The old man’s voice was very clear, so I not only heard what he said, but I also noticed that he spoke with a Changsha accent, which was surprising.
I secretly looked at him and found that his appearance was very strange—he was about seventy years old, short, lean, and had a hint of gloom hovering around his brow. He was wearing a slightly wrinkled old cotton-padded jacket and reading glasses with super thick lenses that looked like the bottom of a beer bottle. I figured he was probably half-blind.
Dressed like this, he didn’t look like one of the usual customers here. But many talented people came to visit Uncle Two’s teahouse, so the waiters weren’t too concerned. After all, there were all kinds of people out there these days.
I kept my composure and watched to see what he would do next. Still holding onto the magazine, he walked back to his seat with his hands behind his back. His back was very straight, and his steps were as light as air—if he wasn’t a martial arts expert, then he definitely must have been a soldier before.
There were several people still chatting at his table, all of whom were elderly. When they saw the old man coming back, they all assumed a more respectful air, which made it obvious that this guy was the leader.
I grabbed my tea, secretly sat behind them, and pricked up my ears to hear what the old man would say.
At first, the old men talked about stocks for a while, which was very boring. Half an hour later, however, the old man finally seemed to remember that he had brought the magazine back with him, and I heard him say, “By the way, come here and take a look at something interesting.”
As he spoke, he opened the magazine and turned to the page I had burned just now. Upon hearing this, I suddenly felt hopeful that there was a solution to my problem. Thinking that this guy might really know something, I didn’t even dare to breathe as he continued speaking, “You guys, come here and take a look. I want to test you on something. What’s so special about this map?”
The old men looked at it from every angle and then started chattering amongst themselves. Some said that there was nothing special about a map with cigarette burns, some spouted pure nonsense, and some said that the three burn marks were meant to show that there was a conflict between the three areas. The old man—their leader—shook his head and said that they were all wrong.
My gut clenched when I heard this, and I impatiently waited for him to announce the answer. Should I give up on eavesdropping and just go and talk to them? I wondered.
Seeing that no one spoke up, the old man chuckled, suddenly lowered his voice, and said something that I couldn’t understand. The others immediately became excited and all rushed to look at the magazine.
I suddenly felt depressed. What is that, some strange dialect? Why are you suddenly speaking in a dialect? Is it because I’m not fated to know the answer?
Then, to my surprise, everyone else in the group started talking in that strange language. After listening carefully for a long time, the only thing I became certain of was that it wasn’t a Chinese dialect. Where the hell did these old men come from?
After listening for a long time, I really couldn’t stand it any longer. My temper flared up and I said to myself, you don’t want me to understand, right? Then I’ll just fucking ask you guys myself. It’s not like there’s anything else I can do. Decision made, I quickly stood up and walked over to their table, pretending to be a studious youngster. “Excuse me, gentlemen, might I ask where you all are from?” I asked. “Why does your speech sound so strange?”
Unlike Beijing, where everyone in the teahouse’s courtyard more or less knew each other, doing something like this in Hangzhou was considered very rude. That was why, as soon as the words left my mouth, I immediately regretted it.
But just as I started to wonder if they would scold me, to my surprise, those old men froze for a second and then burst out laughing. Then, the one who took the magazine said to me, “Little boy, it makes sense that you don’t understand. This is an old Miao language. There are no more than a thousand people in the whole country who can speak it.”
I was surprised, “You’re all Miao? But you don’t look like it.”
The old men burst into laughter again and didn’t answer me. Seeing that they were very talkative and not from this area, I figured I might be able to find something out. So, I followed the momentum and said, “Please don’t laugh. I just heard this gentleman say something about a feng shui array. I was the one who accidentally burned this map, so I started to wonder if I burned a funny image or something.”
The old man looked at me and said, “Young man, you’re also interested in feng shui? It’s not something you can understand.”
“I can! I can totally understand it!” I was even willing to lick his feet if it would make him talk. “Why don’t you tell me about it so that I can learn?”
The old man exchanged glances with the others and smiled before saying, “Actually, it’s nothing special. If you look here, the three spots you burned are all in very special locations. If you connect them and then look at them sideways, what do you see?”
I picked up the magazine, looked at it, and felt my jaw drop as a chill suddenly swept over my whole body, that’s it!
The places where the three fish were unearthed were the Western Zhou tomb at Qimeng Mountain in Shandong, the underground palace at Reclining Buddha Ridge in Guangxi, and the undersea tomb in Xisha. All three places were close to the Chinese coastline, and when connected with a line, the curved shape was very familiar—it was a looming dragon vein!(1)
I suddenly wanted to slap myself, Wu Xie, how can you be so stupid?! I didn’t think of comparing the places on the map; I only cared about the fact that these places were associated with different dynasties. Why didn’t I think that there might be other connections between them?
The old man, surprised by my reaction, knew that I had seen the clue and his tone became more pleasant, “It’s an obscure ‘Dragon Emerging From the Water Array’. Another term for it is ‘Hidden Dragon Emerging From the Sea’. But this one is missing something—a head.” With that said, he picked up his cigarette and put the burning end down at a spot on the magazine, which was right on top of Changbai Mountain.
The magazine page started smoking, but I couldn’t react at all. I stood there frozen for a moment before I finally managed to open my mouth and ask, “This…what does this mean?”
The old man chuckled, “Look, it’s like that poem: when you look at it from the front, it’s a mountain range; when you look at it from the side, it’s a lofty peak.(2) See these points? If you connect the ridges of the Changbai Mountains, Qinling Mountains, and Qimeng Mountains with the place where the Kunlun Mountains enter the earth, this is called ‘A Thousand Dragons’ Tails’. There are several dragon veins in China that are connected underground, which is consistent with feng shui teachings. There are naturally countless places along these veins where pools of qi gather and accumulate, but these three locations of yours are all very critical ‘treasure wells’. Since one end of this vein is in the water and the other end is on the shore, it’s called a ‘Dragon Emerging From the Water Array’.”
“However, this kind of large feng shui array isn’t practical. Dragon veins seen with this kind of feng shui are more abstract; we call them ‘Big-Headed Dragon Arrays’. In ancient times, they were used to predict the country’s fortune. Although this kind of feng shui array was too large to determine where the emperor’s tomb should be located, it was used to determine Beijing’s location. I only have a basic understanding of it, but if you want to know who the true master of this subject is, that would be Wang Zanghai from the early Ming Dynasty. This kind of feng shui was his specialty.”
When I heard this, it was like stars flashed before my eyes and my seven orifices were cleared up—all the things I couldn’t figure out had suddenly come together to form a clear picture.
The reason why the hexagonal bells from the corpse cave near the Seven Star Lu Palace appeared in the undersea tomb and the Buddhist relics in the Western Zhou Dynasty’s underground palace turned out to be a snake-eyebrow copper fish was actually quite simple—Wang Zanghai had been to all these places.
The treasure well of a “Dragon Emerging From the Water Array” was generally a place where the dragon vein gathered qi, so buildings or tombs were usually built there. Although I didn’t know what the purpose of putting the copper fish in these treasure wells was, according to general feng shui principles, this “Big-Headed Dragon” vein was designed so that the dragon head was located at Changbai Mountain.
It was all related to the Heavenly Palace on the Clouds. No wonder he was so obsessed with it and put so much effort into it.
But who exactly was buried in that heavenly palace under all those layers of snow?
The old man saw that I was lost in thought and must have assumed that I didn’t understand his explanation, because he called the others to get up, stuffed the magazine into my hand, and asked for the bill.
I was so focused on my thoughts that I didn’t react, and by the time I remembered to ask for his contact information, he had already walked out of the teahouse. When I chased him out, I saw him take off his glasses. Now that I could see his eyes and facial features better, I felt my heart clench and I involuntarily came to a stop.
There was an extremely horrific scar going from the corner of one eye, across his nose, and all the way to the corner of his other eye. The bridge of his nose was also sunken in, as if he had been cut by some sharp object.
As soon as I saw his eyes, I immediately became scared and forgot that I was trying to catch up with him. As a result, their whole group got into a car and drove away.
I thought about our conversation just now—not only was this old man’s conversation style very unusual, but he was quite energetic. There was a good chance he was the man Lao Hai had talked about earlier, Chen Pi Ah Si!
It seemed like too much of a coincidence to meet him at the teahouse when we were just talking about him at dinner.
I thought about it again and suddenly realized that Lao Hai’s visit to Hangzhou to tell me that story was actually quite sudden and random. Maybe he and the old man were up to something? Could they be setting up a trap to lure me into their nefarious plot?
The old man looked pretty cunning, so I’d definitely have to be on guard.
I cursed to myself. I didn’t know what kind of plot this was, but I definitely felt confused as I recalled Lao Hai’s story. Wasn’t that old man supposed to be blind? How could he still see? Besides, he seemed very energetic, and didn’t look like a ninety-year-old at all.
Whatever the case, now that I had figured out the “Big-Headed Dragon Array”, those negative feeling were gone and I finally felt a little better. I turned around, went back inside to pay my bill, drove home, and had a comfortable night’s sleep.
When I woke up at noon the next day and looked at the invitation card to the auction, I immediately swore—it was already over. I called Lao Hai, but he didn’t have anything to say, except that no one had bought the fish. I was really happy to hear that nobody was stupid enough to buy that thing. After making some small talk, I noticed that Lao Hai seemed to be very busy—he had apparently bought a lot of things—so I quickly wrapped up the call.
I didn’t feel like going in to the shop in the afternoon and was planning on going back to Uncle Two’s teahouse to wait for that old man, but Uncle Three’s shop assistant suddenly called me and said that someone wanted to see me.
I thought maybe Lao Yang had appeared again, so I quickly drove over. But when I went into the shop, I saw a person sitting on the sofa that was usually meant for customers. My eyes stung as tears threatened to well up, and I immediately shouted, “Pan Zi!”
<Chapter 45><Table of Contents><Chapter 47>
(1) The Russian translation provided a good pic if you all want visuals:
(2) Taken from Su Shi’s poem, “Wall Inscription at West Forest Temple”. One of Su’s philosophical works, the poem describes how people view problems differently due to their position in life and have a certain degree of one-sidedness in understanding objective facts. Found one translation here and another here. Su Shi (1037–1101) was a Chinese calligrapher, essayist, gastronomer, pharmacologist, poet, politician, and travel writer during the Song dynasty.
Uwahhhh Pan Zi! It’s been so long o(TヘTo)
5 thoughts on “Chapter 46 Simple Answer”
Aaaaah Pan Zi I want to hug you!
(Thanks for the notes on the dragon vein – I aways have trouble understanding how they work.)
Yes! Thank you so much! It’s a beautiful illustration. I never would’ve thought to loop the tail around like that.
And oh my word Pan Zi!!!
This chapter was very informative and your picture map amazing. Thank you for sharing.
I’m not into poetry but so far I loved every one picked by NPSS. Thank you for the poems links
And Pan Zi. I don’t know if my heart can take it. My eyes stungs too and the tears are already flowing this will be an emotional ride
Haha it’s not mine 😅. All credit for that map goes to the Russian translator. I think they made it from scratch too, so kudos to them for putting in the effort
I always cry when Pan Zi makes an appearance now. NPSS emotionally scarred me for life😭😂
Wow you are so fast! That was an intriguing scene in the café. Also, will we ever get rid of Chen Pi? Probs not. *g*
PS: I don‘t know what happens to Panzi, but I am nervous now, because everyone was so emotional when he turned up. I liked him in the dramas, especially in Ultimate Note.