Chapter 21 Extra 3

The lantern festival was about to begin. Xilaimian’s old customers and all kinds of young girls had seen the news on the website and said that that they would come one right after another.

Ancient costumes were to be worn at the lantern festival, making it obvious that the village secretary was determined to make this the tourism theme here. I was fine with it as long as these things weren’t done near the village. I didn’t want it to turn into a popular online scenic spot. In fact, I was also hoping that Xilaimian’s cultural industry could help improve the nearby facilities.

For example, I hoped that in the future, a hospital with relatively good equipment could be built close to these dozen villages.

The three of us were one of the festival’s sponsors. I hadn’t been in touch with Xiao Hua for a long time now, which was actually a little puzzling. Xilaimian had a stall set up selling our second batch of brewed wine, along with Xilaimian’s membership card. Fatty told me that there weren’t a lot of people, which was just perfect for me to slowly think about things.

The membership card went like this: If you bought a card, you could pre-order a bottle of our third or fourth batch of wine and get an 8.8% discount at Xilaimian. You could also take pictures at Xilaimian.

If you didn’t have a membership card, then you weren’t allowed to take photos.

There were no strict dynasty restrictions on the ancient costumes. Fatty bought three sets online, but when we got them, I found that they weren’t ancient costumes but some fashion brand modeled to look like ancient clothes. If these clothes were mixed in among modern clothing, they would give off an ancient charm, but when it came to real ancient costumes, you’d look like an ancient dockhand.

So, I got online and asked Xilaimian’s old customers if we could borrow some ancient costumes from them. On the day of the lantern festival, Xilaimian acted as a gathering place for everyone. Many old customers came here, changed into their ancient costumes, and picked up their lanterns.

Some girls provided the three of us with ancient clothes that we could use in place of the ones Fatty had bought. They were actually three sets of so-called bukuai clothes, but they didn’t look like the clothes I saw Hu Tiehua and Chu Liuxiang wearing when I was a child. (1) I was a little disappointed. Moreover, there was an official insignia on my chest. Wearing these strange clothes, I couldn’t help but feel a little stage fright. Fatty’s clothes were too small, so like always, his stomach was exposed.

As the group set off for the mountains, the three of us looked at each other while locking the door. To be honest, it was quite refreshing.

“Elder Brother Zhang, lead the way.” I handed the lantern to Poker-Face as Fatty scratched his stomach and said, “The materials are very cheap. It’s making me itchy.”

Then, we started walking.

I originally wanted to look cool, but now that I was dressed like a villain escorting Lin Chong(2), I exercised restraint and focused on doing business.

Everyone had on silk and satin and wore delicate makeup, but they were all carrying various cameras with them. The three of us soon became comedic characters and were asked to pose for photos.

“Government officials aren’t allowed to take pictures when handling a case. If you want to take pictures, you’ll have to buy a membership card,” Fatty said.

On that day, we sold more than nine thousand yuan’s worth of membership cards. Not only were the cards sold out, but a lot of liquor was drunk on the spot.

At first, everyone tried to travel back through the millennium to another time and space, but later, everyone began to exchange clothes and take pictures with each other.

All kinds of clothes were taken off, leaving many in only their underwear. Us three bukuai were among the crowd, and a photo was taken. Fatty looked at it and said that this was a scene from Yihong Courtyard’s anti-pornography campaign.(3)

The lantern festival finally came to a successful close. From the perspective of the ones hosting the festival, there was no real climax. If it were me, I would arrange to set off some fireworks. They obviously weren’t allowed because they might start a forest fire, but I also knew that the village secretary actually did prepare some fireworks but didn’t dare set them off in the end.

We went back to Xilaimian and said goodbye to everyone. Fatty set off those fireworks in the open space in front of the restaurant, which made up for the festival’s lacking climax.

The next morning, I saw that some people began uploading last night’s photos onto the website, which was actually very interesting.

I opened the restaurant, cleaned up a bit, and watered Lin Liuren’s flowers. At this time, I suddenly felt a sense of emptiness after the excitement.

Did I want the joy to last forever? Did I crave this kind of emotion? No, but the sudden silence all around could make a person think that they had lost something.

That was why people needed festivals. When the joy of a festival was over and you felt as if something was missing, you’d find peace of mind knowing that the next festival would come in the near future. For example, you’d know that the Lantern Festival came after the Spring Festival.

In fact, the ancients divided the year into three big events—the Lantern Festival, Ghost Festival, and Xia Yuan Festival—with countless small festivals set in between. This was done so that people could let loose and enjoy themselves for a bit.(4)

The Heavenly Official blessed people during the Lantern Festival, the Earth Official pardoned sins during the Ghost Festival, and the Water Official saved the people from calamity during the Xia Yuan Festival. These three officials were the emperor officials who lorded over the Earth under the command of the Jade Emperor.

Therefore, the Faqiu Zhonglang Jiang(5) also had three official positions. But the Heavenly Official position wasn’t the most powerful one. Instead, it was the Earth Official who held the highest position. The logic for this was actually very clear—since the Earth Official was a member of the netherworld’s government, going to rob a tomb was actually more like you were conducting a search and seizure of someone’s house. As a result, the demons and ghosts had no choice but to retreat.

Fatty came out and asked me what I was doing and why I was in a daze.

“Do people in Fujian ever celebrate the Xia Yuan Festival?” I asked him. “How do they celebrate it?”

“It’s not really a mainstream festival. Are you interested in doing something with it?”

“It’s said that there are special festival foods.”

“That’s fine. What does the main festival entail?”

“Apart from offering sacrifices to ancestors, I only remember two things that are more memorable. One is offering sacrifices to the dead—that is, offering sacrifices to all the lonely souls—and the other is helping those in need.”

This was a festival with the theme of helping others, just like how the Water Official saved others from calamity.

Fatty nodded. “Great, it just so happens that we might need help from others.”

I patted him. It seemed like I was overthinking things; it didn’t matter how you understood it. If I returned to a child’s way of thinking, I would really start to care about festivals, but what was wrong with that?

<Chapter 20><Table of Contents><Chapter 22>


TN Notes:

(1) Bukuai= bailiff responsible for catching criminals in imperial China. Hu Tiehua and Chu Liuxiang are characters in the wuxia novel series “Chu Liuxiang” (also adapted into a movie in 1980). They steal from the rich to help the poor and uphold justice in the jianghu (martial artists’ community). Chu Liuxiang is the main character and Hu Tiehua is his best friend. Info here.

(2) One of the Heroes of the Marsh in the novel “Water Margin”. He’s framed by Gao Qiu for attempting to assassinate him, and almost dies in a fire at a supply depot set by Gao’s henchmen. He escapes and becomes an outlaw. Info here.

(3) Yihong Courtyard is a setting in the classic novel “Dream of Red Mansions”. It’s Jia Baoyu’s residence.

(4) Lantern Festival= 15th day of the 1st lunar month
Ghost Festival= 15th day of 7th lunar month when offerings are made to the deceased
Xia Yuan Festival= 15th day of the 10th lunar month. Celestial emperor’s birthday.

(5) Remember, it’s basically like an official tomb robbing position in the dynastic governments. There were two posts specially set up: Faqiu Zhonglang Jiang and Mojin Xiaowei. Zhonglang Jiang and Xiaowei were the two military commander positions at the time. The position of Zhonglang Jiang is second only to the general, which is a bit similar to the reserve of high-level generals.


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