5. Lade Head and Black Bean Eeyes

One of Mr. Lyan’s sisters lived close by. She married Mr. Byan who was a descendant of a Manchurian lord. Their only son, Byan Shu Syun, was a little younger than Yu Wen.  Mrs. Byan loved Yu Wen so dearly. Very often she invited Yu Wen to visit them. This younger cousin of Yu Wen loved her as much as his beloved older sister.

The alter in Byan’s main room was decorated a little different. At the center the altar instead of a tablet with the name of the deceased ancestors, there was a ladle. Yu-Wen always wondering why don’t they do the same way as the Hans? Why uncle Byan’s ancestor was a ladle that could be used to pick up the water? Wong Ma told her that was called “Ladle Head Black, Bean Eyes”!  Why? Yu-Wen was very curious about it. Wong Ma also told her that Mrs. Lyan was a Manchurian princess all right, but she married to a westernized husband who doesn’t think it is necessary to do so.

Therefore every time when Yu Wen visit her aunt, she always looked at the alter curiously, wished that if she can somehow to get to the altar to have a good close look at the “Ladle Head Black Bean Eyes”.

One day she got a chance, Her uncle was not home, her aunt was in her room working on her needlework. Yu Wen and her cousin were lingering in the main room.  Yu-Wen was a little bit older than Shu Syun,  she always acted like a commander to Shu Syun,  Shu Syun had no other siblings. He loved this commander cousin as well as his elder sister. Whatever Yu Wen told him to do, he always did so.  Now Yu Wen grabbed this good opportunity. She told Shu Syun that she wanted to climb up to the altar and ask him to help her to move a chair closer the altar. So she could climb up to the altar.

“What? Climb up to the altar? If my dad knows it I’ll get in big trouble.” Shu Syun whispered to his commander.

“OK! I’ll do it myself.” Yu-Wen began to push the chair as she was saying.

All the furniture in this main room were made of red sandalwood.  They were very heavy. Too heavy for a little child like Yu Wen. Her poor little follower couldn’t stop her. Helplessly he joined her. When the chair was close enough for YU Wen, quickly she climbed up and stood up on the chair. The altar was too high for her. She tiptoed on her feet. But all she could see was only a part of the of the ladle. That was not enough to satisfy her curiosity.  She leaned her body onto the altar. She thought she could climb up to the altar as easily as she climbed up to the chair. To stand on the altar she could see the whole thing. But before she knew it her feet followed her body and left the chair behind. There was no spot for her to land her feet on so she can move upward.  The next thing Yu Wen notice was her legs were dangling in the air!

“Oh! My goodness! Oh! My good heavens! You’ll fall off from up there. What am I going to do?  You may be killed if you fall down to the ground. Please come down. Please, I beg you, My sweet, sweet sister! My queen! My chief commander…..”  Shu Syun cried out frighteningly.

“OK! OK! I’m trying. Don’t you see I’m trying? But…. where did the chair go?” Yu-Wen shouted back. It seemed that the alter growing higher after YU Wen leaned onto it. And the chair ran away…..! It wasn’t very easy for Yu Wen to lean onto the altar at the first place, and now, it seemed there were ten feet farther from the chair than before. The chaotic noise disturbed Mrs. Byan from her needlework. She stepped out of her room and saw this funny sight!

“Well,  well, my little monkey niece!  What’s all this big commotion?”

Her son tried to protect himself and said: “My sister wanted to see the [Ladle head Black Bean Eye], I told her not to. But she insisted.”

“En! I can see that!” She walked to Yu Wen and picked her up. She held Yu Wen up high as close as she could to the “Ladle head Black Bean Eye”. And said: “How is that? Is this close enough for you to have a good look at it?”

“Wow! It is true! It is a ladle. Hey! there are really two black beans on it too!”Yu-Wen exclaimed with excitement! “But………….. how come that uncle’s ancestor is a ladle?”

“No! That was not quite right.” Mrs. Byan laughed. She continued:  “It was told us that our ancestor Nurhachi was killed on the battlefield. People could not find his body but they found his head only. Therefore his coming generations use a ladle instead of a shrine and worship him.”

What so ever her aunt said sounded reasonable to her when she was a little girl. But at school Yu Wen learned in history class that Nurgaci’s death was because of the illness. Which one is the truth, which one is false? It’s hard to tell.  Anyway, her uncle was a descendant of Nurgaci Ai-Xin-Jue-Luo. Nurgaci was the first emperor of Qing.  Ai-Xin-Jue-Luo was the emperor’s surname. But why did they use black beans for eyes? Yu-Wen had never done any further research.

— To be continued.

 6. Strict Mother is on the way is in the way



C-3 The Princesses Etiquette

—part 1—

Yu Wen grew in a noble family. At home Wong Ma took care of everything of hers, even dressing her up in the mornings. Whenever Yu Wen was going out, there were always some long term workers around her to make sure she was secured. Yu Wen lived like a princesses. But whenever she was with her mother, Yu Wen became as a mouse saw a cat! She wouldn’t be able to act as the other kits doing as a spoiled child. Even dare not to dream of it!

Gradually the fear of her mother getting more then to yearn for being close to her mother. On the other hand, Mrs. Lyan based on the Manchurian life style, she wanted to educated Yu Wen to be a real noble Manchurian lady. Therefore her demands get more and more strict. Yu Wen found out in the later days that in the royal families, boys always were more privileged to enjoy their freedom than the girls. Whatever boys did were acceptable because they were shield by their fathers. But for girls, their parent all wished to look for a good match for their daughters. Therefore the girls must behave well as a perfect lady. They must well remember all the “The three Obeys and the Four Virtues”  and “Four virtue” The ladies young and old should keep them in their daily life.

Three obeys:

  1. Obey you father before you married.
  2. Obey your husband after you married.
  3. Obey your son if your husband died.

Four virtue:

  1. Well behaviors.
  2. Good appearance; clothing, headgear and footwear should always be wore properly.
  3. Speech – when you talking with people, should agree what they say, be understandable, should always realize what you should or should not say.
  4. Should be good in Chinese traditional women’s skills, such as needle works, cooking, housekeeping etc.

One morning, Wong Ma ran up to Yu Wen and said:”Hurry up, my lady. Madam Lyan wants to see you. She is in the Main Room. If you are lat, Madam will blame me neglecting my duty.”

Yu Wen went to the Main Room unwillingly. To her surprise she saw some of her distant relatives were there with her mother. She did in her very best manners, ceremoniously greeted those aunts. Before Yu Wen had a chance to find out why her mother sent her for, one of the ladies said: 「Oh my! What a pretty child! But I say, it’s suppose to be the right time to teach her our basic princesses ‘s etiquette now.」

Yu Wen’s heart beating fast! She saw her mother’s face getting longer. She knew something bad is on its way! Yu Wen was right! Mrs. Lyan Perfunctorily saw those ladies left, she came back to the main room. With a long face, she said to Yu Wen fiercely:”Start from tomorrow I have to teach you the princesses’ etiquette. You’d better learn it with your very best.”

“Wong Ma, move that big dressing mirror here. From tomorrow on, you’ll watch your lady practicing the traditional court princesses etiquette correctly.”After Mrs. Lyan laid down her orders she put one of her hand on the shoulder of her maid, gracefully and walked out of the room. She left Yu Wen with questions and wonderings.

After her mother was totally out of sight, Yu Wen asked Wong Ma: “What is princesses’ etiquette any way? So You can do it, right?”Yu Wen asked.

“No! My lady, I’m just a servant, how could I ever learn these kind of court etiquette! But I’ve been with Madam to visit many royal families, I saw how their unmarried ladies salute your mother. Their gestures were so graceful so beautiful. They squat down slowly and well balanced with their two hands folded and placed on one knee, their upper bodies were straight up but not stiff. Looked like a piece of beautiful petal float down slightly. Well, it is very difficult for me to describe. I suppose it is not that easy to learnt.”

“……..?” Yu Wen’s mind was up on the clouds.

—Part 2 to be continued—