The Emperors Strategy
Emperor, Shih, Palace, Master, Taoists, Smallpox
The Emperor bore malice toward Chang T’ien-shih, the Master of the Taoists, because he refused to pay the Page 244taxes on his property, and conceived a plan to bring about his destruction. He caused a spacious subterranean chamber to be dug under the reception-hall of his palace. A wire passed through the ceiling to where the Emperor sat. He could thus at will give the signal for the music to begin or stop. Having stationed the five musicians in this subterranean chamber, he summoned the Master of the Taoists to his presence and invited him to a banquet. During the course of this he pulled the wire, and a subterranean babel began.
The Emperor pretended to be terrified, and allowed himself to fall to the ground. Then, addressing himself to the T’ien-shih, he said: “I know that you can at will catch the devilish hobgoblins which molest human beings. You can hear for yourself the infernal row they make in my palace. I order you under penalty of death to put a stop to their pranks and to exterminate them.”
The Musicians are Slain
Having spoken thus, the Emperor rose and left. The Master of the Taoists brought his projecting mirror, and began to seek for the evil spirits. In vain he inspected the palace and its precincts; he could discover nothing. Fearing that he was lost, he in despair threw his mirror on the floor of the reception-hall.
A minute later, sad and pensive, he stooped to pick it up; what was his joyful surprise when he saw reflected in it the subterranean room and the musicians! At once he drew five talismans on yellow paper, burned them, and ordered his celestial general, Chao Kung-ming, to take his sword and kill the five musicians. The order was promptly executed, and the T’ien-shih informed the Emperor, who received the news with ridicule, not believing it to be true. He went to his seat and pulled the wire, but all remained silent. A second and third time he gave the signal, but without response. He then ordered his Grand Officer to ascertain what had happened. The officer found the five graduates bathed in their blood, and lifeless.
The Emperor, furious, reproached the Master of the Taoists. “But,” replied the T’ien-shih, “was it not your Majesty who ordered me under pain of death to exterminate the authors of this pandemonium?” Li Shih-min could not reply. He dismissed the Master of the Taoists and ordered the five victims to be buried.
The Emperor Tormented
After the funeral ceremonies, apparitions appeared at night in the place where they had been killed, and the palace became a babel. The spirits threw bricks and broke the tiles on the roofs.
The Emperor ordered his uncomfortable visitors to go to the T’ien-shih who had murdered them. They obeyed, and, seizing the garments of the Master of the Taoists, swore not to allow him any rest if he would not restore them to life.
To appease them the Taoist said: “I am going to give each of you a wonderful object. You are then to return and spread epidemics among wicked people, beginning in the imperial palace and with the Emperor himself, with the object of forcing him to canonize you.”
One received a fan, another a gourd filled with fire, the third a metallic ring to encircle people’s heads, the fourth a stick made of wolves’ teeth, and the fifth a cup of lustral water.
The spirit-graduates left full of joy, and made their first experiment on Li Shih-min. The first gave him feverish chills by waving his fan, the second burned him with the fire from his gourd, the third encircled his head with the ring, causing him violent headache, the fourth struck him with his stick, and the fifth poured out his cup of lustral water on his head.
The same night a similar tragedy took place in the palace of the Empress and the two chief imperial concubines.
T’ai-po Chin-hsing, however, informed Yü Huang what had happened, and, touched with compassion, he sent three Immortals with pills and talismans which cured the Empress and the ladies of the palace.
The Graduates Canonized
Li Shih-min, having also recovered his health, summoned the five deceased graduates and expressed his regret for the unfortunate issue of his design against the T’ien-shih. He proceeded: “To the south of the capital is the temple San-i Ko. I will change its name to Hsiang Shan Wu Yüeh Shên, ‘Fragrant Hill of the Five Mountain Spirits.’ On the twenty-eighth day of the ninth moon betake yourselves to that temple to receive the seals of your canonization.” He conferred upon them the title of Ti, ‘Emperor.’
The Ministry of Medicine
The celestial Ministry of Medicine is composed of three main divisions comprising: (1) the Ancestral Gods of the Chinese race; (2) the King of Remedies, Yao Wang; and (3) the Specialists. There is a separate Ministry of Smallpox. This latter controls and cures smallpox, and the establishment of a separate celestial Ministry is Page 247significant of the prevalence and importance of the affliction. The ravages of smallpox in China, indeed, have been terrific: so much so, that, until recent years, it was considered as natural and inevitable for a child to have smallpox as for it to cut its teeth. One of the ceremonial questions addressed by a visitor to the parent of a child was always Ch’u la hua’rh mei yu? “Has he had the smallpox?” and a child who escaped the scourge was often, if not as a rule, regarded with disfavour and, curiously enough, as a weakling. Probably the train of thought in the Chinese mind was that, as it is the fittest who survive, those who have successfully passed through the process of “putting out the flowers” have proved their fitness in the struggle for existence. Nowadays vaccination is general, and the number of pockmarked faces seen is much smaller than it used to be—in fact, the pockmarked are now the exception. But, as far as I have been able to ascertain, the Ministry of Smallpox has not been abolished, and possibly its members, like those of some more mundane ministries, continue to draw large salaries for doing little or no work.
|Written By E. T. C. Werner|
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