The empress was ill with what was said to be corpse affliction.
Don’t know what corpse affliction is? Heard of tuberculosis? It’s precisely that contagious disease. It starts with a cough the leads to coughing up blood. Once blood is coughed up it’s too late.
Tuberculosis was counted as an incurable disease in the Grand Xi. It can’t be cured and one can only carefully recuperate. If the symptoms get slightly worse, it would result in death.
Many medical books annotate tuberculosis as “infection of the lungs, bugs that damages the lungs….the bugs cause lung disease.’, ‘The bugs can be killed, and although this kills the patient it prevents the virus from spreading’. The current medical understanding of tuberculosis was a lung bug. This sort of bug was very infectious, and there were many medical records where the patient infects their entire family, killing them all.
Therefore, normally when doctors diagnosed someone with this sort of illness, that person would be quarantined. Of course, this illness definitely wasn’t as frightening as smallpox or leprosy. This was because it had a long incubation period, but it was still extremely infectious. After the infected person passed away, they couldn’t be buried and could only be cremated.
After the imperial physicians diagnosed it as tuberculosis, they sealed the Fengqi Palace that same day.
This news was transmitted to the Jing Duke’s Estate, where the people inside became dazed on the spot. There was no need to mention the empress’s parents who had been elevated as the Chengen Count.
The Chengen Count’s madam wanted to go see her daughter in the palace. The Chengen Count had been prepared to let her go, and had even got the carriage ready, but pulled her back in the end.
“What are you doing? I want to go see our daughter!” The Chengen Count’s madam was emotional and waved off the Chengen Count’s hand.
“Let’s think this through carefully, don’t be impulsive.”
“Think what through. Our daughter is ill. As her mother, can’t I even go check on her?”
“You can certainly go no problem. But afterwards, are you still able to come back? Don’t you know this illness is contagious?! Don’t tell me you want to get everyone involved?!”
The Chengen Count’s madam gritted her teeth as she turned around and pounded at her husband, “As her father, you’re still going to avoid our daughter? Don’t forget where your Chengen Count’s title came from! Without your daughter, you are nothing….it’s all your Xiao clan’s fault, this was all caused by them. They forced my daughter to marry the fifth prince. If she had married my nephew back then, my daughter’s life wouldn’t be so bitter…..”
The Chengen Count wretchedly shielded himself, and waved her off with his hand after finally enduring enough.
“What do you mean by “your Xiao clan”? Aren’t you the Xiao clan’s daughter-in-law? Aren’t your son and daughter surnamed Xiao? What’s the use of bringing this up!?”
The Chengen Count’s madam fell to the side and cried inconsolably.
“Oh, my poor daughter….my Qian Qian….”
“As her father, it’s also hard to see our daughter like this. Stay calm first, I’ll go ask the clan to see what we can do. Or I’ll go ask an imperial physician to see how to avoid being quarantined after visiting. All this needs to be arranged. Also finding a highly skilled doctor for our daughter is necessary…..”
“Sure, sure, sure. Then hurry and go.” The Chengen Count’s madam wiped her tears and said as though seizing onto a lifeline.
The Xiao clan reacted very quickly and found a rather skilled doctor the next day. They had the Chengen Count and his madam bring him into the palace.
Whether this was reasonable or not, it was due to the Chengen Count’s madam crying a flood of tears and looking awful. When he received the report, the Jing Emperor permitted it right away.
The grand and majestic Fengqi Palace that represented the dignity of the mother figure under the heavens seemed a little bleak in the autumn winds of the ninth month. A pair of guards stood outside the doors which were sealed shut. It was as though it wasn’t the empress living inside, but rather a prisoner.
But the Chengen Count’s madam didn’t dare have any complaints at this time since she understood the seriousness of tuberculosis. She merely held onto the last shred of hope that her daughter wasn’t actually ill, and that the imperial physicians had made a mistake or someone had framed her.
A mistaken diagnosis wasn’t likely. All the physicians in the imperial hospital were highly skilled. Perhaps one may have diagnosed wrongly but it was impossible for them all to have diagnosed wrongly. Over half the imperial physicians had come to examine the empress. They couldn’t all be quack doctors.
The Chengen madam’s only hope was that someone was purposefully framing her daughter. This was also why she played the fool and brought a doctor into the palace. The Xiao clan also had the same thoughts.
After entering the Fengqi Palace, they saw several palace maids outside the hall. These palace maids all looked dispirited as though mourning the death of their father. None of them had any energy. They all knew what the empress was sick with, and they also knew why the palace was sealed off. These days, people were crying every night. Even if the lives of palace maids weren’t worth anything, everyone was afraid of death. But what could they do? If the empress had this illness, those serving by her side could only curse their misfortune.
Cai Lian greeted them with a stiff expression, “Greetings to the madam. The empress is in the bedchambers.”
The Chengen madam nodded but didn’t immediately follow Cai Lian over. She pulled out a thick cotton cloth and folded it into a triangle before tying it around her nose and mouth. That doctor did the same.
The palace maids’ expressions were a little weird but no one said anything.
The Fengqi Palace was scarily silent. All the doors and window were shut within the hall. There were only two lamps burning, making one feel like night and day had reversed.
Looking at the person lying in bed, the Chengen madam couldn’t maintain her calm expression. She cried and wanted to pounce over, but the doctor gave a shout and held her fast. She had to maintain a distance of three steps from the bed as she choked down her sobs and called out the empress’s name.
There was no response.
Cai Lian’s mouth twitched as she walked forward and lightly called a few times before supporting the empress up.
“Empress, the Chengen madam is here to see you.”
The emperss’s eyelids moved and she slowly opened her eyes. Her eyes showed pleasant surprise at first, but seeing her own mom’s getup her glance became sort of mocking.
“What are you doing here?”
The Chengen madam didn’t seem to have noticed her daughter’s indifference and said while quietly sobbing, “Mom brought a doctor to examine you. People in the clan are saying someone is probably framing you, so it’s better to use one of our own.”
As she spoke, she indicated for the doctor to take her pulse. The empress waved his hand away.
“…..this seat doesn’t need your concern. You guys have never cared about my wellbeing. What’s the point of putting on this show of concern….cough cough…..cough….”
“Empress, the imperial physicians have said you shouldn’t get emotional.”
“So what if I’m emotional….it’s too late, it’s far too late….cough cough….go, I don’t need you to visit me. You tossed me to the Jing Province and didn’t check up on me for so long. What’s the point of showing concern now?”
“Since you’re frightened to this extent, why come? Hurry and go back, in case you get infected….”
Only now did the Chengen madam realize her daughter had such a large reaction. She reached with a trembling hand to pull the cloth over her face down, but then withdrew it again. She cried sorrowfully: “You mom isn’t avoiding you, really not. When mom heard you were sick, I wanted to come see you right away but your dad wouldn’t let me….tuberculosis is contagious, we’ve asked a lot of doctors….mom was also helpless. There are still so many people back home, we couldn’t just….”
The empress’s face had long since been covered in tears. She leaned crookedly against Cai Lian, her frail body making one’s heart tremble. Only after taking off her royal robes could one tell her current physical condition. She was no longer the rather curvy Jing Consort, and was now all skin and bones.
“Just go, don’t come again….I’m aware of my own health, dad doesn’t need to trouble himself….”
“Cai Lian, this seat is tired. Send them out.”
Cai Lian carefully helped the empress back under the blankets. She turned and made an inviting gesture towards the Chengen madam while quietly saying: “Madam, the empress can’t afford to be stressed. Why don’t you take your leave first?”
“Qian Qian, how about letting the doctor take a look? I beg you, my daughter….” The Chengen madam covered her face, barely able to speak through her sobs. A faint voice sounded from the bed. “You won’t give up until he examines me?”
“Fine, I’ll let you see….cough cough…Cai Lian, have that doctor come over.”
That doctor walked up and carefully took her pulse through a handkerchief. Immediately after, he turned and looked at the Chengen madam and let out a sigh.
The Chengen madam immediately lost herself in tears.
“Scram. Have them leave. Scram, all of you….”
The empress squeezed her pillow. Cai Lian hurriedly supported the Chengen madam who was weak all over from crying and led them outside.
The empress panted fiercely, her red eyes looking at the empty hall. After a long time, she fell back heavily on her bed.
As expected, it was still the same, was it not?
These days she had suffered repeated examinations by countless physicians. Every time they shook their heads and sighed, it would crush the vague hope that sprung up inside her each time.
Actually there had already been clues while she was in the Jing Prince Estate. At that time, if she coughed violently she would cough up strands of blood. Doctor Hu had told her before that she needed to remain calm and think less, focusing on recuperating. Otherwise, it could very possibly turn into tuberculosis.
How was she supposed to think less? How was it possible?
She couldn’t do it. In such an environment, paired with such a husband, and with such an eyesore along with her few lowly brats, how was she supposed to think less?
It was finally over. Finally, she no longer had to think about anything…..
After all, she was about to die. Thinking anything was useless…..
As for the Xiao clan, they had never cared about her. They probably wouldn’t feel anything once she’s gone…..
Great, she finally didn’t need to think anymore.
The news brought back by the Chengen madam made the whole Xiao clan go silent.
The Jing Duke’s Estate was established due to military merit, though not by this current generation’s Jing Duke. It was the first generation in the past. At the time, the ancestral Jing Duke had accompanied the imperial ancestor in conquering the land, allowing him to become the emperor. Those who helped were conferred noble titles based on their merit. The Xiao clan’s first generation master had been conferred as the Jing Duke.
Surnamed nobility in the Grand Xi wasn’t passed down continuously via succession. Instead, it was only valid for five generations. As of today, the current Jing Duke was the fourth.
In the past, the Xiao clan wouldn’t have cared about this. They were the empress’s clan and the crown prince’s maternal family. They just needed to casually request some grace and they would be conferred permanent titles that could be passed down via succession. This wasn’t far-fetched. If the crown prince had ascended the throne, this would have been a certainty. It was also what the Xiao clan had been working towards.
Unfortunately the crown prince had died and his heirs weren’t chosen to be the successor. They could have had an empress dowager, but were screwed over by the previous emperor. Therefore, the current empress’s position was not as unimportant to them as she herself had assumed.
How could it not be important? Well, what was important wasn’t her person, but rather her position. The important thing was that the Xiao clan had an empress.
This was a sort of symbolism. It meant that the Xiao clan was still the empress’s clan, and it meant that they had limitless potential.
If they no longer had an empress, would they still be the empress’s clan? Would they still have limitless potential?
Perhaps it may not be clear right away, but after a number of years, the Jing Duke title would end after the fifth generation. They would gradually decline like those other merit-based titled households, sinking into the long river of history to be forgotten forever.
An empress who contracted such a foul illness. Even if she didn’t die, she would be as good as dead.
Would the Xiao clan still have a future, and still have a path forward? This question needed proper consideration…..
Did some research. There were many names for tuberculosis in ancient times. Only during the Ming and Qing dynasties was it referred to as tuberculosis.
Before, it was known as corpse affliction, bug affliction, spreading corpse, all sorts of messy names. Back then, it was explained as having bugs in the lungs, or even ghosts. Their imaginations were too vivid. But medical knowledge wasn’t developed in ancient times, so this was also normal. It was just as well-known as smallpox and leprosy, but wasn’t as contagious.
The part where they said the body needed to be cremated after death was made up by this author. But after some research, it seemed there was some evidence that it was still contagious after death? (Is it that amazing?) It’s said that they had found tuberculosis in mummies before (heavens!)
Haha, therefore everyone shouldn’t critique the question of cremation. The body must be burned, right? We can’t have her body being buried between the Jing Emperor and Xiao Hua after their death, right?
This author’s heart is easily swayed. Writing up to here makes the empress seem very pitiful. According to close friends, this softheartedness is an issue, and needs fixing.