Chapter 289 - Lounge Above the Lake
Editor: Seliniaki Ilikia
Wei Xingyue began to explain to Shi Lei as they walked.
“The owner of the gathering lives here. The biggest house that we just walked past is his. The place we are going to now is a lounge at the lake garden. It’s called a lounge, but it’s basically a pavilion for his collections. The surname of the lounge’s owner is Bai and his assets should be among the top ten in Jiangdong Province. But his heritage is definitely the greatest amongst all the wealthy families in Jiangdong. Even my father needs to address him honorably as ‘Old Bai(1).’ His family is a rare example because it is said to be difficult for a family to stay wealthy for more than three generations after the liberation.”
Even if Shi Lei knew nothing about the Bai family, he couldn’t help but exclaim after hearing this.
He believed that with the Wei family’s wealth, it was a joke to say that they wouldn’t stay wealthy for generations. In fact, although there weren’t too many families who stayed rich for more than three generations, it wasn’t rare either. But the Bai family was already wealthy before the liberation, and after all that happened after the liberation, they remained wealthy, which was extremely impressive.
“Old Bai loves paintings, but he definitely isn’t like those millionaires nowadays who are just following the trend. The wealth he spent on collecting them is almost a third of all his assets. It’s said that Bai family’s ancestor worked as the minister of revenue(1) and from that generation onward, they were the gentlemen of the countryside and began to start their business at the end of the Qing Dynasty. During the war, the Bai family contributed greatly to the revolution and provided a large amount of wealth. After the founding, they stayed quiet for a moment, but were also the first group of people who started oversea trades. Old Bai always says that there are no real families of scholars left now and his Bai family cannot go back to how they were before. But he still wants to continue the family custom. However, none of his children are able to inherit this idea. He says that all of his collections will be donated to the country after he passes away. This lounge is basically his own gallery. If any of the high officials don’t come for a formal meeting, they will always use the opportunity to drink tea and talk to Old Bai. They say that even normal tea tastes better under the influence of art.”
Wei Xingyue talked and Shi Lei remained silent. They weren’t in a hurry go in, instead walking slowly along the lake.
“Zhang Sengyou was from the Southern and Northern Dynasty and skilled in Buddhist paintings. Many temples and shrines in Jiangnan from that dynasty had walls filled with his paintings. It’s a shame that such a great painter didn’t have a proper painting that was remained and spread around. It is said that his painting called the ‘Five Stars of the Lunar Mansions’ was found by Osaka’s Arts Museum in Japan. It was confirmed to be a copy. Now Old Bai has found a copy from the Song Dynasty. which rare and was difficult to obtain.”
Wei Xingyue observed Shi Lei as she spoke, since that was the task her her father assigned her.
The reason she had to bring Shi Lei to this gathering was that it would be filled with upper class people from the Yangtze River Delta. Wei Xingyue’s father wanted check whether or not anyone else had any previous contact with Shi Lei before him. Additionally, he had always wanted to see whether Shi Lei was anything special, especially in art, since the owner of the Eye of the Dark Night was told to be a guy who was crazy about art.
But to Wei Xingyue, Shi Lei seemed confused or careless, as if he didn’t understand a single word and didn’t demonstrate any interest.
Wei Xingyue didn’t know why her father had ordered her to do this, but she merely did as she was told and observed Shi Lei’s actions. Seeing that he was indifferent, Wei Xingyue’s lips twitched and she thought: As expected of Shi Lei. You don’t even know what Juyondai Sake is. How can I expect you to be interested in art?
Wei Xingyue checked the time. “It’s almost time. Let’s go in.”
Shi Lei nodded. He let Wei Xingyue hold onto his arm and walked toward the bridge that connected the residential district and the lounge.
There was a door on the other side of the bridge. Rather than a door, it resembled more of a brushwood gate between fences in the countryside, which symbolized that the meaning was greater than the door itself. The bridge had been empty just then, but now there were strong looking men in black suits standing on either side of the brushwood gate.
As they stepped onto the bridge, the two men in black suits immediately bowed and greeted Wei Xingyue. “Miss Wei.”
Wei Xingyue nodded. “This is my partner.”
One of the men spoke. “Hello, sir. Smoke and fire are restricted inside the lounge. If you have any source of fire, please allow us hold onto it first.”
Shi Lei smiled. “I don’t smoke and I don’t have any source of fire.” He thought that he would be checked like at a security inspection, but the two men immediately made way for them as soon as they heard him and bowed as they let them in.
“That trust us, huh? They believed me when I said I didn't have any?” Shi Lei asked casually after they crossed the bridge and stepped onto the stone path.
Wei Xingyue laughed lightly. “The people who can access this place are either of nobility or wealth. They said it only because you have an unfamiliar face, so they gave you a kind warning. Everyone who has been here before knows the rules and none of them will challenge it.”
There was a big door in front of them, which made Shi Lei have a strange feeling.
The tall wall and the wide door made him feel that it was built on top of the lake. Shi Lei kept feeling that when the door opened, the waters of Lake Baishui would be inside.
And reality proved that Shi Lei’s intuition was rather strong. Even if his vision was blocked by the walls, his judgement was still accurate.
Except, when the door opened, it wasn’t the water of the lake like he’d imagined, but a small front yard. He stepped over the threshold and realized that this was built on top of the water.
The path underneath his feet was built on top of the lake and the side was surrounded by water. There was an area in the middle that was planted with flowers and other greenery. It was about two acres, with one on each side.
The lounge was ahead of them. It was a small, single-story building about twenty to thirty meters wide. Judging by the walls that extended over the lake on the way there, the depth of the small building was probably also around thirty to forty meters deep, minus the yards on either side.
Even so, it was already very spacious, since the single-story building took up about a thousand square meters. But Shi Lei found it to be strange. Since it was a place for collecting paintings, wasn’t it showing off too much to build it on top of a lake? Wasn’t he scared that the dampness would ruin all the paintings?
They were now at the end of the path. The building was in a traditional Chinese style. The steps in front of the door were created with pure glass and below it were the tranquil waters of the lake.
They walked up the stairs and over the glass path that extended until the entrance of the front door. Although it was safe, if the whole house had glass flooring, then people would feel anxious when they lowered their gaze and looked at it.
Shi Lei felt the dampness of the water outside, but it was extremely dry when he entered the building. In just a few seconds’ time, Shi Lei became accustomed to the atmosphere inside and didn’t feel dry anymore. The dryness he had felt before was in comparison to the outside. It probably wasn’t that dry inside.
“This lounge is built entirely on the water. There are concrete poles more than ten meters tall, so there’s no need to worry about safety. Everything around you, including above you and below your feet, are made of a brick mixture with steel boards one centimeter thick between each layer. The lounge itself costed more than a billion yuan to create and the safety and security here is just as good as that of a museum’s.” Wei Xingyue explained to Shi Lei in a small voice as they entered.
- Old Bai: ‘old’ in this context is different to the previous ones in the novel. This is an honorific way of addressing an elder in this context
- Minister of revenue: it is the minister with highest status amongst all six ministers in the palace