Line 71: This line marks the transition from an extended description of being reunited with family to Zhu’s military exploits. The second half of the phrase, “my soldiers were well trained and ready 外練兵港” is literally “exterior trained, weapons sharpened.” The word “exterior 外” indicates the physical body being strong and ready for battle, but also refers to Zhu’s switch from talking about his interior family life to the external world his troops must now face.
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Line 72: “Leisure for dining and drinking 飲食不遑” does not mean his soldiers are going on a fast because the next few lines cover a period of many months. Instead, he means no more banquets and entertaining, and no turning back.
Line 73: Hezhou, known today as Hexian 和县, is located south of Chuzhou and closer to the Yangzi River. The word “戍” means “guard” or “defend,” but in this case I translated it as “held.” The Red Turbans took control of Hezhou in early 1355, and Zhu was given command of the garrison. According to Wu Han (see Sources), it was at Hezhou that Zhu Yuanzhang “went from captain to commander, from leading a few thousand men as a minor officer to heading an entire garrison.” Zhu used Hezhou as a base from which to prepare for the river crossing, which took place that summer. His ultimate goal of Nanjing lay on the other side of the river, but the Yangzi at this point is about two miles wide. Bringing an army across it was no easy feat.
Line 74: According to Wang Jianying (see Sources), Gushu was a key river crossing point, and guarded the southwestern approach to Nanjing. The city is known today as Dangtu 当涂in Anhui Province. Once Zhu made it across the river (which required joining forces with a rebel fleet and fierce battles with imperial troops), Confucian scholars began to pay attention to the new Red Turban leader. We can see that Zhu is careful to point out that he observed the proper (i.e. Confucian) rituals when he entered this city. The respected local scholar Tao An 陶安 and his elderly teacher Li Xi 李習 “led a group of local dignitaries to greet the victor in his camp. Tao was allegedly so impressed by the appearance of the future emperor that he said to his companions, ‘He is no ordinary man; we have found our true lord.’ In a subsequent conversation he praised Zhu for having forsworn the rapacious behavior of other militarists, and encouraged him in his ambition to conquer Nanjing…and make it his capital. He pointed out that it had a glorious history as a seat of dynasties and was so situated as to dominate the Yangzi.” (This quote is from Romeyn Taylor’s entry on Tao An in the Dictionary of Ming Biography, Volume 2, though I used modern spellings of Chinese words.)
Line 75: This line refers to the conquest of Nanjing, which fell to Zhu on April 10, 1356, and which Zhu transformed into the first capital of the Ming Dynasty. The second half of the phrase translates literally as: “four (sides) protect / gates defend” by which Zhu means that he established a firm defense of all the city walls.
Line 76: “Assessed our rivals 頡頏.” This phrase actually refers to birds and means “to fly up and down,” but here it is term for “equally matched rivals.” And Zhu had many at this point. He considered Köke Temür 王保保 to be the most impressive Mongol general on the field. Among the various rebels were the salt smuggler Zhang Shicheng 张士诚, the pirate Fang Guozhen 方国珍, and also Chen Youliang 陈友谅, leader of the Jiangxi/Hubei wing of the Red Turbans.
Line 77: “Band of heroes 群雄.” This is the same phrase used at the start of Line 72. The last two characters in this line, 鏗鏘, are pronounced “keng-qiang” which offers the onomatopoeic sound of clanging weapons.
Line 78: The word 綱 means a guide-rope, or the “net to which all other strings are attached” (see Kroll’s Dictionary), used here to mean “guiding principles.” Wang Jianying says that Zhu is referring here to the writings of Köke Temür and others who cited the internal strife and discord within the Yuan court as a reason for its loss of the Mandate. The Founding Ancestor 世祖 of the Yuan Dynasty was Kublai Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan. The “strongmen” refers to Red Turbans like Chen Youliang, who is said to have assassinated his own ruler (Xu Shouhui 徐壽輝) in an act of usurpation.
Line 79: According to Wang Jianying, 張皇 means “expanded,” and 六師 refers figuratively to the six armies of the ancient and renowned King Zhao. “角” and “亢” are the names of the first and second of the 28 constellations in Chinese cosmology, and Wang says the second half of this phrase indicates that Zhu studied the stars and took the attitude of “soberly assessing our rivals” (see Line 76) to choose the most auspicious moment to contend for the kingdom.
Line 80: Zhu’s most famous generals included Xu Da 徐達 (1332-1385), Chang Yuchun 常遇春 (1330-1369) and Tang He 汤和 (1326-1395). His chief strategists were Liu Ji 劉基 (1311-1375) and Song Lian 宋濂 (1310-1381). “Though the world be in turmoil, the mind must be well-ordered.” -Song Lian
NOTE: Text highlighted in blue is quoted from the post “Lines 71-80,” which has the full Chinese text and English translation for this section of the Huangling Bei.