The purple-and-gold box felt heavy to the touch and looked a bit like the largest silver box in the Eightfold Treasure Box (the eight boxes containing Buddhist relics) but it was much smaller.(1) Buddhism had not yet been introduced to China at that time so this box certainly couldn’t contain any Buddhist relics. I shook it to see if I could hear anything but whatever was inside didn’t make a sound. Could this box contain the ghost seal that fat guy was talking about earlier? I wondered.
The key was still in the female corpse’s mouth, so after taking a moment to calm myself, I took a deep breath, put two of my fingers under her tongue, grabbed the key, and then carefully pulled it out. But before the key was fully out of her mouth, I noticed that a very thin silk thread was tied around the key and went all the way down into her throat. I suddenly realized that something was wrong—there seemed to be something tied to the other end of this thread.
My grandpa had told me that during the Shang Dynasty, some skilled Chinese craftsmen could put crossbows inside human corpses that would fire when a golden thread was pulled. As soon as the grave robbers removed the jade plug or precious pearl from inside the corpse’s mouth or anus, the mechanism would immediately be triggered and the crossbow bolt would burst out of the body. Since the grave robbers were usually standing very close to the body, it was impossible to avoid this kind of attack. There was no telling how many grave robbers had died at the hands of such mechanisms.
I pressed down on the female corpse’s stomach and found that, sure enough, there was something hard inside. It’s a good thing my hand was moving so slow, I thought to myself. If it had been that fatty or Pan Zi, I’m afraid they would’ve already been caught in the trap! I couldn’t help but feel a chill when I thought of all these mechanisms that appeared to have been specially designed for grave robbers like us.
The silk thread tied to the key was made of gold, which meant that it could be pulled out but not twisted. I pinched it with my fingernails until it broke and then took the key out and checked to see if it fit into the purple-and-gold box’s keyhole. Sure enough, it was a perfect match. But I didn’t know if there was something dangerous inside the box. For all I knew, it could be hiding another mechanism. I thought about it for a while and decided that it would be better not to open it for the time being.
At this time, I was horrified to find that the female corpse still clinging to me suddenly emitted a sinister aura. Then, her face began to shrivel up and cave in like a rotten orange and an indescribable noise emerged from her throat. In just a few seconds, that living beauty transformed into a mummified corpse right before my eyes. As I sat there trembling, her withered and rotten arms broke and her dried-up body fell back to the jade platform, still shriveling in on itself.
I was scared to death. It seemed that the pearls on this key really did keep the female corpse from rotting but I didn’t dare think about it anymore. I quickly put everything in my bag while telling myself that it wouldn’t be good to say in this place for long. Once that was done, I went to help the fat guy up.
He had been badly beaten by me and didn’t move even after I made several attempts to pull him to his feet. No way, surely I didn’t kill him, I thought to myself. But I was past the point of caring and just grabbed his arm and shouted, “Up!” Then I stood up straight and slung him over my back. The fat guy was so heavy that I almost vomited blood, but I just shook my head and secretly cursed his ancestors as I started walking.
Fortunately, the stone corridor wasn’t long at all and I soon reached the middle section. Once I was out of the vine-covered area, I saw the cliff up ahead. Uncle Three and Pan Zi were nowhere to be seen so I figured they had gone in search of another way out of here. I walked back to the sacrificial altar at the end of the stone veranda and set the fat guy down on it. But just as I was about to rest, I suddenly saw Uncle Three emerge from one of the holes in the cliff closest to the ground.
He was very familiar with Qimen Dunjia(2) and the like, so with him around, the maze posed no problems at all.
Afraid that he wouldn’t see me, I waved and shouted, “Uncle Three, I’m over here!!”
He looked like he was about to smile when he saw me, but then the expression on his face suddenly changed and he pointed behind me. I looked back and saw that the fat guy had sat up at some point, but that green-eyed fox corpse was lying on his back and staring at me coldly.
<Chapter 21><Table of Contents><Chapter 23>
(1) The Eightfold Treasure Box is a cultural relic of the Tang Dynasty and a national first-class cultural relic of China. It’s a set of 8 layered boxes (like a Matryoshka doll) which are used to enshrine the shadow bone (aka an imitation relic using material like jade) of the Buddha’s finger. The best source I was finding was on the Chinese wiki page.
(2) Qimen Dunjia is an ancient form of divination from China that’s still in use today. It’s based on astronomical observations, and consists of various aspects of Chinese metaphysics, including the doctrines of yin and yang, 5 elements, the 8 trigrams, the 10 Heavenly Stems and the 12 Earthly Branches, as well as the 24 solar terms. People use it to predict things like relationships, traits, the future, or even choose auspicious times and places according to the specific time and date. Info here.
Lawd Jesus, feels like I’m getting whiplash between this story, the Western Archives stuff, and Xiao Hua/Black Glasses’ Russian adventure lol. Needless to say, it’s been a DMBJ-filled weekend.
3 thoughts on “Chapter 22 The Eightfold Treasure Box”
Wow.Thank you so much for the all translations. it feel like another Christmas present.💖
You’re very welcome 😘
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yes, thank you much 🙏🏼