Home > urban > A Precious Pearl in the Imperial City > CH 21

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“Wait.” JiuZhu stopped the Imperial concubines who were holding the incense sticks in their hands and were about to pray: “Niangniangs, when offering the incense to the Heavens, you all must hold the sticks with your right hand, cover your right hand with your left, raise it towards your forehead.”

 

The niangniangs were so pious.

How could she have the heart to just watch silently their heartfelt devotion go to waste

 

“JiuZhu.” Su Guifei smiled: “Go and show them how to do it.”

 

Taking the incense and facing the altar, JiuZhu calmly bowed and put down the three sticks1.

 

The smoke curled up from the incense as the concubines looked at the young girl offering the incense in a trance.

Her every movement reflected a sense of freedom and respite, somehow making them feel as if they were before a well-versed person.

 

Putting the incense into the incense burner, JiuZhu bowed and turned to look at them: “Niangniangs, please come and do it.”

 

“Do you understand everything” Su Guifei lifted her hand lightly, and the palace maids brought forward the incense sticks: “Do it as Ming guniang showed.”

 

Looking at the incense that was brought to them, the Imperial concubines did not dare to get angry or speak.

 

“What happened Why are you all so distracted” Su Guifei looked at them with a smile that was yet not a smile: “There are only twelve shichens2 in a day.

If you all continue to dillydally, you may need to stay up all night to copy the scriptures and show your sincerity.”

 

“Thank you for the reminder, Guifei niangniang.” Ning Fei put on a gentle smile.

She took the lead to pick up three sticks and stepped forward to offer the incense.

Seeing Ning Fei give in to Su Guifei’s abuse of authority, the others had no choice but to walk forward obediently.

 

JiuZhu was moved by their devotion.

She turned her head and said to Su Guifei: “All the niangniangs’ sincerity is really touching.”

 

“Yes ah.” Su Guifei nodded unhurriedly: “Ben Gong is also very touched.” 

 

The Imperial concubines: “……”

 

If you two are so touched, why don’t you come and join us!

 

Who cares whether you are touched or not!

 

“Ming guniang knows a lot at such a young age.” Ning Fei finished offering the incense and spoke tenderly, “It seems that during the years of fostering in the Daoist temple, you have not only gotten healthier but also learned a lot.”

 

JiuZhu looked at the beautiful lady who spoke; she still didn’t know her identity.

 

“This is Ning Fei, Zheng-shi.

She’s His Highness Qi Wang’s mother.” Su Guifei added another line: “Marquis PingYuan’s concubine-born sister.”

 

Hearing the word ‘concubine-born’, Ning Fei’s movements paused slightly but her expression remained gentle.

She was still smiling.

 

“Hello, Ning Fei niangniang.” JiuZhu bent her knees and curtsied to Ning Fei: “Thank you for the praise, niangniang. Chennu’s master also said that chennu learned things very well.”

 

*Drip* The ink trickled down to the tip of the brush and fell onto the paper as Ning Fei’s hand holding the brush shook slightly.

 

“Aiya, niangniang!” JiuZhu reminded, startled: “The scriptures inscribed for the Heavens must not be stained.”

 

“Thank you for reminding me, Ming guniang.” Ning Fei put down the brush and crumpled the piece of paper with a smile.

She kneaded it so hard that even her knuckles turned white.

 

Quickly shut that mouth of yours!

 

During the morning court, officials from the six ministries argued in full swing while those from other bureaus such as the Dali Temple and the Imperial Hanlin Academy joined the war from time to time.

Every now and then, ceremonial tablets held by the officials would be sighted waving in the air for a little while too.

All in all, the situation was very lively.

 

Looking at this frenzy, Emperor LongFeng didn’t get angry at all.

Instead, he changed his sitting position on the dragon chair to a more comfortable posture and watched them very patiently.

 

The Imperial Academy’s3 senior official: “Your Majesty, the Imperial Academy is a place to nurture and educate scholars, how can it keep using those shabby desks” 

 

The Minister of Revenue: “The Ministry of Revenue has no money.”

 

The Minister of War: “Your Majesty, the selection of military officials is near at hand.

If weichen may be so bold to ask, when will the Ministry of Revenue allocate funds”

 

The Minister of Revenue: “……”

 

It was almost the end of the year, so all the bureaus were energetically striving to win funds for the coming year.

 

The Minister of Rites, Li En had frequent political disagreements with Zhao BoShen, the Minister of Revenue.

They had even smashed the other with ceremonial tablets out of anger ever since they joined the court.

 

But today, Zhao BoShen hardly targeted Li En.

He merely looked at the latter with gloating in his eyes, igniting a flame in Li En’s heart.

 

“Lord, calm down.” Zhou Rui discreetly pulled Li En’s sleeve and whispered in his ear: “Qi Wang still works in the Ministry of Revenue.”

 

“You’re talking as if no prince works in our Ministry of Rites.” Looking at Zhao BoShen’s complacent face, he couldn’t suppress the anger in his heart: “And he’s an extraordinary one.”

 

Zhou Rui reckoned, if it wasn’t for that prince to come to their Ministry of Rites, the Minister of the Revenue probably wouldn’t have looked at them with such an expression.

 

“Lord.” Ming JingZhou reminded: “The Ministry of Rites needs to be renovated urgently.”

 

“You are right.” Hearing Ming JingZhou’s reminder, Li En regained his senses.

He suppressed his anger, raised his chin haughtily at Zhao BoShen and turned his head, no longer looking at him.

 

Zhao BoShen: “……”

 

The devil incarnate has joined their Ministry of Rites.

Why is Li En being so proud

 

“Your Majesty.” Li En stepped forward, bowed, and began to recount the Ministry of Rites’ great endeavors from early in the year, ranging from big tasks like presiding over the Imperial examination to things as small as a certain Ministry of Rites official sending back the elderly.

Finally, he concluded by saying that the Ministry of Rites was very good, capable and that it would become even better if the Emperor was willing to allocate some money to renovate the dilapidated bureau of the Ministry of Rites.

 

Emperor LongFeng looked at the articulate Minister of Rites.

If he didn’t remember incorrectly, when the Minister of Rites participated in the Imperial examination, he seemed to have been the bangyan4.

It was no surprise that he could talk so well.

 

“Chen Wang.” After Li En finished speaking, Emperor LongFeng looked at Chen Wang, who was standing at the forefront of the group: “You have been working the Ministry of Rites for a few days and have asked the lords for their advice.

What do you think about this”

 

All the officials of the Ministry of Rites looked at Chen Wang.

At this critical juncture, he would certainly stand on their side ah.

 

Li En asked Ming JingZhou in a low voice: “You say, did His Highness Chen Wang understand my hints last time”

 

Ming JingZhou replied lightly: “Lord, this official does not know that.”

 

“Ai.” Li En sighed: “I should have been a bit more straightforward that time.”

 

His burning gaze almost penetrated Chen Wang’s back.

The latter didn’t have to turn back to comprehend that it was those people from the Ministry of Rites who were staring at him.

 

“Father Emperor, it has not even been ten days since erchen started going to the Ministry of Rites, so he still doesn’t understand very well.”

 

The officials of the Ministry of Rites withdrew their gaze in dismay.

They were wrong; they should not have counted on Chen Wang from the very beginning.

 

Qi Wang glanced at Chen Wang, then at the officials of the Ministry of Rites behind him before retracting his line of sight.

 

“However, according to erchen’s humble opinion, all the lords at the Ministry of Rites are committed to their responsibilities and do not seek riches or fame.

Although it’s only been a few days, erchen has already come to admire them quite a bit.”

 

The official of the Ministry of Rites: En en en

 

Chen Wang actually spoke up to praise them in the Imperial court and they felt… overwhelmed by this favor

 

“But there still seems to be many issues at the Ministry of Rites”

 

The officials: They felt happy too early!

 

“Oh” Emperor LongFeng seemed incredibly patient with Chen Wang: “What issues”

 

“The walls are full of dust, the legs of the tables are uneven, and there are even places where tiles fall off.” Chen Wang frowned: “As one of the six ministries of the Imperial court, the bureau of the Ministry of Rites is really too damaged.

Da Cheng’s common people live in peace, work happily, and live a prosperous life.

If the bureau stays in that kind of a neglected condition, wouldn’t it become a disgrace to Da Cheng’s prestige”

 

The officials of the Ministry of Rites nodded promptly.

His Highness Chen Wang was right.

Their Ministry of Rites was still lacking in many ways.

 

“What is Chen Wang’s opinion then” Emperor LongFeng smiled.

 

“Erchen thinks that funds must be allocated accordingly to renovate the rundown Ministry of Rites.”

 

“En.” Emperor LongFeng nodded: “Chen Wang’s words are reasonable.

The Ministry of Rites not only needs to handle several major internal affairs, but also receives foreign envoys.

It is indeed not a good thing if their bureau is dilapidated.”

 

“Is Lin ZhongLing, the Minister of the Works present here” Emperor LongFeng looked at the Minister of the Works, who was standing next to Zhao BoShen.

 

Zhao BoShen had a bad premonition in his heart.

 

“This subject is here.” Lin ZhongLing came forward and bowed with the ceremonial tablet held in his hand.

 

“Tomorrow, arrange craftsmen to renovate the bureau of the Ministry of Rites.

There must not be any delay in it.” After settling the matter, Emperor LongFeng turned to Li En, the Minister of Rites, and said, “Beloved Official Li, my son is young and ignorant.

If he does something wrong, do not hesitate to punish him.

You do not have to be apprehensive.”

 

After wrangling for a long time over the repair funds and finally achieving it, for the first time, Li En felt how wonderful it was to have ‘connections’.

 

“His Highness Chen Wang is intelligent and motivated.”

 

Although he didn’t see him memorizing the list of jinshis that Ming JingZhou gave him, at least he took it along to his residence.

If he rounded it up, Chen Wang could be considered to be motivated to improve himself.

 

“He treated talented and virtuous people with courtesy, and made acquaintance with ordinary talents regardless of their status.”

 

After Chen Wang came to the Ministry of Rites, he did not deliberately make things difficult for anyone.

Most importantly, he helped them to obtain the repair funds.

With that alone, he could be regarded as half a person of the Ministry of Rites.

 

“He ate at the common dining area with the coworkers from the Ministry of Rites, and never had any complaints.”

 

Although he ate the food prepared by Assistant Minister Ming’s family, it was true that he ate it at the common dining area.

 

“Weichen believes that with His Highness’ talent, he will definitely be able to master the affairs of the Ministry of Rites soon and share Your Majesty’s worries.” Securing the funds for the renovation of the Ministry of Rites, Li En praised him wholeheartedly.

 

Chen Wang, who was being complimented: “……”

 

Perhaps, this was exactly what it was meant by ‘scholars are ready to give and take, be mature and change according to the situation’!

 

The other officials cast sidelong glances at Li En.

He spoke so highly of Chen Wang for getting the renovation funds for the Ministry of Rites. Li En ah, Li En, you should not have been an official.

Instead, you should have performed a yuefu5 for His Majesty!

 

Li En didn’t care what other people think of him in the slightest.

In any case, what was wrong with saying a few wonderful words after getting hold of an advantage

 

After the court was over, Emperor LongFeng was in quite a good mood.

And if he hadn’t heard someone crying along the way, he would have been in an even better mood.

 

“Liu ZhongBao, go and see what’s going on.” There was not a sign of tenderness on his face as he heard the sound of weeping from behind the cluster of flowers.

 

Liu ZhongBao returned quickly: “Your Majesty, Liu Cairen is crying.”

 

“Liu Cairen” Emperor LongFeng had no impression of this Liu Cairen.

 

“Liu Cairen was sent to your former prince residence by Empress Dowager PingXian in the 21st year of the deceased Emperor’s rule.” Liu ZhongBao explained Liu Cairen’s history in detail: “She entered in the same year as Su Guifei niangniang.”

 

“En, continue speaking.”

 

“She is crying because…because Guifei niangniang made them copy the scriptures every day.

Because she is not as proficient in writing, she was not able to copy the scriptures as fast as other noble ladies and that is why, she is weeping.” Liu ZhongBao knew in his heart that even if she had really wanted to cry, she didn’t need to cry at this place.

She clearly intended to let the Emperor discover this matter.

 

“The Guifei made them to copy the scriptures” Emperor LongFeng became somewhat interested: “What’s the matter”

 

“Replying to Your Majesty, after niangniang’s birthday, she began having the other niangniangs of the Palace copy the scriptures.” Seeing the Emperor’s smiling expression, he continued: “It is heard niangniang invited Ming guniang into the Palace today, and afterwards, they went to oversee the niangniangs copying the scriptures.”

 

“That’s good.

Copying the scriptures is beneficial to cultivate one’s moral and spiritual character.” Emperor LongFeng smiled while nodding: “It’s just that the Guifei must be exhausted after supervising them everyday.

Go and send some tonics to the MingYue Palace that helps to recuperate and sleep peacefully.”

 

“As for that Wang Cairen, since she thinks it is hard to copy the scriptures, she doesn’t need to copy it anymore.” Emperor LongFeng said in an apathetic tone: “Send her to the Buddhist Hall to recite scriptures.

She must not appear in front of the Guifei in the future.”

 

Liu ZhongBao did not remind him that this Cairen was named Liu.

He merely accepted the order and withdrew.

 

His Majesty has been accustomed to the various schemes used by the women of the harem since he was a child.

How could he not see through Liu Cairen’s intention of sobbing by the path

 

As soon as Liu ZhongBao stepped to fulfill the command, he noticed the Ming family’s Young Miss walking toward the pavilion where Liu Cairen was.

 

Seeing this scene, he stopped and heard the faint sound of footsteps coming from behind.

Turning around, he curtsied, “Your Highness.”

 

Chen Wang had his hands crossed behind him as he casually glanced in the direction Liu ZhongBao was looking at.

 

Wasn’t that… the little guniang of the Ming family

1

T/N: By these three sticks of incense [三柱清香], the author might also be referring to a part of the Daoist altar with an incense burner.

Called ‘three treasures/jewels’ [三寶], each incense stick in this burner refers to the three forms of energies said to be found in the human body (jing, qi and shen / 精氣神).

These are refined by heat when cultivating (burning in this case).

For more details on a Daoist altar and its components: Learn Religions.

2

Shichen [時辰] – Unlike now, a day was divided into twelve two-hour periods back in the old times in China.

3

Imperial Academy [國子監] – Also called guozijian, National Academy, Imperial College and so on, it was the highest institution of academic research and learning in Imperial China’s traditional educational system, with the function of both administration of education.

4

Bangyan [榜眼] – The person who achieved the second position was awarded this title.

5

Yuefu [樂府] – It is a Chinese style of lyric poetry.

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