Red Jade: A Tale of Virtue, Tragedy, and Redemption

Follow the extraordinary story of the Feng family, where virtue, tragedy, and redemption intersect in this classic tale of love and justice.

In Guangping County, there was an old man named Feng who had a son named Xiangru. Both father and son were scholars. Feng, the old man, was nearing sixty years old, with a straightforward and upright personality, but their family often lacked food and clothing. In recent years, his wife and daughter-in-law had both passed away, leaving him to fetch water and cook for himself. One night, Xiangru sat under the moonlight and suddenly saw a woman from the neighboring house peeking over the wall. She appeared very beautiful. Xiangru walked up to the woman, and she smiled at him. He waved to her, but she neither came nor left. After repeatedly inviting her, she finally climbed over the wall using a ladder, and they shared a bed that night. Xiangru asked for her name, and she replied, “I am the neighbor’s daughter, Hongyu.” Xiangru was very fond of her and wanted to make a private vow with her, to which she agreed. From then on, Hongyu came to visit every night, and this continued for about half a year.

One night, Old Feng got up and heard the laughter of a woman. He secretly looked and saw Hongyu. He was furious, called his son out, and scolded him, “You beast, what have you done! In such poverty and destitution, you should be working hard, but instead, you engage in such frivolous and immoral activities? If people find out, it will tarnish your character. If they don’t, it will still shorten your life!” Xiangru knelt on the ground, crying and admitting his regret. Old Feng also scolded Hongyu, saying, “A woman who doesn’t keep her chastity not only tarnishes herself but also tarnishes others. If this matter is exposed, it will bring shame not just to our family!” After scolding, the old man angrily went back to sleep. Hongyu, in tears, said, “The old man’s rebuke is truly embarrassing! Our fate has come to an end!” Xiangru said, “As long as my father is alive, I dare not make decisions myself. If you have compassion, you should forgive us.” Hongyu remained unmoved in her words, and Xiangru helplessly started crying. Hongyu stopped him and said, “There is no matchmaker’s agreement between us, nor do we have our parents’ consent. Climbing walls and sneaking around, how can we grow old together? There is a suitable partner here; you can marry her.” Xiangru said he couldn’t afford to marry another woman due to poverty. Hongyu said, “Wait for me tomorrow night, I will come up with a solution.” The next night, Hongyu indeed came and gave Xiangru forty taels of silver. She said, “Sixty li away from here, there is a family in Wucun surnamed Wei. Their daughter is eighteen years old and has not been married yet because they demand a high dowry. If you give her more money, it will definitely work out.” After saying this, she left.

Xiangru Feng found an opportunity to tell his father that he intended to go on a blind date but concealed the dowry matter. Old Feng himself estimated that they might not have enough money, so he initially opposed the idea. Xiangru Feng then spoke gently, “Let me give it a try.” So, Old Feng reluctantly agreed. Xiangru Feng borrowed a horse and a servant and set out for the Wei family in Wucun. The Wei family was originally farmers, so Xiangru Feng asked Old Wei for a private conversation. Old Wei knew that the Feng family was a prominent clan and, seeing Xiangru Feng’s impressive demeanor, had already agreed in his heart. However, he was unsure about how much dowry to ask for. Seeing Xiangru Feng hesitating in his words, he understood his intention and placed the silver he had brought on the table. Old Wei was very pleased when he saw the silver, so he quickly asked a scholar from the neighborhood to act as a mediator and wrote a marriage contract in red paper. The two sides established the engagement.

Xiangru Feng went inside to meet the old lady, and he noticed that the living quarters were narrow. The Wei family girl was hiding behind her mother. After taking a closer look at the girl, despite her humble attire, her radiant beauty made him secretly happy. Old Wei borrowed a neighboring house to host the bridegroom and said, “You don’t need to personally welcome the groom. We’ll send over a few pieces of clothing when the time comes.” Xiangru Feng and Old Wei set the wedding date and then returned home. He lied to his father, saying, “The Wei family appreciates us as respectable scholars and don’t require any dowry.” Old Feng was also delighted to hear this. On the agreed-upon day, the Wei family indeed sent their daughter. This girl was diligent, gentle, and the couple had a strong affection for each other.

Two years later, the Wei family girl gave birth to a son named Fuer. During the Qingming Festival, she carried Fuer to sweep the tomb and encountered a local squire named Song. This surnamed Song had once served as a censor, but he was dismissed from office due to corruption. Now, he idled at home, still flaunting his power and oppressing the common people. On their way back from the grave, he noticed the beauty of the Wei family girl and became infatuated with her. He inquired with the villagers and learned that she was Xiangru Feng’s spouse. Assuming that the Feng family was of humble means, he thought he could sway Xiangru’s heart by offering a substantial amount of money. So, he sent his men to spread the word.

When Xiangru Feng suddenly received this information, he turned pale with anger. Realizing he couldn’t contend with the Song family, he suppressed his rage, put on a smiling face, and went inside to inform his father. Upon hearing the news, Old Feng was furious and rushed outside to confront Song’s men, berating them vehemently. The Song family’s henchmen fled in fear and quickly retreated. However, Song himself was incensed and sent several men to force their way into the Feng household. They were aggressive and violent, causing a chaotic scene akin to pandemonium. When the Wei family girl heard the commotion, she left her son on the bed, disheveled her hair, and rushed out to seek help. The Song family’s thugs seized her and carried her away.

The Feng father and son were left beaten and injured, lying on the ground groaning in pain, while the child cried alone in the house. The neighbors pitied this unfortunate family and helped the Feng father and son onto a bed. A day later, Xiangru Feng managed to stand up with the support of a cane, but Old Feng, consumed by anger, stopped eating and drinking and eventually died, coughing up blood. Xiangru Feng grieved deeply, carrying his son to the yamen (local government office) to seek justice. He lodged complaints at every level, from the circuit intendant to the provincial governor, nearly exhausting all government channels, but he still could not obtain redress. Later, he heard that his wife had refused to yield and had died, intensifying his sorrow and anger. Filled with profound resentment and unable to find a way to seek justice, he often contemplated assassinating surnamed Song at a crossroad, but he was concerned about Song’s numerous followers, and he had no one to rely on for assistance. He lived in constant sorrow and torment, with sleepless nights and endless thoughts.

One day, a stranger suddenly came to the Feng family to inquire. He had a beard and a wide chin, and Feng Xiangru had never seen him before. Feng Xiangru invited him to sit down, intending to ask about his hometown and name. However, the newcomer suddenly asked, “Do you forget your revenge for your father’s death and your resentment for your wife’s loss?” Feng Xiangru suspected that the man was a spy from the Song family, so he responded with false words. The visitor angrily stared with eyes almost about to burst and abruptly stood up, saying, “I thought you were an upright person, but now I see you are a despicable individual!” Feng Xiangru realized that this person was not ordinary and quickly knelt down, grabbing his hand, and said, “I was afraid that the Song family might extract the truth from me. Now, I can confide in you: I have been enduring this humiliation for a long time, but I’m concerned about the future of this child in the cradle. You are a noble-hearted person; can you take care of my child as Sun Juchu cared for Zhao’s orphan?” The stranger replied, “This is a task for women, not something I can do. If you want to entrust it to someone else, please do it yourself. If you want to do it yourself, let me take care of the other matters.” Feng Xiangru, with bowed head, agreed, and the stranger left without even looking back. Feng Xiangru asked for the man’s name, but he replied, “Whether I succeed or not, I won’t accept your blame; if I succeed, I won’t accept your gratitude.” With that, he left. Feng Xiangru, fearing for his safety, fled with his son.

In the middle of the night, while the Song family was all asleep, someone scaled several high walls and killed three members of the Song family, including the former censor Song and his son, as well as a daughter-in-law and a maid. The Song family reported the incident to the local government, and the county magistrate was greatly alarmed. The Song family insisted that Xiangru Feng was responsible for the murders. Consequently, officers were dispatched to apprehend Xiangru Feng. Upon arriving at the Feng residence, they found that Xiangru Feng had disappeared, which further solidified their belief in his guilt.

The Song family’s servants, along with the official constables, searched various places. In the middle of the night, in the South Mountain, they heard the crying of a young child. Following the sound, they located Xiangru Feng, bound him with ropes, and took him into custody. The child’s cries grew louder, so the men snatched the child and discarded him by the roadside. Xiangru Feng was consumed by resentment. When he met the county magistrate, the magistrate asked, “Why did you commit murder?” Xiangru Feng replied, “I am wrongly accused! The deaths occurred at night, but I was out during the day, carrying a crying infant. How could I have scaled walls to commit murder?” The county magistrate said, “If you didn’t commit murder, why did you flee?” Xiangru Feng had no words to explain himself and was subsequently thrown into prison.

Xiangru Feng wept, saying, “My life is not worth pity, but what crime has this orphan committed?” The county magistrate retorted, “You’ve killed so many people, including your own son. What do you have to complain about?” Xiangru Feng was stripped of his scholar status and endured severe torture multiple times, but he never confessed.

One night, as the county magistrate had just lain down to sleep, he heard something striking his bed, making a loud and crisp noise. He couldn’t help but shout in fear. The entire family hurriedly rushed to the room where the incident occurred, and when they lit a lamp, they found a short knife embedded in the headboard, its blade as sharp as frost and deeply lodged, impossible to remove. Witnessing this, the county magistrate was terrified, and the constables scoured every place with weapons but found no trace. The county magistrate, fearing for his safety, realized that since surnamed Song was already dead, there was nothing to fear. Therefore, he submitted a detailed report on the case to his superiors, exonerating Xiangru Feng, and ultimately, Xiangru Feng was released.

When Xiangru Feng returned home, there was not much grain left in the jar, and he faced an empty house all by himself. Fortunately, his neighbors took pity on him and provided him with a little food and drink to barely get by. As he thought about his great revenge being avenged, he couldn’t help but smile. But when he remembered the tragic disaster that nearly wiped out his entire family, tears welled up in his eyes. And when he thought about his lifelong poverty with no one to carry on his name, he couldn’t contain his grief and went to a secluded place to cry bitterly.

This went on for about half a year, and the legal proceedings eased up. Xiangru Feng then pleaded with the county magistrate to have the remains of the Wei family girl returned to him. After burying the remains of the Wei family girl, he returned home, overwhelmed with sorrow, contemplating ending his own life. At night, he lay in bed tossing and turning, unable to see any way forward. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. He strained his ears to listen and heard someone talking softly with a child outside the door. Xiangru Feng hurriedly got up to look outside, and it appeared to be a woman. As soon as he opened the door, the person outside asked, “Your great injustice has been vindicated, aren’t you happy as well?” The voice sounded very familiar, but in the rush, he couldn’t immediately recall who it was. When he lit a lamp, he realized it was Hongyu. She held a child in her arms and smiled beside her legs.

Xiangru Feng didn’t have time to say anything else. He embraced Hongyu and burst into tears, and Hongyu was also deeply saddened. After a while, Hongyu pushed the child and said, “Have you forgotten your father?” The child tugged at Hongyu’s clothes, gazing intently at Xiangru Feng. After a careful examination, he turned out to be Fuer. Xiangru Feng was astonished and tearfully asked, “Where did you get our son?” Hongyu said, “I’ll tell you the truth. When I previously claimed to be the neighbor’s daughter, it was a lie. I am actually a fox. That day, I happened to be walking along the road at night and heard a baby crying at the valley entrance. I brought him to Shaanxi to raise him. When I heard that your great ordeal was over, I brought him back to reunite with you.” Xiangru Feng wiped away his tears and thanked Hongyu. The child, in Hongyu’s arms, clung to her like a mother and didn’t recognize his own father.

Before dawn, Hongyu quickly got out of bed. When Xiangru Feng asked her, she said, “I intend to leave.” Xiangru Feng knelt at the bedside with tears streaming down, unable to lift his head. Hongyu smiled and said, “I was just teasing you. With the new family business, one must rise early and sleep late.” So, she went about cutting weeds and sweeping the yard, working like a man. Xiangru Feng was worried about their impoverished situation, relying solely on Hongyu, and feared they wouldn’t make ends meet. Hongyu said, “You just focus on your studies, don’t worry about profit or loss. Perhaps it won’t come to starving by the roadside.” She then took out silver to purchase spinning and weaving tools and rented several acres of land, hiring people to cultivate it. Hongyu carried a hoe to weed and repaired leaky roofs, working diligently day by day. The villagers saw Hongyu as virtuous and were willing to help her. After about half a year, the Feng family’s life improved day by day, as if they were a wealthy household.

Xiangru Feng said, “Our new lease on life is all thanks to you starting from scratch. But there’s one thing I haven’t settled, what should we do?” Hongyu asked what the matter was, and Xiangru Feng said, “The exam date is approaching, and my scholar status has not been reinstated.” Hongyu smiled and said, “I sent four taels of silver to the local official some days ago, and your scholar status has already been reinstated. If we had waited for you to remember, it would have been delayed.” Xiangru Feng was even more amazed by Hongyu’s mysterious abilities. In the upcoming examination, Xiangru Feng passed and became a Jinshi (a successful scholar in the highest imperial examination). At the time, he was thirty-six years old, and his home was flourishing with fertile fields and spacious houses. Hongyu had a graceful figure, as if she could float away with the wind, but when it came to work, she was even more capable than a farmer’s wife. Despite the harsh working conditions in the severe winter, her hands remained tender and white. She claimed to be thirty-eight years old, but to others, she looked no more than in her twenties.

The chronicler of strange tales said: “The Feng family’s son was virtuous, and his father was virtuous as well, so heaven rewarded them with righteousness. Not only humans but even foxes can exhibit righteousness. Their encounters were indeed quite extraordinary! However, the numerous errors made by the high-ranking officials in their judgment are infuriating. That flying knife landed with a resounding thud, piercing the wood at the head of the bed. It’s a pity it didn’t move up half a foot to hit the bed. If Su Shunqin of the Song Dynasty had read this story, he would surely have raised a toast and said, ‘What a pity, it didn’t hit its mark!'”

《红玉》

广平冯翁有一子,字相如,父子俱诸生。翁年近六旬,性方鲠,而家屡空。数年间,媪与子妇又相继逝,井臼自操之。一夜,相如坐月下,忽见东邻女自墙上来窥。视之,美。近之,微笑。招以手,不来亦不去。固请之,乃梯而过,遂共寝处。问其姓名,曰:“妾邻女红玉也。”生大爱悦,与订永好,女诺之。夜夜往来,约半年许。

翁夜起,闻女子含笑语,窥之见女,怒,唤生出,骂曰:“畜产所为何事!如此落寞,尚不刻苦,乃学浮荡耶?人知之,丧汝德;人不知,促汝寿!”生跪自投,泣言知悔。翁叱女曰:“女子不守闺戒,既自玷,而又以玷人。倘事一发,当不仅贻寒舍羞!”骂已,愤然归寝。女流涕曰:“亲庭罪责,良足愧辱!我二人缘分尽矣。”生曰:“父在不得自专。卿如有情,尚当含垢为好。”女言辞决绝,生乃洒涕。女止之曰:“妾与君无媒妁之言,父母之命,逾墙钻隙,何能白首?此处有一佳耦,可聘也。”告以贫,女曰:“来宵相俟,妾为君谋之。”次夜,女果至,出白金四十两赠生。曰:“去此六十里,有吴村卫氏,年十八矣,高其价,故未售也。君重啖之,必合谐允。”言已,别去。

生乘间语父,欲往相之,而隐馈金不敢告。翁自度无赀,以是故,止之。生又婉言:“试可乃已。”翁颔之。生遂假仆马,诣卫氏。卫故田舍翁,生呼出引与闲语。卫知生望族,又见仪采轩豁,心许之,而虑其靳于赀。生听其词意吞吐,会其旨,倾囊陈几上。卫乃喜,浼邻生居间,书红笺而盟焉。生入拜媪,居室偪侧,女依母自幛。微睨之,虽荆布之饰,而神情光艳,心窃喜。卫借舍款婿,便言:“公子无须亲迎。待少作衣妆,即合舁送去。”生与期而归。诡告翁,言卫爱清门,不责赀。翁亦喜。至日,卫果送女至。女勤俭,有顺德,琴瑟甚笃。

逾二年,举一男,名福儿。会清明抱子登墓,遇邑绅宋氏。宋官御史,坐行赇免,居林下,大煽威虐。是日亦上墓归,见女艳之。问村人,知为生配。料冯贫士,诱以重赂,冀可摇,使家人风示之。生骤闻,怒形于色,既思势不敌,敛怒为笑,归告翁。大怒,奔出,对其家人,指天画地,诟骂万端。家人鼠窜而去。宋氏亦怒,竟遣数人入生家,殴翁及子,汹若沸鼎。女闻之,弃儿于床,披发号救。群篡舁之,哄然便去。父子伤残,吟呻在地,儿呱呱啼室中。邻人共怜之,扶之榻上。经日,生杖而能起,翁忿不食,呕血寻毙。生大哭,抱子兴词,上至督抚,讼几遍,卒不得直。后闻妇不屈死,益悲。冤塞胸吭,无路可伸。每思要路刺杀宋,而虑其扈从繁,儿又罔托。日夜哀思,双睫为不交。

忽一丈夫吊诸其室,虬髯阔颔,曾与无素。挽坐,欲问邦族。客遽曰:“君有杀父之仇,夺妻之恨,而忘报乎?”生疑为宋人之侦,姑伪应之。客怒眦欲裂,遽出曰:“仆以君人也,今乃知不足齿之伧!”生察其异,跪而挽之,曰:“诚恐宋人餂我。今实布腹心:仆之卧薪尝胆者,固有日矣,但怜此褓中物,恐坠宗祧。君义士,能为我杵臼否?”客曰:“此妇人女子之事,非所能。君所欲托诸人者,请自任之;所欲自任者,愿得而代庖焉。”生闻,崩角在地,客不顾而出。生追问姓字,曰:“不济,不任受怨;济,亦不任受德。”遂去。生惧祸及,抱子亡去。

至夜,宋家一门俱寝,有人越重垣入,杀御史父子三人,及一媳一婢。宋家具状告官,官大骇。宋执谓相如,于是遣役捕生,生遁不知所之,于是情益真。宋仆同官役诸处冥搜,夜至南山,闻儿啼,迹得之,系缧而行。儿啼愈嗔,群夺儿抛弃之,生冤愤欲绝。见邑令,问:“何杀人?”生曰:“冤哉!某以夜死,我以昼出,且抱呱呱者,何能逾垣杀人?”令曰:“不杀人,何逃乎?”生词穷,不能置辨,乃收诸狱。生泣曰:“我死无足惜,孤儿何罪?”令曰:“汝杀人子多矣,杀汝子,何怨?”生既褫革,屡受梏惨,卒无词。令是夜方卧,闻有物击床,震震有声,大惧而号。举家惊起,集而烛之,一短刀,铦利如霜,剁床入木者寸馀,牢不可拔。令睹之,魂魄丧失。荷戈遍索,竟无踪迹。心窃馁,又以宋人死,无可畏惧,乃详诸宪,代生解免,竟释生。

生归,甕无升斗,孤影对四壁。幸邻人怜馈食饮,苟且自度。念大仇已报,则冁然喜;思惨酷之祸,几于灭门,则泪潸潸堕;及思半生贫彻骨,宗支不续,则于无人处,大哭失声,不复能自禁。如此半年,捕禁益懈。乃哀邑令,求判还卫氏之骨。及葬而归,悲怛欲死,辗转空床,竟无生路。忽有款门者,凝神寂听,闻一人在门外,与譨譨小儿语。生急起窥觇,似一女子,扉初启,便问:“大冤昭雪,可幸无恙?”其声稔熟,而仓卒不能追忆。烛之,则红玉也。挽一小儿,嬉笑跨下。生不暇问,抱女呜哭,女亦惨然。既而推儿曰:“汝忘尔父耶?”儿牵女衣,目灼灼视生,细审之,福儿也。大惊,泣问:“儿那得来?”女曰:“实告君,昔言邻女者,妄也。妾实狐。适宵行,见儿啼谷口,抱养于秦。闻大难既息,故携来与君团聚耳。”生挥涕拜谢。儿在女怀,如依其母,竟不复能识父矣。

天未明,女即遽起。问之,答曰:“奴欲去。”生裸跪床头,涕不能仰。女笑曰:“妾诳君耳。今家道新创,非夙兴夜寐不可。”乃翦莽拥篲,类男子操作。生忧贫乏,不自给。女曰:“但请下帷读,勿问盈歉,或当不殍饿死。”遂出金治织具,租田数十亩,雇佣耕作。荷镵诛茅,牵萝补屋,日以为常。里党闻妇贤,益乐赀助之。约半年,人烟腾茂,类素封家。生曰:“灰烬之馀,卿白手再造矣。然一事未就安妥,如何?”诘之,答曰:“试期已迫,巾服尚未复也。”女笑曰:“妾前以四金寄广文,已复名在案。若待君言,误之已久。”生益神之。是科遂领乡荐。时年三十六,腴田连阡,夏屋渠渠矣。女袅娜如随风欲飘去,而操作过农家妇,虽严冬自苦,而手腻如脂。自言三十八岁,人视之,常若二十许人。

异史氏曰:其子贤,其父德,故其报之也侠。非特人侠,狐亦侠也。遇亦奇矣!然官宰悠悠,竖人毛发,刀震震入木,何惜不略移床上半尺许哉?使苏子美读之,必浮白曰:惜乎击之不中!

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