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If you don’t already know it, may as well familiarise yourself with the story of Hoichi the Earless. It’s not terribly long.
Below this is some general knowledge that actually comes up quite a bit, so you should probably have a read as well:
Wu Zetian was a Chinese sovereign who ruled unofficially as empress consort and empress dowager and later, officially as empress regnant during the brief Zhou dynasty (684-705), which interrupted the Tang dynasty (618–690 & 705–907).
Wu was the sole officially recognised empress regnant of China in more than two millennia.
The importance to history of Wu Zetian’s period of political and military leadership includes the major expansion of the Chinese empire, extending it far beyond its previous territorial limits, deep into Central Asia, and engaging in a series of wars on the Korean Peninsula, first allying with Silla against Goguryeo, and then against Silla over the occupation of former Goguryeo territory.
Wu Zetian was born into a rich family. She had servants at her disposal to perform routine tasks for her, so there were not many domestic jobs that Wu would ever have to learn. Because of this, Wu was encouraged by her father to read books and pursue her education. He made sure that his daughter was well-educated, a trait that was not common among women, much less encouraged by their fathers.
At age fourteen, she was taken to be an imperial concubine (lesser wife) of Emperor Taizong of Tang. It was there that she became a type of secretary. This opportunity allowed her to continue to pursue her education. She was given the title of cairen, title for one of the consorts with the fifth rank in Tang’s nine-rank system for imperial officials, nobles, and consorts.
When she was summoned to the palace, her mother, the Lady Yang, wept bitterly when saying farewell to her, but she responded,
“How do you know that it is not my fortune to meet the Son of Heaven?”
Lady Yang reportedly then understood her ambitions, and therefore stopped crying.
The traditional Chinese historical view on Wu Zetian generally was mixed — admiring her for her abilities in governing the state, but vilifying her for her actions in seizing imperial power.
“Wu Zetian (690–705) was an extraordinary woman, attractive, exceptionally gifted, politically astute and an excellent judge of men. With single minded determination, she overcame the opposition of the Confucian establishment through her own efforts, unique among palace women by not using her own family. Her rise to power was steeped in blood….” Ann Paludan
Xu Fu was born in 255 BC in Qi, an ancient Chinese state, and served as a court sorcerer in Qin Dynasty China. He was sent by Qin Shi Huang to the eastern seas twice to look for the elixir of life. His two journeys occurred between 219 BC and 210 BC.
It was believed that the fleet included 60 barques and around 5,000 crew members, 3,000 boys and girls, and craftsmen of different fields. After he embarked on a second mission in 210 BC, he never returned.
Those who support the theory that Xu Fu landed in Japan credit him with being the catalyst for the development of ancient Japanese society. The Jōmon culture which had existed in ancient Japan for over 6,000 years suddenly disappeared around 300 BC.
The farming techniques and knowledge that Xu brought along are said to have improved the quality of life of the ancient Japanese people and he is said to have introduced many new plants and techniques to ancient Japan.
The worship of Xu Fu as the “God of farming”, “God of medicine” and “God of silk” by the Japanese is attributed to these achievements. Numerous temples and memorials of Xu can be found in many places in Japan.
Yang Yuhuan, of the highest consort rank Guifei, was known as one of the Four Beauties of ancient China. She was the beloved consort of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang during his later years.
In 733, fourteen-year-old Yang Yuhuan married Li Mao, the Prince of Shou and the son of Emperor Xuanzong and Consort Wu.
After Consort Wu died in 737, Emperor Xuanzong was greatly saddened by the death of his then-favorite concubine.
Some time after that, however, Princess Yang somehow came into Xuanzong’s favor and the Emperor decided to take her as his consort. However, since Princess Yang was already the wife of his son, Emperor Xuanzong stealthily arranged her to become a Taoist nun, with the tonsured name Taizhen, in order to prevent criticism that would affect his plan of making her his concubine.
Yang then stayed, for a brief moment, as a Taoist nun in the palace itself, before Emperor Xuanzong made her an imperial consort after bestowing a new wife on his son Li Mao. Yang became the favorite consort of the Emperor.
During the An Lushan Rebellion, as Emperor Xuanzong and his cortege were fleeing from the capital Chang’an to Chengdu, the emperor’s guards demanded that he put Yang to death because they blamed the rebellion on her cousin Yang Guozhong and the rest of her family. The emperor capitulated and reluctantly ordered his attendant Gao Lishi to strangle Yang to death.
Yang was known for having a full and fleshy figure, which was a much sought-after quality at the time.
Thanks to Oniisama’s miracle hands, the Bea-tan doll was somehow finished before the School Festival. That was horrible…
Trying to create long hair for her was already harder than expected, but trying to create the same perfect curls just made it worse.
Originally I was going to use wool that was curled to begin with but it turned out to be a little off compared to the real Bea-tan.
As it turns out the reason was that it was all one colour. I ended up buying curled brown wool in every shade I could find, and after a lot of trial and error I managed to mix together a shade that looked right. You did it, Reika…
Thanks to that adventure my room was filled with brown wool right now. Maybe I could make some animals with it after the School Festival was over. Probably not soon though. I wasn’t sure I wanted to jump right back into needle felting again…
The wedding dress that was the crystallisation of our club’s effort and passion stood in the centre of our exhibition room, while our personal projects lined the walls. It was amazing what my club members have come up with on their own.
Of particular note was Minami-kun. Despite all the time he spent doing the silver embroidery on the club wedding dress, he still managed to submit an amazing tapestry of the madonna and child.
In comparison the Club President had hardly contributed to the wedding dress at all… At best I helped out with some of the bouquets. Sorry for being useless.
Still, my life-sized Beatrice doll was cute and had a nice realism to it, so I don’t think I shamed my club. Oniisama, Sasajima-san, everybody who helped me at the club, thank you.
Unlike some other attractions, the Handicraft Club’s exhibition was free to enter and leave. Thanks to that we didn’t need much manpower outside of a small rotating staff of guides.
Since they didn’t really need me here, I was going to use my effort on my class’ attraction instead.
Chinese Tea Café, Xu Fu.
The setting of our café was that we were the disciples of the Court Magician Xu Fu, who came to Japan with him in the Qin dynasty. That’s why we were advertising our teas as elixirs of immortality. It felt like a bit of a scam.
We had quite a few types of with us; normal stuff like oolong, jasmine or pu er, as well as some more exotic types like flower teas and flowering teas. The flowering tea had been quite popular with the girls in my class so we were hoping it would be popular with the customers too.
For snacks to go with it we were selling annin tofu, mango pudding, black sesame pudding, and various types of moon cakes among other things.
We bought them all, obviously, so the taste was guaranteed. I had made sure to taste test each one myself. They were yummy.
The shop itself was decorated with a chinoiserie theme, served by boys in changpao, and girls in pants and cheongsam. Originally the girls wanted to wear hanfu like celestial maidens but we decided against it because it wasn’t very disciple-ish.
Anyhow, with this, the theme would have been perfect if not for Dite.
Given how he jumped at any opportunity to play his violin, it came as no surprise that he was pushing for a part in the School Festival too.
Everyone told him that the violin wouldn’t fit the theme, and that if he really wanted to play something then he should get an erhu instead, but Dite wouldn’t budge.
In the end he was so annoying that we just relented. The excuse was that he was some foreign guest from the West, and hence the sight of his afro bobbing away as he played away in a trance.
“Welcome, customer. These are elixirs of immortality from the famed Mount Penglai. With but one sip your youth will be returned to you…”
I was busy serving customers myself.
Some people came for the variety of teas, while others came to visit friends in our class, so the sales weren’t doing too badly. Still, they weren’t looking amazing either.
I mean, I had nothing personal against a nice relaxed pace like this, but I had the niggling feeling that I was supposed to be doing more as the vice class representative. Maybe by standing outside and attracting more customers.
I stepped into the hallway for a moment and looked at who was passing by. Oh! Wasn’t that the president of the Soccer Club? I waved my hand to beckon him over.
When he noticed me he cried, “Hii, Wu Zetian…!” before running away.
But I’m not Wu Zetian. I’ve always thought of myself as Yang Guifei in my heart.
The attraction by Kaburagi’s class was the one most looked-forward to in our grade; they were doing one of those sound-based haunted houses. Pretty much all the guests had come here.
Considering the size limitations of the classroom they were using, the audio haunted house with 3-dimensional was probably as good as it could get. And given how picky Kaburagi was about these things in general, thanks to the audio equipment the haunted house was so good you’d never expect it to be something from a school festival.
The programme was Hoichi the Earless. Before you entered the haunted house, a guide in white clothing put a heart sutra seal over your face. After that they led you into this room with will o wisps and wooden grave markers.
After taking a seat, you put on the headphones provided. That was when hell began.
The gloomy sound of a biwa played. Along with it was an eerie singing voice.
Since it was 3-dimensional, it supposedly felt like the spirits of the Heike were chanting right by your ear and chills ran down your spine. It was like they were standing right behind you.
When the spirits came to claim you after you had the heart sutra written all over you, apparently some of the more timid customers took off their headphones to escape back to reality. The only heart sutra actually on them was the one plastered on their face after all.
As the climax when your ears were torn off, apparently some of the guests actually ran screaming down the hallway.
Given that I was a coward myself I definitely didn’t want to go, but Class Rep’s quartet had apparently promised to go with each other. What the heck. Was that like a double date? So envious. But since everybody was seated in their own little area, I doubted they could do that haunted house thing when you screamed and clung to each other.
A while ago when Ririna visited Xu Fu with her friends, she told me that they were going to the haunted house as well later. Minami-kun was the odd one out, with an aura of ‘I don’t want to go…’ coming out of his entire body. I wonder if he’d be okay…
Anyway, Ririna had ordered the flowering tea and seemed to be really taken with how it bloomed like a flower underwater, so I made a note to give the rest to her that I had at home.
When it was time for shifts to change, my friends and I went walking around the school as well. Since it was turning out to be impossible to properly see everything today, I’d do the rest tomorrow.
Enjou and Wakaba-chan’s class was doing a café too. Cafés were easy to do, after all. Unlike our class’ Chinese tea café, they were going with a completely normal one. Given that it was a rare and limited chance to see Enjou in a barista outfit it was popular enough already. On top of that, they implemented a numbered ticketing system for people who wanted to enjoy his latte art. Everyone was talking about how there had been a huge queue of girls outside since the morning.
“Come onn, Reika-sama. Let’s go see Enjou-sama’s café!” Ru’ne-chan said.
“I have no objections, but without a ticket he will not make us latte art, you know?”
“I’m disappointed about that too, but we should still go. I want to at least see him in the barista outfit.”
Ru’ne-chan had missed out on her chance to get a ticket. I guess she had underestimated how popular he would be.
We entered the busy shop only to find that Kaburagi was there too. The girls were overjoyed. There he was, sipping away at his coffee with home-made biscuits. Which was surprising enough, since Kaburagi never ate home-made food.
Nobody had expected him to actually eat any of them but contrary to expectations he took a bite.
“Bring me the one who made these,” he said with slightly widened eyes.
Confused about why she was being called out, Wakaba-chan stepped out from the back of the store.
“Um, was there something wrong…?”
“Takamichi. You were the one who made these?”
“Eh, yes. I did, but…?”
While Wakaba-chan was looking confused and uncomfortable, Kaburagi suddenly chuckled.
“They were delicious.”
Kaburagi, who never ate home made food, had eaten a home-made biscuit. A home-made biscuit baked by a girl, that he even praised as being delicious.
The news spread through Suiran like wildfire, and there was a rush of female customers to ‘The Golden Dawn’, the fortune telling shop that Fuyuko-sama’s class was doing.
Did this mean that Kaburagi was starting to fall for her…?
“Here, Kisshouin-san. This one is on me,” Enjou smiled, as he left a latte art of a rabbit in front of me.