During the reign of Emperor Hui Tsung in the Sung Dynasty, in the Ch'inghe county of ShanDong Province, there was a wealthy young man called Hsi-men Ch'ing who included among his possessions a herbal medicine shop. Hsi-men Ch'ing was a shrewd, cunning man and so powerful that he had the local authorities, and even important officers in the capital under his control. Therefore, everybody in the county feared him and called him Lord Hsimen.
Hsi-men Ch'ing disliked learning but loved to practice the martial arts. He associated with a gang of idlers who called themselves "The Ten Brothers" and loitered about all day long, visiting whorehouses, gambling and drinking.
Hsi-men Ch'ing's first wife had died early, leaving only one daughter. His second wife Wu Yueh was a virtuous and tolerant woman, so he had found two prostitutes, Li Chiao-erh and Chuo Tiu-erh, to be his concubines."
One day, Hsi-men Ch'ing was unhappy because Chuo had died. Two of his merrymaking friends Yin and Hsieh called on him:" Brother, come quickly, there is something extraordinary in the street, let's go and see. The big tiger from Chingyang Hill has been killed barehanded." Hsi-men Ch'ing stood up at once and followed them to the street.
In the crowded street,they saw a group of hunters with red-tasselled spears marching two by two. Behind them was the dead tiger, looking like a big sack made of coloured cloth, so heavy that even four men were barely able to carry it. Last came a seven-foot, bright-eyed warrior riding on a big white horse. Hsi-men Ch'ing said to himself:" This man must have the strength to lift a thousand pounds!"
Yin told Hsi-men Ch'ing:" The warrior who killed the tiger is called Wu Sung,a native of Yanku county. He was looking for his elder brother, and when he passed through Chingyang Hill, he killed the tiger." While they were talking, they saw Wu Sung step down from his horse. He lifted up the tiger and went straight into the county government office to see the magistrate.
The magistrate was delighted.He gave Wu Sung money as an award and appointed him police officer of the eastern part of the county, in charge of arresting thieves.
One day, walking in the street, Wu Sung heard someone calling him from behind, saying:" Now,you have become a police officer. Why don't you care about me?" Turning round, Wu Sung saw it was his elder brother Ta-lang, whom he hadn't seen for years. Ta-lang was a man, ugly short, so people had nicknamed him "The Three-Inch Dwarf."
Ta-lang invited Wu Sung to his house and told him he had moved to Ch'inghe county after the death of his first wife and now earned his living by peddling cakes, and had married a second wife, P'an Chin-lien. Then he asked his wife to come meet his brother.
P'an Chin-lien had been the concubine of a rich man. After the rich man died,she was driven out of the house by his wife, and later she married Ta-lang. In her heart, P'an Chin-lien detested Ta-lang because he was simple-minded and ugly. Now,she was fascinated by his handsome brother Wu Sung, and she tried her best to please him.
After that day, Wu Sung dwelled at his brother's house. More than a month passed. One day,the wind was blowing fiercely and it was snowing hard. Wu Sung returned home at noontime. P'an Chin-lien had already prepared a meal and was waiting for him.
After drinking a few glasses of wine, P'an Chin-lien began to tease Wu Sung. At first, he tried to ignore her.Yet, to his surprise, P'an Chin-lien became more and more flirtatious and even asked him to drink the wine she had left in her glass. Wu Sung flew into a rage.He seized the glass from her hand, poured all the wine on the ground and said:" Sister, where is your sense of shame?"
P'an Chin-lien's face reddened, and she walked into the kitchen embarrassed. Wu Sung packed his belongings and went to dwell in the government office. Wu Sung knew that his sister-in-law was not a virtuous woman.
When Ta-lang returned that night, he found that Wu Sung had left and asked his wife why. She did not answer but gave him a scolding instead, and he dared not say anymore.
The magistrate, having been in office for 2 years, had accumulated a large amount of money. He needed a brave and reliable man to take the money to Tungching for him, so he called for Wu Sung and assigned him to carry out this important task.
Wu Sung went straight to Ta-lang's house and told him he was leaving to Tungching and would return in one month or at most 3 months. He advised Ta-lang to leave his house late in the morning and return home as early as possible.If anyone bullied him, Ta-lang shouldn't fight. They said goodbye.
After Wu Sung departed, Ta-lang did as what his brother had told him. He went out late and returned home early, and locked his door as soon as he reached home. In the beginning, P'an Chin-lien complained, but eventually she complied with his wishes. She drew up the bamboo curtain outside the window and closed the door when she thought it was about time for Ta-lang to come home, and Ta-lang was content and happy.
One day,as P'an Chin-lien was drawing up the curtain with a long pole, the pole accidently dropped out of her hand and hit a man passing by. The man just happened to be Hsi-men Ch'ing.
Hit by the pole, Hsi-men Ch'ing was about to protest, but when he turned round, he saw it was a beautiful young woman. P'an Chin-lien bowed to him and said:"I have accidently dropped my pole and hit you. I beg your pardon." Hsi-men Ch'ing bowed back and said:" Never mind,I am not hurt."
Hsi-men Ch'ing was so taken with P'an Chin-lien, he could think of nothing else that night. He thought to himself:" What a pretty woman! How shall I get her? That old woman Wang P'o who sells tea lives next door to her.I will talk to her tomorrow about this and see if she can help me.It will be worth it even if I have to pay her."
Early the next morning, Hsi-men Ch'ing went to Wang P'o's tea house and from her learned everything she knew about P'an Chin-lien. He promised to pay her and asked her to be the go-between. Wang was an old hand in this kind of dirty bargain and there was nothing that she wouldn't do for money, so she agreed.
The next day, Wang P'o invited P'an Chin-lien to her house for dinner, pretending that she needed Chin-lien to do some sewing for her. Hsi-men Ch'ing had invented a reason to visit Wang P'o,and he joined them for a glass of wine.
Pan Chin-lien was a woman of easy virtue, and Hsi-men Ch'ing was determined to seduce her. They talked congenially during dinner, and their passion grew. A few days later, encouraged by Wang P'o, they began their affair in her bedroom.
P'an Chin-lien would slip out from her back door and go to Wang P'o's house every day to meet Hsi-men Ch'ing. Within half a month, everyone knew about their affair except Ta-lang.
Nearby, there was a fruit seller called Erh-ke. Knowing that Hsi-men Ch'ing was in Wang P'o's house, he went to her door to peddle his fruit. To his astonishment, when he approached the door, the old woman screamed insults at him and hit him hard on the head.
Fuming with rage, Erh-ke ran to find Ta-lang and told him all about Hsi-men Ch'ing and P'an Chin-lien. Ta-lang said:" No wonder the woman goes to Wang P'o's house every day, and her face reddens when I come home. I have been suspecting that something is wrong. So, that's what she is doing!" Ta-lang and Erh-ke then agreed to catch the couple in the act the next day.
That day, Ta-lang pretended to go out to sell cakes as usual, and hid himself at the corner of the street. Erh-ke, seeing that Hsi-men Ch'ing had entered Wang P'o's house, went to her door to start a fight with the old woman.
As the quarrel got fiercer and fiercer, Erh-ke pressed Wang P'o against the wall so she couldn't move. At this moment, Ta-lang dashed towards the old woman's bedroom. Unable to stop Ta-lang, she shouted:" Wu Ta-lang is coming!"
In the bedroom, P'an Chin-lien and Hsi-men Ch'ing heard her shout. They had no time to play tricks, so P'an Chin-lien quickly ran to the door and pressed herself against it, and Hsi-men Ch'ing hid himself under the bed.
Wu Ta-lang couldn't push the door open, so he shouted:" You shameless creatures!" Still pressing against the door, P'an Chin-lien shouted at Hsi-men Ch'ing "You boasted about your martial arts, but now even a paper tiger has you cowering under the bed."
P'an Chin-lien hoped to shame Hsi-men Ch'ing into fighting Ta-lang. He crept out from under the bed and said:" It's not that I am scared; it's just that I don't know what to do."
Hsi-men Ch'ing went to the door and opened it suddenly, saying:" Come now, you!" Ta-lang tried to grasp him, but Hsi-men Ch'ing kicked him hard in the pit of his stomach and Ta-lang fell to the ground.
Hsi-men Ch'ing seized this opportunity to run as fast as his feet could carry him. Erh-ke, let Wang P'o go and also ran away. All the neighbours knew Hsi-men Ch'ing was rich and powerful, and no one dared to intervene.
Wang P'o helped Ta-lang to stand up. She saw that he was pale and spitting blood, so she called P'an Chin-lien to come out to give Ta-lang a bowl of water, help him revive, and then take him home.
The next day, P'an Chin-lien left Ta-lang alone at home, dressed herself up as usual and went to Wang P'o's house to see Hsi-men Ch'ing. Ta-lang, lying helpless in his bed, was enraged.
After five days, Ta-lang was still in bed and getting worse. He said to P'an Chin-lien: "I caught you two in the act, yet you went so far as to incite the man to kick me. It doesn't matter if I die, but my brother will not forgive you. If you save my life, I shall not tell him anything when he returns. Otherwise, when he comes back, you will have to answer to him!"
P'an Chin-lien said nothing but went to Wang P'o and told her and Hsi-men Ch'ing all Ta-lang had said. Hsi-men Ch'ing shivered with fear and said:" Wu Sung is a very formidable man, but I am not willing to part with my woman. What will we do?"
Wang P'o sneered:" I have never seen such a thing. You are the helmsman, and I am the sailor, yet I am not flustered and you are. You are incapable of handling the situation. What kind of man are you?" Hsi-men Ch'ing said anxiously: "Can you think of a way to make us husband and wife? Please advise us!"
Wang P'o said:" It is very easy. I have an idea. We need something other people don't have in their houses, but you do have in your shop." Hsi-men Ch'ing asked:" What is it?" Wang answered:" Arsenic!"
Wang continued:" As the dwarf is very ill, we can pretend to fix some liquid medicine for him. Put the arsenic in it and Ta-lang will be poisoned to death. Then burn his body and when Wu Sung comes home, he won't be able to do anything about it. Then, you can take P'an Chin-lien home, and make her your wife. What do you think?"
Hsi-men Ch'ing cried:" Wonderful idea! An old saying tells us, 'If one wishes to enjoy life, one must work at it with all one's might.' We shall carry this through whatever the consequences." Wang P'o said:" Quickly go and bring the arsenic here, and I will tell P'an Chin-lien how to prepare it. When everything is over, don't forget I expect a handsome reward." Hsi-men Ch'ing said:" Of course."
Hsi-men Ch'ing brought the arsenic from his shop. Wang P'o said to P'an Chin-lien:" Mix it into the medicine and pour it down his throat. When the poison takes effect, he will have terrible cramps in his intestimes, and he will scream, so you must muffle him with the quilt so people won't hear him. When he stops breathing, wipe all the blood off his face with a towel, put him into a coffin and everything is over!"
P'an Chin-lien said:" This is a good plan, but I am afraid that my hands may lack the strength to do what should be done." Wang P'o said:" Don't worry. Knock on the wooden partition, and I will come over to help you." Hsi-men Ch'ing said:" Be careful. I will come back tomorrow to find out what happened." and he went home.
P'an Chin-lien returned to her room. She pretended to weep and said to Ta-lang:" I was confused and deceived by Hsi-men Ch'ing, and I am sorry he injured you. Today, I have bought you some medicine. The doctor said if you drink it at midnight and cover yourself up well, you will sweat and get well tomorrow." Ta-lang was glad and said:" Very good. Wake me up at midnight, fix the medicine for me and I will drink it."
When she heard the night watchman beat his drum at midnight, P'an Chin-lien went to the kitchen, heated a big pot of hot water, and put a towel into it. Then she diluted the medicine, put the arsenic in, mixed it and then took it upstairs.
P'an Chin-lien propped Ta-lang up with her left hand, took the bowl of medicine in her right hand, and began to pour it into his mouth. Ta-lang took one mouthful and said:" It tastes terrible!" P'an Chin-lien replied:" As long as you get well, it doesn't matter how it tastes." As Ta-lang took the second mouthful, she quickly poured the rest of the mixture down his throat.
P'an Chin-lien laid him down and soon Ta-lang cried out in pain. She brought two cotton quilts and covered him from head to foot. Ta-lang shouted:" You are suffocating me to death!" P'an Chin-lien said:" This will make you sweat, and you will get well quicker!"
Ta-lang struggled with her but P'an Chin-lien jumped onto the bed and sat on him. She pressed down on him with all her strength and would not let go. Ta-lang panted for a few minutes, gave out one loud terrible scream and then moved no more.
When P'an Chin-lien removed the quilts, Ta-lang's teeth were clenched, his eyes stuck out, and his ears, nostrils and mouth were all bleeding. She was beside herself with fear. She jumped off the bed and knocked on the wooden partition.
Wang P'o heard the knock. She came in through the back door and asked:" Everything is finished?" "Yes," answered P'an Chin-lien, "but my hands and feet feel like jelly, and I don't know what to do next." Wang P'o said:" There is no problem. Let me help you."
The old woman rolled up her sleeves and carried the pail of hot water and the towel upstairs. She first wiped away the blood on Ta-lang's lips and around the mouth, then cleaned up all the blood coming out of his eyes, ears and nostrils.
The two women dragged Ta-lang's body downstairs and put it on an old board. There, they combed his hair, put a headdress around his head, dressed him, covered his face with a piece of white silk, and then went upstairs and cleaned the bedroom.
After Wang P'o left, P'an Chin-lien sat down next to Ta-lang's body and stayed there all night, weeping loudly.
Early the next morning, Hsi-men Ch'ing came over and Wang P'o told him everything. She then called for P'an Chin-lien:" Now there is only one important thing left. He-chiu, the autopsy officer, is a conscientious man. He will refuse to nail the coffin if he sees any evidence of foul play."
Hsi-men Ch'ing said:" It doesn't matter. I will give him instructions. He wouldn't dare to disobey me." Then, he gave the two women money to buy a coffin and arrange for Ta-lang's burial.
Soon He Chiu came with his two apprentices and Wang P'o received them. He Chiu asked:" What disease took Ta-lang's life?" P'an Chin-lien answered:" My husband had a heart condition. Now he has died and left me alone in misery!"
He Chiu approached the bier. He removed the quilt and the piece of white silk that covered Ta-lang and scrutinized the corpse. He saw that Ta-lang's fingernails were blue, his lips purple, his face sallow and his eyes protruding. He was certain that Ta-lang had been poisoned to death, but Hsi-men Ch'ing had ordered him to keep silent, so he said nothing.
However, the two apprentices asked:" Master, why is his face so sallow? There are teeth marks on his lips, and blood at the corner of his mouth." He Chiu replied:" Don't talk nonsense. The weather is hot. These phenomena are natural." He then ordered them to put Ta-lang's body into the coffin and nail the cover.
After the coffin was nailed, Wang P'o gave the apprentices some money and then dismissed them. He Chiu asked when the funeral would be. Wang P'o said:" There is no man in the house at present," and then P'an Chin-lien said:" It will be on the day after tomorrow. The corpse will be haunted outside of the town!" He Chiu said goodbye and left.
Two days later, Ta-lang's coffin was carried out of the town. P'an Chin-lien, dressed in mourning, followed behind in a sedan chair and cried with false tears all the way. Some of the neighbours came to see the coffin off.
At the crematorium, they made a fire to burn the coffin, and everything was burnt in a short time.
As soon as P'an Chin-lien returned home, she took off her mourning clothes, covered Ta-lang's memorial tablet with a piece of white paper and indulged herself in lovemaking with Hsi-men Ch'ing. Now that Ta-lang was dead and there was no one else in the house, they were free to do whatever they liked.
Hsi-men Ch'ing went to P'an Chin-lien's house every day and stayed every night. At first, he worried that the neighbours would catch on, so he sat in Wang P'o's teahouse for a few minutes before going to P'an Chin-lien's house. But later, he simply went straight in by the back door to see her, and often stayed for several nights, forgetting all about his wife and concubines at home.
One day,as Hsi-men Ch'ing was doing his accounts, Sister Hsueh, a matchmaker called on him:" Lord Hsi-men, I have been looking for you everywhere. I have an excellent match for you, and I am sure you will be satisfied!"
Hsi-men Ch'ing asked what kind of woman she was, and Hsueh said:" Her name is Meng Yu-lou. She is the widow of a textile merchant and lives outside the south gate of the town. She is pretty and rich. In silver alone, she has over a thousand taels. If you marry her, you will win both the lady and her money!" Hsi-men Ch'ing was delighted, so they arranged to visit the lady the next day.
Hsi-men Ch'ing set about wooing Meng Yu-lou. Meanwhile, his daughter was about to be married, and so Hsi-men was too occupied to think of P'an Chin-lien.
Hsi-men Ch'ing's marriage to Meng Yu-lou and the marriage of his daughter kept him busy for more than a month. P'an Chin-lien waited for Hsi-men Ch'ing day and night yet there was no sight of him. She gave Wang P'o some money and begged her to look for Hsi-men Ch'ing.
Wang P'o got up early in the morning and waited at Hsi-men Ch'ing's door. By noontime she had lost hope, but just as she turned around to go home, she saw Hsi-men Ch'ing come out of a whorehouse, drunk and stumbling. Wang P'o stepped forward and blocked his way, and then she told him P'an Chin-lien was looking for him. Hsi-men Ch'ing smiled and said:" I know she must be angry with me. I will go see her immediately."
P'an Chin-lien was overjoyed when she finally saw Hsi-men Ch'ing again. She felt as if a treasure had dropped from heaven in front of her. She hastened to prepare him some wine and a meal, and then gave him a birthday gift. All this pleased him, and he stayed in her house that night.
Meanwhile, Wu Sung had arrived in Tungching. After he accomplished his mission, he and his attendants set out on their journey home. Rain delayed their journey, so Wu Sung sent a soldier ahead to report to the county magistrate, and take a letter to his brother Ta-lang, telling him the date of his return.
After the soldier had reported to the magistrate, he went to look for Ta-lang. Wang P'o just happened to be sitting at the door. When she heard it was a letter from Wu Sung, she said at once:" Ta-lang is not in, the family has gone to visit a grave. Give the letter to me and I will give it to him when he returns." The soldier gave it to her and rode away.
Taking the letter with her, Wang P'o went to see P'an Chin-lien. P'an Chin-lien and Hsi-men Ch'ing were still in bed though it was already noon time. When they heard that Wu Sung had sent a letter to his brother and was coming back soon, they got up immediately.
They invited Wang P'o to enter the room and sit down. She took out the letter for Hsi-men Ch'ing to read. In the letter, Wu Sung said he was sure he would be back before the Mid-Autumn Festival, and he told his brother to take good care of himself. The news threw the couple into a panic.
Wang P'o said:" As the saying goes: Your parents take care of the first marriage, you take care of the second. What is there to be afraid of? The mourning period is almost over. I advise you. P'an Chin-lien to invite some monks to your house on the hundredth day of Ta-lang's death to hold a Buddhist ceremony and then burn his memorial tablet. After that, Lord Hsi-men should take you to his home in a sedan chair, and everything will be done. What do you think of that?"
Hsi-men Ch'ing said:" That will do." and they agreed on the plan. The monks would hold the Buddhist ceremony and burn the memorial tablet on August 6, the "hundredth day" of Ta-lang's death, and P'an Chin-lien would be married to Hsi-men Ch'ing and brought to his home in the morning on August 8. Satisfied, Hsi-men Ch'ing went home after supper.
Time passed quickly, and soon it was August 8. Everything was done as planned. P'an Chin-lien, in a bright-coloured dress, was carried to Hsi-men Ch'ing's house in a sedan chair. The neighbours all knew what was happening, but in fear of Hsi-men Ch'ing, no one dared to speak up.
Hsi-men Ch'ing brought P'an Chin-lien to his house. He prepared 3 rooms in the garden for her to live in, and ordered his wife's chambermaid to wait on her. Hsi-men Ch'ing already had one wife and three concubines, so P'an Chin-lien became his 5th woman.
Wu Sung returned to Ch'inghe county in mid-August. He reported to the governor, and then went to his brother's house. He knocked on the door for a long time, yet no one answered. As he was about to look for a neighbour, Wang P'o came up to him and said:" Your brother has died and your sister-in-law has married someone else and gone away." Wu Sung was stunned by the news.
Wu Sung turned around and went into the street. He bought some joss sticks, candles, paper money, fruit and cakes for the dead and then went back to his brother's house. He set up a memorial tablet for Ta-lang, knelt down, and wept. Then he sat before the tablet, and thought and thought till it was midnight. He was sure there was something strange about his brother's death.
Early the next morning, Wu Sung went to visit the neighbours. They wouldn't tell him anything because they were afraid of Hsi-men Ch'ing, but a few good-hearted people told him to ask Erh-ke and He Chiu.
Erh-ke told Wu Sung the whole story of how P'an Chin-lien and Hsi-men Ch'ing had cuckolded Ta-lang and how Ta-lang had been injured by Hsi-men Ch'ing and eventually died. After Wu Sung heard all this, he hired someone to write a complaint and went to the county court to protest. The magistrate read the complaint, listened to Erh-ke's testimony, and then withdrew to consider the situation.
The magistrate went to discuss the matter with his officers. The officers were all connected with Hsi-men Ch'ing and were afraid to bring charges against him. Therefore, the magistrate called Wu Sung and said to him:" It has been true since ancient times, that one must catch both parties in the act to prove adultery; and murder can only be proved when the wound is. You haven't caught these two in the act, and your brother's corpse is gone. How can you lodge an accusation against them?"
While the magistrate was putting off Wu Sung, a message was sent to Hsi-men Ch'ing, who immediately sent back a trusted servant to buy off all the officers the same night.
Seeing that his complaint would not be taken seriously by the magistrate, Wu Sung determined to risk his own life to fight Hsi-men Ch'ing, but in his haste, he killed Li Chiao-li, the man who had brought the news to Hsi-men Ch'ing, instead of himself. As a result, Wu Sung was sent far away to the prison in Mengchou.
Hsi-men Ch'ing was pleased to hear that Wu Sung was on his way to prison. He ordered his servants to prepare his garden for a celebration and then brought his five wives together to drink and make merry.
In the midst of the merrymaking, a boy and a slave girl were ushered in. They had been sent by Hsi-men Ch'ing's neighbour, Madame Hua, and had brought the ladies flowers to wear. Hsi-men Ch'ing was pleased. He told his wife Wu Yueh to accept the gift, gave the boy and the slave girl a tip and sent them home saying he would soon visit their mistress to thank her.
Madame Hua's husband was Hua Chin-hsu, the nephew of an influential eunuch. When the eunuch died, his property went to Chin-hsu. Chin-hsu and Hsi-men Ch'ing were sworn brothers. Chin-hsu's wife, Li P'ing-erh, and Hsi-men Ch'ing had long been making eyes at each other, and Hsi-men Ch'ing often found reasons to visit the Hua family.
The next day, knowing that Chin-hsu was out, Hsi-men Ch'ing went to visit Madame Hua to thank her for the flowers she had sent. He stayed there for a long time, and finally arranged with Li P'ing-erh that he would sent his servants to encourage Hua Chin-hsu to visit a brothel, and then he would climb over the wall to see her.
The next evening, Hsi-men Ch'ing visited P'an Chin-lien briefly and then went into the garden to wait for P'ing-erh's signal. He climbed over the wall and down a ladder placed on the other side, thinking no one had seen him, but in fact, the cunning P'an Chin-lien had observed everything.
P'an Chin-lien had been using all her wiles to keep Hsi-men Ch'ing interested in her and nine nights out of ten, he slept in her room. Now, realizing he was interested in Li P'ing-erh, she did all she could to win him back. She forced the slave girl Ch'un-mei to become his concubine, knowing Hsi-men Ch'ing had had his eye on the girl.
The affair between Hsi-men Ch'ing and Li P'ing-erh continued for more than a month. Meanwhile, Hua Chin-hsu feel ill after he and his brothers quarrelled about dividing their family property. However, Li P'ing-erh could think only of Hsi-men Ch'ing, and she neglected her husband until finally, Hua Chin-hsu died a sick, angry man.
After the death of Hua Chin-hsu, Hsi-men Ch'ing and Li P'ing-erh became more intimate with each other. P'ing-erh moved her property little by little into Hsi-men Ch'ing's home, and in the end, she married Hsi-men Ch'ing and was brought to his house in a sedan chair. Through this marriage, Hsi-men Ch'ing made a fortune, including a hundred imported pearls and countless pieces of gold and silver. In addition, Hua's house was connected to Hsi-men Ch'ing's.
After Hsi-men Ch'ing married Li P'ing-erh, he had six wives, all of whom fought and scrambled for his favour. P'an Chin-lien stirred up trouble spreading rumors and plotting with Ch'un-mei, and would not let the household have a moment of peace.
One year later, Li P'ing-erh gave birth to a son and became Hsi-men Ch'ing's favorite wife. This made P'an Chin-lien terribly jealous, and she decided to kill the baby. She began to keep a big cat which terrified the baby so that he got ill and soon died.
Li P'ing-erh cried day and night and couldn't eat and sleep. She couldn't bear P'an Chin-lien's slanderous gossip, and soon she also fell ill and died.
At that time, an officer named Yang was dismissed from office in the capital. Ch'en Hung, who was connected with Yang, was afraid that his family would be involved in the trouble, so he told his son Ch'en Chin-chi and his wife, Hsi-men Ch'ing's daughter, go to live at Hsi-men's house. Ch'en was also a lascivious man, and soon he began sleeping with P'an Chin-lien and Ch'un-mei.
Hsi-men Ch'ing already had six wives, yet they were not enough to satisfy his lust. He fornicated with slave girls and wet nurses in the household, and also with prostitutes, relying more and more on aphrodisiacs. Finally, he collapsed and died at the age of thirty-three, having worn himself out from sexual excess.
Upon Hsi-men Ch'ing's death, the illicit relations between P'an Chin-lien, Ch'un-mei and Ch'en Chin-chi were brought to light. Hsi-men Ch'ing's wife Wu Yueh sold Ch'un-mei for 13 taels of silver and wouldn't allow her to take anything, not even a single dress, when she was sent away.
P'an Chin-lien was sent back to Wang P'o to wait for another marriage. Soon, Wu Sung was released from prison, and he returned to avenge Ta-lang's murder. He killed P'an Chin-lien and Wang P'o, scooped their hearts out and offered them as sacrifice to his brother in heaven. Thus, Wu Sung's revenge was accomplished.
Hsi-men Ch'ing's wealth and power amounted to nothing in the end but death and destruction.During the reign of Emperor Hui Tsung in the Sung Dynasty, in the Ch'inghe county of ShanDong Province, there was a wealthy young man called Hsi-men Ch'ing who included among his possessions a herbal medicine shop. Hsi-men Ch'ing was a shrewd, cunning man and so powerful that he had the local authorities, and even important officers in the capital under his control. Therefore, everybody in the county feared him and called him Lord Hsimen.
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