The Palace of Eternal Life 1

Chang, Hu 2 (782? A.D.-852+ A.D.)


Slanted rays from the sun illuminated the Palace of Eternal Life.
The flowers on red trees 3 opened to receive the morning dew.
The emperor sent out a secret summons 4 the previous night;
T'ai-Chen came past the curtain with a smile.


Emboldened by the emperor's favor,
The Madame of Country Kuo 5 dares to ride a horse to enter the palace at dawn 6.
Feeling that rouge would ruin her beautiful face,
She goes to see the emperor with only lightly drawn eyebrows.

1 The Palace of Eternal Life was the place where the emperor worshiped. In the first poem, Chang ridicules the emperor for committing incest with Tai-Chen at this sacred place.

2 Hu Chang was an accomplished poet in the T'ang dynasty. Throughout his life he had never accepted any government position.

3 Red trees refer to trees in full bloom.

4 Emperor Hsuan summoned T'ai Chen to sleep with him. T'ai Chen was originally a consort of King Mei, the emperor's eighteenth son. One day the emperor met her at the Palace of Hot Spring. Later, he ordered his royal guards to go to King Mei's mansion, search for T'ai-Chen, and abduct her. After abducting her, Emperor Hsuan forced her to become a Taoist nun, but claimed that she did so of her own accord. Before long, T'ai-Chen became one of the emperor's consorts.

5 Because T'ai-Chen was the emperor's favorite consort, he gave the youngest of her three older sisters the title of Madame of Country Kuo.

6 Even though the Madame of Country Kuo was also the emperor's consort, she lived outside the palace. Along with her cousin and boyfriend, she went to see the emperor early in the morning, riding a horse. They chatted, laughed, swaggered through the streets and disregarded people's gossip. According to the tradition at that time, a woman was supposed to take a curtained carriage and meet her lover only after sunset. However, she always went to the palace during the day and would stay in its inner chambers for a long while before coming out. The purpose of the second poem is to show her shamelessness and to reveal the corruption of Emperor Hsuan's life.