Today we will talk about a girl who likes laughing called YingNing 婴宁. The story is from the book Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio 聊斋 志异, a collection of stories about ghosts and immortals we already mentioned a lot of times. YingNing is probably the author’s favorite character because at the end of the story he called “my girl YingNing” and the favorite of a lot of readers of the book.
There was a man named Wang ZiFu 王子服 from the place called LuoDian 罗店， whose father passed away when he was a kid. He was clever that he passed the first level of the Imperial Exam at the age of 14. His mother spoiled him and didn’t allow him to stray far away from home. He once was engaged with the daughter from the Xiao’s 萧. Unexpectedly the girl passed away before they got married and he was still looking for a wife.
On the day of the Lantern Festival 上元节, Wang ZiFu was invited by his cousin Mr. Wu, the son of his uncle to go to some celebration events. Not too far when they left the village, Mr. Wu was needed to be home. Wang ZiFu saw plenty of girls going the events, he decided to go by himself in high spirits. Among others, he noticed a girl with her maid. The girl was holding a sprig of plum blossom and was the so the most beautiful girl Wang ZiFu had ever seen. Especially her smiling face was so unforgettable. He stared at her and forgot it was kind of rude. The girl saw him and walked passed by telling her maid, “that guy has a wicked look in his eyes” . She dropped the flower on the ground, laughed and walked away. Wang ZiFu picked up the flower and stood there as if he lost his wits. Just want to explain here, in ancient China, with the influence of Confucianism, men and women were supposed not to have physical contact in the public. If the girl feels like she has a good impression of a guy, instead of asking the guy out for a date or flirting, she would sometimes drop something of her own on the ground as a sign so the guy can see and keep it.
Wang ZiFu went back home in a melancholy mood and hid the flower under his pillow. He lied down to sleep. He would neither talk nor eat. His mother worried about him and even called in priests to draw off evil spirits. Nothing helped but he lost more weight. The doctor gave some prescriptions and he seemed bewildered in his mind. Whatever his mother inquired about how he got sick, he gave no answers. But we probably can tell that he was having a love sickness. In Chinese we call it XiangSiBing 相思病, which basically means love sickness. It is an informal description however it can be associated with depression and mental health problems.
One day his cousin Mr. Wu came to visit. Wang ZiFu started to weep at the sight of his cousin and with the comfort he told everything happened and begged Mr. Wu to help him. Mr. Wu smiled and said, “how foolish you are. I will make inquiries who the girl is. The girl can’t be from an aristocratic family to be walking alone in the country. If she is not engaged, I have no doubt we can arrange the affair. You just need to put yourself together and get well. It is on me now.” Wang ZiFu heard the words and felt much relieved. Mr. Wu told Wang ZiFu’s mother about her son and immediately setting on the girl. All his efforts proved fruitless.
With the hope of seeing the girl again, Wang ZiFu’s appetite returned and got well. After a few days, his cousin Mr. Wu came to visit him again. Wang ZiFu couldn’t wait to ask how it was looking for the girl. Mr. Wu made something up and lied to him, “i already found out who she is. It turned out to be my aunt’s daughter who is still single.” Wang ZiFu was overjoyed and asked who she lived. “On the southeastern hill about 10 miles from here.” Mr. Wu was still lying. Wang ZiFu begged him again and again to do his best.
Wu ZiFu got better and restored the health from the sickness. He checked the flower under the pillow and found that though dried up, the pedals had not fallen. He played with the flower while thinking of the girl. He kept writing letters to his cousin Mr.Wu but Wu didn’t show up with excuses. Plus, his mother made the offers to introduce other girls to him worrying he would have a relapse, he refused each time.
He reflected 10 miles is not far and there wasn’t need to rely on others. He decided to find the girl himself. Carrying the flower in his sleeve, he left home without informing anyone.
If you want to find out what happens next, check out our next episode.
聊斋志异 Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio