“The best drinkers eat lots of ghee, and that’s a fact.”
It was a humid evening in Zhengzhou, Henan’s rowdy capital. The tea house floor was wet with moisture and the air thick with the smell of sweat and lust. The looking glass and goblets were misty with steam from the kitchen. Chicken bones lay in small piles on the tables and guests proudly traced out poems on the wet wood using their fingers. I sat in the back with my fellow government officials from the Salt and Tax Department. Every table had at least five toasts in the space of every ten minutes.
The provincial magistrate, a corpulent man whose robe kept slipping off his belly, exposing the pink flesh and the phoenix tattoo that he thought only his wife and mistresses could see, waddled from table to table.
“Gan Bei ”1 he shouted out in a stentorian voice.
“ I don’t know how they do it,” the sickly looking man next to me said.
“It’s the oil,’ my companion interjected again, as he twirled his long black moustache between his long elegant fingers. “That’s a fact,” he added.
“What do you mean?” said my neighbor.
“We have to drink to get ahead in work,” was the reply. “I drink as much ghee as possible before dinners with workmates and friends. It coats and protects the stomach from the liquor! That’s the secret!”
We exchanged more small talk, and time passed by. Finally, I excused myself, stood up and looked around. The host had collapsed onto the long bench. as others blissfully went on drinking and eating. I stepped out onto the terrace. An orange pearl, the moon was high in the sky, and the river stretched before me like a bridge of light.
A new poem seemed to clean my mind of the fumes and shouts from within. The cry of a crow, or perhaps it was a rooster, suddenly pierced the air.
待得郎来月已低， dāi dé láng lái yuè yǐ dī
寒暄不道醉如泥。 hán xuān bù dào zuì rú ní
五更又欲向何处， wǔ gēng yòu yù xiàng hé chù
骑马出门乌夜啼。 qí mǎ chū mén wū yè tí
The moon is low in the sky and he hasn’t yet returned.
My husband, wallowing in beer, is an impolite sight.
Better go elsewhere rather than return so late!
Ride your horse out the gate, as the crow shrieks in the night!
About the Calligraphy:
待得郎来月已低，寒暄不道醉如泥。The moon is low in the sky and he hasn’t yet returned. My husband, wallowing in beer, is an impolite sight. (2 rows, 14 characters, Cursive Cao Script) M.O. Ndesandjo