The atmosphere created in this chapter is so wonderful, but such a difficult one to translate. It’s chapters like these that make me wonder why I chose this novel. :p (By the way, this is the halfway mark of the main story, excluding epilogues.)
I love when Shi Yi surprises Zhousheng Chen with the little things about her.
Chapter 9.1 – How Can Love be Unraveled? (1)
While Shi Yi had still been alone in the hotel, she had already discovered that Zhousheng Chen’s day-to-day necessities and clothing were also in this particular hotel suite. In other words, he was not intending for them to stay in separate rooms anymore. During the day, she had not really thought anything of this, but when the two of them returned to the hotel after dinner, she started to become restless and unsettled. Fortunately, it was still early and Mei Xing and his assistants were present, so her thoughts did not jump directly to tonight’s time alone with him.
The conversations between the men were somewhat solemn.
Listening to their conversation, she could only understand a smattering of what they were discussing, so instead, she asked him lightly, “Can I make some tea for you?”
Zhousheng Chen smiled, “Is this boring to listen to?”
The corner of her lips turned up. “No, I’ve just noticed that you like tea and I happen to know how to make tea.”
Her voice was rather soft, and subtle veiled feelings could be heard in it, telling him that what she actually wanted was to make him happy. Zhousheng Chen had originally intended to ask her to wait for a few moments for he would be finishing soon, but hearing her say this in such a manner, he suppressed his words. “You have learned the art of tea?”
Shi Yi smiled but did not answer.
Their dialogue attracted the attention of Mei Xing, and he looked at Shi Yi with interest. “I suspect, Zhousheng, that your wife does not just know how to steep tea. Maybe she will give us an even bigger surprise.”
Afraid that he would tease her and give her a hard time, Zhousheng pointed his finger at Mei Xing. “Alright now, you are not allowed to use her as the target of your jokes.”
“I’m not, ah. I just have this feeling that your wife might like tea culture very much.” Mei Xing looked at Shi Yi. “Shi Yi, I, too, really like to drink tea. What’s more, so long as you can execute the method you choose, I can provide you with the tea utensils.”
Shi Yi understood that this man was talking about the different methods of drinking tea throughout the eras.
Those truly were not difficult for her.
She was not a person who liked to showoff. Perhaps it was because Zhousheng Chen was by her side and the one challenging her was his good friend, but she did not want to concede. “I have read Lu Yu’s ‘Classic of Tea’, and I enjoy studying the various methods of tea preparation. If Mr. Mei, you would like give it a try, it would not be difficult task for me to do.”
Mei Xing was very pleased. “How about cooking tea?”
Shi Yi burst out in a laugh. “Let’s forget about that –– putting in seasonings like scallions, ginger, chinese dates, orange peel, dogwood leaves, and mint and heating it to a rolling boil for an extended period of time. It’s not a problem for me to prepare some tea using this method, but I’m afraid you guys wouldn’t drink it.”
With a grin, Mei Xing persuaded, “Just give it a try. It won’t be a big deal.”
Shi Yi thought about that taste, and while she was still hesitating slightly, Zhousheng Chen gave her a gentle pat on her arm. “You can ignore him. Just steeped tea will be fine.”
“Eh?” Mei Xing wagged his hand. “There’s actually a knowledgeable person here right now. How could we waste this chance? Since cooking tea would not be good, I will send someone right now to bring some tea cakes and the tea ware and utensils. We will taste your wife’s boiled tea.”
Mei Xing quickly sent an assistant to retrieve the tea ware and tea cakes.
Because of this unexpected suggestion, their conversation topic had turned to tea. Shi Yi sat, and as she listened to their casual discussions on their previous experiences related to tea, the images that were emerging in her mind gradually grew more distinct.
He of the past had once sat leisurely in his study, his graceful hands preparing tea by boiling.
Readying the tea cake, selecting the water, preparing the flame, waiting upon the water, roasting the tea cake, grinding the tea leaves, sifting the ground tea, boiling the tea, and pouring. She had observed him closely, not wanting to miss any gesture, but it had been simply to pass the time. She had watched, he had worked. She had not found it boring in the least.
And now, in this moment, as she did the same, she did not feel agitated or impatient either.
On the contrary, she even enjoyed this long process, where she took what he had once taught her and presented it back to him.
Mei Xing was a person who loved tea, so much so that he had even prepared four sets of tea ware. And Shi Yi was truly someone who understood tea. From selecting the tea ware in the beginning, to waiting by the flame for the proper water temperature, to ensuring the open flame in which the tea would be toasted was appropriate –– all of these were like an artistic performance. Initially, Mei Xing and Zhousheng Chen would exchange a few words, but in the end, both men were watching Shi Yi.
The person within that beautiful artistic scene, however, was engrossed only with doing what she needed to do.
The fragrant aroma of tea wafted over to them, but it merely was an embellishment, bringing color to the scene and making it even more delightful.
Zhousheng Chen was also watching her intently.
He did not understand the thoughts and moods of women, and he even more so did not understand Shi Yi, even though she was already his wife. Why would a girl like her, at twenty-six years of age, still have had no previous romantic relationship? He did not believe in any of those insubstantial explanations such as fate or predestined affinity between two people. But now, only those words could be used to explain the feelings she had for him.
And what did he feel for her?
Before Mei Xing took his leave, he did not at all hide the admiration he had for Shi Yi.
She felt somewhat awkward by his praises and threw frequent looks at Zhousheng Chen, using her eyes to appeal for help. The latter understood her unspoken plea and casually reached over to pat Mei Xing on the shoulder without speaking a word. The communication between men did not require words. Such was the case for this particular moment.
With a faint smile, Mei Xing picked up his suit jacket and left without looking back.
The door latched shut with a click, leaving the two of them alone with one another.
Shi Yi glanced at him. “You two have quite a mutual understanding.”
“I have known him since I was five or six,” Zhousheng Chen chuckled. “He has always been this way. Every time he sees a pretty girl, he likes to talk a bit more. You don’t need to mind him.”
A pretty girl?
Shi Yi seemed to find this description rather strange. In principle, she should not merely be “a pretty girl” but also his wife, even though their relationship right now still remained in a stage more akin to boyfriend-girlfriend.
Zhousheng Chen walked into the bedroom, pulled out some clean clothes, and, out of habit, undid several buttons of his shirt. Shortly, though, as if he suddenly remembered something, he hastily buttoned-up two of those buttons again and strode into the bathroom. When the sound of running water echoed out from within, Shi Yi finally remembered that tonight, he would be sleeping in the same room as her, on the same bed.
She did not know what she should do, so she sat down on the couch in the living room.
If they were going to sleep together, then… they should be…
She quietly exhaled a breath.
Before long, he had stepped out of the bathroom again. His clothing was neat and proper, giving the impression he was about to go out. “Wait a short while before you go to wash up. I will ask someone to clean up inside first.” As he said this, he had already walked into the bedroom.
“It’s alright…” Shi Yi stood up, intending on going to get some clean clothes for herself, and saw that he had grabbed a black jacket and was slipping it on while he walked out from the room. Finding this odd, she asked, “You’re heading out?”
“Mm.” Zhousheng Chen told her, “There are a few matters at the laboratory that require a long conference call.”
He spoke very quickly and then, with a natural motion, he glanced at his watch.
“Will you still come back tonight?”
“Yes, just that it will be very late.” He let out a little laugh. “I had some tea just now, so I should not feel tired.”
After briefly informing her of his plans, he left the hotel.
To say she was not disappointed would have been a lie, but she also felt relieved. Although she had somewhat mentally prepared herself, she still felt that there was something lacking between the two of them. In the “pleasures between a fish and water”[acts of intimacy], the foremost requirement was that there was a comfortable, harmonious relationship, like that of fish and water, between the two before the “pleasure” could naturally happen, right?
She had travelled such a great distance today and also strolled through the better part of Bremen with him, so after a hot shower, her feeling of exhaustion became apparent. As she sat on the bed in her pajamas, she could tell that these bed linens were not the ones the hotel provided to the general public as they were especially soft.
Very shortly after laying down on the bed, she fell asleep.
Because subconsciously she was waiting for him, her sleep was light. Upon hearing a noise in the room, she quickly awakened, but her head still felt rather groggy. She opened her eyes and saw that the sky was already starting to show a hazy light. Zhousheng Chen was leaning against the couch and was planning to lay down there to catch up on some sleep. The room was dim, and she could not see his face.
“What time is it?” Shi Yi suddenly spoke up.
He paused, and he raised his watch to take a glance. “5:47.”
“Come up on the bed and sleep for a little bit……” she invited in a low voice. “It’s tiring to the body to sleep on the couch.”
Zhousheng Chen paused again. He set his suit jacket on the couch, walked over to the other side of the bed, and lay down next to her. The bed was very spacious. She could sense he was lying there very stiffly, and she could not hold back a little smile. She rolled over quickly, covered him with the blanket, and then took advantage of the chance to put her hand on his waist. Possibly because her mind was still dazed with fatigue, she was behaving more freely than usual. In a slight teasing tone, she said to him, “Zhousheng Chen, is sleeping on the same bed as your wife really that difficult for you?”
“No, I simply did not want to wake you just now.” His voice was also rather low.
“I’m already awake now.”
He chuckled, “You’re not going to sleep anymore?”
“I still am,” Shi Yi answered honestly. “Because you weren’t back yet, I didn’t sleep very well. Now my head feels all dizzy and heavy, and I still want to sleep.”
“Then sleep.” He stretched out an arm and pulled her into his embrace. “I don’t have a meeting until this afternoon. I can sleep here with you a little longer.”
She laid her cheek against his chest, separated by only the thin fabric of his shirt as she listened to him describe his conclusion from his logical train of thought, but her mind strayed to a different thought. This was her first time sleeping in his embrace, and even though he was wearing his button-up shirt and pants, she was in pajamas…
They lay there like this in silence for a while. She could feel her heart was starting to beat unsteadily and could not help shifting her body slightly.
“Can’t fall asleep?” Zhousheng Chen detected her movements and looked down at her. “Or just used to sleeping alone?”
She decided to change the subject.
“Today… your friend praised me many times. You still haven’t said anything.”
Her voice carried a touch of disappointment.
Zhousheng Chen was slightly puzzled but then quickly understood. “I am not very good at praising people, but you are always able to bring me pleasant surprises. So many, in fact, that at times, I do not know what I should say.”
Her lips turned up slightly in a smile, and she prodded softly, “Then what are you going to do for me in return?”
“Do in return?” He thought for a moment. “Why don’t you tell me, what do you have in mind?”
“You are in charge of putting me back to sleep.”
“Sure.” He did not mind. “Normally, what do you do to help yourself fall asleep?”
“Listen to music… Or listen to poetry. I’ll be listening, and then after a while, I’ll gradually fall asleep.”
Zhousheng Chen was silent for some time.
She closed her eyes, waiting for him to give her a nice surprise.
“Let’s do poetry, then. I will recite slowly some that are tea-related.”
With an “mm,” Shi Yi added, “May I request some that I want to hear? You don’t have to recite the entire poem, just a line or two will be good enough.”
“Yes.” This was Zhousheng Chen’s first discovery of a more difficult side to Shi Yi, but he also found it very adorable.
“He wrote more than two thousand poems, and more than sixty of those are tea-related…”
Shi Yi cut him off amusedly, “Whatever you feel like reciting will be fine.”
So serious. If he wasn’t paying attention, even by just a little, he would slip back into that role of the strict, precise-thinking scientist…… Seriously…
Zhousheng Chen did not continue thinking too much into it and chose one at will to respond to her request.
“Clean is the white porcelain bowl, blazing is the red charcoal of the tea brazier.
Fragrant tea is beneath the foam, rising like floating flowers in the fish-eye boil.
Beautiful in color when poured into its vessel, its fragrant aroma still lingering after being swallowed.”
Shi Yi did not speak, so he chose another three or four poems.
“Mm…” She seemed pleased and continued, “Su Shi.”
“Live [flowing] water also requires live fire to boil. From the fishing rock I draw from the clear, deep river.
The large ladle gathers the moon’s reflection into the vessel, the small ladle dividing some of the river into the bottle.
The milky white foam rolls with the tea leaves within. Then suddenly it makes the rustle sound, like wind, of pouring.
So difficult for the uninspired mind to refrain at only three bowls. Seated, listening to the lonesome city’s long and short beats of the night watches…”
In the beginning, she would state some names for him, but afterwards when she grew tired, he would select some at will and recite them to her.
From Li Bai to Liu Yuxi and then to some other poets who were not very famous. It was not a difficult chore for him to recite as he called the poems up from his memory. This was the first time he discovered that his excellent memory could be used to do something so amusing.
Shi Yi comfortably listened, not speaking anymore.
She knew that he did not understand the significance of this to her. Even though the poems were different, she had once been coaxed to sleep in the same way before. Accompanied by the sound of Zhousheng Chen’s voice, which he had deliberately slowed and lowered, her consciousness gradually became fuzzy. His eyes were closed as he continued to recite for her, his speech becoming slower and slower until at last it stopped.
Inside the room, it was quiet.
Because of their closeness, he seemed to be able to hear the sound of her steady breathing.
Zhousheng Chen opened his eyes and patiently observed her for a while. Once he had confirmed that she was indeed deep in slumber, he closed his eyes again and allowed himself to truly drift off to sleep.
 During the Tang Dynasty, 陆羽 Lu Yu wrote his monumental book,茶经 “Cha Jing” [The Classic of Tea], which became the first definitive work in the world written on tea. It documented in a literary language everything from the history of tea to picking/preparing tea leaves to the tea ware and utensils to how to properly “boil” and drink the tea.
 煮茶 “zhu cha.” Literally means “to cook/boil tea.” To distinguish it from the “boiled tea” method, mentioned later, I will call this “cooked tea” method. (Let me preface this by saying, I am by no means learned in tea, and please forgive any errors there may be. Just wanted to provide some background to all of you so you’re not scratching your heads on what’s going on.) Prior to the Tang dynasty, tea drinking, although popular, could be considered less refined, and tea was drank as a way of quenching thirst, in large quantities, and sometimes, for medicinal purposes. In the earliest form of the cooked tea method, fresh tea leaves were placed into water and boiled and then drank, almost like a vegetable broth. Only in the time of the Tang dynasty did tea start to be dried first. During the Tang dynasty, cooking tea would also add additional ingredients such as salt, scallions (green onion), ginger, mint, orange peel etc., boiled at a rolling boil for quite some time, all the while skimming the scum off the top and ladling up the boiling tea and then immediately returning the tea back into the boiling pot. The ingredients of this type of tea would be eaten as well. This is what Mei Xing and Shi Yi are referring to by “cooking tea.”
 Tea leaves that are compressed into a brick or cake-like form. (Also called tea bricks.)
 煎茶 “jian cha.” The “boiled tea” method, which flourished in the Tang dynasty. According to Lu Yu, the author of The Classic of Tea, tea made by the “cooked tea” way with ingredients such as ginger, scallions, etc was like waste water. In The Classic of Tea, it describes very clearly the steps of properly boiling tea. The tea cake is toasted over an open flame, then wrapped in paper and cooled. After it is completely cooled, the tea is ground until it is about as fine as rice grain. The ground tea is added to water and boiled, being careful not to overboil, and when ready, it is then poured out into a tea bowl. Everything is prescribed very specifically in The Classic of Tea, from what fuel should be used for the fire to what size of bubbles should be maintained in the water as it boils to how to pour it into a tea bowl, etc, etc.
 鱼水之欢 “yu shui zhi huan.” Literally, “the pleasures between a fish and water.” Originally, this idiom was used simply to describe a type of relationship between two things or people which was as harmonious as fish and water – natural and comfortable. Later, in literature, it started to be used as a metaphor for the pleasure of sexual intimacy between a man and a woman, and now, this idiom is basically used to refer to sexual intercourse.
白居易. Bai Juyi was a government official of the Tang dynasty and also a renowned poet. His poetry covered a wide variety of topics and took many differnet forms, but his style is known for its simple and easy to understand language.
鱼眼沸 “yu yan fei.” Lu Yi stated in his Classic of Tea that the water should be kept at “second boil” where at the edge of the pot, there is a continuous string of bubbles that are the size of fish eyes. Smaller than this, it is under-boiled and greater than this, like a rolling boil, would be overboiled.
 From Bai Juyi’s 睡后茶兴忆杨同州 “A Tea After a Sleep, Suddenly Remembering Yang Tongzhou.”
 苏轼 Su Shi. An important figure during the Song dynasty. He was a rare, all-round talented man in literature and arts and is also recognized as one of the most outstanding persons in these things in Chinese history. He was a writer, poet, calligrapher, painter, etc. You may have heard him referred to as 苏东波 Su Dongbo/Su Dongpo/Su Tungpo.
 This is Su Shi’s entire poem, 汲江煎茶 “Ji Jiang Jian Cha” [Draw from the River to Boil Tea].
李白 Li Bai is sometimes heralded as the greatest Chinese poet of all time. He was born in the Tang dynasty and is known as the “Immortal Poet.”
刘禹锡 Liu Yuxi was a Tang dynasty poet, philosopher, and writer of essays.
Just like the scene of Shi Yi painting, I am captured by this picture of her, preparing tea as an art form while her mind is filled with images of her past life. Zhousheng Chen and Mei Xing are obviously entranced by her in that moment as well, and I can just imagine the peaceful silence as they watched her carry out this art.
This chapter is filled with details of tea culture and poetry. Hopefully, the huge number of footnotes didn’t scare you off. They’re more for your information so you can understand the art form that tea can be, and realize how captivating Shi Yi would have been in that moment. This chapter “feels” so ancient. All those details create such a wonderful, tranquil feeling. (Don’t you want to be cuddled like that, in that type of atmosphere?)
Plus, I love how Shi Yi teased Zhousheng Chen. LOL.
1 of 1 Prologue
28 of 56 Main story segments
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