The Yueyang Tower by Fan Zhongyan
In the spring of the fourth year under the reign of the emperor of Qingli, Teng Zijing was relegated from his post in the capital to that of magistrate of Baling. A year later, his enlightened administration has made for peace and harmony among the people as well as the revival of numerous formerly neglected matters. Among these was the renovation and expansion of the Yueyang Tower, on whose walls have been inscribed verses by Tang poets and contemporary men of letters. This done, he bid me compose an essay in its commemoration.
As I see, the tower commands a magnificent view of Lake Dongting, the best scenery of Baling. A vast expanse of water, the lake is bordered by distant mountains and fed by the Yangtze River. From dusk to dawn, it presents an ever-changing gallery of spectacles. All this has been described in great detail in literature by ancient people. What has been left out are poets and relegated officials, who have come in large numbers to this tower through the Wu Gorge to the north or the Xiao and Xiang rivers to the south. As they look at the lake, would the tone of the view not produce a corresponding effect on their mood?
Some may come during a spell of rains, which may drag on from month to month, blocking the rays of the sun and stars, and hiding the mountains from sight. Howling gales hurtle frothing waves toward the sky, breaking masts and oars of passenger boats and merchant vessels. When night falls, they hear tigers roar and apes cry. The forlorn sight will move them to grief, aggravating their homesickness, pain of relegation, and fear of slander or ridicule.
Yet others may come in warm spring, and enjoy a crystal clear view of the unruffled lake, which reflects the sky like a gigantic viridescent mirror. They see seagulls fly over the lake one moment and gather in flocks the next, and fishes swimming about; they smell the aroma of verdant angelicas and orchids growing on the bank and sandy beaches. Or they may see a long wisp of cloud stretching across the sky and the bright moon casting her golden rays far and wide onto the shimmering lake, her reflection white and still like a piece of jade lying at the bottom of water, and hear fishermen’s merry antiphonal songs. Standing in the breeze, goblet in hand, they brim over with ecstasy, free of all thoughts about favors or humiliations.
I have tried to study ancient statesmen’s minds, which might differ from those of the above-mentioned people in that they were unaffected by the state of landscape or vicissitude of life. When serving in court they worry about the people; when among the common people they worry about the monarch. If asked ‘when will you be free of all those worries?’, they would surely answer, ‘One should be the first in his country to worry about state affairs, and the last to enjoy oneself.’ Ah, they are the only congenial companions I may wish to have!
The fifteenth of the ninth month, the sixth year of Qingli.
The YueYang tower In the spring of fourth year of Qingli, TengZijing was exiled to Balingjun , to be the profect there. In the second year of his office, because of his excellent administration,people lived in peace and contentment, and all previous neglected matters were taken care of. The YueYang tower was renovated and enlarged, and described on its walls were the poetries and rhymed prose of Tang and present dynasty. I was invented to record this restoration effect in writing. The beauty of Baling center round the Dongting lake, which holds the mountain ranges in the distance and swallows the water of the yangtz river.It so vast and mighty that it seems boundness.. dazzling in the morning sun and fading in the grew evening mist, it offers a myriad scenes , this is the magnificent view of yueyang tower commanded. Of which many describtions hava been written. The beauty scenic spot is linked with the Wu gorge in the north and Xiao and xiang rivers in the south. Exiled officials and poets often gather here, how could there be no difference in their feelings? In the rainy season, an unbroken wet weather lasts for months,. Chilly wind howl and turbid waves surge the sky high. The sun and stars lose their luster, and the mountain ranges scarcely visible.. The merchant and travelers have to put off their voyage.. for the masts of ships have collapsed and the oars broken.. It is dark towards evening mist, and the roaring of tigers and the cry of monkeys can be heard. At such a time anyone ascending the tow will be filled with nostalgia for the imperial court and his hometown as well as fears of calumny and derision against him. Around him is a scene of desolation. Emotions well up him so strongly that he feels pain at heart. In springtime it is warm and the sun is bright, the lake is tranquil and it merges with the azure sky into a vast expanse of blue. The water-bird are playing, some fluttering in the sky, some gathering together on the sandbars. fishes of varies hues swimming merrily in the water. Sweet-smell grass by the banks and the faint scented orchid on the sandy beaches are rush and green. Sometimes when the mist over the lake vanishes. The glorious moon shines over the vast land. Its brightness glistening with golden light on the lake. The reflection of the moon is like a piece of jade in the depth of the water. On ascending the tower at such a time, one will feel a spiritual uplift , neither glory nor shame. with a cup of wine in the gentle breeze ,he will enjoy the greatest happiness in life. Ah! I have tried to study the minds of lofty ideals in ancient times. Perhaps they were different from the people I motion above. Why is this? The reason is that they were not thrown into ecstasies over their success ,nor felt depressed over their failures. When they were in high postion at court, they concerned about the people, when they were in remote place, they concerned about their emperor. They worried when then got promoted or when they were sent into exile. then , when they were happy? they would say :”To be the first to worry about the affairs of the state and the last to enjoy oneself!” Oh,who else should I seek company with save them?