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Engaged to a nun or Chen Yun Qi (Yun Ch'i)

AT I-ling, in Hupei, there lived a young man named Chen Yu, the son of a graduate. He was a good scholar and a handsome fellow, and had made a reputation for himself even before he arrived at manhood. When quite a boy, a physiognomist had predicted that he would marry a Taoist nun; but his parents regarded it only as a joke, and made several attempts to get him a different kind of wife. Their efforts, however, had not hitherto proved successful, the difficulty being to find a suitable match.

Now his maternal grandmother lived at Huang-kang; and on one occasion, when young Chen was paying her a visit, he heard some one say that of the four Yuns at Huang-chou the youngest had no peer. This remark referred to some very nice-looking nuns who lived in a temple a few miles from his grandmother's house; and accordingly Chen secretly set off to see them, and, knocking at the door, was very cordially received by the four ladies, who were persons of considerable refinement. The youngest was a girl of incomparable beauty, and Chen could not keep his eyes off her, until at last she put her hand up to her face and looked the other way. Her companions now going out of the room to get tea for their visitor, Chen availed himself of the opportunity to ask the young lady's name; to which she replied that she was called Yun-ch'i, and that her surname was Ch'en. "How extraordinary!" cried Chen; "and mine is P'an." This made her blush very much, and she bent her head down and made no answer; by-and-by rising up and going away. The tea then came in, accompanied by some nice fruit, and the nuns began telling him their names. One was Pai Yun-shen, and thirty odd years of age; another was Sheng Vim-mien, just twenty; and the third was Liang Yun-tung, twenty-four or five years old, but the junior in point of religious standing. Yun-ch'i did not reappear, and at length Chen grew anxious to see her again, and asked where she was. Miss Pai told him her sister was afraid of strangers, and Chen then got up and took his leave in spite of their efforts to detain him. "If you want to see Yun-ch'i you had better come again to-morrow," said Miss Pai; and Chen, who went home thinking of nothing but Yun-ch'i, did return to the temple on the following day. All the nuns were there except Yun-ch'i, but he hardly liked to begin by inquiring after her; and then they pressed him to stay and take dinner with them, accepting no excuses, Miss Pai herself setting food and chop-sticks before him? and urging him to eat. When he asked where Yun-ch'i was, they said she would come directly; but evening gradually drew on and Chen rose to go home. There-upon they all entreated him to stay, promising that if he did so they would make Yun-ch'i come in. Chen then agreed to remain; the lamps were lighted, and wine was freely served round, until at last he said he was so tipsy he couldn't take any more. "Three bumpers more," cried Miss Pai, "and then we will send for Yun-ch'i." So Chen drank off his three cups, whereupon Miss Liang said he must also drink three with her, which he did, turning his wine-cup down on the table and declaring that he would have no more. "The gentleman won't condescend to drink with us," said Miss Pai to Miss Liang, "so you had better call in Yun-ch'i, and tell the fair Eloisa that her Abelard is awaiting her." In a few moments Miss Liang came back and told Chen that Yun-ch'i would not appear; upon which he went off in a huff, without saying a word to either of them, and for several days did not go near the place again. He could not, however, forget Yun-ch'i, and was always hanging about on the watch, until one afternoon he observed Miss Pai go out, at which he was delighted, for he wasn't much afraid of Miss Liang, and at once ran up to the temple and knocked at the door. Yun-mien answered his knock, and from her he discovered that Miss Liang had also gone out on business. He then asked for Yun-ch'i, and Yun-mien led him into another court-yard, where she called out, "Yun-ch'i! here's a visitor." At this the door of the room was immediately slammed, and Yun-mien laughed and told Chen she had locked herself in. Chen was on the point of saying something, when Yun-mien moved away, and a voice was heard from the other side of the window, "They all declare I'm setting my cap at you, Sir; and if you come here again, I cannot answer for my safety. I do not wish to remain a nun, and if I could only meet with a gentleman like you, Mr. P'an, I would be a handmaid to him all the days of my life." Chen offered his hand and heart to the young lady on the spot; but she reminded him that her education for the priesthood had not been accomplished without expense, "and if you truly love me," added she, "bring twenty ounces of silver wherewith to purchase my freedom. I will wait for you three years with the utmost fidelity." Chen assented to this, and was about to tell her who he really was, when Yun-mien returned and they all went out together, Chen now bidding them farewell and going back to his grand-mother's. After this he always had Yun-ch'i in his thoughts, and wanted very much to get another interview with her and be near her once again, but at this juncture he heard that his father was dangerously ill, and promptly set off on his way home, travelling day and night. His father died, and his mother who then ruled the house-hold was such a severe person that he dared not tell her what was nearest to his heart. Meanwhile he scraped together all the money he could; and refused all proposals of marriage on the score of being in mourning for his father. His mother, however, insisted on his taking a wife; and he then told her that when he was with his grandmother at Huang-kang, an arrangement had been made that he was to marry a Miss Ch'en, to which he himself was quite ready to accede; and that now, although his father's death had stopped all communications on the subject, he could hardly do better than pay a visit to his grandmother and see how matters stood, promising that if the affair was not actually settled he would obey his mother's commands. His mother consented to this, and off he started with the money he had saved; but when he reached Huang-kang and went off to the temple, he found the place desolate and no longer what it had been. Entering in, he saw only one old priestess employed in cooking her food; and on making inquiries of her, she told him that the Abbess had died in the previous year, and that the four nuns had gone away in different directions. According to her. Yun-ch'i was living in the northern quarter of the city, and thither he proceeded forthwith; but after asking for her at all the temples in the neighbourhood, he could get no news of her, and returned sorrowfully home, pretending to his mother that his uncle had said Mr. Ch'en had gone away, and that as soon as he came back they would send a servant to let him know.

Some months after these events, Chen's mother went on a visit to her own home, and mentioned this story in conversation with her old mother, who, to her astonishment, knew nothing at all about it, but suggested that Chen and his uncle must have concocted the thing together. Luckily, however, for Chen his uncle was away at that time, and they had no means of getting at the real truth. Meanwhile, Chen's mother went away to the Lily Hill to fulfil a vow she had made, and remained all night at an inn at the foot of the hill. That evening the landlord knocked at her door and ushered in a young priestess to share the room. The girl said her name was Yun-ch'i; and when she heard that Chen's mother lived at I-ling, she went and sat by her side, and poured out to her a long tale of tribulation, finishing up by saying that she had a cousin named P'an, at I-ling, and begging Chen's mother to send some one to tell him where she would be found. "Every day I suffer," added she, "and each day seems like a year. Tell him to come quickly, or I may be gone." Chen's mother inquired what his other name might be, but she said she did not know; to which the old lady replied that it was of no consequence, as, being a graduate, it would be easy to find him out. Early in the morning Chen's mother bade the girl farewell, the latter again begging her not to forget; and when she reached home she told Chen what had occurred. Chen threw himself on his knees, and told his mother that he was the P'an to whom the young lady alluded; and after hearing how the engagement had come about, his mother was exceedingly angry, and said, "Undutiful boy how will you face your relations with a nun for a wife?" Chen hung his head and made no reply; but shortly afterwards when he went up for his examination, he presented himself at the address given by Yun-ch'i only, however, to find that the young lady had gone away a fortnight before. He then returned home and fell into a bad state of health, when his grandmother died and his mother set off to assist at her funeral. On her way back she missed the right road and reached the house of some people named Ching, who turned out to be cousins of hers. They invited her in, and there she saw a young girl of about eighteen sitting in the parlour, and as great a beauty as she had ever set eyes on. Now, as she was always thinking of making a good match for her son, and curing him of his settled melancholy, she asked who the young lady might be; and they told her that her name was Wang, that she was a connection of their own, and that her father and mother being dead, she was staying temporarily with them. Chen's mother inquired the name of Miss Wang's betrothed, but they said she was not engaged; and then taking her hand, she entered into conversation, and was very much charmed with her. Passing the night there, Chen's mother took her cousin into her confidence, and the latter agreed that it would be a capital match; "but," added she, "this young lady is somewhat ambitious, or she would hardly have remained single so long. We must think about it." Meanwhile, Chen's mother and Miss Wang got on so extremely well together that they were already on the terms of mother and daughter; and Miss Wang was invited to accompany her home. This invitation she readily accepted, and next day they went back; Chen's mother, who wished to see her son free from his present trouble, bidding one of the servants tell him that she had brought home a nice wife for him; Chen did not believe this; but on peeping through the window beheld a young lady much prettier even than Yun-ch'i herself. He now began to reflect that the three years agreed upon had already expired; that Yun-chi had gone no one knew whither, and had probably by this time found another husband; so he had no difficulty in entertaining the thought of marrying this young lady, and soon regained his health. His mother then caused the young people to meet, and be introduced to one another; saying to Miss Wang, when her son had left the room, "Did you guess why I invited you to come home with me?" "I did," replied the young lady, "but I don't think you guessed what was my object in coming. Some years ago I was betrothed to a Mr. P'an, of I-ling. I have heard nothing of him for a long time. If he has found another wife I will be your daughter-in-law; if not, I will ever regard you as my own mother, and endeavour to repay you for your kindness to me." "As there is an actual engagement," replied Chen's mother, "I will say no more; but when I was at the Lily Hill there was a Taoist nun inquiring after this Mr. P'an, and now you again, though, as a matter of fact, there is no Mr. P'an in I-ling at all." "What!" cried Miss Wang, "are you that lady I met? I am the person who inquired for Mr. P'an." "If that is so," replied Chen's mother with a smile, "then your Mr. P'an is not far off." "Where is he?" said she; and then Chen's mother bade a maid-servant lead her out to her son and ask him. "Is your name Yun-ch'i?" said Chen, in great astonishment; and when the young lady asked him how he knew it, he told her the whole story of his pretending to be a Mr. P'an. But when Yun-ch'i found out to whom she was talking, she was abashed, and went back and told his mother, who inquired how she came to have two names. "My real name is Wang," replied the young lady; "but the old Abbess, being very fond of me, made me take her own name." Chen's mother was overjoyed at all this, and an auspicious day was immediately fixed for the celebration of their marriage.



You may wonder why Sister Pai and Liang entreated the young man to stay so earnestly, and Yun Ch'i lock herself up, she couldn't be just shy and afraid of strangers. There must be some reason, but you can find out just from Giles' translation:

 In a few moments Miss Liang came back and told Chen that Yun-ch'i would not appear; Chen wanted to leave, but it was too late, he then pretended to be drunk and lay on his back  in bed sleeping. The two nuns stripped him naked, and had sex with him one after another without stop the whole night, Chen couldn't bear their excessiveness. As soon as the day was dawn, (生欲去,而夜已深,乃佯醉仰臥。兩人代裸之,迭就淫焉。終夜不堪其擾。天既明,) [upon which] he went off in a huff, without saying a word to either of them, and for several days did not go near the place again.

You can now see Yun-ch'i was just a bait used to capture the young handsome man for the nuns to satisfy their carnal desires. While Yun-ch'i was as good as beautiful, she wouldn't wallow in the mire with other nuns.

「人皆以妾為餌,釣君也。頻來,身命殆矣。 妾不能終守清規,亦不敢遂乖廉恥,欲得如潘郎者事之耳。」生乃以白頭相約。雲棲曰:「妾師撫養。即亦非易,果相見愛,當以二十金贖妾身。妾候君三年。如望為桑中之約,所不能也。」"They all use me as a bait to trap you. If you come here again and again, your life will be in danger.[They all declare I'm setting my cap at you, Sir; and if you come here again, I cannot answer for my safety.]  I do not wish to remain a nun, and if I could only meet with a gentleman like you, Mr. P'an, I would be a handmaid to him all the days of my life." Chen offered his hand and heart to the young lady on the spot; but she reminded him that her education for the priesthood had not been accomplished without expense, "and if you truly love me," added she, "bring twenty ounces of silver wherewith to purchase my freedom. I will wait for you three years with the utmost fidelity."


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