Monday, May 23, 2005

Don't Read While You Eat: Part II

Meanwhile a new world was being settled and an old Taoist hermit was making his way to Wu Dang Mountain. As the hermit walked along the dry and dusty road an observant person would have noticed his footfalls made no puffs of dust and he sang a little song, quiet as a tree frog.
“Tu Si Zi mends expiry and damage, supplements insufficiency and makes one fat and strong. Long time taking brightens the eyes, makes the body light and prolongs life. Shi Chang Pu, bitter and warm, treats cough and counter flow and damaged center, disinhibiting the nine orifices, it sharpens the wits, strengthens the will and doubles strength. Take a long time to make the body light and prevent senility. It grows in the rivers and valleys…”

In his later years Huang Jing Liao maintained he had lead a carefree existence the first seven years of his life. In fact the little farm with the view of the mountains was subject to flood, fever and taxes on a regular basis. When the flood came the family fled to the foothills accompanied by most of their animals and valuables. When the family returned to the farm if a south-west wind blew before the flood waters had sunk beneath the surface, the fever came bringing hot heads, sore throats, body aches and swollen glands. Those afflicted, and it was usually the children, drank a tea made mostly from herb roots which the family gathered while they waited in the foothills for the floodwaters to recede. A special and essential ingredient of the Fever Tea were honeysuckle flowers (Jin Yin Hua), which grew in abundance on the farm. Mother and Father Huang collected and dried the tiny gold and silver trumpets, carefully storing them in covered porcelain bowls for the Fever Times.

Every year just after harvest time the tax collector of the province came driving a wagon pulled by six oxen. This wagon was to be piled high with the bounty of the farm: rice, chickens, a pig or two, dried beans, lotus roots, cucumbers, carrots, tea, garlic and White Cloud Ear Mushrooms (Bai Mu Er). Every year in the days before the tax collector arrived the family felt as if they were rolling in riches and at one with the world.
“Oh, so much, so much” Mother Huang would sigh; happily sniffing the fresh dried lotus roots and watching her children chase the fat black chickens.
“Yes, so much” Father Huang would agree, hugging a bag of beans to his chest and tousling the head of the nearest child.
Every year Mother and Father Huang would try to persuade the tax collector not to take so much. They served him green tea and steamed dumplings while quoting their favorite sage, Lao Tzu.
“The Way is the Pivot of all things, but to have too many things, a warehouse of food for instance, is not good, for this is not calmly advancing along the Way.” Said Mother Huang as she refreshed the tax collectors teacup.
“Recall that over taxation causes illness in the people.” Father Huang offered as he proffered a tray of dumplings. Sometimes the tax collector would laugh and counter with “The Way of developed people if to cultivate the body by calmness and nurture life by frugality. You see? I am helping you!” And sometimes, after the tea and dumplings, he would turn his head away from the loading of the wagon and pretend not to see the bags of straw, which diluted the yield.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pretty cool tax collector! Pretty cool farm! And pretty cool herb-singin' hermit! I'm looking forward to his reappearance. We just love hermits! No peccaries yet... Post more soon.