As General Wang's towering warships left City Yi,
The royal spirit in Nanking suddenly became dim and shrank to nothing
After miles of iron chains sank to the river bottom 3.
A sea of white flags 4 rose up from the City of Stones
The landscape has seen many tragedies in the past,
But this mountain has not changed its shape
And still cradles the Yangtze River's cold flow.
Although China is united in peace now,
The reeds in this windy fortress whisper the autumn's decline
Liu passed the Advanced Exam in 793 A.D. and then worked at the state
department. He joined the Reforming party, but his party failed in a power
struggle. Consequently, he was demoted to be the mayor of City Lien. Later, Du
Pei recommended him, Liu became the Prince's Guest. His poems are powerful. His
thoughts reveal that he had a great vision. He was a great poet in the mid-stage
of the T'ang dynasty. Later generations honored him as a "Poetry Giant".
In this poem Liu describes a historical event that occurred in 280 A.D. At
that time, China was divided into two countries: Jin and Wu. Nanking was the
capital of Country Wu. Wang was a general of Country Jin. His troops were so
strong that Nanking, a thousand miles away from City Yi, felt dread even when
the troops just began to leave City Yi.
Country Wu built miles of iron chains on the Yangtze River to block the
enemy ships, but General Wang's fleet broke the chains with torches, and then
sank them to the river bottom.
King Hao of Country Wu, a tyrant, opened the city gate of Nanking and went
to General Wang's camp to surrender.
The City of Stones is another name for Nanking.
In this poem, Liu warned the tyrannical warlords of his time that people in
China desired unification and the warlords who divided China could not last. The
poem also hinted that the government needed reform and that continuing
corruption would lead to destruction like that which befell the tyrant, King Hao.