Book 1 Chapter 6 – Great Method of Nine Mysteries
Four big ships [the original refers to ancient leather-clad warships] raised their anchor and set sail upstream to the west. Song Shidao talked big, naturally his background was not simple at all.
The fact was that at that time in Jianghu, in term of outstanding reputation, nothing can surpass the four powerful clans. But speaking about popularity, out of four surnames, only the Song family fit the bill. The Songs held the most power in the south. The Clan Leader, ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que held the title ‘Number One Saber Under the Heavens’.
When Yang Jian unified the world and established the Great Sui, because he was apprehensive of the Song Clan’s power, he adopted a policy to appease them by granting Song Que the title of ‘Zhen Nan Gong’ [duke who subdue/suppress the South]. Aware that the power of the Southern Dynasties [c. 420-589AD] was gone, Song Que pretended to bow before him to protect his clan. [Translator’s note: as I mentioned before, the ‘world’ here always refers to China. I know it’s simpler just to say ‘China’, but I want the reader to know the different words to describe China. ‘Tian Xia’ (lit. under the sky) being one of those. Interestingly, the word ‘China’ itself does not exist in Chinese text.]
Among the four Clans, the other three had some blood relationship with non-Han people; but not this one of the few greats extant. To maintain the prestige of the southern clan, they persevered with tradition, strictly prohibited their clansmen from intermarrying with anybody outside the Han ethnic group; hence they were known in Jianghu as a Han orthodox clan.
During the reign of Emperor Wen, i.e. Yang Jian, although Song Que’s influence was widespread, he still did not dare to act blindly without thinking. He concealed his own strength and bid his time, concentrated fully in building his power in secret to avoid inviting calamity. When Yang Guang ascended the throne, there were internal strife and external threat everywhere, imperial court was corrupt, armed rebellion rose up from all around. The Song Clan increased its level of activity once more.
Song Que’s younger brother, ‘Earthly Sword’ Song Zhi, who was considered one of the top swordsmen, as well as top strategist in Jianghu, knew that Sui Dynasty’s power was still considerably great; if they prematurely move their troops, they would immediately become the first target of Sui force. Hence he advised his older brother to postpone their rebellion against the Sui, but use their resources to accumulate wealth in all kinds of lucrative trading.
One of the most profitable businesses was transporting illegal salt from coastal regions inland via the Yangtze River. They obtained great profit this way. Song Shidao’s four ships were precisely smuggling sea salt from the coast.
While the imperial court was corrupt, the Song family relied on their influence in the south to easily gain access thru all key places, and openly transport salt.
If there was any government official dared to investigate and arrest, they will be dealt with all kinds of method of intimidation. They even went as far as secret assassination to achieve their goal.
Even though there were rebel armies everywhere, as long as they see the Song family banner, nobody dared to offend them, for fear of making enemies of this powerful clan. Therefore, for the last few years, Song family’s power grew in secret. So much so that they even finance several militia groups to weaken the Sui forces.
Song Que had four sons and two daughters. Song Shidao was the youngest of his sons, with specific duty to run the salt smuggling operation. His father doted on him very much.
His two daughters were Yuhua and Yuzhi; both had ‘bashful flower obstructing the moon’ countenance. They were his fourth and sixth child, respectively. Three years ago Song Yuhua was given in marriage to Xie Wenlong, the son of Chengdu-based great hero Xie Hui of Sichuan.
Xie Hui’s title was ‘Wulin Panguan’ [the Magistrate of Wulin; Pan Guan was the mythological judge of the underworld], a top martial art experts whose fame was on par with Song Que and Song Zhi; the founder of ‘Du Zun Bao’ [Bastion of Supremacy], one of the emerging new powerful surnames outside the original four powerful clans.
The Song-Xie marriage arrangement reeked with political as well as business deal smell; with these two great forces forming an alliance, Yang Guang would be more afraid to act rashly against them.
In this trip, the destination of these four ships was precisely Sichuan, delivering their cargo to ‘Du Zun Bao’, which, in turn, would be distributed to the local salt merchants.
This moment, in a spacious room on the second deck of one of the huge ships, Kou Zhong, who was wearing a pair of boots presented by County Deputy Chen as a gift, was lying on the bed, holding the ‘Secret to Long Life’ in his hands. He was deeply engrossed in studying one of the human diagrams in the book. Although there were chairs, Xu Ziling did not sit on one, he sat on the floor instead, hugging his knees, with his back against the cabin wall. He was in turmoil.
Why was it that when he saw the woman-in-white and Song Shidao talking, he grew so jealous? Although concerning man-woman relationship he was a bit curious, he had never had any excessive expectation or even delusion. There was an extremely big gap in all aspect between he and the woman-in-white. In term of age, she was at least seven, eight years older than he was. Could it be that Kou Zhong was right, that he really had a crush on her?
But thinking about it, it did not seem to be the case.
When he looked at the girls from Spring Breeze Courtyard, he did have impulses to embrace them, but toward the woman-in-white, he did not have that kind of idea. Even when he had a close contact with her, his heart were brimming with respect, there was only warm love, with no lust or desire between men and women.
He could not bear not to ask, “Zhong Shaoye! Do you think I really fall in love with … with that woman?” [Here the word is ‘nu ren’, not ‘po niang’ like before.]
“Don’t disturb me!” Kou Zhong was impatient, “I am studying the world’s most formidable martial art that is not martial art!”
The cabin was silent once again.
After half a day, Kou Zhong put down the ‘Secret to Long Life’, propped his head up, and then he got up from the bed and came over to Xu Ziling. Copying him, he sat on the floor. Holding Xu Ziling’s shoulders, he said, “I am sorry, I was in such a bad mood. I am afraid that even if Guigu Zi is reborn, he wouldn’t be able to make sense of this ghost book [play on words here: the ‘gui’ of Guigu Zi literally means ‘ghost’]. Hey! What did you just say?”
Seeing Xu Ziling was angry and did not want to talk, he hurriedly said, “I know, I remember now. Ha, a real man won’t worry about not finding a wife. That wo … oh, that woman [he was going to say ‘po niang’ then changed it to ‘nu ren’] does not deserve us, two brothers. That Song Pidao [‘pi’ means fart] can easily beat us with his hand tied and using just half of his skill. We’d better retain our mind and strength to take a look at this secret manual, to eat, poop and sleep. Ha …”
Xu Ziling was still in distress, “But did I really fall in love with her?”
Kou Zhong racked his brain for a moment, and then calmly said, “The fact is, I was jealous as hell, same as you. But I don’t think that I fall in love with her. Hey! My feeling toward her is a bit like my feeling toward Zhen Sao [see Chapter 2]; she really does not deserve to be that stinky Ol’ Feng’s concubine, but I can do nothing about it. Ah, right! I understand now. Xiao Ling, I think you regarded her as your Niang [mother, mommy]. Who would want his own Niang to remarry? Especially marrying that we-behind-the-ears whose talk is bigger than the sky, who only fit to be our servant, Chou Pidao [‘chou pi’ – smelly fart/arrogant]. Ha! This name Chou Pidao is more apt than Yuwen Huagu [see Chapter 5].”
Xu Ziling kept a stout face, but in the next instant he burst into a wild laughter; so wild that tears were streaming out his eyes.
Suddenly the door was pushed open.
The two boys looked up in shock, and saw the woman-in-white came in with icy-cold countenance like a layer of frost. She closed the door, and then stared fiercely at the two boys.
Quite a while later, she walked over to the two boys, knocked the cabin wall they were leaning on, and said, “Don’t forget who stays next door. Unless this wall is made of steel plate, each sentence of stinky words you speak will be transmitted into my ears.”
Kou Zhong struggled up and said, “We did not call you ‘po niang’, why did you come to us to vent your anger?”
The woman-in-white dropped down on one knee and ferociously said, “What this woman or that woman [nu ren]? You two are dead little demons, stinky little demons!”
While speaking the last sentence, a fleeting smile escaped from the corners of her mouth. How could the two boys fail to see that she was not really angry? Xu Ziling was the first to speak up, “But we really don’t know your name!”
The woman-in-white lowered her voice, “And did you tell me your names?”
Kou Zhong showed an ‘oh, so that’s what it is’ look on his face. He made the introduction, “Xiaodi’s [little brother, referring to self] name is Kou on the top and Zhong on the bottom, and he is Xu Ziling. We are the Two Dragons of Yangzhou. May I ask Dashi’s honorable surname and great given name? And what is your nickname? Which holy place did you come from? Are you married?”
‘Pfft!’ the woman-in-white stifled a laughter muttered under her breath, “Dead little demon.” With that kind of unspeakably mesmerizing appearance, the two boys’ eyeballs almost popped out.
Just as quickly the woman-in-white’s frosty countenance returned as she frostily said, “Married or not married, it’s none of your business. If you talk about me behnd my back, I will … I will …”
Showing concern, Kou Zhong asked, “What punishment this time? It would be best if you don’t slap my mouth or scrape my eyelid; it won’t look too good on me. Little demons should maintain their little demon’s face!”
The woman-in-white knew she could not do anything against him; she angrily said, “I will make you regret it. During dinner, you must not babble nonsense. Understand?”
Giggling, Kou Zhong said, “We’d better call Dashi our Niang in the future, then whenever we are using your money, we won’t have to feel embarrassed.”
A slight blush crept onto the woman-in-white’s face like red clouds, making her beautiful face even more lovely and alluring, particularly her spirited but tender eyes that can hook any man’s soul.
Kou Zhong signaled Xu Ziling with his eyes, the two of them called together, “Niang!”
Finally the woman-in-white could not take it anymore; she laughed and sat down. Gasping for breath, she said, “If I really have you, these two absolutely disgraceful, unfilial sons, I guarantee I will suffer headache and bowel disorders.”
Seeing she did not flatly refuse, but laughed so hard that her body shook instead, that she looked so charmingly happy, which he had never seen before, Kou Zhong became bolder and decided to strike while the iron was still hot, “My Niang, oh, my Niang, your child thinks that your martial art skill can be considered pretty good, after being injured by Yuwen Huagu, you took only several sichen to recover. You’d better teach us a couple of martial art techniques, let us master some unique family skills with which we can brightened our family’s social status and thus will not cause you to lose any face.”
 Guigu Zi (literally 'The Sage of Ghost Valley'), or Mr. Guigu, is thought to be the writer/compiler of the 6,000-7,000 Chinese-character book discussing techniques of political lobbying based in Daoist thinking; between the late Warring States period and the end of the Han Dynasty (source: Wikipedia).
Chapter 6 Part 2
Scrapper, Anh, HPC, you are welcome. Szfong, I am reading it as I am translating it, and since this is my first attempt at translating Huang Yi's, I wouldn't know. But I did save the (English translation) of Step into the Past in MS-Word document, at the exact format as Deer and Cauldron (font, font size, page size and margin). You know, SITP has 2166 pages, while Deer and Cauldron has 1768 pages. So if this novel is twice SITP, then it is probably 2.5 times longer than Deer and Cauldron. Fortunately the chapters are a lot shorter than Jin Yong's, so I get the feeling that I translate faster. CFT, thanks for the info. My Dad once told us, his kids, that the term China probably came from Qin (dynasty), similar to 'Jews' coming from 'Judah'. Anok, now, please don't scare me ... I can't promise you anything, since I don't even know what will happen tomorrow. But as I mentioned before, the Lord's willing, I will try my best to finish it ... probably (according to previous calculations by various readers) in 40 years or more ... Just kidding. But even if I maintain the same speed as when I did Deer and Cauldron, it will still take close to 8 years, probably more.
Anyway, enough chit-chat, here's the end of Chapter 6. I will try to post more the rest of this week. I don't plan on shopping on Black Friday anyway ...
His laughter was infectious. Once she started laughing, even though she knew that Kou Zhong was teasing her and trying to make her laugh, she still could not stop laughing that she needed to cover her mouth with her hand.
Gasping for breath, she scolded him, “Get your big ghost head lost. Little demon Xu is a lot more honest than you. Indeed a dog’s mouth cannot grow ivory.”
Kou Zhong pretended to be deeply hurt by this injustice; he said in tiny voice, “Xiao Ling is honest? My heavens! He is craftier than I am. It’s just that he fell in love with her Niang that he turns into a fool.”
Xu Ziling indignantly said, “How can I be crafty? All those crafty ideas came from you, but I, the fool, have always been the one who has to do it; and now you still come up with fabricated accusation and dump it on my head?”
The woman-in-white struggled hard not to laugh. Looking out the window at the glow of the setting sun, she sighed and said, “I must have committed some sins in my previous life that in this life I have two kids like you to annoy me. Alright, although fully aware that nothing good will come out of it, I’ll still teach you some kind of training method. If you really can master this skill, then I’ll consider teaching you swordsmanship. But you two are not my children; even more, you are not my disciples.”
The two boys’ spirit was greatly shaken, they asked in chorus, “What are you to us then?”
The woman-in-white was stunned. After staying silent for half a day, she said with wry smile, “Don’t ask me!” But there was a warm feeling rising up in her heart.
Even she herself could not understand why she felt it was hard to part with these two boys; so much so that when they called her ‘Niang’, she could not bring herself to reprimand them.
Herself was an orphan born in the chaos of war, which was adopted by a Gaoli martial art master Fu Cailin. Ever since she was a mere child, she was trained to be an assassin, in addition to learning Han people’s language and culture. The reason she came to the south this time was precisely to be a part of a mission.
Happy and giggling, Kou Zhong said, “Being our Niang is most fitting. Let’s strike while the iron is still hot. Oh my Niang, quickly teach your consummate skill to your child.”
The woman-in-white gave him an angry stare, and then in a low voice she said, “My name is Fu Junchuo. If you like, you can call me Chuo Jie [older sister]. I really have never imagined that in this trip I would be involved with you, two little frivolous and naughty boys.”
Kou Zhong noticed that her manner and her words differed greatly; he winked and said, “I still prefer to call you Niang, don’t you? Xiao Ling?”
Fu Junchuo spoke tenderly, “The mouth is on your face, you can call me anything you want.”
Xu Ziling was overwhelmed with emotion that he felt like crying, his eyes turned red. Hanging down his head, he called, “Niang!”
Fu Junchuo was also overwhelmed with emotions, it was quite a while later that she was able to suppress this emotion that very rarely surfaced. She coldly said, “You may call whatever you like, but no way I am willing to admit that you are my sons, and don’t expect even more that I will take you by my side. Alright, now I am going to teach you the fundamentals of sitting in meditation to cultivate your qi. This is the unique skill passed on by my master, without my explicit permission, you must not pass it on to anybody else, or else, even if I cannot bear to do it, I must follow my school’s law and kill you, two little demons.”
The two boys nodded their heads repeatedly signifying their promise.
Fu Junchuo solemnly said, “My master Fu Cailin achieved great success in combining martial arts from the Central Plains, Xiyu, and Gaoli, developing his own unique style. Therefore, together with Western Regions’ powerful hegemon ‘Wu Zun’ [wulin’s most venerable] Bi Xuan, Central Plains’ number one Taoist martial art expert ‘San Zhenren’ Ning Daoqi, became known as the three great masters of the present age. He once said that ‘it is sufficient to know from oneself every change of divine power’. He was saying that everyone has a treasure trove hidden deep within himself, the potential is boundless, but is blinded by all kinds of worldly attachments.”
“No wonder Niang said that one must start training since childhood, simply because children have the least worldly attachments, hence it is very likely that they will be able to break free and become enlightened.”
Fu Junchuo stared blankly for a moment and then said, “I have never thought it that way. Oh! You, this little kid, seem to have a bit of comprehension ability.”
Kou Zhong proudly said, “This child Xiao Ling is constantly inspired, it’s only natural that he is not much inferior.”
Fu Junchuo glowered at him and said, “This guy loves to show off his intelligence the most. Don’t be conceited, intelligent people often have the most distractions, and distracting thought is precisely the biggest barrier to training basic skills. Only by guarding your heart and total focus can you get rid of the ego, and become alert to the mystery of heavens. Everything will come one by one, and then going through the meridians [or channels] according to the training method, harmonizing the qi and the blood, regulating the adverse and the favorable going in and out in balance. Therefore, although the method is ever-changing, the basic idea is still this ‘One’ word.”
Scratching his head, Kou Zhong said, “In that case, isn’t the person with the highest martial art skill ought to be the most stupid person? Is Niang’s Shifu stupid and slow-witted?
Fu Junchuo was angry, but was also stumped; knowing that it was not the fact, but did not know how to refute his argument. If it were before, she might just gave him a beating; but now, toward this child who kept calling her ‘Niang’, she was a bit fond of him.
While she was vexed, Xu Ziling spoke up on her behalf, “Certainly not. Someone who can master martial art skill and establish a sect must be able to create, only then would he be able to surpass the ordinary ability and accomplishments of previous generations. Therefore, the one Niang is referring to ought to be someone who is sharp but petty-minded, not someone with great wisdom and great intelligence, the one so-called ‘highly skillful but appears clumsy’. Niang’s Shifu must be this sort of ‘great intelligence may appear to be stupidity’ person.”
Kou Zhong and Fu Junchuo stared at Xu Ziling as if it was the first time that they noticed that this person existed. They were both deeply moved. Fu Junchuo nodded and said, “Little demon Ling indeed has a little comprehension.”
Kou Zhong happily said, “This little brother of mine indeed has a little comprehension. I’ll say he usually looks clumsy and stupid, turns out he has great wisdom that appears to be stupidity, hidden deep without revealing anything, making laozi [I, your father; used jocularly] has to show-off my ‘highly skillful but appears clumsy’ ability, which, in the end, making me the sharp but petty-minded person.”
Fu Junchuo could not help knocking his head with her knuckles, while angrily said, “If you keep jesting [orig. impromptu comic material in opera performance], I won’t teach you the training method.”
Kou Zhong rubbed his head and protested, “Oh my Niang, next time would you just spank my bottom? Otherwise, if you badly knocked my head, how could I learn Niang’s top quality training method?”
Fu Junchuo was not in the mood to bicker groundlessly with him; she simply said, “What I am about to teach you is called ‘Great Method of Nine Mysteries’. It starts with one and end with nine. Other than Shifu, nobody has ever mastered the ninth Great Method. Even Niang … oh! Even I only trained until the sixth.”
Fu Junchuo blurted without thinking, calling herself ‘Niang’. Embarrassed, her beautiful face turned red, making her looked even more irresistibly sweet and charming. Seeing the two boys trying to hide their laughter, she was greatly annoyed, “Don’t laugh! You are the one who wears me out. Do you want to learn or not?”
The two boys hurriedly nodded their head promising they wanted to learn.
It took Fu Junchuo quite a while before she was able to compose herself. She said, “Underneath it’s defending the form, above it’s defending the spirit. Spirit controls the spirit, mind controls the movement. Mind is movement, getting away from it means emptiness. This emptiness is an unusual emptiness, thus not empty is in fact emptiness. Peace and quiet is profound, its existence cannot happen by chance, where it goes cannot be pursued. Thus welcome it accordingly, because unintentional is actually intention. At the beginning the mysterious way become the first level.” [Translator’s note: my apology, these passages are way above my head, I simply translated it as close as I thought it literally means.]
After a short pause, she continued, “Don’t covet this first level. A lot of people spent their entire life and still unable to connect qi and mind, obtain the form but miss the spirit, until they finally quit midway, having achieving nothing.”
Seeing the two boys shook their heads and swayed their minds, looking as if they gained a lot, she was astounded. “Do you understand what I am saying?”
Kou Zhong asked in surprise, “Such a simple words, what’s so difficult to understand?”
Fu Junchuo recalled her Shifu’s high praise that she was an amazing talent to train martial art, yet until today it was only after reaching the sixth level that she was truly able to grasp the essence of the method. How could these two boys understand just by hearing it once?
Pointing to Kou Zhong, she said, “You, explain it back to me.”
The light from outside the window gradually dimmed; inside, the room was warm with faint fading light, carrying with it the desolate feeling of lapsing time.
Kou Zhong was stunned as he said, “You have said it very well, it’s hard to find other words with which to explain it. If I have to explain it, I’ll say that from a with-form method we need to enter the formless method, hoping to move the spirit. When the opportunity arrives, then we can have enough self-realization to access the formless treasure-trove within ourselves that Niang was referring to. Spirit and mind unleashed, then using unintentional thought resist and harness it, so that we can produce his mother’s … oh, I mean, produce the true qi. Heavens, can I start training now?”
Listening to this, Fu Junchuo was dumbstruck. This explanation was clearer than her own Shifu, Fu Cailin. This boy’s innate talent was really high, it was just that he had been through horrifying situation that he could not progress further.
Xu Ziling said, “If Zhong Shaoye is that eager to train, it might be harmful to you instead. Speaking about unintentional is actually intention, it is referring to the kind of mental state where we intentionally forgoing the intention, where emptiness is not empty, where peace and quiet is profound, its existence cannot happen by chance, where it goes cannot be pursued.”
When Fu Junchuo heard this, her scalp felt numb. These two boys were like fine jade that has not been carved and polished; even she herself was somewhat inspired by this radiant light that penetrates ten thousand zhang of darkness.
Kou Zhong said in embarrassment, “I was just saying! But please, Niang, quickly teach us the with-form method, so that when the opportunity comes, I can keep on training, even when I eat or defecate.”
Fu Junchuo angrily scolded him, “Don’t speak foul language. Now I will teach you first how to sit cross-legged and the method to circulate the qi. I will say it just once and won’t repeat it.”
While the two boys’ mind was greatly excited, there was a knock on the door. Actually, it came from Fu Junchuo’s adjacent room.
Fu Junchuo sighed and said, “We’ll continue after dinner!”
Looking at the two boys’ disappointed expression, she almost decided to turn down Song Shidao’s invitation.
All of a sudden a warm feeling toward these two witty sons grew in her heart.
 Western Regions, a Han Dynasty term for regions beyond Yumen Pass; as in ‘Journey to the West’.
 Zhenren literally means ‘true man’, a term of respect for Taoist master.