The business of selling and buying land fell under the jurisdiction of the regional governments. But in actuality the higher ups weren’t personally in charge of such small matters. Instead, it was managed by their subordinates who were minor officials. These minor officials were literate but had not read and studied any texts of sages and scholars. Their salary was low so they made extra to fill their wallets through exploitation of the common people.
Buying land costed 100 taels with an extra 10 taels used to bribe the minor official in charge.
This minor official was an ethnic Han Chinese and spoke in Chinese as well. Although accented by southern dialects, Lin Yuan was still able to understand.
“That stretch of land is good.” The minor official known as Jiang Gui, twitched his lips, “although it is uncultivated land but it is fertile. Since you genuinely want to do this business I recommend the best for you.”
Lin Yuan was extremely quickwitted and flexible, handing the minor official a banknote worth 100 coins: “Is there any landlord families nearby?”
Jiang Gui saw that Lin Yuan took the hint so his attitude became even better. In addition to Lin Yuan’s fairly young age and smiling face, his tone became friendlier in response: “I notice your young age so I selected land that is farther away from those families. Still, make sure to be careful and don’t get involved with quarrels.”
“But the weather is currently cold, if you want to build a house I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until early spring otherwise the foundation won’t be deep enough.” Jiang Gui, “I normally don’t say this much to others but I see that you are not only young but also a straightforward fellow.”
Lin Yuan cupped his hands in thanks: “Thank you, da ren (form of address for officials and aristocracy).”
Jiang Gui flapped his hand: “I’m just a minor official, not deserving of being called such. Just call me brother Jiang. If you have any questions you can come find me at Tong Luo Alley, third house.”
Lin Yuan readily accepted: “I dare not bother brother Jiang.”
“Where are you currently staying?” Jiang Gui received ten silver taels and 100 copper coins worth of bribe so his mood was currently great. His monthly salary was only one guan but his interests included alcohol and meat which were rather expensive to indulge in daily. A pound of pig meat cost 20 coins, not to mention alcohol. These ten taels were enough for him to indulge for two to three months.
Lin Yuan: “I’m currently staying at the Lai Ke Inn in the northern part of the city.”
Jiang Gui said thoughtfully: “How about this, I have a neighbor who moved to Jiangnan just last year leaving only an old servant to watch the house. I’ll speak to his relative and you can rent it for a fee per month?”
Lin Yuan hesitated: “I just bought land, not much is left…”
“You call me brother, how could I cheat you?” Jiang Gui flapped his hand, “Monthly rent two guan, if it’s fine then go ahead. Besides there’s only three months till early spring.”
Two guan was indeed not a lot. Lin Yuan, during the past few days, had inspected the price of living in Wu City. The price of two guan might be high for other places but Tong Luo Alley was a busy street with a lot of businesses. Living there would be very convenient in terms of buying necessities.
“Then many thanks to brother Jiang. When do you think I should move over?”
Jiang Gui: “Today is fine. I have the lease contract so I can take you there in a little while.”
After finalizing the agreement, Lin Yuan did not give a tip and Jiang Gui did not ask. He could give it later after seeing the house anyway. As for Jiang Gui, he might be money hungry but he also knew to not cross boundaries so that relations could be maintained.
Servant boy quickly packed their belongings after finding out that Lin Yuan found a temporary dwelling, saying excitedly: “I still need to shop for young master’s necessities. Calligraphy and scholarship equipment! I wonder if they provide plates and spittoons? If you ask me, young master should also buy a servant girl since some chores require delicate work.”
“Don’t I already have one?” Lin Yuan spoke up, “The mother and son from before.”
He had the mother and son temporarily stay at the abandoned temple. The ragged blanket was also given to them for use. Once he found a private dwelling he’ll then call them over.
The boy could do what he could and the mother could clean the house as well as cook.
Although Lin Yuan was not like the original owner who was waited on by servants since birth, but he grew up in the city and only used gas stoves. The stoves of ancient times he had no idea how to use and servant boy didn’t know how to cook.
Lin Yuan was willing to buy them, feed them and clothe them, but he could not have his good deed result in them only taking and not giving. That was not called doing a good deed, that was called inviting your ancestor into your home.
Only when people had work to do, and through hard work earn the means to support living, could people develop a sense of belonging.
“Young master is indeed clever.” Servant boy slapped his forehead, “Why didn’t I think of it?”
Lin Yuan laughed: “Then you would be the young master.”
Although Lin Yuan was outwardly smiling, he was actually a little uncertain. He only had 200 taels, the past few days the cost totaled nearly two taels. And this was under the circumstance of having a strict budget.
Buying land costed 100 taels, bribery costed eleven taels, leaving only 87 taels left. Renting for three months would also deduct his savings to 81 taels.
To build a larger house would cost at least 50 taels.
Tenant farmers could farm the land but it was up to him to provide seeds and tools…..
He must find a source of income, otherwise even if he prepared seeds and tools what would the tenant farmers eat? Farming did not mean instant harvest. You could not expect everyone to live off on nothing?
In these days, business brought in money the fastest but if labeled as part of the merchant class, that would only bring trouble. It was less an issue of not being able to take the civil examinations and more about the heavy taxes. In addition, the merchant class could not travel freely, must carry travel documents, register with the government and a bunch of other annoying matters.
During the Yuan dynasty, being a landowner was the happiest career, second to none.
Zhu Yuanzhang’s wife, Ma Bigfeet was born in a landowning family. It was thanks to her landowning father that Ming’s founding emperor could raise an army. Otherwise where would the money even come from?
The common people go to work at 7am, a time originally used to describe officials attending morning court sessions with the emperor. It later spread to other types of professions.
Lin Yuan and servant boy finished packing, returned the room key and waited at the front of the government office.
“This house is quite clean. The old servant cleans daily but since you are here to see the place I had him leave for his relatives’ place.” Jiang Gui pushed the door open, “The entrance to the street has a well, you can get water from there.”
Lin Yuan inspected the place with satisfaction. The place wasn’t big with just a living room, bedroom, storage room, cellar and an area carted off with a stove for cooking.
The living room was partitioned in two, one side for receiving guests and dining, the other side for sleeping with a bed and other furniture.
The second bedroom was smaller with a bed but not much else.
Lin Yuan paid upfront for three months.
Jiang Gui looked with satisfaction at the money, thinking of the recommendation fee he would get for introducing the place to a customer.
“From now on we are neighbors, find me anytime.” Jiang Gui pocketed the money, beaming with sincerity.
Lin Yuan quickly replied: “Brother Jiang, I actually have an issue I need to discuss with you! Come, let’s sit and talk. Er Liang, go pour two cups of water.”
Servant boy was called Er Liang: “Be right back.”
Jiang Gui sat down, puzzled: “What is it?”
Lin Yuan’s manner was very polite: “Brother Jiang must know, I don’t have much left in my wallet. And in early spring I must build a house, too many things need to be bought but I have no source of income.”
Jiang Gui heard this and sighed: “You ask the wrong person. If I had any ideas would I still be taking side jobs?”
“Isn’t there a saying the strong dragon cannot overcome the regional snake?” Lin Yuan laid on the flattery, “Although civilians believe that upper officials are in charge but I am clear that the true managers are minor officials like brother Jiang. Is it not true the upper officials don’t know the hardships of the people and must rely on you to deal with the common people?”
Jiang Gui felt the truth in this reasoning: “Cannot describe it like that, especially in public. We still work under the big officials.”
Lin Yuan: “Here it’s only us two, what can not be said? Little brother is speaking from the heart, nothing perfunctory about it.”
Jiang Gui: “I won’t hide it from you, I have been a minor official for many years. Compared with me, even those hoity toity upper officials have seen less types of people than me. There are some paying work I know of, if you dare.”
Lin Yuan climbed the ladder offered: “Brother Jiang please give me directions.”
Jiang Gui suddenly said seriously: “Can’t be regarded as directions. Do you know of the city’s gambling parlor? Know anything of usury?”
Of course Lin Yuan knew. High interest loans.
“Brother Jiang.” Lin Yuan pretended to hesitate, “The current times are not prosperous, giving out loans, can they even be collected?”
Jiang Gui blinked his eyes at Lin Yuan: “If you trust me then I’ll lend you a hand. In the southern part of the city there’s a gang leader specializing in helping people collect debts. His subordinates are all capable, most are fierce fighters who have seen blood.”
This Jiang Gui fellow, was practically a player of both the legal world and the underworld, if he was living in the modern times he would be one of the big fishes!
He even knew to bring their relationahip closer, helping him with some small issue while receiving benefits at the same time. If this person was still alive when war broke out, it was quite possible he could make something of himself.
Lin Yuan: “Brother Jiang, let me consider. If you pressure too much, I’m afraid that those gamblers would get violent. Look at me, I only have a servant boy as back up. I am timid and afraid of dying!”
Jiang Gui laughed out loud: “Little brother Lin, only the daring are full to the point of bursting while the timid starves! Consider some more, if you want to participate look for me. I need to get back now, my woman has cooked dinner and is waiting for me.”
Lin Yuan saw Jiang Gui out the door, making plans to kep in contact.
After Jiang Gui left, servant boy Er Liang appeared hauling a pail of water.
Lin Yuan only just realized that there was no water in the house, or a pot to boil water in…..
It was winter, what work would bring in money? Being a loan shark was out of the question, it went against the virtues he developed living in the modern times. Though he knew there were huge profits in it but Lin Yuan reluctantly gave up the choice.
Lin Yuan suddenly asked: “Er Liang, if you had some money in your pocket, what would you spend it on?”
Er Liang was currently wiping the desk. He felt the old servant did not do a thorough enough job of cleaning. In response to Lin Yuan’s question he answered thoughtlessly: “Buy meat to eat, fat meat.”
Lin Yuan’s eyes lit up!
He had found his goal.
Ancient people lacked oil. At this point, there were no place specializing in raising pigs nor was there pig feed so pig oil was used up fast. Although vegetable oil began being used during Song dynasty it had always been sesame oil that was par excellence.
At that time, the method for producing oil did not work as well with soybeans as with sesame. Only until a new method was introduced was soybeans preferred over sesame.
Currently, animal oil was too expensive and the price for sesame oil was also on the rise.
Lin Yuan: “Is soybean expensive?”
Er Liang had been in the marketplace: “Five coins per pound, cheap.”
Alrighty, soybeans it was.
Lin Yuan thought confidentally. Watch me earn heaps and piles. As for being registered as a merchant class, wasn’t there Jiang Gui the regional snake?
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