Uncle Yum Cha (Uncle "Drink Tea") was a much respected and influential scholar-gentry official who lived during the Ch'ing period (1644-1911) and was especially known for his advice column in a southern China newspaper in the 1850's. The kindly old gentleman could often be seen in his favorite teahouse, with brush in hand, wearing his well worn blue chang pao (robe), while listening to his favorite singing bird. His best selling book, Women are from Hunan, Men are from Szech'uan, was recently found in the ruins of an (allegedly haunted) Taoist temple. Sample pages have been translated from the Chinese and are hereby made available.

 

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha, I am a 15-year-old girl living in a small village outside Lhasa. I have always been proud of my bound feet but now my boyfriend wants me to bind my feet even tighter than they are. He says my "Golden Lilies" should be no more than three inches in length. I say at four inches they are OK. Besides, all my girlfriends at school who tried to have three-inch Golden Lilies lost at least one toe. What do you think?

Precious Lotus in Lhasa

Dear Precious Lotus in Lhasa,

Boyfriend, smoyfriend. You should not even SEE your future husband let alone being talking to him. Your marriage should be made through a matchmaker. Whatever are you thinking of? And what are you, a girl, a "lose money goods," doing going to school when you should be home working on your embroidery and learning how to cook for your future husband? Don't worry about your toes falling out because of tight bandages. Three or four toes on each foot are more than enough for a girl your age. Remember, if you don't bind your feet people will make fun of your 'big boats' as you pass by.

You seem to be listening too much to some of the storytellers who have been influenced by the long-nosed foreign barbarians from across the seas. As for your feet, your mom and dad know best so, if you hope to attract a husband of any status at all, listen to them.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

My wife and three concubines very much want me to join the Manchu banner armies and fight the outside barbarians who have seized Hong Kong and who are even now shelling Canton with their fleet of warships. They say I should go to Shanghai where secret societies are forming to fight the barbarians-from-afar. But I am an only son and I think it best that I stay and work in the ricefields. Should I be killed, there would be no one left to care for the family shirne and to tend to the needs of my ancestors. Besides, my wife and concubines are very beautiful and I worry about leaving them alone. Who do you think is right? What should I do?

Bold Justice in Jejiang

Dear Bold Justice in Jejiang,

The outside barbarians will soon find that they should never have crossed the seas to tangle with our great Manchu bannermen and local militias. Soon they will be totally defeated and be sent to the Land of Yellow Springs. Rest assured it will be the mother of all battles. But I see no reason for you to disappoint your wife and three concubines. So, for now, do your duty. It should not take long for our armies and fleets of junks to slay those who would disrespect our Middle Kingdom. Fortunately, your Uncle Yum Cha has business in Jejiang and will travel there frequently. I can promise you, your wife and concubines will lack for nothing.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

My lover is quite a bit older than me and wants me to read salacious, sexy books such as Chin P'ing Mei and Jou Pu Tuan and several Taoist pamphlets on lovemaking illustrated with woodblock prints. He doesn't know that I already have read them and am only pretending to be innocent. I am deathly afraid he will find out my addiction to sex from my "friends." What should I do if he does?

Li Hua in Honan

Dear Li Hua in Honan,

You should not worry about the opinion of a man who does not like your being sophisticated in bed. Your best bet is to find a man who understands you and appreciates your 'virtues.' But someone must speak with you about your addiction to sex. It just so happens I will be in Honan next month to see an old friend. If you send me your address, perhaps we might meet so that I could advise you further, as I have advised other young women with your problem. And don't forget to bring those Taoist pamphlets.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

I am in love with an older man whom my mother and father hate with a passion. He is very kind to me but they say he has the remnants of a tattoo on his temple from having been exiled to Hsinchiang Province and that he is most likely an escaped prisoner. My mom says we could all be sentenced into exile if the magistrate's men find him with us. When I ask him, he says it was just that he used to play the er-hu in a band in Hangchow and they all had tattoos and bizarre hairstyles. But he says now he has changed and he wants to marry me. But there are rumors that he is already married to the daughter of a lychee farmer in Gansu Province. I don't know what to do. Please advise.

Perplexed in Peking

Dear Perplexed in Peking,

As the wise ancients said: 'Where there is no wind, the grass does not move.' You must stay away from this young man or you may regret it the rest of your life. And, by the way, lychees from Gansu suck big time.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

I have heard that there is a country of foreign, long-nosed barbarians where women with unbound feet sit around babbling day in and day out about "relationships, commitment, communication," and other such claptrap, while their crops rot in the field and their embroidery goes unfinished. Could this be true?

Confused in Canton

Dear Confused in Canton,

Yes, I am sorry to say there is such a country. While the men play games with balls of various sizes and spend all their time watching highly overpaid young men play with balls of various sizes, the women sit around, as you say, babbling endlessly about such nonsense as "relationships." This gobbledygook now passes for wisdom in their society and many people in that country make their fortune spouting out such nonsense as if it were the wisdom of Kung Fu Tze or Lao Tze. Let us hope we in the Middle Kingdom will always treasure the Five Classics and Four Books and never stoop so low.

I think these long-nosed, big-footed women feel that they are being sensitive. It seems to be a kind of fake religion for those in need of something meaningful in their lives, and the constant repetition of the word "relationship" is their mantra. What they are really being is self-centered, self-absorbed, self-pitying and BOOOORING. But as long as men and women of this low nature stay away from the shores of the Central Kingdom, we need not worry.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

My name is Jade Pearl. I am a concubine of an older man who does not do right by me in the bedroom. He loves to play with my bound feet and the aroma drives him crazy, but then he falls asleep. What should I do?

Dear Jade Pearl,

May I suggest you buy a copy of Uncle Yum Cha's new book, Bedroom Tactics for Bound Feet Women. If that doesn't help, contact me directly as it just so happens that Uncle Yum Cha needs a research assistant for his next book, Sex and the Single Bound Foot Woman.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

I am a young scholar living in Honan Province and I must take the Imperial Examinations next month. If I fail I will be in disgrace. I have heard it said that you are very friendly with some of the official examiners in my province and might be able to assist me in ensuring that I pass. Of course, I would make it worth your while.

Lin Gao-gung

Dear Lin Gao-gung,

While it is true that your Uncle Yum Cha has many friends among the examiners, it is also true that I have enormous character and integrity and am not open to such bribery as you allude to. How you could think that I don't know. Now, when you send the money, place it in a red packet inside an envelope and mark the outside very carefully: UNCLE YUM CHA BIRTHDAY MONEY ONLY - ABSOLUTELY NO BRIBE ENCLOSED. We'll have you up at Beijing's Hanlin Academy before you know it, kid.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

My girlfriends and I enjoy your columns very much but my mother says you are really not so much a great scholar as you are a "Wind-Water Man" (ham sap low)dirty old man. She also said you have been chased out of cities in almost all 18 provinces by irate husbands and angry boyfriends. I don't know what to think.

Willow Blossom

Dear Willow Blossom,

I am so happy you and your friends enjoy my columns. It is my intention to help young people as much as possible. Young women, such as yourself, are becoming aware of your budding sexuality, and, because I offer advice to young women both in my column and, occasionally, in person, it may be that your mother has misunderstood my intentions. Of course I have not been chased out of any cities; it is just that your Uncle Yum Cha enjoys travel and- oops, sorry, gotta go!

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

I am from the Lowe clan, Li-da is my given name. A strange man married my mother but then she died in a mysterious accident and, since then, I have been traveling about the country with this older man. So far, he has not attempted any nonsense but I know he is attracted to me. In fact, I think he is obsessed with me. Do you think I am a bad girl for traveling with this man?

Lowe Li-da

Dear Lowe Li-da,

Have you ever read Dream of the Red Chamber or the Golden Lotus? Remember how Chinese men praise the buds which are just becoming lovely flowers? No, wait, what am I thinking of? You are a girl and of course you have not been taught to read. Indeed, from the fine calligraphy of your letter I should have realized that you went to a letter writer and paid him to write this for you. I am touched, Lowe Li-da!

Anyway, as for the older man traveling with you, as long as you are careful and do not neglect to burn incense in the various temples you pass on your journey, I am certain no harm will come to you. The ancients said, "Nothing is more enticing than a very young girl with very knowing eyes." Or something like that. Needless to say, Uncle Yum Cha does not agree with such salacious statements, but it should not be surprising that this man is attracted to you as, from your letter, I can tell you are quite precocious. Anyway, be a good girl, burn your incense but not your rice and don't worry too much about what people say. Remember: "A pagoda is known by the length of its shadow," whatever the hell that means.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

My village is on the coast near Amoy and I have seen several foreign-devil men as they come ashore to buy provisions. Many of them have green eyes and I even saw one with blue eyes. Is it that foreign-devils are not born with dark eyes like us? Afraid in Amoy

Dear Afraid in Amoy,

It is true that foreign-devils are all born with dark eyes like us. However, according to the Taoist masters, the more sexual intercourse barbarians have, the lighter their eyes become. So be extremely careful of barbarians with green eyes. Be even more careful of barbarians with blue eyes. And be extremely careful of barbarians with blue eyes and red hair. Those blue-eyed, red-haired devils are the most insatiable in their drive for sex.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

My village is on a small island off the coast of Chejiang province. We have always peacefully farmed rice and beans. Lately, however, a whole lot of people from nearby towns on the mainland have been gathering on our island to play some kind of game in which they vote one another off our island each week until only one is left. And then they give that one a reward of several chickens and three water buffalo.

They seem to think the game is exciting. I know I am only a poorly educated farm girl but I think the game is stupid and boring and I think these people have too much time on their hands. My boyfriend disagrees with me. He loves the game so much he no longer shows any interest in my charms. What do you think?

Apricot Eyes

Dear Apricot Eyes,

You are the one who has been educated; those townfolk have been schooled. They love to do stupid things and then read important messages into those stupid things. It is just one more sign of our dumbed-down, moronic society no doubt poisoned by the ways of the foreign-devils. Get rid of your boyfriend and find a handsome, young farmboy who will appreciate you. Leave the boring games to the rabble from the towns.

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Dear Uncle Yum Cha,

My boyfriend has been reading erotic books to me; lately he has been reading me The Prayer Mat of Flesh by Li Yu. It makes me so...well, you know. Especially when Vesperus sleeps with Lucky Jade, Lucky Pearl and Flora. The things they do! In fact, now that my imagination has been unleashed, my boyfriend no longer can satisfy my needs. I want to sit on top of him in the "dousing the candle" technique but he gets too tired and the "candle" becomes too soft. I wish he had never read that book to me!

Sleepless in Ciahtong

Dear Sleepless in Ciahtong

The Prayer Mat of Flesh was written in the mid-17th century and is one of our great classics. Please do not blame the book; your boyfriend probably read it to you before you were old enough and experienced enough to understand.

Fortunately, your Uncle Yum Cha is descended from the family of the writer, Li Yu, and will be in Ciahtong on business in the near future. I am sure that if you spend a bit of time with me, you will find that not all candles smoke and sputter just when you need a light, so to speak.

Be patient and soon you will be taught the wisdom of the Li Yu by a master of the art of the tallow.

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Are you a beautiful and confused young woman? Through the miracle of feng-shui, Uncle Yum Cha is able to overcome the difficulties of time and space to answer YOUR queries on a VERY personal basis. He'd love to hear from you.

Drop me a line at: deanbarr@loxinfo.co.th

UNCLE YUM CHA'S PERSONAL MAILBOX FOR BEAUTIFUL AND CONFUSED YOUNG WOMEN

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