Where the Ancients Were I am an old man. I have never seen war. I have only known peace, the blessed peace of the Awakened One. And now, I shall leave behind my worldly burdens. But I shall go on one last voyage. Memorial of King Zhao Wenming, King of Nanyue circa the Seventh Century ----- He glanced at the sun from his straw hat. It was a good day. The sun had not yet risen too far in the sky and the farmers had already been long in the fields. How he missed those days! The early mornings would have him and his neighbors walk out to the fields when the mist still lingered around. And before they would begin their days labor, they would make a small offering at the local shrine. Those who had been with him were long gone, either buried beneath the family plots or dead in battlefields far away. He was the wizened one. He was the village elder that all respected and came to for advice. He was the one who told the children stories of the past and the one who recalled the ancient histories of their land. His children had all long gone to the afterlife; his childrens children had long become grandparents themselves. In his long life, he had seen much of the world. He dimly recalled the city of Óc Eo that he had journeyed to in his youth to sell parts of his harvest. There, he had waited as a wealthy merchant measured out his rice and paid him a few silver coins. With those few silver coins, he would buy the necessities for his family. It had been so long. The soft smell of his wifes hair he could still recall. The famine and the wars had taken away so many of their village. But he had long accepted that as a part of life. He did not remember a time when there was not war. There was always war, and some haughty lord who came and demanded his share of the harvest so that he could fight his neighbor. He drifted out of his daydream. How quickly the time passed! The wives of the farmers had come out to give their husbands their midday meal before they returned to sewing. He grunted his acknowledgment when one of them came and gave him a bowl of congee mixed with dried fish. He gulfed down the meal. It was very thick, very good congee for his weak stomach. He had lost most of his teeth seasons ago, and he used a set of animal teeth during important festivals. It had been a gift from the village for what they said was his eightieth dry season, as if he still remembered. Feeling warm under the afternoon sun, he drifted off to sleep. When he woke up, the sun had begun its descent into the hills. The village had gathered in the village center and began cooking. The smoke rose to the heavens to celebrate another day, another harvest complete, and another year of life. It had been an odd harvest. There had been no lord or even an emissary of a lord that had come to demand their share for almost three dry seasons. He had wondered about it but simply shrugged it off. Perhaps the lords were too busy fighting their wars. As he began telling the children the story of the winds and the ocean, a lone rider approached from the setting sun. Rising from his comfortable chair, he took off his straw hat and bided the villagers to gather in the center. It had been a good harvest; they could afford to pay what their lord would demand from them. The rider galloped into the village center. And what a rider! This was no common conscript that the lords would often take from their village. This was an officer! Dressed in the mourning colors, his bearing was tall and proud. His bearing was that of a lord. Thus, he was at a loss for words when the mighty lord dismounted and came to his knees in prostration. A lord prostrating himself to villagers? Impossible! I beseech your forgiveness. I have missed harvest for too many seasons. An uproar came as the rider removed his armored helmet. It was one of their own. It was a boy taken from them seasons ago, to serve in the armies of another Lord. A boy no longer, he had returned a man of means for his armor and horse spoke highly of him. He ordered the villagers to provide the finest foods and drinks to celebrate his return. Never before had a boy taken from their village returned to tell his tale. He had long assumed that they had all died, all died in the service of some unknown lord striving for unknown lands. He spoke with the young man. What tales he had to tell, tales he could hardly believe. The wars had come to an end. Peace had come to all of Funan. One Emperor sat upon his throne at Óc Eo. Buddhists from beyond the seas had come to help the new Emperor rule wisely. Their fleets were as numerous as the eye could see. They had promised to help the new Emperor bring about a new golden age of peace and prosperity. It was these Nanyue who now advised the Emperor and his new court on the best way to proceed. It was so fanciful. Peace? He bide the young soldier to go rest. And considering the eager glances of the many young women of the village towards the young mans direction, it was unlikely that the young man would have much rest in the coming days. He sat alone, staring into the night.