Chapter 1: Quarrel In The Neighborhood
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This is a fan work and the interpretation represents only the translator’s personal views without any input from the author.
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About 100 li1 west of Hanzhong prefecture, under the jurisdiction of Feng county, was a place called Taohua Village.
In the middle of the village was a winding stream with willow trees growing along its banks.
As the place tended to be dry and arid, the trees were stunted, with thin trunks, their branches waving gently in the wind.
When the weather is favorable, grasses of all types grow lush and verdant on the banks.
But when met with a dry year, the stream shrinks to a mere trickle.
In severely dry years, the stream dries up entirely and only a few drought resistant grasses survive.
The previous year was a drought year, with the drought persisting until the second month of the current year.
The stream had long ago dried up and the willows on its banks were drooping as if exhausted.
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Gv vbl lypvlad pkel sq Mysbwy hkzzytl, vbl zyde oyp qzyv yde srld – kv oyp oblal vbl xsal olzz-sqq qyxkzklp pvyule.
Mblal, bswplp olal cwkzv sq caknj yp olzz yp pvsdl.
Okvbla oyu, vblu olal pwrlaksa vs vbl xwe yescl bswplp sd vbl olpv pkel sq vbl hkzzytl.
Mbl lypvlad pkel sq vbl hkzzytl oyp bktbla vbyd vbl olpv yde nsddlnvkdt vbl vos pkelp oyp y hlau pvllr pzsrl.
Gv vbl csvvsx sq vbl pzsrl,vblal olal nzwpvlap sq xwe yescl bswplp, vbl swvpkelp sq obknb olal ps osad swv vbyv zkvvzl xsal vbyd vbl qayxl alxykdle.
Rd vbl olpvladxspv ryav sq vbl hkzzytl, zkhle y qyxkzu.
Mbl ryvakyanb, pwadyxle Nkw, bye qswa psdp yde vball eywtbvlap.
Rd vbl pkmvb xsdvb, ewakdt vbl xke ulya qyaxkdt zwzz plypsd, bl blze vbl oleekdt sq bkp vbkae psd.
Mblalyqvla, kd vbl 10vb xsdvb, yqvla vbl cwpu qyaxkdt plypsd, bl xyaakle sqq bkp plnsde eywtbvla.
Uwaaldvzu, sdzu bkp uswdtlpv psd yde eywtbvla byhl dsv ulv oleele.
Xze Yyd Nkw’p yescl oyzzp pvkzz bye vbl alxdydvp sq y plxk-dlo ale “eswczl byrrkdlpp” nbyaynvla, yddswdnkdt vs yzz obs pyo vbyv vbl qyxkzu bye fwpv blze y oleekdt.
(囍/ Dk – Maydpzyvle yp vbl “Pswczl Tyrrkdlpp” nbyaynvla yp vbl osae byp vos 喜/mk (xlydkdt “byrrkdlpp”) kd kv.
Mbl nbyaynvla kp sqvld wple ewakdt oleekdtp.
Ekvb bla pbsav zltp, Nkw Dw’la nyxl swv sq vbl bswpl.
Wszzsokdt vbl ekav asye, pbl blyele vsoyae vbl lypv.
Jlbkde bla, y 20-psxlvbkdt ulya sze xyaakle osxyd pbswvle, “Psd’v oydela sqq vss qya!”
“Yx!” Nkw Dw’la rasxkple yp pbl nsdvkdwle sd bla oyu.
Gqvla bla zkvvzl zltp bye oyzjle y qwzz 15 xkdwvlp, pbl qkdyzzu pyo vbl pzsrl vbyv ekhkele aknb yde rssa.
Nkw Dw’la pvsse zssjkdt yv vbl pzsrl qsa y zkvvzl obkzl clqsal vyjkdt y ellr calyvb yde elvlaxkdlezu nzkxckdt wr.
Fbl byed’v lhld xyel kv byzqoyu clqsal pbl oyp rydvkdt calyvbzlppzu.
Rd y xsxldv sq nyalzlppdlpp, bla qssv pzkrrle, yde pbl dlyazu oldv aszzkdt esod vbl pzsrl.
“Meimei2!” With a cry of alarm, Liu Xu’er’s right arm was pulled firmly.
Her entire body twisted to one side, her right arm was just starting to complain of pain when her left arm was also pulled up.
With her body righted, the pain disappeared.
She looked up – at her right and left were two identical looking boys holding onto her.
The boy on the right was looking sternly and anxiously at her.
“What are you doing out here Even coming out this far! Look, now you’ve nearly fallen! What would happen if you were to tumble down”
The earnest face to her left grinned “Did mum send you to get us Is it time for the afternoon meal Has dad come back”
Liu Xu’er shook her head and as expected, saw her erge3 Liu Lin’s face fall in disappointment.
All this while, dage4 Liu Shu was anxiously scanning her for any signs of injury.
After satisfying himself that she was unhurt, he took her hand and carefully started walking back down the slope.
Liu Xu’er struggled slightly.
“I want to go up and look for Shi Cheng.”
“Whatever for” Liu Shu asked, insistently guiding her down the incline, back to flat ground, leaving the dangerous – to five-year-old Liu Xu’er – slope behind.
“For something!” Liu Xu’er, who was back on level ground, looked helplessly and resentfully up that long, long slope.
“This morning, dage and I saw Shi Cheng and his dad take a carriage out.
They used a huge mule to pull the carriage – maybe they were headed into the town.” Seven-year-old Liu Lin used his hands to show the enormousness of the mule before hurriedly grabbing Liu Xu’er’s hand again.
Despite being born just 15 minutes before his brother, Liu Shu’s temperament was much steadier.
Without letting go of Liu Xu’er’s hand, he nodded and said “Shi Cheng told me yesterday that he and his father were going to town.
What are you looking for him for I will let him know tomorrow when I see him.”
When Liu Xu’er heard that he had gone to town, she couldn’t help feeling dispirited.
Mumbling to herself, she said “It wasn’t anything much.
I just wanted to see his milk cow….”
“Meimei wanted to see his milk cow! I can bring you to visit tomorrow!” The instant Liu Lin heard it, he excitedly danced about, as if to say that he wanted to go right this moment.
Liu Shu also nodded his head.
“Tomorrow, gege5 will bring you there.
You mustn’t try to go by yourself again.”
Allowing the two to hold her hands – one on each side – to lead her back home, Liu Xu’er obediently agreed.
Inwardly however, she was grumbling that her dage was so young and already such a nag.
The three siblings continued on their way home.
When they were still a distance away, they saw a 20-something, young married woman standing at the doorway keeping a lookout.
When she spotted the siblings, she let out a sigh of relief.
From faraway, Shu Lin let out a shout, “Mum!”
He shi6 nodded her head then reproached Liu Xu’er who was standing in the middle.
“I thought you were just at the doorway.
Why did you wander off so far”
“Mum, you have no idea. Gege and I spotted her on the slope.
She nearly took a tumble down!” Shu Lin immediately reported.
Pouting, Liu Xu’er lifted her head to stare at this tattletale of an erge.
He shi’s face went pale.
Going over, she grasped Liu Xu’er by the arm.
“This child, why are you so disobedient How many times have I told you, you are too young to be going up that slope!” Saying this, she examined her from top to toe.
Seeing that she was fine, He shi dusted off her lapel.
“Mum, it’s alright. Meimei is quite careful when she walks” Liu Shu said, giving a word of defense.
“This morning Liu Lin and I saw that the fields have been cleared.
So from now on, I can stay home to mind didi7 and meimei.”
He shi let out a sigh.
“That’s only for another half a month.
After that, we will go back to being busy….” Saying this, she turned to look at Liu Xu’er.
“When will you grow up” directing the statement at her.
Liu Xu’er quickly said “I’ve grown up.
I can already look after didi.”
After speaking, He shi had started to move back into the house, but on hearing Liu Xu’er’s statement, she turned to look at her and laughed.
Liu Lin took off toward the house, poking his head into the kitchen.
Liu Shu continued to hold her hand and walked toward the westernmost room – their room.
On the kang8 slept a barely one-year-old boy, Liu Xu’er’s little brother, Liu Sen.
At the side of the kang were bricks and a pillow to provide a barrier as they were afraid he would wake up, move around and accidentally roll off.
(Example of a kang) Source
“Xu’er, didi may wake up soon.
Sit on the kang and look after him.
When he wakes, call for mum alright” While saying this, Liu Shu carried Liu Xu’er up the kang and helped her remove her shoes.
Liu Xu’er made a noise of agreement.
Satisfied, Liu Shu left the room.
Liu Xu’er turned to look at the sweetly sleeping Liu Sen.
She was just about to use a handkerchief to wipe his drool when she heard a raised voice shouting from outside the house.
“Is anyone at home Liu’s wife Liu Gao shi”
Villagers seldom called out to the married women of other households like this.
On hearing how this person called for her nainai9, Liu Xu’er knew that trouble had come calling.
Hastily she jumped off the kang, shuffled on her shoes and ran to the doorway.
True enough, there standing in the courtyard was a 50-something year old woman.
Arms akimbo, she was yelling toward the main house.
Immediately, Liu Xu’er sat herself down on the doorstep.
Propping her cheeks in her hands, with head tilted, she waited for the drama to unfold.
With just one full-bodied cry, it managed to draw four or five people out.
He shi came out of the kitchen, Liu Xu’er’s dashenzi10 Ma shi came out of their room and Liu Xu’er’s nainai Liu Gao shi came out of the main house.
Brows creasing, she looked at the person standing in the courtyard.
“Wang’s wife, what are you making a fuss over now”
Hands on hips, the woman from the Wang family said “Once again, somebody has stolen from my apricot tree! It has to be the children from your family! Confess! Was it the two of you who picked them!” Liu Shu and Liu Lin had just arrived and the Wang woman immediately pointed and shouted at them accusingly.
Liu Lin leaped three feet in the air and protested “That’s nonsense! Who even wants your sour apricots”
Hearing Old Woman Wang blindly insist on accusing her children, He shi was not happy.
“Aunt Wang11, there must be evidence before you can say such things.
On what basis can you say my children stole your fruit Without any evidence, how can you just accuse others”
“It was definitely your children who did it! This afternoon, no one else’s children were around.
The only ones that were around here were yours.
If it wasn’t them, who else could it be!” The Wang woman continued to point her fingers at both Liu Shu and Liu Lin.
“Their aunt12” Liu Gao shi coughed “When you say that my grandsons stole your apricots, did you witness this Just based on the fact that no other children were around Everyone’s in their own homes, so how would you know whether they are around or not My grandsons were asked to go to the fields to help with clearing, and only just got back.” Her tone remained calm.
The Wang woman jumped up with a shout “I just saw your family’s Liu Shu bring his didi and meimei past my family’s apricot tree! When I ran out to look, the large apricots that were just there yesterday were gone! If they didn’t steal it, who did”
“What kind of talk is this Don’t you know what it means to catch a thief red-handed If you saw them do it then, why didn’t you catch them straight away Instead you wait till now to come and shout at our door This is called framing others!” Liu Gao shi raised her voice slightly, sternly looking at the Wang woman.
Enjoying the show from the sidelines, Liu Xu’er wanted to applaud her nainai in encouragement.
Befitting of someone literate – how literate people speak is truly different! That’s right, Liu Xu’er’s nainai, unlike other married women in the village, could read.
Others were told that the names given to the children in the family were chosen by yeye13, but everyone in the family knew that it was nainai.
Liu Xu’er was quite satisfied with her name.
It was definitely better than the “Taohua” or “Cuihua” commonly given to others in the village.
But the Wangs had been neighbors with Liu Gao shi for half of their lifetimes.
Knowing how eloquent Liu Gao shi was, she had also come prepared.
On hearing what was said, she straightened her back and loudly stated.
“It’s easy enough to clarify the truth – just let me into your house to have a look!” Saying this, she rolled up her sleeves and rushed toward the kitchen.
In that instant, Liu Xu’er understood! She created a huge fuss just to see what was in their kitchen! Yesterday was the day that ergu14 first returned to her parental home after her wedding.
What did she bring that this Wang woman coveted Liu Xu’er tilted her head wondering.
Liu Shu scuttled out from the side, stretching out his arms to block the kitchen doorway.
“You’re not the authorities! Who’re you to search other people’s houses”
“What is this ignorant child saying!” The Wang woman immediately pointed at Liu Shu, tone threatening.
He shi rushed forward, protectively pulling Liu Shu behind her.
Liu Gao shi also went forward and sneered at the Wang woman “What my grandson said wasn’t wrong.
Without any evidence, why should you be allowed to look through my home Are you an official bailiff or the magistrate Without even a shred of evidence, you demand to search my home – is there no law If you dare to try, I will go to the village head and ask him to judge.”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk.
What impressive spirit.
You would make such a fuss over a few apricots Will the village head even bother himself with you”
Liu Gao shi coldly snorted.
“The matter about the apricots is small, but the matter of framing others isn’t! If I don’t make a fuss, wouldn’t this mean that anyone can storm into my home, accuse me of stealing things and then search my house! How is that alright Is my house so easy to search”
The Wang woman just couldn’t win against Liu Gao shi. She glared and glanced at the kitchen.
Not seeing anything, and knowing that she couldn’t enter the kitchen, she could only harshly say “You won’t let others look because you’ve a guilty conscience.
Peh! I will just take it that the apricots were eaten by dogs!” She moved toward the door.
Liu Lin raised his voice.
“That’s true! Only dogs would eat the apricots from your house!”
Ever since the Wang’s apricot tree started to bear fruit, Old Woman Wang kept a tight watch on it.
Who could possibly steal from them All of the fruit was eaten by their family.
By saying this, Liu Lin was equating her family with dogs.
Liu Xu’er sat at the doorway laughing.
How could the Wang woman not know she had been scolded by Liu Lin While walking, she pointed at Liu Lin, then pointed at the still laughing Liu Xu’er.
She scolded “These two short lived brats! One day, you will end up in my hands, and see how I sort you out!”
Liu Xu’er loudly retorted “You are short lived! Your whole family is short lived!”
Seeing Old Woman Wang scolding her children, He shi wasn’t having it.
Chasing her, she scolded “You are over 50! We’ve already tolerated a lot but you are still threatening my children! If you dare to touch them, I will go over with a kitchen knife! Just try it and see!”
Finally, the quarrelsome Wang woman – as has happened in countless battles before – was scolded away by the Liu family.