The Story of the Luckless Man, Qianxi

 

From the Chinese by Bai Ho-shen, translated by Catherine So

 

Qianxi is an asthmatic. This particular night, seated by the window of his room which faces, though some worlds away, the Ox Mountain of P’ai-kang’s dream, he cannot sleep. So he whispered to the many ears of P’ai-kang which in the beginning of time was scattered and dissolved in the air, his many troubles.

The year is 1967. The last emperor has been dead for more than a century. The fabled blue dragon has not been seen for thrice that time. In Hong Kong, in his own time, Qianxi (a name he had given himself, a name he had copied from an ancient scroll) dreams of the long-dead emperors, his gods, his ancestors. The window that faces the Ox Mountain fills the room with smoke, making breathing more difficult. But Qianxi smiles, despite all this, for in his heart he still believes they will one day return, free guo from those who are not ren, barbarians, white devils, the communist. Qianxi forgot that two Qin Shi-huang, Xiang-gang was a sewer made tolerable only by the fact it was near the sea.

 

Note:

P’ai-kang. 白空 is a title given to 飛離 by the Ming Scholar Tong Li. The name means white wind. This can be traced from an earlier story by Bao Xuxie, called 「千耳神」,God of A Thousand Ears. Here is a version of the story:

Once upon a time the greatest gods gathered in heaven to decide the fate of the universe. 飛離, general of the winds, was not among those invited to this council. The god did not took to this kindly and so decided to eavesdrop. 嫦娥, however, discovered him. But she took pity on him, and instead of throwing him down from heaven as they were told to do to anyone uninvited, she brought his case to 天公, trusting his wisdom. The Emperor was at first furious to see 飛離 but 嫦娥 told him to be merciful, reminding him that they must not be influenced by a moment’s anger and mete out justice and not punishment for its own sake. As punishment, they cut 飛離’s ears but as they did so the wind blew and the ears multiplied until they covered all the earth. Though 飛離 could hear everything, he could not speak a thing.

The moniker 白空 comes from an explanation of Tong-li, that wherever 飛離’s ears gathers in significant quantities, the wind makes itself visible.

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