The Eight Tunes of "Gan City" 1

(I accompany Mu Yu and others to visit Ling-yan Mountain 2)

Wu, Wen-ying

    The light mist filled the sky. What year is it? A comet falls from the blue heavens. I see the green trees, surrounded by clouds, grow from the cliff as if in a dream. The remains of the golden palace, housing beautiful women during the King of Wu's reign 3, rule the old capital. The sour wind from Arrow Path 4 pierces my eyes. Flowers were contaminated by the rotten smell of the greasy water 5. When the wind sweeps leaves through the corridor, it sounds as though embroidered shoes in the shape of Mandarin-ducks 6 are passing by.

    The King of Wu was drunk in his palace. Only Li Fan who had traveled the Five Great Lakes (in China) was sober. I ask the green waves, "Mountains are green, why is my hair gray?" They do not reply. We stand on a high ground, lean against the banister, and see the turbulent waves send scattered ravens and the setting sun to the shoal. I continue to ask for wine. As we ascend to Zither Platform 7, autumn views extend far to the clouds.

1 The Annals of the Western Regions says, "The Kingdom of Gui-zi produced the songs: 'Yi City', 'Gan City', and 'Liang City'. They were all translated into Chinese. 'The eight tunes' refers to the rhythm of a song."

2 The Records of Wu City says, "Ling-yan Mountain was called Shi-gu (stone drum) Mountain in ancient times. Wu Palace, Zither Platform, and Loud-clogs Corridor were located on the mountain. Cai-xiang (gather fragrance) Path was located two miles in front of the mountain."

3 In 494 B.C., the King of State of Yue was defeated by the troops of the State of Wu on Kuai-ji Mountain, so he surrendered and begged for peace. During the next three years, he served the King of Wu like a slave and did not dare to show a tired face. However, he slept on a wood pile and tasted bile each night to remind himself of his shame. On the one hand, he followed the advice of his premier, Li Fan, and sent a beautiful female spy, Xi-shi, to corrupt the King of Wu. On the other hand, he secretly reinforced his army. In 473 B.C., he finally destroyed the State of Wu.
    The History of Yue says, "The King of Wu built Beauty Palace on Yan-shi (grinding stone) Mountain. There were three ponds on the mountain peak: Moon Pond, Grinding Pond, and Flower-viewing Pond. They were excavated during the King of Wu's reign. It is said that Zither Platform and Loud-clogs Corridor were also on the mountain. The corridor was made of precious wood. When Xi-shi walked by, it would make a clear sound and thus gained its name."

4 The Records of Wu City says, "In front of Ling-yan Mountain, there is Cai-xiang Path, which lies flat like an arrow."

5 "The greasy water" refers to the water that contained cosmetics used by the court ladies during the King of Wu's reign.

6 Mandarin ducks are always paired, one male and one female. A pair of Mandarin ducks is a love symbol in China.

7 "Zither Platform" was on the top of a tower where zither music was played in ancient times.