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Kuangyin Creates Calamity at Golden Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An illustration of Zhao Kuangyin from Heavenly Ascended Taoist's Qing Dynasty manual of Praying Mantis Kungfu

This month I bring to you a chapter of a Qing Dynasty martial novel called Complete Classic of the Flying Dragon that showcases the exploits of Zhao Kuangyin before he went on to found the Song Dynasty over 1000 years ago.

Through this popular novel of the late 1800's, the author Wu Xuan 吳璿, allows the reader to experience and identify with the many levels of character of an ideal man. He does this through the identity of Zhao Kuang-yin, first emperor of the Song dynasty. His bold forthrightness and fearless action when supporting the weak and punishing the tyrannical. The strong sense of righteousness he brings on his heroic travels demonstrating his loyal faith.

 

 

Each chapter of Complete Classic of the Flying Dragon finishes with him rectifying wrongs with his fists or his famous ‘Coiling-Dragon-Staff.’ No translation yet exists of this book. This chapter I have translated was originally titled;

 

Chairong the Umbrella Peddler Ascends the Ancient Road
Kuangyin Creates Calamity for the Toll Takers at Golden Bridge.

Sung to Youthful Play melody
The fatigues of travel billow and blow,
Rain and snow fall thick and fast,
A gloomy road lonely and bleak.

Green waters flow throw the creek,
Verdant mountains obscured by darkness,
Ravens and rabbits hasten east and west.

Jackals and wolves have seized the streets and blocked the thoroughfares,
Howling tigers answer crying apes.

Open and upright aware of hope,
Sweeping clear the clouds of dust,
Time to establish a new sovereign ruler.

Kuangyin left the city. As he walked down the quiet road waiting for his elder Chairong to meet up with him. He left the road to practice his stick techniques, look at him as he maneuvers his ‘Coiling-Dragon-Staff’;

Hooking and springing
Sealing and closing
Capturing and pushing
Whipping and twisting
All while circling high and low

Watching him flourish his weapon for one round it brings to mind the sound of the divine stick returning to its source. With one shake of his hands he stood like a strip of golden brocade his heart filled with ten parts of joy.

As he stood there, Chairong and two others, Zhang and Luo, walked up commending and admiring Kuangyin’s staff work.
When they sat and drank wine Kuangyin opened up his heart to express his feelings of friendship. In answer, Zhang and Luo pulled 50 taels (one tael being about 40 grams) of silver from their bags for the traveling expenses of Kuangyin and Chairong. Kuangyin dared not accept so Zhang and Luo stuffed the silver into Chairong’s bag and called it his business capital. Three times Chairong refused to accept the money but in the end was finally persuaded to accept. Afterwards Zhang and Luo returned home so that Kuangyin and Chairong could begin their journey.

The Journey Begins

Chairong slowly pushed his cart with their luggage on top while Kuangyin hung a rope over his shoulder and pulled from the front. Chairong saw that Kuangyin was deep in thought over leaving his friends and family. He walked on in silence with his head bowed down.

To cheer him up Chairong said, “Worthy Younger Brother, when leaving home we should keep our mind free and relaxed and not keep a worried mind. Like you, I also have left behind my family. Up ahead is ‘Golden Toll Bridge.’ When we arrive there your foolish elder brother will pay the toll. Then we’ll find a wine shop and buy several cups to dispel our melancholy.”

On hearing those two words, “pay tax”, Kuangyin’s mood completely changed. “About this “Golden Toll Bridge” what sort of government official is there collecting the tax from travelers?”
Chairong replied, “This road just connects to a wide thoroughfare. Where is there any sort of government official?”

Kuangyin asked, “Since there is no established official there then who is the one that collects this tax?”

Chairong answered, “Though there is no government official, there is a sitting tiger and ruffian named Dongda. Under him are over one hundred strong and powerful braves. These men patrol the mouth of the bridge night and day so that the tax is collected from all who pass.

‘For ordinary businessmen with 10 taels worth of goods the toll tax is 1 tael. For 100 taels of worth of goods the toll is 10 taels and not a copper less will be accepted. For those who disagree they’ll break a hand, arm, foot or leg. If you make them angry then you’ll lose your life. For this reason everyone is greatly afraid. Worthy Brother, when we get there I ask you, please be pleasant and soft so we can avoid any difficulties.”

When Kuangyin heard this his qi burst from his belly and a great fire rose up within and it was as if smoke came from his mouth. He let down the cart pulling rope. “Elder bother, stop the cart a moment. Younger brother has something to say.”

Chairong stopped the cart. “Younger brother, whatever you have to say, please say it.”

“Elder brother, the umbrellas of this cart, cost us mow much? How much tax will be taken from our profit?”

Chairong answered, “After selling these twenty umbrellas we should get over 30 taels.”

“So, to calculate it, there is really 10 taels of profit, besides the cost of traveling expenses and the cost of paying the toll. The profit is very limited. With all of elder brothers trekking back and forth and the bitterness of not selling anything in the market, what is the good of doing this kind of business? The way younger brother sees it, when we cross the bridge we shouldn’t need to pay a tax, just cross the bridge,”

Chairong was a man lacking courage. When he heard these words his heart began to race. “These two taels of silver are nothing. What you are proposing is to court death. Under Dongda are many men. Though worthy brother is a man of ferocious courage, I fear you won’t be a match for that great gang of fighters. If there is some accidental mishap you will meet with disaster. It would be best if worthy brother could exercise patience just this once, then we can quickly pass and be on the road about our own business.”

Kuangyin Hatches a Plan

Kuangyin answered, “Ever since ancient times, to be wise is to be intelligent, to be a man is to be a man. Though I am lacking in even half a speck of talent, how dare one such as I exaggerate? Yet, I can’t endure to let it be, nor accept the violence of those bullies. Even if they all have three heads and six arms, a tiger’s strength and a bears’ heart, I am still not afraid to risk my life. I promise I will consent to wait for death before I can accept it.”

Chairong said, “Illustrious and worthy brother, your foolish elder has great respect for you. But when we get there, if they want the toll tax how will we explain? Have you decided on a plan? We must not move ahead rashly yet the bridge is almost upon us.”

“If they let us pass then I have no problem with them. If not, then I have a plan. When we get there just tell them like this and this…”

Though Chairong was afraid, he could only harden his head and strengthen his resolve and push the cart along. When not far from the bridge there was a great green poplar tree with leaves scattered beneath, Kuangyin said, “Elder brother, you go ahead, little brother will stay on the side and soon catch up.” Kuangyin went to sleep on the leaves.

Chairong Tricks the Toll Takers

As Chairong approached the bridge the toll takers spotted him and shouted out, “Quiet Cai is here, Quiet Cai is here! Your traveling pass has long been expired.”

Calm as can be Chairong stopped his cart and with a face wreathed in smiles said, “Everyone...everyone, these days are not like in the past, nowadays I have a partner in charge of the money, wait for him to come and he’ll pay, but first let me cross so I can eat and get on my way.”

One from the crowd said, “Where is your partner, why didn’t he come along with you?”

Chairong pointed to the tall poplar tree, “That red-faced hero wearing a green and blue robe and sleeping under that tall poplar tree is him. The walk was hard on him so I told him to take a short rest. Shortly he will come here to pay the toll.”

Amongst themselves they said, “Quiet Cai has always been honest and where could he go if he tried to escape?’ So, they let him push his umbrella cart across the bridge.

Of the future the greedy think naught,
Getting fat with their hidden treasure their only plan.
Who knows when they'll stop scheming,
The moment of death is their only release.

They watched Chairong leave and waited around for hours without seeing that red-faced hero show up to pay the toll. Of the group there were some who were a bit impatient and said, “Friends, this red-face still hasn’t come. We must take precautions otherwise he will walk across without our knowing it. Why don’t we just go over there and collect right now, even if he sleeps all year it has nothing to do with us, isn’t that not good?”

Battle Under the Poplar Tree

Another answered, “What you say makes sense.” So, they all walked together to take a look and see this red-faced hero. “Red-faced accountant, wake up, quickly pull out Quiet-Cai’s toll, then you can go back to sleep.”

Kuangyin heard them clearly but pretended that he was still sleeping. Losing their patience they came at him as if with seven hands and eight feet. Kuangyin stuck out his feet and cried out, “Such an audacious dog’s head you are! How dare you be so rude to come and surprise your lord!”

They angrily replied, “You red-faced thief’s apprentice, how can you pretend to be so naive? Quickly open your money bag and pull out the silver for the toll then you can walk all the way to the Western Paradise of Buddha if you like.”

Kuangyin stood up and shouted, “You ought-to-die-convicts! Your lord was sleeping peacefully and you wake me talking about the toll.”

Someone answered, “You mean to say that you don’t know? Chairong told you that we are here for the toll so stop pretending to sleep.”

“So,” he said ponderously, “You are here for that sum of silver, I was just going to ask about that. Where is the yamen’s official document for collecting the toll? Which government official has issued this decree?”

“You ignorant newcomer, you don’t know how things are done around here. This here is ‘Golden Toll Bridge’ under the control of your Lord Dongda. He is in charge of collecting the highway toll. For those merchants with 10 taels of goods the toll is one tael, for 100 taels worth of goods the toll can’t be a copper short of 10 taels. Just now your partner came across the bridge with a cart full of umbrellas, so he must pay two taels. Government paper or no paper, decree or no decree, once your feet hit the road you must pay. If you utter half a ‘no,’ we will leave you no path to walk.”

Fire filled up Kuangyin’s bosom, “Ought-to-die-convicts! What do you mean by ‘leave me no path to walk?’” He pulled out his fists and chased them down with his divine strikes. When that crowd saw Kuangyin's posture started they counter-attacked by shouting out and surrounding him like a tightening noose to start punching.

Kuangyin released all restraint and let his fists attack without mercy. He started his attack towards the west and turned in a circle striking all. Within a moment had already knocked down more than ten men of the bravest fighters. His fists were so heavy that when they fell down one by one and looking up at that great green poplar tree their only thought was to get out of there with their lives intact. As they got up they shouted out and scattered to the four directions.

Since they ran away Kuangyin walked to ‘Golden Toll Bridge.’ He saw that it sat across a great and wide river. At the middle of the bridge was an awning and a booth for collecting the toll. Inside was the counter for collecting the toll where sat the money scales, abacus and all the other things a toll collector might need. The man in charge of collecting the money had no idea what had just happened. Kuangyin thought to himself, “In this world how easy it is for a powerful tyrant to squeeze in a place of no imperial control and collect his own tax to fatten himself up. But, I didn’t come here to wipe out his servants they are not deserving of my anger.”
He smashed that counter in half and destroyed all the toll collecting instruments and scales and didn’t stop until he had knocked down the heart of the toll station. "Chairong is waiting up ahead for me, he might be captured." Kuangyin left the bridge as if flying until he came to the market place where people as tightly packed as a thick smoke. He looked in four directions yet didn’t see a trace of the umbrella cart.

What does Lord Dongda do when he discovers what Chairong and Zhao Kuangyin have done to his Golden-Bridge?

Part two of Kuangyin Creates Calamity at Golden Bridge

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