How to Host a Murder: Hoo Hung Woo
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The Autumn Moon Festival in eighth-century China is a time of relaxation and rejoicing. The frantic activities of the harvest have drawn to a close; crops are no longer at risk to weather and calamity; the peace of winter is about to descend. It is a time of transition. In the Chinese district of Chi-Ka and in its principal city of Chi-Ka-Go, the festival is an occasion for fireworks, parades, music and gaiety. Traditionally, the Festival of the Autumn Moon is also an occasion for reflection and thanksgiving. In many households, the entire family gathers and an elaborate feast is prepared. Effigies representing Happiness, Wealth and Long Life are displayed, and some families, recalling the ancient traditions, conclude the celebration with a bonfire in which the effigies are burned, their smoke rising to the heavens to signify gratitude and respect. Two of the wealthiest families of the district, the Wu and the Hoo families, have for many generations celebrated the festival together. This year both families' leaders, their women, and a few prominent guests will meet one day in advance of the festival to enjoy an elaborate feast, drink from the ceremonial Cup of Wisdom, recite poetry and contemplate the events of the past year. Children and less prominent family members will arrive the next day, the day of the festival, for feasting, revelry and, after sunset, lighting the Fire of Gratefulness. The site of the gathering and festival celebration this year will be the Hoo summer home at Hoo Hung Wu. A small group of islands situated in the middle of the great river Mi-Si-Pi, Hoo Hung Wu is co-owned by the Hoos and Wus, but only the Hoos have occupied it. They have built several buildings on the West Isle, including their summer home, Hoo House. East Isle is not occupied, though the Hoos maintain its roads and bridges. Hoo House is a magnificent dwelling in a pleasant forest setting. Several wings contain rooms for many guests and servants. Through the years the Hoos have also built smaller dwellings on West Isle where family members, or guests, who desire seclusion may find it.
Hoo Li-gan,General Shang Hai-shek,Hao Dee-doo,Pen Ta-gon,Wee Ping, called "Willow Blossom",Wu Pi, called "Joyous Flower",Hoo Ting, called "Jade Owl", and Ding Ling, called "Silver Bell".
Currently head of the prominent Hoo family, Hoo Li-gan assumed management of the extensive Hoo landholdings upon the death of his father, Hoo Gon-wei. As one of the district's most prominent and respected landholders, Hoo is an important and authoritative figure in the area, and he administers his estates and controls his many tenants with a firm but benevolent hand. Despite his relative youth, Hoo is looked to by many local citizens for advice concerning the management of land and wealth. Hoo already has a large family consisting of three wives, six concubines and at least eleven children.
Costume Suggestions: Long-sleeved robe worn over loose pants, black cap and black boots.
GENERAL SHANG HAI-SHEK
A fearsome warrior and defender of the imperial borders, General Shang commands the Sixth Imperial Army stationed along the Great Wall in the Chi-Ka district. He is a noted swordsman; his sword itself is a weapon of great lineage, called, in the language of weaponry, "Cha Pem" or the"Death Blade." It is a precious family heirloom. Shang is a close friend of Hoo Li-gan and often takes his evening rice with the Hoo family.
Costume Suggestions: Ancient Chinese warrior costume (complete with helmet, coat of mail, knee-length skirt and armored boots). Or long-sleeved black robe worn over loose black pants, black boots, helmet or black cap, sword with ribbons attached.
The magistrate of Chi-Ka-Go, Hao is a cousin of Hoo Li-gan and, as the head of the district governmental system and the tribunal of Chi-Ka-Go, he is the emperor's representative in Chi-Ka. So young to have attained such an exalted position, Hao is reputed to be a man of impeccable moral character and scrupulously fair in his administration of local government. He is apparently favored by the emperor and therefore expected to go far in his political career. Hao has a passionate interest in collecting precious antiques.
Costume Suggestions: Long-sleeved robe (preferably blue) worn over loose pants or gown, waist-high apron, black stocking cap worn high upon the head, black boots, jade pendant.
A nationally reputed scholar, Pen is also the renowned author of the philosophical treatise, The Way to Con Fu-shun, as well as the popular Philosophical Sayings for Social Occasions. For the last few years he has served as an advisor to the emperor in the capital city but recently moved to the district of Chi-Ka where he hopes to find more time for purely academic pursuits. Pen is principally interested in finding methods of applying ancient wisdom and teachings to contemporary events.
Costume Suggestions: Long-sleeved robe with optional horizontal band attached to the lower part of the robe, black stocking cap worn high upon the head, black boots, books in hand.
WEE PING , called "Willow Blossom"
The beautiful young widow of Wu Wun, eldest of the Wu family sons, Willow Blossom met her husband when he was a young officer stationed in Chi-Ka-Go. After his promotion to captain of a regiment in the Sixth Imperial Army, the couple was married and she frequently traveled with him to posts along the Great Wall. Her husband's recent death in a military engagement was a great tragedy, but Willow Blossom is well provided for. She has a grand house in the city and takes an active part in the life of the Wu family, where she is known as the Widow Wu. She is educating herself in classical literature and is a fine calligrapher.
Costume Suggestions: Silky, floral, long-sleeved robe or gown, black boots or flats. Hair in a bun, China doll make-up with very prominent eyebrows and a small flower painted on forehead.
WU PI , called "Joyous Flower"
The beautiful eldest daughter of the Wu family and twin sister of Wu Too, Joyous Flower's shy and obedient manner belies an inner spirit of independence. She has been well-educated and is conversant in classical literature and poetry as well as gifted in music and painting. Unmarried, she is much sought after as a bride by many eligible men in the district, although her father, the venerable Wu Pte-doo, has not yet consented to a marriage. Joyous Flower resides in the Wu family home on the extensive Wu Estate.
Costume Suggestions: Silky, floral, long-sleeved robe or gown, black boots or flats. Hair in a bun, China doll make-up with very prominent eyebrows and flowers painted on cheek.
HOO TING, called "Jade Owl"
The young, second wife of Hoo Li-gan, Jade Owl has become the mistress of the Hoo family since the recent untimely death of Hoo's first wife, Hoo Num-wun. Jade Owl's task in managing the Hoo households (both their summer and winter homes) and supervising the many servants is not an easy one, but despite her delicate loveliness, she has proved herself a competent and efficient manager. She is quite artistic as well and skilled in the art of painting ceramic bowls, vases and cups in traditional and modern designs.
Costume Suggestions:Brightly colored (preferably green), silky long-sleeved robe or gown, black boots or flats. Hair in a bun, China doll make-up, jade jewelry.
DING LING, called "Silver Bell"
A young and beautiful poetess, Silver Bell's lyrical and poignant poems have gained her nationwide recognition. She has presented her poetry in the Court of the Emperor in the For- bidden City and to the Festival of Poets and Scholars held annually in the capital. Her uncle was the famous General of the Empire, General Tel. Silver Bell has been the guest of the Hoos for several weeks. She has been in residence at the Pavilion of the River, near the Hoo summer home.
Costume Suggestions: Brightly colored, silky long-sleeved robe or gown with cape (long scarf worn over arms) black boots or flats. Hair in a bun, China doll make-up, "ancient" book of poetry in hand.