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Main > Chinese folktales > Fairy tale "The Heartless Husband"

The Heartless Husband

In olden times Hanchow was the capital of Southern China, and for that reason a great number of beggars had gathered there. These beggars were in the habit of electing a leader, who was officially entrusted with the supervision of all begging in the town. It was his duty to see that the beggars did not molest the townsfolk, and he received a tenth of their income from all his beggar subjects. When it snowed or rained, and the beggars could not go out to beg, he had to see to it that they had something to eat, and he also had to conduct their weddings and funerals. And the beggars obeyed him in all things.

Well, it happened that there was a beggar king of this sort in Hanchow by the name of Gin, in whose family the office had been handed down from father to son for seven generations. What they had taken in by way of beggars’ pence they had lent out on interest, and so the family had gradually become well-to-do, and finally even rich.

The old beggar-king had lost his wife at the age of fifty. But he had an only child, a girl who was called “Little Golden Daughter.” She had a face of rare beauty and was the jewel of his love. She had been versed in the lore of books from her youth up, and could write, improvise poems and compose essays. She was also experienced in needlework, a skilled dancer and singer, and could play the flute and zither. The old beggar-king above all else wanted her to have a scholar for a husband. Yet because he was a beggar-king the distinguished families avoided him, and with those who were of less standing than himself he did not wish to have anything to do. So it came about that Little Golden Daughter had reached the age of eighteen without being betrothed.

Now at that time there dwelt in Hanchow, near the Bridge of Peace, a scholar by the name of Mosu. He was twenty years of age, and universally popular because of his beauty and talent. His parents were both dead, and he was so poor that he could hardly manage to keep alive. His house and lot had long since been mortgaged or sold, and he lived in an abandoned temple, and many a day passed at whose end he went hungry to bed.

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