One day, King Cheng stood on the high platform in the quarters of the royal ladies. As he looked across the room, he noticed that the ladies on the floor below were vying with each other to catch his attention, except for one. That lady was Zheng Mao, who was walking slowly across the room as if she were the only occupant and there was no king.
King Cheng was very surprised by this. He called down to her: “Beauty, please show your face.” Zheng Mao did not raise her head. King Cheng again called to her. “My lovely, if you look at me, I’ll make you my first wife.” Zheng Mao still did not look up.
King Cheng raised his offer saying: “Beautiful lady, if you let me take a look at you, I’ll give you a thousand gold coins, and I will make your father and your brothers high-ranking officers.” Zheng Mao continued her graceful walk without looking at the king.
King Cheng was amazed by Zheng Mao’s unresponsiveness and seeming indifference. He came down from the platform and approached her. He said: “The First Wife is a high rank in the harem; with that, you will also be granted a high fortune. If you just look at me, you can get it all. Why did you turn this down?”
Zheng Mao replied: “I learned that a woman should have elegant and composed manners. Your Majesty stood up on the high platform and looking up is against etiquette, so I was not able to look up. Your Majesty lured me with high rank, titles, and wealth. I would violate decent manners if I looked up to gain personal interest. If I ignore decent manners, with what manners shall I serve your Majesty in the future?”
King Cheng agreed with her point of view, so he conferred the title of First Wife on her right away!
Although Zheng Mao was sent to be a concubine of the Chu Nation, she did not abandon the virtues and discipline of an ancient Chinese woman when tempted with wealth, title, and status. She was rewarded by King Cheng’s love and respect.
Translated by Jean Chen