Painting Red Lips

Jiang, Kui 1 (1152 A.D.-1220 A.D.)

    Swallows and wild geese, carefree and content, fly away with clouds from the west shore of Lake Tai. Several cloudy mountains agree with each other to bring rain at sunset. As I stand by the 4th bridge, I wish to live next to Tian-sui 2. What am I dreaming of? While I lean against the banister to recall ancient stories, the sparse willow branches dance, each to its own rhythm.

1 Xiao-Zhang and Bai-shi were Kui Jiang’s other first names. He was a native of Fan-yang City. His ancestors came from Tian-shi City. His seventh generation ancestor, Pan, taught at Rao City in the beginning of the Song dynasty. Later, he moved to Jiangxi province. Kui Jiang’s father, E, passed the Advanced Exam in 1160 A.D. and became the Mayor of Han-yang City. He died while he was still the mayor. Kui had followed his father as he traveled between Mian City and E City for almost twenty years. During the Chun-xi Period (1174 A.D.-1187 A.D.), he traveled to Hunan Province and met De-zao Xiao from Ming-qing City (of Fu-jian Province). De-zao was skilful at poetry. He, Wan-li Yang, Cheng-da Fan, You Lu and Mao You were equally famous poets. After meeting Jiang, Xiao said that only after forty years of writing poetry was he able to find this congenial friend. Xiao married the daughter of his elder brother to Jiang. Jiang brought her to Hu City and lived there. By the recommendation of Wan-li Yang, Jiang met Cheng-da Fan at Su City. Fan thought Jiang's poetry and character were like those of refined scholars in the Jin and Song dynasties. Jiang learned from Fan some ancient songs, invented new tunes, and then composed melodies for Jiang's two poems: "Hidden Fragrance" and "Sparse Shadows". The tune was clear and harmonious. Jiang used to live next to a white stone cave at Xu-kang City in Wu-xing County. Consequently, he called himself Taoist White Stone. Later, he traveled between Su City and Song City and loved to compare himself to Hermit Gui Lu. At that time celebrities like Yao Lou, Shi Ye, Tang Jing, and Shen-pu Xie all befriended him. Xi Zhu loved Jiang's skill in liturgy. Qi-ji Xin admired Jiang's poetry. In 1197 A.D., Jiang presented two essays "Grand Music" and "The History of the Zither and Harp" to the emperor. These essays discussed the gain and loss of poetry, music and musical instruments. The emperor sent Jiang's essays to the Royal Academy for evaluation. The scholars were jealous of Jiang's talent, so his work did not gain the Academy's recommendation. In 1199 A.D. Jiang presented twelve movements of "Military Music of the Great Song Dynasty" to the emperor. The emperor broke rules to exempt him and gave him the opportunity to attend the Palace Exam. Jiang failed the exam, so he never received any government position during his lifetime. Later, he died by the Western Lake. Jiang looked so thin and weak that it seemed he should not be able to bear the weight of his clothing. He was so poor that he did not have any real estate. However, he never ate a meal without a friend beside him. His collection of books and works of calligraphy could fill a house and make cattle sweat to carry them. Yan Zhang compared Jiang's poetry to a wild cloud flying alone: it comes and goes without leaving a trace. Sheng Huang said in the area of Jiang's expertise, even Bang-yan Zhou paled in comparison. Jiang wrote a poem first and then composed music to complement it. Seventeen of his attached scores have been passed down to the present day as his legacy. They united the poetry and music of the Song dynasty.

2 "Tian-sui" refers to Hermit Gui Lu.