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Archive for the ‘鴻雪因緣圖記 – A Wild Swan’s Trail’ Category

Su Tung-po:

Tracks in the Snow

Su_Shi

In a previous set of articles on an illustrated Qing-dynasty memoir, 鴻雪因緣圖記 [hongxue yinyuan tuji] by Lin Qing 麟慶, we have presented a number of episodes from those memoirs, or commentaries on the book, along with the corresponding illustrations.

Yet the title of the work itself is worthy of note, being rendered variously into English as: A Wild Swan’s Trail; Tracks in the Snow; Footsteps in the Snow of a Solitary Goose; Record of a Goose Life’s Traces in the Snow; Wild swan on the snow; among many others. In fact, it is a reference to a famous poem by Su Tung-p’o [Su Dongpo], or Su Shi 蘇軾, a poet-official of the Sung [Song] dynasty, entitled « 和子由澠池懷舊 », which expresses the impermanence and ephemeral nature of a fleeting human existence.

和子由澠池懷舊

人生到處知何似,恰似飛鴻踏雪泥;

泥上偶然留指爪,鴻飛那復計東西。

老僧已死成新塔,壞壁無由見舊題;

往日崎嶇還記否,路長人困蹇驢嘶。

 

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This poem was written in reply to a poem by his brother, Tseyu [Ziyou]. Lin Yutang, in his biography, The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo, says:

 

Lin_Yutang_Cover

“The brothers often ho, or “echoed” each other’s poems; to “echo” a poem is to answer it with another one using the same rhyme words. It was a good test of poetic skill, for the rhyming had to be natural, and this was one of the accomplishments of all scholars in ancient China. People looked for surprising, or delightful, or refreshing, tunes of thought, expressed with the prescribed rhyme words, and the lines had to have natural sequence. As in a crossword puzzle, the difficulty increased the delight when the rhyming was done with ease and without effort. In one of these earliest “echo” poems, written to Tseyu, Tungpo already revealed a complete mastery. Having to write a poem where the first two rhyme words had to be “snow” and “west,” Tungpo wrote:

To what can human life be likened?

Perhaps to a wild goose’s footprint on snow;

The claws’ imprint is accidentally left

But carefree, the bird flies east and west.

It remained one of Tungpo’s best poems. The flying bird was a symbol of the human spirit. In truth, the events and doings of Su Tungpo we are reading about in this book are but the accidental footprints of a great spirit, but the real Su Tungpo is a spirit, like a phantom bird, that is even now perhaps making dream journeys among the stars.”

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In his commentary on Lin Qing’s book, John Minford notes the reference and translates the lines freely as:

To what can this human life be likened?

Perhaps to a wild swan treading on the snow;

it leaves a few tracks and flies on blithely into the unknown.”

 Swan

In his Selected Poems of Su Tung-p’o, Burton Watson has translated the poem in full:

Watson_Su_Tungpo

 Rhyming with Tzu-yu’s ‘At Mien-ch’ih, Recalling the Past

Wanderings of a lifetime – what do they resemble?

A winging swan that touches down on snow-soaked mud.

In the mud by chance he leaves the print of his webs,

but the swan flies away, who knows to east or west?

The old monk is dead now, become a new memorial tower;

on the crumbling wall, impossible to find our old inscriptions.

Do you recall that day, steep winding slopes,

road long, all of us tired, our lame donkeys braying?

 

Rexroth_Cover

Kenneth Rexroth renders the entire poem as:

Remembering Min Ch’e

A Letter to his Brother Su Che

What is our life on earth?

A flock of migrating geese

Rest for a moment on the snow,

Leave the print of their claws

And fly away, some East, some West.

The old monk is no more.

There is a new gravestone for him.

On the broken wall of his hut

You can’t find the poems we wrote.

There’s nothing to show we’ve ever been there.

The road was long. We were tired out.

My limping mule brayed all the way.

 

(“Love and the Turning Year: One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese”, New Directions, 1970)

One very insightful reading of Su’s poem is that of Chan Master Nan Huai-chin (Nan Huaijin, 南怀瑾), in his commentary on the Diamond Sutra (Diamond Sutra Explained):

 

Master Nan Huai-chin

“Su Tung-p’o wrote a famous poem which came out of his Buddhist practice:

Human existence anywhere can be likened to what?

One ought to describe it as a bird touching down

On new-fallen snow, leaving by chance a track.

When the bird flies, does it plan to go east or west?

He posed the question; the course of one human existence can be likened to what? Like a bird on a snowy day, alighting on the snow for a moment, leaving a claw print, “leaving by chance a track.” The snow continues falling after the bird flies off, covering over the print, no trace remains. After the bird has flown off, whether it be north, south, east or west, the bird is gone and no print remains.

Most people’s goals in life are to raise a family, have a career, children, grandchildren, etc. The day one’s eyes close, limbs go limp and one passes from this world – when the bird flies – does one plan to go east or west? At that point, there is no such thing. These are Su Tung-p’o’s famous lines.”

 

Nan_Diamond_Sutra

(Nan Huai-chin, “Diamond Sutra Explained, translated by Pia Giammasi, published by Primordia Media, 2004).

Lastly, there is one other version of the poem available online, translated by A. S. Kline, entitled “Remembrance”.

 To what can we compare our life on Earth?


To a flock of geese,


alighting on the snow.


Sometimes leaving a trace of their passage.

 

That Lin Qing named his memoirs after such a poem shows his concern with leaving a “track” of some sort, on the one hand, and his sensitivity to literature – mentioned by Herbert Giles in the first post of this series – on the other.

Lin_Qing_Bird
(Click to enlarge)

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“I have rented a temple in the Western Hills, to go there for week-ends, and perhaps for an occasional fortnight in the autumn or spring. It is about eighteen miles from Peking, and one can reach the place easily enough on horseback. Also one can go most of the way by motor, along the new road that branches off to the Summer Palace.

The train that goes to Men-to-kou, on the other side of the mountains, stops at a little station two miles distant from the village of Pa-ta-chu. The name means ‘The Hill of the Eight Sanctuaries’. My temple is one of the eight that mount up the hill-side among the oaks, the maples, and the stunted pines. Both temples and trees nestle in the hollows, where they are protected from the north wind, which keeps the hill-tops shorn of vegetation.

The word ‘temple’ comes from the Greek τέμνειν, which means ‘to cut out, to separate, to isolate’, alluding to the exclusive character of that which is sacred to the gods. But Chinese gods, though sometimes fierce and terrifying, are not exclusive. They like company and are not particular what company they keep.” (Varè, ‘The Gate of Happy Sparrows’)

“As on my former mission in China, I rented a temple in the Western Hills. It was an isolated temple close to Pa-ta-chu, but in a little valley of its own. It was called the Pi-mo-yen. So many translations were given to me of this expression that I never really knew what it meant. ‘The Precipice where the Spirit is Refreshed’ was one; another was ‘The Precipice where the Devil is Exorcised.’

The Pi-mo-yen was a live temple, that is to say it had an abbot and a priest living in it, and many pilgrims came to burn incense in front of the effigy of a Buddha in a little grotto inside the temple grounds, under a huge overhanging rock. The pilgrims used to pass through my quarters but without causing me inconvenience. The Abbot and I became friends, though we could not understand each other very well. Sometimes I used to go over my Chinese characters with him. But his pronunciation of the tones was different from that which I was used to in Peking.

The Pi-mo-yen was endowed with property of its own, and the farm produce used to be brought in and stored, so I had the impression of living in a Chinese country-house with all the interest that a country-house gives to its occupants. The place was very old and had once been a centre of religious instruction. It is mentioned as such in some Chinese books. A cousin of the Emperor Ch’ien Lung once lived there and wrote a book in which he described his travels in Turkestan and elsewhere. The title was Footsteps in the Snow of a Solitary Goose.” (Varè, ‘Laughing Diplomat’)

It was in a Buddhist temple in the Western Hills that I wrote the first chapters of this book. The temple is named Pi Mo Yen. In the eighteenth century a Manchu general, cousin to the Emperor Ch’ien-lung, stayed up there, like myself, and wrote a book. (His was a book of travel, with the quaint title “Footsteps in the Snow of a Solitary Goose.”) Close by were the Hunting Park and the tower whence the emperor used to watch his army manoeuvring on the plain. All around were signs of a past magnificence. (Varè, ‘The Last Empress’ ix, 1936)

This temple, one of the smallest and highest of those in the Western Hills, was known to the foreign community in Peking at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century as Pi Mo Yen [碧默巖]. Chinese sources, however, indicate its name to be Mi Mo Ya [秘魔崖]. Forthcoming installments will further illustrate the Western Hills, using pictures from Lin-qing’s book accompanied by excerpts from contemporary European sources.

麟慶:鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 4 of 6

About the Author:

Daniele Varè (1880-1956) was an Italian diplomat who served chiefly in China, from 1908 until 1920. After he retired from the diplomatic service he devoted himself to writing, translating his own books into English, and writing some of them directly in that language. He wrote works of popular history, such as ‘The Last Empress’ (also published as ‘The Last of the Empresses’), and his novels, ‘The Maker of Heavenly Trousers’; ‘The Gate of Laughing Sparrows’; and ‘The Temple of Costly Experience’; thinly-veiled romans-a-clef, portray expatriate life in China during the end of the Qing dynasty and the beginning of the Republican period. His autobiography, ‘Laughing Diplomat’, was published in 1938. Sir Edmund Backhouse, in his memoirs, describes Varè as his ‘enemy’, doubtlessly because Varè paid him a back-handed compliment by comparing his work and himself with James Macpherson and his ‘Ossian’. – Se non è vero, è ben trovato, we may say.

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Lin Qing was a Chinese government official who visited Shaolin Monastery in 1828. He subsequently published an illustrated book describing his travels. According to Lin Qing, the head monk was uncomfortable showing him martial arts because of government decrees against such practices. Lin Qing described the demonstration using a phrase from Zhuangzi, namely, “xiong jing niao shen”, which describes movements of bears and birds. This in turn refers to physical exercises done during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C.E., when the Zhuangzi was recorded.

(‘Martial arts in the modern world’, T.A. Green & J.R. Svinth, 2003, p 5.)

… in 1828 prominent Manchu official named Lin Qing (1791-1846) visited the Shaolin Temple. By then, bare-handed techniques had completely eclipsed the monastery’s ancient staff methods, and instead of an armed display, the distinguished guest was entertained by a sparring demonstration:

In the evening we returned to the Shaolin Monastery, and paid our respects at the Jinnaluo (Vajrapani) Hall. The deity’s image is most awesome. He wears thin garments, and wields a stove poker (huo gun). Tradition has it that once he displayed his divinity and warded off bandits. Today he is the monastery’s guardian spirit (qielan). Praying to him is invariably efficacious.

I proceeded to ask the monks about their hand combat method (quan fa), but they refused to utter a word about it. I made it clear that I had heard about the Shaolin Fist long ago, and I knew it had been relied upon solely for guarding monastic regulations and protecting the famous temple. Therefore they need not make pretence.

The abbot laughed and assented. He selected several sturdy monks to perform in front of the hall. Their “bear-hangings and bird stretchings” were indeed artful. After the performance the monks retreated. I sat facing Mt. Shaoshi’s three peaks, which resembled a sapphire tripod. Watching the shaded forests, misty mountains, and emerald green thickets, my body and spirit were equally at peace. I resolved to stay overnight.

Published in 1849, Lin Qing’s account of his visit was accompanied by a woodblock illustration of Shaolin monks practicing hand combat. The martial artists were shown under the gigantic shadow of their tutelary deity, Vajrapani (Kimnara), who still wielded his staff of old. The Manchu official, in ceremonial cap and robes and surrounded by his entourage, appeared in the picture as well. Apparently he was fascinated by the performance. Whereas the elderly abbot remained sitting under the hall’s eaves, Lin Qing rose from his seat to watch the martial artists up close.”

(M. Shahar, ‘The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts’, 2008, pp 126-128.)

According to Shahar, some scholars believe the renowned murals in Shaolin were painted to commemorate this visit:

Lin Qing’s woodblock illustration leads us to another, more elaborate, artwork, which depicts a similar scene: Shaolin’s White-Attired Mahâsattva Hall (Baiyi dashi dian) is decorated with an early nineteenth-century mural of fighting monks, who are demonstrating their bare-handed skills to visiting dignitaries, probably government officials. The guests, identified by their queues, are entertained by the abbot in a central pavilion, which is surrounded by the performing artists. The gorgeous fresco was executed with such attention to detail that some modern practitioners are able to identify in it the bare-handed postures they practice today. (ibid.)

The Shaolin Monastery charts, for the first time in any language, the history of the Shaolin Temple and the evolution of its world-renowned martial arts. In this meticulously researched and eminently readable study, Meir Shahar considers the economic, political, and religious factors that led Shaolin monks to disregard the Buddhist prohibition against violence and instead create fighting techniques that by the twenty-first century have spread throughout the world. He examines the monks’ relations with successive Chinese regimes, beginning with the assistance they lent to the seventh-century Emperor Li Shimin and culminating more than a millennium later with their complex relations with Qing rulers, who suspected them of rebellion. He reveals the intimate connection between monastic violence and the veneration of the violent divinities of Buddhism and analyzes the Shaolin association of martial discipline and the search for spiritual enlightenment. (from the publishers)

麟慶:鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 3 of 6

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Continuing from the previous instalment, H.A. Giles proceeds to describe an episode from Lin-qing’s book:

One chapter is devoted to the description of a curious rock called the Loom Rock. It is situated in the Luhsi district of the Chang-chou prefecture in Hunan, and is perfectly inaccessible to man, as it well might be, to judge from the drawing of it by a native artist. From a little distance, however, caves are discernible hollowed out in the cliff, and in these the eye can detect various articles used in housekeeping, such as a teapot, &c.; and amongst others a loom. On a ledge of smooth rock a boat may be seen, as it were hauled up out of the water. How these got there, and what is the secret of the place, nobody appears to know, but our author declares that he saw them with his own eyes. We have given the above particulars as to the whereabouts of the rock, in the hope that any European meditating a trip into Hunan may take the trouble to make some inquiries about this wonderful sight. The late Mr Margary must have passed close to it in his boat, probably without being aware of its existence – if indeed it does exist at all. (Herbert A. Giles, ‘Chinese Sketches,’ 1876, pp 162-163)

 

Note: The ‘Margary Affair’

The Margary Affair is the name of a crisis in Sino-British relations, which followed the murder of British official Augustus Raymond Margary in 1875. As part of efforts to explore overland trade routes between British India and China province, junior British diplomat Augustus Raymond Margary was sent from Shanghai through southwest China to Bhamo in Upper Burma, where he was supposed to met Colonel Horace Browne. It took Margary six months to make the 1800 miles long journey through the provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan and he met Brown in Bhamo in late 1874. On the journey back to Shanghai, Margary heard rumors that the return route was not safe and changed the route to Tengyue, where he and his personal staff were murdered on February 21, 1875.

According to Jonathan Spence in ‘The Search for Modern China’, Margary was part of a survey team exploring routes from Burma into Yunnan. Susan Orlean, author of ‘the Orchid Thief’, gives a different account: “The linguist and plant collector Augustus Margary survived toothache, rheumatism, pleurisy, and dysentery while sailing the Yangtze only to be murdered when he completed his mission and sailed beyond Bhamo” – in pursuit of orchids.

The incident created a diplomatic crisis and gave British authorities an excuse to put pressure on the Qing government. The crisis was only resolved in 1876 when Thomas Wade and Li Hongzhang signed the Chefoo Convention, which covered a number of items that had no direct relation to the killing of Margary the year earlier. (adapted from Wikipedia)

麟慶:鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 2 of 6

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High-quality PDF scan of the first edition @ Waseda University (6 vols)

A DJVU scan of a Chinese facsimile reprint (6 vols) can be found on iShare

The journey of Augustus Raymond Margary, from Shanghae to Bahamo, and back to Manwyne (1876)

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We have lately come across a book of travels, in six thin quarto volumes, written by no less a personage than the father of Ch’ung-hou. It is a very handsome work, being well printed and on good paper, besides being provided with numerous woodcuts of the scenes and scenery described in the text. The author, whose name was Lin-ch’ing was employed in various important posts; and while rising from the position of Prefect to that of Acting Governor-General of the two Kiang, travelled about a good deal, and was somewhat justified in committing his experiences to paper. We doubt, however, if his literary efforts are likely to secure him a fraction of the notoriety which the Tientsin Massacre has conferred upon his son. He never saw the moon shining upon the water, but away he went and wrote an ode to the celestial luminary, always introducing a few pathetic lines on the hardships of travel and the miseries of exile.

Herbert A. Giles, ‘Chinese Sketches,’ 1876, pp 162-163

This intriguing entry by the renowned sinologist, Herbert Giles, does not give the title of the wonderful work in question. The title of the unnamed book – 鴻雪因緣圖記 [hongxue yinyuan tuji] – has been variously rendered into English as: A Wild Swan’s Trail; Tracks in the Snow; Footsteps in the Snow of a Solitary Goose; Record of a Goose Life’s Traces in the Snow; Wild swan on the snow; among many others, by an author whose name – 麟慶is given as Lin Ch’ing, Lin-ching, Lin Qing or Lin K’ing.

Linqing (1791–1846), surnamed Wanggiyan [Wanyan] with given name Boyu and style name Jian-Ting, was a member of the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner. Having passed the imperial examination in 1809, Linqing later served as the Provincial Governor of Hubei and the Governor-General of the Jiangnan watercourses. He was the author of ‘Life’s Encounters and Observations’ which is divided into three sets with each set containing two volumes. Comprising 240 pictures and 240 chapters, the content of the book involved Linqing’s personal experiences and artists such as Wang Chunquan provided pictorial illustrations. Linqing was also the author of “Ancient and Modern Drawings of the River Mouth of the Yellow Canal,” “Machinery and Implements Employed in River Engineering,” and poetry collection “compilation of literary aroma and fragrances.” [Source: National Palace Museum, Taiwan]

This series of posts aims to present such parts of this book as have already been translated into English, along with the beautiful accompanying illustrations. (Click to enlarge.) Additional historical and bibliographical information will also be provided for interested readers, along with links to further related materials and downloads.

 

About the Book:

A curious work entitled Hung hsüeh yin yüan t’u chi, by Lin Chin, a Manchu official, is a record of the events of his life and picturesque scenes observed by him in the course of his travels. The original edition of this work, printed in 1849, is in three parts, bound in six volumes, and contains several hundred double-page folding woodcuts very clearly printed and doubtless of some historical and geographic interest, in addition to their value as samples of Chinese book illustrations of the period. That the work is popular in China is shown by the fact that a cheaper small-sized reprint was published in Shanghai in 1884.

Report of the Librarian of Congress, 1917, pp 91-92

 

 Hung-hsüeh yin-yüan t’u-chi 鴻雪因緣圖記 (Illustrated notes on my life; literally: on the passing or elusive events of my fate). Lin-ch’ing describes in 240 plates the main events of his career. (…) The work is in three volumes, each with two parts. Vol. I, Lin-ch’ing’s life until his fortieth year; Vol. II, from 40 to 50; Vol. III, from 50 to his death. The first two volumes were printed between 1839 and 1841 and were first without engravings. The third volume was ready in 1846, the year of Lin-ch’ing’s death. His eldest son Ch’ung-shih put the finishing touches to the work and had it printed in Yangchow with the 240 engravings between 1847 and 1850. The first edition comprising 1,000 copies (size 24.6×16 cm) was brought to Peking, but the wooden blocks were left in Yangchow and were burned by the Taiping army in 1860. A photo-lithographed edition was published in Shanghai in 1880 with a colophon; the size was reduced to 20×13 cm. A third reprint was made between 1884 and 1896.

The Half-Acre Garden, Pan-Mou Yüan, J.L. Van Hecken & W.A. Grootaers, Monumenta Serica, Vol. 18 (1959), pp. 360-387

 

Portrait of Lin-qing

Chinese Books:

Chinese books are in general made of quite fragile paper, with the leaves doubled so that the folded edge is turned outward; and the paper is of course printed on only one side. The binding of each fascicule, often colored, is also not very durable. Numbers of such comparatively thin volumes, however, are finally housed within a well-made cloth case called a t’ao, which is the true outer cover; and for this one may use even the finest brocade or silk tapestry. Little clasps of jade or ivory, or else more humbly of carved bone, keep it secured, and these are often carved to harmonize with the binding.

George N. Kates: ‘The Years That Were Fat’, p 47.

Further Reading

The main sources of information on Lin-qing and his books remain the entry in Hummel’s ‘Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period, 1644-1912’, US Government Printing Office, 1943, pp 506-507, by Fang Chao-ying, and the monograph The Half-Acre Garden, Pan-Mou Yüan, by J.L. Van Hecken & W.A. Grootaers, Monumenta Serica, Vol. 18 (1959), pp. 360-387.[JSTOR Link] Numerous episodes appear, along with the corresponding illustrations, in the East Asian History journal #6. These installments are extensively annotated by and are presented in some detail by Professors John Minford and Yang Ts’ung-han.

In addition to the recent Chinese reprints of 鴻雪因緣圖記, there have been some partial translations into European languages, but these, like the original Chinese editions, are rare and sought-after items:

Selections from the Hung-Sueh sketches. Shanghai, Tien-Shih-Chai Photo-lithographic Works, 1879.

• J.R. Baylin: Visite aux temples de Pékin; traduit des carnets de voyage de Lin K’ing, Pékin, 78 pp. with 30 figs. Collection ‘Politique de Pékin’, 1921.

• F.M. Trautz: “Eine erhebende Musikaufführung am ‘fünffachen Stupa’”, Asia Major, II, Leipzig, 1925, pp 581-90.

Extraits des Carnets de Lin K’ing. Sites de Pékin et des environs vus par un lettré chinois. 120pp. with 26 figs, Peiping, Albert Nachbaur ,1929. (Reprint of Baylin, 1921)

A Wild Swan’s Trail: The Travels of a Mandarin, edited and translated by T.C. Lai, Hong Kong Book Centre, Hong Kong 1978.

 

Further Reading Online:

Scholars Yang Tsung-han and John Minford have also translated and annotated the work, parts of which may be found online:

East Asian History #6 (detailed introduction and translation of numerous episodes.)

Exploring the Beauty of the Sui Garden (Renditions, No. 51, Spring 1999)

Singing with the Spring (China Heritage Quarterly, No. 13, March 2008)

Observing the Rites at the Ancient Abode of Confucius (China Heritage Quarterly, No. 17, March 2009)

Mengxiang Discoursing on the I Ching(China Heritage Quarterly, No. 21, March 2010)

Paying my Compliments to West Lake (China Heritage Quarterly, No. 28, December 2011)

麟慶:鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 1 of 6

下载 Download:

High-quality PDF scan of the first edition @ Waseda University (6 vols)

A DJVU scan of a Chinese facsimile reprint (6 vols) can be found using the search function on iShare

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