Chapter 284 - Disaster Relief

Yu Xiaocao replied in a justified and confident manner, “The emperor is doing it for the future of his country, and the young royal prince wants to successfully complete his task. What do you think I’m doing this for? Aren’t I doing this to earn more money so that my family can eat well, wear warm clothes, and not suffer from poverty? Our family has over ten mu of farmland, but we didn’t even plant one mu of grain. Grains are really expensive right now ah! The locust plague hasn’t ended yet. If we want to plant grain, we have to wait until at least the beginning of spring next year and harvest them in the summer. During this period of nearly one year, we would have to constantly purchase overpriced grain. Although our family has made some money, it’s still not enough for our family to use it in this way for a year!” 

Madam Liu thought about the price for coarse grain in town, which had risen to over one hundred copper coins. Moreover, the price was inflating day by day. It was already considered good if the food they hoarded could last them until the autumn. Although these corn and potatoes were high-yielding crops, they didn’t have any control over the disposition of them at all and had to hand them all to the imperial court. After hearing her younger daughter’s words, the whole family became downcast, and the originally delicious potatoes turned tasteless in their mouths. 

Taking in everyone’s expressions, Zhu Junyang ate a piece of potato from the braised pork dish, slowly swallowed it, and then said, “It makes sense! But you missed a point!” 

“Missed what?” After shouting, Yu Xiaocao felt relieved and started eating the ‘sour and spicy shredded potatoes’ in big mouthfuls. In her previous life, this dish was her favorite, and she would never be tired of eating it. 

“You forgot that this prince is here!” Seeing that she was eating with relish, Zhu Junyang also grabbed some with his chopsticks and put it in his mouth. He continued, “This prince never mistreats the people who works for me! Do you see the two carts of goods in the yard? One cart of white rice and one cart of wheat flour! There are at least two thousand catties. It should be enough for you guys to eat for a while, right?” 

The Yu Family members were stunned when they heard this. Over two thousand catties of fine grain ah! If each person ate fifteen catties of grain per month and there were currently twelve people in the family, they would need about two hundred catties of food each month. With two thousand catties, it would be enough for them to eat for more than half a year! 

“Almighty Young Royal Prince!” Yu Xiaocao almost jumped up with joy and kissed him a few times on his face. However, she remembered that it was ancient times now. If she did that, it would be extremely shocking. It was better to keep a low profile! 

Zhu Junyang looked at the young girl, who had a fawning expression, snorted and said, “The emperor personally bestowed this prince with the position of the Minister of Disaster Relief. The imperial court has already allocated money and food, and it will soon be distributed to all the prefectures. This prince has already checked. Tanggu Town is a serious disaster area, and we will prioritize providing disaster relief to the more severely affected regions.” 

Yu Xiaocao worriedly asked, “But, the capital was also affected. How much food can the imperial treasury provide?” 

“This isn’t something you need to worry about!” Zhu Junyang took another bite of the ‘sour and spicy shredded potatoes’ and had fallen in love with the taste of the sour and spicy food. He said, “The fleet has already set sail. In these past two years, the weather has been good in the south and they have an abundant amount of grain. There will be enough food for the disaster relief!” 

After hearing this, the Yu Family finally felt relieved. They were very grateful for and had a lot of good words to say about the emperor, who loved his country and people. 

With more than a dozen free laborers, they finished rubbing off the kernels for all the corns in the Yu Residence and packed them in uniform-sized sacks in three days. In the ten mu of land, they harvested a total of nearly eighteen thousand catties of crops, which also meant that the average yield per mu was one thousand eight hundred catties. 

One must know that the current grain output was very low right, so a harvest of five hundred catties of wheat per mu was considered very high. What did it mean to have a yield of one thousand eight hundred catties per mu? For example, if the income from one mu of farmland could support a family of two, then this one mu of farmland could support six or seven people! Just think about it, with such high-yielding crops, would they still have to worry about the common people not being able to fill their stomachs? 

After a discussion, Yu Xiaocao’s family decided to sell the potatoes and corn at the price of improved varieties. One catty of corn cost one hundred copper coins. Out of the eighteen thousand catties, Zhu Junyang only took fifteen thousand catties and left the remaining three thousand to the Yu Family as seeds and grain ration. In this way, the Yu Family received one thousand five hundred taels as income with just corn alone. Potatoes were sold at the price of two hundred copper coins per catty, so five thousand catties of potatoes cost one thousand taels. 

To the present Yu Family, two thousand five hundred taels didn’t mean much compared with the dividends that Yu Xiaocao earned from Zhenxiu Restaurant. But, on second thought, it was definitely the first time in the Great Ming Dynasty that anyone had earned more than two thousand taels in one year for their harvest in eleven mu of farmland. Ahem, of course, that was with the exception of the Yu Family’s early-maturing watermelons. 

Right now, besides the two thousand catties of fine grain that the young royal prince brought over, the Yu Family also had three thousand catties of corn and six to seven hundred catties of potatoes. In addition, they also had the grain that they hoarded in the storage room. Yu Xiaocao no longer had to worry about losing the money in her hands due to buying high-priced grain. 

The Yu Family’s corn and potatoes weren’t affected by the disaster, and they still had a good harvest. Moreover, there was a high yield too! Zhu Junyang couldn’t sit still anymore. After hastily arranging the matters of the disaster relief, he took a few carts of corn and potatoes back to the capital to receive his reward for accomplishing his task!! 

The food for the disaster relief arrived in the Jinwei Prefectural City three days later. The prefectural magistrate knew that the Minister of Disaster Relief, Royal Prince Yang, was in Tanggu Town, so he naturally sent the grain to Tanggu Town first. Five days later, a cart of food for disaster relief arrived at the county yamen in Tanggu Town. 

County Magistrate Zhao was also born from a poor family, so he could deeply understand what natural disasters meant to the common people. He worked tirelessly with the officials sent by Royal Prince Yang to distribute the food for the disaster relief to every village. In particular, the four villages that were more seriously affected received larger portions of food. Dongshan Village was one of them. 

On this day, the bronze bell of Dongshan Village rang again. The villagers all gathered at the open space in front of the village head’s house. Clearing away the previously dreary atmosphere, everyone was beaming with joy. 

County Magistrate Zhao personally took care of distributing grain in Dongshan Village. Several days ago, the Minister of Disaster Relief, Royal Prince Yang, went to Dongshan Village everyday to investigate the situation of the disaster. But, how could County Magistrate Zhao not know the importance of Dongshan Village’s Yu Family to Royal Prince Yang? If the disaster relief in Dongshan Village was arranged properly, then he would have completed most of his work! 

The village head couldn’t stop smiling as he shouted to the villagers, “His Majesty is a brilliant ruler who cares and sympathizes for the people in the disaster-stricken areas. He sent us food and solved our urgent needs. His Majesty is indeed an excellent emperor who loves the people as his own child! Long live the Emperor!!” 

As he spoke, he knelt down in the direction of the capital and seriously kowtowed three times. The villagers also followed the village head and kowtowed three times while shouting, “Long live the Emperor!” 

The village chief tottered as he got up. He looked at the villagers and said, “The first batch of food for the disaster relief has arrived. After deliberation by the upright Magistrate Zhao and the disaster relief official from the capital, the food will be distributed based on each individual. Adults will each receive fifteen catties of grain, while children will get ten catties of grain each. A half-grown child will eat more than his parents can afford, so those over the age of thirteen are counted as adults!” 

The villagers instantly burst into cheers. Each person could get fifteen catties of grain. If they consumed it sparingly, then they would have enough to eat for two months! If they bought it in town right now, they wouldn’t be able to buy fifteen catties of grain without spending at least two or three taels! Although the villagers of Dongshan Village had some savings in the past two years, they still couldn’t afford to squander their money on such expensive food ah!

The village chief asked County Magistrate Zhao, “Magistrate Zhao, do you have anything else to say?” 

County Magistrate Zhao stood up and scanned over the villagers with his burning gaze. The originally whispering voices soon quieted down. County Magistrate Zhao nodded with satisfaction and said, “Villagers! The difficulty is only temporary, and the disaster will eventually pass! The imperial court attaches great importance to the disaster relief and sent Royal Prince Yang as an imperial envoy to supervise the matters regarding the disaster relief! Villagers, you don’t have to worry. Royal Prince Yang’s fleet, which had traveled to the western hemisphere, has already gone to the south to buy grain. Royal Prince Yang has said that the grain that they bring back will be sold to the common people at the capital cost, and they will not earn a single copper coin from it! If we persist for two more months, we will be able to put the low-priced grain on the market. Those profiteers, who privately raised the price of grain to make huge profits, won’t last long!” 

When the villagers heard this, they gave another thunderous cheer. Royal Prince Yang’s prestige reached an unprecedented height in Dongshan Village. 

The village head was also very excited, but he forced himself to suppress the exhilaration within his heart. He calmed the villagers, “Fellow villagers, we are fortunate to have a good emperor and good officials ah! Now, everyone can line up to receive food! Don’t fight and don’t rob! There’s enough for everyone! The elderly and children in one line, and adults in another! Everyone hurry home and get your utensils!” 

The villagers dispersed, and the Yu Family was also among them. Originally, Yu Hai didn’t think that they should take the food from the disaster relief. However, they were also afraid that it would be too eye-catching if they didn't, and it would cause certain people to pay attention to them! Each adult received fifteen catties of grain, so if they persisted for two months, it could only guarantee that they wouldn’t starve. It was impossible to fill up one’s stomach! 

If the Yu Family didn’t go get food, wouldn’t that be telling the other villagers that ‘I have food in my hands’. When the time came, different families would be asking to borrow several catties of grain. As fellow villagers, would it really be possible for them to only lend grain to certain families? There were more than thirty households in Dongshan Village, so no matter how much food they had, it still wouldn’t be enough for them to lend out ah! 

After deliberation, the Yu Family decided that it was better to keep a low profile. They went home to get baskets and sacks, and then returned to the open space in front of the village head’s house. At this time, the food distribution had already started, and there were two long, crooked lines! 

The twin sisters took their younger brother, Little Shitou, and Liu Yaner led her younger brother Liu Fangping, and followed behind Old Yu to queue in the line for the elderly and children. Yu Hang hesitated on the side. His nominal age[1] was thirteen, but in actuality, his twelfth birthday hadn’t passed yet. Would people say something if he stood in the adult line? After briefly thinking about it, he went to the children’s line and lined up behind his younger sisters.   

Beside them, a villager couldn’t help but praise, “Dahai’s family really knows how to teach their children. Xiaosha (Yu Hang’s nickname) is really an honest and good child!” 

There were also people who disagreed. That person pursed his lips and said, “We’re about to starve to death, so who still cares about being honest? It’s five catties of grain less for a person ah! Five catties of grain are enough for a family to eat for several days!” 

The others turned silent. In times of natural disaster, nothing was as important as survival. 

People from the yamen were responsible for distributing the food. The utensil in their hands was called a dipper. Using the dipper, when they scooped out grain from the cart and flattened it with a board, it would be fifteen catties. On the elderly and children’s side, they also specially made a smaller dipper, which scooped out ten catties. In this way, the speed of food distribution greatly increased since each person received one scoop. 


[1] nominal age (虚岁) - traditional Chinese method of calculating one's age, 1 year old at birth and then add a year to one's age at the beginning of the lunar year

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Translator: Myst