“Abbot Fangzheng, where did this bamboo forest come from?” Wang Yougui ate the bamboo shoots as he closed his eyes to fully enjoy the taste. The bamboo shoots were too delicious, much better than anything he had ever eaten!
Fangzheng looked up into the sky. “From where it should.” There was no other way about it. Certain things could not be explained so he gave a vague answer.
“Uh… Kid, to think you are beating around the bush. Fine, I won’t ask. Let’s talk about serious matters…”
Fangzheng smiled. “Patron, you must be here for the bamboo forest, right?”
“That’s right. This bamboo forest is too beautiful. Ignoring the bamboo shoots, just the bamboo itself is valuable. I’ve compared various kids of bamboo but no bamboo is as crystalline. It’s like they are made of jade. Furthermore, and most importantly, they are delicious!” said Wang Yougui.
“Abbot Fangzheng, do you think our village should develop the bamboo forest? We can sell some bamboo and bamboo shoots. It will definitely be very profitable. Bamboo grows fast and they regrow once they are chopped…” Wang Yougui rubbed his hands, smiling in embarrassment. The mountain had been given to One Finger Monastery as though it was a barren and desolate mountain. Here he was, now that there was something to profit from it. He felt that even his skin was not thick enough.
Fangzheng smiled. “Patron, the mountain is One Finger Monastery’s. The bamboo is also One Finger Monastery’s.”
Wang Yougui felt a little embarrassed when he heard that, unsure how to respond.
Fangzheng continued, “However, This Penniless Monk is indebted to the villagers. It’s only fair for This Penniless Monk to return the favor. Still, cutting down the bamboo forest is definitely not allowed. It will affect the tranquility of the monastery. Besides, chopping bamboo on the mountain is too inelegant. Instead you can dig up the bamboo shoots. The bamboo grows fast and it will probably reach the mountainside in a few days, where the spring source is there’s a piece of flat land. The villagers can dig up the bamboo shoots and chop the bamboo there. This Penniless Monk thinks that would be a good compromise.”
“What about those at the mountaintop? Do we just leave them here? That… that’s such a waste.” Wang Yougui looked at the emerald-green bamboo forest and felt his heart ache.
“Patron, greed can never be satisfied. As for this bamboo forest, it should be able to attract quite a number of visitors.”
“Oh…” Wang Yougui was taken aback before he smiled. He slapped his thighs, “That’s right. I was overthinking the issue. The scenery will be affected if the bamboo forest undergoes chopping. With this bamboo forest, it will definitely attract a large group of visitors who wish to hike. When the time comes, our village will be able to develop tourism. Heh heh… That’s a good sustainable and environmentally-friendly business.”
Fangzheng returned the smile. It would only spell trouble for him if Wang Yougui insisted on chopping down the bamboo. Although monks spoke of being completely indifferent to worldly temptations and severing karma, how could one be truly empty while living in the world? Many of the daily necessities were interrelated. If one truly could empty out everything, they would have become Buddha.
After sending Wang Yougui off, Fangzheng headed to the bamboo forest and found the mother bamboo. He let it grow its roots down the mountain. Fangzheng was not one to monopolize. The villagers did not treat him as an outsider even when he was young. His board and lodging were accommodated and they gave him clothes and other necessities. Now that he had something worth sharing he would freely do so. With a thought Fangzheng decided to allow the Frost Bamboo’s roots to spread towards the back mountains. It reached straight into Mt. Tongtian and become part of the Changbai mountain range! As long as he controlled the growth radius, it would not affect the local ecological balance.
Furthermore, if the villagers could become wealthy because of this, he would gain merit.
Still, no matter how powerful the Frost Bamboo was its growth speed was limited. At its present speed, it would take two or three days for it to reach the mountainside but to really send its roots to Mt. Tongtian, it would take a month or two, maybe more.
Fangzheng did not have an effective solution to this. So he allowed it to grow as it pleased.
After Wang Yougui descended the mountain, he went to Tan Juguo and Yang Ping, as well as the village tycoon, Yang Hua. Together they discussed the matter of becoming rich using the Frost Bamboo. After several rounds of discussion, they finally realized that there was too little Frost Bamboo. There was little worth in developing it and all they could do was wait.
Somehow the news of bamboo on Mt. One Finger spread. Fangzheng noticed that more people were coming up the mountain. Which in turn was an annoyance to others.
The construction team was mending the mountain path and it was no problem if one or two people went up and down the mountain. But with so many people it became untenable. If an accident happened, no one could shoulder the responsibility. As a result the construction team sealed the route up the mountain, barring anyone from going up. Fangzheng was a little worried when he learned of the situation, unsure if it would diminish the people’s interest and the future incense offerings he would receive. He ran up to the mountain and looked down at the village. In the beginning, he saw quite a number of people at the foot of the mountain but they slowly dwindled until there were none.
Fangzheng shook his head. “Amitabha, it’s indeed true that you can’t have your cake and eat it. To mend the path, you need to lose something.”
Although Fangzheng lamented his loss, he still enjoyed his peaceful days.
The next day, there were clear skies for miles out. As he looked at the blue sky, Fangzheng felt like crying, but no tears came out. There was no way about it, the temperature had risen and the sun was scorching hot. Water evaporated quickly. The water in the Crystal Rice paddy needed replenishing daily or the Crystal Rice would probably die. For the sake of his mouth and stomach, Fangzheng could only manually irrigate the paddies. To fill such a large paddy with water meant an entire morning of work.
It was pointless to talk about it. He swept the temple hall, ate his meal, then picked up the big water buckets to draw water down the mountain. But the moment he opened the door, there was a woman.
“Uh. Female Patron, good morning.” Fangzheng was taken aback. The last time he opened the door to meet a visitor, it was that respectable old woman, Liu Fangfang. This time, it was another woman!
“Good morning, Venerable One. Sorry for disturbing. The construction team has sealed off the mountain path so I could only sneak up here early in the morning.” The woman smiled gracefully. Fangzheng felt she was familiar, like he had met her somewhere but he could not recall where.
“Amitabha. Female Patron. Please enter…” Fangzheng put down the water buckets and greeted with his palms pressed together as he made way.
The woman nodded slightly and walked into One Finger Monastery. Fangzheng caught a whiff of a passing fragrance, one he had never smelled before but it was rather pleasant. He guessed that it was probably from a particular perfume.
The woman was dressed in black, with black silk over her shoulders. She wore a bob hat, making her look very western and fashionable. At least, among all the women Fangzheng had seen, only the famous celebrity, Li Xueying, was more fashionable and better proportioned. Even Jing Yan with her extraordinary background was inferior to the woman before him.
Fangzheng made Lone Wolf draw water alone as he followed the woman to the bodhi tree.