The Wallet of Kai Lung HTML version

The Ill-Regulated Destiny Of Kin Yen
As recorded by himself before his sudden departure from Peking, owing to circumstances
which are made plain in the following narrative.
There are moments in the life of a person when the saying of the wise Ni-Hyu that
"Misfortune comes to all men and to most women" is endowed with double force. At
such times the faithful child of the Sun is a prey to the whitest and most funereal
thoughts, and even the inspired wisdom of his illustrious ancestors seems more than
doubtful, while the continued inactivity of the Sacred Dragon appears for the time to give
colour to the scoffs of the Western barbarian. A little while ago these misgivings would
have found no resting-place in the bosom of the writer. Now, however--but the matter
must be made clear from the beginning.
The name of the despicable person who here sets forth his immature story is Kin Yen,
and he is a native of Kia-Lu in the Province of Che-Kiang. Having purchased from a very
aged man the position of Hereditary Instructor in the Art of Drawing Birds and Flowers,
he gave lessons in these accomplishments until he had saved sufficient money to journey
to Peking. Here it was his presumptuous intention to learn the art of drawing figures in
order that he might illustrate printed leaves of a more distinguished class than those
which would accept what true politeness compels him to call his exceedingly
unsymmetrical pictures of birds and flowers. Accordingly, when the time arrived, he
disposed of his Hereditary Instructorship, having first ascertained in the interests of his
pupils that his successor was a person of refined morals and great filial piety.
Alas! it is well written, "The road to eminence lies through the cheap and exceedingly
uninviting eating-houses." In spite of this person's great economy, and of his having
begged his way from Kia-Lu to Peking in the guise of a pilgrim, journeying to burn
incense in the sacred Temple of Truth near that city, when once within the latter place his
taels melted away like the smile of a person of low class when he discovers that the
mandarin's stern words were not intended as a jest. Moreover, he found that the story-
makers of Peking, receiving higher rewards than those at Kia-Lu, considered themselves
bound to introduce living characters into all their tales, and in consequence the very
ornamental drawings of birds and flowers which he had entwined into a legend entitled
"The Last Fight of the Heaven-sent Tcheng"--a story which had been entrusted to him for
illustration as a test of his skill--was returned to him with a communication in which the
writer revealed his real meaning by stating contrary facts. It therefore became necessary
that he should become competent in the art of drawing figures without delay, and with
this object he called at the picture-room of Tieng Lin, a person whose experience was so
great that he could, without discomfort to himself, draw men and women of all classes,
both good and bad. When the person who is setting forth this narrative revealed to Tieng
Lin the utmost amount of money he could afford to give for instruction in the art of
drawing living figures, Tieng Lin's face became as overcast as the sky immediately
before the Great Rains, for in his ignorance of this incapable person's poverty he had
treated him with equality and courtesy, nor had he kept him waiting in the mean room on
the plea that he was at that moment closeted with the Sacred Emperor. However, upon