According to the names on the tombstone and the records in the genealogical tree, there should be a total of nine coffins under the yellow sandy soil of the Wu family’s ancestral grave. This was different from counting soybeans; it was difficult to make any sort of deviation. Since there were only a few ancestors, it was really incredible that there was an extra coffin.
The incident caused quite a stir among the crowd, and we could hear the onlookers who were there to help constantly whispering to each other.
Of course, the most shocked group was the Wu family’s representatives from the village, who were born and raised there. They had never heard of such a thing and naturally found it hard to accept.
At this time, I had no regard for whether I was qualified or not and also went over to look at the tomb. I only saw a pit that was dug deep, and a large number of old black bricks wrapped in mud and grass roots that had been tossed aside, but I couldn’t see what the tomb’s original appearance had been like.
Ten coffins were placed on the gentle slope. After they were all lined up, I found that this last one that was carried out didn’t have any mark or name on it. But it was one of the four oldest coffins lined up at the bottom of the tomb. From this point of view, it was unlikely that an ownerless solitary coffin had been dug up since there were blue bricks all around the tomb.
After consulting with another old man whose name I really can’t remember, Biao Gong immediately sent all ten coffins back to the ancestral hall and found someone to guard them day and night. The ceremony here was concluded, but the issue obviously needed to be discussed behind closed doors.
At this time, we young people naturally couldn’t get a word in. All we knew was that it felt as if the atmosphere had changed. This matter obviously had a great impact on the Wu family’s face. Moreover, if the genealogy was wrong, it would all have to be redone. This would be a very big deal that might even require the family members staying overseas to come back. But this possibility was unlikely unless there was something hidden in this ancestral grave that we didn’t know about.
My father was also at a loss and said nothing the entire time, so the Taoist priest cleared the way. It was already dark by this time and the dark mountain roads coupled with the cold weather made me shiver involuntarily. But my mind was constantly filled with the ancient coffin in the deserted thatched hut behind the ancestral hall. Sure enough, in this village, it was impossible to get rid of a coffin.
As was customary in the evening, everyone had a “big table meal” in the ancestral hall. The ancestral rules stated that it was to be vegetarian today. After eating a table of tofu dishes and lighting a charcoal stove to warm themselves, they began to ponder over these coffins.
The coffins were placed in the mourning hall, so I was able to approach them for the first time. I found that the first two coffins pulled from the tomb were well preserved and sealed (1), but the old coffins caked with mud were still not dry yet. The veneer on them was so rotten that it showed a deep, dark green and it looked so disgusting that I didn’t dare get too close.
One of the four oldest coffins should’ve been dated a long time ago, so the reconstruction in the late Qing dynasty was very suspicious. But none of the people who could remember that time were present and the genealogy only contained a simple sentence, which was basically unreliable. It was surprising, however, that there wasn’t any word-of-mouth information—both Biao Gong and all those old people said that they hadn’t heard anything related to this from the previous generation.
My father looked upset when he heard this, and I didn’t know what he was worried about until much later.
In the Wu clan, the ancestral graves were full of firstborn sons and grandchildren, which meant that the second and third children had to build their own graves. This meant that Grandpa couldn’t enter the main tomb under normal circumstances, but his generation’s situation was really too special—the last three generations were all dead and my grandfather’s elder brother had no descendants. Only my grandfather’s family had successors; otherwise, there would be no one to maintain the ancestral graves.
So it wasn’t reasonable to say that my father was the authentic Wu family. Although the Wu family didn’t have many businesses and my father basically wasn’t in charge of the family, he still had an advantage—whether it was to divide the land or decide anything, my father had to first give his approval. So as soon as something like this happened, idle people were sure to stir up trouble.
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(1) Wu Xie’s grandpa’s coffin + Wu Xie’s great-great-grandpa’s coffin