Fables in Verse
The fables in this chapter are songs of varying length in which animals and plants speak and behave like human beings. The intent of their anonymous authors is generally to give instruction to humans, in a diverting and vivid manner, on the lessons of life. The genre of fable in verse does not exist as a recognizable literary form in China; there is no term to define this type of work. Moreover, there is no Chinese Aesop of the sixth century BC, or Phaedrus of the first century AD, or Babrius of the second century AD who formed the Greco-Roman repertory of fables in verse.1 While no specific genre of fable existed in China, the tradition of fable writing developed comparatively early. It took the form of brief, witty anecdotes interspersed among the writings of philosophers of every school (except the Confucian), in order to illustrate and clarify their intellectual argument. As such, the fable was consciously used as a pedagogic device with the twin aim of instructing through wit and humour. The best examples appear in the writings of Chuang Tzu, Han Fei Tzu, and Lieh Tzu.2
The fables have been drawn from a variety of historical and literary sources. In his Anthology, Kuo classified what Westerners would term fables in verse under a wide range of categories. The fables of the ibis and the pheasant are in a sub-section of his category three, ‘Words for Drumming and Blowing Pieces, Han Songs for the Nao-bell’.3 ‘A Crow Bore Eight or Nine Chicks’ and ‘South of the River’ are in his category five, ‘Words for Concerted Songs’. The tiger fable comes under the same general category, but in a preface in the sub-section ‘Level-mode Pieces’, while the poplar fable is in the sub-section ‘Clear-mode Pieces’, and one version of the white swans fable is in ‘Zither-mode Pieces’. The fables of the butterfly, the withered fish, and the date-tree are in Kuo’s category nine, ‘Song-texts for Miscellaneous Pieces’.4 So, by the end of the eleventh century AD verse pieces which Westerners would classify as fables in verse had no generic uniformity in China.5 My own grouping here is therefore based on personal choice rather than on traditional Chinese ways of classifying the material. 46
The structure of these fables varies from the epigrammatic quatrain (four of the fourteen pieces) to a narrative of 26 lines. Three forms predominate: an encounter between two animals, or between one animal and an unidentified person, presumably the singer; a proverbial statement or a warning introduced by imperatives—Do this! Don’t do that!; and a third-person narrative in which a singer tells the story of some animal, bird, or plant. These are based on direct speech, either dialogue, or monologue. While most of the fables employ creatures or plants to make a point, the use of nature itself is limited to carrying the story forward. The setting is invariably outdoors, but there are few lyrical or descriptive passages on nature.
The animals and plants in the fables are of the simplest kind, typical of a farming environment. They do not in themselves suggest a rural rather than a metropolitan ambience. It is the point of view which they project in their proverbial statements, primitive ideas, and traditional wisdom which makes them expressions of folk idiom rather than sophisticated literary artefacts. In the allegory of the white swans it is the mentality of the flock or herd or community which is expressed: the flock must, by definition, cohere in order to survive as an entity, so weak and ill members of it must be discarded. In the fable of the pine tree cut down to make a palace, the idea is conveyed that beauty invites defacement and removal from its natural habitat. In the pheasant fable, showiness leads to the threat of captivity and death. In the withered fish and butterfly parables, imprudence is shown to result in death. In the playful fish song, sexual drive is depicted as a procreative natural instinct. In the fable of the date-tree, fecundity attracts admirers, while barrenness results in neglect. The fable of the ibis suggests that the wrongdoer must be brought to justice. The fable of the high field proves the senselessness of doing things out of context.
These brief plots have a grim quality. They seek to persuade that life is nasty, short, and brutish. Their positive values are linked to conventional wisdom and community mores. There is no reference to ethics or to law, nor to the values expressed in the national hymns. A basic conservatism is promoted as a way of satisfactorily conducting one’s life. Negative qualities such as the pessimistic view of prosperity, the tragic implications of beauty and talent, and the failure to merge anonymously with the community are echoes of native Taoist philosophy propounded in The Classic of the Way and Its Power, and especially in Chuang Tzu.
Unlike philosophical anecdotes, these fables have little humour. Their grim reminder that the wages of folly are death does not lend itself to gaiety. On the other hand, they are not solemn lessons to be earnestly learned. They are rich in entertainment. Vividness of expression, vernacular turns of phrase, dramatic twists in the narrative, and irregular metrical patterns all colour and animate the fables. In their 47aspirations, their fears, and their grouses they convey something of the narrow realism and rude wit of country people.
A fish spat out:
Ibis hates the vile.
Where does ibis feed?
It feeds under lotus.
It won’t eat this.
It won’t spit it out.
Let’s go and ask the executioner.
The symbol of the vermilion ibis has attracted a great deal of speculation among commentators. Lu K’an-ju, quoting the early T’ang scholar K’ung Ying-ta, noted that in the era of King Wei of Ch’u a flock of vermilion ibis soared and approached dancing, and that this miracle was the occasion for the song’s composition.6 Lu also cites the comment of the late Ming scholar Yang Shen that at the beginning of the Han Dynasty the sighting of a vermilion ibis was taken as an omen; a drum was painted with the likeness of the bird and the ‘Vermilion Ibis’ piece was composed.7 Already two traditional explanations of the provenance of the song have emerged. The Ch’ing critic Ch’en Hang, much given to allegorical interpretation of the wildest sort, commented that the legendary emperors Yao and Shun had such a drum decorated with an ibis in the act of catching a fish and spitting it out. He suggested that this symbolized an honest minister reporting hidden evil to his lord. Since many of Ch’en’s comments on literature suffer from a surfeit of political allegory à la Songs of Ch’u, his comment may be discounted.8 As far as the appearance of the ibis as an omen is concerned, in the Han portents played a significant part in political life.9 But to interpret the ibis in this fable as an omen does not get us very far. No matter how many commentators are consulted, the result can only be speculation on the meaning of portents and the significance of allegory.
We are left with the symbols contained in this piece. They appear to be clear enough on the surface. At the literal level they are three components of a natural scene, an ibis, a lotus pond, and a fish. The meaning of the fish and its habitat of the lotus pond may be linked to the sexual symbolism of fish in other poems and songs, especially the marriage songs of the Book of Poetry. In another song in this chapter, ‘South of the River’, I suggest that fish denote a ritualized form of sexual play during spring or summer. The carp, for instance, is often used as a 48symbol of sexual vigour. By extension, a rotten fish may serve as a euphemism for sexual depravity. The lotus pond is the equivalent of a lovers’ lane. In late spring and summer, country people have a respite from work in the fields and this is a time when lovers frequent the lotus pond in boats, hiding under the huge lotus leaves. The fish may represent evil in general terms, rather than sexual depravity, but the combination of features in the fable which hint at sexual punning is perhaps more than coincidental.10
The significance of the drum mentioned by several commentators in connection with the vermilion ibis may be clarified by comparing this song with other lampoons dating from the Han, such as ‘Short Wheat Green’, and ‘Crows on City Walls’.11 In both cases, the last line refers to the beating of a drum and making a complaint to the authorities. In this ibis fable, the drum is absent but the formula of a complaint to an officer is present. To argue on such tenuous connections may be ill-advised, but there is precious little to work from. I would tentatively propose that the same meaning contained in the two lampoons’ last lines, ‘Please make the drum roll for the gentlemen!’ and, ‘Under the rafter there is a hanging drum./ I want to strike it, but the minister will be angry,’ may be inferred from the fable’s opaque last line: the cry of injustice is announced through the roll of the drum.
Apart from the opacity of the imagery and the terse transitions of the fable’s brief narrative, a further difficulty lies in the presence of a line which may or may not be nonsense. In line 3 the words may be read as lu-tzu-yeh, something like fal-de-lal. Yet if slight amendments are made, the Chinese characters make sense. If the bird radical is added to lu we get ibis; if yeh is taken as its primary meaning and pronounced hsieh we get ‘perverse, evil’; if we add the speech radical to tzu we get ‘revile’. This would result in a line which makes sense in the context of the rest of the song: ‘Ibis reviles the vile’. Of course, nonsense words are scattered throughout anonymous Han ballads, and they are a characteristic of ballads in other cultures. If in this instance, however, we give the nonsense sounds their full value, we introduce a criticism of evil, which links up with the complaint against injustice implicit in the last line. A viable interpretation of the song might then be: someone in the community is indulging in sexual depravity, but the people in the community feel powerless to prevent it without recourse to a higher authority.12
South of the River
South of the river we can pick lotos,
Lotos leaves so bushy, bushy!
Fish play among lotos leaves,
Fish play east of lotos leaves, 49
Fish play west of lotos leaves,
Fish play south of lotos leaves,
Fish play north of lotos leaves.
The erotic tone of this song is established by its punning and word-play. ‘Lotos’ (lien) is a pun for lien, meaning sexual passion, its red colour symbolism enhancing the pun. ‘Pick’ also suggests enjoy, have pleasure. The binome t’ien-t’ien, ‘bushy, bushy’, suggests the luxuriant growth of the lotos leaves where fish swim. Humans can also hide under the huge leaves for sexual enjoyment. ‘Play’ develops the idea of sexual frolics hinted at in the pun on lotos and in the hide-and-seek afforded by the leaves. The erotic symbolism of fish playing is universal. The song uninhibitedly rejoices in instinctual love. At the same time, its formal structure might represent the vestige of an old fertility rite: the propagation of the species will ensure the continuity of the rural community. The title ‘South of the River’ may refer to any river, illustrating the lack of a localized setting in ballads. But the title, in Chinese Chiang-nan, also refers to the region south of the Yangtse River, the Ch’ang Chiang.13
Young Pheasant Fancy-plume
How fancy-plumed you are!
Going to pheasant-millet
Don’t run into the old man and his lads!
Know that when pheasants fly they go high and settle,
When brown geese fly they go one thousand leagues—
Such wonderful strength!
Drake comes flying after his hen,
Young Pheasant hurries along the lone pheasant.
The great carriage yoked, the horses racing,
A lively escort goes to the open fields.
Wheel round, fly from royal princes!
This text is probably the most corrupt of all the anonymous Han songs. My translation is therefore only tentative. The gist of the fable seems to be that a young cock-pheasant with brilliant, showy plumage is urged by an older and wiser pheasant, or by a human observer, to keep away from the royal hunt. Yü Kuan-ying believes that the three stanzas describe the three phases of the older bird’s address to the younger: first an endearment, with admiration for the young cock’s plumage; then an 50order that it should get out of the way; and finally a lament that the pheasant has been hunted down and killed.14 This is neat and feasible. Yet the last line seems to contain a warning rather than a lament, and so I have rendered the line differently from Yü’s interpretation.
Because the text is so corrupt, different commentators have divided the lines into various lengths, according to their understanding of the meaning of the words. The middle stanza is clearly in a battered shape, even in translation. Its last couplet especially defies interpretation. It might be argued that in the central couplet the cock-pheasant courts a hen pheasant, oblivious of the dangers of being shot at. This garbled couplet may contain musical instructions to the singer, on the other hand, rather than words to be translated as part of the text. The phrase ‘Hurried along’ renders the word tsü, but this may also mean a musical coda, examples of which occur in other Han songs. As such the tsü-coda might mean that the final passage of the song, with its accompanying change of music, begins with the last line of stanza two. The last couplet of the song is also open to conjecture. An alternative reading is: ‘By royal escort beaters it is hit,’ and so the song’s final line might mean that the dead pheasant is stowed as game in the back of the hunting carriage.
Despite these textual difficulties, the fable appeals because it possesses a primary feature of Han songs and ballads, realistic presentation. It is full of details about pheasant rearing and shooting which are still true today. The cock’s fine plumage makes it clearly visible in the open fields after the harvest of grain crops. The game-keeper, an old man, puts out special feed to lure the game into the open fields away from the safety of trees. After the long months of rearing and the final months of feeding and taming the pheasants, the royal hunt appears on the scene, full of high spirits and keen to get a good bag of game. If we take the middle stanza to mean that the cock-pheasant is chasing after a hen, this is also in keeping with the ballad’s realism, for it is stressed throughout that this young cock is too young to have learned the hard facts of the kill.15
A Crow Bore Eight or Nine Chicks
A crow bore eight or nine chicks,
She sits up in the Ch’in’s cassia tree.
The Ch’in clan has a wild, roving boy,
Skilled with his Sui-yang catapult
And Su-ho scented shot.
In his left hand he holds his bow and two pellets,
In and out he goes, east and west of the crow.
Ah, alas! 51
One pellet fired hits the crow’s body.
The crow dies, her soul flies up to Heaven.
When the mother hen bore her crow-chicks
She was in South Mountain’s sheer rocks.
How do folks know where birds live?
Why do folk pass through narrow, lost paths?
A white hart is in Royal Forest’s west garden,
But the master bowman still catches white hart for venison.
A brown goose brushes Heaven flying high,
In the rear palace they still get to cook it.
A carp is in Lo River’s deep pool,
But the angler still catches the carp by the mouth.
In human life each has his allotted years,
So why must we ask in life or death whose turn comes first or last?
This fable exhibits a variety of balladic features. The vague number, ‘eight or nine chicks’, might suggest an absent-minded mother, but it is clearly a favourite way of describing a family, as other ballads like ‘Cocks Crow’ and ‘They Met’ reveal.16 The surname Ch’in appears to be a specific clan name, but it recurs in ‘Mulberry on the Bank’ as the name of the heroine, Ch’in Lo-fu, and in ‘A Peacock Southeast Flew’ in the name of the girl a mother wants for her son.17 ‘Ah, alas!’ renders the nonsense words cha-wo, which again recurs in other ballads. The epithets describing the Ch’in son, ‘wild, roving’, are tautological, a feature of almost every ballad. Hyperbole is also evident in the boy’s weapons: Sui-yang was a place in old Sung state and denotes the fabulous pearl given to Lord Sui by a snake he rescued; Su-ho was an expensive and rare potpourri from Central Asia which has been mixed with clay to form shot. The boy’s furtive creeping in the garden to surprise the mother crow is visual drama in the narrative. Comedy, or the mock-heroic, occurs in the description of the mother crow’s death. In the Chinese, the crow’s hun soul and p’o soul are said to rise to paradise. The Han concept of the soul has become garbled in this folk piece; it was only the hun which was believed to be the spiritual essence of humans and immortal, while the p’o was believed to be the animal essence which dissolved with the bodily remains in the earth. The comedy lies in the attribution of a soul to the bird and in the misunderstanding of theology. As with the name Ch’in, South Mountain recurs in some ballads. It is a stereotype for a sacred haven; since the Chou, it was associated with longevity.18 Its appearance in this song creates a certain irony, for the crow did not live out its allotted span.
The structure of the song seems lopsided; the first section which 52narrates the fate of the crow reads like an independent piece. The rest of the song, which tells of the fate of other creatures, consists of a series of mini-narratives only a third the length of the first passage. Perhaps the crow narrative was the original ballad, and later it acquired serial passages because the theme proved to be attractive to audiences. The piece deals with the theme of the ultimate meaninglessness of life, the randomness of fate, and the universality of death, no matter how safe and secure one imagined oneself to be.
The story contained in the first passage resembles a narrative in the first century BC anthology of prose tales, Garden of Anecdotes.19 The king of Wu state decided to attack Ching state and announced to his courtiers that if anyone opposed him he would put him to death. One of his retainers thought the king ought to be stopped and so he resolved to advise him indirectly. He spent three dawns in the garden with his catapult and pellets, getting soaked. The king asked him the reason, and the retainer told this parable: ‘There is a tree in the garden. On its crown there is a cicada. The cicada stays high up, chirping sadly and drinking dew, unaware that a praying-mantis is behind it. The praying-mantis crouches with bent legs about to seize the cicada, but is unaware that an oriole is beside it. The oriole stretches out its neck to peck the praying-mantis, but is unaware that a catapult and pellet are beneath it. These three creatures all fixed their attention on the prize in front of them, but ignored the disaster behind them.’ The king congratulated his retainer on his sound advice and called off his troops. This prose parable deals with several themes: self-interest, greed, imprudence, the brevity of life in a danger-infested world, the savagery of death, and the dispassionate law of nature. The verse fable, while clearly similar to the prose tale, has a different emphasis: no matter how safe one is, no living thing can evade death. South Mountain, the holy mountain of longevity, Royal Forest, the Han emperor’s private park for the protection of exotic species, the skies close to Heaven, the depths of Lo River of Loyang may seem to be havens, but in the end they cannot protect one from disaster. The message of the verse fable has a Taoist overtone: humans must not be useful, attractive, or visible if they wish to survive.20
If in a High Field
If in a high field you plant dwarf wheat,
It will never ever form ears of grain.
If a man lives in a strange village,
How can he fail to be unhappy?
The proverbial tone of the first couplet, based on rural wisdom, is reminiscent of some poems in the Book of Poetry, such as no. 102:53
Do not till too large a field,
the weeds will [only] be very high;
Do not long for the far-away person,
your toiling heart will [only] be very grieved.21
In the Chou poem and the Han ballad the rural metaphor is juxtaposed with an emotional truth. Both pieces treat the theme of longing for the unobtainable. In the Han ballad the persona feels nostalgic for his home village. This particular facet of nostalgia in Chinese is called ku-hsiang, one’s old village, and it persists as a theme in Chinese literature, both in the folk idiom and in refined literary modes.22
The Fierce Tiger Ballad
Though you starve, don’t follow a fierce tiger for food.
Though it’s dark, don’t follow wild birds to roost.
Wild birds are content to have no nest.
For whom would the traveller feel pride?
In this brief fable the animal world is contrasted with human society. Again, the first line reads like a proverb; the prudent human is advised how to survive in an extremity. The second line is similar, but its meaning is not immediately obvious. The next line amplifies the second and alerts the listener or reader that the import of the fable has to do with social philosophy. It is not just the threat of being eaten by a tiger or spending a sleepless night in the wilds which is being communicated. The message is that beasts are beasts and men are men, and never the twain shall meet. A passage in the Analects of Confucius puts the idea more fully. Once when Confucius was passing by two members of the Agronomist Movement on his way to a ford, he sent his disciple to ask where the ford was. They told the disciple to desert Confucius and to join them in their rejection of society. When the disciple told Confucius about them, he said, ‘One cannot herd with birds and beasts. If I do not associate with mankind, with whom shall I associate?’23 In the verse fable the Confucian teaching might also be applied: humans must not sink to the level of wild creatures; man’s place is in society, with its rules of decorum and code of behaviour distinguishing him as a civilized being.24
An Old Ballad, Two White Swans
Flying this way two white swans
Are from the northwest come,
In ten tens and five fives,
Uneven, straggling formation. 54
Suddenly one falls ill,
Cannot fly with the other.
Five leagues and one looks back,
Six leagues and one has faltered.
‘I would carry you away in my beak,
But my beak is sealed and will not open.
I would carry you away on my back,
But my feathers and tail each day would be crushed.’
How happy they were to fall in love!
Sadness comes with lifetime separation.
Pausing, it looks back on its old flock-mate,
Tears drop trickling criss-cross.
Today let’s be happy in our love,
May your years last to ten thousand!
The fable of a pair of white swans belongs to a large repertoire of early Chinese poems featuring birds of different kinds which convey a variety of themes. The peacock in the opening couplet of ‘A Peacock Southeast Flew’ prefigures the theme of tragic lovers, a husband and wife torn apart by selfish parents, and it foretells the husband’s suicide by hanging from a ‘southeast branch’ in his garden. The second line of the ‘Peacock’ couplet is almost the same as the eighth of ‘Two White Swans’: ‘After five leagues it faltered.’25 Numerous early Chinese lyrics also have a felicitation closure in which the persona wishes to be with a lover a pair of flying birds. In this ballad, the hen bird seems to be the speaker in the closure, voicing the lament that a vow made long ago is now broken. In this version of the song the bird expresses the longing and emotion of human lovers, thus maintaining its allegorical framework. The next title, ‘A Yen Song, The Whenever Ballad’, while following the same allegorical line, interrupts this allegory in order to present a parallel with the human predicament of parted lovers.
Prose fables in pre-Han philosophical texts depict a variety of birds, such as owls, pigeons, and the sparrow, to portray a human foible. The moral of the verse fable here seems not so much related to individual human behaviour as to the behaviour of the individual in so far as he is a member of a group or community. The clue to this interpretation lies in the opening sequence when the two swans, which are mates, arrive on the scene as part of a flock flying in formation. A further clue is the phrase occurring toward the end of the ballad, old ‘flock-mate’, ch’un-lu. The healthy swan cannot stay with its ill mate, it must rejoin the flock. Without the flock the individual is nothing; survival depends on social cohesion. The strong bird expresses its loyalty to society, a loyalty which is stronger than that owed to its former love. This hard-headed view of human relationships suggests the conventional wisdom of a rural 55community passed down from generation to generation. The value it places on the demands of society is questioned in the next version of the song.26
A Yen Song, The Whenever Ballad
Flying this way two white swans
Are from the northwest come,
In ten tens, five fives,
Arranged in even formation.
The wife suddenly falls ill,
Travelling she can’t keep up with the other.
Five leagues and one looks back,
Six leagues and one has faltered.
‘I would carry you away in my beak,
But my beak is sealed and will not open.
I would carry you away on my back,
But my feathers and tail how crushed they would be!’
So happy with my new love!
Sadness comes with parting in life.
Pausing, it looks back on its old flock-mate,
Tears drop unawares.
I remember parting from you,
My breath catches, I can’t speak.
Each one cares for himself,
Counts it hard to come home from the long road.
Your wife will keep an empty bedroom,
Shut the gates, let down the double bolts.
If we live we may meet again,
If we die we’ll reunite in Yellow Springs.
Today let’s be happy in our love,
May your years last to ten thousand!
In Kuo’s Anthology this version of the song is divided into four quatrains and one final passage of ten lines, forming a yen/tsü structure. It closely resembles the previous version from the first line to line sixteen. The differences are a change of metres in lines 3–5 from pentasyllabic to tetrasyllabic, and some slight modifications in diction, such as ‘Sadness comes with parting in life’, instead of the first version’s ‘Sadness comes with lifetime separation’, but these changes do not alter the meaning.
The major break in composition occurs in line 17, which introduces 56the extra passage prior to the closure. This new material completely alters the point of view of the song. The first version maintained the allegorical structure and only implied that the lesson to be learned from the birds’ situation was true for humans. This longer version deliberately introduces a passage which breaks the allegory and creates a parallel structure, comparing the animal world with the human. This trend towards eliminating or diminishing the allegory culminated in the lyrical poetry of the late Han and Three Kingdoms era. The Chien-an poets especially focussed on the persona of the abandoned wife while rejecting the allegorical framework of such songs as ‘Two White Swans’ or ‘The Whenever Ballad’ on the same theme.27 Their lyrics took the form of the plaint of a neglected wife in which she narrates the story of her blighted love and affirms her constancy for her fickle husband. The extra passage of the longer version of the white swans song presents a romantic, lyrical point of view that is quite different from the short version which presents in almost equal measure hard-headed realism and a plaintive appeal.
Both versions share a number of commonplace phrases. They are either half-lines such as ‘Tears drop unawares’, or full lines, ‘Each one cares for himself’. Their identical closure recurs in other songs, with some modification. For example, the closure’s first line, ‘Today let’s be happy in our love’, is the penultimate line of the long version of ‘Along the Embankment’, while its second line is the same as that of the long version of ‘The White Head Lament’.28 The description of the swans in formation resembles lines in the passage describing mandarin ducks in ‘Cocks Crow’ and ‘They Met’. The role of the neglected wife, mirrored in the allegory of the female swan, is a stereotype of several songs, such as ‘East Gate Ballad’, ‘The One I Love’, ‘Along the Embankment’, and ‘The White Head Lament’.
It is difficult to conjecture which of these two versions of the song is the older. In general, I have accepted Diény’s hypothesis that the long version precedes the short.29 In this case, however, I feel that the short version’s straightforward allegory represents the earliest phase in a literary trend which continues with a dual compositional structure of part-allegory, part-parallelism, and culminates in the elimination of the allegory altogether, focussing on the parallel structure in a new way. In this context it is interesting to note that another version of the song exists in a sixth-century AD encyclopedia, Compendium of Literature. Since it was the practice of its compiler, Ou-yang Hsün, to present quotations without stating whether they were partial or in full, it is not clear whether the version of the song he quotes is a full text, a brief fragment, or a partial extract. Nor is it possible to date the piece. This version is in six couplets, resembling both previous versions from the first line to the end of the male bird’s speech. Its first three couplets are tetrasyllabic, which metre 57it shares with just lines 3–5 of the long version. Its last three couplets are pentasyllabic, a metre shared by both of the other versions. It is possible to conjecture that Ou-yang’s citation of this piece represents just an extract; on the other hand it might constitute the original source on which the other two are based.30
A butterfly flutters in the east garden—
Why now! suddenly it meets a swallow mothering three-month chicks.
She greets me in the rape-seed,
She takes me into the Purple Palace deep,
She goes round close by the cornice,
As sparrows come her swallow-chicks,
Swallow-chicks spy her beak’s chewed tidbit,
Heads tremble, wings drum, all so merry and bright!
In this allegory, the victim is a frail, carefree, imprudent butterfly which is enjoying itself in a spring garden oblivious of possible danger. The villain of the piece is a swallow. Its negative, though natural role here is atypical in Chinese verse; usually it figures as the harbinger of spring when it returns to the countryside with the renewal of the calendrical cycle and as the homebuilder caring for its young. In the hard realism of these fables the allegory reminds the listener of the facts of life as seen from the folk-singer’s point of view: nature is amoral, it is red in beak and talon. By analogy, the allegory persuades, humans prey on each other and life is a matter of the survival of the fittest. The victim is the unwary and the one who is too noticeable.
The techniques of presentation well illustrate the balladic style. There is a certain realism in the scene of the spring garden where the butterfly idly flits around and in the closing scene of the ravenous chicks being fed a fresh, chewed insect. Counterbalancing the realism is the hyperbolic setting of the royal residence, the ‘Purple Palace’, with its high cornice selected by the swallow parents for their nest. The technical word ‘cornice’, po-lu, has a comic effect, juxtaposed as it is with the homely scenes of the garden and chicks and with the colloquialism of the singer’s dramatic monologue. The narrative has several dramatic devices. The singer makes the listener visualize the butterfly’s alarm on suddenly meeting the bird hunting for food, and makes one experience the dizziness of the butterfly as it is flown around the palace ceiling in the bird’s beak; and the singer makes one imagine the alarm of the insect as it views in close-up the wide-open beaks of the chicks in their desperate 58hunger, which is almost as desperate as the butterfly’s terror. There is a touch of cruelty in this dramatic presentation. The mocking line of ‘A Withered Fish’ re-echoes here: ‘Too late for remorse now!’ The colloquialisms make the drama more vivid. In the first few lines the singer skilfully introduces an exclamation of grief or surprise, cha-wo, ‘Ah, alas!’ or ‘Why now!’ to describe how the insect and bird come across each other. The pronoun ‘me’ in the second couplet is introduced to produce a close bond between the singer and the victim. The dramatic monologue contains several shifts of voice and point of view, the singer changing from third to first person, and alternating between the roles of the butterfly, the swallow, the chicks, and the narrator. It is possible to imagine that the confusion in the shifts of role and voice were clarified by the music, which might have had different motifs for each role, and by the singer’s modulation of the pitch of his voice.
Like the fable of the pheasant this text is corrupt, especially in its opening lines. The first line might also read, ‘Butterfly, ah Butterfly playing in my east garden’. This text has a number of nonsense words. In lines 1, 4, 5, and 8 the sounds chih and nu appear to have no meaning.31
A Withered Fish
A withered fish by a river wept.
Too late for remorse now!
He wrote a letter to carp and bream
Warning them: Mind how you come and go!
There is something tragi-comical about a dried fish stranded on the shore still able to shed watery tears: ‘withered’ and ‘wept’ create an amusing oxymoron. As with the butterfly piece, cruelty informs the humour. There is also a nice ambiguity in the second line; it is left unclear whether the fish is the speaker realizing its mistake too late, or whether the narrator is deriding it. The moral of the fable, like many others in this chapter, is that the imprudent and the unwary will come to a sad end. The comic also fuses with sentiment in the last couplet where the dying fish poignantly tries to warn its brethren by writing them a warning letter. Humour emerges, too, in the juxtaposition of the literary manner of ‘He wrote …’ and the colloquialisms, ‘Too late’ and ‘Mind how you …’. The sentiment expressed is harsh: if humans don’t watch out they will die the same kind of grisly death. An element of the countryman’s prejudice against travelling away from home is faintly perceptible in the fable, suggesting that if one stays at home such a calamity will not occur.3259
Song of Sighs, The Date-Tree
Under the date-tree what bunches, bunches!
The glorious, the beautiful all have their own season.
At the season when the dates start to redden
People come from all four quarters.
If today its dates were all given away,
Would anyone still admire it?
The allegory of the date-tree admits of several interpretations. Yü Kuan-ying suggests that it serves as a lesson on the fickleness of human nature; humans admire the tree when it is laden with blossom and luscious fruit, but ignore it when the tree is bare.33 I would carry Yü’s line of interpretation further and make the allegory serve as a lesson on the fickleness of a man’s love for a childless wife. The grounds for this more specific reading are the punning device employed in the major image and the traditional technique of using a blossoming fruit tree as a metaphor for a young wife. The word for date is tsao-tzu, which is a pun for ‘Soon bear sons!’ The earliest anthology of poetry in China, Book of Poetry, contains several poems which draw an analogy between a fruit tree and a nubile girl, such as poem no. 6: ‘How delicately beautiful is the peach-tree,/brilliant are its flowers;/ this young lady goes to her new home,/ she will order well her chamber and house’.34 In traditional China one of the legal grounds on which a man might divorce his wife was childlessness, meaning her failure to produce a son and heir. The bunches of dates may therefore denote fertility. The brief season of beauty might refer to the tree’s lovely spring blossom, a transient beauty like the allure of a young wife. The colour red has conventional associations of eroticism and marriage. The bareness of the date-tree in the penultimate line hints at the barrenness of the wife or her advancing years. She becomes an object of scorn in the community and family. The plaint voiced in the title, ‘Song of Sighs’, literally ‘The Alas! Song’, supports this interpretation of the allegory, but it also strangely contrasts with the matter-of-fact tone of the speaker.35
A Yen Song, A Ballad
On South Mountain’s rocks sheer, sheer,
Pine and cypress are so thick, thick.
Top boughs brush blue clouds,
Tree trunks are ten girths round.
When Loyang sends for main beams
The pine tree secretly mourns. 60
When axe and saw fell this pine,
The pine tree topples east to west.
A specially made four-wheeled cart
Bears it to Loyang palace.
All the onlookers can only sigh,
Asking, ‘From what mountain is this timber?’
Who is able to carve this?
Only Master Shu and Pan of Lu state.
To coat it they use cinnabar lacquer,
For incense they use Su-ho scent.
Once it was a pine from South Mountain,
Now it’s a beam in a palace hall.
This fable presents an allegory of a perfect tree growing on hallowed ground which is singled out by a carpenter to be used as the main beam of a Loyang palace. It may be compared with an anecdote in Chuang Tzu, the classic of Taoist philosophy. Chuang Tzu meets a woodcutter and asks him about his criterion for choosing timber:
‘When Chuang Tzu was travelling in the mountains he saw a great tree with luxuriant foliage and branches. A woodcutter stopped at its side but did not choose it. He asked him why, and was told, “There’s nothing you can use it for.” “This tree,” said Chuang Tzu, “by its timber being good for nothing will get to last out Heaven’s allotted years, wouldn’t you say?”’36
The Taoist principle in this parable is that it is best for a person to have no talent and to recede into the background unnoticed, so that one may keep out of harm’s way and enjoy one’s lifespan to the full. The verse fable is the story of a tree which a woodcutter judged to be useful as timber and so he cut it down. The lyrical opening of the verse fable underscores the ideal state of the pine tree on South Mountain. The symbolism of the pine, which denotes constancy and longevity, and the mountain, which denotes a sacred place and longevity, develops the idealism and at the same time introduces an ironic note which prefigures the dénouement of the story. The tree, which once enjoyed its natural habitat, is destroyed to become an artificial thing, an object of man’s pleasure.37 The fable projects different states of being: freedom and captivity, artificiality and naturalness, and nature and the human world. From these contrasts we may infer that freedom, the natural state of a living thing, and nature itself make for happiness, while the converse makes for unhappiness.3861
The Yü-chang Ballad
When the white poplar was first born
It was in the hills of Yü-chang.
Its topmost leaves stroked blue clouds,
Its lowest roots reached Yellow Springs.
In cool autumn’s eighth and ninth months
Hillsmen take axes and hatchets.
My [?leaves] white, so white,
As they fall [?seem to ?flutter, ?flutter] down.
Roots from boughs are severed for ever
Upside down among cliff tops.
A big sawyer takes axe and rope,
Chops five feet even at both ends;
One heave, four or five leagues,
Boughs and leaves are cast off from each other.
[? ? ? ? ? ]
To make a sailing vessel.
My body lives in Loyang palace,
My roots live in Yü-chang’s hills.
Many times I said goodbye to boughs and leaves,
When will we be reunited?
I have lived one hundred years [? ],
Since [?our youth ?we grew up? ]together.
Why has the craft of men
Made my boughs part from my roots?
There are many points of similarity between this piece and the previous verse fable. Both are allegories which have as their main symbol a tree. The text of ‘Yü-chang’ is rather battered, having thirteen words missing and a passage wrongly interpolated. The lacunae in the text are indicated in my translation by [?]. The first line, too, contains a key word which is clearly in need of amendment. I have adopted the sensible amendment of Feng Wei-no in Notes on Ancient Poetry, reading poplar for yang. In this he was no doubt following the lead of the third-century AD critic Hsün Hsü who referred to an older version of a ‘White Poplar’ piece but noted that its text had not been preserved.39 The poplar fits the decription of the tree in the verse fable: the epithet white in the first line and the dazzling white of the (?) leaves that fall when the tree is felled. The type of tree is different in each of the two fables, as is the name of the mountain where it grows—here Yü-chang in the region of modern Kiangsi. A scenic viewpoint called the Yü-chang Kuan, or observatory, was said to have been built in the reign of the Han Emperor Wu on Lake K’un-ming in Ch’angan.40 In the early Han therefore a relationship existed between the place and the Han palace, a relationship which is developed in the fable. Moreover, the third line of each fable is very 62similar. But the poplar allegory makes a sophisticated parallelism of colour and place in the second couplet, and introduces a symbolic placename, Yellow Springs, which was the underworld of dead souls, prefiguring the fate of the tree. In both pieces the timber is for a Loyang palace, the capital of Eastern Han. In Yü-chang the hillsmen fell the tree, whereas in the previous fable synecdoche is skilfully used: ‘When axe and saw fell this pine.’ The text’s middle section appears to suffer from a redundant passage, the import of lines 6–10 being repeated in lines 11–16. There is a contradiction between the lines, ‘To make a sailing vessel’ and ‘My body lives in Loyang palace’. The latter line fits in with the numerous points of comparison with the previous ‘Yen Song’. The redundant passage and its contradiction of the sense of the piece as a whole suggest that it has been wrongly interpolated, perhaps to serve as an alternative passage rather than as an extra one. The piece reads much better if lines 11–16 were removed.
Although there are numerous resemblances, the point of view of the two fables is quite different. The ‘Yen Song’ has a strong narrative line, with minimal use of lyricism; it is a story told with detachment, only one comment from those witnessing the event of the pine trunk’s removal to Loyang being allowed to intrude. In ‘Yü-chang’ the lyrical element is extended through the first five lines, continues again in lines 7–10, and reappears in the final passage. The speaker is ambiguously set between third and first person. The tone is plaintive, quite different from the impersonality of the other allegory. The moral of the fable is the same in each case, reiterating that of the pheasant, crow, butterfly, and fish fables.41
The Pomelo, An Old Poem
Where pomelo hangs down lovely fruit
Is on the deep hill flank.
I hear you like my sweetness;
In secret, alone, I make myself lovely.
I offer my humble self on a jade dish,
For many years hoping to be eaten.
My fragrance fair does not please you.
Green to yellow—swift the colours change.
This piece is an allegory for transient beauty and love. It resembles the ‘Date-tree’ in its use of a fruit tree as an analogy for a young wife or bride. Rooted in the soil it cannot move from its habitat. It takes nourishment from the rich slope of the hill, an image of male love. The tree looks lovely when its blossom turns to sweet fruit. It is plucked for a wealthy 63home, resting on a valuable dish. The voice of the tree speaking merges with the voice of a young girl who, through the allegory’s deliberate ambiguity, is both the blossom and the fruit which she picks herself and brings into the house. A further refinement of this allegory is that the girl seeks to elliptically convey her wistful message to her beloved lord and master. The muted desire she expresses is that like the tree she will be enjoyed by her lord and she will bear fruit, provide him with a son and heir if he will deign to notice her. He shows no interest and gradually her youth and beauty fade with the years. This allegory is similar in some respects to a piece in Songs of Ch’u, ‘In Praise of the Orange-tree’.42 There, however, the allegory contains layers of eroticism, ethics, and politics; the orange-tree addresses a ruler and offers itself to the enlightened service of its young lord, speaking with the voice of a young man rather than as a woman.43
1 The extant edition of Aesop is much later, that of Maximus Planudes of the 14th century AD, based on texts of Aesop, transcribed with an unknown degree of fidelity by Demetrius of Phalerum of the 4th century BC. A. Lytton Sells, ‘Fable in Verse’ (1965), p. 269.
2 Watson, trans.‚ Chuang Tzu; W. K. Liao, trans., Han Fei Tzu, 2 vols. (1959); Graham, trans., Lieh Tzu (1960).
3 As Kuo points out in his preface to this section, this kind of music is military. The 185images of the ibis (connected with a drum) and of the pheasant may be related to military exercise through the sport of hunting, a possibility suggested to me by the remarks on the hunt in the Han in Bodde, Festivals, p. 381.
4 Other fables appear in sources outside Kuo’s Anthology, without musical categories, which are indicated in the final note to my discussion of each piece.
5 Even in that monument to genre studies, Anthology of Literature (Wen hsüan) of the sixth century AD, no fable genre or verse fable genre exists.
6 Lu K’an-ju, A Study of Old Yüeh-fu Texts (Yüeh-fu ku-tz’u k’ao), p. 59, citing K’ung (AD 574–648), a noted scholar who wrote commentaries on the Confucian Classics.
7 Yang Shen (AD 1488–1529), author of a philological treatise and a miscellany.
8 Ch’en Hang, Notes on Poetic Figures (Shih pi-hsing chien), p. 12.
9 Bielenstein, ‘An Interpretation of the Portents in the Ts’ien-Han-shu’ (1950), pp. 127–43.
10 Compare the marriage songs of the Book of Poetry, Waley, trans., The Book of Songs, Chapter 2, nos. 85, 86.
11 These titles appear in Chapter Six below. The ibis and the drum are linked in three poems of the Book of Poetry: no. 136 has a dancer holding an ibis feather and beating a drum; no. 278 has guests flocking to a banquet like ibis and a speaker says, ‘there, there is nothing to dislike,/ here, there is nothing to disrelish;’ and no. 298 has flocking ibis linked to the sound of drums booming, again in the context of dance and guests at a banquet. Karlgren, The Book of Odes, pp. 87, 244, and 254 (he renders lu as egret rather than ibis). No. 136 is a love poem.
12 The metre is mainly trisyllabic, except for the first line of two syllables and the last line of four. The text appears in Shen Yüeh, ‘Treatise on Music’, ch. 22, ‘Han Songs for the Nao-bell category, p. 640, and in Kuo, ch. 16, ‘Words for Drumming and Blowing Pieces, Han Songs for the Nao-bell’, p. 226.
13 The metre is in regular pentasyllabics. Its structure is irregular, being a unit of seven lines. The song may be divided either into two parts, the first three lines and the last four, or, as Kuo, ch. 26, p. 384, citing a T’ang critic, indicates, it may divide into five stanzas of three lines each, made up of the first couplet and one of the ‘Fish play’ lines in sequence. This would suit its song style very well. The text appears in Shen, ch. 21‚ ‘Concerted’ category, pp. 604–5, and in Kuo, ch. 26, ‘Words for Concerted Songs, Part 1, Concerted Pieces, Part 1’‚ p. 384.
14 Yü, Anthology of Yüeh-fu Poetry (Yüeh-fu shih hsüan, 1950, rev. ed. 1954), p. 8.
15 The metre is irregular, with lines of between 2 and 7 syllables. The text is in Shen, ch. 22, ‘Han Songs for the Nao-bell’ category, pp. 642–43, and in Kuo, ch. 16, ‘Words for Drumming and Blowing Pieces, Part 1, Han Songs for the Nao-bell’, p. 231.
16 In these ballads a wealthy family is said to have four or five brothers and two or three brothers, respectively. See Chapter Eleven.
17 ‘Mulberry’ appears in Chapter Eleven; ‘Peacock’ is translated in Birrell, id., p. 53f; the reference there to Ch’in Lo-fu is on p. 54. Diény, Aux origines, pp. 114–17, 108–14, and 128–36, discusses ‘A Crow Bore Eight or Nine Chicks’, ‘Cocks Crow’, and ‘Mulberry on the Bank’ (Lo-fu).
18 See poem nos. 166 and 172 of the Book of Poetry. South Mountain, Nan-shan or Chung-nan-shan, is south of Ch’angan; Royal Forest (Shang-lin) was south-west of Ch’angan.
19 Shuo yüan SPTK 9.4b-5a, attributed to Liu Hsiang (79–8 BC). The story is also in Exoteric Commentary on the Han School Text of the Book of Poetry (Han shih wai chuan)‚ attributed to Han Ying (fl. 150 BC), Hightower, trans., Han Shih Wai Chuan (1952), ch. 10.21, pp. 341–42.
20 The metre is irregular, with lines of mostly uneven syllables: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 syllables. The text is in Shen, ch. 21, ‘Concerted’ category, p. 607, and in Kuo, ch. 28, ‘Words for Concerted Songs, Part 3, Concerted Pieces, Part 3’, p. 408. 186
21 The first of three stanzas, Karlgren, trans., id., p. 67.
22 The metre is regular pentasyllabic. The text appears in Feng Wei-no, SKCS 3, Notes on Ancient Poetry, ch. 20.11b, and Shen Te-ch’ien, Sources of Ancient Poetry, SPPY 4.9a.
23 Wing-sit Chan, trans., Analects (Lun yü), 18.6, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (1963), p. 48; Confucius (K’ung Fu Tzu, 551-479 BC).
24 The metre is regular, a pentasyllabic quatrain. The text appears in Li Shan’s (d. AD 689) commentary on Lu Chi’s imitation of the Han title in Anthology of Literature (Wen hsüan)‚ SPTK 28. 1a, and in Kuo’s preface to Ts’ao P’ei’s (AD 187–226) imitation of the Han title, ch. 31, p. 462. An extract is quoted elsewhere by Li Shan which might prove to be part of the quatrain ‘The Fierce Tiger Ballad’. In his commentary on P’an Yüen’s (AD 247–300) ‘Prose Poem on the Orphaned Wife’ (Wen hsüan, SPTK 16.25a), Li cites a couplet which he says is part of the old ‘Fierce Tiger Ballad’: ‘Young men are nervous and afraid,/ When friendless and alone they reach a different district.’ It is not clear if Li means that the title to which he refers is the same as the Han piece, and if so where the couplet he cites fits, or whether he refers to a different old piece of the same title. The couplet, if it does belong to the Han quatrain, might fit at the end of it. Lu Ch’in-li, Poetry of the Ch’in, Han …, p. 288, presents the couplet separately from the Han quatrain as a second piece of the same title. In Li Shan’s commentary on Shen Yüeh’s ‘Biographical Essay on Hsieh Ling-yün’ (from Shen’s History of the Southern Sung), Li cites another couplet attaching to the old ‘Fierce Tiger Ballad’: ‘Natural endowment has its portion,/ Physical life has its timespan’ (Wen hsüan, SPTK 50.15a). Perhaps this fragment opens the ballad.
25 ‘Peacock’, Birrell, p. 53, lines 1–2, and p. 61, stanza 4, line 8, stanza 5, line 4.
26 The metre of the piece is regular pentasyllabic. The text appears in New Songs from a Jade Terrace, Ming rpr. ed., ch. 1.10–11, listed under ‘Six Old Yüeh-fu Poems’.
27 Chien-an was a late Han reign-period, AD 196–200. For examples of post-Han lyrics on the theme of the neglected wife, see poems by Ts’ao poets translated in Birrell, New Songs, Chapter 2, pp. 64–72. For a translation and discussion of ‘A Yen Song, The Whenever Ballad’, with notes, see Diény, id., pp. 142–46.
28 Peking University, Reference Materials for Han Literary History (Liang Han wen-hsüeh shih ts’an-k’ao tzu-liao, 1959) p. 531, suggests that in this closure the singer directly addresses the audience, and notes that the first couplet of stanza 3 echoes the ‘Nine Songs’ of the Songs of Ch’u: ‘No sorrow is greater than the parting of the living;/ No happiness greater than making new friendships.’ Hawkes, id., ‘The Lesser Master of Fate’, p. 4 lines 13–14.
29 See n. 45, Introduction, above.
30 The metre is pentasyllabic except for tetrasyllabic lines 3–5; 4 quatrains and coda. The text appears in Shen, ch. 21, ‘Major Pieces’ category, p. 618, and in Kuo, ch. 39, ‘Words for Concerted Songs, Part 14, Zither-mode Pieces, Part 4’, pp. 576–77.
31 It is difficult to discuss metre in a text which is so corrupt that different editors divide the lines to produce various metrical patterns. The pattern as I have translated the piece is 7, 9, 5, 8, 7, 3, 6, and 8 syllables. The full text appears in Kuo, ch. 61, ‘Song-texts for Miscellaneous Pieces, Part 1’‚ p. 885. A fragment, the first three lines, with several variants, appears in Hsü Chien (AD 659–729) et al. comp., Notes for Beginning Students (Ch’u hsüeh chi), Chung-hua ed., ch. 30, p. 750.
32 The metre is pentasyllabic. The text appears in Kuo, ch. 74, ‘Song-texts for Miscellaneous Pieces, Part 14’, p. 1,044.
33 Yü Kuan-ying‚ op. cit., p. 53.
34 Karlgren, id., p. 4,
35 The metre is pentasyllabic. The text appears in full in Li Shan’s commentary on P’an Yüeh’s ‘Prose Poem on the Reed-organ’, Anthology of Literature (Wen hsüan)‚ SPTK 18.33b, and in Kuo’s preface to Hsiao Kang’s (AD 503–551) imitation of the Han 187song with the title ‘Under the Date-tree What Bunches, Bunches!’, ch. 74, p. 1,045. Hsiao Kang’s piece is translated in John Marney, Beyond the Mulberries (1982), poem no. 16. The word for date, or jujube, tsao, is a pun for ‘soon.’
36 Chuang Tzu (c.369–c.286 BC), SPPY 7/20.8b (my translation) Also see the translations of Watson, p. 209 and Graham, p. 121.
37 For South Mountain see n. 18. Poem 166 of the Book of Poetry ends with a series of eternity symbols‚ including South Mountain, pine and cypress. Loyang (line 5) was the capital of the Latter Han, and had been an important city from Chou times. See Hans H. Bielenstein, ‘Loyang in Later Han Times’ (1976). Master Shu and Pan of Lu state (line 14) are in fact one and the same man, Master Shu, Pan of Lu state; see Yü Kuan-ying, A Discussion of the Poetry of the Han, Wei, and Six Dynasties (Han Wei Liu-ch’ao shih lun-ts’ung, 1953), pp. 48–53. The mistaken double identity appears in such classical texts as The Annals of Mr Lü (Lü-shih ch’un-ch’iu), attributed to Lü Pu-wei (d, 235 BC), SPTK 21.9a, and Huai-nan Tzu, comp. c. 140 BC under the direction of Liu An, King of Huai-nan (d. 122 BC), SPPY 19.4a. Lines 13–14, the Han song’s last passage, are a commonplace expression which occurs in an old poem in New Songs, Birrell, p. 32, lines 9–10.
38 The metre is pentasyllabic. The text is in Compendium of Literature (I-wen lei-chü), Ou-yang Hsün comp. (AD 557–641), Chung-hua ed. (1965), ch. 88.1516, entitled ‘An Old Yen Song’. It is also in Kuo, ch. 39, ‘Words for Concerted Songs, Part 14, Zither-mode Pieces, Part 4’, pp. 579–80. Although the Han song goes by the title ‘A Yen Song’, there is no indication in Kuo’s text that it divides into a yen/tsü structure; it is possible to conjecture that the first twelve lines constitute the yen, the last six, with their commonplace expressions, the tsü.
39 Feng, Notes, SKCS 2, ch. 16.7b. Hsün Hsü (d. AD 289), Hsün’s Poetry Notes (Hsün shih lu). Hsün’s work survives mainly in Chih-chiang’s (c. AD 568) citation of Wang Seng-ch’ien’s (d. AD 485) non-extant work; Chih-chiang, Record of Ancient and Modern Music (Ku chin yüeh lu) in Han Weii-shu ch’ao, ch. 52.15, cited by Kuo, ch. 34, p. 501.
40 San-fu huang-t’u (The Yellow Chart of the Three Metropolitan Districts), anon. (? 3rd century AD), SPTK 5.7b.
41 The metre of the intact lines is pentasyllabic, suggesting that the lines with lacunae are the same. The text appears in Kuo, ch. 34, ‘Words for Concerted Songs, Part 9, Clear-mode Pieces, Part 2’‚ p. 501. The first quatrain is cited in Compendium, ch. 89, pp. 1,532.33.
42 Hawkes, id.‚ ‘The Nine Declarations’, pp. 76–7.
43 The metre is pentasyllabic. The first quatrain of the text appears in Compendium, ch. 86, p. 1,477 (listed as a ku-shih, old poem) and in Li Shan’s commentary on one of Liu Chen’s (d. AD 217) imitative poems about a cassia tree; Li refers to the piece as an old poem, ku-shih, and that is how it is usually listed in anthologies; Wen hsüan, SPTK 31.15a. The full text appears in Feng, Notes, SKCS 3, ch. 20.7a.