Yu De: The Enigmatic Life of a Reclusive Scholar

Explore the fascinating life of Yu De, a reclusive scholar known for his mysterious experiences, including an inexplicable water basin, and the secret to longevity.

In Wuchang, there was a villa owned by a man named Yintu Nan. It was once rented by a young scholar for half a year, during which Yintu Nan never inquired about the scholar’s affairs. One day, Yintu Nan encountered the scholar at the villa’s entrance. The scholar appeared very young, dressed elegantly, and had a graceful demeanor. Yintu Nan approached him and found him to be kind and cultured, making him quite likable. Yintu Nan felt that this scholar was not ordinary.

When he returned home, he told his wife about the encounter. His wife sent a maid to visit the scholar under the pretext of presenting gifts and secretly observe their household. She discovered that the scholar’s wife was a beautiful woman, even more enchanting and lovely than a fairy. The rare flowers, exotic rocks, and exquisite clothing and treasures inside the house were all unheard of and unseen.

Yintu Nan couldn’t figure out what the scholar did for a living, so he presented his name card and requested a meeting. Unfortunately, the scholar was out at the time. The next day, the scholar promptly returned the visit. When Yintu Nan examined the name card, he learned that the scholar’s surname was Yu, and his given name was De. During their conversation, Yintu Nan tried to inquire about Yu De’s background in detail, but he evaded the questions and hesitated in his responses.

After persistent questioning, Yu De finally said, “If you wish to associate with me, I won’t unilaterally refuse. However, you should know that I am neither a thief nor a fugitive. Why must you press me to reveal my origins?” Yintu Nan expressed his apologies, and Yu De hosted a banquet to entertain him. They had a jovial time together, and it was only at dusk that two servants arrived with horses and lanterns to escort Yu De away.

The next day, Yu De sent an invitation card to invite Yintu Nan. Yintu Nan went to his house and saw that the walls of the house were covered with bright light paper, shining like mirrors. A golden lion incense burner was burning precious incense. A jade vase held two phoenix tail feathers and two peacock feathers, each over two feet long. A crystal vase held a tree with pink flowers, whose name was unknown, but it was also about two feet tall. The hanging branches covered the table, providing ample shade. The leaves were sparse, and the blossoms were dense, still in bud, resembling butterflies with folded wings after touching water, and the flower buds resembled butterfly antennae.

At the banquet, only eight dishes were served, but they were exceptionally sumptuous and exquisite. Once seated, Yu De instructed a young servant to beat the drum and urge the flower-themed drinking game. As the drum sounded, the flowers in the crystal vase began to tremble and were about to bloom. When the drum stopped, accompanied by a deep drumbeat, the butterfly-like flower buds instantly withered and transformed into actual butterflies, landing on Yintu Nan’s clothes. Yu De stood up with a smile, poured a large cup of wine, Yintu Nan drank it all, and the butterflies flew away.

After a while, the drum sounded again, and both butterflies landed on Yu De’s hat. Yu De chuckled and said, “I’ve doomed myself with this trick.” He then drank two more cups. After three rounds of the drum, flower petals fell in abundance, covering their sleeves and collars. The young servant who beat the drum approached with a smile and counted the points for each of them. The result was that Yintu Nan had to drink nine cups, and Yu De had to drink four cups. Yintu Nan was already slightly intoxicated, unable to finish all his drinks, and he left the table. From then on, he was even more convinced that Yu De was an extraordinary person.

However, Yu De was not fond of socializing. He often lived in seclusion, with no interactions with the people around him for events like weddings, funerals, celebrations, or condolences. Yintu Nan, on the other hand, enthusiastically shared his experiences with everyone he met. As a result, when people heard about such extraordinary events, they eagerly sought to befriend Yu De, and distinguished guests and nobility frequently visited his home.

Yu De became increasingly impatient with this attention, and suddenly, he bid farewell to Yintu Nan and left. After Yu De’s departure, Yintu Nan entered Yu De’s house and found that the courtyard was impeccably clean, with not a speck of dust in sight. Candle wax was neatly stacked under the blue stone steps, and scattered pieces of cloth and torn threads near the windows still bore traces of finger imprints. Only a small white stone basin remained behind the house, capable of holding about a stone’s worth of grain.

Yintu Nan took the stone basin home, filled it with water, and began raising goldfish in it. After a year, the water in the basin remained as clear as when he first poured it in. Later, due to a servant’s carelessness in moving the stones, the stone basin was accidentally shattered. Surprisingly, the water remained cohesive and did not spill. At first glance, it seemed as if the basin was intact, but upon touching it, it felt empty and soft, without any stone basin structure.

When one dipped their hand into the water, it would overflow as the hand extended and gather back when the hand was withdrawn. Even in winter, the water did not freeze. One night, the water suddenly crystallized into ice, but the fish continued to swim inside. Yintu Nan was afraid that others would find out, so he kept it in a secret chamber and only allowed close family members like his son and son-in-law to see it.

Over time, word of the extraordinary water basin spread, and many people clamored to see it, crowding the entrance to his house. On the night of the Winter Solstice, the crystal water suddenly turned back into clear water, leaving the floor damp, and the fish disappeared. It turned out that some fragments of the broken basin still remained. A Taoist priest came to see it, and Yintu Nan showed him the remaining pieces. The Taoist said, “This is an object used by the Dragon Palace to store water.”

Yintu Nan then described the strange phenomenon of the broken basin not spilling water. The Taoist urgently requested to obtain some of the remaining pieces. Yintu Nan asked him what purpose they served, and the Taoist replied, “These fragments, when mixed with medicine, can grant longevity.” Yintu Nan gave the Taoist a piece, and the Taoist gratefully thanked him and left.





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