We just reached our first ko-fi goal, so I’ll be uploading two chapters tomorrow. Enjoy the chapter!
“The wind is rising! The wind is rising!” From afar, they heard a person cry out.
With this clamor of rising wind, upheaval immediately ensued among the crowd.
Fan Jin Chuan and Fang Feng Sheng were slow to react. The yamen runner in their company could only encourage them to seek shelter from the wind and rain.
“The wind is merely a breeze. What is there to fear?”
The yamen runner called Ah Hu hurriedly replied, “My lord, this place is different from the mainland, as it’s facing the sea. In autumn, strong gales wreak havoc and are usually accompanied by heavy rain. It’s no longer rare for it to destroy houses and uproot trees.”
“This morning, the sky was as clear as day, but the heavens rather quickly turned hostile,” Xiao Qi sighed.
“The weather along the coast is like this. Myriad changes happen in an instant. We better go in to take shelter.”
Master Song also invited Fan Jin Chuan to hasten in to escape the rain.
Fan Jin Chuan noticed the farmers who had just paid the grain tax blindly scattering about. He expressed his concern to Master Song, “This official is just fine. Having done nothing, my body is quite light. Rather, Tax Captain Song better find a place to shelter the farmers and their grain. Once the grain gets wet, it will be impossible to salvage them.”
“My lord, don’t worry. This naturally cannot be overlooked.”
Fan Jin Chuan instructed his men to step forward and offer assistance. Since the lord had helped, others naturally couldn’t just stand still. With great reluctance, they guided the group of people to take shelter in the Song family’s residence. Outside, a rumbling noise announced the rain’s heavy downpour.
At this time, when one looked out from within the house, one could see that the sky had abruptly darkened. Outside was already a broad expanse of water, as though a moat had been roused without warning.
Some people heaved great sighs, and some felt burdened in their hearts. Not a trace of joy was visible in any of their faces.
Fan Jin Chuan was puzzled by this attitude, as farmers usually hailed rain as a blessing, but an old farmer enlightened him.
As it turned out, Taizhou had fallen prey to countless disasters over the years. These included flood, drought, storms, and swarms of locusts. This year’s weather was favorable. Nothing had happened until the end of the the autumn harvest, pleasantly shocking several farmers.
However, what awaited them here absolutely caught them unawares.
The crux was that, Lixiahe Plain neighbored Hai’an. Its terrain was high all around but low down the middle, and was extremely prone to flooding. Once flood ravaged the area, the people underneath would have little to no chance of recovery.
As he listened, Fan Jin Chuan raised a question, “The waterway here is narrow and is connected to the Yellow Sea. The surrounding terrain is also low-lying. Dredging the estuary1 would have sufficed. Why is it that, every year, floods frequently occur but cannot be resolved?”
The question was rather too profound for anyone to answer. After all, they were illiterate farmers. At the side, Master Song’s eyes flickered, but he remained wordless.
Noticing Fan Jin Chuan’s handsome brows tighten, he spoke out, “In an autumn day, once it rains, it will be cold. Lord Fan should go in with this lowly one to drink some tea to warm the body.”
Knowing that Fan Jin Chuan was one who loved the common people like his own children, he added, “As for these folks, there is naturally a supply of warm tea for them as well. The servants will arrange it in a moment.”
Only then did Fan Jin Chuan bring Fang Feng Sheng and the others along with Master Song to enter.
Although the Song family were folks from the countryside, having been a large landlord family for so many years, the family had accumulated some wealth, and the residence they had built exuded a very imposing air.
There were three courtyards in the front and back altogether. It wasn’t as splendorous and majestic as some of the city’s wealthy families, but it was the first of its kind in the countryside.
The flooding that old farmer had mentioned all but consumed Fan Jin Chuan’s thoughts, his frown never leaving his face. Master Song tried to rope him in a conversation several times, but his efforts were for naught. Seeing the relentless rain grow stronger outside, Master Song could only gracefully make his exit.
Only Fan Jin Chuan and Fang Feng Sheng remained in the house. As for Uncle Yu and the others, they dwelled in the side room.
“Worthy Brother Fang, why do you think floods often revisit this place? Could it truly be that the officials here live in leisure while holding office without doing a stroke of work? I had checked the county records, and was also informed that disasters frequented the area. I had initially thought that the local climate had something to do with it, but now, it seems as though there’s more to it than that.”
Fang Feng Sheng sneered and said, “This place truly is often afflicted by disasters. The imperial court has repeatedly sent relief, so how could they not care? Since there hasn’t been a solution, there must be some insoluble obstacle involved.”
Feng Sheng shook her head. “I don’t know.”
Rain lingered until dark without any sign of stopping. Master Song personally offered to entertain Fan Jin Chuan and his entourage with a banquet, but he refused, claiming that the abnormal weather had dampened his mood.
Left without a choice, Master Song could only order people to send meals to Fan Jin Chuan and the others. Of course, they also couldn’t neglect those farmers.
Fan Jin Chuan and Fang Feng Sheng partook their meals and saw that the rain unceasingly persisted, spoiling their spirits. Distraught with anxiety, he ordered someone to fetch an umbrella, and then bolted out to personally check how those farmers were doing.
Unlike their raised beds and warm rooms, these farmers were merely lodged in a large barn.
In the barn, the ground was dry, and some quilts and straws were brought in. There was no other alternative, so the people could only endure to get by. Fan Jin Chuan also wasn’t that brazen to request the Song family to entertain these farmers based on his own principles of hospitality. Noticing the warm food and hot water for their consumption, he didn’t say anything more.
However, these farmers were deeply unsettled. They were stuck here for an indefinite length of time because of the rain. Completely clueless as to how their families were doing at home, they were bound to be restless.
“Father, there’s only my wife and a few kids at home. Why don’t you wait here while I brave the rain to return?”
“How can you go back when it’s raining like this? The sky is dark again, do you not want to live?”
“But it’s raining so heavily. Who knows how long it will go on?”
The old man sighed, “Let’s wait until tomorrow. Even if the rain doesn’t stop, we’ll go back.”
Several conversations akin to that one transpired among the crowd. The farmers were instinctively sensitive to the shifts in weather, and they had a foreboding that the deluge of rain wouldn’t easily perish.
It wasn’t until the next day that people realized what had happened the previous night.
Many of the trees outside had been uprooted, and when one stood high enough to look down, one could see that the lowlands had transformed into a land with multitudinous rivers and lakes. The farmers were utterly agitated and preferred braving the downpour to head home.
No matter how hard Fan Jin Chuan tried, his persuasion fell on deaf ears, and he could only watch helplessly as they plunged into the torrential rain.
On the third day, the rain carried on, and Fan Jin Chuan could no longer sit still.
He asked the Song family for bamboo hats, saying that he wanted to breeze out to check the conditions outside. Fang Feng Sheng was powerless against his insistence, so she could only accompany him. The two brought with them a yamen runner and Uncle Yu, along with a few indisposed men from the Song family, and ventured outside the Song family’s house with grit and fortitude.
Fan Jin Chuan scoured the areas where water used to be before the rainfall. He was looking for the river and the nearby pond, but of course, they were nowhere to be seen, as they had been subsumed in the flood.
The water in the pond had already overflowed, and the river’s water level had risen to an indeterminate height.
“Hurry up, my lord.”
In the heavy rain, even the voices of people speaking were drowned out.
Fan Jin Chuan didn’t budge, but someone eventually dragged him away in resolution.
“How do you solve this situation?”
Everyone was silent. Beside him, Master Song responded with a smile, “My lord, rest assured. This place is accustomed to troubling waters. The local village head is capable. In this heavy rain, he will definitely usher the villagers to higher ground for safety. Furthermore, every village has houses specifically to shelter them from downpours. You need not worry about those people’s lives.”
What about the farmland? What about their houses? What about the livestock? What about the grain? After all, not every house could be built on high ground like the Song family’s. Looking down from the high slope of the Song family’s house, it particularly evoked a sense of ascendancy, but it also made one feel a bit of desperation.
Fan Jin Chuan shot Master Song a fierce glare, brushed off his sleeves, and stormed out.
“What did I say that offended his lordship? That’s the truth, the truth!” Master Song was seemingly aggrieved.
Feng Sheng pursed her lips and consoled, “My lord is only anxious in his heart, so don’t take it seriously.”
Leaving the other behind, she sped out to chase after him.
It was only after the yamen‘s party had left that Master Song spat at the ground, revealing a derisive smile.
Fan Jin Chuan stood under the eaves of the Song family’s front door, gazing at the water outside.
When someone suddenly approached, he merely turned his head to look at the other party and uttered no word.
“Isn’t my lord wondering why this place is densely populated with waterways, yet floods occur each year? Come on, I’ll show you why.”
It was an old farmer, name unknown, who had remained at the Song family since the rain began despite other farmers rushing back.
He was very old, with a face filled with ravines and gullies, reddish copper skin, and a curved back. All were marks of a lifetime of toil.
After a pause, the old farmer gave a desolate smile, “Actually, everyone here knows, but no one dares tell you! I’m old and my whole family is dead. They all died in the flood, and I’m left alone with this weary old body to muddle my way through. I’m not afraid to die, so I’ll tell you!”
After saying that, he so abruptly disappeared into the pouring rain that Fan Jin Chuan couldn’t stop him with his calls.
That moment, Feng Sheng, Uncle Yu, and the others had just caught up with him, but Fan Jin Chuan snatched the bamboo hat in their hands and pursued the farmer.
“Uncle Yu, you follow too!”
Fang Feng Sheng grabbed a bamboo hat and chased after them as well.
Everything that entered their eyes was rain, such that all things surrounding them were no longer distinguishable.
Their feet were all numb, but they nonetheless trudged on and made not a single sound.
The old farmer who had been walking ahead suddenly stopped and pointed to a suspicious open sluice gate2 not far away, seemingly abandoned.
“See? That’s why. When the Yellow River moved southward, it took the Huai River into the sea, subsequently raising the canal’s riverbed. In order to prevent the river from flowing downstream, only high dams were built. Once the upper reaches of the river would burst through the dam, the people by the lower reaches would be flooded. Taizhou’s terrain is high in the southeast and low in the northwest. This is the northwest. The waterway here connects the Chuanchang River and the salt transport canal. They could just easily dredge the estuary and open the sluice gates to discharge water, but, doing so, the water level would be insufficient for transport. With this, how can salt ships transport from here to the canal with an elevated riverbed? Taizhou is infested with private salt. In order to prevent private salt smugglers from using the waterways, the court built sluices everywhere to block them. The places where they couldn’t build dams, they would just block the waterways.
“If the waterways are blocked, how can we dredge? The heavens and earth are not benevolent, and they consider all living beings as disposable objects. This is heaven’s way of exterminating the common people!”
It was an impassioned speech, but at the end of it, he regained his serenity.
But, it was precisely this serenity that chilled them to the marrow.
After checking some historical facts, Taizhou could be considered a relatively miserable place.
In the Qing Dynasty alone, there were 46 instances of flood; 36 of drought; 27 of heavy and excessive rain; 20 of strong winds and gale; 12 of flash floods and tidal waves; 10 of locust swarms; 7 each of earthquakes and epidemics; 6 of snowstorms; 4 of famine; 3 of severe cold, and; 1 of frost.
Counting Qing dynasty’s total number of years, the area was almost always plagued by disasters yearly, and there were only a few times when it wasn’t. As for floods, besides the Yellow River, man-made causes also accounted for a large part.
Now that the problems are out, the next step is to fix it.
Also, you guys mentioned pig trotter Zong*? He’ll come soon.
* Pretty sure the author is just dissing him lol
1 Dredging is the removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of lakes, rivers, and other water bodies. It is a routine necessity in waterways because sedimentation—the natural process of sand and silt washing downstream—gradually fills channels and harbors.
2 I googled sluices in Ancient China to get a better picture of things. Thought I’d share this with you: