Keeping a second woman is like riding the back of a tiger – losing your balance can kill you. We government officials often keep beautiful women as mistresses.
For those without little wives, it is just as expensive keeping up appearances. Even a minor government official like myself needs some relief.
Therefore, when I was passed over for a promotion, I was furious.
I stormed into the general’s office today. He was seated at his desk, about to seal some document or other. His brass seal was half poised above the wax. He looked up, his bushy eyebrows trembling at the interruption. Avoiding his eyes, I bent down my head and took a deep breath.
“Your excellency, why was I passed over for your position in Chang’An?”
His expression softened and he gently pressed the seal into the wax. The liquid pressed out over the paper in a soft red ring.
“Little Li, what are you saying, that I do not know what I am doing?”
“Excellency, that is not what I am saying, just…”
He looked up impatiently.
“ You talk too much. You spill secrets. You’re like a flower in the wind, with no direction!”He slowly twirled the stone seal between his fingers. Then he did the same with other hand and repeated this motion throughout the conversation.
“Excellency, you should not believe what they say…”
The general put aside the seal. He stood up, placed the palms of both his hands firmly on the table, and bellowed.
“Not believe what they say? You talk in your poem of soldiers sloshing through mud, while partying in the capital. Even my wife tells me these things after reading your calligraphy…”
“Just a metaphor, your excellency…”
“Met…met what? And these ancient stories of corrupt kings you keep dragging up, and mistresses here and there, and magic birds raping them…”
“Excellency, the phoenix draws them by seduction. It is about love…”
“My job is to kill people, not seduce them. You should also consider this carefully. You should like your job, and try to keep it. Leave now!”
With that, he waved his hand, and sat down heavily, shaking the table.
I walked out in a fluster. How would I pay my bills! My poor mother! This month I couldn’t visit my poor beauty in her red mansion! All these women I have to take care of!
近听名阿侯， jìn tīng míng ā hóu
住处小江流。 zhù chù xiǎo jiāng liú
腰细不胜舞， yāo xì bù shèng wǔ
眉长唯是愁。 méi cháng wěi shì chóu
黃金堪作屋， huáng jīn kān zuò wū
何不作重楼？ hé bù zuò chóng lóu
I recently heard of a woman called Aho, 1
Who lived where the little Jiang flows.
Her waist was so slender that dancing made it ache,
Her beautiful long brow was a stranger to frowns.
Some high official’s room has become her prison,
It’s too bad she couldn’t have done better!
About the Calligraphy
近听名阿侯，住处小江流。腰细不胜舞，眉长唯是愁。I recently heard of a woman called Aho, Who lived where the little Jiang flows. Her waist was so slender that dancing made it ache, Her beautiful long brow was a stranger to frowns.（3 rows,20 characters, Cursive Cao Script): M.O. Ndesandjo
1. The legend of Miss No Worries is a long one, and refers to a beautiful woman who was married to a powerful man and subsequently sequestered in an unhappy life. LSY often referes to her, in this case as Aho, and his unrequited love for the young woman Willow (or Willow Branch) may be at the core of many of these reminiscences and fantasies.