An Inscription on the Wall of Heng Mountain Shrine to Pay Homage to Its Patron God 1, 2

Han, Yu (768 A.D.-824 A.D.)

In our worship,
We rank the Five Great Mountains 3 as high as the prime minister in the Emperor's court.
These mountains form a ring as China's defense;
Song Mountain stands in the Middle.
Southern China is an expanse of wilderness; the ghosts are many.
God ordered Heng Mountain to garrison the southern wilderness.
It spews clouds and vents mist to conceal half of its belly.
Heng Mountain has a peak, but who can reach it?
When I arrive at the mountain, it is the autumn rainy season.
It is cloudy and gloomy and there is no fresh wind.
I pray silently with great piety
And wish that the god will recognize my integrity and answer my prayer.
In a moment, wind quietly sweeps away the clouds and the multitude of mountains appear.
I look up and see the towering mountains support the blue sky.
Zi-gai (purple cover) Mountain range extends to join Tian-zhu (pillar supporting the sky) Mountain.
Shi-lin (stone granary) Mountain appears to leap up to land on Zhu-rong (fire) Mountain.
Struck with awe, I dismount and bow to the mountain god.
The path lined with pine and cedar trees leads me to the divine shrine.
The white wall and red columns are bright and gleaming.
The pictures of gods and ghosts are filled with the colors of red and green.
I ascend the stairs, bow and express my piety
By presenting wine and dried meat as my little offerings.
The old man in the shrine seems to know the godís thoughts.
He peers at me and bows repeatedly.
Holding the divining blocks 4, he teaches me how to throw them.
After reading my blocks,
He tells me that no one can be more fortunate than I according to the oracle book.
Exiled in this wilderness 5, I am glad that I am still alive.
All I want is to have enough food and clothing until I die.
Wealth and power have been beyond my hope for a long time.
They can never happen even with the god's blessing 6.
I stay overnight in the attic of the shrine.
Covered by clouds, the lights of the stars and moon are dim.
I am unaware of the approach of dawn because apes cry and the night bell rings.
The magnificent morning sun rises in the east.

1 Heng Mountain Shrine is located 20 miles west of present day Heng-shan-xian City in Hunan Province.

2 In the Epilogue of The Collective Works of Zong-yuan Liu, Tu Si-kong mentions that Han's writing style builds momentum like thunder and lightning. Si-kong adds that one cannot help but follow Han's breath and pace, and become caught up into his emotions.

3 Tai Mountain is the Eastern Mountain. Hua Mountain is the Western Mountain. Heng (weigh) Mountain is the Southern Mountain. Heng (permanent) Mountain is the Northern Mountain. Song Mountain is the Middle Mountain.

4 Divining blocks are a simple tool for divination. They are made of jade, clam shell, bamboo and wood. The two pieces put together are shaped like a cashew, but are much larger. When one seeks his fortune from a god, he will put two pieces together and throw them to the ground. Then one's fortune is determined by the orientation of the pieces after they fall.

5 In 803 A.D., Han wrote the emperor a letter discussing drought and famine. The letter offended the emperor, so Han was demoted to the position of Mayor of Yang-shan-xian City.

6 These two lines imply that Han laments the corruption of the emperor's court and his own sufferings.