The Academy became lively and was filled with excitement with this new batch of freshmen after the new year. Only after everyone had settled in did Li Yuanying realize that he is the only one from his group assigned to Tang Xuan’s batch while all the others joined as freshmen. Yuanying curiously asked Tang Xuan but he couldn’t understand the logic behind it as well. Tang Xuan made a quick guess: “Maybe Chancellor Kong knows your learning ability and thinks that you’d be wasting your time joining the freshmen.”
Yuanying was happy hearing this and thinks that Old Man Kong looks up to him. Even though he is now separated from Li Zhi and the others, it was no big deal and he happily followed Tang Xuan to class.
Li Yuanying was a transfer student and naturally didn’t have a seat in the front row. Tang Xuan was worried that his friend would be lonely so he changed seats to sit next to him.
Other students already didn’t like Tang Xuan “the little genius” who joined them late. Seeing that he is being so attentive to Li Yuanying, they secretly sneered that a village boy is so willing to please a mere WangYe (Prince, normally a brother of the Emperor).
The late Emperor had 22 sons. Minus those who had passed away, there were still more than a dozen WangYe alive and they were simply sent away to their fief. Leaving aside sons from the late Emperor, even sons of the current Emperor were not that prestigious apart from the 3 direct legitimate descendants.
Look at the 3rd prince, Li Ke, who was criticized by the Emperor for clashing with a county magistrate! They will become officials in the future and there is no need to be afraid of Li Yuanying, let alone degenerate themselves to cater to his needs.
Tang Xuan paid no attention to the mocking eyes. In his eyes, Li Yuanying was a like-minded friend, and they got along well.
Since Yuanying had just arrived at the Academy, he should help him settle in. If he were to visit Yuanying’s land in the future, the boy would do the same for him! Isn’t this what friends are for?
Li Yuanying too didn’t care much about what others think. After all, he is known as the little devil king and drove away angry teachers in batches. This little hidden sarcasm is just like a drizzle of rain to him!
Yuanying took out his new textbook : “Just these Five Classics? Is it not too little?”
The Five Classics refer to “Poetry”, “Book”, “Etiquette”, “Changes” and “Spring and Autumn”.
“Poetry” naturally refers to the <<Book of Songs>>. Reading and writing poems is an essential skill for scholars, so this must be learned.
“Book” refers to <<Shangshu>>, a compilation of political documents handed down and all officials have to study them.
“Etiquette” is the <<Book of Rites>> and scholars must follow it in their words and deeds.
“Changes” refers to the <<Book of Change>>, it is also necessary to understand metaphysical knowledge.
“Spring and Autumn” is a chronological history book, written according to spring, summer, autumn, and winter and so is called <<Spring and Autumn>>.
Tang Xuan answered in a good-tempered manner: “Five Classics is not little at all. Many are not able to master them even after a lifetime of study. Some books I had also self-studied earlier but I gather new insights after listening to teacher’s explanation. Even if It’s the same book, different interpretation would give you different insights.”
Yuanying is a typical example of liking soft treatment and not hard rule. After listening to Tang Xuan, he sincerely waited for the teacher to start his lecture.
The teacher in charge of Li Yuanying’s class was surname Ma and named Jiayun. He is over 60 and was a famous Confucianism scholar. When this Dr. Ma heard that the little devil king will be in his class, the alarm bell immediately sounded in his head. Before coming to class he even tidied up his dressing twice for fear that it would be distorted by Li Yuanying’s mischief.
Dr. Ma arrived and saw Li Yuanying was sitting obediently in the back row, wearing the same uniform as others and was decent. Looking again, Tang Xuan actually moved next to him. Dr. Ma frowned.
There is a saying that it is easy to learn bad things but difficult to learn good things. Tang Xuan had in the past stay clear of spoilt rich bratty classmates and this was to Dr. Ma’s liking. Now seeing him close to Li Yuanying, he became a little worried about this beloved apprentice. But since they were all youths, the teacher did not comment much. He only paid special attention to Li Yuanying during lectures to see if he would be as disruptive as some colleagues said.
Dr. Ma’s lectures on the <<Book of Changes>> is never boring. Although he is over 60, his lectures were humorous. He used to live in seclusion in the deep mountains and the examples he gave had those undertones – interesting and carried some layman language. Although supposed to be common terms and crass, he made them sound elegant.
Li Yuanying’s eyes lit up and felt that the Academy was not that bad. Or at least Dr. Ma was good and he liked his lectures. Not only did he actively participate during class, he also dragged Tang Xuan along to ask Dr. Ma questions after class.
Dr. Ma watched his words and deeds and felt that although the young prince had the pride of the Li family, he was still a good student eager to learn. There should be no distinction between teaching and learning, their initial evaluation of Li Yuanying is biased!
The teacher answered Yuanying’s questions one by one and after returning, he raised him to Jia Gongyan, a fellow teacher who teaches the same class saying that the young prince can be taught well.
Assistant Professor Jia went to class after Dr. Ma. He taught “Etiquette” which is his specialty.
One portion of the unified textbooks that Kong Yingda instructed to be compile was edited by Assistant Professor Jia.
Although Li Yuanying had studied the <<Book of Rites>> with Wei Zheng, it is just as Tang Xuan said : different people have different interpretation. Teaching assistant Jia is different from Wei Zheng. Li Yuanying compared what both teachers had taught and felt that he has indeed gained a new understanding on the book.
While Li Yuanying was tirelessly learning new knowledge, someone went looking for Kong Yingda.
It was Li Chengqian.
Chengqian had no choice. Dong Xiaoyi came to East Palace looking for him with snot and tears: “Our Royal Highness is going to starve to death in the Imperial Academy!”
Chengqian thought to himself. Fang Yizhi also dropped by to update him that youngest uncle found the food at the Academy so bad that he refused to eat and had stolen food boxes from other students. Is his young uncle a person who can starve to death? You can starve anyone else to death but not him! But Chengqian liked him as an uncle so he kindly asked Dong Xiaoyi what message did he come to deliver.
Dong Xiaoyi was direct. He was ordered to buy up a restaurant and asked to recruit good chefs. He is prepared to send the chefs to the Imperial College every day to deliver food. Although the dishes will not be as great as those served in the Royal Palace but at least they will be edible. Dong Xiaoyi has also thought of an explanation, let’s just say that the owner is grateful to the Academy for cultivating talents for Tang and voluntarily contributes money to feed these talents. They will not ask the Academy to spend anything extra but will let everyone eat good food! They only had one request which is to let their restaurant put up a signboard saying that their dishes were exclusively served to the Imperial College!
Dong Xiaoyi even show the Crown Prince a plan that was obviously hand written by Li Yuanying. On it is a statement that all dishes served on the first hundred days should be different daily. He called it “a hundred dishes tasting activity”. Food is the most important thing for the citizens so knowing the eating habits of the common people in different places is something that students at the Academy should do. This is called understanding people’s livelihood and sentiments!
The entire event did not require any investment from the Academy. All they needed is for students to vote for their favourite dishes after tasting them. This is a simple task that doesn’t take effort. Everyone will be willing.
After hearing the whole plan, Chengqian expression was a little numb. This young uncle of his really put in much effort to be able to eat good food every day. He wondered if uncle had planned this in advance, how did he come up with such a comprehensive plan in just half a day? Even he felt that not knowing the food of the common people is not caring about their livelihood!
How can uncle be so good with words?
What can Li Chengqian do? Of course, he could only be a good nephew and talk to Kong Yingda about this immediately.
Kong Yingda was worried about the Academy all day; worried that Li Yuanying will cause big commotion. Half a day has passed and no one came reporting any bad news. Kong Yingda was relieved but also inexplicably disappointed: It’s quite unaccustomed for the little devil king not to cause some trouble!
Before Kong Yingda could put his mind at ease, the Crown Prince came looking for him. He went on and on about “a good-hearted restaurant providing free food that will not be repeated in a hundred days”.
When Kong Yingda heard it, he understood. Trouble was waiting for him here.
If the owner of a restaurant really wanted to do such “benevolent act”, why did he need to cross Li Chengqian’s path? It’s impossible! Who will be willing to spend money for a hundred days just to get some votes? This is not an activity for a hundred people but two thousand people! These are just the number of core students without the administrators and staffs yet. Who would be willing to spend money for nothing?
Even the Ministry of Households finds it painful to spend on the Academy. After all, this place generates no income other than to cultivate future talents for the imperial court!
Only Li Yuanying who has plenty of money is willing to spend like this.
Kong Yingda felt that with just a few days, the young Prince should understand that is is no easy feat to feed so many people, right?
Kong Yingda thought and felt that it was okay to agree to it. After all he will not need to spend a single penny. He asked that the message be conveyed to the Academy. If someone wants to send money, let him give it. Let’s see who will be crying in the end!
Chengqian finished his task and send someone to inform Dong Xiaoyi. Dong Xiaoyi happily went back to inform Lady Liu that Prince Teng is getting used to his new environment except for the food there. But this problem has been solved.
Lady Liu heard the plan about acquiring a restaurant that had invited many good chefs to cook. She quickly gave him her recipes and asked Dong Xiaoyi to choose the ones preferred by Li Yuanying to be mix into his daily meals. It didn’t matter how much they will spend so long Li Yuanying eats well.
Lady Liu also do not lack money. After all there is nowhere to spend money on in the Royal palace. Thinking that the weather has been very cold recently, she asks Dong Xiaoyi to donate some charcoal too. Lady Liu came up with more ideas in accordance to Li Yuanying’s plan: “Go out and buy more charcoal and stock up. Lets just tell them that you also sell charcoal as a side business. Think about all kinds of good charcoal and send them several kinds in rotation every day. Do this until the beginning of Spring.”
Dong Xiaoyi calculated and felt that their spending was too high. Fortunately, the sunflower seeds harvested last year sold for a lot of money!
It was Li Yuanying’s idea to sell sunflower seeds. Last year, he learned about a word called “rare commodity”. Other that the Emperor who else had sunflower seeds? Doesn’t this make it “rare commodity”?
Li Yuanying instructed that the sunflower seeds not be sold in batches but in threes! Three seeds set in a beautiful package. They look elegant and beautiful. This is a unique “exotic product” only available in the capital.
He got his men to place a few blooming sunflowers as living advertisements at the door. He then send special personnel to explain about the sunflower’s beauty and novelty and how they follow after the sun! These men accompanied Li Yuanying all year round and are his most eloquent talents. They started spreading the “sunflower spirit” forcefully. Many people bought some and wait for spring to plant it in order to get good fortune.
This way, the sunflowers produced sold at prices unimaginable to many people! Can you count how many seeds the sunflower can produce? Anyway, Dong Xiaoyi couldn’t figure it out! All he knew was that the women working on the surrounding farms lived a fat year by helping to pack sunflower seeds.
The profit earned from “Sunflower Spirit” has not even warmed up and now will be moving out!
Dong Xiaoyi didn’t know whether he should admire Li Yuanying’s ability to make money or his ability to spend money.
But now is not the time to think about nonsense. Dong Xiaoyi left the palace with the recipe book by Lady Liu and went to the restaurant to instruct that dinner be prepared according to the number of students at the Academy.
With such a large quantity, it is difficult for anyone to accomplished the tasks except for restaurants who are used to big banquets. After a while of panic, the new cooks managed to take care of the washing and cutting of vegetables. At the instruction of the head chef, they began to prepare Li Yuanying’s first dinner after arriving at the Imperial Academy.
In the evening, the students dragged their hungry feet towards the eating place trying to rely on their hunger to ignore the taste of food. But just after walking a short distance, they smelled tempting aroma of food.
Who is it? Which goddamn rich brat sent delicious food to tempt them again?!
Notes from the author:
Little Prince: It is impossible not to spend money, I like spending money the most!