I Felt So Sad for Not See­ing Him

Beijing (English) - - POEM - Trans­lated by Feng Tiejun Edited by Justin Davis

I’m lis­ten­ing to the crick­ets and watch­ing the grasshop­pers. I’m wor­ried and rest­less with­out see­ing him. My wor­ries will be gone if he takes me in his arms. I’ve climbed to the top of the moun­tain, pick­ing some fresh fern leaves.

I miss him so much with­out see­ing him.

I will be happy if he takes me in his arms.

I’ve climbed to the top of the moun­tain, pick­ing some fresh veg­etable shoots.

I feel sad and up­set with­out see­ing him.

My gloom will be swept away if he takes me in his arms.

The poem “Cao­chong” (“Grass In­sects”) in the Book of Songs (old­est col­lec­tion of Chi­nese po­etry) has been chanted for thou­sands of years and has be­come a clas­sic in Chi­nese po­etry. The line “I feel sad and up­set with­out see­ing him” is a com­mon feel­ing when one misses some­one. This love poem was writ­ten over 2,000 years ago. It is closely re­lated to a per­son called Zhao Gong, who is still well-known for his good gov­er­nance over western Shaanxi.

Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal records, King Cheng (1055– 1021 BC) was fairly young at that time, so he was as­sisted by Zhou Gong and Zhao Gong. It was agreed that Zhao Gong gov­ern western Shaanxi and Zhou Gong gov­ern the east. Zhao Gong worked very hard af­ter this di­vi­sion. Un­der his gov­er­nance, the peo­ple in western Shaanxi lived and worked in peace and har­mony, and the econ­omy was pros­per­ous.

Zhao Gong’s gov­er­nance over western Shaanxi has been re­mem­bered for thou­sands of years, but a per­son named Li Jing has been ig­nored. Zhao Gong re­lied on the help of Li Jing to make many of the achieve­ments in the area.

Li Jing grew up with Zhao Gong, and they knew each other for a long time. He learned the six clas­si­cal arts by ob­serv­ing Zhao. He fol­lowed Zhao and trav­elled all over the coun­try with him. His abil­ity in mea­sure­ment and arith­metic was su­pe­rior to oth­ers, so Zhao Gong em­ployed him when gov­ern­ing western Shaanxi. Li guided the cit­i­zens of western Shaanxi to mea­sure and di­vide fields and set up a uni­fied sys­tem of mea­sure­ment across the coun­try, which gave Zhao some idea of how much grain could be har­vested every year and helped him make ma­jor de­ci­sions. In­flu­enced by Zhao, Li be­gan to be wor­ried about the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try and the lives of its cit­i­zens. He be­came very good at solv­ing prob­lems. Zhao thought highly of Li and mar­ried him to a beau­ti­ful and smart woman named Tiao Yu. The cou­ple were hap­pily mar­ried for two years. Li worked for Zhao in the day­time and went home very early every day. Af­ter night fell, the cou­ple read to­gether and talked hap­pily.

Later, Zhao felt that Li was ca­pa­ble enough to work in­de­pen­dently. He wanted to send him to Nan­shan, where peo­ple lived in hard­ship and com­mu­ni­ca­tions were dif­fi­cult, and pro­posed this plan. Af­ter think­ing for a mo­ment, Li replied, “I would like to go there.” Zhao pro­vided him with peo­ple that were good at build­ing houses and grow­ing crops and told him to take enough food and seeds. Zhao said he would visit him in three years to check on his progress. Li re­sponded pos­i­tively and pre­pared for 10 days. He said good­bye to Tiao and Zhao on an aus­pi­cious day and led about 1,200 men to Nan­shan.

Li was en­gaged in many projects. He taught lo­cal peo­ple to build houses and till the land. He also built many towns. Swords were re­cast into ploughs. He led his peo­ple to shape moun­tain­ous fields. He was busy work­ing and Tiao missed him. Tiao be­came more wor­ried about her hus­band when she heard that Nan­shan suf­fered se­vere food scarcity and that the peo­ple used wild veg­eta­bles as sta­ple food. Clouds in the au­tumn sky, whis­per­ing in­sects un­der her win­dow, early dew and the even­ing breeze all re­minded her of her hus­band. She low­ered her head and chanted “Cao­chong.”

The poem does not men­tion whether the cou­ple saw each other again, which read­ers have won­dered about for over 2,000 years.

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