Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
When Letian returned, Fangzheng managed to identify what was in Letian’s hands. He exclaimed, “Ginseng flowers?”
“Hehe, you have a good eye! Make a guess. How old do you think the ginseng is?” said Letian proudly.
Fangzheng shook his head. “You are stumping This Penniless Monk. This Penniless Monk knows that a ginseng’s age can be determined from its leaves. You don’t even have leaves, so what is there to see?”
“Haha! Abbot, it appears you really are clueless about ginseng. If not, you wouldn’t be saying such amateurish words,” said Letian with a laugh. He did not mind if Fangzheng would be displeased with what he said.
Fangzheng naturally did not feel unhappy. Instead, he asked, “Oh? Does it not depend on the leaves? This Penniless Monk has always heard that the leaves determine the grade.”
“That’s all amateurish talk, nonsense from laymen. A one year old wild ginseng is called Three Flowers, and it has only three small leaves. In the second year, it’s called Five Leaves. In the third year, it’s called Two Sexaginiti. In the fourth year, it can be called Fourth Grade Leaves or Fifth Grade Leaves. From the fifth to the seventh year, wild ginseng might even produce Seventh Grade Leaves. The leaf numbering system ends there before the numbering restarts. Therefore, how could you determine a ginseng based on its leaves?” questioned Letian.
Fangzheng was surprised. He never expected that something he had heard from a young age would be false…
Letian continued. “There is nothing wrong with the basic fact that the leaves have some relation to the age. It’s quite useful for identifying the younger ginseng. But as this knowledge spread, it was used wrongly by people. They deliberately deceived the gullible. If the victim really believes that the number of leaves can determine the ginseng’s age, a cheat can pass off a ginseng which is five or six years old as one that’s decades or centuries old. They will make a killing as a result. However, people these days are getting more clever. Fewer people fall for that now.”
Fangzheng sighed. “Different professions are different worlds… Then, how should ginseng be differentiated?”
Letian shook his head and said, “It can’t be explained in a concise manner. A folk song that describes the appraisal of wild ginseng goes like this: The upper rhizome remains tight, the column rhizome links to the core adventitious roots. It should have tight skin, fine grain, and a pimpled body. The fibrous roots appear long and clean, as pearl dots speckle them. The terms rhizomes, adventitious roots, bodies, grains, and fibrous roots are professional terms. They represent the head, the upper portion, the main body, the patterns, and the bottom portions.
“Wild ginseng’s rhizome body is generally split into three regions. And the column rhizome is the classic trait of wild ginseng. It requires more than thirty years of growth before it produces such a shape. An old ginseng’s adventitious roots often have circular patterns across them. Only especially old ginseng can have patterns on their adventitious roots.
“Ginseng can survive for decades to above a century in harsh natural environments. The body’s skin will appear darker the older it is.
“Having patterns on a ginseng’s body is a characteristic of wild ginseng. The patterns of wild ginseng are akin to metallic wire lines; thin, dense, and deep. Each ring is parallel, and they do not cross. The denser the rings, the older the ginseng.
“The fibrous roots are used by the ginseng to absorb nutrients. The older the ginseng, the fewer fibrous roots it has. As such, older ginseng are clean of fibrous roots.
“Ginseng grow underground for decades. Many of a ginseng’s roots rot before new ones grow in their place. The rotted parts would leave behind scars, which are the pearl dots. As such, the more pearl dots there are, the older the ginseng is.
“The older a ginseng is, the more valuable it is. Wild ginseng that is more than fifty grams needs decades to mature. Bigger ones will take a century or two. As the saying goes, 350 grams is still considered ginseng, but 400 grams becomes a treasure.”
Having said all of that in one go, Letian looked at the dumbfounded Fangzheng and smiled wryly. “Abbot, did you get that?”
Fangzheng shook his head helplessly. “Somewhat, but although This Penniless Monk seems to understand, he probably won’t be able to discern them if required.”
At that moment, Red Boy asked impatiently, “Having said so much, how old are these ginseng of yours? Don’t tell me it’s that stuff that’s about five years old?”
Fangzheng glared at Red Boy, immediately shutting him up. Red Boy did not dare act rashly again.
Letian roared with laughter. “These ginseng of mine are this old!” As he said that, Letian extended three fingers.
“Three years?” asked Red Boy subconsciously.
Letian rolled his eyes at him.
Red Boy asked, “Thirty years?”
Letian shook his head as he finished the first serving of tea in delight. He then filled it with water. His motions were fluid, as though his every move was one with nature, making him look extremely elegant. Fangzheng’s eyes lit up. He had long heard how impressive a sight the Way of the Tea was, but he had always believed that to be mere exaggeration. What could be so nice about brewing tea? However, when he saw Letian brew the tea, he truly felt that it gladdened his heart and pleased his eye. He felt relaxed, happy, and comfortable.
Fangzheng asked, “Don’t tell me it’s three hundred years old?”
Letian looked up with pride as he smiled. “Slightly more than three hundred years. As for the exact age, This Penniless Priest can’t be sure. It’s a pity to dig up such good stuff. All This Penniless Priest does is occasionally pluck a few ginseng flowers to brew some tea.”
“Occasionally pluck a few? One ginseng is likely not enough, right? Could it be?” Fangzheng’s eyes turned brighter as he could not help but click his tongue. He had no idea how much money he was downing with that mouthful of tea he had… Yet, Letian drank it often. This fellow was a baller!
Letian roared with laughter. “My entire yard is filled with ginseng. How many do you think there are?”
Fangzheng immediately looked out to the yard when he heard that. It was lush green. Fangzheng had not thought much about it in the beginning, but now that he looked carefully. Man! The claim about the entire yard was quite an exaggeration, but at least half the yard was filled with ginseng! There were probably dozens of ginseng plants!
“You planted them?” asked Fangzheng.
Letian shook his head and said, “Of course not. Back when This Penniless Priest sought a cultivation land, This Penniless Priest chanced upon this place and saw a ginseng king together with its ginseng descendants here. Legends speak of how ginseng can produce a spirit with time. This Penniless Priest believed that they must have chosen this spot due to the good terrain. And in fact, it’s a pretty good place, so This Penniless Priest chose to stay here and become their neighbor. This Penniless Priest will usually help chase away wild beasts for them or rid them of weed, and as payment, This Penniless Priest takes some of their ginseng flowers or baby ginseng. That isn’t going overboard, right?”
Fangzheng was surprised. According to Letian, he was not appropriating the ginseng for himself. Instead, he was treating the ginseng as his equal. Such behavior was something Fangzheng was encountering for the first time. If a three-hundred-year old wild ginseng was dug out, Letian would probably immediately strike it rich and reach a brand new peak in life.
Red Boy quipped, “Are you silly? This ginseng hasn’t developed a spirit yet. It’s just a plant, so must you go as far as this? Or are you actually just posturing? I think selling them would be quite a good choice.”
Letian shook his head and said, “Why should they be sold? For money? What use is that for This Penniless Priest? Some people like to own dogs or cats. Some people rear monkeys, squirrels, wolves, and a brat. Is there anything wrong with me rearing ginseng as pets?”
Red Boy, Lone Wolf, Monkey, and Squirrel immediately rolled their eyes at him in anger.