Li Er was in a good mood. He plans to travel to Luoyang this summer to escape the heat and will be leaving the Crown Price behind to oversee the country. After sending Princess Wencheng off, he started making preparations.
Fang Xuanling paid a visit to the Emperor and he was quickly invited in. He gave the Emperor an update about the latest plans of the Crown Prince and Li Yuanying. Li Er’s first thought was – this idiot is secretly up to no good again. And this time even got the Crown Prince involved!
“Xuanling, do you think they really can pull it off”
Xuanling stroked his beard: “It might be difficult for others but if it’s with Prince Teng, I think it’s possible.”
Li Yuanying is mysterious. He is born with the ability to turn bad situations into good ones. Oftentimes, Xuanling thinks that the kid is going to get himself into trouble but he not only manages to always get out of sticky situations, he even creates unexpected results out of it that others cannot fathom.
For example, bringing the princesses to the land of wind and moon (entertainment district) which no one since ancient times had done before. Not only did Yuanying do it, he somehow managed to turn the whole episode into something related to filial piety and the only one who got into trouble was Fang’s own son!
Hearing that Xuanling agrees with the princes’ action, the Emperor was quite happy.
He nodded : “If that’s the case, let them continue.”
Li Yuanying didn’t need to do much, once the plan was ready, he passed it over to Dai Ting for execution. After delegating the responsibility, Yuanying started playing with his little buddies again with ease.
It was only when he got news that the Emperor is planning a trip to Luoyang that he remembered his secret system which has remained silent for awhile.
Feeling odd, he asked the system: “This time the Emperor is going to the newly built Xiangcheng Palace to escape the summer, why aren’t you sending me a task already.”
The system remained quiet for a while before sharing with Yuanying the errors of the last two years. All principles and objects it has shared with Yuanying were according to the “close space-time delivery principle”. The problem lies with “the definition of space and time”. One or two thousand years is a very short period to the system but for human beings, it is a long time. This gap in space and time is earth-shaking for Tang!
The system accidentally delivered seeds from the far West when it weren’t even discovered yet to Tang. This is equivalent to changing the history of time and space. Therefore, the data collected in this world can no longer be used as historical reference for research. Many audiences who viewed the virtual image of Jiucheng palace even questioned it’s authenticity when they saw sunflowers which shouldn’t exist being planted.
The system’s machine voice sounded apologetic: “Sorry, this is my miss.”
Yuanying wasn’t bothered by what people thought, after all, they are not people he personally knew. He comforted the system: “It’s fine. After all, a few decades is a short time for you. Take a rest and after I died you can find someone else to bind.”
The system wanted to reply that It didn’t need time off but didn’t say the statement out after thinking deeper about it.
This is the first time the system is hearing such a statement. In the past, it only had a transactional relationship with its host. The host collects data while the system repays and meets their needs. There wasn’t much communication between them and they did not need to communicate much. Getting along like this is unfamiliar. Seems like it may really need to rest. No more collecting data or sending tasks, just quietly watch these groups of children grow.
The system gave an answer without referring to its database analytics for the first time.
Yuanying felt that it’s a pity that he wouldn’t be any quest reward this time but he still wanted to visit Luoyang and Xiangcheng Palace.
Now that the brothers have a much better relationship, he didn’t need to take advantage of the other children to get a favor from the Emperor.
“Lord Brother, are you going to Luoyang?”
Li Er gave him a glance but ignored him.
Li Yuanying sat down beside him and didn’t leave. He started playing best helper by pouring tea, preparing ink and being busy by going back and forth. So busy that Li Er finally put down his pen to look at him.
“Lord brother, can you bring me with you when you visit Luoyang? I’ve never been there and I want to see it.”
Li Er said lightly: “Aren’t you very busy? Are you free to go?”
Hearing this, Yuanying instantly knew that his older brother knows what he’s been up to and looked rather unhappy. He hurriedly picked out some important points about his “tea trading plan” and updated the Emperor by whispering in his ears.
“Brother, we have a plan that even Chengqian doesn’t know of. If you bring me along to Luoyang, I’ll tell you!”
Li Er had already heard most of it from Fang Xuanling and had a general idea of the whole thing.
Hearing this, he leaned on the table and used his hands to push away Li Yuanying who was approaching, and happily agreed: “Deal. I’ll bring you along. Tell me.”
Yuanying told Li Er about how he wanted to conquer the Tibetans and the Turks under Tang. The boy had his own ideas: “If both countries become a part of Tang, Lord brother will definitely allow all new citizens to live the same good life as the current people. This way talented people can be put to good use! Then Tang can go further West together and further North. Then, we can take a good look at the wider world.”
This is the first time Li Er is hearing someone speak of the horrible act of war in such a high-sounding manner.
However, the plan sounded pretty good.
Conquering and plundering other regions have never been a goal of the Tang. What he wanted was for the 4 seas to be treated as one. This means that Tang citizens are free to visit the world and be connected to it. As long as someone is willing to live under Tang’s terms they will be accepted with open arms and treated equally.
But this is close to impossible.
Li Er said helplessly: “How many years will it take to do what you just said?”
“Even if you can’t accomplish it in your lifetime, you still need to start. Chengqian already has a son. Let’s teach Xiang’er early so that when we are no longer able, he can continue! I’ll also have children in the future, I’ll make sure to drive them all out to work hard. Anyway, every little progress counts, you can’t just give up because the task is difficult!”
“It seems that you have arranged solid plans for your sons.”
“Of course. Whatever they are capable of, I’ll support them.”
Li Er thought of his own sons. A few of them have reached the age where they should be independent.
“I have noted down what you just said. Don’t come crying to me when you are reluctant to let them go.”
Yuanying pounded his small chest that were not very firm and said: “I will not. If you see anyone up to standard just pick them!”
Li Er was amused by him and scolded him while laughing: “You don’t even have a wife, why are you acting so generous.”
“I’ll eventually get married and have sons. BUT daughters are off-limits. You can’t take advantage of my daughter and make her marry someone! Otherwise, I’ll make a big ship and set sail with my princess and daughter!”
Li Er told him to get out. It’s annoying having this younger brother dawdling in front of his eyes.
Yuanying successfully got what he wanted and naturally didn’t want to stay. He quickly left for playtime.
Regarding a monk, since both the Emperor nor the Crown Prince didn’t believe in Buddhism very much, Li Yuanying asked Dai Ting to inquire around and found the perfect candidate: Ouyang Xun.
Ouyang Xun has a good hand at writing. Li Yuanying remembers sister Shu copying his handwriting and he has also personally seen his work. Ouyang Xun was already 80 years old. Influenced by his adoptive father Jiang Zhong, he believes in Buddhism and wrote religious works like <<Heart Sutra>> and so on. Due to his long life, he has many connections with other Buddhist monks in Chang’an.
Yuanying didn’t have much prior contact with Ouyang Xun but for the sake of his plan, paid a visit to Ouyang Xun’s mansion with the best Thousand Gold tea in hand.
The house was at a good location. Go straight out of ZhuQue gate and walk towards Tonghua Square then make a turning to reach it.
Yuanying followed protocol and ask for someone to deliver his letter in.
Although Ouyang Xun has no idea why Prince Teng is paying him a visit but he has an open mind after living for 80 years. He graciously invited the boy in, not expecting him to have bad intentions.
Yuanying entered the house and realized that while it is not big, it was peaceful and elegant. Going a little further, the boy saw a thin old man writing in a room that was filled with light and pleasant aroma of ink.
It’s obviously Ouyang Xun.
Yuanying had not much patience to begin with and started running towards the old man.
Ouyang Xun did not stop writing.
Yuanying paused, walked over lightly, and sat at his side, watching Ouyang Xun move his pen steadily.
Ouyang Xun had always been thin in stature and as he aged has grown worryingly thinner. His hands looked like dead bamboo branches with no traces of blood. What’s left are traces of strength and aging accumulated through the years.
This hand looks like it has been holding the pen all year round.
Yuanying sat obediently, his eyes secretly looking at what the man was copying.
The <<Heart Sutra>>.
Ouyang Xun finished the entire scripture before putting down his pen to look at the boy.
“Why is Your Highness here?”
“I came to ask for your help.”
“I would like to hear the details.”
Yuanying personally brewed a bowl of tea for Ouyang Xun and himself and poured two bowls.
“This is tea from the south, would you like to try it?”
Ouyang Xun also heard that this tea was snapped up instantly despite its high price and was curious about the taste of this tea with its faint fragrance and took a sip. The tea is the best grade and the water used to brew it is also the best water. Slight bitterness followed by a sweet aftertaste, a rather special drink.
Yuanying took this opportunity to explain the benefits of tea. He finally brought up the main topic after that.
“Wencheng married to a faraway land and I miss her. The Tibetan Empire is not like Chang’an where products are in abundance. Tea cannot be grown in such a place. She loves drinking tea while living here in Chang’an and I’m worried that she won’t be able to taste it in her new home. Therefore, I want to send fresh tea every year to the city of Lhasa where they live. But the city is far away and who would be willing to travel the distance there?”
“I am but an old man. How can I help your Highness?”
The boy quickly share of his plans to request for the help of monks to travel to Tibetan Empire to share about religion and to spread the custom of drinking tea.
This tea is bitter first then sweet in aftertaste, very similar to the teachings of Zen Buddhism. Although Tibetan Empire also practices Buddhism but the teachings are mixed and the true scriptures are not passed on properly. Traveling thousands of miles to spread Buddhism is exactly the ascetic practice that monks should complete. Ouyang Xun thought about it for a while and agreed with the boy’s request.
Li Yuanying was overjoyed. He returned home and ask his men look identify stories about Buddhism that sounded convincing and reasonable for later use.
This type of storytelling is not unfamiliar to monks in Tang and is commonly known as “layman narration”. This is when the teachings of Buddhist scriptures are shared through popular stories so that the common people can easily relate to them. Whichever temple has the best stories often gets the most donation! Of course, sincere real monks do not care about donations but are more eager for people to understand and appreciate the meaning of these scriptures.
Li Yuanying met with high ranking monks in Chang’an under the help of Ouyang Xun along with all his pre-planned stories.
This is the moment Yuanying’s talent for eloquent storytelling comes in handy. He quickly shared his legendary stories after much brainstorming and filtering. Through his spectacular storytelling skills, the origin story of tea became mysterious and beautiful.
The sharing about how Princess Wencheng brought along an imperial Buddha statue to forge good relations between the two countries made the monks burst into tears saying that this burden should not be placed solely on the shoulders of a weak young lady. They should all go forth and contribute!
Ouyang Xun’s connections had high-spirited believers who were ever eager to contribute. Hearing the stories, monks from temples around Chang’an were all inspired to take up this mission.
While the tea trading business has not begun, a trend of eagerness to share the benefits of tea has started among Buddhist believers. Everyone wanted to taste this special drink that is bitter then sweet that the monks are talking about.
Notes from the author:
Little Prince: Master!
Little Prince: Help me sell tea!