At the Theatre

AT the Peach-Flower Inn, in the village of Apricot Blossom, there was great rejoicing and festivity. People clad in red and green, yellow and blue silken dresses mixed in a happy throng like so many brilliantly coloured flowers and butterflies.

In the distance could be seen a beautiful Temple, named "The Temple of Everlasting Delight," and on approaching it one would see that it stood beneath the shade of a huge locust tree and that it was a magnificent structure.

It was full of holy Shrines containing the various images, of the Lord Buddha, whose name be for ever blest.

Numerous monks were pleasantly engaged in burning precious incense before the Buddhas, thus acquiring everlasting merit; and novices served vegetarian dishes and cakes that melted as soon as they were placed within the mouth, to the people who came to look, worship and meditate.

Some of the monks rang bells and beat huge bronze gongs or great drums to welcome the visitors at the main gate.

Some of the visitors were attending the various graves beneath the trees surrounding the Temple, and burned paper money for the use of the departed, or they presented other offerings with many reverences, kneeling and kowtowing.

There were several beautiful Tombs surrounded with large pine-trees which again were encircled by stone walls, pierced with decorated gateways, leading to centres where were seen the Oratory and the Way of the Spirits.

There were all sorts of utensils for the worship of the Ancestral Ghosts, and candlesticks and perfume-burners—all made of pure white alabaster—stood around.

Tablets over the gates described the virtues of the Ancestors, and beneath the interlaced branches of the trees various kinds of food were placed for the worship of the deceased. First came the gentlemen to offer their respects to the dead, to be followed by the ladies, whilst musicians played divine airs.

Orations were read after the Service and more paper money and paper treasure chests were burnt. Meanwhile, some actors performed beneath the awning to the ladies, and others entertained the gentlemen elsewhere with playing and singing.

There were swings on which some of the ladies amused themselves, and there were several other forms of amusement.

Under one of the trees sat a noble looking priest, rhythmically beating a wooden fish whilst reciting the sacred texts in a loud voice. A number of men and women knelt around him beseeching Heaven and Earth and the Three Glorious Ones for their favour and protection; and they were certainly heard, for the heavens resound even to the cry of the lone dog.

Within the Temple there were present several novices and wandering priests from beyond the frozen mountains, and one was lying upon the Bench of Contemplation while others were chanting from their sacred books; and all were under the supervision of the Abbot in the Great Hall.

The floor of the Hall was covered with precious rugs in which were woven the figures of lions and tigers playing with balls. A magnificent table stood in the centre; it was covered with engravings of all kinds of insects, and heavy cedar chairs stood around decorated with the sculptured heads of eels and fishes.

In high-stemmed cups, shaped like the inverted lotus, a snow-white wine was served to the worshippers and various dishes were handed round containing preserved duck, sea fish, fruits and tasty pastries. The venerable Abbot was engaged in deep conversation with the Mandarin Ying Po Ching, who had come to worship at the Ancestral Tomb, and he told the Mandarin that after the sacred books containing the Holy Teachings of the Lord Buddha had been brought by the White Horse from India, the glorious words had been promulgated in the Temple, whence they spread all over the Empire of the Son of Heaven; and the Three Thousand Worlds had been sanctified.

Parts of the Temple were paved with gold and the staircases were of exquisitely carved white jade, making a treasure-house of gold and colour of the Holy Structure.

Blessings upon all good people were sent forth daily, and they responded by generously giving contributions of gold, silver, food, and rolls of silk; and their names were inscribed upon the Roll of Benefactors.

The Mandarin thereupon called one of his secretaries and told him to hand over to the Abbot a thousand taels of silver and a basket full of precious stones.

The Abbot thanked him and said that the Sacred Scriptures tell that goodwill alone is already the best form of Charity; how much greater then must be the Charity of him who gives generously in concrete form from his substance. Such is Charity of the First Order!

Ying Po Ching then told the Abbot that he was in need of some charms to chase malicious devils from his home, as one of his ladies had been ailing for a long time and none of the doctors' remedies seemed to be of any use.

The Abbot replied that he would send one of his priests who had power over the Five Thunders and could exorcise any and every devil, no matter how powerful. He was famous for his charms and marvellous philtres, which invariably assisted to overcome any form of evil or illness.

In the village of Apricot Blossom itself many visitors entered or left the Peach-Flower Inn where a troupe of singers, musicians and dancers endeavoured to turn the hostel into a home of eternal felicity by means of their truly wonderful art.

Sedan chairs stood everywhere around the Inn or were in the act of arriving or departing, depositing or carrying away their precious loads of delightful ladies or martial men in splendid attire.

It was the day of the Feast of the Ancestral Tombs, and sweet lotus wine was served in golden cups to the visitors who sat on porcelain stools in front of a stage, admiring the performers. Bowls of ice with plums and melons in them were served to the guests, and tea with rose-petals, whilst the strong odour of chrysanthemum wine perfumed the air.

After Ying Po Ching had taken leave of the Abbot he strolled slowly towards the Inn, and upon entering found that several of the guests were personal friends.

There was Lai Pao, the son of a famous general; Doctor Chu Shi-Nien; Shu Tong the Magistrate, and Li Ho-Lu, a rich Merchant. They were accompanied by several delightful young ladies, the most beautiful of whom was Silver Lotus, beloved by the Emperor himself, and she was sitting beside her sister, Glowing Rose, and her friends Celestial Melody, Moonbeam, Wisteria, Heart's Delight and Hibiscus. All were lovely to behold, but Silver Lotus outshone them all.

Her face was like a flower and glowed like the jasmine's sheen; her sweet body smelt of spice and nard and myrrh; music sprang from the gentle touch of her hands; and one glance from her was sufficient for the recipient to be drowned within the deep wells of her glorious eyes. She was perfect as the moon and graceful as a lily. Her beauty was such that even a blind man went into raptures when he came within the aura of her divine vibrations. Her complexion was like the white camellia on which a magic dust from rosy clouds had softly descended and nestled there in heavenly bliss. Her bewitching and lovely eyes were alight with the radiance of her soul, as if a Divine Messenger looked out of them, sparkling with youth and health. When she moved about she was stately as a floating swan, lovely as a rose, slender like the bamboo cane and softly curved and graceful as a young deer. When she opened her fragrant mouth, words streamed out like dulcet melodies from her coralline lips.

Such, then, was the glory of Silver Lotus, and the beauty of all other maidens became like a dull shadow when compared with hers.

The friends formed an animated group, and the laughter which rose up from it scented the air with happiness.

There was between them a strong bond of true affection, for they were all disciples of the great Sage, Li Wang Ho, and were often to be found at his delectable home, where they listened with reverence as well as pleasure to his elevated teachings, warming themselves in the rays of the Sun of his Wisdom. But now they gave all their attention to the singers, dancers and musicians as they performed to their delight.

Two girl singers, beautifully attired, came forward, and, after kowtowing four times to the distinguished audience, sang the following song, accompanying themselves upon their guitars.

The song of the three spirits

I strode along the silent highway
With head bowed down to Winter's blast.
Three faded leaves in wind astray
Met me; and rustling fluttered past.


I wandered in the Autumn night
Amid the dew on gleaming fields;
When shining Moon shed argent light,
In which three downy moths did wield
Their powdery wings, and wheeled in swift delight.


I dreamed of Silver Lotus, sweet,
As in the meadow's balm I lay
Beneath the Golden Sun whose summer heat
Drew out the scents of blooms and hay.

Three lovely butterflies in play
On whispering southern breeze, so gay
Above my head did sway
In od'rous air, and swiftly flew away.

O Lady of the Silver Bloom:
Three Spirits, three times three,
From Death, to Soul, to Life
Came forth from out the Womb
Of Time and Space and set us free,
And pointed out the Golden Way.

After the Song, Silver Lotus said: "This is indeed too kind of you, how can this lowly person thank you?"

But Doctor Chu Shi-Nien called loudly for writing paper and brushes, and one of the attendants bringing the ink-slab, he ground some thick ink and inscribed the Song in beautiful and strong characters, which sprang up like dragons upon the flower-patterned paper under his masterly hand.

The Mandarin Ying Po Ching gave orders that the completed poem should be placed upon the wall in memory of the occasion. Silver Lotus asked by what names the girls were familiarly known and they replied that they were called Treasure of Gold and Flower Fairy. She told them that the Emperor should hear of their accomplishments.

Peach-blossom pies were served and Silver Lotus presented the girls with embroidered handkerchiefs, five taels of silver and two boxes of melon-seeds each.

Now a group of graceful dancers rushed in and began to perform a series of intricate and delightful steps, portraying the four seasons in symbolical manner, according to the precepts of the Divine festivals; and they also performed the Tiger and Dragon dances, which are dedicated to the forces of Nature and the power of the Spirit.

Then came an actor in the guise of P'An-Ku, the first human being, who lived millions of years ago; and he was followed by the Heavenly Emperors, the terrestrial Emperors, and the human Emperors, magnificently dressed in ceremonial robes.

Then followed an apotheose in which all the previous actors formed a wonderful group around Sui-Jön, the Fire Producer, who borrowed fire from the stars for the benefit of mankind; and those who know the meaning of this tale are wise indeed.

Now, delicious soup of chickens' brains was served, and rose-flower biscuits with southern Bean wine, followed by tea made of the precious golden tea-leaves, as tiny as the tongues of orioles, and brewed in crystal-clear water.

Then followed a mimic play describing how Chien Ti, the ancestress of the Yin, saw a swallow descend from heaven whilst she was making sacrifice to the Intermediary. Accompanied by her sister she was bathing in the river by the rising ground of Yüan, when the bird dropped an egg in five different colours from its mouth, these colours showing how perfect man's five senses could be—if he tried to become truly worthy of his divine inheritance. She and her sister struggled fiercely for its possession, but Chien Ti won and swallowed the egg, whereupon she became pregnant.

Finally, a young lad sang a number of songs to the strains of a lute, and the audience listened to him, enraptured by his voice and the lovely melodies.

Shu Tong, the Magistrate, asked Li Ho-Lu, the rich merchant, when he had last seen the Master Li Wang Ho.

"I saw him two days ago at his house in the City," Li Ho-Lu replied. "He was surrounded by a large group of new disciples, gathered from the far corners of the Empire, and Wisdom flowed from him in an uninterrupted stream of felicity."

Moonbeam and Heart's Delight said that they had not been to see the Master for several days on account of the preparations for the Festival of the Ancestral Tombs; and Celestial Melody and Hibiscus had intended to visit Li Wang Ho but were prevented from doing so on account of their duties at home. Lai Pao stated that he had been to see him that morning and that the Sage had made enquiries about them all.

"Was he well?" asked Chu Shi-Nien.

"Well," was the reply, "and in his most brilliant vein."

"What was happening?" asked Wisteria.

"He was very amused about a new disciple from a distant province who had come all the way to ask a series of involved questions; but, not having had the privilege of prolonged and deep study of the Master's pronouncements before, he was utterly bewildered by the enigmatic answers the Sage had given him in reply to his queries."

"What did he want to know?" asked Glowing Rose.

"His first question was in reference to a bitter enemy of the newcomer, who tried in every way to malign him and damage his reputation, calling him all sorts of vile names in the most insulting manner."

"What did the Master say?" asked Wisteria.

"He replied: 'Keep silent, and let each man call you what he will. Thus you will know him; for what he sees in you is but a reflection of that part of himself he wishes to conceal from others. The real you is invisible to him, and so he will know you not—if you keep silent.' "

They all smiled and Ying Po Ching said: "What did the newcomer think of this?"

"He just gaped at the Master," replied Lai Pao, "as if he were a frog whose yawn had petrified in the act."

"But," said Silver Lotus, "the Master's answer was really a very simple one; it is a very well known proverb and quite straight-forward."

"A straight path or a straight answer cannot be pursued or understood by a man with a warped mind," replied Shu Tong; "such a one always sees a different meaning from what was intended. Being twisted in their nature, all people of this kind must necessarily twist all they hear or read in such a way that it synchronizes with their own unbalanced reasonings. Therefore they can never have any true realization of true facts."

"The Master added," continued Lai Pao, " 'Your prayer should always be that the Lords of Wisdom lead all your enemies to the great Light' . . . . ('and burn them in the everlasting flames' the new disciple muttered to himself)."

All the friends burst out in merry laughter at this, and Shu Tong said: "He was too slow to catch the fox and only caught the smell."

This sally brought forth a new outburst of mirth, and Silver Lotus said: "We learn more from the failures of fools than from the successes of the wise, as the Master once said."

"But we should also remember," said Doctor Chu Shi-Nien, "that K'ung Fu-tze, he whom the Barbarians know as Confucius, has said: 'When I have presented one corner of a subject, and the pupil cannot himself make out the other three, I do not repeat my lesson."

"Master Li Wang Ho has more patience than that," replied Celestial Melody, "and in the kindness of his heart he will often repeat a Truth in many different ways, so that the disciple may understand in the end."

"Yes," said Magistrate Shu Tong, "He makes that clear in his axiom which states that: 'In verbosity lies no credit. The only excuse for it is that if a Sage uses many words, some may be picked up by the fool to his credit."

"In that case, if anyone should read the Erh Ya Dictionary from end to end he should have a chance of becoming very wise indeed," rejoindered Lai Pao laughingly, "for not only would he be 'Nearing the Standard,' but become a standard of erudition himself."*

*This Dictionary is called "Nearing the Standard."

"It is not the number of words which counts," said Li Ho-Lu, "but the manner in which we combine them."

"And only a great Sage like our Master, or one like Lao Tzú, can combine them in such a manner that they lead to enlightenment and wisdom," said Wisteria.

Once again the musicians began to play and they performed on the lute, the flute, the cithern and the double flute, and accompanied the singers who plucked the guitar and clicked red ivory castanets. The dancers joined in, and twenty girls danced the Dance of Kuan Yin, followed by the Dance of the Evil One, and the Rainbow Skirt Dance.

The visitors were enchanted and all complimented the performers and gave them presents of jewelled hairpins, silver taels, kerchiefs and necklaces. The performers said that they did not deserve these gifts and really did not see how they could accept them. The guests answered that these things were only trifles which perhaps they would like to pass on to the servants of the Inn. With many polite bows on both sides the guests now left the Inn and went outside to enjoy the spectacle of the performers with the crossbows, bells, blow-pipes, quarterstaffs, and the contests with spears and staves, during which all sorts of clever tricks were performed.

There were also performing horses, and men flying fantastically shaped kites, and couples playing shuttle-cock, and many other games.

All classes of people were represented amongst the multitude.

There were members of the literary class, the agricultural, the artisans and the traders. There were members of the hereditary class of the nobility, sunning themselves as it were in the distant glory of their illustrious forbears, though they themselves possessed no special privileges. There were many officials, whose position is esteemed much higher than the hereditary nobles, for bureaucracy takes the same place in China as the aristocracy of the West. There were those who were entitled to wear the yellow jacket, and there was even one who wore the yellow girdle, which is worn by descendants of the Manchu Dynasty in modern times; and there was also one who wore the red girdle, proving him to be a collateral relative of the Imperial House.

Old friends met again after long separation, and there was much kowtowing and the salute of joined hands, and congratulations. Some of the ladies and gentlemen were smoking, and fragrant clouds of delicious tobacco smoke mixed with the other delightful odours coming from the perfumed dresses of the ladies. Their costumes harmonized in colour and were richly embroidered with mystical designs. The women wore elaborate head ornaments, such as golden butterflies, artificial flowers, pearl nets over their hair and jewels. Their sweet faces were artistically rouged and eyebrows delicately painted in graceful arcs. Both men and women of the better classes had fine strings of shimmering pearl necklaces. It was a splendid scene of unalloyed happiness and beauty, as yet unspoiled by the ghastly innovations from the Western savages, who have the unspeakable audacity to claim to be "civilised" nowadays! For at the time of these happy events these same barbarians were still living in a state of naked savagery in thick woods or rocky caves in their domains of mist and fog and ignorance; hunting and killing helpless small animals, and being chased in turn by wolf and bear.

The scene we are discussing was laid in the Province of Central China named Kiang-Su, and the village of Apricot Blossom was situated but a short distance away from the town of Ping-Liang Fu, on the King-Ho River.

It was the custom to celebrate all notable holidays and festivals, such as New Year's Day, the Festival of the First Full Moon, the Feast of Lanterns, and the Feast of the Dragon Boat at this village or in the nearby capital of the Emperor. It was the time of the reign of the first Universal Emperor of China, Shi Hwang-ti, whose Capital was Hien-Yang, where he had a magnificent Palace; and to make the period clear to the ignorant white Strangers, this was about 220 B.C.

His Palace was the wonder and admiration of his people, and he was the first to abolish the feudal system and bring greater individual freedom to the masses. He constructed many roads throughout the Empire, formed great canals, and erected numerous handsome public buildings. He was also a mighty warrior and commenced the Great Wall. The upper classes did not like his many innovations but were helpless under the might of his will; but most of the Scholars and the educated classes did admire his great statesmanship. The Scholars who did not like him were those who objected to his order to burn all books that had reference to past history, and 460 of them were put to death for disobedience. Many of them hid their historical and other books between double walls and in various other ingenious ways. He was determined, however, that the History of China should commence with his own reign, and the many great works he did gave him some claim to this distinction.

One of the innovations of his period was the invention of the hair-brush used for painting and writing. Painting was done on woven silk, on wood panels and on paper made of silk floss, for paper as we know it was not invented until A.D. 105 by Ts'ai Lun. It was at that time that the Teachings of the Lord Buddha were first introduced in China and taught or practised in some of the Temples, such as the one near the village of Apricot Blossom. But it was not officially adopted throughout the Empire until the Emperor Ming-Ti, who reigned from A.D. 58-76, saw in a dream a golden man—who was the Lord Buddha himself. The Teachings of K'ung Fu-tze and Lao Tzú were of course widely known, but before their times the Chinese people believed in a Divine Ruler of the Universe who was not the Creator of the human race but a Great Being who disliked evil—which He always punished—just as He always rewarded virtue. He did not lay any claim to love or reverence from man, but He could be propitiated by sacrifice and prayer if one wished to obtain some desired favour. There was no devil to tempt man, nor was it believed that righteousness during life would lead to absorption in the Deity after death. This Divine God or Ruler was named T'ien, which had colloquially the same meaning as the sky. Later he was called Shang Ti, or Supreme Ruler, synonymous with T'ien. But Shang Ti was regarded as a more personal God, whilst T'ien was an abstract Being. Shang Ti is a God who walks and talks, enjoys the flavour of sacrifices and music and dancing in his honour; and he even takes sides in warfare. T'ien holds aloof and He is wrapped in an impenetrable Majesty; but actually these Gods represented two distinct principles.

In later times was added the worship of the Sun, Moon and Constellations, as well as of the five planets. They also worshipped some of the larger stars, such as Canopus, which is considered to be the dwelling-place of the God of Longevity.

The Earth itself was also worshipped in the form of the God of the Soil, the rivers and hills, whilst wind, rain, heat, cold, thunder and lightning were all invested with the attributes of the Gods. Various parts of the house, such as doors, stones, courtyards and so on were conceived as sheltering spirits with good or bad influences.

These, then, were some of the beliefs of the people in general, but there were wise Sages, apart from K'ung Fu-tze, and Lao Tzú, who knew the great Truths, and one of those was the Philosopher or Master Li Wang Ho. He and others worked more or less in secret, and the outer world—apart from his fame amongst his own disciples and some of their friends—knew little or nothing about him or his Wisdom.

As a matter of fact even the great and well known Teachers, such as K'ung Fu-tze and Lao Tzú, knew very little about each other. Lao Tzú made very little of K'ung Fu-tze, although they had several conversations. On the other hand K'ung Fu-tze, a practical Philosopher, was profoundly impressed with the Mysticism of Lao Tzú. And this is as it should be, for practical or worldly wisdom is but foolishness when compared with the inspired Messages of those who contact the real and Occult Wisdom from the Higher Spheres.

This does not mean that we want to belittle the true greatness of K'ung Fu-tze. Many of his ideas and sayings were truly inspired, and his rules of conduct show real worldly wisdom. None can find fault with such rules as: "The supreme duty is that of the child to its parent." He states correctly that all virtues have their source in etiquette. He says: "The superior man may have to endure want, but he is still the superior man. The small man in the same circumstances loses his self-command."

And further: "The great mountain must crumble."
"The strong beam must break."
"The wise man must wither away like a plant."

(But in the last case the true soul or spirit of man rises superior to the material body and survives eternally, as Li Wang Ho said).

He has also said, when being asked to write down his teachings: "I do not think it necessary for I am but a transmitter, and not a maker."

At the same time he never laid claim to receiving divine revelations which proved his great intelligence. This last sentence has a double meaning, and the wise will see its hidden teaching.

One of his best sayings was: "What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others."

He further stated that: "Man is greater than any system of [human] thought." (For man has within himself the Wisdom of all the Gods—if he but knows how to contact it, as Li Wang Ho adds.)

K'ung Fu-tze remarked also: "While you do not know life—what can you know about death?"

Here we have the key to his inferiority to the great Mystics: for they know both life and death for what they are.

For this reason Li Wang Ho said that: "The true Sage is always happy; for he knows the Laws and sees Divine Justice in everything." And he adds: "Value no things—they are but shadows. Value no worldly teachings—they are but foolishness, and have no substance. Value no ranks or riches—they are food for the empty-minded. But do listen to the Voice of Wisdom that rings within your own Soul. Only that has value."

Ying Po Ching and his friends had strolled slowly towards the Temple and they now met the Abbot, who told the Mandarin that he had himself read a number of sacred texts at the altar for the benefit of Ying and his household. He added that this was the third dawn and the ninth revolution, and that therefore he had performed all the necessary exercises for the worship of the Jade Priest, which would bring every blessing, continual prosperity and health and strength. He had also made a sacrifice of twenty-four degrees to Heaven and Earth, twelve for the glory of the Gods, and yet another twenty-four for the Ancestors of Ying.

Now a loud clangour of drums broke out, and the Abbot asked Ying and his friends to go with him to the altar.

He dressed himself in a scarlet ceremonial robe with a five-coloured insignia of rank, and girt himself with a girdle of rhinoceros horn, inlaid with gold and jewelled jade.

When they arrived at the altar a purple-robed lector began to read out the sacred texts of dedication, and prayers for blessings and peace upon the members of Ying's household and upon the ailing lady in especial. Then the rector read out a prayer on behalf of Ying Po Ching in which he spoke of his devotion to Heaven, his thanks for past favours and of the various sacrifices he wanted to offer, hoping that he might be blest by the Five Fortunes and that the gifts of Heaven might descend upon him. He finished up by saying: "I offer sacrifices to the number of a hundred and eighty degrees so that the omnipotent Tao may set all my Ancestors upon the Way of Life. Look graciously upon my petition and grant these blessings. I invoke the Glory of the Three Worlds and welcome the Chariot of the Lord of Ten thousand Heavens. May he grant an everlasting and serene Peace to all my household and grant that the Four Seasons shall be harmonious and fruitful. This in the name of the Tao—the Glorious Way."

In this manner the Teachings of the Lord Buddha and those of Lao Tzú were combined in those early days.

Now a large number of petitions, talismans, charms and papers were brought, the latter of which Ying Po Ching signed, offering incense also. Again the thunder of the drums rolled forth with the roar of a thousand great lions, and sacred music sounded whilst the Abbot dressed himself in another scarlet robe, embroidered in five colours, and placed red shoes on his feet. Then he took his ivory sceptre and awaited the coming of the Gods at the altar, whilst a bell was tolled at either side of it.

After a while a large table was prepared and loaded with the finest food and wine. A talisman of yellow silk with red characters, to drive away devils, was handed to Ying. It bore the inscriptions: "God has spoken," and "Long Life, Health and Strength." Then the Abbot and his guests set to and enjoyed their splendid repast. To Ying Po Ching the Abbot said: "This is but the first preparation; tomorrow the priest will visit you as promised, and cleanse your house of all evil."

Ying thanked him, and presently they all left the Temple, and Ying Po Ching remarked: "This Abbot is a very learnéd and holy man. He studied the Laws and Teachings of the Lord Buddha in India for many years, after which he crossed the River of Shifting Sands and the Sea of the Zodiac on his return to this Country. There are not many priests like him here, but the Precepts are bound to spread in time, and the new Religion will find fruitful soil in the Empire of the Son of Heaven."

"Our Master Li Wang Ho says so too," said Glowing Rose, "and many of his sayings are developments of the Buddhic texts and tenets, although our great Sage brings the light of his own wisdom to bear upon Buddha's words, as reported by his Disciples."

"But we should not forget our own compatriot, the divine Lao Tzú," said Moonbeam. "His teachings of the Tao—the Way—are as sublime as any others."

"Yet," interjected Li Ho-Lu, "I always appreciate the wise and quaint manner in which Li Wang Ho helps the pupils onwards towards the Light of proper understanding; he is so very human, and has not the austerity of K'ung Fu-tze, for instance."

"He has more patience with the ignorant," observed Lai Pao. "K'ung Fu-tze has said that 'He who was not acquainted with the Shih-King, the Book of Ancient Poems, was not worth conversing with and that the study of it would produce a mind without a single depraved thought.' Li Wang Ho mentions the last part of this sentence only, and we all know that he considers the first part as a species of intolerance unworthy of a true Mystic, although he would never say so himself."

"This is true," replied Doctor Chu Shih-Nien, "and he also recommends the study of the Shûh-King, the Book of Historical Documents; and the Yî-King, or Book of Changes; also the Lî Kî, or Book of Rites, which is part of the Canon of K'ung Fu-tze. It is a pity that the Ancient Books of Music were destroyed at the order of our Emperor, for I fear that the old style will soon be forgotten."

"The Annals of the Bamboo Books, on History, should ever be studied deeply and with the reverence due for the achievements of our Ancestors," said Magistrate Shu Tong.

"I suggest humbly that, as the day is still separated from the evening by a couple of hours, we take this opportunity to pay a visit to the Master," said Celestial Melody.

All agreed to this, and the whole party went to the place where their sedan-chairs were standing under the guardianship of the attendants and the escorts of soldiers. All entered their chairs and the soldiers, armed with sticks, ran shouting before the procession in order to clear the light and the way for the travellers, whilst the attendants marched on each side.

The rear was composed of attendants and soldiers on horses, and the whole troupe looked as beautiful as a bouquet of glorious flowers in all colours.

Some of the population, recognizing the banners of the Magistrate, Silver Lotus and the others, knelt down by the sides of the road in utter silence. And so they proceeded to the City where Li Wang Ho had his residence.

NEXT— Chapter Two: The Benefactor

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© COPYRIGHT J Michaud PhD and — all rights reserved