《受戒》The Love Story of a Young Monk 汉英对照阅读 汪曾祺
It was already four years since Minghai had become a novice．
He had come when he was only thirteen years old．
The name of the place，Anzhaozhuang，was somewhat unusual．The word Zhao signified that the majority of villagers had the same surname，Zhao．Though it was called a village or zhuang，the houses were scattered far apart in twos and threes．From one door could be seen the neighbouring houses，but it was a long walk to reach them because there was no road，only the winding paths between the fields．As to the word an，that was easy to understand for there was a nunnery in this village，which was originally named Boddha Nunnery．Later it was wrongly called Biqi (Water Chestnut) Nunnery，and even those living within had called it that．"Monks in the monasteries and nuns in nunneries，" so the saying goes，but that nunnery was occupied by monks．Because it was so small it was probably called a nunnery and not a monastery．
When he had lived at home，Minghai had been called Mingzi．From his early childhood，it was decided that he would become a monk．His native village was famous for its supply of monks just as other places were known for their pig-castrators，mat-weavers，coopers，cotton-fluffers，painters and prostitutes．A household with several sons always sent one to be a monk．There were also factions among the monks，and one must have certain relations with them in order to join．Many of the villagers，who had become monks，went to faraway monasteries，such as Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou，Jing'an Temple in Shanghai，Jinshan Temple in Zhenjiang or Tianning Monastery in Yangzhou．But generally，they lived in local temples．Mingzi's family had only a few mu of land，and his three elder brothers could easily cope with the work．As the fourth son，he had no choice but to go to a temple and become a monk．
One day，when he was seven years old，his uncle，who was a monk，visited his home．After consulting with him，Mingzi's parents decided to let him become a monk．He was standing near them and thought it a very reasonable suggestion，finding no cause to object．There were many advantages in such a life！First of all，he could have his meals every day free of charge．As a rule，both the food and clothing of every monk were supplied by the temple．Secondly，he could save money．Once he had learned how to perform the Buddhist rites，he would surely obtain his due portion of the service charge．When he had saved enough money，he could resume his secular life and marry a village girl．If，however，he did not leave the temple，he could buy a few mu of land．
Still，it was not so easy to become a monk in those days．In the first place，the candidate must be good-looking，with a face like a bright full moon．Secondly，he must have a sweet musical voice．Thirdly，he must be intelligent and have a good memory．His uncle studied his face carefully，urged the boy to walk a few steps forward and back，and sing a line from a work song which the local peasants sang while driving oxen to the threshing ground．Finally，his uncle said，"Mingzi will surely be a good monk．I'm willing to vouch for him！" To do that，his parents had to spend money sending the boy to school，there being no illiterate monks．So，Mingzi was enrolled in a private school，studied textbooks and practised calligraphy．The villagers praised him highly for his neat handwriting．
On an appointed day several years later，his uncle came back，bringing an extra Buddhist short jacket which he urged his elder sister to shorten for Mingzi．Wearing this jacket，a pair of ordinary purple trousers and new cloth shoes on his bare feet，Mingzi kowtowed to his parents and set out with his uncle．
While in school，Mingzi had been called Minghai．His uncle said there was no need to change that and so it became his Buddhist name．
They crossed a big lake — an immense lake！— and reached the county seat which was bustling with activity．In the main street there were an official salt shop，tax bureau，cloth store，butcher's and so on．A donkey was grinding sesame seeds in the oil workshop and the aroma filled the street．On both sides were various kinds of stalls selling cosmetics，velvet flowers，silk threads，sugar figures and other goods．In addition，there were also men selling quack remedies and snake performers．Mingzi was fascinated by these interesting sights and would have liked to take a good look at each of them．His uncle，however，urged him along，saying，"Don't dawdle！Hurry up！Be quick！"
At last，they reached a river where a small boat was waiting for them by the bank．A tall，slender man about fifty years old stood in the boat，while a girl about the same age as Mingzi squatted in the stern．She was breaking open a lotus seedpod with her hands．The boat set out as soon as Mingzi and his uncle got in．
Before long，Mingzi heard someone talking to him．The speaker was none other than the girl．"Isn't it you who's going to Biqi Nunnery to be a monk？"
"They'll burn incense scars on your head if you want to be a monk．Aren't you afraid？"
Not knowing how to answer，Mingzi shook his head vaguely．
"What's your name？"
"And what do they call you at home？"
"Mingzi！I'm called Xiaoyingzi！We'll soon be neighbours．I live next door to your temple．— Take it！" She threw him the remaining half of the lotus seedpod．Mingzi began to break it open and eat the seeds one by one．
The old man rhythmically rowed the boat．It was very quiet with only the sound of the oars splashing in the water．
Biqi Nunnery was situated on a picturesque plateau，the highest in the area．Obviously，the man who had built it had made a wise choice．A river flowed in front of the temple．Before the entrance，a large threshing ground was surrounded on three sides with towering willow trees．Inside the main door was a hallway．A statue of Buddha Maitreya sat facing the door and on both sides of his shrine hung a pair of couplets written by an unknown scholar：
His big belly holds the troubles unbearable to others．
His broad smile is aimed at those who are laughable．
Behind Buddha Maitreya stood the statue of Skanda．Across the hallway was a fair-sized courtyard with two ginkgo trees and at each side a row of three chambers．Across the courtyard was the main hall housing the Trakala Buddhas．Together with the shrines，each was only about four feet high．At the eastern side of the main hall was the chief monk's chamber while at the western side a storeroom．In the eastern wall of the main hall was a rhombus door leading to a long and narrow courtyard，in which were a rockery，some flowerpots and three small side rooms．
Mingzi's daily life in the temple was leisurely．After getting up early in the morning，the first thing he did was to open the front door and tidy up the courtyard，which was easy to sweep clean since it was paved with square bricks．Next，he burnt some joss-sticks before the Buddhas Maitreya，Skanda and Trakala in the main hall，kowtowed to each of them，chanted "NamasAmitabha" and beat the inverted bell three times．The monks of this temple had neither morning nor evening services．Mingzi's beating of the inverted bell three times was all that was required．Having finished these tasks，he fetched water and fed the pigs．At last，when the abbot (namely，his uncle) got up，he waited on him and learned from him how to chant sutras．
Teaching a young novice to chant Buddhist sutras was just the same as teaching pupils to recite their lessons．Both the master and the pupil held a volume of Buddhist scriptures in their hands，the former chanting sentence by sentence and the latter following suit．While chanting，Mingzi's uncle beat time loudly on the table with his palm．He did this according to fixed rhythms．It was like teaching someone to sing Beijing Opera for even the special terms used were from Beijing Opera．His uncle told him time and again that，while chanting Buddhist scriptures，his tone must be in keeping with the correct rhythms and notes．In short，to be a good monk one needed a sweet voice．He told his young nephew：When a serious flood occurred in the twentieth year of the Republic，some banks of the canal were completely destroyed．As a result，a great number of the inhabitants were drowned．In order to express their condolences for the unlucky victims，people held a grand Buddhist service．All the abbots of the large temples in the county attended．Thirteen monks were invited to preside over the service，while there were as many as over a hundred ordinary monks in attendance．A question then arose：Among the abbots，who was，after all，most qualified to sit in the seat of honour？Having considered this for a long while，Shiqiao，the abbot of Shanyin Temple，was chosen．Sitting there he had appeared just like the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha．Moreover he had a booming voice．When it came to chanting psalms and burning incense，as soon as he uttered the first words，the more than one thousand onlookers became silent．
As it was said，"Those who can endure all hardships will become，in the end，outstanding men．" The uncle，therefore，advised his young nephew to practise singing even on the hottest or coldest days．In addition，he should strive to attain the skill of making his voice resound from the depths of his heart．The novices were expected to learn diligently and refrain from playing．Having been enlightened by this advice，Mingzi studied harder，repeating and learning to chant the Buddhist sutras with fixed rhythms every morning：
"As soon as the incense is burned in the burner—”
"As soon as the incense is burned in the burner—”
"The holy world will be filled with its fragrance—”
"The holy world will be filled with its fragrance—”
"And heavenly Buddhas will appear in their golden figures—”
"And heavenly Buddhas will appear in their golden figures—”
When he had finished his morning lesson of chanting sutras (he had also to learn to chant a section of the Buddhist scriptures before going to bed)，the older monks of Biqi Nunnery began to get up one after another．
There were very few inhabitants in this nunnery：only six including Minghai．One of them was his uncle's teacher named Puzhao，an old monk about sixty years old．His Buddhist name was unknown，for people simply called him "Old Monk" or "Old Master"．As for Minghai，he called him "Grandfather Master"．This old monk，who never chanted Buddhist sutras but only sat motionless，was unsociable and eccentric．He always kept to himself in his room．Except for the Spring Festival，he ate no meat all year round．
In addition，there were three other older monks with the name "Ren"：Renshan，Renhai and Rendu．Outside and inside the temple，people called them "First Master" and "Second Master"，or "Master Shan" and "Master Hai"．Only Rendu alone was called that name because "Master Du" was unpleasant to the ear．In fact，being still very young (only a little more than twenty years old)，he did not deserve to be called "Master"．
Renshan，who was Mingzi's uncle，managed the temple．It was very reasonable that people also called him "manager" instead of "abbot"．He alone attended to the daily life of the others．In his room on a desk lay an abacus and three volumes of account books．In one was recorded the accounts for money received for the Buddhist services，in the second the rent，and in the third the debts owed to the nunnery．The monks of this temple were frequently invited to perform services by the local Buddhists and afterwards they would，of course，be paid．What else could they live on？Among the various kinds of Buddhist services，chanting sutras for the dead was the most frequent．To perform this，ten monks were required：One would take the leading seat，another would beat a drum and four others would stand at either side of a square table．If there were not enough monks，it was also permissible to have three monks on both sides as well as the leading monk and the drum beater．Since Biqi Nunnery had only four monks，when they were asked to do this service，they had to cooperate with monks from other temples．This happened from time to time．Generally，they performed the service with only half a set of monks for it was rather troublesome to cooperate and many families could not afford the cost of a full ceremony．Therefore，some families，when one of their members died，invited only two monks，and sometimes only one，to perform this service．Many paid the fees only after they had gathered in their harvest．In such cases，their names were entered in the account books．Since the amounts given to each monk were not equal，just as with actors in a theatrical troupe，they were distributed in fixed proportions．The monk who sat in the seat of honour received the greatest proportion，because，apart from leading the other monks in chanting the Buddhist sutras，he had also to perform a solo chant．When the service came to the point where the condolences to the departed were sung，the other monks laid down their musical instruments and rested，while only the leading monk continued singing slowly with distinct rhythm．Next to him was the monk who beat the drum．Not easy work！The tempo at the beginning of the service was impossible to play well if one was unskilled．As for the rest，their rewards were the same．To prevent the monks from quarrelling at the end of each year，it was necessary to enter their parts in the account book．The temple recorded their work in detail as follows：On such and such a date，so-and-so sat in the seat of honour； so-and-so beat the drum； and so-and-so… In addition，the temple had quite a large amount of land，which was rented out to tenants．The rents were collected at an appointed time．The nunnery also lent money．Both the tenants and debtors rarely failed to pay their rent and interest，because all were afraid of offending Buddha．The accounts alone kept Renshan busy all day long．There were also a lot of other daily accounts that needed to be entered．Hence，in order to do his work as efficiently as possible，he hung on the wall of his room a plank inscribed with this motto in red paint：
"Diligence in recording at the time will save the trouble of recollection．"
Renshan taught others that，to be a good monk，one should strive to acquire three qualities—none of which he himself possessed．First of all，he was very ugly and could be best described by these words：yellow and fat．His voice not like a bell either，but like a grunting sow．As to his mind，was he clever？Certainly not，otherwise，why did he always lose when gambling？He never wore his Buddhist outer garment in the temple，not even his dark grey Buddhist robe．Normally he dressed in only a short Buddhist jacket with his yellow belly exposed．No matter whether his shoes were old or new，he always shuffled them along instead of putting them on properly．He paid no attention to his appearance，going around the temple making a nasal noise like a pig．
The second monk，Renhai，had a wife．Every summer she came and lived in the temple for a few months，because it was very cool inside．Of the six inhabitants in the temple，one of them was none other than Renhai's wife．Both Renshan and Rendu called her "sister-in-law”，while Minghai called her "mistress"．This couple were both finicky over neatness and cleanliness，busying themselves washing and sweeping all day long．In the evening，they enjoyed the coolness of the courtyard．In the daytime，they remained in their room and never stepped outside of it．
Rendu，the third monk，was clever and skilful．
Whenever Renshan failed to work out the accounts on his abacus he，after rolling his eyes for a moment，calculated them correctly．In gambling，he was sure to win on most occasions，because as soon as some playing cards were shown，he could guess what the others held in their hands．While playing，there were always some onlookers standing behind his back watching whether or not he cheated．Therefore，when people invited him to play，they would joke，"I'd like to give you some money！" He was not only good at chanting scriptures and performing rites (in fact，few monks of the smaller temples were able to do this as well as he)，but he had also mastered the unusual art of tossing the cymbals．For instance，every summer a large-scale service was performed in the open air．The conventional instruments were not used，only a number of large cymbals clashing rapidly．Wearing embroidered outer garments，many monks would toss the cymbals (some of which weighed more than five kilograms) into the air，making them spin while flying skywards，then catching them before they touched the ground．Some would catch them with a variety of gestures known as "the rhinoceros looks up at the moon" or "the man bears a sword at his back"．
This was a display of dexterity，and it was said that Buddha Ksitigarbha was fond of watching it．Actually the most pleased were the women and kids．Therefore，such a service was a good opportunity for the young and handsome monks to show themselves off．Just as after the performance of a well-known theatrical troupe，after a large service ended，some young girls or even married women would disappear — having eloped with the monks．
In addition，Rendu was adept in performing a "flowery" service．It often happened that，in order to satisfy the curiosity of their relatives，some families would ask the monks to perform this kind of Buddhist service if the occasion was not a very sorrowful one，such as celebrating the birth anniversary of a dead relative．This meant that after the formal service had finished，the monks continued to sing ballads，play fiddles，blow flutes and beat drums．The listeners asked the monks to sing their favourite songs．On such occasions，Rendu could sing alone for a whole night in high spirits．Before，he had always gone out，but for the past two years he had stuck more to the temple．He was rumoured to have had many mistresses．Outwardly he behaved well，always wearing a decorous expression when he encountered young girls or married women，not joking or singing．One day，resting in cool shade on the threshing ground，he was gathered around，and was insisted on a performance．Not to spoil their mood，he said，"OK，I'll sing one for you．It isn't the local one，which you know quite well，but one from Anhui．"
Sister thresh barley with a youngster，
Whispering intimate affairs whilst beat．
Though the conversation is private，
It goes on in the next thresh of wheat．
When it was over，the fellows were not thoroughly amused．Then he continued．
In this temple there were no taboos，and no one mentioned anything about them．Renshan smoked a water-pipe，which he took with him when going to perform Buddhist services．
The monks loved gambling．The square table in the main hall，which was used for meals，was just right for this，and would be moved to the entrance of the hall．As soon as it was in place，Renshan would take out the chips from his room and throw them on the table．They played cards more often than mahjong．The participants，apart from the three older monks，were a duck-feather collector and a hare hunter，who was also a hen thief．Nevertheless they were all decent souls．The former went from village to village with a shoulder pole and bamboo baskets crying intermittently in a hoarse voice，"Any duck feathers for sale？"
The latter had a secret instrument，a dragonfly made of copper．At the sight of a hen，he would launch the dragonfly．When the hen came over and pecked at it，its spring would unwind and choke the hen rendering it incapable of cackling for help．Then the thief would promptly rush forward and catch it．
Minghai had once asked him to let him have a look at his copper dragonfly，which he took to Xiaoyingzi's home，trying it out in front of the door．In a trice，Xiaoyingzi's mother ran out，complaining，"Are you crazy？How can you bring such a foolish thing here to play with？"
Immediately Xiaoyingzi ran up to him and urged，"Give it to me！Give it to me！"
She tried it out on a black hen．It really did work！The hen was choked and it stood motionless with shock．
When the sky was overcast or rainy，these two would come to the Biqi Nunnery to while away their leisure hours there．If there were no partners，the three monks dragged the old monk to gamble with them，at the end of which Renshan used to swear angrily，"Mother！I've lost again！I won't play next time！"
They never ate meat secretly，instead slaughtered pigs at the end of every year in the main hall．They did it just like ordinary households with boiled water，a wooden basin and sharp knife．While the pig was being secured，it cried lustily．The difference was that they held a ceremony for it with the old monk chanting in a serious manner the sutra of reincarnation for the pig，which was about to go to Heaven．
The moment when Rendu thrust a sharp knife into the bound pig，a spurt of red blood would gush out．
Mingzi frequently went to Xiaoyingzi's home，which was surrounded on three sides by water，except on the western side，where there was a small path to Biqi Nunnery．They were the only inhabitants in this spot．Around the isolated courtyard were planted six large mulberry trees，which blossomed and bore mulberries every summer； three bore white berries，the other three purple ones．Near the house was a vegetable garden growing melons，beans and other vegetables all year round．The lower part of the courtyard's wall was built with bricks while the upper part was of compacted earth．The main door was painted with tung oil，on which was pasted a couplet for the Spring Festival．Inside was a large courtyard．On one side were a cowshed and a rice-husking shed and on the other a pigsty，a chicken coop and an enclosure for ducks．A stone mill stood in the open air．The house was to the north，its walls also made of bricks lower down and compacted earth higher up．The roof was covered with tiles and straw．Obviously，the building had been recently repaired for the timbers were still white．In the centre of the house was a main hall where the gold paint on the portrait of the House God had not yet turned black．On both sides of the hall were bedrooms，which had windows fitted with square transparent glass，rarely used in the countryside．Under the eaves of the house was a pomegranate tree on one side and a cape jasmine on the other，both of which had grown as high as the eaves．Every summer，when red and white flowers blossomed on these trees，they were very beautiful．The fragrance of the cape jasmine flowers was strong and could be detected even in Biqi Nunnery if the wind blew in that direction．
The family was small：Uncle Zhao，Aunt Zhao and their two daughters— Dayingzi and Xiaoyingzi．They had no sons．In recent years，since there had been no disease，locusts，drought or floods，life had been very prosperous．Their produce was enough to supply them with all sorts of foodstuffs．They also rented ten mu of land from the temple．In one mu of their own fields，they had planted water chestnuts．This was probably Xiaoyingzi's idea，because she was very fond of them．Another mu was planted with arrowheads．In addition，they had many chickens and ducks．The income from the eggs and duck feathers alone bought a year's supply of salt and cooking oil．
Uncle Zhao was a jack of all trades，not only skilled in farm work，but also in repairing boats，building walls，baking bricks，cooping tubs，splitting bamboo and weaving jute rope．As strong as an elm tree，he never coughed or suffered from a backache．He was kind to everybody and remained silent all day long．Aunt Zhao also enjoyed good health．Although fifty years old，she still had keen eyesight．She was always neatly dressed with her hair combed．She too busied herself from early morning till late night，cooking food for the pigs，feeding the hens and ducks，salting vegetables(the dried radishes she salted tasted delicious)，milling beancurd，weaving reed baskets and so on．In short，they were a good match，both being very industrious．
Aunt Zhao often cut paper flower-designs for the villagers．It was a tradition that，when a wedding ceremony was held，the parents would stick red paper flower-designs on their daughter's dowry．In order to bring good luck and to make the dowry appear more magnificent，the paper-cuts were usually made with charming characters or designs，such as "a phoenix flies toward the sun"，"live to a ripe old age in conjugal bliss"，"may your descendants flourish for ten thousand generations" or "boundless happiness and longevity"．Aunt Zhao's paper-cuts were very popular．Even villagers from far away invited her to make them for them．
"Aunt Zhao，we've fixed our wedding ceremony for the sixteenth of this month．When will you come to help us？"
"I'll come early in the morning the day before．"
"You must come on time！"
The two daughters resembled their mother very much，especially in their eyes，with the black and white sharply contrasted．They looked like clear water when still and shooting stars when moving．The two sisters were always immaculately dressed．According to local custom，at fifteen or sixteen years of age，every girl should comb her hair into a bun．How smoothly they styled theirs，with the red wool，black hair and white hairpins！Whenever Aunt Zhao took her two daughters to a fair，everyone turned to look at them．
Though the two sisters looked alike，their personalities were entirely different．The elder sister was very gentle and quiet．Like her father，she rarely spoke．In contrast，the younger one had a glibber tongue than even her mother．She talked eloquently for long periods until her elder sister complained，"You just twitter from morning till night．．．"
"Like a magpie！"
"You admit it yourself！It really upsets me！"
"Are you feeling restless？"
"There are other reasons besides me！"
There was a deep meaning in her words．Dayingzi already had a fiance，at whom she had once stolen a glance．He was an honest，good-looking young man，whose family was well-off．She was quite satisfied with the match，which had been arranged by the parents of both sides．The wedding date，however，was still undecided．Dayingzi had seldom gone out in the past two years，always busying herself preparing her dowry．She could both cut and sew dresses by herself，but her embroidered floral patterns were still inferior to her mother's．Having seen a bride in the town some days ago，she complained that the way her mother made her designs was too old-fashioned．The townspeople had adopted new ways，and their embroidery was just like real flowers and plants．This put her mother on the spot．Coming to her rescue，the "magpie" shouted，"I can recommend someone to you．"
It was Mingzi．When he had studied at school，he had accumulated half a volume of drawings，which he liked very much．After joining Biqi Nunnery，he continued to look at it frequently，and at times，copied them on the reverse side of pages torn from an account book．By and by he could draw well．Xiaoyingzi added，"He can draw．And what he draws is just like the real thing！"
Then，Xiaoyingzi invited Mingzi to her home and prepared some ink，brush and paper．After a little while，he had produced some designs．
"Wonderful！Wonderful！" Looking at his drawings，Dayingzi exclaimed in delight．"With such designs I can use the new styles．"
The second layer of stitches were put among those of the first ones，so that the colour was varied gradually from dark to light without any break．The method her mother employed failed to eliminate the clear contrast between dark and light．
Being both a servant and adviser of Mingzi，Xiaoyingzi urged him，"Draw a pomegranate flower！Draw a cape jasmine flower！"
She then went out to pick these blossoms from the trees and handed them to him to copy．After much practice Mingzi could draw a variety of flowers．Looking at these，Aunt Zhao was very pleased and patted his head saying，"What a clever boy you are！I hope you will be my adopted son．"
All at once，Xiaoyingzi encouraged him by squeezing his shoulder，"Go on，call her 'Mother'！Quick！Quick！"
Mingzi fell to his knees and kowtowed to Aunt Zhao．From then on，he regarded her as his adopted mother．
Before long，three pairs of embroidered shoes made by Dayingzi were passed round the whole district．Many young girls came to admire them，even from as far as thirty li away，some on foot and others by boat，all praising her profusely，"Oh，what a beautiful design！They're not embroidered flowers，they're fresh ones！"
Bringing paper with them，many begged Aunt Zhao to do them a favour，namely，to ask the young novice to draw some flower designs for them．Some wanted them for door curtains，decorative streamers or embroidered shoes．Whenever Mingzi came to draw flowers，Xiaoyingzi made a snack for him— boiling two eggs，steaming a bowl of taros or frying some dumplings with lotus-root starch．
So her elder sister could have more time to prepare her dowry，Xiaoyingzi did all the extra farm work．Of course，Mingzi gave her a hand．
The busiest work was transplanting seedlings，irrigating the paddy-fields with a waterwheel and weeding the fields．Other hard jobs were harvesting the rice and threshing the grain on the threshing ground．It was impossible for a single family to accomplish all this unaided，so they all helped each other by working collectively in each other's fields in turn．The helpers got no pay，but were rewarded with six meals a day of meat and wine．Working together in the fields，they sang ballads accompanied by the beating of gongs and drums．It was very lively．
At other times of the year，when the farm work was not so heavy，each family worked separately．
At the third weeding，the rice seedlings had already grown high．Working in this vast expanse of green，Xiaoyingzi sang：
The cape jasmine flowers blossom in six petals，
There is a bridge before my door．
On hearing her clear voice，Mingzi knew at once it was Xiaoyingzi，and raced to the spot．He bent his head and began to weed as soon as he was with her．Usually，it was also his job to lead the buffalo to the water for a mud bath．According to local custom，after taking off the yoke and allowing the beast to take a drink of water，the animal was led to a muddy pool where it would frolic until covered with mud to protect it from mosquito bites．
Two people working a waterwheel for half a day could secure enough water for irrigation．Mingzi and Xiaoyingzi stood side by side treading the wheel rhythmically，singing softly the various ballads learned from Rendu．
The Zhao family had no threshing ground of their own，so after the harvest，they threshed their wheat at Biqi Nunnery．When Uncle Zhao ate his meal，Mingzi worked in his place for a while．Flourishing the whip to urge on the animal，he called out the work signal，"Ge tan de．．．"
Though this did not mean anything，it was very pleasant to hear．When Mingzi sang it，Aunt Zhao listened and said in admiration，"What a sweet voice the boy has！"
"So pleasant to hear！" Dayingzi chimed in，putting down her knitting．
"He's the best singer in the thirteen provinces，" Xiaoyingzi remarked proudly．
As the wheat the temple collected from its tenants was also dried on the same ground，Mingzi often guarded the threshing ground with Xiaoyingzi．Sitting close to each other on a stone roller，they listened to frogs croaking and grasshoppers making the sound "sha．．．" or they looked at the fireflies flitting before them and the shooting stars in the sky．
"Ah，I've forgotten to tie a knot in my belt！" cried out Xiaoyingzi suddenly．
The local people believed that if one tied a knot in one's belt while watching a shooting star one's wish would come true．
Gathering water chestnuts was Xiaoyingzi's favourite occupation．When autumn was over，the leaves of the water chestnuts had withered．Then the nuts could be pulled out．This was why she liked this work．Besides，water chestnuts grew in the mud，so to find them she had to go barefooted．When she trod on a hard knob she would reach into the mud and pull out a purplish-red water chestnut．She liked doing this and made Mingzi help her，and often trod with her bare foot on his purposely．
After finishing their work，Xiaoyingzi returned home with a basket full of water chestnuts，leaving her footprints on the soft mud ridges．These fascinating footprints，with five tiny toes，a flat sole and a slender heel，evoked in Mingzi an unprecedented feeling of pleasure，disturbing him．
Mingzi often went to town in the Zhaos' boat to buy incense，candles，oil and salt for the temple．In the slack season Uncle Zhao rowed the boat，while in the busy one，Xiaoyingzi went in the boat rowed by Mingzi．
The waterway passed through the middle of a stretch of reedy marshes．There were no inhabitants on either side，which made Mingzi a little nervous．Not knowing why，he would row as fast as he could．
"Mingzi！Mingzi！" Xiaoyingzi shouted to him．"What's the matter with you？Have you gone mad？Why do you row so fast？"
The day when Mingzi was to leave for Shanyin Temple to undergo the initiation rites finally came．
"Do you really want to become a monk？"
"They'll burn twelve holes in the top of your head with incense sticks．Won't that be very painful？"
"If so，I'll clench my teeth．My uncle said it was the worst hardship a monk must face．"
"Isn't it possible not to have them？"
"Without those scars a man is only a half monk．"
"But what's the use of being a real monk？"
"Then you can go anywhere and put your Buddhist robes in any temple．"
"What do you mean？"
"You can sleep and eat there．"
"Free of charge？"
"Of course！And monks coming from other districts are given the first chance to perform the Buddhist services．"
"So that's why it's said，'Monks coming from other districts can chant the Buddhist sutras better．'Is it all because of the scars on your head？"
"No．You must also have a certificate．"
"Oh，I see！You get a certificate to show you're a real monk．"
"Then，I'll take you there by boat．"
Early the next morning，Xiaoyingzi rowed her boat to the bank in front of Biqi Nunnery．Not knowing why，she felt very excited．Filled with curiosity，she wanted to have a look at the large，well-known Shanyin Temple and watch the ceremony．
Shanyin Temple was the largest one in the whole county．Located on the outside of the county town's eastern gate，it faced a deep moat and was surrounded by tall trees on three sides．As the temple was hidden among the trees，only its magnificent roof was visible from afar．People，therefore，did not know how large it really was．Planks hung on the trees warned："Beware of fierce dogs．" Normally few people dared venture there，but during an initiation ceremony，the dogs were locked up and visitors were allowed to enter the temple freely．
It was indeed a very large temple！Its threshold was higher than Xiaoyingzi's knees．On either side of the entrance were two large posters．On one was written，"Initiation ceremony in progress"，and on the other，"Silence！" The atmosphere inside was solemn．No one dared even cough loudly．Minghai went to enroll and complete the formalities．Xiaoyingzi strolled alone around the temple．Good heavens！The four vajras were more than thirty feet tall．Obviously，they had been recently cleaned．The courtyard was at least two mu in area，paved with blue stone slabs and planted with pines and cypresses．The Mahavira Hall was enormous．The moment you stepped into it，you felt a sudden chill all over your body．Everything glistened with a dazzling golden colour．The Buddha Sakyamuni sat on a lotus-stand，which was higher than Xiaoyingzi．Looking up at its face，she could only see the slightly closed lips and fat，round chin．The circumference of the red candles on both sides was so large that you could not put your arms round them．Among the offerings on the altar before the statue，apart from fresh flowers，velvet flowers and silk flowers，were also a corallite，a jade ruyi An S-shaped ornamental object，a symbol of good luck． and a large elephant tusk．Some joss-sticks burned in the incense burner．The fragrance was so strong that，after leaving the hall，Xiaoyingzi could still smell it and even her clothes had absorbed the scent．Heavy embroidered streamers were hung everywhere and she could not guess what they were made of．The inverted bell was so large，it could hold at least ten buckets of water．And the "wooden fish"，A percussion instrument made of a hollow wooden block，used by Buddhist priests to beat a rhythm when chanting scriptures． as big as a cow's head，was painted red．After leaving there she went to look at the hall of the Arhats and then climbed up the Pavilion of a Thousand Buddhas．There were indeed a thousand small Buddhas！Following the other visitors，she saw the Tripitaka Pavilion．Volume after volume of Buddhist sutras was not a particularly interesting sight．Oh dear！Her legs already ached！Suddenly，it occurred to her that she had to buy cooking oil，silk yarn for her elder sister，cloth to make shoes for her mother，two silver butterflies to decorate the ribbons of her own skirt and tobacco for her father，so she left the temple．
It was almost noon before she had finished shopping and returned to the temple．The monks were eating in the dining hall．How large it was！It could seat nearly eight hundred of them！This temple emphasized discipline even during meal times．On the Buddha's seat were placed two tin vases in which were inserted red velvet flowers．Behind the seat sat an old monk wearing a red garment embroidered with golden yarn and holding a ruler in his hand．If any monk happened to make a slight noise while eating，the old monk was ready to rap him with his ruler．But，in fact，he never had to do this．Though so many monks ate together，none made any noise．How strange that was！Seeing Mingzi also sitting among them，Xiaoyingzi wanted to call to him but hesitated，wondering whether or not it was prohibited．At last she plucked up her courage and shouted to him，"I'm going now！" With his eyes fixed on the table，Mingzi nodded slightly．Xiaoyingzi left in a conspicuous manner，not caring that so many monks stared at her．
Three days later in the early morning Xiaoyingzi went to see Mingzi again．She knew that he had become a real monk the night before at midnight．In order to prevent this from being seen by outsiders，it was usually done at midnight．She knew that his hair had been cut by an old barber and his crown shaved as smooth as a ball，otherwise the burning would leave a big scar instead of just a dot．Then the old monk smeared twelve dots of date paste on his crown and lit them with joss-sticks．Immediately after that，Mingzi had to drink a bowl of mushroom soup to inflame the scars on his head and walk around instead of lying down．Mingzi had told her about that．
Xiaoyingzi saw that the new monks were really walking around the waste ground near the city wall，all wearing greyish-blue Buddhist robes．Each had twelve black spots on their bald heads．These would become tiny round scars only after the scabs had fallen off．Judging by the smiles on their faces，they seemed very happy．At the first glance，she easily spotted Mingzi among them．She shouted to him from across the moat，"Hi，Mingzi！"
"Have you been initiated？"
"Did it hurt much？"
"Does it still hurt？"
"When will you come back？"
"The day after tomorrow．"
"Morning or afternoon？"
"I'll come to fetch you！"
Xiaoyingzi met him with the boat and helped him get in．
It had grown hotter．Xiaoyingzi had put on a white linen blouse，a pair of black silk trousers and straw sandals．On one side of her hair she wore a cape jasmine blossom，on the other a pomegranate flower．Seeing that Mingzi wore a new grey Buddhist robe with the white collar of his shirt exposed，she urged him，"Take off your robe right now！Aren't you hot？"
Each of them took an oar．Xiaoyingzi began to row in the middle of the boat，Mingzi at the stern．
On their way，she questioned him as if they had been separated for a whole year．She asked him whether any monk had wept or cried out during the burning．He replied that no one had said anything，except a monk from Shandong who cursed，"You bastards！I won't be burned any more！"
She asked if there was anything special about the face and voice of the abbot．
"They say his bedroom is more beautiful than a young girl's．Is it true？"
"Yes，it's true．Everything is embroidered with flowers．"
"Is it perfumed？"
"Yes，he burns a rare incense．It's very expensive．"
"They say he composes poetry，paints and is good at calligraphy．Is that so？"
"Yes．Those big characters engraved on the bricks on both sides of the corridor were written by him．"
"It is true he had a concubine？"
"Is she only nineteen？"
"I heard so．"
"Is she pretty？"
"They say she is．"
"Did you see her？"
"No，how could I？I was kept in a room all day long．"
Mingzi informed her that he had been told by an old monk that Shanyin Temple intended to choose him as a tail-Samir，but this had not been finally decided because the monk responsible had not returned．
"What does tail-Samir mean？"
"Whenever a Buddhist service is held，they have to choose two monks to be the head-Samir and the other the tail-Samir．The former is more experienced and able to chant a great deal of the Buddhist scriptures； the latter must be young，clever and handsome．"
"What's the difference between an ordinary monk and the tail-Samir？"
"Both the tail-Samir and the head-Samir have the possibility of becoming an abbot in future．When the present abbot retires，either of them can take his place．The present abbot was a tail-Samir before．"
"Will you be a tail-Samir？"
"I don't know yet．"
"Will you be in charge of Shanyin Temple as soon as you've become an abbot？Oh，what a large temple you'll run！"
"It's too early to talk like that．"
After rowing for a while，she said to Mingzi in earnest，"You mustn't be an abbot！"
"All right，I won't．"
"And you mustn't be a tail-Samir either．"
After they had rowed a little further the reed marshes appeared before them．
Xiaoyingzi suddenly put down her oar and went to the stern，whispering in his ear，"I'll be your wife．Do you agree？"
Miangzi stared at her in astonishment．
"Um ．．．" he replied．
"What does that mean？Do you want me？Do you？"
"Yes，I want you！" he shouted．
"What are you shouting for？"
"I want you！" he said again in a low voice．
Xiaoyingzi hopped back to her seat．Both rowed as fast as they could； the boat sped into the reeds．
The reeds had greyish-purple tassels，soft and smooth like rings of shining silk thread．In some places，they had grown spikes like small red candles．On the water surface，there were duckweeds，blue and purple in colour and long-legged mosquitoes and water spiders．The little white flowers of the wild water chestnuts had already blossomed．Then a lapwing，startled，flapped its wings and flew away across the reeds to a safe distance．
Translated by Hu Zhihui