Monday, October 03, 2005

Viewtru's Lantern Tale

THE FIRST GATE – The Riddle Gate

High in the mountains, a foreboding castle stood, imposing and majestic. Within its gates laid the Emperor’s guarded Treasure Room. The Emperor issued the challenge that whosoever managed to pass through its gates would be allowed to remove an amount of gold equal to his own weight from the Treasure Room. Such a person would be made a high official in the Emperor’s court. There were five gates in all, with each gate guarded by a Gatekeeper, a high person of extraordinary talent, and no man had ever been successful in reaching the Treasure.

On a quiet afternoon in summer, a lone horseman approached the First gate.

Gatekeeper 1: Halt! Why are you here?

Swordsman Wu : I am Swordsman Wu of the Wu Tang Clan. I have come, that I may collect my weight in gold!

Gatekeeper 1: Indeed, the Wu Tang Clan is well known for its exquisite swordplay. But hear my advice. Waste not your time. Many have come, including some famed exponents from the Shaolin, Emei, and the Huashan Clan. Almost all have failed, and have left empty-handed. The remaining ones left their lives here. Heed my wise words. It cannot be done!

Swordsman Wu : A person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the man doing it. Open the gate and let me pass!

Gatekeeper 1: You are too impatient. And too proud. A fall into a ditch will make you wiser. Like the rest before you, your efforts will end in bitter defeat.

Swordsman Wu : Defeat is not bitter to the superior man if he does not swallow it.

Gatekeeper 1: Wise words indeed. Very well then, you may make your attempt. This is the Riddle Gate. You may not pass until you have answered my riddle. I will light a joss stick. Give me the correct answer before the joss stick burns out, and I shall allow you to pass.

Swordsman Wu : What if I do not like your riddle? Will you change it to one that I like?

Gatekeeper 1: No, by the Imperial Rules, I can only repeat the same riddle.

Swordsman Wu : What if the riddle you tell is too complicated to be understood by normal people like me? Will you change it if my time is not up?

Gatekeeper 1: That will be most unfortunate. By the Imperial Rules, I can only repeat the same riddle.

Swordsman Wu : What if you mumble your words, and I cannot……

Gatekeeper 1: Enough! For whatever reason, I can only repeat the same riddle!

Swordsman Wu : For whatever reason?

Gatekeeper 1: Yes! For whatever reason! You have more questions than a dog has lice!

Swordsman Wu : He who asks a question is a fool for half a joss stick’s time; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.

Gatekeeper 1: Truly, you test my patience. Are you ready for my riddle?

Swordsman Wu : The superior man fears neither rhyme nor riddle. Ask your riddle and be quick about it. I am in a hurry!

* The Gatekeeper lit a joss stick and got ready to ask his riddle. *

Gatekeeper 1: The riddle goes hence: the Lady Peony was traveling along a dusty road in summer. The day was hot and she was feeling tired. By good fortune, she happened upon a stream of running water and so she thought, “You cannot fight a fire with water from afar. It is better that I immerse myself in the stream.” With that decision, she made preparations to wash the dust from her body in its cool waters.

Swordsman Wu : I am in a hurry. What is your riddle?

Gatekeeper 1: Quiet! The Lady Peony removed her clothes carefully and placed them by the side of the stream. Then she entered the cool running waters. To her horror, she saw a naked man already in the stream. He was a young woodcutter, and had been sitting quietly in the water under some overhanging branches, which was why she had not noticed him before.

Swordsman Wu : Why are you taking so long to ask me the riddle?

Gatekeeper 1: Let me continue! The Lady Peony requested the woodcutter to leave immediately so that she could bathe in peace. The man argued that he was there first, and by the justice of Heaven, she should be the one to leave. But Lady Peony implored on him to leave and he eventually agreed. The woodcutter then stood up in the stream, and the water dripped away from his muscular body. As he did so, what were the first words that ……

Swordsman Wu : Wahhhhhh ……why so long one?

Gatekeeper 1: …….the Lady Peony uttered? Oh, you have answered the riddle!

Swordsman Wu : I have?

Gatekeeper 1: Yes! Those were the first words that the Lady Peony uttered!

Swordsman Wu : Actually, I was asking why you were taking so long to ask the riddle.

Gatekeeper 1: Oho! In that case, you have not answered the riddle!

Swordsman Wu : Yes, I have!

Gatekeeper 1: No, you haven’t!

Swordsman Wu : Have!

Gatekeeper 1: Haven’t!

Swordsman Wu : Okay, fine! The joss stick glows unabated, so my time is not yet up. I demand a second riddle!

Gatekeeper 1: No, you cannot. I have already said that for whatever reason, by the Imperial Rules, I can only repeat the same riddle!

Swordsman Wu : Okay fine! Follow the Imperial Rules and repeat your riddle!

Gatekeeper 1: When the woodcutter stood up, what were the first words that the Lady Peony uttered?

Swordsman Wu : The Lady Peony said, “Wahhhhhh……why so long one?”

Gatekeeper 1: That is correct!

Swordsman Wu : Good! Now open the gate!

Gatekeeper 1: You were lucky, Swordsman Wu. But a man may not always depend on his luck. Sooner or later, luck will run out.

Swordsman Wu : You are a sore loser. By the Imperial Rules, you have to let me pass. A good dog does not block the road.

Gatekeeper 1: Gloat as you may. But you will not pass the second Gatekeeper. He is the best martial artist in the land. In the years that I’ve been here, less than ten men have passed through this gate. But they all went to their graves early at the hands of the second Gatekeeper. I will have the last laugh yet.

Swordsman Wu : Indeed you are long winded.

Gatekeeper 1: You may pass, Swordsman Wu!

Swordsman Wu : Sheeeeeesh!!!!!

* Next episode: the Kungfu Gate *

THE SECOND GATE – The Kungfu Gate

The distance between the first and second gate was not far by horse back. It was a huge sprawling castle and there was nobody to be seen except for the guards at the first gate. Swordsman Wu approached the second gate which they called the Kungfu gate. A huge mean looking man with a broadsword stood besides it. That must be the second Gatekeeper. The second Gatekeeper had a reputation of being undefeatable in combat. Nobody knew his kungfu style, and thus nobody could work out the appropriate countermove. Those who have fought against him did not live long enough to inform others. Swordsman Wu wished that he did not have to confront the man, but he did not wish to turn back either. There has to be a way to avoid a duel.

The Gatekeeper saw him and strode out to meet him with his broadsword in hand.

Gatekeeper 2: Halt! Who are you?

Swordsman Wu : I am Swordsman Wu of the Wu Tang Clan. Open the gate and let me pass!

Gatekeeper 2: No man may pass through this gate lest he defeats me in battle. I have the greatest respect for the famed swordplay of the Wu Tang Clan. Your clan is known throughout the land as the noblest of clans.

Swordsman Wu : Thank you. I, too, have heard great stories about you. To be able to meet you today is my pleasure.

Gatekeeper 2: Thank you. But your pleasure will be short lived. It has been said that to face me is to face certain death. Many have given up their lives to my broadsword in their quest for their weight in gold. Are you not afraid?

Swordsman Wu :I do not fear death. I only fear poverty. The ancients said that it is better to die ten years early than to live ten years poor.

Gatekeeper 2: True! But the ancients did not have to face the sharpness of my blade. Before you die, I wish you to know that it is my great honour to meet a member of the Wu Tang Clan in combat.

Swordsman Wu : Thank you. It will be my great honour to defeat you in my quest.

Gatekeeper 2: Your quest is in vain, because I am the best kungfu exponent in the Emperor’s service. I cannot be defeated. You are like a chicken in the market waiting to be slaughtered!

Swordsman Wu : There is none who cannot be defeated. There is a saying that says, “There is always a higher mountain.”

Gatekeeper 2: True as that may be, but I really cannot be defeated.

Swordsman Wu : Why is that so?

Gatekeeper 2: I have mastered the supreme martial art of Buffalo kungfu!

Swordsman Wu : Buffalo kungfu? I have heard of Tiger, Crane, Monkey, Eagle , Dragon, Snake and Preying Mantis kungfu. But what in Heaven’s name is Buffalo kungfu?

Gatekeeper 2: The fact that you have not heard of it implies that it exists in total secrecy. A powerful martial art it is. Being a Buffalo kungfu master, my skin is thick like a buffalo. Swords and spears may not penetrate it. A hundred men cannot even hope to kill me. Accept your defeat now before I divide you into pieces with my nine-dragon broadsword!

Swordsman Wu : You cannot be that superior. The superior man is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions. If Buffalo kungfu is so great, why then, has the world not smelled its fart?

Gatekeeper 2: It is a secret martial art, passed down through the generations in my family. I learned it from my honourable father.

Swordsman Wu : I too learned the fighting arts from my honourable father. And my honourable father can beat your honourable father!

Gatekeeper 2: No he can’t!

Swordsman Wu : Yes he can! My honourable father can beat your honourable father with one hand tied behind his back.

Gatekeeper 2: My honourable father can beat your honourable father with two hands tied behind his back.

Swordsman Wu : My honourable father can beat your honourable father with three hands tied behind his back.

Gatekeeper 2: Three hands? Your father is a freak!

Swordsman Wu : You do not know my father. My mother says that he has more hands than an octopus! So stop insulting my father, or I will use my special Crocodile Grip of Death kungfu on you!

Gatekeeper 2: Crocodile Grip of Death kungfu? Hahahahaha! Never heard of it. I am not afraid! What is it?

Swordsman Wu : The fact that you have not heard of it implies that it exists in total secrecy! It is a secret art that enables the hand to grip with the strength of a thousand crocodiles. My hand will grip your private parts and crush them into a liquid paste within your skin. It is not necessary for me to try to break your Buffalo skin to inflict tremendous damage. Within one breath, you will become a eunuch. After that, it will be excruciatingly painful each time you try to pee. So painful that you will faint from the attempt. If you go to the toilet ten times a day, you will faint ten times a day. The other kungfu masters will call you “The Fainting Buffalo”. Their students, being less polite, will call you “The Fainted Beef.”

Gatekeeper 2: No matter. If you try to grip my privates, I will simply chop off your hand with my broadsword!

Swordsman Wu : That will not help. The muscles of a dead hand can only harden further. The Crocodile Grip of Death continues gripping even with the hand chopped off. It can only be freed if lightning strikes it twice. In the same spot.

Gatekeeper 2 scans the sky for signs of lightning. There were none.

Gatekeeper 2: But think about it! You will lose your hand!

Swordsman Wu : True! But I can live without one hand. I will become the new One-armed Swordsman. You, on the other hand, will become an impotent eunuch! And each time you try to pee, you will think of how my Crocodile Grip of Death crushed your family jewels into a watery waste. The mental pain will be terrible! The physical pain will be unbearable!

Gatekeeper 2: I laugh in the face of pain! The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor the man perfected without trials! Losing my private parts in the line of duty to my Emperor is the greatest honour to my family! Draw your weapon, Swordsman Wu!

Swordsman Wu : You know well the nature of the Wu Tang Clan. We do not indulge ourselves in idle boasts. The fact that I made it through the first gate should be enough to warn you that I am not an ordinary person.

Gatekeeper 2 : That is true. I do not doubt it.

Swordsman Wu : After this battle, you can never have sex again, and will be the laughing stock of your village!

Gatekeeper 2: If that is to be my fate, then let it be so! My duty to my Emperor is clear. Nothing you say can shake me!

Swordsman Wu : And after you become a useless eunuch, you’ll be practicing Buffalo kungfu without your cows. Your frustrated wives will be having sex with everybody in the village. With your neighbours, your servants, your stableboys, the vegetable sellers, the village headman, the tofu makers, the roadside beggars……even with the crazy village idiot! And that’s during the day. At night, they will be getting their regular thrusting from the …….

Gatekeeper 2: Enough! Stop! I wish to hear no more…..diu… may pass, Swordsman Wu!

Swordsman Wu : Thank you.

Swordsman Wu passed through the second gate before the second Gatekeeper could change his mind. Once out of sight of the second gate, he heaved a huge sigh of relief. Very quickly, he rode his horse over the hilly terrain towards the third gate. The third Gatekeeper was known to be a cunning fox. Perhaps the most cunning of all five Gatekeepers. Swordsman Wu stopped his horse and pulled out his gourd container of water. Drinking from it, he wondered what the task at the next gate would be. The realization hit him that he may not be able to talk his way out of the next one.

* Next episode: the Artistic Gate *

THE THIRD GATE – The Artistic Gate

As Swordsman Wu approached the third gate, he saw an old man seated besides a long table. The old man carried a set of brushes of all sizes. He was the third Gatekeeper. He stared at the dusty horseman without speaking, as if he was taking the measure of Swordsman Wu. Finally, he spoke.

Gatekeeper 3: And who would you be?

Swordsman Wu : I am Swordsman Wu of the Wu Tang Clan.

Gatekeeper 3: In the years that I have been here, you are the only one to have reached the Third Gate. You must be extremely lucky.

Swordsman Wu : Either that or I am extremely good. It matters not. May I ask why you have so many brushes?

Gatekeeper 3: Simple! The ancients said, “Learn to handle a writing-brush and you'll never handle a begging-bowl.”

Swordsman Wu : I’ll remember that. Now please open the gate and let me through!

Gatekeeper 3: This is the Artistic Gate. Not your house gate! By the Imperial Rules, you may pass only if you can prove superior to me in the art of Chinese Brush Painting.

Swordsman Wu : Is that all? I am the best artist in my village. I should beat you with ease!

Gatekeeper 3: Foolish young man! You have eyes, but yet you do not know the Tai Mountain. Prepare your brushes!

Swordsman Wu : I have none.

Gatekeeper 3: You have no brushes and yet you said you could beat me with ease? The ancient sages said, “Do not insult the crocodile until you have crossed the river.”

Swordsman Wu : Indeed the proper tools I may have not. But the ancient sages also said, "Do not despise the snake for having no horns, for who is to say it will not become a dragon?"

Gatekeeper 3: Let not it be whispered that I took unfair advantage of you. You can have one of my brushes. Both of us will start with a yellow parchment and black ink. I will light a joss stick, and when it is completely burnt out, we shall stop painting and compare the results.

Swordsman Wu : Good! What shall we paint?

Gatekeeper 3: We shall each paint a scene depicting an activity of the Emperor. Whoever paints the more realistic scene will win.

Swordsman Wu : Can I paint the Emperor dancing with a goat?

Gatekeeper 3: That is not realistic. The Emperor will never do a thing like that! People without ideas, such as you, are not fit to be even here competing with me! I feel insulted to be even standing here with you!

Swordsman Wu : You are too full of yourself. A fly before your own eye is bigger than an elephant in the next field. I will be the winner because I am the more desperate.

Gatekeeper 3: Are you ready?

Swordsman Wu : Yes!

The gatekeeper lighted a joss stick; a very short fast burning one. Then he painted furiously. Swordsman Wu could not decide what to paint. After some thought, he decided to paint the Emperor catching a monkey. Just as he was about to start painting, the joss stick burnt out.

Gatekeeper 3: Time is up!

Swordsman Wu : What? So fast?

Gatekeeper 3: Yes! I omit to mention that it was a fast burning joss stick. Now let’s compare our paintings!

Swordsman Wu : But your painting is all dark! There is no shape to be seen! I win!

Gatekeeper 3: Ha! That is what you think! Did I not say that the contest would be judged on the most realistic scene about the Emperor?

Swordsman Wu : What is so realistic about this?

Gatekeeper 3: This painting is entitled “Emperor having sex with concubine at night”. The room is totally dark which is why the painting is all black. Nothing you paint can be more realistic than that. Therefore, I win!

Swordsman Wu : If I had painted the Emperor catching a monkey, or eating a flower, or getting behind a camel, you would also say that you win. That is not right!

Gatekeeper 3: The truth of the matter is that the world is in colour. Black paint alone will never depict a realistic scene unless it is a painting of a room in darkness. Therefore, no matter what you had painted, I would still win! You were a fool to think that you could beat me!

Swordsman Wu : You win nothing! You should have drawn the concubine’s teeth glistening in the dark!

Gatekeeper 3: Ha! The concubine had her mouth closed all the time!

Swordsman Wu : Tightly closed?

Gatekeeper 3: Yes. Tightly closed! What have you painted? Nothing! You have only an empty yellow parchment!

Swordsman Wu : My painting is entitled “Emperor covers concubine with sperm”.

Gatekeeper 3: What? That is not possible!

Swordsman Wu : Are you saying that this is not realistic? The yellow parchment has the same colour as sperm. It is realistic!

Gatekeeper 3: But nobody has so much sperm to cover a woman!

Swordsman Wu : That is treason! How dare you suggest that the Emperor cannot produce enough sperm! Dare you imply that he is sexually deficient? I will have to report this to the Emperor. You will be severely punished for insulting his Highness!

Gatekeeper 3: But I did not mean to insult the Emperor!

Swordsman Wu : He will confiscate your horses and your wives.

Gatekeeper 3: No, not my horses!

Swordsman Wu : Yes! He will confiscate your donkeys and your wives.

Gatekeeper 3: No, not my donkeys too!

Swordsman Wu : You do not show the least bit of concern for your wives.

Gatekeeper 3: I can always get new wives! And besides, I am alright as long as I have the use of my hands…..

Swordsman Wu : He will confiscate your precious hands.

Gatekeeper 3: Oh……

Swordsman Wu : And after that, he will confiscate your useless head! I shall go to look for the Emperor now!

Swordsman Wu picked up both the paintings and prepared to leave. The Gatekeeper felt a sudden rush of panic and tried to stop him.

Gatekeeper 3: No! Wait! Alright, I agree that your painting is realistic! We’ll call this a draw!

Swordsman Wu : You call this a draw? You have painted a horrible scene implying that the concubine did not enjoy the Emperor’s sexual efforts.

Gatekeeper 3: How can you conclude that?

Swordsman Wu : If she was enjoying herself, she would be grinning, and her teeth would glisten in the dark. But you painted her with her mouth tightly closed! Let us take our paintings to the Emperor and let him decide. Whether my “Emperor full of juice” painting is better, or your “Emperor unable to give pleasure to concubine” painting is better. I hope he lets you keep your head after this. Hey, what am I saying? Of course, he won’t! I feel sorry for you already.

Gatekeeper 3: Er…….perhaps I have been hasty in my judgment of you.

Swordsman Wu: The superior man sees the light and takes the necessary action. Decide your action now!

Gatekeeper 3: I have decided to open the gate. Please do not mention any of this to the Emperor! You may pass, Swordsman Wu.

Swordsman Wu: Thank you!

Without a backward glance at the cringing Gatekeeper, Swordsman Wu passed through the third gate and rode his horse towards the fourth one. He had been told that the fourth Gatekeeper was a cantankerous official of the court who prided himself as being a man of culture. He was also known to be an official with two sets of rules; one for himself and one for the rest of the world.

*Next episode: the Poetry Gate *

THE FOURTH GATE – The Poetry Gate

Swordsman Wu was hungry. The encounters with the last three Gatekeepers had left him mentally tired. He stopped his horse, reached into his belongings and retrieved a dumpling. Slowly he ate. After a drink of water, he felt much better and proceeded to the fourth gate. An important looking man, who was the fourth Gatekeeper, was there to greet him.

Gatekeeper 4: Halt! You must be Swordsman Wu!

Swordsman Wu : You know my name?

Gatekeeper 4: Yes. News has reached me that someone of that name has managed to get past the first three gates. I have been waiting for you.

Swordsman Wu : I am here now. Will you be so kind as to open the gate and let me pass?

Gatekeeper 4: I am not that kind. This is the Poetry Gate. You will have to best me in poetry before I can allow you to pass.

Swordsman Wu : Poetry? That should not be too difficult. I am known among my townspeople for writing very good poetry. At the age of 12, I mastered all the right principles of poetry.

Gatekeeper 4: He who merely knows right principles is not equal to him who loves them. At the age of three, I was already sprouting poetry. You are young and inexperienced. Only he that has traveled the road knows where the holes are deep.

Swordsman Wu : You don’t scare me. How shall we battle?

Gatekeeper 4: I shall say a line. And after that, you have to match my line in rhyme.

Swordsman Wu : And later, it will be my turn to say a line, and your turn to match my line. Is that right?

Gatekeeper 4: Wrong! I am the Gatekeeper. I don’t have to match your anything. But you have to match mine! Ha! Ha!

Swordsman Wu : In the eyes of Heaven, that cannot be fair!

Gatekeeper 4: Too bad! But those are the Imperial Rules. Ha! Ha!

Swordsman Wu : If that is the case, I can only hope for a draw! How will I ever win?

Gatekeeper 4: I can say any line I like. As long as you are unable to match my line, any line, I will win. You, on the other hand, can only win by tiring me out such that I am unable to continue. Ha! Ha!

Swordsman Wu : You cannot have one rule for me and a different rule for yourself. The superior man dispenses justice equally to all under Heaven!

Gatekeeper 4: The superior man dispenses justice equally to all except uncouth dirty swordsmen. I have seen people like you. Your blades are on hire for a small fee. Do not for one moment think that you are culturally my equal.

Swordsman Wu : @#$%@#$%!!!

Gatekeeper 4: Do not use profanities in my presence.

Swordsman Wu : Why not?

Gatekeeper 4: Because it pains me!

Swordsman Wu : Shit of a dog!

Gatekeeper 4: Didn’t you hear me say that you are not to use profanities in my presence? That was rude, and uncultured.

Swordsman Wu : What I wanted to say was that you just stepped on the shit of a dog!

The Gatekeeper checked his shoes and found that he had indeed stepped into some dog shit. He became enraged and started shouting.

Gatekeeper 4: Not good! Not good!

Swordsman Wu was amazed to learn that this angry Gatekeeper would not even swear. He waited for the Gatekeeper to scrape his shoes clean and cool down.

Swordsman Wu : Surely, this is a sign from Heaven that you should apply more equitable rules.

Gatekeeper 4: You cannot talk your way out of this one. Ha! Ha!

Swordsman Wu : Even your laughter is evil. This is not a fair battle. It is obvious that you officials have no intention to let anybody collect the gold!

Gatekeeper 4: That is our prerogative. Commoners have no right to question us. Are you ready?

Swordsman Wu : No.

Gatekeeper 4: Ready or not, we will start. The first one to stop loses.

Swordsman Wu : Very well, then.

The two men bowed at each other and the poetry battle began.

Gatekeeper 4: A tiger roared out in the night.
Swordsman Wu : The farmer rose, prepared to fight.

Gatekeeper 4: He rushed to find his trusty spear
Swordsman Wu : And finding it, he kept it near

Gatekeeper 4: The tiger sniffed the cold night air
Swordsman Wu : And smelled the farmer's underwear

Gatekeeper 4: The great beast moved without a sound
Swordsman Wu : But tripped and fell down on the ground

Gatekeeper 4: The farmer waved his spear and said
Swordsman Wu : ”You clumsy shit, I'll stab your head”

Gatekeeper 4: The tiger got up with a roar
Swordsman Wu : And sashayed like a drunken whore

Gatekeeper 4: With mighty claws and raging heart
Swordsman Wu : It let go one big smelly fart

The Gatekeeper paused. The dirty swordsman was spoiling his beautiful poetry.

Gatekeeper 4: Its not cultured to say that word!
Swordsman Wu : Just pretend that you never heard!

Gatekeeper 4: You use the vulgar words I hate.
Swordsman Wu : I do? Oh yes! Isn't that great?

Gatekeeper 4: You're coarse and crude, and you should stop
Swordsman Wu : I'll keep on rhyming till I drop!

The Gatekeeper paused again. He was the top authority of poetry in the Imperial Court and no foul-mouthed swordsman was going to get the better of him. He continued.

Gatekeeper 4: The tiger circled round the man
Swordsman Wu : Who threw at it his frying pan

Gatekeeper 4: But the pan missed the tiger’s head
Swordsman Wu : And hit the creature’s ass instead

Gatekeeper 4: It leapt up high in startled shock
Swordsman Wu : The farmer tried to spear its cock

Once more, the Gatekeeper paused. Swordsman Wu was getting on his nerves. Making a supreme effort, he continued.

Gatekeeper 4: Why would he spear that stupid thing?
Swordsman Wu : He wished to see the organ fling!

Gatekeeper 4: That is the dumbest thing I’ve heard.
Swordsman Wu : It's not so dumb, don't be absurd!

Gatekeeper 4: A farmer should not fight like that.
Swordsman Wu : Then tell me how he should combat!

Gatekeeper 4: With steady spear he took his aim.
Swordsman Wu : The tiger snarled fiercely and came.

Gatekeeper 4: He stabbed the tiger's upper half.
Swordsman Wu : But missed and made the tiger laugh!

Gatekeeper 4: He stabbed again and scraped the hair.
Swordsman Wu : The beast gave him an ugly stare.

Gatekeeper 4: He swung the spear and hit its eye
Swordsman Wu : The tiger cried out, “Chau chee bai !!!”

The gatekeeper was nonplussed. He tried to continue but he could not. Nothing came into his mind. Finally, he gave up.

Gatekeeper 4: You may pass, Swordsman Wu!

With that, Swordsman Wu passed through the fourth gate and made his way to the final gate.

* Next episode: the Seduction Gate *

THE FIFTH GATE – The Seduction Gate

Swordsman Wu arrived at the fifth Gate and saw no man around. There was nobody except for a young woman dressed in fine clothes. On drawing closer, he found that the woman was of exceptional beauty. Her skin was milky fair and with a healthy pinkish glow on her face. Her neatly combed black hair was long, with the silky black tresses flowing down to her waist.

She smiled a welcoming smile to him, and he politely got down from his horse.

Peach Blossom : You must be the great Swordsman Wu. I have been told to expect you. You may call me Peach Blossom. I am the Gatekeeper of the Fifth Gate.

Swordsman Wu : News travel fast. It is my honour to meet you, Lady Peach Blossom.

Peach Blossom : Come, your trial awaits you. If you successfully surmount this challenge, you will be given a high position in the Emperor’s Court as well as your weight in gold pieces. Follow me, Swordsman Wu.

He followed her to a big, beautiful garden nearby. In the middle of the garden stood a house. On entering, he could see that it was a beautiful house with exquisite furnishings. Clean and well kept. He was tired, but was not sure if he should sit on the chair in his dusty clothes. Peach Blossom sensed his thoughts and laughed. It was a melodious laugh.

Peach Blossom : You may sit down, Swordsman Wu!

Swordsman Wu : Thank you. I have heard told that the Lady Peach Blossom was as beautiful as a butterfly in spring. You are more beautiful than I have imagined.

Peach Blossom : Thank you, great swordsman. Here is your challenge. For three days, you will live in this house. You will eat with me, bathe with me and sleep in the same bed as me.

Swordsman Wu : This is the challenge? That’s not very difficult!

Peach Blossom : I am a virgin, Swordsman Wu. At the end of three days, if you had deflowered me, then you are considered to have lost the challenge. My role as the Gatekeeper, is to seduce you. Let me tell you now that I sleep naked.

Swordsman Wu : You do tempt me. But if I want my weight in gold, then I will have to behave myself. That will be most difficult. But not an impossible task!

Peach Blossom : You will also have to drink 10 catties of wine a day. You may have the best of intentions, but when the mind is intoxicated, the body will betray you!

Swordsman Wu : No, it won’t. I cannot hold my wine well. If I should drink 10 catties of wine, then I will sleep for 3 days, by which time the trial period will be over. Your seduction will fail. You may as well give me the gold now!

Peach Blossom : What kind of swordsman are you that you cannot withstand 10 catties of wine?

Swordsman Wu : In truth, I am not a swordsman but a tang lung maker. Making lanterns is my business.

Peach Blossom : A tang lung maker?

Swordsman Wu : Yes. I make those huge white lanterns that you see at funerals, and the huge red lanterns that you see at weddings. The Wu family has been lantern makers for generations. In the province I come from, we are known as the Tang Lung Clan. And because we are of the Wu family name, we are called the Wu Tang Lung Clan.

Peach Blossom : Wu Tang Lung Clan? Not the Wu Tang Clan?

Swordsman Wu : I have the tendency to speak too fast in introducing myself and thus it often sounds like the Wu Tang Clan! I must learn to speak more slowly.

Peach Blossom : Why then, do you call yourself Swordsman Wu?

Swordsman Wu : It is the name that others call me. In our trade, we are often required to split short bamboo poles to create the structure of the lantern. While most people use an axe or a knife, I prefer to use an old sword given to me by my grandfather. Hence, my friends and family call me ‘Swordsman Wu’.

Lady Peach Blossom pondered this information for some time. After a while, she came to a decision.

Peach Blossom : It matters not if you are a swordsman or lantern maker. The spirit of the challenge is to see if you are able to withstand the temptations of the flesh. The Emperor insists that only people of sufficient self-discipline should become a high official in his court. I will have to alter the challenge!

Swordsman Wu : Three days is too short a time to test me. May I suggest that we alter the duration of the challenge from 3 days to 30 days? Then you will have a longer time to seduce me.

Peach Blossom : You are agreeable to such a long test period?

Swordsman Wu : Only if you agree to let the full 30 days take its course before concluding if you have remained a virgin or not.

Peach Blossom : I would know if I have been deflowered or not before the 30 days are up.

Swordsman Wu : Maybe so. But if, by a slip of judgement, I had deflowered you within the period and yet, at the end of 30 days your virginity grew back, would you deny me my gold then?

Peach Blossom : Hahaha! How can a woman’s virginity grow back? A salted fish cannot come back to life! But I will agree to those terms and delay all conclusions of my virginity until the full thirty days are up.

Swordsman Wu : Very well then! When shall we begin?

Peach Blossom : Your challenge begins now, lantern maker! Come, you must be hungry. I have prepared some food for you.

The meal was simple but good. It was the first good meal he had in many days. Lady Peach Blossom poured him some wine which relaxed him. They talked about his encounters at the four previous Gates and Peach Blossom laughed at the manner by which he got through. He loved to hear the peals of her laughter.

But he was dirty and tired, and his joints ached. Lady Peach Blossom had prepared a huge tub of warm water behind a screen for him to wash off the dirt. Standing behind the screen, he removed his clothes, climbed inside the tub, and gratefully sank into the water. Lying back, he closed his eyes. He was at peace with the world.

Hearing a sound, he opened his eyes to see Lady Peach Blossom standing besides the tub. Slowly, she disrobed before his eyes. Climbing into the tub, she faced him. Then, taking a washcloth, she proceeded to wash his body. He allowed her to wash him, sensing that she was more embarrassed than he was. He placed his hands around her waist and pulled her towards him. Leaning over her, he tilted his head slightly and kissed her parted lips gently. Then more passionately. Then with tongues intertwined.

She felt him running his hands over her breasts. They were firm and peaked with erect pink nipples, which stood out proudly in the autumn air. Gently, he held her breasts as they kissed in the water for a long time. Then, without a word, they stood up and wiped each other dry. Not bothering to put on their clothes, they moved to the bed.

She lay back as he planted her body with kisses. She had beautiful skin, with a little black patch of hair between her legs. She let out moan after moan as his hands roamed her smooth body. When he kissed her nipples, she quivered slightly but continued moaning.

Sensing that she was ready, he got on top of her. She squealed slightly as he entered her. He thrusted inside her wetness, slowly at first, and then faster. She had her eyes closed and mouth open, still moaning uncontrollably.

Soon, he felt as if he was going to explode. When the moment came, he held himself deep inside her, and stream after stream of his fluids flooded her insides. They kissed passionately and held each other closely, not saying a word. It was a moment they would remember for the rest of their lives.

Lady Peach Blossom sat up and turned to look at the lantern maker.

Peach Blossom : Swordsman Wu. If I am still a virgin after this, it would be a miracle!

Swordsman Wu : Lady Peach Blossom, we agreed that we would consider that question only at the end of thirty days!

Peach Blossom : You are right. I did agree to delay all conclusions about my virginity until the full thirty days are up. Please excuse me.

Swordsman Wu : Was it very painful for you?

Peach Blossom : Not as painful as I had expected. The pleasure soon overrode the pain and I had forgotten about it. But the presence of blood reminded me. I need to get up and clean myself. Or my blood will mark the bed sheet.

Swordsman Wu : Come back to bed as soon as you are done.

Peach Blossom : Hahaha! Of course! I am waiting to see if you can do what you painted at the Third Gate!

And thus they made love day and night. At times they made love in the bed. At times they made love in the tub. At times they made love while walking from the bed to the tub.

Three days after they met, Lady Peach Blossom had her menstrual period. For the six days when they could not make love, Swordsman Wu showed her how he made his lanterns. He made her a lantern small enough for her to carry, but she said that it was still too heavy and too plain. So, to please her, he designed a little coloured lantern small and light enough for her to carry around the garden, and this delighted her no end.

Peach Blossom : Swordsman Wu. It is exquisite! How can such a simple thing, made only from coloured paper, strings and a bamboo stick, be more beautiful than gold and silver?

Swordsman Wu : It is beautiful because it brings out the beauty of the Lady Peach Blossom at night.

Peach Blossom : Swordsman Wu. You do say the nicest things. This will be the most beautiful Mid Autumn Festival I have enjoyed!

Swordsman Wu : Is it the Mid Autumn Festival already?

Peach Blossom : In a few more days, it will be the Fifteenth day of the Eighth Month.

Swordsman Wu : Then, if you so wish, I shall celebrate the Festival with you in a feast of lanterns in this very garden.

Peach Blossom : Hahaha! Whoever heard of such a thing as a feast of lanterns on Mid Autumn Festival? But make your lanterns. I am fascinated with the idea! The Mid Autumn Festival is the most boring of all festivals. It is neither the beginning nor the ending of anything. Perhaps your idea of using lanterns may yet help to make it a colourful celebration one day. Time will tell.

Swordsman Wu : In the years to come, I shall make little lanterns for every Mid Autumn Festival, to remind me of this time that we spent together.

True to his word, Swordsman Wu made many tiny lanterns for the garden so that Lady Peach Blossom could spend the Mid Autumn Festival in a feast of lanterns. Carrying 3 lanterns in each hand, they wandered around the big garden in the moonlit night. When they were tired, they spent the time sipping rice wine while admiring the full moon. After the lights of the lantern started going out one by one, they retired to the bed and made love till the dawn.

The days passed, and soon the thirty days were up.

On the morning after the thirtieth day, Lady Peach Blossom sat across the breakfast table and addressed Swordsman Wu.

Peach Blossom : Swordsman Wu. The thirty days have passed. I have inspected myself and I am sure that my virginity did not grow back.

Swordsman Wu : It didn’t grow? But I watered it every night!

Peach Blossom : Hahaha! The more you watered it with your fluids, the less of a virgin I became!

Swordsman Wu : I suppose I must face the consequences of my actions.

Peach Blossom : Swordsman Wu. I hereby announced that you have failed in your challenge. Thus, you will not be allowed to become an official in the Emperor’s court, nor collect your weight in gold pieces. You will have to leave. I am sorry!

Swordsman Wu : In that case, I will say goodbye, Lady Peach Blossom. Of the five Gatekeepers, you are the most worthy Gatekeeper.

Peach Blossom : Don’t be silly. I am no more a Gatekeeper! All Gatekeepers at the Fifth Gate have to be virgins. The moment I succeeded in seducing you, I lost my virginity and thus my position as the Gatekeeper of the Fifth Gate is relinquished.

Swordsman Wu : It is truly a stupid situation that if a Gatekeeper is worthy of her position, then she will lose both her virginity and her position. No woman will willingly become a Gatekeeper here!

Peach Blossom : You are very perceptive. I am the eldest daughter of a nobleman who got into trouble with the Imperial Court. When a man has no sons to take up his cause, even the daughter must come to the fore. The virginity of a woman of beauty is considered a precious commodity. Thus was my virginity bartered away to help save my family.

Swordsman Wu : You are not only beautiful, but filial as well. Great is my shame for having taken advantage of you. I have dishonoured myself.

Peach Blossom : The fault is not yours to bear. One cannot press down the head of a cow if it does not wish to drink. Besides, you could not possibly know the affairs of my family.

Swordsman Wu kept quiet and started to pack his things. His face was expressionless and Lady Peach Blossom could not tell what was going on in his mind. Wordlessly, he tied his few belongings onto his horse. As he turned to leave, Lady Peach Blossom called out to him.

Peach Blossom : Swordsman Wu. There is one thing that I do not understand.

Swordsman Wu : What is it?

Peach Blossom : Why did you prolong the trial period from 3 days to 30 days? You did not even try to resist me. You could have gained your weight in gold and your high position. To have come to the last gate and falter so easily…you are inexplicable.

Swordsman Wu : I did not come here for gold or high position.

Peach Blossom : Then why have you come?

Swordsman Wu : I am an ordinary man living an ordinary life. My clothes are ordinary, my house is ordinary, and even my lanterns are ordinary. I am not poor. There is always a strong roof over my head, and fish and meat on the table. My life is comfortable enough, but nevertheless, to live such an ordinary life is the same as not having lived at all. I could die, and the world would not mourn my passing. And so I thought that if I could experience but a brief moment of extraordinary beauty in my life, then I would consider myself to have lived.

Peach Blossom : What has that to do with the challenge of the Five Gates?

Swordsman Wu : I have heard much about the Lady Peach Blossom. That she is so warm, the flowers lift their heads in greeting as she walks by. That she is so melodious, the birds stop their birdcalls to listen when she sings. That she is so beautiful, the fish in the pond will not swim too close lest they ripple her reflection in the water. Thus I said to Heaven that if I could but spend a brief moment in the company of the Lady Peach Blossom, my existence would not have been in vain. To do that, I would have to go through the four Gates.

Peach Blossom : You came because of me?

Swordsman Wu : For that I did.

Peach Blossom : And thus you were agreeable to stretch the three days to thirty days in order to spend a longer moment with me.

Swordsman Wu : Yes. I have been most fortunate.

Peach Blossom : Indeed, Heaven has favoured you. Yet a moment with me would soon end and you would have to go back to your ordinary life!

Swordsman Wu : It does not matter. The joy I felt being with you will stay within me forever. I can face my life again, as long as I have you in my memory. My eyes have seen the wisdom of the ancients that says that one joy is enough to scatter a thousand sorrows!

Peach Blossom : You fool! You have wasted a perfect opportunity! Thousands of men could not even get past the second Gate. You could have become a high official of the court!

Swordsman Wu : And I would forego my principles and indulge in backstabbing politics in the Emperor’s court so as to maintain my position. No, that does not suit me!

Peach Blossom : You fool! You could have taken your weight in gold!

Swordsman Wu : And I would constantly be a host to worthless relatives who would come and live off my gold. Or fend off bandits who would rob me of it. No, a thousand times no. A month with you is a greater treasure than a lifetime with my weight in gold pieces!

Lady Peach Blossom pondered on his words. It was not an answer she had expected to hear from any man. Swiftly, she made a decision.

Peach Blossom : Gold is tested by fire, and man by gold. You have valued me higher than the Emperor’s rewards. No man has accorded me a greater honour than you have. Swordsman Wu, I will willingly follow you wherever you go!

Swordsman Wu : I live in a simple house, and not the opulent castle that you are accustomed to. Although I will welcome you with great happiness, it is not fair that an ordinary man asks the daughter of a nobleman to share his simple unsophisticated life.

Peach Blossom : You discourage me not! Better the cottage where one is merry than the palace where one weeps. Swordsman Wu, I will willingly follow you to the ends of the earth!

Swordsman Wu : And I will treasure you for the rest of my life!

Peach Blossom : Youth is not eternal. Know that one day my beauty will be gone.

Swordsman Wu : My eyes will be weak long before your beauty is gone, Lady Peach Blossom.

Peach Blossom : Swordsman Wu. You do say the nicest things!

Thus the two of them journeyed out of the castle and began a life together in a little town. Happiness is when a man and a woman found beauty in each other. They continued to make love in the bed and in the tub. And occasionally, while walking from the bed to the tub. Lady Peach Blossom bore Swordsman Wu many healthy sons and daughters and soon their house was filled with the happy laughter of children.

Every Mid Autumn, they brought out their lightest and most colourful tang lung designs so that their children could enjoy them. Their children, and their children’s children, carried on with the family practice, which soon spread rapidly throughout the land. In generations to come, the legacy of the ‘feast of lanterns’ of Swordsman Wu and Lady Peach Blossom would become entrenched in the cultural traditions.

The story of how Swordsman Wu married the beautiful Lady Peach Blossom passed down from generation to generation. Hundreds of years later, the term “Peach Blossom luck” would be interpreted to mean, “to be lucky in love”.

Today, the Tang Lung Festival is celebrated in many nations across the four seas. For a brief period in the whole year, the streets are colourful with beautiful lanterns.

And all this came about because of one man, an ordinary man, who would have his moment of extraordinary beauty in his ordinary life.


Explanation to the Lantern Tale

This blog posting was created to host my story "Viewtru's Lantern Tale" found in my other blog "Stepping Aside for Reality". There were five episodes in all. All five episodes have been compiled in one article. The story attempts to explain why the Chinese carry lanterns during the Mid Autumn Festival.

A sixth episode was written later but not posted here because it is considered a separate story. It is also not totally in tune with the manner in which the first five episodes were written, so I shall let it stand on its own.