Gu Yanwu – Autumn Mountains

Gu Wanyu

Gu Yanwu (顧炎武, 고염무, 1613-1683) was a Ming and Qing dynasty era Neo-Confucian scholar. He was born in Kunshan (崑山, 곤산), Jiangsu Province (江蘇省, 강소성); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Ningren (寧仁, 영인); and his pen name (號, 호) was Tinglin (亭林, 정림). Gu Yanwu was recognized from an early age for his intellect, but following his mother’s will he never took up any bureaucratic posts. When the Manchus invaded, he took up arms with an irregular army around Kunshan and almost lost his life on the battlefield. The poem below describes the brutal aftermath of one such battle. After he fled southern China, he roamed around northern China, reading classics and expanding his knowledge of geography, and spent his final years in seclusion in Huayin (華陰, 화음), Shanxi Province (陜西省, 섬서성). His interest in geography in particular is also apparent in the following poem. Even after his time with Ming loyalist forces, he did not support the Qing dynasty and refused Emperor Kangxi’s (康熙, 강희, 1654-1722, r. 1661-1722) attempt to appease the ethnic majority Han people (漢族, 한족) by inviting well respected Chinese scholars to the court. Gu Yanwu was also a prolific writer and composed several works, including a number on Neo-Confucianism. He heavily criticized the Yangming School (陽明學, 양명학) and also distanced himself from Zhu Xi’s teachings (朱熹, 주희, 1130-1200), and advocated a more practical and realistic approach to governance, forwarding the idea of “administrating the world and pursuing the pragmatic” (經世致用, 경세치용). Gu Yanwu laid out this in his work, the Record of Daily Study (日知錄, 일지록), a thirty two volume tome, on a variety of topics such as classics, history, politics, astronomy, geography, arts, and customs. He is considered the father of the Evidentiary School of Thought (考證學, 고증학), and one of the Three Great Confucians (三大儒, 삼대유) of the late Ming and early Qing period along with Wang Fuzhi (王夫之, 왕부지, 1619-1692) and Huang Zongxi (黃宗羲, 황종희, 1610-1695).

秋山 추산

Autumn Mountains

秋山復秋山 秋雨連山殷
추산부추산 추우련산은
昨日戰江口 今日戰山邊
작일전강구 금일전산변

An autumn mountain. Again, another autumn mountain.
Autumn rains over the joined mountains are thick.
Yesterday, there was a battle at the river’s mouth;
Today, there is a battle upon the mountain’s base.

Autumn • mountain • again • autumn • mountain
Autumn • rain • connecting • mountains • to be lush
Yesterday • day • battle • river • mouth
Now • day • battle • mountain • edge

已聞右甄潰 復見左拒殘
기문우진궤 부견좌거잔
旌旗埋地中 梯衝舞城端
정기매지중 제충무성단

Already, I heard that the right base has broken;
Again, I saw that the the left wing was slaughtered.
The standards and colors were buried in the ground;
The scaling ladder and battering ram struck the end of the fortress.

Already • to hear • right • flank • to break
Again • to see • left • wing • to die
Feathered flag • flag • to bury • earth • middle
Ladder • ram • to incite • castle • end

一朝長平敗 伏尸遍岡巒
일조장평패 복시편강만
胡裝三百舸 舸舸好紅顏
호장삼백가 가가호홍안

On one morning, Changping (長平, 장평) was lost:
Corpses faced down are all over hill and mountain.
In barbaric ornament are three hundred ships:
On each ship, there are beautiful red faces.

One • morning • geographic name • geographic name • to lose
To lay facing down • corpses • all around • small mountain • large mountain
Barbarian • ornament • three • hundred • ships
Ship • ship • good • red • faces

  • 長平(장평) – During the Warring States period (戰國時代, 전국시대), the town of Changping suffered a brutal massacre after the Zhao state (趙, 조) lost to the Qin (秦, 진). This event is referenced in Yangzi’s Model Words (揚子法言, 양자법언), eleventh chapter of Yuan and Quan volume (淵騫卷第十一, 연건권제십일):

秦將白起不仁, 奚用爲也. 長平之戰, 四十萬人死. 蚩尤之亂, 不過於此矣.
진장백기불인, 해용위야. 장평지전, 사십만인사. 치우지전, 불과어차의.

Qin General Bai Qi (白起, 백기, ?-257BC) was not benevolent. How was he used in action? At the battle of Changping, 400,000 died. Chi You’s (蚩尤, 치우) invasions did not exceed this [amount].

原野厭人之肉, 川谷流人之血, 將不仁, 奚用爲!
원야염인지육, 천곡류인지혈, 장불인, 해용위!

The plains and fields were covered with human flesh; the streams and valleys flowed with human blood. The general was not benevolent. How was he used in action!

  • 好紅顏(호홍안) – Literally “good, red face.” Refers to a beautiful woman.

吳口擁橐駝 鳴笳入燕關
오구옹탁타 명가입연관
昔時鄢郢人 猶在城南間
석시언영인 유재성남간

Upon Wu country’s (吳, 오) inlet, camels crowd about;
The ringing reed pipes enter Yan Pass (燕關, 연관).
In ancient times, the people of Wan (鄢, 언) and Ying (郢, 영)
Still remained in the area south of the fortresses.

Wu • mouth • to be dirty • camel • camel
To sing • reed pipe • to enter • geographic name • geographic name
Ancient • times • geographic name • geographic name • people
Still • to exist • castle • south • area

  • 燕關(연관) – A passage near Shanhai Pass (山海關, 산해관) and Juyong Pass (居庸關, 거용관) in Hebei Province (河北省, 하북성).
  • 鄢郢(언영) – Wan and Ying were the capitals of the Chu state (楚, 초, 1030-223BC). Reference to another event during the Warring States Period after the Qin destroyed the Chu state, as recorded in the Strategies of the Warring States (戰國策, 전국책).

鄢郢大夫, 不欲爲秦, 而在城南下者百數,
언영대부, 불욕위진, 이재성남하자백수,

The noblemen of Wan and Yin did not wish to serve the Qin, and those who remained south of the capital were in the hundreds.

王收而與之百萬之師, 使收楚故地, 則武關可以入矣.
왕수이여지백만지사, 사수초고지, 즉무관가이입의.

If the King [of the Qi state] gathered and gave them one million of soldiers, they could recover Chu state’s old lands and then [our territory] could reach up to Wu Pass (武關, 무관).

  • Pentasyllabic ancient style poetry (五言古體詩, 오언고체시). This style does not adhere any tonal meter or follow rime strictly.
4 comments
  1. Alice Cheang said:

    吳口擁橐駝: In this line, 擁 is rendered as “to dirty.” One of 擁’s commoner definitions is to rush or surge forward in a thronging mass. Would that work here? “Camels (carrying supplies for the enemy troops?) crowd around the mouth of the Wu.” Of course, in doing so, they would indeed churn the waters and foul them up, but the translation adds something that is not actually in the text and should perhaps be left to the reader’s imagination.

    • 歸源 said:

      Again, many thanks for the recommendations. I should be my thoughtful about word choice.

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