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To the Tune of "Magnolia"

Yan, Shu 1 (991-1055 CE)

I still remember the green willow trees and the fragrant grass
When we parted at the Long Pavilion.
Youth has abandoned us and passed too quickly.
At dawn, I awaken in the attic with lingering dreams.
My sorrow from separation is like the March rain falling beneath blooming trees.

Not loving at all is not as bitter as loving too much.
One inch of yearning turns into a thousand tangled strands.
Heaven and earth have their limits,
But cherishing the memory of one's lover never ends.


1 Tong-shu was Shu Yan's alternate first name. He, a native of Lin-chuan City, was able to write essays at the age of seven. As a child prodigy, he was summoned to the palace to take an exam in 1005 CE. He finished the exam quickly, passed, and was given a certificate equivalent to passing the Advanced Exam. In 1020, Yan became a member of the Royal academy in charge of the emperor's personal affairs. Whenever Emperor Zhen-zong encountered thorny issues, he would consult with Shu Yan. In 1022, Emperor Ren-zong inherited the throne at the age of ten. Wei Ding, the prime minister, and Li-yong Cao, the President of the Privy Council, tried to control all the power in the emperor’s court. The officials in the court did not know what to do. Shu Yan suggested that Queen Mother E Liu hold the court from behind a screen. Yan's proposal won the support of the emperor’s court. In 1027, Yan was demoted from Minister of Punishment to Mayor of Xuan-zhou City because he opposed the queen mother's decision to promote Qi Zhang to President of the Privy Council. Then Shu Yan was transferred to Mayor of Ying-tian-fu City. During this period, he paid keen attention to education and appointed great scholars such as Zhong-yan Fan to give lectures at Ying-tian-fu City Academy of Classical Learning. Many students later become successful politicians. Ying-tian-fu City Academy, Bai-lu-dong Academy, Shi-gu Academy, and Yue-lu Academy were called the Four Great Academies of Classical Learning in China.
    In 1032, Shu Yan was the deputy prime minister. In 1033, he was demoted to Mayor of Bo-zhou City and then Chen-zhou City because he offended the queen mother again. In 1038, Shu Yan was promoted to the Imperial Commissioner in charge of war, public works, and crime. At that time King Yuan-hao Zhao of the Kingdom of Western Xia rebelled and repeatedly defeated Song's troops. Shu Yan analyzed the reasons for the defeat and proposed four guidelines to strengthen the defense: 1. Giving border commanders the power to make decisions so that they were no longer required to ask the emperor's court for instructions. 2. Recruiting and training archers to prepare for war. 3. Selling unused inventory in the palace warehouse and finding resources for soldiers' pay and provisions. 4. Recovering embezzled substances to enrich the national treasury. After the military reform, the Song troops quickly crushed the rebellion.
    In 1042, Shu Yan was appointed as the prime minister and the President of the Privy Council at the same time. In 1043, he was given an additional title, Great Scholar at Ji-xian (gathering of scholars) Palace. In the same year, he and the Vice President of the Privy Council, Zhong-yan Fan, revamped education and established public schools in every city. These efforts were later called Establishing Schools During Qing-li Period in the Chinese history. In 1044, he was impeached for poorly editing the epitaph for a deceased queen and was demoted to Minister of Public Works. In 1050, he became the Minister of Finance and commanded Yong-xing Army. In 1053, he moved to Henan Province. Later, he became the Minister of War and was made the Duke of Lin-zi. In 1054, he returned to the capital to see a physician due to illness. During this period he served as a Taoist scholar at the Imperial Temple. After his death, the emperor gave him the honorary title of Minister of Public Works and bestowed on him the posthumous name, Yuan-xian (great contributions).
    Although Shu Yan held important offices, he was amiable and unassuming. He recommended talented people and promoted them. Scholars such as Zhong-yan Fan, Dao-fu Kong, and An-shi Wang were his students. Qi Han, Bi Fu, and Xiu Ou-yang were put in important positions after his patronization and recommendation.
    Shu Yan achieved great accomplishments in many aspects of literature. He was a poet, Ci poet, calligrapher and an essayist. Absorbing the spirit of the Garden School of Ci Poetry and the elegant style of poet Yan-yi Feng, Shu Yan created his graceful and restrained style of Ci poetry. He was the Father of the Northern Song Ci Poetry. His language was clear and attractive. His rhyming schemes were harmonious. Whenever he portrayed a landscape, he attached his feelings to his descriptions. His practice of endowing objects in nature with life established a style of his own.
    Meng-xi's Comments written by Gua Shen (1031-1095) of the Song dynasty says, "When Shu Yan was a child, Wen-jie Zhang recommended his talents to Emperor Zhen-zong. Consequently, Shu Yan was summoned to the palace. When he arrived at the palace, the emperor’s court held the palace exam for admission to the Royal academy. The emperor ordered him to take the exam. When Shu Yan read the topic to write about, he told the examiner that he had written a poem about that topic ten days ago. He still kept that poem at home and requested the examiner give him another topic to write about. The emperor loved his honesty."
    Casual Remarks on Fu Study written by Zeng Wu of the Song dynasty says, "Once Shu Yan and Qi Wang walked around a pond. It was late Spring. Flowers fell. Shu Yan said, 'Whenever I write a line and have difficulty in composing the next one, I write the line on the wall for contemplation. I have had the line, 'The flowers have no choice but to wither and fall', on the wall for over a year, but I am still not inspired to write the next one.' Wang immediately responded, 'Why don't you use 'The returning wild geese and I seem to have met before'?' Shu Yan appreciated his talent and offered Wang a position as editor in the palace. Consequently, Qi Wang became one of Shu Yan's staff."