Who Cares

Who Cares – Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Rebirth

Guan Suyi originally thought that she would start a new life after death. But she opened her eyes and saw a plum forest covered in dark mist, snowflakes drifting in the mist, like an illusion, but appear so real because of the sudden cold air. Guan Suyi was stunned for a while before realizing that the dark mist shrouded everything in front of her was because she was wearing a veil hat over her head. The black gauze at the edge of the veil hat was blown by the cold wind, and a few snowflakes got in and fell on the tip of her nose, making her shiver for no reason.

“Miss, are you cold? This servant will go back to fetch the hand stove.”

The crisp voice awakened Guan Suyi, who was hovering between confusion and reality. She lifted the corner of the black veil, and the hazy world immediately became clear and vivid. Her extraordinary memory told her that this was the plum forest in the back of Jueyin Temple. When the Guan family moved to Yanjing, they temporarily lived here for a few days while their house was still repaired.

“Where’s grandfather? Where’s my parents?” Guan Suyi tentatively asked Ming Lan carefully. She understood that she was back, back to the past, back to the time when she first entered Yanjing, and everything has not yet begun. It was not difficult to make this judgment. The coldness on the body could not be faked, the cold wind like a steel knife could not be faked, the suffocation of death could not be faked, and Ming Lan, who was much younger, could not be fake.

“The old master is attending the literary meeting in Bodhi Garden. Master and madam went to the Beishan Pavilion to enjoy the snow and paint, and maybe they won’t be able to come back until the evening.” Ming Lan rubbed her hands, “Miss, let’s go to Bodhi Garden. It’s too cold here. Be careful not to freeze.” She was a little girl who couldn’t understand such an elegant thing as an appreciation of plums in the snow.

Literary meeting? Guan Suyi was in a daze for a while, then turned around and went to Bodhi Garden. Regardless of whether all this was true or not, or the refraction of the reincarnation mirror, she was willing to change from this moment on.

There were several huge braziers burning in the courtyard, and the raging flames breathe out the heat, setting off the surroundings as warm as spring. Compared with the outside world where snowflakes were flying and the cold wind sent a chill, it was indeed much more comfortable and lively here. A group of men gathered around the stone table to talk and talk, a few young novice monks concentrated on making tea, and guqin master bowed their heads to play the strings. The bustling sound of the guqin gave a distant and long flavor.

A few women stood in the water pavilion not far from the stone table, whispering to each other, laughing and playing; or leaning on a railing to look out, pondering with themselves; there were also a few pointing at the men, seeming to be discussing something. The scene where men and women mixed together made Guan Suyi a little nostalgic, but also a little sad. After Xu’s Neo-Confucianism flourished, such scenes would probably no longer be seen. Now they never imagined that after five or six years, if women tried to criticize men, they would have no chance to step out of the second gate.

The door does not go out, and the second doors do not move.’ This commandment trapped women in the back house until they died, and also trapped them in unfortunate marriages dominated by men one after another. ‘Divorce wife’ had become a reminder for women, and the Four Books for Women had become a soul talisman for women. Life you are the husband’s family and dead you are the husband’s ghost, even after entering the Yellow Springs, you couldn’t get the slightest freedom.

Thinking of this, Guan Suyi looked cold and walked slowly to stand beside her grandfather. She wore a veil hat on her head to hide her beautiful secular appearance, but she was still eye-catching with her refined temperament. Due to the nobleman‘s manner, these people didn’t ask much, just unobtrusively glanced at her and continued the debate.

At this period, the status of women was not low, there were several women politicians and historians, and also there were no lack of imperial women who held power of the country. As long as there was someone who could recommend, anyone could enter such place like literary meeting. The reason why Guan Suyi wore a veil hat to block her face was not because of the women’s precepts, but because the world was too chaotic and bandits were rampant, so she had to protect herself.

At this time, the political power changed frequently. Today you will be the king, and tomorrow I will ascend the throne. The various nations would conquer each other, thus gave birth to a large number of people who fished in troubled waters. Misfortunes could come from the sky while staying at home, let alone during long-distance migration. Guan Suyi had always been cautious, even if her appearance could not be said to overturn the country, but it was enough to overturn a state. In order not to cause trouble to her family, the veil hat was indispensable, and she always equipped herself with a sharp silver hairpin for self-defense or to kill oneself. Not only her, but men and women in troubled times were like this.

Gathered together the black gauze that was tossed by the wind, she bent over and stretched out her hand to add a cup of hot tea for her grandfather.

Old master Guan studied Confucianism all of his life. He was very knowledgeable, but suffered from poor eloquence. At this literary meeting he was asked questions many times, for a moment he was blushing and looked embarrassed. The era of fighting for hegemony had just passed. A descendant of Jiuli tribe, Huo shi, who unified the five state of Central Plains invited scholars with aspiration from all over the world to serve the court. The scholars who were familiar with poetry and books were waiting for such an opportunity, so they responded and gathered in Yanjing.

At this time, The Hundred Schools of Thought had their own opinions, and they all wanted to develop and achieve their own ambitions, and the phenomenon of squeezing each other out was very serious. In order to gain fame, to attract the attention of the upper echelons, even more to refute the views of other schools and strives for the best interests of the teachers, they frequently hold literary meeting like today.

Guan Suyi listened quietly, patted her emotional grandfather on the back from time to time, trying to relax him. The farther behind, the sharper the arguments of the Legalism scholars became, and the others gradually became unable to parry. As the backbone of the Confucian school, her grandfather endured the most questioning.

Seeing that her grandfather was forced to a dead end, the scholars from the same school cast anxious and dissatisfied looks at him, and Guan Suyi’s lips moved slightly, as if pondering. Through the hazy black veil, she stared at a very elegant and handsome middle-aged man with a goatee who was hidden in the crowd. That was Xu Guangzhi, the founder of Xu’s Neo-Confucianism, who would become popular in the future, and also honored as semi-sages of Confucianism by Emperor Sheng Yuan.

Although he was still unknown at this time, Guan Suyi knew that in a few moments, when her grandfather was forced to vomit blood, he would come forward and refute all the scholars present one by one, thus establishing his own reputation. The pragmatic and powerful legalism, the eloquent political strategist, they were all defeated by his clever tongue. It was precisely because the wonderful performance of this literary meeting that he became a representative of Confucianism in one fell swoop, and finally embarked on an official career and achieved steady progress.

Guan Suyi did not think that she has the ability to change this era, nor did she want to compete with Xu Guangzhi. She just didn’t want this person to step on her grandfather’s position, let alone watch her grandfather indulge in this failure, and never recover from it. In the previous life, she sat beside her grandfather and listened in the same way. She deliberately argued a few words for her grandfather. However, due to etiquette, she didn’t dare to say too much, until her grandfather suddenly vomited blood. In this life what’s etiquette, what’s a woman’s ignorance is virtue, just go to hell.

Thinking like this, Guan Suyi suddenly held her grandfather’s trembling left hand, and slowly said, “If you talk about Hundred Schools of Thought, you should respect Confucianism.”

The scene was quiet for a while, and Xu Guangzhi, who was about to step forward, walked back silently. His cold eyes looked back and forth on the woman’s black veil hat.

Guan Suyi drank a sip of hot tea, said unhurriedly, “The Sage follows ancient rituals, respects virtues, treats others according to etiquette, and governs the country with courtesy. Therefore, the rituals flourish makes the family prosperous, the prosperous family makes the village party gather, when the village party gather then the state will be established, when the state established then the world will be peaceful. The heroes will compete, the country will be unified, and the religious rituals will continue. If the religious rituals continue, all people will submitted. This is what the Sage said, ‘There is no way to stand without courtesy.‘ ‘If the rituals and music cannot thrive, the punishment will not be properly executed; if the punishment is not be properly executed, the people will be at loss….’”(from The Analects)

She turned to look at the aggressive Legalism scholars, and continued, “The so-called legalism ‘set point to set disputes, rejoice in power and fear violence’, (from Seven Ministers and Seven Lords by Guan Zi) its various laws and regulations were established based on the patriarchal ritual teachings. How can they be qualified to criticize and insult the Confucianism who respects ancient rituals. Human relations are the way of righteous beginning, ethics education is the foundation of the Emperor’s enlightenment, all theories cannot escape those two constraints. Therefore, Confucianism, which values human relations and respects ethics education, is a well-deserved academic supremacy. The Sage’s words: ‘If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good. This is the real power of enlightenment, the way to govern people”

As soon as her voice fell, Confucian scholars clapped their hands in applause. Xu Guangzhi looked down and pondered. He never expected that this woman was quite talented. It was really sharp to refute Legalism from the basis of legislation, but it was not without flaws. He thought of countless mistakes and omissions in an instant, only to wait for the Legalism scholars to drive this person to the end of the road and show their power again.

Old master Guan breathed a sigh of relief, and patted the back of his granddaughter’s hand with relief. He only had this one granddaughter, who had been taught nobleman character since she was a child, and she had never fallen behind in the Six Arts of a nobleman character, full of talents and learning comparable to those great scholars. As long as she was willing to speak, it was more than enough to deal with this kind of scene.

When it came to human relations and ethics, the scholars on the scene found it difficult. No matter how they opposed Confucianism, they dare not say that their school exists outside the human relations and ethics. Otherwise they became heretics, or even evil sects, and they would definitely be criticized by the world.

While the others were still contemplating, Guan Suyi touched the tea cup, and softly persuaded him, “Grandfather don’t be anxious, drink the hot tea slowly. The Sage said: ‘A nobleman should be cautious in his speech and act swiftly, how can it use to flatter’. Bad tongue is not your fault, it’s your virtue.”

After hearing those words, the Confucian scholars who were dissatisfied with the old man all introspected themselves and showed shame on their faces. The old master Guan was completely relieved, and smiled while stroking his beard.

Seeing his pale complexion gradually eased, Guan Suyi let go of her high-hanging heart, and said to the Legalism scholar who was about to stand up to refute her, “Guan Zhong reformed the law to reinvigorate Qi, one era stopped, and then Qi died; Li Kui reformed the law to reinvigorate Wei , one era stopped, and then Wei died; Wu Qi reformed the law to reinvigorate Chu, one era stopped, and the Chu died; Shang Yang reformed the law to reinvigorate Qin, and eventually unified the Central Plains to establish a hegemony, once again one era stopped, and then great heroes pursue deer in the central plains, and the society collapsed. Countries have prospered through reforms, and perished by violent politics. Dare to ask everyone what is the reason for this? Where is the eternal way of legalism? If you can’t even answer this question, wouldn’t it be a joke for you to keep trying to govern and transform the nation into a strong country?”

As soon as this remark came out the audience was silent. Throughout history, reforms and reorganization have indeed helped many countries to prosper, but they have also driven them to extinction very quickly. This was indeed the biggest drawback of Legalism. However, no one had said clearly what this drawback was, nor could they understand it. The woman’s question was like a dagger pierced through the heart, hitting the central point.

The legalism scholars were dumb and embarrassed, but Guan Suyi had already helped her grandfather to get up and said goodbye. The scholars hurriedly got up to send them off, and frequently rushed to the old man, praised his family’s learning origin and good education. Xu Guangzhi, who had a lot to say, saw that the rest of the people were all gone. Although he laughed on the surface, he hated it inside.

What Guan Suyi wanted was for him to have no opportunity to talk, and couldn’t post his aspirations, that was why she raised a few questions to completely confuse the essays. If Xu Guangzhi wanted to become famous and embark on an official career, just look for another opportunity, but to use her grandfather as a stepping stone, in this life she would never let him do so.

After the group of people left, the women also felt bored and left in twos and threes. A man with a strong build and resolute face came out from behind the rockery, staring thoughtfully at the direction where Guan’s grandfather and granddaughter had left. Following him, a white-faced, sharp-sounding old man admired, “They said that all women in Central Plains are full of talent and knowledge, it is not a lie.”

Seeing the man raised his eyebrows and laughed sarcastically, the old man’s conversation turned, “but her vision is limited, the end is too narrow.” Although the master invited many famous scholars and intended to ask them for advice on how to govern the country, but he had already had an opinion in his heart. All the books on his desk were Legalism classics, and the most respected ones were also Legalism scholars, he obviously value Legalism more. After a while, the era of Hundred Schools of Thoughts would soon pass, and the legalism would certainly be very popular in the future, and the reform of the law and system was imminent.

The man glanced at the old man with a smile, said with a deep and mellow voice, “Send someone to check the grandfather and granddaughter just now.” In his heart, he wondered: Where is the eternal way of legalism? This was indeed a problem.

The air fluctuated slightly, and after a while, the death soldier hiding in the dark left quietly to investigate the background of Guan’s family.

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Translator’s notes:

This chapter really showed why I reluctant to translate this novel, this whole philosophical debate is really over my head. Researching into it really reminded me of school, which is not fun! So I didn’t delve too deeply into it, so if you want to know more you have to google it yourself (I’m sorry). But I will leave the key point and their wiki page.

During Spring and Autumn Period (771 to 476 BC) and Warring States period (475–221 BC) of ancient China, there were a lot of social and political turmoil that it birthed a lot of thoughts and philosophies which is called Hundred Schools of Thought , with Confucianism and Legalism are among them.

Confucianism relies on the fundamental goodness of human beings, whereas Legalism presupposes that people are fundamentally evil. Therefore, Confucianism casts everything in terms of corresponding responsibilities, whereas Legalism casts everything in terms of strict laws and harsh punishment.

During Warring States Period Legalism played a critical role in unifying China. Legalism scholars argued that if the state allowed individuals to pursue their own self-interest and accumulate wealth, the state would become weak. However, the ultimate downfall of the state occurred through the oppression of the individual, or as Confucius argued, by governing against nature. This led to the return of a Confucian style of economics during the Han dynasty.

Now, Neo-Confucianism, is different matter, the real Neo-Confucianism started in the Tang Dynasty around eighth century, way after the setting of this novel which I think around Han Dynasty. I think Neo-Confucianism in this novel mean the branch of Confucianism where it reinterpret or modify the Confucius teaching.

12 thoughts on “Who Cares – Chapter 2

  1. This is such a heavy chapter, but you did a good job translating it without vomiting, or becoming a philosopher yourself 🤣.

  2. I was just skimming the conversations lol thanks for that bottom note! Helps put things in perspective!

  3. Wow you’re really amazing to translate this. At some point I was sure I was going to go crazy. Thank you for the extra footnote underneath. It really helped

  4. great job translating! thank for the extra footnotes and explanations! we can tell you put a lot of work and effort into it. looking forward to reading more!

  5. That was interesting, but it also went over my head 😂
    I’ve been out of school for 10 yrs, and I don’t wanna go back. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain what the debate was about.

  6. Omg this chapter was very very heavy. I don’t know much….but I feel like you did a very good job translating this chapter!

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