Lines 61-70

(In this 7th installment of this blog’s Huangling Bei 皇陵碑 translation, Zhu Yuanzhang forms his own militia and gains fame, which leads to an unexpected family reunion. Click here to see the previous section.  Also – click on any line number to see complete annotations of each section.)

Line 61: 倡農夫以入,伍事業是匡。I convinced the locals to join my band for the cause of rectifying the state.

Chuzhou
The walled city of Chuyang, surrounded by a moat. The waterway through the city converges to the east with the Qingliu River.

Line 62: 不逾月而眾集,赤幟蔽野而盈岡。In less than a month I had gathered a multitude so that our red banners covered the countryside and spilled over the ridges.

Line 63: 率渡清流,戍守滁陽。I led my troops across the Qingliu River to defend the Chuyang Garrison.

Line 64: 思親詢舊,終日慨慷。I thought of my relatives and asked after them, all day sighing with emotion. Continue reading

Why does this text matter? (Part 2 – The Monk Years)

LongXingStatute
Statue of Zhu Yuanzhang in the Anhui temple that claims him as a member of its fold.

Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋 is famous as the peasant-turned-rebel who defeated the Mongols and founded the Ming Dynasty in 1368.  However, prior to tying on a red turban and joining the rebellion, Zhu spent eight formative years as a Buddhist monk.  It is these years that are the focus of the middle third of the Imperial Tomb Tablet of the Great Ming 大明皇陵之碑.  Understanding how the Ming founder’s religious beliefs guided his path to the throne is another reason why this text matters.

To recap: after losing his entire family to a plague strike and its aftermath, the orphaned 16-year-old Zhu would have hardly looked like a future emperor.  In fact, he ranks as China’s most unlikely dynastic founder.  Continue reading

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

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.

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

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

Lines 11-20

(In this 2nd section of the Huangling Bei 皇陵碑, Zhu Yuanzhang is still reeling from the aftermath of burying his parents and oldest brother.  Click here to see the previous section.  Also – click on any line number to see complete annotations of each section.)

Line 11: 既葬之后,家道惶惶.  After the burial, the path before us was fraught with suffering and worries.

Line 12: 仲兄少弱,生計不張.  My second brother (now head of the family) was young and frail, with no livelihood to depend on.

Line 13: 孟嫂攜幼,東歸故鄉.  Eldest sister-in-law had taken her children in hand and headed east to return to her own village. Continue reading

The Intro and First 10 Lines

(Click on “Annotations” to see notes on this first section of the Huangling Bei 皇陵碑 translation.)

孝子皇帝元璋謹述: The filial son, emperor Yuanzhang, sincerely relates:

洪武十一年夏四月,命江陰侯吳良督工新建皇堂。 In the 11th year of the Hongwu era, during the fourth month, the summer season, I commanded Wu Liang, the Duke of Jiangyin, to supervise work on the new construction of the Imperial Hall.

Fengyang Wall.jpg
The wall that Zhu Yuanzhang ordered built around his hometown, today’s Fengyang 凤阳,which Zhu wanted to make his Middle Capital 中都.

予時秉鑒窺形,但見蒼顏皓首,忽思往日之艱辛。 At this time, I picked up a mirror and examined my appearance, seeing that my color was pale and my hair white.  My thoughts abruptly turned to the hardships of the past.

況皇陵碑記皆儒臣粉飾之文,恐不足為后世子孫戒。 Moreover, I realized the original text for the Imperial Tomb Tablet had been embellished by the Confucian ministers to the point that I feared it would not sufficiently admonish later generations and descendants. Continue reading