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Eulogy to My Nephew 1

Han, Yu (768 A.D.-824 A.D.)

    I had to wait for seven days after your funeral before I could control my grief and send my servant, Jian-zhong, to visit your tomb to honor you with seasonal sacrifices.

    When I was little, I was an orphan. I had no memory of my father 2. I was brought up by my brother and my sister-in-law. Later, my brother died in the south in middle age 3. You and I were still kids. I followed my sister-in-law to bury my brother in He-yang City 4. Then we lived south of the Yangtze river. We were lonely and suffered hardship, but we were together all the time. I have three elder brothers. They all died young. The ones who succeeded our family line was you, a grandson, and myself, a son. Only one person remained from each generation. We are so lonely that only our shadows accompanied our bodies. My sister-in-law once stroked your head, pointed to me and said, "The two generations of the Han family have only you two kids." At that time you were too young to remember these things. Though I could remember what she had said, I did not realize how sad her words had been.

    When I was nineteen, I came to the capital, Chang-an City. Four years later, I went home to see you. After another four years when I went to the He-yang City to visit my brother's tomb, I met you attending your motherís funeral. Two years later, when I went to Bian-zhou City to assist Prime Minister Dong, you came to see me. After living with me for a year, you went home to bring your wife back. Soon after, the prime minister died. I left Bian-zhou City, so you could not come. That year I managed some military affairs at Xu-zhou City. As soon as I decided to send a servant to invite you to live with us, I had to resign my position again. Therefore, you could not come then either. I thought it was only temporary for you to live in the east. If you wanted to find a permanent home, it was better to settle down in the west. I was planning to purchase a house in our hometown and arrange for you to live with me. Who knew that you would suddenly leave me and die? You and I were both young men. I thought we would live together eventually, although we had separated temporarily. This is the reason why I left you and made a living in the capital. If I had known you would pass away so soon, I would not have left you for one day to assume an office in the capital even if it were as powerful as the prime minister's.

    Last year, When Dong-ye Meng 5 assumed his office at Li-yang City, I asked him to deliver my letter to you. It said, "I am not yet 40, but my vision is poor, my hair is gray, and my teeth are loose. My father and my brothers all died young. Decrepit as I am, can I live long? I can not go and you are not willing to come. I am afraid that I will die some day and you will grieve the rest of your life." Who could imagine that the younger one would die while the elder one lives and that the stronger one would die while the sicker one survives? How could I believe you were dead? It might be a dream. Perhaps someone delivered an inaccurate message. If I believe you are dead, I struggled to understand how my brother's kindness has been rewarded by your early death. Pure and clever as you are, could you not benefit from his kindness? It was unbelievable that the younger and stronger one dies and the elder and weaker one lives. Then it must have been a dream or someone must have brought me an inaccurate message. But why were Dong-ye's letter and Geng-lan's 6 message by my side? This must be true then. Although my brother was a kind man, you still suffered an untimely death. You were so pure and clever that you are supposed to be blessed by my brother's spirit. However, you could not benefit from his blessing. It is true that Godís will is hard to predict and God's thought is hard to understand. It is true that sometimes one cannot reach a result by deduction and one cannot predict when a person will die. From this year on, my hair began to change from speckled to all white. Some of my loose teeth began to fall out. My spirit began to decay and my ambition started to diminish. It will not take me long to follow you in death. If there is an afterlife, we will not be separated long. If there is none, I will not grieve for long. Your son is only ten years old. My son is only five years old. The young and strong are not guaranteed to live. How could we expect such kids to grow up? It was truly sad.

    Last year you wrote to me, ďRecently I had the soft-foot disease 7. Sometimes it hurts badly.Ē I said, ďThis is a common disease for people who live south of the Yangtze River. I did not think that we should worry about it.Ē Did you die from this disease or other causes? I received your letter of June seventeenth. Dong-ye told me that you died on June second. Geng-lan's message had no date. The messenger of Dong-ye might have known that he should have asked your family for the date of your death. Geng-lan did not know she should have written the date in her letter. Dong-ye's letter was based on the information provided by his messenger, but the messenger provided him a false report. Was it so or not?

    Now I sent my servant to honor you, to console your kids 8 and your wet-nurse. If they had enough food, let them remain there until their mourning period ends. Then I would bring them to live with me. If the food could not last that long, then I would take them in immediately. I would let the rest of your servants remain to mourn your death. If I could afford to move your coffin, I would bury you near the graves of our ancestors. This would fulfill my wishes.

    I was upset that I did not know when you were sick or when you died. While you lived, we could not live together. When you died, I could not be at your bedside. I failed to attend either your funeral or burial. It must have been my bad behavior that offended God and caused your death. Because of my disobedience and unkindness, we could not live together and then die together. One went to heaven and the other remains on earth. While you lived, your shadow could not lean against my body. After you died, your spirit could not enter my dream. This was my fault. Oh! My God! Why did this tragedy occur to you? From now on, I have no intention to remain in this world. All I want is a few acres of land along the Yi River or Ying River 9 to wait for my time to die. I will teach your son and mine and hope that they may grow up and succeed. I will also raise your daughter and my daughter until they get married. This is all I want. This eulogy must stop somewhere, but my grief is impossible to end. Did you hear what I said? Anyway, I wish you could enjoy the food that I brought to you.




1 Hui, Yu Han's elder brother, was a royal attendant in charge of the emperor's daily life. Hui had no children. He chose Lao-cheng, the son of his younger brother, Jie, as his heir. Lao-cheng was Yu Hanís nephew.

2 Zhong-qing Han, Yu Hanís father, was the Mayor of Wu-chang City. He died when Yu Han was three.

3 In 787 A.D., Hui was demoted to Mayor of Shao-zhou City due to party struggles. Soon after, Hui died in the line of duty. At that moment Yu Han was eleven. He had followed Hui to his office when Hui was sent into exile.

4 Yu Han was a native of Nan-yang City in Deng-zhou County. He-yang City was Nan-yang City. It was located in present day Meng-xian City in Henan Province.

5 Jiao was Dong-ye Meng's other first name.

6 Geng-lan might be the wife of Lao-cheng, Yu Han's nephew.

7 Internal Diseases says, "Soft-foot disease is a type of flaccid paralysis. It has the following symptom: it paralyzes a personís feet to such a degree that he or she cannot walk."

8 The first name of Lao-cheng's son was Xiang.

9 The Yi River and the Ying River are located in Henan Province.