Letter from Chang-An 1 to a Distant Friend

Meng, Hao Jan 2 (689 A.D.-740 A.D.)

I want to retire to the mountains
Or return to my garden,
But I have no money to support my family.
Coming north to take the Advanced Exam was not my desire.
I admire the monk at the Eastwood Temple who lives a peaceful life.
The cost of living in Chang-An is too high,
My traveling expenses are almost gone.
My ambition dwindles year by year.
At sunset a cool wind arrives.
I feel upset all the more when I hear the cry of cicadas.

1 Chang-An was China's capital at that time.

2 Meng secluded himself on the Door for-Deer Mountain during his early years. In 728 A.D., he went to Chang-An to take the Advanced Exam, but he failed. This poem was written after he flunked the exam and stayed at Chang-An. It describes his financial difficulty and his dilemma of being torn between working for the government and becoming a hermit. Later, he became an assistant to the Mayor of City J. He loved to travel, east to the sea, west to Szuchuan Province, and south to Chekiang Province. Most of the time he recorded his reflections about a place in poems. He is acknowledged the pioneer of the school of poetry about mountains and rivers.