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Solving the Puzzle of Interlocking Links 1

Zhou, Bang-yan (1056 A.D.-1121 A.D.)

    My melancholy had no place to go. Since I parted with my girlfriend, I have received no letters from her. Even though I am skilful in solving the puzzle of interlocking links, I am powerless when wind disperses, rain is stored away, and only light fog and thin clouds remain 2. The Swallow Tower is vacant. Dim dust blankets all the furniture and the bed is covered in spiders' webs. I wish I could rearrange roots and leaves in the garden, but I see only the red peonies that I planted when you were with me 3.

    Fragrant grass starts to grow on the shoal. I suppose a boat is docked by the winding shore. However, I am at the most remote corner of the Earth. I kept all your love notes when we were together. I wish I could forget you by burning all of them. Spring returns at this ferry crossing. I hope you will send me a plum blossom from south of the Yangtze River. I will devote my life to shedding tears for you as I gaze at wine and flowers.




1 The puzzle of interlocking links is a toy. It requires considerable mathematical intelligence to solve the puzzle. The volume "Strategies of the State of Qi" in the series, Strategies During the Warring States Period, says, "King Zhao of the State of Qin sent a messenger to the Queen of Qi. The messenger gave the queen the puzzle of interlocking jade links and said, 'There are many wise people in Qi. Can they solve this puzzle?' The queen showed the toy to her officials, but no one could solve the puzzle. The Queen then broke the toy with an awl and told the messenger of Qin, 'I obeyed your command and solved the puzzle.'"

2 This sentence means I am clever enough to solve difficult mathematical problems, but I am powerless in solving my emotional problems because they are intangible.

3 "Roots" refers to the poet's heart and "leaves" refers to his outlooks. This sentence means "I try to change my thoughts and outlooks, but all I see is the image of my girlfriend."