Ori­oles War­ble at Noon in Sum­mer

Beijing (English) - - CHERISHED POEMS - Trans­lated by Wang Shi, edited by Mark Zuiderveld

Sum­mer heat brings a kind of ro­man­tic plea­sure. One day in July 1046, Su Shun­qin (1008–1048), a poet of the Song Dy­nasty (AD 960–1279), wrote the poem “Xi­ayi” (“A Taste of Sum­mer”) af­ter a nap at noon. It reads: “I feel cool sit­ting on a bam­boo mat in a quiet yard; bloom­ing pome­gran­ate flow­ers brighten the hall through the cur­tains. At noon the ground is cov­ered by tree shade; af­ter wak­ing up from a dream, I hear ori­oles war­ble.”

A sum­mer­time nap at noon was a com­mon form of en­joy­ment through­out the ages. Tang Dy­nasty (AD 618–907) poet Liu Zongyuan wrote “Xi­azhou Xianzuo” (“A Poem Writ­ten in Sum­mer Leisure”) which reads: “The heat in the south was un­bear­able, so I opened the north­ern win­dow and slept on a long ta­ble.”

In 1044, Su Shun­qin was rec­om­mended to Fan Zhongyan, prime min­is­ter of the Song Dy­nasty. When Su was asked to give sug­ges­tions on ad­dress­ing the Song Dy­nasty's long-stand­ing wrong­do­ings, Su talked about his vi­sion con­stantly which co­in­cided with Fan Zhongyan's thoughts and ideas. Su was ap­pointed col­la­tor of the Academy of Schol­arly Wor­thies. Su Shun­qin was grate­ful to the im­pe­rial court and planned many re­form mea­sures. How­ever, mis­for­tune was soon cast on him. When Su Shun­qin was about to re­alise his po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tion, Palace Aide to the Cen­sor-in- chief Wang Gongchen and other con­ser­va­tives op­pos­ing po­lit­i­cal re­form dealt a blow to him. In 1045, af­ter the Memo­ri­als Of­fice of­fered sac­ri­fices to the gods, Su Shun­qin sold opened memo­rial en­velopes to buy wine for a ban­quet ac­cord­ing to cus­toms. Wang Gongchen falsely ac­cused Su of em­bez­zle­ment to the em­peror to re­tal­i­ate against Fan Zhongyan and other re­form­ers. Fan Zhongyan pleaded the em­peror but failed. Su was re­moved from of­fice and ex­iled along with more than ten cel­e­brated schol­ars.

Su Shun­qin left the Song cap­i­tal of Kaifeng in Jan­uary 1046, ar­rived in Suzhou five months later and started an­other short but mean­ing­ful life there.

Be­fore be­com­ing fa­mous, Su Shun­qin was known for be­ing bold and un­con­strained. His story of read­ing and drink­ing at the same time was told by word of mouth with ap­proval.

Su Shun­qin's de­ci­sion to steer clear from po­lit­i­cal cir­cles and live in seclu­sion was suit­able to him. Suzhou was a city suit­able for her­mits. While liv­ing in seclu­sion there, Su Shun­qin ex­pressed his feel­ings of the moun­tains and wa­ters and found a new mean­ing of life. Such a care­free life­style that he had never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore al­lowed him to fo­cus on en­joy­ing his time in­stead of wast­ing time and en­ergy on an of­fi­cial ca­reer on a daily ba­sis.

“At noon the ground is cov­ered by tree shade; af­ter wak­ing up from a dream, I hear ori­oles war­ble oc­ca­sion­ally.” Th­ese two po­etic lines are the crys­talli­sa­tion of what Su Shun­qin learned from life. The chang­ing times gave new mean­ings to them. To­day, when read­ing th­ese two lines, read­ers can more often than not feel the great poet's love for life and the cool in the heat of sum­mer.

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