Chapter 144: Sutra of Forty-two Chapters

Seeing Song Qingshu staring straight at her mother, Ake couldn’t help snorting coldly.

Song Qingshu came back to his senses and returned the salute, “It turned out to be Madame Pingxi, this Song has been disrespectful, but he didn’t expect the Madame to be more beautiful than the rumors.”

Chen Yuanyuan had heard this kind of words a lot, she didn’t take it to heart, and smiled lightly, “It’s just a stinky skin. This one only has loathing for her natural appearance. It is harmful towards those around her.” Speaking of this, her eyes turned red, and she could not stop her tears from falling.

Ake on the side saw that Song Qingshu made her mother cry as soon as he opened his mouth, so she couldn’t help but angrily say, “I don’t know who you are talking about, Madame Pingxi is someone else, my mother is not her…”

Chen Yuanyuan’s expression turned a little awkward. She was received by Wu Sangui as his concubine and he loved her very much. Moreover, when Wu Sangui became a traitor who went against the world for her, she was actually very moved and she decided to love him wholeheartedly. But who knew that after Wu Sangui was granted the title of King Pingxi by the Manchu Qing Dynasty, he became concerned about her background, and worried that if he made her the official wife, he would be ridiculed in the imperial court!

When Chen Yuanyuan realized what he was thinking, her heart suddenly turned cold, so she decided to enter the Sansheng Temple outside the city to lead a solitary life.

“Why should Madame care about what her status is? After hundreds of years, who will remember who the current Madame Pingxi is? They will only think that the Madame is the real Madame Pingxi.” Song Qingshu said sternly.

Over the years, no one has dared to bring up the issue of status in front of her, for fear of making her sad and uncomfortable. Chen Yuanyuan herself tried to avoid the topic herself. Today, Song Qingshu brought it up from a unique perspective, and she found that she felt much more at ease. So, she smiled and said, “This one has been rude, and let Lord Song stand for so long, please take a seat and let this one serve tea to the distinguished guest.”

Ake saw that Song Qingshu coaxed her mother to smile with just a few words, and so she angrily said, “How do you know what would happen hundreds of years later?”

“I traveled here from hundreds of years in the future, so naturally I know.” Song Qingshu’s tone was full of calm and confidence.

Ake didn’t bother to pay attention to his nonsense, and helped Chen Yuanyuan to sit down on the other side.

Soon the servants came to offer tea. Song Qingshu lifted the bowl, and a fragrant smell filled the nostrils. The tea in the bowl was green, and it was actually the famous Longjing tea. A sarcastic smile appeared on his lips, and he thought to himself, ‘This Longjing tea comes from Jiangnan. The price of shipping it here is very expensive. Although Chen Yuanyuan is a nun, she is really quite rich.’  (G: Longjing tea, literally translated as Dragon Well tea, is produced mostly by hand and renowned for its high quality.)

The servant held a lacquer tray and presented the sweets. The tray contained pine nut candy, small walnut cake, walnut slices, rose cakes, sugar almonds, mung bean cakes, lily cakes, sweet-scented osmanthus, candied bayberries. They were Suzhou-style desserts, and were all delicate and unique.

“Hey, my mother is kind enough to entertain you, but you are mocking her and being rude!” Ake kept staring at him, noticed his expression, and couldn’t help but say angrily.

Song Qingshu ignored her, but looked at Chen Yuanyuan and said, “Madame, do you know why I’m laughing?”

Chen Yuanyuan didn’t understand and shook her head in confusion.

Song Qingshu stood up and pointed to a copper incense burner on the table, which had a wisp of blue smoke rising in the middle, “I am the deputy chief of guards in the imperial palace, and I know a little about sandalwood. There was a type of precious sandalwood that was burned in the queen dowager’s room. It is indeed a good way to concentrate and calm down, but Madame is now practicing selflessness, so using such precious sandalwood seems very inappropriate. As they say,  ‘A stick of incense may not calm the heart, but a wrinkled pine may clear the moss’. As long as Madame is pious in her heart, she will naturally be able to understand Dharma, so why depend on foreign objects?” (G: A line from a poem by a Tang Dynasty poet named Han Xi.)

Chen Yuanyuan couldn’t help feeling a little embarrassed. Although the other party said it politely, there was a strong sense of ridicule in his tone. Looking at the cakes and tea carefully prepared by the servants, she felt even more vulgar. 

She recalled the time when she was one of Qinhuai’s Top Eight Beauties. Chen Yuanyuan would never make such a thoughtless mistake in receiving and treating people as she mingled among the circles of princes and nobles. Unexpectedly, as she grew older, her thoughts had fallen to such a level.

“Thank you for your guidance. Yuanyuan was wondering why, for so many years, she has only half-understood the principles of Zen in Buddhist scriptures. It turns out that her heart is not sincere.” Chen Yuanyuan stood up and saluted.

Song Qingshu saw that she was smiling when she was smiling, and when she was sad and moving, he couldn’t help but feel pity. He quickly reached out to hold her arms and gently supported her up, “May I know what Buddhist scriptures Madame usually read?”

Chen Yuanyuan hadn’t had physical contact with a man for many years, and when Song Qingshu touched her, her face turned slightly red, and a tender red flush appeared on her smooth, white skin. “This one has only read the Diamond Sutra, the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, and…oh yes, the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters.”

Song Qingshu had just asked that casually, but he didn’t expect to hear the news of the “Sutra of Forty-two Chapters”, and he calmly said, 

“The ‘Diamond Sutra’, discusses the anatman (not-self), the emptiness of all phenomena, the liberation of all beings without attachment. It is indeed a little bit obscure and difficult to understand.

The central idea of ​​the ‘Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch’ is ‘seeing one’s nature to become a Buddha’, and the single word ‘nature’ can confuse many people.

Although the ‘Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva’ is great, it is difficult for people to see hope. 

As for the ‘Sutra of Forty-two Chapters’, I have only heard of it and know that it is easy to understand, but I have never seen its content. May I know if Madame has a copy here, can I watch it?”

“Gentleman Song is really talented, and he has such a deep knowledge of Buddhist scriptures.” Chen Yuanyuan glanced at Song Qingshu in surprise, then turned back and instructed, “Ake, go to your mother’s bed and fetch the ‘Sutra of Forty-two Chapters’ by the pillow and give it to Gentleman Song to take a look.”

“Hmm…” Ake was getting bored of hearing it, so she hurried to the inner room and quickly retrieved it.

‘Sure enough, it’s the “Sutra of Forty-two Chapters”!’ Song Qingshu thought to himself, and quietly read it for a while, but he was afraid that he would look suspicious, and returned the scriptures, “The content is really simple and clear.”

Chen Yuanyuan nodded and smiled and said, “Yes, this one also finds this scripture to be the easiest to understand.”

The one wearing a Taoist robe was her and she was learning Buddhism from him, Song Qingshu found that fact quite funny. He continued their discussion on it for a while, and then said, “To be honest, this time I come here for Princess Ake, and take her to the capital.”

“Humph! It’s obviously his own fault. Now he wants to let one of his daughters take responsibility for it. Anyway, I won’t enter the palace even if I die.” Hearing his words, Ake’s face darkened immediately.

Chen Yuanyuan thought back to the infamy she had carried all her life, and felt the same, “Lord Song, I hope you will report back to His Majesty, that I will never agree with Ake’s entry into the imperial palace.”

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