I Rely On Beauty To Stabilize The Country (Chapter 1 - 10) - 009
- I Rely On Beauty To Stabilize The Country (Chapter 1 - 10)
- 009 - His Majesty Accepted a Poetry Anthology
009 – His Majesty Accepted a Poetry Anthology
Three days later, the examiners chosen by the emperor accepted the order and were escorted by the Forbidden Army into the Examination Hall with their baggage. The news that the examiners were locked in the hall also caused the Jurens rushing to the capital for the examination to feel the tension of the time. There were fewer people in wine houses and tea houses.
On this day, Gu Yuanbai called the Minister of Work, the Minister of Revenue, and the Secretary of the Ministry of Rites to the side hall of Xuanzheng Hall to discuss official business.
He gave the three of them an essay about the Yellow River’s disaster control, which he had heard from Chu Wei that day, and told them to read it slowly. Meanwhile, he took a cup of tea and slowly drank it.
The Minister of Revenue was the first to finish reading it. He hesitantly said, “Your Majesty, your servant I have never seen such skilfully contrived methods of disaster control. If put into practice, it may be really effective… But the National Treasury…”
The Minister of Works and the Secretary of Ministry of Rites were completely immersed in the essay. Their expressions were grim with a faint color of excitement.
“Your Majesty!” The Minister of Works could not hide his surprise, “Who thought of these methods? This man has great talent. Your servant wants to meet him!”
Gu Yuanbai said with a smile, “You won’t get to meet him.”
These methods were not one person’s idea, but methods that thousands of descendants had come up with within countless flood seasons.
They were the most reliable methods in the ancient environment.
The Minister of Works looked regretful as he murmured, “It’s a pity.”
At this time, Chu Daren just finished reading the essay. He read as he thought and occasionally looked grim, and occasionally smiled. After reading it, he couldn’t help saying, “Your Majesty, these methods are feasible!”
Gu Yuanbai smilingly asked, “Chu Daren also think these are feasible?”
Chu Daren had always been strict, but at this time, he boldly nodded, “If the above-mentioned contents are implemented one by one, your servant thinks it is feasible.”
The Minister of Revenue was anxious, “Your Majesty! Spring sowing is about to start, the conference examination will also cost money, and the Examination Hall is being renovated. The site for Your Majesty’s tomb has been selected and the tomb will be built this year. Not only that, the cost of military supplies for Your Majesty’s army is not small, which can’t be stopped even a day. If the river channel is to be repaired, the National Treasury will not be able to turnover.”
The construction of the tomb began at the beginning of the monarch’s succession. However, although Gu Yuanbai succeeded the throne early, his power fell into another’s hands. To this day, the construction of the tomb was just about to start, so it was even more urgent.
Gu Yuanbai placatingly smiled at him, “Zhen understands.”
“Governing the country is always inseparable from money.” Gu Yuanbai spoke neither fast nor slow, “As long as there is money, one can build roads, buy horses, and train soldiers… Zhen has not decided to start managing the Yellow River flood now. The Yellow River flood is divided into spring floods and summer floods. The spring flood is on the third and the fourth month, while the summer flood is from the sixth to the tenth month. Zhen called all the Darens here to discuss the spring flood.”
Feeling uncertain, the Minister of Works said, “Your Majesty, there was no Yellow River flood in the previous few years, so why do you pay attention to it this year?”
Hearing this, Gu Yuanbai put his teacup on the table, making a clanging sound, “Zhen also wants to know, why it has been raining for half a month in the middle and downstream of the Yellow River, but no one has come to inform the imperial court?”
The two ministers and the secretary trembled and knelt on the ground with a plop.
Gu Yuanbai kept silent. He let them kneel and keep guessing in the dreadfully quiet surrounding. Only until they were profusely sweating because of their own speculation, Gu Yuanbai said, “Rise.”
In the Great Heng Dynasty, there was no prime minister. The six ministries were directly in the hands of the emperor, and there was no cabinet. However, the Privy Council and the Civil Hall were established. The Privy Council was in charge of military affairs, and the Civil Hall was in charge of government affairs – all of which was directly in the hands of the emperor.
Despite the imperial power at this time being so grand, there are still people concealing reports. How can these people in those places being so bold!
And how did the emperor know about the rainy season of the Yellow River that is thousands of li away?
The more they thought about it, the more afraid they were. They bent their bodies and stood up and, not daring to say a word.
“Dear Chu,” Gu Yuanbai softened his tone, “Zhen knows you understand a lot about preventing floods by water control. Time is running out. Zhen sets you as the appeasing envoy and sends you to defend the Yellow River against the spring flood. Zhen doesn’t ask for much, only as long as the small flood season doesn’t cause a serious disaster. Dear Chu, will you go to the Yellow River?”
Chu Xun knelt again without hesitation and said in a loud voice, “Your servant will try to the best of abilities to fulfill the mission!”
Gu Yuanbai came out from behind the table and helped him up. “Zhen has one more thing to entrust you. Dear Chu has to help Zhen find out who is concealing and not reporting it! The local officials will follow dear Chu to investigate. Don’t be afraid of them, Zhen backs you up. If there is any trouble, Zhen allows the local governor to lead troops to help.”
Chu Daren was so moved that his eyes gleamed. “Your Majesty can rest assured that your servant will do his best.”
Gu Yuanbai looked at the Minister of Revenue and the Minister of Works, “The Ministry of Works needs to choose more than ten people who are good at preventing floods by water control to accompany the dear Chu. You two ministries have to give full support to this matter and do not slack off.”
The three men who came out of Xuanzheng Hall wiped the sweat on their heads – even their backs streamed with cold sweat.
Chu Xun was congratulated by the Minister of Revenue and the Minister of Works. Chu Xun quickly returned the salute and asked, “Darens, His Majesty has much expectation from me now. The matter that no one has reported about the Yellow River has been raining for half a month to the imperial court, I ask the Darens not to tell others for the time being. I’m afraid it will frighten the snake1.”
Chu Daren suspected that the local officials were colluding with the officials in the capital. The Minister of Revenue and the Minister of Works immediately nodded, “Don’t worry, Chu Daren. Even if you don’t say it, we don’t dare to say it to the public. His Majesty’s meaning is clear. Both of us will cooperate well. Chu Daren should pay attention to safety while doing a good job. When you come back, the results of the conference examination should also come out. Gongzi Chu’s scholarly attainments have always been outstanding. Who knows by that time, good things come in pairs? Both of you, father and son, ought to be promoted. Those who should be officials will be officials.”
Chu Xun quickly said a few words of modesty. The three men talked and laughed, walking out of the Imperial Palace.
Inside the hall.
After the ministers left, Tian Fusheng carried the well-decocted medicine. The black steaming medicinal juice appeared more bitter and astringent in the white porcelain bowl. Gu Yuanbai took one look at it and drained the bowl in one gulp.
People who had drunk too much medicine wouldn’t feel the bitterness. Gu Yuanbai took a few more sips of tea to get rid of the medicinal taste in his mouth. Then, he put on his cloak and went out of the Xuanzheng Hall.
There was a thick layer of snow outside.
The snow on the ground had been cleaned up, but there was still snow on the trees and grass.
Gu Yuanbai took a few breaths of the cold air, and his mind also became free from inhibitions. He walked under the tree and rolled a ball of snow with his hands. However, after a while, his hands were frozen stiff.
The Captain of the Imperial Bodyguard hurriedly ran and brought a pair of leather gloves. Gu Yuanbai said with a smile, “Zhen is only touching the snow, and look how anxious you are.”
The Captain of the Imperial Bodyguard had a rare look of stiff-faced, “Your Majesty, quickly throw the snow away.”
“Fine, fine, fine,” Gu Yuanbai threw the snow. Both of his hands stretched out in front of the Captain of the Imperial Bodyguard as he helplessly said, “You all are always too careful.”
The Captain of the Imperial Bodyguard carefully held Gu Yuanbai’s fingertips, and meticulously took a handkerchief to wipe off the wetness and snowflakes in his palms. His Majesty’s skin was delicate. The cold snow only stayed in his hands for a moment, but his fingertips had been covered with attractive pink.
The palms were so fine and smooth that even the arteries and the veins looked about to melt in the soft skin. The Captain of the Imperial Bodyguard must be very careful to avoid leaving red scrubbing marks on the emperor’s hands.
It was no wonder other people were treating him carefully. The truth was, Gu Yuanbai could not do without the meticulous service of others.
When there was no snow water in the emperor’s hands, the Captain of the Imperial Bodyguard respectfully let go of his hands. Then, he carefully unfolded and put on the leather gloves for him. The brown gloves covered the white hands until the sleeves.
Gu Yuanbai raised his hands and lightly sniffed the gloves – they were handled so neatly and clean, and there was only the smell of incense smoke. He nodded and said with a smile, “Follow Zhen to take a look at the snow scenery.”
But when admiring the scenery, the Imperial Bodyguard was silent and not speaking. Gu Yuanbai felt that he had sought the wrong person. He thought again and again and remembered the talented person who had public opinions on that day.
He is called Chang Yuyan?
In the residence of the Deputy Chief of Dali Temple.
When Chang Yuyan was writing an essay, he suddenly heard a burst of sound outside his study. He frowned, suppressed his annoyance, and quickly opened the door, “What are you all doing?”
His father’s manservant was bringing people here in a hurry. Upon seeing him opened the door, he raised his voice and called out, “Young Master! His Majesty summons you into the palace to accompany and serve!”
Chang Yuyan’s hand holding the door was shaking, “What?”
The people who came from the palace were still following at the back. The manservant was in a hurry. He took the lead in running over and urged, “Young Master, change your clothes quickly. His Majesty let you enter the palace to admire the snow!”
Chang Yuyan gulped, feeling flustered and surprised. He hastily turned to change his clothes. The people from the palace soon kept up, and upon seeing he was so anxious, they stopped him, “Gongzi Chang doesn’t have to bother about it. This clothing is good enough. Follow this little one into the palace first, so as not to let His Majesty wait too long.”
Chang Yuyan said with shame, “My clothes smell of ink.”
“No problem,” the person from the palace eagerly said, “Gongzi Chang doesn’t need to worry, His Majesty won’t blame you for it.”
It’s not a question of blame or not, it’s a question of his image in the eyes of the emperor.
Chang Yuyan felt so complicated, but eventually, the happiness of receiving His Majesty’s summon prevailed – he abandoned the entanglement. As he was about to leave with the palace attendants, he suddenly remembered something. He hurried back to the study, took a book into his sleeve, and went out again.
The palace sent a horse carriage, and Chang Yuyan got on it. After a while, he felt a little stuffy. He raised his hand to touch his face, and then he realized that his face was already hot.
In fact, Chang Yuyan didn’t hold the emperor in such esteem before.
Xue Yuan was a wolfdog. Chang Yuyan could associate with him because his nature was mixed up with boorish and unruly. He dared to write thirteen poems that offended the influential officials not because he was angry at them, or worried about the country and the people, but because he wanted to fight against his father. Besides this, the more important thing was to earn a good reputation.
Chang Yuyan wrote poems about the worries of the country’s common people. Yet he enjoyed good wine, fine food, brocade, and silk. Xue Yuan and he were birds of a feather. The inside was rotten to the point of stinking, but on the surface, he gave himself an appearance of a polished exterior not conforming to reality.
For scholars, sometimes reputation was more useful than power and money. Sometimes, it could even save one’s life.
During the recommendary system2, if scholars wanted to be officials, they needed to create their reputation. “Show filial piety to parents” and “Kong Rong giving up pears3” were the results of the spread of the literati families – an unspoken rule among scholars. Chang Yuyan’s family didn’t publicize his reputation until he turned 20-year-old. Therefore, Chang Yuyan had to do it by himself.
For Chang Yuyan, there was nothing bad about letting his father be relegated by the hands of the influential officials.
One could imagine that it must be his reputation that played a big role for the emperor to summon him into the palace. Chang Yuyan spurned himself and felt rejoice at the same time.
If he had no reputation, perhaps the emperor would never look at him.
The carriage drove by the palace attendant clattered on the road. After the snow falling, everyone in the capital withdrew into their homes. Chang Yuyan’s head was heating. He lowered his head and tidied himself up several times, thinking he was still smelling of ink. How could he go to see the emperor like this?
Chang Yuyan moved to the window and opened it to let some cold wind blow in to calm him down. After finally calming down, he suddenly saw the figures of Tang Mian, the son of the Minister of Revenue, and Li Yan, the Shizi of the Marquis of Pingchang, flashed past at the entrance of an alley.
One was the son of an important official, and the other was an heir of a noble. Even if they were closed in the academy, shouldn’t they avoid rousing suspicion when they were outside?
And if he was not mistaken… Chang Yuyan narrowed his eyes. Unfortunately, the carriage passed by in a flash. He only glanced at it in a haste. But if he was not mistaken, what they were holding in their hands should be two scrolls of paintings?
Gu Yuanbai looked as he walked. After wearing leather gloves, no one stopped him from touching the snow.
When Chang Yuyan came over, the emperor was having a person to hold a jar, while he carefully swept the thick snow on the plum blossoms into the jar. After a night’s brewing, the snow on the plum blossoms was infused with the fragrance of the plum blossom. When the snow melts, it was used to make a tea that would give a special taste.
Chang Yuyan went forward to salute and nervously said, “This junior pay a formal visit to Your Majesty.”
“Don’t be so polite,” the emperor put down the work at hand and helped Chang Yuyan up by his arms. “You were very reserved when Zhen saw you last time. Zhen called you here to admire the snow, so don’t be nervous.”
As soon as Gu Yuanbai Fu grasped Chang YuYan’s arms, he felt the skin under the man’s clothes tensed. He chuckled, “Zhen is really that frightening?”
Chang Yuyan’s face turned hot. He quietly raised his eyes to look.
Gu Yuanbai already led him to walk forward with a smile. The Imperial Bodyguards followed him five steps away. The palace maids took the jar and continued to collect the spring snow on the plum blossoms.
On ordinary days, Gu Yuanbai didn’t wear dragon robes. Instead, he wore regular clothes, which were low-key embroidered with obscure patterns on the edges and corners of the clothes. In between the lines, there seemed to be a creeping dragon.
On the fine black hair fell behind the emperor’s back, there were a few petals of snow-stained plum blossoms. Chang Yuyan saw it, and looked at it several times, but was embarrassed to give a voice to remind.
After visiting the snow-covered landscapes in the palace, the emperor invited Chang Yuyan to stay for dinner. After the dinner ended, he would soon leave. Chang Yuyan plucked up his courage and took out the book of poetry from his sleeve. At this moment, he could not help but sigh at his own thick-skinned. “Your Majesty, this is the poetry anthology compiled by me recently. I have chosen some previous poems that are still impressive, as well as the ones from the last garden tour. If Your Majesty is not averse to it, this little one would like to present it to you.”
This was a thin book of poetry that ought to be the master copy. The surface of the fold even wrinkled.
Gu Yuanbai was very interested in this new poetry by this talented person with the potential of public opinion talents. If it was a masterpiece, then he believed that it would be spread throughout the capital city in no time.
The leather gloves had been removed before dinner. Gu Yuanbai looked through the poetry anthology with a smile and casually read it, which made his smile deepen.
Compared with the thirteen satirical poems he wrote before, this works catered to a ruler’s taste.
Gu Yuanbai handed the poetry anthology to Tian Fusheng to put away. He suddenly remembered something and gave a mischievous smile, “Yuyan and the eldest gongzi of General Xue should be good friends?”
Chang Yuyan was unclear of the reason he was asked such, so he cautiously nodded, “Yes.”
Gu Yuanbai slowly said, “A few days ago, Zhen heard that Xue Jiuyao’s knees were injured. Do you know about this?”
Jiuyao was Xue Yuan’s alias.4
Chang Yuyan was stunned. What?
Upon seeing his expression showing that he was unaware of it, Gu Yuan raised his eyebrows and said with a long-drawn-out smile, “When Yuyan is out of the palace, why not go to Xue Residence and have a look. Speak to General Xue and Xue Jiuyao on Zhen’s behalf. Zhen can send the imperial doctor to Xue Residence to make a diagnosis and give treatment if they need it.”
The emperor drawled, “After all, he is the son of Zhen’s dear minister, the future general of Great Heng. If anything happens, it will be a loss to our Great Heng.”
The author has something to say:
Xue Yuan: Thanks for the invitation. When the man sits at home, his love rival comes from the sky.
- alert the enemy
- recommendation (of civil servants) by administrative executives: a system in the Han Dynasty
- classic moral story about Kong Rong picking up smaller pears while leaving the bigger ones to his older brothers – to educate the young on courtesy and modesty
- Both 九遥 Jiuyao and 远 Yuan means distant/far. The alias is according to the meaning of a person’s name, taken when one reached 20-year-old