“Master,” The kitchen steward stood in front of Rong Xia with a bitter look, “I am afraid, This Lowly One is unable to make it quickly.”
“En?” Rong Xia put down <<Journey to the North>>, raised his head to look at the steward, “Why?”
“The dough needs yuqianlongjing tea that is brewed with dust-free snow water and seasoned with rose honey, the kneading utensils have to be specially made, the steamer has to be woven from newly grown xiangfei bamboo, the steaming water needs half a spoon of flower morning dew, and when taken out of the stove there should be a piece of burnt sandalwood. It is still fine if just expensive and takes long time, but we can’t collect so many things quickly.”
The kitchen steward was silently crying in his heart. Master wasn’t normally picky about his food, and just as he wanted one kind of pastry, they were unable to do it. He was really ashamed to be standing in front of the Master. He wondered which family this recipe was from, it wasn’t a recipe for making food, it was simply a recipe for wasting money.
“So complicated,” Rong Xia now knew why Ban Hua was reluctant to let him eat, even Jingting residence wouldn’t had made such a troublesome thing too often, “In that case, put it aside for this time being….”
He paused a while, then continued, “Prepare the materials first, and take your time to think about it.”
The steward sighed with relief that the Master didn’t demand them to produce the pastries right away. The kitchen staff had been thinking of all sort of methods the whole night, but nothing seemed to work, apparently there was no way to avoid wasting money.
The steward even suspected the person who gave him the recipe had an ulterior motive to bring Master down.
After the steward left, Rong Xia closed the <<Journey to the North>> in his hand. He was at lost of what to do with these 4 books. He could take these handwritten books out to impress the literary world, but …..
Benefit was easy to gain, sincerity was hard to seek. He couldn’t betray the trust of the simple-thinking Ban family.
Rong Xia smoothed out the curling corners of the book. As Ban family had never made the existence of these books known to other people, he could only follow suit. This jade and golden mountain, just let them lie here quietly.
The Ban family who had given him the golden mountain was very busy. Grand Princess Dening’s big birthday was coming, Ban family was busy checking the guest list, the banquet menu and various opera troupes and juggling troupes presented by their stewards.
People with bad bazi1Bazi / Four Pillars of Destiny 生辰八字 – Chinese astrological concept that a person’s destiny or fate can be divined by their birth year, month, day, and hour (see Wikipedia). shouldn’t come near, people whose faces were not celebratory enough weren’t wanted, those who spoke negatively weren’t included, one by one filtered out, incompatible horoscope signs were out as well. The stewards had actually performed all the filters, but they still wanted to personally go through everything themselves.
The Grand Princess couldn’t bear seeing them so busy, but the four Bans didn’t think like her. As long as it was within rules, they didn’t care about the money, they would spend whatever needed to be spent, would use whatever needed to use. Many older ladies in the Capital became jealous, in spite of their lips admonishing their offspring not to be extravagant and ostentatious, which elder didn’t wish to be valued by their family and to have such a grand and exciting celebration.
On one hand they envied the Grand Princess, on the other hand they felt that the Bans were being a bit too nonsensical, making such a big deal out of what was merely a birthday celebration.
Whatever others thought of them, the Bans were enjoying themselves. They ran several times a day to the Grand Princess’ residence, made her smile all day long that the whole residence was also filled with laughters.
“Use the best crab meat, if we run out of good tea I will go to the Emperor to ask.” Ban Huai didn’t really have much to do and he was thick-skinned, he often ran to the Emperor to mooch good tea.
The yuqianlongjing tea for making pastries was also often sourced from the Palace, so this tea was called it’s homonym ‘yu qian longjing’.2雨前龙井 pronounced ‘yuqianlongjing’ is the name of the tea, and 御前龙井 is also pronounced ‘yu qian longjing’. The difference is the first ‘yu’ means ‘rain, and the second ‘yu’ means ‘imperial’.
“Yes, never say we don’t want.” Yin-shi noted it for 12 liangs, “He wants to look good, and we want the goods. He probably won’t be happy if we don’t ask.”
“12 liangs?” Ban Heng glanced at it, “Mother, you ask for so much tea leaves, is it for cooking tea eggs?”3Tea eggs is a kind of snack in which a boiled egg is cracked slightly and then boiled again in tea, and sauce or spices.
“It’s still better that I didn’t ask him for one jin.”41 liang = 50 grams, 1 jin = 500 grams. Yin-shi asked for 12 liangs (600 grams), and still said it’s better she didn’t ask for 500 grams. Either my math is terrible (as always), or Yin-shi’s was worse. Jin-shi shoved the list to Ban Hua, “Go with your father.” On the matter of pleasing others, her daughter was better than her husband. This Emperor was aspired to grandiosity and he loved to be flattered.
Ban Hua scanned the list, apart from the yu qian longjing, there were also incense, imperial cooks, and so on in the list. She pocketed it, “Don’t worry, task completion guaranteed.”
Ban Huai saw it was still early, he said to Ban Hua, “My good girl, let’s prepare to go to the Palace.”
One and half shichen51.5 shichen = 3 hours after lunch was Emperor Yunqing’s leisure time when he would listen to music, drank tea, or took a walk. He stroke his beard when the eunuch reported Marquis Jingting and Fule Junzhu had requested an audience, he had already guessed the reason of their visit.
Father and daughter entered and bowed in a formal manner then sat down.
As expected after just three to five sentences, Ban Huai had started to bewail himself poor. His main line was himself this useless son was unable to prepare anything good for his mother’s birthday, so he begged His Majesty to give him a lucrative position, he would work hard to bring glory to mother’s next year birthday, to let mother be proud and elated.
Emperor Yunqing felt like throwing the tea in his hand to Ban Huai’s face. Wanting a real job, and had to be a lucrative one, only this good cousin could say that in front of him.
“Shuiqing ah, Aunt isn’t young anymore, Zhen knows you are always filial, but rather than taking a real position you better accompany Aunt more. Whatever you need you can just tell Zhen, as your younger cousin Zhen will help you find a solution.” Emperor Yunqing looked at Ban Huai with a face full of sincerity, “Aunt is Zhen’s elder, Zhen also wish her to have a grand birthday in style.”
Ban Hua clapped her palms, “Father, This Daughter thinks His Majesty is right. You don’t have to work so hard, we have His Majesty with us.” After speaking she rose and bowed towards the emperor, “Official Daughter thanking Your Majesty for your grace.”
“You this girl, we are family what are you thanking for.” Emperor Yunqing greatly enjoyed such adulation and trusting gaze from a junior. With a wave of his hand, Ban Hua was rewarded with a pile of tribute from a vassal state.
Outside the Great Moon Palace, the Crown Prince Jiang Zhang walked up to the door. He said to Wang De who was standing there, “Chief Steward Wang, I have a matter to see Father, please Chief Steward relay.”
“This Slave meets His Highness the Crown Prince.” After bowing Wang De explained, “Marquis Jingting and Fule Junzhu are currently having an audience with His Majesty.”
“Cousin is here too?” The Crown Prince quite liked Ban Hua because she was too cute as a child. He had even began to be critical towards other little girls in the Palace, this princess’ eyes weren’t as pretty as Ban Hua’s, that princess’ skin wasn’t as tender as Ban Hua’s.
It was fortunate that his temperament was mild and charitable. He had never shown partiality and he treated all princesses born of consorts and concubines equally, otherwise he would have made everyone hated Ban Hua.
“Yes.” Wang De didn’t dare to recklessly say anything further, people in the Palace were the best at making things up6Chasing the wind and clutching at shadows 捕风捉影 = making groundless accusation, to act on hearsay evidence.. A casual question from the Crown Prince could pretty soon turned into the Crown Prince had interest towards Fule Junzhu, that would be terrible.
The Crown Princess was the eldest di granddaughter of the Right Minister, she was a dignified and virtuous woman who was the perfect model for the future Mother of the Country. Fule Junzhu had a high status as she was the Grand Princess’ granddaughter, so she definitely couldn’t become Crown Prince’s cefei.7Cefei 侧妃 – The special concubine class belonging to Crown Prince and Princes only.
If any rumour spread out, nothing would happen to the Crown Prince and Fule Junzhu, but they the subordinates would likely be unable to keep their lives.
As he was thinking, the Ban pair of father and daughter had came out. One glance as Fule Junzhu’s smiling face, Wang De knew the Emperor must had rewarded Junzhu again.
“His Highness the Crown Prince.” Ban Hua gave him a ten-thousand-blessings salute.
“Uncle and Cousin don’t have to be too polite.” The Crown Prince made the gestures of lifting them up from their salutes. “During the Autumn Hunt there was no chance to talk to Uncle and Cousin, when Cousin has time please come to the Eastern Palace8A Crown Prince’s residence in novels. for a chat.”
Ban Hua smiled and said she would, but inwardly she rejected. She must be crazy to go to the Eastern Palace, the womenfolk there guarded against her like guarded against thieves, not sure what was wrong with them.
The Crown Prince was in a hurry to meet the Emperor so they only spoke a few words and both parties said farewell. Then Ban Hua saw someone who was less welcome.
The Second Prince, Jiang Luo.
- 1Bazi / Four Pillars of Destiny 生辰八字 – Chinese astrological concept that a person’s destiny or fate can be divined by their birth year, month, day, and hour (see Wikipedia).
- 2雨前龙井 pronounced ‘yuqianlongjing’ is the name of the tea, and 御前龙井 is also pronounced ‘yu qian longjing’. The difference is the first ‘yu’ means ‘rain, and the second ‘yu’ means ‘imperial’.
- 3Tea eggs is a kind of snack in which a boiled egg is cracked slightly and then boiled again in tea, and sauce or spices.
- 41 liang = 50 grams, 1 jin = 500 grams. Yin-shi asked for 12 liangs (600 grams), and still said it’s better she didn’t ask for 500 grams. Either my math is terrible (as always), or Yin-shi’s was worse.
- 51.5 shichen = 3 hours
- 6Chasing the wind and clutching at shadows 捕风捉影 = making groundless accusation, to act on hearsay evidence.
- 7Cefei 侧妃 – The special concubine class belonging to Crown Prince and Princes only.
- 8A Crown Prince’s residence in novels.