must be that kid Zheng Keshuang in disguise, raising the Great Qing’s flag. Obviously those are Taiwan’s ships!”

“Very good, very good!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Princess, lately you look so beautiful.”

The Princess was taken aback; hearing her husband’s praise, she could not help feeling happy. “I am still the same,” she said with a smile, “What do you mean ‘beautiful’?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your lips are red, your face white, your eyebrows curve like Chang’e [the lady in the moon in Chinese mythology] descending from the moon. When Zheng Keshuang sees you I am sure he will be very happy.”

“Pei!” the Princess spat.

Shortly afterwards, the ships arrived near the shore. They dropped anchor, and six or seven sailors rowed a skiff toward the shore. Peng Canjiang ordered his troops to bend their bows with the arrows aimed at the skiff. When the skiff was near, someone picked up a megaphone [lit. speech cylinder, I don’t know the ancient name of this contraption] and put it on his mouth. “Imperial edict arrives!” he called out, “Navy Tidu Shi Junmen [lit. ‘military gate’] delivering the decree to Wei Jueye.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Damn it,” he swore, “What strange trick that fellow Shi Lang is playing? Why would he ride Taiwan’s ships to deliver a decree?”

Su Quan said, “I am guessing he came across Taiwan ships on the ocean, attacked them and was victorious, he seized the Taiwan’s ships away.”

“Must be that,” Wei Xiaobao agreed, “Quan Jiejie can prophesy with supernatural accuracy.”

The Princess was still not convinced, she whispered, “My guess is Shi Lang surrendered to Taiwan, Zheng Keshuang sent him off to deliver a fake imperial decree.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was happy, he did not bother to scold her; he pinched her bottom and slapped her before hurriedly went to the beach to receive the imperial decree.

The man in the skiff was indeed Shi Lang. He stood on the sandy beach and announced the imperial decree in loud voice. Turned out Kangxi sent Shi Lang to attack Taiwan. In the battle of Penghu [Pescadores Islands, Taiwan], the Zheng Navy suffered a crushing defeat. Shi Lang pursued the retreating enemy into Taiwan. The Ming Dynasty’s Yanping Jun Wang Zheng Keshuang surrendered without even a fight, and thus Taiwan became the Great Qing’s territory.

Kangxi evaluated everybody’s merit and bestowed reward accordingly. Based on the merit that in the past Shi Lang stayed in Beijing without doing anything, and it was Wei Xiaobao who sponsored and recommended him for service, Wei Xiaobao was promoted to be Second-class Marquis of Tong Chi, he was simultaneously bestowed the title Tai Zi Tai Bao [tutor to the crown prince]. His oldest son, Wei Hutou was promoted to be First-class Qing Che Du Wei [lit. light carriage military rank[2]].

Finished expressing his gratitude, Wei Xiaobao stood and stared blankly; it never occurred to him that finally Taiwan was pacified by Shi Lang.

Each time he and Zheng Keshuang met each other, they always hated each other, his Shifu Chen Jinnan was harmed by him, which drove his hatred deep to the bones; but Taiwan was subdued, it means not a cun of land was left of the Great Ming’s world. He could not help feeling depressed.

He was still very young, and never went to school, all those talks about Manchu and Han differences; he had never really cared about the animosity between countries and races. However, he had been with Tian Di Hui for a long time, usually when he attended their meeting, he heard the brothers talked about it a lot, automatically he developed the feeling that Manchu people occupying our Han people’s rivers and mountains was completely inappropriate. This moment as he heard that Shi Lang had captured Zheng Keshuang and brought him to Beijing, he did not feel happy at all. He also thought about his Shifu exhausting his heart and strength throughout his life, hoping to restore the Great Ming’s world; even if this great undertaking was unsuccessful, at least he wanted to preserve a piece of land belonging to the Great Ming overseas. Who would have thought that not long after his Shifu was murdered, Zheng Keshuang had already surrendered? If in the underworld Shifu knew about it, he would definitely weep bitter tears.

Wei Xiaobao recalled that the reason his Shifu was killed that day was because he had just had a hard fight with Shi Lang; his spirit was hard-pressed, his physique weary. Otherwise, Zheng Keshuang would not have been successful in plotting against him from his back. Looking at Shi Lang’s joyfully satisfied expression, he could not stop anger from rising in his chest. “Shi Daren has rendered great merit,” he said, “I am sure you are promoted to be a high-ranking official.”

Shi Lang smiled and said, “Because of His Majesty’s grace, lowly officer has been bestowed the title Third-class Marquis of Jing Hai [From Chapter 34: Shi Lang’s original title was ‘Jing Hai Jiang Jun’ (lit. the general who pacifies the ocean)].”

“Congratulations, congratulations!” Wei Xiaobao said, while in his heart he said, “Originally I was First-class Earl of Tong Chi; with one rank promotion I became Third-class Marquis of Tong Chi. The young Emperor promoted me two ranks in succession, turns out it is so that my rank will still be higher than Shi Lang, to avoid everybody became third-class marquis, which won’t feel very good.” But thinking about Shi Lang went to battle and pacified Taiwan, what an exciting view it was, while he was bored to death on this barren island. His jealousy grew into anger, he could not help hating Shi Lang even more that his teeth itched.

Shi Lang paid his respect, and then he said respectfully, “His Majesty summoned lowly officer and spoke warmly to me, he encouraged me a lot, and finally said, ‘Shi Lang, this time you render great merit, do you know who has been supporting you for promotion? Previously you stayed in Beijing, nobody paid you any attention; who has given you guarantee and recommendation?’ Lowly officer replied, ‘Reporting to Your Majesty, that would be Wei Jueye who guaranteed me and presented a memorial to the throne for my promotion, plus Your Majesty’s grace.’ His Majesty said, ‘You did not forget your origin; that’s good. I want you to promptly go to Tong Chi Island to announce imperial decree to Wei Xiaobao, with my grace his nobility rank will increase, he has the capacity to judge a person’s qualities and thus has rendered meritorious service for the imperial court.’ For this reason lowly officer rushed over here.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed. He thought, “Each and everyone of the people I recommended rendered meritorious service, only I alone am imprisoned on this uninhabited island without able to move a single step. The young Emperor repeatedly raises my official ranking and titular honors, while in fact even if I become the King of Tong Chi, what so amazing about it?” He said, “Shi Daren, you sailed on these Taiwan battleship to come here, and gave me quite a fright; I thought it was Taiwan’s Navy coming to attack us. Who would have thought that it was you showing off your military strength?”

Shi Lang hastily saluted and apologized. “I do not dare, I do not dare,” he said, “Lowly officer received the imperial edict, I was impatient to see Jueye, Taiwan’s battleships were made well, they are able to sail a lot faster; for this reason I rode Taiwan ships to hurry over here.”

“So Taiwan’s battleships can travel faster,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Because of the insignia of the sun and the moon on the ship I previously thought in my heart that perhaps Shi Daren wanted to set himself up as a king in Taiwan; I was quite worried.”

Shi Lang was shocked; he busily said, “Lowly officer is extremely muddleheaded, Daren’s direction is right. It was due to lowly officer’s negligence that I have not removed Taiwan battleships’ emblems.”

Actually, it was not because of his negligence, but because he had pacified Taiwan, he was extremely proud of himself; as he rode the captured Taiwan’s battleship north to Tianjin, and then south to Tong Chi Island, he intentionally did not remove the Taiwan insignia on the bow of the ships, so that people would see it and point fingers at it, and talk about the origin of the battleships. In short, it was to flaunt his outstanding military service. Unexpectedly Wei Xiaobao spoke up about his suspicion that Shi Lang wanted to set himself up to be King in Taiwan. It was indeed the biggest taboo for a court official; he could not stop cold sweats from covering his back, thinking that the young Emperor had always shown absolute special favor toward this youngster. Shi Lang went to a bloody battle to subdue Taiwan, this youngster comfortably lived on this island doing nothing, yet his meritorious service was still greater than Shi Lang’s. He was granted the title Second-class Marquis, while Shi Lang himself was only Third-class Marquis. If Wei Xiaobao returned to Beijing and spoke several sentences of complaint in front of the Emperor, Shi Lang would be in a very deep trouble.

With this fear in mind, Shi Lang’s high and mighty manner that he bore when he first went ashore subsided. He ordered several officers who came with him to step forward and pay their respect. Among these people was someone with whom Wei Xiaobao had already met, it was Lin Xingzhu, the Ditang School’s martial art expert who came with Chen Jinnan at Liuzhou. Wei Xiaobao was startled, “He was Taiwan’s high-ranking military officer,” he mused, “How did he become Shi Lang’s subordinate?” When Lin Xingzhu reported his own name and rank, Wei Xiaobao found out that he was a Dusi [Vice Brigade Commander/Major] in the Navy.

As Lin Xingzhu went ashore and saw Wei Xiaobao, he was also puzzled and doubtful, “He is Chen Junshi’s [military strategist] young disciple, how did he become imperial court’s high-ranking official? Even Shi Tidu is very respectful to him?”

Shi Lang pointed to Lin Xingzhu and another man called Hong Chao, a Navy Shoubei [captain], and said, “Lin Dusi and Hong Shoubei originally served in Taiwan’s military. Following Zheng Keshuang Jueye and Liu Gaoxuan Daren’s lead, they returned and surrender to the imperial court. These two gentlemen are very familiar with maritime matters, thus this time lowly officer brought them along and have them take care of Taiwan’s fleet.”

“Oh,” Wei Xiaobao muttered, “I see.” Looking at Lin Xingzhu and Hong Chao, he saw that both lowered their heads with ashamed expression on their faces.

Ever since Zheng Chenggong [Koxinga] established government on the Island, Taiwan has had trading relations with Japan, Lu Song, Siam, An Nan, and other places; it was very prosperous. Shi Lang pacified Taiwan, he obtained a lot of foreign treasures and rare objects, but he himself did not take any, he presented everything to the imperial court. Kangxi told him to take some as a gift to Wei Xiaobao. Other than that, Shi Lang also brought some gifts of his own, but mostly were Taiwan’s local products, such as bamboo trunk, grass woven mat, and so on, mostly coarse and plain items.

Seeing the gifts, Wei Xiaobao was getting more angry; he thought, “Zhang Dage, Zhao Er Ge, Wang San Ge, Sun Si Ge pacified Wu Sangui, they sent me such lucrative gifts; you, on the other hand, present me with these beggars’ rotten things. I wonder if you still have any regards toward me?”

That evening Wei Xiaobao held a banquet to entertain the guests; he had Shi Lang sat on the seat of honor. There were four high-ranking Navy officers, as well as Lin Xingzhu and Hong Chao, two people. After the wine made three rounds, Wei Xiaobao asked, “Lin Dusi, originally Taiwan’s Yanping Jun Wang was Zheng Jing, Zheng Wangye, how did it become that fellow Zheng Keshuang? I heard he is Zheng Wangye’s second son, according to reason, he should not be the Wangye, should he?”

“Yes,” Lin Xingzhu replied, “Reporting to Jueye, Zheng Wangye passed away on the twenty-eighth of the first month this year, leaving his order that the Da Gongzi [first/oldest young master] Keshang was to succeed the throne. Da Gongzi was brilliant and steadfast, Taiwan’s people and soldiers had always had high esteem on him. But Tai Furen [grand/great madame] Dong Guotai did not like him at all; she sent Feng Xifan to assassinate him. [Translator’s note: I am not sure if Dong Guotai was her name. ‘Guotai’ could also mean ‘madame of the country’.] After he was killed, the Er Gongzi [second young master] Keshuang took over the throne. Da Gongzi’s wife, Madame Chen went to see Dong Guotai, saying that Da Gongzi was innocent. Dong Guotai was very angry, she ordered her people to drive her away. Holding Da Gongzi’s body, Madame Chen cried for a moment, and then she hanged herself and died. That Madame Chen was Chen … Chen Junshi’s oldest daughter. In our hearts all the people in Taiwan were very dissatisfied over his matter.”

Hearing that his Shifu’s daughter was murdered, Wei Xiaobao remembered Shifu, his heart ached. Slapping the table, he cursed, “Damn it, that kid Zheng Keshuang is stupid and a muddle-head, what kind of fart Wangye can he be?”

“Yes,” Lin Xingzhu said, “Er Gongzi ascended the throne, he bestowed his father-in-law Feng Xifan the title Tidu [local commander], all government affairs were handled by him. This man is unfair, he is very selfish. Whenever someone had the guts to speak several sentences about fairness, he would kill those people. Thus the hundreds of civil and military officials dared to be angry but did not dare to speak up. Da Gongzi and Madame Chen’s ghosts frequently appeared, finally in the fourth month Dong Guotai was scared to death by the ghosts.”

“Delighted, delighted!” Wei Xiaobao said, “When this Dong Guotai arrived in the nether world, Guoxing Ye [Koxinga] won’t possible let her get away with it.”

“Nobody says otherwise,” Lin Xingzhu agreed, “Dong Guotai was scared to death by the ghosts, as soon as this matter was known, everybody was delighted. The entire Taiwan, from north to south, everybody released firecrackers for three days; they said it was to chase away the ghosts, but actually it was to celebrate this old revered grandmother’s death!”

“Interesting, interesting!” Wei Xiaobao repeatedly exclaimed.

Shi Lang said, “The ghost story is not necessarily true. Presumeably after murdering her oldest grandson and hounding his oldest granddaughter-in-law, Dong Guotai’s heart was disturbed. The elderly suspected there were ghosts in the dark, hence day and night she saw ghosts.”

“Evil spirits really exist,” Wei Xiaobao said seriously, “Especially the people who died of persecution or died because others wronged them. After they become ghosts, they would definitely seek revenge. Shi Daren, this time you pacified Taiwan, you killed a lot of people. I am sure there are not a few ghosts on these Taiwan’s battleships; it would be best if Shi Daren is careful.”

Shi Lang’s countenance slightly changed, but immediately he laughed and said, “Going into battle in a war, inevitably we will have to kill people. If all the enemy troops and generals who died in battle became ghosts who seek revenge, all military officers will not die a good death.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “That is not necessarily the case,” he said, “Shi Daren was originally a great general under Taiwan’s Guoxing Ye’s command, you returned and excessively killed Taiwan’s troops and generals. The dead people’s wronged ghosts are naturally dissatisfied. This is clearly different from other generals.”

Shi Lang did not say anything, in his heart he was enraged. He was a Fujian’s Jinjiang [county] native, from among Taiwan’s Zheng Wang’s troops, eight out of ten were Fujian people; there were especially a lot of Minnan [south Fujian] people. After he pacified Taiwan, he had heard not a few rumors and hearsays, cursing him as a traitor to Han, as well as a traitor to Min [short name for Fujian]. There was even an anonymous literary work in the form of a poem scolding him and satirizing him. In the deepest part of his heart he was actually ashamed; only Wei Xiaobao was the first person who openly mocked him on his face.

Helpless against Wei Xiaobao, he vented his anger toward Lin Xingzhu. He glowered at him while saying in his heart, “As soon as we leave this island, laozi will deal with you really good.”

“Shi Daren,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your luck is really good; if Chen Junshi was not murdered, he would have defended Zheng Keshang in Taiwan; Dong Guotai, Zheng Keshuang, and the others could not possibly seize the throne. With Chen Junshi in command, from top to bottom the troops and the people defended Taiwan wholeheartedly, you may not necessarily be able to succeed.”

Shi Lang was silent; he thought that his own ability was definitely far inferior to Chen Jinnan’s; if this person did not die, naturally the situation was substantially different.

Hong Chao suddenly interrupted, “Wei Jueye is right. All the people, troops and generals of Taiwan also said the same thing. Everybody hated Zheng Keshuang for murdering his loyal minister; he is the damaged Great Wall, indeed he is Guoxing Ye’s unworthy grandson.”

Shi Lang angrily said, “Hong Shoubei, since you have surrendered to the Great Qing, how could you dare to speak this kind of treason and heresy?”

Hong Chao hastily stood up and said, “Lowly officer is muddleheaded, Daren please forgive my offence.”

“Hong Laoxiong [old brother],” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are speaking honestly; even if His Majesty heard it with his own ears, he would not possibly blame you. Sit down and drink some wine.”

“Yes,” Hong Chao replied. Trembling with fear, he sat down. He picked up the winecup with both hands, but his hands were trembling so hard that more than half of the wine spilled out the cup.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Chen Junshi was murdered by Zheng Keshuang, everybody in Taiwan knew about it, didn’t they?”

“Yes,” Hong Chao replied, “When Zheng Keshuang returned to Taiwan, he … he said that Chen Junshi … was … was …” He cast a glance to Shi Lang, did not dare to continue.

Wei Xiaobao said, “As long as you are telling the truth, nobody will blame you.”

“Yes, yes,” Hong Chao said, “Zheng Keshuang and Feng Xifan, two people, along with several bodyguards were drifting on the sea in a skiff, they came across a fishing boat who rescued them and brought them back to Taiwan. Zheng Keshuang said that Chen Junshi was killed by General Shi. When Zheng Wangye heard about it, he wept bitterly for several days. Later on after Zheng Keshuang usurped the throne, he personally announced in public that he had killed Chen Junshi with his own hands; he even bragged that his martial art skill was so amazing. A lot of Chen Junshi’s subordinates did not want accept it; they inquired of him what crime has Chen Junshi committed. But they were all arrested by Feng Xifan and executed.”

Wei Xiaobao banged the wine cup in his hand heavily on the table. “F*ck his granny!” he cursed. Suddenly he roared in laughter and said, “Usually we swear at people’s granny, but this man’s granny is indeed rather not worthwhile. Only f*cking Zheng Keshuang’s granny is really ‘made by Heaven and arranged by Earth’, ‘ding three pays twenty four’ [don’t know what it is]; nothing is more fitting than this.”

When Shi Lang heard these few sentences, his heart was quite happy. Because he offended Zheng Chenggong his entire family was executed; it was all because of Dong Guotai’s provocation. He said, “What Wei Jueye said is very true, we can f*ck his granny. Guoxing Ye was a hero and a warrior, everything in him was good, only he took a wrong wife.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “Other people can f*ck Zheng Keshuang’s granny, in this world only General Shi alone must not f*ck her. General Shi’s glory, riches and honor came from this old revered grandmother. Although your parents, wife and child were all murdered by her, in return you get Navy Tidu, Third-class Marquis of Jing Hai. You are better off doing this business deal.”

Immediately Shi Lang’s countenance turned deep red; in his heart he cursed, “Laozi wants to f*ck your, Wei Xiaobao’s, granny.” Supressing his anger, he picked up the winecup with both hands and took a big mouthful. But his breathing was adversed, as soon as the wine entered his throat, he suddenly broke into violent coughing.

Wei Xiaobao mused, “Looking at your face, in your heart naturally you want to f*ck my granny in a big way; too bad I don’t know who my dad is, I don’t know who my granny is even more. You want to f*ck my granny, you will definitely f*ck the wrong person. In your heart most likely you still want to be my laozi [old man], in that case my granny will be your ma. You want to f*ck my granny, won’t that mean you are at sixes and sevens with your own Niang, a complete confusion?” He looked at Shi Lang with an amused look.

A navy Fujiang [deputy general] surnamed Lu was also sitting on their table, he was afraid these two people would vent their feeling toward each other; he said, “Wei Jueye, this time Shi Junmen pacified Taiwan, the success was entirely due to his sweat and blood in disregarding everything. Shi Junmen received the imperial order, from the fourth of the sixth month he commanded more than six hundred warships, and more than sixty thousand sergeants on the expedition to Taiwan. On the ocean we went against the wind, and it took eleven days for us to reach Penghu. We fought Taiwan troops under the command of Liu Guoxuan in big battle, so fierce that the sky darkened and the earth black, the sun and the moon gave forth no more of its light, even Shi Junmen was very concerned …”

Wei Xiaobao noticed that both Lin Xingzhu and Hong Chao hung their heads with an angry look on their faces; he presumed these two were also fighting at the battle of Penghu, and he knew naturally in this battle Shi Lang was victorious, hence he did not want to hear Lu Fujiang telling him the story of Shi Lang’s proud past achievemens. He asked, “General Shi, that day when Guoxing Ye took Taiwan, he was also attacking from Penghu, wasn’t he?”

“Exactly,” Shi Lang replied.

Wei Xiaobao said, “At that time you were under Guoxing Ye’s command, I wonder how did the battle go?”

Shi Lang said, “The red-haired demons did not dispatch troops to defend Penghu.”

Wei Xiaobao asked Lin Xingzhu, “In those days Guoxing Ye crossed the ocean attacking east, I heard Lin Dage led cane-shield troops to chop the demons’ legs; I wonder how did you do that?”

Lin Xingzhu thought, “About the cane-shield troops chopping the demons’ legs, I have already told you the story. And now you are asking me again, naturally it is because you don’t want to listen to the stinking history about Shi Lang subduing Taiwan, but want to listen to Guoxing Ye and Chen Junshi’s heroic deeds instead. I must not talk about my own deeds too much, because if Shi Lang harbors a grudge in his heart, he would definitely deal with me. I’d better hold him up in good light.” Thereupon he said, “Twice has Shi Junmen attacked Taiwan, his meritorious service is indeed very big. In those days Guoxing Ye assembled all the generals to dicuss whether or not they should cross the ocean and attack to the east. A lot of generals said that Taiwan’s natural barrier is difficult to attack, the wind and waves on the sea is very big, red-haired demons’ guns were difficult to deal with; this mission is indeed dangerous. But Chen Junshi and General Shi made a supreme effort to endorse it, and in the end they set up great merits.” Hearing this, Shi Lang’s face showed a pleased expression.

Lin Xingzhu continued, “It was Yongli’s fifteenth year second month …”

Shi Lang said, “Lin Dusi, the former Ming’s era name must not be mentioned anymore; it was the Great Qing Shunzhi’s eighteenth year.”

“Yes, yes,” Lin Xingzhu said, “On the second month that year, Guoxing Ye moved his camp to Jinmen City. On the first day of the third month the entire force made a vow and offered sacrifice to the sea. For the first ten days afterwards, Guoxing Ye and Chen Junshi assembled the troops under their command into Right Martial Guards, Left and Right Tiger Guards, Valiant Cavalry Camp, Left Vanguard, Center Attacking Force, Rear Guard Camp, Front and Rear Communication Team, Auxilliary Destroyer Rear Camp, into the navy ships and gathered them at Liaoluo Bay to wait for the wind. At that time the troops’ hearts were anxious, a lot of people were afraid to go out to sea, Guoxing Ye and Chen Junshi, General Shi, separately went to the camps to encourage the hearts of the troops. We waited until noon of the twenty-third day before the sky was clear, the wind and the waves ceased to blow; thereupon the great force moved out. By the afternoon of the twenty-fourth we arrived at Penghu. But after we reached Penghu, the gale returned, the wind and the waves on the sea were growing, for several days we were unable to set sail. There was no food on all the islands of Penghu, there was food shortage in the troops, we had to live on eating sweet potatoes; the hearts of the troops started to panic. By the thirtieth, we simply could not wait anymore. Guoxing Ye gave his order to set off, regardless of big wind big waves, we must go into battle. That day in the middle of the night, after the first watch, Guoxing Ye’s central command’s warship flew the command banner and fired the cannon three times, the metal drums were sounded, the battleships raised their sails toward the east. At that time black clouds covered the whole sky, the great waves on the sea looked like small hills pouncing on the bow of the ships. Strong wind, heavy rain, everybody was soaked to the bones. Guoxing Ye stood on the bow, with a sword in his hand; he shouted, ‘Display utter loyalty to defend our country, not afraid of the wind and the waves!’ Tens of thousands troops echoed in chorus, ‘Display utter loyalty to defend our country, not afraid of the wind and the waves!’ The yelling was so loud that the sound of the gale and the billows were nearly drown.”

Wei Xiaobao said to Shi Lang, “At that time naturally General Shi also shouted like that?”

Shi Lang replied, “That time lowly officer received the order to defend Xiamen, I did not go to Taiwan.”

“I see,” Wei Xiaobao said, “What a pity, what a pity!”

Lu Fujiang said, “When Zheng Wangye arrived at Penghu, he did not encounter strong wind and big waves, but Shi Junmen’s bloody battle; now that was ‘startling the heart moving the soul’. Liu Guoxuan assembled the Navy at Penghu’s Niu Xin [ox heart] Bay, Ji Long [chickeen coop] Islet, and built earthen rampart for twenty li along the coast, each section of the rampart was reinforced with a cannon. When the Great Qing Navy arrived, the cannon on the shore were fired simultaneously; there were also rockets, mortars, it was desperately serious …”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Lu Fujiang, I’ll say your gut is more or less the same as mine.”

“I do not dare,” Lu Fujiang said, “How can lowly officer be compared to Jueye?”

“You can’t be compared with me?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Naturally I can’t,” Lu Fujiang replied.

“That’s strange,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I always thought I am as meek as a mouse; it’s considered very disappointing. Turns out you are even more useless than I am, ha ha … that’s strange, that’s strange.” Lu Fujiang face swollen red; he did not dare to make any noise.

Wei Xiaobao asked Lin Xingzhu, “After Guoxing Ye took the troops to sea, and then what happened?”

Lin Xingzhu said, “The battleships sailed in the gale and big waves for four hours; by the third watch of the night [11pm – 1am] suddenly the breeze was still, the waves were quiet, the black cloud dissipated. A moment later, the wind turned into tail wind instead; the joyous cry of the troops thundered, everybody said Laotian [God/Heaven] was blessing them, the victory was guaranteed. Early morning on the first day of the following month, the battleships finally reached outside Lu Er Men [deer ear gate]. Using the bamboo pole to gauge the water, unexpectedly it was high sand shallow water; there was no way we could sail forward. Guoxing Ye was very anxious, he set up an incense burner table, to pray to the Heaven. Not too long afterwards, suddenly the tide arose, all battleships overflowed into the Lu Er Men. The red-haired troops on the shore opened fire to bombard us. Over there the red-haired demons had built two cities, one was called ‘re lan zhe cheng’ [Fort Zeelandia], the other was called ‘pu luo min zhe cheng’[3] …”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “The devils’ place names are so weird; what ‘re lai che’ [hot covering], ‘leng lai che’ [cold covering], ‘na mo bo luo mi duo Guanshiyin Pu zhe’ [namo paramita Guanyin Bodhisattva]?”

Lin Xingzhu smiled and continued his story, “At that time Guoxing Ye used the telescope to look, he saw the red-haired demons’ main force had two big warships, two battle cruisers, plus several hundreds small battleships and small boats. Thereupon he passed on an order, sending the Front Communication Team’s Commander Chen Ze to lead a fleet of ships to land on Lu Er Men Island, to guard North Shanwei to prevent other red-haired fleet from giving their assistance.

He sent Huang Zhao to lead five hundred Xian Shou [lit. shining metal hand] men, with twenty cannon, divided into three teams, to be stationed at the tail of Yi Kun Shen in formation, to block the enemy from moving southward. He sent lowly officer with five hundred Teng Pai Shou [rattan shield hand] men, from behind the demons’ port going around the left of Kun Shen to intercept and kill. He also sent Xiao Gongchen to lead twenty fast-ships; as soon as they saw the red-haired fleet passing the seven Kun Shen [Translator’s note: I thought it was a place name, but am not sure. 鲲身 Any help?] to attack, they were to pretend that they were going to land to besiege the city, and to make a lot of loud noise to give the impression that they succeeded in pinning down the enemy. In the meantime, various generals received orders to set off separately, while the cannon on the ships also returned fire. On the other side Chen Junshi led the Navy to surround and strike the red-haired demons’ main battleships.

Battle cry ensued; the surface of the sea was filled with gun smoke and flames. After fighting for more than two hours, there was a loud explosion; one of the red-haired demons’ main battleships was sunk by our troops. It was only later that I found out that it was the ‘bei ke de ya’ [not sure, Becker or Baker something?], the red-haired demons’ Navy elite ship. The other ship, Maria, suffered serious damage; it escaped eastwards toward the ocean and its whereabouts was unknown. Two red-haired demons’ ships also retreated. At that time the brothers under Chen Ze’s command encountered red-haired demon troops, they all strived to be the first to fight; although the red-haired demons’ firearms were formidable, seeing our troops rushed in and killed the enemy courageously, they were so scared that they lost the will to fight, and retreated back into the city. Our troops landed at Chikan [Fort Provintia], and stormed toward ‘pu luo min zhe cheng’.”

(Author’s note: When Zheng Chenggong attacked Taiwan, from Penghu he landed in the vicinity of modern day Tainan. At that time the Holland’s massive military force was also stationed in Tainan region.)

Wei Xiaobao poured a cup of wine and handed it over to Lin Xingzhu with both hand. “Lin Dage,” he said, “You fought well. I toast you a cup.”

Lin Xingzhu stood up to receive it; he expressed his thanks, and after drinking it up he continued, “After our troops landed at Provintia, local Chinese people swarmed out to welcome us, a lot of people were so happy that they cried. They said, ‘This time our liberator has finally arrived.’ Wei Jueye, Guoxing Ye’s esteemed father, Zheng Taishi [imperial tutor] was originally doing business without capital on the ocean, Taiwan was his, the Senior’s lair. Later on the Senior brought his subordinate brothers back to the Central Plains. Hence Taiwan was separately occupied by Holland demons and Spain demons; Holland demons in the south, Spain demons in the north. Two demons fought each other, the Spain demons were defeated, and entire Taiwan fell under Holland demons’ grip. Our Chinese people on the island were mistreated and killed to death by the Holland’s red-haired demons. There was a brother, former subordinate of Zheng Taishi, called Guo Huaiyi; he was a warrior. He remained on the island and did not leave. Seeing Chinese people were bullied very badly by the red-haired demons, he assembled the brothers in secret, notified Chinese people everywhere that on the fifteenth of the eight month, the Mid-Autumn Festival, they were to move together to kill all the red-haired demons on the island. Unexpectedly there was a traitor, called Puzai, who went as far as to inform the red-haired demons …”

Wei Xiaobao slapped the table and cursed, “His granny, Chinese people’s affair was spoiled by a traitor.”

“That’s right,” Lin Xingzhu said, “When Guo Huaiyi Dage saw that Puzai ran away, he knew the situation had turned worse. Immediately he led more than sixteen-thousand Chinese to attack ‘pu luo min zhe cheng’, destroying and setting the red-haired demons’ government buildings and shops on fire. The red-haired demons deployed a large army to counterattack, their guns were formidable. Our Chinese people, other than several fiery-dragon spears, were only using broadswords, iron spears, hoes, wooden sticks, and similar types of weapons. In Provintia they fought for fifteen days straight. Guo Huaiyi Dage was unfortunate and was killed by the red-haired demon’s gun …”

“Aiya, that’s bad,” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed.

“It was,” Lin Xingzhu said, “Guo Huaiyi Dage died, the snake was without a head; the Chinese people were defeated and driven out of the city. On the bank of the Great Lake the bloody battle continued for seven days and seven nights. The number of Chinese people killed on the bank of Great Lake totalled more than four thousand; women and girls also rather die than submit, more than five hundred of them were killed. The rest were captured by the red-haired demons, women were forced to be barracks’ prostitute, the men were either pulled to death by five horses running separate directions, or branded to slow death by branding irons …”

Wei Xiaobao was enraged; he cried out, “Red-haired demons are this cruel, they are more vicious than the Great Qing troops’ massacre of our people in Yangzhou!”

Shi Lang and Lu Fujiang looked at each other in dismay; they could only smile wryly. They both thought, “The way this youngster talk is really without any regard of the gravity of things.”

Lin Xingzhu said, “It was Yongli’s sixth year, the eighth month …”

Hong Chao bent his fingers and counted, “Yongli’s sixth year, that is the Great Qing Shunzhi’s seventh … eighth … ninth … Shunzhi’s ninth year.”

“Is that right?” Lin Xingzhu said, “Anyway, ever since that great massacre, the Chinese people of Taiwan and the red-haired demons cannot exist together. As soon as there is the tiniest reason, the red-haired demons would kill Chinese people randomly. Therefore, when they saw Guoxing Ye’s main forces, it was as if the Emperor Bodhisattva Savior has arrived. Men, women, young and old, everybody shared with us their grievance. That very evening, the red-haired demon governor knew defeat was imminent; he took his anger out on the Chinese people, he killed the Chinese who lived in Kun Shen; no matter young or old, he gathered them together and killed altogether more than five hundred people. The next day Guoxing Ye dispatched the troops to attack ‘pu luo min zhe cheng’. Chen Junshi came up with a strategy, we trained the rattan shield troops to roll around on the ground to chop the demon troops’ leg; and thus ‘pu luo min zhe cheng’ fell.”

“That is Laoxiong’s great merit,” Wei Xiaobao said.

“It was all due to Chen Junshi’s brilliant scheme,” Lin Xingzhu replied, “Lowly officer did not have any merit.” He continued, “Immediately afterwards Guoxing Ye deployed the troops to attack Fort Zeelandia, where the red-haired demon governor was stationed. The artillery barrage from the top of the city wall was very fierce, our troops suffered heavy casualties. But General Ma Xin and General Liu Guoxuan courageously attacked Yi Kun Shen. Seeing too many brothers died, Guoxing Ye built earthen rampart outside the city, surrounding Fort Zeelandia all around, and installed cannon on the rampart, pounding the city walls with artillery barrage. Before long our second Navy’s Left Attacking Force, Front Attacking Force, Wisdom Force, Valiant Troops, Amphibious Force, Palace Hall Troops, all ships have also arrived; our power rose up. While dispatching the troops to clear up the wild area for farming, Guoxing Ye also intensified the besieging of the city. Besieged until the fifth month, suddenly the red-haired demons’ reinforcement from Batavia arrived. The red-haired demons from the city came out to attack. There were big battles on land and sea, our troops dauntlessly rushed in and killed the enemy, the sea water was dyed red with blood.”

Wei Xiaobao slapped the table and exclaimed, “Fierce, fierce!” Turning to Shi Lang he said, “Too bad at that time General Shi was in Xiamen; otherwise, you could keep up with these several big battles, and killed several hundreds of those damn red-haired demons, and then you can really be considered a hero.” Shi Lang stayed silent.

Wei Xiaobao asked Hong Chao, “Hong Dage, at that time which group were you in?”

Hong Chao replied, “At that time lowly officer was under Liu Guoxuan, General Liu’s command; along with Chen Ze, General Chen’s navy we besieged the red-haired demons’ reinforcement, in a big battle at the North Shanwei region. The red-haired demons’ warships were huge, their guns very sharp; when the bullets from our firearms reached the red-haired demons’ big warship, they all bounced back from the armor plating, we could not harm the ship. Seeing we could not withstand the enemy, the Front Communication Team’s Lin Jinshen, General Lin personally led two-hundred-men suicide team, with their bodies covered in gunpowder they braved death by jumping into the red-haired demons’ big warship to damage and explode the cannon on the ship. Seeing us attacking violently with no fear of death at all, the red-haired demons’ were thrown into confusion. We killed a red-haired demon commander, captured two battleships, and utterly routed the red-haired demons’ navy. On land Chen Junshi led the troops in great battle also seized total victory. Later on seven red-haired demons’ lead bullets were dug out from Chen Junshi’s body.”

“Hey,” Wei Xiaobao said, “My Shifu did not die under the red-haired demons’ guns; he died under his granny Zheng Keshuang, that kid’s sword. General Shi, real men kill foreign devils, now that is amazing. Chinese people kill Chinese people, even if he killed a lot, he cannot be considered a hero. Do you agree?”

“Humph,” Shi Lang snorted, but did not say anything.

Lin Xingzhu said, “The red-haired demons suffered defeat after defeat, they wanted to burn our troops’ provision, but each time Chen Junshi always saw through their plan, they were never able to steal our chicken or nibble our grain. The red-haired demon governor was trapped in an isolated city, he had his hands bound and was unable to do anything about it. He sent people across the sea to contact the Great Qing’s Fujian and Zhejiang Zongdu [governor-general] Li Lutai, to ask him to send troops and rescued them. That Li Daren was an interesting fellow; he sent a letter asking the red-haired demons to come to Fujian first to crush Guoxing Ye’s garrisons in Jinmen and Xiamen regions, and then the Great Qing troops would come to Taiwan and launch converging attack from inside and outside. At that time the red-haired demons were powerless to defend themselves; they were like a turtle shrinking its head inside Fort Zeelandia, how could they send troops to Jinmen, Xiamen?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “The red-haired demons speak like a fart; all along they didn’t want to attack Jinmen, Xiamen, did they? When Great Qing speak, we always keep our words; didn’t we eventually send troops to attack Taiwan? We’re only twenty, thirty years late; it’s not a big deal! When General Shi led the troops to attack Taiwan, I wonder if there were red-haired demons with whom you coordinate inside and outside offensives.”

Shi Lang could not endure patiently anymore; he stood up abruptly and said, “Wei Jueye, Xiongdi and you are ministers of the same palace hall, both of us are Great Qing officials; why do you always speak cold words and make sarcastic comments, always mocking Xiongdi?”

“Eh? That’s strange,” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed in surprise, “When did I ever mock General Shi? General Shi did not have any illicit relations with foreign country, that’s great. But if you do have an illicit relations with foreign country, I’ll say there’s still time. General Shi holds massive military power in your hands, red-haired demons, Spaniard demons, Portuguese demons, Luocha demons, will be very happy to make friends with you.”

Shi Lang shivered in his heart, “Not good!” he mused, “If this little demon made an accusation in front of His Majesty, framing me of having illicit relations with foreign country, my entire life would be destroyed in his hands.” Just now his temper flared, he spoke rudely; he could not help feeling remorse. Hastily he forced a laugh and said, “Xiongdi has drank several cups too much, and has offended quite a bit, Wei Jueye please forgive me.”

When Wei Xiaobao saw that he was angry, originally he was rather scared, but then he saw that Shi Lang changed his attitude and offered an apology, he knew that Shi Lang was afraid of him. Thereupon he laughed and said, “If General Shi seriously wants to establish yourself as a king in Taiwan, it would be better for you to kill Xiongdi first to silence me, so that I would not report it to His Majesty. But if you are just making a loud of noise and throwing a fit, although Xiongdi’s gut is small, I am not afraid.”

Shi Lang’s countenance turned deathly pale. Leaving his seat he bowed deeply with cupped fist and said, “Wei Jueye, a person of great moral stature does not remember the offenses committed by one of low moral stature; lowly officer was preposterous, I am willing to accept punishment. But establishing myself as a king in Taiwan or having illicit relations with foreign country, lowly officer absolutely never has this intention. Lowly officer single-mindedly exerting myself for His Majesty, following his order with loyalty, definitely not double-minded.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Please sit down, please sit down. We will wait and see.” Turning his head toward Lin Xingzhu he said, “Your story is more interesting than Mr. Storyteller. This episode, Guoxing Ye fought a bloody battle in Taiwan, the red-haired demons pissed in their pants in terror. And then what happened?”

“By that time,” Lin Xingzhu continued, “The news that Guoxing Ye led a large army to attack Taiwan had reached the inland. Huang Wu, Huang Daren immediately submitted a proposal to the imperial court, he submitted what was called ‘Five Plans to Fortify Defenses and Raze the Fields in Pacifying the Ocean’.”

“Who is that Huang Wu?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Lin Xingzhu cast a glance toward Shi Lang, he coughed several times, but did not immediately reply. Shi Lang said, “This Huang Daren was originally also a subordinate of Guoxing Ye, his rank was a Zongbing [regional commander]. After he submitted to the imperial court, his political career took off smoothly. By the time of his death, his title was First-class Duke of Hai Deng [hai – ocean, deng – settling of liquid; maybe a place’s name.].”

“Hey,” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed, “Turns out he was also a trai …” in the end he forcibly swallowed the last syllable ‘tor’.

Shi Lang’s countenance turned red; he mused, “You curse me as a traitor, I’ll say you are a fake Manchu; we are no better or worse than the other.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “What kind of clever scheme did this Huang Wu use to pat His Majesty’s bottom that in a short while he was bestowed the title Duke? His skill is really not small! This trick we may want to polish and refine, and try to emulate.”

“This Huang Wu,” Lin Xingzhu said, “In those days Guoxing Ye sent him to guard Hai Deng, but he surrendered Hai Deng to the imperial court. The officers and soldiers who were unwilling to surrender, he killed them all. At that time the imperial court was at a loss on how to deal with Guoxing Ye, suddenly there was this general in command of the troops from the other side who wanted to surrender along with the entire city; naturally the imperial court was overjoyed. Hence the reason he received such a preferential treatment.”

“So that’s how it is,” Wei Xiaobao said, “What plan did he propose?”

Lin Xingzhu sighed and said, “This Huang Daren really did a lot of harm to the common people. His ‘Five Plans to Pacify the Ocean’, number one was to move all common people from the coastal area inland, so that those Jinmen, Xiamen, as well as Taiwan, would not get any material assistance. Number two was to burn down all ships and boats in the coast; henceforth not a cun of wood was allowed to go out to sea. Number three was to kill Guoxing Ye’s father, Zheng Taishi. Number four was to excavate the tomb of Guoxing Ye’s ancestors, to damage his fengshui [geomancy]. Number five was to relocate the officers and men, former subordinates of Guoxing Ye who had surrendered inland to open up land for farming in various provinces, to avoid future misfortune.”

“Hey,” Wei Xiaobao said, “This fellow’s plans are indeed very malicious.”

“Aren’t they?” Lin Xingzhu said, “At that time Emperor Shunzhi had just passed away, His Majesty had just ascended the throne, his age was young, Oboi arrogated all powers. That treacherous bandit Oboi saw Huang Wu’s ‘Five Plans to Pacify the Ocean’ and agreed that it made a lot of sense, he issued an order from Liaodong all the way to Zhili, Jiangsi, Zhejiang, Fujian, as well as Guangdong, nobody was allowed to live within thirty li from the coast, all vessels were to be burned down. In those days common people lived in the coastal area by the thousands and tens of thousands, none was not forced out from their homes and wandering about, a lot of them did not survive.”

Shi Lang spoke up, “Huang Wu’s scheme went indeed a bit too far. It was not until the current ruler took office, Wei Daren took down Oboi, that the sea ban was lifted. But the common people in seven coastal provinces have already suffered harmful effects. At that time the imperial court issued strict order, common people who violated the ban were arrested and immediately beheaded. A lot of people could not survive, they went to the seaside to catch fish; I don’t know how many were killed. At that time Zheng Taishi was also killed. Oboi sent the Minister of War Shangshu Sunahai on a special mission to Quanzhou’s [prefecture] Nan An Xian [South An County] in Fujian to dig out Zheng family’s ancestral tomb.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Oboi claimed to be a warrior, but he committed such a senseless act; if he really have skills, he should challenge Guoxing Ye with real swords, real spears. By relocating the coastal population inland, isn’t it clear that he was afraid? His Majesty cherishes common people, if Huang Wu’s plans were presented to His Majesty, he would definitely have his head chopped.”

“Exactly,” Shi Lang said, “Huang Wu died early, it could be considered his luck.”

Lin Xingzhu said, “When the news of Zheng Taishi’s death reached Taiwan, Guoxing Ye was afraid it might shake the troops’ heart, so he said it was a lie and that they must not be gullible. But according to his personal guards, Guoxing Ye often cried bitterly in the middle of the night. Guoxing Ye also confided with Chen Junshi and several other generals that Huang Wu’s plot was indeed sinister. Fortunately they had gone on a punitive expedition to the east to Taiwan; otherwise, tens of thousands soldiers could not have a foothold in Jinmen and Xiamen. By then we have held our siege for a long time, several times the red-haired troops wanted to break the siege, each time they were beaten back into the city. Hence Guoxing Ye issued an order that before the New Year we must attack and bring Fort Zeelandia down.” Turning toward Hong Chao he said, “We attacked on the twenty-third of the eleventh month, didn’t we?”

“Yes,” Hong Chao replied, “That day the wind was strong, with heavy rain. Our troops fired the cannon from all the earthen ramparts at the same time, damaging the corner of the city wall, the fortifications on the east and west of the city were also broken. The red-haired demons desperately rushed out, but after several hundreds of them died, they were driven back into the city. Thereupon the red-haired governor raised a white flag to surrender. At that time the Chinese people in Taiwan wanted to take revenge by killing the red-haired demons clean. Guoxing Ye enlightened the people that our China is a country with etiquette, the enemy surrendered must not be killed. He allowed the red-haired governor to write a letter of surrender with fourteen sections before he led the ruined army, defeated generals boarded the ships and left Taiwan to flee to Batavia. The red-haired demons occupied Taiwan since the Ming Dynasty’s Tian Qi’s fourth year, for a total of 38 years, until that year, the Yongli’s fifteenth year … which was the Great Qing’s Shunzhi’s eighteenth year, eleventh month, twenty-ninth day, when Taiwan returned to be China’s territory.”

Lin Xingzhu said, “Guoxing Ye issued a military order not to kill the surrendering red-haired troops, but Chinese people were unbearably angry; they continuously spat on them and threw rocks at them. Little children even made up a song to mock them. The red-haired troops with broken hands broken feet, hanging their heads dispiritedly; they did not dare to utter even a single word of demon language. After their battleship set off, they lowered their flag, and fired a gun salute, saying that it was to show their humble respect to Guoxing Ye for his kindness of not killing them.”

“Good!” Wei Xiaobao said, “We, Chinese, have a really great power and prestige. The red-haired demons’ cannon were that formidable, to conquer Taiwan was really not easy, really not easy!”

Hong Chao said, “Guoxing Ye changed the name Fort Zeelandia to Anping Zhen [lit. safe and peaceful, zhen – small town], he changed ‘pu luo min zhe cheng’ into Chengtian Fu [lit. supporting heaven, fu – prefecture]; henceforth both have always been Taiwan’s strategic town.”

Lu Fujiang interjected, “When Shi Junmen took over Taiwan, the path he took was the old path taken by Guoxing Ye in the past; he went in from Lu Er Men …”

Wei Xiaobao waved his hand to stop him; he yawned big and said, “Chinese defeating the red-haired demons and driving them out to see, that is an immensely enjoyable story. Our people defeating our people, it’s approximately no more than that. General Shi, we have drank quite a bit of wine, let’s adjourn now.”

Shi Lang stood up and said, “Yes, thank you very much Jueye for the dinner, lowly officer takes my leave.”

Wei Xiaobao went back to the inner hall and told his wives how he stopped Shi Lang from talking; in short he prevented him from boasting about his outstanding military service in taking over Taiwan. His six wives found the story amusing, only Ah Ke remained silent. She thought that if she was married to Zheng Keshuang, she would have been captured and taken prisoner together with him; brought to Beijing, as a concubine of a vanquished nation, it would be difficult to escape humiliation. That day when she saw Zheng Keshuang left Tong Chi Island on a skiff, she did not care about his life or death. This moment as she heard that his country perished and he surrendered to the enemy, she did not have the slightest concern. Recalling the past events, she was amazed that she was actually crazy about his elegant manner and his appearance, knowing full well that this man was someone without any backbone, a spoiled son of rich parents without any future prospects. She realized that it was as if she was blind by being deeply attached to him. This moment as she thought back, she was still feeling deeply ashamed.

The Princess said, “Huangdi Gege was too generous to him, that fellow Zheng Keshuang surrendered, unexpectedly he bestowed him a first-class duke title, his nobility rank is above Xiaobao’s. It really upsets me.”

Wei Xiaobao waved his hand, “Not a big deal, not a big deal. Guoxing Ye was a great hero, His Majesty was looking at Guoxing Ye’s face that he bestowed his offspring the title of first-class duke. Based on Zheng Keshuang’s own ability, at most he would only be bestowed the title first-class caterpillar.”

At noon the next day, Wei Xiaobao singled out Lin Xingzhu and Hong Chao, two people for a small banquet; he asked them about Shi Lang taking over Taiwan.

Turned out the Qing troops and Taiwan troops were engaged in bloody battle for several days at Penghu Islands’ Niu Xin Bay and Ji Long islet. The first day Shi Lang lost, afterwards Qing’s Navy reinforcement arrived, the battle raged again. Taiwan’s vessels were burned and suffered heavy defeat, the number of casualties among the officers and soldiers reaching more than ten thousand men, the battleships were either sunk or burned, the total damage reaching more than three hundred boats. Liu Guoxuan led the defeated army back into Taiwan.

Shi Lang led the Navy to attack Taiwan. Lu Er Men had shallow water, battleships could not enter; they dropped anchor on the ocean for twelve days, with no strategy left to try. Suddenly thick fog filled the sky, the tide swelled, Qing warships swarmed in. In Taiwan, everybody from top to bottom was greatly alarmed; they all said, “In the past because of the tide rose in Lu Er Men Guoxing Ye was able to enter Taiwan; and now Lu Er Men’s tide rises again, the natural barrier is lost, this is the Will of Heaven that made it so, fighting again is useless.”

When Zheng Keshuang was informed that the boats of Qing troops had entered Lu Er Men, he was already thrown into panic mode, when Feng Xifan advised him to surrender, naturally he readily agreed. It’s just that he was afraid Shi Lang would avenge his personal enmity and would make things difficult for Zheng Clan’s offspring that he was greatly hesitant. Immediately Liu Guoxuan sent a letter to Shi Lang, saying that they were willing to surrender, but Guoxing Ye’s descendants must be saved from harm, or else the entire Taiwan population, military and civilian alike, would recall fondly Guoxing Ye’s kindness and righteousness, and would rather fight to the last man. Shi Lang immediately replied, guaranteeing that he would not bother about the old grievance, otherwise, let Heaven and men abandon him, and let his descendants be cut-off from the earth. Thereupon Zheng Keshuang, Feng Xifan and Liu Guoxuan led Taiwan’s civil and military officials to surrender. The Ming Dynasty’s imperial clan Prince Ningjing Zhu Shugui committed suicide to die for his country, his five concubines were buried alive as sacrifice together with their husband, and thus the Ming family was cut short.

Wei Xiaobao thought, “This Ming Dynasty Emperor’s descendants committed suicide to die for his country, five of his wives followed him in death. If I, Wei Xiaobao, commit suicide, I wonder from my seven wives, how many would want to accompany me? I am sure Shuang’er would, the Princess would surely apologize for not accompanying me. As for the other five, most likely they would throw dice to decide who would die and who would live. When Fang Yi throw the dice, she would definitely cheat, calling me, the dead person, a ‘cattle’.”

Lin Xingzhu continued, saying that after Shi Lang led the troops to land, he indeed kept his words, he did not give the Zheng Clan offspring any trouble. He even personally went to Zheng Chenggong’s Yan Ping Jun Wang ancestral shrine to offer sacrifice and cried bitterly for a moment.

Hong Chao said, “During the sacrifice he read a memorial in which there were some sentences like this: ‘From Tong’an [district, Xiamen, Fujian] Hou [marquis] entered Taiwan, only then did Taiwan soil have inhabitant. Overtaking the bestowed confidence to open land and initiate the cliff boundary, who would dare to do it? Today by the authority of the Son of Heaven Lang leads military power, subduing this land, did not decline to wipe out the country and punish the guilty, for the reason of loyalty to the imperial court as well as to fulfill the duty to avenge father and brother. Alone Lang rose through the ranks, with Ci Xing[4] was as delighted as fish meet water, there was not the slightest bit of resentment, but it led to great violation. Lang and Ci Xing had enmity and hatred, but my feeling is still like minister and his master. The poor scholar in the midst of reed, justice will not be done. Righteousness and personal kindness, henceforth it is over.’ These several sentences were on everyone’s lips for a period of time.”

“What was he rambling about?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“The poor scholar in the midst of reed was Wu Zixu,” Hong Chao replied, “In the past Wu Zixu wiped out the State of Chu, he dug Chu’s King Ping’s body from the grave and lashed the corpse three hundred times to avenge the enmity of him killing Wu Zixu’s father and brother. Shi Lang was saying that he definitely won’t do such thing.”

“Humph,” Wei Xiaobao said with a cold laugh, “Does he dare? Although Guoxing Ye is dead, Shi Lang is still extremely afraid of him. He defeated the Zheng Family’s family estate, he is afraid Guoxing Ye’s brave spirit would find him and give him trouble, thereupon he went to Guoxing Ye’s ancestral shrine to kowtow and plea for leniency. This man is very treacherous, you must not fall into his trick.” Lin and Hong, two people, voiced their agreement.

“The story of Wu Zixu,” Wei Xiaobao continued, “I have watched a play about him. Wu Zixu closed himself up, in one night the hair on his head turned white from fright, right?”

“Yes, yes,” Hong Chao replied, “Jueye’s memory is very good.”

Wei Xiaobao had not heard stories for a long time, thereupon he asked about Wu Zixu’s story from the beginning to end. By coincidence this Hong Chao was a Xiuxai [a person who has passed the county level imperial exam]; although he had not passed a university entrance exam, he had quite a bit of ink in his belly; thereupon he narrated the story in details [lit. count by fives and tens].

Wei Xiaobao listened with keen interest and with pleasure; he said, “In this barren island I am truly bored to death, fortunately two gentlemen came to tell stories to relieve my boredom. It would be best if you two stay several days longer, there is no hurry to leave.”

Lin Xingzhu said, “We are surrendered enemy generals from Taiwan, while we were talking yesterday we have offended General Shi. If General Shi wanted to deal with us, it will be as easy as pinching an ant dead. All he needs is a carelessly spoken word with rebellious intent, then he will charge us with conspiracy against the law, immediately behead us first and submit report later. Even if after chopping our heads he did not submit any report, nobody would investigate. Wei Daren, please speak to General Shi on our behalf, tell him that you want us to stay here to serve you.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Hong Dage, what do you have in mind?” he asked.

Hong Chao said, “Last night lowly officer and Lin Dage talked it over, if Wei Daren cannot save our lives, the two of us undoubtedly will die without burial site.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “If the two of you want to follow me, you must listen to what I say.”

Lin and Hong, two people bowed together and said, “No matter what Wei Daren tells us to do, lowly officer will follow obediently.”

Wei Xiaobao was extremely delighted; he thought, “With these two good helpers, I have a way of leaving this ghost place.”

Kangxi sent Peng Canjiang with his troops to guard Tong Chi Island with strict imperial order in advance that they must not let Wei Xiaobao and his family to leave the island even for one step. Peng Canjiang’s brain was not too bright; he did not have any special skill either. But toward the Emperor’s imperial edict, even if his head was chopped seventeen, eighteen times, he would not dare to violate the least bit. Kangxi wanted him to guard closely, he would guard closely. If Wei Xiaobao wanted to take his life, it would be as easy as lifting his hand; but even if he wiped these 501 soldiers guarding him clean, without a boat, in the end he could not leave the island. Hong and Ling, two people were veteran generals of the Navy; certainly they had skill in handling ships and navigating the ocean.

That evening he held another banquet for Shi Lang. This time he only invited Lin Xingzhu and Hong Chao, two people to accompany them. After some chitchat, Wei Xiaobao said, “General Shi, are you going to stay here for one or two months?”

“Actually, lowly officer was thinking of staying a few days, to hear Daren’s instruction more often,” Shi Lang replied, “But Taiwan has just started to be put in order, it can’t be left too long. I am thinking of taking my leave from Daren tomorrow.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You said you wanted to stay here with me for a few days to hear my instruction more often. Are you serious, or did you just say that to make me happy?”

“Naturally I am one-hundred percent serious,” Shi Lang replied, “Lowly officer said it from the bottom of my heart. That year lowly officer followed Daren, the troops were stationed on Tong Chi Island, while we were bombarding Shen Long Island. Every day I had the pleasure of hearing Daren giving instructions, drinking wine, gambling, chatting and laughing with Daren; that kind of days, I had a great fun.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “If you could have that kind of days, will you be happy?”

“Naturally I will,” Shi Lang replied, “Someday His Majesty will send Daren on an important mission with heavy responsibility involving national military, lowly officer still want to follow Daren.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “It’s very easy,” he said, “You want to follow me, you want to hear me and joke with me, it’s not difficult at all. Tomorrow all of us will go to Taiwan together.”

Shi Lang was shocked. He stood up and said with a trembling voice, “This … this … this matter is not on His Majesty’s imperial edict; lowly officer does not dare to receive order. Please … please Daren forgive me.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “It’s not that I want to go to Taiwan to do anything, it’s just that I heard your story, it is so exciting. Guoxing Ye opened up new land in Tainan and Taipei, developing a new and colorful world, I want to see it with my own eyes. When we get to Taiwan, aren’t you going to hear my instruction more often? You said it so yourself. It’s just that I think you conduct yourself very well, plus you have followed me in the past; we are old boss, old subordinate, our friendship is more than ordinary, so I thought hard to find a way to grant your wish. I am going to Taiwan to play for a month or two, and then I’ll come back here. The gods do not know, the ghosts do not perceive; if you don’t say anything, I don’t say anything, there is no way His Majesty will find out.”

Shi Lang’s expression looked very awkward. He bowed and said, “Wei Daren, this matter is really difficult to do. Whatever Daren commands, lowly officer will obey faithfully, but if His Majesty put the blame on me, it would be a great inconvenience. If lowly officer does not submit a memorial to the Emperor, it would be a great crime of deceiving one’s lord; lowly officer absolutely will not dare to do it.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Please sit down, please sit down. General Shi, since you are unwilling, it’s a trivial matter, no need to be mentioned anymore.”

Shi Lang felt as if a heavy burden had just removed from him; he repeatedly said ‘yes’, and sat back on the banquet table.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Speaking about great crime of deceiving one’s lord, let me be honest with you: I have deceived His Majesty several times. It’s just that His Majesty is magnanimous; when he found out later, he only swore at me several times, but never made a big deal out of it.”

“Yes, yes,” Shi Lang said, “Everybody says that His Majesty treated Wei Daren with deep kindness and profound benevolence; it is indeed very different. A ruler and his minister hit it off like this, it is unprecedented in history. But a small general, an external minister without any good fortune like lowly officer, I absolutely will not dare to follow Wei Daren’s example.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “General Shi speaks as if you are very timid, while in my opinion, your guts in the contrary are very big. I heard that after General Shi attacked Taiwan, you wrote a memorial and presented it as a memorial to Guoxing Ye; is there such thing?”

Shi Lang said, “Reporting to Daren, the three characters ‘Guoxing Ye’ are not supposed to be mentioned. Presently the national surname is Aisin Gioro [reminder: ‘Guoxing Ye’ means ‘Lord of the Imperial Surname’]. When we are talking about Zheng Chenggong, if we want to be a bit polite, we may say ‘Former Ming’s Ci Xing’ [see Note 2 above]. As a result, lowly officer’s memorial only mentioned ‘Ci Xing’, two characters; I definitely am not bold enough to violate the taboo.”

He presumed that since he was unwilling to take Wei Xiaobao to Taiwan, this little demon would be bound to look for bones in the egg, determined to find a setback for Shi Lang. The three-character ‘Guoxing Ye’ was the name the people were accustomed to, but Zheng Chenggong was bestowed the surname Zhu by the Ming Dynasty, his national surname was Ming Dynasty’s national surname, not Qing Dynasty’s national surname. If Wei Xiaobao insisted to make a big deal of these three characters in the memorial, saying that Shi Lang keep in his mind constantly that the national surname was Zhu, and reporting it to the imperial court, this matter maybe big or maybe small, but it could also grow into a disaster. Thereupon he seized the initiative to offer an explanation first.

Actually, Wei Xiaobao did not have the slightest knowledge; he failed to grasp the crucial point of what Shi Lang was saying. After Shi Lang argued, Wei Xiaobao was able to find something to grab on instead. “General Shi,” he said, “You have once received rank and emolument of nobility from the Ming Dynasty, it’s no wonder that the surname bestowed by the previous dynasty was constantly in your mind. If you are really loyal to our Great Qing, you should have called Zheng Chenggong ‘Nixing’ [rebel surname], ‘Weixing’ [bogus surname], ‘Feixing’ [bandit surname], ‘Gouxing’ [dog surname].”

Shi Lang lowered his head in silence. Although in his heart he 120% disapproved, he felt it was inappropriate to debate over this matter with Wei Xiaobao. By calling Zheng Chenggong ‘Ci Xing’, indeed it was an indication that he had not forgotten the previous dynasty’s idea.

Wei Xiaobao said, “General Shi’s memorial must be written very well, I wonder if it is alright for you to recite it to me?”

Shi Lang only knew how to lead the troops and go to war, how could he write a eulogy? This funeral oration was written by a secretary, one of his aides and advisors. This secretary was quite talented, the memorial was written with such passion and rich in imagery, the meaning behind it sincere. Shi Lang had heard not a few people praised it, he was very proud, thereupon he had memorized quite a bit of sentences from it to show off in front of other people. Immediately he said, “Lowly officer invented several sentences of crazy nonsense; I will only make Wei Daren laugh at me.” Thereupon he recited several important passages from the memorial.

Finished listening to the section ‘Alone Lang rose through the ranks, with Ci Xing was as delighted as fish meet water, there was not the slightest bit of resentment, but it led to great violation. Lang and Ci Xing had enmity and hatred, but my feeling is still like minister and his master. The poor scholar in the midst of reed, justice will not be done. Righteousness and personal kindness, henceforth it is over.’  Wei Xiaobao nodded and praised, “Good essay, good essay. This memorial, let’s forget the fact that even if my head is chopped I will never be able to write one, even if someone wrote it for me and had me memorize it, I won’t be able to remember it in ten days or eight days. General Shi is well-versed in both civil and military affairs; your memory is very good. My admiration, my admiration.”

Shi Lang’s face blushed slightly; he said in his heart, “You know perfectly well that I can’t write something like that, someone else wrote it, I simply memorized it well and recited it back. You ridicule me like this, no need for me to talk to you too much.”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “About that ‘The poor scholar in the midst of reed, justice will not be done’, what does that mean? My learning is very disappointing, I don’t understand it.”

Shi Lang said, “’The poor scholar in the midst of reed’ was referring to Wu Zixu. In the past from the State of Chu he ran away to the State of Wu. When he reached the river bank, an elderly fisherman took him cross the river, and left to get him some rice to eat. Wu Zixu was afraid the pursuing troops would catch him; he hid in the cluster of reeds on the river bank. The elderly fisherman returned; seeing someone was hiding in the reeds, he called out, ‘You in the reeds, you in the reeds, aren’t you the poor scholar?’ Afterwards Wu Zixu led Wu troops to attack and defeat the State of Chu. He dug the King Ping of Chu’s corpse from the grave and whipped the corpse three hundred times to avenge the enmity of him killing Wu Zixu’s father and brother. Ci Xing … Zheng Chenggong has killed my father, brother, wife and child, Taiwan people were afraid after I broke Taiwan, I would also dig the grave to exact revenge. In this memorial lowly officer was saying that this kind of matter I resolved not to do. Zheng Chenggong’s spirit in heaven may rest in peace, Taiwan troops and people also have nothing to worry about.”

“I see,” Wei Xiaobao said, “General Shi is comparing yourself to Wu Zixu.”

“Wu Zixu was a great hero, great warrior,” Shi Lang said, “How can lowly officer dare to be compared to him? It’s just that Wu Zixu’s entire family ran into misfortune, he alone escaped. In the end he returned with the troops and avenged this big enmity. This part is similar to what lowly officer has gone through. That’s all.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded; he said, “I wish that General Shi’s outcome in the future will be greatly different from Wu Zixu, otherwise it will be really not good.”

Shi Lang immediately remembered that Wu Zixu rendered great merit in the State of Wu, but in the end he was killed by the King of Wu. He could not stop his countenance from changing greatly; his hand that was holding the wine cup was also trembling.

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “I heard Wu Zixu rendered great merit, he became conceited, and was very disrespectful toward the King of Wu. General Shi, you compared yourself to Wu Zixu, it was really inappropriate. I am sure that the memorial of yours has already relayed to Beijing, His Majesty also has seen it. If you have nobody help you to explain it to His Majesty, I think, hey, hey, ay, too bad, too bad, I am afraid a great meritorious service will be thrown into running water …”

Shi Lang hastily said, “Daren please understand, lowly officer said that I am not Wu Zixu, I do not dare to say that I want to be Wu Zixu. This … this matter is entirely … entirely different.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your memorial has spread everywhere, General Shi compared himself to Wu Zixu, everybody in the world knows that.”

Shi Lang stood up, his voice trembling, “His Majesty is an enlightened sage, his benevolence is like a mountain, he will save his subject with merit from harm. Lowly officer is serving a good master; compared to Wu Zixu, my good fortune is a lot better.”

“What you said is true,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am not too clear on Wu Zixu’s motive in the end, why he harbored evil intention. But I have seen the play, when the King of Wu was going to kill him, Wu Zixu said, ‘Dig my eyes and embed them on the city gate, let me see the Yue troops breaching the city and the demise of the State of Wu.’ Afterwards I think the State of Wu was indeed wiped out. General Shi is adept in pen and sword, I am sure you know the story, is that true?”

Shi Lang could not help feeling a slight chill from his back penetrated straight to his bones. Initially he only thought that after rendering great merit Wu Zixu was killed by the King of Wu, this matter was not clear in history books, he was already feeling uneasy, but he did not expect that at the death’s door Wu Zixu was uttering those words. His memorial said, ‘The poor scholar in the midst of reed, justice will not be done.’ Although he did not do what Wu Zixu did, but the fact that he was comparing himself to Wu Zixu was very clear in other people’s eyes and ears. His memorial mentioned Wu Zixu, it only referred to ‘whipping the corpse to take revenge’, who would have thought that Wei Xiaobao could pull the ‘cursing the demise of the nation’ matter up? If other people charged him with this kind of grave accusation, the disaster would be truly unspeakable.

What Wei Xiaobao had said, if it was conveyed to the Emperor’s ears, even if the Emperor was an enlightened sage and would not charge him with the guilt, in his heart he must not be too happy. Shi Lang was sure that he could forget the prospect of any future promotion. If, like Wei Xiaobao, the Emperor’s trusted aides also add oil to the fire, incite disharmony by saying that in his heart Shi Lang was harboring the thought of blaming and ridiculing the imperial court for killing minister who has given outstanding service, the head on top of his neck would really be difficult to protect.

In that instant his thoughts were surging like the tide, he had a thousand regrets, ten thousand regrets, he really thought he should not offer sacrifice to Zheng Chenggong, he should not order the secretary to write this eulogy to such an extent as to have this freak elf little demon grabbed the ‘foot of the pain’. He stood silently with a blank expression on his face, not knowing what to say to defend himself.

Wei Xiaobao said, “General Shi, when His Majesty personally took over the government, what was the first major issue he dealt with?”

“Killing the treacherous official Oboi,” Shi Lang replied.

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “While admittedly Oboi was a treacherous court official, he was the appointed high-ranking minister who look after the government. During the besieging of towns and breaking the enemy, he rendered enormous merit to our Great Qing. His Majesty once said, ‘I killed Oboi, perhaps someone would say that I do not empathize with minister who has given outstanding service, they would say something bird something bow.’ What did he say? I can’t remember it.”

Shi Lang said, “It’s ‘the birds are gone, the bow is put away’.”

“Right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Even you said the same thing …”

“No, no,” Shi Lang busily said, “I did not talk about His Majesty, it was the idiom.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You did say that idiom to describe His Majesty killing Oboi.”

Shi Lang anxiously said, “Daren asked me what that idiom is, lowly officer only answered Daren’s question; I absolutely do not dare … do not dare to slander or speak ill of His Majesty.”

Wei Xiaobao fixed his gaze at him, he could see the panic in Shi Lang’s heart.

Since the ancient times, when any feudal official thought that their merit was great but the reward was meager, the emperor would definitely hate it. The official did not need to speak up, as long as in their hearts they were ‘harboring the thought of blaming or complaining’, four characters [‘xin cun yuan wang’], it would mean immediate beheading.

While his heart was shaken, Shi Lang was lured by Wei Xiaobao to say the four-character ‘the birds are gone, the bow is put away’ [niao jin gong cang]. Immediately he knew things went bad, but he had said it, there was no way he could take it back. Besides, other than Wei Xiaobao, there were Lin Xingzhu and Hong Chao on the side, there was no way he could deny it.

Wei Xiaobao said, “General Shi did say ‘the birds are gone, the bow is put away’; whether those words are to slander or speak ill of His Majesty, I don’t know. In the imperial court, there are many learned Da Xue Shi, Shangshu, and Hanlin [see Chapter 37] ministers; there is no harm in us asking them to judge. However, my days of serving His Majesty are not a few, I seem to remember His Majesty loves people calling him ‘niao sheng yu tang’ [raw bird fish soup, see Chapter 14], but he does not like people calling him ‘niao jin gong cang’. Both idioms have the word ‘bird’, but I am afraid the two are substantially different. One is good bird, the other is evil bird; don’t you think?”

Shi Lang was shocked and angered at the same time; he thought since things have come to this, he’d better go through to the end. You frame me like this, I might as well kill all three of you, to get rid of the root of future trouble. Entertaining this thought in his mind, he could not stop his eyes from exposing ominous glint.

Wei Xiaobao could see the sinister expression suddenly appeared on Shi Lang’s face; he could not prevent his heart from shivering. Forcing a laughed, he said, “Once General Shi spoke the words, dead horse cannot chase it. Right now there are two roads you can take. The first is: immediately kill me along with Lin and Hong, two people, kill all my wives and children, and then lead your troops to Taiwan, immediately set yourself as the king. It’s just that the troops you have right now are the Great Qing’s officers and men, they may not necessarily be willing to follow you in rebellion, while Taiwan’s military and civilians may not necessarily submit to you.”

In his heart Shi Lang was pondering about the same thing, but as soon as Wei Xiaobao hit the nail on the head, he forced himself to restrain his ferocity. Busily he said, “Lowly officer does not have that thought at all, Daren must not be overly suspicious and add heavy criminal accusation on lowly officer. But I wonder what the second road that Daren was talking about is? Would Daren show favor by giving me directions?”

Hearing the softening of the way Shi Lang spoke, Wei Xiaobao’s heart was relieved. With his toes on the ground he leaned forward and said, “The second road is: only by allowing Xiongdi and Lin and Hong, two gentlemen, to help you will you get out of trouble. Just now when General Shi mentioned the word ‘bird’, it was a respectful eulogy to His Majesty as the ‘raw bird fish soup’, which is very good. Someday when Xiongdi sees His Majesty, I will definitely say that General Shi is loyal in working for His Majesty, that you keep in mind constantly the vast and mighty imperial kindness, that while we were chatting, you often mentioned Wu Zixu’s forgetting favor and violating justice, that since the King of Wu dispatched an army to help him to avenge the enmity of his father’s murder, later on no matter what mission he was sent for, even if it was to enter the fire he ought to enter the fire, if it was to enter the water, he should have entered the water; how could he complain and harbor resentment in his heart? If General Shi were to become Wu Zixu, not only you would defend King of Wu’s rivers and mountains for ten thousand upon ten thousand years, not only you would save Xi Shi, this kind of beauty, you could even snatch Dong Shi, Nan Shi, Bei Shi, Zhong Shi, the whole bunch, and presented them to the King of Wu[5]. What Wu Zixu constantly had in his mind was only himself, while what General Shi constantly has in your mind is exactly our Great Qing’s enlightened sage the Son of Heaven. Good intention will have good reward, His Majesty bestows reward based on evaluation of merit, naturally General Shi will also have Duke and Marquis titles for ten thousand generations.”

Hearing this, Shi Lang was elated; hastily he bowed deeply with cupped fist and said, “If Daren really speaks those kind words in front of His Majesty, lowly officer will never dare to forget Daren’s benevolence forever.”

Wei Xiaobao stood up to return the propriety and said with a smile, “These words are a kind act that costs nothing; if my mood is good, I will definitely submit the memorial to His Majesty.”

Shi Lang thought, “If I don’t let you come to Taiwan, how can you, this kid, have a good mood?” Sitting back on his chair he said, “Taiwan has just been pacified, the hearts of the people are still in doubt. Lowly officer was just thinking of sending a memorial to explain everything to His Majesty, asking him to send a senior and revered high official to go on his behalf to declare the Holy Sage’s virtuous intention and reassure the hearts of the common people. Naturally Wei daren is the most appropriate high official. Lowly officer will immediately pay my respect and present the memorial, asking His Majesty to issue an imperial edict, to appoint Daren to go first and appease Taiwan.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “You pay your respect and submit memorial to the Emperor in Beijing, once you left, several months will pass, I am afraid the idle gossip that is going to enter His Majesty’s ears, if not a thousand sentences, it will be at least eight hundred sentences. This kind of matter cannot be delayed even for a moment. It would be best if General Shi asked a high official, one of His Majesty’s trusted aides to go to Taiwan and investigate thoroughly. Only then will you demonstrate that you did not have any intention to set up yourself as a king in Taiwan. The rumor outside is that you even have a title picked, something called ‘Great Ming Taiwan King of Jing Hai’; is that right?”

Hearing the seven characters ‘da ming tai wan jing hai wang’, Shi Lang could not help jumping in fright. He thought you lived in an uninhabited island, yet you heard rumor like that? Certainly it is something you randomly blurt out. But if this rumor reached Beijing, surely the imperial court would rather believe it than dismissing it, and then Shi Lang would die without a burial site. Thereupon he hastily said, “That rumor, Daren absolutely must not believe it.”

“Right,” Wei Xiaobao said indifferently, “You and I have known each other for a long time, naturally I did not believe it. But General Shi pacified Taiwan, you killed a lot of people, I am sure you made a lot of enemies. If your enemies want to slander you, I’ll say not much you can do about it; it would be hard for you to plead your innocence. There is a common saying, ‘in the imperial court, everybody is a government official’. I wonder if there is a high or senior official in the imperial court who would be willing to disregard his body, family, even his life, and with all his strength defend General Shi.”

There was another shock in Shi Lang’s heart; he did not have any powerful support in the imperial court. Or else he would not have stayed in Beijing lying idle for a long time in the past. He went around everywhere trying to curry favor, yet there was no path or door he could take. Indeed the only one who could get him somewhere was only the gentleman in front of him right now, the Wei Daren. Therefore, clenching his teeth, he said, “Daren’s directions, lowly officer cannot thank you enough. Since this matter is urgent, lowly officer will be so bold as to ask Daren to leave for Taiwan tomorrow to investigate and ascertain the truth.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted, but he thought that since now you are asking me, there is no harm in playing hard to get. He said, “Based on our, two brothers’ friendship, clearing up injustice on behalf of General Shi, even if I have to exhaust myself, it is nothing. It’s just that I have lived on this island for a long time, if I go out to sea I am afraid I will become seasick. Besides, I have my wives and children who are by my side every day, I would hate to be separated from them.”

Shi Lang silently cursed in his belly, “I don’t know how many times you have gone out to sea, I have never seen you dizzy in any damn boat!” Forcing a laugh he said, “Naturally Daren’s madams, young master and young lady may accompany you for a visit. Lowly officer will select the biggest ship for Daren to ride. These days there are no storms on the sea at all, Daren may set your heart at ease.”

Wei Xiaobao frowned and said, “In that case, Xiongdi has no choice but to brave the difficulty and take a trip with General Shi.” Shi Lang repeatedly expressed his thanks.

The next day Wei Xiaobao took his seven wives, his two sons Hutou and Tongchui, and his daughter Shuangshuang to board Shi Lang’s flagship. Peng Canjiang tried to stop them, Shi Lang immediately give his order to have him tied on a tree. The ships weighed their anchors and sailed away.

Looking at Tong Chi Island, on which he resided for several years, Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “The banker has left the Island, this place cannot be called Tong Chi Island anymore. Han Guangwu had Yan Ziling who loved to fish. Every enlightened sage the Son of Heaven must have loyal minister who loves to fish. His Majesty sent me here to fish, it’s only right if we change the name.”

“Absolutely,” Shi Lang said, “What does Daren think, what name will be best?”

Wei Xiaobao thought for a moment before answering, “One time His Majesty sent someone to deliver an imperial decree, saying that King Wen of Zhou had Jiang Taigong who loved to fish, let’s call this island ‘Diaoyu Dao’ [diaoyu – fishing (with line and hook), dao – island].”

Shi Lang clapped and praised, “The name Daren gives, nothing is better than that. On one hand it is a eulogy, comparing His Majesty with King Wen of Zhou and Han Guangwu; on the other hand it will appear that Daren is an expert in pen and sword just like Jiang Taigong, also like Yan Ziling who was pure, honest, and elegant. Right, right, from now on we are going to call this island Diaoyu Island.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “It’s just that my title the Marquis of Tong Chi should be changed to Marquis of Diaoyu. Someday when official rank is promoted and my nobility is advancing, I will be called Duke of Diaoyu [‘diaoyu gong’, ‘gong’ can also be used as a term of respect to address older men]; it doesn’t sound too good.”

Shi Lang laughed and said, “Elderly fisherman has great benefit, enjoying great, great harvest; it will sound very good.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded and said, “His Majesty conferred to me the title Earl of Tong Chi, Marquis of Tong Chi, I thought it sounded nice, but my several wives were not too happy. Someday I will submit a memorial asking His Majesty to change my title to Marquis of Diaoyu, perhaps everybody will be happy.”

In his tummy Shi Lang was amused; he thought, “What Earl of Tong Chi, Marquis of Tong Chi? His Majesty was just making fun of you, he treated you as a court jester, there was no meaning of respect. Even if you change it to Marquis of Diaoyu, what’s so nice about it?” But with his mouth he said, “There was an old story about a fisherman, a woodcutter, a farmer and a scholar; the fisherman ranked number one, the scholar was number four. The titles Duke of Diaoyu, King of Diaoyu, are more respectable than Hanlin’s Zhuangyuan[6].” [Translator’s note: perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I could have sworn that he was referring to Reverend Yideng’s four disciples.]

Whether in succeeding generations this Diaoyu Island became Diaoyutai Islands [Senkaku Islands, between Taiwan and Okinawa], it is a pity that this fact cannot be verified by historical records. If we could try to find historical remains of Wei Xiaobao on the island, we would know that during Kangxi’s early years, probably there were already our fellow countrymen who dwelled in that place for a long time, probably the five hundred troops who were stationed over there.

One particular day, Wei Xiaobao, riding on Shi Lang’s flagship, arrived in Taiwan; they came ashore at Anping Prefecture. Along the way Lin Xingzhu and Hong Chao showed how in those days Zheng Chenggong led the troops, how he routed the red-haired troops. Wei Xiaobao listened with keen interest and pleasure. Since Shi Lang had agreed to take him to Taiwan, he no longer ridiculed him in his talks.

In the General Mansion Shi Lang prepared a large banquet, showing Wei Xiaobao grand hospitality. During the feast, suddenly he received a report that an imperial decree has just arrived from Beijing. Shi Lang hurriedly went out to receive the decree. When he returned, he carried a strange expression on his face.

“Wei Daren,” he said, “The imperial edict says we must give up defending Taiwan. This is really bad.”

“Why is that?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Shi Lang replied, “The imperial edict ordered lowly officer to make any preparation necessary to leave Taiwan. Entire Taiwan, military personnel and civilian alike, everybody has to move inland, not a single family, a single mouth is allowed to stay. Lowly officer asked the envoy minister who brought the decree, turns out there was a proposal by the cabinet ministers in the imperial court: Taiwan is a separate area overseas, easy to become robbers’ abyss and marsh [meeting place of fish and beast, i.e. breeding ground of crime], not easy for the imperial court to control. If they sent large army to defend, it will cost a lot of money for soldier’s pay and provision. Consequently, they decided they don’t want it.”

Wei Xiaobao pondered this matter silently for half a day. He asked, “General Shi, do you know the real intention of those high-ranking senior ministers of the imperial court?”

Shi Lang was startled, “Could it be … could it be that the talk about Wu Zixu has reached Beijing?” he asked in a trembling voice.

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “There’s a common saying: ‘Good deeds do not go beyond the door, evil deeds spread a thousand miles.’ The imperial court is worried that General really wanted to be some ‘Great Ming Taiwan King of Jing Hai’; that’s certainly is a possibility.”

“What … what should we do?” Shi Lang asked, “Taiwan’s common people numbers several tens of thousands people, they have lived here in peace and worked happily for decades; these bunch of people are sent inland, what are they supposed to do to pass their days? If they are forced to migrate, definitely there will be huge changes. Besides, as soon as the Great Qing’s officers and men leave, the red-haired troops will immediately take it over. We, the Chinese, worked hard in establishing the foundation, now we present it with both hands to the red-haired demons, how can the people be willing to do that?”

Wei Xiaobao hesitated for half a day. “This matter,” he started, “I believe it’s not completely irreversible. His Majesty is most compassionate toward common people, General must plead on behalf of common people, you never know, maybe His Majesty will grant your request.”

Shi Lang was somewhat comforted. He said, “But if there are already rumors and hearsays in the imperial court, and lowly officer plead with His Majesty like that, it would appear that I am unwilling to leave Taiwan, then I will appear … appear not to have enough loyalty.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This time you must immediately go to Beijing, explain in person the hows and whys to His Majesty. Since you are in Beijing, if there is any rumor that says that you intend to establish yourself as king in Taiwan, naturally nobody will believe anymore.”

Shi Lang slapped his thigh and said, “Right, right! Daren’s advice is very true, lowly officer will leave tomorrow.” Suddenly he was struck by an inspiration, “Taiwan’s civil and military official business, I will have to ask Daren to temporarily manage. There is no one His Majesty trusts more than Daren, only if Daren presides over Taiwan will no one in the imperial court dare to utter half a sentence of gossip.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he thought he could satisfy his craving of holding a government post, it would feel really great. He laughed and said, “You did not receive imperial edict, on your own initiative you hand over the power over military forces to me; if His Majesty blames you, then what?”

When Shi Lang heard it, he was greatly hesitant. He pondered, “He is Chen Jinnan’s disciple, an accomplice of Tian Di Hui rebels. Although His Majesty dotes on him, over the years he was exiled on Tong Chi Island, without giving him any political power or mission to do. If he has this power over the troops and horses, and joins hands with Tian Di Hui and rises in rebellion, I … I will commit capital offense.” But then he had a second thought, “I only need to bring the entire Navy fleet with me, he will not dare to budge. If he brazenly takes any rash action, if he has the impertinence to revolt, the Navy will return and immediately pacify him.” Thereupon he laughed and said, “If I hand over the power over the troops and horses to other people, maybe His Majesty will blame me, but if I hand it over to Daren, of course all taboos are off.”

Presently the banquet ended prematurely. That very night Shi Lang issued an order to have all high-ranking civil and military officials to pay their respect to Wei Xiaobao, giving him the full authority to conduct all government affairs as he saw fit. He also requested the secretary to put together a memorial to the throne on Wei Xiaobao’s behalf, stating that he was concerned over the national affairs, and had come to Taiwan with a specific purpose in mind to temporarily take control of the situation, so that the imperial court would have no reason to be concerned, and asked for forgiveness for the crime of acting without permission. He also said that the common people of Taiwan have live peacefully over there for a long time, that ‘your servant’ the minister has seen Taiwan with his own eyes, it appeared that moving the people was not suitable.

By the time everything was settled, it was already morning the next day. Shi Lang wanted to depart immediately. Wei Xiaobao asked, “There is one big thing, have you prepared it?”

“I wonder which big thing?” Shi Lang asked.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Something to spend!”

“Something to spend?” Shi Lang did not understand.

“That’s right!” Wei Xiaobao replied, “This time you pacified Taiwan, your merit is not small. Those high-ranking ministers of the imperial court, how much gift are you going to give to each one?”

Shi Lang was taken aback, he said, “This is all because of the Son of Heaven’s powerful benevolence, it was because the officers and soldiers were following the order that we succeeded in pacifying Taiwan. Those high-ranking ministers of the imperial court did not spend any effort.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head. “Ay, Old Shi, you are so proud of yourself, your old shortcoming flares out again. You pacified Taiwan, everybody thinks that you hogged the mountain of gold and the mountain of silver you found here and made a fortune. The officers in the imperial court, which one would not be jealous of you?”

Shi Lang anxiously said, “Daren please understand, if for personal gain Shi Lang helped himself to even one tael of Taiwan’s money, this time I go to Beijing, let His Majesty hack me to pieces, let me be executed by lingering death.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You yourself want to be an honest and upright official, but you can’t expect everybody to follow you to be an honest and upright official. The more you are honest, the more people will find it easier to slander you; they will say that in Taiwan you bought the heart of the people, with the intention of going against the law. So, this time you go to Beijing empty-handed without bringing anything?”

Shi Lang said, “I’ll bring some local products of Taiwan, such as wood carvings, bamboo basket, straw mats, leather suitcases …”

Wei Xiaobao burst into loud laughter. At first Shi Lang was flushed with anger, but suddenly he saw the light; in the end he resolved to make up for the previous mistakes. Immediately he bowed deeply with cupped fist toward Wei Xiaobao and said, “Thank you Daren for giving me directions. Lowly officer nearly rush into big disaster this time.”

Wei Xiaobao assembled the civil and military officials, he said, “This time General Shi is going to Beijing to plead on behalf of the common people; if he does not succeed, everybody will be destitute and homeless. This mission will cost money, could it be that General Shi has to cover the cost alone? Gentlemen, brothers, let’s everybody hurry to raise money, let’s share the pleading cost together!”

When Shi Lang took the official position, he did it with honesty; all the time he was in Taiwan, he had never taken gold and silver from the people. This moment Wei Xiaobao took over his duty, the first order of business was to raise the ‘pleading cost’.

As soon as the people of Taiwan heard the news about moving inland, they already panicked. When they learned that Shi Lang was following Wei Xiaobao’s advice to go to Beijing to plead for the people so that they would not have to move, everybody was most willing to contribute to this ‘pleading cost’. Fortunately there was no lack of riches and honor among the people of Taiwan; in just half a day they had raised more than three-hundred thousand taels of silver. Wei Xiaobao ordered the treasurer to advance more than six-hundred thousand taels, bringing the total to more than one million taels. He instructed Shi Lang on to whom he had to give more, to whom there would not be any harm if he gave less. Shi Lang could not thank him enough. It was not until the first watch of the night [7 to 9pm] that evening that he finally set sail.

The next morning Wei Xiaobao held a general assembly; he addressed the officials, “General Shi left for Beijing last night. After calculating the ‘pleading cost’ back and forth, we are still short by more than one million taels. In consideration to the entire people of Taiwan, Xiongdi has no choice but to scrape my personal savings over the year, also my seven wives’ pearls and jewels, and managed to collect one million taels, which I handed to General Shi to be brought away and used for this mission. Ay, taking an official post in Taiwan is really not easy. Xiongdi is just taking the office temporarily, the first day I already suffer one million taels deficit. This time I lose my family fortune, and am completely wiped out.”

The prefectural magistrate of Taiwan bowed and said, “Daren cherishes common people, you are being a father and a mother to the people, you are indeed the benefactor of ten thousand families. Other than the six-hundred thousand taels advance payment from the public treasury that we have to pay back, naturally the entire people of Taiwan will return Wei Daren’s one million taels with thanks.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded and said, “Each one of you must also contribute some money, everybody has worked with ‘both sleeves flowing in the breeze’ [i.e. unsoiled by corrupt practice] or something like that, I am not clear about it. Those with high official post should contribute ten thousand taels, those with lower official post’s contribution may vary from several thousand taels to several hundred taels. Everybody work as one, no matter how you look at it, in the end it is for the common people. This advance funds, naturally the locals will have to pay back. We, as father and mother officials of the people, should not extract interest from the people; everybody will have to suffer a bit of loss, as long as we can get our capital back, then that’s it. This is called, ‘loving the common people as our own children’.”

The officials were greatly delighted; they all expressed their gratitude, thinking that this Wei Daren was very considerate toward the feeling of the masses, and was willing to spend his own wealth for them; he was indeed a good superior.

The first day Wei Xiaobao took office, he had already scraped one million taels. Hereafter profits pouring in from all sides; his endless ingenuity need not be explained in details.

Several days later, Wei Xiaobao instructed his subordinate to prepare an offering, he wanted to go to Zheng Chenggong’s ancestral hall to offer scrifice; he wanted to see what did this Guoxing Ye, whose fame shook the world, really look like.

Arriving at the shrine, he looked up to see, and saw the statue of Zheng Chenggong sitting on a chair. His face was oval, his upper lip, his lower lip, as well as his lower jaw, were covered in short black beard; his ears were very big, but his eyes were very small. His eyebrows curved, he looked rather like a benevolent man; there was no bold and powerful, heroic air on him. Wei Xiaobao was quite disappointed. He asked the officials who were coming with him, “Did Guoxing Ye really look like this?”

Lin Xingzhu replied, “This statue looks quite like Guoxing Ye. Guoxing Ye was born as a scholar; although he was a big hero and great warrior, he had a very elegant appearance.”

“I see,” Wei Xiaobao said. He saw that on either side of the statue there was smaller statue; a women on the left and a man on the right. He asked, “And who are those two?”

“The woman was Dong Taifei [grand concubine], the man was the heir Wangye,” Lin Xingzhu explained.

“What do you mean heir Wangye?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“He was the young master of Guoxing Ye,” Lin Xingzhu replied, “Who succeeded him as the Wangye.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “Ah, it’s Zheng Jing,” he said, “He looked a bit similar to that kid Zheng Keshuang. Where is my Shifu Chen Junshi’s statue?”

“Chen Junshi did not have any statue,” Lin Xingzhu replied.

Wei Xiaobao said, “This Dong Taifei was very bad, quickly pull her down. Don’t delay, get someone to make a statue in Chen Junshi’s image and put it here to accompany Guoxing Ye.” Lin Xingzhu was greatly delighted; he personally climbed onto the idol platform, and took the Dong Taifei’s image down.

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down in front of Guoxing Ye’s image and kowtowed several times. “Guoxing Ye,” he said, “You are a hero, a warrior. I am kowtowing to you, I assume you will receive it. This old revered granny spoiled your great undertaking, yet she accompanies you every day, you must be angry. I am helping you driving her out, and let my Shifu Chen Junshi come to accompany you.” Thinking about his Shifu’s tragic death, he could not help shedding some tears.

The entire population of Taiwan hated Dong Taifei to the bones, while they loved Chen Yonghua for stationing soldiers, developing farms and running schools, for always promoting what was useful and getting rid of what was harmful, plus for loving the people. Common people referred him as ‘Taiwan’s Zhuge Liang’. When Zheng Keshuang took over the country, nobody dared to speak any malicious word against Dong Taifei, nobody dared to say any words of praise of Chen Yonghua.

This moment Wei Xiaobao issued the order ‘remove Dong install Chen’, the people were very happy. They also heard that he kowtowed and shed tears in front of Guoxing Ye’s image, all the people were even more grateful. Although this Wei Daren’s demand of money was, quite frankly, rather serious, first of all, he was Chen Junshi’s disciple, Taiwan’s military personel and civilians alike inevitably were fond of him. Secondly, Shi Lang led the Qing troops to take over Taiwan, he wiped out the last remaining rivers and mountains of the Great Ming overseas. For these reasons, although ‘Shi was just and honest, Wei was corrupt’, contrary to expectation, the common people felt that this Wei Daren was affable; they would rather have him guarding Taiwan and thought that it would be best if Shi Lang never returned forever.

However, things turn out contrary to the way they wished; after more than a month, Shi Lang, leading the Navy, came back to Taiwan. Wei Xiaobao waited on the shore to welcome him. He saw a high ranking officer wearing the attire of a one-pin rank high official accompanied Shi Lang as he disembarked from the boat. The high-ranking officer was still walking on the gangplank, he already called out loudly, “Wei Xiongdi, how are you? You made your Gege miss you very much.” Turned out he was Songgotu.

Wei Xiaobao was overjoyed; he scrambled forward. Two people pulled each other’s hand while they both were still on the gangplank, and both roared in laughter.

Songgotu said with a laugh, “Xiongdi, congratuations, congratulations! His Majesty issued an imperial edict, you are to go to Beijing.”

In his heart Wei Xiaobao was both delighted and worried; he thought, “If I wanted to go to Beijing, I would have gone long time ago. The young Emperor is so obstinate, he can’t possibly yield to me. I won’t agree to attack Tian Di Hui, he won’t want to see my face.”

Shi Lang chuckled and said, “The Emperor’s benevolence is vast and mighty, it is indeed unspeakable. His Majesty has agreed to withdraw the decree of moving Taiwan people inland.”

For the past month or so, day and night all Taiwan military-civilian were anxious, afraid that the Emperor would insist on evacuating Taiwan. Everybody said that the Emperor’s mouth was ‘golden mouth’; whatever he said, he would not renege. As soon as Shi Lang spoke those words, the government officials on the shore heard it, they could not help but cheer loudly. They broke into loud cry together, “Long live, long live, long, long live!” The news spread like wildfire, sound of cheering rose up everywhere, followed by ‘pi pi pa pa’ noise of firecrackers. The atmosphere was much more lively than the New Year celebration.

Songgotu announced the imperial decree, Kangxi was giving Wei Xiaobao quite encouragement and exhortation, ordering him to go to Beijing as soon as possible because he had another appointment for him. After Wei Xiaobao finished expressing his gratitude, the two of them went to the inner hall for a private discussion.

“Xiongdi,” Songgotu said, “This time your face is indeed not small, afraid that you still have apprehensions, His Majesty ordered me to personally deliver the imperial edict in haste. Do you know what mission His Majesty is going to send you to?”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “His Majesty’s divine intention, wonderful consideration, we as his servants will never be able to guess.”

Songgotu leaned forward and whispered in Wei Xiaobao’s ear, “Attack Luocha demons!”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; but then he sprang up and cried out, “Wonderful!”

Songgotu said, “His Majesty said that as soon as you find out, you must be very happy. Sure enough, he was right. Xiongdi, ever since Shunzhi’s years, Luocha demons have been occupying our Heilongjiang region, and they run amock over there. The late Emperor and His Majesty are magnanimous, they refuse to be bothered about it. Who would have thought that Luocha demons won a cun [inch], they wanted a chi [foot], they took more and more of our land. Liaodong is the place where our Great Qing has our root, how can we let the demons threaten it? Right now the three border defense rebels and Taiwan’s Zheng Clan have all been pacified, there’s no problem in the world, thereupon His Majesty decided to use military force against the Luocha.”

Wei Xiaobao had stayed on Tong Chi Island doing nothing for several years, he was so bored that he felt like while playing Pai Jiu he repeatedly grabbed ten pairs of ‘departing ten’. At this time as he heard the news, he was so happy that he grinned from ear to ear.

Songgotu said, “In order to keep the peace, His Majesty has issued several imperial edicts to the Luocha Country’s Great Khan, but all along they never respond. Afterwards Holland’s envoy minister communicated the information that although Luocha country is big, it is actually a country of barbarians, in the entire country there is not a single person who understand Chinese characters. His Majesty’s imperial decrees that they received were just a completely unfathomable mystery to them, thereupon without any better option they decided not to respond. However, all along Luocha troops come to the east to occupy our land in endless stream. His Majesty said, our China pays particular attention to benevolence and righteousness, we can’t simply punish the barbarians without telling them first. We need to tell them their error first, and give them the opportunity to repent and change quickly and completely. If after the imperial edict they are still stiffnecked and refuse to accept the enlightenment, only then would we have to kill them. Among the ministers of the imperial court, only Wei Xiongdi, one person is proficient in Luocha language.”

(Book note: During the China-Russia negotiation, it was a known fact that neither party understood the other’s language and script. The history records that Russian Tsar delivered letter to Kangxi, saying, ‘In the former times the Emperor bestowed a letter, our humble country did not understand the content, hence we did not go through it.’)

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Turns out it was because I understand Luocha demons’ language that the young Emperor surrenders to me.” He could not help dancing and gesticulating for joy, feeling very proud of himself.

Songgotu laughed and said, “Xiongdi is proficient in Luocha language, admittedly it is amazing; but there is one great skill that nobody can reach up to you. We heard that Luocha Country’s Queen Regent is the Great Khan’s Jiejie, this Queen is Xiongdi’s good old friend; is that right?”

Wei Xiaobao roared in laughter and said, “Luocha women’s whole body is covered in golden hair. This Queen Regent Sophia’s appearance is not bad, but when you caress her skin, it felt very rough.”

Songgotu laughed and said, “His Majesty wants Xiongdi to set out on a mission immediately and make an effort to brave the difficulty again, to caress her skin once again.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed while shaking his head. “I have no appetite, I have no appetite,” he said.

Songgotu said, “Xiongdi caresses her, two countries will be good friends, from now on we can avoid the calamity of blade and troops; this is a wonderful merit of bringing peace and stability to our country.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Turns out His Majesty did not send me to lead the troops to war, but he wants to unleash my ‘shiba mo shengong’ [eighteen-touch divine skill; ‘mo’ can mean touch/caress/feel (with hand) or grope]. Ha ha …!” And then he started singing, “One touch, two touches, touching the side of Luocha Country Queen’s hair. The Queen’s hair is like gold, Suo Dage [reminder: Songgotu in Chinese is Suo E’tu] and Wei Xiaobao have all the money to spend!” The two of them roared in laughter.

Wei Xiaobao asked about the details of Luocha Country invading and occupying Heilongjiang, Songgotu told him everything he knew. Turned out during the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty [1573-1619] Luocha people determined to invade east. (Book note: Luocha was Russia. The Draft History of the Qing Dynasty, commentaries by Lang Tan, et al. recorded, ‘Russia was called Luocha, with different interpretation to the ears, slow and fast.’ The slow reading was Russia [Eluosi], the fast reading was Luocha. According to Russian original pronounciation, Luocha was closer.)

One after another, Tomsk, Yeniseysk, Yakutsk, Okhotsk and the others in Siberia built fortification. In Shunzhi’s sixth year, Luocha people built fortification in Mount Luding, and called it Albazin (in China it was referred to as Yakesa [Jaxa]), while at the same time spreading to the east, robbing and plundering along the way.

In Shunzhi’s ninth year, Manchurian Qing’s Liaoning Guta [district] Commander Ba Hai leading 2,000 troops routed Luocha troops at the bank of Heilongjiang [river]. Later on at the mouth of Songhua River, Manchurian Qing’s Commander in Ming Anda [county, Suihua, Heilongjiang] courageously fought Luocha troops and inflicted heavy damage. The Luocha troops withdrew to the west and built fortification in Nerchisk, while dispatching an envoy to Moscow to beg for assistance. Along the way the envoy spread rumors, saying that in Heilongjiang region gold and silver were everywhere, oxen and horses in large numbers, the houses of the people were inlaid with gold. The Luocha people dreamed of vast wealth, the troops marched to the east, robbing and plundering along the way, devastating the common people. Cossack cavalry was especially bloody and cruel.

Manchurian Qing’s Liaoning Guta Commander Sha’erhuda, Liaoning Guta General Bahai led the troops to met the enemy, during Shunzhi’s sixteenth and seventeenth year they scored several victories, killing the Luocha troops’ commanders and generals, killing and beheading more than half Cossack cavalry. For this reason Luocha people did not dare to come to the bank of Heilongjiang anymore.

During Kangxi’s early years, Luocha military and civilian marched to the east in large scale again, they made Yakesa their base of operations. After Kangxi grew older, he knew Luocha people had enormous ambition, hence he took more rigorous action in defense, by stationing Jilin Navy at Heilongjiang to guard the area. Luocha troops also received continuous reinforcements, and built Yakesa’s city wall to make it completely secured, while at the same time setting up stations along the major road all the way back to Luocha Country’s headquarters, determined to engulf the vast land of Heilongjiang region.

At that time Kangxi was focusing all his resources to deal with Wu Sangui; he could not afford to divide his forces to defend against Luocha Country’s invasion. It was only after the three border defenses were pacified and the Zheng Clan of Taiwan surrendered, that he had no fear of trouble from the rear, did he finally turn his attention to deal with Luocha Country. He remembered Wei Xiaobao had been to Moscow; not only he was familiar with the nation’s situation, he also had a rather unusual relationship with the Queen Regent who held the power over Luocha Country, since he had offered her advice to escape from the trap and helped her seizing power, and was bestowed nobility title by her. It was a very powerful chess piece Kangxi had in his hand; why not use it? As soon as Kangxi learned that Wei Xiaobao had gone to Taiwan, he sent Songgotu to announce the summons.

Wei Xiaobao took his wives and children, and had his servants carried the ‘pleading wealth’ he had gained in Taiwan, ‘both sleeves in the golden breeze’, went onboard the ship to sail north. Before departure he asked Shi Lang for original Taiwan’s high-ranking officers to come with him to assist him in the incoming mission: Lin Xingzhu, Hong Chao, as well as five hundred rattan-shield troops. Shi Lang knew that this time Wei Xiaobao went to the Capital, he would be put in an important position, while in order to maintain his position, Shi Lang himself needed somebody powerful in the imperial court to back him up; naturally he did not raise any objection, on the contrary, he sent off Wei Xiaobao and Songgotu with some serious gifts.

Taiwan people knew that in the imperial court’s withdrawal of the decree to abandon Taiwan and move them inland, this Wei Daren had rendered a very big meritorious service; everybody was grateful. Tens of thousand people sent him off with countless umbrellas, ‘protecting the people’ banners, and so on. When Wei Xiaobao was about to get on the boat, two elderly men took off his boots and held it high above their heads, saying that it was something left behind to consider. Originally this ‘shedding of boots’ ceremony was only performed on upright and honorable local official that the common people loved and respected. Wei Xiaobao was a ‘corrupt official’, unexpectedly he also enjoyed this rare honor; not only it was unprecedented; perhaps it would never happen again in the future. The crackling of firecrackers to send him off did not need to be mentioned.

Book note: According to the historical records, when the Qing court determined to abandon Taiwan, the decision had been made; but because Shi Lang contended strongly, the Da Xueshi Li Lei mediated for him. It was only then did the court decide establish local government  and set up garrison. At that time it seemed like a trivial matter, but it had significant effects toward the later generations. If at that time Shi Lang did not contend strongly, the Qing court abandoned Taiwan as soon as they pacified the Zheng Clan and moved the entire Taiwan military personel and civilians inland, the Dutch was bound to come back, henceforth Taiwan would not be part of China’s territory. For this reason, although some people pointed their fingers to Shi Lang as a traitor to China, with regard to the Chinese people, he strenously opposed the proposal to abandon Taiwan, keeping this wide expanse of land as China’s territory, his meritorious service can be considered enormous. Shi Lang also submitted a memorial to the Emperor to lower Taiwan’s land tax. Based on his proposal, Kangxi gave the common people of Taiwan quite some benefits.

Shi Lang’s second son Shi Shilun was also an uncorrupted government official; whenever the commoners had any dispute with the ‘red silk member of the gentry’, Shi Shilun always took the common people’s side. For this reason among the people he was called ‘Shi Qingtian’ [Blue Sky Shi, i.e. upright and honorable official]; he was also the leading character of the later generations’ book ‘Shi Gong’an’ [‘gong an’ means judge’s desk/complex legal case].

Shi Lang’s sixth son Shi Shibiao became the Tidu [local commander] of Fujian Navy. In Kangxi’s sixtieth year he was stationed in Taiwan; it was known in history as ‘The thirteenth day of the eighth month, the disaster of strange wind and violent rain caught them unprepared, a lot of soldiers and civilians died. All through the night Shibiao stood outside. Because of this he fell ill. In the ninth month, he died on the line of duty. Imperial decree was issued as lamentation and expression of sympathy, bestowing him the title of Taizi Taibao’ [Tutor to the crown prince]. In the middle of the hurricane that attacked Taiwan this man stayed outside overnight to direct the relieve effort, until he fell ill and died; he could be considered a good officer who loved the people.

Our country historians have always had prejudice against Manchurian-Han relations; they always attacked Shi Lang’s takeover of Taiwan as his fault, calling him ‘a traitor (to Han)’. When our book was first written, it was also based on the same general impressions. Contemporary historians, however, persevere to rally the Chinese people to have a unified notion, giving Shi Lang’s contribution in integrating Taiwan a considerable praise.

In commemorating this national hero, the author has visited Shi Lang’s native place of Quanzhou [Fujian] on a tour, witnessing how the locals erected Shi Lang’s statue by the sea, and built a ‘Qing Hai Hou [marquis of ocean pacifier] Temple’; therefore, our book’s original views of negating Shi Lang is hereby slightly revised.

[1] Lü Shang, ancestral name Jiang (姜), clan name Lü (呂), given name Shang (尚), and style name Ziya (子牙). Also known by various titles including Jiang Tai Gong (Grand Duke Jiang), Tai Gong Wang, and Shang Fu (Father Shang). The last ruler of the Shang dynasty, King Zhou of Shang (16th – 11th century BC) was a tyrannical and debauched slave owner who spent his days carousing with his favorite concubine Daji and mercilessly executing or punishing upright officials and all others who objected to his ways. After faithfully serving the Shang court for approximately twenty years, Jiang came to find King Zhou insufferable, and feigned madness in order to escape court life and the ruler’s power. Jiang was an expert in military affairs and hoped that someday someone would call on him to help overthrow the king. Jiang disappeared, only to resurface in the Zhou countryside at the apocryphal age of seventy-two, when he was recruited by King Wen of Zhou and became instrumental in Zhou affairs. It is said that, while in exile, he continued to wait placidly, fishing in a tributary of the Wei River (near today’s Xi’an) using a barbless hook or even no hook at all, on the theory that the fish would come to him of their own volition when they were ready. (Wikipedia)

[2] Chief Commandant of Light Chariots was the sixth in order of precedence out of nine grades of the peerage awarded for valour, achievement and distinction. It was divided into three subclasses. It was equivalent to a third rank position in the nine ranks system. It was also the rough equivalent to a Knight Grand Cross of a chivalric order. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[3] pu luo min zhe cheng [普罗民遮城] is currently called ‘chi kan lou’ [赤崁楼 – Chihkan Tower], a tourist attraction. It was built by the Dutch and known as Provintia then. It was used as gunpowder storage at the time of Koxinga. (Courtesy of Chowbeng)

[4] Ci Xing – bestowed surname (emperor conferring favor on ethnic group). Guoxing Ye itself means ‘Lord of the Imperial Surname’.

[5] Xi Shi was a famous beauty given by King Gou Jian of Yue as concubine to King of Wu as part of a successful plan to destroy Wu. The character ‘Xi’ of Xi Shi means ‘west’. Subsequently, ‘Dong’, ‘Nan’, ‘Bei’ and ‘Zhong’ are ‘east’, ‘south’, ‘north’ and ‘middle’, respectively.

[6] Hanlin’s Zhuangyuan refers to the top scorer in the examination administered by Hanlin Imperial Academy.

Chapter 47 The banner pointing to the clouds went out in the autumn to take tactical border position, the sound of drum transmitted by the wind at the end of the night overlooked the Pass.

One day the ship arrived at Tanggu. Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu and their men disembarked and continued their journey by land, passing through Tianjin and continuing to Beijing. When he entered the gate of the Capital, Wei Xiaobao felt as if it was a thing of the previous generation; his heart was bursting with joy, he felt his body was as light as the immortals. Immediately he went to the Palace to appear before the Emperor.

Kangxi summoned him for an audience at the Upper Study Room. Wei Xiaobao walked to Kangxi’s presence, where he kneeled down and kowtowed. Before straightening up his body, his heart was suddenly overwhelmed with mixed feelings of grief and joy; he could not help bursting into tears while still crouching down.

Seeing Wei Xiaobao’s arrival, the greater part of Kangxi’s heart was happy, but there was a small part of his heart that was enraged; he mused, “This kid is undisciplined and out of control, he has the cheek to repeatedly defy the imperial decree. This time although I am going to send him on a mission, I must discipline him well, lest he will rely on my favor and become arrogant, then I can’t control him any longer.” Who would have thought that as soon as Wei Xiaobao saw him he unexpectedly cried loudly? Kangxi’s heart melted. He laughed and said, “Damn it, as soon as you, this kid, saw Laozi, why are you crying?”

Still sobbing, Wei Xiaobao replied, “Your servant thought that for the rest of my life I won’t be able to see Your Majesty. Today we finally meet, my joy is unbearable.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “Get up, get up! Let me look at you.”

Wei Xiaobao crawled up, his face was covered in tears and snot, but the corners of his mouth revealed a smile.

Kangxi laughed and said, “Damn it, you, this kid, has grown.” With childlike innocence he suddenly stood up and walked down his throne. “Let me see,” he said, “Are you taller, or am I taller?” He walked pass him and stood back to back with him. Wei Xiaobao could see right away that in term of height the two of them were comparable to each other; but the Emperor wanted to compare height, how could he be taller than the Emperor? He slightly bent his knees at once.

Kangxi held his hand above their heads to measure, he was about one cun taller. He laughed and said, “We are about the same height.” Turning around and walked a few steps away, he asked with a smile, “Xiao Guizi, how many children do you have?”

“Your servant is no good at anything,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I only have two sons and a daughter.”

Kangxi laughed heartily and said, “I am better in this matter. I already have four sons and three daughters.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty has great skill and strategy, naturally … naturally you are also extraordinary in this matter.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “We have not seen each other for several years, your literary knowledge did not make the least bit of progress. What does having sons and daughters have anything to do with great skill and strategy?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “In the past King Wen of Zhou had one hundred sons; every good emperor certainly has a lot of sons.”

Kangxi laughed, “How do you know?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty sent your servant to fish; the two of us are like King Wen of Zhou and Jiang Taigong. King Wen of Zhou’s affairs, naturally your servant has to ask clearly, so that when I see Your Majesty, I can report back to my superior.”

These past several years Kangxi was busy fighting the war against Wu Sangui; day and night he worked hard, making plans, dealing with national affairs; he missed having this young minister, Wei Xiaobao, by his side, with whom he used to chat and joke to relieve boredom, so much so that sometimes he was extremely bored. This moment as the ruler and his minister reunited, he was very happy. After some more chitchat, he asked Wei Xiaobao about his life on Tong Chi Island, he also wanted to know Taiwan’s local conditions and the people there.

“Taiwan’s soil is fertile,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “The climate is warm, the output is abundant; the people there pass their days in happiness. When they found out that Your Majesty allows them to continue living in Taiwan, everybody was grateful for the vast and mighty imperial kindness; they all said that Your Majesty is a hundred per cent raw bird fish soup [see Chapter 14].”

Kangxi nodded and said, “Governance should not be a nuisance. The people have lived in peace and worked happily in Taiwan, forcing them to move inland is greatly disruptive. The high-ranking ministers of the imperial court do not understand Taiwan’s situation, they submitted this preposterous proposal and nearly spoiled the big affair. You and Shi Lang submitted the advice, your merit is not small.”

‘Poof’, Wei Xiaobao sank on his knees; he kowtowed and said, “Your servant repeatedly disobeyed the imperial decree, I deserve to be beheaded seventeen, eighteen times; no matter what merit, Your Majesty need not care about it. I am just asking Your Majesty’s grace, please spare your servant’s life, allow me to serve by your side.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “You knew you deserve to be beheaded seventeen, eighteen times; too bad you don’t have eighteen heads. Otherwise, I would definitely chop seventeen of those heads.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant does not want too many heads either. Only one head with a mouth to speak and eat, and I will be perfectly contented.”

Kangxi said, “Whether your head will remain or not, I must see first whether you are loyal or not, whether you still dare to disobey the imperial decree.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “In term of loyalty, your servant is loyal and devoted, I have a red-bellied devotion, I will display utter loyalty to dedicate myself to the service of my country.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “You remember quite a bit of those idioms with the ‘loyalty’ character in them; are there some more?” [Translator’s note: as you may already guessed, each of the idioms (expression made up of four characters) Wei Xiaobao mentioned above has a ‘loyal’ character in it.]

Wei Xiaobao said, “In my heart I only have one ‘loyal’ character, naturally I remember some. There’s … there’s ‘loyal to the lord love one’s country’, and then ‘loyal minister are not afraid of death, those who are afraid of death are not loyal minister’ [naturally this last one is not strictly an idiom of four characters]. And then there’s ‘loyal, considerate, open and guileless’ …”

“Get up!” Kangxi said, “If you are really ‘loyal, considerate, open and guileless’, there is nobody in the world who is wicked, mischievous, and crafty.”

Wei Xiaobao stood up and said, “Reporting to Your Majesty: I am loyal and devoted to you, one person, only. Regarding other people, I am not that loyal, sometimes I still swindle him a bit. Your servant’s character is a bit slippery, this fact Your Majesty also knows very well. However, toward Your Majesty I pay particular attention to ‘loyalty’ [zhong xin], toward my friends I pay particular attention to ‘spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice/code of brotherhood’ [yi qi]. When loyalty and righteousness cannot satisfy both sides, your servant has no choice but to shrink my head like a turtle and went fishing on Tong Chi Island.”

“No need to worry,” Kangxi said, “We are going to talk about this day onward; I am not going to order you to attack Tian Di Hui.”

With hands behind his back Kangxi paced back and forth several times; he said slowly, “Toward your friends you uphold yi qi, that is a virtue; I can’t blame you for that. The sage [usually refers to Confucius] paid particular attention to loyalty and forgiveness; this ‘loyal’ character does not necessarily refer only to the ruler, toward everybody we must spare no effort, and that is the real meaning of ‘loyalty’. Loyal and righteousness [zhong yi], two characters, originally one cannot exist without the other. You would rather die than turning your back on your friends, you are unwilling to sell your friends for the sake of riches and honor, glory and splendor, it is also considered very rare, you really have the air of the ancient people. Since you are unwilling to turn your back on your friends, naturally you will not turn your back on me. Xiao Guizi, I pardon your guilt, not entirely because of your past meritorious service, not entirely because you and I are kindred spirits since we were young, but it is also because you attach importance to yi qi, which is really not a bad thing.”

Wei Xiaobao shed tears of gratitude; choking with emotion he said, “Your servant … your servant does not understand anything. I only feel that other people sincerely treat me well, I really … really cannot … cannot do them wrong.”

Kangxi nodded his head and said, “Your Luocha Country’s Queen Regent, her treatment to you was not bad either, but now I am sending you to attack her; what do you think?”

“Pft,” Wei Xiaobao broke out in laughter. “She was locked up by others, her life almost could not be guaranteed. Your servant taught her to instigate the gunmen to start a rebellion and finally seize the throne; it can be considered I already repaid her kindness. She sent her troops, presumably to seize Your Majesty’s beautiful rivers and mountains, we simply cannot let her do that. This woman is a fickle; today she fools around with this man, tomorrow she will fool around with that man, she really must not do that. It’s a pity that Luocha Country is really too far, otherwise your servant will bring some troops to capture this Queen and have Your Majesty look at her. It will be quite interesting.”

“Luocha Country is really too far,” Kangxi repeated, “These five characters are very important. Based on these five characters alone, once we go out to war, we must grasp the victory. Although Luocha Country’s firearms are sharp, their cavalry brave, but they are far, we are near. They came tens of thousands li to the east; their soldiers, horses, firearms, ammunitions, grain and straw, their clothes, everything is not easy to get. Presently I have already sent the Minister of Revenue Yu Sang’a to go ahead to Guta, Liaoning, to build the two cities Aigun and Kumarsk, to amass grain and straw and ammunition, also to set up ten relay stations for post horses, so that military logistic and army provisions can flow unimpeded, continuous from the source. The other day I also issued an imperical decree to Mongolia, forbiding them to have any trade relation with Luocha people. Moreover, I sent Heilongjiang General Sabusu to dispatch cavalry far and wide; if they see Luocha people’s rations and fodder and their vehicles, to set those damn things on fire, if they see Luocha troops’ horses, to immediately slaughter those damn horses.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he said, “Your Majesty so deployed, whatever is near, whatever is thousand li distant, this war has already been won seventy, eighty percent.”

“That’s not necessarily true,” Kangxi replied, “Luocha is a big country. According to Nan Huairen, the extent of their country is bigger than our China, we really must not underestimate the enemy. If we lose the war, Liaodong will fall, the foundation of our country will be shaken. If they are defeated, it won’t affect their present situation; all they have to do is retreat to the west. Hence in this war we must win and cannot lose. If you are defeated, I will have to personally lead the troops out of the Pass. The first order of business is to chop your head.” While speaking the last sentence, his voice was stern.

“Your Majesty,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Please set your heart at ease. If your servant cannot save my neck, it is because Luocha troops chop it down, definitely I won’t let Your Majesty come and do it.”

“It’s good that you understand it,” Kangxi said, “Weapons are ominous, war is dangerous, nobody can guarantee victory. I only tell you that you absolutely cannot be careless; war is not a matter of smooth talk and oily mouth.”

Wei Xiaobao respectfully replied, “Yes.”

Kangxi continued, “If the only thing I need is sending the troops to fight, I did not need to send you. But this time we start a war with Luocha Country, it is not to wipe them out at all, I only want them to sound out the difficulties and retreat to avoid defeat, and won’t dare to come and invade our territory, that’s all. Thus we must show them kindness and power at the same time, to make them deeply grateful, to have both countries live in harmony forever. If you indulge in killings, the Luocha Country’s monarch might become hostile out of shame, and incite the whole country to attack. Even if we can win, it will be a military disaster, the gains will not make up for the losses. Only if we can live in harmony, not fighting or wrong the other’s troops, will it be considered very auspicious. If you can persuade the Luocha Country Queen Regent to withdraw the troops, both countries make peace, it will be your greatest merit.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “When your servant sees Luocha troop’s generals, I will enlighten them with Your Majesty’s imperial edict, and ask them to bring words back to Luocha Country Queen Regent.”

Kangxi said, “I have had quite a few western missionaries here, I asked them in details about Luocha Country history, dynasty and past events, their natural conditions and social customs, geography, military and administrative affairs …”

“Right, right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty knows them and knows ourselves, we will emerge victorious in every battle.”

Kangxi showed a faint smile; he said, “Those clergymen all said that Luocha people love to take unfair advantage of good people but are afraid of the evil ones. If we blindly speak good words with them, they win a cun and want a chi, they will be more and more vicious. We should explicitly show our true colors, let them know that we are not to be trifled with. Consequently, on one hand we must mobilize a large army, prepare everything well, so if we have to fight we’ll fight; on the other hand we must appear to be a righteous nation. China is a superior country, we won’t show off our power and bully people at will.”

“Your servant understands,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Sometimes we put up our red face, draw our knife and use the damn thing; sometimes we put up our white face, laughing happily stroking him several times. Just like Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo seven times, so that he would submit completely and henceforth did not dare to revolt.”

Kangxi let out a ‘hey, hey’ laughter; he said, “That’s exactly it.”

Noticing Kangxi’s strange laughter, Wei Xiaobao had a second thought; he understood Kangxi’s mind. He laughed and said, “Just like the Lord of Ten Thousand Years captured Xiao Guizi seven times, so that your servant would be grateful and afraid at the same time, henceforth will not dare to play any trick. Xiao Guizi is just like Sun Wukong [Monkey King, Journey to the West]; in a word, he cannot jump out of the Lord of Ten Thousand Years’ Tathagata Buddha’s palm.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “As you grew several years older, you also become more and more modest. If you really want to jump out of my palm, I can’t really catch you.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant is very comfortable in Your Majesty’s palm, why would I want to jump out?”

Kangxi said, “Speaking about pacifying Wu Sangui, your merit is really not small; this is one thing that you have not caught up yet. Presently I am sending you to lead the three armies of water and land, in a campaign against the Luocha. The city of Yakesa is built on Mount Luding [deer and cauldron], I confer to you the title of Third-class Duke of Luding, Great General of Fuyuan [county, Heilongjiang; ‘fu yuan’ itself means ‘consoling/pacifying (places) far away’]. In military affairs, Commander Peng Chun, Heilongjiang General Sabusu, and Liaoning Guta General Ba Hai will assist you. In the administrative side, Songgotu will assist you. We will set out four-way cavalry and infantry first, plus 5000-men Navy. If that is not enough, we will send whatever is necessary. All horses and logistics are in place. Aigun and Liaoning Guta are already stocked with provisions, enough to be used by the large army for a period of three years. There are 350 battlefield cannon, and there are fifty siege cannon. Do you think this is enough?”

For each sentence Kangxi spoke, Wei Xiaobao thanked him for his grace. When Kangxi finished, Wei Xiaobao hastily kneeled down and kowtowed over and over.

Kangxi said, “Luocha Country only has no more than six thousand cavalry and infantry at Yakesa and Nerchinsk. We have seven or eight times that number to deal with them, indeed it is the sound of thunder ten-thousand great power; I only hope that you won’t fail our magnificent China’s national prestige.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “In this war your servant is fighting on behalf of Your Majesty; if we show even the tiniest setback, the Luocha people will look down on us. In spite of everything, Your Majesty please set your heart at ease.”

“Very good,” Kangxi said, “What else do you need?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “From Taiwan your servant brought along five hundred rattan-shield troops to the Capital. They have been in battle with the red-haired troops, and are very good at resisting firearms. Your servant is thinking to take them to destroy Luocha.”

“That’s very good!” Kangxi said happily, “Zheng Chenggong’s troops have defeated Dutch’s red-haired troops, you bring them to fight Luocha troops, our chance of victory is increased by thirty-percent. Originally I was worried the Luocha troops’ firearms are formidable, I am afraid there will be too many casualties among our officers and soldiers.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Rattan shield can withstand flintlock musket’s bullet, these rattan-shield troops can roll pass their defense line and use broadsword to chop demon troops’ demon legs.”

Kangxi was greatly delighted, “Wonderful, wonderful!” he repeatedly exclaimed.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant also has a young concubine, in those days she came with me to Moscow, she is proficient in Luocha demon language. I want to ask Your Majesty’s gracious approval to let her come with the army to handle affairs.” According to Qing Dynasty regulation, taking one’s family along in a military expedition was a grave offense; therefore, he had to ask permission first.

Kangxi nodded. “I know,” he said, “Now go and set up meritorious service!”

Wei Xiaobao kowtowed to take his leave. When he retreated toward the door, Kangxi suddenly asked, “I heard that your Shifu Chen Yonghua was murdered by Zheng Keshuang; is that right?”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. “Yes,” he replied.

Kangxi said, “Zheng Keshuang has surrendered to the imperial court. I have agreed to preserve the entire Zheng Clan’s descendants. You must not give them any trouble.” Wei Xiaobao had no choice but to say ‘yes’.

Before reaching the Capital this time, he had long planned on looking for Zheng Keshuang and made life difficult for him; who would have thought that Kangxi has already anticipated this and ordered him in this way? If he made his move, he would definitely disobey the imperial decree. He mused, “Could it be that I have to forget the big enmity of this kid murdering my Shifu?”

As he walked away slowly with his head hung low, suddenly he heard someone said, “Wei Xiongdi, congratulations!”

Wei Xiaobao thought the voice sounded very familiar. When he looked up, he saw a tall man with wide shoulder standing in front of him; the man looked at him with smile on his face. It was none other than the Imperial Bodyguard Zongguan [chief manager] Dolong. Wei Xiaobao’s shock was no small matter. When he escaped from the Palace that day, he had obviously stabbed Dolong to his death with a dagger in his residence; wasn’t this his ghost coming to demand his life back? In that instant Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his whole body trembled; he wanted to turn around and flee, he also wanted to kneel down and plead for mercy, but he felt as if his feet were nailed to the ground, he could not move even for half a step, all around the lower part of his body felt tense, in that instant he felt a very strong urge to defecate and urinate at the same time.

Dolong came over, he pulled Wei Xiaobao’s hand and said with a laugh, “Good Xiongdi, I have not seen you for many years, your Gege miss you very much, and have come to make sure that everything is according to your wishes. I heard you went fishing for His Majesty on Tong Chi Island, and His Majesty constantly promotes your official ranking and titular honors. I am very happy to hear that.”

Wei Xiaobao felt Dolong’s palm was warm, under the sunlight illuminating the colonnade, he saw a shadow by Dolong’s side; apparently he was not a ghost, his fright was reduced somewhat. “Yes, yes,” he mumbled in reply. He was also afraid that Dolong might remember the former enmity and wanted to settle this old debt. But the dagger clearly penetrated Dolong’s back and pierced his heart; how did he not die? In his panic, he could not think of anything.

Dolong said, “That day in Xiongdi’s residence, your Gege has fallen into the enemy’s plot. Fortunately I received Xiongdi’s help who drove the assassin away so that my life was protected. I have never been able to personally thank you over this matter, I often thought about it in my heart. You also asked Shi Lang to deliver gift for me from Taiwan; I really owe you too much.”

Seeing his sincere expression, Wei Xiaobao decided that Dolong was not being sarcastic; he thought, “He is the Imperial Bodyguard Zongguan, a member of His Majesty’s inner ministerial circle. This time Shi Lang came to give presents, naturally Dolong received his share. Presumably he asked Shi Lang about me, and Shi Lang simply did me a favor with little cost to himself, saying that part of the gift was from me, so that it will appear that he and I have very deep friendship; in turn, people will look at my face and will not give Shi Lang any difficulty. By why did he say that I drove the assassin away? I really don’t understand.”

Dolong saw Wei Xiaobao’s face was white, alternating with blue; he also looked restless. Thinking that Wei Xiaobao must have just received Kangxi’s rebuke, Dolong tried to console him, “His Majesty’s temper has not been too good recently, most probably it’s because the Luocha Country bullies people too much; Xiongdi don’t have to worry about it. Wait till my shift is over, we’ll have a nice dinner together and chat.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “His Majesty’s benevolence is as high as the sky and as deep as the earth. Just now he promoted my official rank again. Xiongdi is deeply grateful, I really don’t know how to repay our lord’s kindness.”

Dolong laughed and said, “Congratulations! Congratulations! Xiongdi is very competent, you can share His Majesty’s tribulations. To have your official ranking and titular honors raised, of course it is proper and to be expected.” There was a hint of envy in his voice.

Wei Xiaobao noticed the warmth and the envy in the tone of his voice and in his facial expression. Knowing that Dolong was a straightforward man, Wei Xiaobao knew he was not pretending; the fear in his heart vanished completely. He laughed and said, “Duo Dage [in Chinese, Dolong is spelled Duo Long], please wait a moment, Xiongdi really need to go pee. His Majesty summoned me for an audience, he gave me a lot of instructions and warnings, Xiongdi tried to hold it that long, but now I can’t hold it much longer.”

Dolong roared in laughter; he knew that when the Emperor summoned his ministers, if he did not indicate that the meeting was finished, the ministers would not dare to withdraw. If the minister had an urgent need to urinate, it would be an enormous difficulty. It’s just that only toward a favored minister like Wei Xiaobao would the Emperor talk for quite so long. With other ministers, usually the Emperor only talked for two, three sentences, and he was dismissed; hence there has never been any urgent need for the ministers to urinate or defecate. Dolong had always been close to Wei Xiaobao; today as they met again after a long time, he was genuinely happy. Immediately he took Wei Xiaobao’s hand and took him to the door of the latrine [orig. ‘thatched hut’], and waited outside as Wei Xiaobao finished his business.

That day, in order to save his Shifu’s life, as well as his Tian Di Hui brothers, Wei Xiaobao had no choice but to stab Dolong. Recalling that ordinarily Dolong treated him well, in the deepest part of his heart Wei Xiaobao was actually quite regretful and uneasy; who would have thought that not only Dolong did not die, he also did not show any sign that he took offense of what had happened. Wei Xiaobao urinated with a happy heart. When he went out of the latrine, he casually sounded Dolong out on what happened that day.

Dolong said, “When I woke up that day, I found out that I had been lying in bed for three days and four nights. The Imperial Physician Guan told me that fortunately I was born with an anomaly; my heart was slanted, so that the assassin’s blade only pierced my lung and did not harm my heart at all. He said that someone with a slanted heart like me, in a hundred thousand people you won’t necessarily find one.”

In his heart Wei Xiaobao cried out, “Ashamed! So that’s what happened.” He laughed and said, “I always thought that Dage is a hero with straight heart and intestine, who would have thought that Dage is a prejudiced man? [‘slanted heart’ means partial/biased/prejudiced]. Dage is prejudiced, are you particularly doting on young Auntie, or on your son?”

Dolong was taken aback. He then laughed and said, “If Xiongdi did not mention it, I would not have thought about it. I do dote on my eighth concubine Fang a bit more than the rest; it may be assumed that it is due to my slanted heart condition.” The two of them roared in laughter.

Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “That assassin’s martial art skill was very high; he came to plot against Dage, unexpectedly Xiongdi was not aware of him in advance.”

“That’s right,” Dolong said. Lowering his voice he added, “By coincidence at that time Princess Jianning came from the Hall to see Xiongdi. This kind of affair, as servants we do not dare to ask one question too many. I recuperated for three months and was completely healed. His Majesty revealed to me that it was Wei Xiongdi who courageously saved my life and personally killed the assassin. Xiongdi need not mention the particulars of this event; in short, your Gege owes you a lot.”

Wei Xiaobao’s skin was thick, during Kangxi’s reign, he could be reckoned as first or second best; however, listening to Dolong, he could not stop his face from turning red. Only then did he find out that the Emperor has concealed his secret. First, because it was the Emperor himself who told him, Dolong had no reason to be suspicious. Second, since it involved the Princess’ private business, the people in the Palace understood that the less it was brought up the better. Even if they had doubt as big as the sky, they had no choice but to bury it deep inside their hearts. Were it not for this, they would have to take a lot of trouble to concoct a lie to cover up the past events.

Wei Xiaobao was ashamed; he also felt that he must repay this honest, considerate and naïve man well. He said, “From Taiwan Xiongdi has brought some local products as souvenirs; as soon as I get home I will have someone deliver some to Dage’s mansion.”

Dolong repeatedly shook his hand, “No need, no need,” he said, “We are family, why bother like this? Last time the gift Shi Lang brought was already too much.”

Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered something, “It’s a kind act that costs nothing,” he mused, “Even if His Majesty finds out, he cannot blame me for disobeying the imperial decree.” Thereupon he asked, “Duo Dage, after that kid Zheng Keshuang surrendered, how is he doing in Beijing?”

“His Majesty treated him very well,” Dolong replied, “He was bestowed First-class Duke title. This kid does not know how to do anything, he only relies on his ancestors’ fortune; unexpectedly his nobility is higher than you, Xiongdi.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “When we joke around that day, we falsely accused him of owing the Imperial Bodyguards ten thousand taels of silver, and then Xiongdi took out some money to pay for him. Does Dage still remember that?”

Dolong burst out laughing. “I remember, I remember,” he said, “That Miss, Xiongdi’s good friend, what happened to her next? If she still follows Zheng Keshuang, we may go and take her back.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “That Miss has already become my wife long ago, she even gave birth to my son.”

Dolong laughed and said, ““Congratulations, congratulations! Otherwise, since that kid Zheng Keshuang is in Beijing, I don’t care if he is a first-class duke or second-class duke, in the end he will become a no-entitlement, no-power empty-headed Jueye [master noble]. Let us drop him a visit, so that this kid won’t dare to release a fart. This kind of surrendering border defense king, he spends his days trembling with fear, afraid that His Majesty might suspect in his heart he has not really surrendered and would rise again in rebellion.”

“We don’t have to bully him,” Wei Xiaobao said, “It’s just that those who murdered people must pay with his life, those who owed a debt must return the money. This is an absolutely fair and reasonable matter. Forget that he is merely a first-class duke, even if he is a Prince or a Bei Lei [see note 15 chapter 13], he can’t owe a debt and refuse to pay.”

“Right, right,” Dolong said, “That day he owed Xiongdi ten thousand taels of silver, not a few of our Imperial Bodyguard brothers witnessed this; we can go to demand payment from him.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “This kid has not made much progress. Only ten thousand taels of silver is nothing; afterwards he continuously amassed a lot of debt from Xiongdi. He has personally written an I.O.U. that I have it in my hand. For three generations his Zheng Family became Wangye in Taiwan, how much gold, silver, money and valuables they accumulated has he spent? He must have brought everything to Beijing. Zheng Chenggong and Zheng Jing were good people, presumably they would not milk common people dry; but this kid Zheng Keshuang, could he be polite? He became Wangye for a day, at least he would plunder above one million taels; two days two millions, three days three millions. He has become Wangye for several days, just calculate how much money he has acquired!”

Dolong’s jaw dropped and his tongue was tied. “Awesome, awesome,” he muttered.

Wei Xiaobao said, “When Xiongdi is back home, I will have the loan receipt delivered to Dage. This money, Xiongdi does not want any …”

“We can’t do that,” Dolong hastily said, “Your Gege will collect the payment for you, I guarantee that you won’t get a qian less. I will take my men the Imperial Bodyguards to pay a visit; even if he has guts as big as the sky he won’t dare not to pay.”

“This debt is rather large,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In those days this kid spent his time in drinking and pleasure, he spent money like flowing water. To have him pay everything back at once is really not easy. Let’s do it this way: Dage bring people to collect, if within eight or ten days he cannot pay, let him break up the whole debt into pieces, have him write separate I.O.U., put the Imperial Bodyguard brothers’ names as the creditors. Each I.O.U. can be a thousand taels, two thousand taels, I don’t care. Whichever Imperial Bodyguard brother can collect the debt, let it be his.”

“Absolutely not!” Dolong said, “All Imperial Bodyguards are your old subordinates. Doing a trivial thing like collecting the debt for an old boss and still want some reward, where’s the logic in that?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “They are all my old subordinates, my good brothers, my good friends. For the last several years Xiongdi’s promotion to the nobility is like spurring the horse to full speed, yet all along I did not give any benefit to everybody; when I think about it, I find it quite embarrassing. I want the Imperial Bodyguard brothers to have a share on this several million taels.”

Dolong was stunned. “What … there are several … several million taels?” he asked in a trembling voice.

Wei Xiaobao smiled, “Speaking about capital,” he said, “I did not spend that much. Some of it was spending money, some was a trick; profit after profit, the total amount is not small. This money, Dage may take a bit bigger share.”

Dolong still did not believe; he mumbled, “Several million taels? This … isn’t this too much?”

“That’s why,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I wanted him to break it up into smaller I.O.U.s. It’s going to be easier to collect.” Lowering his voice, he said, “I cannot be involved in this matter; if the Imperial Censor found out, they might submit report, saying Xiongdi is in association with outside border defense, lending money and exacting interest. Whether it’s big or small, I will have to face criminal charge. But if the Imperial Bodyguards want to collect some gambling debt from him, each one collects one or two thousand taels, it won’t be such a big deal. If Dage is afraid to have the Imperial Bodyguards eating this money alone the responsibility is too great, there’s no harm in asking some Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers to come along. They are also my old subordinates; I should also share some benefits with them.”

Dolong repeatedly voiced his agreement. He had made up his mind, when this debt was collected, he would return at least half to Wei Xiaobao. Although Wei Xiaobao was generous and easy-mannered, Dolong could not let him lose his life savings.

Wei Xiaobao was so proud of himself; he thought that if Dolong bring along these ‘like wolves and tigers’ group of Imperial Bodyguards and Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers to collect the debt, this time Zheng Keshuang would definitely have a bad headache. Although the Emperor had ordered him in advance not to personally give Zheng Keshuang any trouble, this big enmity of murdering his Shifu, if he could not avenge it, at least he would make Zheng Keshuang lose half of his family property. In this matter most likely Zheng Keshuang would quietly suffer in silence [orig. ‘eat yellow lotus’], and would not dare to make it public. If other people found out, it would be personal matters between Zheng Keshuang and the Imperial Bodyguards and the Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers who collected gambling debt. People always said that Zheng Keshuang was a hedonistic son of rich parents, that he did not have a good family foundation, as soon as he arrived at the Capital, he gambled and made a scene; no one would put the blame on Wei Xiaobao.

When he exited the Palace, Prince Kang Giyesu, Li Lei, Ming Zhu, Songgotu, Lei Dehong, Du Lide, Feng Pu, Tu Hai, Wang Xi, Huang Ji, Wu Zhengzhi, Zong Deyi, and the other Manchu-Han high-ranking ministers were waiting outside the Palace gate. One after another they stepped forward to congratulate him. With Wei Xiaobao in the middle, they all went to the Tong Mao’er [copper hat] Alley.

When they reached the mouth of the alley, Wei Xiaobao saw a grand mansion towering above the houses around it, compared to his old earl mansion it was a lot bigger. Above the main gate there was a vermillion-painted horizontal inscribed board, but it was completely empty without a single character on it. Characters as big as watermelon, Wei Xiaobao’s knowledge was limited to only a handful, but even he was able to see that the board did not have any character on it; he could not help but was stunned.

Prince Kang laughed and said, “Wei Xiongdi, His Majesty’s grace and favor to you is indeed as high as the sky and as deep as the earth. That year when your earl mansion caught fire and was burned down, you were not in town. When His Majesty was informed, he immediately ordered your Gege to build another mansion for you. The imperial edict did not mention any budgetary number; it only mentioned that all expenses are to be covered by the internal treasury. This is His Majesty bestowing you a reward, why would your Gege try to save His Majesty some money? Naturally I did not spare any expense. Xiongdi, look, is this acceptable?” While saying that, he stroked his beard with a smile on his face.

Wei Xiaobao busily expressed his thanks. From the main gate he entered in. It was indeed a splendid and magnificent building, not much different compared to Prince Kang’s mansion. All the ministers clucked their tongues in praise, they all expressed their admirations.

Prince Kang said, “This mansion has been ready for quite some time, all along it stayed empty, waiting for Xiongdi to come back and live in it. It’s just that we did not know what other grace His Majesty would bestow you, what title and honors he was going to confer to you, hence the plaque above the mansion’s gate is still empty. The ‘Lu Ding Gong Fu’ [Duke of Deer and Cauldron’s Mansion], four characters, I will ask our Li Da Xueshi to move his brush.”

Li Lei was the Hall of Preserving Harmony’s [Bao He Dian] Da Xue Shi [see also Chapter 37], while holding the post of Minister of Revenue at the same time. The Da Xue Shi with most profound experience in wealth management was appointed the head. This moment he did not decline; picking up the brush he wrote in regular script, ‘Lu Ding Gong Fu’, four large characters. A minor government official was ordered to have an artisan cast gold lettering and embed it on the plaque.

That evening Wei Xiaobao held a big banquet at the Duke of Luding’s mansion to entertain the high-ranking ministers who had personally come to congratulate him earlier. Zheng Keshuang, Feng Xifan, and other Taiwan people who surrendered also sent some gifts, but they did not personally come to congratulate him.

After sending off the guests, Wei Xiaobao had another banquet for his family. His seven wives raised their wine cups to celebrate. Wei Xiaobao mentioned that he was going to take Shuang’er to accompany him in this punitive expedition to the north. The other six wives raised their voices at once to protest, saying that he was too partial. Wei Xiaobao was obliged to explain with graceful words, flowery speech, saying that it was His Majesty’s imperial edict; because he knew that Shuang’er has been to Luocha Country and understood Luocha language, he was sending her to serve in the army.

The six wives did not have any choice but to drop this matter. Luckily Shuang’er was gentle and amiable, her friendship with every single one of the other wives was very good, so nobody was jealous of her. Only Princess Jianning was thinking that based on her status as the Emperor’s imperial sister, a golden branch, jade leaves, unexpectedly she could not compare to a little servant girl with humble background, in her heart she was quite angry. However, usually when the seven wives had an argument, the other six women would unite to deal with the Princess. Princess Jianning was on her own, even Wei Xiaobao did not side with her; for the past few years her fiery temper had mellowed considerably, she did not dare to rashly pick a quarrel.

The next day Wei Xiaobao asked Shuang’er to take out Zheng Keshuang’s I.O.U. which was written in blood on Tong Chi Island that year. He invited Dolong to come over and handed it over to him. Dolong was greatly delighted; he said, “With a hand-written I.O.U. like this, we can even squeeze oil from a stone. If that kid Zheng Keshuang dares to renege and refuse to pay, we, the Imperial Bodyguards and the Valiant Cavalry Brigade officers, won’t have any face to mingle in the Capital anymore.”

For the next several days, Kangxi repeatedly summoned Wei Xiaobao to the Palace. He gave Wei Xiaobao a giant map; how to advance, how to engage the enemy, how to besiege a city, how to strike at the enemy’s reinforcements, he gave Wei Xiaobao detailed instructions. With vermillion brush he drew on the map clearly.

Wei Xiaobao said, “This war is just like Your Majesty personally leading the troops and fighting it, your servant will not dare to act on my own initiative, I will do everything in accordance with Your Majesty’s instruction. Otherwise, even if I am victorious, Your Majesty will not be happy.”

Kangxi smiled and nodded. What Wei Xiaobao said was very close to his heart’s intention. Since he was little he learned martial art, and had never been able to put it to use, only with Wei Xiaobao he could wrestle and have fun. Later on he unceasingly sent Wei Xiaobao on various missions outside; in the deepest part of his heart he always thought that Wei Xiaobao was a stand-in for him. Wei Xiaobao was younger than he, in terms of martial art skill, intelligence, knowledge and foresight, none could surpass Kangxi’s. If Wei Xiaobao could successfully accomplish the mission, naturally Kangxi would be able to handle the butcher’s knife with more ease. Recalling Ming Dynasty’s Emperor Zhengde who conferred himself the title Weiwu Dajiangjun Zhen Guo Gong [see Chapter 43], and personally went into battle, Kangxi was unwilling to be left out, he wanted to display his talent too. Kangxi would never make fool of himself like Emperor Zhengde, but by sending Wei Xiaobao on missions like that, he derived inside satisfaction.

During the years of Wu Sangui’s rebellion, Kangxi had to deal with a high-ranking minister, a veteran general. Wu Sangui was a fierce general, a veteran of a hundred battles, not a simple matter at all; if he had sent Wei Xiaobao, he would have been defeated for sure. By this time Kangxi had gained several years’ worth of war. Although he did not personally go to the front line, he always inquired in details that he understood clearly every military campaign, its merits and drawbacks, gains and losses; not a single battle he did not know like the palm of his own hand. From the actual combat he learned the art of war.

This time he was about to start a war with the Luocha Country, he would deal with any matter, regardless of its importance; everything has been prepared properly. Before the main force even marched out the gate, he already had confidence that he would achieve victory. Indeed it was a far cry [orig. ‘mustn’t speak of two things on the same day’] from when he was trembling with fear in dealing with Wu Sangui in the past.

Since his departure for war was imminent, Wei Xiaobao did not dare to mess with Tian Di Hui brothers. He thought, “His Majesty did not tell me to exterminate Tian Di Hui, it means he has surrendered to me, it means he has given me enough face. If I am not being sensitive, and go to visit Li Lishi, Xu Tianchuan and the others, and His Majesty finds out, he might raise the former matter again. This is the same as Wei Xiaobao picks up a rock and smashes it against my own foot. Being a human being I must not be overly stupid and act too tactlessly.”

The directorate of astronomy picked up an ecliptic propitious day for the main force to set off on their punitive expedition to the north. That day Kangxi bestowed a feast at the Taihe Men [Gate of Supreme Harmony]. There was a large sandy field outside the Wu Men [Meridian Gate], where His Majesty’s yellow tent was erected. The imperial throne was set up, royal seal was on display, hundreds of princes and dukes and ministers congregated. Kangxi took his seat. The Great General Fuyuan, Duke of Luding Wei Xiaobao led his military officers Peng Chun, Sabusu, Lang Tan, Lin Xingzhu, and the others, the logistic officer Songgotu and the others, to step forward and kneel down. Internal courtyard cabinet minister declared the imperial order in Manchurian, Mongolian and Han, three languages. He handed over the great general seal of authority, and conferred a set of clothes, a horse, a bow and a saber.

The officers going into battle separately sat on the north of Jinshui [golden water] Bridge. There were music everywhere, hundreds of play were being performed. Kangxi ordered the Great General to step forward toward the throne. When they were face-to-face, he personally conferred the imperial wine. The Great General received it, kowtowed, and drank it. The commanders, deputy commanders, and so on also stepped forward. The Emperor ordered the Imperial Bodyguards to bestow the drink. Afterwards he ordered the hundreds of government officials everywhere to offer the wine to the troops, along with money and some clothes. The hundreds of officials and all the troops expressed their gratitude, and then the main forces set out.

Kangxi personally sent them off outside the Meridian Gate. The Great General and all the officers kneeled down to ask the holy self to return home. Afterwards the water and land main forces set off to the north. All the ministers saw Wei Xiaobao in his complete martial attire, happy and giggling, without the slightest bit of mighty air of the Commander-in-Chief of a large army. They already knew this man was without learning or skills, a marketplace hoodlum; he was leading the troops into battle, most likely he would spoil the great endeavor and might bring disgrace to the country and make it lose face. But they also knew that Kangxi doted on him very much; who would dare to utter even half a sentence of objection? Not a few of these princes, dukes and ministers put on a smile on their faces, but in their hearts they were sighing. It was:

The ministers swarm around the stage like a school of fish, the general majestically ascends the sacrificial altar[1].

Ever since Wei Xiaobao went out on mission for the Emperor, he has never gone out with this kind of pomp and circumstances; the pride in his heart need not be mentioned. He knew this time the stake was very high, in the army he exercised strong self-control, unexpectedly he did not dare to gamble at all. When boredom hit along the way, he would invite several high-ranking generals to throw some dice, the loser was punished by drinking some wine; nothing more.

One day the main force went out the Shanhai Pass [eastern pass of Great Wall], and continued north to Liaodong [peninsula]. It was the place Wei Xiaobao previously visited, only that time he and Shuang’er had to catch deer in the forest to eat while they were hiding to the east and escaping to the west, battered and exhausted; there was no awe-inspiring authority like this time they went out of the Pass on a military campaign to the north.

It was a crisp, clear autumn weather, the cloudless sky spread for thousands of li, the army marched farther and farther north, the north wind was getting stronger by the day. Until one day they were only a hundred or so li away from Yakesa. He You from the Vanguard Battalion reported to the main force: the reconnaissance team had been informed by the locals, common people, that Luocha troops had been harassing the people, killing people, burning houses, raping, robbing; no crime that they did not do. Every ten days or so they would come out once; hence he estimated that they would come out again in a few days.

Wei Xiaobao had already received Kangxi’s instructions on what to do under given circumstances; he ordered the main force to pitch camp right there and did not advance farther. And then he ordered He You to lead ten hundred-man squadron to set ambush about thirty li from the city of Yakesa. If any Luocha troops came out in large number, they were to lie low and did not come out to avoid an open war. But if they encountered the enemy force in small groups, they were to attack, kill and captured all of them, no one was to be allowed to go back to the city. He You received the order and left.

Several days later before noon they heard faint noise of firearms from the distant, shot after shot, long and continuous; the noise did not cease for quite a long time. Presumably the Vanguard Battalion was engaged in battle with the Luocha troops. Later that afternoon He You sent his people to the main force to report their success, saying that they wiped out twenty-fice Luocha men and captured twelve. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted.

That evening the Vanguard Battalion escorted the twelve prisoners to the main force. Wei Xiaobao had them in his tent and personally interrogated them. Hearing Wei Xiaobao unexpectedly could speak Luocha language, the twelve Luocha troops were greatly astonished; however, everyone of them was extremely unyielding, they said they were ambushed, that Qing troops had superior number, that the victory was without honor. Wei Xiaobao was very angry; he ordered two Luocha troops to step forward. He took dice from his pocket and said, “You two throw the dice!”

Throwing dice had existed in the West since ancient times, the ones excavated from ancient Egyptian tomb were no different than the ones used in China; Luocha troops had also been accustomed to playing with dice. Two Luocha troops looked at each other in shock; they wondered what kind of trick this young general if the Qing troops was playing. They followed his order and threw the dice. One got sevent dots, the other five.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to the Luocha troop with five dots and said, “You lost! Simanji!” In Luocha language, ‘simanji’ means ‘death’. He turned his head around and ordered his personal guard, “Take him out and chop his head!”

Four personal guards dragged the Luocha troop to the entrance of the tent and chopped his head, and then they presented the severed head to Wei Xiaobao. The remaining eleven Luocha troops saw this and their countenances changed greatly.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to two more Luocha troops and said, “You two throw the dice.”

How could the two men be willing to throw the dice? As if by prior agreement they both said, “I won’t throw!”

“Alright, you won’t throw,” Wei Xiaobao said. Turning to his personal guards he said, “Take both out and chop their heads!” In an instant two more people died.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to two more Luocha troops and said, “You two throw the dice.”

The two men knew that if they did not throw, they would be killed immediately, but if they threw, there was a fifty-fifty chance that they would live. One of them picked up the dice, while trembling with fear. He was about to throw when the other Luocha troop scrambled past him and said to Wei Xiaobao, “I’ll throw against you!” His expression looked extremely arrogant.

Wei Xiaobao laughed, “Alright,” he said, “Since you have the audacity to challenge me, you throw first.”

The soldier threw a seven-dot. Wei Xiaobao threw a ten. “How about it?” he asked with a laugh.

The soldier looked distressed. “My luck is not good,” he said, “I have nothing to say.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You came to China, how many Chinese people did you kill?”

The soldier was upright and unafraid. “I lost track,” he said, “At least seventeen, eighteen people. You kill me, I don’t lose out anyway.”

Wei Xiaobao commanded his guards to chop his head. Pointing to the other Luocha troop he said, “You throw.”

The soldier picked up the dice, his hand was trembling. The two dice rolled on the table one after another, surprisingly he got eleven-dot, his chance of winning was very big. Wei Xiaobao wanted to play the trick to get twelve-dot; who would have thought that due to the lack of practice his technique failed, the two dice did not have their six-dot sides facing upward but downward instead, producing only two dots. He was stunned, but then he laughed aloud and said, “I win!”

The soldier hastily said, “I got eleven, you only got two; what do you mean you won?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This time the smaller dots win, the bigger dots lose.”

The soldier did not give in; he said, “Naturally the bigger dots win. In our Luocha Country the rule has always been so.”

Wei Xiaobao pulled a face and said, “Are we in China, or is this Luocha’s land?”

The soldier replied, “It’s … it’s China.”

“Since this is China, naturally we use Chinese rule,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Who told you to come to China? Next time when I am in Luocha and I throw the dice against you, we can play with Luocha rule. You ‘simanji’!” Turning toward his personal guards he said, “Take him out and chop his head!”

He called another Luocha troop to come out. The soldier was careful, he asked first, “According to Chinese rule, is this time bigger dots win, or smaller dots win?”

“According to Chinese rule,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Chinese people win. If the Chinese man’s dots big, then bigger dots win; if the Chinese man’s dots small, then smaller dots win.”

The soldier angrily said, “You are very unreasonable, you don’t follow logic at all.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You Luocha troop’s came to China, killing and robbing. It’s not us, Chinese people who came to Luocha killing and robbing. Is Luocha people unreasonable, or Chinese people unreasonable?” The soldier was speechless.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Quickly throw, quickly throw!”

“I will lose anyway,” the soldier said, “Why bother?”

“You don’t throw, simanji! Simanji!” Wei Xiaobao said.

He called another Luocha troop to come out. This soldier was big and tall, with long whisker on his face; he said in a loud voice, “Chinese kid, you don’t need to play crafty trick, just be straightforward and kill me. This time you have superior number, you set an ambush on snowy ground and caught us by surprise; there is no honor in that kind of victory. When our Luocha Country’s main force arrives, each and every one of you will be killed.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You were caught by us, and in your heart you refuse to submit, is that right?”

“Naturally I won’t submit!” the soldier replied.

Wei Xiaobao said, “If we have the same number of people, and have a battle face to face, you are so sure that you will win; is that right?”

“Of course!” the soldier haughtily replied, “One of us, Luocha man, can beat five of you, Chinese men. Otherwise, we would not have come to China. I bet you, send five of your men to fight with me. If you win, you can chop my head, if I win, just let me go.” This man was the most famous warrior of the Luocha army, he was born with supernatural power. Seeing all the generals and personal guards in Wei Xiaobao’s tent were at least a head shorter than he was, he thought that even fighting five to one, his chance of winning was still very high.

All along Shuang’er has been sitting quietly on the side. This moment as she heard his arrogant talk, she opened her mouth for the first time, “Luocha men, useless. Chinese women, will beat you.” While saying that she stood up and came over to stand by Wei Xiaobao’s side.

Seeing her delicate figure, her beautiful face, the soldier could not help bursting in laughter. “You have to have a duel with me?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao ordered his personal guard to cut the rope binding the man’s hands. He smiled and said, “Good Shuang’er, let him experience Chinese women’s fierceness.”

The soldier said, “Chinese woman, you can talk Luocha language. Very good, very good.”

Shuang’er’s command of Luocha language was actually far below Wei Xiaobao’s, she could not express her ideas very well, hence she was unwilling to talk to him too much. Waving her left hand, she launched a feign slap toward his face. The soldier hastily raised his head while stretched out his hand to block. Shuang’er’s right leg flew up, ‘pow!’ she kicked his lower abdomen.

The soldier howled in pain, he rained down punches with both hands. He was Luocha Country’s boxing champion, his punches were fast, heavy and powerful. Seeing his fierceness, Shuang’er leaped toward his back, using the move ‘striking water right and left’, ‘whack, whack!’ she kicked both sides of the small of his back with her left and right feet. It was so painful that the soldier squatted down. “You use your legs; a foul, a foul!” he hollered. Turned out according to Luocha people’s boxing rule, they must not use their legs.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “This is China, we fight according to Chinese rule.”

Shuang’er called out, “With Luocha rule, I still win.” She dodged in front of the soldier; with her right fist she punched his lower abdomen. The soldier held out his hand to block. Shuang’er’s punch was actually an empty move; without waiting for his block to arrive, she pulled her right fist, and struck the pit of his stomach with her left fist. Again the soldier stretched out his arm to block. Shuang’er launched left punch, right punch; she sent twelve punches in succession. But all her punches were empty move, in Chinese martial art technique, it was called ‘the mirage’, meaning everything is imaginary. Just because each move was not really striking and it was executed without any real power, it was several times faster than ordinary punch.

The soldier blocked several times, but each time he blocked an empty punch; he laughed aloud and said, “Little girl’s trick, it’s useless …” Before he could finish, ‘whack, whack!’ twice, his left and right cheeks were hit by Shuang’er’s palms. The soldier roared, his two arms attacked violently up and down. Shuang’er leaned sideways to evade, the forefinger of her right hand suddenly jabbed, it hit the ‘taiyang’ [sun] acupoint on the soldier’s right temple. The man was overwhelmed with dizziness, his body swayed. Shuang’er leaped up, her palm hacked down, and hit the ‘yuzhen’ [jade pillow] acupoint on the back of the man’s head. It was a vital acupoint on human’s body, although the soldier was big and sturdy, he could not withstand it. ‘Wham!’ he tumbled down to the ground and was unable to crawl back up.

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; holding Shuang’er’s hand, he kicked the soldier’s forehead and asked, “Do you submit now?”

Still in daze, the soldier said, “Chinese woman … use witchcraft … she is a witch …”

“Stinky pig,” Wei Xiaobao cursed, “What witchcraft? Take him out and chop his head! You, Luocha troops, which one of you won’t submit? Let him come out and have a duel.”

The remaining five Luocha troops looked at each other in dismay; they saw how their warrior was defeated, there was no way they could beat her. Nobody dared to say anything.

Wei Xiaobao said, “If you concede and surrender, you will be spared and won’t be killed. Otherwise, you may throw dice against me. We will play by Chinese rule; if you win, you will live, if you lose, then simanji!” While saying that his right hand made a beheading gesture.

The five soldiers thought, “According to Chinese rule, it does not matter how many dots, he wins.” Thereupon one soldier bowed and said, “I surrender!”

Wei Xiaobao happily said, “Very good! Get some wine and meat, let him eat.”

His personal guards went to the back of the tent and returned with a large bowl of wine and a large bowl of meat. The soldier was released from his bound and was free to eat and drink.

In Luocha Country the weather was bitter cold, everybody drank wine. Although Wei Xiaobao was not a drinker, the wine in the army was the best quality sorghum wine. As soon as this bowl of wine was brought in, the aroma filled the entire tent; as soon as the four Luocha troops smelled the wine, their mouth watered. When they saw the surrendering soldier drank and his eyebrows rose up and his eyes twinkled, their hearts were unbearably itchy. One after another they all said, “Surrender, surrender! I want wine.”

Wei Xiaobao commanded his guards to untie the four soldiers and ordered four other personal guards to get four bowls of wine and meat and gave it to them. The Luocha troops ate and drank, but they were still not full. Wei Xiaobao ordered his guards to get another set of wine and meat for each of them. The five Luocha troops were drunk, they waved their hands around and sang. After singing for a while, they remembered that they had just escaped mortal danger, unexpectedly they could eat and drink as much as they liked; they were very happy and bowed to Wei Xiaobao to express their thanks.

Afterwards, every several days He You continuously sent Luocha troops as prisoners, as many as sixteen, seventeen soldiers, and as few as one or two soldiers. After these prisoners talked with the five soldiers who surrendered first, they found out that if they threw the dice, they death was guaranteed; but if they surrendered, there would be meat and wine for their enjoyments. Thereupon everyone surrendered.

These Luocha troops were originally scoundrels who fled to the east to avoid prison; if not thieves and robbers, then they must be criminals who were exiled by the court of law. Out of ten, perhaps eight or nine of them would not shrink from any crime. They went east to take their chances, nobody had any good intentions in their heart. When they first went out to kill Chinese civilians, their missions always went without a hitch, hence in their hearts they despised Chinese people. Therefore, when they were captured, they were still very arrogant. It was not until Wei Xiaobao had several troops executed and thus established his prestige that the rest realized how formidable the enemy was. These arrogant barbarians bullied good people but were scared of wicked ones; seeing the opposite side was even more barbarian and even more wicked, they obediently surrendered.

By this time the Governor-general Galitzine had been summoned by Princess Sophia back to Moscow to hold higher office. The general in command of Yakesa troops was called Tu’erbuqing (Alexi Tolbusin). Small groups of Luocha troops went out to plunder, they went missing for several days running. Tolbusin sent out people to investigate, but these people also never came back. He felt something was not right, thereupon he picked half of the cavalry in the city, totaling more than two thousand men and horses, and personally led them out of the city to investigate.

Along the way Tolbusin did not see any sign of the enemy; whenever he saw Chinese people’s farmhouse or residence, he ordered his men to burn it down, and killed the people, ordinary men and women. After traveling for more than twenty li, suddenly he heard hoof beats, a group of cavalry was charging their way. Tolbusin shouted his order to have his troops scattered. He saw a group of Qing cavalry galloped toward them, approximately five hundred men, shooting them with arrows. Tolbusin laughed aloud and said, “Chinese barbarians only know how to release arrows, how can they fight our Luocha Country’s formidable firearms?” He shouted his order, his men fired, a dozen or so Qing troops fell down from their horses.

The Qing troops turned their horses around and galloped away to the south. Tolbusin ordered his men to pursue. The horses this Qing cavalry rode were all handpicked fine horses, they ran very fast, for a short while the Luocha troops were unable to catch up.

After pursuing for seven or eight li, they saw a yellow dragon banner standing by the wooded area ahead of them, when the Luocha troops came closer, they saw seven, eight military tents belonging to the Qing troops. The Luocha troops rained their bullets to the tents, several dozen Qing troops ran out of the tents, while shooting arrows at the Luocha troops, and then mounted their horses and galloped southward.

The Luocha troops on the front rushed into the tents, they saw the Qing troops had run away completely. Tolbusin dismounted his horse and entered the tent. He saw the wine, meat and vegetable dishes on the table were still steaming hot, while gold and silver ingots, as well as brocade clothes, pearls and jewels were scattered around on the ground. Tolbusin was greatly delighted. “The Chinese barbarian great general is running away in a hurry, he did not even have time to carry all these gold and silver. Everybody, let’s get on our horses and run after them! Whoever catches this barbarian great general will be rewarded heavily; the barbarian great general must be carrying a lot of gold and silver, we will seize everything away!”

When the soldiers saw gold, silver, pearls and jewels, they just like ‘you grabbed I took’; some even picked up the wine and meat from the table and ate it. Hearing their commander’s order, they cheered and rushed out of the tent, jumped onto their horses, and galloped toward the southeast, following the hoofprints. Along the way they saw gold ingots, silver ingots, swords and spears, bow and arrows scattered on the ground by the road. They all said that Chinese troops saw the arrival of Luocha troops, they were scared and pissed in their pants in terror, that they even threw their weapons away.

After pursuing for a while, they saw several pairs of boots and several red-tasseled hats. Tolbusin called out, “Chinese barbarians’ marshal changed his clothes to run for his life; most probably he disguised himself as a lowly soldier. We must not let them hide him.”

His attendant said, “General can prophesy with supernatural accuracy; it must be so.”

Tolbusin ordered his men to pick up the boots and hat; he said, “When we catch the Chinese barbarians, it doesn’t matter if he is a lowly soldier or a gunman, tell them to try the hat, clothes and boots. If everything fits, most likely he is the great general.” Again his subordinates chorused their praise, saying that the General was intelligent and wise, that no one could ever match him.

After pursuing several more li, they attacked and seized another Qing army’s tent. Scattered on the ground, they saw not only gold, silver and weapons, but also a lot of red and green, bright colored women’s clothing. They even found rouge, face powder and other cosmetics, handkerchief, hairpins, and other women’s accessories. The soldiers’ sexual desire was aroused; they all cried out, “Quickly pursue, quickly pursue! Chinese barbarians brought some women.”

Pursuing this way, they successively seized seven more army tents before from ahead of them they heard faint noise of people shouting and screaming. Tolbusin halted his mount and took out his telescope to look. He saw several li ahead a group of Chinese soldiers were running for their lives; seemingly in great distress, their banner was in disarray, their formation in disorder. Tolbusin was greatly delighted, “We got them!” he shouted. Pulling out his saber, he waved it in the air several time while shouting, “Charge! Kill!” Leading his troops and generals, he swiftly charged forward.

Along the way they saw more than twenty Qing army’s horses fallen dead on the road. The soldiers and generals happily said, “The barbarians’ horses had no strength left to run!” Urgently spurring their horses on hot pursuit, they pursued farther and farther away.

They saw that the Qing troops had escaped via a narrow passageway in between two hills. Tolbusin pursued to the mouth of the road, and saw the dangerous terrain ahead. He was slightly startled. “If the enemy prepares an ambush here,” he thought, “It won’t be good.”

Suddenly he heard from the valley ahead someone shouting in Luocha language, “Chinese barbarians, you have surrendered. Very good, very good!” Another voice called out, “Ha ha, this time Chinese barbarians suffer disastrous defeat.” It was the voice of their own soldiers, no doubt about it.

Tolbusin was greatly delighted, his suspicion was gone, he spurred his horse into the valley. Behind him more than two thousand cavalry followed in. Tolbusin called out, “Which unit is in the front? Where are you?”

He only heard behind the mountain wall a dozen or so men responding in chorus, “We are here! Chinese barbarian soldiers have surrendered!”

“Marvelous!” Tolbusin called out. He was just about to pull his horse’s reins when suddenly he heard ‘bang, bang!’ from behind. Tolbusin was shocked; turning around, he saw the mouth of the valley was covered in smoke, fire flashed from the woods on the mountain walls on his left and right, volley after volley of firearms shot down. The Luocha officers and men screamed together. Tolbusin shouted, “Turn around, get out of the valley!”

He heard from the top of the mountain walls on both sides several thousand people shouted together, “Luocha troops, surrender, surrender!” Countless large rocks and logs of wood rolled down, in an instant the mountain path was blocked. The Luocha officers and men were crammed into a narrow mountain path, you push I shove, the people screamed the horses neighed, it was a total chaos.

From the top of the mountain the Qing troops looking down, arrows and bullets rained down continuously. Tolbusin groaned inwardly, he knew they had fallen into the enemy’s trick. Seeing the escape route was cut off, he had no choice but turn his horse again and shouted, “Everybody charge forward!”

They only rushed out for several zhang, suddenly they heard ‘Bang! Bang!’ loud explosions, cannon were fired at them, killing a dozen or so soldiers. Tolbusin was so scared that his soul flew to the outer sky; he had never anticipated that the Qing troops’ firearms were this sharp, unexpectedly they also had cannon on this rugged mountainous terrain. He jumped down his mount in panic and called out, “Abandon your horse! Focus our firepower, let’s charge out of the mountain road.”

One after another the Luocha troops dismounted from their horses, and crawled over the huge stones and logs blocking the entrance to the valley, while the team on the back opened fire at both sides of the mountain walls to provide cover for their comrades. Luocha troops’ firearms had greater firepower, the range was also farther, in the end they managed to kill not a few Qing soldiers. But the Qing troops’ cannon continuously bombarded them, the momentum was fierce.

Several hundred Luocha troops were just crawling on top of the rocks blocking the way when suddenly a loud explosion was heard, the earth under their feet exploded, some of the several hundred officers and men were thrown a dozen zhang into the air, some of them lost their heads or limbs, flesh and blood flying everywhere. Those who were fortunate and did not die hastily crawled back down.

Tolbusin saw there was no way out ahead and behind, he was completely helpless in this crisis. A very brave officer led several dozen troops in a suicide mission to climb the north side of the mountain wall, they attempted to kill the enemy to open up a way out. But the mountain wall was very steep, plus it was slippery, there was no place they could put their feet on; after climbing for several zhang, several dozen of them slipped and fell down, either dead or injured. The Qing troops on the hilltop threw rocks at them, wiping out the remaining several dozen troops. The officer leading the mission was thrown down, his skull was smashed and he immediately met a violent death.

All this time the Qing army’s cannon did not stop firing, the mountain walls were full of Luocha troops’ wretched scream. Knowing that in just a short while they would be completely wiped out, Tolbusin called out, “Stop fighting! Ceasefire, ceasefire!” But the explosions and the scream of the troops drowned his voice. The officers and men around him immediately cried out together, “Ceasefire, ceasefire!” Soon the rest of his troops also cried out.

The Qing troops halted the artillery barrage. Someone called out in Luocha language, “Throw down your guns, your sabers and swords, take all your clothes off!”

Tolbusin was angry, he shouted back, “Throw the weapons, don’t take off your clothes!”

Someone in Qing army called, “Throw down your guns, your sabers and swords, take all your clothes off! Helaxiao! Come out and drink wine. If you don’t take off your clothes, simanji!”

Tolbusin called out, “We won’t take off our clothes!”

As soon as those words went out of his mouth, there were explosions, the Qing cannon resume their firing. Some Luocha troops were afraid of death, at once they threw their weapons down and started to take off their clothes. Tolbusin raised his short gun and shot dead a soldier who was taking off his clothes. “Those who undress will be executed!” he shouted. But under the violent artillery barrage of the Qing army, nobody paid attention to their general’s strict order. More than a dozen soldiers, already stripped naked, clambered over the rocks blocking their way out.

The Qing army on both sides of the mountain walls clapped their hands and cheered. “Quickly undress!” they shouted. More and more Luocha troops took off their clothes and fled for their lives. Tolbusin repeatedly fired his short gun, killing two more soldiers, but how could he stop his men?

The Qing cannon temporarily stopped. From the top of the mountain wall someone called out, “Those who want to live, quickly take off all your clothes.”

By this time the Luocha officers and men had lost their will to fight; eight or nine out of ten people already took off their boots. Tolbusin heaved a deep sigh and put his gun toward his own temple, ready to kill himself. A lieutenant standing by his side wrestled the gun from his hand and said, “General, don’t! As long as the eagle still have its wings, it can still fly across the high mountain.” It was a Luocha idiom, equivalent to Chinese idiom ‘while the green hills last, there’ll be wood to burn’.

They heard someone in the Qing army called in Luocha language, “Take Tolbusin’s clothes off, and then come out together; otherwise the firing will commence.” These Luocha words were spoken with very articulate pronunciation, because it was actually a surrendering Luocha troop who was forced to say it.

Tolbusin was unable to restraint his anger, but he was aware that several troops under his command were staring at him, clearly they harbored malicious intentions toward him. He reached out to pull the saber hanging on his waist, but as soon as his fingers touched the hilt, a soldier pounced him from behind and wrapped his arms around Tolbusin’s neck. Five or six soldiers pounced together, they pinned him to the ground. Seven hands eight feet, immediately his clothes were stripped clean before he was carried out.

For each one of the Luocha troop who came out, there were two Qing troops who stepped forward to receive him, binding his hands behind his back, and leading him to walk several li toward a spacious empty field. In this incident, out of more than two thousand Luocha officers and men, six or seven hundred were killed or were seriously injured, the remaining eighteen hundred soldiers or so had their hands tied behind their backs and were forced to stand in line. The autumn wind was blowing, they could not help shivering from the cold.

The Qing troops held Tolbusin in custody in front of the rows of Luocha troops. The Luocha troops were originally hanging their heads dejectedly, their hearts were alarmed, they were trembling in fear, but suddenly they saw this strict general, who was usually harsh and ruthless, was reduced to this kind of appearance, they were amused. When they saw their commanding general’s smooth naked buttocks, several dozen men could not help laughing. The laughter was getting louder and louder, not too long afterwards more than a thousand officers and men were laughing aloud.

Tolbusin was furious; he turned around and shouted, “Stand in attention! What are you laughing at?” He was not wearing even a thread on his body, yet he was still assuming this awe-inspiring demeanor; it was extremely comical. Although the officers and men were usually very afraid of him, how could they refrain from laughing this time?

In the middle of the laughter, suddenly the cannon were fired eight times, followed by the drums, as a squadron of Qing troops appeared from the back of the mountain, flying a yellow banner, and stood in formation on the east side. And then three more squadrons of Qing troops, flying red, white and blue, three colors banners, separately standing on the south, east and north, three directions, surrounding the Luocha officers and men in the middle. The Luocha officers and men saw all the Qing troops were carrying either long spears, broadswords, bow and arrows, or even firearms; their body armor and helmet were shining, their weapons looked sharp, while they themselves did not wear even a cun of thread. They were feeling even more intimidated by the enemy’s weapons, one by one they stopped laughing, while a great sense of dread started to overwhelm their hearts.

When the Qing troops were in formation, the cannon from the back of the mountain were fired again three times; and then accompanied by string and flute instruments two large banners appeared. The large banner on the left had these characters on it: ‘Fuyuan Great General Wei’; the large banner on the right had these characters on it: ‘Great Qing Duke of Luding Wei’. Several hundred soldiers with broadswords in their hands marched out around a young general riding on a horse. This general was wearing red cap on his head and a yellow magua on his body, his eyebrows were raised, his eyes gleaming with laughter, he looked extremely wily. He lightly shook a feather fan in his left hand, just like Zhuge Liang; in his right hand he solemnly held a broadsword, just like Guan Yunzhang. It was none other than Duke Wei Xiaobao.

He dismounted from his horse, threw his head back, and let out three laughter, “Ha ha ha!” Just like Caocao in the opera. Too bad that there was no lackey by his side who would ask, “General, why are you laughing?”

By this time Tolbusin’s heart was filled with anger, yet he was unable to vent it out; in his rage he no longer cared about life or death. In a loud voice he cursed, “Chinese little demon, you use trick to capture me, you are not a hero. If you want to kill just kill, why do you humiliate me like this?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “How did I humiliate you?”

Tolbusin angrily said, “I … I am like this, isn’t this … isn’t this humiliation?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and asked, “Your pants, who took them off?”

Tolbusin was speechless; his clothes and pants were stripped by his own subordinates, obviously he could not blame it on this little demon general. In his fury, his face was bulging deep red; he rushed forward, wanted to stake his life in desperate fight against Wei Xiaobao.

Four personal guards by Wei Xiaobao’s side immediately rushed forward with long spears in their hands, the gleaming spearheads were pointing at him. Tolbusin had no choice but to stop; his hands involuntarily went down to cover his genitals. Seeing this, the officers and men of both sides roared in laughter.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Since you have surrendered, you will submit to the Great Qing, go to Beijing immediately to kowtow to the Chinese Emperor!”

“I won’t surrender,” Tolbusin said, “Chop me and make mincemeat out of me, but I won’t surrender.”

Raising his voice, Wei Xiaobao asked the rest of Luocha officers and men, “Are you all going to surrender or not?” The officers and men lowered their heads without saying anything.

Wei Xiaobao pointed to the white flag on the west side and called out, “Officers and soldiers who surrender, stand over there!” The officers and men stood still. Some of them wanted to surrender, but seeing nobody did, they did not dare to go first.

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Since nobody surrenders, Cooks, come out!” From behind the group of personal guards ten cooks came out. Their upper body was bare, there were daggers and iron skewers in their hands; they stepped forward and bowed to take the order.

Wei Xiaobao said to Tolbusin, “Your Luocha Country has some kind of dish called shashlyk [‘xiashunike’[2]], I have enjoyed it in the past when I was in Moskow, the taste is really not bad. Right now I want to eat some!” Turning his head toward then ten cooks he said, “Make some shashlyk!”

The ten cooks replied, “We receive the order!”

Twenty soldiers pushed out ten iron stoves out, the charcoal in the stoves were glowing red. The Luocha officers and men looked at each other in astonishment; they wondered what trick this Chinese general was playing.

Wei Xiaobao waved his hand, immediately twenty of his personal guards pulled ten Luocha troops out. Wei Xiaobao shouted in Luocha language, “Cut their flesh, roast it into shashlyk!” Shashlyk was beef on iron skewer, barbequed over open fire; it was Luocha Country’s most famous dish.

The ten cooks walked over to the ten Luocha troops with the gleaming dagger in their hands raised high and thrust it down. The ten Luocha troops let out a blood-curdling screech. The personal guards dragged the ten Luocha troops toward the back of the hill, the ground was drenched with blood. Shortly afterward the iron skewers in the ten cooks’ hand had pieces of meat on it, which they brought to the charcoal stove and roasted it over the fire.

The Luocha officers and men watched in horror. In the quietness that ensued, they heard the crackling noise of the fire, and the fat dripping onto the fire, making a ‘chi, chi’ noise. Wei Xiaobao called out, “Get ten more Luocha troops, make more shashlyk!”

Twenty personal guards immediately pulled more Luocha troops. From ten Luocha troops being pulled away, four immediately shouted, “Surrender, surrender!”

“Alright,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Those who surrender stand over there.” The personal guards dragged the surrendering troops toward the white flag. Immediately several guards served them wine and meat.

The personal guards dragged four more Luocha troops. These four soldiers saw that those who surrendered enjoyed wine and meat, while those who did not surrender had their body cut and roasted to be shashlyk. Although they did not see which body part was cut, they saw that the Qing troops’ gaze was always fixed on the lower part of their bodies, which was not a good sign at all. Heart alarmed, trembling in fear, they could not help but screamed, “Surrender!”

By this time the six soldiers who previously did not surrender had also lost their stubbornness; they all cried out, “Surrender!”

Since there were people who set the example by surrendering first, the rest of the soldiers did not dare to flaunt their bravery. Without waiting for the personal guards to pull them, some of them walked over to the white flag. In a short period of time, more than eighteen hundred Luocha officers and men had surrendered, leaving Tolbusin alone standing stiffly on his original position.

“Are you going to surrender or not?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“I would rather die than surrender!” Tolbusin replied.

“Very well!” Wei Xiaobao said, “I’ll let you go back to Yakesa.” He ordered Hong Chao to lead five hundred troops to escort Tolbusin back to Yakesa.

Tolbusin thought that since he was so unyielding, this Qing army commander would definitely kill him; unexpectedly he was willing to set him free, he was caught by surprise. “Since you agree to let me go, please return my clothes!” he said.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I can’t return your clothes.” Turning to Hong Chao he said, “Escort him to Yakesa’s city wall, relay my message that we are going to besiege the city. Lead this naked-butt Luocha general around the city wall three times before letting him go into the city.”

Hong Chao received the order. He led the Qing troops away, shouting and laughing, dragging the stark naked Tolbusin along.

Lin Xingzhu said, “May I ask Commander, since we already caught this Luocha general, why did we let him go? The subtlety of this matter, would Commander kindly enlighten me?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Today we scored a great victory, do you know which stratagem we are using?”

“That is Commander’s divine strategy and amazing foresight,” Lin Xingzhu replied, “Subordinate can only prostrate myself in admiration.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “It was not my divine strategy and amazing foresight,” he replied, “It was the scheme that His Majesty has personally arranged. His Majesty said that in the past Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo seven times, the strategy worked very well; he instructed me to imitate him. Have you seen the play ‘Seven captures of Meng Huo’? If you haven’t, have you at least heard mister storyteller narrated this story? Zhuge Liang ordered the state of Wei to prolong the battle, they could only lose, must not win. After fifteen consecutive defeats, he let Meng Huo captured seven army camps, luring him to enter the Pan She [coiling snake] Valley, and then burned the rattan-shield troops. The stratagem we used today was exactly Zhuge Liang’s stratagem.”

All the generals voiced their admiration. Wei Xiaobao continued, “His Majesty is merciful, he said that Zhuge Liang was too cruel in burning the rattan-shield troops, there were too many lives lost. If the Luocha troops surrendered, their lives should be spared.”

Fu Dutong [deputy commander] Lang Tan said, “If not for Commander using that shashlyk tactic by cutting ten Luocha troops’ flesh and roasted it so that they were scared that their souls flew to the outer sky, these Luocha troops are extremely valiant, I am afraid they would not be willing to surrender. This stratagem is actually superior to Zhuge Liang’s.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Actually, the ten cooks have already prepared ten pieces of raw beef and hid them; they only made several cuts on the Luocha troops’ thigh, making them shouting and screaming loudly. The meat roasted on the stove is actually high-quality beef; as for what it tastes like, there is no harm in gentlemen having a taste.” The generals burst out in laughter. They instructed the cooks to present the ten pieces of beef shashlyk, cut it in pieces and put it into their mouths. Sure enough, it was sweet and tender, the skewered beef was delicious.

The generals asked again, “Since Commander has caught the enemy’s chief, yet you let him go, are you going to capture him seven times and release him seven times, so that he will not dare to rebel anymore?”

“It’s not that,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Actually when I was still in Beijing I also asked His Majesty the same question. I said that His Majesty is a ‘raw bird fish soup’, he is magnanimous, would he want to copy Zhuge Liang, capturing the Luocha commander and release him seven times? ‘That’s not it,’ His Majesty said, ‘If we want to copy Zhuge Liang, we must use strategy that is alive, not a dead one. Meng Huo was a barbarian tribal chief; if he said that he would not rebel, he would not rebel forever. We captured Luocha troops’ Commander-in-chief, even if he said he would not rebel, it would not do us any good. Luocha Country’s Tsar and Queen Regent may send other Commander-in-chief, and come here to infringe on our border.”

The generals nodded their head in agreement. Wei Xiaobao said, “Yakesa’s garrison soldiers are fierce and tough, their cannon formidable. If we kill Luocha Commander, the officers and men inside the city might elect another commander, who is more aggressive. Right now we stripped the Luocha Commander naked, and have him march around the city three times. From now on the Luocha troops inside the city will look down on him. He no longer has the prestige; when he boss people around later, he won’t be respected too much.”

The generals expressed their agreement together. Lin Xingzhu asked, “Was it part of His Majesty’s instruction to strip the enemy’s Commander-in-chief’s clothes and pants?”

Wei Xiaobao roared in laughter and said, “How could His Majesty think about something so preposterous? His Majesty only told me to find a way to boost our own troops’ spirit, while breaking the Luocha troops’ power and prestige. His Majesty said, ‘Luocha troops are big and tall, their entire body is hairy, they look like savages, plus their firearms are very sharp. When we go into battle against them, our troops will see their fierceness, most likely they will be afraid in their hearts; once their spirit is broken, it would be hard to achieve victory.’ His Majesty said, ‘Xiao Guizi, you know a lot of tricks, find a way to make our troops, from top to bottom, to look down on those barbarians.’ I thought about it long and hard, but did not find anything good. Until one night, suddenly I remember when I was small I went to gamble.”

The generals all thought, “What does you went to gamble when you were little have anything to do with Luocha troops?”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “When I was small I went to gamble with other people in Yangzhou. My gambling temperament was not good, when I won some money, I would leave my pouch behind; when I lost I would be so engrossed in it that I lost my mind, if someone provoked me I would fight him, I am not afraid. There was one time someone fixed me up really good; the winner grabbed me, stripped my pants and let me go home with naked butts. People on the street clapped their hands and laughed at me. From then on my gambling temperament made considerable progress.” The generals roared in laughter.

Wei Xiaobao also laughed and said, “His Majesty said that fighting war must be flexible and adaptable, His Majesty can only point out the strategy in large scale, the actual execution of the plan will depend on my own thinking. I remember when I was little, I was afraid people might take my pants off, how could these Luocha troops not afraid? Sure enough, as soon as their pants were stripped, they obediently surrendered.”

The generals chorused their agreement, they were all very impressed. Some even thought, “This ‘pants stripping tactic’, even Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ does not have it. This Wei Tzu’s Art of War is actually very formidable.”

Wei Xiaobao ordered to have the Luocha generals and soldiers to be dressed in Qing troops clothes and hats, and then he sent a Canjiang [regimental commander, colonel] leading two thousand Qing troops to escort the surrendering troops to Beijing to be presented as prisoners of war to the Emperor. He retained twenty surrendering soldiers with loud voice to be used later. The secretary composed a memorial to the Emperor, saying that following His Majesty’s imperial instruction Fuyuan Great General Wei Xiaobao has won a victory on raising the flag, that Luocha troops admired China as a superior nation, that their hearts were bathed in submission, and thus they acknowledged our Emperor as the Holy Sage whose heavenly virtue transformed the barbarians, and so on. That evening Wei Xiaobao bestowed great rewards to the three armies.

By dawn the next day he personally led various army units to Yakesa. He saw smoke and fire covering the top of the city wall, within and without the city the cry of the battling soldiers shook the sky, the guns and cannon rumbled unceasingly. The besieging troops commander Peng Chun reported to the main force: the artillery barrage from the city was fierce, our besieging force suffered not a few injuries and deaths. Wei Xiaobao said, “Use our cannon, blast the damn city.”

Peng Chun left to relay the order. Not too long afterwards from east, south, west and north the cannon were fired simultaneously. Blast by blast the cannon bombarded the city. But Luocha people had lived in Yakesa for a long time, the defensive structure was built extremely strong, the soldiers and generals hid inside the solid rampart. Although the Qing troops had numerous cannon, the bombardment collapsed quite a number of building, the Luocha troops held fast and did not come out, in the end nothing could be done to them.

After several day of heavy assasult, He You led a thousand warriors climbing up the wall, from the top of the wall the enemy fired down over and over, killing three to four hundred Qing troops. Seeing the unfavorable situation, Peng Chun beat the gong to recall the troops. The Luocha troops standing on the wall clapped their hands and cheered. Several dozens Luocha troops even pulled down their pants and shot their pee down the wall; they were extremely haughty.

Heilongjiang’s general Sabusu was very angry, he personally led the troops to besiege the city. The troops on the wall rained down their bullets, Sabusu was shot and he fell from the horse. The Qing troops were immediately thrown into confusion. The city gate opened, several hundred Luocha troops charged out. Leading the rattan-shield troops Lin Xingzhu rolled down on the ground to intercept, brandishing his broadsword. The Luocha troops hastily jumped to evade.

This rattan-shield team was personally trained by Lin Xingzhu, they were adept in ‘Ditang Saber Technique’; as they rolled on the ground, the rattan-shield on their left hand blocked the enemy’s bullets, while the broadsword in their right hand hacked the Luocha troops’ leg. Seeing the unfavorable situation, Tolbusin hurriedly ordered his troops to withdraw. Lin Xingzhu was able to rescue Sabusu. The right side of Sabusu’s forehead was grazed by a bullet, luckily the bullet did not enter his skull; although his injury was serious, his life was not threatened. In this battle both sides suffered heavy loss, but the number of casualties on Qing troops’ side was higher.

Taking the military doctor along, Wei Xiaobao personally went to Sabusu’s tent to express his sympathy and his wish for speedy recovery. He also rewarded Lin Xingzhu heavily. And then he issued an order to withdraw the camp five li away from the city wall. That night he held a general assembly in his command tent to discuss the strategy to besiege the city.

Several generals said that that day the rattan-shield troops had set up great merit, tomorrow they should lure the demon troops to get out of the city so that the rattan-shield troops could chop the demons’ legs. Some said that the demon troops’ spirit was broken, perhaps they would not dare to get out and fight; it would be better to build long rampart to besiege the city all around, so that the enemy would die of starvation. Some proposed to dig tunnel and attack from underground.

Digging tunnel in besieging a city was an ancient technique in China. This idea reminded Wei Xiaobao of the tunnel underneath Yakesa, which he himself had used in the past, when he embraced the stark-naked Princess Sophia. Presently she had become the Queen Regent wielding power over the Luocha Country’s army and government, while Wei Xiaobao fought with the troops and horses under her command in here. He mused, “If right now she is in the city of Yakesa personally commanding the troops, I can enter the city from the underground tunnel and climb into her bed, one touch, two touches, touching her whole body I make her weak, this loose woman will definitely cry ‘surrender’.”

Seeing Wei Xiaobao was deep in thought but there was a hint of smile on his face, the generals thought that he had a brilliant idea. Immediately they all shut up and quietly wait for the Grand Marshal’s instruction. It never occurred to them that right this moment Wei Xiaobao was thinking about how to gently caress and stroke the golden-hair covered naked skin of Princess Sophia. They saw his eyes were closed, as he quietly muttered, “It’s so troublesome, even if I have the strength, I cannot eat her up completely.”

The generals looked at each other in bewilderment. They heard their Grand Marshal, “Damn it, with one kick she kicked me off the bed.” The generals were even more at a loss. They heard he said again, “Although this Luocha s1ut is formidable, Laozi will eventually find a way to handle her.”

“Commander is right,” Peng Chun said, “Even if Luocha demons are more formidable, we will eventually find a way to deal with them.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. He opened his eyes and said in surprise, “We? So you are going to touch her as well?” But immediately he burst into loud laughter and said, “Right, right! The tunnel is too narrow, only one person can crawl at one time; also, the exit is in the general’s room, I believe by this time he has already had it blocked. We must dig another tunnel.” The generals were even more confused.

Wei Xiaobao stood up and said, “All gentlemen generals’ ideas are very good, we are going to eat them all, Green Dragon, White Tiger and Heaven’s Gate. Early in the morning tomorrow, everybody will separately build long rampart, dig the tunnel, while at the same time firing the cannon, luring them to come out and fight, then we’ll send the rattan-shield troops to chop the demons’ leg.” Since all their recommendations were accepted by their Commander-in-chief, the generals exited the tent with happy hearts.

Just before dawn the next day, the generals ordered the troops under their command to do different tasks. Peng Chun supervised and directed the troops to carry soil and build the rampart. Lang Tan arranged and set up the cannon, Ba Hai excavated the tunnel. Heading five hundred soldiers Hong Chao went to learn cursing words from the Luocha officers and soldiers to be used under the city wall. Only a pity Luocha people were shallow and unlearned; their cursing vocabulary was rather limited. Although the soldiers could curse loudly, the meaning was only so-so; after cursing back and forth it all came down to something like ‘you are a stinky pig’, or ‘you ate feces’, and so on. How could it be compared to our Chinese cursing with a lot of flavor, many postures and endless variation? After listening for a while, Wei Xiaobao was completely bored.

The Luocha troops suffered heavy setback the previous day by having their legs chopped; seeing the Qing troops’ might, they resolutely refused to come out; they only hid behind the city wall and cursed back.

The Qing troops fired cannonballs into the city, but the damage was minimal. In those days, gunpowder was stuffed into the cannon’s barrel, ignited, and catapulted the iron cannonballs into the city. If it was a direct hit, it could break human’s tendon and smash the bones, but if it fell on the ground, it would not cause sufficient damage.

For the last dozen of years or so, the common people in that area had suffered Luocha troops’ mistreating and killing them, countless families went bankrupt and more people died. When they learned about the Emperor sending troops to fight the Luocha demons, no one was not wildly delighted. Immediately some people brought wine and food to express their support for the officers and soldiers. Some even brought their hoes and shoulder poles to help building the earthen rampart. The news spread far and wide, even people from within several hundred li from this area also came to support the war.

From the top of the city wall Tolbusin looked down, and saw people like ants, continuously carrying earth to build the rampart; the long barrier outside the city was growing taller and taller, he knew that if this situation continued, they would be trapped to death. His hope was that the Luocha troops from Nerchinsk to their west would come to their aid. Only with pincher attack from inside and outside would they have a hope victory. He did not know that Kangxi had already anticipated this and had dispatched another unit of cavalry to pretend to attack Nerchinsk, hence gaining control over the enemy’s movement. The defending general of Nerchinsk was also hoping that Tolbusin would come to their rescue.

Luocha troops’ firearms had longer range, the Qing troops did not dare to be too close to the city. Yakesa was the base of Luocha troops’ operation on the east. Luocha people had grand ambition, they were planning on occupying the vast land over the Heilongjiang and Songhuajiang [Songhua River, Jilin province through Harbin] regions first, and then invade southward to collect the entire China into their domain, they wanted the millions upon millions people to acknowledge allegiance to them and became an empire. For this reason the Yakesa city wall was solid and thick, with enough ammunition in the city, army provisions piled up like a mountain, and would be able to withstand a siege for three years or five changes of seasons without suffering any deficiency. Deep wells were dug inside the city, there was no lack of fresh drinking water. Tolbusin was afraid the Chinese people inside the city would rise in revolt and join the attack from the inside, hence he brought all Chinese males to the city wall and killed them all, throwing their bodies down the city wall. When the Chinese soldiers and people outside the city saw this, they all hatefully hurled curses.

Gradually the tunnel was dug closer to the city. Wei Xiaobao thought that Mount Luding was the place where the Emperor’s dragon vein was located; if they dug and cut the dragon’s vein, he would have caused Kangxi’s demise, it would be greatly inappropriate. Thereupon he issued an order not to dig straight into town, but only to the ground underneath the city wall so that they could bury explosive and blow up the city wall, and then the main force could break into the city.

One day several wells inside the city suddenly dried up. Tolbusin was adept at military strategy, after receiving the report he thought about it for a while, and guessed correctly than the enemy troops were digging a tunnel, to such an extent that the source of underground water was cut somewhere upstream. Immediately he surveyed and evaluated the direction of the tunnel, and then dropped explosive on top of it. With a loud bang more than a hundred Qing troops digging the tunnel were killed, the tunnel was also blocked.

The city of Yakesa could not be broken, the weather was turning colder as the days gone by. Late autumn in this extreme-north, bitter-cold place, the temperature drop was not a small matter. When winter came, a water drop would immediately turn into ice. If one was not sufficiently protected, oftentimes one’s nose or ear would freeze and fall off. The tip of one’s finger stiffen, hands and feet freeze rotten, was a common occurrence.

After several days of heavy snow, the common people who helped the attack already could not withstand the cold; they bade their farewell to the officers and men, promising that they would return early summer the following year, when the ice thawed, to help the attack. They also advised the officers to withdraw to the south so that they would not freeze in this world of ice and snow.

Sabusu, Ba Hai, and the other officers had been stationed in the north for a long time, they knew when the winter came, the situation would be extremely dangerous. If there was a cold wave attack in the night, it would not be surprising if more than half of the officers and men would freeze to death in just one night. The Luocha troops lived in buildings, the walls would stop the cold air, but the Qing troops lived in army tents on the wilderness. Even though they could make fire, it would not be of any use. Thereupon they submitted their recommendation to Wei Xiaobao to withdraw to the south to avoid the cold.

Wei Xiaobao thought that the Emperor sent me to go into battle, not even a single city was taken, and he already wanted to withdraw the troops, inevitably he felt he was too useless; hence he hesitated for several days, without being able to make up his mind. His subordinate later reported that there were dozens of injured soldiers who were not able to withstand the cold and had been frozen to death. Wei Xiaobao was out of his wits when suddenly an imperial edict arrived.

Kangxi’s imperial edict said, “The troops sent out under the Fuyuan Great General Wei Xiaobao have done well, their excellent effort is to be commended. Presently the Luocha’s surrendering generals have received the Great Qing’s imperial order to go to Moscow to announce the imperial edict to the Luocha sovereign, urging him to cease dispatching troops, both countries will be reconciled forever. Thinking about the bitter cold weather, the soldiers and generals toil and sleep outdoors on ice and snow, Zhen’s heart is sorrowful; hereby Wei Xiaobao is to withdraw the troops to the south and station in Aigun and Kumarsk, two cities, to rest the troops and recuperate the warriors. When spring arrives and the Luocha troops are still obstinately resisting, and refuse to accept the beneficial influence of the sovereign, then you can march the troops again and sweep away and pacify the enemy in one stroke. Hereby Fuyuan Great General, as well as the generals, commanders, vice commanders and all officers and men under their command are to be rewarded with a set of clothes, gold and silver, wine, and food according to their rank. Various officers and generals must comply with Zhen’s desire, to cherish common soldiers, not greedy of quick meritorious service. Elite troops are sent on a punitive expedition to the north, the original intention was to protect the people; soldiers are also people. By the Emperor himself.”

Wei Xiaobao and his generals expressed their gratitude for the imperial decree. The generals all said that the Lord of Ten Thousand Years cherished officers and soldiers, the imperial kindness was vast and mighty, only thinking about by withdrawing from the siege, inevitably they had to abandon the meritorious deed in front of their eyes, everybody thought it was a pity. The imperial envoy delivering the imperial decree went around the camp to announce the decree and bestow rewards, the sound of soldiers’ cheering shook the earth.

The next day Wei Xiaobao ordered Sabusu to lead his troops to be the first to withdraw; he then ordered Ba Hai and Lin Xingzhu to stay behind, if the Luocha troops dared to get out of the city, they were to kill them and rout them completely.

Seeing the Qing troops retreating, the sound of Luocha troops cheering inside the city rose up; more than a thousand Luocha troops stood on top of the city wall and shot their pee down. Wei Xiaobao was enraged; he ordered his troops to pee toward the city together. Tens of thousands Qing troops urinating together, it was indeed a magnificent sight. On top and below the city wall, the roar of laughter and cursing mixed together. However, the Luocha troops were on higher plane looking down, their urine shot down the city wall, while the Qing troops could not shoot their urine up; hence in this urine battle they had lost.

There was urine everywhere under the city wall. When the cold wind blew, in an instant the urine turned into a layer of glistening yellow ice. Wei Xiaobao was so angry that he almost choked; pointing his finger to the top of the city wall he rained curses. The imperial envoy who had come to deliver the imperial edict tried to calm him down, “Luocha troops are just like beasts, Grand Marshal need not lower yourself to their level.”

“Can’t do,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “If we lose, we lose too much face!” He ordered his men to fetch the fire hose.

The fire hose was firefighting equipment; to guard against fire, whenever the troops march out and pitch camp, they always brought some. His personal guards came back, pulling more than a dozen fire hose equipment. Wei Xiaobao ordered them to push the equipment to the top of the earthen rampart. By this time the river water already froze, no water could be used. Thereupon he ordered the firefighting captain to melt ice and snow in a large cauldron, and pour the hot water into the hose. Wei Xiaobao pulled down his pants and peed into the hot water, and then he shouted his order to his personal guards, “Shoot to the top of the wall!”

Seeing their boss, the Commander-in-chief came up with this brilliant trick, the personal guards were excited; in high spirit they pulled the lever of the fire hose, pumping the water in the pipe so that a stream of hot water shot straight toward the top of the city wall. The personal guards shouted together, “Grand Marshal Wei bestows Luocha demons some urine to drink!”

As the hot water arrived, the Luocha troops shouted, cursed, and jumped around to evade. Some of the generals under Wei Xiaobao’s command inwardly exclaimed, “He’s making a scene!” Some others wanted to curry the Grand Marshal’s favor; they shouted and cheered on the side. It’s just that the weather was simply too cold, almost in no time at all the hot water inside the fire hose turned into ice so that they had to add more hot water.

Wei Xiaobao was in high spirit; he boasted and praised himself, “Zhuge Liang set the Pan She [coiling snake] valley on fire; Wei Xiaobao shot urine on Mount Luding. Both are equally impressive!”

Standing on the side, Vice Commander Lang Tan praised, “Grand Marshal’s urine shot greatly broke Luocha demons’ fighting spirit.”

Suddenly Wei Xiaobao was startled, his eyes grew big as he stared blankly. “Wow!” he cried loudly, jumped up and down, and laughed a loud. “Wonderful, wonderful!”

Wei Xiaobao ordered the drum to be sounded to summon the generals into his command tent; he asked, “How many fire hose altogether we have in the camp?”

The Canjiang in charge of military supplies responded, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: altogether we have eighteen units.”

Wei Xiaobao frowned. “Too few, too few!” he said, “Why didn’t you bring a bit more?”

“Yes!” the Canjiang replied. In his heart he mused, “Army camp caught on fire very rarely happened, eighteen fire hoses are more than enough.”

“I want a thousand units,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Quickly send people to the cities and towns around here to get more. When can we have it?”

That place was extreme north, close to the border, the area was vast, but sparsely populated, the nearest town was several hundred li away. These cities and towns only had several hundred families, the residents were impoverished and destitute, it was not likely that they would have fire hose in town; collecting a thousand fire hoses was a definite impossibility. The Canjiang looked distressed as he said, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: a thousand fire hoses, I am afraid we cannot find outside the Pass; we must go inside the Pass, to Beijing, Tianjin, and ship them here.”

“Fart!” Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “Go to Beijing, Tianjin and ship the fire hose back here, how long will it take? Fighting a war, even half a day delay is not acceptable!”

The Canjiang mumbled his agreement, his countenance changed greatly; he thought, “This time my head will be removed.”

The imperial envoy was sitting on the side; he could not bear not to advise, “Grand Marshal, you have already shot your precious urine up the Luocha people’s city wall. This … this precious spirit is not too honorable. We have already won the war, in Xiongdi’s humble opinion, it seemed that the cornered enemy … the cornered enemy need not be shot again.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “No, can’t do!” he said, “Without a thousand fire hose, this great undertaking cannot be accomplished.”

The imperial envoy thought, “You, the Grand Marshal, is just acting willfully and make a scene; shooting urine to vent your grudge, playing joke once in a while is not a big deal, why would you want to do it with such great fanfare? The Young Emperor loves to use young general; these two, a ruler and his minister, are of kindred spirit, other people do not dare to talk too much. But if you are making a scene, excessively doing things not according with decorum, unavoidably we will be the laughingstock of the world.”

He wanted to advise further, but he heard Wei Xiaobao said, “Gentlemen, generals, which of you can propose a brilliant scheme to immediately obtain one thousand or two fire hoses, it will indeed be a meritorious service of utmost importance.”

Peng Chun said, “May I ask Grand Marshal: you want these thousand fire hoses, is it to be used for … used for shooting urine to the top of the wall?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “If we have the thousand fire hose and want to use it to shoot urine to the top of the wall, how can we have enough people to pee? One million soldiers will not be enough.”

“Precisely,” Peng Chun said, “Subordinate is extremely stupid, I must ask for Grand Marshal’s direction.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Just now I saw our Marshal’s precious urine shot to the top of the city wall, it turned into ice instantly. If we use a thousand or two fire hose, day after day, night after night we shoot hot water into the city, what will happen?”

The generals were startled. Those whose brain was quick cheered first, and then the rest also understood; joyous cheers thundered inside the big tent, all generals cried out, “Brilliant, brilliant! Water floods Yakesa, ice freeze Mount Luding!”

After the joyous cheering subsided a moment later, someone said, “Even if we can have it shipped from Beijing and Tianjin, those thousand fire hose must be sent overnight.” Immediately several Fujiang and Zuoling volunteered to accept the order to obtain the fire hose.

Hong Chao’s official rank was rather low, he stood at the very back row. This moment he bowed and said, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: lowly general has a shallow opinion, would Grand Marshal hear it?”

“You may speak!” Wei Xiaobao said.

Hong Chao said, “Lowly general is a Fujian native, my hometown is very poor, we could not afford fire hose, when the countryside caught fire, everybody used bamboo tube as water guns to fight the fire. The bamboo water gun is made of coarse bamboo, with the blocks removed, at the tip we drilled a small hole, about the size of a copper coin. On the other end we used a wooden piston inserted into the bamboo tube. During the firefighting, the end with small hole was dipped into the water, the piston was pulled back, hence the bamboo tube sucks water until it was full, and then we pushed the piston, the water inside the water gun then shot out.”

“Hmm,” Wei Xiaobao muttered; he was trying to figure out how the water gun would work.

He You said, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: this water gun can be made big or small. When I was little, lowly officer played with my friends, we used water gun to shoot at people; it was fun. It’s a pity this area does not have big coarse bamboo. If we want to make water guns, this kind of coarse bamboo must be shipped from around the Changjiang [Yangtze River].”

“Do you have a better idea?” Wei Xiaobao asked Hong Chao.

Hong Chao replied, “Lowly general was just thinking, this area does not have big coarse bamboo, but big pine, big fir trees are abundant. We can chop down trees; if the center is gouged out, we can make big water guns.”

“Isn’t gouging the center of a big pine log not easy to do?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

A Fujiang [deputy general] surnamed Ban was born into a carpenter family in Shanxi; he said, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: this is actually not too difficult to do. We can saw the big log into two halves first, and then on the center of each half we can scoop out a semicircle groove, grind it really smooth, afterwards we join both halves together, the log will then have a hollow circular hole in the middle. When we put together the two halves, if we want to be exquisite, we can use bamboo shoot; but if it just a rough work, using big iron nails will also work.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted. “Wonderful!” he cried out, “How long will it take for you to build this big water gun?”

Ban Fujiang replied, “If lowly general work on it myself, I can make one in a day. If I work a day and a night, I may be able to produce two.”

Wei Xiaobao frowned, “Too slow, too slow,” he said, “You go around the camp to select your assistants, do it together, you be the Shifu, teach your apprentice. This is a rough work, you are not making the bride’s red-painted chamber pot, or a rich man’s wife’s coffin. The tree bark outside the water gun need not be stripped, as long as it can shoot water into the city, it’s good enough. Generals, let’s do it right away, cut the trees to make water guns!”

The generals received the order; they separately went out to lead their soldiers to do the assigned task. Some went to the woods to fell the trees. Some were dispatched on fast horses to common people’s houses to borrow hatchets, chisels, saws, carpenter’s planes, and other woodworking equipment.

Outside the Great Wall there were pine and fir trees everywhere, Argun River area was practically a forest, with countless century-old towering trees everywhere. The Qing army set to work, in less than half a day they already felled several thousand big logs. The number of soldiers who were originally carpenters was more than a hundred.

Ban Fujiang gathered these soldiers together, plus he selected four, five hundred handymen among the soldiers to be the assistants. They started to work that same night to make water guns. Ban Fujiang made the first water gun as the model. The water gun had a two-chi diameter hole in the middle [about 2 feet, 60cm], the barrel was about a zhang long [about 10 feet/3 meters]. At the end of the wooden piston he put a wooden crossbar, six soldiers, three on each side, were to pull and push this crossbar together. After the muzzle was put into hot water, Ban Fujiang gave the signal, six soldiers pushed the piston together, the hot water shot out of the water gun more than two hundred steps away.

Watching the demonstration, Wei Xiaobao cheered repeatedly. He said, “This is not water gun, it is a water cannon. We must pick a good name for it. Let’s call it … call it White Dragon Water Cannon.” Taking out some gold and silver, he rewarded Ban Fujiang and the officers and men who helped him building the cannon, while ordering them to work day and night to build more.

Seeing the Qing troops retreated, but then they came back, Tolbusin stood on the city wall to survey the situation; he saw countless logs piled up in the Qing army camp and thought, “Chinese barbarian cut down woods to build fire to warm themselves, apparently they wanted to continue the siege and not leaving. Humph, in half a month the blizzard will arrive, you will have to bear the brunt of it. Even if you build bigger fire, you won’t be able to block the ill wind and cold air in this ice hell.” He went down the city wall, ordered his personal guards to add fuel to the stove heating his room, and then he poured some strong Luocha wine and summoned two Chinese young women prisoners to serve him drinking the wine.

Peng Chun, He You, and the others dispatched the cavalry to go to the common people homes within several hundred li radius to borrow iron cauldrons and iron pots and brought everything to the main camp. They dug the ground to make furnace, piled the firewood, and collected ice and snow into piles so that from a distant the piles looked like small hills. They also covered each finished ‘White Dragon Water Cannon’ with tree branches so that the Luocha troops would not find out about it.

Several days later, Ban Fujiang reported that they had manufactured three thousand White Dragon Water Cannon. According to the position of the sun, the next day was an auspicious day, in the maoshi hour [between 5-7am] Wei Xiaobao was already out of his tent. The drums were struck to assemble the generals. He ordered the water cannon to be brought to the top of the rampart, with the muzzles aimed toward the city. The bugle horns were sounded, ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ the signaling cannon were fired nine times in succession. Officers and soldiers of all units immediately moved; they shoveled the ice and snow into the iron cauldrons and pots to melt it.

Tolbusin was sleeping peacefully underneath his warm blanket, suddenly he heard the cannon blasts outside the city. Hastily he jumped up and hurriedly put on his clothes, draped a sable fur coat over his shoulder, and ran to the top of the city walls to watch. At that time a blizzard was blowing, the sky looked like it was dusk; in the haze he saw wooden logs spread along the long rampart built by the Qing troops. While he was wondering what was going on, suddenly he heard the Qing troops shouted together, as if the mountain was split the earth cracked open, several thousand tree trunks suddenly shot water; from four sides eight directions water spurted into the city.

Tolbusin was shocked. He could only cry out one word, “Aiyo!” as a stream of hot water hit his chest. Actually the weather was really too cold, so that when the hot water was shot, it did not burn at all, but the momentum was enough to knock him off his feet that he stumbled and fell on the top of the wall. The personal guard standing next to him hastily helped him up.

They heard all around them people were screaming, while above their heads the water swooshing incessantly. Just like white dragons streams of water flew into the city. In an instant the city of Yakesa was covered in boundless thick fog, created by the water vapor condensing due to the contact with cold air. Tolbusin’s heart was shaken, “Chinese barbarians are using witchcraft!” he called out. Big tree trunks unexpectedly could spurt out water, no doubt it was witchcraft.

In his fright, he shouted, “Everybody open fire, don’t let the Chinese barbarians break into the city!” However, ever since that day when the Qing troops stripped him naked and paraded him around the city three times, he had suffered great lost in term of prestige in the eyes of his people, when he barked his order, the troops under his command did not jump to it like before. It was only because the situation was urgent due to Qing troops’ siege that the Luocha troops were afraid that if the city was broken none of them could survive alive, hence they defended the city with everything they had.

Suddenly seeing the huge and unexpected change this time, with several thousand columns of water shooting into the city, the troops scattered in all directions; how could they find the time to heed his order? Fortunately the Qing troops only shot water without trying to attack the city. After panicking for a while the Luocha troops started to calm down, yet they saw the water on the ground was turning into ice, while overhead streams of water freely rained down like it was poured from the sky, splashing down on them.

By this time in the city of Yakesa all the Chinese males had been killed, only some young women left, forced to be army camp prostitutes and to provide degenerate pleasures to the Luocha troops. Other than Luocha soldiers and military officers, Yakesa residents included civil officers sent by Moscow, missionaries and army chaplains, some military merchants, some rogue characters who went to the east to get rich by ill-gotten wealth, and some small thieves and big robbers, and criminals who avoided prison. In no time at all everybody was drenched like a drowned rat.

At first the water was still rather warm, but very soon the wet clothes turned cold; another moment, the wet clothes began to freeze. Everybody was shocked. In panic they took off their clothes, underpants and leather boots. They all knew that if the clothes froze, it would stick onto their skin; by that time their fingers would be too stiff to take it off. Even if someone helped them, oftentimes the skin would be torn, along with the clothes, pants, shoes or boots. It was really dangerous.

The level of water on the ground rose steadily, it slowly solidified into something like thin porridge. Since the Luocha people were barefooted, the cold penetrated their bones; they could not help jumping around while screaming, “Chilled to the bones, chilled to the bones!” Everybody tried to scramble to higher elevation, some people even climbed up their roof. Someone in the crowd cried out, “Surrender, surrender! If we don’t surrender, all of us will freeze to death.”

Wearing sable fur coat and holding an umbrella in his left hand, Tolbusin rode on a big and tall horse going back and forth on inspection. Hearing someone cried ‘surrender’, he shouted in anger, “Who is disturbing the troops’ heart here? Spy! Pull him down and shoot him dead!”

Everybody could see that the sable fur coat he was wearing was waterproof, his body was warm, yet he was shouting and cursing in here, while other people were freezing and hovering between life and death; everybody was indignant. Immediately someone picked up a piece of ice chunk and made a snowball, and threw it to him. Tolbusin raised the short gun, ‘bang, bang!’ he shot randomly toward the crowd, and killed two people instantly. The rest of the people immediately threw ice chunks and snowballs to him. Someone even pounced on him to pull him down from the horseback. His bodyguards brandished their saber to attack and kill, but how could they stop the mob?

In this chaos a small team of cavalry rushed over, Luocha mob dispersed in confusion. Tolbusin crawled up from the ground. By lucky coincidence two streams of water above his head happened to pour down, immediately his entire body was drenched. He bounced around while cursing loudly, and had no choice but to order his bodyguards to help him shedding his clothes and boots.

The Qing troops could see the sorry situation the Luocha troops were in, their shout of joy thundered over the earthen rampart. In mixed accent, north and south, they started to sing vulgar songs. One of the songs was inevitably Wei Xiaobao’s ‘one touch, two touches’, the ‘Eighteen Touches’ song.

Peng Chun and the other officers were busy giving directions. The team of carpenters led by Ban Fujiang intensified their effort repairing the failed water cannon. The water-boiler team was busy adding firewood to maintain the fire, while continuously shoveling the ice and snow into the pots. The water-transporter team brought hot water bucket by bucket and fed it into the cannon’s muzzle. When the barrel was full of water, “One, two, three, fire!” Six gunners pushed the piston as hard as they could. A stream of water like arrow shot out of the muzzle and flew into the city.

The Qing troops’ water cannon shot hot water columns as straight as a pillar. Some columns of water burst into water droplets as they reach the sky above the city, and sprayed down just like heavy rain. Some others were shot low, but maintained their shape and did not scatter as the stream hit a person. The quality of the water cannon differed one from another, some had great power and were able to shoot far, some had very short range, some even had their barrels cracked and burst open after only several shots; as a result not a few of the Qing troop’s ‘gunners’ were scalded.

After shooting hot water for more than two hours, out of three thousand water cannon, about six or seven hundred cannon went bad. At the same time, the water-boiler team could not boil ice and snow fast enough to feed the cannon, eventually the ‘ammunition’ failed to keep up with the firing of the cannon. After shooting for more than another hour, more water cannon were damaged, the hot water supply diminished, only about eight or nine hundred water cannon were still operating, the assault power was greatly reduced.

Wei Xiaobao was frustrated; suddenly he saw the city gate opened wide, several hundred Luocha troops rushed forth and shouting, “Surrender, surrender!”

By this time the gunshot wound on Sabusu’s head was almost healed; immediately he led his thousand-man cavalry forward to intercept. “Those who surrender sit on the ground!” he shouted.

The Luocha people looked at each other, they did not understand. One low-level officer in Qing army sat down on the ground, he shouted, “Sit down, sit down!”

Right this moment, the city gate closed again. From the top of city walls several volleys of gunfire shot down, killing several dozen of surrendering Luocha people. The rest of them scattered in all directions. The Qing troops aimed the water cannon to the Luocha soldiers and generals who opened fire at top of the city wall, streams of water were shot, the Luocha troops fell on the city wall.

By this time the water inside the city had reached two chi, and for the most part had turned into ice. For the whole city to be covered in ice and turned it into one big freezing city, it would need at least ten days to half a month. But the Luocha troops were without clothes without shoes, and they could not light fire, everybody was shivering in cold, their faces started to turn blue. Several soldiers pressed their bodies close together trying to warm themselves.

Tolbusin ran around freely while shouting and berating his troops, ordering them to defend the city. But his troops turned their heads around and ignored him. Tolbusin was angry, he reached out to slap an officer. The officer turned around and ran, Tolbusin chased him. Suddenly his foot slipped on the ice and he fell to the ground. A soldier nearby reached down to push him into a hole to collect water on the ground. Tolbusin struggled hard, but his hands and feet were numb, he was unable to crawl up. “Help me, help me!” he cried out.

The soldiers and officers all looked at him in despise, they congregated around the water hole. Not too long afterwards, the water in the hole started to freeze into ice, freezing Tolbusin along. His upper body was still outside the ice hole, he was still gasping for breath, but from the chest down it was as if he was buried alive in the ice.

At this point everybody had the same thought; they opened the city gate and shouted, “Surrender!” and swarmed outside.

In his ecstasy, Wei Xiaobao was dancing and flailing his hands and feet, while babbling nonsense. He tried to issue an order, but his words were completely unintelligible. Fortunately the high-ranking officers in the Qing army were all veteran generals who had been through many battles; they all responded, “We receive the order!” but actually they handled the surrendering troops on their own. They entered the city, disarmed the soldiers, and cleared up all formalities; everything was executed in clear and orderly manner, but actually it had nothing to do with Grand Marshal Wei’s order at all.

When they previously shot water into the city, they were afraid it was not enough, but now they wanted to burn the ice to melt it, turning it into water and disgorged it outside the city; however, it was not easy at all. In the end they had to let nature take its course.

Lang Tan led his troops to clear up the governor-general mansion first, they tidied it up properly before inviting Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu and the imperial envoy to enter. And then he went to the ammunition storage, firearm armory, gold and silver warehouse, and other strategic locations to seal them up, and assigned his troops to guard.

In those days the Qing Dynasty was strong, discipline in the army was strict. Inevitably high-ranking officials like Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu and the others could seize the opportunity to make easy money, but military officers and soldiers did not dare to take even one object without permission.

Inside and outside the city people were slaughtering the cattle and butchered the sheep in large scale celebration. Flattery from Songgotu and the others surged like the tide; they said that Grand Marshal Wei deployed the troops like deity, that even if Sunwu [Sun Tzu] of the ancient time was reborn, he would not be superior. The imperial envoy said, “This time Xiongdi went out, His Majesty repeatedly advised Grand Marshal Wei not to kill and injure too many people. Today Grand Marshal Wei took strong city, admittedly you have rendered amazing merit; what’s more impressive is that unexpectedly saber, spear, sword and halberd, bow and arrow and firearm, not a single one was used, not even one lowly soldier was killed in battle. In one day we devastated strong enemy, subdued famous city, without losing a single general a single troop; since ancient time, Grand Marshal Wei is the only one who can do this. Not only it is unprecedented, I am sure it will not be repeated in the future.”

Wei Xiaobao was immensely proud of himself; he blew his horn, “Breaking Yakesa would have not been difficult. The difficulty lies in the vast and mighty imperial kindness, who empathize with officers and soldiers, and do not allow too much casualties. For this reason Xiongdi wanted to wait until today to use this tactic, so that Imperial Envoy Minister can see it with your own eyes. We are working for His Majesty, fighting a victorious battle, that is nothing, anybody can do it, it cannot be considered rare. But to look up to honor His Majesty’s holy intention, to fight a victorious battle without killing people, this is a bit more difficult.”

All the generals thought that although he was tooting his horn, but to fight a victorious battle without killing people was indeed an enormous difficulty; thereupon they all nodded their heads. Songgotu said, “This is His Majesty’s flood of good fortune that Grand Marshal Wei is a genius.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Today, from top to bottom, everybody has rendered very big merit. If not for Imperial Envoy Daren and Suo Daren went in person to the front line, dauntlessly supervised and directed the battle, we would not achieve the victory this easy.”

The imperial envoy and Songgotu were greatly delighted, they were extremely grateful. During the battle just now, the two of them, civil officials, were hiding far away, for fear that they would be injured by firearm, arrow or rock; there was no such thing as ‘going in person to the front line, dauntlessly supervising and directing the battle’. But since Wei Xiaobao said so, that means in the report of their success, there would be a mention of their part in rendering some great merit.

Manchurian Qing army’s system of bestowing rewards for merit was most generous, far above any other meritorious service in other areas. There was a common saying, “Everybody carries the spending [money] sedan chair.” Wei Xiaobao was deeply versed in the way of the government officials, giving the imperial envoy that kind of merit did not cost him anything, he also had nothing to lose. When the imperial envoy returned to Beijing, he would definitely report and brag on Wei Xiaobao’s behalf in front of the Emperor, increasing his contribution from fifty-percent to a hundred percent, while at the same time, if Wei Xiaobao had done something that was beyond army regulation or went over his boundary, the imperial envoy and Songgotu would definitely spare no effort in concealing it, in guarding their mouths like a closed bottle.

After everybody had had their fill of food and wine, Sabusu’s subordinate who was in charge of the Luocha troops came to report that they had dug Tolbusin out of the icy hole, and brought him to the steps outside the building. By this time Tolbusin had already frozen to death, his whole body was blue. Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “This man picked an unlucky name. If he was not called Tu’er Bu Qing [this is the transliteration of Tolbusin’s name, with ‘bu qing’ means ‘spreading blue’], but Tu’er Bu Cai [‘bu cai’ means ‘spreading wealth’], he couldn’t possibly turn blue, but he could make a fortune.” He ordered his men to fetch a coffin and prepare Tolbusin for burial.

After the surrendering troops were counted and the property, equipment, weapons, etc. in the city were properly inventoried, Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu and the imperial envoy jointly prepared a memorial to the Emperor. They then dispatched riders on fast horses to Beijing to report the success of their mission to the Emperor.

Book note:

In the military campaign this time, Deputy Commander Lang Tan was acting as the famous general Wu Bai’s son. Wu Bai was originally conferred the title ‘Jing Qi Ni Ha Pan’ (that is, ‘viscount’). After rendering great merit in Yakesa, Lang Tan was also conferred nobility title.

[1] It appears to be a reference to an obscure poem written by Qing dynasty poet Zha Shenxing [see the author’s note at the end of Chapter 1] named “大清军威”, “The Great Qing’s Military Might”. The full poem is as follows:

赚得儿童仰面看,彯缨袨服最无端。
国门他日生悬价,驵侩何人敢卖官。
丞相鱼鱼工拥笏,将军跃跃俨登坛。
星奴结柳翻多事,五鬼争弹贡禹冠 (Courtesy of Ren Wo Xing)

[2] Shashlyk (literally ‘skewing meat’) is a form of Shish kebab popular throughout the former Soviet Union, parts of Eastern Europe, Mongolia, Iran and Israel. Shashlyk is originally lamb (in some extent pork or beef) depending on local preferences and religious observances. These skewers of meat are either all meat, all fat, or alternating pieces of meat, fat, and vegetables such as bell pepper, onion and tomato. Meat for shashlyk (as opposed to other forms of shish kebab) is usually marinated overnight in a high-acidity marinade like vinegar, dry wine or sour fruit/vegetable juice with the addition of herbs and spices. (Courtesy of Ace High)

Chapter 48 Duhu cannot establish Yumen [jade gate] Pass, generals attach utmost importance to copper pillar as boundary marker.

That evening Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er went to sleep in the governor-general’s bedroom. The fire was blazing high in the stove, they had fox fur quilt and sable fur mattress, the room was as warm as spring. This was the place he had previously visited. He opened the lid of the big wooden chest by the bed to look, inside the chest there were army uniforms and some firearms.

Shuang’er smiled and said, “Xianggong is hoping that a Luocha Princess is going to come out of the chest, right?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You are a Chinese Princess, much better than a Luocha Princess.”

Shuang’er said with a laugh, “Too bad your Chinese Princess is in Beijing, she is not here.”

“Good Shuang’er,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Don’t you agree that today we have achieved ‘great success’?”

Shuang’er smiled sweetly, her cheeks blushed. Although she and Wei Xiaobao had been husband and wife for a long time, hearing her husband’s teasing she was still very bashful.

Wei Xiaobao wrapped his arm around her waist, the two of them sat side-by-side on the bed. Wei Xiaobao said, “You pieced together the map, spending not a few heart’s blood, in the end we reached Mount Luding, His Majesty conferred me the title Duke of Mount Luding, most likely he would let me govern this city. Underneath this mountain countless gold, pearls and treasured objects are hidden, we can slowly dig it out. I, Wei Xiaobao can change my name to ‘Wei Duobao’ [‘xiaobao’ – little treasure, ‘duobao’ – lots of treasure].”

Shuang’er said, “Xianggong already has a lot of gold and silver, you won’t be able to spend it all in several lifetimes; more pearls and jewels will be useless. I think becoming Wei Xiaobao is better.”

Wei Xiaobao gently kissed her face. “Right, right!” he said, “These days I cannot make up my mind. If I dig the treasure up, I am afraid I would sever the Manchuria’s dragon’s vein, and kill the Emperor. His Majesty always treated me not too badly, if he is killed, I would be rather unfair to him. But if I don’t dig the treasure, I feel it’s a pity. So, let us for the time being not dig the treasure out, wait ‘till His Majesty’s imperial self ascend to heaven, we turn poor and are hungry, then at that time we will dig.”

At this point, suddenly they heard a light ‘crack’ in the wooden chest. The two of them signaled each other with their eyes, while fixing their gaze on the wooden chest; after quite a while, however, nothing astir. Wei Xiaobao lightly clapped his hands three times, Shuang’er went over to the door and opened it, the four personal guards on duty outside the room bowed to receive the order. Wei Xiaobao pointed to the wooden chest and said in a low voice, “Someone’s inside!”

The four personal guards were shocked. They rushed over to the chest and opened the lid, but saw the chest was full of clothes. Wei Xiaobao signaled with his hands, the personal guards moved the clothes away, and lifted up the bottom of the chest, revealing a big hole. Right this moment, ‘Bang!’ a shot rang from the hole. “Ah!” one of the personal guards cried out as his shoulder was hit by the bullet and he tumbled backward.

Shuang’er hastily pulled Wei Xiaobao back and shielded him with her own body. Wei Xiaobao pointed to the charcoal stove and made a sign of dumping it. A personal guard picked up the charcoal stove and poured the blazing coals into the hole. They heard someone inside the hole cried out in Luocha language, “Don’t dump fire, I surrender!” followed by a series of coughing.

Wei Xiaobao called out using Luocha language, “Throw your guns up first, and then climb out.”

A short gun was tossed out of the hole, followed by a Luocha soldier’s head. A personal guard grabbed his hair and pulled him up, another personal guard pressed a saber on his neck. The Luocha soldier’s beard was caught on fire and it has not been extinguished; he was in so much pain that he bawled out ‘wah, wah!’ while climbing out of the hole in a very difficult situation.

“Anybody else down there?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Someone in the hole cried out, “There’s one more! Surrender! Surrender!”

“Throw your gun up!” Wei Xiaobao shouted. With a white flash a cavalry sword was thrown up the hole, followed by a ball of fire appeared. Turned out this Luocha soldier’s hair was on fire.

The other personal guards outside heard the commotion in the Grand Marshal’s room, several of them rushed in. Seven or eight personal guards grabbed the two Luocha soldiers and put out the flame on the two’s head and beard before tying their hands behind their backs.

Wei Xiaobao suddenly pointed to one of the Luocha soldiers and called out, “Hey, you are Wangba Siji [lit. tortoise (b@stard) dead chicken].”

The soldier’s face lit up. “Yes, yes,” he said, “Chinese little child high-ranking official, I am Huabosiji [needless to say, completely different set of characters. Vassili Poyarkov (Courtesy of Ace High)].”

The other Luocha soldier also called out, “Chinese little child high-ranking official, I … I am Qiluonuofu [Onufriy Stepanov (Courtesy of Ace High)].”

Wei Xiaobao stared at him for half a day; he noticed that his beard was burned into a mess, his face was red and swollen, but in the end he recognized him. “Right!” he said with a laugh, “You are Zhuluonuofu [lit. pig tribe coward]!”

Stepanov was greatly delighted. “Right, right!” he called out, “Chinese little child high-ranking official, I am your old friend.”

Poyarkov and Stepanov were Princess Sophia’s bodyguards. That year from Yakesa they travelled back to Moscow together with Wei Xiaobao. The two of them joined the gunmen rebellion at the Hunting Palace, and had rendered great merit. After Princess Sophia grasped the power, she rewarded the imperial guards and promoted her personal bodyguards to be captains. Four of them went to the east wanting to render more merit and get rich. When the city fell, one died in battle, one froze to death, the other two quietly slipped into the underground tunnel, thinking that they could escape out of the city. Who would have thought that the tunnel entrance outside the city was already blocked long ago? These two men could not advance or retreat, finally their trail was discovered.

In those days Wei Xiaobao called them ‘turtle b@stard dead chicken’ and ‘pig tribe coward’, how could the two of them understand the meaning? They only thought that the Chinese little child could not pronounce their names properly, hence they responded. They heard the Princess calling him ‘Chinese little child’, then they simply followed their example by calling him ‘Chinese little child’. After Wei Xiaobao rendered meritorious service, the Princess conferred him a nobility title. Thereupon the bodyguards also called him the ‘Chinese little child high-ranking official’.

Wei Xiaobao told them to tell him their story, and then he ordered his personal guards to untie them, and to take them out and serve them wine and food.

The personal guards were afraid there were more spies in the tunnel, they went into the tunnel and searched carefully. Only after verifying that there was no other tunnel leading to the city wall did they withdraw from Wei Xiaobao’s presence. The personal guards’ captain was terrified and repeatedly admitting his guilt; he thought that he was indeed very luckly, if these two Luocha troops came out in the middle of the night and murdered Grand Marshal Wei, the captain would have been executed along with his whole family unto the third generation.

The next morning Wei Xiaobao summoned Poyarkov and Stepanov, two people, and asked them the current situation of Princess Sophia. The two of them said that Her Highness the Princess was the Premier over the imperial court. The entire Luocha country, the princes and dukes, high-ranking ministers, generals and bishops, nobody dared to disobey her. The two Tsars were still young, in everything they obeyed their older sister.

Stepanov said, “Her Highness the Princess miss Chinese little child high-ranking official very much, she sent us here to find any news about you. She told us that when we see you, we must invite you back to Moscow to play, Princess will heavily reward you.”

Poyarkov said, “Her Highness the Princess did not know that Chinese little child high-ranking official led the troops here to fight. Otherwise, we all are beloved sweethearts, we all are old friends, there is no need to fight the battle.”

“You are speaking nonsense,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You lie!” The two of them swore an oath, saying that what they said was absolutely true, definitely not a lie.

Wei Xiaobao pondered, “His Majesty actually wanted me to find a way to make peace with Luocha country, there’s no harm in having these two fellows convey my message to Princess Sophia.” He said, “I’m going to write a letter, I want you to deliver it to the Princess, but I can’t write Luocha earthworm characters, you write the letter for me.”

Poyarkov and Stepanov looked at each other in dismay; they both had an awkward expression on their faces. They only knew how to ride horse and shoot firearms, but when it comes to take up the pen and write, it did not even enter a single aperture of their head. Stepanov said, “Chinese little child high-ranking official wants to write a letter, the two of us cannot do it. We … we go find a priest to write.” Wei Xiaobao agreed, he ordered his personal guards to take these two men to the Luocha prisoners to find someone who can write.

Shortly afterwards, the two of them returned with a full-bearded army chaplain. At that time most of Luocha troops were illiterate; other than praying on their behalf and counseling the troops on spiritual matters, these clergies also had a very important duty, namely, writing letters for these troops to be sent home. The chaplain was wearing Qing troop uniform, but the uniform was too small; it looked as if the clothes were ready to burst at any time, he looked very ridiculous.

Trembling with fear, the clergy followed the two captains to see Wei Xiaobao. He said, “May God bless Chinese Great General, the Great Nobility, I wish for the Chinese Great General’s entire family to be safe and sound.”

Wei Xiaobao told him to sit down; he said, “I want you to write a letter for me, to be sent to your Princess Sophia.” The clergy repeatedly said yes.

Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards had already prepared the four treasures of the study [i.e. brush, ink, paper, and ink stone] on the table. The clergy picked the brush, spread the paper, and wrote curvy Luocha characters. He felt the brush was too soft, the stroke varied thick and thin uncontrollably; it was unspeakably difficult, yet he did not dare to criticize Chinese pen and ink even for half a sentence, for fear that he might provoke this Chinese general.

Wei Xiaobao said, “You write: Since we parted, I often miss Princess, I only wish I could marry the Princess and take you as my wife …”

The clergy jumped in fright. The brush dripped a blot of ink on the paper. Stepanov said, “This Chinese little child high-ranking official is Her Highness Princess Sophia’s lover. Her Highness the Princess loves him very much, she often says that Chinese lover surpasses Luocha lover a hundred times.” He wanted to curry Wei Xiaobao’s favor, inevitably he exaggerated greatly.

The clergy nodded repeatedly. “Yes, yes,” he said, “Surpasses a hundred times.” His heart was shaken, his train of thought in writing was distracted, but he did not dare to write what Wei Xiaobao had said verbatim; he had no choice but to write some cliché that he usually wrote, which was the letter from the soldiers to their wives at home, some corny sentences like ‘my dear sweetheart’, or ‘last night I dreamed about you’, or ‘I want to kiss you ten thousand times’, et cetera.

Seeing his brush moved like flying, Wei Xiaobao was very satisfied; he said, “You, Luocha troops, occupy our Chinese territory, you killed many Chinese common people, the Great Emperor of China is very angry, he sent me leading the troops here, to catch all of you. I want to cut them all piece by piece, to roast them into ‘xiashunike’ …”

The clergy was startled, “Ah!” he exclaimed, “Oh my God!”

Wei Xiaobao continued, “But looking at you, the Princess’ face, I am not going to cut and roast them for the time being. If you promise that later on Luocha troops will not come again to violate our Chinese boundary, China and Luocha country will become friends forever. If you don’t obey, I will send troops to wipe out your Luocha men, and then you won’t have any Luocha men to accompany you in bed. If you want a man to sleep with you, you can only find Chinese man in the world.”

The clergy disagreed greatly in his heart; he thought, “Other than Luocha men, there are only Chinese men in the world, this sentence is too illogical.” He also thought that this kind of disrespectful sentences should never be written to the Princess; therefore, he decided to revise these several sentences with more respectful and intimate ones, presuming that this Chinese general would not know the difference anyway. But he was a careful man; afraid that his trickery would be discovered, he changed these several sentences into Latin. After he was done, he could not refrain from smiling.

Wei Xiaobao continued, “Now I am sending Wangba Siji and Zhuluonuofu to deliver this letter to you, along with my gifts. Whether you wish to be my lover or my enemy, you must decide for yourself.”

The clergy also changed the last sentence to a very respectful one. He wrote, “Cherishing the memory of Your Highness’ grace, the Chinese young minister sincerely offers tribute, as a token of his devotion and honesty. The young minister has grown over the year, but he has never been double-minded toward Her Highness. He hopes both countries to become reconciled, so that the Luocha army and civilian prisoners can be returned to their homeland; this would be Your Highness immeasurable benevolence.” This last sentence was due to his own selfish desire; he thought that if the two countries could not find agreement, he and the rest of the surrendering Luocha people would undoubtedly die in a foreign land, and would not return to their homeland forever.

When he finished writing, Wei Xiaobao said, “That’s it. Read it again for me.”

Holding the letter with both hands, the clergy read aloud; but when he reached the part where he revised the wording, he recited Wei Xiaobao’s original wording. Wei Xiaobao’s comprehension of Luocha language was rather limited. He heard the letter was seemingly more or less correct, how could he ever suspect that the clergy had the impertinence to alter it at will? He nodded his head and said, “Very good!” He took out the golden official seal ‘Fuyuan Great General Wei’ and stamped the letter using vermillion ink.

This letter was not exactly a love letter, yet it was not exactly an official document either. He ordered his guards to give the clergy a reward, and to summon the army secretary to put the letter into an envelope and write Princess Sophia’s name in Chinese characters on the envelope.

The secretary ground the ink stick to make thick ink. Dipping his brush he started to write the first line, ‘The Great Qing’s Fuyuan Great General Duke of Luding Wei offers the letter.’ The second line was, ‘E’Luosi Queen Regent Sufeixia [苏飞霞] Her Highness the Princess Gulunchang.’

The two-character ‘Luocha’ in Buddhist texts carried the meaning of ‘devil’, for this reason it was called ‘E’guo’ [i.e. another name for Russia in Chinese], to avoid giving any offense; in the formal document, it became ‘E’Luosi’. The secretary also felt that the three-character ‘Su fei ya’ [苏菲亚] did not sound too elegant, since the character ‘fei’ would remind people of ‘luxurious fragrant grass’ [芳草菲菲 (fang cao fei fei)], which would appear to be mocking her entire body which was covered in hair; thereupon he changed it into ‘Su fei xia’ [‘fei xia’ means flying red cloud], an allusion to the classical quotation ‘in the red cloud of the setting sun, a flock of ducks fly’, as well as the idiom ‘like red clouds hitting someone in the face’ to describe a woman’s beauty. Princess Gulun Chang was a title granted to the Qing Dynasty’s most respected Princess. The Emperor’s older or younger sisters were ‘Princess Chang’, the Emperor’s daughter was ‘Princess’. Since this noble woman was the Regent, plus she was the older sister of the two side-by-side Tsars, naturally she was a first-class princess.

When the secretary heard Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “This Luocha Princess has personal relationship with me. We have not seen each other for several years, I wonder how is she?” he added two more lines on the envelope: ‘Matter of personal, military, and the good fortune of the country. Like harmonious music, if there is any discordant, please take part in building harmony.’ [Translator’s note: sorry, it’s beyond me.] He thought that too bad the Luochas were unlearned nation that they could not necessarily understand Chinese classical works, or catch the meaning of play on words, or even analyze it, so that to them this quotation from the ‘Mr. Zuo’s annals’ was like a blind looking at smart countenance, inevitably this was a case of ‘pearls cast before swine’; he could not help but sigh.

Actually, not only the Chinese characters ‘E’Luosi Queen Regent Sufeixia Her Highness the Princess Gulunchang’ were foreign to Wei Xiaobao, even the phrase ‘The Great Qing’s Fuyuan Great General Duke of Luding Wei’, other than his own surname and two ‘da’ [大, from ‘Great Qing’ and ‘Great General’] characters, he did not recognize a single character. Seeing the secretary wrote lines of character in front of and at the back of the envelope, he said, “Enough, enough. Your handwriting is very good, a lot better than the Luocha’s big beard.”

He ordered to have the secretary rewarded by precious gift, fortunately it came from the treasury of the captured Yakesa, he did not need to spend a single wen of his own capital. And then he had Poyarkov and Stepanov, two captains, summoned to his presence. He instructed the two of them to select one hundred Luocha soldiers as their escort, and to deliver the letter to Moscow immediately. The two captains were overjoyed at this unexpected news; they did not stop bowing to express their gratitude, they also picked up Wei Xiaobao’s hand and repeatedly kissed the back of his hand. Tickled by the two men’s moustache, Wei Xiaobao was unable to refrain from laughing aloud.

The city of Yakesa was small, it could not hold the entire army. After discussing this matter with Songgotu and the imperial envoy, Wei Xiaobao assigned Lang Tan and Lin Xingzhu with two thousand troops to guard the city, while the main force would withdraw to the south, to Aigun and Kumarsk two cities to wait for the imperial decree. Before leaving, Wei Xiaobao solemnly warned Lang Tan and Lin Xingzhu, two people, not to dig well or excavate any tunnel within Yakesa’s city walls.

The army marched south. Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu, Peng Chun and the others were stationed at Aigun. Sabusu let the other army unit to be stationed at Kumarsk. Wei Xiaobao ordered the surrendering Luocha troops to wear Qing army uniform, and sent someone to teach them Chinese language. He had them memorize sentences like ‘Long live, long, long live to Our Emperor’, ‘The Holy Son of Heaven lives ten thousand years of boundless longevity’, ‘Chinese Emperor’s virtue reaches the four oceans, his imperial kindness vast and mighty’, and some others, and then he dispatched troops to escort them to Beijing. He told the prisoners to shout loudly along the main streets of Beijing, and when they had an audience with Kangxi, they must shout even louder. He said that the louder and more energetic they shout, the Emperor would reward them even more handsomely.

Several months passed, the winter turned into spring. Although in Aigun Wei Xiaobao lived comfortably, he missed Ah Ke, Su Quan, and his other wives, as well as Hutou and the others, his sons and daughter. He even dispatched his personal guards to deliver gifts back home. In return, his six wives also sent back clothing and other supplies. They all knew that he was illiterate, hence they did not send any letter; they only told the personal guards to convey their oral message: everybody in the family, big and small, were safe and sound; they all hoped the Grand Marshal would return triumphantly soon.

More than twenty days later, Kangxi’s written imperial order arrived; he greatly commended the officers and soldiers who went to war. Wei Xiaobao was promoted to be Duke of Luding, Second-class, the rest of the officers and soldiers were also promoted one rank. The imperial envoy who delivered the imperial edict handed a small wooden case sealed with burned lacquer to Wei Xiaobao, saying that it was a gift from the Emperor. Wei Xiaobao kowtowed to express his gratitude before opening the wooden case; he could not help but staring blankly. Inside the box was a golden rice bowl. The bowl was engraved with these four characters: ‘Gong Zhong Ti Guo’ [serving one’s country loyally’]; very likely it was the rice bowl Shi Lang gave him in the past. It’s just that the engraving was damaged, but was repaired.

Wei Xiaobao remembered that he left this golden bowl in his earl mansion at Tong Mao Alley; that night he escaped in panic, hence he did not bring it along. After thinking for a while, he understood the reason. After bombarding the earl mansion that night, the Vanguard Regiment sergeants must have been searching through the ruins to make a list of the remains of his property, to be presented to the Emperor.

This golden bowl had been damaged once, this time he held it carefully in his hand, so that he would not damage it again. Wei Xiaobao thought, “The young emperor is upholding yi qi toward me. We are even, I must not dig his dragon’s vein.”

That night he held a grand banquet, the imperial envoy and various generals came to be his guests.

Another month passed, Kangxi sent another imperial edict. This time he rebuked Wei Xiaobao harshly, saying that Wei Xiaobao deliberately acting willfully and making a scene by sending the surrendering Luocha troops to shout ‘ten thousand years of boundless longevity’; it was extremely senseless. The imperial edict said, “As the ruler, guardian of the government, it is my duty to do the will of Heaven, to cherish the common people. Although Luocha is a barbarian country outside the sphere of civilization, its people are also human beings. Since they have already surrendered to submission, they should not be bullied and humiliated. You as a high-ranking minister must reflect the ruler’s way of loving the people. If Zhen favors the crowd, although not having long life, I will be wise ruler. If I am arrogant, presumptuous and tyrannical, this ‘ten thousand years of boundless longevity’ will only bring suffering all over the world. High-ranking minister resorts to heretical flattery, it indicates the ruler is not virtuous. The guilt is the most grave, definitely it has to be prohibited.”

This time Wei Xiaobao wanted to pat the horse’s butts, but he patted the horse’s foot instead; he bumped into a hard nail. Luckily his face was very thick, he did not give it another thought. In front of the imperial envoy who delivered the edict he cursed himself, saying that he deserved to die, but in his heart he said, “Who in the world does not love to be flattered? It must be that those Luocha troops did not say the Chinese words correctly, so that the Emperor could not make any sense of it, hence he was angry.” He summoned the several secretaries whom he ordered to teach the Luocha troops to speak Chinese, and reprimanded them severely. Finished cursing, he opened up a table and gambled with them; they threw several rounds of dice, Kangxi’s reprimand was already tossed beyond the topmost clouds.

One day another imperial edict arrived from Beijing, appointing Wei Xiaobao and Songgotu as high-ranking minister to negotiate peace, to draw up a peace treaty with the Luocha country. Kangxi also sent the Bordered Yellow Banner’s Han Army’s Commander, First-class Duke Tong Guogang, Army Guardian Commander Ma La, Shangshu [see Chapter 37] A’erni, and Left Imperial Censor Ma Qi, four people as their assistants.

Finished reading the imperial edict, Tong Guogang took out another scroll of document and read it aloud. Actually it was the letter sent to Kangxi by the Luocha country’s two Tsars, which was translated into Chinese by Dutch missionary in Beijing. The official document read, “Sincerely offered to pacifier of the far away Huaxia [old name for China, Cathay], steeped in the universe, leading the worthy ministers for a common plan to govern, appointing separate territories, unified by the Manchurian Qing, your reputation reaches far and wide, the Great Sage Emperor said: toward his father Aleksey Mikhailovich, who has bestowed Nicolai and the others the Celestial Empire, to have friendly relations, yet was not well-versed in Chinese ceremony, language and manners; for the vulgarity, uncouthness and lack of culture, we hope for forgiveness. In praise of the Emperor, any erroneous, confusing or lacking in manners, are also because our location in the desolate, distant place, rituals are unadorned and concealed from us, hence the Emperor did not see it and put the blame on us.

In the past the Emperor has bestowed a letter, our humble country did not understand the meaning, not because it was intentional. Until Nicolai and the others returned and inquired, still they stated that we do not owe the Celestial Empire’s Minister escaping people like Gentemu’er and the others, as well as any news of disturbance on the frontier. When we heard the Emperor is dispatching troops, it brings disgrace to the border, and loses the friendly relations. In the event that our humble country’s people who live on the border starting a dispute and rise in revolt, the Celestial Empire should dispatch an envoy to clearly indicate the situation, and propose a strict measure to control the guilt; why bother to easily resort to arms?

Today receiving the imperial decree, only then did we understood the situation from beginning to end, thereupon we issue an order to dispatch our humble country’s officers and soldiers, by no means to engage in war. Respectfully requesting our people who started the rebellion to be sent back to face the law, while at the same time dispatching an envoy minister to agree upon the boundary of our countries, Xianlingmoqi, Fo’erweiniugao, Ivan, Fa’eluowa and the others [these must be Russian names, but I have no idea the correct transliteration] to rapidly confer the letter. Begging you to remove the siege of Yakesa, to document all cases in details, and let our humble country know. When all of these are put to rest, forever we will look back at it from the distant.

Your precious country’s high-ranking minister, His Excellency Wei Xiaobao in the past has met our Her Highness the Imperial Sister Queen Regent Sophia, and from afar has visited our capital Moscow, has brought order out of chaos, and has rendered great merit to our humble nation. For your precious country’s favor, our humble country’s ruler and his ministers will not dare to forget. We sincerely send the heaviest gift to be presented to Your Majesty, the Great Sage Emperor, and next in line to be presented to His Excellency Minister Wei Xiaobao, to show our humble nation’s genuine desire to cultivate friendship with our neighbor.”

(Book note: This official document sent by Russia was verified in accordance with historical records. Only the last section pertaining Wei Xiaobao was perhaps only exist in the novel, and should not be taken at face value.)

After Tong Guogang finished reading the official letter, the secretary explained in details the content of the letter to Wei Xiaobao. It was a standard procedure in the army; official documents come and go, sometimes the writing was rather complicated, while the number of illiterate generals leading the troops was in fact numerous. Although those generals went to school for several years, sometimes their knowledge was rather limited. Military communications concerned important military and intelligence information, if it was misunderstood, the responsibility was too great; for this reason, any Manchurian army unit always had a secretary who explains the provision of the document.

Tong Guogang laughed and said, “This Queen Regent of Luocha country cherishes old friendships with Grand Marshal Wei quite a bit, the gifts she sent are indeed not a few. His Majesty instructed Xiongdi to bring everything to be handed personally to Grand Marshal Wei.”

Wei Xiaobao cupped his fist and said, “Thank you very much, thank you very much.” And then he added, “Luocha people do not understand etiquette, they did not say that their gifts are light, they really blow their horn by saying that their gifts are heavy. The gift to His Majesty is heaviest, the gift to me is the next heaviest; they are not afraid people would laugh at them.”

“Yes,” Tong Guogang replied, “The surrendering Luocha people Grand Marshal Wei presented to the Capital have been personally examined by His Majesty; he found out that among them, there is one high-ranking Luocha official …”

“Ah!” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed in surprise, “Is there such thing?”

Tong Guogang said, “This man is extremely crafty, he mingled among the lowly soldiers, not making the slightest bit of word or movement. That day His Majesty interrogated the surrendering people one by one, he had a Dutch missionary as the interpreter. After the interrogation, His Majesty spoke several Latin sentences to the missionary, among the surrendering Luocha people, there was one lowly soldier whose face suddenly changed. His Majesty asked him if he understood Latin. The lowly soldier repeatedly shook his head. So then His Majesty said in Latin, ‘Take this soldier out and chop his head.’ The soldier’s countenance changed greatly. He kneeled down and begged for mercy, confessing that he understood Latin.”

“What is Latin language?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “When those Luocha people were talking about pulling able-bodied men to carry army provision[1], how can His Majesty understand?”

“His Majesty is intelligent and wise,” Tong Guogang replied, “Nothing that he does not know. Luocha people were talking about pulling able-bodied men, he can also talk like that.”

“Why is it when Luocha people speak about other thing His Majesty does not understand, but then they are talking about pulling able-bodied men he can understand?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Tong Guogang did not know how to answer that question; he laughed and said, “The reason behind it, none of us can understand. Next time the Grand Marshal have an audience with His Majesty, you may kowtow and ask him personally.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “What happened to that Luocha man?” he asked.

Tong Guogang said, “His Majesty interrogated him carefully, in the end that man could not conceal the truth, bit by bit he told him everything. Turned out that man was called Ya’erqingsiji [Yerofei Khabarov?]; he was the governor-general of Nerchinsk and Yakesa, two cities.”

When everybody heard this, they could not help exclaiming, “Ah!”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This fellow’s official position is not low.”

“Isn’t that so?” Tong Guogang said, “Among the government officials Luocha country sent to the east, his official rank is the highest. When the city of Yakesa fell, he must have changed into lowly soldier’s uniform so that he was well-hidden.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said with a laugh, “When we made a breakthrough on the Yakesa city that day, Luocha’s generals, lowly soldiers, high-ranking officials, low-ranking officials, everybody was stripped naked. Looking back and forth, they all looked the same, there was really no distinction one from another. We could not see that those with higher official rank would have a bit bigger thingy. Xiongdi did not … I could not recognize this high-ranking official, it’s actually not our fault.” The generals roared in laughter; they then told Tong Guogang about the fall of city of Yakesa that day.

Tong Guogang laughed and said, “So that’s how it is. No wonder. His Majesty said: Wei Xiaobao captured Nerchinsk and Yakesa, two cities; his meritorious credit is not small. But he thought this man was an ordinary soldier, the way he work is too muddleheaded. His merit compensates for his guilt, in this case there is no reward and no punishment.”

Wei Xiaobao stood up and respectfully said, “His Majesty’s grace, his servant is extremely grateful.”

Tong Guogang said, “His Majesty interrogated this Ya’erqingsiji six days in a row. Luocha country’s army and government, territory and products, everything was questioned in details. His Majesty is indeed divinely brilliant, from this Ya’erqingsiji he found a secret. According to Grand Marshal Wei, when this man was captured, he was not wearing one thread; who would have thought that he had a way to conceal secret document?”

“His granny,” Wei Xiaobao cursed, “This A’erxiansiji [lit. ol’ second convulsing dead chicken] is really full of devilish tricks and cunning stratagem. Next time I see him, I must look at him really well. This secret document, where did he hide it? Could it be he hid it inside his @ss … @ss …”

Tong Guogang said, “Before the surrendering Luocha people had an audience with His Majesty, naturally their whole body would be searched carefully by the Imperial Bodyguards; hair, beard, must be groped, pants and boots must be taken off and examined. Foreigners who conceal wicked intentions, if they hide sharp weapon in their body, what would happen then? Naturally this Ya’erqingsiji was also searched carefully, but nothing was found on him. However, His Majesty can see clearly down to the smallest detail; he saw his right shoulder was bulging, and he was constantly looking askance on it, so he asked him what the object on his shoulder was. Ya’erqingsiji pulled his sleeve, showing a thick bandage on his arm, saying that it was an injury he received in Yakesa. His Majesty ordered him to step forward, and then with force he pinched on his arm. Ya’erqingsiji cried out, ‘Aiyo!’ but his voice did not sound like he was in pain.”

“Interesting, interesting!” Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “This Luocha demon’s injury is fake.”

“Isn’t that so?” Tong Guogang said, “His Majesty immediately ordered the Imperial Bodyguards to take off the bandage on his arm. Ya’erqingsiji’s countenance turned ash grey, he was so scared that his whole body trembled. Grand Marshal Wei, can you guess what was hidden in his bandage?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Just now you said it was a secret document, could it be it was exactly that?”

Tong Guogang clapped his hands and said, “Exactly. No wonder His Majesty often praise you and say you are smart, sure enough you got it with only one guess. The object hidden inside that Ya’erqingsiji’s bandage was precisely a secret document, the imperial order given to him by Luocha country’s Tsar. His Majesty had the Dutch missionary translated it to him, and I have a copy of it here.”

From an envelope he took a document and read it in loud voice, “Thou shalt make Chinese Emperor aware: The owner of the entire Great E’luosi [Russia], the Minor Russia, the White Russia is the authoritarian monarch, the Great Sovereign Emperor and the Great King over many nations His Majesty Russian Emperor. When the Emperor arrives at distant places, the sovereign kings of many nations take refuge under His Majesty the Great Emperor’s supreme rule. That Chinese Emperor should also try to obtain the owner of the entire Great Russia, the Minor Russia, the White Russia, the authoritarian monarch, the Great Sovereign Emperor’s grace, and take refuge under His Majesty the Great Emperor’s supreme rule. His Majesty the Great Emperor will definitely love and protect the Chinese Emperor according to his vast and mighty imperial kindness; furthermore, he will protect him, will save him from the enemy threat. If that Chinese Emperor alone takes refuge under His Majesty the Great Sovereign, submit himself under His Majesty the Russian Emperor’s supreme rule, and everlastingly faithful, and bring tribute to the Great Sovereign, His Majesty the Great Sovereign’s subordinates shall be allowed to have freedom in setting up military camp and conduct trades within the Chinese border. For this reason the Chinese Emperor should agree to let His Majesty the Great Emperor’s envoys and ministers to pass freely without hindrance. Furthermore he should respond to His Majesty the Great Emperor’s letter.”

(Book note: This document is authentic. When Kangxi arrested Russian minister, he was imprisoned for half a month before being sent back to his own country. This document was confiscated from his possession, and was stored in the Palace’s archive. The original photograph can be seen in the ‘Forbidden City Russian History’.)

For each sentence Tong Guogang read, Wei Xiaobao cursed one word, “Fart!” By the time Tong Guogang finished, Wei Xiaobao already cursed several dozen of “Fart!”

Tong Guogang said, “His Majesty issued an imperial edict: Luocha people has grand ambition, they are extremely rude. The Luocha Emperor who issued this secret document was the father of current two Tsars; he had already passed away. At that time he still did not know that we, Chinese people, are formidable. Now Luocha people have suffered hardship, presumably they would not dare to be as wanton as they used to be. But when we are negotiating peace with them, we still have to use gentle methods and force [i.e. carrot and stick]; we can’t be too careless.”

“Absolutely,” Wei Xiaobao said, “His Majesty has commanded, we give them a few slaps on their mouths, a few kicks, but also a few pats on their shoulder, and a few rubs on their back.”

Tong Guogang continued, “That Queen Regent is very crafty, she pretended that she did not know that Yakesa has fallen into our hands, she issued an order that Luocha troops must not have armed confrontation with us. But the official document has exposed the horse’s foot, she asked the Emperor to send back the captured Luocha people so that they could face the law.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “How can it be so easy? She sent me several mink fur coats, several pieces of precious stones as the next heaviest gift, and then wanted us to release her officers and men?”

Tong Guogang said, “His Majesty’s order: Since the Luocha people are looking for peace, there is no harm in negotiating peace with them. But we must bring the main force along, and set the terms of their surrender [orig. ‘pledge under the city wall’].”

“What is that ‘pledge under the city wall’?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Tong Guogang explained, “When two countries are at war, our main force besieging a foreign city. The foreigners ask for peace, we set up peace treaty under his city walls. This is called ‘terms of the surrender’. Although the foreigners can’t be considered surrendering, in the end they are admitting defeat.”

“I see,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Actually, we sent the troops to take down Nerchinsk, it was not too difficult.”

Tong Guogang said, “His Majesty’s imperial edict: to attack and take over several more cities is actually within our grasp. But Luocha is a big country in the present age, the number of small nations under its command is a lot. If they are defeated silly in the east, their prestige would suffer great damage, the smaller nations under its command would not accept it. If that happens, Luocha will definitely send their main force to retaliate, and then we will be ravaged by successive wars, which will last for I don’t know how many years, how many months. His Majesty interrogated that Ya’erqingsiji, and found out that west of Luocha there is another big country called Sweden, and these two countries are on the verge of a great war. If Luocha has to fight both wars, east and west at the same time, they will have a headache. If we seize this opportunity the set up peace treaty with them, it would be greatly advantageous to us. At least we can guarantee a hundred years of peace and security north of Xinjiang.”

After achieving great victory, Wei Xiaobao was still very fired-up that he wanted to take down Nerchinsk as well; but when he heard that the Emperor has agreed to pursue peace agreement with the Luocha country, his spirit was greatly dampened. However, this was the Emperor’s strategic decision, no matter what he wanted to do, or how far he wanted to go, he simply could not disobey the imperial edict. But then he thought, “You are His Majesty’s jiujiu [maternal uncle], hence you are also my wife’s jiujiu, so you can be considered my elder. You are a first-class duke, I have just been promoted to be a second-class duke. This time negotiating peace with Luocha people, His Majesty is sending you to be my assistant; the face His Majesty is giving me is indeed not small.”

Tong Guogang’s father, Tong Tulai was Kangxi’s mother, Empress Xiao Kang’s father, a Han. As a result, Kangxi’s lineage was actually half Manchu half Han. By this time Tong Tulai had already died, Tong Guogang inherited his title as the First-Class Duke. In his early years Tong Tulai surrendered to the Manchurian Qing outside the Pass, and joined the Bordered Yellow Banner. His military contribution was outstanding, his reputation was well-known. Only Wei Xiaobao thought that his name was quite disappointing. Tulai, Tulai, it sounded like someone lost in gambling and wanted to renege [‘du’ – gambling, ‘lai’ – renege; different characters from Tulai]; a magnificent country’s father-in-law, why would he want to do that?

That evening, after the feast to welcome the guests, under the Grand Marshal Wei’s recommendation, they threw several rounds of dice. Indeed Tong Guogang lost; but pushing away six hundred taels, he did not even blink, not in the least wanted to renege. Seeing he could take the loss in a frank and straightforward way, without putting on an air at all, Wei Xiaobao was quite impressed. It was not until he returned to his bedroom and lay down on his bed that he suddenly realized, “His name is Tong Guguang [‘gu’ – bones, ‘guang’ – bright, different characters from Guogang], clearly I must beat him clean [‘qing guang’] in dominoes [‘gu pai’]. This man’s gambling character is fabulous, I can make friends with him.”

The next day Wei Xiaobao had a meeting with various ministers. Everybody agreed that since they were going to discuss the terms of surrender with the opposite side, there was no harm in bringing the main force along, to wait leisurely for the exhausted enemy. Wei Xiaobao nodded his approval, and promptly issued an order for the forces in Aigun and Kumarsk to start moving and meet outside the city of Nerchinsk. By this time it was already summer, the weather was warm, the snow had disappeared completely; the army marched very comfortably.

One day they reached the bank of Hailar River, the vanguard unit came back to report that there was a small company of Luocha troops, the captain of this group was seeking an audience with the Grand Marshal. Wei Xiaobao summoned the captain. Turned out they were Poyarkov and Stepanov, two people.

“Very good, very good!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Turns out it’s tortoise b@stard dead chicken [Wangbasiji] and pig tribe coward [Zhuluonuofu].” The two men bowed and saluted before presenting Princess Sophia’s letter.

Up to this time the Luocha clergy still remained in the Qing army camp in case his service was still needed. In order to negotiate peace and sign the treaty document, Kangxi also dispatched a Dutch missionary to help them. Wei Xiaobao summoned both clergies to his tent, and ordered them to translate Princess Sophia’s reply.

That day the Luocha clergy altered the intent of Wei Xiaobao’s love letter; right now he was very anxious and fearful, afraid that the Princess’ letter would expose the horse’ foot. Hastily he took the letter and scanned it once; only then did he feel relieved. The Dutch missionary then translated the Luocha text into Chinese.

The letter said: Ever since we parted, I often think of you, hoping that after the peace treaty is signed, Wei Xiaobao can visit Moscow and rekindle old friendship. Wei Xiaobao is doted on by the rulers of both countries; therefore, he must explain and clear up all kinds of misunderstanding, remove the estrangement, and establish the foundation with which both countries will be reconciled for all ages.

The letter also said: China and Luocha were separated east and west; furthermore, both are great countries of this age. If the two join hands and form an alliance, we can dominate the world, no other country will be able to defy. If the two countries are in hostility with each other, engaging in long-term conflict, inevitably both sides will suffer. For this reason I hope Wei Xiaobao can facilitate this matter; while admittedly he will set up great merit to China, Luocha country will definitely also reward him heavily. In addition, would Wei Xiaobao please talk to Chinese Emperor, to release the prisoners, the captured Luocha coutry’s officers and soldiers, so that their family and beloved will be delighted to meet again.

After the Dutch missionary finished translating, Wei Xiaobao saw Poyarkov and Stepanov, two men, repeatedly gave him meaningful look; he knew that there must be another matter. Dismissing the two clergies, he asked, “Is there anything else you want to say?”

Poyarkov said, “Her Highness the Princess wanted us to tell Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official that Her Highness the Princess miss you very much, Luocha men are not good, Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official is number one in the world, she insists on inviting you to Moscow.”

“Humph,” Wei Xiaobao thought, “This is Luocha flattery [orig. confusing soup], absolutely cannot be trusted.”

Stepanov said, “Her Highness the Princess has a few other things she would like Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official to do. This is the gift Her Highness the Princess gives you.” While saying that he removed a copper chain from his neck, at the end of the chain was a leather purse. Poyarkov also did the same. Presumably because the two of them were traveling a long and difficult trek, they were afraid they might lose it, thus they tied it on their neck using copper chain.

The openings of these two leather purses were locked using copper locks. Poyarkov took out a key from his belt to unlock Stepanov’s copper lock. Stepanov also took out his own key to open the lock on Poyarkov’s leather purse. The two of them respectfully put the leather purses on the table in front of Wei Xiaobao.

Wei Xiaobao turned the leather purse upside down, with a ‘ding dang’ jingling noise several dozen precious stones came out, all kinds of sizes and colors, rich and diverse, glittering gloriously; there were huge ruby, sapphire, and yellow gem. The other purse contained diamonds and emeralds. Instantly the tent was filled with their glitter, dazzling and beautiful. Wei Xiaobao has seen countless jewels and precious stones in his life, but he had never seen these many big precious stones lumped together. He laughed and said, “Princess gives me this kind of heavy gift, I really cannot accept.”

(Book note: According to ‘Yanjing [old name for Beijing] Scholarly Journal’, volume 25, Liu Xuanmin wrote the ‘Examination on China-Russia early commercial trade’, Russia sent the ambassador Feodor Alekseyevich Golovin to negotiate with China on the boundary, trade relation, and economic affair. During his journey east, Golovin received imperial court’s secret order, seriously instructed him: if he could obtain favorable trade relationship with China, there was no harm in giving up Yakesa to the Chinese. Furthermore, as long as it did not damage the Russian Emperor’s prestige and within limit, he was authorized to secretly give considerable gifts to the Chinese delegation as a bribe.)

Poyarkov said, “Her Highness the Princess said that if Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official succeed, there will be more precious gift for you; plus beautiful women from Great Russia, Minor Russia, White Russia, Cossack, Tatar, Sweden, Persia, Poland, Germany, and Denmark, ten countries, one from each country, each one is young and good looking, all are virgins, no widows at all. Everything will be delivered to Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official.”

Wei Xiaobao roared in laughter. “I can’t deal with my seven wives already,” he said, “With ten more beautiful women, Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official will immediately breathe his last.”

“Can’t be, can’t be,” Poyarkov repeatedly said, “Her Highness the Princess has already prepared these ten beautiful women, we have seen them with our own eyes, everyone’s countenance is as pretty as a rose, their skin is as white as milk, their voice as beautiful as nightingale.”

Wei Xiaobao was hooked; he asked, “What does Her Highness the Princess want me to do?”

Stepanov said, “First, both countries must become reconciled, the demarcation of boundary is fair, and from now on we won’t have armed-conflict.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The young Emperor also wants the same thing; consider it done.” He said, “West of your Luocha country, there is a country called Swe … Swe something; they send an emissary, wanting us to send troops together, to attack Luocha country from east and west, and divide your country evenly. At that time those Great Russia, Minor Russia, not-big-not-small Russia, Black Russia, White Russia, multi-colored Russia, no matter how many beautiful women we want, we will get, no need for your Her Highness the Princess to send us any. Besides, each one you sent will be too clumsy and miserable from the cold!”

As soon as the two Luocha captains heard this, they were shocked. At that time Sweden was under the rule of King Karl XI, an astute and promising young monarch, who was training the army and refining the military; he was inclined to launch a military expedition to Luocha on the east. These days his large cavalry was moving to the east. All the civil and military officials in Moscow were concerned; unexpectedly Sweden wanted to form an alliance with China. Although Luocha was strong, if they had to face multiple enemies, their power would fail.

Looking at these two men’s countenance, Wei Xiaobao knew that his empty threat has hit its target; thereupon he said, “But Her Highness the Princess and I are lovers and good friends; how could I agree to Swe something’s request? Right now our Chinese Emperor has not made up his mind; if Luocha country sincerely wants to make peace, I can chase that Swe something’s envoy back to his country.”

The two captains were greatly delighted; they repeatedly said, “Luocha country is one hundred per cent sincere, there is not the least bit falsehood. Would Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official quickly chase that Sweden envoy back to his country? Even better, with one chop of a saber, off with his head.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head, “Envoy’s head cannot be chopped at will, much less he also sent me a lot of precious stones, dozen or so beautiful women. This saber cannot be chopped down, can it?”

The two captains repeatedly voiced their agreement; they thought, “Turns out Sweden pays particular attention to win their favor; they deliver gifts first and receive the payment later. This trick of the trade is more sophisticated than ours.” They also thought, “Fortunately the Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official is our Princess’ lover; otherwise, this matter would turn significantly worse.”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “What other thing Her Highness the Princess wanted me to do?”

Poyarkov smiled and said, “The thing that Her Highness the Princess really wants Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official to do is for you to go to Kremlin Palace in Moscow, and do it in the Princess’ bedroom.”

Wei Xiaobao made a ‘hey’ sound; he thought, “This is Luocha’s confusing soup [see above], definitely a Luocha soup; I can drink it but I can’t trust it.” He laughed and said, “Turns out Luocha men are unfit for anything.”

“It’s not that Luocha men are unfit for anything,” Stepanov said, “It’s just that Her Highness the Princess particularly miss Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Another bowl of Luocha soup.” He said, “Since that’s the case, the Princess does not have anything else in mind?”

Poyarkov said, “Her Highness the Princess wants to ask His Majesty the Chinese Emperor’s permission to allow the merchants to come and go and trade freely across the two countries’ border.”

Stepanov said, “If the two countries’ merchants are coming and going in abundance, Princess could write a letter or send gifts more often.”

“Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao mused, “Another bowl.” He said, “In that case, the reason of two countries having trading relations is for Princess’ selfish desire, not for the public?”

“Yes, yes,” Stepanov said, “Totally for the sake of Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official.”

“Right now I am not a little child anymore,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You must not call me Chinese Little Child High-ranking Official anymore.”

The two men bowed deeply together. “Yes, yes!” they said, “Your Excellency Chinese High Official.”

Wei Xiaobao smiled. “Alright, alright,” he said, “Go and rest. We are going to Nerchinsk, you two may come with us.”

The two of them were startled; they looked at each other and thought, “What is Chinese army doing in Nerchinsk? Are they going to besiege it?”

“Don’t you worry,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I promise the Princess that the two countries are going to be reconciled, and not going to fight any war.”

The two men bowed together again, they said, “Thank you very much Chinese Little … no … Your Excellency High-ranking Official.” Poyarkov added, “Princess heard that Chinese bridges are well-built; no matter how wide or how big a river, you are able to build the bridge using large stones, without stone pillars underneath it for support. Princess loves Your Excellency Chinese High Official, she also loves Chinese stuffs; therefore, she asks that Daren send several bridge craftsmen and technicians to Moscow to build several Chinese magical stone bridges. Her Highness the Princess will look at Chinese stone bridge every day, she will take a stroll on the bridge; it’s like seeing Your Excellency High-ranking Official every day.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Bowl by bowl Luocha soup is pouring; if I drink it again, I might vomit. The Princess especially likes our Chinese stone bridge; I wonder what’s the reason behind it? There must be some strange reason. I must not fall into this Luocha fox-spirit’s trickery.” He said, “Princess miss me, there is no need to build a stone bridge, the project is too big. I’ll send her some Chinese silk quilt, several Chinese pillows, let her hold it in her arms when she sleeps; it will be as if every night there is an Excellency Chinese High Official accompanying her in bed.”

The two Luocha captains looked at each other; their expression looked very awkward. Stepanov said, “This … it looks like …” Poyarkov’s brain was a lot quicker; he said, “Your Excellency Daren’s idea is extremely lofty; Chinese silk quilt, Chinese pillows, we will definitely bring back some. The Princess cannot embrace Your Excellency Chinese High Official, holding Chinese silk quilt and Chinese pillows is all right. But after several years, silk quilt and pillows will be worn-out, it’s not as sturdy as a stone bridge. Therefore, we would like Daren to still please send the technical experts to build the stone bridge.”

Hearing the tone of the two men’s voice, Wei Xiaobao thought that Luocha imperial court seemed very eager to have the technical expert of building stone bridges; hence there must be crafty scheme behind this. He did not know that at that time Chinese technology in bridge building was the first under the heavens. When foreigners came to China and saw the construction of magnificent stone bridge, they would definitely click their tongue in amazement, and would admire incessantly. Seeing an arch bridge that can span the surface of the river without requiring pillars underneath it, they felt it was magical beyond human’s comprehension. Luocha people were hoping to learn this bridge building technology, actually it was due to their admiration to Chinese science and technology, not because any other crafty scheme.

(Book note: In Kangxi’s fifteenth year, Russia did send N.G. Spatnary as the imperial envoy, leading his fellow countrymen, experts in precious stones and specialists in herbal medicine to Beijing. They submitted many requests, among which was ‘To allow Russia borrow bridge building experts’. However, because the imperial envoy was unwilling to kowtow to Kangxi, the Qing imperial court expelled them back to their own country.)

Wei Xiaobao thought, “The more you want it, the more laozi does not want to give you.” He said, “I know, go now!” The two captains did not dare to say more; they saluted and withdrew.

One day, Luocha imperial envoy minister Feodor in Nerchinsk received report that the large Qing army has arrived. Busily he sent people to send word, asking the Qing army to stop where they were, while he immediately set off to meet them.

(Book note: Luocha imperial envoy who negotiated peace was actually Feodor A. Golovin, but at that time the Chinese did not know that western people has their given name first and surname last; thereupon in Chinese history book he was known as Feodor.)

Wei Xiaobao said, “No need to be polite, we had better come to pay our respect!”

With grandiose the Qing army pressed on to Nerchinsk city wall. Sabusu, Peng Chun, Ma La and the others separately leading the cavalry going around Nerchinsk to block all major roads on the north, west and south of the city; not only they were cutting off Luocha troops escape route from Nerchinsk, they were also stopping any reinforcement from the west. Wei Xiaobao personally commanded the main force on the east of the city. The army shot fireworks, cannon and fiery arrows to the sky to signal each other.

Inside Nerchinsk, Luocha ministers, military generals, and the soldiers all were looking on as the Qing army coordinated the siege, displaying their magnificent military power; no one in the Luocha camp did not have their spirit shaken. At once Feodor prepared gifts and sent people to the Qing army to deliver a letter to the Chinese imperial envoy minister, saying that the emperors of both countries have agreed to cease-fire and negotiate peace, the purpose of the meeting this time was to sign a peace treaty, hence it was inadvisable to have the troops of both side to stay too close to each other, in order to avoid inciting armed conflict and thus damaging the good relationship of the two countries.

Wei Xiaobao and the other ministers discussed this matter over. Everybody agreed that as a superior nation, China must not be rude and be a bully; that they must strive to use peaceful measures before using force. Thereupon Wei Xiaobao issued an order to have the troops withdrawn several li, and stationed at the Shilka River; he also ordered the Qing army on the north, west and south of Nerchinsk to retreat to the hills and wait for order.

Seeing the Qing army retreated, Feodor was slightly relieved. He wrote another letter, proposing four-point condition of the meeting: One, they were to meet in the middle between Nerchinsk and Shilka River. Two, on the day of the meeting, the imperial envoys of both countries may bring forty attendants each. Three, both countries may dispatch five hundred troops each, Russian army would be stationed outside the city wall, Qing army would be stationed on the riverbank. Four, the number of personal guards both countries’ diplomatic envoys may bring was limited to two hundred and sixty men each; other than saber and sword, they must not bring any firearms. He set up these four conditions because the Qing army had superior number, Russian army was small; if both sides did not limit the number of people, the Russian army would be put in a disadvantageous position. But Luocha troops’ firearms were formidable, if both sides had equal number of troops, Russian soldiers would occupy a dominant position, he expected the other side would not agree; hence he proposed in advance that the bodyguards could only bring saber and sword. The letter also proposed that the meeting to be held the following day.

After discussing it with the other ministers, Wei Xiaobao deemed the proposal feasible and immediately accepted it. That same evening he sent the troops to build a tent as the meeting place.

Early morning the next day, Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu, Tong Guogang and the other imperial envoys led the attendants, along with two-hundred sixty rattan-shield troops, to the meeting place. They saw Nerchinsk’s city gate opened, more than two hundred Cossacks on horseback with long sabers in their hands, rode around a group of Luocha officers out of the city. This company of cavalry was imposing, the men were tall the horses big. The Qing army’s rattan-shield troops were infantry, they looked small in comparison, their prestige was considerably less.

“His granny,” Tong Guogang cursed, “Luocha demons are very crafty; the first step and we already cannot match them. They only say about two hundred sixty bodyguards; he just forgot to mention cavalry or infantry. And now they are already two hundred sixty horses superior to us.”

Songgotu said, “This matter reminds us that when we are dealing with the Luocha demons, we have to be twelve times extremely alert; if we have only half a part of carelessness, we will put in a disadvantageous situation.”

While they were still talking, the Luocha troops arrived. Tong Guogang said, “We are following His Majesty’s instruction, in everything we must give careful consideration to China being a superior nation in observing etiquette; let us dismount.”

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Let us dismount.” Everybody dismounted from their horses and cupped their fist in greeting while standing tall.

When the Luocha imperial envoy Feodor saw this situation, he shouted his order, all the officers also dismounted from their horses and bowed to salute. Both sides walked over toward each other.

Feodor said, “Russian Imperial Envoy Feodor, under the order of the Tsar, humbly offers the Great Qing Emperor the wish of safety and well-being.”

Copying his words, Wei Xiaobao also said, “The Great Qing Imperial Envoy Wei Xiaobao, under the Great Emperor’s order, humbly offers the Luocha Tsar the wish of safety and well-being.” But he added another sentence, “We also wish the Queen Regent Her Highness the Princess Sophia beauty and happiness.”

Feodor showed a faint smile; he thought, “The Great Qing Emperor wishes our Princess beauty and happiness; this wish is rather weird. But if the Princess hears it, surely she will be delighted.”

The two of them exchanged some pleasantries while introducing their delegation. The interpreters of both countries translated everything.

Wei Xiaobao noticed that the Luocha officers were standing tall and listening respectfully; they were quite polite and attentive. However, the two hundred sixty Cossack cavalry stayed upright and unafraid on the horsebacks, their hands were still on their long sabers as the horses stood in formation, carrying the expression that ‘they were living high and looking down’ on the other side; there was even a hint of threatening look on their faces. The more Wei Xiaobao looked at them, the more he was angry. He said, “Your bodyguards are too rude; seeing Chinese high-ranking officials, why didn’t they dismount?” His Luocha language was grammatically upside-down, his words and sentences jumbled together; but in his anger, without waiting for the interpreter he simply blurted out in Russian.

Feodor said, “According to our humble nation’s law, when the cavalry is on duty, even seeing His Majesty the Tsar, they do not need to dismount.”

“This is Chinese territory,” Wei Xiaobao said, “When you are in China, you must follow China’s rule.”

Feodor shook his head, “I’m sorry,” he said, “Sire is mistaken. This is Russian Tsar’s territory, not Chinese territory.”

“This is clearly Chinese territory,” Wei Xiaobao insisted, “You are occupying it by force.”

“I’m sorry,” Feodor said, “Your Excellency Chinese Imperial Envoy Minister misunderstood. This is Russian Tsar’s territory. Nerchinsk was built by Russians.”

The reason the two countries were having a meeting this time was originally to draw border and strife for land, whether certain ground belong to China or Russia was the key point. The two imperial envoys had just met, they had not even entered the tent yet, the dispute had already started.

Wei Xiaobao said, “You Luocha people built a city on our Chinese land, and you want to consider it yours? Where’s the logic in that?”

“This is Russian land,” Feodor said, “Russian people built fortification in here, Chinese people did not build fortification in here; this is the proof that this is Russian land. Your Excellency Chinese Imperial Envoy Minister said this is Chinese land, I wonder based on what proof?”

The Nerchinsk region had always been no-man’s land; China-Russia, the two countries’ border had not been defined, when all is said and done, whether the land belonged to China or Russia, nobody had any proof yet.

Hearing Feodor asked such question, Wei Xiaobao could not help feeling at a loss. He wanted to win the debate; too bad his Luocha language was insufficient to express his ideas. If regular answer already difficult to contest the question, how could he come up with a clever answer? His heart was enraged, he said, “This is Chinese land, the proofs are many.” And then he cursed using Yangzhou dialect, “Hot piece mama, f*ck your demon’s seventeen, eighteen generations ancestor.” As soon as he started, vulgar Yangzhou cussing words immediately flowed from his mouth like running water. He cursed Feodor’s great-great-grandmother, paternal great-grandmother, down to paternal grandmother, mother, older and younger sisters, maternal grandmother, maternal aunt, paternal aunt; he poured dog’s blood on everybody [i.e. curse], not one of all the female members of the Feodor family in Luocha was lucky enough to escape.

When both sides, the Chinese and Russian officials, saw the Chinese Imperial Envoy Minister was angry, nobody was not stunned. It’s just that his speech was like a string of firecrackers; forget Feodor who was unable to make head or tail of it, even Chinese officials and the interpreters of both sides were also at a loss and could not understand what he was talking about. Wei Xiaobao’s curses were entirely Yangzhou’s marketplace vulgar and low-class people’s language. Even Yangzhou’s gentlemen and ladies could not necessarily understand twenty, thirty-percent of it, much less Songgotu, Tong Guogang and the other Manchurian banner men, who had perhaps lived as military official in the north for a long time.

After raining curses for a while, Wei Xiaobao felt better; he could not help bursting in laughter. Although Feodor did not understand what he was saying, looking at his expression, he knew Wei Xiaobao was angry; but then suddenly he roared in laughter. Feodor was even more confused; he asked, “Excuse me, may I ask just now honorable envoy spoke a lengthy talk, what instruction were you giving? Honorable envoy’s words were profound, the humble one’s scholarly knowledge is shallow and crude, it was difficult for me to comprehend. Would you repeat it slowly so that I could receive the advice?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Just now I said, you were speaking unreasonably. I want to have your paternal grandmother as my sweetheart, as my wife.”

Feodor smiled and said, “My paternal grandmother was indeed a well-known beauty in the city of Moscow, she was Count Peter Marek Jankulovski’s daughter. Turns out Your Excellency Chinese High-ranking official has also heard my paternal grandmother’s fame; the humble one is extremely honored. Unfortunately, my paternal grandmother has passed away thirty-eight years ago.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “In that case, I want your mother to be my sweetheart, my wife.”

Feodor had an amused look on his face, he was even more delighted. He said, “My Mama is an offspring of a famous family, her skin is white and tender, she knows how to compose French poems. In Moscow, not a few princes, dukes and generals adore her very much. In Russia we have a poet, he wrote several dozen poems in praise of my Mama. Although this year she turned sixty-three, her appearance is still comparable to that of a woman in her thirties. When Your Excellency Chinese High-ranking official visit Moscow in the future, the humble one will surely introduce you to my Mama. However, I am afraid you cannot marry her. As for becoming her lover, as long as my Mama agrees, that is still possible.”

According to western social custom, when people praise one’s mother or wife as beautiful, not only one would not think it as inappropriate, one would be deeply honored instead; he would be more happy than if he himself was being praised. However, Wei Xiaobao erroneously thought that Feodor was afraid of him, unexpectedly he agreed to offer his own mother and was willing to take Wei Xiaobao as a stepfather. The hot anger filling his heart immediately vanished. He laughed and said, “Very good, very good. If I go to Moscow, I will definitely visit your mansion.” Pulling Feodor’s hand, he took him into the tent.

The assistants and attendants of both parties followed into the tent. Wei Xiaobao and his party sat on the east side, Feodor and his party sat on the west side. Feodor said, “Our humble country’s Queen Regent Her Highness the Princess instructed us that this time we are drawing the boundary and discuss peace, we have great faith that both sides will be fair, neither will take advantage of the other side. For this reason our humble country proposes that we decide Heilongjiang as the border between the two countries. South of the River belong to China, north of the river belong to Russia. After the border is defined, Russian troops can no longer cross the river to the south, Chinese troops also cannot cross to the north.”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “Is Yakesa south of the river, or is it north?”

“It’s north of the river,” Feodor replied, “The city was built by us, the Russian; hence it can be clearly seen that the land north of Heilongjiang belong to the Russian.”

When Wei Xiaobao heard that, his anger flared again. He asked, “There is a small hill inside the city of Yakesa; do you know the name of that hill?”

Feodor turned to ask his assistant; he replied, “It is called ‘Gaozhulue’ Mountain.”

Wei Xiaobao knew that in Luocha language, ‘gaozhulue’ means ‘deer’. He said, “In Chinese we call it Mount Luding. Do you know my nobility title?”

“Your Excellency is Duke of Luding,” Feodor replied, “In our Luocha language that would be Duke of Gaozhulue.”

“In that case,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are deliberately making my life difficult. You clearly know that I am the Duke of Luding [deer and cauldron], yet you want to occupy my Mount Luding; won’t that mean you want me not to be Duke anymore?”

“No, no,” Feodor hastily said, “Definitely no such intention.”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “What is your nobility title?”

Feodor replied, “Humble one is the Marquis of Luomonuoshafa.”

“Very well,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In that case Luomonuoshafa can be considered Chinese territory.”

Feodor was taken aback; but then he smiled and said, “The Luomonuoshafa granted by the Emperor to the humble one is located west of Moscow; how can it be Chinese territory?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You said the territory granted to you is called Laomaolashifa [‘old cat defecating method’] …”

“Luomonuoshafa,” Feodor said.

Wei Xiaobao ignored him; he continued, “How far is it from our capital Beijing to Laomaolashifa? How many days of travel?”

Feodor said, “From Luomonuoshafa to Moscow there are five hundred li altogether, five days of travel. From Moscow to Beijing, it will take at least three months.”

“In that case,” Wei Xiaobao said, “From Beijing to Laomaolashifa will require three months and five days of travel. It’s very far.”

“Very far, very far!” Feodor said.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Such a distance, naturally Laomaolashifa cannot be considered Chinese territory.”

Feodor smiled and said, “Nothing is more reasonable than what the Duke has just said.”

Wei Xiaobao raised his wine cup and said, “Please drink.”

Luocha people loved wine as their lives, the wine cup was placed in front of Feodor for quite a while, the aroma of wine had already assaulted his nostrils for quite some time. But since the host did not offer a toast, he did not dare to drink. This moment as Wei Xiaobao offered him a drink, he was greatly delighted; quickly he picked up the cup and drank it in one gulp.

The Qing attendants quickly refilled his cup. They also took out vegetable and meat dishes from the food box. All dishes were the culinary arts of famous Beijing chefs. At this time Luocha country had just entered civilization not too long ago. When the Emperor Peter the Great grew up, to prevent his older sister Princess Sophia from seizing power, he had Sophia imprisoned in a convent. Later on he aggressively imported Western Europe culture. By the time Wei Xiaobao arrived in Moscow, the entire system of civilization, culture, and arts was far removed from China. As for culinary arts, even until today Russia was still 108,000 li away from China.

That day outside Nerchinsk Feodor has had a taste of Chinese gourmet, he was dumbstruck, he even nearly swallowed his own tongue into his belly. Wei Xiaobao accompanied him sampling every dish, and explained to him that that was shark fin, this was swallow’s nest. He also explained how to prepare duck feet into treasure dish, how to turn chicken liver into precious gourmet. Feodor was sighing in admiration; his delight knew no bound.

Wei Xiaobao casually asked, “I wonder which day did Honorable Envoy leave Moscow this time?”

Feodor replied, “Humble one received Her Highness the Princess’ imperial order on the twelfth of the fourth month, and immediately set off from Moscow.”

“Very good,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Come, let’s have another cup. Our Tong Gongye [duke] here, his wine capacity is very good. The two of you must toast each other.” Immediately Tong Guogang offered Feodor a toast. They drank three cups in succession.

Wei Xiaobao asked, “Did Honorable Envoy arrive in Nerchinsk this month?”

Feodor replied, “Humble one arrived on the fifteenth of last month.”

“Wow,” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed, “From the twelfth of the fourth month to the fifteenth of the seventh month; you have travelled more than three months.”

“Yes,” Feodor replied, “I have travelled more than three months. Fortunately the weather was warm, it was not a hard journey at all.”

Wei Xiaobao raised his thumb and praised, “Very good! Honorable Envoy is telling the truth; finally you admitted that Nerchinsk does not belong to Luocha country.”

After drinking more than a dozen cups of wine, Feodor was slightly drunk. “I … when did I ever admit that?” he asked in shock.

Wei Xiaobao said, “From Beijing to Laomaolashifa, it will take more than three months, a very great distance, and this Laomaolashifa is not Chinese territory. From Moscow to Nerchinsk, you also travelled for more than three months, the distance is not near either. Naturally Nerchinsk is not Russian territory.”

Feodor opened his eyes wide, momentarily he was at a loss of what to say. After staring blankly for half a day, he finally said, “Our Russia is so big; it’s not the same at all.”

“Our Great Qing is not small either,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

With a forced laugh Feodor said, “Honorable Envoy loves to joke. These … these two matters cannot … cannot be lumped together.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “You insist that Nerchinsk is Luocha country’s territory, in that case let’s swap. I am going to Moscow and ask the Princess to confer you the title Count of Nerchinsk, and confer me the title Duke of Laomaolashifa. Then this Laomaolashifa can be considered Chinese territory.”

Feodor’s face bulged red; he said anxiously, “This … how can this be?” He could not help feeling anxious because the Princess was Wei Xiaobao’s lover; if he poured a large quantity of Chinese ‘confusing soup’ by the pillow, she might agree to swap, then it would be more than awful. He also thought, “My Luomonuoshafa is a territory granted by the Emperor and has been in my family for generations, a rich land. If the Princess swapped it with Nerchinsk, this place is cold, the population is scarce, it will drive me to my death. Much less right now I am a marquis, if I become the Count of Nerchinsk, won’t that mean I am being demoted?”

Seeing Feodor’s deeply worried and sick at heart expression, Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You wanted to take my Yakesa as your territory, making me cannot be the Duke of Luding; what can I do? Without any better option I must become Duke of Laomaolashifa. Although your land’s name is so unpleasant to the ears, what ‘old cat defecating’ or ‘little dog defecating’, I have no choice but to accept it.”

Feodor considered, “You, China, want to take over my Luomonuoshafa; that would never happen. But you, Wei Xiaobao, have already received nobility title from my Russian Empire; if you want to overtake my land, it would be troublesome for me. We do not really want to keep Yakesa anyway, you have already attacked and taken it, if I want you to retreat, naturally you are unwilling.” Thereupon with a smiling face he said, “Since Yakesa is Honorable Envoy’s territory granted by the Emperor, we are willing to withdraw one step. The two countries still have Heilongjiang as our border, but Yakesa and the area within ten li of the city belong to China. This arrangement is completely for Honorable Envoy’s sake, the maximum concession we have ever made.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “You have been defeated in battle, yet still put on such an air. If this battle was won by you, Luocha people, I am afraid you will even want to have Beijing as your territory.” He said, “We have fought a battle. I wonder if it was you who won, or was it us?”

Feodor knitted his brows and said, “It was a tiny battle, we can’t say who won who lost. Her Highness the Princess has already issued a strict order, in order to give careful consideration to the reconciliation with your respected country, we must not open hostilities; as a result when your respected country’s troops attacked, our humble country’s officers and soldiers did not fight back. Otherwise, the situation would be greatly different.”

When Wei Xiaobao heard this, he was enraged. “So Luocha troops firearms cannot be considered fighting back?” he asked.

Feodor said, “They are merely defending our country’s land, it cannot be considered fighting back. If Luocha people really fight a battle, they would not stay still and did not attack. If the two countries are really at war, Luocha gunmen and Cossack cavalry would attack the city of Beijing.”

Wei Xiaobao was extremely furious; he thought, “Your granny, you yellow-haired demons talk big to scare people. If I am frightened by you, I will take your surname, I will become your son, my name is not Wei Xiaobao, but Xiaobao Feodor.” He had been to Moscow, so he knew that Luocha people’s custom was to have given name first and family name last, but Feodor was his given name, not family name; this fact he did not know. He said, “That’s very good! That’s great! Hojue [marquis] Daren, do you know what is the one thing that my heart desires the most?”

“I do not know,” Feodor replied, “Please advise.”

“Currently I am a duke,” Wei Xiaobao said, “But in my heart I hope for promotion to the nobility, to become a Junwang, a Qinwang[2].”

Feodor thought, “Promotion to the nobility, who does not want it?” He smiled and said, “Gongjue [duke] Daren is able and efficient, plus your respected country’s Emperor dotes on and trusts you; you only need to render several more merits, you will be conferred the title Junwang or Qinwang. I have no doubt about it. The humble one earnestly and sincerely wishes you will succeed earlier.”

Wei Xiaobao lowered his voice, “This matter can only succeed if you help me, otherwise I am afraid I would fail.”

Feodor was surprised. “Humble one will definitely help,” he said, “But I wonder how can I help?”

Wei Xiaobao leaned over to put his mouth near Feodor’s ear and whispered, “According to our Great Qing rule, only after achieving great victory in battle and rendering military service will one be conferred the title Wang [king]. Right now our country is peaceful, there is no disturbance, all rebellions are already suppressed. In the next twenty, thirty years, I am afraid there won’t be any battle to fight. My desire to be a Wang would be very difficult to achieve. This time we are drawing boundary and negotiating peace, you do not want to yield at all; it would be best if you send your troops to challenge us, to kill one or two of our high-ranking ministers in here. Our two countries will fight a war, you send your gunmen and Cossack cavalry to attack Beijing. We make an alliance with Sweden, have them send their troops to attack Moscow. We kill until the sand surging on, until the blood flow becomes a river; at that time I can be a Wang. Please, please, by all means, help me in this big effort. But don’t talk too loud, don’t let others hear it.”

The more Feodor listened to him, the more he was surprised; he thought that this youngster was too brazen, in order to be conferred the title ‘King’, he did not hesitate to provoke both countries to war, he even wanted to form an alliance with Sweden. If this war really broke, although in the future who won who lost were still unknown, but right this moment the other side was numerous while my side was few, there was a wide gap between the two sides’ military power, right away his defeat was guaranteed. In his heart he quite regretted that he had made the threat earlier by saying those things about gunmen and Cossack cavalry attacking the city of Beijing. This youngster thought it was real, not only he was no afraid, he was delighted instead. This time Feodor felt like he had outsmarted himself. However, if he exposed any hint that he was intimidated, he knew Wei Xiaobao would look down on him. Momentarily he was at a loss of what to say.

Wei Xiaobao continued, “Moscow is too far from here, if the Qing troops is going to attack, in all honesty I do not have any confidence we would win; perhaps we will be defeated and then His Majesty will blame me instead …”

Hearing this, Feodor saw an opportunity to take a turn for the better; his face lit up as he busily said, “Yes, yes. If I may offer a bit of advice, Your Excellency had better not take the risks.”

“I only want to render some merit so that I could be conferred the title ‘King’, it’s not that I want to wipe out Luocha country,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your respected country is so big, I don’t have the capability to wipe it out.” Feodor repeatedly agreed.

Lowering his voice again Wei Xiaobao said, “How about this: you send your troops to attack Beijing, I will send my troops to attack Nerchinsk. The two of us brothers attack our respective target; conquering Beijing will be your merit, conquering Nerchinsk would be mine. Don’t you think this strategy is wonderful?”

Feodor groaned inwardly; in his hands he only had a little more than two thousand cavalry, even to attack Yakesa he was powerless, much less to attack Beijing. He thought that if he did not admit he was wrong, perhaps this youngster would turn pretense into reality. Without any choice he forced a laugh and said, “Gongjue Daren, please do not take offense. Just now I said gunmen and Cossack cavalry would attack the city of Beijing, you must not think it was the truth. I made a mistake, and I want to take it back completely.”

“Something that you have said, how could you take it back?” Wei Xiaobao asked in surprise.

Feodor said, “Humble one was only provoking Gongjue Daren, please forget that I ever said those words.”

“In that case,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Luocha troops will not attack Beijing?”

“We won’t,” Feodor said, “Definitely we won’t.”

“And you won’t take over my Yakesa either?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Feodor shook his head, “We won’t, we won’t,” he said.

Wei Xiaobao said, “How about Nerchinsk? You decided you won’t dare to covet it anymore?”

Feodor was startled. He said, “This Nerchinsk is our Tsar’s territory, Gongjue Daren please forgive me.”

Wei Xiaobao thought, “Suzhou people say ‘the whole sky demand for value, the whole earth still has to pay’. I asked him for Nerchinsk, he does not want to hand it over. I want to see what he would say if I ask for the land west of Nerchinsk.” He said, “This time we negotiate peace, we have to have fair dealing, cheating neither old nor young, neither side can suffer any loss; is that right?”

Feodor nodded. “That’s right,” he said, “Both countries are defining the boundary, establishing lasting peace.”

“That’s very good,” Wei Xiaobao said, “If we draw the border too close to Moscow, you Luocha people will suffer loss. If we draw the border too close to Beijing, we Chinese will suffer loss. The best method is to draw it right in the middle; one half equal to zero point five.”

“What does ‘one half equal to zero point five’ mean?” Feodor asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “From Moscow to Beijing is approximately three months; is that right?”

“Right,” Feodor replied.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Three months divided by two, is what?”

Feodor did not understand his intention, he simply replied, “Is one and a half month.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “We don’t need to talk too much. Everybody go back to our own capital. And then from Moscow you set off to the east, from Beijing I set off to the west. We all travel for one and a half month, naturally we will come across each other, right?”

“Yes,” Feodor replied, “But I still don’t know Daren’s intention.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This is the most impartial way of defining the border. The place where we meet is the border between the two countries. That place is one and a half month away from Moscow, it is also one and a half month from Beijing. You do not take any advantage, and we do not suffer any loss. However, our recent victory would be considered void. In the end you are still having the advantage, are you not?”

Feodor’s entire face flushed red. “This … this … this …” he said, while standing up.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You also think that this way is extremely fair, don’t you?”

Feodor shook his hand at once. “No, no!” he said, “Absolutely not. If we draw the border this way, won’t that mean half of the Russian Empire will fall into your hands?”

“Can’t be half,” Wei Xiaobao said, “West of your Moscow, there are a lot of land. Those areas need not be divided evenly with China; why be so polite?”

Feodor was so angry that his beard was sticking out. After quite a while, he finally said, “Gongjue Daren, if you sincerely want to negotiate peace, you ought to offer fair and reasonable proposition. This … this kind of method, in which you want half of our country, you are … you are bullying us too much.” Panting with rage, he sat back down on his chair. ‘Bang!’ he landed so hard that the chair was creaking incessantly.

In a low voice Wei Xiaobao said, “Actually, negotiating peace and drawing boundaries is not so much fun, I like the idea of us fighting a war first. What do you say?”

Feodor panting for breath continuously; he could not refrain from slapping the table and standing up. “If you want to fight then let’s fight!” he shouted on top of his lungs. But then he thought that if the war continued, the aftermath was indeed too grave; his side was completely without hope that they would win. He had no choice but struggling hard to restraint himself and keep silent.

Wei Xiaobao suddenly reached out and slapped the table. “I got it, I got it!” he said with a laugh, “I know another fair way.” Putting his hand into his pocket, he took out two dice, blew it, and tossed the dice onto the table. “You don’t want to fight a war, you don’t want to go fifty-fifty either. Let us throw the dice; let’s just say that there is a ten thousand li of road from Beijing to Moscow, we divide it into ten equal parts, each part is one thousand li. You and I will throw the dice for ten rounds, for each round, the stake is one thousand li of land. If your luck is good and you won all ten rounds, then all the land up to Beijing’s city wall will belong to Luocha country.”

“Humph,” Feodor said, “And if I lose all ten rounds?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Why don’t you tell me?”

Feodor said, “Could it be that east of Moscow, ten thousand li of rivers and mountains, will belong to China?”

“I am guessing that your luck will not be that bad,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I can’t imagine that in ten rounds you won’t win at least one round. For each round you win, you preserve a thousand li of land, two rounds two thousand li; if you win six rounds, you already gain advantage.”

“What advantage?” Feodor angrily said, “East of Moscow, six thousand li is originally Russian territory. Seven thousand li, eight thousand li, are also Russian territory.”

While Wei Xiaobao and Feodor were having these incessant exchanges, on the side, the Dutch clergyman also constantly translated it into Chinese in low voice. Tong Guogang, Songgotu and the others listened attentively. At first they thought that Feodor was capricious, harsh and unreasonable; unexpectedly he demanded that Heilongjiang to be the boundary between the two countries. How could he force China to give up Liaodong, which was the Manchuria’s dragon rising place? In their hearts they were quite angry. Afterwards they heard how Wei Xiaobao conveyed his voracious desire to fight a war to establish meritorious service so that he could be conferred the title ‘King’, and the Russian envoy appeared to show strength while weak inside; he did not dare to respond. And then they heard how Wei Xiaobao was rambling incoherently, about swapping the territory granted by their respective emperor, how he proposed to go fifty-fifty, and lastly how to throw the dice to define the boundary, with one thousand li of land as the stake for each round. They knew he was talking rubbish, the opposite party could not possibly agree to this. But they could also see that Feodor’s arrogance has been greatly dampened; they thought, “Luocha people are harsh and unreasonable, certainly it is a fully justified reputation. If we negotiate with them in deadly earnest, we will definitely be put in a disadvantageous position. His Majesty sent Wei Gongjue to be in charge of this negotiation, he really knew how to use a man according to his ability. This foreign demon is a barbarian, only a marketplace hoodlum without learning or skills like Wei Gongjue can oppose him with equal harshness, fighting barbarian with a barbarian.”

Although on their faces Tong Guogang, Songgotu and the other ministers were very respectful and courteous toward Wei Xiaobao, in the bottom of their hearts they actually looked down on him; they all felt that he was no more than a clown, a court jester whom the Emperor doted on. His day-to-day speech and action was oftentimes shameful; he was clever, but clearly had no sense of shame, one who think highly of himself. This time he was appointed envoy minister to stop the enemy at the banquet table, they thought it would be difficult for their country to avoid humiliation in front of a foreign nation, to cause their country to lose face. Who would have imagined that the Emperor actually had the capacity to judge character and utilize people to their ability? If he did not send this mischievous character on this particular mission, among the civil and military ministers in the Manchurian Qing’s court, there was really no other man who would be able to accomplish it. The more the crowd of ministers listened, the more they admired him; they felt that the Emperor was extremely wise and farsighted; far from the reach of anybody among the high-ranking ministers.

Listening to this point, Songgotu suddenly interjected, “Moscow is actually our China’s territory.”

The Dutch priest translated the sentence. Feodor was stunned; he thought, “This youngster is babbling nonsense; that is still all right. But you, an old man, also shamelessly talk drivel? You said our country’s capital, Moscow is your China’s territory?”

Songgotu said, “According to Honorable Envoy’s argument, as long as Luocha people temporarily occupy an area, that land will be considered Luocha country’s territory; is that right?”

“Isn’t that so?” Feodor said, “Honorable Envoy said that Moscow is Chinese territory, hey hey, that … that is a joke, a ridiculous argument.”

Songgotu said, “Luocha country’s people consist of Great Russia, Minor Russia, White Russia, also Cossacks, Tatars, and the other. Those are all Luocha people.”

“Absolutely right,” Feodor said, “Our country’s territory is vast, the people are numerous.”

Songgotu said, “The ethnicities of our country’s common people are also numerous. We have Manchu people, Mongolian, Han, Miao, Hui, Tibetan, and so on.”

“Exactly,” Feodor said, “Russia is a great country, China is also a great country. Our two countries are the biggest countries of the present age.”

Songgotu said, “The bodyguards that Honorable Envoy brings this time seem to be Cossack cavalry.”

Feodor smiled and said, “Cossack cavalry’s bravery is unequalled, they are the most formidable warriors in the world.”

Songgotu said, “Is Cossack cavalry a lot more formidable than Russians?”

“We can’t say that,” Feodor replied, “The Cossacks are Luocha’s common people, Russians are also Luocha’s common people; there is not the least bit difference between the two. Just like Manchu people are Chinese, Mongolians, Hans, are also Chinese; there is not the least bit difference.”

Songgotu nodded. “That is so,” he said, “Consequently, Moscow is our Chinese territory.”

Listening to this point, Wei Xiaobao still did not understand Songgotu’s intention; he was fully aware that Moscow was tens of thousand li away, definitely it was not Chinese territory. But he saw that Songgotu seemed to be pressing the issue, and that Feodor’s veins were bulging on his forehead, his countenance alternated between ashen and deep red, he appeared to be very angry that he had turned mad. Thereupon Wei Xiaobao interrupted, “Moscow is Chinese territory, that is absolutely true. Chinese Emperor is magnanimous, he let you did like Liu Bei borrowed Jingzhou, but after borrowing it he never returned it back.”

Naturally Feodor did not know anything about Liu Bei borrowing Jingzhou, he just felt that these Chinese barbarians did not speak with reasons, they talked not as civilized people. He said with a cold laugh, “I previously heard that China was long-established, that Chinese people were very well-learned; who would have thought … hey, hey, you are experts in talking drivel without any proof.”

Songgotu said, “Honorable Envoy is a high-ranking minister of Luocha country, even if you did not have much learning, but you would know Luocha country’s history, I presume?”

Feodor said, “Our country’s history is well-written as a proof, everything is written down clearly, not at all like other people speak thoughtlessly and casually.”

“That’s very good,” Songgotu said, “In the past China had an emperor, called Genghis Khan …”

As soon as Feodor heard the name ‘Genghis Khan’, four characters [cheng ji si han], he could not help blurting out ‘Aiyo’, while in his heart he groaned, “Bad, bad! Why was I so muddleheaded that I completely forgot about this big matter?”

Songgotu continued, “This Genghis Khan, in China we call him Yuan Taizu [lit. grand ancestor], because he was the Great Ancestor who founded our China’s Yuan Dynasty. He was a Mongol; Honorable Envoy has just said that Manchus, Mongols, Hans, are all Chinese, there is not the least bit difference. At that time Mongolian cavalry launched military expedition to the west, and have had quite a few major battles with the Luocha troops. Your respected country’s history books have the proof, everything is written down clearly, it’s not something that other people speak thoughtlessly and casually. These several battles, I wonder if they were won by us, the Chinese, or were they won by your respected country, Luocha people?”

Feodor was speechless. After quite a while, he finally replied, “The Mongols won.”

“And Mongols are Chinese!” Songgotu said.

Feodor stared blankly for half a day, finally he slowly nodded his head.

Wei Xiaobao did not know that there was such thing in the past; when he heard that, immediately his spirit received a big boost. “Chinese and Luocha people fought a war, undoubtedly Luocha people would lose. Your ability is a bit inferior, next time we fight another war, we only need to use one hand. Otherwise, the difference between the two sides is too far, the war would not have been fun to fight.”

Feodor glowered at him; he mused, “If not for Her Highness the Princess has issued a strict order that this time we could only use peaceful method and not use force, just based on this word of yours that you are insulting us, Luocha people, I would have challenged you for a duel.”

With a giggle Wei Xiaobao asked Songgotu, “Suo Dage, how did Genghis Khan defeat Luocha troops?”

Songgotu said, “In those days Genghis Khan deployed two ten-thousand men companies on the military expedition to the west, altogether there were only twenty thousand men and horses. They attacked and inflicted heavy damage to more than a hundred thousand men Luocha coalition army. Genghis Khan’s grandson, Batu was also a great hero, his army defeated the Luocha troops utterly, and he occupied Moscow, striking all the way to Poland, Hungary, and crossed the Danube. For the next several hundred years, Luocha’s princes, dukes, and the nobles had to obey us, the Chinese. At that time our Chinese Mongolian heroes lived in gold-inlaid tents. Moscow’s princes and dukes oftentimes had to come and kowtow to Chinese people. When the Chinese said they wanted to spank these people’ bottom, they would simply spank their bottoms. When they said they wanted to slap, they simply slapped, the Luocha people would still giggle and cry out that the beating was good, the beating was too few. Otherwise, he could not be a duke anymore.”

(Book note: In 1238AD Mongolian Great General Batu took over Moscow and Kiev. From 1240 to 1480AD, for 240 years the Mongolians ruled Russian vast territory, they established the ‘Golden Horde’ [lit. golden tent Khanate]. The ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’ has the following entry on the subject of Russia: ‘The Princes and Dukes of Moscow must go to Sarai city at the mouth of Volga River to have an audience with the Mongolian Khan in his golden tent before they could receive the nobility title. They had to endure many different kinds of humiliation. After paying their respect and returning to Moscow they then could collect taxes from the Tatars and could push around the neighboring smaller states’ feudal vassals.’)[3]

Hearing this, Wei Xiaobao was radiant with delight; he struck the table and exclaimed happily, “Dear dragon of the east! Turns out Moscow indeed belongs to China.”

Feodor’s face alternated between green and white. Songgotu was stating a historical fact, it was not a false statement at all, it’s just that Luocha people previously did not admit Mongolians as Chinese. This time, however, Mongolia indeed belonged to China, hence the inference that Moscow also belonged to China was not completely baseless.

“Your Excellency Marquis,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I’ll say this discussion about defining border need not be continued. Please go back and ask the Princess when she is going to return Moscow to China. I will also go back to Beijing, to procure leather and gold to manufacture golden tent, and then tear down Kremlin Palace and erect the golden tent on its place, and ask Princess Sophia to sleep in it. Ha ha, ha ha …!”

Hearing to this point, Feodor could no longer show restraint; he sprang up and rushed out of the tent. They heard his angry voice like thunder, shouting order and issuing his instruction, followed by the sound of hoof beats. More than two hundred horses rushed over. Wei Xiaobao was shocked. “Aiyo!” he cried out, “These hairy people are going to attack, we’d better run for our lives.”

Tong Guogang had been through many battles, he was completely calm. “Wei Gongjue don’t panic,” he shouted, “If he wants to fight then let’s fight; who is afraid of him?”

They heard outside the tent the Cossack cavalry shouted together. Wei Xiaobao was so scared that his entire body trembled. He ducked down and hid underneath the table. Tong Guogang and Songgotu looked at each other in dismay; in their hearts they could not help but panicking as well.

The tent curtain was opened, a general strode in, it was none other than the commander of the rattan shield troops, Lin Xingzhu. He said in a loud and clear voice, “Reporting to Grand Marshal …” but he did not see the Grand Marshal.

From underneath the table Wei Xiaobao said, “I … I … I am here. Everybody quickly … quickly run for your lives.”

Lin Xingzhu squatted down to speak to the Grand Marshal Wei underneath the table, “Reporting to Grand Marshal: Luocha troops’ prestige is impressive, but we must not show weakness; if we have to fight then let’s damn fight.”

Hearing he spoke with confidence, Wei Xiaobao’s spirit calmed down; immediately he crawled out of the table. Just now he hastily took refuge under the table, but actually he was not being a coward blindly. Patting his chest he said, “Right, if we want to fight then let’s fight their grannies. Laozi being a soldier, bravely go … bravely go not … not in the front. No, that’s not right! Bravely go to show my worth.” (He wanted to say, ‘Bravely go to show one’s worth, not bravely go is of little value’.)

Pulling Lin Xingzhu’s hand he strode out the tent. As soon as he was outside, he saw two hundred sixty Cossack cavalry raising high their long sabers, riding on their fine horses, surrounding the tent to show off their military strength, speeding along in circles around the tent. Feodor shouted his command, the cavalry rushed away from the tent. They stopped approximately two hundred zhang away and arranged themselves in formation; two hundred sixty riders in ten neat and tidy rows. Suddenly they shouted together and rushed toward Wei Xiaobao.

“Mother!” Wei Xiaobao cried out, and turned around, ready to dash into the tent. But then he thought, “If the Luocha demons want to kill me, even if I hide inside the tent, they will still grab me. I must not lose this face.” His body was trembling, his face was the color of the earth, but unexpectedly he stood upright and did not move.

Lin Xingzhu thundered, “Rattan shield troops, protect the Grand Marshal! Come over!”

The two hundred sixty rattan shield troops responded in chorus, “Yes.” Quickly they moved and stood in front of Wei Xiaobao and the other high-ranking ministers.

From his boot Wei Xiaobao pulled his dagger, thinking, “If Luocha demons really want to resort to violence, everybody will fight desperately together, yi qi cannot be disregarded.” He rushed over in front of Songgotu and called out, “Suo Dage, don’t be afraid, I will protect you.”

Songgotu was a civil officer, he was already scared that his body and soul separated. He said, “I completely … completely rely on Xiongdi.”

They saw ten rows of Cossack cavalry charged swiftly toward them. When they were about five zhang away from the Qing troops, the captain in the front waved his long saber in the air and shouted his order. The cavalry straightened their backs and pulled the reins, two hundred sixty horses immediately stopped. The captain shouted his order again, the cavalry divided into two groups, a hundred and thirty riders split to the north, the other hundred and thirty riders went to the south. After speeding along for several dozen zhang, they made a big circle and returned to their original position, about two hundred zhang away from the tent and stopped. The formation was strictly maintained, they were not in disorder at all. These two hundred sixty men and horses were like one man one horse, indeed they were a highly trained group of elite troops.

Feodor laughed aloud and cried in a loud voice, “Gongjue Daren, what do you think of our Luocha troops?”

It was only then did Wei Xiaobao know that he was merely showing off their military prowess. In his heart he was furious. “That is no more than circus monkey stuff,” he cried, “In a real battle, it will be completely useless.”

Feodor angrily said, “We’ll do it again!” In his heart he said, “This time let them charge right in front of you, I want to see if you are going to run away or not.” He called out, “Knock the Chinese troops’ hat off their heads.”

The Cossack cavalry captain shouted his order, two hundred sixty cavalry charged forward again.

“Chop the horses’ legs!” Wei Xiaobao called out.

“Receive the order!” Lin Xingzhu responded. “Chop the horses’ legs! Don’t hurt the people!”

They heard the thundering hoof beats, two hundred sixty horses were getting closer and closer, Cossack cavalry’s long sabers flickered under the sunlight, soon they were only about thirty zhang away, then twenty zhang, ten zhang … and still they did not stop. When they were about four, five zhang away, Lin Xingzhu shouted, “Roll down, move, move, move!” Two hundred and sixty rattan shield troops leaped forward and rolled on the ground.

These two hundred and sixty men were under Lin Xingzhu’s personal training, they were expert in Di Tang Saber Technique; their movement and saber playing had been trained to perfection. As they rolled forward, the rattan shield protected their bodies, but did not reveal the least bit of saber’s glitter.

The Cossack cavalry suddenly saw the Qing troops rolled on the ground, they were all stunned. The troops defending Yakesa had suffered defeat under the rattan shield troops’ hands, but those defenders were either dead or taken captive; they were completely wiped out. The Cossack cavalry was fresh from Moscow, escorting Feodor to the east; they had never seen the rattan shield troops’ movement, they all thought that by rolling around on the ground, you look really silly, so don’t blame us if you are trampled to your death by the horses.

In an instant the first row of cavalry clashed with the rattan shield troops. Suddenly the horses neighed and fell down one after another. The rattan shield troops brandished their sharp blades, one saber sweep chopped one or two horse’s legs. With the rattan shield protecting their bodies, they continuously rolled around and chopped more horses. Amidst the cry of Luocha troops and the neigh of their horses, the rattan shield troops already swept pass all ten rows, chopping a hundred seventy or a hundred eighty horses’ legs. And then they all stood in formation behind the Cossack cavalry. Under Lin Xingzhu’s leadership the rattan shield troops then ran quickly back and lined up in front of Wei Xiaobao. From the two hundred sixty men, only about a dozen or so suffered bruises from the horses’ kicks, but their injuries were light, the injured bore their pain silently as they stood in formation.

More than half of the two hundred and sixty Cossack cavalry were thrown down from their horses, some were crushed by their own mounts, they were lying on the ground, groaning and crying out in distress. Only several dozen men still stayed on their horses as they ran far away. Most of them stood on the ground, at a loss of what to do. All their lives these cavalry troops spent their time on the horseback; only by riding their mounts would these men be swift, fierce and brave. With their feet on the ground, they were like fish out of the water, without their mounts they had nothing to rely on.

Wei Xiaobao called out, “Divide the troops, surround the high-ranking Luocha officials.”

Lin Xingzhu shouted his order, immediately a hundred rattan shield troops surrounded Feodor and the others, a dozen or so Luocha ministers, a hundred broadswords formed a large blade ring, the blades were facing inward; just with one order these hundred broadswords would press in, Feodor and the others would definitely turn into Luocha meatloaf.

Seeing this situation, the deputy captain of the Cossack cavalry dashed forward and shouted, “Must not harm people, must not harm people!”

Wei Xiaobao turned his head around and spoke to Shuang’er, who was wearing personal guard uniform, “Go seal their acupoints.”

“Alright!” Shuang’er replied, and leaped out behind the Cossack cavalry captain; stretching out her finger she sealed the acupoint on his lower back, and then she also sealed the deputy captain’s acupoint.

A junior captain put his hand into his pocket and pulled a short gun. “Don’t move!” he shouted.

Shuang’er grabbed a Luocha soldier by her side and held him in front of her body. With the soldier as a shield, she pressed several steps forward. The junior captain did not dare to open fire. “Don’t move!” he shouted again.

Shuang’er threw the Luocha soldier toward him. The junior captain was startled; he dodged sideways. Shuang’er leaped forward, and sealed the acupoints on his chest and waist, and then she grabbed the gun in his hand, pointed it to the sky, and then ‘bang!’ it went off.

Wei Xiaobao shouted loudly, “Well, well, both sides have agreed not to carry firearms; you Luocha demons cannot be trusted at all.” Taking several steps forward, he said to Feodor, “Hey, tell your men to throw their weapons down, get down from their horses, and stand in line. Those who carry firearms must hand it over.”

Feodor knew he could not defy, hence he issued the order; the Cossack cavalry had no choice but to throw down their sabers and swords, dismounted from their horses and stood in formation. Wei Xiaobao ordered the two hundred and sixty rattan shield troops to surround and searched the Luocha troops. From two hundred and sixty men, they found more than two hundred and eighty short guns; some men carried two.

The Luocha troops standing guard at Nerchinsk city wall saw the turn of events, they advanced slowly. The Qing troops on the east also slowly moving forward. When the distance between them was about several hundred steps, both armies arranged themselves in formation, facing each other. Seeing their commander-in-chief was surrounded, the Luocha troops could only groan inwardly, they did not dare to move further.

Wei Xiaobao asked Feodor, “Hojue Daren, what did you bring that many firearms for?”

Feodor hung his head and said, “I am so sorry, my bodyguards did not obey the order, they secretly carried firearms. When we get back I will severely punish them.”

Wei Xiaobao called out, “Rattan shield troops, open your clothes, let them see if you are carrying firearms or not?”

Two hundred and sixty rattan shield troops tossed their shields aside, with their left hands they undid their clothes, with their right hands they held the broadsword high to guard against the enemy making a move. Everybody opened their clothes, exposing their chests, and hopped several times. Sure enough, nobody carried any firearm. Feodor was very ashamed, he hung his head low and did not say anything.

Wei Xiaobao shouted in Luocha language, “Luocha people have no sense of shame, strip their clothes and pants, see if they still conceal firearms or not?”

Feodor was greatly alarmed; he hastily said, “Gongjue Daren, please show mercy. If you … you strip my pants, I … I will have no choice but to commit suicide.”

“This stripping of pants must be done,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Feodor said, “Please forgive us just this one time, in other matters we will obey whatever you tell us to do.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Just now your cavalry rushed over and scared me that I hid under the table; the Gongjue Daren has lost a lot of face. What do you do about that?”

Feodor thought, “You are the one who is a coward, what can I do about it?” But since the Qing troops’ blade flickered around him, he had no choice but to say, “The humble one is ready to pay for the damage.”

Wei Xiaobao was secretly delighted; he thought, “Luocha bamboo pole is coming.” [See note 11, Chapter 10 on ‘bamboo pole’.] Momentarily he could not think of what he wanted Feodor to give him; he turned his head around and issued an order, “Cut the belts of all Luocha high-ranking officials and lowly soldiers’ pants.”

“Receive the order!” the rattan shield troops shouted. They lifted their blades, insert it into Luocha men’s waist with the sharp of the blade facing outward, and pulled. The belts were immediately cut. From Feodor down, all Luocha men were scared out of their wits. With both hands they held their pants tight, for fear they would fall.

Wei Xiaobao roared in laughter. He issued another order, “Escort the Luocha people back to our camp in triumph!”

By this time all Luocha officers and men were worried that their pants would drop down, nobody dared to resist; they followed the Qing troops marching to the east.

Tong Guogang said with a laugh, “Grand Marshal Wei’s brilliant scheme is indeed admirable. Cutting their belts is the same as instantly tying the hands of two hundred and sixty Luocha officers and men behind their back.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Luocha men are very afraid to take off their pants, on the contrary, Luocha women are not afraid at all; isn’t that very strange?” Tong Guogang and the others laughed at this sexual innuendo.

The party met with the main army. The Qing troops pushed out more than four hundred cannon and took off the cannon covering, the cannon’s muzzles were trained at the Luocha troops. Although Luocha country’s firearms were sharp, in their mission to the east this time, their preparation was not as good as Kangxi, who had half the number of cannon available in the entire country sent to Nerchinsk. Therefore, in term of firepower, the Qing army was several times more superior. When the Luocha troops suddenly saw these many cannon, they all looked at each other with fear on their faces. Their commander hastily issued an order to return to the city and close the city gate tightly. The Qing army did not continue besieging the city either.

In the meantime the Cossack cavalry captain, deputy captain, and the junior captain’s acupoints were still sealed by Shuang’er, they were unable to move a single step. The three men were standing on the open space like clay figurine or wooden statue. When the Luocha troops returned and entered Nerchinsk, they were in such a hurry that they did not pay attention. By the time they climbed the city wall and looked, they were astonished, but nobody dared to get out of the city to help. After about an hour, they saw the three men were still unmoving, so then a company of Cossack cavalry went out of the city to rescue them. But they only walked a dozen of zhang or so, the Qing army’s cannon were fired several times. The general defending the city hastily ordered the trumpeter to sound the bugle to order the cavalry to return to the city; he was afraid the Qing army would attack so that the rescuing team would also fall into their trap.

On top of the city wall, under the city wall, the two armies watched from a distance the three men were still standing motionless in a rather weird posture. The Qing troops roared in laughter. The Luocha troops were overwhelmed with shock. Wei Xiaobao invited Feodor and his delegation to enter the command tent and have everybody sat separately as the hosts and guests. Wei Xiaobao only chuckled without saying anything.

“Gongjue Daren,” Feodor angrily said, “You don’t need to play tricks with me. If you want to kill me then just kill me.”

Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “You and I are friends, why would I want to kill you? Let us continue the talk about defining the border.” He thought that since the ministers, the opposite party’s delegation to discuss the border had fallen into their hands, no matter what condition he raised, it would be hard for the opposite party to refuse.

Who would have thought that Feodor was born from a military family, he was extremely unyielding. Boldly he said, “I am your prisoner, not a diplomatic envoy of equal standing to discuss the border. I am under your threats, any talk cannot continue. Even if the talk continued and the treaty signed, it cannot take effect.”

“Why can’t it take effect?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Feodor said, “Because all clause are decided by you, what is there to talk about? You cannot force me to negotiate with you.”

“Why can’t I force you to negotiate with me?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“I will never surrender,” Feodor replied, “Brandish your blade and kill me, shoot me with your gun, feel free to make your move.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “What if I have people strip your pants?”

Feodor was enraged; he suddenly stood up and shouted, “You …” He only said one word, ‘you’, his pants suddenly slipped down; hastily he reached down and grabbed them. His belt was cut off, when he sat down, he did not need to hold his pants, but in rage he stood up and forgot about it. Fortunately he managed to grab his pants promptly that he did not make a fool of himself. All the ministers and attendants on Qing’s side in the tent roared in laughter.

Feodor was so angry that his face turned snow white, his hands held on to his pants, his expression looked extremely awkward. He wanted to make a vehement speech, too bad he could not brandish his hands to add emphasis; no matter how passionate he spoke, it would be bound to be limited. “Pei!” he spat angrily and sat down. “I am His Majesty the Tsar of Luocha country’s ambassador, you cannot humiliate me,” he said.

“You may rest assured that I will not humiliate you,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Let us discuss the national boundary nicely.”

Feodor took out a handkerchief from his pocket, wrapped it around his own mouth, and tied it behind his back; the meaning was that he was resolved not to talk. Wei Xiaobao ordered his personal guards to get some fine wine and delicious food and set it up on the table. He poured a cup of wine and said with a laugh, “Please, please, don’t be polite.”

Smelling the aroma of the food and wine, Feodor was unable to resist; he untied the handkerchief, picked up the cup and drank. Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Marquis, you are using your mouth?”

Feodor continued drinking wine and eating the food, but did not answer, stating that his mouth was only used to eat and drink, and not for anything else. Wei Xiaobao repeatedly urged him to drink more wine, thinking that if he could get him drunk, perhaps he could get him to surrender. Who would have thought that even after drinking a dozen or more cups of wine, eating several chunks of beef, he used the handkerchief to wipe his mouth, and tied it again over his mouth? Seeing that, Wei Xiaobao was quite amused. He ordered his personal guards to take Feodor to a tent in the back to let him rest, and to guard him well; while he discussed how to deal with this matter with Songgotu, Tong Guogang and the others.

Tong Guogang said, “This man is so stubborn, he resolutely refuse to talk peace in our army camp. But I am not willing to let him go back to his camp.”

Songgotu said, “We can detain him for ten days, eight days, every day we slaughter one Luocha demon in his presence, I want to see if he will still be that stubborn.”

Tong Guogang said, “If we hound him to death, inevitably this matter will be brought to deadlock. We use military force to capture the opposite side’s minister to negotiate peace, perhaps His Majesty would put the blame on us.”

“Tong Gongye [duke] is right,” Songgotu said, “Blindly using force on him is not the way to deal with him.”

After long deliberation, the high-ranking ministers still could not come up with a wise policy. Today they were able to capture Feodor; although it was a victory, it was not the original idea of the Emperor in seeking peace. It could be said that they had violated the imperial court’s project of paramount importance, that they had handled this matter poorly; it was possible that the table would turn and they would be charged with the serious crime of disobeying the imperial edict.

At the end of the deliberation, all the ministers advised Wei Xiaobao to release Feodor. “Very well!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Let’s detain him for one night, early morning tomorrow we will let him go.”

Returning to his tent, he paced back and forth while considering this matter. Suddenly he recalled something, “Earlier I copied Zhuge Liang burning down the Coiling Snake Valley, and achieved great victory by taking down Yakesa. Laozi can also copy Zhou Yu’s trick in the play ‘Meeting of Heroes’.” After thinking about it for a while, he came up with an idea.

Returning to the command tent, he invited the translator, the Dutch missionary to come over and had a serious discussion with him. Wei Xiaobao asked him to teach him some twenty Luocha sentences, and he learned to say those sentences correctly. He also summoned four high-ranking military officers, along with the captain of his personal guards, and instructed them to do certain things. Everybody received the order and left.

Feodor was sleeping in a tent on the back. Different thoughts surging in his mind; there was fright, and then there was remorse, how could he sleep? He tossed and turned until midnight, and then he heard snores like thunder coming from the entrance to the tent, unexpectedly the three personal guards who were on guard duty had fallen asleep.

Feodor thought, “If I don’t agree to the Chinese barbarians’ terms, it would be difficult for me to escape. If tomorrow I provoke that little demon and he gets angry and kills me, won’t I die in injustice? Heaven helps me that these three guards are asleep, why not take chances and escape now?” Quietly he got up from the bed, untied the leather strap across his back and wrapped it around his waist to prevent his pants from falling down, and then he tiptoed to the tent entrance. He saw the three personal guards were leaning against the tent posts and were sleeping soundly.

He reached out toward a personal guard’s waist with the intention to pull the saber hanging on the guard’s waist. The guard suddenly sneezed. Feodor jumped in fright and hastily pulled his hand back. After a while and he still did not see any movement, he went for another guard’s saber. The personal guard suddenly stretched out and mumbled some indistinct words. Feodor did not dare to tarry anymore, he quietly went out of the tent, fortunately the three personal guards neither saw nor sensed that he was gone.

Once Feodor was outside, he hid in the shadows; he saw the night guards on patrol with lanterns in one hand and saber in the other. There were patrolling soldiers to his north, east and south, only the west side was pitch-black, obviously there was no one on that side. Thereupon step by step he crept to the west, each time he saw a patrolling guard, he shrank behind a tent. Luckily all the way to the west the terrain was flat with nothing obstructing him.

He had just reached a large tent when suddenly he saw from the west a group of patrolling soldiers approaching. Feodor hastily crouched behind the tent. He heard someone inside was speaking; surprisingly the man was speaking in Luocha language. He heard the man said, “Gongjue Daren is determined to attack Moscow, it is not impossible, it’s just that it’s too far, it is really dangerous.”

Feodor was greatly alarmed. At once he crouched even lower to open a corner of the tent and looked inside. Once he got a good look, his heart was thumping madly. Inside, the tent was as bright as daytime. Wei Xiaobao was wearing full military attire, he was sitting in the middle, on either side of him stood a dozen or so high-ranking military officers, and further down there were several dozens of personal guards with broadsword in their hands. Standing by the table in front of Wei Xiaobao was the Dutch missionary, who acted as their interpreter earlier, talking to him.

He heard Wei Xiaobao spoke in Luocha language, “We drink wine and chat with Feodor in here, everything is fake, not real. We can talk with him for a month, two months, speaking back and forth, everything is fake, while our main force stealthily advancing to the west. Let Luocha princess receive that fool, Feodor’s report, constantly, letting her know that we are still talking, then she won’t be afraid, let her dance and go to bed with her sweetheart every day. Chinese main forces will suddenly arrived outside Moscow, with a sudden attack, the two Tsars and Princess Sophia will be captured. Luocha people will weep, kneel, surrender!”

The Dutch missionary said, “I don’t know anything about marching to war and fighting a battle, but holding a peace talk while sending troops for a sneak attack on their capital, won’t that mean we are breaching their trust too much? God gave us commandments, we must not cheat, we must not lie.”

“Ha ha,” Wei Xiaobao laughed, “It was Luocha people who cheated first, we have had an agreement, the guards of both sides carry firearms, not allowed. But on their bodies they hid firearms, short ones. They cheated, we cheat back. He bit me, once, I want to bite him, twice; bite him hard!”

“Hey,” the missionary exclaimed. After a while, he said, “I still advise Gongjue Daren not to go to war. The two countries go to war, the dead are all God’s people …”

Wei Xiaobao shook his hand, “No need to say too much. We only believe Buddha, we don’t believe God. If that Feodor is willing to have a fair negotiation, letting China has a bit more land, we can have a peaceful talk. But he is unwilling to yield even one li of land. After we attack and take over Moscow, Luocha men will go to heaven; the women, become Chinese people’s wives.”

The more Feodor heard, the more scared he was. “Oh my God,” he mused, “Chinese barbarians really disregard the law and natural morality, they are indeed daredevils.”

He heard Wei Xiaobao continued, “Today I sent a personal guard, on the three Cossack cavalry captains’ body, use finger to jab several times. These three captains, cannot move. Did you see that?”

“I did,” the missionary replied, “What kind of magic was that? It was very strange.”

“Chinese magic,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Genghis Khan, handed down. Genghis Khan used this method, attacked Luocha people, they kneeled and surrendered. We use the same method to attack them, Luocha country, will die!”

Feodor thought, “In those days Mongolia only had twenty thousand cavalry, they attacked all the way to Poland and Hungary; nobody in the world was able to stop them, apparently they were using magic. Eastern people are very strange, they are coming and will use magic; this … what should we do about it?”

He heard the missionary said, “If Luocha people open fire from the distance, your magic will be useless.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “That’s right. Consequently, we must pretend to have the negotiation in here, while the main forces are attacking Moscow. Just like little thieves, we sneak into the city. I have been to Moscow, there are a lot of Tatars in the city. Our troops will masquerade as Tatar shepherds, and sneak into the city. I guarantee the Luocha guards will not find out.”

Cold sweats started to run down Feodor’s back; he thought, “This Chinese little demon’s devilish plan is indeed formidable. Chinese soldiers traveling in disguise as Tatar shepherds, infiltrating our capital, unleashing their magical skill, how can we resist?”

He did not know that Shuang’er’s acupoint sealing technique was a high-level martial art skill, it required internal energy cultivation to reach high level stage before the practitioner could use it. From among the tens of thousands officers and men of the Qing army, she was the only one who could use the acupoint sealing technique. But Feodor thought that the magic only need to be taught, then anybody could use it. With just one touch of a finger, the opponents would be unable to move a single step. If tens of thousands Chinese soldiers used this technique in sneak attack against Moscow, perhaps Luocha country would be destroyed, its people annihilated.

He heard the missionary said, “If Gongjue Daren wants to send twenty thousand Chinese troops to sneak into Moscow, using the magic passed down by Genghis Khan to control the Luocha troops, then your plan to capture the two Tsars and the Princess may indeed be successful. However … however, this matter must be kept top secret. A big army traveling to the west, Luocha people must not find out about it. Gongjue Daren, Luocha country today is very strong, it is substantially different from when Genghis Khan fought the Luocha people in the past.”

“I have been to Moscow,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I know the Luocha country’s situation very clearly. Early morning tomorrow we will release Feodor, let him go back. Afterwards we can continue negotiating with him; of course everything is fake. He is unwilling to agree, we negotiate in here for one day, Chinese main force is one day closer to Moscow.”

“Yes, yes,” the missionary said, “Daren must be careful in everything. This matter is really very dangerous.”

“I know,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You must not say anything. Don’t raise Feodor’s suspicion.” The missionary complied and withdrew.

Wei Xiaobao shouted, “Summon ‘tortoise b@stard dead chicken’ and ‘pig tribe coward’!”

His personal guard went out the tent, and returned with Poyarkov and Stepanov in tow. Wei Xiaobao said to the two men, “Tomorrow, I send two teams to Moscow, with many, many gifts, for Princess Sophia. On the road, robbers are many, send more troops to protect.”

Poyarkov said, “From here to Moscow there are only some small groups of Tatar bandits, plus they are not too ferocious. Gongjue Daren may set your heart at ease.”

“You don’t know,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Tatar robbers, eight or nine thousand men per group, some even twenty thousand, thirty thousand men.” Poyarkov and Stepanov looked at each other, their expressions showed their disbelief.

Wei Xiaobao said, “The two teams I send, will take two separate routes to Moscow, north and south. Wangbasiji will lead the one taking northern route, Zhuluonuofu will lead the southern route. These two routes, how are they?”

Poyarkov said, “Taking the northern route, from here going west to Chita, pass through Wusiwude [Ulan-Ude?], around the southern end of Great Lake Baikal, westward pass through Tomsk, Omsk, and the other cities, to Moscow.”

Stepanov said, “Taking the southern route, at first we will take the same road, after Lake Baikal the roads separate, heading southwest pass through the place where the Kazakhs live, continue westward through Osk, Uralsk, and so on, to Moscow.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “That’s right, those are the routes. My gifts, letter, and the Chinese envoy to deliver it to the Princess, the two of you lead the way. Lead well, rewards, lots of reward. Lead not well, Chinese generals will lead the troops, chop your heads. Dismiss!”

After the two Luocha captains withdrew, Wei Xiaobao picked up the golden arrow banner of command and issued his order. One by one the Chinese great generals bowed to receive the order. Feodor did not understand what they were speaking, but he saw that all Chinese great generals who receive the order had vehement expression on their faces; they struck their own chest with their fist and raised their hand to the sky as if making an oath. Apparently they pledged to their Grand Marshal that whatever happened they would achieve great success. Some even ran their palm across their own neck, some pulled their dagger and made a motion of stabbing it to their own chest, while with their mouth they did not stop chanting, “Moscow, Moscow.” Presumably they were saying that if they fail to take down Moscow, they would commit suicide.

Wei Xiaobao rambled on for a while. Four personal guards picked up a large map from the table, the map happened to face Feodor. He saw Wei Xiaobao traced his finger on the map, from Nerchinsk all the way to the west, following a thick red line, stopping at a red circle. Although Feodor could not read any Chinese character on the map, by looking at the bearing, he knew that the red circle represented Moscow. Wei Xiaobao rambled on again, his finger traced another line to Moscow. Feodor thought, “These Chinese barbarians are really vile; turns out they have thought through deliberately and methodically, they have long been prepared to attack Moscow.

Wei Xiaobao went on to say something, he repeatedly mentioned the name ‘Feodor’. When the generals heard him, they all roared in laughter. Feodor said in his heart, “You must be laughing at me, calling me an idiot; you are fooling me to negotiate the boundary, stalling me here for days, while surreptitiously you send troops to attack Moscow. Humph, I will not fall into your trick anymore.”

Slowly he stood up, thinking, “God bless me, He lets me discover Chinese barbarians’ big crafty scheme. It is clear that God shows concern for my Russian Empire, the fate of our nation will definitely be prosperous and grand. In any case, he is going to release me tomorrow, there is no need for me to take risks by running away tonight.”

He saw on the west side the patrolling soldiers come and go unendingly, but the east side was pitch-black and no one was in sight. Quietly he returned to his tent. Luckily the Qing troops did not see him at all. When he reached his tent, he saw that the three guards were still asleep; thereupon he entered his tent and went to sleep.

The next morning Feodor ate a sumptuous breakfast before following a personal guard back to the command tent. Wei Xiaobao laughed and asked, “Did Hojue Daren sleep well last night?”

“Humph,” Feodor said, “Your guards guarding me thoughtfully, naturally I slept very well.”

“Today you are not angry anymore?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “Are we going to talk about the terms in defining the boundary?”

Feodor did not reply. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped it around his mouth. Wei Xiaobao was enraged; he shouted, “You are so stubborn. I will kill you immediately.”

Feodor was not afraid at all; he thought, “You already decided to release me today, why putting on airs? Who’s afraid of you?”

Wei Xiaobao threw a tantrum, but seeing Feodor did not budge, he was helpless. He had no choice but to say, “Very well! You are so brave, I admire you. I will let you go. Go back and rest well. After ten days, we will select another place to negotiate the boundary.”

Feodor thought, “You desperately want to delay, I am afraid by this time the troops to sneak attack Moscow have already left. I must not fall into your trick.” He said, “You let me go, then I thank you very much. To express our good faith, I propose we continue the negotiation in the afternoon today, no need to wait ten days.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “There is no rush, we all can rest first and slowly reconvene later.”

Feodor said, “Both countries’ sovereigns are hoping that the negotiation will succeed sooner rather than later. We can sign the treaty on the border definition first, taking a rest later will not be too late.”

“Our Emperor is not in a hurry,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “Let’s continue the talk in five days.”

Feodor shook his head and said, “No need to delay, let’s do it today.”

“How about three days?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“No, today!” Feodor replied.

“Tomorrow?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

“Today!” Feodor replied.

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “You are so resolute, I have no choice but to give up. But I must warn you, when talking about drawing the borders, I will definitely not budge casually. We will haggle one foot by one foot, one inch by one inch.”

Feodor thought, “Drawing the national boundary you want to haggle every foot every inch, by the time this matter is settled, you already breach Moscow’s city wall. You still think I am such a silly big melon?” Immediately he stood up and said, “In that case the humble one will take my leave, thank you for Gongjue Daren’s food and drink.”

Wei Xiaobao walked him out the tent. He dispatched a team of rattan shield troops to escort Feodor back to Nerchinsk, but he did not release the two hundred sixty Cossack cavalry.

When Feodor was outside the tent, he saw the place where the army camp was standing yesterday was absolutely empty, the main forces of the Qing army have already struck the camp and left. He was secretly fearful, “Chinese barbarians say something and immediately do it, indeed they are very formidable.”

When the group reached the tent where they had the talk the previous day, they saw the three Cossack captains were still standing at the same place, even their posture was still exactly the same as yesterday, they did not move at all. A thin and small officer leaped out from among the Qing troops. The officer went to the three captains while chanting loudly, “Genghis Khan, Genghis Khan!” and then patted and kneaded several places on the three men’s body. The three captains were then able to move slowly. It’s just that after standing half a day and one full night, they were extremely exhausted, their legs were numb, they dropped sitting down on the ground.

Six rattan shield troops stepped forward to help them up. After walking a dozen zhang or so, the three captains were able to walk by themselves. Feodor was even more astonished, “The magic passed down by Genghis Khan is incomparably formidable, no wonder he was able to move unhindered throughout the world and nobody was able to stop him. Fortunately right now the firearm is already invented so that we can keep the enemy from getting too close. Otherwise, the Chinese pagans would rule the world again, we who believe in God, the Christians, would become their slaves.”

The rattan shield troops escorted Feodor to Nerchinsk’s eastern city gate before returning to their camp. Feodor asked the three Cossack captains on how they were hit by magic. The three captains all said that at that time they only felt the middle of their back and their waist went numb, and then their whole body stiffened and could not move.

Feodor asked, “Are you wearing crucifix on your body?” The three captains untied their jacket, exposing the crucifix hanging on their necks, one even had the image of Jesus on it.

Feodor knitted his brows; he mused, “Genghis Khan’s magic is really formidable, even Jesus Christ’ crucifix cannot dispel the demonic influence.” Immediately he wrote three memorials to the throne and sent fifteen cavalry to take three different routes toward Moscow to report an emergency: Chinese army already left to launch sneak attack, they disguised themselves as Tatar shepherds to sneak into the Capital, must increase vigilant to guard against the attack.

By noon, one after another the three teams of messengers returned to the city, saying that all the roads to the west have been blocked by Chinese troops; as soon as they saw Luocha cavalry, they shot arrows from a distance; it was really difficult to go through them. Feodor was even more worried, “I must reach an agreement with the Chinese barbarians on the border treaty, so that they would withdraw the troops and horses immediately.”

By the wei hour [between 1-3pm], Feodor took a dozen or so attendants and went to the tent where the meeting was being held. This time he did not bring any Cossack cavalry at all, in order to show his good intention. Besides, even if he brought bodyguards, they could not withstand Chinese troops’ ‘Genghis Khan Magic’ anyway, hence they would be useless. Feodor had profound scholarly knowledge, he was a capable and experienced minister; he was actually not a person who was prone to be deceived by others, but the fear of Genghis Khan in Luocha people’s heart was deep-rooted, Shuang’er’s acupoint sealing skill was utterly exquisite, he had seen it with his own eyes, hence he cannot not believe.

He arrived at the tent first. Not too long afterwards Wei Xiaobao, Songgotu, Tong Guogang and the other, the high-ranking Qing delegation also arrived. Seeing the opposite party did not bring any guards, Wei Xiaobao also ordered the escorting rattan shield troops to withdraw. Both parties spoke some polite greetings, nobody mentioned anything about what happened yesterday, they went straight into negotiating the boundary.

Feodor aimed for speedy negotiation, he conceded to everything, his manner was completely different from the previous day. Wei Xiaobao laughed in his heart, knowing that the Zhou Yu’s trick in the play ‘Meeting of Heroes’ last night was highly successful. He did not understand anything about defining boundaries, hence he handed this matter over to Songgotu with the assistance of the Dutch missionary as the interpreter, to discuss the terms of the treaty with the opposite side.

He saw the two men, Songgotu and Feodor spread out a large map on the table. Songgotu’s finger constantly moving to the north, Feodor knitted his brows, cun by cun his finger retreated to the north. For each cun the finger yielded on the map, a hundred or so li of land fell under the jurisdiction of China.

After listening for a while, Wei Xiaobao could not endure anymore; he sat on another table and ordered the attendant to fetch the food case. Sitting cross-legged, he slowly chewed the pastries and delicacies, while softly humming the song ‘eighteen touches’.

Feodor had made up his mind to yield, but Songgotu was afraid of getting into trouble, hence he refrained from going to the extremes. However, the wording of the treaty was thorough, the clergymen of both sides translated everything into Latin, they discussed everything over and over again, it was a very time-consuming process. By the evening of the fourth day, the ‘Treaty of Nerchinsk’ with six clauses was completed.

Wei Xiaobao had Songgotu and Tong Guogang explained everything to him, he knew the substance of the treaty was very favorable to China, the land that was taken back into China’s territory was extremely vast, far more than Kangxi had intended in his imperial order. The treaty was made into four copies, one in Chinese, one in Luocha language, and two in Latin, explicitly provided for both sides so that when the text in both sides’ languages had a substantial difference, the Latin copy would serve as the reference.

Immediately the attendants ground some ink and dipped the brush, and then respectfully invited the Chinese Chief Imperial Envoy to sign the treaty. Wei Xiaobao knew the three characters comprising his name, it’s just that he often confused the character ‘zhang’ [章 – chapter/section] with the character ‘Wei’ [韋 – his surname], and character ‘mai’ [賣 – sell] with character ‘Bao’ [寶 – treasure]; hence when the characters were mixed together he often made mistake. Albeit with difficulty, he could handle the character ‘Xiao’ [小 – small]; the other two characters in front and in the back [orig. ‘head and tail’], however, he simply could not write, no matter what.

In all his life he seldom blushed, but right now unexpectedly a cinnabar color appeared on his face. It was not from anger, he was not drunk of wine either, but because he was somewhat ashamed. Knowing Wei Xiaobao very well, Songgotu said, “This kind of official document only need to be signed in some symbol used in place of a signature. Wei Daren may randomly write the character ‘Xiao’, it can already be considered your signature.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he thought, “Writing the character ‘Xiao’, I am an expert.” Immediately he picked up the brush and started by drawing a circle on the left, another circle on the right, and one thick vertical bar straight down in the middle. Songgotu smiled and said, “That will do; you wrote it well.”

Wei Xiaobao cocked his head sideways to admire his ‘Xiao’ character. Suddenly he threw his head back and laughed aloud. “Grand Marshal Wei, what’s so funny?” Songgotu asked.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Look at this character, one small bird and two eggs, doesn’t that look like that thing?”

The high-ranking ministers of the Qing side could not help bursting in laughter; even the attendants and personal guards were also laughing. Feodor just stared at them; he did not understand why everybody was laughing.

Right away Wei Xiaobao put his signature on the four copies of the treaty. On the Luocha copy, he made the straight vertical line extra thick. And then Feodor, Songgotu, and the Russian lieutenant envoy also signed the treaty. Thereupon the first treaty between China and Russia was completed and signed.

It was actually the first treaty China has ever signed with any foreign country. Due to Kangxi’s meticulous planning and preparation, and his all-out effort plus the very capable personnel he dispatched to handle this matter, the Treaty of Nerchinsk defining the boundaries between the two countries was highly advantageous to China. The treaty defined the northern Xing’an mountain range as the boundary; the whole modern day Soviet Union’s Amur province and the provinces bordering the sea belonged to China, as well as east and southeast regions all the way to the sea.

During the negotiation to define the boundaries, both sides did not take the previous owner of any localities into consideration. None of Chinese land fell into Luocha territory, but the forts and colonies that Luocha already built were forced to retreat after the signing; indeed it was a Chinese military and diplomatic victory. According to the treaty, the land incorporated into China covering a total of two million square kilometers, about twice the area of northeastern Chinese provinces of today. After the treaty took effect, China’s northeast frontier enjoyed more than a hundred and fifty years of peace, while Luocha’s endeavor of eastern invasion was blocked, and their ambition to encroach other country was somewhat restrained. Since Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong, and other imperial rulers after them, Manchurian Qing has taken part in signing treaties with other countries, China has never lost either land or authority. Kangxi and Wei Xiaobao greatly raised national prestige into an awe-inspiring level that year, no one in later generations has ever seen nor repeated.

(Book note: Wei Xiaobao’s odd signature on the treaty was unrecognizable. Later generation’s historians only knew Songgotu and Feodor’s names. Even archeologists of Guo Moruo[4] caliber, who understood oracle script, did not know that there was a ‘Xiao’ character signature on the Treaty of Nerchinsk; so Wei Xiaobao’s great name passed into oblivion. The historical records of later generations stated that the Treaty of Nerchinsk was signed by Songgotu and Feodor. Throughout the ages, those who know that the character Wei Xiaobao once existed on the earth are only the readers of ‘The Deer and The Cauldron’. With the exception of supplementary account involving Wei Xiaobao, which the history books omitted, our book’s narrative on the signing of the Treaty of Nerchinsk, as well as its content, are all based on historical records.)

According to the custom of those days, both parties released salvo simultaneously, made an oath to the Heaven, promised to be unswervingly faithful. Qing side’s four hundred cannon were all fired together on Nerchinsk’s east, south, west and north sides, the explosion shook the earth. Russian side’s cannon were only about twenty, the sound was weak, the difference in intensity and momentum could not be measured by li. Feodor inwardly admitted that they were lucky; if the peace negotiation failed, and war broke, Russia would definitely suffer a crushing defeat.

Right away the envoys of both countries exchanged gifts. Feodor presented Wei Xiaobao and the others with watch, telescope, silverware, mink fur, saber and sword, and other gifts. Wei Xiaobao presented the opposite party’s diplomatic envoys with horse, saddle and reins, golden cups, silk garments, silk fabrics, and so on. In addition, the two hundred sixty Cossack cavalry received twenty taels of fine silver each to compensate their belts being cutoff by the Qing troops.

That evening there was a big feast to celebrate the completed treaty. Feodor was still worried, he did not know whether the troops sent to attack Moscow had been recalled or not. He continuously tried to sound out Wei Xiaobao, but Wei Xiaobao pretended not knowing anything.

Two days later Feodor received a report that a large group of Qing troops arrived from the west. He climbed to the top of the city wall and looked using the telescope. Sure enough, he saw a large group of Qing troops were approaching from the west, marched pass Nerchinsk, and pitched camp to the east. Feodor was greatly delighted; he knew that the Qing troops to attack the west had been recalled. He did not realize that this large group of Qing troops set up camp only about two hundred li west of Nerchinsk, waiting for orders. As soon as they heard the cannon, they struck camp and slowly pulling back to the east.

Several days later, stone carvers already completed the boundary markers. The upright stone tablets had inscriptions in five languages, Manchu, Han, Mongolian, Latin and Luocha. The border markers were erected on the eastern bank of Gorbitsa River, southern bank or Argun River, as well as other places throughout the northeast via the Great Mountain Yike’alin, and other places.

The inscription on the tablet stated clearly that Gorbitsa River was the boundary between the two countries: “Following this river going upstream to the barren land, to the great Xing’an down to the sea, where the river flows from the region south of the mountain into Heilongjiang, everything belongs to China; the river north of the mountain belongs to Russia.” It also stated clearly, “The Argun River flowing into Heilongjiang is the border, the southern bank of the river belongs to China, the northern bank of the river belongs to Russia. Therefore, all the Russian settlements on the southern bank toward Meile’erke estuary must be moved to the northern bank.” It also stated clearly, “The buildings of Russian people in Yakesa, as well as various belongings, must all be removed toward Chahanhan.” It also stated clearly, “Ordinary citizen, livestock, and so on must not cross the border. If the people meet while holding hunting weapons in their hands, those who kill and loot will be promptly arrested and persecuted by law. Small affair must not be allowed to spoil big affair. China and Russia, two countries are reconciled, this fact is not to be disputed.”

The imperial envoys of both countries sent their subordinates to survey the land, after it was verified that there was no mistake, the boundary markers were erected. These border marks ought to define the unchanging border between China and Russia, two countries, for ten thousand years. However, a hundred and some dozen of years later, Russia took advantage when China was in decline, unexpectedly they nibbled away China’s territory step by step, disregarding the border markers that were installed in the past, annexing China’s wide expanse of rich and fertile land into their territory. When the later generations read the history of this affair, they could only sigh and comment, “The land Kangxi and Wei Xiaobao secured, as well as their effort in chasing away the ambition of wild wolves of Luocha people, how could we restore it to our homeland?”

The establishment of boundary markers finished, the imperial envoys of both countries saluted each other and bade farewell, separately returning to their capital to give report on the completion of this mission.

Wei Xiaobao summoned Poyarkov and Stepanov, instructing them to present his gifts to Princess Sophia, included among these were brocade quilt, embroidered pillow. The northern country was a desolate and rural land, these items could not be purchased anywhere in that area, so these items actually belonged to Shuang’er. Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “If the Princess really miss me, she can cuddle the silk blanket and pillow.”

Poyarkov said, “Her Highness the Princess’ affection to Your Excellency Daren is enduring while the world lasts, blanket and pillow are easily worn out, it would be better if Daren assign several bridge-building experts to Moscow to build a stone bridge. A stone bridge will not wear out forever.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “I have given this matter a lot of thought, you need not be long-winded.” He ordered his personal guards to lift up a large wooden chest, about eight chi long, four chi wide, all in all, it looked a lot like a coffin. Eight personal guards carried it using large shoulder poles; it appeared to be very heavy. The outside of the chest was wrapped with heavy iron strips, sealed with hot-lacquer seal. Wei Xiaobao said, “This gift is extremely important, you must protect it well, do not damage it. When the Princess sees it, she will definitely be happy. This enduring-while-the-world-lasts affection will be completely as secure as a Chinese stone bridge.” The two Luocha captains did not dare to ask too much, they received the wooden chest and left.

This large wooden chest weighed more than a thousand catties, it was transported tens of thousands of li from the remote Nechinsk all the way to Moscow; it was indeed a hard work. After Princess Sophia received and opened it, to her surprise it was a naked stone statue of Wei Xiaobao, beaming from ear to ear, vivid and lifelike. Turned out Wei Xiaobao had the stone carvers who prepared the boundary markers to carve his image; he also had the Dutch missionary write ‘I will always love you’ in Luocha character, and carve the words on the stone statue’s chest.

When Sophia saw it, she did not know whether to laugh or to cry; she recalled that this Chinese little child was an eccentric elf, but no Luocha men could match him. She could not help remembering him with fondness, her spirit seemed to gallop ten thousand li. This stone statue was kept inside Kremlin Palace. Later on Peter the Great launched a coup, he expelled Princess Sophia out of the Palace; since the stone statue was related to her, it was smashed to pieces. Only a piece of the stone statue was smuggled out by an ordinary soldier. Ignorant Luocha women who prayed for a child would gently caress and stroke the stone statue’s lower body, allegedly it was very effective.

(Book Note: ‘Duhu’ was the army and government governor-general of Han Dynasty who ruled various states in the western region. ‘Yumen Pass’ was the major road going through the western region during the Han era. ‘Cannot establish Yumen Pass’ means the territory was so large, the original gate of the Pass could not become a strategic focal of frontier defense. ‘Attach utmost importance to copper pillar as boundary marker’ refers to after the Eastern Han’s Ma Yuan conquering the former southernmost province of the Chinese Empire (Annan), he opened up new territory and set up copper pillars to demarcate the boundary, thinking that it would be beneficial to China’s border.)

[1] Latin – ‘la ding’; pulling able-bodied men (capable of fighting in a war) – ‘la zhuang ding’. ‘La ding’ itself can mean ‘kidnaping and forcing people into service’.

[2] Both are prince: Qinwang – Prince of the Blood or Prince of the First Rank. Granted solely to direct male-line descendants of an emperor, with the only known exception was Wu San Gui. Junwang – Prince a Commandery or Prince of the Second Rank. Wu San Gui (previously), Geng Jing Zhong, Shang Ke Xi and Zheng Jing were of this rank. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[3] The original expedition to the west during Genghis’s reign indeed consisted of 2 tumen (a tumen is a division of 10,000 men). The tumen were commanded by Jebe (Guo Jing’s teacher) and Subedei. Jebe was dead by the time Ogedei decided on a full-scale invasion of the west, but Subedei was still alive, and he was the chief subordinate commander under Batu (Jochi’s son). After a couple of crushing victories over European armies, the campaign was cut short by news of Ogedei’s death, which necessitated the return of Batu and other members of Genghis’s family to elect a new leader. After the election of Guyuk, Ogedei’s son, much of Batu’s forces were stripped from him, and he was obliged to reorganize his conquests rather than further them. What is now western Russia was organized into vassal states under Batu’s Golden Khanate. (Courtesy of Pannonian)

[4] From the dictionary: Guo Moruo (1892-1978), writer, communist party intellectual and cultural apparatchik.

Chapter 49 Good government official adorned the carriage by strengthening it with fur coat, lone visitor suspected the heart of an old friend.

Wei Xiaobao returned to the capital in triumph. When the main force arrived outside the city of Beijing, the high-ranking ministers of the imperial court greeted them at the city gate. Wei Xiaobao led Tong Guogang, Songgotu, Ma La, A’erni, Ma Qi, Peng Chun, Sabusu, Lang Tan, Ba Hai, Lin Xingzhu, and the others to have an audience with Kangxi. The Emperor spoke to them warmly, he encouraged and exhorted everybody. He issued an edict, promoting Wei Xiaobao to be the First-class Duke of Luding [deer and cauldron]; Tong Guogang, Songgotu and the other high-ranking officials, as well as military officers and common soldiers, all received promotion and reward.

In the next several days, Kangxi repeatedly summoned Wei Xiaobao, asking him the details about the capture of Yakesa, about the talk to define the boundary, and so on. Wei Xiaobao reported everything according to the fact, surprisingly he did not exaggerate or blow his horn. Kangxi was extremely delighted; he praised Wei Xiaobao by saying that he had made a lot of progress. Kangxi also bestowed rewards to his seven wives and two sons.

One day Kangxi held a banquet in honor of the Great General Fuyuan, the Duke of Deer and Cauldron Wei Xiaobao and various ministers who had rendered great merit. During the banquet Kangxi discussed two poems, all the members of the Hanlin Imperial Academy who attended the banquet respectfully joined the discussion, celebrating the heroic deed and magnificent triumph.

After the feast, carrying the precious things bestowed by the Emperor, immensely proud of himself, Wei Xiaobao went out of the Palace. With an officer shouting in front of him and his personal guards thronged behind him, he went home in a ceremonial procession. Suddenly by the main street someone shouted, “Wei Xiaobao, you are a dog thief who forget favors and violate justice!”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked, especially since he thought the voice sounded familiar. Turning his head sideways, he saw a big man ran from under the eaves to the middle of the street, pointed his finger to him and cursed, “Wei Xiaobao, I want to hack you, this little thief, to pieces. You are a Han, yet you surrendered to the Manchurian Qing, becoming Tatar’s hunting dog and slave. You murdered your own Shifu, you killed your own good Xiongdi, today the Tatar Emperor bestowed you the title Duke and Marquis, you have glory, splendor, wealth and rank, you are showing off your air. Your granny, laozi will stab a white blade into you, and it will be red on exit, I will stab your little thief’s body using your Ma’s blade seventeen or twenty eight times. I want to see if you can still be a Tortoise Duke, a Turtle Duke?” The big man was naked from the waist up, his chest was covered in long, shaggy black hair, his eyebrows were thick, his eyes big, his expression looked fierce and malicious; he was none other than Mao Shiba, who had taken Wei Xiaobao to Beijing in the past.

While Wei Xiaobao was stunned, a dozen or so personal guards already surrounded Mao Shiba. From his leg wrappings Mao Shiba pulled a short blade to fight back. The personal guards moved together, some placed their blades on Mao Shiba’s neck, some snatched away the short blade in his hand, some pounced on him and dragged him down to the ground and tied him up.

Mao Shiba was still cursing incessantly, “Wei Xiaobao, you little thief, son of a wh0re, that year laozi took you to Beijing, it was my biggest mistake. I have wronged Chen Jinnan, Chen Zongduozhu, I have wronged the heroes and warriors of Tian Di Hui. Today laozi no longer wish to live, I want to let everybody in the world know that you, Wei Xiaobao has betrayed your friends to seek glory, a dog thief who forget favors and violate justice; in your desire to be promoted and gain wealth, you have become the Tatar Emperor’s hunting dog …”

The personal guards struck his mouth, Mao Shiba was still cursing incessantly. Wei Xiaobao hastily shouted his personal guards to stop, he told them not to use violence. A personal guard took out a handkerchief and stuffed it into Mao Shiba’s mouth. Mao Shiba was still grunting endlessly, presumably he was still cursing.

Wei Xiaobao ordered his personal guard, “Bring this man inside, guard him well, don’t give him trouble, give him wine and food, in a moment I will interrogate him personally.”

When he was back at his mansion, Wei Xiaobao arranged a feast in his study room, and invited Mao Shiba to accompany him. Afraid that he might resort to violence, he asked Su Quan and Shuang’er, two women to accompany him, dressed as personal guards. His personal guards dragged Mao Shiba inside. Wei Xiaobao ordered them to remove the shackles on Mao Shiba’s hands and feet, and then he ordered the personal guards to withdraw.

With a smile on his face Wei Xiaobao said, “Mao Dage, long time no see, how are you?” [reminder: in Chinese, ‘how are you?’ is ‘ni hao?’ – ‘are you good?’]

“What’s so good or not good about me?” Mao Shiba angrily replied, “Originally I was perfectly all right, but ever since I met you, I became not good.”

Wei Xiaobao said with a laugh, “Mao Dage, please sit back and relax, let Xiongdi toast you three cups of wine to cool your temper first. How did Xiongdi offend Mao Dage, you may curse me after drinking; it won’t be too late by then.”

Mao Shiba took a large stride forward and shouted, “I will beat you, this little thief to death first before I drink the wine.” Swinging his rice-bowl size fist, ‘whoosh!’ he punched Wei Xiaobao’s face.

Su Quan darted forward and stretched out her left hand to grab Mao Shiba’s wrist. She lightly twisted it, and then using her right hand she tapped his shoulder twice. Instantly half of Mao Shiba’s body went numb; he could not help but fell sitting down into a chair. He was shocked and angered at the same time; struggling hard he leaped up and cursed, “Little thief …”

Su Quan stood behind him, with both hands she seized the ‘jian zhen’ [shoulder chaste] acupoints on his shoulder, and then she lightly pressed downward. Mao Shiba was unable to withstand, he fell back into the chair again. He was a big and tall man, he was at least twice as big as Su Quan, but with her profound martial art she was able to control him; it was as if with hands and feet tied he was forced to sit down. He was even more enraged as with a loud voice he said, “Today laozi cursed you, this little traitor (to Han), in the middle of the street, I have already given up any hope of staying alive. I just want the people throughout the world to know that you are a despicable and shameless man who betrayed your master and your friends …”

“Mao Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I was away on a mission for His Majesty, it was to attack the Luocha demons, not to kill any Han people; you can’t call me a traitor to Han.”

Mao Shiba said, “Then … then why did you kill your Shifu Chen Jinnan?”

“How could I kill my Shifu?” Wei Xiaobao anxiously asked, “My Shifu was clearly murdered by that fellow Zheng Keshuang.”

“You still deny it?” Mao Shiba angrily rebuked him, “The Tatar Emperor’s damn imperial edict cannot state it more clearly than that.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled, “His Majesty’s imperial edict?” he said, “How … how can it say that I killed my Shifu?” Totally confused, he turned his eyes toward Su Quan.

Su Quan said, “A few days ago His Majesty promoted you to be a first-class duke, he issued a statement listing your meritorious service as the basis of granting you the title. I don’t know who wrote the statement, but it says that you ‘recommending able generals, sweeping away and pacifying the rebel Wu, recovering Taiwan as our territory, leading the army into battle, capturing cities, propagating the national prestige in foreign country’, which are true. However, there are a few words like, ‘Capturing and beheading Tian Di Hui rebel leaders Chen Jinnan, Feng Jizhong, and the others, successfully crumbling the pillar, creating setback leading to total collapse, putting the bandits into confusion, leading them to renew their faces and wash their hearts’. Those words are incorrect.”

Wei Xiaobao frowned. “What exactly is renewing the faces and wash the hearts?” he asked.

Su Quan said, “The statement says you captured Chen Jinnan, Feng Jizhong, and the others, and killed them, scarring Tian Di Hui people so that they do not dare to rebel anymore.”

Wei Xiaobao jumped and cried out, “How … how can there be such thing? Isn’t this wrongly accusing me?”

Su Quan slowly shook her head. “Feng Jizhong was a spy, we did kill him, the imperial edict was not wrong,” she said, “However, it has three extra characters: ‘Chen Jinnan’.”

Wei Xiaobao anxiously said, “Chen Jinnan was my benevolent master, I … how could I harm him, the Senior? His Majesty … His Majesty’s imperial edict … ay … when you saw the imperial edict, why didn’t you tell me?”

Su Quan said, “We discussed this matter over, the imperial edict has three extra characters ‘Chen Jinnan’, if you knew about it, you would be greatly unhappy.”

Wei Xiaobao understood that ‘we discussed this matter over’ means his seven wives talked it over together; turning his head, he looked at Shuang’er. Shuang’er nodded. Wei Xiaobao said, “Mao Dage, my Shifu was definitely not harmed by me. Feng Jizhong was Tian Du Hui’s traitor, he secretly disclosed information to the Emperor …”

With a cold laugh Mao Shiba said, “So you are actually the good guy?”

Wei Xiaobao dejectedly sat down and said, “I will explain to His Majesty, I will ask him to change … to change … to change …” He said the words ‘to change’ three times, but knew for sure that just because there were three extra characters ‘Chen Jinnan’ in the imperial edict, Kangxi would not issue another imperial edict to amend it. He thought, “I wonder which dog thief blabbed too much and told His Majesty that I killed Shifu. In His Majesty’s eyes, it was the evidence of my loyalty, but … but … how can I, Wei Xiaobao, still be considered a human being?” His heart was anxious, “Wah!” he suddenly cried. “Mao Dage, Quan Jiejie, Good … Good Shuang’er,” he called out, “I did not kill my Shifu!”

Seeing him suddenly broke into crying, the three people were stunned. Su Quan hastily came over and wrapped her arms around his shoulder, she said tenderly, “That Zheng Keshuang killed your Shifu at Tong Chi Island, all of us have seen it with our own eyes.” She took out a handkerchief and helped him wiping his tears. It was only now that Mao Shiba saw that this ‘personal guard’ with strong martial art skill was actually a woman; he could not help feeling greatly amazed.

Wei Xiaobao suddenly remembered something. “Mao Dage,” he said, “That fellow Zheng Keshuang is also in Beijing; let us confront him directly. I’ll say he will not dare to deny. Right, right! Let us go now …”

Right this moment, suddenly they heard outside the door the personal guard loudly said, “Imperial edict is here. Imperial Bodyguard Duo Zongguan has arrived to announce the Imperial Decree.”

Wei Xiaobao stood up and went to the door to welcome the guest; he saw Dolong walked in with a smile on his face. Wei Xiaobao kowtowed to the north, while respectfully wishing the Holy Sage well. Dolong waited until Wei Xiaobao finished the ceremony before saying, “His Majesty’s instruction: he wants to personally interrogate the rebel thief who cursed you on the street.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart turned cold; he said, “That … that man? Xiongdi has already arrested him and questioned him in details; turns out he is a mad man. This man babbled about Jade Emperor, Taishang Laojun [Taoist deity], that kind of nonsense. Xiongdi could not make any sense of it. After I had him flogged for a while, I let him go. How did His Majesty find out about this matter? Actually it’s not a big deal …”

Listening to this point, Mao Shiba could not bear anymore; he slapped the table so hard that the bowls and cups jumped up and crashed onto the floor, ‘bing bing bang bang!’ “Damn Wei Xiaobao,” he cursed loudly, “Who is the mad man? The man who cursed the Tatar Emperor on the street today was Laozi! Laozi is not afraid to be hacked to pieces, do you think Laozi is afraid to see the damn Tatar Emperor?”

Wei Xiaobao groaned inwardly; he was hoping he could fool Kangxi and Dolong, and then he would let Mao Shiba go. Who would have thought that this man was completely oblivious of his intention to protect him; he insulted the Emperor in public, even if Mao Shiba had eighteen heads, he would not be able to protect even one. [Reminder: the ‘shiba’ in Mao Shiba’s name means ‘eighteen’.]

Dolong sighed and said, “Xiongdi, you have exceptional yi qi toward Jianghu friends, for that I am full of admiration. In this matter you have done your best, it can be considered extreme benevolence, utmost duty already. Let’s go.”

Mao Shiba walked to the door in large strides; suddenly he turned back and shot a mouthful of saliva toward Wei Xiaobao’s face. Wei Xiaobao’s mind was tumultuous, it was too late for him to dodge, ‘slap!’ the saliva hit right between his eyes. Several personal guards immediately pulled their weapons and rushed toward Mao Shiba. Wei Xiaobao waved his hand and sadly said, “Forget it, don’t give him any trouble.” Dolong’s men took out a pair of handcuffs and shackled Mao Shiba.

Wei Xiaobao pondered, “His Majesty personally interrogates Mao Dage, I guarantee before he even asks three questions, he would have him pushed out and beheaded. I must go to see His Majesty immediately. No matter what I have to think of a way to save him.” He said to Dolong, “I want to go asking His Majesty, to explain everything clearly; don’t let this crude man come across His Majesty.”

The party arrived at the Palace. Wei Xiaobao heard that the Emperor was in the Upper Study Room, immediately he went over asking for an audience. Kangxi summoned him in. Wei Xiaobao kowtowed several times before standing up.

Kangxi said, “The man who cursed you and cursed me on the street today, he is your good friend, isn’t he?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Your Majesty can see clearly for ten thousand li, there is nothing that you need to guess twice.”

“Does he belong to Tian Di Hui?” Kangxi asked.

“He has not officially joined the Society,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “But he knew quite a number of people in the Society. He admires my Shifu very much. Your Majesty’s imperial edict says that I killed Shifu, as soon as he heard that he was very angry, hence he reprimanded me severely. As for toward Your Majesty, he did not dare to be disrespectful even for half a word.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “You have made a clean break with Tian Di Hui, from now on you won’t have any dealings with them, is that right?”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “This time I went to fight the Luocha demons, your servant did not bring any Tian Di Hui people.”

Kangxi asked, “If later on your old Tian Di Hui friends come to find you, what are you going to do?”

Wei Xiaobao replied, “Your servant simply will not see them, so that everybody will not feel uncomfortable.”

Kangxi nodded and said, “For that reason in that statement I personally added Chen Jinnan and Feng Jizhong, two names, to spare you a lot of trouble in the future. Xiao Guizi, one man cannot always have his feet on two boats. If you are loyal to me, single-mindedly work for the imperial court, you must not tread the muddy water of Tian Di Hui anymore. If you are determined to become Tian Di Hui’s Xiangzhu, then you must single-mindedly rebel against me.”

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright; he kowtowed and said, “Your servant definitely will not rebel. When your servant was little, I was muddleheaded, I did not understand reason; but now I have a high notion of my duty, I have ‘washed my face and renewed my heart’, I am completely different now.”

Kangxi nodded and said with a laugh, “That’s very good. The lunatic who cursed you on the street today, I want you to personally supervise his execution tomorrow. Just kill him.”

Wei Xiaobao kowtowed and said, “Your Majesty please understand, your servant came to Beijing and was able to see Your Majesty’s golden face, it was entirely due to this man. Your servant has not repaid his kindness, I boldly beg Your Majesty to spare this man. Your servant would rather … would rather my contribution of defeating the Luocha demons, Your Majesty take back everything. Your servant is willing to go back to become Marquis of Luding.”

With a wooden countenance Kangxi said, “The nobility granted by the imperial court, you treat it as a trivial matter? You are conferred the title First-class Duke of Luding, it was by my grace, yet you use the rank and benefit of nobility to bargain with me, to haggle over the price; what a nerve!”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly kowtowed; he said, “Your servant is reaching out to the sky asking for grace, Your Majesty may reach down and grant me my request. If Marquis of Luding does not work, how about move me back to Count of Tong Chi or Viscount of Tong Chi?”

Kangxi wanted to scare him, he wanted to let him know some imperial court rules and regulations; who would have thought that this man was a lowly person of the marketplace? Although he achieved the titles First-class Duke, Great General, his hoodlum character did not change the least bit. Kangxi could not help feeling angry, but was amused at the same time. “Damn it!” he shouted, “Stand up!” Wei Xiaobao kowtowed and stood up.

Still maintaining a wooden expression Kangxi said, “Your granny, Laozi reaches down to you, you ask me to spare this rebel, so I want to have your head in exchange of his head.”

Frowning and worried, Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty’s counter offer is too aggressive, please rise it some.”

“Alright,” Kangxi said, “I will yield one step. You cut your own egg, and enter the Palace as a real eunuch.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Please Your Majesty rise your offer more.”

Kangxi said, “That’s my final offer. If you don’t kill him, that means you are not loyal to me. When one is loyal, he is loyal to the end; if he is not loyal, then he is not. How can there be any bargaining?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant is loyal to His Majesty, holding righteousness to my friends, filial to my mother, loving to my wives …”

Kangxi laughed aloud; he said, “Unexpectedly you, this fellow are everything: loyal, filial, and holding to moral integrity and righteousness. Alright, my utmost admiration. By this time tomorrow, get a head to show me. If it is not that rebel’s head, then it must be your own head.”

Wei Xiaobao had no choice; he kowtowed and withdrew. When he reached the door, Kangxi said, “Xiao Guizi, are you thinking of escaping?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This time I do not dare. Your servant is going home, put a pillow under my head, lie down and think it over carefully. It would be best if I could make Your Majesty happy while upholding yi qi toward a friend, and keeping your servant’s head firmly attached to my body at the same time.”

Kangxi smiled, “Very good,” he said, “I have not seen Princess Jianning for a long time, I miss her very much. I have already had her brought into the Palace.” After a short pause, he continued, “Your other six wives, three children, will also accompany the Princess to the Palace to have an audience with the Empress Dowager. Empress Dowager said that your contribution is not small, she wants to reward your wives and children well.”

“Thank you very much for the Empress Dowager and Your Majesty’s grace,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Even if my body turns to dust your servant finds it difficult to repay.” Retreating two steps, he could not bear not to say, “Your Majesty, your servant once said to you, you are the Tathagata Buddha, I am Sun Wukong. No matter what your servant cannot jump out of your palm.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “You possess great magical power, there is no need to stand on ceremonies.”

Wei Xiaobao went out the study room; he could not help but moaning and groaning in his heart, “His Majesty detains all my seven wives and three kids, even if I have the guts to run away, I cannot bear to part with them.”

When he reached the long corridor, Dolong came over to meet him with a laugh, “Wei Xiongdi, Empress Dowager summoned your wives, young masters, young miss; the reward must not be a few. Congratulations to you.”

Wei Xiaobao cupped his fist and said, “Thanks to your lucky influence, thank you.”

Dolong smiled and said, “This time before Xiongdi led the troops into battle, you instructed me to demand payment for you. To date, we have had seventy, eighty percent. Two million six hundred and some taels of banknotes, I will have it delivered to your mansion.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Dage’s ability is not small, unexpectedly you managed to extract that much.” Immediately he said hatefully, “That fellow Zheng Keshuang murdered my Shifu, until today, he is still giving me a lot of headache. His granny, that mad man who cursed me on the street, I bet you it was Zheng Keshuang who planted the root of trouble.” The more he thought, the more hateful he became. “Dage,” he said, “Please get more men, let us go to demand payment.”

Dolong heard that they were going to the Zheng mansion to demand payment, it was the number one pleasure of his heart. Today they had the Great General Fuyuan, the First-class Duke of Luding Wei Gongye leading the troops, the way they handle this matter would be even more unrestrained. At once he repeatedly agreed and ordered the Deputy Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards to take over his duty in the Palace, while he took a hundred Imperial Bodyguards to escort Wei Xiaobao to the Zheng mansion.

Although Zheng Keshuang was also conferred the title duke, compared to Wei Xiaobao’s dukedom it was like heaven and earth apart. One was a surrendering rebel of border defense king, the other was a high-ranking minister who has given outstanding service, the Emperor’s personal favorite. Both had duke mansions, but the size, as well as the style, were substantially different. The four characters ‘Hai Cheng Gong Fu’ [Mansion of the duke who settled the ocean] written on the horizontal inscribed board above the main gate were in black, not as good as Wei Xiaobao’s gold lettering of ‘Lu Ding Gong Fu’. When Wei Xiaobao saw it, he was somewhat happy; he said, “The signboard on this fellow’s door is not as good as my gold lettering signboard.”

The Imperial Bodyguards were accustomed with visiting the ‘Hai Cheng Gong Fu’ every two, three days to demand payment. Without waiting for the doorkeeper to announce their arrival, they simply burst into the mansion. Wei Xiaobao sat on a chair in the middle of the main hall, Dolong sat next to him. When Zheng Keshuang heard about the Great General Fuyuan’s arrival, which was his number one nemesis, he could not help but panicked, but he did not dare not to meet him. Without any choice he changed into his duke attire; trembling with fear he came out to meet them. Taking a step forward he cupped his fist and greeted, “Wei Daren!”

Wei Xiaobao did not stand up; he sat unmoving, with head held high he snorted and said to Dolong, “Duo Dage, this Zheng Keshuang is very rude. We have been here for half a day, he neither pay attention nor care about us; isn’t he looking down upon people?”

“That’s right!” Dolong said, “Killing people one must pay with his own life, owing money one must pay back. Always shrinking his head like a turtle, in the end he still won’t be able to hide.”

Zheng Keshuang was furious; it’s just that ‘under other people’s eaves, one must lower his head’. One of his guests was the great general holding power over the military, the other was the Chief of the Imperial Bodyguards, while Zheng Keshuang was not only without power without authority, he was always under suspicion. Although he had the honor and glory of nobility, actually his plight was even worse than common people; without any choice he struggled hard to contain his anger. He coughed lightly and said, “Wei Daren, Duo Zongguan, how are you two gentlemen?”

Wei Xiaobao slowly lowered his head. He saw standing before him was an old man with bent waist and crooked back, his hair grizzled, his countenance unbearably haggard. After looking at the man carefully, Wei Xiaobao realized that this man was not too old, it’s just that he was frowning and worried, the corner of his eyes were wrinkled, the short beard under his chin was also grizzled. Upon more concentrated look, Wei Xiaobao recognized the man; who else but Zheng Keshuang? They had not seen each other for several years, unexpectedly he had aged twenty, thirty years. At first Wei Xiaobao was greatly surprised, but then he understood. For the last several years Zheng Keshuang lived in torment, no wonder he suddenly aged. Wei Xiaobao could not help feeling pity, but then he recalled how in the past with his own hand Zheng Keshuang viciously killed Chen Jinnan at Tong Chi Island. Wei Xiaobao’s anger immediately bubbled up. With a cold laugh he said, “Who are you?”

“Zaixia Zheng Keshuang,” Zheng Keshuang said, “How can Wei Daren not recognize me?”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “Zheng Keshuang? Isn’t Zheng Keshuang the Yanping Jun Wang of Taiwan? How can he be in Beijing? You must be a fake.”

“Zaixia surrendered to the Great Qing,” Zheng Keshuang replied, “I received His Majesty’s grace and was conferred the rank and emolument of nobility.”

“Oh, so that’s how it is,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In the past you blew your horn in Taiwan, saying that you wanted to attack Beijing and seize the throne, saying that you wanted to do this and that; do those words still count?”

Zheng Keshuang’s back was wet with cold sweats; he thought, “He wants to put criminal charge on me, fabricating some words indiscriminately. His Majesty always listens to him, he can’t possibly listen to me.”

Ever since Dolong led the Imperial Bodyguards and Valiant Cavalry Brigade’s sergeants came to cause trouble unceasingly, for Zheng Keshuang, a day dragged on like a year. The large sum of money, his family property that he brought from Taiwan, eight or nine parts out of ten had been extorted by these men. In order to raise some two million taels, which was a huge amount of money, he had already sold off his pearls, jewels, everything, until practically nothing left. In his heart he already repented several hundreds or thousands times: he should not have surrendered. When Shi Lang came to attack, if he did everything he could to lead the troops and fight to the death, they might not necessarily be defeated. Besides, even if they failed and he died in battle, he would not have let his (paternal) grandfather and his father’s spirits in heaven down. Not in such a way that after he surrendered, he would suffer this endless distressing humiliation. This time as he heard Wei Xiaobao, he felt even more dejected and really wanted to die.

“Duo Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In the past, this Zheng Wangye’s prestige was very impressive. Recently Xiongdi heard people say that some people want Zheng Wangye back to Taiwan and establish his kingdom there. Zheng Wangye, I wonder what did those people who want to join you say? Xiongdi wants to investigate this matter clearly, so that I can report it to His Majesty.”

With a trembling voice Zheng Keshuang said, “Wei Daren, please be magnanimous. Those things that you are talking about, those are completely … completely non-existent …”

“Huh? That’s odd,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Duo Dage, didn’t we arrest a rebel yesterday? He cursed His Majesty, he also scolded Xiongdi. This man said that he was Zheng Wangye’s old subordinate, he said that in Beijing Zheng Wangye is being bullied, so he wanted to avenge him, he wanted to wipe out Manchurian Qing Tatars or something like that.”

Listening to this point, Zheng Keshuang could not bear any longer; he bent his knees and dropped to the ground, and said in a trembling voice, “Wei Daren please have mercy! In the past Xiaoren has offended you, Senior; I deserve to die ten thousand deaths. You, Senior, is magnanimous, please leave me a path of life, I pray Laotianye will bless you and grant your ten thousand generations to be duke and marquis.”

With a cold laugh Wei Xiaobao said, “When you murdered my Shifu that day, did you ever imagine that a day like today will come?”

Suddenly from the rear hall a man walked in in big strides; his stature was slim, his expression swift and fierce. He was none other than the ‘One Sword Without Blood’ Feng Xifan. He rushed to stand by Zheng Keshuang’s side, and stretched out his hand to pull him back. Turning his head toward Wei Xiaobao he said, “The murder of Chen Jinnan that day was entirely my idea, it has nothing to do with Zheng Gongzi. If you want to avenge your Shifu, please feel free to come to me.”

Wei Xiaobao had always been very afraid of Feng Xifan; seeing his fierce and intimidating expression, he could not help shrinking back into his chair. “You … you want to hit people?” he said in a trembling voice.

Dolong sprang up and called, “Guards!” Immediately more than ten Imperial Bodyguards rushed over and surround him.

Seeing his side had many men and great force, Wei Xiaobao was relieved; he said in a loud voice, “This man dared to commit violent crime in the Capital, arrest him.” Four Imperial Bodyguards immediately reached out to grab Feng Xifan’s arms.

Feng Xifan did not resist; he said in a loud and clear voice, “We surrendered to the Imperial Court, His Majesty conferred Zheng Gongye the title of ‘Duke of Hai Cheng’, he conferred me the title of ‘Earl of Zhongcheng’ [lit. devoted, loyal]. His Majesty’s golden mouth has said it, this matter has been sealed with one stroke of a pen, it is not something that can be disputed. Wei Daren, you want to use official authority for private interest, wrongly accuse good people, we have no choice but to appeal before His Majesty to explain everything clearly.”

With a cold laugh Wei Xiaobao said, “You are a good person, hey, hey, turns out ‘One Sword Without Blood’ Feng Daren is a very good person. This is the first day that I have ever heard about it!”

Feng Xifan said, “Ever since we arrived in Beijing, we have never seen outsiders, we do not dare to violate half a law even more. These Imperial Bodyguards Daren unceasingly came to demand payment, we dealt with it by losing our family fortune, it was nothing. Wei Daren, you want to put criminal charge on us, His Majesty can see clearly for ten thousand of li, I am afraid he will be beyond your control.”

This man had guts and knowledge, he was far superior compared to Zheng Keshuang, he spoke with confidence and matter-of-factly, it was difficult for Wei Xiaobao to refute. He thought that although these two men were surrendering people of Taiwan, they were conferred nobility titles by the imperial court; while it was true that it was not difficult to bully them, if he really wanted to drag them down, the Emperor only needed to ask a few questions, hs true colors would be exposed immediately. The Emperor had already anticipated that Wei Xiaobao would want to avenge his Shifu; he would definitely put the blame on Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao’s heart had softened, but in his mouth he was still extremely unyielding. He said, “Yesterday we arrested a rebel, he personally confessed that he wanted Zheng Wangye back to Taiwan; could it be that he was lying?”

Feng Xifan said, “This kind of people casually make presumptous claim, how can we consider that their words count? Daren please bring this man over, we will have direct confrontation in front of the Ministry of Justice.”

“You want direct confrontation?” Wei Xiaobao said, “That’s great, wonderful, very nice, very exciting.” Turning his head he asked Zheng Keshuang, “Zheng Wangye, the money you owe me, when are you going to pay back?”

Feng Xifan noticed that left and right Wei Xiaobao was trying to evade him subtly, and his countenance had changed; he guessed that Wei Xiaobao was afraid the Emperor would find out. He thought that since he had gained this piece of farmland, he might as well enlarge his courage and raise a ruckuss in front of the Emperor. He thought that although the Emperor was young, he was very brilliant, definitely he would be able to differentiate right from wrong. If Feng Xifan did not seize this opportunity, this matter would drag on endlessly. He really thought that he should not yield to this fellow surnamed Wei anymore, a cornered dog will jump the wall, a cornered man will hang from the beam. If you force me to hang myself, I would fight back desperately. Having made up his mind, he said, “Wei Daren, Duo Zongguan, let us appeal to the imperial court.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled; he thought that if this matter was reported to the Emperor, he himself would have to bear endless responsibility, but he simply could not back off. “Very good!” he said, “Take this surnamed Zheng along! Take both of them into the jail first and keep them in confinement, let them live enjoy a happy and prosperous life for a year or a half, and then we will slowly present the memorial to explain everything to His Majesty.”

Dolong was hesitant, Zheng Keshuang was a duke by the Emperor’s appointment, there was no harm in demanding payment from him; but arresting him would definitely require an imperial edict. He said in a low voice, “Wei Daren, we must go present the memorial to His Majesty first, and then come back to take them away.”

Zheng Keshuang was relieved; he hastily said, “That’s right, I have no crime, how can you arrest me?”

To see the wind and setting his sails was actually Wei Xiaobao’s expertise. He immediately said, “Whether you have crime or not, it is not yet known. The money you owe me has not been paid in full, what are you going to do about it? You pay me back, or you want to come with me?”

Hearing that he might be saved from arrest, he repeatedly exclaimed, “I will pay, I will pay!” Hastily he went inside and returned with a stack of banknotes, followed by two servants holding trays filled with gold, silver and jewelry.

Zheng Keshuang said, “Wei Daren, lowly officer has turned over the chest and flipped the sack upside down, I managed to find thirty or forty thousand taels, I really cannot come up with anything anymore.”

“You can’t come up with anything anymore?” Wei Xiaobao said, “I don’t believe you. Let Xiongdi accompany you inside to look.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “This … this … this is not too convenient.”

Feng Xifan said in a loud voice, “We did not violate any law, Wei Daren wants to search our home, do you have an imperial edict, or do you have any official document from the Ministry of Justice’s main hall?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “This is not a search. Zheng Wangye said he can’t come up with anything anymore, I say he still have a lot to present. Perhaps among his gold, silver, pearls and jewels there are still a large quantities of sabers, spears and firearms, perhaps there are dragon chair and dragon robe hidden in the secret rooms in the basement. Since he could not find anything, everybody will help him look.”

Zheng Keshuang busily said, “What sabers, spears and firearms, dragon chair and dragon robe? I … How can I dare to hide those things secretly? Besides, lowly officer is just … is just a duke. This ‘Wangye’ appellation, I really dare not accept it.”

Wei Xiaobao said to Dolong, “Duo Dage, please count for me, how much money in total?”

Dolong and two Imperial Bodyguards counted the banknotes; they said, “The banknotes are thirty four thousand and three hundred taels, and then there are some jewelry of little value, I don’t know how to value them.”

Wei Xiaobao reached out to rummage through the jewelry, he picked up a golden phoenix hairpin and pretended to be shocked. “Aiyo,” he said, “Duo Dage, this is a forbidden object, His Majesty is the dragon, the Empress is the phoenix; how … how can Zheng Wangye’s Wangfei [king’s wife] also wear golden phoenix hairpin?”

Feng Xifan was even more enraged. “Wei Daren,” he loudly said, “You want to pick a bone from an egg, the one surnamed Fan will stake everything against you today. Among the gold, silver and jewelry stores throughout the world, which one does not have golden phoenix hairpin? All the women of the official families in Beijing, which one does not wear golden phoenix hairpin?”

“Turns out Feng Daren have looked at the women of the official families around Beijing,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Mm, what do you think, which family’s Taitai, Xiaojie [madame, miss, respectively] is the most good-looking? Tsk, tsk, tsk, awesome, awesome; you have looked at a lot of womenfolk from different families, such a treat for your eyes, you are lucky. Prince Kang’s Wangfei, Ministry of War Shangshu Daren’s young lady, have you seen them?”

Feng Xifan was so angry that he could not say anything; in his heart he was rather afraid, knowing that this young man had a good relationship with each and every one of the influential officials of the imperial court. If he added some oil and paste and spoke these words openly, Feng Xifan would definitely be in a lot of trouble.

Zheng Keshuang repeatedly bowed with cupped fist and said, “Wei Daren, please be lenient, lowly officer beseech you.”

Wei Xiaobao knew that his words had scared Feng Xifan that he did not dare to make any noise. Feeling that he has had enough tail wind, he laughed aloud and said, “Duo Dage, Xiongdi’s face is actually not as good as yours. Duo Dage came to demand payment, you managed to get more than two million taels, Xiongdi personally came, I only got such a meager amount.”

Zheng Keshuang said, “Lowly officer really does not have anything left in my house, it’s not that … it’s not that I dare to renege on my debt.”

“Off we go then!” Wei Xiaobao said, “I’ll wait ten days, half a month, after Zheng Wangye get more gold and silver from Taiwan, I will be back to settle the account.” While saying that, he stood up and walked out of the hall.

When Feng Xifan heard that, he knew that Wei Xiaobao was framing Zheng Keshuang up, saying that he conspired against the law by still maintaining contact with his former subordinates in Taiwan; which was a capital offense punishable by extermination of the entire family. If they did not explain clearly, for the rest of their lives they would live under forced submission, it would be difficult for them to conduct themselves. Thereupon he said in a loud and clear voice, “We are law-abiding citizens, we do not dare to take even half a step on the path of fault. Today what Wei Daren, Duo Zongguan have spoken in here, we must present in a memorial to His Majesty systematically and in full details [orig. ‘count by fives and tens’]. Otherwise, although the Heaven and the Earth is big, we will not have a place to set out feet on.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You want a place to set your foot? There is, there is. If Zheng Wangye and General Feng return to Taiwan, won’t you have a lot of land to set your feet on? If the two of you want to discuss about establishing your foothold, we are not going to bother you.” Pulling Dolong’s hand along, he walked out the door with his head held high.

When Wei Xiaobao was back in his mansion, immediately he prepared a feast; he invited the Imperial Bodyguards to drink wine. Dolong had his subordinates, the Imperial Bodyguards to fetch four big chests and opened them; all were full of gold, silver, pearls and jewels, as well as stacks of banknotes. He laughed and said, “After several months of collecting the debt, most of this fellow Zheng Keshuang’s family property is in here. Wei Xiongdi, you double check it.”

Wei Xiaobao took a stack of banknotes, worth about more than a hundred thousand taels; he said, “This dog thief murdered my Shifu, yet His Majesty conferred nobility title to him, my enmity cannot be avenged. Thank you very much Dage and all Xiongdi for making his life miserable, and vent this anger on Xiongdi’s behalf. My Shifu did not have either wife or children, Xiongdi wants to take some of this money and have people go to Taiwan to build a grand memorial hall to enshrine and worship my Shifu. As for the rest of the money, I’d like Dage and all Xiongdi to divide it among yourselves.”

Dolong repeatedly shook his hand, “No, can’t do; no, can’t do!” he repeatedly said, “This is the money Zheng Keshuang owed Xiongdi. You only need to send out several Qing troops, every day pay a visit to demand payment, I am not afraid he won’t pay up. We are only doing you a tiny favor, we all are family, how can we covet your money?”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “To tell you the truth, Xiongdi’s family property is already too much that I cannot use it up my entire life. A good friend is well-off, everybody can use it together, why bother about mine or yours?”

But Dolong was adamant, he simply refused to receive it. The two of them strived to best each other until their faces were flushed with excitement. Finally it was decided that the Imperial Bodyguards would receive one million taels as the ‘debt collection fee’. The other three hundred thousand taels were given to the Valiant Cavalry Brigade brethren to be divided among themselves. Dolong took the rest and personally brought it to Wei mansion’s inner hall.

All the Imperial Bodyguards, even those who were on duty in the Palace, received their share, about several thousand taels per person. Everybody was happy and excited, they ate and drank to their hearts’ content, and then they opened up Pai Jiu and dice tables in the Duke mansion’s reception hall. Since he was playing against the brethren, Wei Xiaobao did not practice any cheating.

They gambled until the second watch of the night [between 9-11pm]. Wei Xiaobao said to Dolong, “Duo Dage, Xiongdi has another favor to ask you.”

Dolong’s gambling luck was flourishing, he was in a very good mood. “Alright,” he said with a laugh, “No matter what, you only need to instruct me.” But he immediately recalled something; he said, “Only one matter I cannot do! That lunatic who cursed you on the street, His Majesty commanded me to have strict custody over him; early in the morning tomorrow you and I will supervise his execution. If for personal gain I let him go, His Majesty will definitely have my head chopped.”

The favor Wei Xiaobao was going to ask was precisely this matter; who would have thought that before he even mentioned it, Dolong had already shot him down. He thought, “His Majesty indeed has supernatural foresight, he has anticipated everything. Even one million taels of silver cannot buy Mao Dage’s life.” He was angry and his heart was full of grievances, thereupon he wanted to come back to Zheng Keshuang’s house to demand payment. But then he recalled Zheng Keshuang’s dejected appearance, he felt that to bully such a pitiful creature was not the conduct of a hero. He thought better of it and said, “It was His Majesty himself who give us the order concerning that lunatic, even if I had gargantuan guts I would not dare to let him go. Today we went to demand payment, that fellow Zheng Keshuang is alright, but his subordinate, that Feng Xifan was really annoying, he took unfair advantage of us. When Xiongdi remembers this, I really cannot swallow.”

Several Imperial Bodyguards nearby heard him, they all parroted his words, “When we saw that today, everybody was angry. Wei Daren need not be worried, let us all pay him a visit. He is a surrendering soldier of defeated army, unexpectedly he has the audacity to flaunt his prestige inside the city of Beijing. This kind of disregard of the law and natural morality, do we still need to tolerate?” The more they talked about it, the angrier they got; the Imperial Bodyguards all said that they would leave immediately to tear down Feng Xifan’s earl mansion.

Wei Xiaobao said, “If we are going to deal with this son of a turtle, we must not come publicly and let the imperial censor finds out and submits a memorial to the Emperor. It won’t be too good for the Imperial Bodyguards’ reputation.”

“Yes, yes,” Dolong hastily said, “Xiongdi’s apprehension is very true.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Duo Dage do not need to act personally, let’s just have Zhang Dage and Zhao Dage take several men to do it.” Turning to Zhang Kangnian and Zhao Qixian he said, “Disguise yourselves as Vanguard Battalion’s Tai Dutong’s [commander] subordinates. Pretend that you have an urgent official business, ask Feng Xifan that son of a turtle for a discussion. Even if he has suspicions in his heart, he won’t dare not to come out. Somewhere along the way, put his hands and feet on shackles, cover his eyes with black cloth, stuff his mouth with rags, take him in circle to the east of the city and the west of the city, finally bring him here. We all then beat him severely, strip off his clothes, and send him to Tai Dutong’s concubine’s bed.” All the Imperial Bodyguards roared in laughter; they repeatedly praised it as a brilliant scheme.

Imperial Bodyguards and Vanguard Battalion had always been at odds with each other; when they came across each other, oftentimes they would fight. The Vanguard Battalion’s commander was originally Ajichi; that day Wei Xiaobao schemed against him and put him in prison, although later on he was released, Kangxi blamed him as useless, did not do his job properly, thereupon he was deposed from his position. Nowadays the Dutong was a man surnamed Tai. Dolong and Chief Tai were ‘struggling in the light and fighting in the dark’; the animosity had been going on for a long time, but neither one could overcome the other.

Dolong was even more elated; he said, “That fellow Ol’ Tai is afraid of his wife, he took maids and concubines, but did not dare to take them home. His newest concubine, the number eight concubine, lives at the Tian Shui Jing [Sweet Water Well] Alley, Ol’ Tai does not stay overnight there. We strip Feng Xifan stark naked and then put him in the new concubine’s bed, Ol’ Tai will definitely be half-dead angry. Even if he suspects it was us who play him trick, as long as all of us keep our mouths shut, he won’t be able to do anything.”

Immediately the Imperial Bodyguards took off their uniforms and insignias before going out the door, giggling and laughing. Wei Xiaobao and Dolong waited in the hall, drinking.

Wei Xiaobao’s subordinates, his personal guards constantly made discreet inquiry and came back to report the progress of the operation: the Imperial Bodyguards had arrived at the door of ‘Zhongcheng Earl Mansion’ and identified themselves as Vanguard Battalion, they knocked the door asking for an audience. Feng Xifan came out to greet them and invited everybody in for some tea. Zhang Kangnian said that they received Tai Dutong’s order, there was an urgent military intelligence from Taiwan, asking for his presence for immediate consultation. Feng Xifan climbed into a sedan chair, the Imperial Bodyguards escorted him to the western city. The Imperial Bodyguards put Feng Xifan in shackles, they even arrested the people who came with him. The group then went to the northern city; the Tidu [local commander] of Jiu Men [Nine Gate] on night duty shouted questions, Zhao Qixian loudly replied that they were Vanguard Battalion, inside the sedan chair Feng Xifan definitely could hear the exchange clearly. The crowd was heading back here to this mansion …

After the time needed to burn an incense stick, the Imperial Bodyguards with Feng Xifan in custody came in. Zhang Kangnian said in loud voice, “Reporting to Tai Dutong: the rebellious officer Feng Xifan is here.”

Wei Xiaobao’s right hand clenched into a fist, he made a gesture to beat him. The Imperial Bodyguards called out, “Rebellious officer Feng Xifan colludes with the rebels, he conspires against the law. Tai Dutong’s order: beat him severely.” Punches and kicks flew toward him at once.

Feng Xifan’s martial art skill was extremely high, he was also very perceptive; when the Imperial Bodyguards, posing as the Vanguard Battalion, came to get him, he immediately saw something was amiss. If he wanted to escape, although the Imperial Bodyguards were superior in number, they would never be able to capture him. However, since he surrendered and was conferred the title Earl, he thought that although the opponents intentionally wanted to frame him, the Emperor was wise, he was always able to distinguish right from wrong. If Feng Xifan ran away, inevitably he would be charged with the offense of escaping arrest, henceforth his honor and glory, his rank and emolument of nobility, would go down the drain. Therefore, all along he did not resist. Just because he coveted riches and honor, this martial art master of the present age had unexpectedly fallen into the hands of these Imperial Bodyguards and was beaten until he was hovering between life and death.

Seeing his bleeding nose, and knowing that his internal injury was quite heavy, Wei Xiaobao was overjoyed; at last the enmity of the murder of his Shifu was avenged to some degree. If the beating continued, he was afraid Feng Xifan would die; thereupon he shook his hand to stop them. He then ordered his personal guards to strip Feng Xifan naked, and wrap him inside a felt blanket. By this time Feng Xifan was at his last gasp, he had already lost consciousness.

Dolong laughed and said, “Take him to the Ol’ Tai’s eighth concubine’s house.”

Zhao Qixian said with a laugh, “It would be best if we also strip the Ol’ Tai’s eighth concubine naked and tie the two of them together.”

The Imperial Bodyguards were greatly delighted; they all roared in cheers. Dolong wanted to see the Ol’ Tai’s eighth concubine being stripped; he laughed and said, “This time I am going to lead the troops.”

His party carried Feng Xifan and was about to leave when suddenly two personal guards came in in quick steps and reported to Wei Xiaobao, “Reporting to Daren: there is a fight going on outside Tai Dutong’s residence in Tian Shui Jing Alley right now, the sky and the earth are turning upside down.”

Everyone was shocked, thinking, “How did the secret leak out? Tai Dutong already guards against it, this matter could turn bad.”

“What kind of people are fighting?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

A personal guard said, “Eight of us, Xiaoren received Daren’s order to scout out the Tian Shui Jing Alley, suddenly we saw a group of armed women, about thirty or forty of them …”

Wei Xiaobao frowned, “What armed women?” he wondered aloud.

The personal guard said, “Reporting to Daren: this large group of people consists of women with big feet, some carry bread rollers, some carry laundry sticks, and then there are some carry door bolts and shoulder poles; they all stormed into Tai Dutong’s residence. ‘Bing, bing, bang, bang!’ they ransacked the place and dragged a young woman who did not have time to escape and lashed her fiercely with a whip.”

“That’s strange!” Wei Xiaobao exclaimed, “Go and find out more.” Two personal guards received the order and left.

The second team of scouts arrived and reported, “Reporting to Daren: riding on fast horse Tai Dutong arrived at the Tian Shui Jing Alley, his clothes was in a mess, his left foot was wearing a boot, his right foot was bare. Turns out the leader of the armed women attacking Tian Shui Jing Alley was Madame Tai Dutong.”

As soon as they heard it, the whole room roared with laughter. It was only then did they realize that Madame Tai Dutong drank vinegar [i.e. jealous] and went to attack his ‘outside’ residence.

When the personal guard spoke to this point, he also could not help laughing before continuing, “That Madame grabbed Tai Dutong and ‘slap, slap!’ she slapped him on the face, followed by a kick; she was really formidable. Tai Dutong bowed respectfully and repeatedly said, ‘Madame, calm down!’”

Dolong waved his hands in excitement; he said, “This time Ol’ Tai received what he deserved.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Dage, quickly lead the troops to urge them to stop fighting. This time you can grab the Ol’ Tai’s pigtail, I guarantee that from now on the Vanguard Battalion will never dare to go against us, the Imperial Bodyguards.”

Reminded by Wei Xiaobao, Dolong was greatly delighted. He slapped his own forehead and said with a laugh, “I am such a muddle head! Such a good opportunity and I almost miss it. Brothers, let us all go to watch the excitement.” Leading the Imperial Bodyguards, he rushed toward Tian Shui Jing Alley.

Wei Xiaobao looked at Feng Xifan who was still lying on the floor; he pondered, “How am I going to handle this fellow? If I release him, he would definitely report to His Majesty. Even if he did not mention my name, His Majesty would definitely guess that I have something to do with it.” With his hands behind his back he paced back and forth in the hall. He thought further, “Come dawn, Mao Dage will be executed. How can I save his life? A big name mansion attacking the execution ground, that won’t do. Execution ground, execution ground …” Suddenly he remembered the opera ‘exchanging a child on the execution ground’. “That’s it! Xue Gang ran into misfortune, he was executed along with his whole family unto the third generation. There was a white-bearded old man, Xu somebody, who took his own child to the execution ground and exchanged the child with the baby Xue somebody and took him out …”

The number of opera he watched was indeed not a few, he might not be able to metion the names of the character in the play, but he remembered the stories very well. As soon as he recalled the ‘exchanging a child on the execution ground’, another opera came into his mind, “The ‘Searching alone saving alone’! This story is also not bad, there was this black-bearded man called Cheng Ying, who exchanged his own son with his master’s son, he let his own son be beheaded in order to save his master’s son’s life. It’s desperately serious. Fortunately Mao Dage’s age is not the same as my son’s. Otherwise, I would have to deliver Hutou, Tongchui to the execution ground to be beheaded in exchange for Mao Dage’s life. Although yi qi to a friend is most important, I can’t ever do this kind of matter. Very good, very good!” He kicked Feng Xifan, who was still lying on the floor, heavily and said, “Your luck is not bad, Wei Daren hereby accept you as my adopted son. Wei Daren’s real son I can’t bear to exchange, adopted son I can exchange as I wish.”

Immediately he summoned the captain of his personal guards and gave him secret orders, he gave him one thousand taels, and another thousand taels to be divided among the other personal guards who were going to handle this matter. The captain bowed to express his thanks; he said, “Daren set your heart at ease, everything will be handled properly, there will be no mistake.”

Finished making arrangement, Wei Xiaobao entered the inner hall. His seven wives and sons and daughter were summoned into the Palace by the Empress Dowager, the house was cold and cheerless. Still fully clothed he lay down in his bed for a while, soon dawn would arrive.

By the chenpai hour [5th earthly branch, 7-9am] the Palace issued an imperial edict, “Jiang Yang Da Dao [notorious criminal, see also note 6 of Chapter 2] Mao Shiba has committed treason and heresy, insulted a high-ranking minister, he is to be beheaded. The Great General Fuyuan, First-class Duke of Luding Wei Xiaobao is hereby ordered to supervise the execution.”

Wei Xiaobao received the imperial decree. Outside his mansion’s gate he selected several personal guards to accompany him. He saw Dolong, leading several dozen Imperial Bodyguards with Mao Shiba in custody, arrived. Mao Shiba’s eyes were blue, his nose swollen, his face was full of blood. It was obvious that he had received quite a beating. As soon as he saw Wei Xiaobao, he cursed and scolded, “Wei Xiaobao, you are a shameless traitor (to China). Today you become the supervising officer of Laozi’s execution, Laozi will die without any regret. Who told me that day to be so blind, that from a wh0re nest in Yangzhou I took you, this little traitor all the way to Beijing?”

The personal guards shouted at him, but Mao Shiba’s cursing was growing more vicious. Wei Xiaobao did not pay him any attention, he asked Dolong, “How was Ol’ Tai?”

Dolong laughed and said, “Last night I rushed over there, Ol’ Tai has already been grabbed by his Madame, his face was full of blood traces. As soon as he saw me, his face looked very awkward. I persuaded using all possible arguments, urging his Madame. I also took his eighth concubine into my home, and let my two concubines accompany her. Ol’ Tai showered me with a thousand thanks and ten thousand gratitudes, his appreciation was boundless.”

“What does the eighth concubine look like?” Wei Xiaobao asked with a laugh.

Dolong raised his thumb and said, “Hey, hey, amazing!”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You must not ‘seing a beauty conceive a scheme’, taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune!”

Dolong laughed aloud and said, “Xiongdi, set your hundred and twenty hearts at ease, how can your Dage be like that? Although Ol’ Tai is my longstanding opponent, this kind of shady business your Dage will definitely never do.”

Presently the two of them brought Mao Shiba to the execution ground at the mouth of the food market. Dolong rode a horse, Wei Xiaobao rode a large carriage. Mao Shiba sat on an open top ox cart, his hands were tied behind his back, a piece of wooden signboard was on his neck; it said, “Offender to the throne: Mao Shiba.”

The ox cart travelled along the main street from the horse and mule market westward, common people crowded by the street to watch. Along the way Mao Shiba was shouting and yelling, “After eighteen years, Laozi is still a hero, that’s why I am called Mao Shiba. I already knew that I was going to be beheaded.”

The common people by the street cheered; they praised him, “He has guts, a really tough man.”

They reached the execution ground at the mouth of the food market, at the intersection between the horse and mule market and the Xuan Wu Gate main street. That same night Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards had erected raised canopy. In front and at the rear of the canopy the security was very tight. Dolong received Kangxi’s instruction that there was a possibility Tian Di Hui would attack the execution ground, thereupon he had the Jiu Men Tidu deployed two thousand officers and men to guard all around the execution ground.

Mao Shiba stood boldly at the center of the execution ground; he shouted, “We all are the people of the Great Han, our beautiful rivers and mountains are occupied by the Tatars. There will come a day that the Tatars will be wiped out completely!”

Wei Xiaobao got down from his carriage and entered the canopy. The carriage was parked right next to the canopy. Wei Xiaobao took his seat, and then he invited Dolong to sit right next to him. Dolong knitted his brows and said, “This criminal is shouting treason and heresy, he is inciting the people in here. We must chop his head as quickly as possible.”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied. He shouted, “Bring the prisoner!”

Four personal guards pushed Mao Shiba into the canopy and pushed him down to kneel, but Mao Shiba refused to kneel no matter what.

“No need to kneel,” Wei Xiaobao said. Turning to Dolong he said, “Dage, please identify the prisoner, is he the one?”

“He is!” Dolong said.

“He is identified,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Offender to the throne: Mao Shiba.”

Picking up a vermillion brush he drew a large circle on the wooden signboard, and threw it out. A personal guard picked up the signboard and dragged Mao Shiba out.

“Duo Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I want to show you something interesting.” While saying that, he took out a fold of handkerchiefs from his sleeve pocket and showed it over in front of Dolong’s face.

The handkerchief was embroidered with erotic picture. The man and woman featured in the picture looked beautiful and handsome, their posture was vivid. As soon as Dolong saw it, his eyes were glued to it. He flipped the handkerchief over, underneath was another embroidered handkerchief with different erotic picture, the posture was very strange. Dolong laughed and said, “This style looks very weird.”

Flipping the handkerchiefs over, he found more embroidered erotic pictures, the posture in each picture was weirder than the previous ones; there was one man with two women, two men and three women, and so on. Dolong just looked on and his blood was boiling. “Xiongdi,” he said with a laugh, “Where did you get this treasure? Please buy another set for your Gege.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “This is Xiongdi’s gift to show filial respect to Dage.”

It was as if Dolong had just acquired the most precious treasure, smiling broadly he repeatedly said thanks, while folding the handkerchiefs and carefully put it into his pocket.

Right this moment, they heard ‘bang, bang, bang!’ the cannon fired three salvos. The captain of Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards came to report, “The time has come. Daren please supervise the execution.”

“Alright!” Wei Xiaobao replied. He stood up and pulled Dolong’s hand to walk out of the canopy together.

They saw Mao Shiba kneeling in the execution ground with his head hung dejectedly, as if he had lost his consciousness. The drummer began to beat the drum. When the drum stopped, the executioner, draped with red hood over his head, raised his arm, and swung the ghost-headed saber down. Immediately the convict’s head rolled. The executioner’s left foot flew, he kicked the head away. The convict’s body slumped forward with blood gushing out of his neck.

“It’s done,” Dolong said, “Let us part now. I am going to see His Majesty to report the completion of the imperial decree.”

Wei Xiaobao choked with sobs. “Duo Dage,” he said, “This man had deep friendship with me. It’s just that His Majesty’s order was very strict that I was not able to save him. Ay!” While saying that, he used his sleeve to wipe the tears; sobbing and sniffling, he cried loudly.

Dolong sighed and said, “Xiongdi indeed has enough yi qi. You may prepare his body for burial well; give him proper burial, this way you are not letting the dead down.” Wei Xiaobao complied, then he continued crying.

When Wei Xiaobao used his sleeve to wipe the tears, he actually had fresh ginger in his sleeve, with which he rubbed his eyes. The pungent ginger made his eyes red and made him shedding tears continuously, but in his heart he was laughing, delighted that his scheme was successful. Dolong comforted him some more and walked him to his carriage before he himself mounted his horse and left. Surrounded by his personal guards he rode the carriage back to his duke mansion. Several personal guards rolled the convict’s body in a straw mat and placed the body in a coffin that was prepared earlier on the side, and then they nailed the coffin’s lid solid.

The common people who were witnessing the execution expressed their opinions. They all said that at the death’s door Mao Shiba still dared to swear and curse, he was a real hero. Yet some who were afraid of getting involved reprimanded the others, saying that the offender to the throne spoke treason and heresy, hence they should not praise him to avoid any disaster befalling them.

When Wei Xiaobao reached his mansion, he got off the carriage; but the carriage quietly continued southward, out of Beijing, all the way to the south, heading toward Yangzhou. Wei Xiaobao then went to the Palace to report the completion of the imperial decree. Kangxi immediately granted him an audience.

Kangxi had received Dolong’s report, and knew that when supervising the execution of Mao Shiba, Wei Xiaobao did not stop crying. This time, seeing Wei Xiaobao’s red eyes, Kangxi felt sorry and rather uneasy; he thought that Wei Xiaobao attached most importance to loyalty, it was a rare trait. After consoling him warmly for a bit, Kangxi said, “Xiao Guizi, those Luocha troops you captured, the majority asked me to set them free to return to their country. I have already released them, but there are about two hundred who wish to remain in China.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Beijing is livelier and more fun compared to Moscow. Following His Majesty and working for you will be a lot better-off than working for those two unfit for anything Luocha young Tsars.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “I organized these Luocha troops into two ‘Russian Companies’, and put these two companies under your command. You must control them well, don’t let them create any trouble in the Capital.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he kneeled down to express his gratitude. Outside the Palace, the two Luocha companies had already been waiting outside the Gate of Supreme Harmony by the Jinshui [golden water] Bridge. The Luocha troops were wearing new Qing troop uniform, bright, neat and well-fitting; they looked really impressive. Wei Xiaobao issued his order: each man received twenty taels and was granted three days furlough. The Luocha troops cried out, “Wula!” incessantly.

Until the end of Kangxi’s reign, these Luocha troops were serving in the Qing army, they were loyal and were not double-minded. When foreign nation’s ambassador came to Beijing, they saw Chinese Emperor employed Luocha officers and men, no one was not impressed. It was not until these Luocha troops gradually died of old age that the ‘Russian Company’ organizations began to dissolve.

(Book note: Concerning the details of the captured Luocha troops serving in the Qing army, please see Yu Zhengxie’s ‘Guizi [thirtieth year of the 60 year cycle] Class Manuscript’ volume IX, ‘Examining the Russian Company’. In Xiao Yishan’s [1902-1978] ‘General History of the Qing Dynasty’, it was written that ‘the prisoners were offered to stay in the Capital, to receive the Emperor’s pardon and were organized into companies, comprised solely of Russian ethnicity. Their offspring still exist today.’ These Russian men intermarried with Chinese women and produced children.)

Back to his mansion, Wei Xiaobao saw that the Princess, along with his six other wives and three sons and daughter, had returned from the Palace. Every one received not a few rewards from the Empress Dowager, but the Princess did not look happy. Wei Xiaobao asked, and learned that the Empress Dowager treated everyone equally favorably, although the Princess was her own daughter, she did not utter half a word of affection to her. Naturally Wei Xiaobao understood the reason behind it; he thought, “Empress Dowager did not particularly treat you badly, it was because she was looking at your husband’s face.” He said, “Empress Dowager is very thoughtful, she was afraid that if she is particularly good to you, the six Meimei would be jealous.”

The Princess angrily said, “She is my own mother, if she is a bit good to me, how can they be jealous?”

Wei Xiaobao embraced her and said with a laugh, “I am particularly good to you, let’s see if they are going to be jealous or not?” The women chattered continuously, they all laughed together. The Princess was a frank person, as soon as everybody broke into chatting and laughing, she felt better already.

Hereafter in the next ten days or so, one after another the princes, dukes and high-ranking ministers invited Wei Xiaobao for a banquet to congratulate him on his meritorious service. He went to the opera, he gambled; not a single evening he was idle.

One day Dolong paid him a visit, telling him that Feng Xifan had been missing for more than ten days. His family had already reported to Shun Tian Fu[1]. Dolong asked in a low voice, “Xiongdi, what happened after we beat him up that night?”

“Afterwards I sent him home,” Wei Xiaobao replied, “I wonder where has that fellow gone?”

“You didn’t kill him, did you?” Dolong asked.

Wei Xiaobao replied, “If I sent people to kill him, you would be standing at the side, watching. Duo Dage, did you see me doing that?”

“No, no,” Dolong said, “We only beat him up severely; when did we kill him?”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Ever since Xiongdi received the imperial order to lead the troops, although I have given up the Fu Zongguan [deputy chief] position, but as long as it is related to the Imperial Bodyguards, no matter what kind of responsibility, Xiongdi will definitely face it together with Dage.”

Dolong smiled and said, “Nothing’s wrong. The Feng family insists that that night it was the Vanguard Battalion’s Ol’ Tai who sent his men to pick him up, but he never returned. Shun Tian Fu personally paid a visit to Ol’ Tai, asking him about that night. Ol’ Tai was very embarrassed, he hummed and hawed but was unwilling to tell the truth. Later on Ol’ Tai became angry and lost his temper, Shun Tian Fu did not dare to investigate further.” While saying that, he stood up and patted Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder. “Xiongdi,” he said with a laugh, “You are a good-luck general. Who would have thought that in this matter you can be so lucky? Madame Ol’ Tai did not come earlier or later, but right that night she was prompted by a sudden impulse to lead the armed women going to attack Tian Shui Jing Alley. This way, everything will fall into Ol’ Tai’s responsibility.”

He was certain that Feng Xifan must have been killed in secret by Wei Xiaobao. Although in this matter he shared some responsibility, putting the blame on the Vanguard Battalion’s Tai Dutong fit very well with his own intention. Naturally he did not know that the fact that Madame Tai Dutong did not come earlier or later and sent out her troops right that moment was actually not a coincidence at all. Wei Xiaobao had calculated the precise moment and sent people to tip her off. Naturally Dolong would never know that when Wei Xiaobao dispatched the Qing troops to supervise the execution, he had the canopy constructed with double wall, and hid Feng Xifan inside. Once Mao Shiba was identified, when he was dragged away from the canopy, Wei Xiaobao took out the handkerchiefs with erotic pictures to divert Dolong’s attention, while Wei Xiaobao’s personal guards immediately swapped Mao Shiba and Feng Xifan. By this time Feng Xifan was still unconscious, his face was full of blood, the guards put the exact same clothes as Mao Shiba’s on him; he was made to kneel down on the execution ground with head hanging low, and was immediately beheaded. Although Feng and Mao, two men’s appearances and statures were not the same, nobody detected the difference. The head the executioner chopped actually belonged to Feng Xifan.

In the meantime, the personal guards locked Mao Shiba inside Wei Daren’s carriage, which was parked next to the canopy; they gagged his mouth, and then carried him nonstop to Yangzhou. It was after they crossed the Yellow River that they explained everything to him clearly; they also gave him three thousand taels. In mortal danger Mao Shiba escaped alive, his acute spirit was dampened; he also realized that Wei Xiaobao staked his own life to save him, that Wei Xiaobao was not a person who violated yi qi. Henceforth he went into hiding and did not appear in public anymore.

Day after day Wei Xiaobao exchanged toasts, he was somewhat tired; he was also concerned about Tian Di Hui brethren. The Emperor was more and more formidable, while Wei Xiaobao lived comfortably in his mansion, he knew that he must not let the Emperor catch the Green Wood Hall brethren in one net; therefore, he must discuss a plan to guard against this. As a result, he disguised himself as a young master of a rich family, with Shuang’er disguised as his personal attendant.

The two of them went to the Heavenly Bridge, and mingled with the crowd there for an hour before they saw Xu Tianchuan, carrying a medicine box on his back, sitting in a small teahouse, drinking tea. Wei Xiaobao entered the teahouse at once and sat down in front of Xu Tianchuan. “Xu Dage!” he greeted in a low voice.

Xu Tianchuan stood up suddenly, and strode out with an angry look on his face. Wei Xiaobao was startled; he followed out, and saw Xu Tianchuan was heading toward a secluded spot. Immediately he and Shuang’er followed from a distant.

Xu Tianchuan passed through three lanes, two small streets, and came to an alley; at the end of the alley there were two big ginkgo trees. He entered the alley, and knocked on the gate of the fifth house several times. The wooden door opened, Fan Gang came out to greet him. As soon as Fan Gang saw Wei Xiaobao, he was startled, but immediately anger filled his face.

Wei Xiaobao stepped forward and said with a laugh, “Fan Dage, how are you?”

“Humph!” Fan Gang snorted, but he did not reply.

With a wooden face Xu Tianchuan asked, “Wei Daren, do you bring troops to catch us all?”

Wei Xiaobao hastily said, “Xu San Ge, how can … how can you joke like that?”

Fan Gang quickly walked to the mouth of the alley and looked. Back to the house, he quickly closed the door. Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er followed the two of them across the courtyard and into the main hall. They saw Li Lishi, Qi Biaoqing, Priest Xuanzhen, Gao Yanchao, Qian Laoben and the others were congregating in the hall. As soon as they saw Wei Xiaobao, everybody let out an ‘Ah!’, and sprang up.

Wei Xiaobao cupped his fist and said, “Gentlemen, Gege, how are you all doing?”

Priest Xuanzhen angrily said, “We haven’t been killed by you, I consider our situation not too bad!” ‘Shua!’ he pulled the saber hanging on his waist.

Wei Xiaobao took a step back and said in a trembling voice, “Why are you … you like this to … to me? I did not do … do anything to wrong you.”

Priest Xuanzhen loudly shouted in anger, “Zongduozhu was killed by you, Feng Er Ge was also killed by you, just a few days ago you killed Mao Shiba! I … we really wish we could rip your tendon and peel your skin.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly anxious. “There’s no … no such thing,” he hastily said, “Those are all lies.”

Xuanzhen rushed one step forward; with his left hand he grabbed Wei Xiaobao’s lapel, and said sternly, “We couldn’t figure out how we are going to kill you, today you … you this little traitor drop in to deliver your own life. Indeed Zongduozhu’s spirit in heaven has blessed us.”

Seeing the situation turned from bad to worse, Wei Xiaobao turned his head around; he wanted to unleash his ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ [divine walk hundred changes] skill to escape, but he saw Xu Tianchuan and Fan Gang, both with weapons in their hands, were standing right behind him. He had no choice but to say, “We are all brothers, why be … why be this impatient?”

“Who wants to be brothers with you, little traitor?” Xuanzhen said, “Your, this little demon, graceful words, flowery speech, we don’t want to hear it. I want to cut open your heart of wolf and lungs of dog to be offered as sacrifice to Zongduozhu and Feng Er Ge first, and then we’ll talk later.” Withdrawing his left arm, he pulled Wei Xiaobao closer.

“Injustice, injustice!” Wei Xiaobao cried out.

Seeing the situation was critical, Shuang’er took the Luocha short gun from her pocket and fired it toward the roof. ‘Bang!’ the room immediately filled with smoke. She grabbed Wei Xiaobao’s back and tore him off Priest Xuanzhen’s grab. In the past Xuanzhen had suffered greatly under western firearms; his father and brothers had died from guns. As soon as he heard the gunshot, his heart was shaken, and Wei Xiaobao was snatched away by Shuang’er.

Shuang’er leaped to the corner of the room and stood in front of Wei Xiaobao. Pointing the muzzle of the gun to the crowd she shouted, “Are you going to listen to reason or not?”

Xuanzhen’s eyes turned red; he cried, “Everyone, charge! We’ll fight them to the death!”

Raising his sword, he wanted to charge forward. Qian Laoben reached out to pull him back; he said, “Daozhang [priest], hold it!” Turning to Shuang’er he said, “What reason you want to talk, speak up, let us hear it.”

“Alright!” Shuang’er said. Thereupon she narrated in details how Wei Xiaobao went into exile because he tried to save Chen Jinnan and the heroes in his house; how he was captured by Divine Dragon Cult and ended up on Tong Chi Island; how Chen Jinnan was killed by Zheng Keshuang and Feng Xifan, two people; how Feng Jizhong’s plot fell through and his treachery was exposed, and how he was killed by Shuang’er’s gunshot; how Kangxi repeatedly ordered Wei Xiaobao to destroy Tian Di Hui, but he simply refused to follow orders; and finally how recently he saved Mao Shiba’s life by swapping him with someone else. She was not an articulate person, her story was not particularly pleasant to hear, but this group of warriors had known her for a long time, they all knew that she was honest and never committed fraud; plus she was speaking casually, without the slightest hint of hesitation. They knew she did not have the ability to fabricate all these things in intricate details. Besides, in order to save them all Wei Xiaobao had lost his official position, his earl mansion was blasted flat, these people had experienced it firsthand. Now that they thought about Feng Jizhong’s conduct, everything fit together; they could not help but to believe.

Xuanzhen said, “Since that’s the case, in Tatar Emperor’s imp … imp … damn it, imperial edict, why did he say that Wei Xiangzhu killed Zongduozhu?” By changing the way he addressed Wei Xiaobao as Wei ‘Xiangzhu’, it goes to show that in his heart he had 90% believed.

Shuang’er shook her head and said, “This, I don’t understand either.”

Qi Biaoqing said, “It must be the Tatar Emperor’s plot. He wanted Wei Xiangzhu to make a clean break with our Society; hereafter his mind would be firmly made up, with no possibility to change, to become Tatar high-ranking official.”

“Qi Xiongdi is right,” Xu Tianchuan said. Returning the saber into its sheath, he bent his knees in front of Wei Xiaobao and said, “We are a bunch of muddleheaded maggots and were hot-headed to the extreme, we have offended Wei Xiangzhu, a crime deserving ten thousand deaths; we are willing to receive punishment.”

The rest of the warriors also kneeled down together. Xuanzhen repeatedly slapped his own face and cursed, “Deserve to die, deserve to die!”

Wei Xiaobao and Shuang’er hastily kneeled down to return the propriety. Now that Wei Xiaobao was not in panic, he said, “All Gege, please rise. There is a common saying, ‘One who does not know is not guilty.’ It was just temporary misunderstanding, what’s the big deal?”

The group of warriors stood up and repeatedly apologized. By this time Wei Xiaobao was very proud of himself, with his hands danced his feet tripped, he recounted the past events. Naturally his narrative was very lively and in full color, everything was a hundred times more exciting; but in the warriors’ ears, it was far less credible than Shuang’er’s.

The group of warriors huddled together and talked in low voices for a while. Li Lishi said, “Wei Xiangzhu, Zongduozhu was unfortunate and died under the crafty scoundrel’s hands. Tian Di Hui is like a dragon without a head, the brothers of the ten Halls have been in deliberation to elect a new Zongduozhu. We, the brothers of the Green Wood Hall, want to nominate you as the Zongduozhu. It’s just that we are afraid the other nine Halls’ brothers would not accept, or perhaps they would be suspicious. We all agree to ask you to set up a great merit.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his hand repeatedly. “I definitely don’t want to be Zongduozhu,” he said. But his curiosity was piqued; he asked, “I wonder what great merit you want me to accomplish?”

Li Lishi said, “The three feudatories rebellion have been crushed, Taiwan has fallen into the Tatars’ hands, in the north, Luocha people have been repelled by Wei Xiangzhu. Our great undertaking of fighting the Qing restoring the Ming has been increasingly more difficult.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “That’s right.” But in his heart he mused, “Since it is very difficult, let’s everybody just sit back, relax, and not doing fighting the Qing restoring the Ming.”

Li Lishi said, “Although the Tatar Emperor is young, he is very able and efficient, plus he is able to win the people’s hearts. The common people throughout the world gradually forget about the previous dynasty. If this situation drags on for several more years, I am afraid Tatars’ rivers and mountains will be more stable.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed again and said, “That’s right.” In his heart he said, “Xiao Xuanzi stabilizing the rivers and mountains, there is nothing bad about it.”

Li Lishi continued, “The Emperor dotes on and trusts Wei Xiangzhu very much, we all want to ask you to think of a plan, to bring the brothers into the Palace to assassinate the Emperor.”

Wei Xiaobao was greatly alarmed. “This … this is impossible,” he said in a trembling voice.

Fan Gang said, “May I ask Wei Xiangzhu, what’s the difficulty?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “There are too many Imperial Bodyguards in the Palace, and then there is Valiant Cavalry Brigade, Vanguard Battalion, Hu Jun [Protecting-Army] Battalion, Firearm Brigade, Jian Tui [Strong and Acute] Battalion, Tiger Spear Battalion, and so on, to protect the Emperor; it’s desperately serious. Just the Imperial Bodyguards alone, there are Yu Qian Shiwei [lit. Bodyguards in front of the Imperial], Gan Qing Men Shiwei [lit. Imperial Bodyguards in charge of Qing Gate], San Qi Shiwei [lit. Imperial Bodyguards of the Three Banners]. That day heroes like Shen Quan Wu Di [divine fist without equal] Gui Xinshu Laoyezi and the others still failed and met violent death, much less me? To assassinate His Majesty is difficult above difficult.”

Hearing he flatly refused, the crowd of warriors was displeased; plus the way he mentioned ‘His Majesty’, which showed that he had enough slave mentality, put an angry look on everybody’s face.

Fan Gang cast a glance toward the brethren and then said to Wei Xiaobao, “Wei Xiangzhu, assassinating the Tatar Emperor is without a doubt very difficult; however, we have you to take charge of the operation, so it’s not like we do not have any hope of success. We, brothers, who are going into the Palace, not a single one of us is hoping to come out alive, but whatever happens we will protect Wei Xiangzhu and keep you safe and sound. You have rendered not a few of great merits for our Society, among the tens of thousands brothers in our Society, in all honesty not a single one is as good as you. Tian Di Hui and the Tatars cannot live under the same sky. Hereafter the great undertaking of fighting the Qing restoring the Ming will rely solely on Wei Xiangzhu’s inspiration.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head and said, “This matter I definitely don’t want to so. His Majesty wanted me to wipe out Tian Di Hui, I was unwilling, because I am holding up yi qi. Now all of you want me to assassinate the Emperor, I am also unwilling, because I am holding up yi qi still.”

Xuanzhen angrily said, “You are a Han, yet you are holding up yi qi for the Tatar Emperor; won’t that make you … make you a Han …” He was about to curse him the ‘Hanjian’ [traitor to China], two characters; but in the end he forced himself to hold back.

Fan Gang said, “This matter is extremely important. It’s hard for Wei Xiangzhu to agree immediately, that is very reasonable. Please give it a careful consideration and then give us your instruction.”

“Very well, very well,” Wei Xiaobao busily said, “I will think about it carefully, I will think about it carefully.”

Seeing that he was not being sincere at all, Xu Tianchuan said, “I hope Wei Xiangzhu will not forget the late Zongduozhu’s aspiration, you must not forget the terrible tragedy of our vanquished nation. We are Han people, we must never be Tatars’ slaves.”

“Right, right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “We must not forget that.”

The crowd of warriors knew that he was speaking without meaning it; they all fell silent.

Wei Xiaobao looked this way, and then he looked that way; finally he laughed and said, “Why are all Gege not talking?” The group of warriors stayed silent.

Wei Xiaobao felt extremely awkward; it was as if there were thorns and brambles on his back. He said, “In that case, let us part for the time being. I will go back and think about it carefully, and then I will discuss it with all Dage.” While saying that he stood up.

The crowd of warriors walked him off to the mouth of the alley, respectfully saluted him, and then took their leave.

[1] See Note 13, Chapter 34. Shuntian Fu can be used to refer to either Shuntian Prefecture or the prefect’s office, or even the prefect himself. Prefect of Shuntian Prefecture title was fǔyǐn (府尹) and of rank 3a. Prefects of other prefectures such as Yangzhou and Huizhou title was zhīfǔ (知府) and of rank 4b. Jin Yong used zhīfǔ for Prefect of Shuntian. (Additional info courtesy of Ace High)

Chapter 50 Fish hawk soared high in the clouds gallantly, eastern bean goose flew to the outer sky mysteriously.

Wei Xiaobao returned to his mansion, he sat in the side room feeling depressed. By the afternoon, an imperial edict arrived, the Emperor was summoning him to the Palace. Wei Xiaobao went to the Upper Study Room and kowtowed. Kangxi asked, “Feng Xifan is suddenly missing, what is going on here?”

Wei Xiaobao was shocked; he thought, “Why ask me?” He said, “Reporting to His Majesty: the night Feng Xifan went missing, all along your servant was having fun with Duo Zongguan and the Imperial Bodyguards. Later on I heard Vanguard Battalion’s Tai Dutong was looking for Feng Xifan. I don’t know for a fact, but this Feng Xifan was then gone without a trace. These surrendering people from Taiwan are sneaky, their behavior is very strange, we don’t want them to conspire against the law in secret, let your servant investigate carefully.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “Very well, I give you the task of investigating this Feng Xifan’s whereabouts clearly, come back here in a few days to report. I promised the surrendering people of Taiwan that I will protect them thoroughly. This man suddenly disappeared mysteriously, if I cannot give a clear account, it would mean that I break my promise to the world.”

Cold sweats suddenly appeared on Wei Xiaobao’s forehead; he thought, “His Majesty is this serious, could it be that he knew I killed Feng Xifan?” Without any choice he responded, “Yes, yes.”

Kangxi asked further, “Earlier today you went to Yinxing [Ginkgo] Alley, was it fun?”

Wei Xiaobao was taken aback, “Yinxing Alley?” he asked. Immediately he recalled that at the mouth of the alley where Tian Di Hui warriors had their temporary lodging there were two big ginkgo trees; apparently that alley is called ‘Ginkgo Alley’. The Emperor even knew the name of the alley, what else could he conceal from him? This time the cold sweat appeared on Wei Xiaobao’s entire body, his legs went weak, he kneeled down at once, kowtowed and said, “Your Majesty can see clearly for ten thousand li. All in all, your servant is loyal to you.”

Kangxi sighed and said, “Those rebel thieves forced you to harm me, but you refused to comply no matter what. You are holding yi qi toward me very much; however … however, Xiao Guizi, in your whole life, will you always have your feet on two boats like this?”

Wei Xiaobao repeatedly kowtowed; he said, “Your Majesty please understand, becoming the Tian Di Hui Zongduozhu, your servant will never do. Your Majesty may set your hundred and twenty hearts at peace.”

Kangxi sighed again. Looking up, he stared blankly for half a day, and then slowly said, “I become the Emperor of China, although I am not as good as Yao Shun Yu Tang [See Chapter 14], I cherish common people, I strive for good governance. Among the emperors of the Ming Dynasty, which one was better than I am? Now three feudatories rebellion has been crushed, Taiwan has been taken over, Luocha country won’t dare to violate the border anymore, from now on the whole world is at peace, common people live in peace and work happily. Tian Di Hui’s rebel thieves still determine to restore Zhu family’s Ming Dynasty, do you think under an emperor surnamed Zhu common people’s daily life will be better than today?”

In his heart Wei Xiaobao said, “This, I do not know.” He said, “Your servant heard Fengyang [county, Chuzhou, Anhui] flower-drum[1] people sang about ‘ever since Zhu Emperor came out, there was scarcity nine out of ten years. Rich families sold their land, poor families sold their children.’ Right now the wind changes, the rain’s favorable, the country prospers, the people at peace, Your Majesty is raw bird fish soup [see ‘yao shun yu tang’ above], Zhu emperors were 108,000 li apart from you, even patting the horse’s bottom they would not be able to chase after you.”

Kangxi smiled slightly and said, “Stand up.” He also stood up and paced back and forth in the Upper Study Room. He said, “Fu Huang [father emperor] is a Manchu, but my birth mother Empress Xiao Kang was a Han army banner person, so I am half Han. I treat common people under the heavens equally, I have never treated Han people unfairly the slightest bit, why do they hate me that much, and determine to kill me?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “These rebels commit treason and heresy, they are totally muddleheaded, Your Majesty must not take them to heart.”

Kangxi shook his head, suddenly there was a depressed and lonely expression on his face. After quite a long time, he said, “There are good and bad Manchu people, there are also good and bad Han people. Bad people in the world are too many, we can’t kill them all, but to guide them back to the path of righteousness, I do not have that kind of ability. Ay, becoming an emperor is very difficult.” He stared at Wei Xiaobao for half a day before finally he said, “You may go!”

Wei Xiaobao kowtowed and took his leave. He felt his entire body was cold. Turned out just now he was so scared that his undergarment and underpants were soaked with cold sweats. It was not until he was out of the Palace that he took a deep breath. “There is a spy infiltrating Tian Di Hui,” he pondered, “We killed one Feng Jizhong, another one appeared in his place. Otherwise, how could he know that they wanted me to assassinate the Emperor? But I wonder who is this spy?”

Returning to his mansion, he sat down and pondered carefully, but he could not find any clue. He thought further, “His Majesty gave me the task of investigating Feng Xifan’s whereabouts, looking at His Majesty’s expression, he suspects that this is my doing, it’s just that he does not have any incriminating evidence. How am I going to fob him off in this matter? Just now at the Yinxing Alley Shuang’er mentioned how I swapped people at the execution ground to save Mao Dage’s life; fortunately I have not told her that I swapped him with Feng Xifan. Otherwise, this naïve girl would certainly blurt it out, and then the spy would report it to His Majesty. If my First-class Duke of Luding did not repeatedly demoted seventeen or twenty eight levels, my surname is surely not Wei.”

Thinking to the east, pondering to the west, he was deeply troubled. Prior to entering the service in the Palace, he and Kangxi could chat and laugh, the two of them were very happy. Now they all grew up, the Emperor was very imposing; Wei Xiaobao talked a lot of nonsense, he got so scared that he was not able to talk anymore. All these high-ranking positions, Great General Fuyuan, First-class Duke of Luding, are not fun to do anymore, not as interesting as when as a kid he became a little servant at Lovely Spring Courtyard; so free, unfettered and happy.

He thought, “Tian Di Hui brothers are forcing me to assassinate the Emperor, the Emperor is forcing me to wipe out Tian Di Hui. His Majesty said, ‘Xiao Guizi, in your whole life, will you always have your feet on two boats like this?’ His granny, Laozi won’t do it anymore! I won’t have anything to do with everything anymore!” As soon as these five characters ‘Laozi won’t do it anymore’ emerged in his heart, he felt unspeakably relax and at ease.

Taking dice from his pocket, he threw the dice on the table and shouted, “If I have to quit, let me throw a ‘hall full of red’ [i.e. success across the board]!” Four dice rolled around, three dice landed with red dots facing up, but the fourth die landed on six dots; nothing can be blacker than that. Actually, when he threw the dice, he already cheated, but still he was unsuccessful.

“Damn it!” he cursed. Picking up the dice, he threw several more times; it was not until the eighth throw that he managed to get all dice landed on red. He cheerfully said, “Turns out Laotianye [God] wants me to do seven things for His Majesty before I quit.” He mused, “I have accomplished seven things early on. Killing Oboi was the first, saving the Old Emperor was the second, blocking in front of His Majesty’s holy self on Mount Wutai was the third, rescuing the Empress Dowager was the fourth, contacting Mongolia and Tibet was the fifth, destroying Shen Long Jiao was the sixth, capturing Wu Yingxiong was the seventh, recommending Zhang Yong, Zhao Liangdong, and the others for service that they defeated Wu Sangui was the eighth, capturing Yakesa was the ninth … too many, too many. If I don’t count the small things, the big things must be exactly seven. No more, no less.” But this time he did not feel like thinking of which seven things could be considered big things. In short, “Laozi won’t do it anymore!”

“One, I won’t be government official; two, I won’t rebel. So what is Laozi going to do?” Thinking back and forth, he still thought that he was happiest back in Yangzhou. As soon as he thought about returning to Yangzhou, he could not help bursting with joy. “Guards!” he called loudly.

He ordered his personal guards to fetch food and wine. He drank alone while figuring out what he ought to do so that there would not be any future danger, that Kangxi could not send anybody to capture him, Tian Di Hui also could not pressure him to rebel. He thought that if he asked the Princess to come with him to Yangzhou, to spend her life in drinking and pleasure, she would definitely refuse. But if he wanted to open a brothel in Yangzhou, very likely Su Quan, Ah Ke, Fang Yi, Mu Jianping and Zeng Rou would not agree. “Alright,” he thought, “We’ll take it one step at a time. Laozi has several million taels of family property, not opening a brothel will not starve me to death; it’s just that I won’t have anything fun to do.”

During the family dinner at the mansion that night, the seven wives saw him smiling in high spirit, he talked cheerfully and wittily, totally different from his frowning and always on the edge these past several days; they all asked, “Why are you so cheerful?”

Wei Xiaobao smiled and said, “Mysteries of heaven must not be revealed.”

The Princess asked, “Did Huangdi Gege [emperor older brother] promote you again?”

Zeng Rou asked, “Did you win big in gambling?”

Shuang’er asked, “Tian Di Hui matter did not trouble you anymore?”

“Pei,” Ah Ke spat, “Most likely this fellow fancies some young lady and wants to take her as the eighth wife.”

Wei Xiaobao simply shook his head.

After all his wives had stopped asking questions, Wei Xiaobao said, “Originally I did not want to tell you, but you all insist on knowing; I have no choice but to tell you.”

The seven madames stopped whatever they were doing and listened attentively. With a serious expression Wei Xiaobao said, “I have become a high-ranking officer, become a Duke, but am unable to distinguish good from bad, it is indeed too inappropriate. Starting tomorrow, I am going to study literature, take the exam to be a zhuangyuan [top scorer in imperial exam] and enter the Hanlin Academy.”

The seven wives looked at each other, followed by all of them roared in laughter. Everybody knew that this husband of theirs could kill and burn, steal, rob and swindle; he could do anything in the world but one thing: he definitely could not study and learn to read.

Early morning the next day, Shun Tian Fu [see Chapter 49] came to pay a visit, saying that they received instruction from their superior and were informed that the Emperor appointed Duke Wei to investigate the missing of Earl of Zhongcheng Feng Xifan; therefore, they especially came to await instruction.

Frowning, Wei Xiaobao asked, “Your Shun Tian Fu yamen has captured criminals and obtained information a lot, what clue did you find these past few days?”

The prefectural magistrate replied, “Reporting to Gongye [duke]: Feng Bojue [Earl] went missing, the circumstances are very peculiar. Day after day lowly officer supervised, direct and led the operation, opened enquiries and secret search, but failed to obtain the slightest clue; indeed we are extremely anxious. Today we found out His Majesty issued special decree appointing Wei Gongye to be in charge, lowly officer is happier than obtaining promotion three levels in a row. Wei Gongye is our Dynasty’s number one brilliant and competent high-ranking minister, on the horseback you manage the army, down the horseback you manage the people; regardless how thorny the big problem that fell into Gongye’s hands, the bamboo will split upon contact with the knife’s edge [i.e. solved immediately]. To be able to work for Gongye in a case like this, truly my ancestors had accumulated a lot of merit. In lowly officer’s yamen, everybody is overjoyed, saying that this time we are very fortunate to take a shelter under the big tree’s shade. When Wei Gongye went into action, even Luocha demons were defeated and driven away in confusion, would we be afraid of not finding Feng Bojue’s whereabouts?”

Wei Xiaobao was aware that although the prefectural magistrate’s flattering words surged like the tide, everything he said was very pleasant to hear, in actuality he was pushing the responsibility on Wei Xiaobao’s shoulder. He thought, “I don’t know where that Feng Xifan’s body was hidden, tonight I must use the ‘Corpse Transforming Powder’ on it, don’t let it fall into other people’s hands. As long as there is no evidence, nobody can point fingers at me. I should have transformed the corpse early on, these past few days I have been too busy and did not expect this matter. But how am I going to explain it in His Majesty’s presence? His Majesty assigned me to do it. I, Xiao Guizi, am not bragging, but there is not a single mission I failed to accomplish.”

The prefectural magistrate continued, “Every day Madame Earl of Zhongcheng sends people to lowly officer’s yamen, and will not leave until they get an answer. Lowly officer really have a hard time dealing with them. Yesterday the Feng Mansion people came to report another case to the authorities, saying that one of Bojue’s concubines by the name of Lan Xiang [orchid fragrance] ran away with some stable boy; they stole quite a few of gold, silver and jewelry. If the Earl of Zhongcheng did not reappear, perhaps one by one all the concubines, maidservants and menservants in the house would leave and none would remain.”

“Humph,” Wei Xiaobao snorted, “I don’t know where this Feng Xifan is hiding, having fun with women. Send more people to search low-grade brothels everywhere. Perhaps he is dining, wining, whoring and gambling and forget to go home. His mistress eloped with another man, he deserves it.”

“Yes, yes,” the prefectural magistrate replied, “It is reasonable to say that if Feng Bojue is enjoying himself in the red-light district at Willow Lane, it has been many days, he ought to be home by now.”

“It’s hard to say,” Wei Xiaobao said, “That fellow Feng Xifan is an old pervert, he is not like Laoxiong here, who is an upright gentleman; if you stroll into a low-grade brothel, you will only visit for a day or half a night.”

With a forced laugh the prefectural magistrate hastily said, “Lowly officer does not dare, lowly officer does not dare.”

Just then Earl of Zhongcheng’s Madame Feng sent her brother to deliver eight kinds of gifts, saying they wanted to kowtow to Duke Wei, thanking Duke Wei for striving to investigate this case. Wei Xiaobao instructed his guards to stop the visitor, he did not wish to see them, and he did not wish to receive the gifts either.

The personal guard reported back, “Reporting to Daren: the man from Feng family is very rude, ever since he arrived he did not stop sneering, saying something like grievance will be recompensed, enmity will be avenged; saying that His Majesty is already aware of this matter, in the end it will be ‘as the water recedes, the rocks appear’, that other people must not think his hand will cover the heaven, concealing everything from the Enlightened Sage, the Son of Heaven. Reporting to Daren: this man has the audacity to come to our door and display shockingly bad behavior, Xiaode [lowly one] really wants to give him several slaps on the ear.” This personal guard also took part in swapping people at the execution ground the other day, hearing the Feng mansion people’s fierce speech, as if he already guessed the inside story, the guard could not help feeling nervous.

Wei Xiaobao also felt guilty as a thief; he could not stop his countenance from changing. He thought, “If they continued making noise like this, I am afraid the hanky-panky would be exposed. Your granny, Feng Xifan himself was killed by Laozi, could it be that Laozi is afraid of your, dead demon’s wife?”

Suddenly he thought of an idea, immediately his face was all smiles. He said to the prefectural magistrate, “There’s no hurry in your honor leaving now, please wait here for a moment.” Returning to the inner shall, he summoned the captain of his personal guards and gave him detailed instructions. The captain received the order and left.

Wei Xiaobao returned to the main hall and said, “His Majesty sends me to handle this matter, we as his servants must spare no effort to repay our holy lord. Let us go right now to the Feng house to have an on-site survey.”

The prefectural magistrate was startled; he thought, “Earl of Zhongcheng went missing, what is there to survey in his house?” Yet his mouth repeatedly agreed.

Wei Xiaobao said, “This case is very difficult, we need to interrogate Feng family people, from big to small, one by one, carefully. Perhaps we can find some prospect of solution.”

“Yes,” the prefectural magistrate replied, “Gongye’s opinion is very true. Lowly officer is stupid to the extreme, from beginning to end did not think of doing it.”

Actually, since he was a lowly prefectural magistrate, how could he dare to go to the Earl of Zhongcheng’s mansion and conduct comprehensive cross-examination? While at the same time, the people of Shun Tian Fu yamen, from top to bottom, knew that Feng Xifan was the Great General Fuyuan Duke Wei’s arch-enemy. This man disappeared, nine out of ten it was Duke Wei who sent people to kill him. Duke Wei was the most favorite person of the reigning sovereign, he held the seal of authority over the military, who would have the gall to grow hair on his side, have the guts to swat the fly on the tiger’s head? Therefore, in investigating this case, nobody was taking it seriously; they all hoped to stretch this case as long as possible until finally they could settle this matter by leaving it unsettled.

This moment the prefectural magistrate thought, “Wei Gongye murdered Feng Bojue, and still want to make things difficult for his family. That Madame Feng is really not being too tactful, she is sending people here to talk rubbish; no wonder Wei Gongye is angry.”

Accompanied by Shun Tian Fu prefectural magistrate and his people, Wei Xiaobao arrived at the Earl of Zhongcheng mansion in an eight-man big sedan chair. He saw the mansion was already surrounded by several hundred personal guards all around. Upon entering the mansion, the captain of the personal guards stepped forward to report, “Reporting to Daren: There are altogether 79 people in the Feng family, men and women; they are all waiting in the western hall to be questioned by Daren.” Wei Xiaobao nodded. The Captain added, “Reporting to Daren: the court of law is being held in the eastern hall.”

Wei Xiaobao went to the eastern hall, and saw the courtroom was duly prepared, with a judge’s desk arranged in the middle. Thereupon he took his seat, and ordered the prefectural magistrate to sit in the right-hand seat to accompany him.

The personal guards took a young woman in, approximately twenty-three or twenty-four years old, her appearance and demeanor was really not bad; delicately and gracefully she kneeled down before the Court. “Who are you?” Wei Xiaobao started the cross-examination.

The woman replied, “Humble woman is Bojue Daren’s fifth young concubine.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Please sit down, please sit down; I do not dare to accept you kneeling down in front of me.”

The woman did not dare to stand up. Wei Xiaobao stood up and said with a laugh, “You won’t stand up, I will have to kneel down in front of you.” The women smiled sweetly and stood up. Wei Xiaobao sat back down.

The prefectural magistrate thought, “Wei Gongye does not treat the Feng family viciously, it’s just that his lecherousness is not too dignified.”

Wei Xiaobao asked, “What’s your name?”

The woman replied, “I am called Ju Fang [lit. chrysanthemum fragrance].”

Wei Xiaobao sniffed around a few times and said with a laugh, “Good name! No wonder as soon as you came in, there’s a whiff of chrysanthemum flower’s fragrance in here.”

Ju Fang also laughed and said in a tender voice, “Gongye is making fun of me.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his head while staring at her intently for half a day before asking, “I heard that a concubine has run away from your precious home?”

“That’s right,” Ju Fang replied, “She is called Lan Xiang. Humph, that s1ut has no sense of shame.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Husband suddenly disappeared, she followed the second man. Um, that is quite understandable, not altogether … not altogether …” Turning to the prefectural magistrate he asked, “Not altogether what is it?”

The prefectural magistrate replied, “Reporting to Gongye: not altogether inexcusable.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed aloud; he said, “That’s it, not altogether inexcusable. Ju Fang Jiejie, why didn’t you run away?”

Hearing this, the prefectural magistrate frowned immediately; he mused, “This is more and more inappropriate; how could he use this appellation ‘Jiejie’ [older sister]?”

Ju Fang lowered her head. But she cast Wei Xiaobao a coquettish glance. Wei Xiaobao was greatly delighted; he felt as if he was visiting a low-grade brothel. He laughed and asked, “Can you sing ‘eight …’” the word was right at the tip of his tongue, but in the end he swallowed it back. Turning to his personal guards he ordered, “Reward this Miss Ju Fang twenty taels.”

Several personal guards responded in chorus; they called out, “Daren gives reward, thank him for the reward!”

Ju Fang was pleasantly surprise for the good fortune; she charmingly said, “Thank you very much Daye [big master]!” Turned out originally she was a prostitute in a brothel; as soon as someone gave her tip, out of habit she called him ‘Daye’ instead of ‘Gongye’.

Wei Xiaobao summoned the Feng family people one by one to be cross-examined, all females. The young and good-looking ones he questioned and cajoled a bit; the old and ugly ones he reprimanded a bit, saying that they did not serve the Earl well, to such an extent as to drive him out to find merriment outside and unwilling to go home.

When the questioning had been going on for almost an hour, the captain of his personal guards entered the hall and stood behind Wei Xiaobao. Wei Xiaobao continued giving two more people cursory questioning before he stood up and said, “We shall examine all places.” He took the prefectural magistrate, Shun Tian Fu (legal) clerk, special force chief [lit. ‘capture quick’], and his personal guards to examine each pavilion, hall, and room.

When they entered the third western side room, as usual the personal guards opened the trunks and turned the storage baskets upside down to be searched. A personal guard suddenly cried out, “Ah!” and picked up a saber from underneath the trunk. The blade was stained with quite a bit of dried blood. Bending one knee in half-kneel posture he raised he saber with both hands and said, “Reporting to Daren: we found the murder weapon.”

“Um,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Continue the investigation.” Turning to the prefectural magistrate he said, “Laoxiong, please look at this. Is this stain really blood?”

The prefectural magistrate received the saber, brought it to his nose and sniffed a bit. Sure enough, it was still reeking of blood albeit faintly. “Reporting to Gongye,” he said, “It seems to be blood.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “There’s a hole on the head of this saber, what kind of saber is this?”

The Shun Tian Fu clerk examined the saber carefully and then said, “Reporting to Gongye: this is a lever-style guillotine to chop fodder, it is used mainly in stables.”

Wei Xiaobao nodded. “I see,” he said.

The captain of personal guards ordered his subordinates to get a bucket of water and sloshed it on the ground. “What are you doing?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

The captain replied, “Reporting to Daren: if there is any place that was dug, the soil is not solid, the water will seep quickly in.” Before he finished talking, they saw that under the bed the water quickly seeped into the soil. The personal guards cheered in chorus. They lifted up the bed, took pickaxe, hoe and shovel and dug the earth. Shortly afterwards, a body was dug out.

The corpse’s body was intact, but the head was missing. It was already rotten, obviously it had died many days. The body was wearing earl attire. As soon as the prefectural magistrate saw it, he exclaimed, “This … this is Feng Jueye!”

“Is it Feng Xifan?” Wei Xiaobao asked, “How do you know?”

“Yes, yes,” the prefectural magistrate said, “We must find the head, and then we can reach a verdict.” Turning his head he asked the special force captain by his side, “Whose room is this?”

The captain said, “Xiaoren will find out immediately.” He went to the western hall and called a Feng family member to be questioned. Turned out that room used to be the run away Lan Xiang’s room.

The captain returned and said, “Reporting to Gongye, reporting to Futai [inspector general] Daren: the murder weapon is the machete used to slice fodder in the barn, the one who took Lan Xiang along with a bundle of valuables and ran away was this mansion’s stable hand Xing Si [lit. ‘Xing the fourth’]. Let Xiaoren go to the stable and investigate.”

Everybody went to the stable to search. As expected, from underneath the trough they dug out a head. They asked Madame Feng to identify the corpse; there was no doubt that it was Feng Xifan. Immediately the coroner tested and determined: Feng Xifan was wounded with the saber, his body and head were separated and he died.

By this time the Feng mansion people had been released from the western hall, the cries of grief in the mansion shook the heavens, everybody cursed Xing Si and Lan Xiang as heartless for killing their master. The news spread out; in less than half a day, the city of Beijing was bubbling and gurgling, everybody was talking about this matter.

The prefectural magistrate was both ashamed and grateful, thinking that were it not for Duke Wei rapidly solving the case, perhaps his own future prospect would be greatly hindered. He profusely expressed his gratitude, while issuing the order to capture the ‘fugitive who killed his master’, Xing Si and Lan Xiang, and composing the report to his superior.

Only the special force captain was suspicious; he noticed that the cut wound on the neck was neat, apparently it was cut by a sharp blade, it did not look like it was cut by a fodder machete. He also noticed that in both places, the soil in which the body and the head were buried was relatively fresh, obviously the holes were dug not too long ago; the holes did not look like they were dug more than ten days ago. But Duke Wei had helped him solve this major case, the reward he received was generous, the Feng mansion also rewarded him with quite a lot of money, asking him to wrap up the case as quickly as possible, so that close relatives of the Feng mansion would not make a fool of themselves in yamen. Even if he had gargantuan suspicion, how could he dare to expose even half a sentence? He could only pondered in his heart, “During the investigation in the Feng mansion, Wei Gongye’s personal guards were everywhere, nobody was allowed to move around, if they wanted to move corpse and plant evidence, it would be very easy. Forget about burying one corpse, even if they wanted to bury a hundred or eighty corpses, it’s not difficult at all.”

Wei Xiaobao took the Shun Tian Fu prefectural magistrate’s closing document and went to see Kangxi to report the details of the conclusion of this case. Kangxi smiled and said, “Xiao Guizi, your ability in solving a case is not bad, everybody praised you as the reincarnation of Bao Longtu [see note 9, Chapter 39].”

Wei Xiaobao said, “It was all due to Your Majesty’s flood of good fortune, your servant just happen to uncover a criminal plot.”

“Humph,” Kangxi snorted. He stared at Wei Xiaobao and coldly said, “Grafting flowers onto a tree has nothing to do with my flood of good fortune.”

Wei Xiaobao jumped in fright; he thought, “How did His Majesty know?” But he immediately understood, “Of course, it is only natural that His Majesty has a secret agent within my personal guards.”

He was still thinking of how to respond when Kangxi sighed and said, “The case is closed this way, it’s also very good, so that there won’t be any criticism from the people outside. It’s just that you have brazenly taken rash action, I really don’t know what to do with you.” Wei Xiaobao was relieved; he knew the Emperor spared his life this time. Immediately he kneeled down and kowtowed repeatedly.

Kangxi said, “Presently all four oceans are peaceful, there is no need of troop movement, your title of Great General Fuyuan may be removed.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said. He knew that the Emperor was punishing him for acting willfully and making a scene; he added, “Your servant’s First-class Duke of Luding may also be degraded.”

“Alright,” Kangxi said, “I demote you to be a second-class duke.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant made a lot of trouble, my heart is uneasy, would Your Majesty please degrade me to be a third-class duke.”

Kangxi burst into loud laughter. “Damn it,” he said, “I am surprised that your heart can be uneasy; the sun must be rising from the west.”

When Wei Xiaobao heard the three-character ‘tamade’, he knew the Emperor’s anger had subsided; he stood up and said, “Although your servant does not have too much conscience, I always have a little.”

Kangxi nodded and said, “Precisely it was because I saw that you still have a bit of conscience; otherwise, I would have chopped your head early on and bury it under your wives Ah Ke, Shuang’er’s bed.”

Wei Xiaobao anxiously said, “This must never happen.”

Kangxi asked, “What must never happen?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Ah Ke and Shuang’er will never run away with the stable hand.”

Kangxi laughed and said, “They won’t run away with a stable hand, they might run away with …” Speaking to this point, he stopped talking; thinking that if this talk continued, inevitably it would turn frivolous and senseless. Besides, although Wei Xiaobao had disregard of the law and natural morality, after all is said and done, he was very loyal to him. A ruler and his minister may chat and laugh with each other, but must not bring dishonor upon himself. Momentarily at a loss of what to say, Kangxi decided to ignore him. Lowering his head, he flipped through the memorial on his desk.

Wei Xiaobao stood on the side with hands hung down. He saw Kangxi’s brows were slightly knitted, he looked to be in deep concern. Wei Xiaobao thought, “Oftentimes His Majesty is not happy. Although being the Emperor one has an awesome prestige, it is not necessarily a fun thing to do.”

Kangxi thumbed through the memorial for a while; he lifted up his head and sighed. Wei Xiaobao said, “Your Majesty, whatever it is, please send your servant to deal with it. Let your servant atone for his crimes by meritorious acts, repaying my master’s dragon kindness.”

“In this matter,” Kangxi said, “I cannot send you. Shi Lang presented the memorial, saying that Taiwan has been hit by a hurricane, on the plain the water is four chi deep, common people’s houses are damaged, families went bankrupt and the people died, the disaster is very serious.”

Wei Xiaobao saw that while talking, Kangxi’s eyes were glistening with tears; he thought, “We are good friends since childhood, I cannot not helping him.” He said, “Your servant has a way.”

“What way?” Kangxi asked.

Wei Xiaobao said, “To be honest with Your Majesty, when your servant served as an officer in Taiwan, I made a small fortune. More recently, I recovered a number of old debts from a Taiwan moneybags. By Your Majesty’s grace your servant was able to hold with both hands the golden rice bowl that was damaged and was restored. For a lifetime I will not die of starvation. Too much money is useless, I would rather present it as an offering, asking Your Majesty to comfort and give relief to the victims of disaster in Taiwan.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “The number of people affected by the disaster is a lot, your small fortune, no matter what, cannot be used. I will issue an edict at once, the Palace will cut down on palace maids and eunuchs, reduce the clothes, reduce the meals, let the Palace Internal Affairs make a plan to save four, five hundred thousand taels to be used as emergency relief for the victims.”

“Your servant deserves to die,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Indeed it is desperately serious.”

“What is it?” Kangxi asked.

Wei Xiaobao replied, “As a government official, your servant has committed corruption, in Taiwan I got one million taels, recently the debt I collected, which was from Zheng Keshuang actually, amounted to another million taels …”

Kangxi was shocked. “That much?” he asked.

Wei Xiaobao lightly slapped his own mouth and cursed, “Xiao Guizi deserves to die!”

Yet Kangxi laughed and said, “Your ability in debt collection is really superior; I had no idea at all.”

Wei Xiaobao cursed again, “Xiao Guizi deserves to die!” But his face showed that he was pleased with himself. He mused, “When a government official reaches out to take money, how can he let you as the Emperor, know? You planted a spy among my subordinates, you can only investigate whether I dare to revolt or not. Your Meifu [younger sister’s husband] collect money with his right hand, put money in the bag with his left hand, even your Da Meizi [oldest younger sister] does not know, you, this Da Jiuzi [wife’s older brother], absolutely cannot know.” In his mouth he called himself ‘your servant’, in his heart he considered himself ‘meifu’.

Kangxi pondered for half a day. He said, “You have a heart that is loyal to your lord and loving to the people, it is indeed hard to come by. Let’s do it this way: you contribute one million five hundred taels, I will add five hundred taels. We, the ruler and his minister, collect two million taels. Taiwan victims number about ten thousand or so households, each family will receive more than a hundred taels, that will be plenty.”

Impulsively Wei Xiaobao was feeling generous and wanted to donate, but just as quickly his heart ached and he already regretted it; when he heard that Kangxi would save five hundred taels for him, immediately he was overjoyed and hastily said, “Yes, yes. Your Majesty love common people as your own children, Laotianye bless and protect Your Majesty with favorable weather, the country prospers, the people at peace.”

Because of serious disaster in Taiwan, this past half day Kangxi’s heart was heavy; now that without rhyme and reason he suddenly obtained a lot of money, he was truly happy. He smiled and said, “Also bless and protect you to be promoted and gain wealth, lots of good fortune and long life.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Thank you very much for Wanshui Ye’s [Lord of Ten Thousand Years] golden mouth. Your servant will be promoted and gain wealth, lots of good fortune and long life, it is entirely due to Your Majesty’s grace. Besides, your servant’s small fortune originally belonged to Taiwan people, now that we return it to the common people of Taiwan, it is no more than returning the jade annulus to … to Tai.”

Kangxi roared in laughter and said, “It’s the saying ‘returning the jade annulus to Zhao’ [i.e. return something intact to its rightful owner]. Damn it, you change it to ‘returning the jade annulus to Tai(wan).’”

“Yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “It was ‘returning the jade annulus to Zhao’. Just now I could not recall this character ‘Zhao’. Zhao Qian Sun Li, Zhou Wu Chen Wang. The ‘Hundred Family Names’ lists ‘Zhao’ as the number one, no wonder they are flourishing so much, turns out the jade annulus and what have you are all returned to their Zhao family.”

Kangxi was even more amused; he thought that this man was ‘without learning or knowledge’, and he could not be taught too much either. Kangxi laughed and said, “Very true, very true. There is another saying, ‘Wei bian san jue’ [lit. the leather binding of the bamboo scrolls has broken three times; fig. to study diligently.]. It speaks about your Wei family being industrious in studying. Their learning is very good. You, surnamed Wei, are also very remarkable.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant’s learning is very lacking, I am letting my old Wei ancestors down.”

(Book note: In the saying ‘the leather binding of the bamboo scrolls has broken three times’, the character ‘Wei’ [which is Wei Xiaobao’s surname, ‘wei’ itself means ‘soft leather’] points to the leather strap boring through and joining the bamboo writing slips in ancient China. Kangxi deliberately distorted it to make fun of Wei Xiaobao.)

Kangxi said, “This time going to Taiwan for disaster relief effort …” Originally, according to reason, he should have sent Wei Xiaobao to handle this matter; but then he had a second thought, “This man contributes this large amount of money, only because he holds yi qi toward me, not necessarily because he really has love toward common people. I am afraid that as soon as he is out of the Palace’s gate, he would immediately regret it. If he went to Taiwan to distribute two million taels disaster relief, most probably he would want to recover his capital to avoid suffering loss. Perhaps he would even add one percent or two as the interest.” He knew Wei Xiaobao as well as he knew himself, immediately he changed his statement, “… is a very easy mission; there is no need for you to handle it personally. Xiao Guizi, your First-class Duke of Luding need not be degraded. Let my sister’s son light the lantern, business as usual.”

Wei Xiaobao kneeled down to express his gratitude. After kowtowing, he stood up and said, “Your servant donate a little bit of money, it is only returning the jade annulus to … to Zhao Qian Sun Li, but Your Majesty consider it as meritorious service. Your Majesty reduces the clothes, reduce the meals, that is real saving, and that is really not easy to do.”

Kangxi shook his head and said, “Wrong. Everything in the Palace, each tael of silver comes from common people under the heaven. Common people supply my brocade garments, jade meals. I lord over all the people, I should spare no effort in working for the common people. You eat official salary from your ruler, you should be loyal to your master. I eat official salary from the people, I should be loyal to the people. The ancient book says, ‘four oceans exhausted, possession of the empire will be used up’. If common people are destitute, that means the Emperor is no good, the Heaven will be furious, then I can’t be the Emperor anymore.”

“That must not happen,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Absolutely must never happen.”

Kangxi said, “You became a high-ranking minister, it was due to my grace. I became the Emperor, it was due to the Heaven’s grace. If you are not being loyal, I will chop your head. If I don’t become a good Emperor, the Heaven may replace me with someone else. The ‘Book of History’ says, ‘Heaven and Earth will correct their primary son’. Primary son [yuan zi] here means the Emperor. If the Emperor is not good, the Heaven might oust him.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said, “You are called Xiao Xuanzi; turns out ‘xuan zi’ means the Emperor.” [See also note 3 of Chapter 42: in Cantonese, ‘xuan’ and ‘yuan’ are homophone.]

Kangxi said, “This character ‘xuan’ [玄] is not the same as that character ‘yuan’ [元].”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao said. But in his heart he thought, “In round dumpling [圆子 – yuanzi] soup, all the dumplings look the same.” In any case, he did not know the character ‘yuan’ [元] from ‘xuan’ [玄], so why bother explaining it to him?

From his desk Kangxi picked up a book and said, “The inspector-general of Zhejiang presented a book to me, called ‘Ming Yi Dai Fang Lu’ [investigative record of Ming-barbarians dealing][2], written by Zhejiang man Huang Lizhou just recently. Zhejiang’s inspector-general reported that the book contains a lot of treason and heresy, and is asking for stricter investigation. I was just looking at the book, but I think this book makes a lot of sense. I have already written my comment on the report to Zhejiang’s inspector-general, telling him not to be meddlesome.”

While saying that, he opened the book and said, “In his book he said that as a ruler, ‘one man receives order from the world’, and not ‘the world receives order from one man’; this idea is well said. He also said, ‘The Son of Heaven is not necessarily right, the Son of Heaven is not necessarily wrong.’ This is also very true. Which man is not? The Son of Heaven is also a man, how could as soon as he became the Emperor, ‘everything is right, he is never wrong’?”

After speaking for a while, Kangxi noticed that although Wei Xiaobao repeatedly voiced his agreement, his face showed that he was at a loss; he could not help feeling amused inwardly. Kangxi thought, “I am talking about big principles with this little ruffian, how can he understand? If I continued on, I am afraid he would yawn repeatedly.” Thereupon he waved his left hand and said, “You may go.” But his right hand was still holding the book, his mouth was still reading aloud, “To think that the authority over the land under the heavens, good or bad, is in my hand, I must not use the world’s goodness entirely for myself, and use the world’s badness entirely for the people. I must not dare being selfish in employing the people under the heavens, must not dare to use it for my own benefit. If I use my private life to be fair to the world, only then will the shame gone, and long-term peace come, regarding the world as the most important estate, to be passed on to my offspring, for endless enjoyment.”

To Wei Xiaobao, all these were unfathomable mystery; but the Emperor was reading a book, so he had no choice but to repeatedly praised him, how could he not sing Kangxi’s praise from the side? Seeing Kangxi putting down the book, he asked, “Your Majesty, what is the book talking about? What is so good about it?”

Kangxi replied, “He said that the person who became the Emperor was calling the people under the heavens not to be selfish, must not seek their own benefit, only he, the Emperor, may have no regard for others, as well as have everything for self and selfish profit; he could go as far as saying that he was the great ruler of the world. At first the person who became the emperor did not feel right, he felt rather ashamed instead, but later on the habit became nature, unexpectedly he thought he was absolutely right, other people were wrong.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This man must be talking about bad emperor. Applied to a raw bird fish soup emperor like Your Majesty, what he said is wrong.”

“Hey, hey!” Kangxi said, “Everybody who became the emperor thought that he was a raw bird fish soup; who has ever resigned himself to be called a cruel, tyrannical ruler? To say nothing of by each muddleheaded ruler’s side, there must be a lot of shameless high-ranking ministers to sing him praises, elevating the muddleheaded ruler to be a raw bird fish soup.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Fortunately Your Majesty is genuine goods at fair prices, an unalterable raw bird fish soup. Otherwise, your servant would become one of those shameless high-ranking ministers.”

Kangxi’s left foot stomped the ground and he said with a laugh, “You have a lot of shame; get your egg out of here!”

“Your Majesty,” Wei Xiaobao said, “Your servant wants to ask for your grace, would Your Majesty grant your servant a leave, so that I can go to Yangzhou to see my mother.”

Kangxi smiled and said, “You have this filial piety; that is how it should be. Besides, ‘riches and honor do not return to the homeland, it is like wearing brocade clothes on a night walk’. You ought to go back in grandiose. The sooner you leave, the sooner you will return. Bring your mother back to Beijing. I will have an imperial decree to confer your mother the title of one-pin rank grand madame. Your deceased old man’s name, submit a report to the Ministry of Appointments, let him be conferred an official position posthumously. We should have had this matter dealt with the last time you went to Yangzhou, it’s just that Wu Sangui happened to rebel at the same time that it is delayed until now.”

He thought that most likely Wei Xiaobao did not know how to write his father’s name, and thus he did not inquire. Although Kangxi was brilliant, in this matter he only ‘knew one but did not know two’. While it was true that Wei Xiaobao did not know how to write his father’s name, the actual fact was: he did not even know who his father was.

Wei Xiaobao thanked Kangxi for his grace, and left the Palace. He returned to his mansion to fetch the million and a half taels banknotes, and handed it over to the Ministry of Revenue’s ‘silver warehouse’. And then he went to the Ministry of War to return the official seal of authority of the ‘Great General Fuyuan’. Lastly, he asked Su Quan to pick a name of his father on his behalf, as well as names of his ancestors up to the third generation, along with their wives and concubines. He had everything copied clearly, and then he submitted it to the Ministry of Appointments to be conferred posthumous, inherited, government-appointed hereditary official title of ‘Yan Feng Si’ [lit. officer in charge of examining titles bestowed by the imperial court].

Everything was settled, travel preparation was completed. Wei Xiaobao was quite popular in the imperial court, plus he was a grand relative of the holy family; princes, dukes and high-ranking ministers held a send-off banquet for him, it was very lively. At the point of departure Wei Xiaobao remembered the million and a half taels he donated, and his heart ached; thereupon he sent his personal guards to extort more than ten thousand taels from Zheng Keshuang as the ‘old debt’. Only then did they leave the Capital.

From Han Lu [Han Street] they reached Tongzhou [district, east of Beijing], where they boarded boats, and sailed along the canal southward, passing Tianjin, Linqing, crossing the Yellow River, passing Ji Ning, and one day arrived at Huaiyin [district, Jiangsu]. The official boat anchored at Siyangji [county, Jiangsu] to spend the night there.

Wei Xiaobao and his seven wives sat on the boat, chatting while having dinner. Su Quan said, “Xiaobao, tomorrow we will arrive at Huaiyin. In the old days, there was one man whose nobility title was Marquis of Huaiyin …”

“Um,” Wei Xiaobao said, “His rank was not as high as mine.”

Su Quan smiled and said, “That is not so. His original title was King, he was conferred the nobility title King. Afterwards the Emperor was afraid he might revolt, he removed his King title and changed it into Marquis of Huaiyin. This man was surnamed Han, given name Xin[3]. He was very famous.”

Wei Xiaobao slapped his thigh and said, “I know him. ‘Chasing after Han Xin under the dreary moon’, ‘Ambush from ten sides’, ‘Overlord need not worry about concubine’. All those plays have Han Xin in them.”

“Exactly,” Su Quan said, “This man was very capable, his meritorious service was very big, even a hero like the Overlord of Chu was defeated under his hands. It’s a pity that his end was not good, he was killed by the Emperor and the Empress.”

Wei Xiaobao sighed and said, “What a pity, what a pity! Why did the Emperor kill him? Did he want to rebel?”

Su Quan shook her head and said, “No, he did not. The Emperor was jealous of his ability, he was afraid he might rebel.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “Fortunately my ability is very low, in everything His Majesty is better than I am, and thus he can’t possibly be jealous of me. I have only one thing better than His Majesty, apart from this, in everything else I absolutely fall short of him.”

Ah Ke asked, “In which aspect you are better than the Emperor?”

Wei Xiaobao said, “I have seven wives as flower as jade, in all the world, you won’t find the eighth of such beautiful women. His Majesty’s flood of good fortune fills the heavens, I, Wei Xiaobao has romantic good fortune that fills the heaven. We, the ruler and his minister, two people each has his own strength, hence we are somewhat even.” He had thick skin and loved to toot his horn; the seven wives roared in laughter.

Fang Yi said with a laugh, “The Emperor’s flood of good fortune fills the heavens, you are the Great Sage the Equal of Heaven[4].”

“Right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I am the Beautiful Monkey King of Shuilian [water curtain] Cave, leading a bunch of female monkeys and little monkeys, passing the days freely and leisurely.”

While they were chatting and laughing, outside the cabin a servant said in a loud and clear voice, “Reporting to Gongye: there are guests requesting an audience.”

The maid entered to present four visiting cards. Su Quan received the cards and said in low voice, “The visitors are Gu Yanwu, Zha Jizuo, Huang Lizhou, and Lu Liuliang, four gentlemen.”

“It’s Mr. Gu and his friends,” Wei Xiaobao said, “I must see them.” After instructing his servant to receive the guests in the large boat’s cabin and serve them tea, he immediately changed his clothes and came out to meet them.

In the past, Gu, Zha and Huang, three men were arrested by Wu Zhirong in Yangzhou and nearly lost their lives; fortunately Wei Xiaobao saved them. As for Lu Liuliang, it was the very first time that they met. Behind him there were two young men in their twenties; they were Lu Liuliang’s sons, Lu Baozhong and Lu Yizhong. After greeting each other, they sat down as host and guests. Lu Baozhong and Lu Yizhong stood behind their father.

Gu Yanwu spoke in low voice, “Wei Xiangzhu, this time we came to pay you a visit, there is one very important thing we’d like to discuss with you. There are numerous eyes and ears in Siyangji, it’s inconvenient for us to talk. Is it possible to ask you to instruct the boat to sail out several li and anchor in some secluded, uninhabited place where we can talk?”

In the Turtle-slaying Assembly in Hejianfu that year, Gu Yanwu was elected the Chief Military Counselor by the heroes of various paths; in Jianghu, his reputation was very resounding, Wei Xiaobao had always been admiring him. He immediately went back to tell Su Quan and the others about their plan. Su Quan said, “We can’t be overly cautious. Our boat will follow. Anything happen, we can provide good support.”

Thinking about he was going with Gu Yanwu and the others to ‘some secluded, uninhabited place’, in his heart Wei Xiaobao was actually rather scared. With the seven wives escorting him, he felt he had something to depend on; thereupon he repeatedly agreed and ordered the boatmen to sail southward, telling them that they wanted to drink wine and admire the full moon amidst the elegant scenery along the canal. When Duke Wei was in a refined and elegant frame of mind, he might come up with some good poems. The remaining boats stayed in Siyangji, waiting for their return.

Wei Xiaobao returned to the big boat to accompany the guests. The two boats sailed south for about seven, eight li; they saw flat and empty land on both sides of the river, illuminated by the bright moon in the sky, no other human beings everywhere they looked. Wei Xiaobao ordered the boatmen to drop the anchor and told the boatmen and the attendants to go to the stern, so that they would not spoil Duke Wei and the six gifted scholars’ mood in creating poetry.

When there were no other people around, Gu Yanwu and the others expressed their gratitude once again for Wei Xiaobao’s great kindness in saving their lives in the past. Wei Xiaobao modestly responded, and then he told them about how Wu Liuqi and Chen Jinnan met their ends one after another. Everybody sighed endlessly. Gu Yanwu said, “The rumors floating around in Jianghu all said that Wei Xiangzhu coveted riches and honor and murdered your master to gain glory. But Huang Xiong, Zha Xiong and Xiongdi knew that it was not true. The three of us were total strangers to Wei Xiangzhu, yet unexpectedly Wei Xiangzhu was willing to brave great danger by killing that servant Wu Zhirong and saved our lives. How can someone whose righteousness reaches the clouds and the sky murder his benevolent master?”

Zha Jizuo said, “When we heard Jianghu friends mentioning this matter, we always do our best to defend Wei Xiangzhu against the accusation. But they said that Tatar Emperor’s imperial edict said so, how could it be false? Yet we know that Wei Xiangzhu live in Cao camp but have your heart in Han camp, you cannot always explain everything to the outsiders. From the beginning all heroes and warriors must undertake a task despite criticism. In order for Duke of Zhou to be a great sage great virtuous person, he still had to manage Cai spreading rumors, much less other people? For this reason, Wei Xiangzhu need not take it to heart.” Wei Xiaobao did not understand what he was talking about, the Duke of Zhou managing Cai and so on; he could only say ‘yes, yes’.

Lu Liuliang said, “Wei Xiangzhu made painstaking effort in planning great undertaking, actually you do not need to seek the people of the whole world’s understanding. As long as in the end you come out with a world-shaking achievement, everybody will understand that previously they have accused you wrongly.”

Wei Xiaobao mused, “What kind of world-shaking achievement I can possibly do? Aiyo, not good, they want to persuade me to assassinate the Emperor. How can I ‘refuse three obstruct four’ [i.e. use all sorts of excuses], refuse five obstruct six toward them? My way out is already bolted.” He said, “Xiongdi does not have any ability, literary knowledge is even less, whatever I attempted to do, I always did not get the desired outcome on both sides. Xiongdi is very discouraged, this time I am ‘announcing old age and returning home’ [i.e. to retire from public life]; later on I won’t do anything.”

“Pft,” Lu Yizhong saw that Wei Xiaobao was a few years younger than himself, yet unexpectedly he spoke about ‘announcing old age and returning home’, he stifled a laughter, but in the end could not help bursting in laughter. Gu Yanwu and the others were also amused; they looked at each other with smile on their faces.

Huang Lizhou smiled and said, “Wei Xiangzhu is a young hero, your future prospect is immeasureable. Ignorant people’s temporary misunderstanding needs not be bothered about.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “This one comparatively has to be regarded as important. Mr. Huang, you wrote a good book, called … called … Ming … Ming something something Huahualulu?”

Huang Lizhou was greatly surprised, “This man’s eyes cannot recognize the letter ‘T’, how did he know about my book?” He said, “It’s ‘Ming Yi Dai Fang Lu’.”

“That’s right, that’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “In your book there are a lot of words reprimanding the Emperor, is that right?”

Huang Lizhou and the others where shocked; they all thought, “Even this man knew about it. I’m afraid there will be another big literary inquisition.”

Gu Yanwu said, “It’s not reprimanding the Emperor. In his book Huang Xiong wrote his clear and penetrating opinion, he explained which road the ruler ought to take.”

“That’s right,” Wei Xiaobao said, “These days His Majesty read Mr. Huang’s book every day, he did not stop praising you for writing the book so well, maybe he is going to invite you to become a Zhuangyuan, become the prime minister.”

“Wei Xiangzhu is making fun of me,” Huang Lizhou said, “How can there be such thing?”

Thereupon Wei Xiaobao explained how Kangxi greatly praised the ‘investigative record of Ming-barbarians dealing’; only then did everybody feel relieved. Huang Lizhou said, “Turns out the Tatar Emperor is able to distinguish right from wrong.”

Wei Xiaobao seized the opportunity by saying, “That’s right. The Young Emperor said, although he is not a raw bird fish soup, compared to those Ming Dynasty Emperors, he is not necessarily inferior; perhaps he is even a bit better. With him being the Emperor, common people throughout the world pass their days better than during the Ming Dynasty. Xiongdi is unlearned, I have no knowledge and experience, I don’t know if what he was saying is right.”

Gu, Zha, Huang, and Lu, four people ‘you look at me, I look at you’, recalling each emperor of the Ming Dynasty; from the founder of the Dynasty, Ming Taizu all the way to the last emperor of the dynasty, Emperor Chongzhen. If not a cruel tyrant, then it must be a muddleheaded emperor; which one was as good as Kangxi? These four people were the great scholars of the present age, they were well acquainted with history. Unwilling to rule out conscience, they could not help but nodding their head silently.

“Therefore,” Wei Xiaobao continued, “The Emperor is good, Tian Di Hui is also good. The Emperor wanted me to exterminate Tian Di Hui, I determined not to do it. Tian Di Hui brothers wanted me to assassinate the Emperor, I also made up my mind not to do it. The outcome is that both sides are blaming me. Xiongdi has thought it through from different angles, hence I want to ‘announce old age and return home’.”

“Wei Xiangzhu,” Gu Yanwu said, “We came this time, not to ask you to assassinate the Emperor.”

“That’s very good,” Wei Xiaobao happily said, “As long as it is not assassinating the Emperor, Xiongdi will not shirk without dishonor in everything else. I wonder what four senior gentlemen, two young gentlemen want me to do?”

Gu Yanwu pushed the cabin’s window open, looked out, and saw that all around them was peace and quiet. He looked back and said, “We came to persuade Wei Xiangzhu to be the Emperor!”

‘Bing, bang!’ the teacup in Wei Xiaobao’s hand fell down to the floor and shattered. He was shocked. “This … this is not a joke?” he asked.

“Definitely not a joke,” Zha Jizuo replied, “A few of us have been deliberating over this matter for several months, we all feel that the Great Ming’s fortune is gone, common people throughout the world will not go back to the previous Ming. In all honesty all the emperors of the former Ming had caused too much suffering to the common people, everybody remembers them with hate. But the Tatars are occupying our Han family’s rivers and mountains, they want Han people all over the world to have our heads shaved and tie a braid, changing our clothes to barbarians’ attire; this is always hard to swallow. Wei Xiangzhu holds the power over the military, plus you are the Tatar Emperor’s trusted aide. As long as you are willing to raise the righteous banner and stand on your own feet as the Emperor, the people throughout the world will certainly look at you for direction.”

Wei Xiaobao was still in panic mode; he repeatedly shook his hand and said, “I … I don’t have that kind of good fortune, I cannot be the emperor.”

Gu Yanwu said, “Wei Xiangzhu always uphold justice, your good fortune is even more profound. Look around the world, if not you becoming the emperor, among the Han people there is nobody that has this kind of good fortune.”

Lu Liuliang said, “We, Han people, are a hundred times more numerous than the Manchus. One hundred people against their one person, how can we not achieve victory? That day Wu Sangui rose in rebellion, it was only because he forfeited the Great Ming’s rivers and mountains and became a big traitor that the Han people all over the world gnashed our teeth in bitter hatred and thus he could not succeed. Wei Xiangzhu has the heaven and the people on your side, recently you pacified Luocha, setting up an amazing merit to China, your prestige is rising, like the sun in the middle of the day. As soon as Wei Xiangzhu nod your head, we will immediately contact the heroes and warriors of Jianghu, together we draw a plan for this great undertaking.”

Wei Xiaobao’s heart was thumping madly, not even in his wildest dream would he expect that anybody would exhort him to be the Emperor. After staring blankly for half a day, he finally said, “I came from a small hoodlum background, my expertise is in cursing people and gambling. I became a general and a high-ranking officer, already other people are not happy about it; how can I be the Emperor? The Son of Heaven is ordained by the Heaven, he has to have gargantuan good fortune. My birthdate characters[5] [used in fortune-telling] are not right, the fortune-teller has already calculated that if I became the Emperor, I will not live pass three days.”

Hearing him talking nonsense, Lu Yizhong stifled another laughter. Zha Jizuo said, “What are Wei Xiangzhu’s birthdate characters? Let us find a brilliant fortune-teller and have him make calculation.” He knew that Wei Xiaobao did not have any profound knowledge, hence reasoning with him, they could only speak about little righteousness, not big righteousness. Describing virtuous cause to him, he would only understand little potential, and would not understand big potential. But if they bribed a fortune-teller to say that he was indeed the Son of Heaven ordained by the Heaven, that he received the mandate of Heaven to sit on the Dragon Throne, he might believe instead.

Who would have thought that Wei Xiaobao said, “The time of my birth and my birth characters are known only to my mother. When we get to Yangzhou, I am going to ask her.”

Everybody knew he did not mean it; he was merely making excuses. Lu Liuliang said, “Among the heroes and warriors, most do not confine themselves to particulars. Han Gaozu [first Han emperor Liu Bang] was open-minded and generous; compared to Wei Xiangzhu he was a lot more easygoing.” In his heart he said, “You came from a small hoodlum background, it is nothing. Han Gaozu came from big hoodlum background; he cursed people and gambled, compared to you he was a lot more troublesome, yet in the end he became the King who founded the Han Dynasty.”

Wei Xiaobao shook his hand and said, “We all are good friends, let me tell you the truth.” While saying that, he stroked his own head. “This guy here has a mouth,” he continued, “This mouth still want to eat damned several dozen of years of rice. This guy also has a pair of eyes, they like to watch a play and look at beautiful women. On it grew a pair of ears, they want to listen to stories, listen to songs. If I became the Emperor, this guy most likely cannot be protected, once it is chopped down, everything will collapse silly. Besides, becoming an emperor is not much fun. Taiwan suffers a hurricane, he was anxious; someone in Yunnan rose up in rebellion, he had to mind him. The job as an emperor is exhausting but not fun. I absolutely don’t want to do it.”

Gu Yanwu and the others looked at each other in dismay; they felt what he said made a lot of sense. Since Wei Xiaobao did not have any ambition in his heart, and he was unwilling to step forward bravely for the sake of the country and the people, to move his heart was indeed a very difficult matter.

After half a day, Gu Yanwu said, “This is a big matter, it is not easy to make decision in such a short time …” Speaking to this point, suddenly they heard faint hoof beats, several dozen of riders approached from the north along the western bank; in the dead of the night, the sound was twice as clear.

Huang Lizhou said, “Very late at night, how can there be a large group of riders?”

Lu Liuliang said, “Could it be the night patrol?”

Zha Jizuo shook his head and said, “Can’t be. Night patrol will ride their horses very slow, not galloping like this. Could it be Jianghu visitor?”

While they were still talking, they heard several dozen more riders on the eastern bank. The canal was not too wide, when there were horses galloping on both sides of the river, the people on the boat could hear it clearly. The boatmen of the boat on the rear received order to use the punting pole to get two boats close to each other. Su Quan and Shuang’er leaped onto the bow.

“Xianggong,” Su Quan said, “I am afraid the incoming people harbor malicious intentions, let’s gather everybody together.”

“Alright!” Wei Xiaobao said, “Mr. Gu and the others are old gentlemen, they don’t look like lechers. Everybody come in, even if they see them it won’t be a big deal.”

In their hearts Gu Yanwu and the others said, “Rubbish!” They felt it was inappropriate for them to meet the females in Wei Xiaobao’s family; therefore, they moved to the stern. The Princess, Ah Ke and the others, seven women, carried their children into the bow cabin.

They heard over the dike of the eastern and western banks the whistling sound of bamboo whistle calling and answering each other. Wei Xiaobao happily said, “It’s Tian Di Hui whistle.”

Several dozen of riders on both sides galloped toward the official boats. From the western bank someone called out, “Wei Xiaobao, come out!”

“Damn it,” Wei Xiaobao cursed in low voice, “No respect for seniors at all, they don’t even call ‘Wei Xiangzhu’ once.”

He was about to walk toward the bow, Su Quan pulled him back and said, “Let me question them clearly.” Walking toward the door of the cabin she asked, “Which heroes are here to see Wei Xianggong?”  Looking toward both banks, she saw all riders were wearing dark green cloth headband, while holding weapons in their hands.

The leader of the people on the western bank said, “We are from Tian Di Hui.”

Su Quan lowered her voice, “What is the secret code when you meet Tian Di Hui people?”

Wei Xiaobao went to the cabin’s door and said in a loud and clear voice, “Five men separately compose a poem, nobody knows the Hong Ying [lit. great courage. See also Chapter 8 for more info on Tian Di Hui.] on their body.”

The man on the horse replied, “That is Tian Di Hui’s old secret code. Ever since Wei Xiaobao betrayed the Society and surrendered to the enemy, murdered his master to seek honor, all the secret code of the Society have been changed.”

Wei Xiaobao was startled. “Who are you?” he asked, “How can you say such thing?”

The man said, “Are you Wei Xiaobao?”

Wei Xiaobao thought there was no use in denying; he said, “I am Wei Xiaobao.”

The man said, “Then I can tell you this: I am from Great Transformation Hall of Tian Di Hui, my surname is Shu.”

“Turns out it’s Shu Dage,” Wei Xiaobao said, “There is a lot of misunderstanding here. Is your honorable Hall’s Li Xiangzhu around?”

The man surnamed Shu hatefully said, “Your evil crimes fill the heavens. Li Xiangzhu died of anger because of you.”

The people on the western bank shouted loudly, “Wei Xiaobao betrayed the Society and surrendered to the enemy, murdered his master to seek honor; Shu Dage does not need to talk to him too much. Today we are going to chop his body into ten thousand pieces, to avenge Chen Zongduozhu and Li Xiangzhu.”

When the people on the eastern bank heard this, they also shouted in loud voices. Suddenly ‘whoosh!’ someone threw a piece of flying locust rock. Wei Xiaobao hastily withdrew into the cabin, while groaning inwardly, “Turns out Great Transformation Hall’s Li Xiangzhu has passed away; without distinguishing red-blue or black-white these brothers are acting recklessly, what should I do?”

He heard a series of ‘pi pi pai pai’ on the sail of their boat, secret projectiles from both sides continuously arrived. Finally the official boat stopped in the middle of the canal, the distance from either side was equally far, some secret projectiles fell into the water, even if they reached the sail, the momentum was very weak. Wei Xiaobao said, “This is ‘straw boat to borrow arrows’, I … I am Lu Su, I can only trembling with fear. Which one of you is Zhuge … Zhuge Liang? Quickly … quickly think of a plan.”

Seeing the secret projectiles were shot one after another, Gu Yanwu and the others, along with the boatmen, were hiding in the hold of the boat. Suddenly a flame flickered, several flaming arrows were shot toward the sail. Immediately the sail caught fire. “Aiyo!” Wei Xiaobao cried out, “It’s desperately serious, Wei Xiaobao is on fire!”

Su Quan shouted loudly, “Mr. Gu Yanwu is in here, you must not be rude.” She thought that Gu Yanwu’s prestige in Jianghu was quite resounding, presumably Tian Di Hui people would not dare to offend him. But amid the noise over the river, her voice was drowned.

Wei Xiaobao said, “Wives, let us shout together, ‘Mr. Gu Yanwu is here!’ One, two, three!”

Seven madams followed after Wei Xiaobao, “Mr. Gu Yanwu is here!”

After they had shouted three times, the noise of the people ashore gradually died down, the secret projectiles attack also stopped at once. The man surnamed Shu asked in loud voice, “Is Mr. Gu Yanwu on the boat?”

Gu Yanwu stood on the bow, cupped his fist and said, “Xiongdi Gu Yanwu is here.”

“Aiyo!” the man surnamed Shu cried out, and hastily issued his order, “Brothers with water skill, quickly jump into the river and tow the boat to the shore.”

They heard continuous splashing noise as dozens of Society members jumped into the canal and pushed and pulled the official boat toward the western bank. By this time the fire on the boat was burning high. Shuang’er pulled Wei Xiaobao and took him jumping to the shore, the remaining people also went ashore one after another. With unsheathed weapons in their hands, Tian Di Hui people surrounded them all around.

The man surnamed Shu cupped his fist and bowed to Gu Yanwu; he said, “Zaixia Tian Di Hui Great Transformation Hall’s Shu Hualong paying his respect to Mr. Gu Yanwu.”

Gu Yanwu cupped his fist to return the salute. An old man from Tian Di Hui bowed and said, “That year in the Turtle-Slaying Assembly of Hejianfu, the heroes all over the world elected Mr. Gu as Zong Junshi [Chief Military Counselor], Zaixia has seen Mr. Gu’s face once. We brothers are being reckless, please pardon our offense.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You are indeed too reckless.”

The old man said in stern voice, “I am talking to Mr. Gu; who spoke to you, this little traitor?” Stretching out his hand, he wanted to grab Wei Xiaobao’s chest. Su Quan blocked with her left hand, followed by a hand-flip, she caught and twisted the man’s wrist; borrowing the momentum, she pushed forward. The old man was unable to hold his stand; he was thrown down outward. Two Tian Di Hui members hastily rushed forward to hold him up.

Gu Yanwu called out, “If you have something to talk, let’s talk. Don’t use force, don’t use force!”

By this time the inside of the cabin had already caught fire. Under the blazing fire the faces of the people on the shore could be seen clearly. Su Quan felt that she and Shuang’er had superior martial art skill, to protect their husband and break the siege was not a difficult matter. Tian Di Hui people only wanted to deal with Wei Xiaobao, one person; all they need to do was to ensure he could escape, these Jianghu warriors would certainly not give trouble to women and children. Thereupon she and Shuang’er stood on Wei Xiaobao’s left and right. They already had their eyes on three horses, as soon as the talk reached a deadlock, they would immediately make their move to snatch the horses.

Gu Yanwu pulled Shu Hualong’s hand and said, “Shu Dage, please step aside to talk.” The two of them walked off several zhang. Shu Hualong listened to Gu Yanwu’s explanation, and then with a loud voice he called six or seven names to come forward. Looking at their appearance, these men were the leaders of this group. The old man who was thrown down by Su Quan was one of them, the remaining forty or so men were still surrounding Wei Xiaobao all around.

Wei Xiaobao said, “My valuables in the boat are indeed not a few, you burned it down. Hey, hey, if the Great Transformation Hall wants to compensate for my loss, it will break your money coffer big time.” Some of the people raised their sabers to threaten; some opened their mouths in cursing. Wei Xiaobao did not pay them any attention; he expected Gu Yanwu would explain the truth to Shu Hualong.

As expected, when Shu Hualong and the other Great Transformation Hall leaders heard Gu Yanwu’s explanation, they found out that there were many twists and turns in this story, Wei Xiaobao worked as a high-ranking officer in the imperial court, although they did not understand everything, but the murder of Zongduozhu Chen Jinnan was not done by him, hence the bitter hatred in their hearts disappeared.

They came together to him. Shu Hualong cupped his fist and said, “Wei Xiangzhu, just now we misunderstood you. If not for Mr. Gu’s enlightenment, we all nearly committed an offense.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “To really offend me is not that easy.” While saying that, he leaned sideways, unleashing the ‘Shen Xing Bai Bian’ [divine line hundred changes] he charged to the left, passed through to the right, went up and down twice or three times, and already he was about five, six zhang away from the Great Transformation Hall’s encirclement, and then with one leap he landed on a horseback.

Shu Hualong and the others were shocked; nobody expected that his lightness skill was surprisingly marvelous beyond measure. This man had such an outstanding martial art, no wonder although he was young, he had become Tian Di Hui Green Wood Hall’s Xiangzhu. Admittedly famous master would produce brilliant student, Zongduozhu’s direct disciple indeed was not a small matter. That old man from Great Transformation Hall’s martial art was also very strong, the brothers had always admired him, but with one twist and one push by Su Quan, he had no room to parry, and was narrowly thrown down to the ground. It appeared that each and every one of the other six ladies was also martial art expert. If they really had to fight, although their sides had more people, perhaps they would be beaten and had their heads and faces filthy with grime.

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “Excuse me, I must leave now!” Raising the reins, he galloped the horse away. But after rushing to the west about a dozen zhang, he swiftly leaped down from the horse and charged northwest; slipping to the left ducking to the right, somehow he returned to the encirclement and stood at his original spot with a grin on his face. Nobody could see clearly when did he come in.

Tian Di Hui members looked at each other, overwhelmed with amazement. Shu Hualong cupped his fist and said, “Wei Xiangzhu’s martial art is superb. My utmost admiration, my utmost admiration.”

Wei Xiaobao also cupped his fist and said with a laugh, “It was just a shameful display.”

Shu Hualong said, “Mr. Gu has explained to us that Wei Xiangzhu live in Cao camp but have your heart in Han camp, and is about to attempt a world-shaking great undertaking, to raise aspiration of the Han people throughout the world. When Wei Xiangzhu is ready to stage an uprising, although we, the Great Transformation Hall’s brothers, do not have much skill, as long as Wei Xiangzhu has anything for us to do, we will go through water and tread on fire, under no circumstances will we decline to do it.”

“Yes, yes,” Wei Xiaobao replied.

Shu Hualong noticed Wei Xiaobao’s unenthusiastic expression. Suddenly he raised his right index finger, ‘pop!’ he poked his own left eye. Immediately blood flowed out. Everybody screamed in fright. Wei Xiaobao, Gu Yanwu, and the others asked in alarm, “Shu Dage, what … what are you doing?”

Upright and unafraid Shu Hualong replied, “Xiongdi has offended Wei Xiangzhu, violating our Society’s commandment against disrespecting superior. I should have poked both of my eyeballs as a reprimand that I have eyes but failed to see. But Xiongdi wants to leave the other eye, I want to see how will Wei Xiangzhu accomplish the world-shaking great undertaking in the end.”

The old man said awe-inspiringly, “Supposing Mr. Gu and the others were deceived, Wei Xiangzhu only talked without actually doing it, all along he covets riches and honor, and only wanted to be a high-ranking officer; then what?”

Shu Hualong said, “Then Wei Xiangzhu also has to dig his own eyeball to compensate for mine.” Finished speaking he turned to Gu Yanwu and Wei Xiaobao, bowed and saluted, and said, “We are waiting for good news from Wei Xiangzhu.” Waving his left hand, everybody withdrew, mounted their horses and galloped away.

The old man turned his head around and called out, “Wei Xiangzhu, when you are home, ask your Niang [mother], is your Laozi [old man] a Han, or a Manchu? As a human being you must not forget your own ancestor.”

The bamboo whistle was blown, the crowd of warriors on the eastern bank also galloped away southward. In a short period of time, the riders on both banks had completely gone. The boat on the water was still burning.

Gu Yanwu sighed and said, “These brothers are still suspicious toward Wei Xiongdi. They are warriors of the wilderness, inevitably their speech is boorish, but they have loyal and righteous hearts, other people cannot help but feeling respect. Wei Xiangzhu, we have not finished what we wanted to talk to you about. We only hope that you will not forget the Great Han’s descendants. We are taking our leave now, I am sure we’ll meet again some day.” Finished speaking he cupped his fist, and then with Huang, Zha and the Lu’s they bade farewell.

Wei Xiaobao stood dejectedly at the riverbank, the autumn wind was bringing slight chill, the fire on the official boat gradually died down, occasionally the burning boat emitted some crackling noise, the flame roared for a moment, and then slowly getting smaller and smaller. He mumbled to himself, “What should I do? What should I do?”

Su Quan said, “Luckily we have the other boat. Let us go back to Siyangji, we’ll think about it and make decision later.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “That old man told me to go home and ask my Niang, my Laozi is a Han or a Manchu. Hey, hey, it’s not a bad idea.”

“Xiaobao,” Su Quan consoled him, “This kind of uncouth people’s random talk, why do you take it seriously? Let us get on the boat.”

Wei Xiaobao stood motionless, his heart was in turmoil. Looking down, he saw drops of blood on the ground, blood from Shu Hualong’s self-inflicted wound on his left eye. Suddenly he cried out, “Laozi don’t want to do it, Laozi don’t want to do it!”

The seven madams were startled. Wei Shuangshuang was already fast asleep in her mother’s arms, because of his loud shout, she woke up with a start and cried.

Wei Xiaobao said in a loud voice, “The Emperor forces me to strike Tian Di Hui, Tian Di Hui forces me to strike the Emperor. Laozi’s feet are treading on two boats, both sides do not give me any fruitful outcome to reward my labor. One side wants to chop my head, the other side wants to dig my eyeball. How many heads and how many eyeballs can one person have? You come to chop, I come to dig, what else will Laozi have left? I quit. No matter what Laozi don’t want to do it anymore!”

Seeing his abnormal expression, Su Quan advised him in tender voice, “Becoming an imperial court official, your days are spent in fear and always on edge, there is nothing fun about it. Becoming a Tian Di Hui Xiangzhu is also not fun to do. You decide to quit, nothing can’t be better than that.”

Wei Xiaobao happily said, “So all of you advise me to quit?”

Su Quan, Fang Yi, Ah Ke, Zeng Rou, Mu Jianping, and Shuang’er, six women nodded their heads. Only Princess Jianning said, “You have only achieved dukedom, how can you think of quitting your government position? You must be conferred the title King, becoming chief assistant great learning scholar [not sure, 首辅大学士], have both civil and military authorities, and then it would be a good time to announce your retirement. Besides, if you resign your post right now, I am sure Huangdi Gege won’t allow it.”

Wei Xiaobao angrily said, “I don’t want to be government official, I don’t need the Emperor to care about it. He is no more than my Dajiuzi [wife’s older brother]. Damn it, why bother and talk too much? I don’t even want this Dajiuzi anymore.” Not wanting the Emperor as Dajiuzi means he did not want the Princess to be his wife. The Princess was scared; how could she dare to talk too much?

Seeing his seven wives did not have anything else to say, immediately Wei Xiaobao was happy and excited. He said, “The Great Transformation Hall burned my boat, they really burned it well, burn it swell, burn it all the way to hell. We can quietly hide, the local officials will report to the imperial court, they will say that I am burned to death by the bandits. From now on my Dajiuzi can’t find me anymore.”

Su Quan and the others clapped together, only the Princess was silent. Immediately the eight of them discussed a plan. Wei Xiaobao, the Princess, and Shuang’er, three people would change their clothes, go to Huaiyinan inn and wait there. Su Quan would lead Fang Yi, Ah Ke, Mu Jianping and Zeng Rou, four women, to go back to Siyangji to collect the gold, silver and valuables, as well as other things they wanted to take from the remaining boats, and then spread rumor that Duke Wei’s official boat was attacked by a gang of bandits in the night, the boat was burned, the people perished. However, those several boatmen saw that Wei Xiaobao did not die; they would create danger later. In Su Quan’s opinion, they should be killed to shut their mouths, and have their bodies abandoned at the riverbank; then it would be even more believable. Mu Jianping could not bear to do it, she insisted on not murdering the innocent.

“Very well,” Su Quan said, “Jianping Meizi has good conscience, Laotianye will bless you with many healthy sons. Xiaobao, I’ll lift my sword to kill you, you run into the woods, scream loudly, pretend that I am killing you.”

Wei Xiaobao laughed and said, “You are a brutish woman, you want to murder your own husband?” Raising his voice he cried out, “Murder, murder!” And started to run. After running in circle several times, he fled to the woods. With a sword in her hand, Su Quan ran after him into the woods. They heard Wei Xiaobao screamed, “Help, help! He …” the last ‘help’ was abruptly cut-off and then suddenly he went silent.

Mu Jianping was fully aware that they were pretending, but hearing Wei Xiaobao’s mournful cry, she could not refrain her heart from thumping madly. “Shuang’er Meizi,” she asked in a low voice, “It’s … it’s not real, is it?”

Shuang’er said, “Don’t be afraid. Nat … naturally it’s not real.” But she could not help feeling afraid herself.

They saw Su Quan walked out of the woods with the sword still in her hand; she called out, “Kill all the boatmen!”

All along the boatmen were squatting on the shore. Seeing Tian Di Hui people set the boat on fire, and Su Quan killing Wei Jueye, they were already trembling with fear. Seeing Su Quan came with sword in her hand to kill them, they scattered in all directions to protect their lives; instantly they all disappeared without a trace.

Shuang’er was worried over Wei Xiaobao, she rushed toward the woods, and saw him lying on the ground, motionless. Shuang’er was so scared that her body and soul separated, thinking how could she kill him for real? Throwing herself on him she called out, “Xianggong, Xianggong!”

Seeing Wei Xiaobao’s body was stiff, she panicked even more. Hastily she reached out to lift him up. Suddenly Wei Xiaobao opened up his arms and embraced her tightly, while calling out, “Great success, you deserve a kiss!”

Husband and wives, eight people proceeded according to plan; they fetched their belongings, and continued on to Yangzhou in disguise. After picking up Wei Xiaobao’s mother, the whole family went to Yunnan. Henceforth they lived incognito, spending their free and leisure days in Dali city.

In his free time, Wei Xiaobao often felt bored, and remembered the huge amount of treasures hidden in Mount Luding under the city of Yakesa that had not been dug yet. He thought that if he could be the richest man in the world, he would be perfectly satisfied. However, remembering his friendship with Kangxi, he could not bear to sever his dragon’s vein.

Kangxi was well aware of Wei Xiaobao’s character and ability; he knew he would not be easily harmed by the bandits, let alone even though they searched, they could not find his body. Hereafter Kangxi unceasingly sent people on open enquiries and secret search, yet there were no result.

Later generation historians wrote an account on Kangxi went down to Jiangnan six times, with the purpose of inspecting the work on Yellow River. But he had never been to Jiangnan before; why was it that as soon as Wei Xiaobao went missing, that very same year he went to Jiangnan? If he was inspecting the river work, why did he go as far as Hangzhou? Why did each time he stop over in Yangzhou for so long? And why did each time he send out a large number of Imperial Bodyguards to every brothel, casino, teahouse and wine shop to inquire about Wei Xiaobao? When the inquiry failed to get any result, why was he depressed?

Based on later generation research, the ‘Hong Lou Meng’ [Dream of Red Mansions] author Cao Xueqin’s paternal grandfather Cao Yin was originally an Imperial Bodyguard, who was once serving under Wei Xiaobao’s command. Later on Kangxi sent him to Suzhou’s weaving industry, and also appointed him to be in charge of Jiangning’s weaving industry, ordering him to set his headquarters in a bustling city in Jiangnan, to enable him to search for news of Wei Xiaobao in the neighboring areas.

That day when Wei Xiaobao finally reached Yangzhou, he brought his wives, sons and daughter to Lovely Spring Courtyard to see his mother. Mother and child met in person, their joy was unbearable. Wei Chunfang saw her seven daughter-in-laws were all as beautiful as flower and as jade; she thought, “Xiaobao, this little thief’s eyesight in selecting women is not bad. If he opened up a courtyard, he would certainly make a lot of money.”

Wei Xiaobao pulled his mother into her room and asked, “Ma, actually, who is my laozi?”

With eyes opened wide Wei Chunfang said, “How do I know?”

Knitting his brows, Wei Xiaobao said, “Before you got me in your belly, what kind of visitors did you receive?”

“At that time your Niang was a very pretty woman,” Wei Chunfang replied, “Every day I received several visitors. How could I remember that many people?”

“Were all those visitors Han people?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Wei Chunfang replied, “Naturally there were some Han, but there were some Manchu officers, and some Mongolian military officers too.”

“Were there any foreign demons?” Wei Xiaobao asked.

Wei Chunfang was angry. “You think your Niang is a rotten wh0re that I would receive foreign demons? ” she said, “Hot piece mama, if Luocha demons, red-haired demons came to Lovely Spring Courtyard, Laoniang would swat them out with a big broom.”

Wei Xiaobao was relieved. “That’s very good!”

Wei Chunfang looked up, recalling past events. She said, “At that time there was a Hui kid, he often came here looking for me; his appearance was very handsome. I often said in my heart, my Xiaobao has a good nose, it looks a bit like him.”

Wei Xiaobao said, “There were Han, Manchu, Mongol and Hui men; was there any Tibetan?”

“Why not?” Wei Chunfang proudly said, “That Tibetan Lama, before he went to bed, he always chanted Buddhist scripture. While chanting, his eyeballs ran all over me. Your eyes are wily and too happy, just like that Lama’s!”

THE END.

[1] Fengyang flower-drum: folk art involving singing and dancing.

[2] Waiting for the Dawn (明夷待訪錄; Ming Yi Dai Fang Lu) was a summary of ideas about political reform that had been advanced by various scholars since the reign of Wan Li (1573–1619). The political tract begins with a condemnation of selfish autocratic rule, and declares that the world should belong to the people.

The third and fifth section of the work, “On Laws” and “Schools”, respectively, are particularly famous. In the former, Huang declares that all laws and regulatory bodies should be an outgrowth of local needs, not imposed by leaders with a political agenda. In the latter, he advocates using the education system as a semiofficial forum for educated opinion on public affairs.

In the sixth and seventh sections of the work, entitled “Selecting Good Men”, Huang also lays out his ideas for reform of the Imperial examination system. In later sections, he discusses equitable distribution of landholdings, the division between men of civil and military background, fiscal reform, and the problem of eunuch power during the Ming dynasty. (Courtesy of Ace High)

[3] Han Xin (-196BC), famous general of first Han emperor Liu Bang.

[4] Great Sage the Equal of Heaven was the self-proclaimed title of the Monkey King Sun Wukong (Journey to the West).

[5] Eight Characters of Birth Time or the Four Pillars of Destiny is conceptual term that describes the four components creating a person’s destiny or fate. The four components within the moment of birth are year, month, day, and hour. It is called BāZì (八字), Eight Characters, because each of the four pillars (representing the year, month, day, and hour of one’s birth respectively) is represented by two characters; one character for a Heavenly Stem and one character for an Earthly Branch. There are 10 Heavenly Stems (天干; TiānGān) and 12 Earthly Branches (地支; DìZhī). (Courtesy of Ace High)

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