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.

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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—