Chapter 50 Zhang Family Tree

The body in this black wooden coffin appeared to be a member of the Zhang family’s thirty-fourth generation. Based on some of the information on the epitaph, he should’ve been born in the middle of the Qing Dynasty. His name was Zhang Shengqing.

I won’t go into the details about his life, but the key point was his life span. According to the epitaph, he lived for more than 170 years.

Longevity seemed to be another feature of the family.

This man died in a firefight when the border conflict was said to be at its fiercest. He died in North Korea and his clansmen brought his body back to the Zhang family’s ancient building for burial.

His contribution to the whole family was eloquently written after the details of his life. Other than all kinds of strange rhetoric, two points were mentioned frequently: first, his parents seemed to be quite meritorious, so he had innate advantages; second, “he raided numerous burial sites and had lots of gains, so as to continue the family business and make a lot of profits”.

With these two achievements, he was buried in the building’s tomb.

It can be inferred from this that the Zhang family had relations with the royal family at that time and even did a lot of things for them. This could also explain why the Zhang family could survive in troubled times and continue their family for such a long time.

This was a bit like the mysterious families you read about in many novels. They lived in seclusion in the mountains all year round and closely guarded their secrets—whether they were martial arts, military, or even magic secrets. Then, when those people who watched the night sky every day found that the world was falling into chaos, they would send a few people to join the WTO and make some gains.

Fortunately, there were a lot of people surnamed Zhang and each dynasty had some very powerful people with that surname; otherwise, I would’ve definitely been able to find more associations.

“What of Zhang Tianshi (1), is he also a member of this Zhang family?” Fatty asked.

“I can’t say for sure, they’re all prominent people,” I said. In fact, I actually cared more about obtaining a lot of information from the numerous details of their lives.

First off, I was sure that the Zhang family had always been active in northern China. Almost all of their birthplaces and activities were there, mainly near North Korea and Changbai Mountain.

In ancient China, that place didn’t belong to the Central Plains but was more controlled by ethnic minorities. The Zhang family was obviously a large Han family mixed with other nationalities, so if they wanted to live in a place like that, it was clear how powerful they were.

Second, I was sure that there were many branches of the Zhang family. For example, the branch where this person belonged was called “Qipan Zhang” (2). Even though all of these families belonged to the Zhang family, they formed branches because of their large numbers, just like the Manchu Eight Banners (3). In this case, the Zhang family had five branches.

This person was probably buried after the completion of the ancient building. At this time, I thought of the mass grave downstairs and realized that the hands might not have been what I originally thought they were. Could it be that during the relocation of the ancient building, there were too many coffins to transport from the old one, so some of the unimportant people’s hands were buried instead of their bodies?

Moreover, I could see from the text that “Qipan Zhang” was a very important branch of the Zhang family, because they carried the Qilin. I still didn’t know what the metaphor meant, but I could vaguely guess the key point.

After reading the epitaph, Fatty looked at me and pointed to the big black coffin on the side, as if to say: you want to open it?

I looked at the coffin sitting off to the side, which was made from the same wood as that of the ancient building. It was covered in three layers of black paint that made it look very solemn. Fatty wiped the dust off with his hand. Due to the passage of time, the black paint had cracked in many places, revealing the old wood’s color.

This architecture student made a mistake—I realized another function of the quicksand in the lower level.

The underground water system here was very rich and the interior of the mountain was very humid, so it had a considerable corrosive effect on the wooden building. The quicksand layer we passed through before was a moisture barrier to prevent water vapor from rising. I estimated that there was more than one layer of quicksand underground, and even though our feet had reached the slate layer under the quicksand, there might be more quicksand underneath.

I looked at the coffin and felt that it had to be opened. But no matter how many times I had experienced it before, I was still afraid of opening it. Despite this, could I still turn a blind eye to it now?

The Zhang family came from the northern faction of grave robbers, so Fatty said that he would use their rituals to deal with it. I told myself that he was actually just using their rituals against them.

The northern faction of grave robbers had been declining for a long time. On the one hand, grave robbers were becoming more and more utilitarian and equipped with more advanced equipment, so they had no intention of abiding by this kind of red tape. On the other hand, the northern faction’s rules resulted in fewer skills being passed down, unlike the southern school, which had no family distinction. The southern faction’s motto was: since it’s all for the sake of money, I’ll teach you as long as you and I are together. As a result, the southern faction’s skills hadn’t become outdated, but were continuously developing.

I asked Fatty what to do. He started by using his clothes as a broom to gather up the dust in the room, which stirred it up and made it dusty. As he coughed, he reached the southeast corner of the room with that handful of dust and inserted some cigarettes there. After thinking about it, he realized that something was off and asked me, “Mr. Naïve, what brand are your cigarettes?”

“Yellow Crane Tower,” I said.

“Come on, come on. Exchange it.” Fatty asked me to hand over my cigarettes, “I can’t let Little Brother’s ancestors smoke my eight yuan pack. This is our first visit; we can’t lose face.”

Fatty lit a cigarette and bowed respectfully to the corner of the wall, “This… we’re friends with your family member, Zhang Qiling. We really didn’t come here to rob this time. We’re…we’re…we came here to visit. After greeting all the elders, umm… by the way, you should supplement Little Zhang’s lessons. As you know, your children have poor memory. Well, we don’t know where Little Zhang has gone, so we’ll ask for directions. If you do know, don’t do anything or say anything. If you don’t know, just stay the same. Respectfully yours, Amitabha Buddha, bald donkey has the cheek to steal a nun from a monk like me.”

What a mess. I smacked him and pulled him to his feet. Then, the two of us brought out the iron picks, stuck them into the gaps on both sides of the coffin lid, and pried up the coffin nails first. Once that was done, we took a deep breath and carefully pushed the heavy lid aside.

When it fell to the ground, the whole floor shook. As we covered our noses and mouths and fanned the dust away, we saw a layer of cotton wool in the coffin. I poked it with an iron pick and found that it was a strange mold, like a spider’s web covered in white crushed cotton.

Fatty poked through this layer of stuff with an iron pick to reveal the body inside. It had completely decomposed, leaving only white bones. There was a small number of sacrificial objects around it, all wrapped in that strange “cotton wool”. Fatty picked one up with his iron pick and found that it was a small dagger.

The dagger’s sheath had completely rotted like the eight pieces of an osmanthus flower cake, the stones on it looking like red cherries and green raisins. When I pulled out the dagger, I found that it was a short black-and-gold knife. It was slightly shorter than Poker-Face’s blade and was different in shape. It glowed black under the flashlight and looked extremely sharp.

The handle had also badly decayed, so I grabbed the sharp edge of the blade, knocked the handle against the coffin plate, and broke off the rotten pieces. I was just about to throw it back into the coffin since there wasn’t much left, but Fatty immediately stopped me and said, “Don’t be like that, you went to a lot of trouble to get something and now you’re so picky. Take it. Take it out and make a new handle as a birthday present for Little Brother.”

“Do you even fucking know when his birthday is?” I asked.

Fatty took the knife, wrapped it up, and put it in his backpack. “I guess even he doesn’t know when his birthday is,” he said. “Just pick a sunny day and tell him that his birthday is coming. With his character, he won’t ask what a birthday is.”

That’s right. It’s a good idea, I told myself. I didn’t know if there were any festivals for deaf-mutes in the world, but a person that stuffy should definitely celebrate his birthday at that time.

I felt a chill when I thought of Poker-Face blowing out birthday candles—it would be like seeing a ghost blowing out a lamp—and tried not to think too much about it.

Fatty searched some more and found that everything else had rotted into lumps. He cursed, “The Zhang family isn’t rich either. This welcome gift is a disgrace to Little Brother.”

“The Zhang family advocates strength, not money,” I said to him. “As you can see from the epitaph, the Zhang family was a large family that used its advantage to gain power and protection. With China’s long history, money alone is useless.”

Fatty grabbed all three cigarettes, pinched off the dusty butts, and took the last few puffs. When I asked him what he was doing, he said that they were already rotted like this and would have no way of knowing, so we could take small advantage of this poor ghost.

“Why are you so unscrupulous?” I asked him. Fatty merely smiled.

After inhaling the smoke, he poked through the bones with the iron picks. We found that the corpse’s left hand had two finger bones that were very long. This was the first time I had seen the complete skeleton of an extraordinarily long finger. There were many scars on the joints, which obviously showed that the process of training such a finger was quite painful. At the same time, I also found that many of this person’s large joints, such as the shoulder and wrist, had very strange hyperosteogeny (4).

Fatty said that this should be the effects of bone contraction. In order to overcome the habitual dislocation caused by contraction, many special muscles at the joints had to be exercised separately. These muscles were very difficult to train and may not make much progress even after a few years. Some muscles were the size of the crescent moon on Bao Gong’s head (5) and had to be trained completely while one was still growing, which was naturally very painful.

Fatty said that he had a chance to practice that style of kung fu before. A master he knew said his bones were suitable for bone contraction, but Fatty went to practice for a day, beat the master, and then escaped.

I saw two bullet holes on this corpse’s skull, which were very irregular and looked like iron sand bullets. The bullets went in one place but didn’t exit, so they must’ve been shot at close range (if it was done farther away, there would’ve been many holes the size of sesame seeds), and the iron sand remained in the skull. This ancestor must have suffered a lot when he died.

No matter how powerful the Zhang family was, there was nothing they could do about guns.

Thinking there were no more clues, we went to cover the coffin. But when I got up to carry the lid over, I saw that there were a lot of characters engraved on the inside.

When we turned it over, we found that it was a simple family tree with both parents’ names and their children’s names listed on it. What made me feel strange was that this person’s parents were both surnamed Zhang. He had two sons—one of whom was already married—and two daughters. The families of the daughter-in-law and two sons-in-law were also surnamed Zhang.

“Do you think this is odd?” I asked Fatty.

“How long ago did you say this guy died?” He asked. “He had four kids. That’s really fucking awesome.”

“The main purpose of the feudal hierarchy in ancient China was to increase the number of people and expand the family’s power. He may have given birth very early,” I said. “And the Zhang family has a very long life span, so if they want to have kids, they’ll be alive and well after giving birth to a football team. This isn’t the odd thing I’m talking about.” I showed him all the surnames.

“Could it be a change of surname?”

I shook my head, “I’m almost certain that it’s intermarriage. The Zhang family was a closed family, so they didn’t marry those in the outside world.”

After we re-covered the coffin and embedded the nails, I said, “I’m going to the next room. These epitaphs are very important, so I want to have a good look at them. I know I can definitely get more information.”

<Chapter 49> <Table of Contents><Chapter 51>


TN Notes:

(1) An Eastern Han Dynasty Taoist figure credited with founding the Way of the Celestial Masters sect of Taoism, which is also known as the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice. More info here.

(2) Qipan=chessboard

(3) The Eight Banners were administrative and military divisions under the Later Jin and the Qing dynasty of China into which all Manchu households were placed. In war, the Eight Banners functioned as armies, but the banner system was also the basic organizational framework of all of Manchu society. More info here.

(4) Excessive growth of bone tissue

(5) A righteous Chinese politician during the reign of Emperor Renzong in China’s Song Dynasty. In mainstream Chinese mythology, he’s often portrayed wearing a judge’s zhanjiao futou hat and a crescent moon on his forehead. More info here.


Updated 4/4/2021

2 thoughts on “Chapter 50 Zhang Family Tree

  1. I felt a chill when I thought of Poker-Face blowing out birthday candles—it would be like seeing a ghost blowing out a lamp—and tried not to think too much about it.

    ME TOO,me too~~ 😂


  2. А у меня созрел вопрос… У Се теперь все гробы распотрошит тут? Бедные предки Цилиня! Покойтесь м иром, называется… 🤣🤣🤣


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