Chapter 692: Yuan Shusong
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Deep within the Wang Clan Residence, Wang Chong finally met the person he had longed to see. This was a middle-aged scholar with a long and slender beard, dressed in a white robe. His demeanor was so cultured and fragile that it seemed like a gust of wind would blow him over.
"Paying respects to Lord Marquis!"
Seeing Wang Chong and Old Eagle walk in, the middle-aged scholar hurriedly bowed, fixing his eyes on the ground and attempting to breathe as softly as possible.
It was clear that he had no idea why the ascendant Son of Heaven's disciple, the Young Marquis of the Great Tang, had requested to meet an obscure and powerless teacher like him.
"Lord Marquis, according to your orders, we searched the capital and found him in an unremarkable Daoist temple. At that time, he had already packed his luggage and was preparing to leave. If we had been just a little slow, he would have already left," Wei Guo and Wei Wu reported.
It was evident that this pair also had no inkling of why Wang Chong had ordered them to search the entire city for this feeble scholar, a venture that had used a great deal of time and energy.
Wang Chong did not pay attention to Wei Guo and Wei Wu. Since the moment he entered the room, his gaze had been fixed on the middle-aged scholar.
I didn't think I would actually be able to find him.
Wang Chong's eyes shone brightly with excitement.
Although this middle-aged scholar seemed nameless and obscure, in another domain, he had quite the sterling reputation. Wang Chong rarely admired anyone, but this middle-aged scholar was definitely one of them.
"You are Yuan Shusong?" Wang Chong asked expectantly.
"This lowly person is. To be able to meet the Lord Marquis is enough blessing for this lowly person for three lifetimes! But might this lowly person ask why the Lord Marquis has summoned this one?"
Yuan Shusong's face was filled with fear and panic. This was his first time meeting an influential character of this level, and it left him very nervous.
Hahaha, it really is him!
At this moment, Wang Chong was absolutely certain. His name was Yuan Shusong and he had a long and slender beard. The person before him matched completely with the description of that 'Master Yuan'.
In the Great Tang, disdain for barbarians meant that it was very rare for people to learn foreign languages, which is why Wang Chong's ability to speak Sanskrit and Tibetan shocked so many people.
Even Dalun Ruozan and Huoshu Huicang had found this fact unbelievable.
But Wang Chong did not think this strange. 'Know yourself and know your enemies, and you will never be defeated.' In order to defeat the foreigners in battle, he had to learn their language, understand them, know their weaknesses and strengths; not exclude them and close his ears.
These were the words of the elder who had taught Wang Chong Sanskrit and Tibetan, and these words had originated from the Yuan Shusong that now kneeled before him.
Although almost no one knew of Yuan Shusong's name amongst the court and nobility, he was a celebrity amongst those related to the Western Regions, especially the teachers of the capital and the merchants trading silk in the Western Regions.
It wasn't merely because he knew twenty-three languages, which included Turkic, Tibetan, Mengshe Zhao, Goguryeon, Arabian, Characene, and the various languages used in the Western Regions. It was also because he was an extremely capable teacher.
He had taught elders, children, Daoist priests, nuns, wives, merchants, butchers… and almost everyone who learned from him could learn a new language or two in just one or two months.
In his last life, almost all the best language masters had been his disciples, including the elder who had taught Wang Chong Sanskrit and Tibetan.
However, this Master Yuan had only remained in the capital for several years before setting off for the Western Regions, where it was said that he eventually died.
When Wang Chong had heard of this, he was filled with remorse. If the Great Tang had been able to value this Master Yuan a little earlier, could understand a little more about the surrounding countries, could confront the ascendant Abbasid Caliphate and Charax Spasinu with a little more knowledge, perhaps things would have been different.
In order to understand the foreign countries surrounding the Great Tang a little more, one needed a large number of people who understood their languages, especially those people talented in instruction. Master Yuan was precisely this sort of person.
As long as one gave him a little assistance, a stage to stand on, he could definitely raise a large number of talented individuals to assist the Great Tang in understanding all the countries on its border.
But Wang Chong had not searched the entire capital for this man for just this alone. Deep in Wang Chong's heart, he had an even bigger plan.
Ever since the era of Great Emperor Wu of Han, the Western Regions had been in a constant state of division and unification, gains and losses, an endless cycle of conquest and loss. And the various kingdoms of the Western Regions had never felt much affection toward the Central Plains.
The crucial point in resolving all this and breaking the cycle of conquest and loss was language. Because their languages were different, they could not communicate, could not understand each other, so there was naturally no affection.
But if both sides from top to bottom, from the highest general to the lowest soldiers, could freely communicate, everything would be different.
If they could understand what the Central Plains was and what the Great Tang was, the people of the Western Regions would develop a completely different impression of the Central Plains.
If he wanted to do this, he wouldn't teach the Tang the languages of the Western Regions, but teach the people of the Western Regions the language of the Great Tang. Only this would resolve the problem once and for all.
But first, he needed someone who knew the languages of the Western Regions to serve as a teacher.
And Yuan Shusong was the individual Wang Chong had found that was crucial to solving this problem.
"Master, it is Wang Chong who has been rude, but if I might be so bold as to ask, does Master truly know twenty-three different foreign languages?" Wang Chong said.
As Yuan Shusong heard these words, a hint of shock flickered through his eyes. He truly did know quite a few languages, but not even the people close to him knew that the exact number was twenty-three. How did this famous character know this fact? And it was such a minor matter.
Although Yuan Shusong was surprised, he did not dare to be slow with his response.
"Might I know how Master managed to learn so many languages?"
Wang Chong gave a gentle smile, his eyes softening.
"This… when this lowly person was young, he knew not of the vastness of the world. Coupled with the poverty at home, this lowly person spent a period of time wandering the world, traveling deep into the Western Regions, to Sindhu, Arabia, and Charax Spasinu, learning their languages," Yuan Shusong said.
"You also went to Arabia?"
Wang Chong was a little shocked.
"Yes, I stayed there for a short time."
"Around two years."
Yuan Shusong's face turned slightly red.
Yuan Shusong's reaction made Wang Chong thoughtful. When this person was young, he had wandered the world, but when he arrived in Arabia, his visit was probably not something as simple as a short stay.
"Then that means that you have a deep understanding of Arabia?" Wang Chong said.
"This lowly person has a little understanding."
Yuan Shusong froze for a moment. As he looked at the Young Marquis, he suddenly understood what he was being asked about.
"Arabia is completely different from our Central Plains. Their territory is massive. It might… it might be about the same size as our Great Tang."
"About the same? You probably want to say that it's even larger," Wang Chong said.
Yuan Shusong's body trembled, and he now found it impossible to conceal the surprise in his eyes. Everyone in the Great Tang believed that it was the largest country in the world. Their impression of Arabia was that it was about the same size as a small country like Goguryeo.
Even the people of the Chamberlain of Dependencies held this opinion, much less others. That he dared to say that the lands of Arabia were about the same size as the Central Plains was already very bold, but he had not expected Wang Chong to state loud and clear that Arabia was larger than the Great Tang.
This was the first time Yuan Shusong had met this kind of noble. He suddenly found the young man standing before him rather mysterious.
"Master Yuan, since you've already been to Arabia, that's even better. Tell me, what is your impression of Arabia and its people? How would you compare them to the Great Tang?"
Wang Chong immediately spoke, not letting Master Yuan get lost in his thoughts.
"There's no need to be afraid. I want to hear your sincere opinion."
"Then forgive this lowly person for speaking presumptuously. The people of the capital know the Hu merchants of the Western Regions as good-natured people skilled in trade and easy to get along with. In reality, however, true Arabians are extremely fierce and doughty. Everyone says that Tibetans are natural warriors, but even they are far inferior to the Arabians."
Yuan Shusong's first words immediately caused Old Eagle's expression to freeze in shock, but Wang Chong only gave a slight nod, apparently unsurprised.
"Arabians do not fear death, not only when fighting outsiders, but also when fighting each other. I once had the fortune to witness one of their internal wars. Everyone was throwing themselves into the fray, none of them retreating until the battle had reached its last moment.
"The Arabians value weapons, armor, and warhorses over any sort of wealth or fortune. As a result, the Arabians have developed extremely advanced forging techniques… everyone in the capital knows about this. But this lowly person believes that the most extraordinary aspect of the Arabians is not their weapons, but their warhorses.
"When this lowly person lived in Arabia, he had the opportunity to see their war horses from close-up. They were taller than a man and extremely well-built. Moreover, they are extremely formidable chargers. Not even the highland steeds of Ü-Tsang or the Turkic warhorses can compare.
"But during this lowly person's travels in Arabia, what he found most concerning of all was their thinking. Although many of them had never been to the Great Tang, even the ordinary commoner knew of its existence, and all levels of society made no effort to conceal their desire for the Great Tang.
"In their markets, this lowly person once heard that their sovereign had once declared before all his assembled ministers that anyone who could subjugate the east, subjugate the Great Tang, would be made Emperor of the Central Plains."
Like a stone thrown into a pond, Yuan Shusong's words sent waves of shock through Wang Chong and Old Eagle, both of them showing expressions of extreme consternation.
In the Central Plains, the Sage Emperor was a supreme existence. The Emperor of Arabia's words were clearly the height of humiliation and disdain toward the Sage Emperor and the entire Central Plains.
For the sake of the Ferghana horses, Emperor Han of Wu had engaged in a long-distance war with the country of Dayuan1. If the words of the Emperor of Arabia were to leak out, it would provoke a large-scale and prolonged war between these two hegemons of the east and west.
1. Dayuan was a country located in the Ferghana Valley. Its refusal to sell its horses to the Han Dynasty led to the War of Heavenly Horses, in which Emperor Wu of Han dispatched an army to besiege the capital of Dayuan. The nobles of Dayuan eventually executed their king and offered the Han as many horses as the Han desired.↩