Chapter 45: Dragon Boat Festival Banquet (3)
Translated by Gumihou
Edited by Pill Bug
Recently, Gumi listened to a podcast of China’s history to ‘From Yao to Mao, 5000 years of Chinese History’ from the Great Courses to gain a better understand of China in general in order to deliver better translation for my dear readers~
Old Madam Jin was so happy that she could barely keep the smile off her face. By then, most of the women in the family had given or announced their gifts, leaving only Fu Qiuning. Theoretically, as Jin Fengju’s main wife in name, she should have been the first to announce her gift to the Old Madam but Jiang Wanying was determined to humiliate her and rushed forward to snatch that opportunity away. On Fu Qiuning’s side, she had no wish to stand out or make a scene, moreover, her gifts were not as valuable as the others and thus felt she was not qualified to be in the limelight anyway.
Once it was her turn, she came forward with the two children, saluted the Old Madam properly and said, “This humble woman lacks filial piety. Seeing that it is the Dragon Boat Festival, this humble woman thought the best thing to brighten up the atmosphere should be Rice Dumplings. Therefore, this humble woman personally wrapped a few boxes of it, hoping that Old Madam would not disdain this gift.”
Tittering laughter burst out from all around. However, Jin Fengju remained silent, neither smiling nor saying anything as he stared at her dignified figure. He knew that this Fu Qiuning was no simple woman. From the way she withstood the sneering of others, he could not help but sigh to himself and thought: This is true dignity, ah. If it were me, would I be able to stand such sneers?
Even after some thought, he could not be sure.
“And here I was thinking what curious things these grass boxes contained. To think it was just Rice Dumplings. Even the servants have eaten these, just what kind of cheek does one have to send these as gifts?” these words, accompanied by a sneer, came from Xu’shi who clearly could not resist the urge to take a jab at this so-called main wife. Jin Fengju flashed her a look. However, he still said nothing, turning his eyes back to Fu Qiuning, waiting to see how she would retaliate.
However, without waiting for Fu Qiuning’s prompting, Jin Changfeng stepped forward, raised his cupped fists up and respectfully said, “Old Madam, my mother’s craftsmanship is excellent. Moreover, these are no ordinary jujube or meat-stuffed Rice Dumplings but special kinds made with egg yolks, red bean paste and jujube paste. They are very delicious. We all look forward to them each year. I’m sure Old Madam would like them too.”
If this had been said by Fu Qiuning, it would have sounded as though she was trying to defend her cheap presents. However, when spoken by an eight-year-old child, it sounded especially sincere. Without waiting for Madam Jiang and the rest to put in their two coins, Old Madam Jin smiled and said, “Good, good, good, I never had Rice Dumplings stuffed with egg yolk or bean paste. Though I did hear that people in the south stuffed their dumplings with more interesting things but I had never believed them. How does one stuff such soft things into Rice Dumplings anyway? Now that your mother has brought them forward to show her filial piety, I can finally taste these unique delicacies and satisfy my curiosity. Goodness, after chatting all day, I happen to be a little peckish.”
By saying this, Old Madam Jin was granting Fu Qiuning a lot of face. So many precious and valuable gifts had been presented and yet none of them attracted a second glance or nod. For her to openly declare her wish to taste these Rice Dumplings right in front of everyone, wasn’t that very rare?
For a time, all eyes were on Fu Qiuning, bombarding her with feelings of envy and endless contempt. While she silently lamented in her heart, Fu Qiuning continued to pretend to notice nothing. Instead, she politely peeled a Rice Dumpling for the Old Madam. A quick-witted maid already had a bowl ready  and after Fu Qiuning place the peeled Rice Dumpling in the bowl, the maid presented it to the Old Madam.
“En, this should be the one stuffed with egg yolk, right?” said Old Madam Jin as she split the Rice Dumpling with her chopsticks. “How interesting, the flavour is quite unique.” In fact, the Old Madam had started this charade as a way to stop the people from putting Fu Qiuning in an awkward position. She had intended to eat a couple of bites, say some complimentary words to help Fu Qiuning save face and move on. Unexpectedly, after a bite, she found that the savoury flavour of the egg yolk merged very well with the fragrant sticky rice and the faint scent of Reed Leaves. Her praises unexpectedly became sincere.
Fu Qiuning breathed a sigh of relief. She had not expected to find out that there were no Egg Yolk Rice Dumplings in the northern part of China during that era. However, when she thought about it, she vaguely remember an aunt from the north mentioning this little bit of information.  That’s right, let alone trading with foreigners, even the northern and southern parts of China rarely interacted with each other. Therefore it was possible that in that era where reading glasses were not available to the most respected person in the family, they would not interact enough with their southern brethren enough to have a food culture exchange.
While she had been mulling over her thoughts, the Old Madam had ordered her maids to share out the Rice Dumplings so that everyone could have a taste. However, for Madam Jiang, Jiang Wanying and others of their ilk, how could they happily admire these dumplings? They thought: Weren’t these just some cheap, cunning ideas that just happened to appeal to the Old Madam? What of it?
On Fang’shi and He’shi’s side, they ate the dumplings and provided a few sincere words of compliment.
Finally, Old Madam said, “Alright, there aren’t that many Rice Dumplings. After letting all of you taste them, there’s only half a plate left. You stop right there, Fengju. If you want to eat more, you can get them from your wife. Humph, not only did you not honour me with dumplings, but you even dare to steal mine. I had just complimented you for being filial, but I see I have to take those words back.”
This elicited another round of laughter from everyone. Right then, Jin Changfeng took something out of his shirt. At first, the item looked flat, but then, after some fiddling about, it suddenly expanded into a boat. An actual dragon boat, woven from jade green willow branches and decorated with motifs made from pieces of lotus leaves. There were even little people inside the boat, woven from grass.
That was something that even Fu Qiuning did not know about. Her mouth dropped open in shock and she quickly flashed a glance at Yu Jie and Aunt Yu. Seeing their dumbfound faces, she knew they had been in the dark too. Before she could do or say anything, Jin Changfeng stepped forward with the boat and said, “This is great-grandson’s first meeting with Great-Grandmother. This great-grandson did not have any good things to gift Great-Grandmother, moreover, what manner of precious or valuable things have Great-Grandmother not seen? Surely you would not miss whatever we have in our courtyard?
Therefore, my sister and I wove this dragon boat out of straw, willow branches and lotus leaves and boldly present it to Great-Grandmother. This grandson begs Great-Grandmother to see it as our filial piety and hope that you would not disdain it for being crudely made.” Then, as though attacked by sudden shyness, he lowered his head and said, “This is just a little toy we made with skills taught to us by Yu Jie. It’s been two or three years hence and our hands may have forgotten their skills. We beg Great-Grandmother to not laugh at our poor effort.”
“Aiyo, this dragon boat is so ingeniously made. If this is bad, where would we find a good one?” Madam Fang pressed her hands together admiringly as though she had not seen Madam Jiang’s Very Significant glance. She smiled at Old Madam Jin, “Old Madam, look how fortunate you are. These two children are so sensible, I believe that in the whole of the marquisate, even the ones from our side of the family, not a single child is as sensible or understanding as them. Just one look at this dragon boat is enough for everyone to know just how much effort has been put into it.”
Old Madam Jin was grinning ear to ear as she beckoned the twins, “Quick, come over here. Let me have a look. Aiya, although it’s made from straw and wood, I can tell just how much time and effort has been put into it.” She turned to the children seated beside her, “Zhenyi, Xiuru, come, make a little room for your elder brother and sister.”
Jin Zhenyi and Jin Xiuru flushed and moved away. Their eyes, when looking at Jin Changfeng and Jin Changjiao, seemed to spew fire. However, neither of the twins seemed to notice. They solemnly thanked the old lady and sat down next to her.
Old Madam smiled and asked, “I noticed that when you brought it out just now, it was completely flat. Just how did you suddenly turn it into a big ship?
[Gumihou: Uh oh, the kiddies are definitely going to make trouble for the twins.]
 Some small adjustments for a smoother passage  In reality, depending on which timeline of early Qing dynasty Fu Qiuning was in, this might be true. Adjust her arguments so that it is more comprehensive than ‘my aunt from the north said so, so yup, yup’.
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