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Eulogy for Myself 1

Tao, Yuan-ming (365-427 CE)

1. (Death)

One who is born will die.
The life of the one who dies young is not necessarily short.
Those who lived through last night may die this morning.
To where do their souls disperse 2?
My withered body is placed in a coffin.
My crying children seek their father.
My weeping friends stroke my corpse.
I can neither know gain or loss
Nor tell right from wrong.
A thousand years after my death,
How can I know if I will be honored or disgraced?
While I live,
All I care about is whether I have enough wine to drink 3.

2. (Funeral)

I have never had enough wine to drink during my life.
Today mellow wine fills my cup.
There is foam on the surface.
When can I taste the wine?
The table before me is loaded with delicious dishes.
My friends and relatives weep beside me.
I wish to speak,
But no sound comes forth from my mouth.
I wish to see,
But no light enters my eyes.
I used to sleep on my bed.
Tonight I will lie in the wilderness.
Once my coffin is carried to the cemetery,
I will remain there forever.

3. (Burial)

All I see is an expanse of wild grass.
The leaves of white poplar trees fall.
In frosty September,
My coffin is carried to the remote countryside.
No people live around here.
Only tall tombs are nearby.
Horses look up and neigh for my burial.
The wind blows with a mournful sound.
After my tomb is closed,
I will no longer be able to watch the sunrise.
Even a sage or dignitary can do nothing about it.
Those who took part in my funeral procession have returned home.
My relatives may feel lingering sorrow.
Everyone else will go on with their lives.
Of what consequence is my death?
My body returns to the mother earth.


1 The title of the following video is "Death and Fire":

2 Zhuang-zi written by Zhou Zhuang (369-286 BCE) says, "one's soul remains together while one lives and disperses after death."

3 Yuan-ming Tao meant that his era was too corrupt to live without wine.