“I can’t meddle in that, I’m not familiar with him.“
Editor(s): Amelea, juurensha
The imperial guard outside glanced at Chen Xing, revealing an apprehensive expression.
“I won’t hack people at will like Shulü Kong,” Chen Xing said, “Don’t worry. You just need to take me to Gongcao and help me explain a little.”
That guard quickly waved his hand, as if he was extremely nervous and looked only at the ring on Chen Xing’s hand.
Evidently, the guard couldn’t speak the Han language. He bowed slightly in haste when he saw the ring and seemed very ill at ease. Chen Xing recalled now -- this luminous stone ring of primitive simplicity was given to him by Tuoba Yan, who had casually taken it off, so he asked in the Xianbei language, “Where is Tuoba Yan?”
The guard immediately bowed and made a ‘please’ gesture, signalling to Chen Xing to wait here for a moment before turning around and trotting away to deliver the message.
Chen Xing, “???”
Soon after, a figure turned around the corner at the end of the corridor, and he wore a dark red martial robe with a crescent-shaped wolf fang dagger that was about a foot long hanging by his waist. He passed through Weiyang Palace where its entire courtyard were filled with spring flowers fluttering in the breeze -- it was the dashing and elegant Tuoba Yan.
Chen Xing smiled, “Brother Tuoba!”
Tuoba Yan smiled amidst the spring breeze. He scrutinised the surroundings, seeming a little embarrassed as he quickly said, “Where are you going? I’ll accompany you.”
Chen Xing hurriedly refused, saying, “No, no, I’ll be troubling you too much,” yet Tuoba Yan smiled, “It’s alright, being on duty is boring anyway. I’ll walk around with you.” Then he took off a bracelet strung together with lapis pearls on his wrist and handed it to Chen Xing, saying with affection, “Here, I’ll give this to you.”
“No no no!” Chen Xing immediately said with a stern expression, “Why are you giving me a gift again? And I was thinking of returning the ring to you too!”
As soon as they met, Tuoba Yan wanted to give him a gift, which was very awkward for Chen Xing. The two of them pushed back and forth; Chen Xing wanted to take off the ring, but it was stuck and he couldn’t take it off. He insisted that he did not dare to accept it, and Tuoba Yan said, “I’ve already taken it off, how could it be reasonable for me to take it back?”
In the end, Chen Xing could only continue to wear the ring. He explained his purpose in coming. Tuoba Yan pondered for a moment, then said readily, “Okay, I’ll take you there.”
There were many guards in the palace, and they were all obviously well-trained. They walked like the wind, never glancing sideways. As soon as the guards on patrol saw Tuoba Yan, all of them retreated to either side of the path to give way, bowed, and performed a Xianbei salutation.
A carriage was waiting at the entrance of the palace. Tuoba Yan first asked Chen Xing to get in one, and Chen Xing was about to move aside to make space for him when Tuoba Yan put down the curtain and flipped onto the horse, then rode along beside him. The imperial guards cleared the way, while a Mounted Regular Attendant accompanied the procession -- this was a treatment that only the Great Qin’s Son of Heaven could receive. Chen Xing couldn’t help but start feeling uncomfortable. He drew the curtains and looked out, while Tuoba Yan had casually glanced at him at the same time. He pointed his left finger at the hand that was wrapped with the reins of the horse, motioning for Chen Xing to look at his ring.
“You’ve always been wearing it?” Tuoba Yan asked.
“Uh, yes.” Chen Xing began to have a vague sense that something was amiss. Tuoba Yan was truly too passionate towards him, Tuoba Yan couldn’t have fallen in love with him at first sight ba? He just didn’t know if Tuoba Yan treated everyone like this, or if he only treated Chen Xing this way.
Tuoba Yan’s nature didn’t seem like that of a Xianbei at all and instead seemed more like that of a Xiongnu. He never talked in a roundabout way and asked again, “Why are you following the Great Chanyu? What relationship do the two of you share?”
It was still okay when no one asked this, but as soon as this question surfaced, Chen Xing finally couldn’t hold back anymore. He extended a hand out from inside the carriage and grabbed Tuoba Yan’s lapel, “Listen to this, listen to this very carefully……”
So Chen Xing described the whole process of how he got to know Xiang Shu in its entirety. Tuoba Yan listened with a baffled face, and after they arrived at the entrance to Gongcao, he nodded at Chen Xing. As soon as the Gongcao officials saw Tuoba Yan, all of them saluted him one after another. It was as if the two of them had walked into a no man’s land as they arrived at the place where dossiers were stored.
“……so,” Chen Xing said, “Now, I have to properly investigate the problem regarding the changes in the Chu authorities.”
“So that’s how it is.” Tuoba Yan seemed to ponder, then smiled again, “And I even thought you were the Great Chanyu’s family member. People have always said that he and the Hans are……un.”
“Are? Un……” Right after Chen Xing spoke, he immediately sensed that Tuoba Yan might have wanted to say, “thought you were the Great Chanyu’s wife,”, and in order to avoid awkwardness, neither of them spoke.
Under Fu Jian’s reign, the imperial court still followed the three provincial systems of the Jin Dynasty. Under the Department of State Affairs, ministries were further divided into the Ministries of Personnel, Palaces, War, Farming, Revenue, and Works. Ministry of Personnel was mainly in charge of the promotion and demotion of officials, the Ministry of Palaces was in charge of managing the imperial family and royal court, rites, and other such ceremonies; the Ministry of War was the department responsible for conscription and starting wars. The Ministry of Farming was in charge of the entire country’s farms, land, irrigation works, and construction matters, while the Ministry of Revenue was only in charge of finances, and the Ministry of Works was in charge of all affairs related to forced labour and population shifts. Six ministries commanded 15 subagencies, and each subagency had a director who was in charge of all political affairs within, no matter how big or small.
The Gongcao Chen Xing had arrived at was the newly refurbished extension of the government agency that corresponded to the ones in Chang’an, Luoyang and other cities. At that time, except for some military officials of the imperial court, almost all of the civil officials were Han people, and all the written exchanges were written in the Han language as well. It wasn’t that the court didn’t want to use Hu people, but the younger generations of the Five Barbarians’ officials were only capable of wreckage and couldn’t understand how to govern a country at all. Their languages weren’t uniform either; they couldn’t read, and they wouldn’t be able to hold themselves back from scolding the other party for being a barbarian when they started quarrelling. A group of barbarians would end up being so noisy that they can’t get anything done, so in the end, they had no choice but to turn to the Han people for help.
Fu Jian often read sacred books ever since he was young and had always yearned for a flourishing period for Confuscian Classics in the Central Plains. He knew that though the Hu people had dominated the North by force, their hegemony would certainly not last long. What’s more, it’s hard to say who would win or lose a war, because wars have always depended on the right timing, along with the geographical and social conditions then. The Hans were the weaker side in the past hundred years only because the Jin Dynasty was addicted to carnal pleasures. When it came to military warfare, the Hans were not the least bit sloppy. Since ancient times, from the time when Emperor Qinzhuang retreated to Xirong to save the Zhou royal family, to the Han Dynasty and even the Cao Wei Dynasty, they have always beaten up the tribes beyond the Great Wall until they cried out for their fathers and mothers every time; when the names Li Guang, Wei Qing, Huo Qubing, and other such names were heard, those beyond the Great Wall wouldn’t even be able to take a single step forward.
It was precisely because of this that Fu Jian issued a strict order for all Hu tribes beyond the Great Wall to change their Hu customs and read Han books. Otherwise, they would still just be monkeys wearing hats. They had to take advantage of these few decades when the Hans were temporarily unable to resist to quickly unify the world. Otherwise, if they waited for the masters of the Central Plains to snap out of their stupor, it would be difficult to tell how things could end up.
Seeing Tuoba Yan accompany him personally, the director of the Gongcao knew that Chen Xing could not be slighted, so he personally retrieved all the files documented in the past hundred years in Chang’an for his perusal.
“You can understand it?” Tuoba Yan saw that the silk fabrics packed densely together that filled his view were covered in square characters and looked just like heavenly scriptures to him.
“Of course!” Chen Xing didn’t know how to respond to that at all and answered, “At the very least I am a Han.”
The director of Gongcao held his forehead with one hand and threw a glance at Chen Xing, meaning that he should watch his words when talking with a barbaric Hu lest he angers them. Chen Xing sat upright and bowed slightly, knowing that he meant well. The director of the Gongcao said, “Lords, please take your time in reading.” Then he left.
Tuoba Yan, “This is an ancient writing? Not many Han people would be able to recognise it.”
Chen Xing then smiled, “I’ve learnt it since I was a child, that is, by reading and writing essays. I followed my Dad all the time, so I was influenced and gradually learned the language.”
Tuoba Yan personally went to roll up the curtains a little, such that natural light could spill in. Pear trees were planted everywhere in Chang’an City. A few snow white petals would float in once in awhile, and the spring air was both relaxing and pleasant.
“Can you recite 《Song of the Person of Yue》?” Tuoba Yan asked.
Chen Xing didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. He flipped open a file, “What night is tonight, we are rowing on the river. What day is today, I get to share a boat with the prince.”
“The prince’s kindness makes me shy, I take no notice of the people’s mocking cries.”
“My heart filled with longing, and I’m flustered to know the prince……”
Tuoba Yan smiled, “There are trees in the mountains and there are branches on the trees.”
Chen Xing was absent minded as he casually said, “I adore you, but you do not even see me.”
The two of them sat upright on a broad couch. Chen Xing, with his clothes on and all, respectfully invited out the documents that were sealed in a wooden box hundreds of years ago. He had barely managed to piece together the scraps of paper as he began restoring the map of Chang’an in the Han Dynasty.
Tuoba Yan watched Chen Xing’s movements that made him look like he was performing a magic trick from the side. For a moment, only the rustling sounds of paper scraps moving could be heard in the room. Chen Xing pieced together half of Chang’an’s map before realising that Tuoba Yan was looking at him. He connected it to the glance that the director of the Gongcao had thrown at him before, and had a vague perception that there were too many undercurrents that existed between the Hus and Hans. They were separated by massive rivers difficult to pass through, and they were always watching the other side with much vigilance.
The Hus were wary of the Hans, and within this wariness, a slight sentiment of “admiration” could be felt. It was as if the Hans were naturally better than the Hans, like immortals who had fallen into the mortal world. The Five Barbarians didn’t know how to deal with them for the time being, so they could only foolishly and madly round up the once superior masters of the Central Plains, then wantonly humiliate them to vent their feelings and express that cruel destructive desire of theirs.
“Do you want to learn how to read Han characters?” When Chen Xing thought of this, he suddenly said to Tuoba Yan.
Tuoba Yan immediately said, “I want to, but I can never learn how.”
Chen Xing guessed that the scholars in Chang’an City were fed up with all the Hus and had no interest in developing any educational methods for them. They were even less bothered to learn the language of a barbaric tribe like the Xianbei. As a result, they would only teach them casually, and it would be their good fortune if they managed to learn something, but if they couldn’t, then it would just be too bad for them. Thus, Chen Xing magnanimously wrote a poem, which was the first poem of 《Nineteen Old Poems》, 《Marching On and On》, and it was the first poem his father had taught him when he was learning to read. Then, he added the phonetic notation to every word in the Xianbei language.
“Marching on and on, living far away from you,” Tuoba Yan started learning how to read the Han language characters seriously, “We stand more than a thousand miles apart, each of us at opposite ends of the sky.”
Chen Xing found the building markers of Chang’an in the Han Dynasty 300 years ago and began retrieving the drawings of that year. He smiled, “Did His Majesty Fu Jian ask you all to read the books of the Han people, as well as examine them in detail?”
“Not only that.” Tuoba Yan said helplessly, “On the first and fifteenth of every month, we are even tested. When I studied the Han language, it was Lord Wang Meng who taught me.”
Tuoba Yan spoke the Han language fluently, but he couldn’t recognise the words. Fortunately, Fu Jian knew that it wasn’t easy for military officers, so the assessment criteria for them weren’t as strict as for civil officials.
“Wang Meng ah.” Chen Xing stopped moving, and started thinking about many things after hearing this name that he hadn’t heard in a long time. He went to the shelf to take down the drawings for the year he needed and casually said, “Looks like His Majesty likes Han people very much.”
Tuoba Yan gazed at the writing paper, then looked up slightly and glanced towards Chen Xing before withdrawing his gaze again. He continued, “The decree issued earlier this year stated that if we were to intermarry with you Han people, we would get an additional pension. For officials of a fifth-level and above, the Emperor would bestow upon them a pair of heirloom jades and personally preside over the wedding ceremony for the tribes’ children.”
Chen Xing smiled, “Then, does Brother Tuoba intend to get a Han wife?”
Tuoba Yan’s face suddenly flushed red. He saw Chen Xing go up on tiptoe to reach the scroll on the top shelf of the bookcase, so he got up to help him take down a large bundle easily. He raised a finger, pointed upward, and answered, “Weixiong still wants to wait a little longer, because His Majesty still has a decree waiting to be promulgated.”
“Oh?” Chen Xing reached out to take the scroll and asked, “What decree?”
“When the time comes, no matter if one is a man or woman in this world, they can all be taken as wives.” Tuoba Yan answered solemnly.
Chen Xing didn’t catch them in time as all the scrolls plummeted to the floor, crashing everywhere.
Chen Xing, “……”
Tuoba Yan quickly bent over to help him pick them up. “And only you Han people are still opposing it, otherwise it would’ve passed by now.”
“Isn’t that nonsense?!” Chen Xing had lost his temper, “How could men get married? Isn’t His Majesty acting too recklessly?!”
Tuoba Yan retorted, “Why can’t they get married?”
Chen Xing, “That……”
Chen Xing picked up the scroll and listened to Tuoba Yan’s explanation. Only then did he know that Fu Jian actually had those sort of thoughts. Several years ago, Fu Jian was dearly fond of the siblings Princess Qinghe and Murong Chong, and he was especially serious about his feelings towards Murong Chong, calling him “Phoenix’er”. He cared even less about the comments of people from all over the land.
Since ancient times, if superiors had certain interests, their subordinates would certainly follow their example. All the tribes began imitating Fu Jian one after another, especially those of military origins. They often took pleasure in pursuing beautiful young men and engaging in romantic relationships. Chang’an customs thus became more and more intense. Those from noble families could become sworn brothers in name when it’s actually a marriage between two families, and this is an act held in high esteem.
Only the Hans of Chang’an all thought, if you want to adopt a toy boy, then just adopt a toy boy. They’re all just leftovers of what our old ancestors were playing with, and there have been no lack of such things ever since Liu Bang’s times. But insisting on taking them out and openly talking about them? Doesn’t that just mean there’s something wrong with you?
But when Fu Jian looked out again, he sighed with regret and was even less able to let go of Murong Chong, who had gone far away to Hejian’s Pingyang to take up post as its prefecture chief. He was determined to implement a new marriage policy throughout the country. He would make it acceptable for all men of the right age -- no matter if they were Hu or Han -- to marry another man. It was as if he wanted to use this new decree to tell Murong Chong how he felt.
And now, the Han civil officials collectively erupted -- how could that be acceptable?! It was a subversion of ethics, a disorder of Yin and Yang, touching on a huge taboo of the world, and going against the teachings of their ancestral sages! If nothing else, there are three ways to be unfilial and having no heir is the worst, so what about childbearing?
Fu Jian’s response to that was that he could take concubines ma, and adoption was an option too, right?
No way, no way, the civil officials were all in an uproar as they rushed forward to admonish him. Putting aside the problem of bearing future generations, men getting married with men would practically be the joke of the century, no one had ever heard of such a thing before! Of course, these scholars were also extremely fearful that if male marriage was allowed and they were forcibly taken as wives by the Hu military officials, wouldn’t that be an utter disgrace for them?!
Fu Jian’s response was, letting someone from an external tribe become the emperor of China had never been heard of since ancient times either, but didn’t I still ascend the throne? What’s the problem? Isn’t that what happened?
Chen Xing quickly said, “Yes yes yes, I’m the one fettered by old conventions……I need to keep an open mind and accept new things.”
So Tuoba Yan lowered his head again to read the poem and said, “I saw you, un……so……”
Chen Xing suddenly felt like it was a little dangerous. He encouraged Hus and Hans to intermarry, and encouraged marriage between men as well. Is there another……meaning behind the words you spoke today?
“So?” Chen Xing was alert, “So what?”
“So I thought that you were the Great Chanyu’s……wife.” Tuoba Yan said seriously.
“How could I be his wife?!” Chen Xing roared angrily and almost flipped the table, “And even if we’re going to talk about that he should be my wife! No! This isn’t a problem about who should be whose wife, I have nothing to do at all with that bastard Xiang Shu……”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.