At the end of the Ming Dynasty, Zhang Xianzhong occupied Sichuan and killed and plundered indiscriminately.
According to the “Records of Zhang Xianzhong’s Scourge in Sichuan” (by Yu Zhongliang, the official seal of Jianchangwei of the Southern Ming Dynasty), “Since the massacre by Zhang Xianzhong, the bones in Sichuan have become a cluster of hills and mountains, the fields are desolate, thousands of miles of smoke, human traces are rare, and tigers and wolves are on the move. The former city and palace are now thorns and bronze camels. The country of heaven in the past is now a foreign land of Rakshasas.”
At that time, Chi Chengxun, a citizen of Jiangjin County, lived in a mountain village with his wife Liao. When Zhang’s bandits were about to arrive, Qi and Liao discussed how the family could escape. His wife, Liao, was too weak and was afraid that she would not be spared on the way, so she resolved to stay home and not escape.
Before they could discuss, they found that the village in front of them was already on fire. Zhang’s army of thieves had arrived. The husband got up and fled, while the wife closed the door tightly, thinking that she was going to die. Zhang’s army came to the village, took a look at their house and did not enter, while the neighbors were burned out.
Liao, who was alone, spent more than a year at home, surrounded by desolation, other people died and left, and there was no one to talk to. She saw that the grain stock was almost gone, but fortunately there was still grain left in the altar, so she took it out and sowed it, and the grain she got was enough for one person. But the clothes and shoes are torn, there is no cloth to mend, and there is no way to buy cloth to do it again, so she took local materials and found stalks and leaves to put together to make do. Forty years passed like this.
After escaping from Jiangjin, Qi Chengxun went into exile in Yunnan, where he married and had children. When he reached his sixties, he had a small fortune and wanted to go back to his hometown. At that time, the world was peaceful and Jiangjin County was located on a river crossing, so the population gathered quickly and grew in size.
Chi returned to Jiangjin County, inquiring about the news of his hometown, war blocked, mountain villages closed, but no one knew. So, he decided to move to find back.
By memory, he walked to the mountain village a dozen miles away, he saw that the trees were overgrown and had blocked the path, apparently there was no sign of people for a long time. So, he got some people to help cut the wood to open the road. After two days of hard work, the team finally arrived at Chi Chengxun’s old village.
He struggled to identify the location of his old home. The shrubs and wild bamboo covered his eyes, and there was a big tree growing out of a crooked building. He decided that it was his old house, so he commanded the crowd to take axes and chop into the door.
Suddenly he heard someone in the crooked building shouting, “Who are you and why are you trespassing in my inner room?” Suddenly hearing this voice, the group was taken aback.
Chi replied in a loud voice, “I am Chi Cheng-hsun, the owner of this house.”
Liao peered down from upstairs for a long time and finally cried, “It really is my husband!” The person also came down from the upper floor. Qi Chengxun saw a wild man with hair like grass and a black face, clad in a hairy grass coat.
Qi examined each other for a while, and finally the two embraced each other and cried out. Forty years between life and death, the old couple from beginning to end to tell each other all kinds of things after leaving the disaster, and finally cried with joy.
The people who came with them heard their story and comforted them with surprise and joy. Qi Chengxun then took his old wife and went to Jiangjin County, where she washed her whole body painfully and helped her fix her hair and change her clothes. After that, Qi Chengxun went to Yunnan to bring his family to live with him, and both couples lived until they were over ninety years old before they died.
The story of the couple who were separated in the wars, and finally reunited after forty years of silence, is widely told by the people of Jiangjin.
Source: “Notes of Yong Xian Zhai