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. Continue reading
Line 81 and 82: These two lines can be taken together as a statement of how Zhu pacified the south of China. Wang Jianying (see Sources) points out that the sequence is a bit off and overlaps with the next few lines, but basically this refer to the battles, and ultimate victories over Chen Youliang to the west, over Fang Guozhen along the coast to the east, and against various other warlords to the south and west. “Jingchu,” is another name for the Three Kingdoms era State of Chu, which dominated southern China in ancient times. This region includes Lake Poyang 鄱陽湖 in Jiangxi, where Zhu defeated Chen (who was killed by an arrow) in a major naval battle in 1363. “Huxiang” refers to the Xiang River 湘江 in Hunan Province. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Line 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. Continue reading
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.
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
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.
Line 21: With even distant Heaven moved by our sorrow 哀動遙蒼. The verb “to move 動” here indicates a moving of the sentiments. 遙蒼 is literally the distant green, but the 蒼 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
Line 11: The path before us was fraught with suffering and worries 家道惶惶. The Chinese text says, literally, “family path alarmed.” The double character phrase 惶惶 has the sense of “a state of anxiety” and fear, and the repetitious sound in Chinese heightens this meaning in a way that can’t be translated.
NOTE: Text highlighted in blue is quoted from the post “The Intro and First 10 Lines, which has the full Chinese text and English translation of this section to the Huangling Bei.
Intro, Line 1: “Yuanzhang” 元璋 is the given name of Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋, who was born in 1328 in a rural area south of the Huai River, located to the north of today’s Anhui Province. I have translated 谨 as “sincerely,” but it also could be “respectfully.” Continue reading