Epilogue of Records of the Inscriptions on Bronze and Stone
Li, Qing-zhao 1 (1081-1154? CE)
What are the thirty chapters of Records of the Inscriptions on Bronze and
Stone? They are chapters in the book written by Ming-cheng Zhao
They include inscriptions on bronze and also stories of heroes and recluses
inscribed on stone tablets from the Three Dynasties (2205-249 BCE) to the Five
Dynasties (907-960 CE). For the two thousand inscriptions on bronze and stone,
we verify their authenticity, discard the dross, select the best, and then
revise and criticize the selections so that they suffice to fit the teachings of
sages and amend the omissions and shortcomings of official Chinese history. It
can be said that the collection is comprehensive.
Alas! Since the disasters of Ya Wang 3 and Zai Yuan
paintings and works of calligraphy have been valued the same as peppers
If we study the problems of Chang-yu 6 and Yuan-kai
will find that there is no difference between collecting wealth and studying
history. Even though the names of their hobbies are different, their obsessions
are the same.
Ming-cheng and I were married in 1101 CE. At that time, my father was an
official on the Board of Rites, my father-in-law was an official in the Ministry
of Civil Service, and Ming-cheng, at the age of twenty-one, was a student at the
Royal University. The Zhao and Li families were poor. We had to be frugal. The
first and fifth day of each month Ming-cheng asked for time-off from school.
After we pawned our clothes in exchange for around thirty dollars, we went to
the market at the Temple of the Premier to purchase fruit and stone tablets with
inscriptions on them. Then we returned home. Facing each other, we enjoyed fruit
and appreciated the inscriptions on the tablets. We called ourselves "the people
governed by Emperor Ge-tian 8". Two years later, Ming-cheng became a
government official. We had small means to buy basic necessities such as food
and clothing. We sent people all over China in order to gather as many ancient
writings as possible. Day after day, month after month, the collections
accumulated. My father-in-law became the premier 9. Government
agencies, museums, libraries, friends, and relatives frequently provided us with
lost poems, official events that had not been recorded, the Wall of Lu
the Tomb at Ji City 11, and other books we had never seen before. In
order to make good use of these resources, we strove to write about these
ancient inscriptions. Immersed in joyful discovery, we could not stop our work.
Afterwards, whenever we saw paintings and works of calligraphy by contemporary
or ancient masters, or rare utensils from the Three Dynasties, we would disrobe
and trade our clothes for them. During the Chong-ning 12 Period, we
saw someone carry "Peonies" painted by Xi Xu 13. When we asked him
how much he would sell for, he replied, "$12,000". At that time even rich people
would have a hard time raising such an amount. We borrowed the painting for one
night, but we had to return it because we could not come up with any way to
purchase it. For the next few days we felt upset when facing each other.
After Ming-cheng resigned his position, we lived in the countryside for ten
years. With our parentsí support we still had ample food and clothing even after
giving alms to the poor. Later, Ming-cheng became the Mayor of Qing-zhou City,
and then Lai-zhou City. We spent most of our income on pencils and pieces of
bamboo 14. Whenever we acquired a book, we would revise it together
and also edit the marginal notes and comments. Whenever we obtained paintings,
works of calligraphy, or wine jugs with inscriptions, we would unroll the
scrolls, observe, study and critique them. Our work in the evening was limited
to one candle. Once the candle burned out, our work for the day was finished.
Because of our careful approach to working with our collections, the writings,
paintings, and works of calligraphy were much better preserved than those of
other collectors. I loved to memorize events in an interesting way. After dinner
we steeped tea in the drawing room. We would take turns pointing to a pile of
books and stating in which book, chapter, page, and line a certain event was
mentioned. If one of our guesses was correct, that person would win the contest
and have the privilege of drinking tea first. When I won, I would raise my cup
and laugh loudly. One time my cup toppled and the tea spilled all over the front
of my garment. I could not drink any tea and had to get up and change my
clothes. Even though this was not our native place, we wished to work there
until retirement. Despite the hardship, we would not compromise our academic
After collecting a considerable number of books, we built large bookcases in
our library. Then we placed our books in the bookcases and catalogued them. If
we wanted to use a book, we had to check the catalogue and get a key to fetch
it. If part of a book was smeared or damaged, we would supplement it with neat
handwriting in regular script. It took a great deal of care to keep our books in
good condition. I was impatient at repairing books. Therefore, I began to save
money from daily expenses. Each meal we had only one main dish. Each of us kept
only one set of formal attire. My head was no longer adorned with pearls or
jewelry. Our rooms were no longer furnished with gilded or embroidered
furniture. If we encountered a history or philosophy book, we always purchased
it as a duplicate as long as its pages were complete and its authenticity could
be verified. Book of Changes and Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring
and Autumn Annals are our heirlooms. Therefore, our library collected many
books related to those two books. It could be said that of all extant
collections ours were the most complete. With books spread haphazardly over the
desks and tables, our minds met with those of masters. Reading their work
empowered our spirits. The joy was better than that derived from music, sex,
pets or horses.
In 1126 CE, Ming-cheng garrisoned Zi-chuan City. When he heard that the
troops of Jin 15 had invaded the capital
16, he looked
around and was at a loss as to what to do. Seeing the chests full of books, he
knew they would soon not belong to him. Reluctant to part with them, he was
upset. In March of 1127 CE, Ming-cheng's mother died. We came south to attend
her funeral. We could not carry all our belongings with us. Consequently, we
first discarded the largest books, duplicate paintings, and relics without
inscriptions. Then we discarded the books currently printed by the Royal
University, average paintings, and heavy items. After repeated reductions, we
still had to employ fifteen wagons to carry our books. We traveled to the
Eastern Sea. Boats bow to stern sailed across the Huai River, and then the
Yangtze River. At last, we arrived at Jian-kang City (Nanjing). In our old
mansion at Qing-zhou City, we still had more than ten rooms of books and relics.
We expected that we would send boats to retrieve them next Spring. In December,
Jinís troops captured and burned Qing-zhou City. All the books and relics stored
in more than ten rooms were reduced to ashes.
In September of 1128 CE, Meng-cheng was reinstated as a mayor, this time to
govern Jian-kang City (Nanjing). In March of 1129 CE, we sailed to Wu-hu City,
entered Gu-shu City, and searched for a home along the Gan River. When we
arrived at Chi-yang City in May, Ming-cheng received the emperor's edict and was
appointed to be the Mayor of Hu City. The edict instructed him to visit the
palace when he passed by. Therefore, Ming-cheng decided to make our home at
Chi-yang City and answer the summons by himself. On June 13th he
carried his baggage, left the boat, and sat on the shore. He wore simple clothes
and a head cloth. His sparkling eyes revealed a tiger-like spirit. He said
farewell while I remained in the boat. I was preparing for the worst, so I cried
out, "What should I do if the city is attacked by the enemy?" He flourished his
hand as if it was a spear and responded at a distance, "Follow the crowd. If
necessary, discard baggage first, then clothes and quilts, then books,
paintings, and works of calligraphy, and then relics. As for the vessels and
instruments used in the ancestral temple, you should carry them yourself and
guard them with your life. Do not forget." Then he mounted a horse and galloped
away. Galloping under the scorching sun for a long distance made him ill. When
he arrived at the palace, he was diagnosed with malaria. At the end of July, he
was confined to bed. I was shocked and upset. I worried that Ming-cheng would be
impatient to get well and would take his medicine (bupleurum falcatum &
scutellaria macrautha) too hurriedly. Consequently, I hired a boat to sail
downstream. It traveled sixty miles in a single night. When I arrived, he had
taken more medicine than he should have, just as I had expected. He had malaria
and dysentery. His illness was terminal. I wept with lament and in panic and had
no heart to ask about affairs after his death. On August 18th he
fetched a writing brush to write a poem. He died as he finished his last word.
He did not leave a will to distribute incense and sell shoes
After the burial, I had no place to go. The emperorís court disbanded the
imperial harems. I also heard that the Yangtze River had been completely
blockaded. At that time I still had 20,000 books and 2,000 duplicate copies of
inscriptions on bronze and stone. The dishes, cushions, and quilts in my house
could accommodate one hundred guests. The same applied to other extra items. I
also became seriously ill: only my breath remained. The battle line drew near
day by day. I thought the husband of Ming-chengís younger sister was the Deputy
Minister of Defense who garrisoned Hong-zhou City 18 as the Deputy
Commander. Therefore, I went to him for refuge and dispatched two old staff
members of my late husband to send my belongings there. In December, Hong-zhou
City fell to Jinís troops. I discarded all my belongings there. Thus, the books
that had crossed the Yangtze River by boats bow to stern were dispersed into
clouds and mists. My only remaining belongings were light scrolls of copy books
containing models of calligraphy, The Collection of Writings of Bai Li, Fu Du,
Yu Han and Zong-yuan Liu, Contemporary New Phrases
Salt and Iron 20, scores of duplicate copies of inscriptions on
stone tablets from the Han and Tang dynasties, more than ten cauldrons from the
Three Dynasties, and several chests of books written in the Southern Tang
dynasty. During my illness, I enjoyed them once in a while. I moved them into my
bedroom. Their survival through the turbulent times made them more precious to
We could neither sail upstream on the Yangtze River nor predict the enemyís
next move. I had a younger brother who was an editor at the Bureau of the
Emperor's Edicts, so I sought refuge with him. When I arrived at Tai-zhou City
21, the mayor had fled. Subsequently, I went to Shan City
and then Mu-zhou City 23. When I left the latter, I discarded my
clothes and quilts. While visiting Huang-yan City 24, I hired a boat
and went to sea to pursue the traveling emperor's court. At that time the
emperor's court was stationed at Zhang-an City 25. I followed the
emperor's ship through the sea lane to Wen-zhou City 26, and then to
Yue City 27. In December of 1130 CE, the emperor evacuated his court.
I followed the emperor to Qu City 28. In March of 1131 CE, we visited
Yue City again. In 1132 CE, we arrived at Hang City 29.
When Ming-cheng was very ill, Mr. Fei-qing Zhang came to visit him, carrying
a jade pot. Later, Zhang carried the pot away. Actually, the pot was made of
stone. I wondered who witnessed this event and accused me of committing treason
by smuggling a jade pot to the Jin dynasty. A rumor spread that I should be
punished. I was worried and scared. I neither dared to say anything, nor dared
to neglect the rumor. Consequently, I listed all my antiques and asked the
government to verify that none were lost. When I arrived at Yue City, the
emperor's court had moved to Si-ming City 30. I deposited my books at
Shan City because I did not dare to leave them at home. Later,
rebels-turned-soldiers took them away. I have heard that all my books there went
to the mansion of the late General Li. Needless to say, six tenths of my
antiques that had survived through the turbulent times were gone. All the
antiques I had left were seven chests of books, paintings, and works of
calligraphy. I put them under my couch because I could not bear to arrange them
elsewhere. This made it convenient for me to open and close the chests.
At Kuai-ji City 31, I rented an apartment in the house of the
Zhong family, natives of the city. Suddenly, one night burglars dug a hole
through the wall and stole five chests full of books, paintings, and works of
calligraphy. I was so distraught that I wished to die. Immediately, I posted a
notice saying that I would offer a generous reward for my lost antiques. Two
days later, my neighbor, Fu-hao Zhong, presented eighteen scrolls to claim the
reward. Therefore, I knew the burglars were in the neighborhood. I tried
everything I could think of to retrieve my antiques, but they were never
recovered. Now I know that my lost antiques were purchased by Salt Commissioner
Yue Wu 32 for a low price. Thus, eight tenths of my antiques that
survived through the turbulent times were gone. The only antiques I had left
were a few incomplete volumes of books and three or four scrolls of copy books
containing average models of calligraphy. I still treasured them and desired to
protect them as I would my head or eyes. How foolish I was!
Today when I suddenly opened this book written by my late husband, I felt
like seeing him. Thereby, I recalled the time when Meng-cheng was working in
Jing-zhi (govern-serenely) Chamber at Lai-zhou City. He would insert flower
book-marks in chapters and would bind every ten chapters together into a volume
with a light green ribbon. Every evening he would revise two chapters and
compile notes for one chapter after the officials left his office. Of the 2,000
chapters of his book only 502 of them contain notes. Now his handwriting still
looks new, but the trees beside his tomb have grown so large that one would need
both arms to stretch around the girth of the trunk 33. This thought
When Jiang-ling City 34 fell to the troops of Western Wei, Emperor
Yuan-di of the Liang dynasty was more concerned about his books
than he was about the destruction of his kingdom. When the rebel controlled
Jiang-du City, Emperor Yang-di of the Sui dynasty still requested that paintings
and works of calligraphy accompany him even though his death was imminent
36. Can't one forget one's obsession when facing death? Or does God think
that I am not talented enough to enjoy this exceptional treasure? Or does my
late husband still perceive and treasure his collections so much that he is
unwilling to leave them in this world? It had been so difficult to acquire them.
Why was it so easy to lose them? Alas! From the time I was two years younger
than Ji Lu when he wrote poetry 37 to the time I was two years older
than Yuan Qu when he recognized his mistakes 38, a period of
thirty-four years, why have I been swayed so much by consideration of gain and
loss? If there is a time of plenty, there must be a time of little. If there is
a gathering, there must be a dispersion. These are absolute truths. If a person
in Chu were to lose a bow, another person would acquire the bow
My loss is not worth mentioning. I have taken the trouble to write how we
started to collect antiques and how I lost most of them in the end. My story can
be used as a warning to the antique collectors of later generations.
August 27, 1132 CE
Qing-zhao Li called herself "Yi-an (easily contented)". She was born in Ji-nan City, a place where mountains were bright and rivers were beautiful.
Qing-zhao Li came from a talented family. Her father, Ge-fei Li, was an
essayist. His book, The Great Park in Lo-yang City, was highly praised by
Dong-po Su. The grandfather of Qing-zhouís mother was Gong-chen Wang, who ranked
first in the palace exam. Qing-zhou's mother was a gifted writer of both poems
and essays. Qing-zhao's husband was a student at the Royal University, a poet,
and an expert in textual criticism. As for herself, she was clever and studied
hard. As a child, she wrote, "My poetic thoughts are like a night magpie. It
circles many times without setting down." She was endowed with an outstanding
natural gift. In addition, she worked very hard toward her goal. It was
certainly not by chance that she was able to break the barrier of gender
discrimination, achieve the same level as Yong Liu and Shu Yan, and compete with
the great poets like Dong-po Su and Guan Qin.
She married Ming-cheng Zhao at the age of eighteen. Besides writing poems in
response to each other, they loved to study ancient inscriptions on bronze and
stone. They were not rich, but if they found a tablet inscription they liked,
they would pawn their clothes to purchase it rather than give it up. They called
themselves the people governed by Emperor Ge-tian (an ancient Chinese emperor
during the pre-historical age). They were an affectionate couple, and also
congenial friends. At home they loved each other; in writing they encouraged
each other. They lived a happy and beautiful life.
When she was thirty-one years old, her husband celebrated her birthday by
having her portrait painted and then writing a few words in its upper right-hand
corner. The painting showed her beautiful eyes and pretty silhouette. In it, she
is holding a fresh flower. The words say, "This is the portrait of Qing-zhao at
the age of thirty-one. Her poems are beautiful and refreshing. She is graceful
and elegant. I want to come home and live the rest of my life with her in
seclusion." Then he wrote the date on the painting. This caption is a great aid
for understanding the character of Qing-zhao Li and calculating her birth date.
Ming-cheng Zhao was Qing-zhao Li's late husband. De-fu was his alternate
Ya Wang was the prime minister during the reign of Emperor Wen-zong in the
Tang dynasty. He collected a tremendous number of paintings and works of
calligraphy. Later, he planned to kill a group of powerful eunuchs. The secret
plan was divulged and Wang was killed. All his antiques, paintings and works of
calligraphy were confiscated.
Zai Yuan was the prime minister during the reign of Emperor Dai-zong in the
Tang dynasty. Because he was despotic and took bribes, he was executed. When his
possessions were confiscated, his peppers alone amounted to roughly 800 bushels.
You can imagine how numerous the jewelry and riches that he amassed by extortion
must have been.
Qing-zhao Li was humble and humorous about her husbandís work. People like
Zai Yuan might value Records of the Inscriptions on Bronze and Stone the
same as peppers.
Chang-yu was the Grand Tutor of the Crown Prince during the reign of
Emperor Hui-di in the Jin dynasty. His properties were sumptuous and could
compare to the wealth of a nation. However, he was very selfish. Yu Du said that
Chang-yu was obsessed with money.
Yuan-kai was Yu Du's alternate first name. He was the Garrison Commander of
Southern China. He loved to study Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and
Autumn Annals. In fact, he annotated it. Yu Du ridiculed Chang-yu by saying
that he was obsessed with money. Emperor Wu-di asked Du, "What is your
obsession?" Du replied, "Studying Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and
Wu-huai and Ge-tian were ancient emperors of China. Their leadership was
based on their service rather than conquest or social rank. For example, they
taught people to farm, prevent floods, and use herbs as medicine. Therefore,
their people could fully enjoy nature and life.
Qing-zhao Li's father-in-law was Ting-zhi Zhao. He and Jing Cai belonged to
the same political party. They did their best to banish members of the Yuan-you
Party from government positions. Ge-fei Liís writings were highly praised by
Dong-po Su. Ge-fei Li, Dong-po Su, and Ting-jian Huang belonged to Yuan-you
Party. The differences between Ge-fei Li and Ting-zhi Zhao in regard to politics
eventually led to Ge-fei Li's resignation.
The chapter titled "Literature" in The History of the Han Dynasty
says, "King Gong-wang of the State of Lu destroyed the mansion of Confucius in
order to expand his palace. In the destruction process, the construction workers
found Book of Records, Book of Rites, The Analects of Confucius,
and Zengzi's Book on Filial Piety."
In 279 CE, people in Ji City discovered the Tomb of King Xiang-wang of the
State of Wei and found books made of bamboo pieces written in paint rather than
ink. During the Warring States Period, pens and paper had not yet been invented.
Jiang-qing Pu says, "Both 'the Wall of Lu' and 'the Tomb at Ji City' refer to
any precious book that people had a hard time obtaining."
Chong-ning was a reign title of Emperor Hui-zong in the Song dynasty.
Xi Xu was a painter from the Kingdom of Southern Tang during the Five
Dynasties. He was a native of Zhong-ling City. His family was influential in
society for generations. He mastered the drawing of flowers, fruit, grass,
trees, birds, fish and insects. He loved to paint from life and frequently
visited gardens to observe the plants and animals. His strokes were delicate and
Here "pencils and pieces of bamboo" refers to "purchased books".
In 1115 CE, the Golden Tartars (NŁ -zhen)
established the Kingdom of Jin ("Jin" means "gold"). They were a major ethnic
group which once lived in Manchuria and Northern China.
In 1126 CE, the troops of Jin captured Song's capital, Bian-liang City
(present day Kai-feng City in Henan Province). Emperor Hui-zong of the Northern
Song dynasty became their captive. Soon Qin-zong declared himself emperor at
Beijing [northern capital]. In 1127 CE, Jin's troops also captured Beijing and
Emperor Qin-zong. Then Gao-zong declared himself emperor at Nanjing [southern
capital] and started the Southern Song dynasty. At that time Emperor Gao-zong's
government was about to collapse. Jin's oncoming force was fierce. (Their
cavalry was especially powerful. They harnessed horses together in groups of
three using chains to build a crushing force. Both soldiers and horses were
armored. Their cavalry seemed invincible. Later, it was destroyed by General Fei
Yue using sickles to cut the horses' legs.) Wu-zhu (the fourth son of Emperor
Tai-zu of the Kingdom of Jin) took to sea to chase Emperor Gao-zong. Wu-zhu's
force entered the east part of Zhejiang Province. Emperor Gao-zong fled to
Wen-zhou City. Wu-zhu's navy encountered a hurricane at sea and suffered heavy
losses. In addition, General Fei Yue raised an army in Hubei Province and came
forward to assist Emperor Gao-zong during the crisis. They attacked the route of
retreat for Jin's troops. Consequently, Wu-zhu withdrew his troops and the
Southern Song dynasty survived.
Cao Cao (155-220 CE) was an evil premier during the Eastern Han dynasty.
He controlled China by holding Emperor Xian-di under duress. Before Cao Cao
passed away, he ordered, "The incense should be distributed to my wives. The
servants in the house should not be idle. They must learn to make girdles and
straw shoes to sell." Cao Cao believed that after his death he would be able to
communicate with his wives whenever they honored him by burning incense. This
sentence of Liís essay means, "Unlike Cao Cao who died in anxiety, Ming-cheng
died in peace."
Hong-zhou City is present day Nan-chang City in Jiangxi Province.
Contemporary New Phrases (Shi-shuo-xin-yu) was written by Yi-qing
Liu of the Liu-song dynasty.
Salt and Iron was written by Kuan Huan of the Han dynasty.
Tai-zhou City is present day Lin-hai (facing the sea) -xian City in
Zejiang Province. In January of 1130 CE, the Mayor of Tai-zhou City, Gong-wei
Chao, deserted his duty and fled.
Shan City is present day Sheng-xian City in Zejiang Province.
Mu-zhou City is present day Jian-de-xian City in Zejiang Province.
Huang-yan City is present day Huang-yan-xian City in Zejiang Province.
Zhang-an City was located southeast of present day Lin-hai-xian City in
Wen-zhou City is present day Yong-jia-xian City in Zejiang Province.
Yue City is present day Shao-xing-xian City in Zejiang Province.
Qu City is present day Qu-xian City in Zejiang Province.
Hang City is present day Hang-zhou City, the capital of Zejiang Province.
Si-ming City is present day Yin-xian City in Zejiang Province.
Kuai-ji City was an old city in Zejiang Province. This city and old
Shan-yin-xian City merged to become present day Shao-xing-xian City.
Yue Wu was a famous painter at that time. Fu-peng was his alternate first
name. His collections of paintings were enormous.
The second part of the sentence means "her husband has been dead for a
long time" (this essay was written three years after Li's husband died).
Jiang-ling City (present day Nanjing) was the capital of the Liang
In 554 CE, when Jiang-ling City fell to the troops of Western Wei, Emperor
Yuan-di gathered 100,000 books and burned all of them. He said with grief and
indignation, "The principles of literature and military combat skills end
Emperor Yang-di of the Sui dynasty was the favorite son of Emperor Wen-di.
He was chosen to replace his elder brother, Yong, as crown prince. Later, Yang-di
killed his father and declared himself emperor. He was a tyrant during his
reign. In 618 CE, Emperor Yang-di was killed in Jiang-du City. Famous
Paintings of Past Dynasties, written by Yan-yuan Zhang, says, "Emperor Yang-di
built two towers in his eastern palace: The Tower of Excellent Calligraphy,
containing an extensive collection of works of calligraphy from ancient times to
the present, was in the east; the Tower of Precious Paintings, containing a
collection of paintings from ancient times to the present, was in the west. When
Emperor Yang-di visited Yang-zhou City, all the paintings and works of
calligraphy followed him."
A poem written by Fu Du says, "Ji Lu wrote poetry at the age of twenty." "The time I was two years younger than Ji Lu when he wrote poetry" means that
"when I was eighteen (the year Li was married to Ming-cheng Zhao)".
Yuan Qu was an official in the State of Wei during the Spring-fall Period.
Bo-yu was his alternate first name. He was a disciple of Confucius. When he was
fifty, he recognized the monumental mistakes he had made for the last forty-nine
years. Li's phrase implies that she was fifty-two when she wrote this epilogue.
Conversations of Confucius at Home says, "While King Gong-wang of
the State of Chu went on an excursion, he lost a bow. His entourage proposed to
search for it. The king said, 'If a person in Chu loses a bow, another person
will acquire it. Why should I search for it?'" This story says that one should
view things from a generous heart instead of calculating gain and loss from a