“The Good Lines of the World are a Common Possession”: A Study of the Effect of Tu Fu upon Su Shih

A.R. Davis

“The current of his feeling failed: he became his admirers”.[1] Thus wrote W.H. Auden on the death of one of the greatest of English poets, W.B. Yeats in 1939. He was expressing in part the universal truth that the individual works of a poet are surrendered irrevocably in death into the common possession, not only of admirers of course but also of critics who will explain and may even explain away. Fear of silence, of final extinction through being unread, perhaps lurks behind many of those famous utterances by Western poets of confidence in immortality. For Chinese poets it should have been different. From the very beginning, from the time of the songs of the Book of Songs itself, poetry was for use and reuse by other poets. As the tradition lengthened, it should have been quite apparent to any who could gain even a modest place within it that they had good expectation of immortality. At the same time, the greater their place in the tradition, the greater the extent of reuse of their words and the greater the possibility, it might seem, of their becoming still more literally than Mr Auden intended, their admirers.

This question of the use of earlier men’s words as “allusion”, “quotation” or “model” remains of very great importance in the appreciation of Chinese poetry. It is one on which others and even I myself have consumed some ink. It is also a topic that inevitably invites generalization in pursuit of which one may lose sight of the differences imposed by time and individual poets. I have therefore here set out to consider how a major poet of the Sung, Su Shih, used the words of, felt the effect of, responded to a major poet of the T’ang, Tu Fu. To do this thoroughly and with a minimum of subjective selectivity I should have needed to translate every line of Su Shih’s poems and carefully annotate it. Since this lies beyond my present achievement, I have taken what I hope may be a meaningful sample and treated this in as full a manner as possible. At least one feature which may have some general relevance to the Northern Sung period seems to have emerged from this examination, a tendency to use the words of a composite Li Po-Tu Fu source. If this is a genuine demonstration we may need to consider whether some of the later opposition made by critics between these two High T’ang poets has not been erroneously read back into the Northern Sung period.

There was no opposition between the two poets themselves. Tu Fu’s poems expressing the deepest affection for Li Po are among the best-known and most frequently-selected of his work. Thus it is very appropriate that Su Shih when visiting the old studio on Lu-shan of his close friend Li Ch’ang in 1084 should both think of the earlier famous student on Lu-shan, his friend’s namesake Li Po, and adapt in his poem Tu Fu’s words to Li Po.

I chanced to seek the flowing waters and climb the heights;
The Five Old Men’s[2] hoary faces broke into a smile.
“If you see the Banished Immortal, please tell him:
To K’uang-shan,[3] now he’s white-headed, he should soon return”.
Written on Li Kung-tse’s White Stone Mountain Studio[4]

(Li Po appears in the poems of Su Shih and other poets of his time with a monotonous regularity as Ti-hsien, “The Banished Immortal”, the description conferred on him by Ho Chih-chang[5]).

The tone of Su’s poem is light (it is, one may note, well-regarded and is an anthology piece) and gently plays with affinities: it has nothing of the intensity of the Tu Fu poem from which it borrows its concluding line.

I have not seen my friend Li for a long time;
His feigned madness is truly pitiable.
All the men of the age wish to kill him;
My thoughts are only of love for his talent.
Brilliant are his thousand poems;
Ruinous is his single cup of wine.
To K’uang-shan where he studied,
White-headed, well may he return.
I Have Not Seen ...[6]

The process of the associations involved here is quite apparent and needs no further labouring. We should perhaps only remark that Su Shih in writing his last line would expect every reader to recognize it as a quotation of Tu Fu. Did it concern him at all that his quotation had lost the tone of the original?

In this example, at any rate, we have Li Po and Tu Fu, but in the second of two quatrains which he wrote in 1088 in farewell to his friend Ch’ien Hsieh who was being sent out from the capital as Prefect of Yüeh-chou (modern Shao-hsing) we find a tight blending of lines derived from Li Po and Tu Fu that it would seem justifiable to speak of a composite Li-Tu source. Though it is the second quatrain which mainly concerns us, I include the first also for the sake of context.

Official documents always vex us with every anxiety at once;
A jar of wine now must make us break into smiles.
Since the capital is set longing for (Chao) Kuang-han,
K’uai-chi may rejoice to have found (Ch’ih) Fang-hui.

(Chao Kuang-han[7] had been a popular prefect of the capital prefecture during the 1st century B.C., while Ch’ih Yin 郗愔 313–384, had been loved by the people as Prefect of K’uai-chi, the Sung Yüeh-chou.)

At Yün-men Temple by Jo-yeh Stream[8]
Director Ho’s[9] lotus flowers vainly open by themselves.
I greive that now I am still in the mire,
But urge you not to pole back the wine boat.
In Farewell to Ch’ien Mu-fu on his Leaving to Become Prefect of Yüeh-chou[10]

In the second poem the first and third lines are taken from the concluding lines of Tu Fu’s Song of His Honour Liu of Feng-hsien’s New Landscape Screen,[11] a poem in which he praises extravagantly and presumably a little satirically the work of an unknown artist who has painted a veritable “map of China” so that one does not need to travel but may sit and look at the screen-painting. So—

(To go to) the Yün-men Temple by the Jo-yeh Stream
Why ever must I be in the mire?
In blue slippers and linen stockings I can go from now on.

Su Shih again changes the tone and even the sense in borrowing the words. Or if one puts it the other way, he is merely borrowing words, since Tu Fu’s “mire” is literal while Su’s is metaphorical. The second and fourth lines are from Li Po, a rather significant Li Po example in view of the frequency of the reference to “the Banished Immortal”, the poems entitled With the Wine Jar Before Me, Remembering Director Ho,[12] which have a short preface:

His Excellency Ho, the Preceptor to the Heir-Apparent, once saw me in the Tzu-chi Temple (to Lao-tzu) in Ch’ang-an and named me a banished immortal. So he untied his golden tortoise and exchanged it for wine with which we might take our pleasure. In sad yearning for him I wrote these poems.

There was a wild guest of Ssu-ming,[13]
The stylish Ho Chi-chen.
Once we met in Ch’ang-an
And he called me a banished immortal.
Before he loved the thing in the cup;[14]
Now he is dust beneath the pines.
Thinking how his golden tortoise[15] was exchanged for wine
Makes tears soak my kerchief.


When the wild guest returned to Ssu-ming,
The Shan-yin[16] Taoists welcomed him.
By decree he was granted the Mirror Lake’s[17] waters
To be the glory of this terrace and pool.
The man has died, leaving his old home behind,
Where vainly lotus flowers grow.
As I recall this, vague as a dream,
It grievously wounds my feelings.

In current editions of Li Po these two poems are followed by a quatrain Again in Remembrance

I would like to go east of the River[18]
But with whom could I raise a wine-cup?
On Chi-shan there is no old Ho,
So I pole back the wine boat.

and it is this which provides the fourth line of Su’s poem. It may be also interesting to note that the phrase ch’üan chün mo which Su uses to lengthen Li Po’s five-character into a seven-character line, occurs only once in Li Po’s extant poems and this in a poem which stands in the same chüan as Remembering Director Ho.[19] One might almost have a feeling of Su looking up or at least having recently read the Li Po text, when he wrote his poem.

There is only a geographical link between Su’s Li Po and Tu Fu sources. Is it reasonable to propose in such a case that the one suggested the other, that the two poets were very closely linked in Su’s mind? They come together again in At Su-chou, Following the Rhymes of Liu Ching,[20] written in 1077, when Su was on his way to take up his appointment as Prefect of Hsü-chou.

I want to retire but the notes of the cithern gradually die away.
When shall I wear my spring clothes at the Rain-dance altar?
Very distressful, were (Po’s) white hair’s thirty thousand feet;
Without use were the frosted branches’ forty spans.
Late, I have become aware that letters are truly a minor skill;
Early, I knew that riches and honour were triggers of danger.
When I shed tears for you, do you know?
For ever the Hua-t’ing crane has flown away.

Su adds a note to the end of the poem that Liu Ching’s elder brother Pien also possessed literary skill but had already died. The whole poem is in fact put together with quotations, beginning with a rather unusual type of quotation in the first two lines. The reference to Lun-yü 11.26 where Confucius asks the disciples, Tzu-lu, Jan Ch’iu, Kung-hsi Hua and Tseng Hsi what positions they would choose if they became known, and while the other three choose public offices, Tseng Hsi gives as his wish his desire to take part in the purification ceremony at the Rain-dance altar in late spring. Tseng Hsi’s wish became generally associated with the life of retirement. Su so uses it and his second line alone would be in no way remarkable. What is unusual is his incorporation of a minor detail of the Lun-yü context into line 1, viz. the mention of Tseng Hsi’s stopping playing the cithern before speaking. One has thus to be totally conscious of the Lun-yü passage to understand Su’s line. Line 3 adapts a famous Li Po couplet from the most-quoted of his Songs of Ch’iu-p’u, No.15,[21]

My white hair’s thirty thousand feet
Is due to my distress being so long.
I do not know where the clear mirror
Found the autumn frost.

I am inclned to think—though this is impossible to prove—that Su’s line remains at the level of quotation, i.e. it does not become “my white hair”.

Li Po’s hyperbole seems to have almost instinctively called to mind a Tu Fu hyperbole, the vast cypress from Song of the Ancient Cypress:[22]

From its frosted branches rain drips for forty spans;
Its dark hue mingles with the sky for two thousand feet.

Tu Fu’s magnificent old cypress is as he himself indicated (“From of old great timber has been hard to use,”) and as Su Shih recognised a descendant of Chuang-tzu’s shrine oak which the Carpenter Shih rejected and which because of its “uselessness” can complete its allotted span.[23] In the poem Tree Hill[24] which he wrote about an area of land owned by his father Su Hsün, Shih combined the Tu Fu and Chuang-tzu references. The contrast then in lines 3 and 4 is between Li Po’s and his own continual movement from place to place and the undisturbed rest of the tree. There is probably also an intended indication of sorrow at the early death of Liu Ching’s elder brother which is intensified in the second half of the poem.

For line 5 Su remains with Tu Fu, borrowing from Left Behind for Vice-Prefect Liu of Hua-yang:

Writing is a minor art
And not to be honoured like the Way.[25]

Tu Fu is praising the excellent qualities of Vice-Prefect Liu who was like himself a refugee in K’uei-chou. For Su Shih who had a distinct penchant for ridiculing the pursuit of literacy and letters, one can imagine that this couplet had a particular appeal and it was easily separable from its context (Left Behind for Vice-Prefect Liu would not rank among Tu Fu’s commonly quoted poems).

The dictionary source for the expression wei-chi (“danger trigger”) is in a remark attributed to Chu-ko Chang-min (d.413) in his biographical notice in the Chin-shu[26]; “The poor and the humble constantly think of riches and honour, but riches and honour are the triggers of danger.” Su Shi clearly used this to form his sixth line and the ominous note is continued in the final line of the poem which must derive from the words of Lu Chi (261–303) on the verge of execution: “The Hua-t’ing[27] crane cries! How can it be heard again?”[28] Su thus seems to imply that the early death of Liu Ching’s brother has some political cause but it does not seem possible to confirm this.

Complete knowledge of the circumstances would possibly enhance our understanding of this poem, without such knowledge it remains a piece, skilfully put together out of quotations which his readers must have been expected to recognize, of self-exhortation to eschew the pursuit of office and embrace the safety and ease of retirement. This self-exhortation was perennial with Su Shih and many other poets who followed the official career normal for men of their class. They were as little likely to be serious as were Western poets in counselling against the pursuit of romantic love. The combination of the quotations from Li Po and Tu Fu here certainly does not arise out of any original connection between the two poets as in the case of Inscribed on Li Kung-tse’s White Stone Mountain Studio or out of any geographical connection as could just be argued in the case of In Farewell to Ch’ien Mu-fu. I suggest that they probably arise out of a strongly conditioned linking of the two poets in Su Shih’s mind.

Of this I shall offer just one more illustration in the well-known poem Written after Ch’ao Yüeh-chih’s Painting “The Perfection of Husbandry[29] (Ch’ao Yüeh-chih, 1059–1129, was a cousin of Ch’ao Pu-chih, 1053–1110, who is numbered among Su’s “six disciplines”. “The Perfection of Husbandry” occurred under King Hsüan of Chou according to the Small Preface to Song 190.)

Once I lived among the fields
And knew only sheep and oxen.
The stream was calm, the ox’s back was steady;
It was like riding on a hundred-bushel boat.
The boat moved unaided; the banks went by of themselves.
I lay, reading a book; the ox was unaware.
In front were a hundred sheep
That heeded the crack of my whip like a war-drum.
My whip was not recklessly used,
Only when I saw them lagging, I whipped them.
In the lowlands grass and trees grew tall.
When grass is tall it makes sheep and oxen sick.
So we bestrode the valleys, making for the hills.
My sinews grew strong with clambering.
With mist cape and rain hat I went under the long woods.
I have grown old and now it’s no use to look at a picture.
In the world the horse’s ear is blown in by the east wind.
I regret that I have not long been an old man of many oxen.[30]

Chao’s painting evokes in the poet a reminiscence of childhood which is expressed in very simple yet very graphic terms, and then there is a sudden transition to the present and to erudition. All the commentators identify the reference of the penultimate line. It after all stands out as requiring explanation. It derives from Li Po’s In Reply to Wang the Twelfth’s “Feelings when Drinking Alone on a Winter Night”,[31] a longish poem with much political reference, which probably dates from 750.

To write poems and compose fu in the northern window,[32]
A myriad words are not worth a cup of water.
The men of our time when they hear them will all turn away;
It will be like the east wind blowing in a horse’s ear.
Fish-eyes will also smile at us
And claim to be the equal of bright-moon pearls.[33]

The “east wind blowing in a horse’s ear” in Li Po’s poem is a metaphor for the indifference of the men of the political world to literary achievement. In a similar way too it must be used in Su Shih’s poem, i.e. Su is not here simply taking over words but an accompanying connotation also. In spite of the fact this this poem dates from 1093 when he was back in high office in the capital in one of the ups of his political life, his thought led him at the conclusion of this poem to decry both the literary and the political life (probably in his case it is not possible to separate them) and sigh over his failure to pursue the life of the farmer.

On this reading the last two lines are quite consistent, but what of the preceding line lao ch’ü erh chin k’ung chien hua? Are we to interpret k’ung in a rather weak sense of “only”, i.e. now I am old I can only look at a picture, since the reality is no longer possible for me? This would, I think, make the transition to the Li Po quotation difficult. The Shih-Ku commentary,[34] however, by citing lines from the second of Tu Fu’s series of three poems entitled Viewing the Landscape Painting Which Li Ku Commissioned from His Younger Brother,[35] offers the possibility of giving a better and more consistent meaning and also, if a Tu Fu reference is Su’s intention, a futher nice example of combining a Li Po and Tu Fu source. Tu Fu’s poem reads:

Fang-chang[36] is surrounded by continuous waters;
Mt T’ien-t’ai has always shining clouds.
In the world of men long has one seen pictures of them,
But when one’s old, one is vexed uselessly to hear of them.
Fan Li’s boat is very small;
Wang-tzu Ch’iao’s crane is uncommon.
This life follows the Ten Thousand Things;[37]
Where can one escape the dust and filth?

The picture which Tu Fu viewed obviously depicted the haunts of immortals. Fan Li, after defeating Wu as general of Yüeh, disappeared amid the rivers and lakes and became an immortal. Similarly Wang-tzu Ch’iao rode away to immortality on a crane. Tu Fu’s response is one of rejection: in old age fantasy is merely vexatious.

If we accept that this Tu Fu poem underlies Su Shih’s line, then instead of understanding the poet to say that he can now only look at a painting as a substitute for reality, we may conclude that it indicates virtually the reverse, that he should not be content with the substitute but should seek the reality. Seen in this way, the poem becomes once again an exhortation to retirement from political life and can be read as a consistent whole.

I offer these selected examples as practical evidence that Su Shih at least felt no opposition between Tu Fu and Li Po but rather had a ready tendency to think of the two in combination. It is possible to add to these from what may be described as Su’s “theoretical” or “critical” writings, although it may be important to remember that theorization or criticism were not the prime object of such statements which are generally embedded in poems or accompany eulogies of a particular contemporary’s works (“After Reading the Poems of X” and the like). Some caution may be necessary in defining the view of literature of Su Shih or other writers from such citations. With this caveat I quote Su’s Postface to the Poetry Collection of Huang Tzu-ssu.[38]

Once I discussed calligraphy and said the traces of Chung (Yu, 151–230) and Wang (Hsi-chih, 307–365) are relaxed and spare; the subtlety lies beyond the brush strokes. When we reach Yen (Chen-ch’ing, 709–785) and Liu (Kung-ch’üan, 778–865) of T’ang, for the first time there is a collecting of ancient and modern brush models and a complete exhibiting of them: they carried the variations of calligraphy to their limit and the empire universally regarded them as honoured masters, while the models of Chung (Yu) and Wang (Hsi-chih) became increasingly obscure. In poetry it is the same case. The creative power of Su (Wu, d.60 B.C.) and Li (Ling, d.74 B.C.), the self-possession of Ts’ao (Chih, 192–232) and Liu (Chen, d.217), the transcendence of T’ao (Yüan-ming, 365–427) and Hsieh (Ling-yün, 385–433) are indeed supreme. Yet Li T’ai-po and Tu Tzu-mei bestride a hundred generations with their splendid preeminent appearance and the poets of the past are all discarded. Thus the lofty air and remoteness from Wei-Chin on have also declined.
After Li and Tu poets continued to appear. Though there are in some cases distant echoes, their talent does not match their intention. Only Wei Ying-wu (c.736­–790) and Liu Tsung-yüan (773–819) gave substance to the simple and old, and conveyed a supreme taste through tranquility, such as others were incapable of. At the end of T’ang, Ssu-k’ung T’u (837–908) lived amid dangerous military disorders, but his poetry and prose were lofty and elegant and still had a surviving air of an age of continuing peace. In discussing poetry, he said: “Plums are simply bitter, salt is simply salty. In eating and drinking we cannot do without salt or plums, yet excellence is always a matter of more than saltiness or bitterness.”[39] He in fact classified his understanding of poetry in literary tables in twenty-four couplets,[40] but unfortunately his contemporaries did not appreciate their subtlety. I thrice repeat his words and grieve over them. (From this point Su turns to Huang Hsiao-hsien’s poems.)

While one must note that every poet mentioned (and every calligrapher too) with the exception of Ssu-k’ung T’u is paired with another, this text does demonstrate Su’s conception of Chinese poetry jointly dominated by Li Po and Tu Fu. It was a conception in no way individual to Su in the Northern Sung period. When Ou-yang Hsiu (1007–1072) who is commonly described as Su Shih’s teacher, wanted to mourn his poet-friends Su Shun-ch’in (1008–1048) and Mei Yao-ch’en (1002–1060) the most honourable comparison he could make was with Li Po and Tu Fu.[41]

The Yellow River runs clear once in a thousand years;
The singing phoenix of Ch’i-shan[42] does not sing a second time.
Since the two masters Su and Mei died,
Heaven and Earth are silent, repressing the sound of thunder.
All the insects, shut in their holes, do not break from hibernation;
Every tree, when spring comes, fails to burst its buds.
Surely there must be all manner of birds learning their cries,
But their cries go unheeded all day long.
The two masters’ subtle thought pentrated to the limits;
The spirits of Heaven and Earth could have no hidden feelings.
Giving play to their brushes, they showed a lively brilliance;
Under their brushes Creation gave off a radiance.
The ancients called this spying into the artifices of Heaven;
The shortness of their lives was perhaps the Lord of Heaven’s anger.
In the past Li and Tu vied to break convention;
Unicorn and phoenix startled the age.
These two creatures cannot bring Great Peace;
They need times of Great Peace before they appear.
In K’ai-yüan and T’ien-pao[43] prosperity reached its height;
Then wearying war raged in the Central Plain.
Heroes’ white bones turn into yellow earth;
Riches and honour can only be as trivial as clouds.
Only there is writing to illumine sun and stars;
Its force soars above the hills, ever brilliant.
Wise and foolish from old have all shared one end;
The lofty vainly leave a name for later generations.[44]

This example from Ou-yang Hsiu is worth citing also because of the misunderstanding that persists about his attitude to Tu Fu.[45] The chief cause is Ou-yang’s Li Po Tu Fu shih yu-lüeh shou (“Discussion of the Merits of the Poems of Li Po and Tu Fu”),[46] although if one considers the whole piece rather than part only a different impression is received. Ou-yang begins by quoting the first four lines of Li Po’s Song of Hsiang-yang.[47]

“The setting sun is about to sink west of Hsien-shan;
‘With my cap on upside down’[48] I go astray among the blossom.
The children of Hsiang-yang all clapped their hands;
Everyone[49] vied in singing the Nickel Horsehoe.”

He continues:

These are ordinary words; only when one comes to
“The cool wind and bright moon do not cost a single cash;
The jade mountain topples of itself without any one pushing.”[50]
one sees his freedom from restraint. it is certainly not here that he
startles a thousand ages. Tu Fu can take a single section of Po and
surpass it by his skill. It is in the free flow of genius that Tu cannot
equal him.

This is after all a comparison, a not unusual one, of the technical skill of Tu Fu, with the free-ranging imagination of Li Po. Professor Yoshikawa’s “he thought little of Tu Fu” is not necessarily supported by this, and is certainly negated by the poem in which Ou-yang wrote:

His elegance has long been silent,
But in my thoughts I see the man.
With Tu Fu, prince of poets,
Who in the future can compare?
In life he was always in extremity;
After his death he was to be prized by a myriad generations.
If his words can be handed down to posterity,
No man is ashamed of low rank and poverty.

Seeking a Topic among the Portraits in the Hall, I Found Tu Tzu-mei [51]

When my chosen subject is Tu Fu, I have perhaps given a rather large fraction of my space to Tu Fu in combination with Li Po, but in searching out material for this paper I was quite forcibly struck by the frequency with which the two poets came together in Su Shih’s works and I should like to argue for a more cautious approach to the determiniation of the attitudes of the Northern Sung poets to their T’ang predecessors.

In speaking of a combined Li Po–Tu Fu source, I have not meant in any way to imply that Su Shih could, as it were, not tell the two poets apart. He had very obviously a close familiarity with the works of both. Before going on to look at examples of Tu Fu without Li Po in Su’s poetry it may be worthwhile to quote one notable case of special treatment of Li Po by Su in the poem Following the Rhymes of Li T’ai-po.[52] Su claimed, when writing of his series of poems in which he “followed the rhymes” of almost the entire surviving collection of T’ao Yüan-ming, that he was “the first to follow the rhymes of a poet of the past”, and added: “I am not very fond of any other poet: I am fond only of Yüan-ming’s poems”.[53] He began to write his poems following the rhymes of T’ao Yüan-ming at Yang-chou in 1092, so that Following the Rhymes of Li T’ai-po predates the earliest of them by eight years. There was a special stimulus of place and age for the poem. In 1084 he was in Chiang-chou (earlier Hsün-yang: modern Kiukiang) visiting what in T’ang had been the local temple to Lao-tzu and he was 49 sui by Chinese reckoning. In the preface to the poem he writes:

There is a poem by Li T’ai-po “Moved by Autumn at the Tzu-chi Temple at Hsün-yang”. The Tzu-chi Temple is now the T’ien-ch’ing monastery. The priest Hu Tung-wei showed me a rubbing of a stone carving which had been cut by his master Cho Chi. Chi possessed the Taoist arts and his moral purity surpassed others. Now he has died.
T’ai-po’s poem says: “For forty-nine years I have erred/But once gone, years cannot be brought back”. I too am forty-nine (sui), and moved by it, I followed the rhymes. Jade agaric, also called jade field herb, was planted by Tung-wei seven or eight years ago. He said: “A few more years and it will be edible”. He promised to send me some. So I wrote of it at the same time.

Su’s poem reads:

As I pass the night in the silent hall,
The moonlight floods the thin bamboos.
Purely it washes my heart;
I would drink it but it cannot be grapsed.
The passing light stirs eternal sighs,
Which are from the past, not mine alone.
After going through forty-nine years,
I return to this lodging under a northern window.
Distantly I think of Priest Cho
Who white-headed lodged among doctors and diviners.
The Banished Immortal is truly remote;
He too is impossible to bring back.
The world’s way is like a chess game;
Its changes do not admit of retraction.
Only may we age with the jade agaric
And must wait for the immortals’ peaches to mature.
This is not only a following of the rhymes but an elegant variation upon Li Po’s original poem,[54] which reads:

From where does one hear the sounds of autumn?
The bamboos by the northern window are rustling.
The eternal feelings whirl on.
If one grasps them they do not fill one’s hand.
I sit silent and survey the massed mysteries;
I am greatly charmed by the secret solitude.
White clouds come from the southern hills
And sleep beneath my eaves.
I am too lazy to follow Master T’ang’s[55] decision;
I am ashamed to seek Chi-chu’s[56] divination.
For forty-nine years I have erred,
But once gone, years cannot be brought back.
Ambitious feelings are increasingly dissipated;
The world’s way is one of ups and downs.
Magistrate T’ao should return home;
The farmers’ wine must be mature.

No poem by Su Shih following the rhymes of Tu Fu has survived, but there is a long poem by him which follows the rhymes of one by Chang Fang-p’ing (1007–1091), a contemporary of Ou-yang Hsiu and an important figure in the conservative group, opposed to Wang An-shih, entitled “Reading Tu Fu’s Poems”. Chang’s poem begins:

Culture flourished under imperial T’ang
And among poets old Tu was pre-emiment.[57]

but it is unnecessary to quote all its forty lines. In this and another poem with a similar title[58] Chang lays stress on the hardships of Tu Fu’s life, which are strongly emphasised by Ou-yang Hsiu in the poem quoted above. Su Shih also gives prominence to Tu’s difficulties. It can be said that Tu Fu was generally used by the Confucians of Northern Sung to illustrate the cliché that adversity produces the great poet.

Su’s poem, written in 1071 during his first dismissal from the capital for opposition to the “New Laws”, is appropriately for its subject, erudite. As one would expect it uses quotations and echoes of Tu Fu’s poems, but also shows the influence—should we be surprised?—of Li Po’s poetry and the Banished Immortal is (we should say consistently) introduced as an equal sharer of glory. It will be convenient to consider the poem in sections.

When the Grand Odes first came to an end,
Their tradition was restricted by the violent.
It was extended into the fu of the literati,[59]
And transformed into the sao of the minister of Ch’u.[60]
In uncertainty it fell again into ruins;
In confusion it sought for excellence,
The earth perversely grew strange products;
The spring mistakenly sent out turbulent waves.
The painted deceived as true features;
Fish and shrimps took the place of domestic animals.

As Wang Wen-kao noted,[61] these first ten lines owe much of their conception to the first of Li Po’s Ku-feng (Ancient Air) poems.[62]

Grand Odes[63] have not been written for a long time;
“In my decline who then will expound them”[64]
The Royal Airs were abandoned among the creeping plants;
The warring states were often overgrown.
Dragons and tigers gnawed one another;
Warfare continued until mad Ch’in.
When the true notes became faint,
Sorrow and anger gave rise to the sao poets.
Yang (Hsuing) and (Ssu-) ma (Hsiang-ju) stirred the receding waves;
The currents they began flowed without limit.
Though this rise and fall went through a myriad shifts,
The pattern indeed had perished.
From the time of Chien-an[65] on
There was an exquisiteness which is not to be valued.
Our sage dynasty has restored antiquity;
In trailing garments[66] it honours the pure and true.
The throng of the talented matches the enlightenment;
Following the time, they all seize their opportunity.
Form and content illumine one another,
A mass of stars frets the autumn sky.
My intention is to edit and transmit,
That the transmitted radiance may shine for a thousand springs.
If I am successful in emulating the sage,
I’ll put down my brush at the taking of the unicorn.[67]

Su in no sense quotes Li Po’s poem or requires the reader to take notice of its use. We may rather distinguish it was an example of influence by the older poet on Su’s writing.

After these ten lines of historical introduction, Tu Fu is introduced.

Who would have expected the hero of Tu-ling?[68]
Whose fame stands as high as the Banished Immortal’s.
Sweeping the ground, he brought together a thousand tracks;[69]
Racing for the mark, only two boats were seen.[70]
Poets customarily suffer hardships;
The will of Heaven drives them to flight.[71]
In the dust’s murk men lost the deer;[72]
In the revolving of the oceans the emperor cut[73] the turtle’s foot.
In danger men thought of Li Mu[74]
And dispensed with the writings of Wang Pao.[75]
Disappointed of their hopes, they[76] were a thousand li apart;
Cries of grief were heard in the Nine Marshes.[77]
Astride a whale,[78] one withdrew to the blue sea;
Stroking a tiger, the other found an old friend.[79]
His mighty brush was a dragon-butchering skill;[80]
His insignificant office was like a groom’s.[81]
Remote from affairs, he was without a career;
Filled with wine and meat, he died a wanderer.[82]

This second section of the poem deals with the life of Tu Fu (and to a large extent of Li Po). A degree of pity is expressed for the hardships of their lives—and we may detect some further furbishing of the cliche of adversity bringing out the great poet. Yet one feels that Tu Fu cuts a sorry figure for Su Shih; he is not a person who can command warm sympathy from him. In the last section he moves towards compliment of Chang Fang-p’ing whose poem he is “following” and whom he honours as a rare friend (“one who knows the notes”).

For writing a model remains:
A seal-cutting labour for children.[83]
Who now will be leader of literature?
Your Excellency must grasp the banner.
When I open the roll, I think of you from afar.
One who “knows the notes” is not met with twice.
The handling of the aces makes one think of the Ying[84] material;
The kun’s transformation makes the minnows humble at Hao.[85]
I regret I have no beautiful lines,[86]
When you have often favoured me with pure wine.
I carefully tend the yellow chrysanthemums
And do not let them be drowned by the wilderness.

So often, as has been seen already in some of our examples here, the great poets of the past are introduced so that a laudatory comparison may be made and an elegant compliment paid to the other person involved in a contemporary poetic exchange. It may be necessary to shut one’s eyes to the extravagance of the compliment. Sometimes, however, Su Shih with his fondness for sharp, sarcastic teasing of his friends is not to be taken in all seriousness. For example:

How many men in the world imitate Tu Fu!
Yet who can achieve his skin, his bone?
We are segregated as though great Hu-shan stood before us,
Lame goats who want to climb but are alarmed by its steepness.
Famous pieces, fine words, match one another in abundance;
No one was so shrewdly aware of the nature of his times.
Only you are an incarnation of Tu Fu,
And everything you put your hand to is divine.[87]

This is probably the most ample and generous sounding reference to Tu Fu in Su Shih’s works and taken out of context it could be understood as the most exaggerated compliment to K’ung P’ing-chung who is the “you” of the last two lines. But account must be taken of the title: Following the Rhymes of Five Poems Which K’ung I-fu Made by Collecting Lines from Old Poems Presented to Me. The first of Su’s series (of which the above is the third) makes his attitude clear.

I envy you playfully collecting other men’s poems;
You beckon townsmen as if bidding children.
The wild goose at the sky’s margin is not easy to get,
But you force it into a couplet with a domestic fowl.
T’ui-chih[88] laughs in surprise, while Tzu-mei weeps;
They ask when you will return what you borrowed for so long.
The good lines of the world are a common possession;
The bright moon fills a thousand courtyards.[89]

Su Shi, in spite of thus elegantly twitting K’ung P’ing-chung, certainly himself subscribed to the belief that “the good lines of the world are a common possession” and he tends to exercise his appropriation of particular lines from Tu Fu and other poets on more than one occasion. Tu Fu’s poem Farewell to Abbot Tsan provides one example with the lines:

This body of ours is like a drifting cloud.
How can it be limited to north or south?

When Su Shih takes these two complete lines and incorporates them in a poem of his own, what is his intention? Lines such as this are not an “allusion”, requiring recognition of the source and surrounding context. Equally, the appropriation can hardly be described as plagiarism, since the poet could not expect his highly literate readers not to recognise the original ownership. It is perhaps necessary to compare the complete poems.

Farewell to Abbot Tsan[90]reads:

The hundred streams flow daily eastward;
An exile’s course is equally unresting.
Our life is miserably vagrant;
When will there be an end?
Our revered Tsan, though an elder Buddhist,
Has been sent in banishment to the west;
He has been involved again in the world’s dust
And wears very gloomy looks.
Before, in the mornings he held willow twigs in his hand;[91]
Now fruits and beans have both ripened.
This body of ours is like a drifiting cloud;
How can it be limited to north or south?
In a strange district I met an old friend
And my first joy relieved my feelings.
But in the frontier winter at the end of the world
Hunger and cold are pressing at the close of the year.
A country wind blows on my travelling robe;
I am about to leave as the twilight darkens.
My horse neighs, yearning for his former stable;
The homing birds have all folded their wings.
From old a place of meeting and parting,
Before now it grew tall brambles.
We see that we are both in our declining years;
Whether we go or stay, we must strive hard.

Against Tu Fu’s poem we may set a poem of Su Shih in which a farewell to a Buddhist priest is also the occasion, but here it is the priest, not the poet who is leaving. Apart from the inclusion of Tu Fu’s two lines, there is a heavy borrowing from T’ao Yüan-ming’s Kuei-ch’ü-lai tz’u (Return Home!).

When one lives within the universe,
One may have some office as one comes and goes.
If one is dispassionate and unmoved by anything,
How will one’s hundred years be completed?
In hills and woods equally there are anxieties;
Amid carriages and caps there can also be jollity.
I have still not gone into retirement,
How should you, master, seek for ease?
The imperial city is filled with heroes,
Who dispute the black and white of arguments.
Who will say, face to face, I do not know
The first principle of divine judgement?
To what purpose indeed is your going there?
A solitary moon will hang in the empty blue.
This body of ours is like a floating cloud.
How can it be limited to north or south?
It come out from the hills essentially aimlessly,
And when it has dropped rain, can return again.
At Pearl Spring we have an old compact;
When will you hang up your bottle and staff?

In Farewell to the Ch’an Master Hsiao-pen on His Going to the Fa-yün Temple [92]

These two poems, while possessing some external similarities — they would both fall into the general category of poems of parting — are inwardly and essentially very different. The wandering and distress Tu Fu suffers have social and political causes and have thus a possible political solution. Though the tone of Su’s poem is much quieter and less desperate it addresses itself to the larger and more difficult philosophical question of the significance of human actions. The “homelessness” of man is an abiding not a temporary condition. Tu Fu’s words have been reset in a different context.

For both poems, Tu Fu’s and Su Shih’s, friendship, however, remains the essential frame. Friends moderate man’s temporary or eternal exile. So, in another poem where we find Su adapting Tu Fu’s “no north or south” idea rather than incorporating his actual lines, he is writing in gratitude for the arrival of the Buddhist monk Tao-ch’ien (Ts’an-liao), a friend for whom he felt the deepest affection and great admiration as a poet.

The monk’s mind is mirror-clear;
Ten thousand images arise and vanish without trace.
He lives alone in an old temple where he plants autumn chrysanthemums;
He seeks to follow the sao-poet in eating their fallen blossoms.[93]
In this world where is there north or south?
Crowding are the wild geese,[94] how should they be remote?
He shuts his door and sits in the hollow of his meditation couch;
Over his head time vainly towers.
This year by chance he goes out in search of the Law,
And wants to apply a whetstone to the sword of his intellect.
His cloud cassock newly mended so that a landscape appears;
His frosty whiskers untrimmed so that children are startled.
Princes would like to know him but cannot;
He once knew life in the markets and he is no beauty.
The autumn wind has stirred his dream to cross the Hui River;
He imagines the oranges and pomeloes hanging in the empty courtyard.
His friends are all in separate corners of the world;
Yearning for one another, scattered like stars.
The old Prefect of P’eng-ch’eng[95] is surely not worth a thought,
But the date groves and mulberry fields invite him.
Over a thousand hills he does not shrink from the remoteness of country inns;
With his legs he seeks to follow the flying monkeys’ lightness.
He never stops polishing all manner of elegant words;
Besides he has a poet’s gentle feelings.
The gibbons howl, the cranes cry, all unwitting;
Unaware of the traveller passing below.
The night rain on the deserted steps is clear and sharp;
What makes us repress our feelings and lament our loneliness?
I want to pluck precious herbs in the immortals’ mountains;
Emptying my basket to sit and sigh: when will it be full?
Documents and whippings pile up in the daytime;
Brewing tea and roasting chestnuts are truly an evening task.
Please take the Mani pearl[96] to illuminate the muddy water;
Together we shall watch the setting moon as its golden bowl slants.

Following the Rhymes of a Poem Which the Monk (Tao)-ch’ien Presented to Me [97]

There are in fact several other reminiscences and adaptations of Tu Fu’s poems here. The mention of the comic appearance of the monk’s patched robe, although there is no actual verbal similarity is perhaps stimulated by Tu Fu’s description of the mended clothes of his children in his famous Journey North (Pei cheng).[98] Line 16 (“He imagines the oranges and pomeloes hanging in the empty courtyard”) could certainly have come from the very similar third line in Tu Fu’s The Temple of Yü.[99] The two closing lines of the poem are a rewriting of the last lines of Tu Fu’s To the Monk Lü-ch’iu from Shu[100]

In the depths of the night I receive the gentle words;
The setting moon is like a golden bowl.
Boundless is the world’s darkness;
Insatiable is the extent of its rapacity.
Only there is the Mani pearl,
Which can illumine the muddy spring.

These sorts of borrowings and adaptations are, I believe, to be distinguished very clearly from allusions. There is a difference of general and particular. An allusion is general and essentially fixed in its connotation since it has become an established unit of the literary coinage, even though the poet of genius can make an elegant variation in its usage. Besides all the possibilities for allusion that the vast surviving corpus of Chinese poetry offered to the poets of Northern Sung — and perhaps because of the rise and spread of the printed book they became truly conscious of the vastness — there were huge opportunities for particular “remakings”. These, as I have said, required no knowledge of the original for the understanding of the new context, but given the nature of the audience the “remaking” is seldom likely to have gone unrecognized. If one speculates on the response which the poet might have expected from his audience, one may guess that the skilfulness and the appropriateness of the adaptation were the chief objects of admiration.

Such remakings by Su Shih were of course not confined to the poetry of Tu Fu. One may equally study his frequent adaptations of Po Chü-i, Han Yü and other major T’ang poets, but my observation suggests that Tu Fu (including Tu Fu in close association with Li Po) overweighs any other T’ang poet in effect upon Su Shih’s work. This is, I believe, certainly not because Su admired Tu Fu or identified with him to anything like the same degree as (by his own statement) he admired T’ao Yüan-ming and felt an affinity for the latter when he was in the mood to reject the political society of his time. But Tu Fu was there, as he said in the poem for K’ung P’ing-chung quoted above, like a mountain before them all and the critical attention which Tu Fu was receiving contributed to this feeling. Tu Fu’s works were readily available and much discussed. From any reading of Su’s work one may be sure that he was no man to pay distant homage to a mountain. Rather one would expect him to ascend it and reduce its scale. Since even his hero T’ao Yüan-ming did not escape his teasing, one would expect him not to miss so grand a target as Tu Fu, and so I would say that his Hsü Li-jen hsing or The Song of Fair Women Continued [101] cannot be absolved of literary malice. He after all chose to “continue” Tu Fu where Tu Fu has all his organ stops out. As he explains in his preface he is writing of a painting.

In Li Chung-mou’s house there was the back view of a palace singing girl yawning and stretching, painted by Chou Fang.[102] It was very skilful. I wrote this poem in jest.
In the depths of the palace with no companion, the spring day is long;
North of Deep Fragrance Pavilion,[103] every flower is fragrant.
The beauty arises from sleep and listlessly makes her toilet;
Swallows wheel, orioles cry, vainly breaking her heart.
The painter wanting to express an unending feeling,
Painted her with her back to the east wind, just roused from sleep.
If she turned her head, she’d be captivating,
And Yang-ch’eng and Hsia-ts’ai[104] would both be ruined.
The hungry traveller from Tu Ling’s eyes long looked on cold;
On a lame donkey in a battered cap he followed golden saddles,[105]
Across the flowers, by the stream he once had a sight of fair women,
But was only allowed to see their waists and limbs from behind.
His heart drunk he returned to his low thatched hut,
Then believing there were Hsi Shihs in the world.
Sir, have you not seen
Meng Kuang[106] raising the tray level with her brow?
How should she turn her back and weep in grief for spring?

Humour against fellow human beings always runs the risk of being caddish. In judging Su Shih it is necessary to understand that he clearly knew Tu Fu’s work well and the brief and inadequate account of the older poet which appears in the dynastic histories of T’ang together with well-known anecdotes. He did not, so far as I can see, derive a living Tu Fu from his poetry and so Tu Fu remained for him the stereotype of the biographies and anecdotes. The poetry lived for him but the poet did not. It is noticeable that he seems carelessly to join the fair women of Tu Fu’s pre-rebellion Ch’ang-an with the thatched hut of his Ch’eng-tu period.

This poem is about a painting and one of the links between Tu Fu and Su Shih, which cannot fail to attract notice is their poems on paintings. Tu Fu is credited with the inauguration of the t’i-hua shih. While Tu Fu’s poems on painting, some twenty in number, form only a small part of his collected poems, whereas Su wrote a great many such poems, one may observe how frequently these contain some reference to Tu Fu or his poems. One or two examples may be cited.

First, a poem by Su which is not a t’i-hua shih but one in which he treats a favourite theme, the identity of the poet’s and the painter’s vision; it is entitled Following the Rhymes of Wu Ch’uan-cheng’s Song of the Withered Tree.[107]

The Lord of Heaven’s ink-paintings are very fine;
Amid thin bamboos and dead pines he sketches the waning moon.
When I wake from dreaming, their scattered shadows are at my eastern window;
I am startled at the frosty branches appearing night after night.
They form and break up in a snap of the fingers,
So I know that Creation was originally without any single thing.
From of old painting masters were no common men;
Their subtle ideas emerge just like poems.
The recluse of Lung-mien was originally a poet
And could make thunder fly from the Dragon Pool.
Although you are not a painter,
Your poetic eye is also skilled in recognizing and presenting.
In Lung-mien’s breast there are a thousand four-horse teams;
He does not merely paint the flesh but the bone as well.
Only I should write for him Shao-ling poems,
Or I could take up with you a bald brush.
The landscape of the southeast calls me;
Ten thousand images enter my Mani pearl.
I’ll distribute all my calligraphy and painting among my friends
And only with my long sword go home.

Apart from the mention of Tu Fu by name (Shao-ling) there are no fewer than three references to poems on painting by Tu Fu here. First, Li Kung-lin (Lung-mien, 1049–1106), famous for paintings of horses is compared with his eminent T’ang predecessor Ts’ao Pa who by his painting “made the Dragon Pool for ten days let fly thunder”, according to Tu Fu’s Seeing a Painting of a Horse by General Ts’ao Pa in the House of Registrar Wei Feng.[108] Four lines later, again writing of Li Lung-mien, he adapts a famous line from Tu Fu’s Song of Painting: Presented to General Ts’ao Pa,[109] in which Ts’ao Pa’s pupil, the celebrated Han Kan, is said to have “only painted the flesh and not the bone”. Then, after the suggestion that he should write Tu Fu-type poems he borrows from Song of Wei Yen Painting Horses, Written upon the Wall (“Lord Wei came to say goodbye, for he was going far away./He knew I admired his unequalled painting,/And in jest took a bald brush and stroked out a Hua-liu.”)[110] And although one may trace the source of the last line back to the songs of complaint of Feng Hsüan in the biography of the Lord of Meng-ch’ang in Shih-chi, c.75,[111] one must note that there is a nearer source in Li Po’s poem, At Wu-sung shan (Five Pines Hill) To Ch’ang, Assistant Magistrate of Nan-ling.[112]

It is extremely interesting to find Su Shih here urging himself to write “Shao-ling poems” to accompany Li Kung-lin’s paintings, showing perhaps that he had come near to classifying Tu Fu’s poems as models for a particular subject. We can indeed produce an example of Su Shih writing a poem referring to a horse-painting by Li Kung-lin, which might fairly be described as following the Tu Fu model. In Su Shih’s works it is entitled Following the Rhymes of Tzu-yu’s “Written on Han Kan’s Horses in the Collection of Li Po-shih,[113] but his brother Su Ch’e’s original poem appears under the title of Han Kan’s “Three Horses”. In fact, four other persons, Su Sung (1020–1101), Huang T’ing-chien (1045–1105), Liu Pin (1022–1088) and Wang Ch’in-ch’en also wrote poems following Su Ch’e’s rhymes.[114] Li was an inveterate copyist as well as a collector and I presume that when Su Shih wrote of Li’s “heavenly horses” here, he is referring to Li’s copy of Han Kan’s original painting. Besides the reminiscences once again of Tu Fu’s Song of Painting he gives his poem a Tu Fu touch with the insertion of Chün pu chien before the final couplet.

A curtain of cloud hangs over the secluded old house;
The official documents are like tangled threads.
Suddenly I see the “heavenly horses” painted by Po-shih;
The northern air and Tartar sands are created by his falling brush-tip.
The “heavenly horses” come from the western limits;
Their power disputes pride of speed with the setting sun.
With dragon breasts and leopard legs they stand eight feet high;
Their spiritedness is not subject to a human halter.
With whom, though the Tiger-spine of Yüan-shou[115] might be compared,
The Jade-flower (Dapple) of K’ai-yüan[116] would seem unremarkable.
Po-shih possesses the way and truly lives a hermit in office;[117]
In his eating and drinking he does not envy the mountain hen pheasant.[118]
He plies his brush at painting and that’s enough for him.
His ideas reach ten thousand li; who can know them?
Kan only painted the flesh and did not paint the bone;
Still more he lost the substance and vainly kept the skin.
May I ask you to expound “the things in their breasts”,[119]
With fine words to send them to tell him below the Yellow Springs.[120]
Have you not seen
That Master Han himself said there is nothing to learn from a master;
The ten thousand horses in the stables are our teachers.

This elegant tribute to Li Kung-lin who was famous for his drawing from life seems to have been not unjustified.

In writing of paintings Su Shih, in spite of the terrible teasing of Song of Fair Women Continued, was perhaps most in tune with Tu Fu and could catch a little of the exuberance that the older poet possessed in much greater abundance. It may be appropriate then to note as a final example the poem which is headed “In Kuo Hsiang-cheng’s house I painted bamboos and rocks on the wall in my cups. Kuo wrote a poem to thank me and also gave me two ancient bronze swords”.

When the wine reached my empty stomach a sharp flash was emitted;
My inner organs in ferment produced bamboos and rocks.
With a massive urge to create, I could not turn back,
And spat them out on your snow-white wall.
All my life I have loved poetry and painting besides.
I have long been scolded for writing on walls and soiling plaster.
So I am abundantly glad not to have been glared at or abused.
Where in the world is another like you?
The pair of bronze swords shine like autumn waters;
The two new poems rival the swords’ sharpness.
The swords are on their stand, the poem is in my hand.
I don’t know which will make the dragon roar.[121]

In this poem Su seems infected momentarily by the spirit of movement and force that is so widely apparent in Tu Fu’s poetry and appropriately the last few words are adapted from Tu Fu.[122] Generally, the movement and force are replaced by philosophy, humour and cleverness.

It is finally in his love of wit and brilliance that Su Shih found a special appeal in Tu Fu’s poetry, particularly in his seven-word lü-shih poems. One cannot illustrate this by exact comparison but anyone who comes from reading Tu Fu’s ch’i-lü to those of Su Shih cannot fail to be conscious of how well he learned the techniques of his old master.

Here is an early example from 1062, where Su’s debt to Tu Fu is too patently, even painfully obvious:

At Ch’i-yang in the ninth month there was a slight fall of snow,
Which has brought sadness to my year-end feelings.
Short days usher in the cold while washing-sticks beat fast on their stones;
In my deserted office I have no business in the midst of all the houses;
Can the melancholy after our parting be dispelled by wine?
White hairs since autumn have climbed above my hairpin.
Recently I bought a sable robe and can go out of the passes,
For I suddenly thought to go with the courier and seek the Western treasures.

On the Twentieth Day of the Ninth Month There Was a Slight Fall of Snow and I Thought of my Brother Tzu-yu, I.[123]

If one overlooks the borrowings from Spring Yearning (Ch’un wang) and Autumn Thoughts (Ch’iu hsing), which, since they are such solemn and “universal” works by Tu Fu, one feels ought to be left inviolate by a prentice hand, one can certainly see an incipient mastery of the Tu Fu technique of striking parallelism in the third and fourth and fifth and sixth lines.

An examination, such as I have undertaken here, is by its very nature bound to bear a little hardly on the later comer. It may then be fair to end with a Su Shih seven-word lü-shih at which one could imagine Tu Fu smiling in complete approbation of its fine lines.

The east wind knows that I am about to travel in the hills;
It blows away the continuous rain squalls from the eaves,
On the peaks fine-weather clouds set their cotton caps;
In the tree-tops the early sun hangs its bronze gong.
Wild peaches smile over low bamboo fences;
Stream willows wave over clear pebbled streams.
The Western-Hill families should be the happiest,
Boiling cress and bamboo-shoots to provision their spring ploughmen.
On the Road to Hsin-ch’eng, I.[124]
This paper first appeared in the Proceedings of the International Conference on Sinology 第一屆國際漢學會議論文集文學組 Institute of History and Philology, (Taipei: Academia Sinica, 1981) pp.471–498.



1 “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”, I, st.3.

2 The Five Old Men Peaks on the eastern side of Lu-shan, Kiangsi.

3 K’uang-shan = Lu-shan (or at least so Su certainly intended; there is doubt whether Tu Fu’s original line had this reference). In current texts K’uang is substituted by K’ang because it was taboo in Sung T’ai-tsu’s personal name.

4 Su Wen-chung kung shih pien-chu chi-ch’eng (hereafter referred to as Poems: Hsüeh-sheng shu-chü edition, 6 vols, Taipei, 1967) v.5, c.23.7b.

5 See p.3.

6 381/24/12. Reference to Harvard-Yenching Institute Sinological Series Suppl. 14. The first figure is the page; the second, the chüan no. of the Chiu-chia chu Tu shih text and the third the serial no. of the poem in the chüan.

7 Biography in Han shu, c.76.

8 South of K’uai-chi/Yüeh-chou (mod. Shao-hsing).

9 Ho Chih-chang had been Director of the Imperial Library (Pi-shu chien).

10 Poems, v.5, c30.13a.

11 64/4/8.

12 Li T’ai-po ch’üan-chi (SPPY ed.), c.23.12b.

13 Name of mountain range in Chekiang. Ho Chih-chang in his later years adopted the literary name of Ssu-ming k’uang-k’o.

14 i.e. wine.

15 Belt-decoration of T’ang officials.

16 A T’ang hsien forming part of modern Shao-hsing.

17 The Jo-yeh Stream flows into the Mirror Lake.

18 “East of the River” here indicates K’uai-chi.

19 See Tui-chiu 對酒, op. cit., c.23.9a.

20 Poems, v.4, c.15.8b. Su-chou is modern Su-hsien, Anhui.

21 Li T’ai-po ch’üan-chi, c.8.3b.

22 108/7/10.

23 See Chuang-tzu, c.4, Harvard-Yen-ching Institute Sinological Index Series Supplement 20, p.11, 1.64ff.

24 Poems, v.5, c.30.20b.

25 154/11/14.

26 c.84.55 (SPPY ed.).

27 Ancestral place of the Lu family, in modern Sung-chiang hsien, Kiangsu.

28 Chin shu, 54 (Biography of Lu Chi).

29 Poems, v.6, c.36.24b.

30 “An old man of many oxen” is probably an analogy of “an old man of many fields”, a soubriquet applied to Lu Ts’ung-yüan, see the brief biological notice in Hsin T’ang-shu, c.129.

31 Li T’ai-po ch’üan-chi, c.19.20a. Wang the Twelfth has not been identified.

32 i.e. in retirement. The phrase comes into the terminology of withdrawal from the biography of T’ao Yüan-ming.

33 i.e. The ordinary will pretend to be talented.

34 Sung-k’an Shih-Ku chu Su-shih (facsimile repr., Taipei, 1969), c.33.34b.

35 410/26/35B.

36 Island of immortals in the eastern sea.

37 i.e. accords with the natural order of the universe.

38 Su Tung-p’o chi, Hou-chi, c.9 (Basic Sinological Series ed. section 8, p.22), Huang Tzu-ssu is Huang Hsiao-hsien 孝先 (chin-shih 1024).

39 This is a slight variation on the often-quoted passage in Ssu-k’ung T’u’s Letter on Poetry to Mr Li, translated by James J. Y. Liu in his Chinese Theories of Literature, (Chicago, 1975), p.103.

40 The famous Erh-shih-ssu shih-p’in (Twenty-four Classifications of Poetry).

41 Mei Yao-ch’en, while alive had compared himself to Tu Fu and Ou-yang Hsiu to Li Po, see Jonathon Chaves, Mei Yao-ch’en and the Development of Early Sung Poetry (Columbia, 1976), p.98.

42 Which heralded the rise of Chou.

43Reign-titles of Hsüan-tsung’s reign, 713–755, preceding the great rebellion of An Lu-shan and Shih Ssu-ming.

44 Ou-yang Yung-shu chi, Chü-shih chi, ch.9 (Basic Sinological Series, sect.2, p.52).

45 See Yoshikawa Kōjirō, Sōshi Gaisetsu (Chūgoku shijin shishū, 2nd series, Iwanami Shoten, 1962), p.95, English version, Burton Watson, An Introduction to Sung Poetry (Harvard, 1967), pp.71–72.

46 Ou-yang Yung-shu chi, Pishuo, sect.14, p.123.

47 Li T’ai-po ch’üan-chi, c.7.1a–2a.

48 A quotation from a story of Shan Chien (253–312) during his governer-generalship at Hsiang-yang, found in Shih-shuo hsin-yü, c. 23. 19th story.

49 大家: the current text of Li Po’s poem reads 瀾街 “blocking the road”.

50 11.25–26 of the Song of Hsiang-yang. The toppling jade mountain as a symbol of drunkenness is used of Hui K’ang in Shih-shuo hsin-yü, c.14, 5th story.

51 Ou-yang Yung-shu chi, Chü-shih wai-chi, c.4 (section 6, p.73).

52 Poems, v.5, c.23.16b.

53 See my “Su Shih’s ‘Following the Rhymes of T’ao Yüan-ming Poems’: A Literary or a Psychological Phenomenon?”, Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia, Vol.10 (1975), p.106.

54 Li T’ai-po ch’üan-chi, c.24.12b.

55 The physiognomist T’ang Chu of the Warring States period.

56 Ssu-ma Chi-chu who practised divination in Ch’ang-an during the 2nd century B.C.

57 Lo-ch’üan chi, c.2.

58 Ibid.

59 The descriptive poems written by the philosopher Hsün-tzu, in the 3rd Ct. B.C., and by Han writers like Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju (179–117 B.C.), Yang Hsiung (53 B.C. – A.D. 18) and Pan Ku (32–92).

60 The early 3rd Ct. B.C. Chu statesman Ch’ü Yüan, to whom are ascribed the Li-sao and other pieces in the anthology Ch’u-tz’u (Songs of Ch’u).

61 Poems, v.3, c.6.16b.

62 Li T’ai-po ch’üan-chi, c.2.1a.

63 A section of the Book of Songs, used to represent the whole; similarly used is “Royal Airs” (part of the Kuo-feng) in the 3rd line.

64 The “my” of this line would seem to be Confucius not the poet (although at the end of the poem Li Po assumes the mantle of the sage). I have therefore placed it as a quotation.

65 The period 196–219 associated with Ts’ao Ts’ao, his sons Ts’ao P’i and Ts’ao Chih, and the writers of whom he was the patron is treated by Li Po as the beginning of the tendency to over-elaboration of diction against which the fu-ku (restore antiquity) movement of his own day reacted.

66 As worn by the sage-emperors of remote antiquity.

67 In the last four lines the poet assigns to himself the transmitting role of Confucius. He will revive the true tradition of the Book of Songs. Confucius is said to have ended his editing of the Spring and Autumn Annals (Ch’un-ch’iu) when the people of Lu captured a unicorn in 481 B.C.

68 Tu-ling, district of Ch’ang-an, from which the Tu family came.

69 i.e.united every school in his poetry.

70 i.e. only Tu Fu and Li Po were a match for one another.

71 This line seems general in expression but it will refer particularly also to Tu’s flight during the rebellion.

72 A metaphor for Hsüan-tsung losing his throne; it derives from Han shu, c.45 (Biography of K’uai T’ung): “Further when Ch’in lost its deer, everyone in the empire chased it”.

73 A metaphor for Su-tsung’s restoration of the dynasty from the story of Nü Kua mending Heaven (which orginally did not completely cover Earth) by melting five-coloured stones in Huai-nan-tzu, c.6.6b (SPTK ed.) and Lieh-tzu c.5.3b (SPPY ed.).

74 Li Mu, general of the state of Chao in the 3rd Ct. B.C.; he has a brief biography in Shih chi, c.81.

75 Wang Pao of the 1st Ct. B.C., biography in Han shu 64B, seems to be cited here as an example of a literary scholar.

76 i.e. Tu Fu and Li Po.

77 Tu’s sorrow for Li Po during the latter’s banishment to Yeh-lang in modern Kweichow province in 758, expressed especially in the two Dreaming of Li Po poems (79/5/10). The form of words of this line derives from Song 184: “The crane cries in the Nine Marshes; / Its notes are heard in the wilds (stanza 2, in Heaven)”.

78 This refers to the variant version 若逢李白騎鯨魚 (“If you meet Li Po astride a whale”.), which Su Shih seems definitely, from a number of instances, to follow, of a line in Tu Fu’s poem, In Farewell To K’ung Ch’ao-fu (21/2/1). That poem relates to an earlier period (probably 747) than the reference of the previous lines.

79 The story of Tu Fu’s insulting his friend and patron Yen Wu with his remark “One would not have thought that Yen Ting-chih would have such a son” occurs in a number of sources (noted in William Hung, Notes for Tu Fu, (Harvard, 1952, p.94). The Yün-hsi yü-i of Fan Shu (c.1. sub Yen Huang-men), which contains Yen’s retort “Is the grandson of Tu Shen-yen determined to stroke the tiger’s whiskers”, may have been Su’s source.

80 An unsaleable skill, from Chuang-tzu 32 (Harvard-Yenching Institute Sinological Series, suppl. 20, p.89) 11.18–19.

81 This is probably a reference to the story of Wang Hui-chih, son of Wang Hsi-chih, in Shih-shuo hsin-yü c.24.11th story: “When Wang Tzu-yu was cavalry aide to Huan Ch’ung, Huan said to him: What office do you have? He replied: I do not know what office. Sometimes I see horses being led along. It seems to be a groom’s.”

82 This follows the popular account that Tu Fu died at Lei-yang (in modern Hunan province) of an excess of food and wine, given in Chiu T’ang-shu, c.190C.

83 This is founded on the opening sentence of Yang Hsiung’s Fa-yen, c.2: Someone asked: “My son is young yet is fond of composing fu poems”. The reply was: “Yes, children carve insects and cut seals”, and abruptly: “Grown men do not do it”.

84 Reference to the story told in Chuang-tzu c.24 to illustrate the gravity of Chuang-tzu’s loss of his friend Hui Shih. The Carpenter Shih could remove a fine speck with his axe from the end of the nose of his friend, a man from Ying, but when his friend died he had no longer the material for the feat.

85 The kun, the giant fish which transforms into a huge bird (from Chuang-tzu, c.1) and the minnows observed by Chuang-tzu and his friend Hui Shih from the bridge at Hao represent Chang Fang-p’ing and Su respectively.

86 “Beautiful lines” is always a quotation from Tu Fu: it occurs in fact in eleven separate poems by him.

87 Poems, v.5, c.22.3a.

88 Han Yü (768–824).

89 Poems, v.5, c.22.2a.

90 88/6/1.

91 Willow twigs were chewed by Buddhist monks to clean their teeth. The implication here is that earlier Abbot Tsan was living in his monastery in Ch’ang-an.

92 Poems, v.5, c.33.11a.

93 Cf. Li-sao, Ch’u-tz’u (SPPY ed.), 1.10a.

94 Which make their annual migrations between north and south.

95 Su himself at this time (1078) Prefect of Hsü-chou (former P’en-ch’eng).

96 The symbol of the enlightening power of the Buddha.

97 Poems, v.4, c.17.12b.

98 48/3/3.

99 414/27/8.

100 106/7/5.

101 Poems, v.4, c.16.13a. My translation of Tu Fu’s Song of Fair Women may be found in Tu Fu (Twayne Publishers, New York, 1971), p.37.

102 T’ang painter of human figures, particularly women, fl. late 8th–early 9th Ct.

103 Favourite resort of Hsüan-tsung and Yang Kuei-fei, where Li Po was summoned to compose poems.

104 Names of places in the state of Ch’u, which Sung Yü in Teng-t’u tzu hao-se fu (Wen-hsüan, c.19) described as liable to be beguiled by the charms of the daughter of his eastern neighbours.

105 Cf. Tu Fu, Twenty-two Rhymes to His Excellency Left Secretary Wei (a poem from which Su quotes or adapts many times): “After bestriding a donkey for ten years, / I lodged in the capital’s spring. / In the mornings I knocked on rich men’s doors; / In the evenings I followed in sleek horses’ dust. (2/1/1).”

106 The model wife of the 1st Ct. A.D. recluse-scholar Liang Hung (biography in Hou-Han shu, c.113).

107 Poems, v.6, c.36.22a. Ch’uan-cheng is the courtesy-name of Wu An-shih.

108 118/8/6.

109 121/8/1.

110 106/7/7. Hua-liu typifies a splendid horse.

111 English translation available in The Golden Casket (Penguin Books, 1967; translated by C. Levenson from the original German version of W. Bauer and H. Franke, Die Goldene Truhe, Carl Hauser Verlag, Munich, 1959).

112 Li T’ai-po ch’üan-chi, c.12.7a.

113 Poems, v.5, c.28.15b.

114 They are conveniently located in the Ch’i-ch’eng edition with Su Shih’s poem.

115 The “heavenly horse” which came from the west and had a double tiger-spine (the blood-sweating horse of Ferghana is said to have been born in Yüan-shou 3 = 122 B.C.) in Han shu, c.22 (Li-yüeh chih).

116 The horse painted by Ts’ao Pa, described in Tu Fu’s Song of Painting.

117 Li Kung-lin passed the chin-shih examination but received a succession of comparitively low ranking posts.

118 This rather odd-sounding line seems to have been framed from the freedom-enjoying pheasant of Chuang-tzu. c.3 (Harvard-Yenching Institute Sinological Series Suppl. 20, p.8.1.14) who takes one peck in ten paces and one sip in a hundred. The Chuang-tzu “marsh-pheasant”, however, has been replaced by the “mountain-ridge hen-pheasant” of Lun-yü 10.18.

119 The “you” is Su Ch’e who had written in his poem: “In painting horses one does not merely paint the horses’ skin. The painting brings out the things that were in the three horses’ breasts”.

120 i.e. Han Kan.

121 Poems, v.5, c.23.17b.

122 142/10/15 (Song of Our Friendship).

123 Poems, v.3, c.4.2a.

124 Poems, v.4, c.9.8a.