Yue-yang Tower 1
Fan, Zhong-yan 2 (989 -1052 CE)
In Spring 1044, Zi-jing Teng 3 was demoted to mayor of Ba-ling
City 4. One year later the city government prospered and people lived
in harmony. Matters that had been neglected were attended to. Consequently, the
city remodeled Yue-yang Tower and expanded its dimensions. The mayor had ancient
and contemporary great poems inscribed on the wall and asked me to write an
essay about the tower.
The most beautiful scenery in the city is Lake Dong-ting 5 which
connects to the remote mountains and swallows the Yangtze River. The lake is so
huge that one cannot see the other side. From morning till evening, the
personality of the lake changes constantly. This is the grand sight from the
tower. Many people have described this scenery before. Ba-ling City connects
with the Wu River in the north and reaches the Xiao River and the Xiang River in
the south by Lake Dong-ting. Thus, writers and demoted officials visit here
frequently. Can all of them feel the same, while viewing the lake?
Suppose it is the rainy season; there has been no sunshine for months;
sinister wind howls; the yellowish billows gather, rise and crash against the
sky; the sun and stars shine faintly; the mountains are hidden by fog; masts
fall and oars break; merchants dare not travel; tigers roar and apes howl as the
night falls. If we were to ascend the tower at this moment, we would be
overwhelmed by melancholy. For instance, we would miss our hometown or brood on
rumors and slanders. Bleak and desolate sights would greet eyes everywhere. We
could become so sensitive that we might easily grow pessimistic.
Suppose spring is in the air and scenery is clear; the lake water is calm;
the lights in the sky and on the water display an expanse of green; gulls fly
together in the sky; colorful fish swim in the water; the fragrant plants along
the shore and orchids on the islets are lush and green; after the smoke from
home-fires disperse in the evening, the sky becomes fresh and clean; the
moonshine spreads thousands of miles; the lake surface is glittering like gold;
the reflected image of the moon appear to sink into the lake bottom; the
fishermen sing songs to each other; how happy they are! If we were to ascend the
tower at this time, we would be carefree and joyous and forget all of our honor
and shame. We would beam with joy while we drink wine facing the breeze.
I have discovered that in ancient times a gentleman with vision would think
differently about these two situations. He would not allow material things to
affect his mood. He would not be upset by his personal problems. When he was in
power, he would grieve over people's sorrows. When he was exiled to remote
border regions, he would worry about his emperor. In other words, he would
always concern himself with important state affairs regardless of his promotion
or demotion. When would he be happy? I would say that he would worry about his
country's problems before anyone else
and he would enjoy happiness only after all of his people were happy. Without
such a role model, whom would I follow?
Yue-yang Tower is located in Yue-yang City of Hunan Province. While Zi-jing
Teng remodeled the tower, Zhong-yan Fan wrote this commemorative essay,
Calligrapher Zi-mei Su copied it on the wall, and Song Shao inscribed the
tower's name in seal characters on a sign board. Their works were known as "Four
Guo-shang-hou wrote, "The wonderful part of this essay is the last paragraph:
Only sages with vision are able to concern themselves with important state
affairs and only they can enjoy true happiness; One's vision should not be
affected by one's promotion or demotion. Although these words came from Zhong-yan Fan's self-importance, Fan also used them to encourage Zi-jing Teng."
Xi-wen was Zhong-yan Fan's other first name. He was a native of Wu-xian
City of Su-zhou County during the Northern Song dynasty. When he was two years
old, his father died. His mother subsequently married Mr. Zhu of Chang-shan
City. At that time Zhong-yan Fan took his step-father's surname and was called Yue (happy). When he grew up, he discovered who his real father was. Then he
said good-bye to his mother and went to Ying-tian-fu City to study with Tong-wen
Qi. He read books day and night. When he was tired on winter nights, he would
wash his face with cold water. If he did not have enough food to eat, he would
drink thin gruel to survive. In 1015 CE, he passed the Advanced Exam and was
appointed to the position of staff officer in Guang-de City. After he assumed
his office, he sent for his mother and took good care of her. Then he returned
to using his original family name and changed his first name to Zhong-yan.
During Emperor Ren-zong's reign, he was promoted to the position of councilor in the
Ministry of Civil Service advising Kai-feng-fu City, the capital of the Northern
Song dynasty. Because he offended Yi-jian Lü, the prime minister, Fan was demoted to Mayor of Rao-zhou City. When King Yuan-hao
Zhao of the Kingdom of Western Xia rebelled, Fan planned and built the defense
in Shaanxi Province to fulfill his duty as Scholar of the House of Dragon
Pictures. He had defended the frontiers for several years. His orders were clear
and strict. The Qiang Tribe called him "The Old Man of Dragon Pictures". The
generals in the Kingdom of Western Xia said, "There are millions of soldiers in
Fan's chest." The did not dare invade China's borders. In 1043 CE, Fan was
appointed to be the Vice President of the Privy Council and soon after he was
reappointed to administer state affairs. He attempted to reform the government
on a grand scale, but he suffered great opposition. Consequently, he resigned
his position and was demoted to Mayor of Qing-zhou City. Soon after he died from
disease. The emperor honored him by giving him the posthumous name "Wen-zheng" (Duke of
Virtue and Literature).
Zi-jing Teng used to be an advisor. His advise offended the emperor, so he
was demoted to mayor of Ba-ling City.
Ba-ling City is now called Yue-yang City and is located in Hunan Province.
Lake Dong-ting, 320 miles long and 160 miles wide, is the largest
freshwater lake in China. It is located in Hunan Province. It is surrounded by
Hua-rong, Nan-xian, An-xiang, Yuan-jiang, and Xiang-yin Cities. Ba-ling City was
at the lake's mouth where the Yangtze River enters. The rivers north of Yue-cheng, Ming-zhu, Du-pang, and Qi-ting Cities on Wu-ling (the five ranges of
mountains which formed the northern boundary between what are now Jiangxi
Province and Guangdong Province) such as the Xiang River, the Zi River, the Yuan
River, and the Feng River all converge into Lake Dong-ting. There are many hilly
islands on the lake. Jun Mountain is the most well-known of them. The water in
the lake is shallow in Spring and Winter, but greatly swells in Summer and
Autumn. The lake appears like the open sea during the latter seasons.