nature

Thirty Four Rhymes Presented To The “Five Classics” Scholar Liu

Shangyin was deep in thought, his ice cold Frappuccino was melting drops of water over his fingers. The mall plaza outside the Starbucks in Shenzhen was light and airy. Gray marble tiles gleamed for hundreds of yards under the noonday sun. In the near distance, I could see a street sweeper and a mall worker in a suit and badge. The red robe of a Buddhist monk passed by a shiny row of BMWs like a butterfly hovering over silver flowers.

Sitting down under the green awning, I looked at the poet. His head was lowered.

“Did you read the newspaper reports,” I said quickly without thinking. “About the woman who was run over twice and left for dead.”

“Oh, that one…” he looked up at me and nodded gently, his wisps of white hair stiff in the light breeze.

“You know, the taxi first hit her and went on. Her body lay in the street for minutes. Then an SUV ran over her, and still no one called the police…”

“I read a little about that. You know, the simplified Chinese characters are a little difficult to understand.”

Shangyin had been schooled in an older, traditional Chinese script, and the revamped, simplified characters introduced decades ago were mostly unintelligible to him. But he was quickly catching on.

“But I saw those moving pictures you have on the glass boxes…” he suddenly laughed, whipping out his silver IPhone 7.

Then he stopped smiling.

“What happened to China? No one wanted to help that woman!”

“People are afraid of getting sued for being good Samaritans. A few years back, someone helped a woman who had been run over, and she then accused him of being the hit and run driver.  A lawsuit forced him to pay lots of money. It was all over the news.”

“Or people just didn’t care,” he shrugged.

“I don’t believe that!” I protested. Yet, in spite of my words of affirmation, sometimes the miasma of doubt covers everything.

Shangyin was quiet for a few minutes, then he gave a great bellow.

“Greed can leave behind holes in the heart!”

 

建国宜师古,jiàn guó yí shī gǔ,

兴邦属上庠。xìng;xīng bāng shǔ shàng xiáng。

从来以儒戏,cóng lái yǐ rú xì,

安得振朝纲。ān dé;děi;de zhèn  cháo gāng。

叔世何多难,shū shì hé duō nán,

兹基遂已亡。zī jī suì yǐ wáng。

泣麟犹委吏,qì lín yóu wěi lì,

歌凤更佯狂。gē fèng gèng;gēng yáng kuáng。

屋壁馀无几,wū bì yú  wú jǐ,

焚坑逮可伤。fén kēng dǎi kě shāng。

挟书秦二世,jiā shū qín  èr shì,

坏宅汉诸王。huài zhái hàn zhū wáng。

草草临盟誓,cǎo cǎo lín  méng shì,

区区务富强。qū qū wù  fù qiáng。

微茫金马署,wēi máng jīn mǎ shǔ,

狼藉斗鸡场。láng jí  dǒu jī cháng。

尽欲心无窍,jìn;jǐn yù xīn wú qiào,

皆如面正墙。jiē rú miàn zhèng;zhēng qiáng。

惊疑豹文鼠,jīng yí bào wén shǔ,

贪窃虎皮羊。tān qiè hǔ pí yáng。

南渡宜终否,nán dù yí zhōng fǒu;pǐ,

西迁冀小康。xī qiān jì  xiǎo kāng。

策非方正士,cè fēi  fāng zhèng shì,

贡绝孝廉郎。gàng;gòng jué  xiào lián láng。

海鸟悲钟鼓,hǎi niǎo bēi zhōng gǔ,

狙公畏服裳。jū gōng  wèi fú cháng。

多岐空扰扰,duō qí kōng rǎo rǎo,

幽室竟伥伥。yōu shì jìng chāng chāng。

凝邈为时范,níng miǎo  wéi shí fàn,

虚空作士常。xū kōng zuò shì cháng。

何由羞五霸,hé yóu xiū  wǔ bà,

直自呰三皇。zhí zì zǐ;cī  sān huáng。

别派驱杨墨,biè;bié pài qū yáng mò,

他镳并老庄。tā biāo bìng lǎo zhuāng。

诗书资破冢,shī shū zī pò zhǒng,

法制困探囊。fǎ zhì kùn tàn náng。

周礼仍存鲁,zhōu lǐ réng cún lǔ,

隋师果禅唐。suí shī guǒ chán;shàn táng。

鼎新麾一举,dǐng xīn huī  yī jǔ,

革故法三章。gé gù fǎ sān zhāng。

星宿森文雅,xīng xiù sēn  wén yǎ,

风雷起退藏。fēng léi qǐ tuì zàng;cáng。

缧囚为学切,léi qiú wèi;wéi xué qiè;qiē,

掌故受经忙。zhǎng gù shòu jīng máng。

夫子时之彦,fū zǐ shí zhī yàn,

先生迹未荒。xiān shēng jī wèi huāng。

褐衣终不召,hè yì;yī zhōng bù zhào,

白首兴难忘。bái shǒu xìng;xīng  nán wàng。

感激殊非圣,gǎn jī shū fēi shèng,

栖迟到异粻。qī  chí dào yì zhāng。

片辞褒有德,piān cí bāo yǒu dé,

一字贬无良。yī zì biǎn wú liáng。

燕地尊邹衍,yàn dì;de zūn zōu yǎn,

西河重卜商。xī hé zhòng;chóng bo;bǔ shāng。

式闾真道在,shì lǘ zhēn dào zài,

拥彗信谦光。yōng huì xìn qiān guāng。

获预青衿列,huò yù qīng jīn liè,

叨来绛帐旁。dāo lái jiāng zhàng páng。

虽从各言志,suī cóng;zòng;cōng gè;gě yán zhì,

还要大为防。hái yào dà wèi;wéi fáng。

勿谓孤寒弃,wù wèi gū hán qì,

深忧讦直妨。shēn yōu jié zhí fáng。

叔孙谗易得,shū sūn chán yì dé;děi;de,

盗跖暴难当。dào zhí bào  nán dāng。

雁下秦云黑,yàn xià qín yún hēi,

蝉休陇叶黄。chán xiū lǒng yè huáng。

莫逾巾屦念,mò yú jīn jù niàn,

容许后升堂。róng xǔ hòu shēng táng。

 

Studying the classic teachers is appropriate for building a nation

A prosperous land’s subjects should go to university.

As long as Confucianism has been mocked

Hasn’t peace in the Courts been rocked?

How many difficulties a declining country faces

Once it has fled from a basic moral foundation.

Weep for the slain unicorn, as did the County Clerk.

In the song of the Phoenix, madness truly led to abandoning the world

The manuscripts hidden in rooms were few

For the scroll burning caused such great harm[1]

The second Qin King carried these books

But all the Han Emperors defiled the Master’s home

With great difficulty a temporary alliance was formed

With much hard work people grew rich and strong

The golden sentry horses of academies were tarnished

Scholars disordered and scattered like on a rooster’s fight stage

Greed left behind holes in the heart

Everyone was like a wooden totem by the wall

The leopard behind mousy writing caused confusion and bewilderment

The sheep in the tiger skin caused corruption and theft

After the Southern Crossing it declined in the later years

With a final flowering during the Western Migration[2]

Strategies did not consider frank criticism of the leadership

Studies of filial piety and honesty were reasons to cancel tributes

The sea bird despaired at the sound of the drums

The monkeys fearfully submitted to the rituals of Shang

The many paths were empty and troubling

Remote dwellings held baffled faces

Taoism’s dream state was for a time a model

Buddha’s concept of emptiness enlightened the learned

Wherefore the direct speaking way of Five Frosts

When Three Kings accused them of calumny?

The other sects were guided by Yang and Mou

Lao and Zhang also led the horse’s bit

Books and plays served to dig up old graves

Legalism was the province of shallow fools

The teachings of Zhou were preserved in the land of Lu

What formed in the Sui Kingdom matured under the Tang

With the new Ding it led the way

Old laws were simplified to three basic points

Eloquent scholars flourished under the stars

With the wind and the thunder of the Tang they could find seclusion

Imprisoned, Official Lei was sentenced to study

There are anecdotes of his busy work with the 5 Classics

Your esteemed time was one of superb talent

The elderly scholars maintained an orderly path

Course clothes finally paid the court no heed

Hard to forget was the joy of the ‘White Way’

Be thankful capital punishment was not based on lawless gods

A strange food arrived late on the perch.

Simple phrases nursed righteousness with vigilance

One character resulting in demotion was a bad thing

The sparrows on the land respected Zou Yan

The western rivers looked up to Bo Shang

On the true road you had a carriage armrest

The broom swept the chambers, revealing a trusted light

Line up to attain the purple scholar’s collar

And may you be favored to arrive by the scarlet curtains

Although you bring inspiring words

Above all be vigilant, beware

Be forewarned that rejection is lone and cold

Deeply worry how past misdeeds can hamper one

How easy it is to slander sons and uncles

In a time of violent Robber Barons like Zhi

Wild geese fly beneath the black clouds of Qin

The cicadas rest under the yellowed autumn leaves of Long

Do not consider changing the raiments of Master Kong

Afterwards, please allow me into your hallowed halls!

Chopin Nocturne Op 27 No. 1: Performed by Mark Obama Ndesandjo

I consider this the greatest of Chopin’s nocturnes. It evokes an image of a beach in Venice, with the sound of lapping waves. The central section’s torment brings to mind something violent, perhaps even murder. Finally, the calm returns, and what seems a final duet emerges just for an instant.

***

 A moment or two of your time, please…

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We hope you are enjoying the music and art. Please note that all of these recordings are provided for free. Help support Mark’s work by visiting his Foundation webpage (click here) and learning how you can help others through art.

Notes:
[1] Referring to the burning of the Confucian texts by Qin Shihuang, the first Emperor of China. Allegedly, texts were burnt in 213 BC and 460 Confucian scholars buried alive in 210 BC . A more recent, but more invidious, example is Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), when books were burnt by Nazi sympathizers in November, 1938, just before the Second World War.

[2] Authors note: Note sure exactly how to translate these lines. Suggestions welcome.

Images credit

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