Chapter 121: This World has another Millennial Impossibility!
烟锁池塘柳 (yān suǒ chí táng liǔ, Willow pond locked in smoke)?
Such a simple five-word couplet?
Zheng Anbang laughed out, “Just this?”
“The mood is not bad, but…” Big Thunder also said.
A youth from the Writers’ Association was brimming with confidence, “What’s so hard about this? I’ll match it with Rain falls…”
But before he finished speaking, Zhang Ye had already written his couplet on the computer in front of him.
Immediately, a staff member did something to project the couplet onto the big screen, letting everyone see it clearly!
When the youth from the Writers’ Association saw the couplet, he held back his words after saying, “Rain falls”. With a cough, he stopped speaking. He just realized how humorous the “What’s so hard about this?” he said was.
When the surrounding people saw it, they were stunned!
烟锁池塘柳 (yān suǒ chí táng liǔ, Willow pond locked in smoke)?
Fire (火), Metal (金), Water (水), Earth (土), Wood (木)!
Every word contained one of the five elements in its left radical!
How did you think up of such a tricky couplet?
And the five elemental radicals matched so well?
Who said that Zhang Ye couldn’t come up with a question!?
Big Thunder lowered his head to ponder over it. His lips were constantly muttering, clearly trying to match the couplet.
Zheng Anbang and several people from the Writers’ Association also began to silently try matching it.
Seeing them work so hard, Zhang Ye was amused. He hugged his shoulders as he watched the show.
Yes, this couplet was tricky with the five elements Fire (火), Metal (金), Water (水), Earth (土), and Wood (木) in the radicals, but it did not look very difficult. Anyone who knew a bit of couplet culture would think that they could match it given enough time. They just needed to find an appropriate word. From the audience’s expression, they were clearly having such thoughts.
But only Zhang Ye knew that no one could match this couplet!
In Zhang Ye’s world, it was precisely proven. Some couplets might look difficult, but they were not as hard as people expected when it was matched. For example, using a top radical to make a couplet like 荷花茎藕蓬莲苔 (hé huā jīng ǒu péng lián tái, moss of the lotus flower, lotus root, lotus fruit). It looked extremely complicated at first glance, as their top radicals were all 艹, but with some careful thought, they were all plants, so matching it with 芙蓉芍药蕊芬芳(fú róng sháo yào ruǐ fēn fāng, scent of the buds of the hibiscus and peony) would not be a problem. It could be matched with other words, too.
But some couplets might not appear to have any tricks behind them, and looked about the same as any other couplet, making you think that you could understand it at a glance, but even a lifetime of effort would not allow you to match it!
烟锁池塘柳 (yān suǒ chí táng liǔ, Willow pond locked in smoke) was a couplet that no one could match even in a few lifetimes!
This couplet’s history was quite long. In Zhang Ye’s world, it had been passed down as a Millennial Impossibility. Nearly a thousand years had passed with people succumbing to it. As for this world, they must have never heard of it.
Some people matched with 炮镇海城楼 (pào zhèn hǎi chéng lóu, Sea tower rocked by cannons).
The television series “The Eloquent Ji Xiaolan” had previously used this verse. Many people thought this was the match to the couplet, but in fact it wasn’t. 炮镇海城楼 (pào zhèn hǎi chéng lóu, sea tower rocked by cannons) could only be considered as “corresponding”, but not matched. The flaw in the second half was not only in its mood, but also in its order.
Firstly, in its tone pattern, with the prosody of its first, third, and fifth words not considered, the second, fourth, sixth were to be distinct. The first and second verses’ second and fourth words were both oblique tones (锁－镇，塘－城) and did not match well.
Secondly, in terms of mood, the first half was simple and elegant, while the proposed second half was boorish and rough. Although one was like a scholar, the other was like a warrior, it was not coordinated and there was a lack of overall harmony.
That was why this second verse, which many people believe to be the standard answer, was actually not good enough.
There were also matches of 灯深村寺钟 (dēng shēn cūn sì zhōng, the bell echoes in a distant dimly-lit temple) and 烽销极塞鸿 (fēng xiāo jí sāi hóng, the smoke signals an unfulfilled desire), which matched well in prosody, but did not match the elemental order of the words.
In that world, the best accepted match was 桃燃锦江堤 (táo rán jǐn jiāng dī, peach blossoms scorch the Jinjiang dyke).
However, even this second verse had a problem.
Its strong point was in matching the prosody of the first verse, with a profound mood, especially with “rán” being used extremely well. The radicals were also in the right order.
The only weakness was that “jǐn jiāng dī” was a proper noun, while the other was a common noun. “Jǐn jiāng” and “chí táng” were not similar. In that aspect, there was still a gap.
From a prosody view, the first verse was level-oblique-level-level-oblique, so in order not to violate the “lone level” rule, the second verse has to be level-level-oblique-oblique-level or oblique-level-level-oblique-level or level-level-level-oblique-level, of which the level-level-oblique-oblique-level combination was the most ideal.
Of pity, the “jiāng” in this verse was of a level tone, failing to match as an oblique tone to the level tone of “táng” in first verse.
Hence, there was no solution to the first half, giving it the name of a Millennial Impossibility!
“Big Thunder, did you match it?”
“Just a bit. Almost, almost.”
“I think I’m almost there, too. I already have some thoughts.”
“There’s still time right? I think I can also try. I’m lacking just two words. A word with a fire (火) radical…fire radical…”
With the champion decided, the competition had already come to an end. So these people began to have exchanges in whispers and things were not as strict anymore.
The few judges ignored them, too. They were writing on their tables, trying to match Zhang Ye’s couplet, too.
Seeing them frowning in thought, Zhang Ye silently smiled. Go ahead and match it. If any one of you can really match it, this bro will chop off his head and give it to you. This couplet had been passed down for more than a hundred years, maybe even a thousand years in his world, and yet no one could succeed. Do you think that just ten minutes would allow you to match it?
Ignoring this bit of time, even if a hundred years were given to all of you, no, even if this world was given a hundred years or a thousand years, no one could perfectly answer this couplet.
Forget it; I won’t inform you. Torture yourselves. I’ll take this opportunity to rest.
Five minutes passed.
Ten minutes passed.
This was a live broadcast, so they could not just wait and do nothing. The two hosts were trying to regulate the mood.
“This first half seems to not be simple?” the male host said, while looking at the screen.
The female host laughed, “It’s far from not simple. It might look common, but the difficulty is there. Just the Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth radicals would stop many people in their tracks. Furthermore, there is still the tone pattern one has to match. These two must be combined together to result in a correspondence. The key to the problem is its mood. Teacher Zhang’s first half’s mood is far and distant, like an ethereal picture, bringing with it full of life. Trying to match this would not be easy.”
She knew a bit after all.
However, it was just a bit.
The second judge had a headache as a result of thinking. Throwing down her pen, she said, “I can’t do it. I’ll let you do it. I feel like there should be a solution, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t. It just doesn’t correspond!”
The third judge threw up his arms. He had given up, too.
The male host blinked and thought, “No one could match it? Even the judges couldn’t? That can’t be!? Isn’t it just a couplet!? There were so many famous experts here! There was strength in numbers!”
He looked towards an area where the Couplet Organization and the Writers’ Association were. Those people were also silently trying to match it. Looking at the audience, all of them were focusing on the couplet. Each one refused to have their beliefs shaken, as they tried to solve it!
But after a long while, no one spoke!
Finally, Elder Qian threw down the pen in his hand. He raised his head and said, “Let’s call it a day.”
Big Thunder refused to throw in the towel as he quickly said, “Elder Qian, just give me a bit of time. I’m almost getting it.”
“That’s right; I’m just a word short. I just can’t think of a single word.” Another person from the Beijing Writers’ Association said.
Elder Qian interrupted them and issued the most authoritative opinion, “There’s no need to think further, nor do you need to try matching. No matter how much time is given, no one can match it!”
Zhang Ye was surprised as he glanced at Elder Qian. Eh?
There really was someone wise?
“Impossible regardless of how much time?” Big Thunder refused to believe, “Why?”
Elder Qian smiled bitterly and said bluntly, “Because this is a Millennial Impossibility!”
“Impossible! There must be a solution!”
“Right, how can it be an Impossibility!?”
“Elder Qian, did you make a mistake?”
The contestants were all puzzled and none of them acknowledged it
What was a Millennial Impossibility?
In simple terms, it was a couplet no one could match!
Back in the preliminary round, Elder Qian had came up with “hai shui chao chao chao chao chao chao chao luo”. To many people, wasn’t it considered an Impossibility?
Actually, no. It was just considered a miraculous couplet. At best, it would be considered a Millennial Miraculous Couplet, but it definitely was not a Millennial Impossibility. This was because this miraculous couplet had been matched by Zhang Ye neatly. Furthermore, Elder Qian himself had come up with a passable second half. He could match it himself, so there was a solution, so in no way was it a Millennial Impossibility!
Big Thunder’s couplet from before?
That didn’t count either!
It was even slightly worse than a miraculous couplet. It was, at most, considered a wonderful couplet!
And it had been matched by Zhang Ye!
It was solved!
None of those counted!
But 烟锁池塘柳 (yān suǒ chí táng liǔ, Willow pond locked in smoke) was?
No one was convinced as they waited for Elder Qian to give an explanation.
Elder Qian said, “I know what all of you are thinking. I had the same thoughts as you. I was thinking that as long as I had time, I would be able to solve this first half. But after I tried several times, I discovered that this first half is unsolvable. The radicals from five elements, and the order of the elements, the level tones, the mood, to match all of them, you cannot miss a single one of the five. It is easy to match one, and matching two would not be bad. If you want to match three, it is nearly impossible, not to mention matching all five perfectly. 烟锁池塘柳 (yān suǒ chí táng liǔ, Willow pond locked in smoke), even if this was placed in ancient times, it would have definitely been a Millennial Impossibility that would shock the world. I can be absolutely sure in telling everyone that this first half will definitely be unsolvable in a hundred years! It can only be left for people of the future!” Saying that, Elder Qian sighed with regret.
Unsolvable in a hundred years?
It really was a Millennial Impossibility?
Elder Qian was very famous in the circle, and he was one of the most accomplished few in the country’s couplet literary culture. With him saying that, everyone had to believe, even if they didn’t!
And so what if people refused to agree?
They really could not match it!
The second judge gasped, “It’s really an Impossibility?”
“I’m very sure.” Elder Qian said with a firm tone.
The third judge looked at Zhang Ye, who was not far away. He gave a wry smile, “What sort of person has come to this year’s Couplet Competition? This is no longer how each new generation excels the last one! This lad has smacked to death all the predecessors and seniors in the profession on the beach! Or am I just an old ignorant man? When did our country have such a spectacular genius?”
The old granny laughed, “In a while, read his ‘Shuidiao Getou’. No, it’s best if you listen to the version he recited live. Then, his performance today would not seem that strange. That, too, was a melody poem that would last the ages!”
What was the concept of a Millennial Impossibility?
Saying it just like that might not be easy to understand, but giving an example would make it very clear.
A Millennial Impossibility was equivalent to a few mathematical conjectures in the field of mathematics. They were also the most difficult problems in the world of mathematics. Everyone knew there was a solution, and everyone knew it was possible to come up with a solution, but no one could provide it!
There were a few major conjectures in the world of mathematics.
And in the world of literature, there were only about 5-6 Millennial Impossibilities!
But starting today, this world had another Millennial Impossibility. The Impossibility’s first half was 烟锁池塘柳 (yān suǒ chí táng liǔ, Willow pond locked in smoke)!