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The Gazebo of the Old Drunkard 1

Ou-yang, Xiu (1007 A.D.-1072 A.D.)

    Chu-zhou City 2 is completely surrounded by mountains. The most beautiful forests and valleys are among the southwestern mountains. The one that looks luxuriant, deep, and beautiful is Lang-ye Mountain 3. If you climb the mountain path six or seven miles, you will gradually hear a murmuring stream. The water that cascades down between the two mountains is called the Brewing Spring 4. Among the winding mountain peaks and paths, there is a gazebo sitting in the spring water. It looks like an eagle spreading its wings. We call it "the Gazebo of the Old Drunkard". Who built the gazebo? It was Mountain Monk Zhi-xian. Who named the gazebo? It was the mayor himself. The mayor and his guests often come here to drink. The mayor easily gets drunk after few sips. Since he is the oldest, he calls himself the "Old Drunkard". What the "Old Drunkard" desires is not wine, but the beauty of the mountains and the spring. The delight of appreciating the beautiful scenery is acquired by the heart through wine.

    When the sun rises, the mist in the forest disperses. When the sunset clouds fade in the west, the rocky caves become dark. The change from bright to dark distinguishes the morning from the evening on the mountain. The wild flowers bloom and release a delicate fragrance. The lush trees create large patches of shade. The wind and frost make the earth clean and graceful. When the water is low, the rocks in the spring bed are exposed. These sights describe the four seasons on Lang-ye Mountain. We visit the mountain in the morning and return after sunset. Since the scenery of each season is different, our pleasure is endless.

    As you can see, the carriers sing along their way; the travelers rest under trees. People in the front of a line call and the people in the back respond. Children trail behind their elders. The coming and going are endless. These scenes describe the travel of people in Chu-zhou City. We fish by a creek. The creek is deep and the fish are large. People brew wine using the spring water. The water is fragrant and the wine is clear. Dishes of game meat and wild vegetables are displayed in disorder on the table. This describes the mayor's party. There are no wind or string instruments. The guests enjoy playing cards, darts, and the game of Go. The dice and horn cups are passed around. People sometimes sit, sometimes stand, and create a clamor. These events show the revelry of the mayor's guests. At this moment, you may see an old man with white hair staggering among the guests. It is the mayor in a drunken state.

    After a while, the sun sets behind the mountain. The shadows of people are scattered and distorted. The mayor goes home and his guests leave the party as well. The woods become dark. You may hear the birds singing in high and low branches. The birds may enjoy the nature of the woods, but they cannot understand the pleasure of people. People may have a good time while attending the mayor's party, but they cannot understand what pleases their host. The one who can share joy with his guests while drunk, and who can write down the story of the gazebo as an essay while sober, is the mayor. Who is the mayor? It is I, Xiu Ou-yang, from Lu-ling City.

1 The entire story essentially proceeds backwards so that the description becomes more dramatic and arouses the reader's curiosity to the maximum. This writing style is unique.

2 Chu-zhou City is now called Chu-xian City and is located in Anhui Province.

3 Lang-ye Mountain is located northwest of Chu-xian City.

4 The water in the Brewing Spring could be used to brew wine. This was how the Brewing acquired its name.