Renditions nos. 33 & 34 (Spring & Autumn 1990)​

Classical Prose

A wealth of material rarely available in translation, from biographies of recluses to “eight-legged essays” and Taoist prescriptions. A dazzling array of major writers from the classical Chinese literary tradition. Chinese texts included.

243 pages


Table of Contents

Editor’s Page 5
———— The Book of Lü Buwei: excerpts
Translated by Chi-Chen Wang
Sima Qian Shi Ji: The Biography of Lord Shang
Translated by Burton Watson
Fan Ye Hou Han shu: Biographies of Recluses
Translated by Burton Watson
Wang Fu Thinking of Worthies
Translated by Margaret J. Pearson
Yan Zhitui Yan’s Family Instructions: excerpts
Translated by D. C. Lau
———— Han and Six Dynasties Parallel Prose
Translated by David R. Knechtges
Kong Rong: Memorial Recommending Mi Heng
Li Mi: Memorial Expressing My Feelings
Lu Ji: Disquisition on the Fall of a State
Pan Yue: Dirge for Yang Zhao
Liu Kun: Memorial Urging the Succession
Song Qi Biography of Li Bai
Translated by William Dolby
Li Bai Two Prose Pieces
Translated by Shiu-Pang E. Almberg
Bidding Farewell in Jiangxia in Late Spring to Deputy Secretary Zhang Zu Leaving for the Eastern Capital
Seeing My Nephew Duan off on Jinting in Autumn to Visit Lushan
Lu Guimeng A Monument to Rustic Temples
Translated by D. E. Pollard
Su Shi Dongpo’s Miscellaneous Records: excerpts
Translated by Eva Hung
Zhong Sicheng Preface to Ghost Register
Translated by William Dolby
Fang Xiaoru The Mosquito Dialogue
Translated by D. E. Pollard
Gui Youguang Two Essays
Translated by D. E. Pollard
My Mother: A Brief Life
The Xiangji Studio
Zhang Dai Six Essays
Translated by D. E. Pollard and Soh Yong Kian
Viewing the Snow from Lake Heart Pavilion
Wang Yuesheng
Liu Jingting: Storyteller
The Jades of Yangzhou
Old Min’s Tea
Three Generations of Book Collecting
———— Four Examination Essays of the Ming dynasty
Translated by Andrew Lo
Tang Shunzhi: Zi Mo holds on to the middle … Holding on to the middle is closer to being right, but to do this without the proper measure is no different from holding to one extreme
Tao Wangling: The Master asked about Gongshu Wenzi
Ai Nanying: The People are of supreme importance
Tan Yuanchun: Zeng Xi was fond of eating jujubes
Wang Fuzhi Three excerpts from Shi Guangzhuan
Translated by Siu-kit Wong
On “Cai ge”
On “Zhi hu”
On “Cai Wei”
Feng Menglong Preface to The Hall of Laughter
Translated by Eva Hung
Shi Chengjin Preface to A Good Laugh
Translated by Eva Hung
Yuan Mei Thoughts on Master Huang’s Book Borrowing
Translated by D. E. Pollard
Fang Bao Life in Prison
Translated by D. E. Pollard
Gong Zizhen Two Essays
Translated by Janice Wickeri
Plum Tree Infirmary
On the Departure of the Jinshi Scholar Xia
Lin Shu Three Essays
Translated by Chu Chiyu
Boating on the Lake in the Moonlight
Fish in the Lake
Analysis of Honest Official Service
———— Two Travel Essays on European Cities
Translated by Eva Hung
Li Shuchang: On Brighton
Xue Fucheng: At a Parisian Oil Painting Exhibition
Notes on Contributors 214
Chinese Texts 217

Sample Reading

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Hou Han Shu: Biographies of Recluses (excerpts)
By Fan Ye
Translated by Burton Watson

Liang Hong

Liang Hong, whose polite name was Holuan, was a native of Pingling in Fufeng. In the time of Wang Mang his father, Liang Rang, served as subordinate commander of the city gate and was enfeoffed as earl of Xiuyuan and ordered to carry on sacrifices to Shao Hao. Later he resided temporarily in Heidi and died there. Liang Hong was still a boy and because of the troubled times was obliged to wrap the body in a mat and bury it.

Later Liang received instruction at the government university. Though from a poor, family, he was a person of strict integrity. He read widely and understood whatever he read, but he did not concern himself with minute textual study.

After completing his studies he became a pig herder in the Shanglin Park. One time he accidentally left a fire burning and it spread to nearby sheds and buildings. He looked up the owner of the buildings that had been burned and inquired the amount of loss, turning over all his pigs as reparation. When the owner of the buildings insisted that was still not enough, Liang said, “Since I have no house or property, I hope you will let me live here and repay the rest in labour.”

The owner agreed, and Liang accordingly laboured for him diligently, never shirking his work morning or evening. The older people of neighbouring families, observing that Liang was no ordinary man, joined together in condemning the owner and praising Liang’s worth. The owner then for the first time began to treat Liang with respect and deference and offered to return all his pigs. Liang refused the offer, however, and instead went home to his native village. There the influential families, impressed by his high ideals, in many cases offered their daughters in marriage, but Liang refused all such offers and remained single.

The Meng family of the same district had a daughter who was fat, ugly and dark-complexioned, and strong enough to lift a stone mortar. She turned down what offers of marriage came her way until she reached the age of thirty, when her mother and father asked her her reasons. “I want someone of true worth like Liang Holuan!” she replied.

Liang Hong, hearing of this, sent a proposal of marriage. The girl requested that hemp robes and shoes be prepared for her, along with baskets for weaving and spinning utensils.

When she was married, she first entered the gate of her new home wearing her best clothes and adornments. But seven days passed and Liang Hong refused to answer when she spoke. She knelt by the bed and asked for an explanation, saying, “I heard you were a man of high principles and had rejected several possible brides. I too in my obstinate way rejected several husbands. Now that you have selected me, may I venture to ask where I am at fault?”

Liang Hong replied, “I wanted a woman dressed in plain sturdy clothing, one who could join me in living in retirement deep in the mountains. But here you are robed in fancy silks and daubed with paint and powder. This isn’t what I was looking for at all!”

His wife replied, “I wanted to see where your intentions lay, that’s all. I have clothes for living the life of a recluse!” Then she changed to a simple mallet-shaped hairdo, put on a hemp robe, and set about her housework in her husband’s presence. Liang was overjoyed and exclaimed, “This is the real wife for Liang Hong—she’ll know how to take care of me!”

Though her name was Meng Guang, Liang addressed her by her polite name, Deyue, as a sign of respect.

After some time had passed, the wife said, “You always used to say you wanted to live in hiding so as to avoid trouble. Now why are you so silent on the subject? Or do you intend to just hang your head and let trouble come?”

“You’re right! ” said Liang, and with that the two of them went off to the mountains of Baling, where they supported themselves by farming and weaving.

Li Mi: Memorial Expressing My Feelings
Translated by David R. Knechtges

Your servant Mi states: Because of a parlous fate, I early encountered grief and misfortune. When I was an infant of only six months my loving father passed away. When I was four my mother’s brother forcedForced my mother to remarry against her will. Grandmother Liu took pity on this weak orphan and personally cared for me. When young, I was often sick, and at nine I could not walk. Solitary and alone I suffered until I reached adulthood. I not only had no uncles, I also had no brothers. Our family was in decline, our blessings were few, and thus only late in life have I had offspring. Outside the household, I have no close relatives whom I can mourn; inside, I have not even a boy servant to watch the gate. All alone I stand, my body and shadow console each other. Grandmother Liu long has been ill and is constantly bedridden. I serve her medicinal brews, and I have never abandoned her or left her side.

When I came into the service of this Sage Dynasty, I bathed in your pure transforming influence. First Governor Kui sponsored me as Filial and Pure. Later Inspector Rong recommended me as a Flourishing Talent. But because there was no one to care for grandmother, I declined and did not take up the appointment. An edict was especially issued appointing me Palace Gentleman. Not long thereafter I received imperial favour and was newly appointed Aide to the Crown Prince. I humbly believe that for a man as lowly and insignificant as I to be deemed worthy of serving in the Eastern Palace is an honour I could never requite you for even by giving my life. I informed you of all the circumstances in a memorial, and I again declined and did not go to my post. Your edict was insistent and stern, accusing me of being dilatory and disrespectful. The commandery and prefectural authorities tried to pressure me and urged me to take the road up to the capital. The local officials approached my door with the speed of shooting stars and fiery sparks. I wanted to comply with your edict and dash off to my post, but Grandmother Liu’s illness daily became more grave. I wished temporarily to follow my personal desires, but my pleas was not granted. Whether to serve or retire truly was a great dilemma!

I humbly believe that this Sage Dynasty governs the empire by means of filial piety, and that all among the aged and elderly still receive compassion and care. How much more needful am I whose solitary suffering has been especially severe! Moreover, when young I served the false dynasty, and I have moved through the various gentleman posts. I originally planned to become illustrious as an official, but I never cared about my reputation and character. Now I am a humble captive of a fallen state. I am utterly insignificant and unimportant, but I have received more promotions than I deserve, and your gracious charge is both liberal and generous. How would I dare demur, with the hope of receiving something better? However, I believe that Grandmother Liu, like the sun going down, is breathing her last breaths. Her life has reached a precarious, delicate stage, and one cannot predict in the morning what will happen in the evening. Without grandmother I would not be alive today. Without me grandmother will not be able to live out her remaining years. Grandmother and grandson have depended upon one another for life. Thus, simply because of my own small, selfish desires I cannot abandon or leave her. I am now in my forty-fourth year, and Grandmother Liu is now ninety-six. Thus, I have a long time in which to fulfill my duty to Your Majesty, and only a short time in which to repay Grandmother Liu for raising me. With all my filial devotion, I beg to be allowed to care for her to her final days. My suffering and misery are not only clearly known by the men of Shu and the governors of the two provinces [of Liang and Yi], they have been perceived by August Heaven and Sovereign Earth. I hope Your Majesty will take pity on my naive sincerity and will grant my humble wish, so that Grandmother Liu will have the good fortune to preserve the remaining years of her life. While I am alive, I shall offer my life in your service. When dead, I shall “knot a clump of grass” for you.

With unbearable apprehension, like a loyal dog or horse, I respectfully present this memorial to inform you of my feelings.