A String of Chinese Peach Stones

Origin of the Poppy.

” Well, we are friends, and I will tell you a tale. Many years ago, a young scholar, who had taken his first degree, went up to the capital to take the next. He stopped at an inn some distance from Peking, where he found an accomplished maiden who was able to converse with him upon his own subjects. Her father had given her leave to reject any suitor she did not like, and had promised not to sell her to any moneyed man she knew nothing about. She was therefore ‘ unspoken.’ Mutual affection sprang up between the two, and the young scholar vowed that when he had taken his degree he would return in the eighth month and make her his bride. He proceeded to Peking, and was fortunate enough to get not only the hoped-for degree, but also the office of county magistrate. At this he was so elated as to forget the maiden and his promise. He returned home another way.

” She, however, as the time went by, began to get anxious and poorly. In the tenth month, receiving no news, she sickened and died. Two months later the young mandarin received an Imperial summons, and proceeded to the capital again. He went by the same road as he had gone before, and stopped at the same inn. The landlord felt highly honoured to see a county mandarin come up to his door, but soon recognised his guest of the previous summer. ‘ Where is my bride? ‘ asked the mandarin. ‘ Alas, great official, she loved you so much as to pine away and die when you did not return.’ They went together to her grave. It was evening; he desired to be left alone, shed many bitter tears, and being very weary, fell asleep. In his dreams the maiden appeared to him, saying, ‘ Our connection [yin yuen] is broken, but on waking you will find an herb which will help to console you. It is a medicine for sorrow, and an elixir for all woe.’

” He awoke, and found a plant he had never seen before, nor was there any reference to it in the herbal treatises he had brought with him. He carefully dug it up, potted it, and by and by found out the soothing properties of its juice. From the words of the maiden he called it the  yin sheu flower ” (the former word is a pun upon the first word she used; the latter, is that of budding, which occurs in the Chinese for ” B.A.,” budding talent).

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