The Intro and First 10 Lines

(Click on “Annotations” to see notes on this first section of the Huangling Bei 皇陵碑 translation.)

孝子皇帝元璋謹述: The filial son, emperor Yuanzhang, sincerely relates:

洪武十一年夏四月,命江陰侯吳良督工新建皇堂。 In the 11th year of the Hongwu era, during the fourth month, the summer season, I commanded Wu Liang, the Duke of Jiangyin, to supervise work on the new construction of the Imperial Hall.

Fengyang Wall.jpg
The wall that Zhu Yuanzhang ordered built around his hometown, today’s Fengyang 凤阳,which Zhu wanted to make his Middle Capital 中都.

予時秉鑒窺形,但見蒼顏皓首,忽思往日之艱辛。 At this time, I picked up a mirror and examined my appearance, seeing that my color was pale and my hair white.  My thoughts abruptly turned to the hardships of the past.

況皇陵碑記皆儒臣粉飾之文,恐不足為后世子孫戒。 Moreover, I realized the original text for the Imperial Tomb Tablet had been embellished by the Confucian ministers to the point that I feared it would not sufficiently admonish later generations and descendants.

特 述艱難,明昌運,俾世代見之, 其辭曰:  Thus in order to describe the hardships and difficulties while clarifying the advances and good fortune so that future generations can witness this, the text is as follows:

Line 1: 昔我父皇,寓居是方 In former times, my imperial father lived in this place;

rural Fengyang2
A farmer in today’s Fengyang, where Zhu Yuanzhang’s father worked the fields.

Line 2: 農業艱辛,朝夕彷徨.  He endured the hardships of agriculture, working day and night, always worrying.

Line 3: 俄爾天災流行,眷屬罹殃  All at once, calamities gripped the land and my family met with disaster.

Line 4: 皇考終於六十有四,皇妣五十有九而亡  My imperial father had reached the age of 64, and my imperial mother 59, when they perished;

Line 5: 孟兄先死,合家守喪. My eldest brother was keeping vigil with the family before he died.

Line 6: 田主德不我顧,呼叱昂昂.  Our landlord, (Liu) De, would not attend to our needs, carrying on with his arrogant shouting;

Line 7: 即不與地,鄰裡惆悵.  Our neighbors were saddened that we had not been offered a burial plot.

Line 8: 忽伊兄之慷慨,惠此黃壤.  To our surprise, Liu’s elder brother was generous to us, and kindly offered some yellow earth.

Line 9: 殯無棺槨,被體惡裳  Carried to the grave with no coffins, the bodies were shrouded only in rags;

Line 10: 浮掩三尺,奠何肴漿.  They float concealed three feet under, how could there be proper food and drink offerings?

Click here to read the next 10 lines of this text…

(And click on the annotations to learn background on Zhu Yuanzhang, his family and the versions of this text.  Also see Why does this text matter?)


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