So Glad That Au­tumn’s Cold

Beijing (English) - - CHERISHED POEMS - Trans­lated by Wang Xiao­hua Edited by Greg S. Vanisky

In the an­cient poet's world, au­tumn was sad and heavy­hearted. Poets ex­pe­ri­enced a feel­ing of melan­choly ev­ery au­tumn, and as poets mum­bled to them­selves, the sea­son even­tu­ally took on a re­sent­ful ap­pear­ance that won high ad­mi­ra­tion from later gen­er­a­tions. How­ever, au­tumn didn't im­ply re­sent­ment, sad­ness, worry or lament to Xin Qiji (1140–1207), a pa­tri­otic gen­eral and distin­guished ci poet dur­ing the South­ern Song Dy­nasty (1127–1279).

Xin grew up in the oc­cu­pied Cen­tral Plains. He ex­pe­ri­enced the mis­ery of the peo­ple and wit­nessed the cru­elty of the Jin-dy­nasty (1115–1234) in­vaders, but was also greatly in­spired by the fight­ing spirit of the peo­ple in North China who fought tena­ciously against the in­vaders. His grand­fa­ther, Xin Zan, of­ten took young Xin Qiji to look into the dis­tance from a high place and point at scenes of moun­tains and rivers. Be­cause of this, when Xin Qiji was young, he had a lofty as­pi­ra­tion to re­cover the Cen­tral Plains.

In 1161, Wanyan Liang (reign: 1149–1161), Em­peror of the Jin Dy­nasty, mounted a large-scale in­va­sion of the south. As a re­sult, peo­ple in the Cen­tral Plains, un­able to bear the ruler's op­pres­sion, rose up against the in­vaders. When Xin Qiji was 22 years old, at a time of na­tional cri­sis and im­mi­nent dan­ger, he was dis­tressed from see­ing the de­spair and swarms of af­flicted peo­ple. Shortly there­after, he quickly gath­ered an army of over 2,000 men to join the in­sur­rec­tionary army led by Geng Jing (1130–1162) and worked as a con­fi­den­tial sec­re­tary. The sec­ond year, Xin fol­lowed Geng Jing's or­ders, and marched south­ward to con­tact the court of the South­ern Song Dy­nasty. Af­ter ac­com­plish­ing his mis­sion, he re­ceived news on his way home that Geng Jing was killed by the rene­gade Zhang An­guo, and that the in­sur­rec­tionary army had col­lapsed in dis­or­der. See­ing this, Xin led an at­tack with over 50 cav­al­ry­men on the mil­i­tary bar­racks of the Jin army. Zhang An­guo was cap­tured dur­ing the bat­tle and sent un­der es­cort to Jiankang (to­day's Nan­jing, Jiangsu Province).

Due to his courage and de­ci­sive­ness, Xin be­came fa­mous for a time. He was young and ag­gres­sive, but with­out wor­ries and hardly aware of life's dan­gers. At the begin­ning of his of­fi­cial ca­reer, Xin en­thu­si­as­ti­cally sub­mit­ted many sug­ges­tions with re­gard to fight­ing the Jin army. How­ever, the court's re­sponse was cold and in­dif­fer­ent. He was bold and ob­sti­nate and had great en­thu­si­asm about the north­ern ex­pe­di­tion. Con­se­quently, he also had dif­fi­culty es­tab­lish­ing him­self in of­fi­cial cir­cles where ta­lented peo­ple were en­vied. For this rea­son, Xin re­mained in Shangrao and Qian­shan, Jiangxi Province for as long as 20 years dur­ing the 40-odd years when he was in the south. Though he took some gov­ern­ment po­si­tions through­out those 20 years, he had few op­por­tu­ni­ties to ful­fil his am­bi­tions and suf­fered from many beat­ings.

Al­though Xin set his mind to serve the na­tion, he had no place to dis­play his prow­ess, nor any chances to use his sword. In 1190,

Xin Qiji and his friends went sight­see­ing around Boshan Moun­tain (ap­prox­i­mately 30 kilo­me­tres south­west of to­day's Guangfeng County, Jiangxi Province). While help­lessly con­fronted by all the dif­fi­cul­ties and trou­bles be­set­ting the na­tion, he picked up a piece of cob­ble­stone on the road and with it en­graved a ci poem on the precipice of the moun­tain pass ti­tled “Chounuer: Shu boshan­dao zhong bi (Song of Ugly Slave: Writ­ten on the Wall on My Way to Boshan),” which has been widely read by later gen­er­a­tions. He wrote,

While young, I knew no grief I could not bear; I’d like to go up­stairs.

I’d like to go up­stairs

To write new verses with a false de­spair. I know what grief is now that I am old; I would not have it told.

I would not have it told,

But only say I’m glad that au­tumn’s cold.

For hun­dreds of years, Xin Qiji had been a patriot in the words of his­to­ri­og­ra­phers and the eyes of the com­mon peo­ple, and his sto­ries were well-known to later gen­er­a­tions. In their minds, Xin was a hero, yet he was un­able to ex­press his true in­ner voice to out­siders. He left be­hind the line: “But only say I'm glad that au­tumn's cold.” This gives read­ers an idea of his dis­tressed heart dur­ing the au­tumn sea­son, just like the sough­ing au­tumn wind.

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