Who Cares – Chapter 23
Chapter 23 Merchant Woman
The Qin Dynasty destroyed six states and unified the world. What they pursued was Legalism ideology, and Legalism emphasized on agriculture and massive military force, but suppressed the development of business. Furthermore Confucian scholars, school of diplomacy, sword-wielding people, deserted soldiers and business people, these five categories were called five beetles, and the Legalist were extremely capable of despising and suppressing them.
After the demise of the Qin state, it experienced hundreds of years of disputes. The feudal states all followed the example of the first emperor, intending to reform the law and strengthen the army, then unify the world, so they also pursued the militarist idea of emphasizing agriculture and heavy military. Gradually, the merchants who were originally low-ranking, turned into the lowest existence of, and sometimes, even inferior to the servants of other noble families.
The Ye family accumulated a lot of wealth by reselling war materials, and they wanted to take a shortcut and quickly squeeze into the upper class. It was obviously not feasible for their descendant to marry women from noble families, but there was still some hope for their daughters or granddaughters to marry into high gate families. Therefore, whenever there was a beautiful woman in the clan, the head of Ye family would spend great efforts to cultivate them, hoping to hoard it like, and sell it at a price.
Ye Zhen had won the favor of the head of the family with her beautiful appearance, and since she was a child, she had been prepared to marry into a high family. In terms of scheming, means, and talents, she was not lacking in everything. However, the merchant family had limited vision after all. They only knew how to teach zither, chess, calligraphy, painting and seduction methods. They didn’t know that the only thing a real noble family mistress should learn was to take charge of central feed, and the rest were just embellishments, not essential.
The daughter of Ye family could only become a concubine, female entertainer, or even fell into prostitution was like fish back in the water. But Zhao Luli liked that kind of woman, and didn’t notice anything wrong, so he taught his daughter to be another Ye Zhen.
At this time Guan Suyi was supporting her cheek with one hand and smilingly stared at Zhao Chunxi who was at a loss. She wanted to know, without her guidance and correction in this life, what kind of path would Zhao Chunxi open up? Was it still possible to obtain the title Lady of the Third Rank, with income of five thousand households? Could she still marry into the imperial clan, with the same impressive condition?
Zhao Chunxi had never touched such a thing as an abacus, and had absolutely no idea what the beads on top and the beads on the bottom represented. But she didn’t want to admit defeat, and she didn’t want to show her timidity, so she had to bite the bullet, but only push until “plus three” and couldn’t continue.
At this time, the world was beginning to settle. After hundreds of years of war and plight, people’s only thought was to survive. Where would they be in the mood to attend school and learn to read, let alone study arithmetic. Even those merchant giants who have been traveling doing business outside all year round, their ability to settle accounts was limited to a small amount, and a little more, such as counting the number of arrows, horses, army provisions, etc., would need to call dozens or even hundreds accountants who were proficient in this matter, could only be determined by reviewing it day and night.
From one to ninety-nine, not only was it an unimaginable number for Zhao Chunxi, but even if the head of Ye family was brought over, afraid wouldn’t be able to calculate it in a short while. She repeatedly scratched the beads, her expression gradually changed from pretending to be calm to grievance and pain, her eyes were red, and she seemed to be about to cry. It’s too hard, it’s really too hard, Guan Suyi is deliberately making her look ugly!
Zhao Luli’s heart was so painful that he was about to open his mouth to intercede, but then Dou shi, Zhao Chunxi’s wet nurse that was standing by the side, said indignantly, “Madam, this servant came from Ye family and has a lot of knowledge. Our Ye family’s shop are spreads all over the world and the money exchanges is very huge, even then there is no need to count such a huge number in one day. Naturally, there will be accountants below. Our miss will marry into high gate family in the future, there will be a group of servants bellow, and there will be efficient stewards working outside, there is no need to bother with these mundane affairs. If you don’t want to return the dowry, just say it, why bother to humiliate her.”
Zhao Chunxi burst into tears, looking at Guan Suyi with disbelief and aggrieved eyes, as if silently complained that she harbored unfathomable motives like the wet nurse said.
Zhao Luli was secretly angry with Guan Suyi when he heard that even his father-in-law didn’t need to touch this damn abacus.
Guan Suyi glanced at Dou shi, and said calmly, “The Ye family is indeed a family of merchants, and the vision is really…” She paused and sighed, “let’s not say it. Comparing a family of merchants and family of officials, it’s no wonder that the Marquis Zhenbei Mansion has been chaotic and stormy in the past. They said that the subordinates follow the example of their superiors, but your Marquis Mansion is very interesting, it actually doing the opposite. Instead of imitating the legacy of famous scholars and noble qualities, on the contrary bent over and succumbed to the lowest of the nine streams. I said why Xi’er and Wangshu are so old and still don’t understand anything, turns out the root cause is here.”
Zhao Chunxi and Dou shi were most afraid of others talking about the Ye family’s status, they couldn’t help but look at each other. Zhao Luli was also respected his wife family very much, at this time, he was also very angry, and said sternly, “Guan Suyi, you must have some morals! Before, who said that we should get rid of the prejudice of blood and caste, and get along in harmony. And who has repeatedly humiliated the Ye family for this reason? That is Xier’s maternal family and my late wife’s family. It’s not the lowest of the nine streams as you say.”
“Whether or not it’s the lowest of the nine streams, what I say doesn’t count, what you say doesn’t count, it’s what the world says that count. You can get out of the mansion’s gate, grab a common man on the street, and ask to see if the merchant is the lowest of the nine streams. If he says I’m wrong, I will go to Ye Mansion to apologize immediately.”
Guan Suyi slowly blew the hot tea and said in a soft voice, “For you, The face of your late wife and Ye Mansion is very important, but to me, the future of the two children is the most important. You follow Ye Mansion in everything, but I cannot agree. Ye Mansion is very rich, Ye Mansion has shops all over the world, Ye Mansion has no shortage of accountants, I know all these things, but it belongs to Ye Mansion. Does it have anything to do with Xi’er? Yes, Xi’er is indeed going to marry a high-ranking family in the future, and there must be a lot of servants and stewards to serve. But then you can sit back and relax and enjoy the wealth of your life? High-ranking womenfolk, it’s not as simple as you think.”
She lowered her eyes and sighed, “Xi’er probably has not learned anything except the Four Arts over the years. Speak too deeply and thoroughly she also doesn’t understand it. And lord marquis is a the dignified man who doesn’t know the internal affairs of the house. I will give a simple example, it was said that the former dynasty court official Ji Xiang was not defeated in the court battle, rather in his madam’s hand. Do you know the inside story?”
“Only vaguely heard of it, but doesn’t know the inside story.” Zhao Luli was so irritated by her unhurried, neither too fast not too slow attitude, that he could only reply in a muffled voice.
Zhao Chunxi wanted to rush over and cover Guan Suyi’s mouth, but had to hold back desperately. As long as she opened her mouth, all the plan of others would be in vain, which seemed to have become a norm.
Guan Suyi chuckled inexplicably and said, “Ji Xiang was fascinated by a beautiful merchant’s daughter, so he divorced his original wife and married the merchant woman. After the original wife left, the steward who was loyal to her fiddled with Ji Mansion’s accounts to take revenge on the merchant woman. Consistently, a dignitary family has a routine to follow in human relations, who is close and who is alienated, which one on top that should be flattered, and which subordinates that should be roped in. How many red envelopes, antiques, jewelry and jade artifacts should be given to someone during the New Year’s Festival, and they can’t be added or changed at will, let alone cut it out. The steward presented the account book as usual after the madam passed the door, but it was actually altered. Those who should be given generous gifts become thin gifts, and those who should be given thin gifts were directly erased. And that merchant woman, because of her “family background”, was used to digging the money and haggle over every ounce, she actually made assertion to reduce the gift list, which was already much thinner, by 30%. So without Ji Xiang’s knowledge, he offended his relatives, superiors, and subordinates at the same time. His relatives secretly blamed him for being unfilial, his superiors secretly blamed him for being disrespectful, and his subordinates secretly blamed him for being ruthless. The result, even I don’t say it, you should know.”
Ji Xiang was a poor man, he worked hard to become the deputy prime minister, and was finally impeached by his subordinates for 36 counts of dereliction of duty, embezzlement, treason, etc. None of his relatives and superiors stood up for him, and all his subordinates throw the stones at him, to the point that Ji Xiang, who was not guilty of death, was sentenced to be beheaded. His rise and fall had become hot topics among people at the time. Before his death, he cursed his second wife incessantly, bluntly said that he would never marry a merchant woman in the next life, which also added a bit of legend to this tragedy. So later generations speculated that the reason why he ended up in a different place should be related to that second wife, but the specific details were unknown.
After that issue, the merchant women were few and far between, and they were always criticized. Fortunately, the previous dynasty perished and the war began.
Guan’s family always kept their hands clean and did not like to talk about bad things, but Guan Suyi’s grandmother, Zuo Dingxiang, was a historian and especially loved to explore the urban legends. Under her careful teaching and immersion, not to mention the old news of the previous dynasty, even the palace secrets that went back for thousands of years, Guan Suyi also knew a lot about it.
As soon as she said the word “Ji Xiang”, Zhao Chunxi thought of the man’s scolding towards the merchant woman, and her already ugly face became paler. Zhao Luli glimpsed many arcane truth from it, and couldn’t help but ponder.
Guan Suyi tapped the tabletop with her fingertips, making a regular tapping sound, looked left and right at the expressions of the father and daughter, and continued, “A little trick in the back house is enough to overthrow a powerful official, so there is the ancestor’s legacy that say ‘marry a wife, marry a virtuous person’, there is also a market slang saying ‘to marry a virtuous wife, the husband have few misfortune, and the son is filial to his father’. Looking at the accounts, examine the accounts, settle the accounts, dealing with human relations are the skills that the mistress and the matriarch need to master. Of course, you can drive your servants to do it, but how can you guarantee that you will not make mistakes and not be fooled when you yourself only know a little? If you think that by letting you learn arithmetic and central feed, I have tarnished your loftiness and damaged your pride, then I will return the dowry to you immediately, and you can just take care of it yourself.”
As she spoke, she took the abacus from Zhao Chunxi’s hand and fiddled with it quickly. In the whole room there was only a crisp sound of beads hitting each other, but after a while, could hear her say, “From one to ninety-nine, the answer is four thousand nine hundred and fifty, is it difficult to count? Besides, there is an easier way, add the two numbers, multiply by ninety-nine and then halve the number…” After writing the deduction process one by one on the paper, she circled the answer with a brush, and sighed earnestly, “Zither, chess, calligraphy and painting can only be used to cultivate sentiment. To really run the family, you also have to learn some strong skills. The matriarch and mistress, internally must be able to teach their children, serve their parents-in-law, and take care of common affairs; externally, they should assist their husbands and participate in social functions. The matter of inviting pampering and flattery, only lowly concubines will do things like that. Those people, which of them is not proficient in zither, chess, calligraphy and painting? Wouldn’t it be self-defeating to compare with them?”
Looking at Zhao Luli being embarrassed and Zhao Chunxi dying of shame, Guan Suyi made a concluding remark, “I always think about the two children, but I didn’t expect that in lord marquis’ eyes, I became a person with ulterior motives. I don’t mean to look down on the Ye family, but it’s better not to bring the Ye family’s education into the Marquis Mansion. People come, push Dou shi down and give her fifty rods, to teach her what respecting superiors means. When the mistress spoke, she as a servant dare to point finger and slandering out of thin air. What if she follow the eldest miss to her husband’s house in the future? I am the madam of Zhao’s family, and I can still tolerate one or two, but how can others be merciful? At that time, people will not say it, but secretly remember the eldest miss in their hearts. Over time, the relationship between husband and wife, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, and children’s relationship will be damaged. How can there be a happy life at all.”
The rough old woman outside the house ran in immediately and pushed the frightened Dou shi down.
Zhao Chunxi was still immersed in Guan Suyi’s seemingly earnest teachings, but in fact, extremely derogatory words, when she came back to her senses, she heard her father shout sharply, “Almost ruined Xi’er’s life, fifty is not enough, add thirty! After listening to madam’s words, I am really enlightened. If you don’t tell me, I really don’t know what will happen to Xi’er when she gets married in the future. I don’t know the inner house affairs, my mother is old and frail, and her energy is limited, in the future still need madam to take trouble. I was the one who made a blunder before, madam please do not blame. To be able to marry madam, indeed is my blessing of three lifetime, and it’s also Xi’er and Wangshu’s deep fortune…”
Zhao Chunxi could no longer hear the following words of sincere apology, because the emotions of shame, anger, powerlessness, fear, and unwillingness were violently churning in her heart. Even if she hated the sharp-tongued Guan Suyi, she had to admit that what the other person said made sense. She almost, just a little bit, wasted her whole life by her daddy’s teaching. Of course, she couldn’t agree with all of Guan Suyi’s point of views. Who said that only a lowly concubine would do it? Didn’t my mom climb to high position of Jieyu with those skills? In the future, who will be noble and who will be low, and who will lose and who will win, is still unknown.
Guan Suyi only glanced at Zhao Chunxi and could guess what she was thinking, probably took Ye Zhen’s bad things to comfort herself. That’s right, Ye Zhen really got ahead, but so what? Jieyu was just a concubine after all. Zhao Luli was so dedicated and infatuated with her, and became a good Marquis madam would not do, but ran to compete with hundreds of women for a man, indeed has water in the brain.
However, everyone has their own aspirations. Guan Suyi would not care about Zhao Chunxi’s actions or mistakes in this life, if she couldn’t be happy and liked to toss around, just let her go. Anyway, what should be said had been said, what should be done had been done, and the reputation of virtuous character had also been earned, that was enough.