Halloween Special: Xue Tao’s Ghost.
It would have been better to write about this during the Hungry Ghost Festival, but it’s looong over so I decided to feature it during Halloween! (Okay okay, I’m using Halloween as an excuse to write about this ‘cause hello? It’s a freakin’ ghost story about one of my favourite female poets. Come on.)
This story is set in the Ming Dynasty, durin’ the reign of Emperor Hong. Within this kingdom there was a city called Guangzhoufu, and in this city there was a man called Tian Bailu, and he had a son called Ming Yi, who was like, a real accomplished scholar and shiz.
So when Ming Yi was 18, his father became an Inspector of Public Instruction at the city of Qingdu. This dude Zhang also lived there and wanted to find a teacher fo’ his kids. So he interviewed Ming Yi and was like, “Eh, this dude’s pretty smart, so why not?” Ming Yi went to live with his new boss, and that was that.
Time passed and soon it was Spring. Back then, there was this Spring Festicvl called “Huazhao,” which means (Festival of a Hundred Flowers) and Ming Yi, like the filial person he was, said, “Um, I kinda wanna visit my parents.” So Zhang was all, “K, sure.” Ming Yi’s boss was pretty generous and gave him two ounces of silver to give to his parents, ‘cause it was as tradition to give your ‘rents presents durin’ this festival.
Ming Yi was all set to go and shiz, and he really enjoyed the journey. I mean, it was spring, so all the flowers were in bloom and the air was real fresh. He stopped for a while to enjoy errything, yo, and he saw a beautiful lady behind the bushes and flowers and stuff. So he was all, “Whoa,” ‘cause she was real fine. He got up ‘cause he was so surprised, and he dropped his money. Then someone came up to him and said, “Hey, my mistress told me to pick up this and give it to you,” so Ming Yi said thanks to the servant and went along his way.
The next time he walked along the same path, his heart started beating real fast, ‘cause he remembered what happened the last time. He looked around all the beautiful plants, and he realized that there was this mansion type thing behind the bushes. He walked through and realized it was lavish and big, and there, at the entrance, there was the mistress and the servant talking to each other in whispers! So he waved hi even though he was real shy, and was very surprised when the servant waved back!
When he approached the house, the mistress went in, and the servant said, “I know you wanna thank my mistress and shiz, so why don’t you go in and tell her so?”
Ming Yi was all, “K.”
He went into the main room of the house and saw that she was soo beautiful and he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
She was all, “I am honoured to receive you ‘cause you’re the tutor of Zhang’s children. Lord Zhang is related to me so I think we’re kinda relatives.”
Ming Yi was so shocked ‘cause she knew who he was.
“Who are you?” he asked her.
“My family name is Xue, and I am the daughter of Xue of Wenxiao. I waas married to a young man in the Bing family, and his name was Kang. So we’re kind of relatives by marriage. Anyways, my husband died, and I have lived here ever since.”
Anyway, Ming Yi was this like, morally upright person and he didn’t wanna stay too long when he heard she was widowed. He quickly finished his tea and was all, “Well, whadaya know, it’s late. I gotta get back,” but Xue Tao was all, “Aww come on. Stay for supper,” and so he did.
But he was being totally awkward about the whole supper thing, and didn’t eat much. Xue noticed that he chose not to touch the food, and so made him drink the wine. As he drank, he got more and more tipsy, and he finally started enjoyin’ himself.
Xue was all like, “Hey, I heard about your talent, so Imma show you somethin’.” She asked her servant to bring out some papers and she handed it to Ming Yi. When Ming Yi saw them, his eyes popped out ‘cause they were the poems written by the great Tang poets, Yuan Zhen, Gao Bian and Du Fu. He was all, “OHMAGERD, Gao Bian, nowai!” And she was all, “Nowai, you like Gao Bian too? Let’s read some of his shit together!” which they did.
And of course, even though Ming Yi thought he had to go, Xue would say somethin’ real cool and fascinating about the Tang poets, and Ming Yi had to listen. Oh yeah, and he kissed her too.
The next day, when he woke up, Xue was all, “Hey, Imma give you a present. Come again soon.” She handed him a stone lion paperweight, and he left her house.
When Ming Yi came back to Zhang’s house, he lied to his boss and was all, “Well, my mum kinda said she wants me to stay with her at night and shiz, ‘cause the nights are getting colder,” and so Zhang believed him. Every night he spent it with Xue, and he was real happy. He spent the whole summer this way. They would write poems, play chess, sing and dance to music. Ming Yi would notice that Xue was a lot more eloquent than him, and would beat him every time they played chess, but he didn’t care. He was so glad he got to be with her.
This couldn’t go on forever, and Ming Yi’s dad discovered that he slept somewhere else every night, which was weird. So he went over to Zhang’s place, who was all, “What? I thought Ming Yi was at your place?” Zhang figured that Ming Yi had some BFF, and asked a servant to follow him.
The servant did just that, and followed Ming Yi down the road. All was goin’ well, till Ming Yi seemed to vanish in thin air! The servant reported back to Zhang and Zhang told himself he totally had to investigate.
That night, when Ming Yi went to visit his girlfriend, she was all, “Oh man, we’re like totally gonna be separated forever! You’re gonna have to leave me, be really rich and pass the Imperial Exams with flying colours, so it’s best to forget me. Let’s totally rock out and have fun for one more night, k?” Ming Yi was too shocked to say anything, and so they had fun for one more night. When he left her house for the final time, Xue gave him a brush case of agate.
Ming Yi returned to his employer’s house, and he saw both his father and his boss waiting fo’ him. He quickly knew that he had been found out, and he fessed up.
“You’re lying,” Zhang said. “I don’t have a relative called Bing or Kang or whatever.” But Ming Yi showed his employer and father the Tang poems and the presents she gave him and suddenly, they knew he wasn’t lying. They asked Ming Yi to lead them back to the place where he visited his gf, and when they got there, there was nothing! No mansion, no servant, but the forest and the trees.
Then, Zhang figured everything out. “Wait. She said she was Xue of Wen and Xiao, and when you put them together you get ‘Jiao,’ which is the name of the road where all the courtesans lived! Gao Bian was a minister and her lover! She was Xue Tao, a Tang Dynasty poet, and she’s dead!”
Ming Yi’s father was wayyyy shocked, and sent his son away. Years later, what Xue Tao said came true, and Ming Yi married someone else and had children, though he totally hushed up when they asked about the jade lion and the brush case of agate.
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