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The Flute Beneath the Moon

Zhang, Yan (1248-1318)

Prologue. When I visited Wan-zhu Mountain 1 by myself, fallen leaves in front of my door reminded me of the poem, "Desolate Corn fields" 2.

    I am like a lonesome cloud floating in the expansive sky. Happy traveling days gradually become distant memories. Where are my friends? In my dream by the cold window, I still remember the road I traveled in the past. I guess that not many willow trees remain around Lian-chang Palace. This thought makes me afraid to listen to the night rain. When suddenly awakened, I feel miserable and sorrowful. Facing the shadow of the candlelight, I wrap myself in my quilt.

    Xu Zhang 3, why do you decide to return so late? Half of the leaves on the willow trees by Duan Bridge have withered and fallen. Only gulls and egrets remain. The weary traveler still wanders far away from home. His mind is filled with sorrow. My only worry is that I may shed tears for Xi-zhou Gate 4. I wonder how people in Du-qu Village 5 are faring. The green sleeves of a girl may still lean against that plum tree 6 in chilly weather.

1 Records of Chi-cheng (red city) City says, "Wan-zhu [myriad bamboo trees] Mountain is located thirty miles southwest of Chi-cheng City. Its main peak is called Xin-lo peak. There are nine peaks surrounding it. The mountain path is extremely narrow and steep. The mountain top is surrounded by beautiful trees. Being flat, wide and quiet, the top becomes a village of its own. A poem of Ang Xue, a deputy prime minister, says, 'There are hundreds of families living in the paradise of Wan-zhu Mountain./ Flowing water encircles flax and mulberry fields.'"

2 The poem, "Desolate Corn fields" was collected in the chapter titled "The Grace of the Emperor" in The Bible of Poetry. The poem was written by an official of the Eastern Zhou dynasty who was on an official trip to the old capital (Western Capital). When he saw that the old palace had become desolate corn fields, he walked back and forth, lamented the decline of the Zhou dynasty, and wrote this poem. Here the sentence in the prologue of Zhang’s poem says that the fallen leaves induce Zhang's sorrow for his father country.

3 Si-man was Xu Zhang's other first name. He was a native of Wu-jun City during the Southern Qi dynasty. At the peak of his political career, he was an official in charge of rites and culture. He had a graceful bearing. When Emperor Wu placed the willow trees grown in Shu in front of Ling-he Palace, he said, "These willow trees are lovely and graceful like Xu Zhang during those years."

4 Xi-zhou Gate was located west of Nanjing. An Xie was the prime minister of the Eastern Jin dynasty and did much to rejuvenate it. After the victory against the enemy, An Xie returned to the Capital (present day Nanjing). When he entered Xi-zhou gate, he suddenly fell ill. Soon he died. Afterwards, his friend, Tan Yang, no longer passed by the gate. One day Yang was drunk. He unconsciously came to Xi-zhou Gate, wept bitterly, and left. See The History of the Jin dynasty. Here the sentence in Zhang's poem says that Zhang mourned the officials who died for Zhang's father country just like Tan Yang had mourned An Xie who died for their country.

5 "Qu" means "river bend". Du-qu Village was located south of present day Chang-an City. The Du family lived there during the Tang dynasty. The place has been called "Du-qu" since. The Records of the State of Yong says, "Southern Du Village and Northern Du Village are located seven miles east of Wei-bend of the Fan River. Southern Du Village is also known as Du-gu Village. Northern Du Village is also known as Du-qu Village." Here both Xi-zhou Gate and Du-qu Village refer to Zhang's father country.

6 In China, plum trees bloom in the winter. Here both plum trees and green sleeves represent Zhang's strength to fight against misfortune and hardship.