Custom Search

Epilogue of Records of the Inscriptions on Bronze and Stone

Li, Qing-zhao 1 (1081-1154? CE)
    What are the thirty chapters of Records of the Inscriptions on Bronze and Stone? They are chapters in the book written by Ming-cheng Zhao 2. They include inscriptions on bronze and also stories of heroes and recluses inscribed on stone tablets from the Three Dynasties (2205-249 BCE) to the Five Dynasties (907-960 CE). For the two thousand inscriptions on bronze and stone, we verify their authenticity, discard the dross, select the best, and then revise and criticize the selections so that they suffice to fit the teachings of sages and amend the omissions and shortcomings of official Chinese history. It can be said that the collection is comprehensive.

    Alas! Since the disasters of Ya Wang 3 and Zai Yuan 4, paintings and works of calligraphy have been valued the same as peppers 5. If we study the problems of Chang-yu 6 and Yuan-kai 7, we will find that there is no difference between collecting wealth and studying history. Even though the names of their hobbies are different, their obsessions are the same.

    Ming-cheng and I were married in 1101 CE. At that time, my father was an official on the Board of Rites, my father-in-law was an official in the Ministry of Civil Service, and Ming-cheng, at the age of twenty-one, was a student at the Royal University. The Zhao and Li families were poor. We had to be frugal. The first and fifth day of each month Ming-cheng asked for time-off from school. After we pawned our clothes in exchange for around thirty dollars, we went to the market at the Temple of the Premier to purchase fruit and stone tablets with inscriptions on them. Then we returned home. Facing each other, we enjoyed fruit and appreciated the inscriptions on the tablets. We called ourselves "the people governed by Emperor Ge-tian 8". Two years later, Ming-cheng became a government official. We had small means to buy basic necessities such as food and clothing. We sent people all over China in order to gather as many ancient writings as possible. Day after day, month after month, the collections accumulated. My father-in-law became the premier 9. Government agencies, museums, libraries, friends, and relatives frequently provided us with lost poems, official events that had not been recorded, the Wall of Lu 10, the Tomb at Ji City 11, and other books we had never seen before. In order to make good use of these resources, we strove to write about these ancient inscriptions. Immersed in joyful discovery, we could not stop our work. Afterwards, whenever we saw paintings and works of calligraphy by contemporary or ancient masters, or rare utensils from the Three Dynasties, we would disrobe and trade our clothes for them. During the Chong-ning 12 Period, we saw someone carry "Peonies" painted by Xi Xu 13. When we asked him how much he would sell for, he replied, "$12,000". At that time even rich people would have a hard time raising such an amount. We borrowed the painting for one night, but we had to return it because we could not come up with any way to purchase it. For the next few days we felt upset when facing each other.

    After Ming-cheng resigned his position, we lived in the countryside for ten years. With our parentsí support we still had ample food and clothing even after giving alms to the poor. Later, Ming-cheng became the Mayor of Qing-zhou City, and then Lai-zhou City. We spent most of our income on pencils and pieces of bamboo 14. Whenever we acquired a book, we would revise it together and also edit the marginal notes and comments. Whenever we obtained paintings, works of calligraphy, or wine jugs with inscriptions, we would unroll the scrolls, observe, study and critique them. Our work in the evening was limited to one candle. Once the candle burned out, our work for the day was finished. Because of our careful approach to working with our collections, the writings, paintings, and works of calligraphy were much better preserved than those of other collectors. I loved to memorize events in an interesting way. After dinner we steeped tea in the drawing room. We would take turns pointing to a pile of books and stating in which book, chapter, page, and line a certain event was mentioned. If one of our guesses was correct, that person would win the contest and have the privilege of drinking tea first. When I won, I would raise my cup and laugh loudly. One time my cup toppled and the tea spilled all over the front of my garment. I could not drink any tea and had to get up and change my clothes. Even though this was not our native place, we wished to work there until retirement. Despite the hardship, we would not compromise our academic goal.

    After collecting a considerable number of books, we built large bookcases in our library. Then we placed our books in the bookcases and catalogued them. If we wanted to use a book, we had to check the catalogue and get a key to fetch it. If part of a book was smeared or damaged, we would supplement it with neat handwriting in regular script. It took a great deal of care to keep our books in good condition. I was impatient at repairing books. Therefore, I began to save money from daily expenses. Each meal we had only one main dish. Each of us kept only one set of formal attire. My head was no longer adorned with pearls or jewelry. Our rooms were no longer furnished with gilded or embroidered furniture. If we encountered a history or philosophy book, we always purchased it as a duplicate as long as its pages were complete and its authenticity could be verified. Book of Changes and Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and Autumn Annals are our heirlooms. Therefore, our library collected many books related to those two books. It could be said that of all extant collections ours were the most complete. With books spread haphazardly over the desks and tables, our minds met with those of masters. Reading their work empowered our spirits. The joy was better than that derived from music, sex, pets or horses.

    In 1126 CE, Ming-cheng garrisoned Zi-chuan City. When he heard that the troops of Jin 15 had invaded the capital 16, he looked around and was at a loss as to what to do. Seeing the chests full of books, he knew they would soon not belong to him. Reluctant to part with them, he was upset. In March of 1127 CE, Ming-cheng's mother died. We came south to attend her funeral. We could not carry all our belongings with us. Consequently, we first discarded the largest books, duplicate paintings, and relics without inscriptions. Then we discarded the books currently printed by the Royal University, average paintings, and heavy items. After repeated reductions, we still had to employ fifteen wagons to carry our books. We traveled to the Eastern Sea. Boats bow to stern sailed across the Huai River, and then the Yangtze River. At last, we arrived at Jian-kang City (Nanjing). In our old mansion at Qing-zhou City, we still had more than ten rooms of books and relics. We expected that we would send boats to retrieve them next Spring. In December, Jinís troops captured and burned Qing-zhou City. All the books and relics stored in more than ten rooms were reduced to ashes.

    In September of 1128 CE, Meng-cheng was reinstated as a mayor, this time to govern Jian-kang City (Nanjing). In March of 1129 CE, we sailed to Wu-hu City, entered Gu-shu City, and searched for a home along the Gan River. When we arrived at Chi-yang City in May, Ming-cheng received the emperor's edict and was appointed to be the Mayor of Hu City. The edict instructed him to visit the palace when he passed by. Therefore, Ming-cheng decided to make our home at Chi-yang City and answer the summons by himself. On June 13th he carried his baggage, left the boat, and sat on the shore. He wore simple clothes and a head cloth. His sparkling eyes revealed a tiger-like spirit. He said farewell while I remained in the boat. I was preparing for the worst, so I cried out, "What should I do if the city is attacked by the enemy?" He flourished his hand as if it was a spear and responded at a distance, "Follow the crowd. If necessary, discard baggage first, then clothes and quilts, then books, paintings, and works of calligraphy, and then relics. As for the vessels and instruments used in the ancestral temple, you should carry them yourself and guard them with your life. Do not forget." Then he mounted a horse and galloped away. Galloping under the scorching sun for a long distance made him ill. When he arrived at the palace, he was diagnosed with malaria. At the end of July, he was confined to bed. I was shocked and upset. I worried that Ming-cheng would be impatient to get well and would take his medicine (bupleurum falcatum & scutellaria macrautha) too hurriedly. Consequently, I hired a boat to sail downstream. It traveled sixty miles in a single night. When I arrived, he had taken more medicine than he should have, just as I had expected. He had malaria and dysentery. His illness was terminal. I wept with lament and in panic and had no heart to ask about affairs after his death. On August 18th he fetched a writing brush to write a poem. He died as he finished his last word. He did not leave a will to distribute incense and sell shoes 17.

    After the burial, I had no place to go. The emperorís court disbanded the imperial harems. I also heard that the Yangtze River had been completely blockaded. At that time I still had 20,000 books and 2,000 duplicate copies of inscriptions on bronze and stone. The dishes, cushions, and quilts in my house could accommodate one hundred guests. The same applied to other extra items. I also became seriously ill: only my breath remained. The battle line drew near day by day. I thought the husband of Ming-chengís younger sister was the Deputy Minister of Defense who garrisoned Hong-zhou City 18 as the Deputy Commander. Therefore, I went to him for refuge and dispatched two old staff members of my late husband to send my belongings there. In December, Hong-zhou City fell to Jinís troops. I discarded all my belongings there. Thus, the books that had crossed the Yangtze River by boats bow to stern were dispersed into clouds and mists. My only remaining belongings were light scrolls of copy books containing models of calligraphy, The Collection of Writings of Bai Li, Fu Du, Yu Han and Zong-yuan Liu, Contemporary New Phrases 19, Salt and Iron 20, scores of duplicate copies of inscriptions on stone tablets from the Han and Tang dynasties, more than ten cauldrons from the Three Dynasties, and several chests of books written in the Southern Tang dynasty. During my illness, I enjoyed them once in a while. I moved them into my bedroom. Their survival through the turbulent times made them more precious to me.

    We could neither sail upstream on the Yangtze River nor predict the enemyís next move. I had a younger brother who was an editor at the Bureau of the Emperor's Edicts, so I sought refuge with him. When I arrived at Tai-zhou City 21, the mayor had fled. Subsequently, I went to Shan City 22, and then Mu-zhou City 23. When I left the latter, I discarded my clothes and quilts. While visiting Huang-yan City 24, I hired a boat and went to sea to pursue the traveling emperor's court. At that time the emperor's court was stationed at Zhang-an City 25. I followed the emperor's ship through the sea lane to Wen-zhou City 26, and then to Yue City 27. In December of 1130 CE, the emperor evacuated his court. I followed the emperor to Qu City 28. In March of 1131 CE, we visited Yue City again. In 1132 CE, we arrived at Hang City 29.

    When Ming-cheng was very ill, Mr. Fei-qing Zhang came to visit him, carrying a jade pot. Later, Zhang carried the pot away. Actually, the pot was made of stone. I wondered who witnessed this event and accused me of committing treason by smuggling a jade pot to the Jin dynasty. A rumor spread that I should be punished. I was worried and scared. I neither dared to say anything, nor dared to neglect the rumor. Consequently, I listed all my antiques and asked the government to verify that none were lost. When I arrived at Yue City, the emperor's court had moved to Si-ming City 30. I deposited my books at Shan City because I did not dare to leave them at home. Later, rebels-turned-soldiers took them away. I have heard that all my books there went to the mansion of the late General Li. Needless to say, six tenths of my antiques that had survived through the turbulent times were gone. All the antiques I had left were seven chests of books, paintings, and works of calligraphy. I put them under my couch because I could not bear to arrange them elsewhere. This made it convenient for me to open and close the chests.

    At Kuai-ji City 31, I rented an apartment in the house of the Zhong family, natives of the city. Suddenly, one night burglars dug a hole through the wall and stole five chests full of books, paintings, and works of calligraphy. I was so distraught that I wished to die. Immediately, I posted a notice saying that I would offer a generous reward for my lost antiques. Two days later, my neighbor, Fu-hao Zhong, presented eighteen scrolls to claim the reward. Therefore, I knew the burglars were in the neighborhood. I tried everything I could think of to retrieve my antiques, but they were never recovered. Now I know that my lost antiques were purchased by Salt Commissioner Yue Wu 32 for a low price. Thus, eight tenths of my antiques that survived through the turbulent times were gone. The only antiques I had left were a few incomplete volumes of books and three or four scrolls of copy books containing average models of calligraphy. I still treasured them and desired to protect them as I would my head or eyes. How foolish I was!

    Today when I suddenly opened this book written by my late husband, I felt like seeing him. Thereby, I recalled the time when Meng-cheng was working in Jing-zhi (govern-serenely) Chamber at Lai-zhou City. He would insert flower book-marks in chapters and would bind every ten chapters together into a volume with a light green ribbon. Every evening he would revise two chapters and compile notes for one chapter after the officials left his office. Of the 2,000 chapters of his book only 502 of them contain notes. Now his handwriting still looks new, but the trees beside his tomb have grown so large that one would need both arms to stretch around the girth of the trunk 33. This thought saddens me.

    When Jiang-ling City 34 fell to the troops of Western Wei, Emperor Yuan-di of the Liang dynasty was more concerned about his books 35 than he was about the destruction of his kingdom. When the rebel controlled Jiang-du City, Emperor Yang-di of the Sui dynasty still requested that paintings and works of calligraphy accompany him even though his death was imminent 36. Can't one forget one's obsession when facing death? Or does God think that I am not talented enough to enjoy this exceptional treasure? Or does my late husband still perceive and treasure his collections so much that he is unwilling to leave them in this world? It had been so difficult to acquire them. Why was it so easy to lose them? Alas! From the time I was two years younger than Ji Lu when he wrote poetry 37 to the time I was two years older than Yuan Qu when he recognized his mistakes 38, a period of thirty-four years, why have I been swayed so much by consideration of gain and loss? If there is a time of plenty, there must be a time of little. If there is a gathering, there must be a dispersion. These are absolute truths. If a person in Chu were to lose a bow, another person would acquire the bow 39. My loss is not worth mentioning. I have taken the trouble to write how we started to collect antiques and how I lost most of them in the end. My story can be used as a warning to the antique collectors of later generations.

Zhao-qing Li
August 27, 1132 CE

1 Qing-zhao Li called herself "Yi-an (easily contented)". She was born in Ji-nan City, a place where mountains were bright and rivers were beautiful. Qing-zhao Li came from a talented family. Her father, Ge-fei Li, was an essayist. His book, The Great Park in Lo-yang City, was highly praised by Dong-po Su. The grandfather of Qing-zhouís mother was Gong-chen Wang, who ranked first in the palace exam. Qing-zhou's mother was a gifted writer of both poems and essays. Qing-zhao's husband was a student at the Royal University, a poet, and an expert in textual criticism. As for herself, she was clever and studied hard. As a child, she wrote, "My poetic thoughts are like a night magpie. It circles many times without setting down." She was endowed with an outstanding natural gift. In addition, she worked very hard toward her goal. It was certainly not by chance that she was able to break the barrier of gender discrimination, achieve the same level as Yong Liu and Shu Yan, and compete with the great poets like Dong-po Su and Guan Qin.
    She married Ming-cheng Zhao at the age of eighteen. Besides writing poems in response to each other, they loved to study ancient inscriptions on bronze and stone. They were not rich, but if they found a tablet inscription they liked, they would pawn their clothes to purchase it rather than give it up. They called themselves the people governed by Emperor Ge-tian (an ancient Chinese emperor during the pre-historical age). They were an affectionate couple, and also congenial friends. At home they loved each other; in writing they encouraged each other. They lived a happy and beautiful life.
    When she was thirty-one years old, her husband celebrated her birthday by having her portrait painted and then writing a few words in its upper right-hand corner. The painting showed her beautiful eyes and pretty silhouette. In it, she is holding a fresh flower. The words say, "This is the portrait of Qing-zhao at the age of thirty-one. Her poems are beautiful and refreshing. She is graceful and elegant. I want to come home and live the rest of my life with her in seclusion." Then he wrote the date on the painting. This caption is a great aid for understanding the character of Qing-zhao Li and calculating her birth date.

2 Ming-cheng Zhao was Qing-zhao Li's late husband. De-fu was his alternate first name.

3 Ya Wang was the prime minister during the reign of Emperor Wen-zong in the Tang dynasty. He collected a tremendous number of paintings and works of calligraphy. Later, he planned to kill a group of powerful eunuchs. The secret plan was divulged and Wang was killed. All his antiques, paintings and works of calligraphy were confiscated.

4 Zai Yuan was the prime minister during the reign of Emperor Dai-zong in the Tang dynasty. Because he was despotic and took bribes, he was executed. When his possessions were confiscated, his peppers alone amounted to roughly 800 bushels. You can imagine how numerous the jewelry and riches that he amassed by extortion must have been.

5 Qing-zhao Li was humble and humorous about her husbandís work. People like Zai Yuan might value Records of the Inscriptions on Bronze and Stone the same as peppers.

6 Chang-yu was the Grand Tutor of the Crown Prince during the reign of Emperor Hui-di in the Jin dynasty. His properties were sumptuous and could compare to the wealth of a nation. However, he was very selfish. Yu Du said that Chang-yu was obsessed with money.

7 Yuan-kai was Yu Du's alternate first name. He was the Garrison Commander of Southern China. He loved to study Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and Autumn Annals. In fact, he annotated it. Yu Du ridiculed Chang-yu by saying that he was obsessed with money. Emperor Wu-di asked Du, "What is your obsession?" Du replied, "Studying Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and Autumn Annals."

8 Wu-huai and Ge-tian were ancient emperors of China. Their leadership was based on their service rather than conquest or social rank. For example, they taught people to farm, prevent floods, and use herbs as medicine. Therefore, their people could fully enjoy nature and life.

9 Qing-zhao Li's father-in-law was Ting-zhi Zhao. He and Jing Cai belonged to the same political party. They did their best to banish members of the Yuan-you Party from government positions. Ge-fei Liís writings were highly praised by Dong-po Su. Ge-fei Li, Dong-po Su, and Ting-jian Huang belonged to Yuan-you Party. The differences between Ge-fei Li and Ting-zhi Zhao in regard to politics eventually led to Ge-fei Li's resignation.

10 The chapter titled "Literature" in The History of the Han Dynasty says, "King Gong-wang of the State of Lu destroyed the mansion of Confucius in order to expand his palace. In the destruction process, the construction workers found Book of Records, Book of Rites, The Analects of Confucius, and Zengzi's Book on Filial Piety."

11 In 279 CE, people in Ji City discovered the Tomb of King Xiang-wang of the State of Wei and found books made of bamboo pieces written in paint rather than ink. During the Warring States Period, pens and paper had not yet been invented. Jiang-qing Pu says, "Both 'the Wall of Lu' and 'the Tomb at Ji City' refer to any precious book that people had a hard time obtaining."

12 Chong-ning was a reign title of Emperor Hui-zong in the Song dynasty.

13 Xi Xu was a painter from the Kingdom of Southern Tang during the Five Dynasties. He was a native of Zhong-ling City. His family was influential in society for generations. He mastered the drawing of flowers, fruit, grass, trees, birds, fish and insects. He loved to paint from life and frequently visited gardens to observe the plants and animals. His strokes were delicate and skilful.

14 Here "pencils and pieces of bamboo" refers to "purchased books".

15 In 1115 CE, the Golden Tartars (NŁ -zhen) established the Kingdom of Jin ("Jin" means "gold"). They were a major ethnic group which once lived in Manchuria and Northern China.

16 In 1126 CE, the troops of Jin captured Song's capital, Bian-liang City (present day Kai-feng City in Henan Province). Emperor Hui-zong of the Northern Song dynasty became their captive. Soon Qin-zong declared himself emperor at Beijing [northern capital]. In 1127 CE, Jin's troops also captured Beijing and Emperor Qin-zong. Then Gao-zong declared himself emperor at Nanjing [southern capital] and started the Southern Song dynasty. At that time Emperor Gao-zong's government was about to collapse. Jin's oncoming force was fierce. (Their cavalry was especially powerful. They harnessed horses together in groups of three using chains to build a crushing force. Both soldiers and horses were armored. Their cavalry seemed invincible. Later, it was destroyed by General Fei Yue using sickles to cut the horses' legs.) Wu-zhu (the fourth son of Emperor Tai-zu of the Kingdom of Jin) took to sea to chase Emperor Gao-zong. Wu-zhu's force entered the east part of Zhejiang Province. Emperor Gao-zong fled to Wen-zhou City. Wu-zhu's navy encountered a hurricane at sea and suffered heavy losses. In addition, General Fei Yue raised an army in Hubei Province and came forward to assist Emperor Gao-zong during the crisis. They attacked the route of retreat for Jin's troops. Consequently, Wu-zhu withdrew his troops and the Southern Song dynasty survived.

17 Cao Cao (155-220 CE) was an evil premier during the Eastern Han dynasty. He controlled China by holding Emperor Xian-di under duress. Before Cao Cao passed away, he ordered, "The incense should be distributed to my wives. The servants in the house should not be idle. They must learn to make girdles and straw shoes to sell." Cao Cao believed that after his death he would be able to communicate with his wives whenever they honored him by burning incense. This sentence of Liís essay means, "Unlike Cao Cao who died in anxiety, Ming-cheng died in peace."

18 Hong-zhou City is present day Nan-chang City in Jiangxi Province.

19 Contemporary New Phrases (Shi-shuo-xin-yu) was written by Yi-qing Liu of the Liu-song dynasty.

20 Salt and Iron was written by Kuan Huan of the Han dynasty.

21 Tai-zhou City is present day Lin-hai (facing the sea) -xian City in Zejiang Province. In January of 1130 CE, the Mayor of Tai-zhou City, Gong-wei Chao, deserted his duty and fled.

22 Shan City is present day Sheng-xian City in Zejiang Province.

23 Mu-zhou City is present day Jian-de-xian City in Zejiang Province.

24 Huang-yan City is present day Huang-yan-xian City in Zejiang Province.

25 Zhang-an City was located southeast of present day Lin-hai-xian City in Zejiang Province.

26 Wen-zhou City is present day Yong-jia-xian City in Zejiang Province.

27 Yue City is present day Shao-xing-xian City in Zejiang Province.

28 Qu City is present day Qu-xian City in Zejiang Province.

29 Hang City is present day Hang-zhou City, the capital of Zejiang Province.

30 Si-ming City is present day Yin-xian City in Zejiang Province.

31 Kuai-ji City was an old city in Zejiang Province. This city and old Shan-yin-xian City merged to become present day Shao-xing-xian City.

32 Yue Wu was a famous painter at that time. Fu-peng was his alternate first name. His collections of paintings were enormous.

33 The second part of the sentence means "her husband has been dead for a long time" (this essay was written three years after Li's husband died).

34 Jiang-ling City (present day Nanjing) was the capital of the Liang dynasty.

35 In 554 CE, when Jiang-ling City fell to the troops of Western Wei, Emperor Yuan-di gathered 100,000 books and burned all of them. He said with grief and indignation, "The principles of literature and military combat skills end today."

36 Emperor Yang-di of the Sui dynasty was the favorite son of Emperor Wen-di. He was chosen to replace his elder brother, Yong, as crown prince. Later, Yang-di killed his father and declared himself emperor. He was a tyrant during his reign. In 618 CE, Emperor Yang-di was killed in Jiang-du City. Famous Paintings of Past Dynasties, written by Yan-yuan Zhang, says, "Emperor Yang-di built two towers in his eastern palace: The Tower of Excellent Calligraphy, containing an extensive collection of works of calligraphy from ancient times to the present, was in the east; the Tower of Precious Paintings, containing a collection of paintings from ancient times to the present, was in the west. When Emperor Yang-di visited Yang-zhou City, all the paintings and works of calligraphy followed him."

37 A poem written by Fu Du says, "Ji Lu wrote poetry at the age of twenty." "The time I was two years younger than Ji Lu when he wrote poetry" means that "when I was eighteen (the year Li was married to Ming-cheng Zhao)".

38 Yuan Qu was an official in the State of Wei during the Spring-fall Period. Bo-yu was his alternate first name. He was a disciple of Confucius. When he was fifty, he recognized the monumental mistakes he had made for the last forty-nine years. Li's phrase implies that she was fifty-two when she wrote this epilogue.

39 Conversations of Confucius at Home says, "While King Gong-wang of the State of Chu went on an excursion, he lost a bow. His entourage proposed to search for it. The king said, 'If a person in Chu loses a bow, another person will acquire it. Why should I search for it?'" This story says that one should view things from a generous heart instead of calculating gain and loss from a narrow mind.