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Zhang, Zhi-he 2 (730-782 CE)


Little egrets fly in front of Xi-sai Mountain 3.
Perch grow large in a stream that reflects peach blossoms.
Wearing yellow bamboo hats and green straw rain capes,
Fishermen need not return home 4 despite slanting wind and light rain.


At a fishing port fishermen wear coarse clothing.
Grasshopper boats 5 travel on the river in twos and threes.
Regularly taking advantage of currents,
They let their boats drift wherever they please
And never worry about the white waves on the Yangtze River.


Grasshopper boats are homes for the fishermen at the bend of Zha Creek 6.
The boats travel back and forth.
Enjoying the snow on the river and the breeze from the shore,
The fishermen smile in their lotus clothing 7,
Content with what they have.


The owner of a crab restaurant is hospitable.
He provides simple meals consisting of rice, soup, and vegetables.
Maple leaves fall;
Reed blossoms wither and dry.
Fishermen do not feel cold when they are drunk in a fishing boat.


The moon reflected in Lake Qing-cao 8 is perfectly round.
The fishermen at Ba-ling City 9 sing sailing songs in a round.
With fishing poles and boats
They enjoy wind and waves as though they were in heaven 10.


1 During the Tang dynasty numerous Chinese people wandered about in desperate plight throughout a long period of wars. Buddhism became popular in China. People yearned for a peaceful life which would hold them aloof from the world. A scholar desired to either become a government official or live a life in seclusion as a fisherman or lumberjack. After the release of the above five poems, they became instant classics. Hundreds of Chinese poets responded to them by writing poems with the same form. Soon after Zhang's poems reached readers in Japan. Emperor Saga who reigned in Japan from 809 to 823 was a well-known calligrapher and scholar of Chinese classics. According to Japanese History of Ci Poetry, Emperor Saga responded to Zhang's poems by writing five poems following the same rules and form.
    After reading Zhang's "Fishermen", one may desire to view the following videos to see how Chinese musicians portray the happiness of fishermen: and The title of the first video is "A Conversation Between a Fisherman and a Lumberjack". The title of the second is "Fishermen Sing About the Sunset on Boats". In ancient China, fishermen and lumberjacks were used to represent recluses who were not interested in fame and wealth.

2 Gui-ling and Zi-tong were Zhi-he Zhang's other first names. He was a native of Wu-zhou City, a.k.a. Jin-hua City. Before his mother gave birth to him, she dreamed that a maple tree grew on her abdomen. He was selected as a Scholar Versed in Classics at the age of sixteen. During Emperor Su-zong's reign, he was demoted to a lieutenant at Nan-pu City for some reason. He resigned that position and wandered around lakes and rivers. He called himself Yan-bo-diao-tu (fisherman on waves in mist). He wrote Man of Metaphysics, so people called him Mr. Yuan-zhen (original-truth). Zhi-he's elder brothers, He-ling (a.k.a. Song-ling), feared that Zhi-he might become a recluse. Therefore, he built a house for him east of Yu-zhou City so that Zhi-he and Yu Lu could visit each other frequently. Yu Lu was also known as Hong-jian Lu. He wrote three essays on the topic of tea. Consequently, the Chinese people honored him as the God of Tea.
    Yu-lin (A Collection of Conversations) says, "Hong-jian Lu asked Zhi-he Zhang who he visited recently. Zhi-he replied, 'The universe is my house. The bright moon is my candle. I lived with the gods of four seas. I hardly have time to visit anyone else.'"
    The notes on "Zhi-he Zhang's Fishermen" written by Prime Minister De-yu Li says, "I was in the inner palace for a moment and saw Emperor Xian-zong draw Zhi-he Zhang's portrait. The emperor lamented that he could not find Zhi-he Zhang and the originals of his poems about fishermen. Zhi-he Zhang and I used to be friends. I knew of his talents long ago. When I saw the emperor appreciate his talent so much, I valued my previous friendship with Zhi-he even more. Yu-fu (old fisherman) was a sage and recluse. Chi-yi was wise and performed meritorious feats. However, they were not as esteemed and revered as Zhi-he Zhang who was a recluse with fame and a dignitary with no work. Like Guang Yan, Zhang was neither destitute nor successful in his career."
    Zhu-po-shi-hua (Notes Written near a Bamboo Slope on the topic of Poets and Poetry) says, "Emperor Su-zong of the Tang dynasty provided Zhi-he Zhang a servant boy called Yu-tong (child-fisherman) and a maid called Qiao-qing (gathering branches). The boy helped Zhi-he hold fishing poles and pull in fishing lines. The maid helped Zhi-he find firewood and steam tea in a bamboo wood."
    Yue-fu-ji-wen (Records of Folk Style Poetry) says, "Zhi-he Zhang visited Mayor Zhen-qing Yan, a famous calligrapher, at Hu-Zhou City. Zhang told Yan, 'I wish I could exchange my small boat for a large one. This is because I could make it my home, sail on Tiao and Zha creeks, and write poems about fishermen.'"
    Ting Jian Huang (1045-1105) said, "'Fishermen' written by Zhi-he Zhang has a lingering appeal."

3 "Xi-sai" means "western fortress". Xi-wu-ji (Stories About Western Wu District) says, "Xi-sai Mountain in Zhi-he Zhang's poem refers to Dao-shi-ji (Taoist's-stone-mountain-in-a-lake) Mountain in Ci-hu (magnet-lake) Village of Hu-Zhou City. After Zhi-he Zhang wrote 'Fishermen', Zhen-qing Yan, Hong-jian Lu, Shi-heng Xu, Cheng-ju Li responded in succession by writing poetry with the same form."
    Yu-bo(lingering-appeal)-ci-zhu(notes-on-poetry) says, "The mountain near Dao-shi(Taoist)-fu(underground-stream), west of Wu-chang County, is called Xi-sai Mountain. The Temple of Zhi-he Zhang was on the cliff of the mountain facing the Yangtze River. Zhang was a native of Jin-hua City. He never entered Chu District (includes present day Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangxi, and Southern Henan provinces). Travel Notes About Visiting the State of Shu written by Fang-weng Lu claims that Xi-sai Mountain in Zhi-he Zhang's 'Fishermen' refers to this mountain. Obviously, Fang-weng Lu failed to do careful textual research on this matter."

4 "They need not return home" implies that they continue fishing.

5 "Grasshopper boats" refers to small boats.

6 Zha Creek is located in Wu-xing-xian City, Zhejiang Province.

7 The boats shuttle back and forth among lotus plants. "Lotus clothing" means "it seems as if the fishermen were wearing lotus clothing".

8 "Qing" means "green"; "cao" means "grass".

9 Ba-ling City is now called Yue-yang-xian City and is located in Hunan Province.

10 Emperor Xuan-zong posted Zhang's portraits at lakes and rivers to search for him, but could not find him. Consequently, the emperor ordered people to collect Zhang's poems and send them to the palace.
Lo-hu-ye-lu (Unofficial Records in the Area by Lake Lo) says, "Song-ling, Zhi-he's elder brother, worried that zhi-he might become so carefree that he would not return home, so he responded to the above fifth poem by writing a poem with the same form. It says, 'One may enjoy wind and waves when fishing leisurely./ The pine trees along the path at our home are fully grown./ When the wind gusts on Lake Tai-hu (the second largest fresh water lake in China)/ And on the mountains around Lake Dong-tin (the largest fresh water lake in China)/ And waves swell,/ You must return home.'
    Song-ling Zhang was a lieutenant at Pu-yang City. Later, he lived by Lake Ying-dou and eventually became a god. The people honored him by building a gazebo called the Gazebo for Seeking Gods."