​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Bonus Selection

5. I'll Let You Get Rich First

1. Hometown Fog (故乡的雾)
Phoenix (凤凰)

      The art competition called for pieces with a hometown theme, so once Loyalty Zeng made up his mind to enter, he decided to go back and spend some time in the hometown he’d left more than a decade before. He’d already contacted Duke Qi, and Duke was at the terminal to greet him when he got off the bus.
      “There you are, Loyalty!” Loyalty heard the shout and saw Duke. He looked even older than before. Loyalty grabbed Duke’s hand and shook it, and the two started to talk excitedly. A fat man walked over and asked, “Want a ride, Duke?” Duke nodded and said, “Sure. Virtue Wu, this is Loyalty!”
      The fat guy named Virtue looked at Loyalty and smiled. “So you’re Loyalty!”
      Loyalty returned the smile. “And you’re Virtue. I really wouldn’t have recognized you!” They’d been classmates in elementary school. As for Virtue, he used to be small and thin, and had been bullied by Loyalty on a number of occasions. Here he was now, unexpectedly, a big fat guy.
      Loyalty and Duke got into Virtue's minivan and, in less than twenty minutes, they arrived at the entrance to the village. "I really didn't expect this,” Loyalty said. “Cars can drive all the way up to the village entrance!”
      “You did send us two thousand yuan that year when we were building the road, you know,” Duke said.
      Loyalty remembered. He had indeed sent money to Duke for the road.
      Loyalty heard the sound of mahjong tiles clicking together when he got out of the van. He looked and saw that some of the multistoried buildings before him had signs hanging out front identifying them as tea houses. “Say, Duke, do the villagers really like to play mahjong?”
      “And ever!” Duke sighed. “Since we built the road up to the village entrance, several village cadres have put up buildings here and opened tea houses. Now villagers come here every day. That Granny Qi of yours loves to play mahjong, too. She blows her stack if we don’t let her play.”
      “Granny Qi?” Loyalty exclaimed. “She’s almost eighty!”
      “Yeah! But she plays with a lot of energy, just like a young man!”
      Loyalty put down his bag when they got to Duke’s place, and then the two of them went out again. Loyalty said he wanted to take a look around. He noticed that many of the fields were fallow and so overgrown with weeds that he couldn’t even see the paths between a lot of them. It made him shake his head.
      Duke told him that many young people had left the village to get jobs. The ones who were still there were a disappointment and didn’t know how to do anything but play mahjong. Even the old people loved playing mahjong, too, so no one wanted to plant crops. They said they could do better playing mahjong for one session than tending the fields for a whole season.
      “Don’t you play mahjong, Duke?” Loyalty asked.
      “Nope. I just like to read – light reading, for pleasure!”
      They stayed in the village and didn’t go out into the fields. When Loyalty caught sight of the ancient village well, he thought of one time when he caught a fish with Virtue and some other kids and put it in the well to play with it. Later he’d been beaten by his father. He remembered how sweet the well water had tasted, so he scooped some up in his hands and took a couple of sips.
      “Stop,” Duke said quickly when he saw what Loyalty was doing. “Don’t drink that!”
      “It’s OK,” Loyalty said with a smile. “I’ve always liked to drink cold water, but I don’t dare drink water straight from the tap in the city!”
      Duke told him, “Two factories have been built outside the village, and the villagers all drink tap water!”
      Loyalty was startled. “You can’t drink the well water?”
      “No, you can't. But sometimes people come here to wash their clothes. Loyalty, are you okay?”
      Loyalty laughed and said, “It’s nothing!” But his face had suddenly changed color and his stomach felt a little queasy. Before he’d walked much farther, he couldn't help it and threw up.
      “This is terrible,” Duke said, “terrible!” He immediately took out his cell phone and called Virtue, who came running in no time. “Virtue, take Loyalty to the hospital!”
      “Hold on,” Virtue said. “The fare for that, it’s got to be two hundred yuan!”
      Loyalty went numb. “That trip from the bus station just now, wasn’t it just forty yuan?”
      “That was then, this is now. I’m a businessman, and a businessman has to seize the opportunity. Otherwise how’ll I get rich? If it was anyone else, I’d want five hundred for sure!”
      “All right, two hundred. Help me walk to your van!”
      “The way you look, you couldn’t walk even with me helping. Let’s do this. I’ll carry you on my back for a hundred yuan!”
      Duke got mad. “Are you inhuman, Virtue?”
      “If it’s too expensive, get someone else!”
      “All right, a hundred!” Loyalty said.
      “That’s right,” Virtue said with a smile. “Life is more precious than money!”
      When they arrived at the town hospital and the doctor heard that Loyalty had drunk well water, the doctor said, “It’s nothing, no problem! Go on back to the village!”
      “Really? No problem?” Loyalty asked.
      “People come to the hospital all the time after drinking well water. I’ve seen lots of them! As long as you threw up, it’ll be OK! You have tap water now, right? So what are you drinking well water for? Forewarned is forearmed.”
      Outside the hospital, Duke said, “Fortunately, you’re OK. If it’d been bad, I’d never have forgiven myself!”
      “You’re not to blame, Duke. Blame me for being too careless.”
      “But you spent three hundred yuan because of this. That Virtue is inhuman!”
      Early the next morning, after Loyalty had eaten breakfast, he told Duke he wanted to go out for a walk. "Why do you want to go walking right away? Didn't you say you'd be staying here several days? Is it because you're not used to being here?"
      "It's great here, Duke. I've found the feeling!"
      "OK then," Duke replied.
      Loyalty pulled five hundred yuan out of his pocket and handed it to Duke. He wanted Duke to take it but Duke wouldn't. He said he hadn't yet taken very good care of him. Granny Qi grabbed the money and said, "If you won't take it, I will. He's going to be staying and eating with us, so he should pay us!" She took the money and walked out the door.
      Duke sighed. "She took the money to go play mahjong again." He said. "All she has on her mind these days is mahjong and money!"
      When he got back home from his trip, Loyalty painted a picture of his hometown wrapped in thick fog. He named the painting "Hometown Fog." Unexpectedly, it won a 100,000 yuan prize. Loyalty bought books with the money and sent them to Duke. They'd talked it over and Duke said he loved to read so much, he'd build a library in his house and let the villagers come over to read.
      One evening Loyalty got a phone call from Duke. "Don't send any more books, Loyalty. Your Granny Qi took all the books out and sold them. She said no one reads books, so opening a teahouse would be better than opening a library."
      Loyalty's vision suddenly got blurry when he heard that.

Text at p. 72. Translated from 北方文学杂志网 at
http://www.bfwx.org/xiaoxiaoshuo/2017/0324/6464.html
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2. Torture by Sand (沙刑)

Liu Long (刘泷)

      Propitious Xie had actually bedded the Dong family’s daughter!
      He was quite proud of himself. “Wearing a government official’s robes is no better than this,” he thought. “That guy in the opera, “
The Peddler and the Beauty”, he didn’t have it any better than this!”
      The Dong family’s daughter was called Delicate Jade. Like her name, she was graceful and fine, and so tender, so tender.
      He was a long-time employee of the family who herded their cattle and weeded their fields. Delicate Jade was the moon in his sky, far out of reach even if he’d had a ladder. That delicate body of hers, how could a long-time worker take it to bed?
      But he went ahead and did it.
      That day, the head of the Dong family had taken his wife to the city for a get-together with relatives, and Delicate Jade asked Propitious to help wash the linens. The two of them dragged the linens through the water and were wringing them out with all their strength when Delicate Jade narrowly missed taking a tumble. Propitious caught her and wrapped his arms around her, and hugged her all the way into her room and onto the bed.
      As the novelist
Eileen Chang said, the way to a woman's heart is through her vagina. From then on, Delicate Jade’s heart was filled with Propitious Xie.
      They stole moments of love in Delicate’s boudoir, in the mill and in the sorghum fields. For a hungry body, lust is the only sustenance.
      They eventually got their just deserts. One day Propitious was driving the donkey to grind rice in the mill. He turned around to give Delicate Jade a kiss, and while he was turning, the donkey unexpectedly kicked out with awesome force and caught him right in his front teeth. Delicate Jade was worried silly and, believe it or not, when they went to the city to get his teeth fixed, she spent several silver dollars to get a shiny gold tooth for him!
      Gold was the apple of the old moneybags’ eye, and it hurts to have the apple of your eye gouged out. Get it?
      That’s when the cat got out of the bag.
      The Dong family called on Lucky Ji, a real hard ass. They hired him and his leather whip and Mongolian halberd. Delicate Jade couldn’t do anything about it.
      Lucky Ji was brazen and open when he set misbehaving workers straight. He was like a mugger using a torch at night.
      But he had a unique approach: torture by sand!
      Less than two miles away from the east side of the village was a desert called "Yinken" in Mongolian. The name meant “Eternal Vastness”, and the desert had rolling dunes as far as the eye could see. It was a peaceful place in the spring and autumn, but winter was wildly violent, with sand flying in the air and stones rolling along the ground. In summer it was like a boiling volcano with suffocating thick air. Anyone walking across it would get their feet scorched even if they were wearing shoes. If they were barefoot, they’d hop along like there were springs buried under the sand. Further – and some people tried this – if you buried an egg in the sand it would be cooked well enough to eat in just a few minutes.
      Torture by sand was carried out in Yinken. Lucky Ji would take the people he was going to straighten out there, strip them naked and bind their hands and feet. He’d have a servant keep an eye on them from some distance away. No matter how the victims hopped, moved or rolled around, they’d be broiled to death after two hours on the sand under the scorching sun. And within a day of being baked to death on the sand, all the moisture in their bodies would be gone and they’d be shriveled up like mummies of people who’d died several centuries before. It was a scene too ghastly to behold.
      This method of killing shed no blood, and the head of the Dong family wouldn’t be present at the scene. He stayed in a pavilion in his courtyard looking out into the distance, because experience had proven that a man wouldn’t be upset by something his eyes couldn’t see. Torture by sand was equivalent to a death sentence. No one subjected to it had ever escaped the grasp of the Angel of Death.
      Lucky Ji forced Delicate Jade to go to her relatives’ place in the city while he carried out the sand torture on Propitious Xie.
      Propitious had long known how the sand could sting a person. When work on the summer crops slacked off, the head of the Dong family would have him take the sheep to pasture. He always went to the desert where he could watch the sheep from a distance. He’d take off his shoes and socks and run for a few minutes on the sand. The sand was boiling hot and would sting enough to cause convulsions, like being poked with an awl. He’d have to jump around like the figures in a
shadow puppet play or else the sand would scorch the skin on his feet and ankles right away.
      But the sand’s burning was also a lure for him. He’d always loved to run between the dunes in the hottest weather, to feel the caress of the sand and the prickling of the individual grains….
      Lucky Ji and his people pushed Propitious naked into the sandy wasteland. Then, except for a servant wearing sand boots, they split up and ran away from the godforsaken place.
      Propitious tried as hard as he could to support himself on the soles of his feet, but eventually felt that his soles had been burnt to a crisp. It smelled the same as when they burned the hair off a pig that’d been slaughtered.
      He kept looking in the direction if the Dong family’s pavilion. When he saw Delicate Jade wasn't there, he brutally worked the gold tooth loose in his mouth and, wiping the blood from his lips, called Lucky Ji’s servant over. The servant walked over, looking toward the pavilion out of the corner of his eye. Propitious spit the gold tooth out onto the ground and said, "Hurry, I’ll give you the gold tooth and you can buy a whole plot of land when you get home. But you need to make a spot for me by splashing water from your water bag onto the sand."
      The servant squinted at the yellow gold like he was weighing it with his eyes. Without saying anything, he agreed to the deal by pouring water on a place where Propitious could lie down. Then he ran off.
      Propitious moved onto the wet spot as fast as he could go. When his front side was scorched dry, he flipped over, and when his back side was scorched dry, he flipped over again. After a bit, simply laid there and pretended to be dead.
      When it got dark, his family carried him away, wailing as they went.
      After losing Propitious, Delicate Jade wouldn’t do anything. She refused food and lay out in the desert in an attempt to commit suicide. It wasn’t her time to die, though. She’d been lying in the desert for less than an hour when Heaven sent a rainstorm! She brushed off Lucky Ji, who’d come to rescue her, and ran off into the hills to live as a bandit with a foster mother.
      Believe it or not, a year later she led a group of people to strip Lucky Ji naked, bind his hands and feet and cast him out into the desert.
      Lucky Ji told her, "Girl, I’m your real father!"
      "And Propitious Xie was my man!" she answered sternly. She sat in a tall chair off to one side and looked on unfeeling while her true father cooked like a pancake on the desert griddle, all the way until he shriveled up like he was made of paper. When his legs straightened out from rigor mortis, she fainted.
      After a while, Propitious Xie returned to the village.
      Delicate Jade asked him, "Why have you come back, Propitious?"
      "To get my revenge on your father!"
      "I gave him the sand torture. Got your revenge for you."
      Propitious was shocked.
      "I know you’re still single, Propitious. Let's get married!"
      Delicate Jade’s figure was the same as had been, as graceful as a poplar or willow tree.
      But Propitious shook his head and said, "If you could put even your own father through the torture by sand, how could I marry you?"
      He turned and left. Behind him, the sound of crying echoed sharply.

Text at p. 74. Translated from 刊参考网 at
http://www.fx361.com/page/2017/0915/2269732.shtml
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3. An Orchid Dies before Its Time (兰殇)

Troubadour Mariner (行吟水手)

      Dream Brush Zhao was considered a talented gentleman, but after several tries at the Imperial Civil Service Exam, he still hadn’t passed. Since he had no special skills other than painting, he’d lowered his expectations and made a living for himself as an artist.
      Although he could handle all kinds of landscapes, portraits, birds’ plumage and vegetation, he was stuck in his own bailiwick and couldn’t get out of the gate. Few people bought his paintings. He spent his days unhappy and frightened, never able to get enough to eat.
      He lived with his mother and the two of them depended on one another to stay alive. One year, in the spring, his mother suddenly contracted a serious illness. She gave up the ghost and went to her reward. Dream Brush couldn’t even afford a cheap coffin. He tried to get a loan but couldn’t swing it, so he wrapped her up in a reed mat and buried her in a field of weeds. His soul burned with anxiety at having to send her off like that. He became totally disillusioned and gave himself over to despair.
      One day he closed up his home and set out on foot. He walked rapidly to an ancient temple in the mountains.
      The ancient shrine was situated deep in the mountains, in a place where white clouds were born. Its rows of faintly red walls were already in a state of ruin, and birds flew through it from time to time. Mottled vermillion paint covered the unlatched door. Dream Brush pushed it open and walked in deliberately. Alpine sedge lined both sides of a cobbled pathway through a hushed courtyard.
      He looked it over as he strolled along. He thought, “How could one not be happy in this secluded temple in the wilderness? I could shave my head and become a monk, and leave my home to be a vegetarian and chant sutras.” Although he walked softly and quietly, his footsteps nonetheless startled an old monk who was meditating in the Zen Room.
      The monk came out of the room when he heard footsteps. He walked with a firm, steady gait. Dream Brush hurried over and bowed deeply to greet him. “I’ve disturbed My Elder’s peaceful contemplation,” he said.
      The old monk folded his hands together, chanted “Amitabha” and replied, “My Guest is too polite.” Then he saw the sorrow on the young man’s face and suggested with deep concern, “Whatever is troubling My Guest, don’t be afraid to tell me about it.”
      Dream Brush hesitated momentarily, then proceeded to tell the old monk about everything he’d encountered in his life. When he finished, he begged the monk, “My surname is Zhao, and I would like to leave my home behind and shave my head to become a monk. I request My Elder to help me fulfill this wish.”
      The old monk sighed. “This old man in a monk’s robe,” he said, “sees the sorrow in your eyes. But your destiny in the world of dust is not yet exhausted. It would be better to talk about this sometime later. You’re a painter and you should come with me.”
      Dream Brush didn’t know what the monk intended but followed him anyway into a flower garden in the rear courtyard. From some distance away, a delicate fragrance wafted faintly through the air. The monk pointed to a flowering plant. “Does My Guest recognize this flower?”
      “Your Junior is ignorant and inexperienced,” Dream Brush replied. “Will My Elder please elucidate?”
      “It’s a rare type of orchid called ‘High Pressure Red’. Fate brought you here today to see it.”
      Dream Brush perked up at the monk’s words. “So this is the legendary ‘High Pressure Red’? No wonder it has such a unique aroma.”
      When the monk saw Dream Brush looking pensive, he asked, “Could My Guest paint an orchid for an old man in a robe?”
      “Why couldn’t I,” Dream Brush nodded.
      “In that case, the monk said, “please follow me.”
      He followed the monk to the Zen room where he prepared to paint by grinding some ink and spreading out paper. Just as he picked up a brush, though, the monk stopped him. “Just a moment. Before you start to paint, let this old man in a robe drip something into the ink.” Dream Brush was mystified, but he watched while the monk picked up a small porcelain bottle from the table and dripped a few drops of something dew-like into the ink he’d ground. “You can paint, now,” the monk said.
      Dream Brush modestly let the monk move aside before taking up his brush and dipping it into the ink. Then he drew a strange-looking stone on the untreated
Xuan paper. An orchid plant appeared beside the stone with three arrow-like leaves the color of jadeite on one stem and several blooming orchids. In a moment the painting was finished. The monk stood to the side and repeatedly nodded his head.
      A magical thing happened the instant Dream Brush put down his brush. Suddenly he smelled a light orchid scent wafting from the painting. He was in a daze as the fragrance spread out, seeming sometimes to be far away and sometimes close by. It had physical body when it came but faded away like a shadow as it went by....
      He was stunned.
      The monk laughed softly. “It has this miraculous effect,” he said, “thanks entirely to the contents of this bottle.”
      Dream Brush was pleasantly surprised, “What marvelous thing is in there, My Elder?”
      The old man’s expression showed nothing out of the ordinary. “Naught but the clear morning dew this old man in a robe collected as it trickled from the petals of ‘High Pressure Red’ flowers.”
      Dream Brush’s heart leapt when he heard that. “My Elder, can you let me have a ‘High Pressure Red’?”
      “There are things My Guest doesn’t know,” the monk said. “When this flower grows a new bud, the old one dries up. There’s no way I can share it with you.”
      Dream Brush was disappointed, but then he heard the monk say, “But this old man in a robe can give you this small bottle of clear dew. It will allow you to stop worrying where your clothing and food will come from in the future. But only one bottle, so you’ll have to be careful how you use it.”
      Dream Brush thanked the monk profusely and took his leave. He went back home happily.
      He specialized in painting orchids after that. Since the orchids he painted always gave off a unique fragrance, in no time his reputation had spread far. People couldn’t praise him enough and competed to buy his paintings. In particular, wealthy merchants and dignitaries, and high officials and other exalted persona, considered his orchid paintings rare treasures that could ward off evil and vulgarity, and were honored to add them to their collections. Dream Brush earned potfuls of money in no time at all. He began a new lease on life: he bought a house and land, got married and became one of the gentry in the area.
      By the beginning of spring the following year, nary a drop of the clear dew the monk had given him remained, but a never-ending stream of people still came with silver in hand wanting to buy his paintings. When he saw those bright silver coins that he couldn’t get his hands on, his soul burned with anxiety. “How can this be a good thing?”
      One day, several of the town’s street people and ruffians in someone’s employ broke into the ancient temple in the mountains. They took the “High Pressure Red” from the temple’s garden by force.
      That night, Dream Brush looked on as the “High Pressure Red” was transplanted into the garden in his rear courtyard. He was supremely happy.
      Just as Dream Brush was getting out of bed early the next morning, an Imperial Edict came down upon him. It seems that word of his orchid painting had at some time made it to the current emperor’s ear. The emperor thought it was so amazing that he ordered Dream Brush to paint one for him immediately and send it posthaste to Beijing.
      Dream Brush was ecstatic when he received the edict. He picked up the porcelain bottle forthwith and went into the back garden. He thought to take advantage of the early hour and collect some clear dew. But what he saw before him made his muscles weaken and his bones turn to mush. The “High Pressure Red” that he considered a priceless treasure had expired during the night for some unknown reason. It had turned into a pile of straw.
      Dusk. The ancient temple.
      Dream Brush Meng stood among the broken bricks from the crumbling walls. The ancient temple was empty, devoid of people, a complete wasteland. The vicious mountain wind blow through his spacious robes with a piercing scream....

Text at p. 77. Translated from bilibili 专栏 at
https://www.bilibili.com/read/cv269581/ under the name 乡村异闻之兰殇
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4. Jehol Jade Craftsman (热河玉匠)

Chen Yanchun (陈艳春)

      The Culture Arrives Pavilion was a jade processing workshop on Lion Ravine Avenue South in Jehol City. The shop’s owner, Culture Shang, had two sons underfoot, Season, the eldest, and Padding. He wanted them to take over the business someday, so he was training them to become jade carvers. He hadn't realized that they had a particularly negative attitude towards their father's expectations. They said that nine out of ten jade carvers were poor, and it would be difficult to support a family as a handicraftsman. They wanted nothing to do with it.
      One day a young fellow named Universal Declaration Zhang came along wanting to become an apprentice and learn the craft. Since Culture believed the old saw that "When the apprentice learns, the master starves", he didn’t want to pass on his craftsmanship to anyone outside the family. He was about ready to turn the fellow down when Universal, seeming to sense that Culture didn’t want to take him on as an apprentice, got down on his knees as fast as he could and kowtowed three times. This behavior, compared with the casual attitude his two sons had for carving jade, really moved Culture. He changed his mind right then and there and told Universal. "Get up. I’ll accept you as an apprentice."
      Universal was intelligent and able to grasp things quickly. After four years, he’d mastered jade carver’s skills like rough cutting the material, determining a theme, carving to shape and polishing. During this period, Culture’s two sons had each married, had children, and rushed off to Canton with their families. Season was working as a wholesale distributor of medicinal materials; Padding, who’d studied martial arts since he was a child, ended up putting his skills to good use when he was hired as an armed escort.
      One afternoon a man wearing a white cotton shirt came into Culture Arrives Pavilion. He walked up to the counter, took two jade stones from a cloth bag and put them on the counter. Each stone was the size of a piece of tofu. Universal asked him, "Does the gentleman wish to process his jade?"
      "No. I came in to sell these two jade stones."
      This was the first time since Universal had started at the shop that he’d encountered someone who wanted to sell rather than process jade. The master was working in the back courtyard, and Universal had the man wait while he went to get him.
      Culture came to the front counter and greeted the man. He picked up one of the jade stones from the counter and looked it over carefully. He put it down and picked up the other one. While he was looking at it, he asked, "How much silver do you want for both stones?"
      "Eighty ounces," the man answered.
      Culture’s heart skipped a beat when he heard the man’s price. It was on the low side of the current price in the local market. He asked, "Right now the price of jade has fallen through the bottom. Why do you want to let them go at this juncture?"
      "I won’t try to fool you,” the man said helplessly. “I have an urgent need for silver to use right now. I heard the Japanese are going to come here fighting. I have to escape the war with my wife and kids."
      Culture was also straightforward. "Truth is, I’d really like to have these two jade stones, but unfortunately, I can’t come up with eighty ounces of silver."
      The visitor picked up one of the pieces. "You should know,” he said, “there are three red marks in the middle of this stone. If it weren’t for these blemishes, I definitely wouldn’t sell for a mere eighty ounces of silver."
      "What I meant was,” Culture said after a pause, “when all is said and done, I can only get hold of sixty-five ounces of silver. That’s everything I’ve put away as my family's savings."
      The man hesitated before replying readily, "If you really want to keep these two jade stones, then I’ll make you happy. No use talking any more. Sixty-five ounces and you’ve got a deal."
      "Good,” Culture said. “Wait a minute while I go get the silver."
      It didn't take long for Culture to come back with the silver. The visitor left in a hurry after he’d counted it.
      The fighting was continuous from the time the Japs invaded the three northeastern provinces. Turmoil and chaos were everywhere. People were driven from their homes and wandered around with nowhere to settle down. Season and Padding both had to return home to Jehol with their wives and children.
      The Japs attacked Jehol City in the twenty-second year of the Republic, 1933. The Culture Arrives Pavilion closed down. In spring the next year, Culture was killed in a Jap air raid.
      Mrs. Shang called her two sons and her daughters-in-law together that same day to propose that they split up the family and live in separate groups. "Now that the family has suffered this reversal of fortune, our lives will get more hard-pressed by the day. Staying at home all day is not a good strategy for the long term and we’d better look for jobs. At this point, the only things our family has that’re worth any money are these two jade stones. That’s exactly one stone for each brother."
      Season was about to take his stone but his wife grabbed him by the label.
      Padding was about to take his stone but his wife coughed and gestured for him to stay put.
      That’s why the two brothers just stood there dumbly, neither one willing to be the first to take his jade stone.
      Mrs. Shang understood right away. One of the jade stones had blemishes. Whichever brother got the good stone would establish himself as greedy, taking advantage of the other, and whichever brother got the defective stone would come up short. She thought it over and decided it would be best to draw lots. The brother who drew the lot with the word "positive" on it would get the good stone, and the brother who drew the "negative" lot would get the blemished one.
      Mrs. Shang called her sons before her and started to prepare two lots. The brothers saw her write “positive" on two strips of paper and were about to alert her, but Mrs. Shang did not wait for them to speak. She spoke first and said, "I can't be mistaken. I’ve written this word well my entire life."
      Mrs. Shang took the two slips of paper with "positive" on them and rolled them into balls to serve as lots. She threw them into a ceramic jar and shook it. Then she put the jar on the table so that her sons could draw the lots.
      Season stuck his hand into the jar and pulled out one of the lots. He opened it, took a look, and immediately tore it to pieces. Then he turned around and picked up the defective jade stone. His wife cursed to herself, "Crappy paw".
      Padding knew that his brother was yielding to him. He drew the remaining lot from the jar slowly and looked guiltily at Season. His wife couldn’t wait. She ran up and snatched the lot from her husband’s hand, opened it quickly and showed to the elder brother and his wife. "Take a good look. It sure does say ‘positive’ on Padding’s lot.”
      After Jehol was liberated, Universal came to visit his master’s wife. When he learned that the two jade stones had been given to the two brothers, one to each, he said to her, "Tell the brothers that, to repay my Master’s kindness in teaching me, I’ll carve the jade stones they have into works of art."
      Universal had become famous as a jade carving craftsman in Jehol, and artwork he carved would have considerable value. Later, Season and Padding each sent their jade stones to Universal’s home.
      Season went to Universal’s home to collect the carved jade a few months later.
      “You’re really lucky, my man,” Universal told him. “Three pieces like the one your brother has couldn’t equal this one of yours.” Season was speechless.
      “My Master’s wife told me about how you divided the jade stones back then,” Universal continued. “You know, by tolerating a few blemishes, you’ve got yourself a beautiful piece of jade."
      Universal took the carved jade out of the box. It was apparent that the three places on the jade stone with red marks had changed from defects into things of beauty. They’d been carved into three vividly red, lifelike goldfish.
      At an auction of collectibles many years later, Season’s piece sold for several times the price of Padding’s.

Text at p. 80. Translated from 热河陈艳春的博客 at
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_c3c6929f0102xdnr.html
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Bonus Selection
5. How About I Let You Get Rich First (让你先富起来吧)

by Rainy Wang (王雨)

      Village Chief Zhao was living humbly in a poor village. After three years in office, he had nothing to his name and was unacceptably worried about it. One dark and stormy night, he groped his way to the home of Country Magistrate Money. When he spoke to the Magistrate, every word came from the bottom of his heart:
      "I've been meaning to come pay my respects to you for a long time, Sir, like a devoted son, but while the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. That place where I live, it's too poor. If you'd give me an opportunity, Sir, just a drop of your largess would certainly be…."
      He put an envelope down on the table and, feeling that he'd accomplished his mission, took his leave.
      Magistrate Money called him in three months later. "It's like this. Seeing as how you're sincere, I'll give you a chance. May you get rich first!"
      Village Chief Zhao was promoted right away to be the "Number One Boss" in a rich village. After six months he began repeatedly coming and going from Country Magistrate Money's home. He acted more like a son to the Magistrate than the Magistrate's own son – truly like the old saying, he was repaying largess with largess.

http://bbs.tianya.cn/post-shortmessage-60605-1.shtml, story 17




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3. An Orchid Dies

​4. Jehol Jade Craftsman

Percolator 04
Stories printed in Chinese Mini-Stories 2017
2017年中国年度微型小说, 作家网选编, 冰峰•陈亚美主编
Text at page cited after each story; translated from the webpages cited below.

1. Hometown Fog
2. Torture by Sand