Chapter 5: Back Then, I Must Have Been Really Blind.
It was the 3rd day of the 3rd Lunar month, the Shangsi Festival1.
Although the sky was still dark, the curfew was always lifted before dawn.
This allowed Mu Zhiming, along with his father, Mu Boren, to take a horse drawn palanquin and travel to the Imperial Palace.
Madame Gong, Caiwei, Wen Heyin, and the other servants saw them off in front of the Residence.
The horse’s hooves stepped on the dark road, until the dim morning light illuminated the way.
Once they arrived at the heavily guarded Palace gates, they left the palanquin behind and proceeded on foot.
As they advanced forward, they passed by an arched bridge, made of white marble, which was engraved with nine dragons.
After the arched bridge, there lies the entrance gate of Taihe Palace2.
Bathed in the early dawn, the vermilion rafters and blue tiles looked exceptionally luxurious.
Since Mu Boren wasn’t allowed to enter the place where the members of the Imperial Harem lived, he summoned some nearby eunuchs.
He instructed them to take Mu Zhiming to the Noble Consort Niangniang’s Palace, while he would go to the Ciran Palace to pay his respects to the Emperor.
Although the spring breeze felt chilly, the Palace was full of flowers that had already bloomed.
In the background, one could hear the singing of the yellow warbles, as well as the fluttering wings of the swallows3.
As soon as Mu Zhiming stepped into the Fengyi Palace, he could smell a warm fragrance.
Diverting his gaze towards the warm fragrance, in front of a red sandalwood screen decorated with hibiscus flowers and inlaid with white jade, he saw a woman.
As she sat comfortably on the mattress of the luohan sofa4, she wore luxurious make-up, dressed in a crimson brocade dress, and wore a pearl phoenix hairpin to decorate her hair5.
Her painted eyebrows, and vermilion lips, made her look like a peerless beauty.
Not only was this woman Mu Boren’s younger sister, and Mu Zhiming’s aunt, but she was also the most favored concubine in the harem.
She was none other than the Noble Consort Niangniang.
Mu Zhiming knelt down to salute her, but when the Noble Consort saw him, she was overjoyed with his presence.
She hurried to ask Mu Zhiming to stand beside her.
Then, she placed some fruit and other fruit flavored cakes in Mu Zhiming’s palm: “Xiao-Lizhu, I haven’t seen you in so long.
I really missed you.”
“Noble Consort Niangniang is still an unmatched peerless beauty, as elegant as ever.” Unrestrained, Mu Zhiming bent his eyes in a smile and placed one of the delicate pastries into his mouth
“You’re such a sweet-talker.” The delicate fingers of the Noble Consort, which were as white as porcelain, lightly tapped the tip of Mu Zhiming’s nose.
“Noble Consort, where is Ji’an?” After eating several cakes, Mu Zhiming expressed his doubts.
Fu Ji’an was the Seventh Prince and the only son of the Noble Consort, who also happened to be three years younger than Mu Zhiming.
“He went to the Ciran Palace early in the morning, to pay his respects to His Majesty the Emperor and the Empress.” The Noble Consort said.
“Since all of the Princes are present today, His Majesty must be thinking of testing their knowledge.
Ah, I’m afraid he won’t be able to return for a while, and he may even go directly to the Jiuqu Mountain when leaving the Ciran Palace.
Wait! You can accompany me by walking beside my chariot.”
Mu Zhiming nodded in response.
Feeling at ease, Mu Zhiming ate melon seeds and gossiped with the Noble Consort Niangniang.
By late morning, an eunuch came to inform the Noble Consort that it was time to leave.
Mu Zhiming followed the Noble Consort’s chariot to the gate of Taihe Palace, only to see that the other members of the Royal Family were gathering around red and ornate carriages6.
The Imperial Army was strictly protecting both sides, as well as at the end of the procession.
After a moment of silence, an eunuch shouted: “His Majesty the Emperor has arrived!”
At that moment, the whole audience went silent.
It was so quiet, a needle hitting the ground could be heard.
When Mu Zhiming turned his head, he saw Emperor Wen of Jin dressed in a bright yellow, luxurious round-necked robe7.
With a harrier eagle on his left arm, he moved forward with his royal horse.
Behind him, the energetic Princes followed.
Naturally, Fu Yi was among them.
Mu Zhiming lowered his eyes since he couldn’t hide the darkness in them, and tried to hide his presence with the chariot at his side.
After the procession was complete, everyone headed together to Jiuqu Mountain.
Half a day later, the mighty procession finally arrived at Jiuqu Mountain.
Once the tent had been set up, Mu Zhiming sat down with the Noble Consort.
However, at that moment, a eunuch suddenly arrived to report that the Emperor had summoned Mu Zhiming, the son of the Duke of Yan.
The Noble Consort put aside the melon seeds in her hand, and stood up from the cushion she was sitting on.
She helped Mu Zhiming adjust his lapel, while advising him on what was appropriate to say and what was not.
Then, she sent him out of the tent.
Mu Zhiming then followed behind the eunuch, knowing perfectly fine that, at this moment, all of the Princes must be with the Emperor.
Meaning that Fu Yi would also be there.
Mu Zhiming remembered that in his previous life, when he was young and ignorant of etiquette, he secretly looked around during the audience with the Emperor.
At that time, his gaze collided with a pair of eyes that was as delicate as spring water, making his heart swell with the feeling that the Fifth Prince was a handsome, talented young man.
But now, Mu Zhiming felt that….
‘How could I be so blind at such a young age?’
The eunuch led Mu Zhiming to stand in front of the Imperial audience, where the Emperor was riding his horse and pointing to the deep forest nearby, surrounded by people.
Of course, Mu Boren was also waiting beside the Emperor.
Mu Zhiming was not afraid.
Without glancing sideways, he knelt on his knees and bowed to the ground.
The Emperor then asked him to rise and look up.
After a moment, he smiled and said: “Duke Yan, not only does your son have a bright and gorgeous appearance, but even his eyebrows bear a resemblance to those of the Noble Consort.”
Even though Mu Zhiming was obviously a man, he was praised for his beauty.
This, of course, made Mu Boren’s heart feel a little complicated.
As Mu Boren bowed his head, he said: “His Royal Majesty is correct, everyone among the family also says so.
However, my son is still a naughty, stubborn, and naive child.
He’s not as dignified and virtuous as the Noble Consort Niangniang.”
Mu Zhiming: “….”
‘Father! Why are you telling such a bare-faced lie?! -Noble Consort Niangniang is dignified and virtuous-my ass! Did you forget that she used to bury me in the snow and laugh her ass off?!’
The Emperor smiled, but did not respond.
As he turned his head to look at Mu Zhiming, he asked: “What books do you usually read?”
Mu Zhiming replied: “I’ve read the Book of Songs, as well as the Classic of Rites.
But I also like to read idle and adventurous fiction books.”
“Oh?” At that, the Emperor smiled even more.
“So it seems that you have some talent and wisdom? Tell me, what do you think of hunting?”
Mu Zhiming replied calmly: “The Spring hunting is for searching, the Summer hunting is for the crops, the Autumn hunting is a big event, and the Winter hunting is done as a sport8.
When spring arrives, all things grow and the earth rejuvenates.
When the main purpose of a hunt is held to offer sacrifices, as well as enjoying the greenery, while hunting and chasing after the prey, the pregnant along with young animals shouldn’t be touched.”
After hearing this, the Emperor looked up at the sky and laughed: “Good! Not only do you have intelligent qualities and a sharp tongue, but you’re also more wise than your peers.
Come here, this Royal horse will be granted to you!”
Mu Zhiming immediately knelt down and kowtowed in thanks, but in reality, he was wailing inside….
‘Waaahhh! Isn’t it good enough to just give me gold, silver and jewelry?! Why give me the Royal horse?! Your Majesty, the Royal horse you gave me can cost me my life! I’ll really die young!’
However, the horse was still given to him, and if he didn’t ride it, he could lose his head.
On the surface, Mu Zhiming looked pretty happy, while inside, he was worried about riding the Royal horse.
As he stroked the horse’s mane, he silently thought: ‘Please don’t drop me.
You seem like a good mannered horse, so please don’t lose your temper.
I promise that if you do that for me, I’ll burn incense for you and I won’t eat meat for three whole days.’
With all eyes looking on him, the Emperor drew his bow like a full moon and shot a sharp arrow into the depths of the forest.
Then, everyone rode their horses, giving start to the annual Spring Hunt.
Mu Zhiming wasn’t good at riding and shooting arrows, so he lacked interest in the hunt.
As he clutched the reins, he tried to find a reasonable excuse to not ride.
However, as soon as Mu Zhiming raised his gaze, he found that the Fifth Prince, Fu Yi, was riding with his horse towards him.
At first glance, everything felt like his past life.
Unfortunately, there was no longer the youthful naivety and warmhearted9 feelings between them.
Only a ditch, filled with the blood-soaked white bones of the dead that were loaded with resentment and suffering.
上巳 shàng sì; Also known as the ‘Double Third Festival’ (三月三 sān yuè sān), is a traditional festival originated in China that’s celebrated on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month.
There are many theories surrounding the origin of the Festival, and one of them said that this Festival originated from the ceremonial custom of getting rid of evils by bathing in the river.
Where people would hold a sacrificing ceremony on a riverside to honor their ancestors, and then take a bath in the river with herbs to cleanse their bodies of filth.
More info HERE. 太和门 tài hé mén; The Taihe Gate exists, and is the largest Palace gate in the Forbidden City (the Imperial Palace in Beijing) and the main gate of the Outer Court.
It was built in the 18th year of Emperor Yongle’s reign in the Ming Dynasty [1368-1644], when it was called the ‘Fengtian Gate’ (奉天门 fèng tiān mén). 莺吟燕舞 yīng yín yàn wǔ; Chinese idiom.
It describes the bustling and vibrant sight of the birds in spring.
Nowadays it’s often used as a metaphor for a flourishing and prosperous scenario. 铺褥罗汉 pù rù luóhàn; Imagine something like THIS. Imagine something like THIS or like THIS. 朱轮华毂 zhū lún huá gǔ; It refers to the magnificently decorated chariots, in which ancient Princes and nobles traveled.
However, it’s also used as a metaphor for distinguished nobility. 圆领袍 yuán lǐng páo; One of the most common styles of traditional Chinese clothing in ancient times.
Imagine something like THIS. This is how the hunting seasons are named: 春蒐 chūn sōu = refers to the searching and hunting for non-pregnant animals in Spring. 夏苗 xià miáo = refers to the hunting of animals and birds that harm the crops in Summer. 秋獮 qiū xiǎn = also translated as a hunting celebration, refers to the hunting of birds and animals at a great scale in Autumn. 冬狩 dōng shòu = refers to the Winter hunting as a sport, as gathering in ancient times between the Emperor and Princes. 热忱 rè chén; The thrilling eagerness to support someone or a goal / Intense enthusiasm to the point of fanaticism.
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