Sunday, January 20, 2013
A the foot of Lànkē 烂柯 mountain there lived a poor scholar named ZHŪ Mǎichén 朱买臣 and his wife, Woman Cuī (Cuī shì 崔氏).
Zhū thought only about books, and after 20 years of marriage, Woman Cuī could no longer stand the living in poverty and longed to marry a rich man. So she compelled Zhū to draft a writ of divorce, despite his great reluctance.
Freed of her marriage to Zhū, Woman Cuī soon wed a rich man, who, however, had many bad habits and a foul temper and who beat and tormented her, causing her to regret leaving the humble Zhū.One day she went to visit a former neighbor, Old Lady Wáng (Wáng pó 王婆) at Lànkē Mountain. Old Lady Wáng was visiting relatives, but Woman Cuī was staying in her house when couriers arrived seeking the house of Zhū to bring him the good news of his brilliant success in the imperial examinations and request his presence before the emperor.
Overcome with regrets at having left Zhū now that he was successful and would soon be rich, Woman Cuī knelt before his horse as he passed in procession to receive his honors. When he paused and looked down at her, she begged him to accept her back. Zhū, not without compassion for her, but aware of her remarriage, ordered an attendant to pour out a bowl of water upon the ground. He pointed to the water sinking into the dirt, and he told her that when she was able to gather up the water and put it back into the bowl, she would be able to become his wife once again.
Woman Cuī realized that spilt water, like a rejected husband, could not be recovered, and, in despair at her folly, she killed herself.