The next verse talks about Yuan Shikai:
Gentlemen use the pacifying policy.
Change thirty years a bit.
How could he be a common person?
The night-blooming cereus
In the east, west, north, and south,
Dragons spar and tigers battle.
At seven and eight the fate is fixed,
And throughout the land,
things are roughly stabilized.
When the bottom half of huai (怀) in "pacifying policy" (which is the character yi (衣 ) without the dot and the top line) is added below the character ji (吉) in the compound for "gentlemen," you get the character yuan ( 袁) . The word "Yuan" isn't given straight out; you have to deduce it from the phrase "gentlemen use the pacifying policy." How can we know this? The next line says, "Change thirty years a bit." Most people thought this meant there would be a change in thirty years, but actually, it's telling us to add a horizontal line on the bottom of the character for "thirty years" ( 卅 ) ，making the character shi (世) . "How could he be a common person?" When the characters for "how" ( 岂) and "common" (凡) are juxtaposed, they form the character kai (凯) . So that gives the three characters of the name Yuan Shikai. "The night-blooming cereus briefly appears." The cereus blossom opens and withers very quickly. It symbolizes Yuan Shikai, who was emperor for only eighty-three days. Only eighty-three days passed from the time he ascended the throne until he lost power.
"In the east, west, north, and south, / Dragons spar and tigers battle." This refers to how everyone was fighting each other in Shanxi, Shandong, the north, and the south. "At seven and eight the fate is fixed, / And throughout the land, things are roughly stabilized." "Seven and eight" is a reference to the fifteenth year of the Republic (1926). This year was determined long in advance. At that time, China began to have a little bit of peace and calm.
Chiang Kaishek's Northward Expedition [the attempt to unite the northern part of China] was successful. Elsewhere, there were Feng Yuxiang in Shandong Province, Yan Xishan in Shanxi Province, Wu Peifu in the south, and Zhang Zuolin in the north, all battling one another.
Let me tell you a story about Yuan Shikai. Originally Yuan Shikai didn't have the gall to proclaim himself the emperor. He had a very precious and costly jade teacup that he always used, and he cherished that teacup as much as his own life. One day his servant went into his room to serve him tea in that teacup. As soon as he stepped into the room, the servant saw Yuan Shikai sleeping--but the sleeping form was not that of Yuan Shikai, it was a toad. The man was so shocked to see his master transformed into a toad that his hands let slip the jade teacup, and it fell to the floor and smashed to bits. The toad spirit continued to sleep, and the servant went to the household manager for help, saying, "I've smashed the master's jade teacup; my life is surely doomed. Do you have any way to save me?"
The manager said, "I have a very good method, but you have to pay me ten thousand taels of silver to hear it." There was a lot of corruption and bribery in those days. The employees of wealthy households all had extra money and large incomes. Ten thousand taels of silver was not that large a sum. So the servant said, "Okay, I'll pay you ten thousand taels of silver to ransom my life."
The manager instructed him, "When you see your master, tell him this: 'When I came into the Master's room, I saw that the Master had turned into a sleeping five-clawed golden dragon. I think the Master will definitely become the Emperor.' I guarantee that this will save your life."
The servant went and knelt before his master and explained how he had seen the master turn into a five-clawed golden dragon, and was so startled by this that he had dropped the jade teacup. When Yuan Shikai heard that, he was so elated that he rewarded the servant with a hundred thousand taels of silver. He pardoned the servant and did not have him killed. From that time on Yuan Shikai was intent upon becoming the emperor. Because his servant had told him he had seen him transformed into a golden dragon, Yuan was determined to make his dream of being emperor come true. In China it is believed that only a real dragon can become the Son of Heaven (the Emperor), and that a five-clawed golden dragon is a dragon who has become a person and is destined to be the Emperor.