A Pinch of Red

Jiang, Kui (1152 A.D.-1220 A.D.)


    On January 7th, I stayed in the guest house, Hall for Observing Administration, of the Judge of Chang-sha City, De-zao Xiao. There is a curved pond to the south of the hall. A ancient, low wall stands to the west of the pond. A deep path winds through the thick grove of loquat and bamboo trees. Following the path south we found scores of plum trees belonging to the city. Their blossoms looked like those of peppers or beans: red bursting out of white dew. The shadows of branches were abundant. While walking in clogs among green moss and fine stones, I was greatly excited by the rural scenery. I made an urgent request to ascend the Tower of King Ding 1. After the boat crossed the Xiang River, I began to climb Lu Mountain 2. The clouds were hanging low and the river's waves were peaceful. After my excitement faded, sadness snuck in. While drinking wine, I composed this verse for the music.

    There are scores of plum trees to the south of this ancient city. The red blossoms are not suited to be decorative hairpins. The icy surface is sticky like glue. Thick snow rises to the wall‘s waist. The clouds are dark and heavy. The vines snake back and forth along the path lined with bamboo trees. The laughter and conversation gradually coming from the path surprise the waterfowl on the shoal. The secluded spring, woods, and the Monument of King Ding invite me to climb the mountain.

    Why do I wander from south to north? Currently, I visit the clouds and rivers of Xiang 3. What I have seen saddens me. The local residents love to post drawings of chicken 4 on their doors. In the beginning of Spring they present gold plates with chicken as their offerings. I sigh in vain that the time flies. I recall our exquisite meeting at the western tower 5: the hanging willow branches 6 waved in the wind like a thousand gold threads. I am afraid that the Spring will have ended by the time we meet again.

1 Scenic Locations in China says, "The tower of King Ding was located east of Chang-sha City. The tower was built by King Ding of Chang-sha during the Han dynasty."

2 Lu Mountain, also called Yue-lu Mountain, is located southwest of Chang-sha City.

3 Xiang is an abbreviated name for Hunan Province.

4 Times and Seasons in Jing and Chu Counties says, "People post drawings of chicken on their doors and hang reed ropes above the pictures. They also put charms beside the pictures to expel evil spirits."

5 This sentence refers to the beautiful woman Jiang met at He-fei City.

6 This sentence refers to the hair of the woman Jiang met at He-fei City.