Li Yuanying quickly got news about the outside world. Learning that Li Tai has left for his fiefdom, he sat quietly for a long time.
He’s not sure if it’s the right thing for him to step in and meddle in this issue but he couldn’t hold back and not say anything about this situation. Remembering his mother back in the palace, all the friends that he had met and all the people following under him like Dai Ting, Li Yuanying sighed. He is taking a gamble, betting that his brother’s love for the stability of country is greater than his love for his beloved fourth son. Betting that his brother had some love for him. And luckily, he won this time.
But there’s just nothing to be happy about winning this bet. There isn’t a happy party from this whole incident. But with the fourth prince away the upcoming days should be calm with not much rain and storm.
Li Yuanying felt better and joined his friends to wait for their monthly test results.
The Academy achieved great results this year and the teachers became more strict to ensure that next year’s results will be as good so that the school’s reputation will not be tarnished!
FengThai Restaurant now uses the Imperial College as its main source of advertisement and so Li Yuanying is naturally concern about academic performances. Not only will he actively supervise his friends to rest and exercise well, he also influenced the Student Association to organize study groups. In addition to attending classes and eating every day, he gathers a group of students to engage in special discussions together.
The Imperial College is full of youth under twenty. Being in their prime, students naturally speak freely expressing their opinions. With 2 months of constant debate and discussion, many new ideas and opinions have emerged.
The most amazing thing about Li Yuanying is his well connected relationships. He is friends with many students from all majors of study and pulls them together to explore difficult questions. That way troublesome problems are solved quickly by combining talents. Different ideas and thoughts blending with each other, creating a new insights for those involved.
Wei Shu’s group also joined in these discussions but they spent more time documenting down new ideas and segregating them into groups.
The group gradually became quite large in numbers and comprises of both children of government officials and students from poorer background and the only 4 female student in the whole academy, gaining much attention.
This group also scored well in the monthly test. The main reason being that the Emperor prefers having practical talents who can be used immediately. Those who are only book smart and have stagnant ideas must be moved to the back to make way for people with great ideas. Li Yuanying and his group happened to be like a pool of living water with extremely lively thoughts!
But of course there were also people who has fallen behind like Li Yuanying. His ideas were too unconventional. He wrote eloquently, saying that men and women are the same, and suggested that girls should also be allowed to take part in the imperial examination; especially females who have already been educated. They should be given a chance to perform and to make full use of all outstanding talents available.
Yuanying was not convinced with his low grades so he went to meet Dr. Ma intending to argue his case.
“What’s wrong with my article? People like Mei Niang is super smart, shouldn’t they be given equal opportunities? How many men can claim to do as well as her at reading or making decisions.”
“They are a minority”
“I think smart men are a minority too. Every year if we have just 1 or 2 people as smart as Mei Niang and Wei Shu, it is already enough!”
“Are you sure, every year there will be 1 or 2 like that?”
Li Yuanying thought hard, he has lived for 12 years and had only met a handful of smart people. Indeed there isn’t many. But he still didn’t want to back down: “Anyway this is leaving out talents in the wild. No good! No good!”
“Even if I allow women to take the exams it will still be useless. Girls from poor families are illiterate. As for those from aristocratic families, why would they want to take the Imperial exams? Their dowry are at least a couple of hundred thousands and they live luxurious free lives, why would they want to come here and suffer? Even if you managed to pass the exams, you start from ground up. Promotions are not certain, is it worth it for them to give up their life of luxury and do this?”
“Sister Shu and the rest are willing. What’s so fun about living in the same old mansion for life? The world outside is huge, don’t tell me only boys are allowed to see it but not girls?”
Dr Ma shook his head. “It has been like this since ancient past, how can we make changes so easily?”
Li Yuanying tried very hard but still couldn’t win over Dr. Ma’s argument. He had to just bring home his results with bad grades.
Just as Li Tai left Chang’an, Dai Ting and his party finally returned. They brought back many livestock, spices and medicinal herbs. An impressive team catching much attention. Before they arrived, news reached Louyang and Chang’an that tea was sold well and they managed to exchange many livestock. That cows looks strong and horses tall! More surprisingly, the team bought back several yaks with thick hair and majestic horns. They looked rare!
The group departed with a hundred monks but only half the number came back. It was not due to any accident, just that they decided to stay back to give lectures and will be back on the next trip. Dai Ting came back with not only product but also news about Wencheng. He handed the items to Dong Xiaoyi and continued on to the Imperial College to deliver news to Prince Teng.
Learning that Dai Ting is back, Yuanying took leave of absence from Kong Yingda. The journey was long and it took him half a year just to go back and forth. Dai Ting also spent time doing business and gathering information, so the separation lasted nearly a year.
Yuanying asked Dai Ting to sit down and share about his trip in detail.
Dai Ting chooses to share the good first. When we started our journey there was a rebellion at Tuyuhun and Princess Honghua was frightened. She quickly recovered much after receiving consolation and sympathy from Chang’an. After that the journey was quite smooth sailing. They did meet with a few robbers, but the group had good weapons and sufficient training. Some monks travelling with them were also skilled in martial arts so there weren’t many casualties.
After that, he shared the problems he had faced. The group comprises of those who were in good health and should be fit despite the long journey. However, the further they travelled towards LuoXie City, more and more people feel ill due to not being able to acclimatize to the new environment. More people started having flushed face with weak bodies and shortness of breath and some even fainted. While they had a group of doctors tasked by Sun Simiao to travel with them, 2 men still almost died.
Wei Shu had an initial hypothesis that the Tibetan Empire had antidote to cure this, and Dai Ting did his investigation. He found out that the locals often partake in a type of herb and the doctors confirmed that these medicinal herb helps to increase blood circulation. Bringing back these herbs to Chang’an for planting would be of great use and Dai Ting collected a batch of seeds and roots and transported them back with its soil.
Yuanying listened patiently. “What about Wencheng?”
Dai Ting deliberately left updates about Princess Wencheng as the last topic.
He paused before expressing his judgment: “Songtsen Gampo and Lu DongZan are both ambitious men.” The former succeeded the throne at a young age and the latter worked his way up with hard-work. Without ambition, how can they bring peace to the different tribes in their land?
Ambitious people will always leave behind a trail of their actions. Dai Ting waited several days at LuoXie City before meeting with Princess Wencheng. By this time, Princess Wencheng had been here for almost half a year. While she had lost some weight, she was in good spirits.
Princess Wencheng shared that Songtsen Gampo was not a womanizer and initially did not have much interaction with her. It was only after the entourage comprising of craftsman, doctors and embroiderers following the Princess showed their usefulness did the King come speak to her more often. The couple did not speak the same language and although Wencheng spent much time learning the language, communication was a challenge for them. She found a place to plant the sunflower seeds that Yuanying had given her and often used that as an excuse to speak to the people serving her. Never discouraged even after making mistakes in her speech and over time she has successfully integrated into the life there.
Dai Ting continued his sharing.
Receiving a long gift list from Chang’an, Princess Wencheng burst into tears. She missed her loved ones in Chang’an very much and wrote a poem to express it. He brought back this poem, along with news that before Songtsan Gambo proposed to marry a Tang princess, he was already married to a Licchavi princess as a teenager and they both shared a good relationship although there is no children yet. In addition, the ruler also had wives from various Tibetan tribes.
Just from this perspective, you can see Songtsen Gampo’s personality: He only want those who are useful, whether a Tang princess or a Licchavi princess or a woman from the various other tribes. All is to establish his absolute authority!
Yuanying grew up in a palace with a harem and therefore had not much thoughts on this piece of information. He only cared about how Wencheng was doing.
Yuanying raised his eyebrows, “Is there anyone making things difficult for Wencheng?”
“No, she just misses Chang’an.”
Even with a group of servants with her, it was still cruel for an originally carefree daughter to have to integrate into a completely unfamiliar environment and to accept it.
Yuanying took the poem and looked at the beautiful handwriting. By just reading, one could feel her deep loneliness and longings.
Next, he read a letter from Wencheng. She didn’t mention anything about being homesick but shared that everything was fine. No one was neglecting her and that her husband treats her respectfully. Do not worry about her well being. Among the return gifts, some were prepared for Gao Yang and the others.
It’s not good when people grow up, so many unhappy things, whether it’s disputes or separations, there’s bound to be more.
He put away the letter and poem: “Are you going out again?”
Dai Ting nodded.
Li Yuanying thought for a while: “Have you found anyone on the road who was unique?”
Dai Ting gave several names.
“Next time, we can have an additional route. If there are caravans willing to go together, you can pick someone else to lead them. Just let them know what’s lacking in Tibetan Empire, what goods to bring for trading and what to bring back. You can then lead another group yourself. As we make more trips, we will become more familiar with the geographical landscape of that area. When the Tang Dynasty’s caravans travels, it will be like traveling on their own lands and news from LuoXie City reach us faster.”
“But also, don’t be too brave. Give away the money if you are really in danger. Resign when you are afraid. Don’t be stingy for human life is the most important.”
Dai Ting nodded in agreement.
Dong Xiaoyi was responsible for planting the medicinal herbs Dai Ting brought back and did a good job tending to them. Dai Ting also brought back several experts from Tibetan Empire were responsible for studying these plants and how well they are growing in Chang’an.
Yuanying thought that since he has gotten permission to take a day off, he was in no hurry to return to the Imperial College. He took the gifts and sent them out according to the gift list. Since the gifts sent by Li Yuanying were generous, the return gifts prepared were also generous and were all fine jade, spices, and wild horses.
The Emperor also received a gift, and Yuanying personally delivered it to him. He also asked if he wanted to visit Li Jing’s house to see the yaks.
When Li Er saw Li Yuanying running over happily, he couldn’t help but asked: “Why am I not made aware that the Academy is on a rest day today?”
“I took a leave of absence. If officials could take leave, then why can’t I? You have been busy for a long time and must be tired. Let’s take advantage of the fact that Wei and the others are not here bothering you. Let’s go see the yaks quickly!”
His Majesty listened to him with much concentration.
Li Yuanying continued in his efforts: “I heard from Dai Ting that yaks are strong and fierce, with long hair. I have never seen a cow with long hair. Dai Ting only took two back to Chang’an because he thinks that they can be a bit dangerous and sent them to Li’s house. Li can raise anything, so raising a yak shouldn’t be a problem.”
His Majesty was annoyed and agreed to go.
As soon as Li Er agreed, Li Yuanying immediately mobilized all efforts to bring the girls along. He also asked Chengqian to bring Li Xiang over.
While passing by Prince Wei’s Mansion, Li Yuanying suggested again: “Let’s go get little round ball too!”
When Li Er saw Prince Wei’s Mansion from a distance, he thought of his fourth son and became a bit gloomy. Hearing “Little Round Ball” he lost all sadness and gave Li Yuanying a sideways glance.
Li Yuanying of course didn’t care. Seeing that His Majesty didn’t say not to pick him up, he took it as a yes and ran into Prince Wei’s Mansion to look for Princess Yan to beg her for her son.
Notes from the author:
Little Prince: Today I am a lively little Prince again!