So my book about the plague is a victim of coronavirus…

According to my publisher, my first novel is now waiting in some printing queue in China, one small item lost in the general shutdown resulting from the coronavirus. Ironically, “The Lacquered Talisman” focuses on how the Zhu family dealt with the contagion of their era: the plague. When the day comes that I am able to hold a copy of my book in my own hands, I will feel a measure of relief that the current contagion is subsiding. Until then, my thoughts are with all those in China dealing with this crisis.

Here is how Zhu Yuanzhang wrote about the impact of contagion on his family:

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

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;

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

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

既葬之後,家道惶惶. After the burial, the path before us was fraught with suffering and worries.

里人缺食,草木為糧. In my village, food was scarce, with grasses and bark serving as nourishment.

予亦何有,心驚若狂. As for myself, what did I have but fear to the point of madness?

This is an excerpt from my translation of Zhu’s autobiographical essay, known as the Imperial Tomb Tablet of the Great Ming because it was carved into stone and mounted before the graves of Zhu’s parents after he founded the Ming Dynasty. You can read my annotated translation of the entire text by clicking on the PDF in this link.


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