One In­got Short


Special Focus - - Contents - Zhang Ming 张鸣

In the Qing Dy­nasty, the Manchu called dumplings bobo, and they re­ferred to the cook­ing of dumplings “boil­ing bobo” rather than “boil­ing dumplings.” Dur­ing the Spring Festival, the first pot of “bobo” the im­pe­rial palace made was for the im­pe­rial tem­ple.

The Manchu be­lieved in Shaman­ism, and the tem­ple was the home of their god. The Shaman god was said to be veg­e­tar­ian, so the first pot of “bobo” were filled with a veg­e­tar­ian stuff­ing. In fact, it was a point­less ges­ture, as they were just taken away by the eu­nuchs, made into jam and sold to aris­to­crats on busi­ness in the im­pe­rial palace.

The sec­ond pot was made for the no­bil­ity them­selves. When Em­press Dowa­ger Cixi was in power, she ate dumplings with the em­press and the im­pe­rial con­cu­bines on ev­ery Chi­nese New Year’s Eve, claim­ing that it stopped petty fools from gos­sip­ing. Of course, she claimed that she made them her­self, but in fact, it was the eu­nuchs and palace maids who did ev­ery­thing, with the em­press dowa­ger merely mak­ing a to­ken ap­pear­ance in the kitchen.

Four small gold in­gots were wrapped in dumplings in this pot. Clever eu­nuchs would make sure to re­mem­ber which dumplings were stuffed with the gold in­gots, as they were meant to be of­fered to the em­press dowa­ger.

Ev­ery year when they gath­ered to eat the dumplings, Em­press Dowa­ger Cixi would bite on her dumplings and wince with pain.





How­ever, she was not re­ally in pain, as she was well aware what was in­side and care­ful not to re­ally hurt her­self. Em­press Dowa­ger Cixi would get her four gold in­gots, ev­ery­body would con­grat­u­late her and she would feel lucky. Did not she know that this was all just a cha­rade? Per­haps yes, per­haps no. Any­way, they were hers to en­joy and she was used to it.

Oddly enough, in the year Em­press Dowa­ger Cixi died, she only re­ceived three gold in­gots, leav­ing her feel­ing un­lucky. The Qing Dy­nasty had reached the end of its for­tunes and the eu­nuchs had stopped car­ing. Quite by ac­ci­dent, the re­main­ing gold in­got was found by Em­press Longyu.

In­stead of re­veal­ing this, Em­press Longyu qui­etly passed it to the eu­nuch in charge, and the eu­nuch put it dis­cretely back into the pot, say­ing, “Per­haps the dumpling wrap­ping split open and the gold in­got ended up in the pot.” They scooped around in the pot with a la­dle and found that the in­got was in­deed there, mak­ing Cixi fi­nally feel a bit bet­ter. How­ever, by the end of the year, she had come down with ma­lig­nant dysen­tery and al­though she strug­gled on for more than two months, the ill­ness even­tu­ally got the bet­ter of her.

Luck does not come from in­gots. Dur­ing 1894, she re­ceived all four gold in­gots, but China suf­fered a crush­ing de­feat against the Ja­panese, and in 1900, she also re­ceived all four gold in­gots, but the Eight-Na­tion Al­liance in­vaded the em­pire. Luck that is merely a cha­rade is clearly not real luck.

(From Hon­esty Out­look, Fe­bru­ary 2016. Trans­la­tion: Trans) 里贾母打牌,总是能赢一样。她自己明不明白这是人家故意做出来的呢?知道,也不知道。反正这个头彩该她拿,她也习惯了。





● Em­press Dowa­ger Cixi 慈禧

● Em­press Longyu 隆裕皇后

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