Annotations to Lines 91-end

Line 91: The text concludes with a discussion of the gravesite in Fengyang, Anhui Province.  As explained above in the note for Line 10, Zhu’s parents were buried during a rainstorm, when his family was in desperate circumstances.  Naturally, once he rose to power, Zhu wanted a fancier tomb.  “厚” means “thick” or “lavish” and is the opposite of “微” which can mean “tiny” or “imperceptible,” but also has the meaning I use here of “modest” or even “hidden.” (See Kroll’s dictionary for more on these terms.)  Zhu used the same verb for “divined” as in Lines 49 and 51, so perhaps he (or his designate) is once again tossing shells.  In any case, the burial site was to remain undisturbed, though an elaborate complex was then built around this royal cemetery, and it can still be visited today.

Line 92: Zhu designated 20 families as hereditary custodians of the Fengyang imperial tomb site.  He also specified various stone statues to form an ornate Spirit Way.  “蒸”is the winter and “嘗” the autumn sacrifice to the ancestors.  Wang Jianying says the former consists of an animal sacrifice, and the latter millet.  The two terms together refer to the seasonal offerings.

Line 93: The first half of this line is a rephrasing of stanzas in the ancient Book of Odes (“Liao E蓼莪” from the Decade of Xiao Min in the Minor Odes section).  Here is the translation by James Legge (1815-1897):

哀哀父母、生我劬勞。Alas! alas! my parents,
With what toil and suffering ye gave me birth! 

欲報之德、昊天罔極。If I would return your kindness,
It is like great Heaven, illimitable.

Line 94: The Yin-Shang era is said to have been established in 1600 BCE, and to have been ended by the Zhou conquest in 1046, and thus lasted over 500 years.  Zhu is hoping that his own dynasty will have this kind of longevity, and be known for its morality.  This line translates directly as something like: “generation and generation/ pass/one after another/and then/rule/virtue, must/as if/to/Yin-Shang.”

Line 95: The first two characters used in this line, “tears” and “brush,” could mean that tears were falling onto his calligraphy brush, or that his brush was dripping tears onto the paper.  In any case, Zhu is writing with great emotion and hoping that his biography contains instructive lessons for posterity.

Line 96:  Turning from his hopes for the future, Zhu ends this text as a filial son, bowing in gratitude to the sacrifice of his parents.

Dateline: According to the Gregorian calendar, the stele was erected in August 1378.

NOTE: Text highlighted in blue is quoted from the post “Lines 91-end,” which has the full Chinese text and English translation for this final section of the Huangling Bei.

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