Finding the Peach Blossom Beauty

Evan Mantyk, Contributing Editor

Ancient stories recorded in Chinese history tell of a scholar, Cui Hu, who had failed in the all-important Imperial Examination in the Capital. In the days that followed the exam, he was deeply troubled and wandered through the streets of the magnificent city, as if searching for answers to a test though there was none in front of him anymore.

On one particular day, when he was wandering, it happened to be around the time of the Qingming Festival, the traditional day for sweeping ancestral tombs that falls in early April. It’s a time of year when the first exciting hints of warm weather are constantly battling against the stubborn cold of Winter for supremacy over each day that passed. 

In his wanderings through the freezing long shadows and hot bursts of sunlight, Cui found himself strolling south of the city into the countryside where he came across a village that was unusually quiet. He suddenly realized that he was completely alone. He concluded that he must have walked quite far and decided to knock on the door of the nearest manor to have a rest and seek some refreshment. Seeing what appeared to be a lovely manor with abundant flowers and trees surrounding it,  he walked toward the house and was struck by how quiet and peaceful the land was, without a single human noise. 

He knocked on the door but received no answer. He knocked again. Still nothing. After thinking it over and deciding to knock once more, the door suddenly opened a tiny crack. A single eye appeared and the voice of a young lady asked, “Who is it?” 

Cui introduced himself with his name and surname, saying, “I'm wandering alone in search of Spring and I’m thirsty for some wine.” 

The lady closed the door and then reemerged a short while later with a cup of water. He leaned against a small peach tree while drinking and admired the unique gracefulness of the lady; while dignified and noble in manner, she was as accommodating as the supple budding branches that bent to the harsh wind rushing in from far off. Their gazes lingered on each other for a long time and he felt a deep connection that he could not describe. Finishing his drink, he politely said he would return one day soon to repay the favor. However, in the days, weeks, and months that followed, he never visited again and his days were filled with busyness of work and study. 

Time flew by for Cui Hu until the following year on the Qingming Festival. He suddenly remembered the lady, and all of the work and study and commotion of the Capital suddenly died away in that moment until he felt as alone as he had been on that day wandering through the countryside. He immediately dropped what he was doing and went straight to look for her. 

The entrance of the manor remained the same, but this time no matter how many times he knocked there was no answer. He tried to open the door, but it was tightly locked and there was no sign of anyone around. Cui finally decided to compose a poem and left it on the left door. The poem read, 

A year ago this day, her face emerged
Just as a peach blossom in vibrant pink;
But now it’s gone—in mystery submerged.
Beneath Spring breeze blown blossoms wave, I sink. 

Several days later, Cui was preoccupied with some matter on his mind when he realized that his wandering feet had taken him to the southern outskirts of the Capital again. He decided immediately he must seek her once more. When he arrived he heard crying from inside, so he knocked on the door and inquired loudly. 

An elderly man came out and asked, motioning to the verses on the door, “Are you the poet?” 

Cui replied, “Yes.” 

The father then cried out, “You killed my daughter!” 

Cui was shocked and at a loss for words. The father continued, “My daughter reached marriageable age and was knowledgeable, but she hadn't found a suitable husband. Since last year, she often seemed absent-minded, as if she had lost something. A few days ago, I accompanied her outside, and upon returning, she saw the words on the left door. After reading them, she fell ill and refused to eat for several days until she died. I'm old, and she was my only daughter. The reason she hadn't married yet was that she was looking for that gentleman to entrust her future to. Now, she has met an unfortunate end. Could it be that you, sir, are responsible for her death?” 

The father then cried bitterly again. 

Touched by this, Cui requested to enter the house to mourn for her. He found the girl still lying on the bed, lifeless. Cui lifted her head, placed it on his lap, and wept, saying, “I'm here now.”

 After a while, she opened her eyes. Within half a day, she was revived. The elderly father was overjoyed and gave his daughter to Cui in marriage.

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