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[Transcriber's Note: Accented Chinese words have been represented with the appropriate Pinyin tone number. The macron is marked as tone 1. Neutral (tone 5) u with umlaut is represented as "uu". U-with-breve is rendered without the breve, as it carries no information. Japanese long vowels (macrons in the original) are suffixed with "u". UTF-8 and HTML versions of this text, with the original accents, are also available.]








CH'UU YUUAN:— The Great Summons 13

WANG WEI:— Prose Letter 23

LI PO:— Drinking Alone by Moonlight 27 In the Mountains on a Summer Day 29 Waking from Drunkenness on a Spring Day 30 Self-Abandonment 31 To Tan Ch'iu 32 Clearing at Dawn 33

PO CHUU-I:— Life of Po Chuu-i 35 After Passing the Examination 37 Escorting Candidates to the Examination Hall 38 In Early Summer Lodging in a Temple to Enjoy the Moonlight 39 Sick Leave 40 Watching the Reapers 41 Going Alone to Spend a Night at the Hsien-Yu Temple 42 Planting Bamboos 43 To Li Chien 44 At the End of Spring 45 The Poem on the Wall 46 Chu Ch'en1 Village 47 Fishing in the Wei River 50 Lazy Man's Song 51 Illness and Idleness 52 Winter Night 53 The Chrysanthemums in the Eastern Garden 54 Poems in Depression, at Wei Village 55 To His Brother Hsing-Chien, Who was in Tung-Ch'uan 56 Starting Early from the Ch'u-Ch'eng1 Inn 57 Rain 58 The Beginning of Summer 59 Visiting the Hsi-Lin Temple 60 Prose Letter to Yuuan Chen1 61 Hearing the Early Oriole 65 Dreaming that I Went with Lu and Yu to Visit Yuuan Chen1 66 The Fifteenth Volume 67 Invitation to Hsiao Chuu-Shih 68 To Li Chien 69 The Spring River 70 After Collecting the Autumn Taxes 71 Lodging with the Old Man of the Stream 72 To His Brother Hsing-Chien 73 The Pine-Trees in the Courtyard 74 Sleeping on Horseback 76 Parting from the Winter Stove 77 Good-Bye to the People of Hangchow 78 Written when Governor of Soochow 79 Getting Up Early on a Spring Morning 80 Losing a Slave-Girl 81 The Grand Houses at Lo-Yang 82 The Cranes 83 On His Baldness 84 Thinking of the Past 85 A Mad Poem Addressed to My Nephews and Nieces 87 Old Age 88 To a Talkative Guest 89 To Liu Yuu-Hsi 90 My Servant Wakes Me 91 Since I Lay Ill 92 Song of Past Feelings 93 Illness 96 Resignation 97

YUUAN CHEN1:— The Story of Ts'ui Ying-Ying 101 The Pitcher 114

PO HSING-CHIEN:— The Story of Miss Li 117

WANG CHIEN:— Hearing that His Friend was Coming Back from the War 137 The South 138

OU-YANG HSIU:— Autumn 141



This book is not intended to be representative of Chinese literature as a whole. I have chosen and arranged chronologically various pieces which interested me and which it seemed possible to translate adequately.

An account of the history and technique of Chinese poetry will be found in the introduction to my last book.[1] Learned reviewers must not suppose that I have failed to appreciate the poets whom I do not translate. Nor can they complain that the more famous of these poets are inaccessible to European readers; about a hundred of Li Po's poems have been translated, and thirty or forty of Tu Fu's. I have, as before, given half my space to Po Chuu-i, of whose poems I had selected for translation a much larger number than I have succeeded in rendering. I will give literal versions of two rejected ones:

[1] "170 Chinese Poems," New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1919.


[A.D. 835]

Water's colour at-dusk still white; Sunsets glow in-the-dark gradually nil. Windy lotus shakes [like] broken fan; Wave-moon stirs [like] string [of] jewels. Crickets chirping answer one another; Mandarin-ducks sleep, not alone. Little servant repeatedly announces night; Returning steps still hesitate.


[A.D. 389]

T'ien-kung sun warm, pagoda door open; Alone climbing, greet Spring, drink one cup. Without limit excursion-people afar-off wonder at me; What cause most old most first arrived!

While many of the pieces in "170 Chinese Poems" aimed at literary form in English, others did no more than give the sense of the Chinese in almost as crude a way as the two examples above. It was probably because of this inconsistency that no reviewer treated the book as an experiment in English unrhymed verse, though this was the aspect of it which most interested the writer.

In the present work I have aimed more consistently at poetic form, but have included on account of their biographical interest two or three rather unsuccessful versions of late poems by Po Chuu-i.

For leave to reprint I am indebted to the editors of the English Review, Nation, New Statesman, Bulletin of School of Oriental Studies, and Reconstruction.


[Fourth Century B.C.]


When Ch'uu Yuuan had been exiled from the Court for nine years, he became so despondent that he feared his soul would part from his body and he would die. It was then that he made the poem called "The Great Summons," calling upon his soul not to leave him.

Green Spring receiveth The vacant earth; The white sun shineth; Spring wind provoketh To burst and burgeon Each sprout and flower. In those dark caves where Winter lurketh Hide not, my Soul! O Soul come back again! O, do not stray!

O Soul come back again and go not east or west, or north or south! For to the East a mighty water drowneth Earth's other shore; Tossed on its waves and heaving with its tides The hornless Dragon of the Ocean rideth: Clouds gather low and fogs enfold the sea And gleaming ice drifts past. O Soul go not to the East, To the silent Valley of Sunrise!

O Soul go not to the South Where mile on mile the earth is burnt away And poisonous serpents slither through the flames; Where on precipitous paths or in deep woods Tigers and leopards prowl, And water-scorpions wait; Where the king-python rears his giant head. O Soul, go not to the South Where the three-footed tortoise spits disease!

O Soul go not to the West Where level wastes of sand stretch on and on; And demons rage, swine-headed, hairy-skinned, With bulging eyes; Who in wild laughter gnash projecting fangs. O Soul go not to the West Where many perils wait!

O Soul go not to the North, To the Lame Dragon's frozen peaks; Where trees and grasses dare not grow; Where a river runs too wide to cross And too deep to plumb, And the sky is white with snow And the cold cuts and kills. O Soul seek not to fill The treacherous voids of the north!

O Soul come back to idleness and peace. In quietude enjoy The lands of Ching and Ch'u. There work your will and follow your desire Till sorrow is forgot, And carelessness shall bring you length of days. O Soul come back to joys beyond all telling!

Where thirty cubits high at harvest-time The corn is stacked; Where pies are cooked of millet and bearded-maize. Guests watch the steaming bowls And sniff the pungency of peppered herbs. The cunning cook adds slices of bird-flesh, Pigeon and yellow-heron and black-crane. They taste the badger-stew. O Soul come back to feed on foods you love!

Next are brought Fresh turtle, and sweet chicken cooked in cheese Pressed by the men of Ch'u. And pickled sucking-pig And flesh of whelps floating in liver-sauce With salad of minced radishes in brine; All served with that hot spice of southernwood The land of Wu supplies. O Soul come back to choose the meats you love!

Roasted daw, steamed widgeon and grilled quail— On every fowl they fare. Boiled perch and sparrow broth,—in each preserved The separate flavour that is most its own. O Soul come back to where such dainties wait!

The four strong liquors are warming at the fire So that they grate not on the drinker's throat. How fragrant rise their fumes, how cool their taste! Such drink is not for louts or serving-men! And wise distillers from the land of Wu Blend unfermented spirit with white yeast And brew the li of Ch'u. O Soul come back and let your yearnings cease!

Reed-organs from the lands of T'ai and Ch'in And Wei and Cheng1 Gladden the feasters, and old songs are sung: The "Rider's Song" that once Fu-hsi, the ancient monarch, made; And the harp-songs of Ch'u. Then after prelude from the flutes of Chao The ballad-singer's voice rises alone. O Soul come back to the hollow mulberry-tree![1]

Eight and eight the dancers sway, Weaving their steps to the poet's voice Who speaks his odes and rhapsodies; They tap their bells and beat their chimes Rigidly, lest harp and flute Should mar the measure. Then rival singers of the Four Domains Compete in melody, till not a tune Is left unsung that human voice could sing. O Soul come back and listen to their songs!

Then women enter whose red lips and dazzling teeth Seduce the eye; But meek and virtuous, trained in every art; Fit sharers of play-time, So soft their flesh and delicate their bones. O Soul come back and let them ease your woe!

Then enter other ladies with laughing lips And sidelong glances under moth-eye brows; Whose cheeks are fresh and red; Ladies both great of heart and long of limb, Whose beauty by sobriety is matched. Well-padded cheeks and ears with curving rim, High-arching eyebrows, as with compass drawn, Great hearts and loving gestures—all are there; Small waists and necks as slender as the clasp Of courtiers' brooches. O Soul come back to those whose tenderness Drives angry thoughts away!

Last enter those Whose every action is contrived to please; Black-painted eyebrows and white-powdered cheeks. They reek with scent; with their long sleeves they brush The faces of the feasters whom they pass, Or pluck the coats of those who will not stay. O Soul come back to pleasures of the night!

A summer-house with spacious rooms And a high hall with beams stained red; A little closet in the southern wing Reached by a private stair. And round the house a covered way should run Where horses might be trained. And sometimes riding, sometimes going afoot You shall explore, O Soul, the parks of spring; Your jewelled axles gleaming in the sun And yoke inlaid with gold; Or amid orchises and sandal-trees Shall walk in the dark woods. O Soul come back and live for these delights!

Peacocks shall fill your gardens; you shall rear The roc and phoenix, and red jungle-fowl, Whose cry at dawn assembles river storks To join the play of cranes and ibises; Where the wild-swan all day Pursues the glint of idle king-fishers. O Soul come back to watch the birds in flight!

He who has found such manifold delights Shall feel his cheeks aglow And the blood-spirit dancing through his limbs. Stay with me, Soul, and share The span of days that happiness will bring; See sons and grandsons serving at the Court Ennobled and enriched. O Soul come back and bring prosperity To house and stock!

The roads that lead to Ch'u Shall teem with travellers as thick as clouds, A thousand miles away. For the Five Orders of Nobility Shall summon sages to assist the King And with godlike discrimination choose The wise in council; by their aid to probe The hidden discontents of humble men And help the lonely poor. O Soul come back and end what we began!

Fields, villages and lanes Shall throng with happy men; Good rule protect the people and make known The King's benevolence to all the land; Stern discipline prepare Their natures for the soft caress of Art. O Soul come back to where the good are praised!

Like the sun shining over the four seas Shall be the reputation of our King; His deeds, matched only in Heaven, shall repair The wrongs endured by every tribe of men,— Northward to Yu and southward to Annam To the Sheep's Gut Mountain and the Eastern Seas. O Soul come back to where the wise are sought!

Behold the glorious virtues of our King Triumphant, terrible; Behold with solemn faces in the Hall The Three Grand Ministers walk up and down,— None chosen for the post save landed-lords Or, in default, Knights of the Nine Degrees. At the first ray of dawn already is hung The shooting-target, where with bow in hand And arrows under arm, Each archer does obeisance to each, Willing to yield his rights of precedence. O Soul come back to where men honour still The name of the Three Kings.[2]

[1] The harp.

[2] Yuu, T'ang and Wen1, the three just rulers of antiquity.


[A.D. 699-759]


To the Bachelor-of-Arts P'ei Ti

Of late during the sacrificial month, the weather has been calm and clear, and I might easily have crossed the mountain. But I knew that you were conning the classics and did not dare disturb you. So I roamed about the mountain-side, rested at the Kan-p'ei Temple, dined with the mountain priests, and, after dinner, came home again. Going northwards, I crossed the Yuuan-pa, over whose waters the unclouded moon shone with dazzling rim. When night was far advanced, I mounted Hua-tzuu's Hill and saw the moonlight tossed up and thrown down by the jostling waves of Wang River. On the wintry mountain distant lights twinkled and vanished; in some deep lane beyond the forest a dog barked at the cold, with a cry as fierce as a wolf's. The sound of villagers grinding their corn at night filled the gaps between the slow chiming of a distant bell.

Now I am sitting alone. I listen, but cannot hear my grooms and servants move or speak. I think much of old days: how hand in hand, composing poems as we went, we walked down twisting paths to the banks of clear streams.

We must wait for Spring to come: till the grasses sprout and the trees bloom. Then wandering together in the spring hills we shall see the trout leap lightly from the stream, the white gulls stretch their wings, the dew fall on the green moss. And in the morning we shall hear the cry of curlews in the barley-fields.

It is not long to wait. Shall you be with me then? Did I not know the natural subtlety of your intelligence, I would not dare address to you so remote an invitation. You will understand that a deep feeling dictates this course.

Written without disrespect by Wang Wei, a dweller in the mountains.


[A.D. 701-762]


[Three Poems]


A cup of wine, under the flowering trees; I drink alone, for no friend is near. Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon, For he, with my shadow, will make three men. The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine; Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side. Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave I must make merry before the Spring is spent. To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams; In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks. While we were sober, three shared the fun; Now we are drunk, each goes his way. May we long share our odd, inanimate feast, And meet at last on the Cloudy River of the sky.[1]


In the third month the town of Hsien-yang Is thick-spread with a carpet of fallen flowers. Who in Spring can bear to grieve alone? Who, sober, look on sights like these? Riches and Poverty, long or short life, By the Maker of Things are portioned and disposed; But a cup of wine levels life and death And a thousand things obstinately hard to prove. When I am drunk, I lose Heaven and Earth. Motionless—I cleave to my lonely bed. At last I forget that I exist at all, And at that moment my joy is great indeed.


If High Heaven had no love for wine, There would not be a Wine Star in the sky. If Earth herself had no love for wine, There would not be a city called Wine Springs.[2] Since Heaven and Earth both love wine, I can love wine, without shame before God. Clear wine was once called a Saint;[3] Thick wine was once called "a Sage."[3]

Of Saint and Sage I have long quaffed deep, What need for me to study spirits and hsien?[4] At the third cup I penetrate the Great Way; A full gallon—Nature and I are one ... But the things I feel when wine possesses my soul I will never tell to those who are not drunk.

[1] The Milky Way.

[2] Ch'iu-ch'uuan, in Kansuh.

[3] "History of Wei Dynasty" (Life of Hsuu Mo): "A drunken visitor said, 'Clear wine I account a Saint: thick wine only a Sage.'"

[4] The lore of Rishi, Immortals.


Gently I stir a white feather fan, With open shirt sitting in a green wood. I take off my cap and hang it on a jutting stone; A wind from the pine-trees trickles on my bare head.


"Life in the World is but a big dream; I will not spoil it by any labour or care." So saying, I was drunk all the day, Lying helpless at the porch in front of my door. When I woke up, I blinked at the garden-lawn; A lonely bird was singing amid the flowers. I asked myself, had the day been wet or fine? The Spring wind was telling the mango-bird. Moved by its song I soon began to sigh, And as wine was there I filled my own cup. Wildly singing I waited for the moon to rise; When my song was over, all my senses had gone.


I sat drinking and did not notice the dusk, Till falling petals filled the folds of my dress. Drunken I rose and walked to the moonlit stream; The birds were gone, and men also few.


My friend is lodging high in the Eastern Range, Dearly loving the beauty of valleys and hills. At green Spring he lies in the empty woods, And is still asleep when the sun shines on high. A pine-tree wind dusts his sleeves and coat; A pebbly stream cleans his heart and ears. I envy you, who far from strife and talk Are high-propped on a pillow of blue cloud.


The fields are chill; the sparse rain has stopped; The colours of Spring teem on every side. With leaping fish the blue pond is full; With singing thrushes the green boughs droop. The flowers of the field have dabbled their powdered cheeks; The mountain grasses are bent level at the waist. By the bamboo stream the last fragment of cloud Blown by the wind slowly scatters away.



772 Born on 20th of 1st month. 800 Passes his examinations. 806 Receives a minor post at Chou-chih, near the capital. 807 Made Scholar of the Han Lin Academy. 811 Retires to Wei River, being in mourning for his mother. 814 Returns to Court. 815 Banished to Hsuun-yang. 818 Removed to Chung-chou. 820 Reprieved and returns to Court. 822 Governor of Hangchow. 825 Governor of Soochow. 826 Retires owing to illness. 827 Returns to Ch'ang-an. 829 Settles permanently at Lo-yang. 831 Governor of Ho-nan, the province of which Lo-yang was capital. 833 Retires owing to illness. 839 Has paralytic stroke in tenth month. 846 Dies in the eighth month.


[A.D. 800]

For ten years I never left my books; I went up ... and won unmerited praise. My high place I do not much prize; The joy of my parents will first make me proud. Fellow students, six or seven men, See me off as I leave the City gate. My covered couch is ready to drive away; Flutes and strings blend their parting tune. Hopes achieved dull the pains of parting; Fumes of wine shorten the long road.... Shod with wings is the horse of him who rides On a Spring day the road that leads to home.


[A.D. 805]

At dawn I rode to escort the Doctors of Art; In the eastern quarter the sky was still grey. I said to myself, "You have started far too soon," But horses and coaches already thronged the road. High and low the riders' torches bobbed; Muffled or loud, the watchman's drum beat. Riders, when I see you prick To your early levee, pity fills my heart. When the sun rises and the hot dust flies And the creatures of earth resume their great strife, You, with your striving, what shall you each seek? Profit and fame, for that is all your care. But I, you courtiers, rise from my bed at noon And live idly in the city of Ch'ang-an. Spring is deep and my term of office spent; Day by day my thoughts go back to the hills.


[A.D. 805]

In early summer, with two or three more That were seeking fame in the city of Ch'ang-an, Whose low employ gave them less business Than ever they had since first they left their homes,— With these I wandered deep into the shrine of Tao, For the joy we sought was promised in this place. When we reached the gate, we sent our coaches back; We entered the yard with only cap and stick. Still and clear, the first weeks of May, When trees are green and bushes soft and wet; When the wind has stolen the shadows of new leaves And birds linger on the last boughs that bloom. Towards evening when the sky grew clearer yet And the South-east was still clothed in red, To the western cloister we carried our jar of wine; While we waited for the moon, our cups moved slow. Soon, how soon her golden ghost was born, Swiftly, as though she had waited for us to come. The beams of her light shone in every place, On towers and halls dancing to and fro. Till day broke we sat in her clear light Laughing and singing, and yet never grew tired. In Ch'ang-an, the place of profit and fame, Such moods as this, how many men know?


[While Secretary to the Deputy-Assistant-Magistrate of Chou-chih, near Ch'ang-an, in A.D. 806]

Propped on pillows, not attending to business; For two days I've lain behind locked doors. I begin to think that those who hold office Get no rest, except by falling ill! For restful thoughts one does not need space; The room where I lie is ten foot square. By the western eaves, above the bamboo-twigs, From my couch I see the White Mountain rise. But the clouds that hover on its far-distant peak Bring shame to a face that is buried in the World's dust.


[A.D. 806]

Tillers of the soil have few idle months; In the fifth month their toil is double-fold. A south-wind visits the fields at night: Suddenly the hill is covered with yellow corn. Wives and daughters shoulder baskets of rice; Youths and boys carry the flasks of wine. Following after they bring a wage of meat, To the strong reapers toiling on the southern hill, Whose feet are burned by the hot earth they tread, Whose backs are scorched by flames of the shining sky. Tired they toil, caring nothing for the heat, Grudging the shortness of the long summer day. A poor woman follows at the reapers' side With an infant child carried close at her breast. With her right hand she gleans the fallen grain; On her left arm a broken basket hangs. And I to-day ... by virtue of what right Have I never once tended field or tree? My government-pay is three hundred tons; At the year's end I have still grain in hand. Thinking of this, secretly I grew ashamed; And all day the thought lingered in my head.


[A.D. 806]

The crane from the shore standing at the top of the steps; The moon on the pool seen at the open door; Where these are, I made my lodging-place And for two nights could not turn away. I am glad I chanced on a place so lonely and still With no companion to drag me early home. Now that I have tasted the joy of being alone I will never again come with a friend at my side.


[A.D. 806]

Unrewarded, my will to serve the State; At my closed door autumn grasses grow. What could I do to ease a rustic heart? I planted bamboos, more than a hundred shoots. When I see their beauty, as they grow by the stream-side, I feel again as though I lived in the hills, And many a time on public holidays Round their railing I walk till night comes. Do not say that their roots are still weak, Do not say that their shade is still small; Already I feel that both in garden and house Day by day a fresher air moves. But most I love, lying near the window-side, To hear in their branches the sound of the autumn-wind.


[Part of a Poem]

[A.D. 807]

Worldly matters again draw my steps; Worldly things again seduce my heart. Whenever for long I part from Li Chien Gradually my thoughts grow narrow and covetous. I remember how once I used to visit you; I stopped my horse and tapped at the garden-gate. Often when I came you were still lying in bed; Your little children were sent to let me in. And you, laughing, ran to the front-door With coat-tails flying and cap all awry. On the swept terrace, green patterns of moss; On the dusted bench, clean shadows of leaves. To gaze at the hills we sat in the eastern lodge; To wait for the moon we walked to the southern moor. At your quiet gate only birds spoke; In your distant street few drums were heard. Opposite each other all day we talked, And never once spoke of profit or fame. Since we parted hands, how long has passed? Thrice and again the full moon has shone. For when we parted the last flowers were falling, And to-day I hear new cicadas sing. The scented year suddenly draws to its close, Yet the sorrow of parting is still unsubdued.


To Yuuan Chen1.[1] [A.D. 810]

The flower of the pear-tree gathers and turns to fruit; The swallows' eggs have hatched into young birds. When the Seasons' changes thus confront the mind What comfort can the Doctrine of Tao give? It will teach me to watch the days and months fly Without grieving that Youth slips away; If the Fleeting World is but a long dream, It does not matter whether one is young or old. But ever since the day that my friend left my side And has lived an exile in the City of Chiang-ling, There is one wish I cannot quite destroy: That from time to time we may chance to meet again.

[1] Po Chuu-i's great friend. See Nos. 63 and 64.


[A.D. 810]

[Yuuan Chen1 wrote that on his way to exile he had discovered a poem inscribed by Po Chuu-i, on the wall of the Lo-k'ou Inn.]

My clumsy poem on the inn-wall none cared to see. With bird-droppings and moss's growth the letters were blotched away. There came a guest with heart so full, that though a page to the Throne, He did not grudge with his broidered coat to wipe off the dust, and read.


[A.D. 811]

In Hsuu-chou, in the District of Ku-feng1 There lies a village whose name is Chu-ch'en1— A hundred miles away from the county-town, Amid fields of hemp and green of mulberry-trees. Click, click goes the sound of the spinning-wheel; Mules and oxen pack the village-streets. The girls go drawing the water from the brook; The men go gathering fire-wood on the hill. So far from the town Government affairs are few; So deep in the hills, man's ways are simple. Though they have wealth, they do not traffic with it; Though they reach the age, they do not enter the Army. Each family keeps to its village trade; Grey-headed, they have never left the gates.

Alive, they are the people of Ch'en1 Village; Dead, they become the dust of Ch'en1 Village. Out in the fields old men and young Gaze gladly, each in the other's face. In the whole village there are only two clans; Age after age Chus have married Ch'ens1. Near or distant, they have kinsmen in every house; Young or old, they have friends wherever they go. On white wine and roasted fowl they fare At joyful meetings more than "once a week." While they are alive, they have no distant partings; To choose a wife they go to a neighbour's house. When they are dead,—no distant burial; Round the village graves lie thick. They are not troubled either about life or death; They have no anguish either of body or soul. And so it happens that they live to a ripe age And great-great-grandsons are often seen.

I was born in the Realms of Etiquette; In early years, unprotected and poor. Alone, I learnt to distinguish between Evil and Good; Untutored, I toiled at bitter tasks. The World's Law honours Learning and Fame; Scholars prize marriages and Caps. With these fetters I gyved my own hands; Truly I became a much-deceived man. At ten years old I learnt to read books; At fifteen, I knew how to write prose. At twenty I was made a Bachelor of Arts; At thirty I became a Censor at the Court. Above, the duty I owe to Prince and parents; Below, the ties that bind me to wife and child. The support of my family, the service of my country— For these tasks my nature is not apt. I reckon the time that I first left my home; From then till now,—fifteen Springs! My lonely boat has thrice sailed to Ch'u; Four times through Ch'in my lean horse has passed. I have walked in the morning with hunger in my face; I have lain at night with a soul that could not rest. East and West I have wandered without pause, Hither and thither like a cloud astray in the sky. In the civil-war my old home was destroyed; Of my flesh and blood many are scattered and lost. North of the River, and South of the River— In both lands are the friends of all my life; Life-friends whom I never see at all,— Whose deaths I hear of only after the lapse of years. Sad at morning, I lie on my bed till dusk; Weeping at night, I sit and wait for dawn. The fire of sorrow has burnt my heart's core; The frost of trouble has seized my hair's roots. In such anguish has my whole life passed; Long I have envied the people of Ch'en1 Village.


[A.D. 811]

In waters still as a burnished mirror's face, In the depths of Wei, carp and grayling swim. Idly I come with my bamboo fishing-rod And hang my hook by the banks of Wei stream. A gentle wind blows on my fishing-gear Softly shaking my ten feet of line. Though my body sits waiting for fish to come, My heart has wandered to the Land of Nothingness.[1] Long ago a white-headed man[2] Also fished at the same river's side; A hooker of men, not a hooker of fish, At seventy years, he caught Wen1 Wang.[2] But I, when I come to cast my hook in the stream, Have no thought either of fish or men. Lacking the skill to capture either prey, I can only bask in the autumn water's light. When I tire of this, my fishing also stops; I go to my home and drink my cup of wine.

[1] See "Chuang Tzu," chap. i, end.

[2] The Sage T'ai-kung sat still till he was seventy, apparently fishing, but really waiting for a Prince who would employ him. At last Wen1 Wang, Prince of Chou, happened to come that way and at once made him his counsellor.


[A.D. 811]

I have got patronage, but am too lazy to use it; I have got land, but am too lazy to farm it. My house leaks; I am too lazy to mend it. My clothes are torn; I am too lazy to darn them. I have got wine, but am too lazy to drink; So it's just the same as if my cellar were empty. I have got a harp, but am too lazy to play; So it's just the same as if it had no strings. My wife tells me there is no more bread in the house; I want to bake, but am too lazy to grind. My friends and relatives write me long letters; I should like to read them, but they're such a bother to open. I have always been told that Chi Shu-yeh[1] Passed his whole life in absolute idleness. But he played the harp and sometimes transmuted metals, So even he was not so lazy as I.

[1] Also known as Chi K'ang. A famous Quietist.


[Circa A.D. 812]

Illness and idleness give me much leisure. What do I do with my leisure, when it comes? I cannot bring myself to discard inkstone and brush; Now and then I make a new poem. When the poem is made, it is slight and flavourless, A thing of derision to almost every one. Superior people will be pained at the flatness of the metre; Common people will hate the plainness of the words. I sing it to myself, then stop and think about it ...

* * * * *

The Prefects of Soochow and P'eng1-tse1[1] Would perhaps have praised it, but they died long ago. Who else would care to hear it? No one to-day except Yuuan Chen1, And he is banished to the City of Chiang-ling, For three years an usher in the Penal Court. Parted from me by three thousand leagues He will never know even that the poem was made.

[1] Wei Ying-wu, eighth century A.D., and T'ao Ch'ien, A.D. 365-427.


[Written during his retirement in 812]

My house is poor; those that I love have left me; My body sick; I cannot join the feast. There is not a living soul before my eyes As I lie alone locked in my cottage room. My broken lamp burns with a feeble flame; My tattered curtains are crooked and do not meet. "Tsek, tsek" on the door-step and window-sill Again I hear the new snow fall. As I grow older, gradually I sleep less; I wake at midnight and sit up straight in bed. If I had not learned the "art of sitting and forgetting,"[1] How could I bear this utter loneliness? Stiff and stark my body cleaves to the earth; Unimpeded my soul yields to Change.[2] So has it been for four hateful years, Through one thousand and three hundred nights!

[1] Yen Hui told Confucius that he had acquired the "art of sitting and forgetting." Asked what that meant, Yen Hui replied, "I have learnt to discard my body and obliterate my intelligence; to abandon matter and be impervious to sense-perception. By this method I become one with the All-Pervading."—Chuang Tzu, chap. vi.

[2] "Change" is the principle of endless mutation which governs the Universe.


[A.D. 812]

The days of my youth left me long ago; And now in their turn dwindle my years of prime. With what thoughts of sadness and loneliness I walk again in this cold, deserted place! In the midst of the garden long I stand alone; The sunshine, faint; the wind and dew chill. The autumn lettuce is tangled and turned to seed; The fair trees are blighted and withered away. All that is left are a few chrysanthemum-flowers That have newly opened beneath the wattled fence. I had brought wine and meant to fill my cup, When the sight of these made me stay my hand. I remember, when I was young, How easily my mood changed from sad to gay. If I saw wine, no matter at what season, Before I drank it, my heart was already glad. But now that age comes, A moment of joy is harder and harder to get. And always I fear that when I am quite old The strongest liquor will leave me comfortless. Therefore I ask you, late chrysanthemum-flower At this sad season why do you bloom alone? Though well I know that it was not for my sake, Taught by you, for a while I will open my face.


[A.D. 812]


I hug my pillow and do not speak a word; In my empty room no sound stirs. Who knows that, all day a-bed, I am not ill and am not even asleep?


Turned to jade are the boy's rosy cheeks; To his sick temples the frost of winter clings.... Do not wonder that my body sinks to decay; Though my limbs are old, my heart is older yet.


[A.D. 815]

Sullen, sullen, my brows are ever knit; Silent, silent, my lips will not move. It is not indeed that I choose to sorrow thus; If I lift my eyes, who would share my joy? Last Spring you were called to the West To carry arms in the lands of Pa and Shu; And this Spring I was banished to the South To nurse my sickness on the River's oozy banks. You are parted from me by six thousand leagues; In another world, under another sky. Of ten letters, nine do not reach; What can I do to open my sad face? Thirsty men often dream of drink; Hungry men often dream of food. Since Spring came, where do my dreams lodge? Ere my eyes are closed, I have travelled to Tung-ch'uan.


[A.D. 815]

Washed by the rain, dust and grime are laid; Skirting the river, the road's course is flat. The moon has risen on the last remnants of night; The travellers' speed profits by the early cold. In the great silence I whisper a faint song; In the black darkness are bred sombre thoughts. On the lotus-banks hovers a dewy breeze; Through the rice-furrows trickles a singing stream. At the noise of our bells a sleeping dog stirs; At the sight of our torches a roosting bird wakes. Dawn glimmers through the shapes of misty trees ... For ten miles, till day at last breaks.

[30] RAIN

[A.D. 815]

Since I lived a stranger in the City of Hsuun-yang Hour by hour bitter rain has poured. On few days has the dark sky cleared; In listless sleep I have spent much time. The lake has widened till it almost joins the sky; The clouds sink till they touch the water's face. Beyond my hedge I hear the boatmen's talk; At the street-end I hear the fisher's song. Misty birds are lost in yellow air; Windy sails kick the white waves. In front of my gate the horse and carriage-way In a single night has turned into a river-bed.


[A.D. 815]

At the rise of summer a hundred beasts and trees Join in gladness that the Season bids them thrive. Stags and does frolic in the deep woods; Snakes and insects are pleased by the rank grass. Winged birds love the thick leaves; Scaly fish enjoy the fresh weeds. But to one place Summer forgot to come; I alone am left like a withered straw ... Banished to the world's end; Flesh and bone all in distant ways. From my native-place no tidings come; Rebel troops flood the land with war. Sullen grief, in the end, what will it bring? I am only wearing my own heart away. Better far to let both body and mind Blindly yield to the fate that Heaven made. Hsuun-yang abounds in good wine; I will fill my cup and never let it be dry. On Pen1 River fish are cheap as mud; Early and late I will eat them, boiled and fried. With morning rice at the temple under the hill, And evening wine at the island in the lake ... Why should my thoughts turn to my native land? For in this place one could well end one's age.


[Written during his exile]

I dismount from my horse at the Hsi-lin Temple; I throw the porter my slender riding-whip. In the morning I work at a Government office-desk; In the evening I become a dweller in the Sacred Hills. In the second month to the north of Kuang-lu The ice breaks and the snow begins to melt. On the southern plantation the tea-plant thrusts its sprouts; Through the northern sluice the veins of the spring ooze.

* * * * *

This year there is war in An-hui, In every place soldiers are rushing to arms. Men of learning have been summoned to the Council Board; Men of action are marching to the battle-line. Only I, who have no talents at all, Am left in the mountains to play with the pebbles of the stream.


[A.D. 818]

Night of the tenth day of the fourth month. Lo-t'ien[1] says: O Wei-chih,[2] Wei-chih, it is three years since I saw your face and almost two years since I had a letter from you. Is man's life so long that he can afford such partings? Much less should hearts joined by glue be set in bodies remote as Hu and Yuueh.[3] In promotion we could not be together; and in failure we cannot forget each other. Snatched and wrenched apart, separately each of us grows grey. O Wei-chih, what is to be done? But this is the work of Heaven and there is no use in speaking of it.

When I first arrived at Hsuun-yang, Hsiung Ju-teng1[4] came with the letter which you had written the year before, when you were so ill. First you told me of the progress of your illness, next of your feelings while you were ill and last you spoke of all our meetings and partings, and of the occasion of your own difficulties and dangers. You had no time to write more, but sent a bundle of your writings with a note attached, which said, "Later on I will send a message by Po Min-chung.[5] Ask him for news and that will do instead of a letter." Alas! Is it thus that Wei-chih treats me? But again, I read the poem you wrote when you heard I had been banished:

The lamp had almost spent its light: shadows filled the room, The night I heard that Lo-t'ien was banished to Kiu-kiang. And I that had lain sick to death sat up suddenly in bed; A dark wind blowing rain entered at the cold window.

If even strangers' hearts are touched by these lines, much more must mine be; so that to this day I cannot recite them without pain. Of this matter I will say no more, but tell you briefly what has passed of late.

It is more than three years since I came to Kiu-kiang. All this time my body has been strong and my heart much at peace. There has been no sickness in my household, even among the servants. Last summer my elder brother arrived from Hsuu-chou, leading by the hand six or seven little brothers and sisters, orphans of various households. So that I have under my eyes all those who at present demand my care. They share with me cold and heat, hunger and satiety. This is my first consolation.

The climate of the River Province is somewhat cool, so that fevers and epidemics are rare. And while snakes and mosquitoes are few, the fish in the Pen1 are remarkably fat, the River wine is exceedingly good, and indeed for the most part the food is like that of the North Country. Although the mouths within my doors are many and the salary of a Sub-Prefect is small, by a thrifty application of my means, I am yet able to provide for my household without seeking any man's assistance to clothe their backs or fill their bellies. This is my second consolation.

In the autumn of last year I visited Lu Shan[6] for the first time. Reaching a point between the Eastern Forest and Western Forest Temples, beneath the Incense-Burner Peak, I was enamoured by the unequalled prospect of cloud-girt waters and spray-clad rocks. Unable to leave this place, I built a cottage here. Before it stand ten tall pines and a thousand tapering bamboos. With green creepers I fenced my garden; with white stones I made bridge and path. Flowing waters encircle my home; flying spray falls between the eaves. Red pomegranate and white lotus cluster on the steps of the pond. All is after this pattern, though I cannot here name each delight. Whenever I come here alone, I am moved to prolong my stay to ten days; for of the things that have all my life most pleased me, not one is missing. So that not only do I forget to go back, but would gladly end my days here. This is my third consolation.

Remembering that not having had news of me for so long, you might be in some anxiety with regard to me, I have hastened to set your mind at rest by recording these three consolations. What else I have to tell shall be set out in due order, as follows....[7]

Wei-chih, Wei-chih! The night I wrote this letter I was sitting at the mountain-window of my thatched hut. I let my brush run as my hand willed and wrote at hazard as my thoughts came. When I folded it and addressed it, I found that dawn had come. I raised my head and saw only a few mountain-priests, some sitting, some sleeping. I heard the mournful cries of mountain apes and the sad twitterings of valley birds. O friend of all my life, parted from me by a thousand leagues, at such times as this "dim thoughts of the World"[8] creep upon me for a while; so, following my ancient custom, I send you these three couplets:

I remember how once I wrote you a letter sitting in the Palace at night, At the back of the Hall of Golden Bells, when dawn was coming in the sky. This night I fold your letter—in what place? Sitting in a cottage on Lu Shan, by the light of a late lamp. The caged bird and fettered ape are neither of them dead yet; In the world of men face to face will they ever meet again?

O Wei-chih, Wei-chih! This night, this heart—do you know them or not? Lo-t'ien bows his head.

[1] Other name of Po Chuu-i.

[2] Other name of Yuuan Chen1.

[3] The extreme North and South of China.

[4] A poet, several of whose short poems are well-known.

[5] The son of Po Chuu-i's uncle Po Ch'i-k'ang.

[6] A famous mountain near Kiu-kiang.

[7] What followed is omitted in the printed text.

[8] This expression is used by Yuuan Chen1 in a poem addressed to Po Chuu-i. By "the World," he means their life together at Court.


[Written in exile]

When the sun rose I was still lying in bed; An early oriole sang on the roof of my house. For a moment I thought of the Royal Park at dawn When the Birds of Spring greeted their Lord from his trees. I remembered the days when I served before the Throne Pencil in hand, on duty at the Ch'eng1-ming;[1] At the height of spring, when I paused an instant from work, Morning and evening, was this the voice I heard? Now in my exile the oriole sings again In the dreary stillness of Hsuun-yang town ... The bird's note cannot really have changed; All the difference lies in the listener's heart. If he could but forget that he lives at the World's end, The bird would sing as it sang in the Palace of old.

[1] Name of a palace at Ch'ang-an.


[Written in exile]

At night I dreamt I was back in Ch'ang-an; I saw again the faces of old friends. And in my dreams, under an April sky, They led me by the hand to wander in the spring winds. Together we came to the village of Peace and Quiet; We stopped our horses at the gate of Yuuan Chen1. Yuuan Chen1 was sitting all alone; When he saw me coming, a smile came to his face. He pointed back at the flowers in the western court; Then opened wine in the northern summer-house. He seemed to be saying that neither of us had changed; He seemed to be regretting that joy will not stay; That our souls had met only for a little while, To part again with hardly time for greeting. I woke up and thought him still at my side; I put out my hand; there was nothing there at all.


[Having completed the fifteenth volume of his works, the poet sends it to his friends Yuuan Chen1 and Li Chien, with a jesting poem.]

[Written in 818]

My long poem, the "Eternal Grief,"[1] is a beautiful and moving work; My ten "Songs of Shensi" are models of tunefulness. I cannot prevent Old Yuuan from stealing my best rhymes; But I earnestly beg Little Li to respect my ballads and songs. While I am alive riches and honour will never fall to my lot; But well I know that after I am dead the fame of my books will live. This random talk and foolish boasting forgive me, for to-day I have added Volume Fifteen to the row that stands to my name.

[1] See Giles, "Chinese Literature," p. 169.


[Written when Governor of Chung-Chou]

Within the Gorges there is no lack of men; They are people one meets, not people one cares for. At my front door guests also arrive; They are people one sits with, not people one knows. When I look up, there are only clouds and trees; When I look down—only my wife and child. I sleep, eat, get up or sit still; Apart from that, nothing happens at all. But beyond the city Hsiao the hermit dwells; And with him at least I find myself at ease. For he can drink a full flagon of wine And is good at reciting long-line poems. Some afternoon, when the clerks have all gone home, At a season when the path by the river bank is dry, I beg you, take up your staff of bamboo-wood And find your way to the parlour of the Government House.

[1] Nos. 37, 38, 39, and 40 were written when the poet was Governor of a remote part of Ssechuan,—in the extreme west of China.


[A.D. 818]

The province I govern is humble and remote; Yet our festivals follow the Courtly Calendar. At rise of day we sacrificed to the Wind God, When darkly, darkly, dawn glimmered in the sky. Officers followed, horsemen led the way; They brought us out to the wastes beyond the town, Where river mists fall heavier than rain, And the fires on the hill leap higher than the stars.

Suddenly I remembered the early levees at Court When you and I galloped to the Purple Yard. As we walked our horses up Dragon Tail Street We turned our heads and gazed at the Southern Hills. Since we parted, both of us have been growing old; And our minds have been vexed by many anxious cares. Yet even now I fancy my ears are full Of the sound of jade tinkling on your bridle-straps.


[A.D. 820]

Heat and cold, dusk and dawn have crowded one upon the other; Suddenly I find it is two years since I came to Chung-chou. Through my closed doors I hear nothing but the morning and evening drum; From my upper windows all I see is the ships that come and go.[1] In vain the orioles tempt me with their song to stray beneath the flowering trees; In vain the grasses lure me by their colour to sit beside the pond. There is one thing and one alone I never tire of watching— The spring river as it trickles over the stones and babbles past the rocks.

[1] "The Emperor Saga of Japan [reigned A.D. 810-23] one day quoted to his Minister, Ono no Takamura, the couplet:

'Through my closed doors I hear nothing but the morning and evening drum; From my upper windows in the distance I see ships that come and go.'

Takamura, thinking these were the Emperor's own verses, said: 'If I may venture to criticize an august composition, I would suggest that the phrase "in the distance" be altered.' The Emperor was delighted, for he had purposely changed 'all I see' to 'in the distance I see.' At that time there was only one copy of Po Chuu-i's poems in Japan and the Emperor, to whom it belonged, had allowed no one to see it."—From the Koudanshou [twelfth century].


From my high castle I look at the town below Where the natives of Pa cluster like a swarm of flies. How can I govern these people and lead them aright? I cannot even understand what they say. But at least I am glad, now that the taxes are in, To learn that in my province there is no discontent. I fear its prosperity is not due to me And was only caused by the year's abundant crops, The papers that lie on my desk are simple and few; My house by the moat is leisurely and still. In the autumn rain the berries fall from the eaves; At the evening bell the birds return to the wood. A broken sunlight quavers over the southern porch Where I lie on my couch abandoned to idleness.


[A.D. 820]

Men's hearts love gold and jade; Men's mouths covet wine and flesh. Not so the old man of the stream; He drinks from his gourd and asks nothing more. South of the stream he cuts firewood and grass; North of the stream he has built wall and roof. Yearly he sows a single acre of land; In spring he drives two yellow calves. In these things he finds great repose; Beyond these he has no wish or care. By chance I met him walking by the water-side; He took me home and lodged me in his thatched hut. When I parted from him, to seek market and Court, This old man asked my rank and pay. Doubting my tale, he laughed loud and long: "Privy Councillors do not sleep in barns."


[A.D. 820]

Can the single cup of wine We drank this morning have made my heart so glad? This is a joy that comes only from within, Which those who witness will never understand. I have but two brothers And bitterly grieved that both were far away; This Spring, back through the Gorges of Pa, I have come to them safely, ten thousand leagues. Two sisters I had Who had put up their hair, but not twined the sash;[1] Yesterday both were married and taken away By good husbands in whom I may well trust. I am freed at last from the thoughts that made me grieve, As though a sword had cut a rope from my neck. And limbs grow light when the heart sheds its care: Suddenly I seem to be flying up to the sky!

* * * * *

Hsing-chien, drink your cup of wine Then set it down and listen to what I say. Do not sigh that your home is far away; Do not mind if your salary is small. Only pray that as long as life lasts, You and I may never be forced to part.

[1] I.e., got married.


[A.D. 820]

Below the hall The pine-trees grow in front of the steps, Irregularly scattered,—not in ordered lines. Some are tall and some are low: The tallest of them is six roods high; The lowest but ten feet. They are like wild things And no one knows who planted them. They touch the walls of my blue-tiled house; Their roots are sunk in the terrace of white sand. Morning and evening they are visited by the wind and moon; Rain or fine,—they are free from dust and mud. In the gales of autumn they whisper a vague tune; From the suns of summer they yield a cool shade. At the height of spring the fine evening rain Fills their leaves with a load of hanging pearls. At the year's end the time of great snow Stamps their branches with a fret of glittering jade. Of the Four Seasons each has its own mood; Among all the trees none is like another. Last year, when they heard I had bought this house, Neighbours mocked and the World called me mad— That a whole family of twice ten souls Should move house for the sake of a few pines! Now that I have come to them, what have they given me? They have only loosened the buckles of my care. Yet even so, they are "profitable friends,"[1] And fill my need of "converse with wise men." Yet when I consider how, still a man of the world, In belt and cap I scurry through dirt and dust, From time to time my heart twinges with shame That I am not fit to be master of my pines!

[1] See "Analects of Confucius" 4 and 5, where three kinds of "profitable friends" and three kinds of "profitable pleasures" are described; the third of the latter being "plenty of intelligent companions."


[A.D. 822]

We had rode long and were still far from the inn; My eyes grew dim; for a moment I fell asleep. Under my right arm the whip still dangled; In my left hand the reins for an instant slackened. Suddenly I woke and turned to question my groom: "We have gone a hundred paces since you fell asleep." Body and spirit for a while had exchanged place; Swift and slow had turned to their contraries. For these few steps that my horse had carried me Had taken in my dream countless aeons of time! True indeed is that saying of Wise Men "A hundred years are but a moment of sleep."


[A.D. 822]

On the fifth day after the rise of Spring, Everywhere the season's gracious altitudes! The white sun gradually lengthening its course, The blue-grey clouds hanging as though they would fall; The last icicle breaking into splinters of jade; The new stems marshalling red sprouts. The things I meet are all full of gladness; It is not only I who love the Spring. To welcome the flowers I stand in the back garden; To enjoy the sunlight I sit under the front eaves. Yet still in my heart there lingers one regret; Soon I shall part with the flame of my red stove!


[A.D. 824]

Elders and officers line the returning road; Wine and soup load the parting table. I have not ruled you with the wisdom of Shao Kung;[1] What is the reason your tears should fall so fast? My taxes were heavy, though many of the people were poor; The farmers were hungry, for often their fields were dry. All I did was to dam the water of the Lake[2] And help a little in a year when things were bad.

[1] A legendary ruler who dispensed justice sitting under a wild pear-tree.

[2] Po Chuu-i built the dam on the Western Lake which is still known as "Po's dam."


[A.D. 825]

A Government building, not my own home. A Government garden, not my own trees. But at Lo-yang I have a small house And on Wei River I have built a thatched hut. I am free from the ties of marrying and giving in marriage; If I choose to retire, I have somewhere to end my days. And though I have lingered long beyond my time, To retire now would be better than not at all!


[Part of a poem written when Governor of Soochow in 825]

The early light of the rising sun shines on the beams of my house; The first banging of opened doors echoes like the roll of a drum. The dog lies curled on the stone step, for the earth is wet with dew; The birds come near to the window and chatter, telling that the day is fine. With the lingering fumes of yesterday's wine my head is still heavy; With new doffing of winter clothes my body has grown light.


[Date uncertain]

Around my garden the little wall is low; In the bailiff's lodge the lists are seldom checked. I am ashamed to think we were not always kind; I regret your labours, that will never be repaid. The caged bird owes no allegiance; The wind-tossed flower does not cling to the tree.

* * * * *

Where to-night she lies none can give us news; Nor any knows, save the bright watching moon.


[Circa A.D. 829]

By woods and water, whose houses are these With high gates and wide-stretching lands? From their blue gables gilded fishes hang; By their red pillars carven coursers run. Their spring arbours, warm with caged mist; Their autumn yards with locked moonlight cold. To the stem of the pine-tree amber beads cling; The bamboo-branches ooze ruby-drops. Of lake and terrace who may the masters be? Staff-officers, Councillors-of-State. All their lives they have never come to see, But know their houses only from the bailiff's map!


[A.D. 830]

The western wind has blown but a few days; Yet the first leaf already flies from the bough. On the drying paths I walk in my thin shoes; In the first cold I have donned my quilted coat. Through shallow ditches the floods are clearing away; Through sparse bamboos trickles a slanting light. In the early dusk, down an alley of green moss, The garden-boy is leading the cranes home.


[A.D. 832]

At dawn I sighed to see my hairs fall; At dusk I sighed to see my hairs fall. For I dreaded the time when the last lock should go ... They are all gone and I do not mind at all! I have done with that cumbrous washing and getting dry; My tiresome comb for ever is laid aside. Best of all, when the weather is hot and wet, To have no top-knot weighing down on one's head! I put aside my dusty conical cap; And loose my collar-fringe. In a silver jar I have stored a cold stream; On my bald pate I trickle a ladle-full. Like one baptized with the Water of Buddha's Law, I sit and receive this cool, cleansing joy. Now I know why the priest who seeks Repose Frees his heart by first shaving his head.


[A.D. 833]

In an idle hour I thought of former days; And former friends seemed to be standing in the room. And then I wondered "Where are they now?" Like fallen leaves they have tumbled to the Nether Springs. Han Yuu[1] swallowed his sulphur pills, Yet a single illness carried him straight to the grave. Yuuan Chen1 smelted autumn stone[2] But before he was old, his strength crumbled away. Master Tu possessed the "Secret of Health": All day long he fasted from meat and spice. The Lord Ts'ui, trusting a strong drug, Through the whole winter wore his summer coat. Yet some by illness and some by sudden death ... All vanished ere their middle years were passed.

Only I, who have never dieted myself Have thus protracted a tedious span of age, I who in young days Yielded lightly to every lust and greed; Whose palate craved only for the richest meat And knew nothing of bismuth or calomel. When hunger came, I gulped steaming food; When thirst came, I drank from the frozen stream. With verse I served the spirits of my Five Guts;[3] With wine I watered the three Vital Spots. Day by day joining the broken clod I have lived till now almost sound and whole. There is no gap in my two rows of teeth; Limbs and body still serve me well. Already I have opened the seventh book of years; Yet I eat my fill and sleep quietly; I drink, while I may, the wine that lies in my cup, And all else commit to Heaven's care.

[1] The famous poet, d. 824 A.D.

[2] Carbamide crystals.

[3] Heart, liver, stomach, lungs and kidney.


[A.D. 835]

The World cheats those who cannot read; I, happily, have mastered script and pen. The World cheats those who hold no office; I am blessed with high official rank. The old are often ill; I, at this day have not an ache or pain. They are often burdened with ties; But I have finished with marriage and giving in marriage. No changes happen to disturb the quiet of my mind; No business comes to impair the vigour of my limbs. Hence it is that now for ten years Body and soul have rested in hermit peace. And all the more, in the last lingering years What I shall need are very few things. A single rug to warm me through the winter; One meal to last me the whole day. It does not matter that my house is rather small; One cannot sleep in more than one room! It does not matter that I have not many horses; One cannot ride in two coaches at once! As fortunate as me among the people of the world Possibly one would find seven out of ten. As contented as me among a hundred men Look as you may, you will not find one. In the affairs of others even fools are wise; In their own business even sages err. To no one else would I dare to speak my heart, So my wild words are addressed to my nephews and nieces.

[55] OLD AGE

[Addressed to Liu Yuu-hsi, who was born in the same year]

[A.D. 835]

We are growing old together, you and I, Let us ask ourselves, what is age like? The dull eye is closed ere night comes; The idle head, still uncombed at noon. Propped on a staff, sometimes a walk abroad; Or all day sitting with closed doors. One dares not look in the mirror's polished face; One cannot read small-letter books. Deeper and deeper, one's love of old friends; Fewer and fewer, one's dealings with young men. One thing only, the pleasure of idle talk, Is great as ever, when you and I meet.


[A.D. 836]

The town visitor's easy talk flows in an endless stream; The country host's quiet thoughts ramble timidly on. "I beg you, Sir, do not tell me about things at Ch'ang-an; For you entered just when my harp was tuned and lying balanced on my knees."


[A.D. 838]

In length of days and soundness of limb you and I are one; Our eyes are not wholly blind, nor our ears quite deaf. Deep drinking we lie together, fellows of a spring day; Or gay-hearted boldly break into gatherings of young men. When, seeking flowers, we borrowed his horse, the river-keeper was vexed; When, to play on the water, we stole his boat, the Duke Ling was sore. I hear it said that in Lo-yang, people are all shocked, And call us by the name of "Liu and Po, those two mad old men."


[A.D. 839]

My servant wakes me: "Master, it is broad day. Rise from bed; I bring you bowl and comb. Winter comes and the morning air is chill; To-day your Honour must not venture abroad." When I stay at home, no one comes to call; What must I do with the long, idle hours? Setting my chair where a faint sunshine falls I have warmed wine and opened my poetry-books.


[A.D. 840]

Since I lay ill, how long has passed? Almost a hundred heavy-hanging days. The maids have learnt to gather my medicine-herbs; The dog no longer barks when the doctor comes. The jars in my cellar are plastered deep with mould; My singer's carpets are half crumbled to dust. How can I bear, when the Earth renews her light, To watch from a pillow the beauty of Spring unfold?

[60] SONG OF PAST FEELINGS [With Preface]

[Circa A.D. 840]

When Lo-t'ien[1] was old, he fell ill of a palsy. So he made a list of his possessions and examined his expenses, that he might reject whatever had become superfluous. He had in his employ a girl about twenty years old called Fan Su, whose postures delighted him when she sang or danced. But above all she excelled in singing the "Willow-Branch," so that many called her by the name of this song, and she was well known by this name in the town of Lo-yang. But she was on the list of unnecessary expenses and was to be sent away.

He had too a white horse with black mane, sturdy and sure-footed, which he had ridden for many years. It stood on the list of things which could be dispensed with, and was to be sold. When the groom led the horse through the gate, it tossed its head and looked back, neighing once with a sound in its voice that seemed to say: "I know I am leaving you and long to stay." Su, when she heard the horse neigh, rose timidly, bowed before me and spoke sweetly, as shall hereafter be shown. When she had done speaking her tears fell.

When first I heard Su's words, I was too sad to speak and could not answer her. But in a little while I ordered the bridle to be turned and the sleeve reversed.[1] Then I gave her wine and drank a cup myself, and in my happiness sang a few score notes. And these notes turned into a poem, a poem without fixed measure, for the measure followed my irregular tune. In all there were 255 words.

Alas! I am no Sage. I could neither forget past feelings nor show such sensibility as this beast reputed incapable of feeling! Things that happen lay hold of my heart, and when my heart is moved, I cannot control it. Therefore, smiling at myself, I called this song "A Song of Past Feelings Unforgotten."

The Song says:

I was selling my white horse And sending Willow Branch away. She covered her dark eyebrows; He trailed his golden halter. The horse, for want of speech, Neighed long and turned his head; And Willow Branch, twice bowing, Knelt long and spoke to me: "Master, you have ridden this horse five years, One thousand eight hundred days; Meekly he has borne the bit, Without shying, without bolting. And I have served you for ten years, Three thousand and six hundred days; Patient carrier of towel and comb,[2] Without complaint, without loss. And now, though my shape is lowly, I am still fresh and strong. And the colt is still in his prime, Without lameness or fault. Why should you not use the colt's strength To replace your sick legs? Why should you not use my song to gladden your casual cup? Need you in one morning send both away, Send them away never to return? This is what Su would say to you before she goes, And this is what your horse meant also When he neighed at the gate. Seeing my distress, who am a woman, And hearing its cries, that is but a horse, Shall our master alone remain pitiless?"

I looked up and sighed: I looked down and laughed. Then I said:

"Dear horse, stop your sad cries! Sweet Su, dry your bitter tears! For you shall go back to your stall; And you to the women's room. For though I am ill indeed, And though my years are at their close, The doom of Hsiang Chi[3] has not befallen me yet. Must I in a single day Lose the horse I rode and the lady I loved? Su, O Su! Sing once again the Song of the Willow Branch! And I will pour you wine in that golden cup And take you with me to the Land of Drunkenness."

[1] I.e., Po Chuu-i himself.

[2] I.e., performing the functions of a wife.

[3] Who, surrounded at the battle of Kai-hsia (202 B.C.), gave his horse to a boatman, lest it should fall into the hands of the enemy.


[Written circa 842, when he was paralyzed]

Dear friends, there is no cause for so much sympathy. I shall certainly manage from time to time to take my walks abroad. All that matters is an active mind, what is the use of feet? By land one can ride in a carrying-chair; by water, be rowed in a boat.


Keep off your thoughts from things that are past and done; For thinking of the past wakes regret and pain. Keep off your thoughts from thinking what will happen; To think of the future fills one with dismay. Better by day to sit like a sack in your chair; Better by night to lie a stone in your bed. When food comes, then open your mouth; When sleep comes, then close your eyes.


[A.D. 799-831]


During the Cheng1-Yuuan[1] period of the T'ang dynasty there lived a man called Chang.[2] His nature was gentle and refined, and his person of great beauty. But his deeper feelings were resolutely held in restraint, and he would indulge in no license. Sometimes his friends took him to a party and he would try to join their frolics; but when the rest were shouting and scuffling their hardest, Chang only pretended to take his share. For he could never overcome his shyness. So it came about that though already twenty-three, he had not yet enjoyed a woman's beauty. To those who questioned him he answered, "It is not such as Master Teng1-t'u[3] who are true lovers of beauty; for they are merely profligates. I consider myself a lover of beauty, who happens never to have met with it. And I am of this opinion because I know that, in other things, whatever is beautiful casts its spell upon me; so that I cannot be devoid of feeling." His questioners only laughed.

[1] A.D. 785-805.

[2] I.e., Yuuan Chen1 himself.

[3] Type of the indiscriminate lover, fourth century B.C.

About this time Chang went to Puchow. Some two miles east of the town there is a temple called the P'-u-chiu-ssu, and here he took up his lodging. Now it happened that at this time the widow of a certain Ts'ui was returning to Ch'ang-an.[4] She passed through Puchow on her way and stayed at the same temple.

[4] The capital of China at that time; now called Hsi-an-fu.

This lady was born of the Cheng1 family and Chang's mother was also a Cheng1. He unravelled their relationship and found that they were second-cousins.

This year General Hun-Chan[5] died at Puchow. There was a certain Colonel Ting Wen1-ya who ill-treated his troops. The soldiers accordingly made Hun Chan's funeral the occasion of a mutiny, and began to plunder the town. The Ts'ui family had brought with them much valuable property and many slaves. Subjected to this sudden danger when far from home, they had no one from whom they could seek protection.

[5] B. A.D. 735; d. 799. Famous for his campaigns against the Tibetans and Uighurs.

Now it happened that Chang had been friendly with the political party to which the commander at Puchow belonged. At his request a guard was sent to the temple and no disorder took place there. A few days afterwards the Civil Commissioner Tu Chio was ordered by the Emperor to take over the command of the troops. The mutineers then laid down their arms.

The widow Cheng1 was very sensible of the service which Chang had rendered. She therefore provided dainties and invited him to a banquet in the middle hall. At table she turned to him and said, "I, your cousin, a lonely and widowed relict, had young ones in my care. If we had fallen into the hands of the soldiery, I could not have helped them. Therefore the lives of my little boy and young daughter were saved by your protection, and they owe you eternal gratitude. I will now cause them to kneel before you, their merciful cousin, that they may thank you for your favours." First she sent for her son, Huan-lang, who was about ten years old, a handsome and gentle child. Then she called to her daughter, Ying-ying: "Come and bow to your cousin. Your cousin saved your life." For a long while she would not come, saying that she was not well. The widow grew angry and cried: "Your cousin saved your life. But for his help, you would now be a prisoner. How can you treat him so rudely?"

At last she came in, dressed in everyday clothes, with a look of deep unhappiness in her face. She had not put on any ornaments. Her hair hung down in coils, the black of her two eyebrows joined, her cheeks were not rouged. But her features were of exquisite beauty and shone with an almost dazzling lustre.

Chang bowed to her, amazed. She sat down by her mother's side and looked all the time towards her, turning from him with a fixed stare of aversion, as though she could not endure his presence.

He asked how old she was. The widow answered, "She was born in the year of the present Emperor's reign that was a year of the Rat, and now it is the year of the Dragon in the period Cheng1-yuuan.[6] So she must be seventeen years old."

[6] I.e., A.D. 800.

Chang tried to engage her in conversation, but she would not answer, and soon the dinner was over. He was passionately in love with her and wanted to tell her so, but could find no way.

Ying-ying had a maid-servant called Hung-niang, whom Chang sometimes met and greeted. Once he stopped her and was beginning to tell her of his love for her mistress; but she was frightened and ran away. Then Chang was sorry he had not kept silence.

Next day he met Hung-niang again, but was ashamed and did not say what was in his mind. But this time the maid herself broached the subject and said to Chang, "Master, I dare not tell her what you told me, or even hint at it. But since your mother was a kinswoman of the Ts'uis, why do you not seek my mistress's hand on that plea?"

Chang said, "Since I was a child in arms, my nature has been averse to intimacy. Sometimes I have idled with wearers of silk and gauze, but my fancy was never once detained. I little thought that in the end I should be entrapped.

"Lately at the banquet I could scarcely contain myself; and since then, when I walk, I forget where I am going and when I eat, I forget to finish my meal, and do not know how to endure the hours from dawn to dusk.

"If we were to get married through a matchmaker and perform the ceremonies of Sending Presents and Asking Names, it would take many months, and by that time you would have to look for me 'in the dried-fish shop.' What is the use of giving me such advice as that?"

The maid replied, "My mistress clings steadfastly to her chastity, and even an equal could not trip her with lewd talk. Much less may she be won through the stratagems of a maid-servant. But she is skilled in composition, and often when she has made a poem or essay, she is restless and dissatisfied for a long while after. You must try to provoke her by a love-poem. There is no other way."

Chang was delighted and at once composed two Spring Poems to send her. Hung-niang took them away and came back the same evening with a coloured tablet, which she gave to Chang, saying, "This is from my mistress." It bore the title "The Bright Moon of the Fifteenth Night." The words ran:

To wait for the moon I am sitting in the western parlour; To greet the wind, I have left the door ajar. When a flower's shadow stirred and brushed the wall, For a moment I thought it the shadow of a lover coming.

Chang could not doubt her meaning. That night was the fourth after the first decade of the second month. Beside the eastern wall of Ts'ui's apartments there grew an apricot-tree; by climbing it one could cross the wall. On the next night (which was the night of the full moon) Chang used the tree as a ladder and crossed the wall. He went straight to the western parlour and found the door ajar. Hung-niang lay asleep on the bed. He woke her, and she cried in a voice of astonishment, "Master Chang, what are you doing here?" Chang answered, half-truly: "Ts'ui's letter invited me. Tell her I have come." Hung-niang soon returned, whispering, "She is coming, she is coming." Chang was both delighted and surprised, thinking that his salvation was indeed at hand.

At last Ts'ui entered.

Her dress was sober and correct, and her face was stern. She at once began to reprimand Chang, saying, "I am grateful for the service which you rendered to my family. You gave support to my dear mother when she was at a loss how to save her little boy and young daughter. How came you to send me a wicked message by the hand of a low maid-servant? In protecting me from the license of others, you acted nobly. But now that you wish to make me a partner to your own licentious desires, you are asking me to accept one wrong in exchange for another.

"How was I to repel this advance? I would gladly have hidden your letter, but it would have been immoral to harbour a record of illicit proposals. Had I shown it to my mother, I should ill have requited the debt we owe you. Were I to entrust a message of refusal to a servant or concubine, I feared it might not be truly delivered. I thought of writing a letter to tell you what I felt; but I was afraid I might not be able to make you understand. So I sent those trivial verses, that I might be sure of your coming. I have no cause to be ashamed of an irregularity which had no other object but the preservation of my chastity."

With these words she vanished. Chang remained for a long while petrified with astonishment. At last he climbed back over the wall and went home in despair.

Several nights after this he was lying asleep near the verandah, when some one suddenly woke him. He rose with a startled sigh and found that Hung-niang was there, with bedclothes under her arm and a pillow in her hand. She shook Chang, saying, "She is coming, she is coming. Why are you asleep?" Then she arranged the bedclothes and pillow and went away.

Chang sat up and rubbed his eyes. For a long while he thought he must be dreaming, but he assumed a respectful attitude and waited.

Suddenly Hung-niang came back, bringing her mistress with her. Ts'ui, this time, was languid and flushed, yielding and wanton in her air, as though her strength could scarcely support her limbs. Her former severity had utterly disappeared.

That night was the eighth of the second decade. The crystal beams of the sinking moon twinkled secretly across their bed. Chang, in a strange exaltation, half-believed that a fairy had come to him, and not a child of mortal men.

At last the temple bell sounded, dawn glimmered in the sky and Hung-niang came back to fetch her mistress away. Ts'ui turned on her side with a pretty cry, and followed her maid to the door.

The whole night she had not spoken a word.

Chang rose when it was half-dark, still thinking that perhaps it had been a dream. But when it grew light, he saw her powder on his arm and smelt her perfume in his clothes. A tear she had shed still glittered on the mattress.

For more than ten days afterwards he did not see her again. During this time he began to make a poem called "Meeting a Fairy," in thirty couplets. It was not yet finished, when he chanced to meet Hung-niang in the road. He asked her to take the poem to Ts'ui.

After this Ts'ui let him come to her, and for a month or more he crept out at dawn and in at dusk, the two of them living together in that western parlour of which I spoke before.

Chang often asked her what her mother thought of him. Ts'ui said, "I know she would not oppose my will. So why should we not get married at once?"

Soon afterwards, Chang had to go to the capital. Before starting, he tenderly informed her of his departure. She did not reproach him, but her face showed pitiable distress. On the night before he started, he was not able to see her.

After spending a few months in the west, Chang returned to Puchow and again lodged for several months in the same building as the Ts'uis. He made many attempts to see Ying-ying alone, but she would not let him do so. Remembering that she was fond of calligraphy and verse, he frequently sent her his own compositions, but she scarcely glanced at them.

It was characteristic of her that when any situation was at its acutest point, she appeared quite unconscious of it. She talked glibly, but would seldom answer a question. She expected absolute devotion, but herself gave no encouragement.

Sometimes when she was in the depth of despair, she would affect all the while to be quite indifferent. It was rarely possible to know from her face whether she was pleased or sorry.

One night Chang came upon her unawares when she was playing on the harp, with a touch full of passion. But when she saw him coming, she stopped playing. This incident increased his infatuation.

Soon afterwards, it became time for him to compete in the Literary Examinations, and he was obliged once more to set out for the western capital.

The evening before his departure, he sat in deep despondency by Ts'ui's side, but did not try again to tell her of his love. Nor had he told her that he was going away, but she seemed to have guessed it, and with submissive face and gentle voice, she said to him softly: "Those whom a man leads astray, he will in the end abandon. It must be so, and I will not reproach you. You deigned to corrupt me and now you deign to leave me. That is all. And your vows of 'faithfulness till death'—they too are cancelled. There is no need for you to grieve at this parting, but since I see you so sad and can give you no other comfort—you once praised my harp-playing; but I was bashful and would not play to you. Now I am bolder, and if you choose, I will play you a tune."

She took her harp and began the prelude to "Rainbow Skirts and Feather Jackets."[7] But after a few bars the tune broke off into a wild and passionate dirge.

[7] A gay, court tune of the eighth century.

All who were present caught their breath; but in a moment she stopped playing, threw down her harp and, weeping bitterly, ran to her mother's room.

She did not come back.

Next morning Chang left. The following year he failed in his examinations and could not leave the capital. So, to unburden his heart, he wrote a letter to Ts'ui. She answered him somewhat in this fashion: "I have read your letter and cherish it dearly. It has filled my heart half with sorrow, half with joy. You sent with it a box of garlands and five sticks of paste, that I may decorate my head and colour my lips.

"I thank you for your presents; but there is no one now to care how I look. Seeing these things only makes me think of you and grieve the more.

"You say that you are prospering in your career at the capital, and I am comforted by that news. But it makes me fear you will never come back again to one who is so distant and humble. But that is settled forever, and it is no use talking of it.

"Since last autumn I have lived in a dazed stupor. Amid the clamour of the daytime, I have sometimes forced myself to laugh and talk; but alone at night I have done nothing but weep. Or, if I have fallen asleep my dreams have always been full of the sorrows of parting. Often I dreamt that you came to me as you used to do, but always before the moment of our joy your phantom vanished from my side. Yet, though we are still bedfellows in my dreams, when I wake and think of it the time when we were together seems very far off. For since we parted, the old year has slipped away and a new year has begun....

"Ch'ang-an is a city of pleasure, where there are many snares to catch a young man's heart. How can I hope that you will not forget one so sequestered and insignificant as I? And indeed, if you were to be faithful, so worthless a creature could never requite you. But our vows of unending love—those I at least can fulfil.

"Because you are my cousin, I met you at the feast. Lured by a maid-servant, I visited you in private. A girl's heart is not in her own keeping. You 'tempted me by your ballads'[8] and I could not bring myself to 'throw the shuttle.'[9]

[8] As Ssu-ma tempted Cho Wen1-chuun, second century B.C.

[9] As the neighbour's daughter did to Hsieh Kun (A.D. fourth century), in order to repel his advances.

"Then came the sharing of pillow and mat, the time of perfect loyalty and deepest tenderness. And I, being young and foolish, thought it would never end.

"Now, having 'seen my Prince,'[10] I cannot love again; nor, branded by the shame of self-surrender, am I fit to perform 'the service of towel and comb';[11] and of the bitterness of the long celibacy which awaits me, what need is there to speak?

[10] Odes I. 1., X. 2.

[11] = become a bride.

"The good man uses his heart; and if by chance his gaze has fallen on the humble and insignificant, till the day of his death, he continues the affections of his life. The cynic cares nothing for people's feelings. He will discard the small to follow the great, look upon a former mistress merely as an accomplice in sin, and hold that the most solemn vows are made only to be broken. He will reverse all natural laws—as though Nature should suddenly let bone dissolve, while cinnabar resisted the fire. The dew that the wind has shaken from the tree still looks for kindness from the dust; and such, too, is the sum of my hopes and fears.

"As I write, I am shaken by sobs and cannot tell you all that is in my heart. My darling, I am sending you a jade ring that I used to play with when I was a child. I want you to wear it at your girdle, that you may become firm and flawless as this jade, and, in your affections, unbroken as the circuit of this ring.

"And with it I am sending a skein of thread and a tea-trough of flecked bamboo. There is no value in these few things. I send them only to remind you to keep your heart pure as jade and your affection unending as this round ring. The bamboo is mottled as if with tears, and the thread is tangled as the thoughts of those who are in sorrow. By these tokens I seek no more than that, knowing the truth, you may think kindly of me for ever.

"Our hearts are very near, but our bodies are far apart. There is no time fixed for our meeting; yet a secret longing can unite souls that are separated by a thousand miles.

"Protect yourself against the cold spring wind, eat well—look after yourself in all ways and do not worry too much about your worthless handmaid,


Chang showed this letter to his friends and so the story became known to many who lived at that time. All who heard it were deeply moved; but Chang, to their disappointment, declared that he meant to break with Ts'ui. Yuuan Chen1, of Honan, who knew Chang well, asked him why he had made this decision.

Chang answered:

"I have observed that in Nature whatever has perfect beauty is either itself liable to sudden transformations or else is the cause of them in others. If Ts'ui were to marry a rich gentleman and become his pet, she would forever be changing, as the clouds change to rain, or as the scaly dragon turns into the horned dragon. I, for one, could never keep pace with her transformations.

"Of old, Hsin of the Yin dynasty and Yu of the Chou dynasty ruled over kingdoms of many thousand chariots, and their strength was very great. Yet a single woman brought them to ruin, dissipating their hosts and leading these monarchs to the assassin's knife. So that to this day they are a laughing-stock to all the world. I know that my constancy could not withstand such spells, and that is why I have curbed my passion."

At these words all who were present sighed deeply.

A few years afterwards Ts'ui married some one else and Chang also found a wife. Happening once to pass the house where Ts'ui was living, he called on her husband and asked to see her, saying he was her cousin. The husband sent for her, but she would not come. Chang's vexation showed itself in his face. Some one told Ts'ui of this and she secretly wrote the poem:

Since I have grown so lean, my face has lost its beauty. I have tossed and turned so many times that I am too tired to leave my bed. It is not that I mind the others seeing How ugly I have grown; It is you who have caused me to lose my beauty, Yet it is you I am ashamed should see me!

Chang went away without meeting her, and a few days afterwards, when he was leaving the town, wrote a poem of final farewell, which said:

You cannot say that you are abandoned and deserted; For you have found some one to love you. Why do you not convert your broodings over the past Into kindness to your present husband?

After that they never heard of one another again. Many of Chang's contemporaries praised the skill with which he extricated himself from this entanglement.


[A.D. 779-831]

I dreamt I climbed to a high, high plain; And on the plain I found a deep well. My throat was dry with climbing and I longed to drink; And my eyes were eager to look into the cool shaft. I walked round it; I looked right down; I saw my image mirrored on the face of the pool. An earthen pitcher was sinking into the black depths; There was no rope to pull it to the well-head. I was strangely troubled lest the pitcher should be lost, And started wildly running to look for help. From village to village I scoured that high plain; The men were gone: the dogs leapt at my throat. I came back and walked weeping round the well; Faster and faster the blinding tears flowed— Till my own sobbing suddenly woke me up; My room was silent; no one in the house stirred; The flame of my candle flickered with a green smoke; The tears I had shed glittered in the candle-light. A bell sounded; I knew it was the midnight-chime; I sat up in bed and tried to arrange my thoughts: The plain in my dream was the graveyard at Ch'ang-an, Those hundred acres of untilled land. The soil heavy and the mounds heaped high; And the dead below them laid in deep troughs. Deep are the troughs, yet sometimes dead men Find their way to the world above the grave. And to-night my love who died long ago Came into my dream as the pitcher sunk in the well. That was why the tears suddenly streamed from my eyes, Streamed from my eyes and fell on the collar of my dress.


[A.D. 799-831]

[Brother of Po-Chuu-i]


Miss Li, ennobled with the title "Lady of Ch'ien-kuo," was once a prostitute in Ch'ang-an. The devotion of her conduct was so remarkable that I have thought it worth while to record her story. In the T'ien-pao era[1] there was a certain nobleman, Governor of Ch'ang-chou and Lord of Jung-yang, whose name and surname I will omit. He was a man of great wealth and highly esteemed by all. He had passed his fiftieth year and had a son who was close on twenty, a boy who in literary talent outstripped all his companions. His father was proud of him and had great hopes of his future. "This," he would say, "is the 'thousand-league colt' of our family." When the time came for the lad to compete at the Provincial Examinations, his father gave him fine clothes and a handsome coach with richly caparisoned horses for the journey; and to provide for his expense at the Capital, he gave him a large sum of money, saying, "I am sure that your talent is such that you will succeed at the first attempt; but I am giving you two years' supply, that you may pursue your career free from all anxiety." The young man was also quite confident and saw himself getting the first place as clearly as he saw the palm of his own hand.

[1] A.D. 742-56.

Starting from P'i-ling[2] he reached Ch'ang-an in a few weeks and took a house in the Pu-cheng1 quarter. One day he was coming back from a visit to the Eastern Market. He entered the City by the eastern gate of P'ing-k'ang and was going to visit a friend who lived in the south-western part of the town. When he reached the Ming-k'o Bend, he saw a house of which the gate and courtyard were rather narrow; but the house itself was stately and stood well back from the road. One of the double doors was open, and at it stood a lady, attended by her maid-servant. She was of exquisite, bewitching beauty, such as the world has seldom produced.

[2] In Kiang-su, near Ch'ang-chou.

When he saw her, the young man unconsciously reined in his horse and hesitated. Unable to leave the spot, he purposely let his whip fall to the ground and waited for his servant to pick it up, all the time staring at the lady in the doorway. She too was staring and met his gaze with a look that seemed to be an answer to his admiration. But in the end he went away without daring to speak to her.

But he could not put the thought of her out of his mind and secretly begged those of his friends who were most expert in the pleasures of Ch'ang-an to tell him what they knew of the girl. He learnt from them that the house belonged to a low and unprincipled woman named Li. When he asked what chance he had of winning the daughter, they answered: "The woman Li is possessed of considerable property, for her previous dealings have been with wealthy and aristocratic families, from whom she has received enormous sums. Unless you are willing to spend many thousand pounds, the daughter will have nothing to do with you."

The young man answered: "All I care about is to win her. I do not mind if she costs a million pounds." The next day he set out in his best clothes, with many servants riding behind him, and knocked at the door of Mrs. Li's house. Immediately a page-boy drew the bolt. The young man asked, "Can you tell me whose house this is?" The boy did not answer, but ran back into the house and called out at the top of his voice, "Here is the gentleman who dropped his whip the other day!"

Miss Li was evidently very much pleased. He heard her saying, "Be sure not to let him go away. I am just going to do my hair and change my clothes; I will be back in a minute." The young man, in high spirits, followed the page-boy into the house. A white-haired old lady was going upstairs, whom he took to be the girl's mother. Bowing low, the young man addressed her as follows: "I am told that you have a vacant plot of land, which you would be willing to let as building-ground. Is that true?" The old lady answered, "I am afraid the site is too mean and confined; it would be quite unsuitable for a gentleman's house. I should not like to offer it to you." She then took him into the guest-room, which was a very handsome one, and asked him to be seated, saying, "I have a daughter who has little either of beauty or accomplishment, but she is fond of seeing strangers. I should like you to meet her."

So saying, she called for her daughter, who presently entered. Her eyes sparkled with such fire, her arms were so dazzling white and there was in her movements such an exquisite grace that the young man could only leap to his feet in confusion and did not dare raise his eyes. When their salutations were over, he began to make a few remarks about the weather; and realized as he did so that her beauty was of a kind he had never encountered before.

They sat down again. Tea was made and wine poured out. The vessels used were spotlessly clean. He lingered till the day was almost over; the curfew-drum sounded its four beats. The old lady asked if he lived far away. He answered untruthfully, "Several leagues beyond the Yen-p'ing Gate," hoping that they would ask him to stay. The old lady said, "The drum has sounded. You will have to go back at once, unless you mean to break the law."

The young man answered, "I was being so agreeably entertained that I did not notice how rapidly the day had fled. My house is a long way off and in the city I have no friends or relations. What am I to do?" Miss Li then interposed, saying, "If you can forgive the meanness of our poor home, what harm would there be in your spending the night with us?" He looked doubtfully at the girl's mother, but met with no discouragement.

Calling his servants, he gave them money and told them to buy provisions for the night. But the girl laughingly stopped him, saying, "That is not the way guests are entertained. Our humble house will provide for your wants to-night, if you are willing to partake of our simple fare and defer your bounty to another occasion." He tried to refuse, but in the end she would not allow him to, and they all moved to the western hall. The curtains, screens, blinds and couches were of dazzling splendour; while the toilet-boxes, rugs, and pillows were of the utmost elegance. Candles were lighted and an excellent supper was served.

After supper the old lady retired, leaving the lovers engaged in the liveliest conversation, laughing and chattering completely at their ease.

After a while the young man said: "I passed your house the other day and you happened to be standing at the door. And after that, I could think of nothing but you; whether I lay down to rest or sat down to eat, I could not stop thinking of you." She laughed and answered: "It was just the same with me." He said: "You must know that I did not come to-day simply to look for building-land. I came hoping that you would fulfil my lifelong desire; but I was not sure how you would welcome me. What—"

He had not finished speaking when the old woman came back and asked what they were saying. When they told her, she laughed and said, "Has not Mencius written that 'the relationship between men and women is the ground-work of society'? When lovers are agreed, not even the mandate of a parent will deter them. But my daughter is of humble birth. Are you sure that she is fit to 'present pillow and mat' to a great man?"

He came down from the dais and, bowing low, begged that she would accept him as her slave. Henceforward the old lady regarded him as her son-in-law; they drank heavily together and finally parted. Next morning he had all his boxes and bags brought round to Mrs. Li's house and settled there permanently. Henceforward he shut himself up with his mistress and none of his friends ever heard of him. He consorted only with actors and dancers and low people of that kind, passing the time in wild sports and wanton feasting. When his money was all spent, he sold his horses and men-servants. In about a year his money, property, servants and horses were all gone.

For some time the old lady's manner towards him had been growing gradually colder, but his mistress remained as devoted as ever. One day she said to him, "We have been together a year, but I am still not with child. They say that the spirit of the Bamboo Grove answers a woman's prayers as surely as an echo. Let us go to his temple and offer a libation."

The young man, not suspecting any plot, was delighted to take her to the temple, and having pawned his coat to buy sweet wine for the libation, he went with her and performed the ceremony of prayer. They stayed one night at the temple and came back next day. Whipping up their donkey, they soon arrived at the north gate of the P'ing-k'ang quarter. At this point his mistress turned to him and said, "My aunt's house is in a turning just near here. How would it be if we were to go there and rest for a little?"

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