Filming for the TV series “Treasure” was nearing the end, and most of the roles have been completed. The remaining people had to go to Yantang Village to shoot the leftover scenes. Hundreds of ancient dwellings still remain in this village, including some ancestral halls, theatres and other buildings that have been around since the Ming and Qing dynasties, all of which have been well preserved.
The local government had always wished for this area to be developed, and it indeed attracted this production team to film here.
The car parked at the parking lot near the entrance of the village, and the filming crew rushed out.
Lan He lifted his own luggage and got down from the car. The air in the mountain was much cooler than at the bottom. He wore a dark blue sweater and dark overalls, and because the role required it, his fringe was grown out so much it almost covered his eyes.
In this show with only a few male characters, you could barely say that he was Male Number Five. His company and filming crew did not arrange for an assistant for him as he’s basically a transparent person standing within the 18th tier of actors, so he has to do everything by himself.
Lan He did not mind. The crew rented a residential house for their accommodations, and they set off on foot for the rest of their journey. Lan He chatted with Cheng Haidong, the photographer in the group. They met because of this filming crew, and even though their work was different, their hometowns were the same and they had similar interests. Over the course of the two to three months of filming, they became friends.
The buildings by the road were all in the Qing style, and the crew dispatched people to survey the environment, but the guides from the village still introduced them skillfully to everyone, saying “There are two carved lions here, one big and one small, our village has produced a government official…”
Lan He looked on, the preservation of this place was good and there were restorations done with traditional methods by old carpenters, maintaining the original flair, there was no wonder why the filming crew would choose this place as a filming location.
The village guides bragged that the government official’s ancestors had invited the exalted Gui Guzi to check the fengshui of the area to build their ancestral house. Just like the road-side stalls that claimed to have relationships with ancient emperors and celebrities, they listened without believing, and continued on with a polite smile.
Even if many people had left the filming crew, there were still quite a few left. The walking pace of the crew slowed down as they heard the sound of firecrackers and liveliness in the front.
“Achoo!” Lan He rubbed his nose and heard someone from the front saying, “Someone in the village has passed away, they’re having a funeral procession…”
Out of respect for the deceased, everyone lowered their heads as they walked by and some people even bowed. Naturally, the speed of walking slowed.
Lan He’s vision was blocked by the crowd and as he walked to the front, he saw an open space set up like a mourning hall, with a coffin inside. An Eight Immortals Table was set up with the deceased’s photo and an electric Immortal Fire, flanked by paper children. In front of the table was a metal bowl with smoke billowing out of it and a person in front continuously burning paper.
On the other side of the main road junction, a few strong youths were trying to erect tall paper banners.
There was nothing around that could support the banners and they were attempting to use wooden sticks as support, the four sections of the banners had to be put up together for the whole paper banner to be erected. However, for some unknown reason, the paper banners could not be erected even after half a day.
The villagers discussed without restraint.
“Even the banners can’t be put up? Did the filial son spend money for nothing?”
“Who knows why the banners refuse to be put up…”
With the direction of the discussion turning this way, the face of the son darkened.
Cheng Haidong put his hands together and bowed, whispering, “What is that, it can’t stand even after half a day of struggle?”
He has never experienced a traditional funeral ceremony, and Yantang village used a funeral ceremony that hailed from ancient times.
Lan He replied, “It’s a gold and silver banner, a ceremonial funeral item that is extremely hard to obtain. One would have to cost at least a thousand dollars and usually, these are erected at eye-catching road entrances.”
The head of the filming crew was standing nearby. Wen Yanpo looked at Lan He in surprise, “You’re not that old but you know about this? Previously, when you and Haidong were drawing for divination sticks, you were drawing electronic sticks on your phone, you didn’t even want to pay one dollar for an actual divination stick.”
Lan He: “.... You didn’t have to recount this story fully.”
Chen Haidong muttered to himself, even if it was only a dollar, would they still allow themselves to be cheated of it?
Lan He looked at the paper pieces again, nostalgically reminiscing, “My grandfather used to make these, not every family would be willing to buy these huge banners. In a year, we couldn’t even put up a few.”
The boss of the film crew nodded in realisation, “Well, according to the traditions of the older generation, these banners are for the deceased to accumulate virtue and increase their luck, if they can’t be put up, it’ll cause some gossip…. Sigh, it has nothing to do with us, who knows what’s going on. We should go.”
Although the rented accommodation was an ancestral home, there were people living in it all year. Apart from the fact that the lighting was not good and it was a little dark, the conditions were acceptable. Lan He arranged his luggage and saw Cheng Haidong entering his house. They were neighbours.
Cheng Haidong was nibbling on a braised chicken foot of unknown origins, saying, “Last night, we planned to have a night shoot at a village house and the location seems to be opposite the road entrance of the mourning hall. I just heard the director discussing this issue…”
“Will there be adjustments?” Lan He asked.
“I’m not sure, maybe.” Cheng Haidong answered.
After eating, they received an emergency notification that the night shoot was cancelled.
“Seems like the director is afraid that we would disturb the deceased.” Cheng Haidong said. “The night shoot was even delayed in order to wait for them to finish the funeral proceedings. There is an amendment in the planning, we will start work when there is daylight tomorrow.”
There was no way to predict in advance that the mourning hall would be allocated next to one of their shooting locations, and in this industry, there were many people who were superstitious and would rather delay their work. This outcome was not something that was unexpected.
“Come with me to buy a pack of cigarettes.” Cheng Haidong invited Lan He, his addiction to smoking showing itself. There was only a small shop in the village, and it was at the main road junction.
Lan He complained, “Did you ask your classmates to go to the toilet with you in elementary school? You’ve sure matured a lot.”
He said it casually, but he still accompanied Cheng Haidong and went.
They neared the vicinity of the mourning hall again, at this time, the night had just fallen and according to customs, the vigil of the main household would have just started. By the roadside, a few members of the deceased family are trying to put up the banner again. It seemed like they did not want to waste this banner that they used more than a thousand dollars to buy.
Cheng Haidong muttered to himself again, “Why hasn’t it been put up yet.”
Lan He thought, if it’s been pushed in the opposite direction, the banner would indeed be hard to erect.
Cheng Haidong entered the small shop to buy his cigarettes and did not notice that Lan He was missing. When he exited, he saw Lan He walk out from the mourning hall and asked him in shock, “What did you do?”
Lan He looked back. “Nothing, standing here was a little awkward, so I lit incense for the old man.”
It was just that there seemed to be insufficient fragrance, the incense was not spread evenly and it even smelled a little musty.
“So it’s like this?” Cheng Haidong was dazed, scratching his head, “.... Then should I go?”
Lan He: “Haha, it’s alright. Let’s go.”
When they reached the door, Cheng Haidong said, “Wait, let’s go next door to get two more chicken feet, they’re really tasty.”
The filming crew hired women from the village to cook their meals for them. They were stationed just next door because there was a well there and it would be convenient for them to wash their ingredients.
When they arrived at the entrance of the house, Cheng Haidong used his eyebrows to express that Lan He should make the request. He had already asked for the chicken feet once during the day, and according to his experience, if Lan He was the one making the request, their reception would be better.
There were several women in the yard preparing the ingredients for breakfast tomorrow. Lan He knocked lightly on the door twice and asked politely, "Sister, can I buy two braised chicken feet?"
Even though the elder sisters did not know Lan He, he was handsome,with remarkably clear eyes and a sweet dimples when he smiled. This made their hearts soften unknowingly.
“There’s nothing to buy here, I’ve made a big bowl by myself, it’s much more marinated than when it was fresh. Wait here while this elder sister scoops some for you…” Immediately, someone wiped their hands and went off to get him some chicken feet.
Lan He followed along to insist on paying, and some women have already started to ask about his situation, how old he was, he must be an actor, what shows did he act in, did he have a girlfriend….
Cheng Haidong was moved. As expected, when elder sisters laid eyes on Lan He, their hearts would be open within three minutes.
Lan He did not care about these nuances and stared at the chicken feet.
The porcelain bowl that held the chicken feet looked old, the chicken feet were all cut in half, fully marinated and enticingly red. Dotted with green onions that were darkly dyed with the marinade, dried chilli and coriander, the salty fragrance rushed towards him.
A hand suddenly grabbed Lan He's wrists that were reaching out to the chicken feet. The elder sister who brought the chicken feet mysteriously said: "Young boy, you must be careful at night. The yard next door was where Old Song, who tripped yesterday, lived.”
The half cigarette held in Cheng Haidong's mouth immediately lost its fragrance. "Oh hell, " he cried, even if their hearts were open, this was too much. “How could your village do this, they even rented the house out to us?? Which house did they live in?”
“Old Song and his son lived in the house that was in the east.”
“Don’t scare them, young people nowadays don’t believe in such things. And the house was put out for rent two days ago, Old Song tripped in his son’s house.”
“We shouldn’t have said anything in the first place… The village just settled down…”
The elder sisters exchanged words, saying that even though the house was where the deceased once lived, he did not lose his life there. It was just that he had lived there for a bit before tripping.
The house in the east was where Cheng Haidong lived. Cheng Haidong suspected that the essentials in the house were items that the old man had used before and left behind….. He chewed the cigarette butt uncomfortably and looked at Lan He, only to see Lan He still staring at the chicken feet. “Hey? Are you still there??”
“Here.” Lan He’s gaze was unwilling to move to his, “You can ask within the filming crew to see if there are other houses, if there aren’t, you can just switch houses with me.”
His tone was very casual and Cheng Haidong realised that he was making a mountain out of a molehill, just because he was scared by the sisters. But after deliberating a while, he still felt that it wasn’t acceptable, and asked the filming crew to help him switch houses. Unfortunately, the filming crew were too busy and refused to entertain him, sending him away.
Lan He was a man of his word, and wanted to switch houses with Cheng Haidong, but Cheng Haidong became even more embarrassed. If you consider it, he was 1.8 metres tall and had a huge build, he could not be weaker than Lan He. “That’s not right…”
“Achoo!” Lan He sneezed again, “It’s alright, let’s switch.”
As the old saying goes, if you see something unusual but stay calm, the unusual thing will vanish by itself. Lan He seemed to be stronger than him in this regard, Cheng Haidong was shy and learnt from the fans of actors that he had seen before, “Thank you older brother, did you catch a flu? Be careful with your body!”
Cheng Haidong changed his accommodation to Lan He’s house. Where he stayed was not meant to be a bedroom, and it was unclear what the room’s original purpose was, but it was filled with tea leaves that were home-grown. Yantang village had many people who grew tea leaves.
As the room was rented for the production team, a simple steel bed was placed, but Cheng Haidong was used to the industry and was not picky about it at all.
If one talked about inconvenient areas, it was only that the bathroom in this ancestral dwelling had to be outside the house itself.
The village night did not provide any sort of moonlight, the courtyard only had a lonely yellow lightbulb and it was unclear if the people living in the other houses surrounding the courtyard were dead asleep. The surroundings were extremely quiet. But vaguely, Cheng Haidong could hear the sounds of drums in the distance…
It’s the dirge from the mourning hall. Besides that, there was no other sound.
Cheng Haidong got goosebumps all over his body and comforted himself that he could not be scared to death by his own imagination. He turned his head, saw that the lights in Lan He’s house were still on and was comforted a little, hurried up in the bathroom and crawled back into his bed.
It’s better to sleep, he had to carry bricks the next day.
When Cheng Haidong was floating between sleep and consciousness, he felt that his upper body was cold and used his hands to feel around, looking for the remote control to increase the temperature of the air conditioner. Suddenly, he heard an old person coughing violently with huge exhalations, “Cough! Cough cough!”
He woke up immediately. Without opening his eyes, he felt that his whole face was paralysed. Where was the sound coming from, was he dreaming or was the sound insulation bad and there was a villager passing by?
Cheng Haidong suddenly realised that the house did not even have an air conditioner but the coolness could just be explained by the fact that the temperature would drop at night. But it wouldn’t be this cold, the coldness was basically piercing into his bones in the bottom half of his body and it was only getting colder.
Even though his eyes remained closed, he felt that it was inexplicably dark and stifled, as if there was a hood covering his head.
Ding. The sound of a tea set. Woosh, the sound of pouring tea. Crunch, the bamboo recliner experienced pressure and made a noise.
The noise seemed to be close at hand, obviously the sound of lively movements, and yet it made people’s hairs stand. He wanted to get up to call for help, but it felt like his body was too heavy to stand, his brain had completely forgotten the names of the filming crew…. However he thought about it, he could not even yell a single word.
Chillingly, knocks sounded from the door.
The whole world suddenly became bright, Cheng Haidong felt like he found a shore after drowning, his five features brightened up. Opening his eyes, he truly woke up.
Only to realise that his vest was soaked and he could only hear the mad pounding of his heart, full of strong fear.
It’s Lan He’s voice.
Cheng Haidong mobilised all 180 jin of his bones and flesh and scrambled off the bed to open the door. Looking at Lan He’s face, he felt like crying, “Brother, this house is really….”
But he did not dare to speak these two words, it’s known that one should not speak those words at night. After what just happened, he was afraid that he would really provoke the supernatural.
In the past, he heard many stories, but this was his first time experiencing it personally.
Just now, that kind of unwakeable situation, did not seem like a normal nightmare. He remembered the myth about the “Ghost sitting on the bed”, even though he did not even sleep in the old man’s house.
Wait a moment, didn’t they say that the elderly had less sensitivity, the old man was not happy to go to sleep on his own bed so he went to the neighbour’s house to drink tea?
….. How awkward, the unluckiness that resembled drinking cold water and managing to get something stuck between his teeth! Why did he have to change to this house!
“Did you have a nightmare? I heard you talking in your sleep, it was really loud.” Lan He said, “Do you want to sleep in my house?”
“No!” What if the old man finished drinking his tea and felt like going back to his bedroom to sleep?
“You shouldn’t stay in that house anymore too, just find anyone to bunk together with, really, just now, I… You know?” Cheng Haidong said with a white face, even when he was just standing by the door, he was still trembling. “I’ll go sleep with Chen.”
Chen was another cameraman and he coincidentally stayed in the same courtyard, everyone started work at the same time and the most important thing was that Chen used to do martial arts. He heard that this kind of person had a lot of Yang energy and was unafraid of the supernatural.
“Alright, then you should go…. Achoo!” Lan He stepped back.
“You should really be careful, don’t catch a cold.” Cheng Haidong mulled over the fact that Lan He had so much courage, it felt like he didn’t listen to a word he said. He probably thought that Cheng Haidong had a nightmare. Cheng Haidong reminded him worriedly again and went to knock on Chen’s door. After getting scolded, he was allowed entrance.
Lan He used his eyes to send him to the door and upon seeing that, he took back his gaze, hand fanning in front of his nose.
When he was younger, his grandfather brought him along to attend a distant aunt’s funeral. He asked grandfather if aunt would still return, and his grandfather told him, a soul would still linger for 7 days after passing, aunt would still return to check on him.
He said, what if I’m asleep, how would I know if she was here or not?
His grandfather said, then you should smell the air. If you smell the ashes of the burnt paper offerings, it means that your aunt has returned.