Living leisurely in Tang Dynasty
Living Leisurely in Tang Dynasty Chapter 45

Li Yuanying very convincingly said that his Majesty will be too busy with country affairs and would never know that they have detoured to a “secret base” to play.

The young ones blindly believed him and happily climb up the carriage.

Maybe it’s because this “secret base” has been visited by Li Er and his ministers, it has been left alone unlike previous “bases” which were all torn down mercilessly.

Li Zhi thought much deeper and felt that it was a little naïve to think that the Emperor would remain ignorant given that so many of them went out with big brother. He told  Yuanying his concerns and warn him to take it easy and not go overboard.

“You’re just being paranoid. What are you afraid of? Let’s play first, think later.” Whatever happens, after this gets discovered, that’s a problem for another time. (Gao Yang)

This is why Gao Yang and  Li Yuanying are similar in personality. The two persuaded Sizi and the others with their rich experience in getting away with mischief. When they arrived, they happily jumped out of the carriage to observe the barbeque beef.

It was fat and juicy. When Chengqian bought it, he spent a fortune. He had to bid for it with other buyers which caused the price to hike up.

Chengqian is very willing to spend on eating and playing. Since he promised Yuanying, he didn’t hesitate to spend quite a fortune to make it happen.

Knowing that the group was visiting, the workers in the “secret base” have been busy preparing. This cow is much bigger than the sheep previously and the people needed to manually roast it has doubled. All were staring intently at the red-hot stove to ensure that it is roasted to perfection!

The children watch for a while but quickly lost interest. Yuanying then pestered Chengqian about wanting to see the “elephant army” he has recruited.

Chengqian led them to higher ground with an excellent view. He then clapped his hands gently and his men took out two flags and flung them in the wind. They then saw two groups appearing on each side of the wilderness: there were no more than ten on each side. The one on the left was riding horses while the one on the right was riding elephants!

Before the two sides could meet, the Turks riding horses has complete control of their horses and rode with rhythm.

On the other side, perhaps because the elephants were extraordinarily huge, the southerners riding them look much smaller. The elephants had high trunks and were flapping their huge ears, wherever they went the wild grass that had grown in abundance due to the spring rain were trampled flat.

Probably because the horses had not seen an elephant and as it approaches the horses suddenly began to disobey its rider and neighed in panic. If it weren’t because the Turkic people have tame their horses well, they would have fled in such a situation!

But the situation for the Turks is not good. They couldn’t make the horses move forward even if they tried their very best!

To be able to hunt and play with Chengqian all day long, the group couldn’t train much, so they weren’t very capable but only had above-average riding skills. To expect them to ride unafraid of danger and fight to the death with the opponent? That’s not possible!

As the “Elephant Army” approaches, the horses finally broke up and rode away embarrassingly.

There’s no choice but to retreat. Otherwise, the horses will really be frightened! If the horses throw their riders off in fear, they will likely be trampled into meat paste by the elephants!

Li Yuanying watched with great excitement and felt that the elephants were awesome. The Turks who were usually brave were running away in fear. He had a stupid desire and suddenly asked: “Is an elephant easy to raise and tame?”

Li Yuanying was not the only one who was moved.  Chengqian requested for a fluent southerner and wanted to ask some questions.

In the past, he loves hanging out with the Turks and felt that they lived freely. But now looking at how they were fleeing the elephant group, they have lost their former glory to the elephant rider!

The group sat down and looked towards the nervous southerner who was summoned. He was thin and dark with obvious signs of being exposed to the sun and wind all year round.

At the urging of Prince Teng, he began sharing about his elephant taming career. His name is Yang Liulang. Since there are many elephants in his hometown, his family has been in the elephant taming business for generations. Liulang even adopted a baby elephant when he was a child!

An elephant takes much longer to conceive than a human baby and takes about ten years to become fully grown. It can be said that his elephant grew up together with him, hence he can tame and control it well.  

If the elephants weren’t domesticated since young, ordinary people would have a headache if they encountered them. After all, they are big and group together. If the mountains, forests, and grasslands do not provide enough food for them, they will nibble on human crops and destroy everything!

Li Yuanying has never been to the South so he listened with relish.

Yang Liulang continued talking about his difficulties in raising an elephant: this animal eats several hundred pounds of vegetation in a day, and after eating, it cannot fully digest its food and they are released as fecal matter. Just its feces alone may weigh hundreds of pounds, the kind that can bury people alive!

 If it wasn’t for the expertise his family has gathered over the years from raising elephants, I’m afraid it would be really difficult to serve such a big guy, let alone domesticate them.

Li Yuanying’s eyes widened when he heard that an elephant can produce so much dung a day. He’s having a hard time imagining how much dung will he have if he were to rear a hundred elephants. He sighed to his friends: “Duke Wei doesn’t have it easy. I’m sure he has a servant just to clean up after elephant sh*t. Otherwise, it’ll only take a few days for his mansion to be buried under elephant sh*t!”

The hyperactive Gao Yang was initially eager to play with an elephant but after getting to know more about the animal, she changed her mind. After all, she doesn’t want her future home to be filled with elephant dung. She’s a lady who loves being beautiful. Even though Yang Liulang vouched that elephant dung is not smelly and can be used as fertilizers, she’s still unwilling to raise an animal who can sh*t so much.  

Li Yuanying wasn’t as particular as Gao Yang so he asked curiously, “You brought the elephants to Chang’an. Are they used to carry goods?”

“Yes, we were hired by businessmen to help them move goods and also as a way to attract attention. Coincidentally His Royal Highness the Crown Prince was looking for elephants to battle the Turks and so our agent recommended that we give it a try. Our elephants are docile, we have fiercer ones who were once used to defeat the Tubo army. They have not dared  attack again in the last ten years!” (Yang Liulang proudly)

“Are they really that powerful?” (Li Chengqian)

Yang Liulang wouldn’t lie and so he told the excited group the story about the Elephant Army that he has heard about since childhood.

The children got very excited.

“Although elephants eat a lot and sh*t a lot, if you use they correctly they are useful!” (Li Yuanying)

Li Chengqian and Li Zhi both nodded.

Wei Shu sensing Yuanying’s growing interest in raising a group of elephants thought and quickly say to him: “Although the elephant army is brave and scary, I still don’t think that they are invincible. “

Everyone focused their eyes towards Wei Shu.

Wei Shu was not flustered but said calmly: “During the Warring States Period, a man named Tian Dan from the state of Qi invented a war tactic called ‘Fireball Array’. He collected a thousand cattle, decorated them with dragon motifs, and tied oil-soaked reeds on their tails. He lit the reeds and sent them charging into the enemy’s formation. Seeing these “monsters” rushing towards them, the enemies were frightened and fled. Hence they were suddenly defeated by the Qi people.”

“I’ve read about this too, it’s written in the <<Historical Records>>.” Yuanying was a little puzzled. “But what does this have to do with the Elephant Army? Is this tactic useful to deal with the Elephant Army?”

Wei Shu nodded and said eloquently: “Didn’t you just say that elephants are afraid of fire? If this fire formation is used, when the fire-tailed cattle rush towards them, they will scramble to avoid it. The result will be like the battle we just witness, the elephants will flee and might even trample on its rider.”

Li Yuanying drew a mental picture of Wei Shu’s statement and agreed that this tactic seems feasible to deal with the elephant army!

The battlefield of war is usually not within Tang City borders but within the North and West borders where the nomadic peoples live. Livestock is not as precious there because they are raised in abundance due to the richness in food and water. In Tubo, there are many wild cattle with no owners. If someone were to drive them rushing towards our elephant army, the former advantages will turn disastrous for us!

“Sister Shu, why are you so smart?!” (Li Yuanying)

“But the fireball formation is not for everyone. How can you guarantee that the bulls will run towards the enemy instead of turning around and smashing their people? When the fire is burning their tails, they wouldn’t be able to judge direction anymore.” (Yang Liulang unconvincingly)

“If there’s a method to tame elephants, then there will also be a way of directing cattle.” (Wei Shu)

“That’s reasonable. If you can make the elephant listen to you, then others will have a way of making the cow listen to them.” (Li Yuanying)

Yang Liulang went silent for he had no refute to that statement.

Hearing his friends debate, Chengqian  was inspired. “Seems like no one is invincible. You have your great strategy while I have my well-thought out tactics. It all depends on whose is better suited for the specific battle.”

Chengqian used to think that riding horses are the best but seeing his Turkic friends flee in the face the “Elephant Army”, he has started to lose some interest in this pasttime.

Li Yuanying took the opportunity: “Then we need to learn more about different tactics so that we can anticipate and have correct countermeasures. With that, we wouldn’t be left in a panic.”

Yuanying is a brilliant child and is already anticipating that the Emperor will find out all about today’s outing. Therefore he started trying to influence Chengqian again: “It’s fine for us to sneak out once or twice, but it’ll become eye-catching if we do it too many times. Why don’t you write another article directed towards the Emperor to share this idea with him? Once his Majesty gives his permission for us to gain exposure we can come out to play with no fear!”  

Li Chengqian thought and felt that it was a reasonable request. There are so many guards accompanying him today, it’ll be difficult to hide it from the Emperor. So wouldn’t it be better to just write a document and ask the Emperor’s instructions?

The roasted whole cow is not ready yet. Chengqian is worried that he will forget about this and so quickly got someone to bring him paper and ink. Under the watchful eyes of his younger siblings and uncle, he quickly started writing. Since everything just happened and is fresh in his mind, the ideas, insights, and examples all started flowing instantly. Chengqian wrote even better than the previous time with just Li Yuanying praising him.

Since there were so many of them here today, Yuanying didn’t compliment each and every paragraph. He instead picked good sentences and pulled his friends to praise him together: “This sentence is so well written, I wouldn’t be able to think like this!”

Sizi is very supportive of this: “Big brother is amazing!”

Li Zhi went next: “It’s really good!”

Chengyang and Hengshan nodded their heads.

Although Gao Yang doesn’t like literature, she still patiently stayed around to observe and from time to time would follow the trend and praise her brother.  After all, young uncle mentioned that if this article was well written, their father wouldn’t scold them but would praise them instead!

However, Wei Shu who started the whole thing just stood by Li Yuanying’s side watching quietly. She quietly observes how the crown prince is eloquently writing the article about Elephant and Horse War and Fireball Array under Li Yuanying’s instigation.

Li Yuanying was worried that sister Shu is feeling bored and so he quietly share the reason why he is now encouraging the Crown Prince to write.  

“I learned this from Minister Yu Zhining. Although he is not as old as your grandfather, he is equally powerful when it comes to scolding people. I don’t think you know but he recently wrote a 20 volume book to complain about Chengqian. So scary!”

He then briefly told Wei Shu about his meeting with Yu Zhining and happily added: “At the time, I thought, if I could follow his method and play a trick to make everything have a righteous façade by involving the country and the greater good, it’ll be easier to get brother’s approval. And if we are lucky he might even praise us too. Unfortunately, I don’t write, so I got Chengqian to do it.”

Wei Shu was dumbfounded.

If Yu Zhining knew about Li Yuanying’s thoughts, he would probably want to beat him to death!

Li Chengqian finished his article and the servants also updated him that dinner is ready. After playing for so long, Yuanying was hungry. He immediately pulled Chengqian over to start dinner. Given the Emperor is not here today, the roasted leg should be given to the winning “Elephant Army” as tribute.

Li Chengqian is the eldest and should shoulder the responsibility of dividing the meat. Li Yuanying led his group of small radish heads and waited aside. He then started directing Chenqian on how to divide the meat, not respecting him as the crown prince at all; making sure that everyone gets a big chunk of the flavorful and mouth-watering roast beef.

Seeing his young uncle so happily instructing him about this and that. Chengqian deliberately moves his knife in a crooked way making Yuanying’s steak especially spectacular. Much bigger looking that his face and longer than his arms!

Si Zi exclaimed in wonderment: “Young uncle, can you eat so much?”

Being a manly man, how can I say no?! “Of course I can!”

As a result, Li Yuanying couldn’t ride his pony with Chengqian. He instead lay flat in the carriage rubbing his big round belly.

I think I ate too much!

He realized that his eldest nephew might be a little naughty!

Notes from the author:

Little Prince: The son mirrors the father (pointing and complaining)

His Majesty Li Er: ? ? ?

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