Bai Juyi: Depart From the People of Hangzhou

Depart From the People of Hangzhou

别 州 民
耆 老 遮 归 路
壶 浆 满 别 筵。
甘 棠 无 一 树
那 得 泪 潸 然?
税 重 多 贫 户
农 饥 足 早 田。
唯 留 一 湖 水
与 汝 救 凶 年。
Bie Zhou Min

Qi lao zhe gui lu
Hu jiang man bie yan.
Gan tang wu yi shu
Na de lei shan ran?

Shui chong duo pin hu
Nong ji zu zao tian.
Wei liu yi hu shui
Yu ru jiu xiong nian.


Depart From the People of Hangzhou

People of advanced years and culture throng the road leaving the city
Table after table filled with pots of thick liquids.
I leave without a gantang tree
Is this why a realization gives me tear after tear?

Government taxes too heavy, too many impoverished households
Hungry farmers still do not have enough water for their fields.
Only the water from one lake remains for them
Impounding more water would provide for better years.



Gantang tree: Literally means a tree that bears fruit similar to the pear. But metaphorically it refers to the story of a high-level Zhou Dynasty minister who, as a normal duty, had to inspect the rural areas of the empire. After doing so, he rested under the gantang trees. Because of this man’s reputation, gantang is now a metaphor for good, moral, and just governance.

One lake: The famous West Lake.

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