When he turned eighteen, he married.
The male from a general family married a female from a landlord (a wealthy family); can be considered a befitting couple . The marriage was determined by the parents of both households, the matchmaking was sealed, and the role of the children was to follow through. When it was the auspicious day the lanterns were hung and flowers were gathered, red fireworks sparked and rosy wine placed. When the carriage came to the compound, the bride went through the door, and performed the kneeling ritual of the wedding . In the end cannot say like or does not like. It’s only when one has reached the appropriate age one has to marry a wife, much like how snow has to fall in the winter. Even if one wanted or not, one cannot avoid. At times, the heart of a youth has caused him to become curious, does he know the wife he was going to marry has what kind of appearance, what type of personality? But such thoughts were transient as the ripples across the lake’s surface. He waved his hands, despite what will come, as long as the wife maintained the three obediences and four virtues then the official wife position will forever be hers.
And so when married, the fireworks exploded across the sky, and the marriage carriage slowed down to the door. The bride stepped across the flames, kneeled to the heaven and earth, toasted wine…And then came the nuptial chamber part.
He cannot remembered her appearance when wearing the wedding dress anymore. It’s because when they entered the chamber he was already drunk eight parts. Only was able to lift up groggily the veil covering the face, and a glimpse of a vague beauty. The candlelight was hazy, and the red outfit was fuzzy… He sank deep into sleep.
When he has woken up, he saw when his eyes opened a thin figure in front of the dresser with black hair flowing long likes streams. Astonished for a bit, he then recovered and remembered that yesterday they have kneeled and performed the wedding ceremony. Starting from today, she was a married woman. That person was someone that will be with him for the rest of life. Silently stepped forward.
From behind, he only saw on the mirror the appearance of a pair of pinkish lips, a pretty thin chin, and pale skin that has caused her beauty to be tinged with blue-like frailness.
Not waiting for her to notice, he smiled brightly and spoke, “Your lips are too light, allow me to put on a few paint to brighten and freshen it up, alright?”
That was the first sentence that he said to her.
She responded by turning around and smiling with him. Eyes like marine water, and eyebrows like blue mountains.
He stepped forward, opened the box, wiped it on his fingers, and gently brushed it on her lips. Under his finger, her lips gradually flushed, like a blossom slowly blooming.
Yet, that blossom has now become his.
Gentleness arose from when has now permeated his heart, and he said with enthusiasm, “From now on, everyday I will apply paint for you.”
The scenery in the room on this day fell into the gaze of a servant. Rumors spread outside, saying he has learned from Zhang Chang , and that newlyweds were deeply passionate and their attractions were mutual.
Three Years Later
She liked wearing gentle colors like light blue and faded pink. Her daily outfits were those colors, and when looked from afar was like a cloud drifting indifferently across the sky. Often would not apply lavish makeup and only colored in the lips pink. Such lips were applied paint by him for her.
Eyebrows like blue mountains, eyes like marine water. Skin was brightly pale, and hair was long and black. Simple but elegant.
Only the lips were rouged-colored.
Yet, the rumors no longer sang the praises of him following the Zhang Chang anymore. In replacement, murmurs arose on why a married couple for three years have not give birth to child, saying along the lines of no filial piety of the third requirement .
One morning went with him to greet the parents, she suddenly said,
“As the daughter-in-law I have shown un-filialness, marry here for three years yet cannot give birth to a legitimate child for this house. Only by marrying a concubine for husband, the burning incense  will be maintained.”
Eyebrows were blue, eyes still marine. Skin was still brightly pale, and hair was still long and black. The pair of pink lips like a peach blossom calmly brought forth the topic of taking in concubines. Spirit was like any other day.
The mother-in-law peered over to her husband, and seemed to be waiting for him to speak. Father-in-law slowly nodded and did not allow him to speak up.
She understood, he also understood. The matter of marriage was never only them; marriage was to maintain the incense burning, to maintain the bloodline. The primary wife cannot then the mistress will, the mistress cannot then the servant will; one person will not do then marry another. Two people will not do then take in a third person; as long as a son was born for the sake of the clan. In the past for every household, who hasn’t married several wives.
That was the role of hers. That was also the role of his.
Like so, everything was determined. As if it was like year she was married.
Taking in concubine/mistress was nothing conspicuous; only an additional pair of red lanterns on the roof and two celebratory words pasted on the doors.
She gently fixed his shirt, “The bridal carriage has almost reached the gate!”
He lightly lifted her chin, hands swiped a bit of paint onto the lips, and conveniently peered her eyes. Unexpectedly, the long lashes have closed. His gaze did not leave her pale face, and the fingers gently painted lips bit by bit. Meticulous and gentle like always.
“Do not be sad.”
“It’s nothing, it’s something I have to do.”
The fingers dropped and found her hands, squeezing them.
Suddenly outside rang, “The carriage has passed the gate.”
After taking in a mistress/concubine, the months and days whirled him away. Occasionally would passed by her, and on both sides only spoke a couple of times asking and reminders. The person who often asked would ask and the person who often listened would listen. At times, looked at her silhouette at the end of the corridor, sinking in the several floors and stairs, and across the rooms of the compound, he startled and glanced.
Still blue eyebrows and marine eyes; but, more faint than before.
What’s the point? Both he and she understood it’s something obvious, emaciating would only hurt the heart.
After a year, the second mistress gave birth to a girl. When the child was one month, he saw her.
Still were light clothes and long hair, but was paler than before.
Another year passed, he took in another mistress. This time no one comforted her to not be sad. She, he, and the two mistresses all knew it was something obvious.
And so another year, the new mistress gave birth to a boy. When the child was a full month, the household arranged a celebration, and every servant would wear red flowers in front. Even he himself laughed and said, finally there was someone to carry the bloodline of the clan.
That year only she was more haggard than before.
Months after months, years after years, bridal carriages after bridal carriages connected through alley doors. New year then Lantern Festival, Lantern Festival then Zhongxiao (Dragon Boat) Festival, Zhongxiao Festival then the Double Ninth Festival, and Double Ninth Festival then New Year. The sickly and pale figure of her still continued to flicker behind the jungle of beauties of the servants and mistresses to the point where he paid no attention to. Gradually, a pale skirt would blurred amongst the crowd of thousands of pinks and purples.
When he had to travel far, she became severely ill at home. The medicine and such were ineffective and the illness became even worse. Receiving the letter from home, he hurriedly returned. It was no longer in time.
On the bed he saw that she was lying down there, her eyes were closed as if sleeping. Her cheekbones were pale and thin, her long hair was messy, and not a single feature left of the lady who sat in front of the dresser that year. No longer were the very long eyelashes, and also the lips… Remembering the lips, he seemed to have realized, looked once again at her pale lips, and hastily looked around to find the rouged-colored lip paint.
The closely-serving servant meekly spoke, “It has been a long time since madam has applied rouged-color.”
Frantically plunging toward the dresser, overturning each drawer, and finally found an old paint box. Clumsily opened the lid, it’s an useless lip paint box — the paint inside has been dried up and did not stained his finger.
That year, he enthusiastically said to her, “From now on, everyday I will apply paint for you.”
The entire paint box fell in lament. The harden paint in the box broke up one by one, scattering under his legs, like the debris of time.
Haphazardly fell all over the ground.
 môn đăng hộ đối — It’s a common phrase direct toward how well-matched couples are, which I am pretty sure has roots in China. Basically, the status and wealth of bride’s and groom’s family are considered whether the couple was a match or not. In ancient times, marriage was determined by the two households.
 拜堂 bài táng — a wedding ceremonial ritual where the bride and groom kneel to the heaven and earth, ancestors, and parents.
 Di wife position — the official “legitimate” wife position and was considered the primary wife of the master of the house. Often responsible for the domestic matters of the house including the concubines. Regardless of whether the official wife was favored or not, such position garnered respect and held a form of authority.
 張敞 Zhāng Chǎng — He was a Han Dynasty scholar and official during the reign of Emperor Xuan of Han and made a practice of painting his wife’s eyebrow. When the emperor brought about such topic, his response was that it was considered a matter of the highest importance for women.
不娶無子，絕祖先祀，三不孝也 – Was taken from literature/book of Mencius (Meng Zi), a philosopher, and was part of the three “requirements” from the children to their parents. This was the third one that stated if the son took in a wife and bore no offspring, then that son is not showing filial piety to his parents and ancestors. Arguably, bearing descendants can be said to be considered of great importance during ancient times.
 香火- Incense burning in front of graves or temple; another meaning is hinting toward the descendants paying their respects to their ancestors’ resting place.