During the Tianjian period of the Southern Liang Dynasty, Wei Zhu served in Yangzhou as a puisne of Cao (an ancient official position in various sub-departments of the government and the county) and returned to Liuhe County in Yangzhou after his appointment. He had a neighbor named Zhang Lao, an old man who grew vegetables.
At that time, Wei Zhu’s eldest daughter had already grown up, and Wei Zhu asked a matchmaker in the township to help him find a good match. He didn’t expect that the old vegetable grower was looking forward to the marriage.
Zhang waited for the matchmaker at the gate of Wei’s house, and kindly invited her into his house, and prepared wine and food for the guests. When the wine was finished, Zhang asked the matchmaker for the facts and confessed his wish: “Although I am old and decrepit, I can grow a vegetable garden and have enough food and clothing, so I hope you will ask the Wei family to marry me. I hope you can ask the Wei family to marry me. When it is done, I will definitely send a generous gift to thank you.”
The matchmaker scolded Zhang and left. But two days later, Zhang Lao invited the matchmaker again, and she said, “Why doesn’t the old man measure himself, is there a daughter of a government official who is willing to marry an old man who grows vegetables? The Wei family is indeed poor, but you are not the object of marriage, the door to the family of the scholar and doctor are also many. How can I go begging for scolding because of you a glass of wine!”
Zhang Lao was not discouraged and repeatedly asked the matchmaker, “Please speak for me reluctantly, and if the Wei family does not agree, it is my life.”
The matchmaker went to Wei’s house and brought up the matter. Wei Zhu was furious, “My mother-in-law, because my family is poor, is looking down on us like this! How could such a thing happen to our family? Who is the old man who planted the vegetable garden to say such things? I don’t blame the old man, but how can you be so ignorant of right and wrong?”
The matchmaker said, “It’s true that I shouldn’t have said that, but the old man told me that I had no choice but to convey his feelings.”
Wei Zu said angrily, “Tell him to send 500 Guan today, and that’s it.”
The matchmaker told Zhang Lao what Wei Zhu had said. Zhang Lao said cheerfully, “Okay.” Not long after, five hundred Guan of money was delivered to the Wei family in a car.
The Wei family was astonished and said, “I was just joking, how can an old man who grows vegetables get so much money? The original estimate is that he must not be able to get so much money before saying so. Now that the money has been sent, what should we do?”
Wei asked his family to secretly find out what his daughter wanted. She said, “It’s fate!” And she agreed to the marriage.
After the marriage, Zhang Lao planted the garden as usual, picking fertilizer, hoeing and selling vegetables. Wei Zhu’s eldest daughter became his wife, cooking and washing herself, and did not feel inferior. Relatives felt that she had married an unworthy man and alienated her, but it did not affect her.
After a few years of this, some of her relatives and friends who were knowledgeable blamed Wei Jiao, saying, “Your family is indeed poor, but aren’t there any good sons and daughters from poor families in the countryside? Why did you marry your daughter to an old man who grows vegetables? You have married your daughter off and don’t want her, so why don’t you let her go far away?”
After a few days, Wei Zhu set up a banquet, called his daughter and Zhang Lao, and slightly revealed that he wanted them to leave.
Zhang Lao owed and said, “The reason we didn’t leave here right away was because we were thinking that you might not want to let go of your daughter. Now since you hate us, what’s so hard about leaving here? I have a small manor house under Wangwu Mountain, and we will go back tomorrow morning.”
The next day, at dawn, the eldest daughter of the Wei family and Zhang Lao came to say goodbye, “If you miss us one day, you can ask your elder brother to come and visit us at the southern foot of Titan Mountain.” Zhang Lao asked his wife to put on a hat and ride on a donkey, and he himself followed behind with a walking stick.
Several years passed after they left, and there was no news. Wei Zu missed his daughter, thinking that she would probably become disheveled after a hard life, right? I don’t think I would recognize her if I saw her again. He asked his eldest son, Wei Yifang, to go and find Zhang’s family.
Wei Yifang went to the southern foot of Tiantan Mountain and met a Kunlun slave (Note: In ancient times, the land of the southern part of the Sino-Indian peninsula and the islands of the South China Sea was called Kunlun, and the people were exiled to China and sold themselves as slaves.
Wei Yifang asked, “Is there a manor house of Zhang Lao here?” The kunlunnu seemed to have waited for him for a long time, put down the ox whip in his hand and paid his respects, saying, “Great-uncle, why did it take you so long to come? I will show you the way.”
The two men walked eastward to ascend a mountain and descended through a stream, and the scenery gradually became different from the earth on the way. They came to a mountain below the stream, north of a luxurious mansion with a vermilion lacquered gate, with buildings and pavilions staggered in height, flowers and trees, covered with auspicious clouds, luan birds, white cranes and peacocks hovering and flying, clear and loud music and songs lingering. A special rich fragrance overflowed in the valley of the cliff. Kunlunnu pointed and said, “This is the Zhang Family Village!”
Arriving at the immortal world
The sight in front of him surprised Weiyifang a million times. There was a small official in charge of the gate wearing purple clothes in front of the Zhuang gate, saluting him and taking him into the middle hall. The hall was decorated with items that Wei Yifang had never seen before. He suddenly heard Peiyu’s voice approaching, and two maids came out and said, “The master is here.”
Then he saw a dozen of very beautiful-looking maids, walking in pairs, leading the way in front, and behind them came out the master, wearing a crown of distant travel, a big red silk coat, a magnificent instrument, a strong physique, and a tender face. A maid led Yi Fang forward to salute, look carefully, it turned out to be Zhang Lao.
Zhang Lao said: “Brother, you have worked hard. Before your body can be cooled, the fire of sorrow and suffering will rise again, and you will not be comfortable for a moment. What do you use to amuse yourself when you have lived in the world for so long? …… Your sister will come to see you after a little dressing.” So he made a bow to Wei Yifang and invited him to sit down.
In a short while, a maid came to report, “Your sister has finished dressing.” Wei Yifang was invited to go in. The main room was made of sunken incense wood for the roof beams, decorated with tortoiseshell for the facade, jasper for the windows and windows, hung with pearl curtains, and the steps were all made of cold, smooth, lime green jade. The sister’s clothes and accessories were so beautiful that Wei Yifang had never seen them in the human world. The sister spoke a few words of hospitality and asked about her parents and elders, and the affection was very distant. Then he was invited to dine, and the food was exquisite and fragrant beyond description.
The next day just after dawn, Zhang Lao accompanied Wei Yifang to sit and gossip together and said to him, “My sister suddenly wants to visit Penglai Mountain, your sister should go too, but we will be back before dark. Brother just rest here.”
Gods and Goddesses Ascend to Heaven on Phoenixes
A moment later, Yi Fang saw five-colored clouds rising from the middle court, the luan and phoenix flying in the air, and the zither and the flute playing together. Zhang Lao and Yi Fang’s sister each took a phoenix, and the rest of the entourage of dozens of people took cranes, gradually ascending into the sky and flying towards the due east until they were hidden, with the sound of music still faintly heard.
Yi Fang lived in the inner hall and was attentively served by a small maid.
When it was about to get dark, the sound of the shofar rang out, and instantly Zhang Lao and his party landed in the court. When Zhang Lao and his wife saw Wei Yifang, they said to him, “It is too lonely for you to stay at home alone. But this place is the house of the gods, which is not meant to be visited by earthly people. Brother should come here because of his destiny, but he can’t stay long, so it’s time to say goodbye and go back tomorrow.”
When Wei Yifang left to go back, his sister said goodbye to him and spoke attentively, asking him to greet his parents on his behalf. Elder Zhang said, “The earthly world is very far from here, and I am too late to write.” Zhang Lao gave Yi Fang twenty taels of gold, and as if he could see the future plight of the family, he gave him an old mat hat, saying, “If you don’t have money, brother, you can go to the house of Wang Lao, who sells medicine at the north residence of Yangzhou, to get ten million Guan, and take this old mat hat as a voucher.” Zhang asked Kunlunnu to send Yifang out of the mountain, and together they walked to Tiantan Mountain, Kunlunnu said goodbye, and Yifang went back alone.
Yifang returned home alone with the gold on his back. The people at home were surprised and asked him about the situation. Some of them thought that Zhang Lao was a god, while others thought he was a demon.
Go up to Yangzhou to get money
After five or six years, the gold ran out, and when the Wei family’s situation fell into difficulty, they wanted to take the old mat hat for money, but they thought it was absurd and unbelievable. The family said: “Even if I can’t get the money, what does it matter if I go there!” So they asked Yifang to go to Yangzhou.
Yi Fang on a trip to Yangzhou Wang old pharmacy, Wang old pharmacy of a little girl said: “Zhang old once came, asked me to sew the top of the hat, then I did not have black thread, is sewn with red thread. The color of the thread and sewing stitches, I can examine by myself.” A look, the mat cap is really true. Yi Fang got the money and loaded it with a car to go home, and everyone finally believed that Zhang Lao was a true god.
Just like being around
After some years, the Wei family missed their daughter again, and once again asked Yifang to look for her at the southern foot of Tiantan Mountain. When they got there, there were thousands of mountains and no more roads. Sometimes they ran into firewood hunters, and no one knew Zhang Laozhuang. The family believes that the immortal world and the earth are two different worlds, there is no day to see each other.
Yifang went to Yangzhou again to look for Wang Lao, but Wang Lao was also gone.
After several more years, Yifang occasionally visited Yangzhou and walked in front of the north residence, when he suddenly saw the Kunlunnu of Zhang Lao’s family and came up to salute him, saying, “How is the situation of the great-uncle’s family? Although I can’t go home, but like serving my parents every day, there is nothing that I don’t know about the big and small things at home.”
Kunlunnu took out ten pounds of gold from his side and gave it to Yifang, saying, “Niangzi asked me to give it to the great-uncle. Our master is drinking with Wang Lao at this hotel, so sit down for a while, I will go in and report to the master.”
Yi Fang waited under the wine flag until the sun went down and Kunlunu did not come out, so he went into the hotel to see. He saw that the seats were full of people drinking, but there was no Zhang Lao, Wang Lao, nor Kunlun Nu. He took out the gold to see, but it was real gold. Yi Fang was surprised and sighed, and went home. From then on, he never knew where Zhang Lao was.
Source: The Book of Mysterious Monsters