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試譯 後漢書 列女傳--蔡琰(文姬)
2023/09/22 11:41


The wife of Dong Si is the daughter of Cai Yong of the same county, Chenliu. Her first name is Yan, aka Wenji. Cai Yan is a real polymath, an eloquent bluestocker, and a master of musical temperament. She first married Wei Zhongdao, but Wei died young and they had no children, so she returned to her parents. During the era of Xinping, a period of wide turmoil, the nomadic Hun captured her and made her the princess of a Hun prince. She had lived in Hun for twelve years and given birth to two sons. Cao Cao used to have a good relationship with her deceased father, Cai Yong, and Cao considered that she was the only descendant of the family; hence, he sent an emissary and brought a lot of ransom to get her back from Hun to Han. When she came back, Cao arranged to make her marry Dong Si.


Dong Si was then the captain of a farming garrison troop, and he committed the crime of the death penalty. Cai Wenji then had an audience with Cao to plead a pardon on her husband at the time when Cao hosted a feast with high-ranking officials, learned people, and emissaries from afar. Cao announced to his guests that the daughter of Cai Yong was outside, waiting to see him. So he would like to introduce her to them. Then came Wenji, with unkempt hair and bare feet. On bended knees, she kowtowed to Cao, begging for a favor for her husband. Her articulate but sentimental recounts moved all guests. Cao said, "I truly have pity for you and your husband, but the edict has been on the way; what can I do now?" Wenji replied, "Your Highness has thousands of good horses in the stable, as well as countless brave warriors. How could Your Highness not spare a man and a horse to save a dying life?" Her words also moved Cao, and he ordered his men to retrieve the edict and pardon Dong. It was cold then, so Cao also ordered Wenji to be given a wrap, stockings, and shoes. Later, Cao asked, "I heard that your family preserved many classical corpuses; can you still remember them, maam?" Wenji replied to the question, "My late father left four thousand volumes of books, but all of them had been consigned to oblivion due to war and exile. Now I can still remember and recite about four hundred of them." Cao then demanded, "I will send ten officials to jot them down right away." Wenji said, "I hear that according to social ethics, a man and a woman cannot communicate with each other directly; therefore, please just grant me papers and pens; I will jot them down by myself with whatever formal characters or the cursive ones." She did it without any errors or anything missing and submitted it to Cao.

PS: Recently, I watched a video about the story of "文姬歸漢". I doubted the veracity of some pieces of the storyline, especially the one illustrating Wenji and Cao Cao had been a pair of young lovers, and Cao had never forgotten her, and that was why "文姬歸漢" would have been possible. Therefore, I consulted the documented history of Cai Wenji and translated it accordingly.