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Eight Tunes of Gan City

Zhang, Yan (1248-1318 CE)

Prologue. In 1291, Yao-dao Shen 1 and I moved north and lived in Hang City and Yue City respectively. One year later, Yao-dao came to soothe my loneliness. We talked and laughed for several days. Then we parted again. I wrote this poem and sent it to him. I also mailed a copy to Xue-zhou Zhou 2.

    I remember we rode out of Yu-men Pass 3 in snow. The cold air penetrated our mink coats. Standing by the withered woods and the ancient road and letting our horses drink from the long river, we felt serene and content. My short dream brought me back south of the Yangtze River: When I saw Xi-zhou Gate 4, tears fell from my old eyes. We did not mention a single word on the topic we were thinking about 5, but even fallen leaves would make us sad.

    I wish I could ride white clouds and return home 6, wondering who will still carry a saber and play with his shadow in the Middle State 7? I pluck reed catkins to send to my distant friend, wishing sorrow could wither and fall from my body just as reed catkins do from their stems. As I did before I again go to the country bridge which spans flowing water, but the gulls we greet are not the ones we met before. Lamenting my father country in vain, I am afraid to climb a tower at sunset.

1 Qin and Qiu-jiang were Yao-dao Shen's other first names.

2 Xue-ren and Yuan-fu were Xue-zhou Zhao's other first names. He was a member of the royal clan of the Song dynasty.

3 Yu-men Pass is a pass in the Western Part of the Great Wall and is located west of Dun-huang City in Gansu Province. It was a strategic pass on the Silk Road, a series of ancient trade routes connecting Chang-an City (present day Xi-an City in Shaanxi Province) to Europe and the Near East.

4 Xi-zhou Gate was located west of Nanjing. An Xie was the prime minister of the Eastern Jin dynasty and did much to rejuvenate it. After the victory against the enemy, An Xie returned to the Capital (present day Nanjing). When he entered Xi-zhou gate, he suddenly fell ill and died soon thereafter. Afterwards, his friend, Tan Yang, no longer passed by the gate. One day Yang was drunk. He unconsciously came to Xi-zhou Gate, wept bitterly, and left. See The History of the Jin Dynasty. Here the sentence in Zhang's poem says that Zhang mourned the officials who died for Zhang's father country just like Tan Yang had mourned An Xie who died for their country.

5 They were all thinking about their father country, but under Kublai Khan's iron rule free speech was denied to the Chinese.

6 This phrase says, "I will live in seclusion from now on."

7 This phrase says, "I wonder which one of the Chinese people will help Mongolians to rule China."