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Some Chinese Ghosts by Lafcadio Hearn
The Story of Ming-Y
page 1 of 7 | Some Chinese Ghosts by Lafcadio Hearn
THE ANCIENT WORDS OF KOUEI--MASTER OF MUSICIANS IN THE COURTS OF THE EMPEROR YAO:--
_When ye make to resound the stone melodious, the Ming-Khieou,-- When ye touch the lyre that is called Kin, or the guitar that is called Ssť,-- Accompanying their sound with song,-- Then do the grandfather and the father return; Then do the ghosts of the ancestors come to hear._
_Sang the Poet Tching-Kou: "Surely the Peach-Flowers blossom over the tomb of SiŽ-Thao."_
Do you ask me who she was,--the beautiful SiŽ-Thao? For a thousand years and more the trees have been whispering above her bed of stone. And the syllables of her name come to the listener with the lisping of the leaves; with the quivering of many-fingered boughs; with the fluttering of lights and shadows; with the breath, sweet as a woman's presence, of numberless savage flowers,--_SiŽ-Thao_. But, saving the whispering of her name, what the trees say cannot be understood; and they alone remember the years of SiŽ-Thao. Something about her you might, nevertheless, learn from any of those _Kiang-kou-jin_,--those famous Chinese story-tellers, who nightly narrate to listening crowds, in consideration of a few _tsien_, the legends of the past. Something concerning her you may also find in the book entitled "Kin-Kou-Ki-Koan," which signifies in our tongue: "The Marvellous Happenings of Ancient and of Recent Times." And perhaps of all things therein written, the most marvellous is this memory of SiŽ-Thao:--
Five hundred years ago, in the reign of the Emperor Houng-Wou, whose dynasty was _Ming_, there lived in the City of Genii, the city of Kwang-tchau-fu, a man celebrated for his learning and for his piety, named Tien-Pelou. This Tien-Pelou had one son, a beautiful boy, who for scholarship and for bodily grace and for polite accomplishments had no superior among the youths of his age. And his name was Ming-Y.
Now when the lad was in his eighteenth summer, it came to pass that Pelou, his father, was appointed Inspector of Public Instruction at the city of Tching-tou; and Ming-Y accompanied his parents thither. Near the city of Tching-tou lived a rich man of rank, a high commissioner of the government, whose name was Tchang, and who wanted to find a worthy teacher for his children. On hearing of the arrival of the new Inspector of Public Instruction, the noble Tchang visited him to obtain advice in this matter; and happening to meet and converse with Pelou's accomplished son, immediately engaged Ming-Y as a private tutor for his family.
Now as the house of this Lord Tchang was situated several miles from town, it was deemed best that Ming-Y should abide in the house of his employer. Accordingly the youth made ready all things necessary for his new sojourn; and his parents, bidding him farewell, counselled him wisely, and cited to him the words of Lao-tseu and of the ancient sages:
"_By a beautiful face the world is filled with love; but Heaven may never be deceived thereby. Shouldst thou behold a woman coming from the East, look thou to the West; shouldst thou perceive a maiden approaching from the West, turn thine eyes to the East._"
If Ming-Y did not heed this counsel in after days, it was only because of his youth and the thoughtlessness of a naturally joyous heart.
And he departed to abide in the house of Lord Tchang, while the autumn passed, and the winter also.