Looking at Ji Gate 1 From a Distance

Zu, Yong 2 (699? A.D.-746? A.D.)

I am excited as I arrive at Golden Platform 3.
The military drums thunder in our camp.
The cold light illuminates the expanse of accumulated snow.
The high flying flags flap, reflecting the color of sunrise
From beyond the three border cities 4.
The flames of the battlefield invade the enemy land.
The cloud-covered mountains near the sea surround Ji City.
I am not one who threw away my writing brush 5 at an early age.
However, inspired by the scene,
I wish to ask for a hat with long tassels 6,
Then go to the front and earn great military honors.

1 Ji Gate was the entrance to Ji City. Today the old location of Ji City is outside the De Sheng Gate of Beijing.

2 After Zu passed the Advanced Exam in 724 A.D., he did not obtain a government position while he stayed at the capital. Therefore, he went home and lived as a lumberjack and fisherman all his life. He was Wei Wang's friend. They wrote poetic letters to each other.

3 It is said that Golden Platform was built by King Zhao of Country Yan to attract and recruit talented people. Today the old location is Yi County of Hebei Province.

4 The three border cities were You, Bing and Liang.

5 This line refers to Chao Ban of the Han dynasty. Chao was poor and worked for city officials as a secretary. The job required hard work and long hours. He often stopped his work, sighed, and said, "A man without other ambitions should follow Jie-Zi Fu and Qian Zhang to acquire dukedom by earning honors from the foreign countries. How can I stay with a writing brush and ink for long?" Soon, he quit his office job and became a soldier. Later, the emperor offered him the title of duke because Ban earned great honors from western neighboring countries.

6 This line refers to Jun Zhong of the Han dynasty. Emperor Wu expanded China's territories and extended his influence to the neighboring countries. He needed brave people to fill his assignments. Jun Zhong volunteered to accept the challenge. He told the emperor, "I would like to accept the hat with long tassels (i.e. the hat of an officer), go to Vietnam, capture their king, and send him to your palace." Later, he was appointed Ambassador to Vietnam. Before long, Vietnam became China's vassal state.