Letter to Director Ling-Hu

Li, Shang Yin (812? A.D.-858 A.D.)

The clouds over Mountain Sung 1 and the trees in the Province of Ch'in 2
Have lived apart for a long time.
Two carp 3 that came from far away left me a letter.
Please do not ask 4 about the old guest in King Liang's Garden 5.
I am like sick Siang-Ru in the autumn rain at Wooy Tomb 6.

1 Mountain Sung was located in the Province of Honan. Its capital was where Li lived when writing this poem.
2 Ling-Hu lived at the national capital surrounded by the Province of Ch'in.
3 The following lines are in the poem "War Horses Drank at the Well by the Great Wall":
A guest came from far away
And left me two carp.
When I asked my boy to cook them,
He discovered that there was a letter in them.
4 Li was a great poet during the T'ang dynasty. He was able to pass the Advanced Exam at the age of twenty-five because Ling-Hu's father, a member of Party N, appreciated his talent. After Ling-Hu's father died, Li married the daughter of Wang, a member of the Opposition Party, Party L. Consequently, Ling-Hu could not forgive Li and considered him an ungrateful traitor. When Li was nominated for membership in Royal Academy, Party N erased his name from the list of nominees. Even though Li had only a low-ranking position as an editor for the Secretary of State, Party N still harassed him and demoted him to the position of local official (839 A.D.). After Li praised the work of the leader of Party L, he was reinstated to his editor position (842 A.D.) Later, Li's mother died and Li went to City Lo to arrange his mother's funeral and lived there throughout the one year mourning period. During this period, Li was sick and in a bad mood. In the fall of 845 A.D., Li's ex-friend, Ling-Hu, wrote him a letter. This poem was Li's reply. It has been interpreted in two distinct ways. One says that Li desired to regain Ling-Hu's friendship. The other says that Li implied they could no longer be friends.
5 Siang-Ru Sy-Ma was a great writer in the Han dynasty, but Emperor Ching failed to recognize his talent. In contrast, King Liang treated Siang-Ru as a guest of honor.
    From 829 A.D. to 837 A.D., Li was hired three times by Ling-Hu's father. During this time, Li established a strong friendship with Ling Hu as they composed poetry together. Here Li compared King Liang's Garden to the mansion of Ling Hu's father.
6 Woody Tomb was the city where Emperor Wu was buried. Siang-Ru lived at Woody Tomb in his last years. During this time, he was frustrated in his political career and got sick. Later, he was fired due to his illness.