On this particular day, he, by some accident, extended his walk beyond the suburbs, and desirous to contemplate the nature of the rustic scenery
, he, with listless step, came up to a spot encircled by hills and streaming pools, by luxuriant clumps of trees and thick groves of bamboos. Nestling in the dense foliage stood a temple. The doors and courts were in ruins. The walls, inner and outer, in disrepair. An inscription on a tablet testified that this was the temple of Spiritual Perception. On the sides of the door was also a pair of old and dilapidated scrolls with the following enigmatical verses.
Behind ample there is, yet to retract the hand, the mind heeds not, until.
Before the mortal vision lies no path, when comes to turn the will.
“These two sentences,” Yü-ts’un pondered after perusal, “although simple in language, are profound in signification. I have
previous to this visited many a spacious temple, located on hills of note, but never have I beheld an inscription referring to
anything of the kind. The meaning contained in these words must, I feel certain, owe their origin to the experiences of some
person or other; but there’s no saying. But why should I not go in and inquire for myself?”
Upon walking in, he at a glance caught sight of no one else, but of a very aged bonze, of unkempt appearance, cooking his rice.
When Yü-ts’un perceived that he paid no notice, he went up to him and asked him one or two questions, but as the old priest
was dull of hearing and a dotard, and as he had lost his teeth, and his tongue was blunt, he made most irrelevant replies.
Yü-ts’un lost all patience with him, and withdrew again from the compound with the intention of going as far as the village public
house to have a drink or two, so as to enhance the enjoyment of the rustic scenery. With easy stride, he accordingly walked up to
the place. Scarcely had he passed the threshold of the
public house, when he perceived some one or other
among the visitors who had been sitting sipping their wine on the divan,
jump up and come up to greet him,
with a face beaming with laughter.
Hence it was that K’ung K’ung, the Taoist, in consequence of his
perception, (in his state of) abstraction, of passion, the generation, from this passion, of
voluptuousness, the transmission of this voluptuousness into passion, and the apprehension, by means of passion, of its unreality, forthwith altered his name for
that of “Ch’ing Tseng” (the Voluptuous Bonze), and changed the title of “the Memoir of a Stone” (Shih-t’ou-chi,) for that of “Ch’ing Tseng Lu,” The Record of
the Voluptuous Bonze; while K’ung Mei-chi of Tung Lu gave it the name of “Feng Yüeh Pao Chien,” “The Precious Mirror of Voluptuousness.” In later years, owing
to the devotion by Tsao Hsüeh-ch’in in the Tao Hung study, of ten years to the perusal and revision of the work, the additions and modifications effected by him five times, the affix of an index and the division into periods and chapters, the
book was again entitled “Chin Ling Shih Erh Ch’ai,” “The Twelve Maidens of Chin Ling.” A stanza was furthermore composed for
the purpose. This then, and no other, is the origin of the Record of the Stone. The poet says appositely:—
Pages full of silly litter,
Tears a handful sour and bitter;
All a fool the author hold,
But their zest who can unfold?
You have now understood the causes which brought about the Record of the Stone, but as you are not, as yet, aware what
characters are depicted, and what circumstances are related on the surface of the block, reader, please lend an ear to the narrative on the stone, which runs as follows:—
In old days, the land in the South East lay low. In this South-East part of the world, was situated a walled town, Ku Su by name.
Within the walls a locality, called the Ch’ang Men, was more than all others throughout the mortal world, the centre, which held the second, if not the first place for fashion and life. Beyond this
Ch’ang Men was a street called Shih-li-chieh (Ten Li street); in this street a lane, the Jen Ch’ing lane (Humanity and Purity); and in this lane stood an old temple, which on account of its
diminutive dimensions, was called, by general consent, the
Gourd temple. Next door to this temple lived the family of a
district official, Chen by surname, Fei by name, and Shih-yin by style. His wife, née Feng, possessed a worthy and virtuous
disposition, and had a clear perception of moral propriety and good conduct. This family, though not in actual possession of
excessive affluence and honours, was, nevertheless, in their district, conceded to be a clan of well-to-do standing. As this
Chen Shih-yin was of a contented and unambitious frame of mind, and entertained no hankering after any official distinction,
but day after day of his life took delight in