7. The Princesses Etiquette  

One morning, around 10 o’clock, Wong Ma ran up to Yu Wen and said:”Hurry up, my lady! Madam wants to see you. She is in the Main Room. If you are late, Madam will blame me for neglecting my duty.”

Yu-Wen went into the Main Room unwillingly. To her surprise, after she entered the room, she saw some of her distant relatives dressed in their fancy traditional garments were there with her mother. They sat in those visitors’ chairs on each side of her mother.  They were all looking at her. Yu-Wen had a funny feeling as if she was standing in front of a group of judges.  She did in her very best manners, ceremoniously greeted those aunts.  Before Yu Wen had a chance to find out why her mother sent for her, one of them said: “Oh my! What a pretty child! But I say, it’s supposed to be the right time to teach her our basic princesses’ etiquette now.” Yu was around seven years!

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 and unpleasant voice, she said to Yu Wen:”Start from tomorrow I have to teach you the princesses’ etiquette. You’d better learn it with your all your effort. 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 stood up and raised up her right hand with palm down in the air about equal height to her shoulder. Her maid quickly came forward to receive her hand humbly into her left hand. They walked out of the main room gracefully! Left many questions and wonderings behind to Yu Wen.

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

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

“……..?”Yu Wen’s mind was floating in the clouds.

Next morning before Mrs. Lyan’s teaching, she sat down on her armed padauk chair with her two arms on the chair arms. She looked like a commander in chief to Yu Wen.  Not wearing too much facial expression.

Mrs. Lyan began her speech with a stiff look: “I was going to teach you the basic princesses etiquette earlier.  But your father always interceded for you. He said it’s a republican China now! It is out of fashion to those unnecessary and over-elaborate formalities. Yesterday I got your father’s agreement and will start teaching you formally. I don’t want to have anyone say our girl is not educated. Listen to me, don’t you dare to tell any rubbish to your father.”     Yu Wen dare not to say anything to resist nor to answer back. She knew her mother would not tolerate with anything that disgraced her.  She understood that what had happened the other day was really embarrass her mother.——

Yu-Wen stood there obediently. She watched mother demonstrated the whole processes of the princesses etiquette, Yu-Wen understood what Wong Ma was trying to tell her.

“Your body must be well balanced when squatting down. It looked so gracefully noble and dignified.”

She saw her mother’s right foot stepped out half a step, and curved a little which brought her upper body forward and down, but she kept her body straight upward. Gracefully she put the right hand on top of the left one and rest them on the right knee slightly and squat down a little bit.  Then she stood back up gently.  Mrs. Lyan’s gesture looked so graceful, lofty and dignified.

Now, the show dropped down to Yu Wen!  She felt like a puppet, doing each movement whatever her mother told her to do. And the way her mother posted her.

From her mother’s demonstration and her first lesson, Yu-Wen realized it was not an easy task at all. Especially for a seven-year-old youngster.  When Yu Wen was trying to squat down, not only her upper body swayed her legs wobbled too. She fell down and sat on the ground. She couldn’t help but burst into laughter. All of a sudden she felt a burning pain on her forehead which brought her tears out. That was given by her mother who knocked her forehead with a clenched middle finger. She felt her head slipped into her neck. Wong Ma quickly assisted her to get back on her feet. A small lump added to Yu Wen’s forehead     “Look into the mirror when you working on it.” Mrs. Lyan said to Yu Wen with a cold voice. Then she turned to Wang Ma: “Wong Ma, watch your lady when she practiced every morning until she will fall down again.” Mrs. Lyan walked out of the Main Room without looking at her daughter who was sobbing silently.

Wong Ma’s palm and the gentle rubbed were some refreshing medication for Yu Wen , not only eased off the pain on her forehead temporarily it also warmed up her heart. For Wang Ma, each time when she saw Yu Wen was crying, she wished that she could do more than just rubbing on Yu Wen’s lump she shed her tears with her poor lady quietly. All she could say was: “Oh my! Oh my! Try harder next time my lady.”

All the women of Manchu nobility were not foot-binding. Even though Yu Wen’s feet were born with small size because she was rather small in stature. This kind of gesture was very difficult for her from not swaying, especially for her age.  Sometimes she had to be assisted by Wong Ma before she fell onto the ground.

When Yu Wen was a little girl, she didn’t understand why each time when she was trying to squat down, a childhood memory always came up to her. She remembered when she was 5 or younger, she saw some ladies wearing some embroidered shoes with Flower Pot High Heels. When they walk with them, they looked so gracefully slandered, very pretty and charming. Once she sneaked into a dresser and found a pair of those kinds of shoes.  She put them on! While she was trying to stand up with them, the Flowerpot at the soles stood right in the middle of the arch of her feet. That made her dizzy and lost her balance. Fortunately, she grabbed the corner of the table close to before she fell onto it and broken into pieces.

“Flowerpot high heels”, looked at a very small up-side-down flower pot. They were hollow in the middle. The small side attached to the middle of the sole. The bottom of the bigger side was sealed and drilled with so many small holes, designed as Lotus flowers or other good luck sketches.  Some perfumed powers were stuffed inside the up-side-down flower pots.  After each step the lady stepped out, the powdered prints from the heels would be left on the ground. Whoever wears this kind of shoes had to keep their heads high and chest out. the walking movement looked so elegant, graceful and so feminine. Yu Wen wished that someday she could be able to wear them. But never did Yu Wen had a chance to do so after she grew up. Not only because the  changing of the age and also fashion, she married to the Han man

Yu Wen understood what her mother asked her to do was for her good. Who would not wish to be a respectable lady? She tried very hard to work on it and overcome the difficulty.

Sometimes Mr. Lyan came to Yu Wen’s room to give her some comfort and moral support. Though only tears and complaints, he would get from Yu Wen, whose fatherly love Yu Wen treasured her whole life.

From Mr. Lyan, Yu-Wen learned that there were many different kinds of court etiquettes. Different etiquette for unmarried girls, married ladies, men, servants and when officials meeting with the emperor in the feudal times. They were all different from each other.

“But who cares!” Yu Wen thought, “Now it is a republican China. No one would ever care about those different etiquettes anymore.” Yu Wen would never realize that how much it would benefit her in her future.

—To be continued.

  1. The Young Idiot—

 

 

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The Humble Beginning

Yu Wen’s father, Mr. Lyan was a descendant of a Mongolian prince. Inherited Mongolians’ special personality, bold and generous, easy and out-going. Her Mother, Jin Shr, was a lineal descendant related to Qing’s.  If the Qing was in power she should be princesses, a very traditional Manchurian. She married Mr. Lyan, they had two sons and one girl, Jen Dung, Fu Sing and Yu Wen. Yu Wen was the only girl, the pearl of the family.

Mr. Lyan was educated in Japan, the University of Tokyo. Because of his education back ground, he operated an arsenal in Pei-king. That was during the beginning of The new republican government was newly established. Political affairs were very unstable. The current brought out warlords, those did not agree with the policy of the new government. In older someday they could take over the whole country and build a better one. First of all, They have to enlarge their own territories by taking lands from the other . Wars happened here and there in China. Munitions were needed between new government and the warlords. Mr. Lyan’s arsenal was mutually benefited.

Due to the business, Mr. Lyan was operating, the Lyan family was courteously treated by both government and the warlords. The Lyans were able to keep their splendid house with courtyards which were located at Bei-Wu Alley in Pei-king. It was not as big and beautiful as a prince’s house, but certainly, it was very unusual.

A pair of stone lions stood on each side of the main entrance. The two doors at the main entrance were tall and wide. Painted with red. A  copper lion head with a copper ring in its mouth on each door for visitors to knock.  When the loud knocking noise sound, the doorman would know someone is coming.

The Lyan’s residence was two-hall building. The rooms around the first courtyard were for menials and long-term workers.

The houses around the second courtyard were the masters and guests. The second court yard was a beautiful garden.  A man-made pond with rockeries in it.  The pond was surrounded by beautiful flowers. Eaves are long and wide. If you place a manh-jong table under the eaves with 4 people playing at the table, they would not get wet by the heavy rain. Pathways with red railings winding in the garden to connect each side of the house. Some of the Ancient Bricks inlaid on the pathway were carved with moral stories. You may see these special bricks in the gardens of the old residences or rich families in China. But after the downfallen of Qing, most of the decedents of the royal families could not adjust the new age and they had never worked in their whole life. All they do was; when food was ready, they open their mouths. When clothes handed over to them, they stick out their hands. And spending. Gradually they used up all the money.  To hold out their lives, first, they sold the furniture, valuable Paintings, curious, Clothes. Until there was nothing else to sell. They dug out those Ancient Bricks to exchange for some food. They never know the true value of those Ancient Bricks.   The Lyan residence was taken over by the Japanese one year after they took over Pei-King.

When Yu Wen was a little girl, she often asked Wong -Ma, her nursing mother to tell her those stories carved on those Ancient Bricks. The loyalty, filially, benevolence and righteousness were deeply planted in her thought.

In the second yard, there was a man-made little hill with a secret door, a cave behind it. In the cave, there was a stone table. The cave was built for storing ice for the hot summer. In winter, The river was frozen.  People cut the ice into big chunks and sell them. The Lyans always store them in that cave.  Used them in summer to bring the room temperature down, cold drinks and cooling fruits.  As a naughty child, Yu Wen loved to ask Wong Ma to be with her to explore the cave. She believed there must be some kind of secret path that could lead to somewhere. Such as to someone’s country side, or another mansion, or even could get out the city. She often knocked the rock on the wall to see if she could be lucky enough to open up a door to lead the way to somewhere. But the dimness, wet and coldness in the air for poor Wong Ma’s arthritis knees, they could never be able to accomplish the adventure.

There was various kind of flowers in front of the artificial hill. Yu Wen loved the nature since she was a little girl. She appreciated the beauty of nature. Often being attracted by a small flower or insects. She loved the beauty of butterflies or a bug. Whenever she found something special, she would ask Wong Ma to help her to bring it home to study it. Sometimes even use it as a model pattern for her embroidery. That was why her needle works were so different from others.

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—