Lines 51-60

(In this 6th section of the Huangling Bei 皇陵碑, Zhu Yuanzhang divines that he should join the Red Turban rebellion, but he discovers that working with rebels can be difficult. Click here to see the previous section. Also – click on any line number to see complete annotations of each section.)
GuoZixing
Guo Zixing, the Red Turban leader in Haozhou.

Line 51:卜逃卜守則不吉,將就凶而不妨。Escaping or guarding, both were inauspicious; then I understood and did not try to interfere.

Line 52: 即起趨降而附城,幾被無知而創。I hastened to the city gates to pledge allegiance, but some of the gate guards did not know who I was and harmed me.

Line 53: 少頃獲釋,身體安康。After some time, I was released and ready, my health restored.

Line 54: 從愚朝暮,日日戎行。I had to deal with fools day and night and led a military life. Continue reading

Annotations to Lines 51-60

 

jiaoshells6yuan80_taobao
A pair of divination shells, available now for 6.80 yuan!

Line 51: Escaping or guarding, both were inauspicious 卜逃卜守則不吉. Zhu Yuanzhang is throwing divination shells – like the modern set in the photo advertisement at right – to get an answer from the Qielan Buddha as to whether he should escape the chaos around him, or stay and guard his looted temple. The shells are landing interior side down for Zhu, an inauspicious  yin/yin reply.

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Lines 41-50

(In this 5th section of the Huangling Bei 皇陵碑, Zhu Yuanzhang mulls over whether he should become a Red Turban. Click here to see the previous section. Also – click on any line number to see complete annotations of each section.)

Line 41: 未幾陷城,深高城隍。  The city was taken by only a few who surmounted the walls and moats;

Shaoxing gate
Bridge over a moat before a Chinese city wall.

Line 42: 拒守不去,號令彰彰。  They encountered no defenders and took clear control.

Line 43: 友人寄書,云及趨降。  A friend sent me a letter saying that I should hasten to submit;

Line 44: 既憂且懼,無可籌詳。  But I was too worried and afraid to make any plans.

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Annotations to Lines 41-50

TangHe
Zhu Yuanzhang’s friend Tang He, depicted above, encouraged him to join the Red Turbans.

Line 41: The city was taken 陷城. This refers to the walled city of Haozhou 濠州, which Guo Zixing 郭子兴 captured with a small force of Red Turbans. Haozhou no longer exists. After the Ming founding, Zhu Yuanzhang reorganized his home district and created Fengyang. Haozhou was situated at the confluence of the Hao River with the larger Huai River 淮河.

Line 42: They encountered no defenders 拒守不去.  According to Wu Han’s biography of Zhu Yuanzhang (see Sources, “Wu Han”), “On the 27th day of the second month (of 1352), Guo Zixing led several thousand men on a midnight raid of Haozhou.  When the signal cannon sounded, the raiders charged the yamen gate and killed the magistrate…The Yuan general Cheli Buqa was camped many li away from Haozhou and feared the ferocity of the Red Army to the point that he refused to attack.” Continue reading

Lines 31-40

(In this 4th section of the Huangling Bei 皇陵碑, Zhu Yuanzhang, having lost his family to the plague and been turned out from his Buddhist temple, has become a wandering monk.  Click here to see the previous section.  Also – click on any line number to see complete annotations of each section.)

Line 31: 仰穹崖崔嵬而倚碧,聽猿啼夜月而淒涼。  Facing a lofty precipice, I would rest on the green moss; listening to the night calls of the monkeys, I felt cold and desolate.

Line 32: 魂悠悠而覓父母無有,志落魄而倘佯。  My spirit fretted and sought out my father and mother, but to no avail; my will ebbed and I wandered aimlessly. Continue reading

Annotations to Lines 31-40

Line 31: Lofty precipice 穹崖崔嵬. This phrase in Chinese is a string of images: “穹” means “vault” or “dome,” and often refers to the vault of Heaven. “The domed cliffs towering and lofty,” is closer to the text but seemed too flowery to me in English so I simplified it to “lofty precipice.” Rest on the green moss 倚碧” is hard to translate because the color word, “碧” can mean either blue or green, and the color needs a noun to work in English, so it could mean “by the blue waters” as easily as “on the green moss.”  “Calls of the monkeys 猿啼” indicates that Zhu Yuanzhang was traveling through the mountain forests – the rhesus monkey can still be found in southern Anhui Province.
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Why does this text matter? (Part 1 – The Grieving Son)

 

Huanglilng Statue
Stone guardian at Imperial Tomb Tablet site.

It’s an old text that is virtually unknown in English. So why bother reading the Imperial Tomb Tablet of the Great Ming?

My answer is that it’s a rare insight into the anguished heart of a remarkable man, the only peasant who founded a dynasty in imperial China.

And I think anyone who has a family should take a look at these words, because this is a speech by a son standing with his back to his parents’ graves and his face toward posterity, trying to express how his life has given meaning to his surname.  What would you say if faced with such a task? Continue reading

Lines 21 – 30

(In this 3rd section of the Huangling Bei 皇陵碑, Zhu Yuanzhang and his only surviving sibling must decide how to survive the drought and plague deaths.  Click here to see the previous section.  Also – click on any line number to see complete annotations of each section.)

Line 21: 兄弟異路,哀動遙蒼.  Elder and younger, we took separate paths, with even distant Heaven moved by our sorrow.

Line 22: 汪氏老母,為我籌量  Old Mother Wang helped me prepare a temple offering,

Line 23: 遣子相送,備醴馨香.  She sent her son to accompany me, laden with sweet wine and incense. Continue reading

Annotations to Lines 21-30

Line 21: With even distant Heaven moved by our sorrow 哀動遙蒼.  The verb “to move ” here indicates a moving of the sentiments.  遙蒼 is literally the distant green, but the  here is “蒼天,” which means not just a blue-green sky, but “Heaven” in an anthropomorphic sense.  This phrase contrasts with Line 20, which featured a merciless sun glittering over the earth, thus in this line further emphasizing the piteousness of the two brothers. Continue reading