Annotations to Lines 61-70

rural-fengyang2-e1506555567999.jpgLine 61: I convinced the locals 倡農夫.  These locals were farmers in the Huai River valley, in today’s Anhui Province. Zhu Yuanzhang is calling on them to join a righteous cause (as opposed to what the ruling Mongols would have deemed a rebellion).  The recruits were joining Zhu’s original band of “24 heroes,” who have been named in several places and included companions like Tang He 汤和 and Xu Da 徐达, the future generals who would fight at his side straight through to the dynastic founding in 1368.

(NOTE – Click on the text line number to return to the text.)

Line 62: I gathered a multitude 眾集. (The pronoun “I” is implied.)  In “Story of a Dream” (see Sources), Zhu gives more details about these “multitudes” who filled out his new militia.  They included 3,000 left stranded at a fort in the hills outside Dingyuan, who surrendered to Zhu.  Next was a more significant encampment of 20,000 soldiers that Zhu encountered at Mt. Hengjian 横涧, northwest of Dingyuan.  This army was part of the larger imperial force that scattered upon the death of Yuan General Jia Lu (see annotations to Line 58 above). Zhu’s men overpowered the encampment in a surprise midnight attack. These maneuvers and skirmishes occurred in the year 1354. The resulting new militia would have been raising Zhu’s personal banners, though using the colors of the Red Turbans, since Zhu’s allegiance remained with Commander Guo Zixing in Haozhou.

Line 63: Qingliu River 清流. The Qingliu flows eastward from near the Dingyuan boundary toward the Yangzi River.  “Chuyang Garrison” refers to the walled city of Chuzhou 滁州.  Zhu was based in this city for about a year, but according to Wu Han’s biography, even before Zhu entered Chuzhou, his eyes were on a much bigger prize southeast across the Yangzi: Jiankang, known today as Nanjing.

Line 64: Sighing with emotion 慨慷. Now we have a major shift from a bold narration of military exploits to Zhu Yuanzhang’s internal thoughts about his scattered relatives.  The two characters used here, “kai-kang,” which mean literally “sigh forlornly/brave forbearance,” but are often used together to mean “sigh with emotion,”  has an alliterative quality which adds to the poetic sentiment.

Line 65: As mentioned in the annotations to Line 12, Zhu was the youngest son in a family of four sons and two daughters.  According to the chapter on princesses in the official History of the Ming (明史,卷121), his eldest sister was married away to a member of the Wang clan in the town of Xuyi 旴眙, and probably died before Zhu Yuanzhang was born.  She had no heirs.  His second sister (the charactermeans “second” in a sequence) married Li Zhen 李貞, also of Xuyi (see notes to Line 28 ).  This town along Lake Hongze is where Zhu’s parents lived before moving to Haozhou, where their most famous son was born in 1328.  Both of these sisters were posthumously named princesses.  The term 駙馬 literally means “extra horses for the carriage,” but also indicates imperial in-laws.  Li’s son by Zhu Yuanzhang’s sister was Li Wenzhong 李文忠, born in about 1341, a few years prior to the plague strike that devastated the Zhu family, though clearly the Li’s in Xuyi survived the plague.  Li Wenzhong’s biography in the History of the Ming says that Li’s mother died when he was 12 years old, which would have been about 1353.  This means Zhu had received news of her recent death, but did not know the whereabouts of her survivors.

Line 66: What a poignant scene!  According to the official biography of Li Wenzhong, he and his father were caught up in the fighting around Xuyi, and narrowly escaped death. This occurred at about the same time that Zhu Yuanzhang was seeking to capture Chuzhou.  (Xuyi is about 100 kilometers north of Chuzhou.) It is likely that Li Wenzhong had never seen his uncle, Zhu Yuanzhang, until he arrived with his father at Zhu’s Red Turban base in Chuzhou.  Having recently lost his mother, it must have been a comfort to meet his mother’s youngest brother.  Zhu’s words here indicate that he resembled his sister.

Line 67: Eldest sister-in-law 孟嫂 was last mentioned in Line 12 of this text, when she left the Zhu household after the death of her husband.  Now she “has knowledge 有知” which I translate contextually as “learned of my whereabouts.”  Her two children have survived (though her oldest child, a son, died in the plague and was buried with his father) and would now be about the same age as Li Wenzhong.  So Zhu Yuanzhang has now been reunited with two nephews and a niece. The timing of these reunions was likely due to Zhu’s spreading fame in the Huai River valley for having captured a relatively significant city like Chuzhou.

Line 68: As explained in lines 19-21 above, Zhu Yuanzhang and his second-oldest brother survived the plague strike of 1344, but were forced apart during the famine that followed.  It appears that Zhu has received news that Second Brother died during his search for food.  The widow mentioned here never made it to Chuzhou and probably died not long after Second Brother.  The imperial cemetery at Fengyang is said to contain the bodies of Second Brother, his widow and young son, but I wonder if their remains could truly have been located in the wilderness – to say nothing of the turmoil of that era.  Zhu is clearly grieving their bitter fate.

Line 69: “North and south 南北” is used figuratively here to mean “everywhere.”  As F.W. Mote explained in a book about 14th century China (see Sources), the Red Turbans of the early 1350s consisted of two wings, one centered on the Huai River region (which included Zhu’s base), and the other on the mid Yangzi River valley.  In addition, Fang Guozhen 方国珍had a pirate fleet patrolling the Zhejiang coast.  Meanwhile, the Yuan imperial army continuously sent forces to suppress all of these pockets of rebellion.  Zhu’s family was trying to survive through this era of widespread upheaval.  “忙忙” (with the alliterative pronunciation of “mang mang”) means “busy/hurried” and also “troubled/anxious.” I have translated it here to mean “a struggle.”

Line 70: This is one of the most emotional lines in the entire text. “Born again 再生” does not have a religious context here.  It has the meaning of starting over, or being able to move forward now that remaining remnants of the family have been reconnected. 難當 is a phrase that has a meaning of “until we could no longer take it anymore,” which in this context becomes “for as long as we could.”  This leaves one with the image of the reunited family staying up late into the night reminiscing, incredulous at having found one another, grieving over those relatives who were not able to join them.

NOTE: Text highlighted in blue is quoted from the post “Lines 61-70,” which has the full Chinese text and English translation for this section of the Huangling Bei.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s