I know you’ve all been losing sleep wondering how Li Bai, Tu Fu and Li Ho are faring out there in the wilderness of my yard. They’re doing very well. The hot weather that makes me and Bear wonder what we’re doing here and question the entire point of life, has made the Scarlet Emperor Beans and everything else out there shoot up in plant bliss. Here they are:
To hedge my bets when I planted these esteemed beans, I stuck some seeds into the ground. One has come up. 🙂 I’ve named him Bai Juyi who was one of the most famous poets of the Tang Dynasty. He was also — as the others were, except Li Ho who was something of a renegade — a public official.
Bai Juyi is famous for the times he was governor of various Chinese cities, I think most notably Hangzhou. Anyone who has been to Hangzhou has gone primarily to enjoy the incredible beauty of West Lake. Cixi, the last empress of China, had a replica of West Lake built in Beijing for her enjoyment. It’s said of Hangzhou, “Heaven above. Earth below. Between, Hangzhou.”
Back in olden times West Lake sometimes dried up making it impossible for the farmers to grow crops. When Bai Juyi was governor, he built a causeway that successfully held the water in the lake and controlled the flow. It was not just a thing of beauty, but of utility. Of course, the causeway he built is long gone, but the one that is there now follows Bai Juyi’s plans, more or less.
Bai Juyi’s most famous poem is a long story-poem called the “Never Ending Sorrow.” It was incredibly popular in Japan and in one of Japan’s oldest and most well known (and amazing!) novels, The Tale of Genji Bai Juyi’s poem has a central place. Japanese fashion of this era was strongly influenced by the poem as well.
On the Lake
Two monks sit,
playing chess on the mountain,
Bamboo casts a shadow on the board.
I hear the monks slam the pieces down.