The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories HTML version

The Round-Faced Beauty
A Story Of The Chinese Court
In the city of Chang-an music filled the palaces, and the festivities of the Emperor were
measured by its beat. Night, and the full moon swimming like a gold-fish in the garden
lakes, gave the signal for the Feather Jacket and Rainbow Skirt dances. Morning, with the
rising sun, summoned the court again to the feast and wine-cup in the floating gardens.
The Emperor Chung Tsu favored this city before all others. The Yen Tower soaring
heavenward, the Drum Towers, the Pearl Pagoda, were the only fit surroundings of his
magnificence; and in the Pavilion of Tranquil Learning were held those discussions
which enlightened the world and spread the fame of the Jade Emperor far and wide. In all
respects he adorned the Dragon Throne - in all but one; for Nature, bestowing so much,
withheld one gift, and the Imperial heart, as precious as jade, was also as hard, and he
eschewed utterly the company of the Hidden Palace Flowers.
Yet the Inner Chambers were filled with ladies chosen from all parts of the Celestial
Empire - ladies of the most exquisite and torturing beauty, moons of loveliness, moving
coquettishly on little feet, with all the grace of willow branches in a light breeze. They
were sprinkled with perfumes, adorned with jewels, robed in silks woven with gold and
embroidered with designs of flowers and birds. Their faces were painted and their
eyebrows formed into slender and perfect arches whence the soul of man might well slip
to perdition, and a breath of sweet odor followed each wherever she moved. Every one
might have been the Empress of some lesser kingdom; but though rumours reached the
Son of Heaven from time to time of their charms, - especially when some new blossom
was added to the Imperial bouquet,- he had dismissed them from his august thoughts, and
they languished in a neglect so complete that the Great Cold Palaces of the Moon were
not more empty than their hearts. They remained under the supervision of the Princess of
Han, August Aunt of the Emperor, knowing that their Lord considered the company of
sleeve-dogs and macaws more pleasant than their own. Nor had he as yet chosen an
Empress, and it was evident that without some miracle, such as the intervention of the
Municipal God, no heir to the throne could be hoped for.
Yet the Emperor one day remembered his imprisoned beauties, and it crossed the
Imperial thoughts that even these inferior creatures might afford such interest as may be
found in the gambols of trained fleas or other insects of no natural attainments.
Accordingly, he commanded that the subject last discussed in his presence should be
transferred to the Inner Chambers, and it was his Order that the ladies should also discuss
it, and their opinions be engraved on ivory, bound together with red silk and tassels and
thus presented at the Dragon feet. The subject chosen was the following:-
Describe the Qualities of the Ideal Man