Living Leisurely in Tang Dynasty Chapter 12

Xiao Deyan has lived through three dynasties: Chen, Sui, and Tang. During the Wu De period, he was responsible for tutoring the Crown prince and now he was to teach Prince Li Tai. This shows that he was someone with immersed knowledge but compared to knowledge, his health status was even more impressive. Despite being eighty-two, he has little difficulty in riding or archery. A seriously remarkable feat for someone of advanced age.

Li Yuanying followed Li Tai to Deyan’s residence and initially thought that he would be meeting an old man who would be stuttering and trembling. But he instead met an old but energetic person with neatly groomed white hair and beard. He was somehow reminded of a deity in a painting.

Yuanying felt that this old man was very unusual and she unconsciously concealed his usual mischievousness and followed Li Tai to greet him.

Xiao Deyan has also heard all about the absurd things that Li Yuanying has done but having lived for a long time nothing comes as a surprise to him anymore.  He asked with interest: “Why is your Royal Highness looking for me?”

Yuanying sat down and began to talk all about Kong Yingda’s bad points. Let me start by mentioning that he almost made me fall off a tree and then punished me by forbidding me from entering the lecture hall. Bottomline, I don’t want to learn under Kong Yingda!

Li Tai was stunned and didn’t know how to react, all he felt was that Kong Yingda was being wronged. Why on earth did you climb on top of a tree? If you just didn’t climb a tree, all the things after that would not have happened.

But Li Yuanying doesn’t agree. After all, he can never be in the wrong so if there’s something amiss it must be someone else’s fault. After rambling on and on badmouthing Kong Yingda, the boy then told Xiao Deyan about the questions given to him and humbly asked for guidance.

“Can you let me know how should I answer these questions?”

Now it was Li Tai and Xiao Deyan’s turn to be surprised. Why would Kong Yingda give such a young boy such deep questions?

Seeing no reply Yuanying added that he has already consulted Wei Zheng. He then clearly stated what he wanted to achieve: “I’ve already know the answer to this particular question but if you were to change it to another section, I wouldn’t be able to answer. How can I learn to answer then all?”

Xiao Deyan stroked his beard and said: “It’s actually very difficult.”

If it was in the past, Yuanying would have given up when he hears the word difficult but today he was scorned by the Emperor and Kong Yingda and was feeling very stubborn.

“I am not afraid of difficulties!”

Xiao Deyan looked at Yuanying and found that the boy had firm clear eyes. It’s as if he’s serious about understanding the topic thoroughly. Seeing that he was about the same age as his youngest grandson, Xiao De said: “Have you read the Analects?”

“I have it memorized!”

Xiao Deyan was slightly surprised. He then nodded: “Then I will list some books for you. Come and find me again after finishing them.”

Li Yuanying’s face looked like a bitter gourd when he heard that he needed to read a book. But when he thought about proving Li Er wrong and making him admire his talents, Li Yuanying immediately became energetic and agreed to it.

Seeing that this child has all his expressions written on his face, Xiao Deyan was delighted and started writing the list.

Li Yuanying felt that he is now acquainted with Xiao Deyan and immediately started behaving unruly. He curiously moved his futon closer to Xiao Deyan’s side, wanting to see in advance what book had picked.

Yuanying’s probing behaving was interpreted as being childlike and Xiao Deyan felt that the child was innocent and lively so he let him be.

In the past, Xiao Deyan has always been strict towards Li Tai so seeing Yuanying’s actions, Li Tai thought that the boy would be scolded. Surprisingly the opposite happened; not only didn’t his teacher get angry, he instead smiled.

Li Tai was getting fed up while Li Yuanying happily stood next to Xiao Deyan and commented: “Your handwriting is really good, so vigorous and powerful!” He even sighed, “I also want to write like this but when I do it always looks weak and soft”.

“When it comes to calligraphy and painting, three points depend on talent while the remaining seven depend on hard work.”

However, Li Yuanying had his own set of twisted principles: “You are right! But I feel that if you don’t have much talent then training becomes useless and a waste of time. So I rather not practice”.

It’s a first for Xiao Deyan in hearing that someone so lazy can still be so self-righteous that he surprisingly didn’t feel disgusted but instead thought it was funny.

“But then when you have learned all there is to the book, people will then ask you to write it out. But because you haven’t practiced writing and write with bad hands, you give others another reason to say that you didn’t learn it well.”

Hearing such a perspective for the first time, Yuanying felt that what Xiao Deyan said made sense. His brother and Kong Yingda were obviously such shameless people! He hummed twice and said with dissatisfaction: “I’m very talented! I paint very well!”

“Even if you have talent, you have to show it out to others before it will get recognized.”

He handed the written list of books to Yuanying.

Li Yuanying took it with gratitude then immediately ran off.  It remains a mystery whether he has actually heard Xiao Deyan’s advice.

Li Tai waited for Yuanying to disappear then said: “Teacher, you seem to like young uncle very much.” Li Yuanying has had the guts to do anything he wants since young and has made his father the Emperor furious multiple times. Li Tai really did not expect Xiao Deyan to like him.

“My grandson is around his age, so I love it when I see him.”

Xiao Deyan sat around and saw the oriental bush cherry plant [1]Chinese reading is Chan Di in the courtyard blooming silently like white snow.

Within the <<Classic of Poetry>> lies a song about Chang Di which talks about the meaning of brotherhood. The first sentence goes like this “The flower of the cherry tree, are they not gorgeously displayed? Off all the men in the world, there are none equal to brothers.” which can be deciphered as “Look at the glorious blooming of the cherry flowers that are likened to the love and unity between brothers. Taking the whole world into consideration, no one will be as close-knitted to you as your own brother.”

It’s a pity that the hearts of man are easily influenced by external factors.    

Xiao Deyan closed his eyes and sighed with the gentle breeze.

………..

Li Yuanying ran to the library with his book list. He has been very energetic lately and doesn’t feel tired running around.  

Having a notoriously bad reputation, no one dared to disturb him. He was searching for close to half a day but only found two volumes. 

He felt a little angry: Why are there so many books here!

On normal days, Yuanying would have ordered his servants to locate things for him but since he came here with stubborn resolve he had to find them himself!  

The boy was groaning and searching around with big movements, startling the woman on the other side of the bookshelf.

She came around to see what’s the commotion. It was Lady Wu (Wu CaiRen).    

Li Yuanying still remembers her. “Why are you here again? Do you take this place as your home?”

“If I can live here, why not?” she said smiling before bowing to him in respect. Seeing the booklist on Yuanying’s hands she said: “Your Royal Highness is looking for a book? I can help you with it.”

“Sure”

Li Yuanying handed the book list over to Lady Wu.

Lady Wu took a quick look to memorize the books before returning it to Yuanying. She then started walking around with great familiarity and started picking up books from different shelves.

Although Yuanying is still a kid, he could already feel that this woman is not your usual ordinary girl. Even the way she picks books reveals a sense of tranquillity.  It doesn’t seem like she is staying in the library trying to create a chance encounter with the Emperor, she actually is here reading in all seriousness.

Why does everyone love to read so much? There’re so many characters, it’s so tiring!

Seeing that Lady Wu could locate the books with ease, Li Yuanying praised her: “You’re pretty good.” But after complimenting he added, “But not as good as sister Shu. She can write in two types of handwriting!”

Hearing that Lady Wu didn’t get angry and only asked curiously: “Who’s sister Shu?”

“Oh, she’s a good friend I just met!”

While talking, Lady Wu found all the books that Yuanying wanted.

With wide eyes, he exclaimed: “So many!” He sighed and took the pile of books amounting to seven or eight volumes, thanked her and left with a bitter expression.

While returning home, Yuanying and ran into Li Zhi who just finished class.

“What are you doing with so many books?” Li Zhi said in shock.

“Naturally it’s for reading.”

“Of course I know books are for reading. I mean, why do you suddenly want to read books?”

Walking together, Li Yuanying told him about Kong Yingda who went to the Emperor to file a complaint against him.  

“Old man Kong is horrible; I want to give him a big shock!”

Li Zhi went silent for a while.

Li Yuanying then told Li Zhi about his encounters with Wei Zheng and Xiao Deyan and said confidently: “When I finish reading these, I will surely be able to dumbfound him with questions!”

Hearing Li Yuanying’s ambitious goal Li Zhi silently felt that it was impossible but given the rare occasion that he is willing to read, let’s not discourage him. “Let me have a copy, I want to read it too.”

Yuanying readily agreed and generously shared his learning materials. Reading alone is too boring, so it’s just right to loop Li Zhi in!

Making up his mind to study hard, Yuanying no longer skips class but instead attends with a big stack of books every day.

After a few days of calm, Dong Xiaoyi, the servant from the greenhouse came to inform that the sunflower seeds had sprouted!

Being overjoyed Li Yuanying enthusiastically shared the good news with Sizi and the others. Then early the next morning, he ran to Wei Zheng’s residence to invite Wei Shu to join them in viewing the sunflower buds.

Wei Shu agreed and they met up as a group.

Although the three lolis outwardly said that they don’t like young uncle anymore they still happily went to play with him the next day not remembering their crying incident anymore.

After the group five finished viewing sunflowers, Yuanying told them all about his intentions to study hard and even told Sizi and Wei Shu who have good handwriting that he wants to do the same.

“I also want to start practicing calligraphy. How do you practice? Teach me!”

“Father taught me.”

Wei Shu whose thoughts were clearer said: “Just write the characters you like as many times as possible. Sometimes grandfather would give me feedback.”

“Oh, I understand. Write a lot then ask others for opinion.”

Wei Shu nodded.

“Then I will start practicing first and will ask you for feedback next time. If you think it’s good, we can then ask others.”

Li Yuanying still had a big ego and knows that others would laugh at him if he went to them straight so he wanted to test internally first before asking the public for opinions. 

In the following days, Yuanying would either be read books, practicing calligraphy or playing with the other children.   

However, the atmosphere in the lecture hall is slowly changing.

Everyone used to wish that Li Yuanying did not exist as he affects the atmosphere in class with his misbehaviors. But nowadays it’s a little strange, every teacher in class likes to ask Yuanying questions, almost as if regarding him as a candidate for immerse training.

Of course, Li Yuanying thought otherwise. He felt that others were targeting him.

Asking Dai Ting to find out why, he came to the conclusion that these people were all Kong Yingda’s disciples!

Seriously this is unforgivable, taking turns in trying to make him look like a fool? No way!

Quickly Yuanying became a different kind of troublesome student: before the teacher could ask him anything, he would raise his hand to ask questions! His questions are cleverly angled and his ideas are creative; with a simple ask, he turns the whole class upside down.  

Luckily his teachers were all well-educated or else it would be impossible for them to continue.

Having to meet the teachers every day, Yuanying started to feel that going to school isn’t that boring after all.

He also doesn’t think that he was being a jerk. He continued on exchanging knowledge with Li Zhi and practicing calligraphy with Sizi and Wei Shu. If he happens to meet Wei Zheng, he would listen to his lecture on the Book of Rites.

After a month, Li Yuanying completed all the books that Xiao Deyan had given him!

T/L note: I’m sorry, I took more liberty this chapter in localizing and giving meaning to the poetry. There really isn’t a word for word translation unless I leave it all in PinYin. 

References

References
1 Chinese reading is Chan Di

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