Today we will talk about one of most famous stories from the book Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio 聊斋志异 from the Qing dynasty 清朝 published in 1740. The name of the story is Nie Xiaoqian 聂小倩, which has been adapted into numerous films and TV series.
In the book, it says there was a young man from Zhejiang 浙江 province named Ning Caichen 宁采臣. He was a straightforward, generous and principled. These three words are important and his personalities changed his life. He always says to people, “I would never have a second woman. ” So he was married and even though it was normal in the ancient China to have more than one concubines, he didn’t have want the desire to have another woman in his life.
Once, he went to the place called Jinhua 金华 and took a rest in a temple in the suburb. The temple was gorgeous however there were weeds growing widely in the yard and it seemed like there weren’t people for a long time. On the west and east sides, there were rooms for monks of which the doors were closed. There was a small house in the south. The lock looked new. There were bamboos growing in the corner of the yard. Wide lotus flowers covered the whole pool. Ning Caichen really enjoyed the quiet there and decided to stay there since it was the time before the Imperial Examination that all the hotels were expansive.
About the sunset, another person came into the temple and tried to get inside the house in the south. Ning Caichen made a bow and told him that he was thinking of staying here as well. The person replied, “there isn’t an owner here. I am like you just to stay here a few days. If you would like to stay here too, that would be great! ” Ning Caichen was glad and found some straw and put them on the ground as his bed.
That night, the moon was bright. Ning Caichen chatted with the other person in the hallway. The other person said, “My last name is Yan 燕 and my first name is ChiXia 赤霞.” Ning Caichen thought he might be going to attend the exam like me although his accent doesn’t sound locale. “Where are you from?” The other person replied sincerely , “I am from the ShaanXi 陕西 province.” It was getting dark and they didn’t have much to talk about, so they both went to bed.
Ning Caichen found it was hard to fall asleep in the new place. He heard someone was talking from the north of the room. He got off the bed and hid under the window. He saw a small yard outside the wall where a lady in her 40s and an old lady in dark red with a silver comb in her hair were talking. The mid-aged lady asked, “why is Xiaoqian 小倩 still not here?” The old lady replied, “almost here!” The mid-aged lady asked, “does she have some problems with you grandma?” “I haven’t heard about it.” The old woman replied.
The mid-aged lady said, “that young lady isn’t easy to get along with!” While they were talking, here came a young lady around 17~18 years old. It seemed like she was beautiful. I like the writer’s word here. Like mentioned at the beginning, Ning Caichen was a principled man who would keep a distance with female. The text says he saw a girl however he didn’t look closely due to principles and manners so she seemed like a beautiful girl. The old lady smiled and said, “you little demon. You came so quietly that thank god we didn’t say anything bad about you. You are so beautiful as walking from a painting. If I am a man, I would be bewitched by you.” The girl replied, “grandma if you don’t accomplish me who would praise me?” They kept talking something. Ning Caichen though they were the neighbors living next to the temple and went to bed. After a while, the yard was finally quiet. When he was about to fall asleep, he felt someone walking into the room. He immediately sit up, it was the young girl he just saw.
We will continue the story in our next episode.
Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio