Question: I see the phrase “to hug a thick thigh” a lot in other stories, but does anyone know the Chinese characters for that phrase?
Chapter 55 – Tribute Rice
An Yuan County was a small county in Hong Prefecture, and Hong Prefecture was known as the land of rice.
The area of An Yuan County was small, but the land was fertile. It had sufficient water sources and the soil quality was good. The climate was also better than most of the other counties, so it was a good place to grow rice. It was also suitable for the cultivation of gong mi* and black rice.
[*T/N: gong mi literally translates to “tribute rice”]
For the precious rice varieties like gong mi, the manpower and financial resources required were not affordable for the average family. Therefore, the amount produced in An Yuan County was not much. The gong mi produced by the An family accounts for nearly half of its total production, but the amount was still small. However, the wealth that these gong mi brought to the family was far higher than other types.
An Zi Ran only knew about this after having reviewed the ledgers.
The gong mi produced by the An family was not for sale, but for giving away (as a gift).
Gong mi was a kind of high-quality rice that has been carefully selected. The appearance of this rice was as crystal clear as pearls. In the early days, it was mainly dedicated as a tribute to the emperor.
However, as the output of gong mi increased, some high-ranking officials also began to eat it.
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The An family’s gong mi existed to please these types of people. An Chang Fu used gong mi as a way to pave the path to fortune. The results were not bad. It could be seen that the An family charged a high amount for renting out land, and also gave out a lot as disaster relief funds. It was no wonder that things have always been smooth and steady for the An family. An Chang Fu’s means of doing things were not honest, but he could still be regarded as a successful landlord.
This year the rice seedlings were planted in April, so there was still some time away from the harvest.
However, not all rice was harvested in the same period, and the precocious varieties could be harvested in about seventy days. This rice was commonly called “jiu gong ji” or “hou xia ji.”*
[*T/N: Literal translations are “rescuing public hunger” and “urgently going down the throat”]
Just from listening to the name, one knew that the quality of this type of rice was not too high, but this was precisely what made the people of An Yuan County most happy.
The climate in Hong Prefecture was warmer than other places all throughout the year, and the chances of snow were low.
But this year there was a rare heavy snowfall in the winter. The snow covered the rice fields. The rice that could’ve been harvested in just a few more months, half of it was frozen to death. Although the rest survived tenaciously, the harvest was not expected to be too much.
This was also the reason why the people were borrowing such a huge quantity of rice.
After a round of inspections, it seemed that the growth of rice was quite prosperous.
Although the rice paddies of the An family were also affected (by the snow), their response was relatively timely, so the damage was not large.
An Zi Ran didn’t know much about rice paddies, so he just spent an hour to give them a cursory inspection. When the sun was about to climb to its zenith he got ready to return.
Just as they were preparing to enter the county, a crying voice not far away caught their attention.
In the middle of the road a woman was kneeling on the ground and looking towards the fields with dull eyes.
The person who made the cry was a peasant standing in the field. There was a cow in front of him. He looked at the situation and it seemed that the cow had a problem. Many people were gathered around him and whispering.
“It’s too bad for the Zhou Laohan’s family. The harvest day is coming soon, but the cow died of sickness. Without the cow how can they cultivate their land? They will certainly starve to death!”
“That’s just the way it is. Due to the snowfall a large part of their fields were destroyed. It has been very unlucky. Now even the cow is dead. I don’t even know how we’ll survive through this year. My family still has three children waiting for food at home.”
“It looks like they can only borrow rice from the An family this year.”
Almost every household in An Yuan County had cattle. In order to buy a cow, they spend a family fortune. Some don’t even hesitate to borrow a large amount of money from the An family. As a result, the debts get bigger and bigger until it was almost impossible to repay. If it weren’t for An Zi Ran waiving their debts, some people might have to sell their daughters to repay the debts.
Now their days were a little better, but they still had to depend on a cow to survive. The cow was more important than their lives. Now that it was dead, it was like their lifeblood was dead.
“The young landlord is here.”
Someone saw An Zi Ran standing now far away, and suddenly shouted out loud.
Everyone’s attention immediately shifted to him, including Zhou Laohan* and his wife. Zhou Laohan immediately stopped crying. He was not an old man. He was only thirty years old this year, but he looked like he was in his forties, so everyone called him Zhou Laohan*.
[*T/N: The “Lao” in Zhou Laohan means “old” and it’s used like a nickname. I guess you could think of his nickname as “old Zhou Han” in English.]
An Zi Ran came over and took a look at the cow collapsed on the field. April was beginning to warm up, so the cow couldn’t have frozen to death. The only possibility was like the farmers had said, the cow died of illness. There was really no solution for this kind of thing.
Seeing the young landlord frown, the Zhou couple had looks of mourning on their faces. They thought that because the young landlord was no longer charging them high rent that their family could finally have a better life. But they didn’t expect the cow to die. How will they go on living now?
“Zhou Laohan, if you and your wife do not use cattle to cultivate the land, how many acres can you cultivate yourself?” An Zi Ran suddenly said.
Zhou Laohan raised his head and showed his red eyes. He didn’t know why the young landlord had to ask this question. He thought and thought and replied, “If my wife and I are diligent, when it comes time to transplant rice seedlings, we should be able to cultivate five acres of land.”
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An Zi Ran thought for a bit, “Then, I suggest that you change the ten acres of land you contracted to six or seven acres. After the autumn harvest, you don’t have to trouble yourself over cow feed or grazing fields. In your excess time you can grow other things in other places, for example, crops such as beans and vegetables. This should be able to offset some losses.”
Zhou Laohan and his wife were stunned, but they never thought about it.
Although a cow could farm the land faster than people, it was also very troublesome and laborious to keep the cow. They had to consider the cost of water and grass feed, and accidental death or old life (of the cow).
If they follow the advice of the young landlord, they may be able to make up for the loss of losing a cow.
Zhou Laohan and his wife no longer frowned, and they all saw hope in each other’s eyes.
In the past, they were too dependent on cattle and never even thought about other means of survival.
The onlookers also realized that this was true. In An Yuan County, not every household can afford a cow to cultivate the land. Some farmers who live in poverty have problems feeding themselves, but everyone always thought that Hong Prefecture was the hometown of rice, so they weren’t flexible enough in their thought pattern to think of other methods.
“Young Landlord, then the ten acres of land that we contracted…” Zhou Laohan said vaguely. They had contracted ten acres of land from the An family for five years. It was only the second year. If the left over fields were deserted then it would be a wasteful pity. The most important point was that the previous landlord didn’t care if there was unused land or not, the rent would still be the same.
An Zi Ran knew what he wanted to say. “You can rest assured that if you plant a few acres of land, you will receive a few acres of land, but it is a pity that the other places are abandoned. If you have no objections, I will find people to look after them.”
Zhou Laohan and his wife agreed without saying anything. Anyways, their cow had already died; they couldn’t take care of those extra fields by themselves. If it weren’t for the young landlord’s advice, they wouldn’t have thought to plant other types of crops in the fields. After the crops ripen, maybe they could even bring the excess to the market and sell them. Thinking about the prospects, they suddenly felt that even though the cow died, there was nothing to regret.
“Wang ye, wang fei is very capable,” Shao Fei, who saw the whole thing, couldn’t help but say.
Fu Wu Tian’s eyes have been staring at An Zi Ran and he has not moved away. Hearing those words, he said in a seemingly proud tone, “Whose wang fei do you think he is.”
Shao Fei felt himself sweating. He must have heard wrong. How could the general be proud? He has always been arrogant.
It didn’t take long for An Zi Ran’s proposal to spread throughout An Yuan County.
The farmers who did not have cattle also followed the example of Zhou Laohan’s family. Later, they found that the effect was really good, and the rent collected by the landlord of this area was low, so the days of some poor households gradually improved.
The living standards in An Yuan County have also improved a little.
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