Friday, 22 October 2010

Falling in Love With A lady in A Wall Painting

Once upon a time, there was a young scholar named Zhu in Chinese Jiang Xi province. One year, he and his friend Tan went to the capital to take the imperial examination.
They strolled about the city while waiting for the result. One day, it just so happened that they walked into a small temple, in which they found no spacious halls, but only an old monk.

Seeing the visitors, the monk happily went forward to meet them and lead them round, showing whatever there was to be seen. In the chapel they saw an statue of Zhi Gong (a famous Buddhist in Chinese history), and the walls on either side were beautifully painted with life-like representations of men and animals.
On the east side was the image of "The heavenly maids scatter blossoms", in which there were was a young girl whose maiden tresses were not yet confined by the matron’s knot.

She was picking a flower and gently smiling, while her cherry lips seemed about to move, and the moisture of her eyes to overflow.
Zhu, attracted by her beauty, could not help gazing at her intently without taking his eyes off. Suddenly, he felt himself floating in the air, as if riding on a cloud, and then he found himself already in the image where halls and pavilions stretched away one after another, unlike the abodes of mortals. Here an old monk was preaching the Law of Buddha, surrounded by a large crowd of listeners. Zhu mingled with the throng, and after a few moments perceived a gentle tug at his sleeve.
Turning round, Zhu saw the girl that he was gazing at just now, walking away with smile. Zhu at once followed her, and passing a winding balustrade arrived at a small apartment beyond which he dared not venture farther. But the young lady, looking back, waved the flowers she had in her hand as though beckoning him to come on. He accordingly entered and found nobody else within.
Looking at her sheep's eyes, Zhu walked up and gathered her into his arms. Then they slept together, after which the girl went away, bidding Zhu keep quiet until she came back. This went on for a couple of days, when the young lady’s companions began to smell a rat and discovered him hiding-place.
Therefore they all laughed and said to the girl, “Sister, you are now a married woman, and should leave off that maidenly coiffure.” So they gave her the proper hair-pins and head ornaments, and bade her go bind her hair, at which she blushed very much but said nothing. Then one of them cried out, “My sisters, let us be off. Two’s company, more’s none.”

All of them went away laughing. Zhu found his wife very much improved by the alteration in the style of her hair. The high top-knot and the coronet of pendants  were very becoming to her. But suddenly they heard a sound like the tramping of heavy-soled boots, accompanied by the clanking of chains and the noise of angry discussion.

The girl jumped up in a fright, and she and Zhu peeped out. They saw a man clad in golden armor, with a face as black as jet, carrying in his hands chains and whips, and surrounded by all the girls. He asked, “Are you all here?” “All,” they replied. “If,” said he, “any mortal is here concealed amongst you, denounce him at once, and lay not up sorrow for yourselves.” Here they all answered as before that there was no one.

The man began to search the place, upon which the bride was dreadfully alarmed, and her face turned the color of ashes. In her terror she said to Zhu, “Hide yourself under the bed,” and opening a small lattice in the wall, disappeared herself. Zhu in his concealment hardly dared to draw his breath; and in a little while he heard the boots tramp into the room and out again, the sound of the voices getting gradually fainter and fainter in the distance.

But Zhu was still in fear, for he heard the voices of people going backwards and forwards outside; and having been a long time in a cramped position, his ears began to sing as if there was a locust in them, and his eyes to burn like fire. It was almost unbearable; however, he remained quietly awaiting the return of the young lady without giving a thought to the why and wherefore of his present position.

At the same time, his friend Tan had noticed the sudden disappearance of him, and thinking something was wrong, asked the old monk where he was.

“Your friend has gone to hear the preaching of the Law,” replied the monk.

“Where?” said Tan.

“Oh, not very far,” was the answer.

Then with his finger the old monk tapped the wall and called out, “Friend Zhu! what makes you stay away so long?”

At this, the likeness of Zhu was figured upon the wall, with his ear inclined in the attitude of one listening.

The monk added, “Your friend here has been waiting for you some time;” and immediately Zhu descended from the wall, standing transfixed like a block of wood, with starting eyeballs and trembling legs. Tan was much terrified, and asked him quietly what was the matter. Now the matter was that while concealed under the bed he had heard a noise resembling thunder and had rushed out to see what it was.

Here they all noticed that the girl on the wall with the maiden’s tresses had changed the style of her coiffure to that of a married woman. Zhu was greatly astonished at this and asked the old monk the reason.

He replied, “Visions have their origin in those who see them: what explanation can I give?”

Neither Zhu nor Tan understood what the old monk said, but Tan was so frightened that he managed to tug his friend home.

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