Bai Juyi: Ninth Year, Twentieth Day of the Eleventh Lunar Month, Emotional Events Arise

Ninth Year, Twentieth Day of the Eleventh Lunar Month, Emotional Events Arise

九 年 十 一 月 二 十 日 感 事 而 作
祸 福 茫 茫 不 可 期
大 都 早 退 似 先 知。
当 君 白 首 同 归 日
是 我 青 山 独 往 时。
顾 索 素 琴 应 不 暇
忆 牵 黄 犬 定 难 追。
麒 麟 作 脯 龙 为 醢
何 似 泥 中 曳 尾 龟?
Jiu Nian Shi Yi Yue Er Shi Ri Gan Shi Er Zuo

Huo fu mang mang bu ke qi
Da dou zao tui si xian zhi.
Dang jun bai shou tong gui ri
Shi wo qing shan du wang shi.

Gu suo su qin ying bu xia
Yi qian huang quan ding nan zhui.
Qi lin zuo pu long wei hai
He si ni zhong ye wei gui?


Ninth Year, Twentieth Day of the Eleventh Lunar Month,
Emotional Events Arise

Not able to foretell boundless luck or misfortune
For the most part, imperial morning audiences difficult to predict.
All white-haired friends killed on the same day
I alone live, now look to hide in the green mountains like in the old days.

Friends not given the chance to make a farewell song like Ji Kang
Recall the times we could wander freely, not able to do this now.
Living the life of a unicorn, dining on minced dragon breast
Who can live a life like the tail of turtle being dragged through the mud?



Ninth year: The ninth year of the current emperor’s reign. On our calendar it would a few weeks after November 11, 835 AD.  Bai Juyi was a tutor to one of the palace princes. Bai was writing about the then Prime Minister Li Xun, and a group of close associates who attempted to overthrow and eliminate the palace eunuchs and their leader. The eunuchs which could have numbered in the hundreds, if not several thousand, held a lot of power inside the imperial palace. This revolt tried to change the balance of power.

The Li Xun group hatched a plan to lure the eunuch leader away from the palace by spinning a story that there were some pomegranate trees that were dripping sweet nectar. But the leader found out about the plot to kill him. He and his followers ambushed and killed the Li Xun party. This lead to the eunuchs accumulating and consolidating more power and control over the emperor and his government.

Imperial morning audiences: Custom was for the emperor to hold morning audience early in the day. It was a time to confer with his advisors and listen to reports and concerns from those allowed into the palace audience.

Ji Kang: During the Three Kingdoms period, he was given a short period of time to play and sing a song before his execution. He chose to sing the song
Guang Ling Shan”.

Life of a unicorn: A metaphor for those who live the life of the high and mighty.

Tail of a turtle: This metaphor comes from the famous Daoist philosopher, Zhuangzi. He advocated that those who are close to power keep a very low profile so they are not eliminated during the inevitable power struggles.

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