The Flute Beneath the Moon
Zhang, Yan (1248-1318)
Prologue. When I visited Wan-zhu Mountain 1 by myself, fallen
leaves in front of my door reminded me of the poem, "Desolate Corn fields"
I am like a lonesome cloud floating in the expansive sky. Happy traveling
days gradually become distant memories. Where are my friends? In my dream by the
cold window, I still remember the road I traveled in the past. I guess that not
many willow trees remain around Lian-chang Palace. This thought makes me afraid to
listen to the night rain. When suddenly awakened, I feel miserable and
sorrowful. Facing the shadow of the candlelight, I wrap myself in my quilt.
Xu Zhang 3, why do you decide to return so late? Half of the
leaves on the willow trees by Duan Bridge have withered and fallen. Only gulls
and egrets remain. The weary traveler still wanders far away from home. His mind
is filled with sorrow. My only worry is that I may shed tears for Xi-zhou Gate
4. I wonder how people in Du-qu Village
5 are faring. The
green sleeves of a girl may still lean against that plum tree
Records of Chi-cheng (red city) City says, "Wan-zhu [myriad bamboo
trees] Mountain is located thirty miles southwest of Chi-cheng City. Its main
peak is called Xin-lo peak. There are nine peaks surrounding it. The mountain
path is extremely narrow and steep. The mountain top is surrounded by beautiful
trees. Being flat, wide and quiet, the top becomes a village of its own. A poem
of Ang Xue, a deputy prime minister, says, 'There are hundreds of families
living in the paradise of Wan-zhu Mountain./ Flowing water encircles flax and
The poem, "Desolate Corn fields" was collected in the chapter titled "The
Grace of the Emperor" in The Bible of Poetry. The poem was written by an
official of the Eastern Zhou dynasty who was on an official trip to the old
capital (Western Capital). When he saw that the old palace had become desolate
corn fields, he walked back and forth, lamented the decline of the Zhou dynasty,
and wrote this poem. Here the sentence in the prologue of Zhang’s poem says that
the fallen leaves induce Zhang's sorrow for his father country.
Si-man was Xu Zhang's other first name. He was a native of Wu-jun City
during the Southern Qi dynasty. At the peak of his political career, he was an
official in charge of rites and culture. He had a graceful bearing. When Emperor
Wu placed the willow trees grown in Shu in front of Ling-he Palace, he said,
"These willow trees are lovely and graceful like Xu Zhang during those years."
Xi-zhou Gate was located west of Nanjing. An Xie was the prime minister of
the Eastern Jin dynasty and did much to rejuvenate it. After the victory against
the enemy, An Xie returned to the Capital (present day Nanjing). When he entered
Xi-zhou gate, he suddenly fell ill. Soon he died. Afterwards, his friend, Tan
Yang, no longer passed by the gate. One day Yang was drunk. He unconsciously
came to Xi-zhou Gate, wept bitterly, and left. See The History of the Jin
dynasty. Here the sentence in Zhang's poem says that Zhang mourned the
officials who died for Zhang's father country just like Tan Yang had mourned An Xie who died for their country.
5 "Qu" means "river bend". Du-qu Village was located south of present day
Chang-an City. The Du family lived there during the Tang dynasty. The place has
been called "Du-qu" since. The Records of the State of Yong says,
"Southern Du Village and Northern Du Village are located seven miles east of Wei-bend
of the Fan River. Southern Du Village is also known as Du-gu Village. Northern
Du Village is also known as Du-qu Village." Here both Xi-zhou Gate and Du-qu
Village refer to Zhang's father country.
In China, plum trees bloom in the winter. Here both plum trees and green
sleeves represent Zhang's strength to fight against misfortune and hardship.