A Windy and Rainy Shanghai

2024-05-06 14:43:00 Source:China Today Author:
【Close】 【Print】 BigMiddleSmall

On Suzhou Road in Shanghai, there stood a mercer’s shop. Its shopkeeper was surnamed Yu, but the shop was named Wu’s Silk Shop instead of Yu’s Silk Shop. 

Yu Jide, the shopkeeper, was born in the town of Yushan, Songjiang Prefecture (a former administrative area of today’s Shanghai). Shopkeeper Zhang, of the cloth shop next door, said to Yu many times, “Men have names, and shops have identities. Why not change the name of your shop to Yu’s Silk Shop? You have run it for more than 20 years, and built up a reputation as the Yu’s.” 

Every time, Yu would just smile and reply, “Can’t do that!” 

“Your father-in-law had often mentioned to me that the shop could be named Yu.” 

“I, Jide, owe him a big debt of gratitude for being treated well during the wind and rain. Thus, I won’t change the shop’s original name.” 

“But without you, the shop wouldn’t continue to exist,” Zhang said. 

Shopkeeper Zhang was talking about something that had happened a long time ago. 

Suzhou Road and Yushan were far apart. Once, Shopkeeper Wu went to Yushan to stock up on supplies. The road between downtown Songjiang Prefecture and Yushan was under official control. Thus, wine houses and stores had emerged along the road for passing merchants who traveled to and from Yushan and needed to stay and rest. 

The Yao Ferry in Yushan was a necessity for business travel. Yu Jide was a scholar. One day, he was preparing to take the ferry to the downtown Songjiang Prefecture to sit for an exam. Unexpectedly, it rained heavily. The Yao Ferry encountered strong winds and heavy waves. It was getting very late, so the boat went onshore and went no further. Yu had no choice but to stay in the Jiangpu Inn, an establishment in which only rich businessmen stayed. It was really a strange set of circumstances that brought Yu to this inn. 

At the inn, Yu had dinner with another guest – Shopkeeper Wu of Wu’s Silk Shop. Wu was staying here because his goods couldn’t be brought back to downtown Songjiang Prefecture. Wu departed the inn in such a hurry that he accidentally left a parcel on the table, right in front of Yu. At first, Yu did not notice it. However, as he was about to pay the bill and leave, Yu realized that the other guest had forgotten his parcel upon leaving. Thinking that Wu would realize that he forgot it and return for it, Yu decided to keep it and wait for him. He waited and waited, but there was no sign of the guest. Not knowing what to do, Yu felt very anxious. The next day, he was supposed to go to downtown Songjiang Prefecture, and then to the Central Plains. This could not be delayed. But still, Wu had not returned! 

In Yu’s mind, when a man who was away from home remembered something that he had lost, he would be extremely anxious. This was a chance for Yu to practice what he had learned about making things convenient for others. So, Yu decided to wait at the inn for a night. It was raining and very windy, yet guest Wu had still not appeared late into the night. The later it became, the less Yu could sleep, always awaiting guest Wu. 

Yu stayed awake all night. The next day, the wind and rain stopped. Yu thought to himself that the guest would come back for the parcel, so why not continue to patiently wait? As time passed, his own departure time was getting closer. Yu began to grow impatient. Just when he was at a loss for what to do, Wu rushed into the inn and went straight to the original dining table. To his surprise, his parcel was still there with all his belongings intact. For an entire night, Yu had waited there for him! Wu’s heart overflowed with gratitude. 

When Wu arrived, Yu sighed with relief. It’s a blessing to return the parcel to its owner. A stone in Yu’s heart fell to the ground. Wu presented Yu with fine silvers in gratitude, but Yu refused, saying it was not worth mentioning as it’s the scholar’s nature to do good deeds. They repeatedly honored each other, but Yu continued to refuse the silver. Wu finally had to give up, yet did ask for Yu’s name and address. Yu had to tell Wu. 

Half a year later, Yu returned to Yushan after travelling around the Central Plains. Wu had sent a man to wait for him there. The man offered lavish gifts, but Yu refused to accept. The man had no choice but to identify himself and invited Yu to visit Wu’s Silk Shop. Yu couldn’t refuse this time, so he followed the man across the river to the shop. 

When Yu arrived, Wu greeted him warmly and invited him to drink tea. They began to chat in the living room. There was a young woman peeking out from behind the folding screens. She found this man in the seat refined in manner and of remarkable air, so she had already approved of her father’s proposal. 

The young woman was the only daughter of Wu. Although she was born into a merchant’s family, the young lady was intellectual, well-educated, and propriety-minded. 

During a break in conversation, Wu understood his daughter’s mind and increasingly found Yu very nice. He decided to help the young man and woman get married. Fearing that Yu may consider it immoral, Wu first hired Yu as the manager of his shop, which would help the young couple become more familiar with each other. As Yu was highly intelligent and a good learner, he quickly became a master of the business, making Wu’s Silk Shop more prosperous. 

The next year, Wu formally presented a note to all nearby shopkeepers proclaiming that Yu would permanently be in full charge of Wu’s Silk Shop, while he would remain in the background. At the same time, he chose a lucky day for the couple to get engaged. After a big wedding, Wu’s Silk Shop entered a new era. 

Yu Jide, recalling this great kindness with gratitude, and often recalling the encounter that windy and rainy night, was always a diligent manager of the shop. Even today, the story about the fortune of the wind and rain is still retold in Shanghai.  

Selected from A World Away from Fairy Tales, compiled by China Flash Fiction Society, and published by New World Press. 

Share to:

Copyright © 1998 - 2016

今日中国杂志版权所有 | 京ICP备10041721号-4

Chinese Dictionary