The Tang Dynasty’s Female Forensic Doctor Chapter 64: Together We Die

There are two poems in this chapter I did my best to translate and pass their meaning in English (this is my first time translating something from Mandarin to English, so by no means am I a professional). There is a little glossary for the second poem – you can click here and read it now or wait and read it before the poem starts (I’ll also put a jump link there). And lastly, I edited some errors I made when translating the last chapter – nothing major, just spelling, useless words, etc… Well, good read ^^


“I wonder which of the poems written tonight is the best?” Ran Yan loudly asked.

The crowd at the river discussed for quite a while, even going to inquire those few great scholars that were observing this lively scene. At last, the best poem was determined, and Zhang Fei volunteered to read it out loud,

“Aligned clouds cross the Magpie Bridge today. Loving gazes no longer distant. Kindreds adorn themselves within mirrors in eager joy. The needle’s prayers face the Heavens under moonlight [1].

He read with a face full of pride as if the author of such a poem was himself.

This was a poem that narrated the history of Qixi. Truthfully speaking, it would have been hard for Ran Yan to understand the emotions in it without the original owner’s literary knowledge. When she was studying forensic medicine, Ran Yan has earnestly studied ancient Chinese prose for some time because she had to read Song Ci’s Collection Cases of Injustice Rectified [2]. But to be able to understand what she hears and comprehend the feelings expressed inside the poem’s verses are things that stand on completely different levels.

Ran Yan was silently counting in her mind the poems she still remembered. Sighing deeply, she realized she could only remember about ten poems, such as “The hoe seeding every day at noon” [3], “Two golden orioles sing amid the willow green” [4], and so on, but nothing related to Qixi.

Regarding Ran Yan’s nature, if she can accept things such as transmigration, then she can definitely do things such as recite the complete works of Li Bai’s poems from memory. If one is prepared, one is safe.

Recalling Li Bai, Ran Yan though for a moment before speaking: “I’ll recite one poem, and if everyone here is not able to get a poem even more artistically compelling, I ask that you let me leave.”

What a big talk! All the various people on the river wore faces of surprise that slowly turned into scornful ones. Even if the young ladies had some talent and knowledge, they certainly can’t surpass them, gentlemen who buried their heads in books all day long.

“Miss must not let Tenth Master Ran do it for her.” Zhang Fei immediately spoke.

Although Ran Yunsheng has never entered the prefectural school and never took the imperial examination test, everyone knows that his literary knowledge is not low. The only reason why he couldn’t enter the imperial examination to became an official is because he is someone from a merchant family, that’s all.

 “Ok.” Ran Yan answered.

The river in Pingjiang quieted down. The water stream was the sole sound that could be heard. Be it those young gentlemen or those preeminent scholars they had all stopped their actions to listen attentively. Every single noble lady on the Qi family’s boat was standing at the railing, and Sixth Miss Qi’s gaze was fixed at Ran Yan’s boat with a complicated expression.

Qi Yuxiu curled her lips and said: “Seventeenth Miss Ran spoke such big words. Can we assume that she has a card up her sleeve? Is it possible that today’s events have been premeditated? Just to snatch sixth sister’s [5] place?

After the time when Qi Yuxiu saw Ran Yan’s calm attitude towards that corpse at the Yin Fu, her repulse towards her had diminished, but had not yet reached the degree of liking. Sixth Miss Qi pursed her lips and didn’t speak, but her brows knitted slightly.

Ran Meiyu curled her lips. Ran Yan is indeed very capable, she is clearly going too far again! She can make any type of good poem if she relies on Tenth brother! Remembering Ran Yunsheng, Ran Meiyu felt sickened. Tenth brother initially treated her extremely well, but now he was stolen by Ran Yan alone. She can’t wait to see Ran Yan make a fool of herself in front of all Suzhou.

While each person here entertained their own little thoughts, Ran Yan’s cold and serene voice unhurriedly came from the inside of the boat, [G]

“The Zhao person wears a plain strap’s hat, carries a wugou as bright as frost and snow.

A white horse shining with its silver saddle, soaring and resounding like a meteor.

One person is killed within ten steps, no one to detain within ten thousand li.

Pat the clothes and go after the job is done, deeply hiding his body alongside his renown.”

A commotion started at the river. Seventeenth Miss Ran has not recited a “Qixi poem”, but a poem about an assassin! Moreover, her speech was bold and uninhibited, talking about an assassin who kept his identity concealed and lived the humblest life, with its description done in a free and lofty manner.   

Ran Yan’s icy and indifferent voice was not high but was dispersed along the chilly wind on the river. That feeling of taking a person’s life in the act of raising your hand was vividly rendered.

The unknown person being stabbed by Su Fu ended up being killed during that short time of chaos. Afterwards, he remained calm and composed and went away, leaving all the other people having no idea that there was an assassin tonight exactly as depicted.

Ran Yan dared to recite this poem so confidently because she was aware of such matter.

Precisely when everyone thought that the poem had already finished, they heard Ran Yan continuing:

“Idling over drinks with Xin Ling, resting the sword on the knees before filing it.

Feasting on roasted meat with Zhu Hai, wine goblets toasting each other with Hou Ying.

Uttering pledges after three drinks, words heavier than the Five Sacred Mountains.

Eyes blurred and ears flushed, buoyant spirits gave rise to a bleached rainbow.”

“A jinchui was brandished to save Zhao, and a mighty quake befell in Handan.

A thousand years of hail to the two heroes, grandly celebrated at Daliang city.

The prestige of a brave spirit remains even in death, no shame exists in a hero’s life.

Who would follow the distinguished scholar, hair all white yet still writes Taixuanjing.”

After those two segments, it could be seen that this is a story about Lord Xin Ling, Hou Ying, and Zhu Hai. The hero was able to meet the brilliant ruler, and the brilliant ruler was then helped by the hero’s brave and powerful strategy to achieve his cause. The hero attained success and gained fame, but even if he ultimately never succeeded, his name would still be immortalized in history.

The not only heroic but also unrestrained poem shocked the many people gathered on the river. They were deeply sighing as they realized this was not a poem singing praises for an assassin, but for a hero. On top of Zhenguan’s [6] reign holding the military forces in high esteem, which man doesn’t have a chivalrous dream in his heart? This poem is filled with heroism, magnanimity and soaring aspirations, striking deep into everyone’s heart with powerful waves.

Utter silence covered the whole river’s surface. Even those great scholars that heard the poem were dazed. The kind of boldness and passion shown in the poem drove every gentleman in here to blush with shame.

“Is this poem, “Ode to Gallantry [7], enough to let me leave?” Ran Yan impatiently said.

Sometimes it is not about you not wanting to partake in rivalry, but about keeping yourself out of it; such is the way of the world. Ran Yan contemplated things in her mind, suppose she seeks for an opportunity for her to dissect a corpse in public. Perhaps, afterwards, the whole Suzhou would not talk about the Seventeenth Miss Ran so fervidly as they will after this silly competition. It surely won’t be something she will enjoy.

What’s more, Ran Yan knows she posses meager knowledge. She was clear in how to settle the dispute this time, but what about the second time, or the third time, as well as countless other times that may come?

It is only obvious that the crowd did not want to let her leave, but taking all the people gathered here, including the group of great scholars, who was able to come up with a poem that could outshine “Ode to Gallantry” in such a sort time?

Therefore, it didn’t matter if they were willing or not, they all had to let the boat sail away.

The boat soon leisurely departed. Inside the cabin, Ran Yunsheng stared blankly at Ran Yan, saying: “Ah Yan, this intense and unrestrained poem, full of lofty aspirations, has triumphed over all those great scholars!”

Ran Yan gave him a weak smile, “This poem is just something I heard it somewhere. Hasn’t Tenth brother wondered how I could make this kind of poem since I studied for only a few years?”

Ran Yunsheng shook his head as if he already knew, and replied to her worriedly: “Whose poem is this? Suppose other people learn about you using another’s work, your reputation will certainly be… If you know who the author is, it would be better to…”

“To take money and buy him over?” Ran Yan interrupted.

Ran Yunsheng has obviously never done such things, so his face immediately flushed when he heard Ran Yan being so blunt about it.

“You have also said it, this poem is intense and unrestrained, its author must be someone broad-minded and unconstrained, someone with a noble heart. How can such person bow to money?” Ran Yan knows Ran Yunsheng is concerned about her. Her heart got warmer and she wanted to put him at ease: “Tenth brother must not feel anxious. I remember this person has long pledged to never come public.”

Ran Yunsheng felt reassured after seeing her being this confident. Turning to look outside the window, the bustle at Pingjiang’s river had resumed, seemingly much higher than what it was before.

“Tenth brother, let’s return.” Ran Yan lightly said.

Since things have already taken this turn, going out for a stroll would perhaps cause even more disturbances.

Since Ran Yunsheng agreed, the boatman sailed the boat and anchored in a desolated shore. After he helped Ran Yan get off, they walked and admired the moon throughout the way, and soon the market appeared within their sights.

“Tired? Do you want Tenth brother to carry you?” Ran Yunsheng could not help asking when he saw the glittering beads of sweat at the tip of Ran Yan’s nose.

“I am already this big. It would be terribly improper to let elder brother carry me.” Ran Yan imitated Miss Xing’s intonation and stern face while replying.

Ran Yunsheng was amused by her mimic, and his smile shined as brightly as the glistening white moon, reflecting light into the dim willows at the dike. However, as Ran Yunsheng smiled, his heart grew dejected. She has really grown up, ah. They can never be as intimate as they were during childhood.

The two people quietly walked on the embankment, getting closer and closer to the market’s hustle and bustle. But suddenly, they heard a rustling sound nearby.

Ran Yunsheng stopped and grabbed Ran Yan’s wrist, glancing towards the place where the sound had come. The moment he was ready to speed up their pace, a woman’s voice emerged from behind the willow trees, “Fourth Master… Do you know…”

The gentle voice carried a cold hostility inside, and some glimpses of tenderness, “Did you know that there’s a woman submerged in this river?”

Ran Yan pulled Ran Yunsheng and made a hand gesture for him to keep quiet, then silently walked towards the place where the voice was coming from.

There were two people hiding behind a large willow tree. Ran Yan stretched her head and through a gap between the forest trees, she saw a well-dressed man lying on the underbrush at the side of the embankment, but she couldn’t see his face clearly. There was a strong smell wafting in the air being brought by the wind blowing at the river, and it was presumably because of that person’s drunkenness. 

The woman wearing an apricot-colored ruqun [8] that fluttered with the breeze bent over and reached her delicate hands to lightly caress the man’s face. She showed a docile expression, with small and delicate features, but her smile seemed to convey only coldness, a mixture of joy and hate. The way the moonlight faced her back caused her figure to appear somewhat gloomy.

It was Yin Miaomiao. Ran Yan had already recognized her when she heard her voice.

Yin Miaomiao had just called out “Fourth Master”. Could it be that the drunk man is actually Fourth Master Qin?

“Fourth Master.” Yin Miaomiao sighed and carefully observed Qin Musheng for a while. Suddenly, she forcefully grabbed him and dragged towards the riverside with great effort.

Yin Miaomiao spent a long time just to drag the tall and heavy Qin Musheng for barely four meters until the edge of the river.

Her fair forehead revealed pinpricks of sweat under the moonlight. The hair on her temples was slightly messy and being scattered by the blowing wind. On her face a beautiful dimpled smile that, despite gentle, exposed a kind of sorrow. A hidden madness blended within her laugher, “Fourth Master Qin, Qin Musheng. Today is the anniversary of her death. We are both going to die together and go find her.”

“I can’t go on living …” Yin Miaomiao said as tears gathered in her eyes and then trickled down her cheeks.

Ran Yunsheng slightly tugged Ran Yan and gave her an inquiring look, but she only shook her head.

The two people stood where they were and continued listening.

“Miss!” A young girl wearing a light pink ruqun and with hair pulled into two buns hurriedly run over [9]. Seeing the weeping Yin Miaomiao looking like a pear blossom bathed in the rain [10], she promptly said: “Calm down, Miss, let bygones be bygones. Miss should put the matter to rest.”

The young girl consoled her with a soft voice while nimbly helping Yin Miaomiao fix her makeup.

“Miss, we have to hurry! The people at that side have already gathered and should begin the Qiqiao ceremony [11] soon. The young girl pulled Yin Miaomiao and glanced at the completely drunk Fourth Master Qin.

Yin Miaomiao pursed her lips tightly and looked at Qin Musheng profoundly before moving.

“Ah Yan!” The intoxicated Qin Musheng suddenly grabbed her ankle and pleaded: “Ah Yan, don’t go.” Yin Miaomiao rapidly turned her head and asked in a trembling voice: “What did you say?”

“Don’t mind him, Miss. Let’s hurry up!”  The maidservant squatted and pried open Qin Musheng’s hand.

Qin Musheng started yelling, “Ah Yan, Ah Yan, don’t break the engagement, I won’t ever fool around with other women in the future!”

Ran Yunsheng couldn’t help hanging his head to look at Ran Yan, but he was doomed to not find any change in her expression. Those two placid eyes, silently staring at the three people on the riverside, they looked as if the words “Ah Yan” that Qin Musheng uttered was, in fact, calling another person altogether.


Glossary(back to the top) or (back to poem)

–> The State of Zhao is a place from where many Chinese heroes came from (like the heroes this poem mentions)

–> Wugou is a chinese weapon (image below).

–> Li is a measure; it is equal to 1/2 kilometer or about 1/3 mile.

–> Xinling is Lord Xinling, a famous politician and general who served the State of Wei (during the Warring States period).

–> Zhu Hai and Hou Ying are chinese heroes from Wei that came roughly a thousand years before Li Bai (author of the poem).

–> Jinchui is another chinese weapon (image below).

–> Handan is the capital of Zhao.

–> Daling is the capital of Wei.

–> Taixuanjing is a philosophy book written by the scholar Yang Xiong.

[1] This poem was written by Quan De Yu – an official during the Tang Dynasty – and it talks about the history of Qixi and the customs/traditions that the people from that time had during Qixi.

“今日云骈渡鹊桥,应非脉脉与迢迢。家人竟喜开妆镜,月下穿针拜九宵。”

[2] Also called Washing Away of Wrongs, is a book that is said to be the world’s first legal forensic text.

[3] This is a poem written by Li Shen, and its name is “Sympathy for the peasants/farmers”. It goes like this:

“锄禾日当午,汗滴禾下土。 谁知盘中餐, 粒粒皆辛苦。”
“They hoe the crops at noon. Their sweat drips onto the sowed grains. Who would know that the food on the plate, down to every grain, is the fruit that their toil laid.”

[4] This is a poem written by Du Fu. It goes like this:

” 两个黄鹂鸣翠柳,一行白鹭上青天。窗含西岭千秋雪, 门泊东吴万里船。”
“Two golden orioles sing amid the willows green. A row of white egrets flies in the azure sky. My window frames the western mountain’s snow of a thousand autumns. The eastern-anchored boats lie a thousand li beyond my door.”

[5] Here is “elder sister”.

[6] Zhenguan is the title of the reign (627-6490) of Li Shimin, the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty, called posthumously Tang Taizong.

[7] I chose “Ode to Gallantry” because it’s the same name as the book of Jin Yong, and the book has the same name in Chinese (侠客行)as the poem.

[8]

[9]

[10] This is used to describe the tear-stained face of a beauty; it literally means “like raindrops on a pear blossom.”

[11] This is a women’s tradition during Qixi. The girls take part in ceremonies worshiping Zhinu, recite traditional prayers, partake in needlework competition, etc etc

Extra: Li Bai’s poem:

“赵客缦胡缨,吴钩霜雪明。银鞍照白马,飒沓如流星。十步杀一人,千里不留行。事了拂衣去,深藏身与名。”

“闲过信陵饮,脱剑膝前横。将炙啖朱亥,持觞劝侯嬴。三杯吐然诺,五岳倒为轻。眼花耳热后,意气素霓生。”

“救赵挥金锤,邯郸先震惊。千秋二壮士,烜赫大梁城。纵死侠骨香,不惭世上英。谁能书阁下,白首太玄经。”

Here’s a link if you would like to read a little about Li Bai’s admiration for swordsmanship and heroes.

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