Chapter 46 - Opening Ceremony, Part One
Taking a little nap after the meal, Ouyang Shuo went to the Basic Market for the second time that day. He wanted to check and see how much the dark gold tailor kit that he’d promised Qing Er was actually going to cost.
He went into the wooden hut and clicked on the other items in the Special Items Trading Platform, looking for the tailor kit. They had everything, starting from the lowliest bronze level stuff, to the black iron, silver, and so forth. There were many items. At the highest gold level, items were relatively rare; there were only 10 of them. And as for the dark gold item Qing Er had asked for, there was only one set, sitting there alone in the search results, with no one interested in it.
Ouyang Shuo looked at the price, and his face paled. Good heavens, a full 120 gold coins. He had never bought such an expensive thing. No way, there was no way to afford it now. He would have to wait for a week before he could afford it.
Leaving the market bitterly, Ouyang Shuo was ready to complete the study tour that he had started that morning. The second leg involved going to the weapons workshop. This was located close to the barracks, run by the advanced blacksmith Wang Gao.
Unlike the mid-level smithy run by Li Tiezhu, the weapons workshop was specifically designed for military use and was not open to the public. It was also naturally not subject to privatization.
Talking about the pros and cons of the two businesses, you could only say that each had its advantages. After the smithy was privatized, it was self-supporting. As long as it had sufficient orders, its profits were very impressive, and naturally could not be compared to the fixed income of the weapons workshop.
The advantage of the weapons workshop was equally obvious. It had an unlimited ore supply. It did not have to worry about the pressure of the market and business. In addition, it created high-level weapons, and so the improvement of the skill proficiency of the blacksmith was not comparable. Therefore, if you were pursuing the height of smithing, the weapons workshop was undoubtedly more attractive.
Wang Gao naturally belonged to the latter mindset, and was still less than 30 years old. Seeing Ouyang Shuo, he greeted him warmly with a smile and said, “Ah, the lord finally has time today to visit the workshop.”
Wang Gao was undoubtedly confident. In the eyes of Ouyang Shuo, he was polite, thoughtful, and not too humble, and just right on the scale. He wasn’t like Lu Guangshi, Du Chun and the like, who upon seeing Ouyang Shuo were like mice once again seeing the same cat, treating him with utmost respect.
Ouyang Shuo liked the relaxed atmosphere, smiled back and said, “Since the workshop was established, I indeed have not been here. How about introducing me to everything?”
Wang Gao nodded, showing him around while talking. “We’ve only been open a few days, so the staff is not really in place. I am going to recruit four or five apprentices. One can help with miscellaneous tasks, and two can be considered reserve staff for large forging projects in the future.”
“Very good thinking. Compared to other workshops, your workload is going to be very heavy in the future; we must prepare early for this,” Ouyang Shuo said happily. It seemed that choosing Wang Gao to preside over the weapons workshop had been a very good choice. This advanced blacksmith was not only skilled, but had a sharp mind as well.
“At present, my workshop can only turn out iron swords, spears, javelins and other simple weapons. For more complex weapons and armor, we will need the relevant technical manuals,” Wang Gao said, showing off his equipment.
Ouyang Shuo nodded. Weapons-forging technology had always been kept highly confidential by the government. Only in the government-owned weapons workshop could the relevant technology be mastered. Once in the official workshop, the need to keep it controlled meant that you could not leave easily.
Therefore, this technical bottleneck of Wang Gao didn’t surprise Ouyang Shuo at all. “Don’t worry about this matter. Within 2 months, there will be progress in this area.”
Wang Gao was happy to hear that. “With the lord’s permission, I have even more motivation. Then, I will take this time to cultivate some apprentices, and get the preparatory work done.”
Wang Gao was excited to see a plan ahead. Ouyang Shuo smiled, seeing in this man a fanatic about his trade.
Finishing his visit, he immediately left the workshop and did not linger.
For his last stop, Ouyang Shuo chose Lianzhou College. As for the pottery workshop, it had been built outside the village, and it was too late to visit it. He would have to do so when he had some time.
Lianzhou College was built in the school area next to private school, about the same size as the Mazu temple nearby.
Over the main entrance of the college hung the name plaque, inscribed by Fan Zhongyan. Originally, Fan Zhongyan had meant to let Ouyang Shuo personally inscribe the name of the college. However, as a modern man, Ouyang Shuo’s calligraphy was awful and ugly, and turned down the job. In cases where you need to decline you need to decline at all costs!
For the couplet to be put on the door, Ouyang Shuo proposed to choose one of Tang Song Eight Han Yu’s verses in the "Ancient and Modern Yinwen Passage", and wrote: ‘The road to the book mountain is covered by hard work, and the boat in the sea of knowledge is struggle.’
The college was divided into halves in front of and beyond the courtyard. The front portion was for the students, a total of 4 classrooms. The courtyard was located in the middle, with a few bamboo plants there, were intended for helping the students rest. The back area had a dedicated dining area for the students, and 4 bedrooms for the teachers at the college and their families to rest within.
Because there were no classes, the whole college was extremely quiet. Throughout the entire building, not a single student was to be seen. Ouyang Shuo walked through the main entrance and the front hall, and went straight to the backyard.
In the backyard near a small plot of bamboo, Mr. Su was leaning on an ornamental stone, focused upon reading a scroll. His look of leisure, almost hermit-like, was a source of envy for Ouyang Shuo.
Seeing Mr. Su reading so intently, Ouyang Shuo did not rush forward to disturb him, quietly standing to the side and waiting. He did not expect that after 20 minutes, Mr. Su had not made the slightest move. He could only cough reluctantly, to remind Mr. Su of his existence.
Mr. Su looked up to see Ouyang Shuo, and calmly put his scroll aside. He rose and straightened his clothing, bowing immediately thereafter. “Mr. Su has seen sire!”
Ouyang Shuo nodded and smiled in return. “Mr. Su has found living in the college comfortable?”
“There is much room, I am quite fond of this place. Away from the bustle of officialdom, this is almost paradise. It is like throwing off a yoke and running away from the fence, suddenly gaining my freedom,” Mr. Su smiled back at him.
Ouyang Shuo complimented him in turn, and then said, “Tomorrow the college officially starts classes. For tomorrow’s arrangements, I wonder what Mr. Su is thinking?”
“Whatever is arranged is naturally appropriate,” Mr. Su said indifferently.
Ouyang Shuo sighed and nodded. It seemed that Mr. Su was hell-bent on staying away from anything smacking of officialdom. All his tests were avoided with no signs of temptation. That being the case, after chatting a bit, Ouyang Shuo took his leave.
The next morning, Ouyang Shuo arrived at Lianzhou College, this time to attend the opening ceremony.
The ceremony took place in the largest classroom in the front half. On the rostrum were Ouyang Shuo, Fan Zhongyan, Cui Yingyu, Mr. Su, and Gu Xiuwen, followed by the students sitting in attendance.
The first batch of students was sitting on the floor. Among them were the adult literacy class graduates Zhao Youfang, Zhang Tainu, and other older students, as well as the first group of new students. One of them was already employed as a clerk by the Agriculture Division, another was a villager taking the initiative to apply after seeing the enrollment brochure.
The ceremony was chaired by Fan Zhongyan. In the opening remarks, he elaborated on the Lianzhou Institute’s purpose of running a school, making clear the college’s rules, regulations, and management methods, and focused on management’s requirements for the students.
“I know that most of you here paid for the school, but please bear the burden. Studying at the same time as working your jobs will be hard, I know, but I want to say this. When you enter the college gate, you need to forget your identity, your position. No matter who you are, and regardless of your birth, as long as you come to this college, you have only one identity, and that is as an ordinary student of Lianzhou College. Learning is your only task in this college. You are not permitted to help other students, nor are they to help you, but you are to strictly rely on your own efforts. You will not come here drunk, and you will show respect for your teachers at all times. If you are disrespectful at any time, you will be immediately dismissed.” His wording was quite harsh.
Once Fan Zhongyan finished, the class lecturer spoke in turn. In addition to his own political affairs division, Fu Zi was responsible for teaching classics, Su was responsible for classics training classes, and Ouyang Shuo was responsible for legal literacy classes.
Gu Xiuwen was appointed as a temporary teaching instructor, equivalent to the modern teaching director. He was responsible for the daily teaching activities of the college and the supervision and management of student discipline.
After the instructor’s speech was completed, the elected representative of the students, Zhao Youfang, began to speak. Ouyang Shuo found the choice of Zhao Youfang a bit strange, but he had won first place in the adult literacy graduation exam, and that was why he had been elected as the outstanding student representative.
Zhao Youfang was obviously prepared, taking a speech out of his sleeve before he began to speak. “Teachers, ladies, and gentlemen, I hope everyone is well! I, Zhao Youfang, was fortunate enough to be allowed to speak as the student representative today. Today, such a grand scene, I cannot help but think of ten days ago in the adult literacy class, and our lord talking about what we were being taught.
“At that time, I, Zhao Youfang, did not know one character, I was completely illiterate. Sire told us that we must be responsible, and that to go farther, you must lay your own foundation. In but ten days, after our baptism in the adult class, I was able to write this speech with the help of my teacher. In the past, this was simply unthinkable, but now I have done it. I never dared dream that with my peasant background that I would be able to write on my own. I am very fortunate to be able to sit here again and listen to the teachings of the lord! I am finished and thank you all!”
There was warm applause. Even Ouyang Shuo did not expect that Youfang would be able to write such a fine speech. Fu Zi was truly a good teacher.
Ouyang Shuo simply made a summary speech, and with that the opening ceremony was over.