Sisters’ Marriage Stories: A Tale of Dreams, Regrets, and Unexpected Twists

Explore the intriguing story of two sisters' marriages, filled with dreams, regrets, and surprising turns of fate.

During the Ming Dynasty, there was a scholar named Mao Ji from Ye County, who came from a poor family. His father used to herd cattle for others. In the vicinity, there was a wealthy and prominent family named Zhang, who had a new grave on the southern slopes of Dongshan. As someone passed by, they heard a voice coming from the grave, saying, “Hurry and move away from here, don’t disturb the residence of the nobleman constantly!” Zhang did not take this warning seriously.

Subsequently, Zhang had multiple dreams in which he was warned, “Your family’s burial site originally belonged to Lord Mao, how can you occupy it for an extended period of time?” After that, misfortunes befell Zhang’s family continuously. Guests advised Zhang to relocate the grave elsewhere, and he heeded their advice, moving the grave.

One day, while Mao Ji’s father was herding cattle and passed by the original grave of Zhang, a sudden heavy rain poured down. He sought shelter in the abandoned grave. Soon, the rain intensified, and the accumulated water rushed into the grave, causing Mao’s father to drown. At that time, Mao Ji was still a child. His mother personally went to see Zhang, hoping to find a place to bury her child’s father. Zhang inquired about the deceased’s surname and was greatly surprised. He visited the place where Mao’s father had drowned and realized it was the proper burial site for a coffin. This deepened his astonishment. Consequently, Zhang allowed Mao’s father to be buried in the original grave and invited Mao’s mother to bring the child for a visit.

After Mao’s father was buried, Mao’s mother and son expressed their gratitude to Zhang. Zhang took a liking to Mao Ji at first sight and decided to keep him in his home, teaching him to read and treating him as his own kin. Zhang also proposed the idea of marrying his eldest daughter to Mao Ji, which frightened Mao’s mother. Zhang’s wife said, “Since the offer has been made, how can we back out halfway?” Eventually, Mao’s mother agreed.

However, the eldest daughter held a strong disdain for the Mao family, and her resentment and shame were evident in her demeanor and speech. Whenever someone happened to mention the Mao family, she would cover her ears and refuse to listen. She often said to others, “I’d rather die than marry the son of a cowherd!” On the day of her wedding, as the groom entered the banquet hall and the bridal sedan chair stopped at the door, the eldest daughter covered her face with her sleeve and wept in a corner. Despite urging her to get dressed and offering consolation, she remained uncooperative. Later, when the groom decided to leave and the music played loudly, the eldest daughter continued to weep, her hair in disarray.

Zhang tried to stop the groom and personally went inside to persuade the eldest daughter. However, she only continued to shed tears and acted as if she heard nothing. Zhang, in frustration, forced her into the sedan chair, but she cried uncontrollably, leaving Zhang with no choice. At that moment, a family member came with a message, “The groom is about to leave.” Zhang’s father hurriedly came out and said, “He hasn’t finished getting dressed yet, please wait a moment.” He immediately ran inside to check on the eldest daughter, going in and out several times. Although this delayed things a bit, the pressure from outside continued to mount, but the eldest daughter remained resolute.

Zhang’s father felt helpless and anxious, even contemplating suicide. The younger daughter, watching all this, thought her older sister was acting wrongly and tried to persuade her. The eldest daughter angrily retorted, “You little girl, why are you meddling in others’ affairs? Why don’t you marry him then?” The younger daughter responded, “Father originally didn’t promise me to Mao’s son. If he had, why would my sister need to persuade me to get into the sedan chair?” Hearing this, the father and mother were delighted. They secretly discussed and decided to let the younger daughter take the place of the eldest daughter in the marriage.

The mother then asked the younger daughter, “Our disobedient girl, will you do as your parents say and take your sister’s place in marriage?” Without hesitation, the younger daughter replied, “If my parents want me to get married, I wouldn’t dare refuse, even if it’s to a beggar. Besides, who’s to say that Mao’s husband will definitely starve?” The parents were overjoyed upon hearing this and hastily dressed the younger daughter in the bridal attire, sending her on her way. After the wedding, the husband and wife had a very harmonious relationship. However, Mao Ji noticed that the younger daughter had thin hair since childhood, which made him slightly disappointed. As time passed, he learned about the circumstances surrounding her marriage to him, and he began to regard the younger daughter as a confidante, filled with gratitude towards her.

Not long after that, Mao Ji passed the provincial examination and participated in the county-level examination. On his way, he stayed at an inn owned by a Mr. Wang. The innkeeper had a dream the night before, in which a divine figure told him, “Tomorrow, a scholar named Mao will come, and in the future, he will help you overcome your hardships.” Therefore, when the innkeeper woke up in the morning, he specifically looked out for guests coming from the east. When he saw Mao Ji, the innkeeper was overjoyed. He provided abundant food and drink without charge and earnestly asked Mao Ji to help him with the matter he had dreamed of.

Mao Ji was also quite confident. He secretly thought about his wife’s thin hair and worried that it might invite ridicule when he achieved a high status. He planned to marry another woman after achieving wealth and prominence. However, when the exam results were announced, Mao Ji unexpectedly failed. He sighed and walked away in frustration, disappointment, and regret. Feeling ashamed, he couldn’t bring himself to meet the innkeeper again and didn’t dare to take the path to Mr. Wang’s estate. Instead, he had to change his route and return home.

Three years later, Mao Ji returned to take the examination, and the innkeeper greeted him just as before. Mao Ji said, “Your previous words did not come true, and I feel ashamed of your kindness.” The innkeeper replied, “You secretly contemplated marrying another wife, and thus you were dismissed by the underworld officials. How can you think that the unusual dream cannot be fulfilled?” Mao Ji was astonished and asked for an explanation. It turned out that the innkeeper had another dream later, which is why he spoke in this manner. Upon hearing this, Mao Ji became alert and aware, filled with remorse and fear, standing there like a puppet.

The innkeeper advised Mao Ji, saying, “You should cherish yourself, as you will eventually become the top scholar.” Before long, Mao Ji indeed achieved the highest rank in the imperial examination. His wife’s hair also grew back, and her glossy, jet-black hair bun added even more charm to her beauty.

Now, let’s talk about the eldest daughter, who was married to the son of a wealthy family in their hometown, feeling quite proud of herself. Her husband was dissolute and lazy, and their family gradually fell into poverty. Their home became empty, and they couldn’t even afford to cook a meal. When she heard that her younger sister had become the wife of a scholar, she felt even more ashamed. The two sisters avoided each other when they walked together.

After some time, her husband passed away, and their fortunes declined further. Meanwhile, Mao Ji passed the highest-level imperial examination. When the eldest daughter learned of this, she bitterly regretted her past actions. Filled with remorse, she decided to become a nun. When Mao Ji returned to their hometown as a high-ranking official, the eldest daughter reluctantly sent an unshaven female disciple to visit the Mao household, hoping to receive some financial assistance.

Upon arriving at the Mao household, Mao’s wife gave her several pieces of silk and satin, with some silver coins concealed within. The female disciple was unaware of the hidden silver. She brought the gifts back to her master, who was greatly disappointed and resentful. She said, “I can use money to buy necessities, but these useless items are of no use to me!” She ordered someone to return the gifts. Mao Ji and his wife did not understand the meaning behind this gesture until they opened the package and found the silver coins. They then realized that the gifts were being returned.

So, they took out the silver coins and said with a smile, “Your master can’t even handle a hundred plus taels of silver. How can she enjoy the same prosperity as my esteemed husband?” They gave fifty taels of silver to the female disciple and said, “Take this to cover your master’s expenses. Giving her too much might burden her due to her modest circumstances.” The female disciple returned and conveyed this message to her master. The master remained silent, deeply moved, reflecting on her life’s actions, always avoiding good deeds and approaching bad ones. Wasn’t this the will of heaven?

Later, the innkeeper was arrested and imprisoned for a murder case, but Mao Ji worked tirelessly to prove his innocence and eventually secured his release.

Yi Shi, a historian, remarked: The transformation of the Zhang family’s old grave into the new burial site for the Mao family is already quite remarkable. I’ve heard jokes among the people about “a great uncle becoming a little aunt, and a former top scholar becoming a later top scholar.” Such matters are not something that clever and discerning individuals should dwell upon. Alas! Heaven had posed questions that were difficult to answer long ago. Why did it produce such an echoing response in the case of Lord Mao?








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