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To the Tune of "The Talented and Romantic Scholar" 1

Zhang, Lei 2 (1054-1114 CE)

The leaves fall on the flat river bank.
The Chong-yang Festival is near 3.
The pounding sounds of the washing of winter clothes are everywhere.
My sorrow from separation is like Xin Yu's 4.
My hair turns white as Yue Pan's 5.
If I insert flowers in my hair,
They may feel ashamed to be seen with an old man.
The sky of the Chu District darkens.
Red flowers of grass begin to extend along the shore
Where white apple blossoms end.
The fragrant grass seems full of love;
The setting sun remains silent.
The wild geese cross the sky south of the river 6.
I lean forlornly against the banister on the top of the western tower.

I wonder how my lover fares.
We rely on only her fragrant letters and my elaborate handwriting
To express our longing for each other.
I wish I could fly to her dwelling like clouds or blue birds.
When she is upset,
She looks like a flower complaining to the wind.
Her eyebrows furrow as if they could not bear her sadness.
When one's longing is beyond description,
One may entrust one's wish to a stream that flows eastward.


1 Among the following three web addresses, the first two are videos with the same title, "The Talented and Romantic Scholar"; the third is an audio file entitled "The Talented and Romantic Scholar in a Western Town":

2 Wen-qian and Ke-shan were Lei Zhang's other first names. People called him Mr. Wan-qiu or Historian Zhang. He was extraordinarily portly, so people called him the Fat God. Lei Zhang was a native of Huai-yin City in Chu-zhou County. In 1073, he passed the Advanced Exam. Through An-shi Wang's recommendation, Zhang was appointed as the mayor's secretary at Lin-huai City. Between 1073 and 1086, he was an local official in Anhui and Henan Provinces. He had to move from place to place constantly because of his frequent job changes. In 1085, Emperor Shen-zong died and Emperor Zhe-zong inherited the throne. Queen Mother Gao governed the court from behind a screen. Guang Si-ma became the prime minister. In 1086, Zhang was summoned back to the capital and took the Palace Exam. Zhang passed the exam and was appointed as the Editor-in-chief at the Archival Bureau. In 1088, Guan Qin was also summoned back to become an editor at the same bureau. They wrote poetry together under the tutelage of Dong-po Su. Zhang and Qin's poems were popular during their time. After Queen Mother Gao allowed her power to transfer to Emperor Zhe-zong, Zhang's political party lost in the power struggle. In 1094, Zhang was demoted to serve at Run-zhou City (present Zheng-jiang City) and then Xuan-zhou City (present day Xuan-cheng City). In 1097, he was demoted to the position in charge of wine tax at Huang-zhou City (present day Huang-gang City in Hubei Province) and then the same position at Jing-ling-jun City (present day Tian-men City in Hubei Province). In 1099, Zhang was promoted to assistant mayor at Huang-zhou City. After Emperor Hui-zong inherited the throne, Zhang was summoned back to serve at the emperor's court as the deputy director in charge of sacrificial rites. Soon after, he was transferred to mayor of Gun-zhou City (in present day Shandong Province) and Ying-zhou City (present day Fu-yang City) in succession. In 1101, Dong-po Su died. Zhang held a mourning ceremony in honor of Dong-po Su at Ying-zhou City. Zhang's ceremony offended the powerful officials at the emperor's court. Consequently, in 1102, Zhang was demoted to deputy mayor at Fang-zhou City (present day Fang-xian City in Hubei Province). His office was located in Huang-zhou City. In 1106, Zhang was allowed to return to his hometown, Huai-yin City. Refusing to yield to the corrupt officials in the emperor's court led by Jing Cai, Lei Zhang died in poverty.
    The Notes Written in the Old Hermitage by You Lu (1125-1209) says, "Lei Zhang had three sons: Ju, Jie, and He. His sons all passed the Advanced Exam. Ju and Jie died on the battlefields. The third son, He, was a teacher in Shaanxi Province. On his way back to attend his brothers' funeral, he was killed by bandits. Thus, it was a pity that Lei Zhang had no offspring."
    Lei Zhang experienced many demotions and had been a local official for a long time. He understood harsh reality deeply, so his poetry expressed concerns with common people's problems. This concern made him oppose Prime Minister An-shi Wang’s political reform.
    Lei Zhang said, "In literature, we should lay equal stress on rhetoric and virtue. The relationship between rhetoric and ideas are like that between horses and a carriage: an idea is like a carriage and rhetoric is like horses. Virtue may strengthen one's ideas; spirit drives the flow of writing." Zhang opposed the use of flowery and uncommon words as well as intricate and obscure phrases. He said, "One should follow human nature and directly write what one feels without refining or polishing one's thoughts." This practice caused Xi Zhu (1130-1200) to criticize Zhang's work by saying, "The essence of Lei Zhang’s writings is excellent, but his rhetoric is rough and careless." In poetry, Zhang followed Ju-yi Bai; in folk style poetry, Zhang imitated Ji Zhang. Thus, Zhang's writings are plain, natural, and expressive.

3 On the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, Chinese people used to climb mountains, drink wine and delight in observing chrysanthemums to celebrate the Chong-yang Festival.

4 The essay "The Biography of Xin Yu" in The History of the Kingdom of Zhou says, "Zi-an was Xin Yu's alternate first name. At first he served the King of the Kingdom of Liang. He was promoted to the position of General of Defense and made Duke of Wu-kang-xian County. During the rebellion led by Jing Hou, Xin Yu went to Jiang-ling City for shelter. He was sent to the Kingdom of West Wei as an envoy. The King of West Wei detained him for twenty-seven years. Although Xin Yu was offered a high-ranking position in Western Wei, he missed his hometown very much. He wrote 'Lament for the Area South of the Yangtze River' to express his deep feelings." Here Lei Zhang said that his feelings were the same as Xin Yu's because both of them could not return home for a long period of time.

5 An-ren was Yue Pan’s alternate first name. A native of Zhang-mou City in Henan Province, he was a talented writer during the Western Jin dynasty. He was handsome when he was young. When he walked on the street carrying his sword, women would be attracted by his charisma. Yue Pan took good care of his parents and was faithful to his wife.

6 The poem, "Farewell", written by Yan Jiang (444-505) of the Liang dynasty says, "When I said farewell to you at the south side of the river,/ I was upset."