Lester Lee – Chinese/English translator and freelance writer

This blog will host articles and other works authored by me in various fields – poetry, philosophy, science, history, politics, current affairs, music – and anything else which seizes my attention and imagination!

The Huayang Essays – a selection

The Huayang Essays – a selection

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧自序》

 

      我生如戲,嬉笑怒,皆戲具耳。我生如夢,語言文字,皆夢耳。詩文之道有四:理事情景而已。理有理趣,事有事趣,情有情趣,景有景趣。趣者,生氣與靈機也。做無趣之夢,串無趣之戲,豈不負有趣之天虛有趣之地乎哉?搭不三不四之人,作不深不淺之揖,喫不冷不熱之餅,說不痛不癢之話,小人之描畫君子,雖為無禮,不為無趣也。余生也晚,未見古人,余才也魯,未見奇書。矢口為詩,信筆為文,理事情景,四無一趣,人之所嗤,鬼之所笑。此中有淚,哭之者其誰也?風有時而逆,列子之御無趣矣;月有時而晦,太白之邀無趣矣;花有時而萎,南華之蝶無趣矣;槐有時而枯,南柯之蟻無趣矣。此中有淚,哭之者又誰也?墨耕琴莊者,趣士也。遊趣園,拈趣筆,吟趣事,與有趣之人,愛無趣之我;揮有趣之金,刻無趣之文,是猶玉勾詞客之刻余西青散記。余將毀之,震亭藏之,而祝融氏厭其無趣,起而焚之,人莫能嗤,鬼莫能笑,此中有淚,哭之者又誰也?墨耕琴莊喟然嘆曰:嗟乎!夢為生,夢為旦,未必無趣也。夢為生而忽淨,夢為旦而忽丑,亦未必無趣也。至於爭無趣之蝸角,競無趣之蠅頭,夢不成夢,戲不成戲,此中尚有淚乎?哭之者誰?且遊華陽第八洞天第一福地可也。乾隆丁亥重九後瓠岡史震林書於淮陰珠湖之柳衣園。

 

 

Preface to The Huayang Essays by Shi Zhenlin1

Translated by Lester Lee

 

 

      Our life is like drama, and our laughter and wrath are but stage props.  We live as if in a dream, speaking and writing like somniloquists.  There are four essential elements to Poetry and all fine writing, namely: Truth, Story, Feeling, and Scene.  Truth has its peculiar interest, and so have story, feeling and scene.  Interest is vital force and inspiration.  To dream an uninteresting dream and to play an uninteresting role on stage, isn’t that a betrayal of Father Heaven and Mother Earth, who are so interesting themselves?  Take someone who mixes with characters somewhat dubious, bows to people half-heartedly, eats food that is rather tasteless, talks none too seriously, writes sketches of lofty souls even though ignoble oneself – such a one would be crude and rude, but need not be uninteresting. 

 

       I was born too late to meet the ancients, and too dull to know any extraordinary books.  I write poetry and prose as they come to mind, which hold no interest whatever in regard to truth, story, feeling, or scene, and am therefore taunted by the living and derided by the ghosts.  There are tears in this, but who will cry for me?

 

       When ill winds blow, Liezi would no longer enjoy his ride2.  When the moon is dimmed, Li Bai3 would not be too eager to seek her company.  When the flowers are faded, Zhuangzi’s butterfly4 would be bored. And when the pagoda tree withers, the fabled dream will be all over for the dreary ants5.  There are tears in all this, but who will cry over it? 

 

       Mogeng and Qinzhuang6 are charming scholars.  They haunt beautiful gardens, write interesting compositions and tell fascinating stories.  To think that they and their delightful friends should take a liking to a humourless soul like me!  In spending interesting money to print this insipid work of mine they remind me of Wu Zhensheng7 who arranged to have my “West-Green Notebook” published.  I had wanted to destroy the manuscript but Zhenting managed to preserve it.  Finally, the God of Fire must have got sick of the boring work and consigned the blocks to the flames, so I wouldn’t be taunted by the living and derided by the ghosts.  But there are tears in this, but who will cry over it?

      “Alas!” Mogeng and Qinzhuang sighed woefully. “To dream that one is playing the young hero or heroine is not necessarily uninteresting.  And if in one’s dream one begins as a handsome hero or heroine and ends

up being a villian or a clown, that need not be boring either.”  But vying for frothy fame and trivial gains will be like dreaming a dream or acting in a play that fails to be.  There are tears yet again in this, but who will cry over it?

 

       Let us set our minds at ease and roam the realms of the Immortals8. 

 

       – Composed by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) some time after the Double Ninth Festival in the year 1767 at the Willow Gown Garden on the Pearl Lake of Huaiyin.

 

Translator’s Notes:

 

1.       Shi Zhenlin (史震林Shih Chenlin) (1692-1778), was also called Shi Gongdu(史公度), Shi Wugang(史梧岡、史悟岡)and Shi Hugang(史瓠岡)and known by various colourful titles such as “The Moon-loving Immortal”(弄月僊郎), “The Huayang Sire” (華陽外史), “Wugang Hermit” (悟岡退士), “The White Cloud Professor”(白雲教授)and “The Professor of Huaiyin”(淮陰教授).  A native of Jintan of Jiangsu Province, he passed his jinshi national examination in 1737 and was appointed Professor of the Huai An District.  He resigned after a few years and led a reclusive life as a poet, calligraphist and painter.  Shi was a Chan (Zen) Buddhist and a life-long vegetarian.  His extant literary works include The West-Green Notebook, The Huayang Essays and a volume of poetry.

2.       Liezi, a philosopher of the 5th century BC or thereabout, has a penchant for riding the winds.

3.       Li Bai (Li Po 701-762), considered the greatest poet in Chinese history by many, and commonly said to be an immortal exiled from Heaven. In one of his romantic poems he tells how he forms a drinking party of three –the Moon, he himself, and his shadow.

4.       Zhuangzi (Chuang-tse 369-286BC), the greatest Taoist philosopher after Laozi (Lao-tse 6th century BC ). In one of the most famous dreams of all time, he first sees himself as a butterfly and ends up uncertain of his own identity: he no longer knows whether it is Zhuangzi dreaming that he is a butterfly or the butterfly dreaming that it is Zhuangzi.

5.       In a well known fable written by Li Gongzuo of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the hero gets drunk under a pagoda tree (Sophora japonica, also known as the Chinese scholartree), and dreams that he marries the princess of some exotic kingdom and serves as a high official there for 30 years.  When he finally wakes up he sees that the kingdom in his dream is actually an ants’ nest at the foot of the pagoda tree.

6.       Mogeng (“Ink Farmer”) and Qinzhuang (“Lutestead”) are two brothers known to Shi Zhenlin.

7.       Wu Zhensheng, nicknamed “Poet of the Jade Crescent”.

8.       Realms of the Immortals – literally “Most Blessed Realm inside the Eighth Huayang Cave”.

 

 

譯餘筆記:

 

n       我、余有別。「余」僅指我一人,「我」可泛指吾人。這裡的「我」作吾人解。

n       「理事情景」不易譯。「理」兼含真理(Truth)、理性(Rationality)、原理(Principle)、理念(Idea)、邏輯(Logic)等義,英文一字難以盡之。史公置理於首,以示重要,姑譯為Truth,未知可否。「事」有factseventsreality諸義,試概譯為Story

n       「趣」字亦難,通篇趣來趣去,關涉不同情事,皆interesting者耶,大手筆想必一以貫之,余愧未能也。Fowler所謂 ‘elegant variation’之病,明知故犯,無可奈何。      

 

———-

 

 

史震林《華陽散稿》跋  (顧筱樵)

 

華陽散稿金壇史瓠岡先生所著書也其文一百零一篇小記二十四篇刊本久佚兵燹後益無存余初得先生西青散記即渴求是書遍索十年始於友人案頭得此其義窅而深其文峭而逸視散記之幽雋又另闢町畦品雖小而析理精言近微而寓意遠誠藝苑之侯鯖文林之庾鮭也亟手錄存以為悅目之玩先生素嗜楞嚴釋氏因緣文人結習當必有暗維於冥漠中者余敢私為枕秘使就湮沒致遭擊腦之責耶爰郵寄天南遯叟以活字版排印俾公同好光緒庚辰牟尼誕小玉山樵識於陀城之綠莊嚴室

 

Gu Xiaoqiao’s Postscript to The Huayang Essays

Translated by Lester Lee

 

       The Huayang Essays was composed by Mr Shi Hugang1 of Jintan. It comprises 101 essays and 24 lighter sketches, which had gone out of print long ago and very few copies if any could have survived the ravages of wars and turmoil down the centuries.  Having acquired Mr Shi’s The West-Green Notebook, I was dying to see the Huayang Essays.  For ten long years I had searched in vain, until I chanced upon it on a friend’s desk.  Written in a free and vigorous style, these Essays are invested with deep meaning, charming in a way rather different from the subtle elegance of the Notebook.  The Essays are short and incisive, their language simple but thought-provoking.  It is writing at its vintage best.  So I copied them out by hand, originally for my private enjoyment.  But I have changed my mind.  The Buddhist teaching of Dependent Origination as propounded in the Surangama Sutra, a favourite of Mr Shi’s, makes me think that the ways of men of letters must somehow be linked in the scheme of things.  How would I dare then to hoard these remarkable essays just for myself, knowing that dire consequence will befall me should I let them fall into oblivion.  I am therefore posting them to Mr Wang Tao2 (“the Fugitive Down South”), who will have them published by the movable-type process for a wider audience. 

 

        Xiao Yu Shan Qiao3 in the Green Chamber of Dignity at Tuocheng on the Anniversary of the Buddha’s Birthday in the year 1880 during the Reign of Guangxu

 

Translator’s notes:

1.       Alias of Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778)

2.       Wang Tao(王韜1828-1897, aliases Libin利賓, Ziquan紫銓, Zhong Tao, native of Changzhou of Jiangsu Province; prolific writer, newspaper editor, political activist.  He was pursued by the Qing (Ching) Government after being found to have made a written submission to Liu Bingjun(劉秉鈞), a general of the “Tai Ping Heavenly Kingdom”.  He fled to Hong Kong and travelled to Britain, France and Russia.  On return to Hong Kong he founded the Xun Huan Daily (循環日報) to advance the cause of modernisation and political reform.  During the Sino-French War 1884-1885he returned to Shanghai to become editor of the Shen Pao (申報) and subsequently a master of Ge Zhi College(格致書院).  He called himself “Oldie of the Tao Garden”(園老民)and “The Fugitive Down South”(天南遯叟)in later life.

3.       ‘Mt Jade woodcutter’ – alias of Gu Xiaoqiao (顧筱樵)

———-

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧與玉勾詞客書》片段

 

       「未臘申秋,書申候。二札所言,鷽鳩為笑,鷓鴣為淚者也。士不可無知己,亦不可遠知己。三週恨別,年似千餘。此猶窟室長幽,畫無以窺日,夜無以窺月也。鄙人家如殘秋,身如昃晚,情如剩煙,才如遺電。偶與詩農樵士,琴僧酒丐,踵露肘,筆橫墨,以自鳴其所喜,亦猶小草無聊,自矜其花,小鳥無奈,自矜其舌,世之諛牡丹寵鸚鵡者,目厭其瑣,耳病其絮也。玉勾詞客,薰以旃檀之澤,和以鸞鳳之音,此則《西青散記》子開丑闢之奇運,不復更憂混沌者耳…

 

Passions like embers

(From Letter to Wu Zhensheng in The Huayang Essays:)

Translated by Lester Lee

 

“I have sent you two letters, one at the end of last year and the other this Autumn.  The contents of the letters would probably wrench a few tears from certain sensitive souls but draw ridicule from the less sympathetic.  Now a scholar cannot do without a bosom friend, and absence for too long is no good either.  It has been three years since we parted and each year feels like a thousand to me.  It is like secluding oneself in a cave, not seeing the sun and the moon, for too long.

 

       “My home front is autumnal.  I feel like a withering night.  My passions are like embers, and any talent I might have the last flashes of lightning.  Now and then, I would chum up with some poor peasant, wood-cutter, monk or beggar who happens to have some interest in books, poetry, music or wine.  Out at elbows and down at heels, I would put brush to paper and write about the things I enjoy doing, rather like some petty herb boasting of its tiny flowers, or a tiny bird bragging about its song.  It is, I know, every bit as trivial and silly as the worldly ones who worship the peony and keep parrots for pets.  But then I have Jade-Crescent Poet.  I consider it singularly fortunate for The West-Green Notebook to be graced with his noble character and some of his words, which dispel the chaos and confusion therein to no end…”

 

———-

 

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧記善忘翁》

 

       翁姓石,洮湖人也。工釣鯽,冬夜披簑,坐洮湖之港,月未昃而笭箵常滿。好以鯽餽寡老幼有疾人。余三造釣所與之言,而翁已忘。問其年不知。誚之曰:「甚矣哉耄而貪也!瞭於鯽而眊於人,不亦悖乎?」翁曰:「幼時善記,千萬言猶一字也,常為人誦時憲書,而里之諏且者。十年廢目,四十而忘朔望,五十而忘伏臘,七十而自忘甲子,遇熟友如生客焉。」余曰:「然則猶有能記者乎?」翁曰猶有三。見貴人能記其髯之曲,見富人能記其痘之坎,見美人能記其靨之紋,此三者克猶幸也。其他則如釣然,得一鯽而忘一鯽矣。」余曰:「然即無有記於此者乎?」翁曰:「有。余所極不忘者鼠也。貴之冠,鼠溺之。富之餌,鼠耗之。美人之帷鼠,鼠暴之。所不忘而不能效者也。其他則如釣然。忘一鯽而得一鯽矣。」

 

 

The Amnesic Sire (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee

 

 

       Shi is an old man of the Yao Lake district.  A seasoned carp fisherman, he is often seen clad in a coir raincoat and sitting at a cove by the lake on winter nights, and before the moon begins to descend his basket would be full of fish.  He likes to give the catch away to the poor, the sick and other disadvantaged people. Three times I went to talk to him at his favourite spot, but he seemed to have lost his memory and couldn’t even remember his age.

 

       “You greedy, cranky old sod,” I jeered at him. “So smart with fishing but so stupid with your fellows!”

 

       “You know what,” he replied, “I had an excellent memory as a child.  I could memorise volumes as if it were a single word.  I used to recite the calendar book for neighbours who came to consult about the dates.  Then I was blind for ten years. At 40, I could no longer tell which date of the month it was.  At 50 I couldn’t tell one season from another.  At 70 I couldn’t remember how I’d been at 60, and old friends seemed like total strangers to me.”

 

       “Is there anything you can remember at all?” I was curious.

 

       “Three things I can remember,” he said. “After seeing some big shot I can remember his curly beard.  After seeing a rich man I can remember his pox marks. After seeing a beautiful girl I can remember her whorly dimples.  I am lucky to be able to remember these things in my old age. As for the rest, they are just like fishing: catch one carp and forget about it.”

 

       “Is there anything then you can remember even better than these three things?”

 

       “Oh yes,” he said. “It is the rats that I’ll remember best.  For they piddle on a big shot’s hat, help themselves to a rich man’s grains, and break into a pretty girl’s bed.  What a pity I can’t do what they do.  But I remember them all right.  As for all the rest, it’s just like fishing: to forget one carp is to catch another.”

 

[From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》), Vol. 2, P.937]

  

———-

 

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧慰曹震亭書》

 

       農舍無樓,升古桐以候春色。雲膠似晦,野凍如秋,杏花天奈何作此愁態也。饑饉以來,渴澤之魚細於鍼,童山之草短於錐,而漁樵荒矣。去秋華方返自竹西,知君迭遭家變,孫以孝夭,祖以終,為君慰者,仰盡子職,俯全父道,天之所厄,無如何也。小人有母,口體不充,云養志?大兒未冠,小兒既丱,客至不能應門,析薪不能負荷,事親教子,道兩失焉。昔我懷君,西向而笑,今我懷君,西向而悲。去年八月,天奪吾友懷芳子,無簣可易,無纊可屬,西青卷中,存沒者半,感慨人何易凋也。生固為夢,死亦夢耳。人間固夢,天上亦夢耳。名利夢根,詩書夢譜,吉夢而喜,妖夢而憂,是猶夢譽者寤而德,夢謗者寤而仇也。震林飲啄蓬蒿,略無生計,棘長於垣,菌生於棟,蟻戰於釜,鼠泣於囷,蟲蠹黃蔬,鴷穿朽棗,玉勾詞客,過而太息,徘徊山霽,惆悵湖陰,止宿弗留,肩輿遂去,倘離歙來揚,則華陽不遠,髻峰之下,綃山在焉,浣衣亭尚夕陽耳。

 

Letter of Condolences to Cao Zhenting (from the Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee

 

       The farmhouse does not afford a distant view, so those old paulownia trees will keep watch for the first signs of Spring.  It is apricot blossom time, so why all this melancholy, with thick murky clouds and the countryside chilly like autumn still?  Since the beginning of the famine, the waters have just about dried up.  The fish are as thin as needles, and the grass on the bald mountains is short as stubble1.  There is little fishing and wood-gathering left to do.

 

       Last autumn Huafang returned from Zhuxi and brought the tragic news about the passing of a filial grandson and a loving grandfather in your family. There is nothing we could do with a misfortune like that. The only solace is that you have proved to be a dutiful son and a good father.

 

       As for myself, I still have my mother, but am not able to provide for her adequately, let alone satisfy her expectations.  My elder son is a teenager still and my younger son is little.  They don’t even know how to receive visitors properly or perform chores like carrying firewood.  Thus I am far from fulfilling my duties towards my mother and children.

 

       My dear friend, when I thought of you before, I looked to the west and smiled; but when I think of you now, I look to the west and feel only grief. In the 8th moon last year I lost my friend Duan Yuhan, who died indigent. By now, half of those I have written about in The West-Green Notebook are gone.  How very brief is human life!

 

       Life is of course only a dream, and so is death.  It’s a dream in the human world, and in the celestial sphere as well.  Fame and gains are the roots of our dream; and poetry and literature its music.  Auspicious dreams are pleasing but weird dreams worry us.  In the same way, those who dream about honourable things are virtuous while awake; those having slanderous dreams will wake up feeling hostile. 

 

       I have no means of living here and am surviving on a poor man’s diet.  The low walls are overgrown with bramble and the posts are covered in fungi.  Ants do battle in the cooking pot while rats weep in the grain shack. The cabbage is worm-eaten and the date trees are hollowed out by woodpeckers.  Wu Zhensheng sighed when he dropped by and saw this depressing scene.  After taking a stroll in the hills and by the lake he leftin his sedan-chair, declining to stay for the night.  Should you be coming from She to Yangzhou, you might perhaps want to drop by and see me here at Xiaoshan in Huayang. As I am writing this, the Laundress Pavilion2 is bathed in the evening shine at the foot of Mt Ji. 

 

From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》), Vol. 2, P.930

 

 

Translator’s Notes:

1.     Literally ‘short as awls’  2. Laundress – a reference to Shuangqing, a talented young beauty and one of the central characters in The West-Green Notebook, who often did her washing by the stream at Xiaoshan.

 

———-

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧與曹震亭書

 

 

       雪樓贈醉,雨舸贈醉,意何惻惻,歲何冉冉耶。謫從天上,名滿人間,酒盞詩瓢,勝於丹鼎,才情優絕,誰復如君。見者拜為古賢,問者頌為仙伯。家徒四壁,積感倍滋,而多寶如來,據囊坐笑,乃復吟風弄月,胸次悠然,此鄙人所瞠望後塵,降心稽首者也。

語云負重道遠,不擇地而休,家貧親老,不擇祿而仕。聞君暫就廣文,為親而屈,未知何泮之光,何庠之福耳。

二月初吉,于屈湖約同趙(*)叔張夢瞻叩華陽,尋鬱岡,訪貞白故樓。二月夢瞻約嘗畫泉,遊鶴市,宿海涌峰,旬有五日,每遇霞鮮月潔,水靜山空,眷我良朋,同聲太息。詩云:「何方可化身千億,一樹梅花一放翁」,余則願何妨得化身千億,一箇名山一震亭也。

有訛傳繡君不幸者,驚不感信,世痕夢影,惝兄]       易闌,當不喪達士明耳。

 

[闕字:*門內藏音]

 

 

Letter to Cao Zhenting (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee

 

       How time flies1!  I feel unspeakably sad when recalling that snowy day we had a hearty drink together on the tower at your invitation, and the farewell dinner we shared in the boat with all that rain for company.  I think of you with your genius and eminence, and can find no more godly poet and drinking partner amongst all the people I know.  Those who have met you honour you as a sage; those who have only heard about you revere you like an immortal.  People feel even more for you because you are destitute, but there you sit and smile like a buddha, with the satchel about you, perfectly composed and contented, and sing of the joys of Nature.  It is such lofty spirit that I lack and most sincerely admire in you, my dear friend.

 

       As the saying goes, one who is taking a long and difficult journey will not be fastidious about a resting place, and a poor man with a family and elderly parents to support will not be too particular as to what office to hold. I hear that you have taken up a temporary teaching position and that you deign to do that for the sake of your parents. Well, I cannot but think of the blessings of those fortunate enough to have you as their mentor.

 

      On the first day of the second moon, Yu Quhu came to Huayang along with Zhao Yinshu and Zhang Mengzhan, and we visited Yugang and the Old Manse of Zhenbai together.  Later that month Mengzhan took us on a tea-tasting trip to the Hua Spring.  We also toured Heshi, and spent the nights at Mount Haiyong.  We were together for 15 days.  On many a fine day and moon-lit evening, we watched the bare mountain and the tranquil waters and blessed ourselves for our great friendship.  A poet once wrote:

 

       Whereabout could one into a myriad transform           何方可化身千億

       For every plum tree abloom, a grand Fangwang!2          一樹梅花一放翁

 

But I would say rather:

 

       Would that myriads arose from one lone being            何妨得化身千億

       For every mountain famed, a noble Zhenting!                  一箇名山一震亭

 

       I heard, but dare not believe, that Xiujun3 had passed away.  Life is full of dream shadows that, alas, fade away only too soon.  I trust the enlightened soul will take it with equanimity4.

 

From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》), Vol. 2, P.927

 

Notes on translation:

1. Certain Chinese terms carry different, even opposite, meanings. 冉冉 is an example: it could mean gradual/slow or fleeting.  2. Fangwang – another name of Lu You (1125-1210), a master poet of the Song (Sung) Dynasty.  3. Cao Zhenting’s son.  4. I am not sure at all that I get the meaning of the last sentence right.

 

———-

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧與玉勾詞客吳長公書》

 

       仲冬既望,訪君於平山不遇。寄食四宜園,破樓橫雪,脫粟菜根。敝縕如冰,布衾成鐵,擁爐貰酒。賴有震亭境苦意甜,別饒清味。誦君「澆習百端堪冷悟,深情一卷小知音」之句,輒欲投筆荷鋤,同群鳥獸。固知擾擾揚州,更難覓疏淡恬曠人如玉勾詞客者也。思以尺書投某長者,屬稿既就,旋取焚之,誠不忍以客中一時之濫,發山中千載之歎耳。天寒歲晚,衝雪渡江,遲我故人,心中如噎。梅花未覿,竹實遂虛。鄙人伏處忘名,放言自廢,籜冠葛屨,抱甕灌園,尺蠖之境,鮒魚之轍也。久蟄思啟,久懣思嚏,豈遂忘啟而嚏哉。窮有所不為,貧有所不取,與狐謀裘,與鹿謀脯,有獝然駭耳。古銘云:「嗛嗛之德,不足就也,不可以矜,而祗取憂也。嗛嗛之食,不足狃也,不能為膏,而祗離咎也。」田舍翁升斗相掇,銖兩相給,輒呴然德色。惟巨靈氏手擘太華,達河流以灌涸轍,則鮒且與鯤,俱化為鵬矢。言念君子,溫如其玉。道之云遠,我勞如何。夢中事,眼中淚,意中人,未可為外人道也。漁樵之暇,補入《西青》,感慨亦復不淺哉。

 

Letter to Wu Zhensheng1  No. 1 (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee

 

       On the 16th of the 11th moon, I went to Pingshan to see you but you were not there.  I boarded at some derelict place called Siyi Garden, which served scraps of vegetable.  A snowstorm was raging.  Freezing in my old hard rags, I was huddled up by the wine stove for warmth. It was hard, but also sweet and delicious when Zhenting came around.

      

       From Life’s many trials the mind shall timely wake,         澆習百端堪冷悟                   

       And plumb the feelings deep these songs bespeak.           深情一卷小知音

 

       As I ponder these two lines from your poem, I often feel like trading writing brush for hoe and sharing Nature with the birds and beasts.  I know that in hectic Yangzhou it would be very hard to find another free and unearthly spirit like Jade-Crescent Poet1.

 

       I had thought about writing to some old sire, and had indeed composed an article, but only to burn it as soon as it was finished.  I shouldn’t really make a mountain out of a molehill and let some transient feelings during travel overwhelm me.

 

        The year is drawing to an end and it is freezing cold.  The bamboos are still sterile and the plum trees are yet to blossom.  Bracing the snow in crossing the river, I feel a twinge in my heart as I think of my dear old friend. 

 

I have chosen to give up office and title for the simple life of a farm-hand and find contentment in reduced circumstances.  One often itches to exert oneself after a long period of confinement, just as a blocked nose makes one sneeze.  I feel the same way as well; it is just that there are certain things one must not do even at tether’s end, and there are things one shouldn’t take even if destitute.  I find it shocking to covet a fox for its fur or a deer for its meat, however tempting. As an ancient epigram puts it, “High-sounding virtues are not worth attaining or bragging about, for they only court worries; and high office2 is not worth pursuing, for it brings no fruit but troubles.”

 

       Old peasants help each other out with what little food and money they have; that is virtue. Now Father Nature has fashioned Huashan with His mighty hands to direct the river3 to irrigate arid areas, and such good work will ensure that fish big or small will transform into the great birds of heavens4. It is heart-warming to think of a soul like you, gentle as precious jade.  The way before me is long, and wearying.  The events in my dreams, the tears in my eyes and the people on my mind are mine and cannot be explained to others.  I am writing this piece during a break from wood-cutting and fishing.  I feel deeply about it and shall include it in the West-Green collection.

 

From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》), Vol. 2, P.926

 

Translator’s Notes: 1. “The Poet of Jade-Crescent” – alias of Wu Zhensheng.  2. may mean an official position that pays.  3. Huashan – Famous mountain in Shaanxi Province;  “river” refers to the Yellow River.  4. Fish – the gold carp & a legendary huge fish ;  Peng” is the legendary bird that roam the heavens.

 

———-  

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧記惜夢

 

       十月既望,欲雨而霽。小埽花荊振翔鼓琴於琴溪之梧月樓,為陽關之操。曲終倚梧仰月,憮然歎曰:「惜哉,最可惜者夢也。夢中景恆秋,夢中人恆離,夢中事恆苦,夢中意恆悲。斷而續之難,缺而補之難。人之夢而我不見,我之夢而人不諒。月之明,雨之晦,萬夢交雜於人間,月非月雨非雨也。人生數十年,而夜廢其半;夜數十年,而寢廢其半;寢數十年,而無夢廢其半;有夢數十年,而惡夢廢其半;佳夢數十年,而忘夢廢其半。天可以晝而不夜,而與人以夜,惜其晝之無晦也。夜可以不夢,而與人以夢,惜其夜之無用也。夢可以不覺,而與人以覺,惜其夢之不知也。天惜人無感慨,不得已而以夢生之,奈之何猶無感慨也。天惜人有感慨,不得已而以夢慰之,奈之何竟無夢也。夢中秋,秋勝春;夢中離,離勝合;夢中苦,苦勝甘;夢中悲,悲勝苦也。

 

Our Bittersweet Dreams (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee

 

       On the 16th of the Tenth Moon, it looked it was going to rain but turned out to be fine.  Jing Zhenxiang (nicknamed Xiao Sao Hua) played the zither1 on the Wutong-Moon2 Tower by the Zither Creek.  It was the famous Yangguan Variations3. When he finished, he leaned against the parasol tree and looked up to the moon, steeped in sorrow.

      “Talk about yearnings 4!” he began with a deep sigh.  “Of all things, dreams are to be yearned over the most.  In our dreams, the setting is always autumn, loved ones are always drifting apart, things are always painful and we always feel sad.  What is broken off is hard to rejoin; what is missing is hard to fill.  We cannot know other people’s dreams, nor they ours.  Under the bright moon and the dark rains, thousands and thousands of dreams are weaved helter-skelter in the world of man, so the moon doesn’t seem to be the moon and rains don’t seem to be rains any more.

       “Man lives only for a few decades.  Half of this span is night.  Of all night over the decades half is taken up by sleep.  Of all sleep over the decades, half is without dreams. Of all dreams over the decades, half would be nightmares.  And of all pleasant dreams over the decades, half we cannot even remember.

      “But things could have been worse but for the gods pitying mankind.  There could have been light without darkness, but man is granted nights lest he know not how to cope with his life-long day.  The nights could have been dreamless, but man is granted dreams lest he know not what to do with the nights.  Dreams would have been everlasting, yet man is granted wakening lest he be unaware of his dreams.

      “The gods pity man for having no feeling, and so give him dreams to stir his heart.  What can we say if he still doesn’t feel?   The gods pity man for having feelings, and so make dreams for solace.  What can we say if he doesn’t dream?

       “The Autumn in our dreams is better than Spring.  The partings in our dreams are better than meetings.  The bitterness in our dreams is better than sweetness.  The sorrow in our dreams is better than joy.”

 

From The Huayang Essays, Vol. I, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778)

Notes on the translation:

1.    Qin – an ancient Chinese musical instrument played by plucking the strings.

2.     Wu-tong, the Chinese parasol tree.

3.     The Yangguan Variations, a classical piece in three variations, often played on the occasion of friends parting.

4.     The Chinese word cannot be properly translated into English, for it covers a whole range of feelings such as regret, grudge, forlornness, pity, yearning, pine for (over), treasure, hoard, and reluctant to part with, with widely different, even opposite meanings, and there is no equivalent English word for it.  In this essay, the word occurs several times and seems to connote all of the feelings mentioned.  It is in keeping with the Chan (Zen) way of seeing all paradoxes as only apparent.  In the end I have settled for yearnings instead of regrets, for regrets are usually over things in the past or over one’s action, not really applicable in the present context.

 

 

[譯者識: 「惜」字不可譯。標題 「記惜夢」 尤費思量,曾想過Dream Thoughts; Dream Feelings; Musings on Dreams; On Pining over Dreams; Yearnings over Dreams; The Bittersweet(ness) of Dreams; The Bittersweet World of Dreams等等,都不愜意。]

———-

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧與趙*叔書

 

*從門從音,電腦字庫無此字)

 

       少別數秋,迅速如是。潤質就槁,靈機轉晦,不可悲耶?如來說世界非世界,是名世界,凡夫非凡夫,是名凡夫,不可悟耶?閻浮提一,阿彌陀佛一晝夜,阿彌陀佛一,袈裟幢天一晝夜,不可想耶?世尊云:「南閻浮提眾生,其性剛貪,難調難化,舉止動念,無非是罪,無非是業」,不可畏耶?

       震林老母去世之後,一切世味,皆生厭心,一切世緣,皆生悲想。離嗔離欲,常念觀音。豈宜屢墮輪,亂投胎腹,一夢末蘇,一夢旋續,竟無醒時耶!

       溷蟲擾擾,糞溺為生,在人視之,深可憐憫。彼有性靈,猶欲離溷升,蟄土蛻形,化為羽族。世界如溷,我輩如蟲,逐臭慕羶,認苦為樂,仙佛視之,更可憐憫。有性靈人,奈何生死輾轉,顛倒窮,不自痛悔耶?

       君與栖梧高士,乃第一有性靈人,學文而豪,學詩而聖,學醫而神,學堪輿而仙,奈何不學禪而佛耶? ……

 

Letter to Zhao Anshu (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee

 

 

       It has been several years since we last met.  Thus Time flies by, withering both body and mind.  Isn’t that deplorable?  The Tathagata has said that the world is not world but only world by name, and mortals not mortals but mortals in name only.  Isn’t this enlightening?  An epoch1 in Jambu-dvipa2 is equivalent to only a day and a night as reckoned by the Amita3, and an epoch with the Amita is equivalent to a day and night reckoned by the Kasaya-heaven4.  Doesn’t this make us think?  The Bhagavat5 has said that all the living beings of Jambu-dvipa are greedy by disposition and very hard to change or educate, and that their conduct and ideas are sinful and related to bad karma.  Isn’t this frightening to contemplate?

 

       Since my mother passed away, I have become weary of all aspects of the sentient world, and come to see its web of causal and incidental connections through tragic eyes.  Eschewing anger and desire, I now ponder Avalokitesvara6 constantly, and wonder why we should blindly wish to be continuously reincarnated in the cycle of rebirths.  Isn’t it out of order to live in dreams and overlapping dreams for ever, never to wake up?

 

       We see maggots wriggle restlessly in a cesspool of excrement and pity them.  Should the maggots have any spiritual sense at all, they would surely wish to crawl out, climb high and there transform themselves into birds that roam the skies.  Similarly, the world is a cesspool, and we humans are maggots, wallowing in the stinking mess and relishing it.  In the eye of the Buddha and the gods, we are even more pitiable than the maggots.  Why do we, with all our spiritual sense, continue to tumble in the crazy rounds of births and deaths ad infinitum, refusing to repent?

 

       My dear friend, you are an exalted soul and are amongst the most spiritually alive beings I know.  Everything you’ve taken up you have turned into gold.  You write prose of great vigour, compose poetry like a saint, master medicine like a miracle healer, and turn geomancy into a divine art.  Why don’t you, my friend, take up Chan7 practice and thus become a Buddha? …

 

Notes on the translation:

1. kalpa  2. The ‘Continent” situated to the south of Mt Sumeru where humans live; the human world  3. Amitabha  4. Term unknown to this translator  5. The Revered One, another title for the Buddha  6. Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion  7. Zen

 

 

———-

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧記與可村書》

 

 

       乾隆丁巳冬,同曹震亭出都,至廣陵,晤玉勾詞客吳長公、許曙峰、李于亭,留踰月。慕真州方可村,寄詩云:「紅塵到此皆成雪,欲向詩仙借化工。」可村和而慰余。

 

       憶余雍正己酉與震亭父子及其弟宅英避暑棲霞山,過真州,玩東城荷花,是時已知可村。而洪月航、李餘中、李璜士、施味冰諸君子,震亭亦時時誦之,不期後數年成松柏交也。

 

壬戌晚秋,蘊愁山隴,四望無極,惲甯溪、巢納齋客遊海陵,趙(*)叔隱滆湖,玉勾詞客寓慧泉,震亭臥黃山,音問逖,而于亦唐讀書因圃,每歸致可村消息。

 

爰寄可村書云:「霜葉如花,夢中蝶聊復栩栩。髻山餘照,絢彼孤霞,野氣自暄。湖紋未冷,漁帆幾疊,與低雁為參差。偶偕曹碣山、殷霞村、王淡園、陳星野訪菊造山庵。白酒初漉,侑以紫菘,欲謀旃檀仙秫,持贈可村。靈種洊荒,竟負前約。而華陽洞天,有石田半畝,瑤草不登,須俟東海作桑田,少貢詩仙酒米,望何遙也。大江南北,知己二三,如可村玉勾震亭者,皆自混茫以前,成此有情魂魄,萬灰而心一蒂,蓋亦換天地而不換梅花者耳。遂句云:多病隔江人稽首,春前醫我是梅花。」

 

*從門從音,電腦字庫無此字)

 

Letter to Fang Kecun (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee

 

      

       In the winter of 1737, I left the capital with Cao Zhenting and met Wu Zhensheng, Xu Shufeng and Li Yuting in Yangzhou, where I stayed for more than a month.  While there I sent a poem to Fang Kecun of Zhenzhou, whom I greatly admired.

      

       Here into sane snow would madding red dust turn;                紅塵到此皆成雪

       From ye immortal minstrel I shall such magic learn.              欲向詩仙借化工

 

I wrote.  Kecun responded in kind to comfort me.

      

       I remember the summer retreat I took on Mt Qixia in 1729 with Zhenting and his son and younger brother Zhaiying.  We passed through Zhenzhou and enjoyed seeing the water-lilies in the Eastern Town.  I had already heard of Kecun by then, and often heard Zhenting recite the works of Hong Yuehang, Li Yuzhong, Li Huangshi and Shi Weibing.  I didn’t expect that these true gentlemen would become our life-long friends in the ensuing years.

 

       In late autumn of 1742, I was up in the mountains.  The air seemed thick with sorrow as I looked into the infinite space around me.  Yun Ningxi and Chao Nezhai were then travelling in the Hailing area, Zhao Anshu was hiding at Lake Ge, Wu Zhensheng was staying at Huiquang and Cao Zhenting was lazing in Huangshan.  We didn’t hear from one another too often.  Yu Yitang, who was studying at Yinpu, brought me news about Kecun every time he came around.

      

       This is what I wrote in my letter to Kecun:

      

       The maple leaves are looking like flowers, and the butterflies in my dreams are vivid indeed.  Yonder, Mt Ji is bathed in the evening shine under a lone wisp of coloured cloud.  The lake glimmers before the cool sets in, dotted with a few fishing boats and wild geese.  Vibrant rustic scenes indeed.  Occasionally I meet up with Cao Jieshan, Yin Xiacun, Wang Danyuan and Chen Xingye and go to see the chrysanthemum at the Zaoshan Shrine.  When savouring a cup of newly strained wine and deliciously done red cabbage, I yearn to share with you some such ambrosia.  It is a pity that the ambrosial seeds have gone to waste and I am unable to keep the promise*.  At the Huayang Caves there is half an acre of stony field where no immortal herbs could grow. It looks as if we had to wait till the East Sea turns into a mulberry field to be able to pay a little tribute to our heaven-sent poet. That’s a long time waiting. To think that I should have two or three true friends on both sides of the mighty river!  The likes of Kecun and Zhensheng, who must have somehow cultivated their feeling souls in the primordial Chaos – their minds holding up nice and strong though numberless eons have come and gone, with the constancy of the plum blossom spirit even as heaven and earth are changing.  Thus I have come up with the following lines:

 

       Spring answers my prayers from the River North,           多病隔江人稽首

       With plum blossoms to get me hale again.                        春前醫我是梅花

 

 

From The Huayang Essays, Vol. II, by Shi Zhenlin (1692-1778) in Collected Works Past and Present(《古今說部叢書》),Vol.1, pp. 944-945

 

———-

 

史震林《華陽散稿‧題徐琴莊小照》

 

 

五百年之遊戲,仙自忘仙;三千界之皈依,佛誰記佛。筆端蘭蕙,夢不夢總化旃檀;紙上珠璣,圓不圓皆成列宿。藉綠陰而拜手,指紅雨以盟心。福地散花,多倩好鳥傳來,期我是春前春後;洞天月滿,為問彩雲知否,思君在江北江南。琴莊子參即空即色之禪,瓠岡翁說即妄即真之偈。題云:

 

何必傷春且賀春  牡丹雖少不憐貧  鸚哥學念花間佛  燕子偷窺畫裡人

自有彩雲為舊夢  可知明月是前身  白頭懶覓還童藥  憔悴遊僊怕寫真

 

 

On Xu Qinzhuang’s portrait (from The Huayang Essays)

Translated by Lester Lee

 

For five hundred years the game’s been in play;

The immortals would fain themselves forget.

Through three thousand realms the converts pray, 

Have the buddhas let go the Buddha yet?

O, for a brush that paints such flow’ry whorls

Dream or not, all becomes sandalwood sweet;

And words that dance and shine as pearls

Of motley shapes – ‘tis heavens with stars replete.

Amid the greenery we’d meet and deeply bow,

Red rain overseeing our friendship vow.

What blessed land with flowers strewn,

And felicitous birds to bring us tidings good,

Ye wait for me in Springtide, late or ere.

And Heaven beaming with the silvery moon,

Would that, O pretty clouds, be understood:

I miss you, friend, by the river, somewhere.

As Qinzhuang ponders Emptiness and its clue,

This old sire is chanting a mantra, false or true.

 

Thus I sing:

 

Pack up those spring sorrows – and celebrate:

A noble soul needs no rich peony for mate.

        Here’s a parrot mumbling “Buddha” in the flowers,

A swallow peeping at the painted figure straight.

Recall those old dreams woven from the clouds,

And know this life as the moon re-incarnate.

Old and grey I’d not the youth potion seek,

Shy of being painted, but keen to rove and fete.

 

June 9, 2008 - Posted by | Translation (C-E) 中譯英

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