Chapter 7 – Three Cups of Tea
Novel t.i.tle: 一生之计在于春 (Spring is the Plan of Life)
Author：御小凡 (Yu Xiaofan)
Translator: K (@kin0monogatari)
Protagonists: 姚锦夕 (Yao Jinxi -MC), 吴洋 (Wu Yang -ML)
*Please read at knoxt.s.p.a.ce, the original site of translation. TQ*
If you don’t court death, you won’t die!
ao Jinxi really wanted to slap himself in the face. This was just asking for trouble. Promising to be available is easy. But once you need to fulfil it, it’s truly agonising.
Having been awoken from a good sleep, n.o.body’s mood would be too pleasant. Yao Jinxi’s tone and warmth were completely mismatched, “If you’ve got anything to say, say it. If not, let me sleep. Calling at this hour, you’re like a midnight ominous bell.”
But the tone didn’t faze Wu Yang at all. He continued, “Hmm, there’s nothing much. Just wanted to chat with you.”
Yao Jinxi scratched the back of his head and returned to his bed. The mattress was right beneath the window. He sat on the bed and leaned against the wall as he babbled on, “Mhmm, can’t sleep, huh? You can count sheep, you know. One sheep jumps over, two sheep jump over, and soon you’ll fall asleep.”
On the other end, there was only laughter. The voice sounded pleasant. But at this time of night, in a pitch-black room, with laughter constantly echoing through the phone receiver, it was genuinely eerie.
Yao Jinxi quickly became more alert, “Hey, buddy, stop it. Seriously, is there something you need?”
Finally, Wu Yang spoke again, “Nothing, really. Like I said, I wanted to chat with you.”
Yao Jinxi felt like his brain had shattered. Now he could truly understand the pain of Xia Ruonan. Truly deserving of being called the ‘Saint Mother of Summer’, she wasn’t even getting angry at a situation like this.
But after going back and forth with the questioning, Yao Jinxi’s sleepiness had faded away. Regardless of how strange the situation was now, he had agreed to it. He wiped his face with his empty hand and said, “Okay, what do you want to chat about?”
On the other end, there was another moment of silence.
Yao Jinxi was getting exasperated. Was this person really so free? If you have so much energy, go do something productive. Like… you know… However, just as he was about to say that he would hang up, he heard a sigh from the phone.
The sigh was so soft, almost just the sound of breath. Yet it conveyed a sense of deep suppression and weariness. Hearing this faint sigh, Yao Jinxi unexpectedly felt a bit affected.
He even had a strange sensation that, despite knowing Wu Yang for so long, this almost inaudible sigh was the truest expression of his emotions.
Yao Jinxi scolded himself for being overly sentimental. Why would he even think like this? But maybe it was the stillness around him or the semi-dreamy state he was in, no matter what, he found himself unwilling to hang up the call.
It was as if he held a rope in his hand that could decide someone’s life or death.
Yao Jinxi wanted to sigh as well. Maybe he had spent too much time with Xia Ruonan so he had caught her soft-heartedness as well. He broke the silence first, “It’s past 3 o’clock now. Do you want to come over for a cup of tea?”
This was the first time Yao’s Tea Shop had opened at this hour. Yao Jinxi came downstairs dressed neatly and turned on the lights. He sat in a chair lost in thought. Half an hour later, when Wu Yang’s call came in, he got up to open the door.
He only lifted the roll-up door halfway, closing it again after Wu Yang bent down to enter. With no words exchanged, they both sat down at the tea table, each on one side.
It was only then that Wu Yang spoke, “I’m sorry for disturbing you.”
At this point, there wasn’t much more to say. Yao Jinxi wiped his hands, boiled water, and said, “It’s okay. I’ll consider it a unique life experience. Do you know what time it is now?”
Wu Yang replied, “Around 3:30.”
Without looking at him, Yao Jinxi nodded and continued, “From 3 to 5 o’clock, according to ancient timekeeping, it’s the ‘yín’ hour. ‘Yín’ represents ‘yí’, which means movement or transition. It signifies that all things have reached completion and are about to begin anew.”
Wu Yang wasn’t familiar with cla.s.sical literature. So he went along and asked, “What does that mean?”
“It means that everything has come to an end and a new start is possible,” Yao Jinxi explained while watching the water’s temperature, waiting for it to gradually boil. He added, “It’s an auspicious time.”
Wu Yang remained silent for a while and then said, “I see.”
Yao Jinxi glanced at him as he turned off the heating. He then used a wooden clamp to lift a teacup and placed it in front of Wu Yang. “I was just making things up,” he admitted.
Wu Yang: “…”
Rubbing his nose, he could only watch Yao Jinxi prepare the tea. This process was different from what he had seen before. Yao Jinxi used a tea knife to cut some fine shavings from the tightly wrapped tea leaves. He then placed them in the teapot, rinsed them once, and then poured hot water directly over them.
Wu Yang wasn’t very knowledgeable about tea. This seemed different from regular tea leaves. So he asked, “Is this Pu’er tea?”
“It’s not Pu’er tea, it’s Tuocha tea, also from Yunnan,” Yao Jinxi simply denied and didn’t elaborate further. After brewing a cup, he poured it into the cup in front of Wu Yang and also filled his own cup. “Go ahead and drink.”
After saying this, he took a sip.
Following suit, Wu Yang lifted the teacup and took a sip, inadvertently furrowing his eyebrows.
“It’s quite bitter, isn’t it?” Yao Jinxi seemed unaffected by the bitterness as he poured more tea into both cups. “Because I can’t roast it, it lacks some fragrance. So just make do. After all, even if it’s bitter, can it be more bitter than the hards.h.i.+ps of life?”
Wu Yang hesitated, swallowing the bitter and astringent tea. He stared at the dark tea in the cup, lost in thought. He drank the tea in silence.
Yao Jinxi asked, “Do you know how many steps are required to brew a good cup of tea?”
Wu Yang, not being knowledgeable in this area, replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
“From the process of making the tea to the act of drinking it, there are a total of nine difficulties,” Yao Jinxi said slowly, enunciating each word softly. It created an air of tranquillity, much like the fragrance of the tea itself. “Even drinking a cup of tea presents nine difficulties, not to mention the journey of life itself, which is full of challenges. Just like how I have to brew a cup of tea for someone who disturbed my sleep in the middle of the night. I truly find it unbearably bitter.”
Wu Yang gave a bitter smile. “I’m sorry.”
Yao Jinxi shrugged it off indifferently. “It’s fine. I’m here to make money.”
“Okay,” Wu Yang smiled and shook his head. It was a smile that seemed to fit the scene, dissipating as soon as it appeared.
For a while, no one spoke. The occasional sound of tea utensils meeting each other filled the quiet atmosphere.
“I… always felt that life is meaningless,” Wu Yang suddenly said, his gaze fixed on the tea instead of looking at Yao Jinxi. His words seemed more like self-questioning than addressing someone else. “What is living for? Everything you do goes wrong. Nothing seems right. Eventually, I started to think the problem was myself.”
His words were disjointed. But Yao Jinxi didn’t mind. “What is living for? That’s a good question. You have the potential to be a philosopher.”
Wu Yang sighed wearily. After the smile disappeared from his face, his expression turned chillingly cold. His eyes, as he looked at Yao Jinxi, seemed like two black holes sucking him in. “So what do you think?”
“Living is about finding out why you’re living. As long as you don’t die, someday you’ll know,” Yao Jinxi casually replied as he switched the teapot. “Buddhism talks about the eight sufferings of life, which are actually just about being too attached. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Having something to be attached to can also bring happiness.”
Wu Yang glanced at the Buddhist beads in Yao Jinxi’s hand and couldn’t help but look at the tea-themed artwork on the wall again. “Do you believe in Buddhism?”
“Huh?” Yao Jinxi didn’t catch on at first. He followed Wu Yang’s gaze and looked up. He then turned back with disinterest. “Oh, you mean this? When I initially commissioned someone to write it, it wasn’t these words. It was another set of words.”
“Oh?” Wu Yang asked, “So, what did you originally want to write?”
Yao Jinxi replied, “Live to eat and wait for death.”
Wu Yang: “…”
Ignoring the atmosphere that had turned a bit melancholic due to Wu Yang’s thoughts, Yao Jinxi took various items from different porcelain containers and placed them into the teapot one by one, preparing another pot of tea.
“Please.” Yao Jinxi handed Wu Yang a larger cup, this time filling it up to the brim. He watched as Wu Yang drank sip by sip and smiled slightly. “How is it?”
Wu Yang lowered his gaze. “It’s sweet.”
“As for me…” Yao Jinxi looked at him with a playful grin, appearing lively as if he were an inexperienced youth. His tone carried a gentle kindness and open-mindedness. “Don’t be fooled by my appearance. I’ve had my share of tough times too. Who hasn’t? But what can we do about it? Unless it’s something so severe that it kills us, we have no choice but to soldier on. As time pa.s.ses, good things will happen eventually. Although this kind of thinking might be overly optimistic, it’s still better than suffering every day. What do you think about it?”
Wu Yang’s voice sounded stiff as he said, “I don’t know.”
Yao Jinxi didn’t find his unresponsive answer and att.i.tude awkward. Instead, he laughed and asked, “Does that mean you haven’t encountered any good things yet?”
Wu Yang held the empty teacup in his hand, still savouring the lingering sweetness in his mouth. “Maybe so.”
“Well then, I hope you encounter something that makes you feel that living is not bad soon,” Yao Jinxi speculated to some extent about what might have happened to Wu Yang, but he didn’t have the desire to dig too deep. Of course, he wouldn’t say that someone who’s tall, handsome, capable, has a smooth personality, and is shrewd in handling things would never find living difficult.
Feeling that life is tough is a serious matter. But it’s even more common than people imagine. Whether one is happy or not is unrelated to others’ opinions. It’s simply a matter of personal experience. It was just like how a fish knows the temperature of the water it swims in.
Wu Yang silently looked at him for a moment before suddenly laughing. “When most people hear what I said earlier, they probably would react in one of two ways: not knowing what to say to comfort me, or questioning me with impatience. You’re quite unique.”
“I shouldn’t be the same as everyone else, of course,” Yao Jinxi arranged the tea set and prepared another set of items. He brewed the third pot of tea in a calm and unhurried manner. “Because in this world, there’s only one Yao Jinxi.”
“Anything else?” Wu Yang asked with interest, “Are all tea sellers like you?”
Yao Jinxi changed the cup for him once again, “Hmm? How am I?”
How is he?
However, Wu Yang couldn’t quite put it into words. He always lacked precise descriptions when it came to emotional things. Despite his ability to empathise with people and understand complex interpersonal relations.h.i.+ps, he was a mess when it came to emotion. He often mixed all his feelings together.
So, he ended up stumbling over his words, which was something quite unusual for him, “You’re like tea.”
This answer was as good as not saying anything. But fortunately, Yao Jinxi didn’t seem inclined to inquire further. He went about preparing the tea, pouring it, “Done.”
This cup of tea carried a subtle spiciness within the sweetness of honey. The fragrances of spices and tea leaves alternated in layers. It was impossible to pinpoint its exact taste.
Much like Wu Yang’s current state of mind—uncertain.
Yao Jinxi no longer delved into deep topics. He instead chatted about mundane matters, discussing everything from a several-hour-long concert to the price of Napa cabbage. There was no central theme and no nutritional value. After finis.h.i.+ng the tea, they returned to drink the Tie Guanyin that Wu Yang had left behind. The whole s.p.a.ce was filled with this delicate aroma.
Wu Yang felt that the cloud of depression in his heart, which made him contemplate death, was slowly being soothed and dissipated by the tea aroma filling the room and the presence of the person across from him. He wasn’t the least bit sleepy. But this lack of sleep wasn’t the painful insomnia he was accustomed to. Instead, it resembled a gentle slumber. It was as if it could dispel all unease and trauma, making him feel so comfortable that it was almost moving.
They chatted and drank tea until dawn. Wu Yang continued to bask in this tangible warmth. Meanwhile, Yao Jinxi was beginning to feel drowsy. He stretched lazily, “So, are you not going to work today?”
Wu Yang nodded, “Are you feeling sleepy?”
“I haven’t slept all night. So it’s only natural to want to sleep, right?” Yao Jinxi said without much enthusiasm, “We’ve had tea, talked, and now my little shop is closing. I’ll keep track of your bill. Please come again next time.”
Even if he was reluctant, Wu Yang had no reason to linger any longer. He got up and followed Yao Jinxi towards the door. Yao Jinxi opened the door for him, with the rolling curtain door only halfway up.
Yao Jinxi lazily waved his hand, “Goodbye.”
Wu Yang had already bent down. But he suddenly turned back without warning. His expression was unusually bright. It was as if a weary traveller had finally found a moment of rest.
He smiled, “At the very least, I now feel that being able to have tea with you is a good thing.”
Having said that, he didn’t delay any further. He bent down and walked through the rolling curtain door, leaving. He left Yao Jinxi standing by the door, full of question marks in his mind.
*Author’s Note: The three cups of tea mentioned here are the Bai ethnic group’s way of serving tea: starting with bitterness, then sweetness, and finally a lingering aftertaste. It’s a way of treating esteemed guests among the Bai people.
So, Yao, the owner, implies that the tea tonight is quite valuable. -YXF
*Translator’s Note: Lately, I’ve been explaining a lot in my translation. Just bear with me. -K
>’寅’ (yín) hour. ‘寅’ (yín) represents ‘移’ (yí): In the context of Chinese astrology and traditional Chinese timekeeping, the concept of ‘yin hour’ and ‘yang hour’ refers to the division of the day and night into twelve two-hour periods, with each period a.s.sociated with either yin or yang energy. This division is used in Chinese astrology and Feng Shui to determine the auspicious or inauspicious energy of a particular time of day or night.
Here’s a general overview of the concept:
(a) Yin Hours: These are nighttime hours when the energy is considered more pa.s.sive, receptive, and introverted. Yin hours are generally a.s.sociated with rest, sleep, and quiet activities. They are often seen as a time for rejuvenation and introspection.
(b) Yang Hours: These are daytime hours when the energy is considered more active, dynamic, and extroverted. Yang hours are a.s.sociated with work, productivity, and external activities. They are considered a time for taking action and engaging with the external world.
The division of yin and yang hours can vary depending on the time of year and your location within China, as it’s based on the natural progression of daylight and darkness. This concept is often used in Chinese astrology to a.n.a.lyse the compatibility between individuals, choose auspicious times for important events, and make decisions about various aspects of life.
To determine the specific yin and yang hours for a given day, you would typically consult a Chinese astrological or almanack chart, which provides this information based on your geographic location and the date. These charts are commonly used in traditional Chinese culture for activities like weddings, business openings, and other important events.
>In Buddhism, the concept of the ‘Eight Sufferings’ or ‘Eight Worldly Concerns’ (also known as the ‘Eight Winds’ or ‘Eight Vicissitudes’) refers to the eight pairs of conditions or experiences that are considered to be sources of suffering and dissatisfaction in human life. These teachings are found in various Buddhist traditions, and they highlight the impermanent and ever-changing nature of worldly existence. The Eight Sufferings are divided into four pairs:
(a) Gain and Loss (Suffering from Gain and Loss):
– Gain: The attachment and desire for acquiring wealth, possessions, or desirable experiences can lead to suffering because material gains are impermanent and subject to change.
– Loss: The fear, grief, and suffering that arise when we experience the loss of wealth, possessions, or loved ones.
(b) Praise and Blame (Suffering from Praise and Blame):
– Praise: The attachment to praise, recognition, and approval from others can lead to suffering because it ties our self-worth to external opinions, which are often fickle.
– Blame: The suffering and negative emotions that arise when we are criticised, blamed, or disapproved of by others.
(c) Fame and Disrepute (Suffering from Fame and Disrepute):
– Fame: The attachment to fame and a good reputation can lead to suffering when we become preoccupied with our image and the opinions of others.
– Disrepute: The suffering that arises when our reputation is tarnished, or we experience disgrace and dishonour.
(d) Pleasure and Pain (Suffering from Pleasure and Pain):
– Pleasure: The attachment to seeking pleasurable experiences and sensations can lead to suffering when we become addicted to sensory pleasures, as they are impermanent.
– Pain: The suffering and aversion that arise from experiencing physical or emotional pain and discomfort.
Buddhism teaches that attachment and clinging to these worldly concerns are causes of suffering and hinder one’s spiritual progress. To attain liberation from suffering, Buddhists aim to cultivate detachment, equanimity, and a deeper understanding of the impermanent nature of all things. The goal is to transcend the cycle of suffering and rebirth by following the n.o.ble Eightfold Path and achieving enlightenment (nirvana).
Next update: 2023.09.25