Wisdom from Chinese Literary and Buddhist Classics
SONG OF THE OLD PLUM TREE BEFORE
THE SHRINE OF YANPING (EXCERPT)
I’ve heard that the old cypress trees before the
Shrine of Zhuge Liang have bronze-like branches;
their steel-like spirit of righteousness is a
craftsmanship of nature. I’ve also heard that the
old Chinese Juniper trees above Yue Fei’s
mausoleum are so tall that they scrape the sky;
their lush branches bend towards the South, in
sign of their loyalty. Assuming that these old trees
are insentient, I wonder why they are revered by
many? Witnesses of history are still able to sense
the loyalty of Zhuge Liang, who prolonged the
reign of Han, and Yue Fei, who drove out the barbarians.
Likewise, there is no true hero but Yanping*, who
solely inherited the spirit of chivalry. The roof of
his shrine reaches for the heavens, while the old
plum tree inside is in full bloom. New branches
sprouting from the giant trunk are covered in
exuberant leaves, while its subtle fragrance
spreads through the warm spring breeze.
Out of anger, Yanping rose, calling himself an
orphan, and soared into the sky riding the flying
bear*. With a long sword in hand and Mount
Kongtong behind him, he was still unable to end
the crisis of Luyang or revitalize the place.
Supposedly having ridden towards
Mount Tian on a horse and having hung up his bow,
how could he have given up halfway on his Northern
expedition and Southern voyage? The pioneering
endeavors were nevertheless aimed at the East of
the Eastern Sea. Although the legendary whale**
had gone forth, the waters still remained turbid.
As the beacons rose over neighboring rivers and
mountains, he remained untraceable amidst the
changes of time.
Now, what can only be seen is the plum tree that
blossoms year after year, with its bloom even more
lush. According to legend, the tree has lived over
two hundred springs and winters. With vigor coming
from its intertwined roots, the tree stands frozen
with its origins buried in snow and its branches
sealed off by the clouds above. The bright and clear
moon appears in the corner against the red wall,
while icy reflections of the sword shine at midnight.
Though I enjoy singing and howling over such facts,
my heart remains concerned as I think about the
nine states. What I see is but a sea of plum blossoms
in the lush spring.