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  1. #201
    Thetown was in a far southern province. It took more than a month forthe concerned parties to travel the long distance to the capital.When the minister questioned Cabbage, she was consistent with whatshe had said. The son of the mayor had warned her that if she changedanything in her statement of confession the consequence would be veryserious. But he hadn't explained how serious it would have been andCabbage hadn't doubted it. She really liked him and wanted him tolive. The minister had a meeting with his consultants. They all knewthat if Cabbage insisted on what she had confessed, they couldn'tchange the verdict. They had no reason to do so. They should find away out of it. Everyone in the room put on the thinking cap. All of asudden, one of the consultants said that he was struck with awonderful idea.
    Ina small room of the Judicial Ministry building, a square table stoodin the center with two people seated at it opposite each other. Onewas Cabbage and the other was Yang. They were brought together inthis room by the jailers, who told them that the minister gave themthe dinner because they would be executed next day. They weresupposed to bid eternal adieu to each other at their last dinnerparty. There were four dishes on the table and even wine wasprovided. Yang was in total despair and felt that it was unfair tohim because he didn't murder anybody. Cabbage hung her head low,ashamed of herself for framing Yang. At first both of them keptsilent. No one cared to speak. To break the awkwardness, Yang began,“Cabbage, let's drink farewell. We may meet in next life.”Cabbage could think of nothing to say. So she remained in silence.She realized now that she had been taken in by the son. Perhaps, hehad never loved her from the beginning, but why had he wanted herhusband out of the way by poisoning him? “Cabbage,” Yang wenton, “We will die tomorrow. Can you tell me the truth so that Iwon't die ignorant?” Cabbage thought what was the use now even ifshe told the truth. They would be executed next day all the same. Soshe made no answer, still bending her head low. Yang was a couple ofyears older than she. They grew up together in the same neighborhood.When in childhood, they played together. Then Yang reached the age tobe tutored, he transferred his new knowledge to her by teaching herhow to read and write. As her family was not rich, Yang's fatherdidn't consent to their marriage. Then she was married to the latehusband. “Did you still remember we read the story West Chambertogether?” How could she forget? She recalled many scenes in theirchildhood and when they had grown up. She almost buried her chin inher chest. “Cabbage, speak to me, please. Let me hear your voiceonce more before I die.” Yang sounded like begging her. Her tearsdripped on her lap. “Don't cry, Cabbage. Talk to me. We have onlytonight to live.” Yang said softly. Cabbage sobbed out the words,“I'm sorry.”

  2. #202
    Noneed to say sorry.” Yang sighed. After a while. “Do you hate me?”Cabbage asked bashfully.
    No.Why should I hate you? Everyone will die sooner or later.” Yangsaid philosophically.
    BecauseI framed you.” At last she said that.
    So,you did frame me?” Yang said without any surprise. Cabbage nodded.
    Nowtell me the truth, please.”
    What'sthe use now?”
    Atleast I know the truth before I die.”
    Aftera lot of importunity from Yang, Cabbage told him the truth. Yangsighed and laughed and began to eat and drink. A jailer came intotheir room, holding a stack of paper in his hand. He told Cabbage tosign on the bottom of the last page. Cabbage didn't know what thatmeant, but she signed anyway. Why should she care what papers shesigned? She would soon die. She cared for nothing any more.
    Nextday, both of them were brought before the minister. They thought theminister would send them to the execution ground. But the ministerasked Cabbage, “Why didn't you tell the truth in the localgovernment? I mean, at least you could do it in the governor'syamen.” Cabbage was confused. She was at a loss to understand whatthe minister had just asked. This was the ruse they had used to drawthe truth out of Cabbage. The minister had hidden himself in the nextroom with some of his consultants. They had been eavesdropping towhat Yang and Cabbage would have said. A consultant had written downall the facts Cabbage had confessed to Yang. The minister issued anorder to fetch the mayor, the son of the mayor and the owner of thedrugstore, who had sold the arsenic to the son. When the drugstoreowner pointed out that it was the son of the mayor, not Yang, who hadcome to him to buy the arsenic, the son could no longer deny hiscrime. So the original verdict was invalid. The son was executed. Themayor was removed from his office and exiled to a remote province.Cabbage and Yang were proved not guilty and released. Yang went backto his home in the southern province. He was handicapped on the kneesfor life.
    Thecase was closed. Many officials in that southern province were eitherdismissed from their posts or demoted, because they had misjudged acase that had involved two innocent lives. The minister wrote areport to West Empress Dowager. She was interested in the case andcurious to see what Cabbage looked like and so summoned Cabbage toher presence. In ordinary circumstances, only courtiers above acertain rank could be present before an empress dowager. Cabbage wasa special case. After the interview, Cabbage became a nun.

  3. #203
    Chapter 36


    GeneralGovernor Zuo finished his task in the northwestern provinces and wassummoned to the capital. First, he was given the title of a primeminister. Then he was appointed to be a secretary. Everyday he wenton duty in the office of the Secretarial Bureau. Other secretariesheld him in certain esteem due to his fame. But he was not a modestman. He boasted a lot about his fighting merits in the northwesternprovinces. So by degrees he lost the deference of his colleagues.Everyone wished that he would soon retire since he was alreadyseventy, though still in a comparatively good health.
    Thedivision of the garrison of the Forbidden City had an infamy for baddiscipline and inability to fight. Zuo arrived in the capital,bringing a division of his own troops. He offered to Prince Yihuan,who was in charge of the garrison division, that he could send histrainers to drill the garrison division. Yihuan took his offer as adisdain to his garrison division. He declined of course. ThenSecretary Zuo proposed to fix the dikes of the Yongding River nearthe capital, using his division. So the Secretarial Bureau consentedto his proposal.
    Afterthe decease of East Empress Dowager, West Empress Dowager began toestablish her sole and total authority. Since Governor Li of ZhidiProvince had been the Two River General Governor and still had someinfluence in the Yangtze River area, she wanted to erase his rootsthere. The best way was to make Zuo the Two River General Governor,because Zuo always opposed what Governor Li did. So Zuo left thecapital for the south of Yangtze River. The head of the Two RiverArmy Supplies General Bureau was the brother-in-law of Governor Li.Li had appointed his marital relative as the head when he had beenthe Two River General Governor there. His brother-in-law was apower-maniac. He didn't know anything about war, but he alwaysbragged that he would be a good general if he could command armies inany war. He neglected his duties. He let all the defensive devicesalong the Yangtze River go into a state of uselessness. When theofficers in charge reported the situation, he ignored the report anddidn't have them fixed. As West Empress Dowager got a report aboutit, she removed him from his office.
    GovernorZuo's guards were all generals, who were faithful to him. Once Zuosent one of his generals to the Financial Official, whose positionwas the second in rank under the governor. So he thought that hisrank should be above a guard from the governor's yamen. When theguard didn't show due respect to him, he went to complain to Zuo, whotold the guard to apologize to the Financial Official. The FinancialOfficial was jocund because the governor saved his face. When he tookhis leave, the guards were standing in a row to give him a farewellsalute. They were all dressed in the uniform of a general, whose rankwas higher than that of the Financial Official. The FinancialOfficial was embarrassed. This was a frequently-told joke about Zuo.

  4. #204
    GovernorYan was summoned to the capital. He was a man of moral integrity,never taking briberies. He did everything by the book, seldom cuttingthe slacks. There was a lot of malpractice and abuse of law inInternal Revenue Ministry. So West Empress Dowager put Yan there asthe minister in the hope that he would make some reforms. On the dayof the interview, West Empress dowager told Minister Yan that if hehad any problems, he could directly report to her and she wouldalways support him in his performance of his duties. Minister Yan wasgrateful for the trust and vowed to do his best up to herexpectation.
    Theeldest son of Yan was an official in the capital. Yan stayed with hisson to save money for the government, because otherwise thegovernment should find him a residence. Minister Yan was well-knownfor his strictness. All the officials in the Internal RevenueMinistry warned each other to be extra careful. The very next day hewent to his yamen and on the very first day he wanted to check allthe general ledgers. Usually a new minister would rest a few days athome after his appointment. When he did go to his yamen he would taketime to get familiar with everything in the yamen before he reallystarted on his routine obligations. But that was not the way withMinister Yan. He used a Chinese abacus to confirm that all theentries, the revenue and the expenditure, were correct.
    Therewere two offices in the Internal Revenue Ministry. The South Officedealt only with the finance of the Mandarin Clan, which was not sosignificant. The North Office managed all the fiscal businessthroughout the country. As this was an important branch, all theofficials working there were from the Mandarin Clan. But it was knownthat officials of the Mandarin Clan were not so versed in math andcalculation as officials of the Han Clan. So things there were reallydone by clerks, who could be from the Han Clan. What was the use tohave officials there? Minster Yan suggested to West Empress Dowagerthat officials of the Han Clan should be appointed in that office.

  5. #205
    WhenMinister Yan sent for the head of the North Office and asked him howmany taels of silver were in the silver warehouse to that date, hereplied that they hadn't counted yet. It was a wrong answer.Actually, no one would count the taels of silver everyday. There wasa logbook there to write down the numbers of silver taels coming inand going out, and the totals each day. It showed that he knewnothing about his duties. Minister Yan decided to send for the clerkdoing the logging, but he was on the sick leave. So Yan called in anaide of the head official. The aide took care of internal revenue.When Minister Yan questioned him how much he had gotten by then, heput down a stack of revenue books that he had brought in before Yan,stating that all were here that Yan wanted to know. He meant thatMinister Yan should look into these books himself to get the answerhe wanted. So far so ridiculous. Patiently, Yan said, “Just tellme.” The aide said that since he didn't know how to use an abacushe couldn't add up. Yan suppressed his wrath and told him coldly thathe was fired. The aide left nearly in tears.
    TheInternal Revenue Ministry had also three warehouses to store silvertaels and other stuffs. Stationary Warehouse held paper, ink bars,brushes and minerals using as coloring in paintings, and otherthings, such as sandalwood, yellow wax, vermilion and small greenstones to be ground into powder as coloring material. Satin Warehousehad scrolls of satin, silk and brocade stocked there as rewards tocourtiers. Silver coming from all the provinces was kept in theSilver Warehouse, a piece of silver worth ten taels. Although therewere sentinels guarding the warehouses, things were often stolen,especially from the silver warehouse. Who could get into the silverwarehouse as there were more guards than at other two warehouses? Itwas rumored that whenever silver transported from any provincereached the warehouse, some carriers were hired to carry the silverpieces into it. The carriers were young and strong. They werestripped naked every time they went in or came out so that they couldnot hide silver pieces in their clothes. But they developed a skillto stuff the silver pieces into their anuses the last time they cameout of the silver warehouse. They had been practicing the skill athome by stuffing pebbles of the similar size into their anuses. Itwas said that the most skillful would hold eight pieces of silver ata time. That was eighty taels. One tael of silver was worth onethousand coins of bronze and a piece of bean curd cost only a coupleof coins at that time.

  6. #206
    MinisterYan wanted to have a look into these warehouses, which were situatedat three different locations. He went to the Stationary Warehousefirst. When he got there, the official in charge accompanied him togo around. He had intended to match entries in the logbook with thestorage, but when he stepped beyond the gate of the warehouse, he wasstunned to find the place in a real mess. The floor was covered witha thick layer of all sorts of colorful things. Those recognizablewere specks of minerals and fragments of paper mixed with dust. Whenhe was hesitating to tread on the carpet of sundries, the officialwent in first, crunching noises heard under his feet. Yan followedsuit. Some stacks of paper were yellowed, being stored there for along time. Yan asked, “Did anyone come to inspect before?” Theofficial answered, “Yes. But the routine is that they only check ifthe windows are secured or the roof doesn't leak.” Suddenly a mouseran across before them. The official shrugged. Yan turned about andleft the place. He didn't have the slightest notion how to clean theplace and still save all the useful things. Next place was the SatinWarehouse, inside which there were rows after rows of racks holdingscrolls with dust on them, too. At least it looked better than theinside of the Stationary Warehouse. Yan contemplated to send a clerkover to count the scrolls to see they matched the numbers in thelogbook. The Silver Warehouse was the last location he visited. Hewanted to check the scales there, because it was said that theweights used on the scales were not all standard, some lighter andsome heavier. When the silver pieces came in, they would put onheavier weights so that more taels were needed. Say, if one hundredtaels were required to log in, but when the weights were heavier thanthe standard ones, one hundred taels might only weigh ninety taelsand so ten extra taels must be put on the scales to make them lookexactly one hundred taels. When the silver pieces were given out,they used lighter weights so that when only ninety taels were put onthe scales, the reading would be one hundred. Yan had the weightsmeasured and they were not standard. He had the non-standard weightsconfiscated and the officials in charge arrested and put into jail ofthe Judicial Ministry. All in all many incompetent officials wereremoved from the Internal Revenue Ministry.


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  7. #207
    Beingscholars, the critique officials set their hearts on beautifulwording in their reports, but most admired among the averagecourtiers was the humorous style. A Mandarin Clan nobleman opened acasino. In the collection of the gambling debts owed to him, he had agambler beaten to death. The corpse was left there for three dayswithout anyone daring to bury it. So a critique official sent in areport, saying, “It is totally reasonable and rightful for anobleman to kill a common gambler. This Critique Official can't havethe audacity to protest it. But thinking of our kind-heartedancestors who always showed mercy even to birds and animals, thisCritique Official can't help feeling that a body exposed on the deathspot for days and pecked by the famished vultures is not what ourancestors would expect of us. So this Critique Official beg to havethe local government to inter the body in a proper manner so thatpeople will think that Empress Dowager are kind even to the dead.”He didn't complain about the killing, but about the exposure of thecorpse. As a result, the nobleman was deprived of his title and wasno more a nobleman, just a man.
    Therewas another report to accuse two courtiers, stating that the firstone had no other merits than took no briberies and the other courtierhad no other merits than took briberies It meant that one courtierwas useless, though free from corruption and the other courtier wasuseless and greedy. So the result was that the first courtier wasdemoted and the second courtier was removed.

  8. #208
    Anotherfunny report was a self-criticism from a deputy minister. This deputyminister was known as a man of gallantry. He had been twice sent tothe southern provinces as an examiner to supervise the localgovernment test. The first time he was in Zhejiang Province. When thetest was over, the examiners were permitted to relax for a few daysbefore they should report back in the capital. The deputy ministerrented a pleasure boat on the Fuchun River for sightseeing. There wasalways a girl or two on that sort of boat to wait on the patrons.People on the boat usually wore no shoes. The girl was alsobare-footed. Her feet were of a natural size. Many foreigners knowthat in old China women had small deformed feet by binding their feetvery tight when really young. As the body grew up, the growth of thefeet were encumbered, thus deformed into a triangular shape. Inreality, the small deformed feet on a woman were only prevalent inMing Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. It might be originated a littleearlier. Only girls of the Han Clan in the middle class families andabove the middle class had kept the bad habit to deform their feet.The girls of the Mandarin Clan or of other minorities never did that.Even girls of the Han Clan in poor families didn't do that, either,because they must help their families with work. How could they workwith small deformed feet? Some ancient scholars described the womenstanding on their small deformed feet as the twigs of the weepingwillows swaying in the breeze. This deputy minister was a man of theMandarin Clan and loved natural feet of a woman. Besides, girls inthe southern provinces were known to be gentle and delicate whilegirls in the north to be buxom and robust. Many men in the northliked girls in the south, for a change. So the deputy minister likedthe boat girl very much and wanted to buy her as his concubine. Buthe could not take the girl with him to the capital, because thepurchase of a girl to be his concubine would paint a dark color onhis character and reputation. So he paid the family beforehand andtold them to bring the girl to his residence in the capital a monthlater. But the girl was never delivered. He didn't know why and hecouldn't report to any yamen. He felt like a fool being cheated outof his money.

  9. #209
    Thesecond time he went to Fujian Province as an examiner. After the testwas over, he detoured to the Fuchun River on his way back to thecapital in hopes that he might come across the girl he had paid for,but no such luck. Anyway, he met another girl on another pleasureboat. She was tall and fair-skinned, with only a smattering offreckles across the bridge of her nose. He fell in love with her atthe first sight. He bought her as his concubine. But this time hetook her along, afraid to lose her like the last time. However, heknew that any critique official could write a report to criticize himfor it when they learned it. He didn't want to hide his beloved likestolen merchandise. So he thought that it would be better tocriticize himself before anyone else did. His self-criticism reportwent like this, “This deputy minister had five brothers who wereall deceased and had no sons to last their lineage. This deputyminister has only two sons and two sons are not enough to be adoptedby five brothers' families for the lineage purpose. Therefore, thisdeputy minister bought a girl of eighteen on the way back. As thisdeputy minister is known as honest and upright, it is not fair ifwhen other courtiers have faults this deputy minister reports andwhen this deputy minister has faults himself, he doesn't report. Thisdeputy minister beg to be punished for that.”
    WestEmpress Dowager had never read such a report before during the twentyyears she had stayed in power. She gave it to the secretaries for adiscussion. One of the secretaries never liked the deputy ministerand proposed to remove him from the post and others neverspecifically liked him and agreed. So West Empress Dowager approvedtheir proposal. The deputy minister lost his title and post. Hedidn't care and moved out of the capital to live in a secluded placewith his girl. Happy ever after?

  10. #210
    GovernorDing of Sichuan Province had a reputation of being never corrupt. Henever accepted any gifts or money except his salary, which was eleventhousand taels of silver annually, less than one thousand taels amonth. All the governors and mayors and other chief officialsemployed their private advisers to help with their handling of allthe affairs. They paid them out of their own pockets. So less thanone thousand taels monthly was really not sufficient for a governor.He had to throw some old clothes into a trunk and seal it with themark of the governor. The trunk went to a pawnshop for two hundredtaels of silver. Regularly the owner or the manager would look at thethings to see if they were worth the amount of money the pawneeasked. The pawner and pawnee could bargain for how much each of themwould be willing to give and take. But the trunk was sealed and theowner could not check to evaluate. Anyway, he must trust thegovernor. When the trunk came to the pawnshop toward the end of everymonth, the money was always repaid at the beginning of every monthand the trunk would be taken back. Year in and year out, the monthlyrecycle went on as a routine until the governor was promoted to someother place.
    OnceGovernor Ding went back to his home land on a visit. When he traveledthrough another province, the governor of that province gave himthree thousand taels in silver note, saying that if he didn't deignto take it, it meant an affront to the governor of that province.Governor Ding had to accept it. But on his journey back he wentthrough that province again and returned the three thousand taels tothe governor of that province.
    Itwas not easy to be a good governor or a good mayor or whatever. Ifhis policy was beneficial to the common people, it would certainly beunfavorable to rich citizens. While he was welcomed by most people,he offended the local landlords and wealthy merchants. They wrotesomething about him, called “Your Heaven and Earth.” It went likethat “The name of Your Excellency shocks Heaven and Earth. Thearrival of Your Excellency gladdens Heaven and Earth. The policy ofYour Excellency darkens Heaven and Earth. At the departure of YourExcellency we thank Heaven and Earth.”

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