Living Leisurely in Tang Dynasty Chapter 11

At long last Li Er finally manages to coax his precious daughters to eat lunch after a long complaining session filled with tears. But not long after, here comes Kong Yingda.

Although Kong Yingda had sullenly instructed Li Zhi not to inform him anymore about Li Yuanying’s whereabouts, he still needed to give the Emperor an explanation. After all, Li Yuanying is still his Majesty’s youngest brother and is directly under his care so any bad reputation reflects badly on the Emperor. More worrying is if others might have the wrong perception that this is all just an act by the Emperor about having brotherly love; for how can you raise your brother to be so immature? The teacher gave an in-depth report of Yuanying’s doings; which all pointed towards a final message that he is incapable of teaching this particular Royal Prince!

Li Er was still furious at Yuanying for making his precious daughters cry and now his teacher added fuel to that anger.  He immediately instructed that his brother be brought to him.

Li Yuanying on the other hand was wondering if he should continue consulting Wei Zheng about the <<Book of Rites>> for he felt unsatisfied that he has only heard a small section about this book. After being a complete slacker for years, Yuanying is actually feeling curious about a topic for the first time making him a little lost about his behavior.

Hearing that His Majesty was looking for him, Yuanying couldn’t figure out the reason. Perhaps it’s because he really has done too many bad things and he doesn’t know which incident is getting him in trouble now.

When he saw Kong Yingda he instantly understood who got him in trouble.

Eh, isn’t this just about him making excuses to skip class? Seriously you look for the Emperor for this?!

As long as his Majesty has not started scolding him, Yuanying wanted to pretend that nothing had happened. He obediently greeted Li Er: “Lord Brother, you were looking for me?”

“How dare you ask me why? Where have you been these few days?”

Yuanying calmly lied: “I didn’t go anywhere; I was reading a book seriously!” He then glared at Kong Yingda and said in an arrogant manner: “I’m already familiar with everything Old man Kong is teaching so there’s no point in me going to class!”

Kong Yingda heard the way he was being referred to and was so furious he almost jumped out of his chair. Even the Emperor himself has been respectful about Confucius teaching and with that everyone in court has always shown him due respect. But this kid over here that doesn’t even turn up for class is calling him old man!

His Majesty was naturally furious too.

 “I have requested for Kong to teach you and therefore he is your teacher! Have some respect and change the way you refer to him!”

Li Yuanying became silent.

“You said you know everything; do you dare say that you have mastered <<The Analects>> thoroughly?”

Li Yuanying feeling confident straightened his back and said “Of course, I’ve memorized them all!”

Previously when he had to get a copy of <<Wilde’s Fairy Tales>> he had to carefully read and analyze <<The Analects>> hence now he can recall everything with precision. Li Er and Kong Yingda looked at each other in disbelief. Li Er was also familiar with this piece and immediately picked out a passage to test the boy.

Li Yuanying was born clever, such simple questions are nothing to him. He could answer everything with ease.

Kong Yingda was shocked when he answered everything calmly.

If he’s really learned it to the extent of being able to recite from memory, there really is no need for him to sit in class these two days.

However, Kong Yingda being a direct descendant from the Confucian family can’t let Yuanying pass so easily. He exchanged a glance with the Emperor to indicate that he will take over. None about explaining or recite but he instead picked out sentences that were ambiguous and asked if they were contradictory.  If so, why did Confucius say these things?             

That’s such an increase in difficulty; skipping recitation and translation and going directly into interpretation!

The young prince was left stunned. He didn’t know that the difficulty was increased, all he knows was that he couldn’t answer any of them.

Li Er snorted: “Only knows what is done but not why it’s done but still so proud of it!”

“What’s so great about that?! I can learn it!”. After saying this, Li Yuanying ran away angrily. Seeing this sight, Li Er suddenly laughed out loud.

“Do you think Yuanying is still teachable?”

“Understood.”   

Kong Yingda also realized that Yuanying has talent. He used to find Yuanying unbearable and would not restrain him. But now that he knows that this kid is actually quite intelligent and the Emperor has intentions for him to be taught well he cannot do a sloppy job in teaching him anymore.  

Kong Yingda has many disciples and some of them are part of the teaching staff for the royal children. All he will need to do is to put in a request that they start monitoring his progress strictly.

Once decided, Kong Yingda was very motivated and quickly held a small meeting to convey his Majesty’s intentions to the team which was to catch hold of Li Yuanying. If he has eight points in intelligence, then the goal is to make him a ten through education!

Li Yuanying not knowing that his brother and teacher were setting up plans for him lay his bed irritated. He tossed and turned but couldn’t fall asleep. Since it is so, why not just get up, copy Kong Yingda’s question and go to Wei Zheng for advice.

Wei Zheng was a little surprised.  

“Why aren’t you asking about <<Book of Rites>> but about <<The Analects>> instead?

Since Yuanying made the effort to ask questions, Wei Zheng wouldn’t disappoint him. Though he looks fierce, he is actually a patient person when it comes to answering questions. He guided Yuanying with analyzing the context of a few sentences and then asked him to think about why they seemed contradictory yet reasonable. Instantly after listening Yuanying understood.

 “When faced with different people and situations, the way to deal with things is different. You must make the best out of the situation and adapt your solutions to fit!”

Wei Zheng nodded.

“That’s not difficult!”

“Of course one or two sentences will not be difficult. The difficulty is in understanding everything.”

“Is your knowledge on The Analects better than Old man Kong?”

Wei Zheng frowned when he heard him calling his teacher old man but he still thought for a while before recommending a person to Yuanying.

“Within the imperial court, if I were to recommend someone with exceptional knowledge on this topic I think it should be Xiao Deyan. In the early years of his Majesty’s rule, I was asked to lead the compilation of <<Writings on important governing principles>> [1]Direct translation would be Qinshu Zhiyao which means a group of books/writings on important governing principles and my conversation with Xiao Deyan benefitted me greatly.

Li Yuanying was neither familiar with the book nor the person so it spiked his curiosity.

Upon clarifying he found out that it was a reference book on governing principles of a country with recollections of historical memoirs and a huge word count. It was almost a hundred times longer than the book of Rites which was 5,000 words long. So scary!

He instantly refused to read it and instead wanted to who Xiao Deyan was and where is he now.

It’s either deciding to stay ignorant or making up your mind to learn. If it’s the latter, then learn from the best so that you do not become a laughing stock to Li Er again. Moreover, I will not learn from Kong Yingda but instead from someone who is better than him! 

Making up his mind, he will look for Xiao Deyan who was currently helping Li Tai in compiling a book in the Literature Museum. Given that the Prince is here at Jiucheng Palace that means he should have naturally followed him along. So if I were to look for Li Tai I would surely find him, so he ran straight to Li Tai.

When you mention Literature Museum, it is necessary to also bring up the Hongwen Museum which was set up by the current Emperor when he was still Prince of Qin. Here, he recruited 18 extremely well-learned scholars. Among them were two thinkers Fang Xuanling and Du Ruhui and philosophers such as Yu Shinan and Kong Yingda creating a strong foundation for Li Er.

Silently Li Yuanying couldn’t help but mutter: Does the fourth prince wants to imitate his father?

Fang Yiai has already fought with Du He. Looks like next up is the rivalry between the Crown Prince and the Fourth prince!

Anyway, it has nothing to do with me. All I want is to pry Li Tai’s talent and get the answers to my queries. Li Yuanying went towards Li Tai’s direction with swag.

Li Tai was studying and when he heard that Li Yuanying was here he immediately got up to greet him. Not because he was giving him preferential treatment but because he was scared that his precious books would be destroyed!

He remembers that when Li Yuanying was a year old during his catch ceremony [2]A superstitious ceremony from the East in which a 1-year-old child would be shown a wide array of items like books, swords, money, etc. for the baby to pick something. The item he picked would … Continue reading he played around with everything and finally picked up a book. He then looked at it and quickly tore the book into shreds. 

After that when he held another book to be dedicated to the Supreme Emperor, Li Yuanying did a ridiculous thing. He tore the book into pieces in front of the Emperor and then shoved it into his mouth!

Li Tai is really afraid of him.

Unfortunately, Li Yuanying doesn’t have any self-awareness and doesn’t know that he is not well-liked. Seeing the fat and jolly Li Tai coming to greet him he felt touched thinking that this nephew of his respects his elders and loves the young (In this case both elder and youngster refer to himself).

Holding Li Tai’s hand, Yuanying said in all seriousness” “Fourth nephew, I haven’t seen you in a while and you became fatter. Looks like you’re getting more and more prosperous!”

Li Tai’s face trembled but think that it’s better for him to pull his hand than to tear his books so he forced a smile.

“Youngest uncle became thinner, are you not accustomed to living in Jiucheng Palace?”

“I’m comfortable here. It’s fun!” Li Yuanying sat down at Li Tai’s invitation and frankly told his reasons for visiting. He wants to borrow Xiao Deyan for a few days.

In Yuanying’s opinion, bringing a living book around is much better than reading an actual book by yourself!

Hearing this Li Tai’s had a stiffened smile. Xiao Deyan was a teacher specifically selected by his father for him due to his knowledge and how respectable he is. What does Li Yuanying want to use his teacher for? How can you borrow a teacher like he’s an object?!

Li Tai tried refusing in a polite manner: “Teacher is of old age, he wouldn’t be able to help you complete tasks even if he wanted to.”

Li Yuanying instantly understood what that meant. Li Tai didn’t want to borrow his teacher to him!

“Then I can ask him about something?

That’s not an excessive request, though Li Tai does wonder why Li Yuanying suddenly wanted to speak to Xiao Deyan. He nodded in agreement then added, “Let me take you to meet teacher.”

Li Yuanying was overjoyed and followed Li Tai.

References

References
1 Direct translation would be Qinshu Zhiyao which means a group of books/writings on important governing principles
2 A superstitious ceremony from the East in which a 1-year-old child would be shown a wide array of items like books, swords, money, etc. for the baby to pick something. The item he picked would indicate his future career path/ talents.

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