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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Joy of Life: Volume 1 Chapter 3

Volume One: The City by the Sea
-- written by Maoni

Chapter 3: Training and Schooling


Fan Xian had no idea that he was training in a very profound inner energy manuscript. Any normal martial art student would have trained with the utter most scrupulousness and prudence; furthermore, he would undoubtedly ask his master or trustworthy friends to monitor alongside.
The most dangerous part of the manuscript was at the very beginning. When depositing energy into the Snow Mountain of the Dantian[1], the practitioner’s reaction time with respect to his body would become dramatically slower than his mind, and the direct result being that the practitioner would feel as though he had completely lost control of his body.
If the practitioner had no such prior experience, he would easily come to the conclusion that he was going through a fire deviation[2], and then forcefully retract the inner energy – if he were lucky, and if he were exceptionally good at controlling his inner energy flow, he could possibly direct the energy inside his body back into the various chi channels and meridians; but that would also mean the practice achieved nothing. For new learners, such panic could very likely lead to obstacles with one’s spirit and mind.
Being a new learner, the fact that Fan Xian didn’t end up with fire deviation, yet even had a better understanding of the profound experience than those advanced practitioners must be attributed to his life experience and luck.
When he started to train in the nameless inner energy, he lived inside the body of an infant, which had not returned most of the congenital energy inherited from the mother’s womb back to the outside world. With this inside his body, he could get twice the result with half the effort. Additionally, most of the congenital energy actually ended up stored inside his chi channels and meridians magically.
The most common problem of obstacles in spirit and mind for practitioners didn’t cause many problems for Fan Xian.
In his prior life, Fan Xian lived in a sickbed for several years and was already accustomed to not being able to control his body with his mind. When he had the similar feeling, he didn’t panic. Instead, he actually felt slight joy and warmth for being able to find some of the remnant memories.
When he trained for the first time, even though he felt as though the energy streams inside him seemed chaotic and he felt his mind was disconnected from his body, he wasn’t afraid at all. Because there was no interference from fear, his mind was clear and focused. He overcame the most difficult barrier with ease.
Ever since then, training became easy. All he had to do was to recite the scripts inside his head, and then he would naturally enter a state of trance – that was why each day’s nap time for Fan Xian was a very pleasant experience, and why it was so hard to wake him up.
For an ordinary inner energy practitioner, entering into a state of meditation trance would have required good luck together with special circumstances. Using everyday’s nap in place of meditation was indeed a luxury no one could have imagined.
God certainly had special favor for this kid.
……
……
Once he was awake, Fan Xian would roll his delicate and lovely little face swiftly in the warm towel in the servant girl’s hands, which counted as a face wash. Then in the afternoon, it was time to take lessons in the study from the literature teacher, who was respectably invited by the Count’s Manor from the East-Sea County. The teacher wasn’t very old, roughly in his thirties, yet carried the distinct flavor of a pedantic scholar.
A literature improvement movement had being going on in the Qing Empire for the last ten years, initiated by an article calling for improvement in literary works written by the Minister of the Literature Cabinet, Mister Hu. Today’s world of literary was filled with battles between the ancient prose style and the modern text style.
The ancient prose style was identical to the Classical Chinese style[3] in Fan Xian’s memory. The modern text style was similar to Vernacular Chinese style[4], only with more elegant wording.
Fan Xian’s teacher was a fan of the ancient prose style, so Fan Xian’s curriculum included many classic scriptures. Although these scriptures were not the same as the Four Books and the Five Classics[5], interestingly, the contents and ideas weren’t that different, and also had the separation of Confucianism, Mohist School, Legalists, and Taoism.
As a result, during the first lesson, Fan Xian became very suspicious about where he really was.
It was a very hot and muggy summer day. The study was also hot and humid. The teacher pushed open the south-facing window, and immediately the singing of cicadas entered the room together with the cooling breeze. Turning around, the teacher found his little pupil bending over the desk staring blankly. He was just about to reprimand him when he suddenly caught sight of that innocent little face, which touched a soft spot in his heart.
The teacher actually took pleasure in the little pupil of his. At such a young age, the kid was able to speak orderly, and even comprehend somewhat the sublime words with deep meaning in the scriptures. It was really no easy task for a mere four-year-old.
The teacher also had doubts himself. Why was the Count of Southernland so anxious and had such high demands in the invitation letter to him? Because of such high pressure, he had no choice but to teach the four-year-old books of scripture. If it had been a normal family, kids at this age would have been learning just characters and memorizing some beginning literature.
When the lesson was over, Fan Xian saluted the teacher in good manners, and then waited respectfully until the teacher left the study. Then stripping off the sweat-soaked robe, he ran out of the study, as the servant girl followed hurriedly while calling out for him to be careful.
As soon as he entered the main courtyard, Fan Xian stopped running. Putting out the most innocent smile on his face, he strolled inside, and as soon as he saw the Old Madam sitting in the middle of the hall, he called out in his baby voice, “Grandma!”
The Old Madam’s face was kind and affable, and the deep wrinkles were clear marks of the many passing years. Only the occasional shine in her eyes would briefly reveal her shrewdness and the fact that she was not just a simple woman – it was said that the Count of Southernland would not have been able to achieve his fame and power without the Old Madam’s connections in the Capital City.
“What have you learned today?”
Fan Xian stood obediently in front of the Old Madam’s chair and described what the teacher had taught him that day. Then after a respectful salute, he headed toward the side hall to have dinner together with his younger sister.
The Old Madam and her grandson didn’t seem to be very close to each other. Maybe it was because Fan Xian was only a baseborn son, though the Old Madam didn’t mistreat him. She always had high demands for him, which naturally resulted in the estrangement.
Fan Xian could still remember that when he had been only one year old, the Old Madam had once held him tightly in her arms late at night and wept dearly. The Old Madam, of course, did not think a one year old infant would understand her words, or even remember them.
“Kid, if you have to blame, then blame your father. You poor little thing! Losing your mother right after you came to this world.”
……
……
What kind of family did he belong to? That was the biggest question occupying Fan Xian’s mind. He had already experienced an assassination right after he came to this world. Even though he already knew his father was a high-ranking official in the Capital City, the Count of Southernland, who he had never met in person, but who was his mother? At the time of the assassination, the Count of Southernland was still at His Majesty’s service in the conquering army. Those assassins certainly had targeted his mother directly.
Since the soul inside his body really belonged to another world, he obviously didn’t think much of the father-son relation between him and the never-met Count of Southernland. Only occasionally, he would think of that woman who had already left this world, the woman who he should have called mother.



[1] Dantian literally means "cinnabar or red field" and is loosely translated as "elixir field". It is described as an important focal point for internal meditative techniques and refers specifically to the physical center of gravity located in the abdomen (about three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel).
[2] Improper training in inner energy that normally causes severe injury to self in the forms of paralysis and damage to internal chi channels and meridians. 
[3] With the characteristics of using very short verses and very uncommon characters to express very rich meanings in order to demonstrate the author’s intellectual and language capabilities. This type of literature can only be understood by well-educated scholars. However, sometimes the extreme brevity creates bifurcation and no one is sure what the original author really wanted to say.
[4] Using verses and words that are closer to the real world language, which are easier for common people to understand.
[5] The Four Books (The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Confucian Analects, and The Works of Mencius) and The Five Classics (The Book of Songs, The Book of History, The Book of Changes, The Book of Rites, and The Spring and Autumn Annals) are required readings for Confucian scholars starting from the Southern Song Dynasty.


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