To Tax Collectors After the Enemy’s Withdrawal

Yuan, Chieh (715 A.D.-772 A.D.)


    In 763 A.D., the western border minorities invaded City Tao. They set fire, killed people, and looted almost everything. Next year, they stormed and captured neighboring cities Yung and Shao, and then withdrew without disturbing City Tao. Did this mean they thought the troops at City Tao could defeat them? No. The enemy felt that people in City Tao were poor and they did not have the heart to hurt them. Even the enemy sympathized with our people. I wonder why the tax collectors demand payment of taxes so aggressively. Therefore, I write this poem to show the officials that we need to reduce taxes.

In the past, while the nation was in peace,
I lived in mountain woods for twenty years.
A springhead was near my house.
A valley and a cave were in front of my door.
A tax was required to be paid at a fixed date.
I could sleep well because the tax was light.
Suddenly China suffered a civil war.
I have been in the army for several years.
Not long ago, I came to govern City Tao.
The city was small and its people were poor.
The mountain tribes rebelled again.
They captured neighboring cities, but left City Tao alone.
They did not have the heart to hurt poor people.
Can a tax collector, carrying out the emperor’s order, behave worse than the enemy?
Now the collector pressures people as if he were trying to fry them over fire.
Who wants to take people’s livelihood just to become a “competent” official?
I am thinking about returning the contract of my appointment.
I would like to fetch a pole to propel my boat,
Move my family to a place rich in fish and wheat,
And spend my remaining years beside a river.