The early morning at Duan Wang Fu1was not different from any other day. In the kitchen, the servants moved to and fro without any hint of hurry. Ma pozi,2 after delivering the required pastries to the neiyuan,3 came back to the kitchen with a group of yahuan4 but her face wasn’t looking very well.
“Hey, old sister, what’s wrong? Why does your face looks terrible?” Another pozi, wearing a dark buttoned jia’ao5, handed a cup of tea over to the other woman and exclaimed in shock: “Didn’t you just go to the zhengyuan6 to deliver the cheese, how come … …”
“Don’t even mention it. Wang fei7 just woke up this morning. Rough labor servants like us couldn’t even enter the yard. We only saw one of wang fei’s attendants, Yin Liu guniang,8” When she spoke to that point, Ma pozi took a long swallow of tea, looked around at the surroundings and lowered her voice to whipser, “I saw that the expressions of the people of zhengyuan weren’t right, so I hurried back.”
Hearing this, the pozi who wore the lined jacket sighed. With an attitude composed half being a spectator and half pitying, she said: “They hadn’t even finished taking down the red canopies9 hanging in the fu yet.”
Wang fei had just married into the fu for less than two months. After the wedding night, wang ye10 hadn’t stepped a foot into the zhengyuan. In the last few days of sickness, wang ye had only sat for a period before leaving. No wonder the people of zhengyuan weren’t looking very well. She once had the luck to see wang fei. She had been dignified and her appearance had also been beautiful. She didn’t know which of those aspects wang ye didn’t like.
“Don’t say nonsense, I just saw one of Feng ce fei’s11yahuan come over.” Both of them knew the words that Ma pozi didn’t say. They stopped talking and went back to their duties.
In the zhengyuan, a host of yahuan carefully waited upon the wang fei in her morning ablutions. A piece of first-rate silk brushed over fingertips that were as thin as green onions before being set to the side.
There wasn’t a hint of anger on the face of Qu Qing Ju, unlike the past few days as her black silk flowing freely. She lazily took off her wrist a green jade bracelet before casually throwing it into a carved mahagony box: “This color is too old-fashioned.”
Upon hearing this, Jin Zhan paused slightly before waving her hand at the female attendants behind her. Several other boxes were brought before Qu Qing Ju. Inside, there were pairs of different bracelets. Gold-wrought, pearl-encrusted, jade, of all colors and none of them were ordinary.
Her gaze swept across the rows of bracelets. In the end, her final choice was an exquisitely carved blood-red jade bracelet that, when contrasted against the pale wrist, was unspeakably beautiful.
Seeing the situation, Jin Zhan’s expression slightly changed . In the past, wang fei had resented the phoenix-blood jade bangle12 as being too garish and never worn it. Today, she had picked this jade at first glance. Thinking about the days since marrying into the wang fu, she felt bitterness in her heart. Before marriage, wang fei’s personality had been warm and gentle. This would have been a virtue, but in a marriage into the Imperial family, that personality was a handicap.
Noticing Jin Zhan’s expression, Qu Qing Ju smiled faintly. She stood and spread her arms to let the maids dress her in her handpicked wide-sleeved silk dress.13 It was made from the highest quality of white brocade embroidered with Shu-style14 red plum blossoms. When the cloth swayed, it was as though there were real plum blossoms swaying in the wind.
At the waist, there were a spice bag embroidered with a two blossoming lotus flowers on a single stem and a jade-beaded laozi.15 The long soft hair was coiled up into a fei xian ji.16 A vibrant red peach blossom was drawn on the brow. Eyebrows like willow leaves. Lips as red as cherries. Just a glimpse was enough to be unspeakably bewitching.
A few steps away from Jin Zhan was Mu Jin who, upon hearing this, forced a smile and said: “Wang fei, since you were ill the last few days, wang ye told the houyuan20 so the qieshi21 wouldn’t disturb your rest. “
“Oh,” Gently caressing the red-stranded jade earrings on her earlobes, Qu Qing Ju leisurely sat down and adjusted into a somewhat comfier position. She accepted the warm water that Yin Liu handed over to rinse her throat. Ptting the lid back on the cup before wiping the corner of her mouth, she said: “Since that is the case, send somebody to each yard to deliver the news that ben wang fei22 has just recovered and has terribly missed all the ce fei and the shiqie.23”
The four da yahuan,24upon hearing this, exchanged glances between themselves. Even if they didn’t know the reason why wang fei’s personality upon waking had changed so much, they still obeyed and left.
Coming out of the main building, a slightly worried Jin Zhan said: “Wang fei doesn’t seem normal today since waking up, I don’t know why.”
“In this wang fu, everybody shows wang fei respect on the surface but in their private time, they all go currying favour with that ce fei in Xi Yuan.25Wang fei has been married for two months. Other than the first three days where wang ye stayed in zhengyuan, he’s spend all his time with other concubines. It’s humiliating for our wang fei.” Yin Liu said with creased brows and a quiet voice, “That Feng ce fei has such an attitude. She really thinks that she’s worth something. She’s just a qie26.”
Yu Zan, hearing what Yin Liu was saying, looked around surreptitiously and after not finding anyone in the surroundings, came closer and said: “Don’t say too much. Even if wang ye favors27 Feng ce fei, he still gives wang fei the respect she’s accorded. Don’t make trouble for wang fei.”
“This is called respect,” Yin Liu snorted. Thinking about her mistress’ warm and soft personality, she sighed in helplessness, “Whatever, Jin Zhan and I will go over to Feng and Jiang ce fei. The second-rank yahuans can go to the other shiqie.”
Mu Jin, who hadn’t spoken, nodded: “That’s very good. Bai Luo and Pu Er are enough to invite Luo shi28 and Han shi.”
Among the yahuan in wang fei’s entourage, the first-ranked were named using flowers, the second using tea, the third and the heavy-labor yahuan had no guidelines. Mu Jin and the other three had followed wang fei from Chang De Gong Fu29 so they naturally followed wang fei. But the wang fu was much more complicated. Before marriage, wang fei had been neglected by her stepmother and hadn’t learned how to manage a household. Consequently, it didn’t even take two months after entering this place that she had gotten ill.
Mu Jin had always been worried for wang fei but seeing that wang fei today had the desire to establish herself in the wang fu, she took a sigh of relief. She didn’t worry that wang fei would fight, she would only worry if wang fei still had the personality of mud.
Seeing that all the yahuan had retreated out, Qu Qing Ju stood and walked in front of a very large copper mirror. The craftsmanship was excellent. Even if it wasn’t as clear as the silvered-glass mirrors from before, it was still enough to distinguish a person’s appearance.
The girl in the mirror was only about sixteen or seventeen. Her appearance was very beautiful. If she had lived in the era she did before, she would have been just a beautiful and proud high school student. Combing through the memories in her head, Qu Qing Ju sighed. Her father didn’t care, her stepmother wasn’t compassionate, her husband didn’t have love and there was a crowd of troublesome qie. The original had had a soft personality. In this complicated wang fu, she had mysteriously gotten seriously ill and mysteriously became occupied by her, this woman who didn’t know what warmth was. It could be said that she had gotten no justice even in her death.
“Wang fei, the kitchen has delivered breakfast.” From the outside came a slightly thin male voice. It was probably one of the taijian30 that had been assigned according to the Imperial protocols. In Qu Qing Ju’s memory, the original were not very close to these taijian, but was full of courtesy as they were appointed before wang ye had been titled and during the time he had been in charge of the Department of Household Affairs, dianzhongsheng.31
“Start service.” Playing with the strands dangling from the gold buyao, Qu Qing Ju turned to exit. Rui Xiang and Shu Kui, who had been waiting in the neighboring room, quickly opened the curtains, one person holding them aside while another came over to support her to welcome Qu Qing Ju out.
Both Rui Xiang and Shu Kui were originally from the wang fu. They understood that even though wang fei treated them with courtesy, but compared to Yin Liu, Mu Jin, Jin Zhan and Yu Zan, there was a difference in the amount of trust. The events that happened in the previous days would have magnified the difference. It was their luck that wang fei was weak, if she was just a bit stronger, they would have been thrown out. Who else would let them stay as first-rank yahuan?
Sitting down at a round pear-wood table carved with safflower, Qu Qing Ju’s eyes swept across the table. A goblet of wine-stewed pork shoulder, a bowl of swallow’s next porridge with strands of black chicken accompanied by a multitude of similar fatty sides. The only dish that looked light was a small dish of sautéed lettuce stems.
Waving away Shu Kui who had moved forward to serve her, Qu Qing Ju looked at the people bowing at the entrance with a smile on her face: “You are the ones that deliver food from the kitchen?”
“Wang fei, nucai32 holds duties in the kitchen.” Those people didn’t why wang fei would ask such a question but they replied without any fear on their faces.
“Such a good wang fu’s kitchen,” Qu Qing Ju nonchalantly leaned back on her seat. Under the confused gazes of the others, her face darkened and then her hand swept the goblet of wine-stewed pig shoulder to the floor. Very quickly, the room became saturated with the smell of meat, “Take them away and beat them.”
Nobody managed to respond. They didn’t know why wang fei, who had a personality as soft as mud, would suddenly act up and so nobody moved for a time.
“What is it? This I, a wang fei, cannot command you now?” Qui Qing Ju’s large eyes narrowed. She stood and looked at the people in the room, “Or is it that you all feel that it is natural and proper for the kitchen to slight me?”
After being swept over by wang fei’s gaze, everybody shook and managed to respond. A few of the taijian and the stronger mamas33 rushed to the forefront and acted as they were going to drag the kitchen servants away.
The servants that were dragged away didn’t dare struggle and only begged for mercy. One servant even yelled slander, proclaiming that what they had served wang fei was the best food from the kitchen.
Flashing a look at the servant shouting slander, Qu Qing Ju’s brow rose and she said quietyly: “What are you standing around for? Drag them down, administer the punishment here. I want to see you carry it out.”
Upon hearing this, a quick-witted taijian took out a handkerchief and stuffed it in that servant’s mouth. He immediately started to drag the person towards the yard, the strength in his not-so-considerable body wasn’t small.
Seeing the situation, the others followed and dragged the others down. A few clever servants set up a table and chair before spreading out refreshments while waiting for wang fei to come see the punishment.
“What is that taijan called? I see that he has some strength,” Qu Qing Ju asked Shu Kui who was supporting her as she stepped out.
“Answering wang fei, that little taijian is called Xiao Gao Zi,34 he sweeps the yard.” Shu Kui’s voice held reverence that she wasn’t even aware of and even her movements were more subservient than in the past.
“It doesn’t look like he is very tall. Why don’t we change his name to Huang Yang, to be an interior taijian.” Qu Qing Ju smiled gently. When she walked out into the yard, the servants were already tied to the long benches and were under the long planks.
Sitting down on the prepared chair, Qu Qing Ju mentally counted to twenty. Then she slowly and calmly said: “Other than the one that talked back, stop on the other three.”
Looking at the three who endured their pain as they knelt and thanked her, Qu Qing Ju raised her cup and took a sip, “A lot of people here are likely very confused as to why I punished you.”
The heavy sound of flesh under blunt force rang in the ears of the three kneeling. They didn’t dare wipe the sweat on their foreheads as they kowtowed and said they didn’t dare.
“I’m a reasonable person, but it is just that you, as part of the kitchen, has become intolerable. I cannot do anything other than punish you.” Setting down the cup in her hand, Qu Qing Ju’s voice seemed slightly helpless.
Even if wang fei didn’t hold the favor of wang ye, she was still the wang fei that the Emperor had personally decreed marriage on. Did a kitchen dare act intolerably to her? Even though everyone present felt something wrong, nobody dared argue. Didn’t they see the person who had just been yelling slander was still getting a beating?
“Who in this wang fu doesn’t know that I’m ill, the taiyi35 had previously ordered what I shouldn’t be eating. But look at what you have served every day?” Qu Qing Ju gave a small sigh, her face full of sadness, almost as though she was a bullied stalk of little cabbage.36 “I know you are cannot be bothered to treat an ill wang fei. I felt the same too, death was an end. But since I’ve recovered, I want to have a good life. You purposefully deliver oily foods, is it in hopes that I would get ill and die earlier?” After finishing, she sighed in woe. If it wasn’t that somebody was still enduring a beating, her look would have made others feel pity.
The three servants started to kowtowing again, wanting to explain but didn’t dare to. They were afraid wang fei would say “disobedience against their zhuzi” and continue their beating.
Seeing that the kowtowing had gone on long enough, Qu Qing Ju waved her hand weakly as though she had been severely wounded emotionally, “That’s fine, you can stop now and all leave.” Finishing, she turned to Rui Xiang who was right behind her, “Give some ointment to them. These people must be essential in this fu, we can’t let them not attend to their vital duties.”
The four kneeling felt despair rise. Since wang fei said they were important and held vital duties, then tomorrow, even if they had to crawl, they had to be doing their jobs, unless they wanted to be thrown out of the fu. But they were servants that had signed a death contract, what good outcome would await them if they were thrown out?
Finished ordering everything, Qu Qing Ju slowly stood and turned to look at the ce fei and shiqie that had arrived at some unknown time. Her face made a surprised expression, “When did you all arrive? Since you are here now, then come in.”
Done speaking, she didn’t care to what their faces showed, she took Shu Kui’s hand and walked into her rooms.
There’s many kinds of clothing and ornaments and someone told me that pictures would really help since many people don’t know what they look like.
Not all the chapters will have supplements. I might combine groups of chapters and then post pictures. See pretty pictures under the cut :D
夹袄: jia’ao, lined jacket. The decoration would depend on the social class and wealth. The ones shown are button straight up the front. Others have a curved line of buttons from the next to under the arm.
鸡血玉镯: phoenix/chicken blood bangle. It can be purely red or partially red. The most famous in C-novels may be the bangle in Bu Bu Jing Xing (screenshot below).
罗裙: silk dress. Many different styles. The ones most frequently mentioned are the wide-sleeved luoqun.
花开并蒂: two flowers blooming on a single stalk. Lotus flowers are the kind usually described this way.
络子 (laozi) : ornament of various shapes made by knotting or other techniques. Weaving with beads in the second image.
飞仙髻 (feixianji): literally flying goddess topknot