During the reign of Emperor Yongzheng, there was a scholar named Cai in Guilin, young and handsome with an elegant demeanor.
One spring, Cai went to the theater to watch a play. While engrossed in the performance, he felt someone touching his buttocks from behind. Enraged, Cai prepared to scold the person and even raised his fist to strike. However, when he turned around, he discovered that the one who touched him was also a young man, even more handsome than himself. Cai’s anger turned to joy, and he extended his hand to touch the young man’s private parts. The young man, pleasantly surprised, quickly adjusted his attire, bowed to Cai, and introduced himself. It turned out that this young man was also from a wealthy family in Guilin, having studied but not yet entered official service. From that moment on, they became inseparable, holding hands and sharing everything. They dressed in clothes with narrow sleeves and tight collars, resembling women to the casual observer. People couldn’t easily tell whether they were men or women.
In Guilin, there was a ruffian named Wang Tuer. Once, he cornered Cai and the young man in a deserted place, attempting to assault them. Refusing to yield, Cai and the young man were murdered by Wang Tuer, and their bodies were thrown into an uninhabited area below the city walls.
Both sets of parents reported the crime to the authorities, and the government ordered the capture of the murderer. The constables found bloodstains on Wang Tuer’s clothes and arrested him. During interrogation, Wang Tuer confessed to the murders and was sentenced to death by the authorities.
Because Cai and the young man were well-mannered scholars, sympathetic people in the village built a temple in their honor. During each ritual, people would offer a branch of apricot flowers, leading to the temple being named the “Double Flower Temple.” Occasionally, locals prayed for help, and their requests were often fulfilled, making the temple popular.
Several years later, a county magistrate nicknamed Liu the Big Mustache passed by the Double Flower Temple and inquired about its origins. Upon learning the details, Liu the Big Mustache became furious, declaring it a debauched shrine and questioning why two rascals were being worshipped. He immediately ordered the local authorities to demolish the temple.
That night, Liu the Big Mustache dreamt of the two deceased individuals confronting him. One grabbed his mustache, while the other spat in his face, scolding him, “On what basis do you call us rascals? You’re an official, not our servant. How would you know what happened between us in private? In the Three Kingdoms era, Zhou Yu(周瑜) and Sun Ce(孫策) were both handsome young men. They were close friends, sharing a room and sleeping side by side. Yet, they became heroes of their time. Do you also consider them rascals? Since you became the county magistrate of Guilin, you’ve mishandled cases, engaged in corruption, taken bribes, and wrongfully killed Zhou Gongsheng one year. Aren’t you the real villain, while we are not? We initially intended to end your life immediately, but knowing your imminent death due to your own wrongdoing, we spared you for now!” Finishing their words, they pulled out a three-foot-long wooden stick from their sleeves, tied it to Liu the Big Mustache’s hair, saying, “Wait and see; you’ll understand soon enough!”
Liu the Big Mustache woke up from the dream, recounting the details to his family. Fearful, his family suggested rebuilding the Double Flower Temple and honoring Cai and the young man. However, due to pride, Liu the Big Mustache remained silent about the temple’s reconstruction. Shortly after, his corrupt practices were exposed, and he was impeached by the imperial censors. The emperor issued an edict, sentencing him to death by hanging. In his final moments, he realized that the stick in the dream symbolized the noose.
Translated from《雙花廟》in 《子不語》: