The Wife’s Pil­low


Special Focus - - Contents - Huo Qi 霍琪

Zuo Zong­tang came from a poor fam­ily and could not af­ford a de­cent mar­riage when he was 20, an age at which most men al­ready had a wife and kids. He mar­ried Yid­uan of the Zhou fam­ily, a renowned and rich fam­ily in Xiang­tan ( a town in Hu­nan Prov­ince, mid­dle south China). Miss Zhou Yid­uan re­ceived a good ed­u­ca­tion from her mother and was known to be a tal­ented poet, as well as beau­ti­ful Lady. In a tra­di­tional Chi­nese mar­riage, the wife will leave her par­ents’ fam­ily and join her hus­band’s; how­ever, be­cause of the conspicuous gap be­tween Zuo’s and his wife’s fam­i­lies, Zuo had to leave his fam­ily and be­came a mem­ber of Zhou fam­ily.

As a mar­ried man Zuo tried to earn his of­fi­cial rank and riches through pass­ing the Keju (the im­pe­rial ex­am­i­na­tion sys­tem). Unfortunately, he failed to pass the metropoli­tan ex­am­i­na­tion (the na­tional class). Af­ter that he had to earn a liv­ing by teach­ing. Later he worked as a pri­vate tu­tor of a gover­nor’s son for eight years. Dur­ing these years be­ing a teacher, Zuo left his beloved wife at home to travel from one place to an­other, feel­ing in­creas­ingly de­pressed at his un­ful­filled ex­pec­ta­tions.

Yid­uan knew well about her hus­band’s pain and lone­li­ness. She was wor­ried that Zuo would feel hope­less and give up, or that he might end up vis­it­ing pros­ti­tutes or us­ing drugs. In one of their few meet­ings in 1835, be­fore Zuo went to the im­pe­rial cap­i­tal to take the metropoli­tan exam once again, Yid­uan made a pil­low for him and em­broi­dered on it a pat­tern of “a Fish­ing Vil­lage in the Af­ter­glow.” It took Yid­uan three days and three nights to fin­ish the work. In the pat­tern there was a fish­ing boat fas­tened be­side the wil­low, and across the fogged green river the tree-cov­ered moun­tains could be seen in the dis­tance. The wife also em­broi­dered one of her own po­ems be­side the pat­tern:

Fas­tened in emer­ald mist are the boat and his net. This is the evening scene of home, my lord.

Do know in the hazy dreams I wait for you;

And do let this land­scape touch your heart’s chord. “My lord,” Yid­uan said gen­tly, “when­ever you see the pil­low in your jour­ney, please think of me. It will rep­re­sent my love and ac­com­pany you to all the far­away places you go.”

Zuo took the pil­low with him in his trav­els. On ev­ery lonely night in the un­fa­mil­iar land, dur­ing mo­ments of nos­tal­gia and in­som­nia, he touched the pil­low, silently read Yid­uan’s af­fec­tion­ate poem, and felt that she was right there with him. Thus within the cud­dling warmth his fret­ful mind was soothed, and he fell into a peace­ful sleep.

Sadly, Zuo failed to pass the metropoli­tan exam in 1835 for the sec­ond time, and then in 1838 for the third time. The man was plunged into the depths of de­spair. He swore that he would for­get his am­bi­tion and think no more than be­ing a peas­ant. Des­per­ately, he burned his col­lec­tion of books, and also threw the pil­low into the fire. Yid­uan saw this and or­dered the ser­vants to res­cue the books. She put her­self in dan­ger by get­ting the pil­low out of the fire. The pil­low was partly burnt, and Yid­uan burst into tears.

“You did this to break





常言道,知夫莫过妻。夫人周诒端深知左宗棠怀才不遇、孤寂冷清,又担心丈夫自暴自弃,眠花宿 柳或吸食鸦片,她想给夫君精神上慰藉。




后来,左宗棠每逢外出,必带“渔村夕照枕”在身边。客居异乡,孤枕寒衾,乡愁潮涌,难以入睡之时, 他就在心中默念浪漫多情的枕上诗,犹如爱妻就在身旁,既温馨又幸福,浮躁的心绪慢慢平静下来,心中的烦恼也渐渐烟消云散,酣然入睡。




周诒端忙指挥家人抢救书本,更不顾自身危险,亲自从熊熊大火中抢出枕头。枕头已烧了一个大洞,周诒端抱着破枕大哭,对左宗棠说: “老爷连枕头都烧了,那是在剜妾的心,妾坚信夫君不会‘渔樵了此生’。”

my heart,” she said to her hus­band, “but I still have faith in you. You will be some­body one day.”

With his wife’s com­fort and en­cour­age­ment, Zuo re­gained con­fi­dence. He then con­cen­trated on prac­ti­cal stud­ies such as pol­i­tics, agri­cul­ture, hy­drol­ogy, mil­i­tary strate­gies, and western sciences. When­ever he be­came in­ac­tive, he saw the pil­low (al­ready mended anew by Yid­uan) and felt re­freshed.

An op­por­tu­nity fi­nally emerged. In 1852, the troops of the “Taip­ing Re­bel­lion” be­sieged Chang­sha, the cap­i­tal of Hu­nan Prov­ince. Un­der such cri­sis, the gover­nor of Hu­nan, Zhang Liangji, asked Zuo to lead the army in the city. Zuo did his best all day and all night to ar­range the de­fense. Af­ter three months of siege the city wall still stood; and the re­bel­lion force re­treated to the north.

That was the be­gin­ning of Zuo’s bril­liant ca­reer. There­after he led the im­pe­rial army to de­feat the Taip­ing Re­bel­lion, and then the “Nian Re­bel­lion.” He re-con­quered the lost land of Xin­jiang. He was also a lead­ing fig­ure in “the West­ern­iza­tion Move­ment.” His of­fi­cial rank reached the first class when he be­came “The Grand Sec­re­tary of Dongge” at the age of 61. He had real power in the empire.

In 1870, when Zuo was com­mand­ing a cam­paign, he re­ceived a mes­sage that said Yid­uan had passed away at home. The mighty gen­eral shed bit­ter tears in an­guish. He held his wife’s pil­low in arms and said,

“The wail­ing bird is sep­a­rated from his mate. Only this pil­low will ac­com­pany me in the rest of my days.”

(From Folk Le­gends, Issue 12, 2016. Trans­lated: Wang Xiaoke.)





(摘自《民间传奇故事》 2016 年第 12期)

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