Wei Chongrong originally thought that Wei Zhao’s plan to spend the Lantern Festival with Jun Qing was to go to Hou Zhaoyang’s residence on the 15th and accompany Jun Qing to eat and chat or something, but to his surprise, Wei Zhao’s idea was to go out to watch the lanterns.
In his previous life, Wei Chongrong had lived in the capital for nearly twenty years.He had seen the annual Lantern Festival many times. It was indeed an eye-opening and colourful sight to behold.
But he and Wei Zhao were one thing; Jun Qing was more than eight months pregnant and physically uncomfortable. There were many people on the street. Would he be willing to go out? Wei Chongrong was sceptical of Wei Zhao’s plan and felt that the degree of feasibility was not high.
However, Jun Qing did not reject Wei Zhao’s arrangement, but only asked lightly, “During the Lantern Festival, the private rooms at the Star- Picking House have to be booked before the New Year, right? Is Your Highness still able to book a room on a whim?”
The Star-Picking House was the most famous restaurant in Yunjing. Located on Zhuque Street, the five-floor building was the tallest in the city apart from the Imperial Palace. It was also the best place to watch the lanterns, known as “seeing half of the city’s sea of lights.”
During the Lantern Festival, not to mention the private rooms on the three upper floors, even the seats in the lobby on the first and second floors needed to be booked ten days and half a month in advance, otherwise it would be no exaggeration to say that a seat was impossible to find.
Wei Zhao smiled indifferently: “Boss Du of the Star-Picking House is a smart man. He won’t book all the private rooms until the last minute. I asked Meng Junda to make a reservation two days ago. He told me it was already done.” The Meng Junda he mentioned was the steward of Wang Qin’s residence.
Jun Qing understood and couldn’t help but smile. It was an oversight on his part; in the capital where princes were everywhere, it was not surprising that any businessman with a keen sense would be careful, walking on thin ice and reserving private rooms or something.
Seeing that Jun Qing agreed with his arrangement, Wei Zhao raised his eyebrows and smiled: “Qing’er, you have to seize the opportunity to relax today. In the next month or so, I can guarantee Xin’er won’t let you walk out of the room for half a step.”
Jun Qing counted on his fingers and calmly retorted: “It’s impossible. There are drills in the third month, and Xin’er will be very busy. He will be lucky if he can have more than ten days of vacation.” Wei Zhao was speechless and gave up discussing this issue with Jun Qing.
Originally, he thought that after Jun Qing had given birth to a child, he would definitely need someone to accompany him. If it was inconvenient for Jun Xin to take leave, he would intercede with General Xiao Feng of the Western Camp. Xiao Feng was the son of Princess Baling and his cousin, and he would definitely give him some face.
Unexpectedly, Jun Qing had no such thoughts. Wei Zhao didn’t want to shower affection on an uninterested party, so he decided to give it up for the time being. Later, depending on the situation, he wouldn’t leave the father and child alone anyway.
Since Jun Qing had no opinion, Wei Zhao’s plan was naturally passed unanimously. Although Wei Chongrong was not a real child, it was exciting enough for him to spend the Lantern Festival alone with Wei Zhao, rather than surrounded by irrelevant people like on New Year’s Eve.
“Daddy, are we just going to watch the lanterns upstairs? Will we go for a walk to scatter all diseases(1) and set off river lanterns?” In his previous life, except for the two times when Jun Hua accompanied him, Wei Chongrong was not interested in going out during the Lantern Festival. It was really boring to have no one to accompany him. This year, with Wei Zhao, it was different.
Wei Zhao thought for a moment, then shook his head and said, “No, you’re not allowed to go to places with a lot of people. The Lantern Festival is no better than the temple fair. There are too many people and it’s dark, it’s not a joke to get lost. Besides, it’s always crowded when walking to scatter all diseases, and it doesn’t make sense…”
S, they couldn’t go downstairs, ah? Wei Chongrong was a little disappointed when he heard this, but he quickly calmed down when thinking of Jun Qing’s health. If he and Wei Zhao went for a walk, they would have to leave Jun Qing alone in the Star-Picking House. It won’t do; if you say you want to accompany someone for the holidays, you can’t break your promise.
If they couldn’t go this year, they wouldn’t go. So they would go next year. By then, Jun Hua would be almost one year old. Children like colourful and shiny things the most. If he saw the sea of lights all over the street, it was hard to imagine how happy he would be. Wei Chongrong was looking forward to it when he thought about it.
Wei Chongrong was about to say something to demonstrate what a sympathetic child he was when he heard Jun Qing say, “You guys go scatter all diseases, don’t mind me. But I’m going to set off the river lantern, so don’t stop me.”
Wei Zhao was a bit startled and then said, “If Qing’er is going to set off the river lantern, let’s go later and find a place with fewer people.” Wei Chongrong was dumbfounded. Why was he treated differently from Jun Qing? His father was really unfair.
Because they were going out to watch the lanterns, dinner at Hou Zhaoyang’s residence was taken earlier that day. As soon as it was dark, Wei Zhao and Jun Qing took Wei Chongrong, got into a spacious carriage and headed towards the Star-Picking House.
Zhuque Street was the main street of Yunjing. Usually, it was full of merchants and people coming and going. Today was the Lantern Festival, so it was even more brilliantly lit up, as bright as day. There were many temporary night market stalls on both sides of the street, selling lanterns, food, blessing objects and handicrafts… countless of them. Before the carriage reached the Star-Picking House, Wei Zhao asked the coachman to stop three times along the way, bought himself a pack of walnut flaky pastries, bought Wei Chongrong a goldfish lantern, and bought a pair of peace talismans for Jun Qing.
The carriage of Hou Zhaoyang’s residence was specially made; the cushions were thick and soft, particularly comfortable to lie on. Wei Chongrong leaned back next to Jun Qing and didn’t even want to get up.
Wei Zhao couldn’t bear to see his son’s lazy look, so he picked him up by the collar and stuffed the lantern he had just bought into his hands: “Sit upright, if you lie down again, you will fall asleep.”
Wei Chongrong took the lantern and dangled it in his hand. Wei Zhao picked up the walnut pastry and asked him, “Would you like some?” Wei Chongrong shook his head, and Wei Zhao asked Jun Qing: “Qing’er, how about you?” Jun Qing also shook his head.
Wei Zhao sighed with a melancholy expression on his face, “Life is so lonely, I don’t have a single confidant.” Jun Qing and Wei Chongrong looked at each other, but neither said anything.
When the carriage arrived at the Star-Picking House, Meng Junda handed over the reservation sign and the manager went out in person to greet them. After saying a few auspicious words, he led them to the private room on the fifth floor.
The private rooms on the fourth and fifth floors of the Star-Picking House could only be booked if Boss Du said his word. Wei Zhao and the others were dressed in casual clothes. The manager looked at them, not recognising them, but he knew that those who could book a private room on the fifth floor were not ordinary people, so he treated them very politely.
Pushing open the door of the private room, one could see that the interior was tastefully furnished, the incense was burning, and the layout was very elegant. The windows on both sides to the main street and the side alley were open. Standing by the window and looking out, you could see half of the lights of the capital. It was indeed a good place to watch the lanterns.
The manager told the waiter to send tea, and seeing that Wei Zhao and the others had no other orders, respectfully excused himself.
Wei Zhao sat down at the table, picked up the tea and took a sip, and beckoned Meng Junda to ask, “Who are the people in the next three rooms? Can you find out?” There were only four private rooms on the fifth floor, so the possibility of meeting relatives was too high, and Wei Zhao had to find out the details.
Meng Junda cupped his fist and said, “Answering Your Highness, on our left is the family of Ping County Wang, on the right is the family of Wang Yong’an, and diagonally opposite is the family of Gong Song.”
Wei Zhao’s expression froze, and he immediately asked, “Have the two Dowager Wangfei come?” Never mind Gong Song’s family for the time being, the other two families were on the same level as him, and if an elder was present, he needed to go over and say hello.
Meng Junda thought for a moment, and replied: “Dowager Wangfei of Ping County Wang is here, but Dowager Wangfei Yong’an is not here.” Wei Zhao breathed a sigh of relief.
Unexpectedly, as soon as he came out of the private room of Ping County Wang, Wei Zhao met Jiang Che, who was leading two children to go out.
After a moment of silence, Jiang Che spoke first: “Are you here to watch the lanterns too?” As he had not introduced Wei Zhao, the two children around him were a bit confused, somewhat at a loss for words.
Wei Zhao responded subconsciously: “Rong’er was making a fuss about watching the lanterns, so I brought him here.”
Jiang Che patted the two children on the shoulders and said with a chuckle: “Children, they all love to watch the fun, and so do my two nephews.”
Wei Zhao curled his lips in a smile: “If that’s the case, you guys go quickly, Rong’er is still waiting for me in the room.” After saying this, without waiting for Jiang Che to answer, he hurriedly returned to his room.
Jiang Che froze for a moment, and then led the children downstairs at their urging.
Wei Zhao returned to the private room, his mind still a little unsettled. Jun Qing was peeling an orange for Wei Chongrong. Without even looking at Wei Zhao, he said softly: “If one wavers when decisiveness is needed, one will suffer from one’s own confusion.”
Wei Zhao glanced at him and didn’t speak for a long time. Indeed, in the matter of Jiang Che, he dragged his feet too much and was not decisive enough…(2)
At this time, the sky was already dark, and there were more and more lanterns on the street, as well as dragon lantern dancers and iron flower casters(3).
Wei Chongrong was sitting by the window, dazzled. Wei Zhao and Jun Qing talked endlessly, and while talking, fed Wei Chongrong, making his eyes and his mouth too busy.
After watching for a while, Wei Chongrong became a little sleepy, but Wei Zhao had no intention to leave, and Jun Qing sat steady like a mountain.
Seeing his son rubbing his eyes from time to time, Wei Zhao knew that he wanted to sleep, so he picked him up: “Rong’er, sleep for a while if you’re sleepy. When it’s time to set off the river lanterns, Daddy will wake you up.”
Wei Chongrong nodded vaguely and closed his eyes obediently, falling asleep in no time.
Jun Qing said a little apologetically: “It’s all because of me, otherwise you would be able to go back.” Because of his physical inconvenience he had to wait until after the crowd had dispersed in order to set off the river lantern.
Wei Zhao didn’t want to wake up his son, so he lowered his voice a little bit as he said, “Talking about such a thing between you and me, believe it or not, I will clean you up…” Since he was a child, Jun Qing had rarely been polite to him, and it was really uncomfortable to have a sudden moment of politeness now.
“I don’t believe it!” Jun Qing’s tone of voice was obviously teasing. Wei Zhao’s words might be not a joke in normal times, but with him like this, how could he clean him up? He would be a fool to believe his words.
Wei Zhao was about to say something when he suddenly heard cheers coming from outside the door. When he listened intently, he understood that the riddle-guessing and lantern-giving event at the Star-Picking House had begun. He hurriedly asked someone to open the inward-facing window.
It was boring to wait, so it was better to have fun with other people. Besides, the quality of the lanterns at the Star-Picking House was not inferior to the palace lanterns, and the appearance was novel and beautiful. If he won a couple for Wei Chongrong, it would make the child crazy.
Jun Qing’s thoughts were similar to Wei Zhao’s; he was also looking for something to pass the time, otherwise he would be sleepy if he waited any longer.
The Star-Picking House was not so much a building as a tower. Starting from the second floor, it was hollow. Guests on the upper three floors could see the high platform in the centre of the second floor.
There were a total of twelve lanterns used for gifts, all tied on the ropes, slowly rising, then slowly descending… The process was repeated, so that guests on each floor could clearly see the riddles attached to the lanterns.
Each of the twelve lanterns had its own characteristics. The most eye-catching one was a marquee. Each of its cells was a story, not folklore, but the eight most famous generals of the Great Yan and their battles since the founding of the country. Among them, there were Ji Qing and Jun Lin.
Wei Zhao immediately decided that he wanted the lantern, but the riddle was: “Three mountains from three mountains, two mountains willingly hanging upside down. Month after month, the months are connected. Two feathers are arranged on the left and right, and two rivers are arranged vertically and horizontally. The whole family has six members, but two are not reunited.”
Wei Zhao read it over and over several times, but he couldn’t guess what the word was. Thinking that Jun Qing seemed to be more serious than him in studying, Wei Zhao turned around and looked at him: “Qing’er, can you?”
Jun Qing was taken aback and shook his head gently. Like Wei Zhao, he had no interest in poetry and literature, so how could he guess it!
The lanterns were not worth much money, but they were chic, and who didn’t have a few young children in their family clamouring for the lanterns. So most of the people were thinking hard, and those who guessed wrote notes for the manager to read. If the answer was right, the waiter would take the lantern down and send it to the winner.
Gradually, there were fewer and fewer lanterns, but Wei Zhao couldn’t do anything. Why did he need to guess riddles? Just change the rules, like throwing darts into a pot or something, and he would definitely not lose.
The marquee was the last light left, which showed that it was the most difficult, but Wei Zhao had no hope for it.
In the end, seeing the waiter pull down the rope and take it off, Wei Zhao felt regretful but also glad that Wei Chongrong was asleep and didn’t know about the riddles and the lanterns, so he wouldn’t tell him, right?
Seeing Wei Zhao’s depressed expression, Jun Qing suddenly wondered if he should take a refresher course in poetry and literature, otherwise what if his son looked at the lanterns in the future and he couldn’t guess the riddles either? It was unrealistic to expect Ji Xin to be able to do so.
Just as the two of them were thinking, someone came to knock on the door, and the servant walked to the window to see that it was the waiter, carrying the lantern that had just been taken down in his hand, saying it was for them.
The servant was obviously taken aback. Neither Wang Qin nor Hou Zhaoyang could guess the riddle, and they did not hand in the answer, so he asked the waiter if he had made a mistake. The waiter hurriedly said no, their room number was written on the note with the answer, so there was no mistake.
Feeling that something was wrong, the servant reported the matter to Wei Zhao. Wei Zhao couldn’t help being dumbfounded when he heard the news. He could guess that the lantern was given to him by someone, but the only people he knew who came to the Star-Picking House were the people from the two families next door. Jiang Che had taken his nephews out, so it wouldn’t be him; Wei Chang, Ping County Wang, was not as smart as he was. There might be competent people around him, but Wei Chang’s son was about the same age as Wei Chongrong, and he would never not want this lantern. If you thought about it, it could only be Gong Song’s family diagonally opposite them, and they had to be really well-informed.
The servant repeatedly checked with the waiter, and after confirming that it was correct, he took the lantern. Wei Zhao held the marquee, but not only did he not have a sense of accomplishment, he was full of frustration. What others gave and what he won by guessing himself felt really far away(4).
Seeing that it was almost time and the crowd on the street slowly dispersed, Wei Zhao awakened Wei Chongrong and prepared to take him to set off the river lanterns. Wei Chongrong woke up and saw the marquee. He was surprised and held it tightly, his big eyes twinkling.
To set off the river lanterns, you had to go to the Yushui River. It was not far from the Star-Picking House, and you would be there in less than a quarter of an hour. Because they arrived relatively late, the river was already full of lotus lanterns with the words of blessing written in gold and red.
Wei Chongrong had set off river lanterns twice before, but his wish didn’t come true, and then he stopped doing it. But today, he had to do it.
There was a stall selling lotus lanterns by the Yushui River. Wei Zhao and the others went over and bought one each.
Seeing that they were well dressed, the stall owner enthusiastically offered: “Guests, do you want a written note or a blank? This shop has brushes and ink, you can…”
Before the stall owner could finish speaking, Wei Zhao raised his hand and said, “Naturally, we will write by ourselves, just provide brushes and ink.”
Jun Qing finished writing first. Wei Chongrong leaned over and took a look. Jun Qing only wrote five words: “Peace to the whole family”. Wei Zhao knocked on his head: “What are you looking at? Do you recognise all the words? Hurry up and write your own. If there are words you don’t know how to write, don’t draw circles.”
Wei Chongrong stared back in defiance. Although he didn’t have enough strength in his hands and the words he wrote were not very good-looking, such a shameful thing as drawing circles would never happen.
Wei Zhao stopped paying attention to Wei Chongrong, took a brush and wrote in one go: “The country prospers, the people at peace”. Wei Chongrong was speechless when he read it. It was just a river lantern, why was this wish too big? It should’ve been written by Wei Su or Wei Ming.
Seeing that Wei Chongrong was slow to move his brush, Wei Zhao urged: “Rong’er, you should write quickly. We have to go fishing for the lanterns after we set off ours. It’s getting late.”
Wei Chongrong thought for a while, and finally wrote “All wishes to come true”. He had too many wishes, and it would be inappropriate to write any of them, but this was the only one that could sum them all up.
Wei Zhao and Jun Qing couldn’t help laughing after reading what he wrote. This little guy was really greedy and wanted “all wishes to come true.”
After writing, they placed the paper into the lotus lanterns and put the lanterns into the river, letting them float away on the water. The procedure of releasing the lanterns was done, and the remaining part was to fish for the lanterns, which required them to go downstream.
Jun Qing insisted on setting off the lantern by himself, but he was really not in the right shape. Even with Wei Zhao supporting him, he had to half kneel down before releasing the lantern. Wei Chongrong, on the other hand, released his lotus lantern on his own, without Wei Zhao’s help.
“Qing’er, don’t hurry, let’s go slowly, it’s not like we’ll be fishing out own lanterns.” Wei Zhao saw fine beads of sweat on Jun Qing’s forehead and helped him walk slowly.
Jun Qing let out an “En”, not commenting on his words. Wei Chongrong was held by Meng Junda and walked behind them, bouncing, still carrying the beautiful marquee in his hand.
Downstream, many people were already fishing for lanterns. Wei Chongrong had a fancy for a phoenix-shaped lantern from a long distance, and Meng Junda helped him fish for it, but he failed to get it twice. Wei Zhao leaped up, stepped on the water, and got the lantern for him under the warm applause from the shore.
Wei Chongrong eagerly took out the paper from the lantern, but saw that it said “Get everything desired”, and couldn’t help laughing. “All wishes to come true” and “Get everything desired”, it seemed that his luck this year would definitely be very good.
Jun Qing took a fancy to an elegant white lotus lantern, but this time he didn’t force it, so Wei Zhao helped him pick up the lantern. Jun Qing took out the paper, and it said: “In the sky, to be birds of a feather, and on earth, to be branches of a tree.” The handwriting was beautiful and soft, and it was obviously from a certain unmarried lady.
As Jun Qing was still looking at the paper, Wei Zhao smiled and said, “Although it’s not the Qixi Festival, the words are quite appropriate.” Wei Chongrong wisely chose to keep his mouth shut; this was not the suitable content for him to speak about.
Wei Zhao then fished out a golden lotus lantern with the inscription “Qin and se sing in harmony” inside(5). Wei Zhao’s face suddenly darkened, and he just felt that he didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. He didn’t plan to get married anymore. Whose se could he sing with “in harmony”? Really, it was not suitable at all, okay?
At this moment, a weird voice came from behind them: “Some people, ah, disgraceful on the battlefield but good at bullying others. First, they grab the private room that people have booked, and then they grab the lantern that people have guessed…”
- A folk tradition to go for a walk at night on the Lantern Festival to “scatter all diseases”, to eliminate disasters and pray for health
- Taking into account the way Wei Zhao and Jun Qing interact (they are usually quite blunt and even a bit rude to each other), I’m practically sure that when Jun Qing speaks in such an elaborate way, it is not Wei Zhao he considers indecisive.
- A traditional art/craft, very beautiful, see here
- If you wonder about the answer, it is the word 用 (to use), and the riddle refers to the elements you can see in this character: 山 (mountain), 月 (month), 羽 (feather), 川 (river). Family members are apprently the six lines in the chacracter, the two not connected (in the bottom). Anyway, it looks like this in Chinese: 三山自三山，山山甘倒悬。一月复一月，月月还相连。左右排双羽，纵横列二川。阖家都六口，两口不团圆
- A metaphor for a husband and a wife being in harmony