I have determined there are few better ways to deal with the cold, the incessant fog ( we wont mention the big P word here) ( okay, pollution, but we are not mentioning it, right?) and …. more cold, than reverting back to the Song dynasty.To do so, we are ably supported by Mr Lu You, historian, scholar, poet, official and renowned writer.
As Mr Lu lived sometime in the 12th Century, translator Phillip Watson has come along to help us.
Join Spaceship China over the coming days as we travel with Mr Lu through Jiangnan ( areas just south the Yangtze river). Everything that follows is a true account, from Mr Lu’s travel diaries.
Day 7/20 ( Sept 2nd)
Chen Bing, Recorder of Grand Tranquility County in Secured-nation and a senior Gentleman for Meritorious Achievement, came to call on me. I took a small boat to go and say goodbye to him, for he is lodging in the sub-cloister of the Calm Depths Abbey having come on instructions from the Judicial Commission to oversee the collection of cash and bolts of silk as a Commissioner for Grand Ceremonials. The Calm Depths Abbey is on the Baleful Owl Promintory across the Great River, so the sub-cloister has been set up in the vicinity of the town. There are a dozen Doists in it and fine altars, buildings, images and appurtenances. The abbot, He Shoucheng, has now been chosen to reside at the Supreme Unity Priory.
Chen Bing’s aunt on his father’s side took no cooked food throughout her life but simply drank wine and consumed raw fruit. She would predict people’s fortunes and how long they lived without the slightest discrepancy. No-one could fathom her. On New Year’s Day of the year in which she became ninety she said she had a long journey to make on the eighth day of the fourth month, and sure enough on that day she took up meditative position and passed away.
We passed Fanchang County. This was established in the Southern Tang dynasty and at first came under Xuan City, but with the establishment of Grand Tranquility prefecture was split off again and made subordinate to it.
In the evening we moored at Reed Port and I went for a stroll on top of the embankment, visiting the River Dragon Temple.
I also went to a retreat where a Buddhist monk told me that across the port lies the boundary of Copper Mounds, and where the distant hills rise sheer beside the Great River in Mount Copper Factory. It was this to which Li Bo ( Li Bai) was referring to in his lines:
I love the pleasures of Copper Factory
I don’t’ plan to leave it for a thousand years.
Finally I reached the Attracting Blessings Abbey at Phoenix Hill. The abbey was ravaged by fire and sword more than forty years ago, and has only been recently restored.
From Grand Canal Great River, The Twelfth Century Chinese Poet, translated by Phillip Watson, Francis Lincoln, London, 2007, pp 89-94.
( If you are thinking thats a lot of pages for a little text, you are right. The rest are taken up with gorgeous contemporary photos of the places Lu You travelled, like the one below)
Stay tuned to the next installment whereby Lu Yu happens upon “king nine”, discusses the viscitudes of travel, and of course, meets a tea merchant!