Living Leisurely in Tang Dynasty Chapter 20

As soon as Yuanying spoke, the others quickly raised their hands to participate; even Li Zhi expressed his desires after a moment of hesitation. He had no choice. In the past when he decided not to join the group, Li Yuanying still got him in trouble. That was awful, so it’s better to just get scolding from father together as a group.

Getting unanimous support Yuanying was touched, he requested that the group prepare manpower and to meet him at school grounds the next day.

After the meeting ended, Yuanying went looking for his brother. He shares that he’s no longer young and is now officially a WanYe [1]Title normally bestowed to the Emperor’s brother. It is not right that he doesn’t have his own guards!

Li Er reacted angrily as he was still troubled by Gaochang, “You can’t sit still anymore, can you?  Can’t wait to go play outside the palace?”

Li Yuanying smiled sheepishly, acknowledging Li Er’s words.

The Emperor was busy and upset so he just instructed Li Yuanying to pick people out himself.

Instead of leaving, Yuanying curiously asked who would be sent to war.

The Emperor glanced at him, but did not hide the truth: “Should be Hou Junji.”

Li Yuanying left with the Emperor’s decree to look for the head of the military. He requested for a group of guards who were old, poor and unable to get married.

The other party was startled by such a request. Normally these people are at the bottom of the pyramid, they are regarded as burdens and would only be asked to do hard labor with no promotion in sight!

Everywhere such “weak chickens” who were meant to be trampled exist, the military was no exception. Unfortunately, most who are elected into the military had done meritorious deeds so it’s not easy to kick them out!

Such a request is a blessing to the army so it was quickly acted upon and such burdensome people were quickly sent to Li Yuanying.

Before the guards came, Yuanying wanted to first meet Dai Ting. Being only twelve or thirteen and a eunuch, Dai Ting had weak feminine features. But after knowing him for so many years, Yuanying knew that he was not weak at all.

Yuanying took out a mask and asked Dai Ting to wear it. With a mask, Dai Ting with his height looks much older like sixteen or seventeen.

“I need lots of money and food to sustain my land. Now is a good opportunity, will you help me with something?”

Yuanying flipped open the hand-drawn map with two circles on it, one on Chang’an and one on Gaochang.

“You will need to follow the army this far out in cold winter weather. The roads will be blocked by ice and snow; it’ll be a difficult journey.”

Dai Ting listened attentively.

“You’ve served me and my mother wholeheartedly but what you have done, others can do too. You have been by my side since childhood and I don’t want you to do things that can be easily replaced by others. Coincidently, I don’t like going out in winter so I’m sending you out as training.”

Hearing this Dai Ting knelt down on the ground, his eyes moist.

Although he was young when he entered the palace, he clearly remembers how his biological parents sold him and how he lost his manhood.

Since then, he can only hope to survive cowardly and no longer expects to live like a complete human.

But at this very moment, his master wants him to be someone that is not easily replaceble.

Even if the road is long and arduous, even if the road is blocked by ice and snow, he will want to give it a try!

Dai Ting bowed before replying, “This humble one is willing to go!”

Li Yuanying stepped forward to help Dai Ting stand and told him the plan: “You are quick-witted and good at snooping for news, this time the imperial court is going to conquer Gaochang which is just a small place and definitely no match for us. This time the Emperor is likely to send Hou Junji. I heard that Hou Junji likes to do grandiose things and indulges the soldiers. After conquering Gaochang, he’ll not restrain his men. I want you to follow the army and when things are chaotic you search for treasures and bring them back.  Act according to the situation, if you happen to meet Hou Junji’s men, just use mine or Zhi Nu’s authority and if you meet Gaochang citizens who are unwilling to comply with you, you take advantage and use Hou Junji’s authority!”

Li Yuanying told Dai Ting what he wanted: Number one, men who are good at planting grapes, bring them and their grape seeds. Number Two, those who brew wine, bring them and their wine from the cellar. Number three, bring literate people from Gaochang together with a copy of everything that has words on them. We don’t need many of each but we need all three.

Dai Ting obeyed.

“Lord Brother is going to give me some guards. I‘ll give them time off to meet friends and recruit a group of men for this mission. When you arrive in Gaochang, find a wife for all of them.”

This minor country has thoroughly annoyed his brother and so Li Yuanying is guessing that they are about to be wiped out by Li Er’s army. If that is so, all the delicious food, beautiful things and women should be brought back. In fact, if it weren’t because he hasn’t settled down in his own land, Li Yuanying would have also brought back men who would be great at working!

Dai Ting didn’t think the task was difficult, so he agreed to every single one of it.

Li Yuanying took out a sword and passed it to Dai Ting. This sword was left to him by his late father and is a symbol of imperial power. Since this is the first time he’s sending a confidant out, he wants to give Dai Ting maximum protection!

Not long after their conversation, the selected group of army arrives.  Yuanying brought Dai Ting to inspect his group of future helpers. He first welcomed them, and then began to shamelessly promote his plan: Do you want cash bonuses? Or a wife? Follow Dai Ting to Gaochang, you’ll be rewarded with everything you want! If you complete the mission, you’ll be generously rewarded upon return!

Li Yuanying’s image as the little devil was already deeply rooted in the hearts of the people so everyone didn’t believe him in the beginning. As a result, Yuanying had to take out a box filled with gold and promised that it will be distributed to them after the completion of the mission!

He further instigated by adding that Gaochang is full of beauties, who were tall, had dark eyes and high nose and master at dancing. If they went, they might return with a beautiful wife!

The group of older single guards were brainwashed by Li Yuanying and quickly expressed their willingness to serve the little prince.

The next day, the selected guards of all the royal children gathered together making the new guards even more excited. If Li Yuanying was the only one sending them out, they would be skeptical but seeing that even all the other princes and princesses were participating they felt assured!

Li Yuanying publically handed over his sword to Dai Ting and demanded that everyone obey Dai Ting’s orders.

Manpower is now complete so Yuanying sent Dai Ting and his men to prepare supplies.

Seeing this Li Zhi finally understood what Li Yuanying was planning and he started to panic. After Yuanying finished the mobilization, he pulled him aside for a discussion: “You’re asking them to follow the army to Gaochang?”

“This is a rare opportunity, think about it, on normal days you will definitely encounter thieves when traveling on roads like this. It’s extremely dangerous! It is rare to have a large army ahead of you, if not now, when?!”

Li Zhi was rendered silent. Although Li Yuanying made sense, I still feel that this is not right.

“You’re such a coward.  No matter who father sends, they wouldn’t dare touch our men!” (Princess Gao Yang)

“Lord Brother is obviously doing this to set an example. I think Gaochang is finished and the country destroyed. Even though it’s a small country, many precious items will still inevitably be destroyed. Perhaps our doing of bringing things back is helping to preserve and save some from catastrophe.”

Li Yuanying went on to tell the children about the other unfortunate things that soldiers might do when a city has fallen. Unfortunately, not all leaders impose strict military discipline to restrain their soldiers. After all, soldiers are human beings; If they are only made to fight hard and not reap any benefits, why would they listen to you? Therefore, many choose to turn a blind eye as long as the actions were not excessive.

It is therefore an inevitable and unfortunate fact that many men would be killed, women assaulted, property robbed and things destroyed.

Once a thousand years have passed, the people, their culture and language will be lost forever without a trace left!

So, maybe by collecting these things now, we might be doing a good deed!

Hearing Yuanying’s speech the children were quite convinced by his logic. If they could preserve one or two items maybe it would be considered saving one or two beings/things from suffering.

After the other children had left, Li Zhi stayed back alone: “I still don’t think it’s right. If you really have sympathy for Gaochang, why don’t you go to father and convince him to adopt more peaceful measures instead?”

“What do you mean by no fighting? They promised us tribute, but they did not honor it. That’s being untrustworthy. They are attacking neighboring countries who are allies; that’s treacherous behavior. If Tang allows them to do as they will and not fight, who else will be willing to believe in us? Therefore, it is impossible to not fight. But we are also people of benevolence and righteousness, so even if we fight, we will still show mercy! If you have no compassion for your own kind, then you are no different from a beast.” (Li Yuanying)

Li Zhi started to feel that as long as words came out from Li Yuanying’s mouth, he is able to twist it into something righteous.

In December, the court finalized the candidates for the expedition against Gaochang: Hou Junji and Xue Wanjun.

The army assembled to take an oath then set off for Gaochang in severe cold.

Shortly after the army set off, a group of more than a hundred people followed in a hurry. The Emperor Li Er stood on the city gate to bid farewell to his men and was about to return to the palace when his hawk-like eye caught sight of a group of men following behind the army.  Although this group did not walk very fast, they were dressed similarly and walked the same way. At first glance, they looked like a group of merchants, but on closer look, they actually look like well-trained soldiers with ranks.

Li Er frowned and asked his men to find out more.

Reports were soon received that the group is working for the Prince of Teng. The leader was Dai Ting, and the rest were his bodyguards or retired soldiers.

His Majesty’s face instantly darkened and summoned that Li Yuanying be brought over to his resident.

Li Yuanying was hiding in his need to keep warm, hearing that he was summoned he slowly put on his clothes and left to meet the Emperor.

“Why are you asking for me on such a cold day? Coming all the way here, it’ll freeze me to death!”

“What for? Do explain to me why you ask your men to follow behind Hou Junji?”

Seeing that his plan has been uncovered, Li Yuanying didn’t panic but instead attempted to use the same logic that he has used to fool Li Zhi on the Emperor.

“Yeah right, I really don’t think you are that kind. You wanted to take advantage to get benefits instead!”

Li Yuanying looking sad: “Lord Brother, how can you think so of me? Every word I said is true, I have good intentions!” He continued honestly, “Of course, if you can make some money on the side that’s an added benefit. Who would refuse money? Speaking of which, I still owe you money, if Dai Ting can help me earn money, I will pay you back immediately!”

“Are you still short of money?”

“Who would dislike too much money? I printed a hundred books previously and spent a lot. I want to open a big academy in the future. If I make enough money, I want to make books affordable for anyone who wants to read!”

“Do you know how many people there are in the Tang Dynasty?”

Li Yuanying shook his head.

“On the basis of households, there are more than three million households and each has five to fifteen people. Do count, how many people are there? There’s so many that feeding and providing basic necessities are already difficult, how much money do you think is needed so that they can all afford books?”

Li Yuanying did the math in his heart; and found the number too large that he can’t quantify it.

Li Yuanying was left speechless: “So many people!”

“What else were you assuming?”

Li Yuanying looked at his brother sympathetically. “Lord Brother, you’ve worked so hard to take care of so many people! That’s why we need to find more smart people! For example, take farming, many people devote themselves to planting but when the weather is bad they may still fail to harvest. But if there’s a smart person in the village who is skilled in observing changes in weather, has agriculture knowledge, can strategize what to replant during a drought, and have herbs & medicine knowledge then the whole village will never need to worry about starvation. As long as we can find and cultivate such talented people and then send them to supervise farming in various places, we can sit back and reap the reward without having to do anything!”

Li Er patiently listened to his younger brother’s opinion and is starting to see progress in him from all his studying behind closed doors. However, when he heard him say “Reap without doing anything” he got angry and knocked him on the head.

“What do you mean by to reap rewards by doing nothing? Who would say such a thing?”

Yuanying covered his forehead and asked humbly: “Then what should I say?”

“It’s called to rule by laissez-faire”.

Li Yuanying has also heard this saying, it means to rule by doing nothing or little involvement and the country will be well-governed.  Li Yuanying insisted on his definition instead: “Both obviously mean the same thing!”

Li Er didn’t want to put in any more effort to teach this shameless brother of his, so he waved his hand to drive him away. Looks like he’s letting him go and will not find fault in him secretly sending people to make a fortune.

Li Yuanying ran happily.

References

References
1 Title normally bestowed to the Emperor’s brother

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