A Profile, a Reverie & a Letter

Wairarapa Readings


Wairarapa Readings celebrate the variety and vibrancy of China’s literary heritage. They introduce literary texts and translations aimed at students of traditional Chinese letters who are interested in the rich cultural world that lies beyond the narrow confines and demands of contemporary institutional pedagogy. They also reflect the long-term interest of The Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology in ‘cultivation’ 修養.

— The Editor
China Heritage
20 April 2018


Aisin Gioro Duncheng &
Jottings from Four Pine Studio

Aisin Gioro Duncheng (愛新覺羅 · 敦誠, zi Jingting 敬亭, hao Pine Studio 松堂, 1734-1792) was a member of the Manchu Bannerman nobility of the Qing, China’s last dynasty. Even though he was born into the most powerful dynastic clan, the Aisin Gioro, which ruled China from 1644 until the abdication of the last emperor, Aisin Gioro Puyi (愛新覺羅 · 溥儀, 1906-1967), in January 1912. Duncheng did not enjoy the power and prestige that by rights he should have enjoyed. His ancestor Ajige (阿濟格, 1605-1651), the twelfth son of the emperor Nurhaci (努爾哈赤, 1559-1626) who founded the Latter Jin dynasty 後金 outside the Great Wall, was himself a military leader who played a significant role in the early Manchu conquest of China. In 1650, Ajige was incarcerated on the suspicion that he was planning to make himself prince-regent following the death of his elder brother Dorgon 多爾袞. This would have  given him control over his nephew, the young emperor Aisin Gioro Fulin (愛新覺羅 · 福臨, 1638-1661), who ruled under the reign title Shunzhi 順治. While in jail Ajige and his family were stripped of their titles and possessions and were eventually expelled from the imperial clan. A year later, Ajige was forced to commit suicide. It was not until 1778, the Forty-third Year of the Qianlong reign, when Duncheng was forty-four years old, that Ajige’s descendants were allowed to rejoin the imperial family.

Like most members of the educated nobility, Duncheng had to pass various examinations (including archery and horse-riding) to qualify for an official position. As a young man, he had a stint working with his father as a tax official at Songting Pass 松亭關, a historically significant military fort outside Peking. When his birth mother died, he resigned his commission and went into the prescribed three years of mourning. After this, and still in Peking, Duncheng briefly held the title of Scribe in the Household Office of the Imperial Clan 宗人府筆帖式; he also had a ceremonial position at the Imperial Ancestral Temple 太廟獻爵. Following the death of his foster mother resigned again and, claiming ill health, he lived a life of leisure in the outskirts of the capital.[1]

We have the eminent twentieth-century scholar Hu Shi (胡適, 1891-1962) to thank for locating Jottings from Four Pine Studio 四松堂集, the surviving edition of Duncheng’s collected poems and essays. On several occasions Hu noted how hard it was to find a copy of this work, and the pleasure he had in obtaining it:[2]

Having searched everywhere in Peking and Shanghai last year and having still not found the book, I grew increasingly despondent. Last summer when I was in Shanghai, I wrote to Yang Zhongxi[3] to ask if I could borrow his copy and he replied that he had lost the book following the 1911 Revolution… . By now [1921], I had completely given up any hope of securing a copy but then, on 19 April, when I returned home from the university, I saw lying there on the table in my hallway, a thread-bound volume in a faded blue case, with the scarcely legible title Jottings from Four Pine Studio. I could barely believe my eyes! The joy I experienced at that moment was many times greater than when I discovered the collected writings of Wu Jingzi.[4]

Neither Hu Shi, nor the generations of scholars who have followed in his footsteps, were particularly interested in Duncheng’s work for itself. Instead, for nearly a century, this collection of poetry and essays was laboriously scrutinised for details relating to the author’s friend, Cao Xueqin 曹雪芹, a man commonly thought to be the author of China’s greatest work of literature The Story of the Stone (石頭記, also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber 紅樓夢). One is reminded of the parable about ‘acquiring an embroidered jewelry case but giving back the precious pearls it contains’ 買櫝還珠, a story from the pre-Qin philosopher Hanfeizi 韓非子 that famously chides the folly of those who are impressed by the obvious while ignoring true value.

The three works below offer readers of English, as well as of Chinese, a taste of the style and quality of Duncheng’s writing. The first essay is autobiographical, and written in the unaffected style of Tao Yuanming’s famous biographical sketch The Gentlemen of the Five Willow Trees 五柳先生傳. It also reflects a quintessential way of living, about being ‘occupied with idleness’ (see Occupied with Idleness, China Heritage, 23 March 2018). The reverie that follows, titled ‘Record of a Day Dream’ in Chinese, reflects one of the greatest motifs in Chinese philosophy and thought: that life is but a dream 人生如夢. The origin of this understanding of  existence can be found in the famous ‘butterfly dream’ 蝴蝶夢 parable in Zhuangzi 莊子 (see The Teddy Bear Chronicles). It later reverberates through the whimsical exchanges 清談 recorded in the New Tales of the World 世說新語 of the Wei and Jin period, in works as disparate as the poetry of Li Bo 李白 of the Tang and the autobiography of Shen Fu 沈復 of the Qing, but it achieves its most magisterial expression in The Story of the Stone itself.

The third essay is a letter addressed to Duncheng’s elder brother, an elegiac work that records a longing for old friends — including Cao Xueqin — and mourns their loss. In it the author comes to the painful realisation (one that, again, resonates powerfully with the theme of The Story of the Stone) that while one may appreciate the futility of grief and heartache intellectually, and appreciate that life is transient and all is but a dream, nonetheless: ‘even the keenest edge of reason is insufficient to cut through the ties of our emotional attachments.’

Annie Ren, et al


[1] See Aisin Gioro Dunmin (愛新覺羅 · 敦敏, 1729-1796), ‘A Short Biography of Jingting [Duncheng]’ 敬亭小傳.
[2] As Hu Shi wrote in the postface of Evidence in The Dream 紅樓夢考證, his best-known study of The Dream of the Red Chamber:

我那時在各處搜求敦誠的《四松堂集》,因為我知道《四松堂集》裡一定有關於曹雪芹的材料。我雖然承認楊鐘羲先生(《雪橋詩話》)確是根據《四松堂集》的,但我總覺得《雪橋詩話》是轉手的證據,不是原手的證據。不料上海北京兩處大索的結果,竟使我大失望。到了今年,我對於《四松堂集》,已是絕望了。有一天,一家書店的夥計跑來說:《四松堂詩集》找著了! 我非常高興,但是打開書來一看,原來是一部《四松草堂詩集》,不是《四松堂集》。又一天,陳肖莊先生告訴我說,他在一家書店裡看見一部《四松堂集》。我說,恐怕又是四松草堂罷?陳先生回去一看,果然又錯了。

今年四月十九日,我從大學回家,看見門房裡桌子上擺著一部退了色的藍布套的書,一張斑剝的舊書箋上題著“四松堂集”四個字!我自己幾乎不信我的眼力了,連忙拿來打開一看,原來真是一部《四松堂集》的寫本!這部寫本確是天地間唯一的孤本。因為這是當日付刻的底本,上有付刻時的校改,刪削的記號。最重要的是這本子裡有許多不曾收入刻本的詩文,凡是已刻的,題上都印有一個“刻”字的戳子。刻本未收的,題上都帖著一塊小紅箋。題下注的甲子,都被編書的人用白紙塊帖去,也都是不曾刻的。… … 我這時候的高興,比我前年尋著吳敬梓的《文木山房集》時的高興,還要加好幾倍了!

And again, in the prologue of his edition of Jottings from Four Pine Studio:


[3] Yang Zhongxi (楊鍾羲, 1865-1940, hao Snow Bridge 雪橋) compiled Poetry Talks of Snow Bridge 雪橋詩話, a multi-volume collection of anecdotes relating to writers of the Qing dynasty. Yang also collaborated with Shengyu (盛昱, 1850-1900), his cousin, to edit Writings of the Eight Banners 八旗文經, a collection of literary works by 197 Bannermen.
[4] Wu Jingzi (吳敬梓, 1701-1754) is the author of the satirical Ming novel The Scholars 儒林外史.


Related Material

Duncheng 敦誠

Three Works


Translated by John Minford & Annie Ren 任路漫


‘Dream’, 㝱 mèng, in the hand of Wu Changshi (吳昌碩, 1844-1927)


A Biography of Master Fait-Neant

Master Fait-Neant’s real name is unknown. People observed that he was an idler who did nothing much, so they nicknamed him Master Fait-Neant. From his youth he never applied himself to his studies and failed to achieve any distinction. As he grew up he took no pleasure in success or advancement. His family was poor, but his parents managed to find him a position. However, when they died, he gave this up on the grounds of ill health. 閒慵子不知其姓氏。人見其既閒且慵遂呼之爲閒慵子。自少廢學,百無一成,泊長[1]不樂榮進。緣家貧,親老出捧一檄[2], 親亡復有痼疾,即告歸。

He owned a few acres of rough ground on the outskirts of the city, and grew vegetables on half of it. He lived in an old house of three rooms, with his small collection of much-thumbed books. His relations were too busy with their own lives to have time to spend with him. Besides, they found him to be not at all sociable and disapproved of his idle attitude. 傍城有荒園數畝,半為菜畦。老屋三間,殘書數卷而已。其姻戚涉世者多鞅掌[3], 無暇與閒慵子游,又惡其疏於酬答,反其閒與慵。

He sometimes did not leave his house for weeks, except to reluctantly attend a funeral or to visit a sick friend. But, if one of his friends invited him over for a drink, he was only too glad and would sit there chatting animatedly over a few dishes and a bottle or two of wine. He always ended up drunk, and the more he drank the livelier his conversation became. He avoided discussing political matters, and never indulged in trivial gossip or talked about ghosts. Once he’d said something, he just left it at that without further elaboration. 常經旬[4]不出,不得已而遇弔喪問疾事出,或良友以酒食相招,既樂與其人談又朶頤[5]其餔啜亦出。出必醉,醉則縱談,然談不及嚴廊[6], 不爲月旦[7], 亦不說鬼。言下忘言[8], 一時俱了。

He was extremely fond of wine, and while he could not drink as much as that notorious toper Wang Ji, he was more than a match for Su Dongpo. His friends were all drinkers too, and they would happily while away their time carousing in his garden. 性嗜酒,戸[9]在王待詔[10]之下,老坡之上。自據糟邱[11], 時與往還者強半皆高陽徒[12], 日久甕盎盈庭牖間。

He also enjoyed writing little poems, and with the years they grew into a small collection. He himself dismissed them as worthless scribblings, good only for sealing jars.昔好爲小詩,積年成一帙。既而揮卻之曰:舌根不淨,安用此覆瓿者[13]。

He did not believe in slaughtering animals, except for ceremonies or for special guests. His kitchen was as a result quite bare. His wife tried to make up for his austere ways, and he was only too happy to eat her cooking. 為素不喜屠殺,除祭祀事與供賓客外,庖厨索然。其妻子見其蔬餉蕭然,每割烹以進,亦復欣然就食。

With time people grew familiar with his situation. They were amused by it but also felt sorry for him. Anyway, they left him alone. Master Fait-Neant carried on leading his contented and idle life. 久之人間其情狀若此,皆笑而憐之,不復稍經意焉。閒慵子得此益安其閒與慵。

[1] 村生泊長:生長於村野水泊。
[2] 捧檄:奉命就任。
[3] 事務繁忙的樣子。
[4] 十日。
[5] 鼓腮嚼食。《易 • 頤》:


[6] 朝廷。
[7] 漢代許劭好品評人物,每月變更評論品題,稱為月旦評。見《後漢書》卷六十八許劭傳。後用以泛稱品評人物。
[8] 唐 白居易《讀禪經》:


[9] 酒戶:酒量。
[10] 王績(約589-644),字無功,號東皋子,古絳州龍門縣人,唐代詩人。隋末舉孝廉,除秘書正字。不樂在朝,辭疾,複授揚州六合丞。時天下大亂,棄官還故鄉。唐武德中,詔以前朝官待詔門下省。貞觀初,以疾罷歸河渚間,躬耕東皋,自號東皋子。性簡傲,嗜酒,能飲五鬥,自作《五鬥先生傳》 ,撰 《酒經》 、《酒譜》 ,注有《老》、《莊》。其詩近而不淺,質而不俗,真率疏放,有曠懷高致,直追魏晉高風。律體濫觴於六朝,而成型于隋唐之際,無功實為先聲。
[11] 酒糟堆成的山丘。
[12] 語出《史記 • 酈生陸賈列傳》。秦末,謀士酈食其去追隨劉邦時對自己的稱呼。指嗜酒而放蕩不羈的人。唐 杜牧 《張好好詩》:


宋 范仲淹 《三醉石》詩:


清 孫枝蔚 《上巳日同於皇賓登見山樓》詩:


[13] 漢揚雄以為經莫大於《易》,故作《太玄》,欲求文章成名於後世。劉歆觀之,告訴揚雄,天下學者尚不能通曉《易經》,又如何能瞭解太玄,恐怕後人要拿來蓋醬缸。


In that wonderful collection of stories, New Tales of the World, Wei Jie asked Yue Ling about the nature of dreams. Yue replied: “They are thoughts.” Wei then asked: “But dreams occur when the mind has taken leave of the body. So how can they just be thoughts?” To which Yue replied: “They have causes. No one ever dreams of going down a rat hole on a carriage, for instance, or of eating an iron pestle, because such things never happen.” 衛叔寶問樂令夢,樂曰:是想。衛曰:形神不接,如何是想。 樂曰:因也[1]。

Unlike the ‘true men’ of ancient times who never dreamed, I frequently have dreams, and when I wake up I have no idea whether they are ‘thoughts’ or have ‘causes’. 餘非至人[2], 往往多夢,夢覺思之,是想是因,亦不知其所以然也。

Once, in the summer of the year dingchou [1757], I was sojourning in Mt Songting up in the north-east. After lunch, just like the Old poet Su Dongpo, I would lie down and gaze at the ceiling with a book in hand, until I dropped the book and dozed off into a dream. When I woke up, I lay there without so much as turning around, still half in a dream, my thoughts in a complete daze. I tried to reflect on my dream, but I was in a trance midway between Being and Non-Being, drifting like a skiff on a vast ocean. Then I was up in the clouds, sinking down then flying up again and floating freely in the ether. Next I thought I heard a couple of hornets fly into the paper lattice of the window, and an old horse munching hay outside. Were these all a dream? Were they ‘thoughts’, did they have ‘causes’?丁醜夏,客松亭山,雞窗[3]無聊,每于午後便效坡翁攤飯[4], 手持一卷,臥仰屋樑。俄而拋書,蘧然[5]入夢,覺來,未及反側,夢境尚邇,靜而思之,渺焉茫焉,若有若無,此時如泛虛舟于滄浪萬頃間,又如置身雲際,欲沉而浮,飄蕩空中,但聞一二黃蜂投觸窗紙[6],而窗外老馬齧蔬聲[7]齷齪也,所謂想與因者安在。

Alas! I could bear it if I were not a dreamer. But if this life is indeed all one big dream, then why can I not enjoy a most sublime dream, why can I not hear celestial music and forget all my troubles! Why can I not simply go straight into the Land of Illusion, see Dragons, weed Jasper Flowers, look down from a great height at the distant tiny dots on the island of this mortal world. Or else, let me dream for a few happy moments the Yellow Millet dream, let me see all glory pass before my eyes in a flash. Let me make love on the mountaintop, as the Yellow Emperor did with his goddess, and enjoy an ecstasy that lasts until the morning clouds disperse. Let me be the butterfly of Master Zhuang’s dream, or the vanishing deer of Master Lie’s dream. But I can enjoy none of these! My being is nothing but a total illusion in a realm of total illusion. All of life is one great dream, a great dream within a dream, and in this great dream I can only speak as a dreamer. I awake from my dream only to live the fulfilment of my dream. How can I know where this illusion will ultimately end. 嗟乎!如非夢人則已,若同一夢也,何不聽樂鈞天而忘味帝側[8]?又何不直入太虛,看鞭龍種瑤草[9],俯瞰下界九點一泓[10]。 不然,如邯鄲道上,黃粱富貴,亦可差快一時;或如巫山之游,枕席高唐,亦可風流朝暮;即漆園之蝶,鄭人之鹿,亦無不可。今數者不得其一,徒以至幻之身入至幻之境,人生大夢而大夢複夢,又於夢中說夢,夢覺圓夢,吾不知幻之至於何地而後止。

When I see that fellow Yue Ling down in the Nine Springs, I must engage him in another of his witty exchanges…即起樂令于九原,應必為之投麈。

[1] 《世說新語 • 文學》:

衛玠總角時問樂令夢,樂云:是想。衛曰:形神所不接而夢,豈是想邪。 樂云:因也。未嘗夢乘車入鼠穴,搗齏噉鐵杵,皆無想無因故也。

[2]《莊子 • 大宗師》:

古之真人,其寢不夢。 郭象注:其寢不夢,神定也,所謂至人無夢是也。 至德之人,沒有妄想貪念,故不做夢。

[3] 宋 劉義慶《幽明錄》:

晉兗州刺史沛國宋處宗,嘗買 [得] 一長鳴雞,愛養甚至,恒籠著窗間。雞遂作人語,與處宗談論,極有言智,終日不輟。處宗因此言功大進。



[4] 宋 陸遊《春晚村居雜賦》詩之五:

澆書滿挹浮蛆甕,攤飯橫眠夢蝶牀。 [自注曰:東坡先生謂晨飲為澆書,李黃門謂午睡為攤飯。]

[5] 《莊子 • 齊物論》:


[6] 《五燈會元》卷四福州古靈神贊禪師:

本師又一日在窗下看經,蜂子投窗紙求出。師睹之曰:世界如許廣闊,不肯出,鑽他故紙,驢年去。 遂有偈曰:空門不肯出,投窗也大癡。百年鑽故紙,何日出頭時。

[7] 宋 黃庭堅《六月十七日晝寢》:

紅塵席帽烏靴裡,想見滄州白鳥雙。馬齕hé枯箕喧午枕,夢成風雨浪翻江。 天社注曰:聞馬齕草聲,遂成此夢也。《楞嚴》曰:如重睡人,眠熟床枕,其家有人,於彼睡時,搗練舂米;其人夢中聞舂搗聲,別作他物,或為擊鼓,或為撞鐘。

苕溪漁隱叢話 《石林詩話》云:

外祖晁君誠善詩,蘇子瞻所謂’溫厚靜深如其為人者也。黃魯直嘗誦其‘小雨愔愔人不寐,臥聽羸馬齕殘芻’,愛賞不已。他日得句雲:馬齕枯萁喧午枕,夢驚風雨浪翻江。 自以為工,以語舅氏無咎曰:吾詩實發于乃翁前聯,余始聞舅氏言,不解風雨翻江之意,一日,憩於逆旅,聞旁舍有澎湃鞺鞳之聲,如風浪之曆船者,起視之,乃馬食于槽,水與草齟齬於槽間而為此聲,方悟魯直之好奇;然此亦非可以意索,殆適相遇而得之也。

清 袁枚《隨園詩話卷九》:

晁君誠詩:小雨愔愔人不寐,臥聽羸馬齕殘芻。 真靜中妙境也。黃魯直學之雲:馬齕枯箕喧午夢,夢驚風雨浪翻江。 落筆太狠,便無意致。

清 惲毓鼎《澄齋日記》:








[8] 《史記 • 卷四十三趙世家》:

趙簡子疾,五日不知人,大夫皆懼 … 居二日半,簡子寤。語大夫曰:我之帝所甚樂,與百神遊於鈞天,廣樂九奏萬舞,不類三代之樂,其聲動人心。有一熊欲來援我,帝命我射之,中熊,熊死。又有一羆來,我又射之,中羆,羆死。帝甚喜,賜我二笥,皆有副。吾見兒在帝側,帝屬我一翟犬,曰:及而子之壯也,以賜之。

[9] 唐 李賀《天上謠》:


[10] 唐 李賀 《夢天》詩:


A Letter to Elder Brother

I left the Capital on the Twenty-sixth Day. Puddles of mud filled the road, and my carriage almost overturned several times. I stayed overnight at an inn in Huang Village. Lying there on my pillow, unable to sleep, I arose and lit a candle. I saw a few lines of verse inscribed on the wall. The last line read: 二十六日出京,泥淖[1]載塗[2], 車幾反側者數四[3]。 夜宿南廳[4]旅舍,伏枕不能寐。起燃燭,見壁間有題句,末云:

Day after day, my blue gown is wet with tears. 日教雙淚濕青衫。

It was signed ‘The Hermit of Reed Lake’. I do not know who this ‘Hermit of Reed Lake’ was, nor the reasons for his tears. But perhaps his predicament was the same as mine? Moved by his words, I added some lines to his: 後書茨湖居士[5]。 不知茨湖為何人,亦不知所淚者何事,豈亦如弟之所遭耶。 因感而和之云:

Long have I known that calamity is part of life itself,
And yet the sorrow of it only grows with old age.
I think in silence of the tears of a lifetime,
By the lamplight I gaze down at my blue gown.
早知大患緣身在 ,無奈悲心逐老添。私念半生多少淚,萬痕燈下看青衫。

When I reached South Village, I took lodgings in an old temple. My bed was close to a dilapidated altar, and I fell asleep in the wavering shadows of its lamp. The resident monk was old and deaf, and not a courteous word was exchanged between him and his guests. We went our ways in silence. 抵南村,便覓一古庵下榻。榻近頹龕,夜間即借琉璃燈照睡。僧既老且聾,與客都無酬答,相對默然[6]。

Someone once said: ‘Like the monk who left his monastery to live in a small village temple, boiling his coarse rice in a cracked pot — is this not a sufficient way to spend one’s remaining days?’ This is very much like my current situation, for what else is there for me to worry about! I try hard not to allow myself to be overpowered by grief, so that my eating and sleeping habits are not greatly affected. And yet I am unable to put away my emotions completely, like Chancellor Wang Dao who could not help wailing when he returned to his office, thinking of his son Yue, who had always escorted him behind his carriage. Our brother Song, who recently underwent similar sufferings, has the marks of fresh tears added to his sunken eyes. As for our friend Yongzhong, the ‘lissom immortal’, though removed from all this, could he too not help but feel sorrowful. 昔人云,今如退院僧,於小村庵折腳鐺中煮糙米飯吃,亦足了一生矣[7]。 頗類弟今日形景,更何所計慮哉!亦不敢過於悲感,強自節制,殊不大損眠食。然不能決然斬情者,正如王阿龍每還台必痛哭于王悅舊送處耳[8]。 嵩兄[9]近遭此,見之老眼又添許多淚漬。臞仙[10]於此事較遠,或亦不無悲悼。

As I was staying in the temple, a distressed servant banged on the door and reported that since nightfall, they had been travelling through heavy rain. The funeral hearse had begun to drift, and with their waists deep in water, the hearse-pullers were unable to advance further. They had to camp out in the open instead. My sorrows deepened upon hearing this sombre news. 前者庵宿,夜半有僕人狼狽叩門,云日暮行大雨中,輀[11]浮于水,曳[12]紼[13]者水沒於腰,遂不能前,露處荒草中。是夜聞之,又增一慟[14]。

After the burial on the twenty-ninth, I returned to find the temple surrounded by water. The only way to reach it was by raft. It was a day with neither wind nor rain, but as I sat alone the rustling of the poplar trees outside the temple stirred feelings of deep melancholy in me, and I found myself thinking on our old friends — Liwen, Fuzhai, Xueqin, Yinpu, Yimou, Ruyou, Yian, and Zishu — and how, within a few short years, they had all faded into the desolate mists of time. The joys of yesterday can never be regained. 二十九窀穸[15]即畢,仍歸庵中,繞庵皆大水,非乘筏不得往來。庵前多白楊樹,雖無風雨日,蕭蕭然孤坐一室,易生感懷。每思及故人,如立翁、複齋、雪芹、寅圃、貽謀、汝猷、益庵、紫樹,不數年間,皆蕩為寒煙冷霧。曩日[16]歡笑,那可複得。

Time goes by, the living and the dead go their separate ways. Just as the exiled king of Southern Tang wrote: ‘In the midst of this, one can only bathe oneself with tears day and night.’ In the past, at the Hall of Joyful Peace, we could still put our beds side by side and find comfort in each other’s company. That night, in that forsaken temple, in that deserted village, as I listened to the foxes howl and the crickets chatter, as I stared at the straw prayer-mat, at the lone light of the candle, at the solitary shadow of the wine goblet, the events of these few days seemed to me an aeon in length, and what was I — merely a dreamer talking in my dreams. When would this realm of illusion come to an end? 時移事變,生死異途,所謂此中日夕只以眼淚洗面也[17]。即前在樂安堂,尚自聯床[18]相慰藉,今於荒村野寺、狐嘯蛩吟之際,蒲團佛火,只影孤樽,即此數日前恍如一劫,不幾夢中說夢,何時出此幻境耶。

More than ever, I am now aware that past misfortunes are the inevitable working of karmic retribution. And yet even the keenest edge of reason is insufficient to cut through the ties of emotional attachment. In the midst of my grief, I put forward this small insight for your contemplation. As much as I would wish to make amends for what is past, the ways of destiny are beyond human remedy. Alas! Alas! 因悟夙孼皆因,奚逃惡果,慧鋒無利,焉斬情根。 故于悲泣之餘,又增一重公案。雖欲急懺,都無是處,奈何奈何。

The days and months spin on their way like juggling balls. I am almost fifty. 日月跳丸,半百將至,

Grey are my hair and beard —
sparse are my teeth —
Without my knowing it,
This body has turned seven and forty!

Surely, Bo Juyi wrote these lines for me? 樂天豈為弟詠乎。

I’m returning to the North now. I merely send you this to keep you informed. Please do not worry too much on my behalf. 人北回,聊書近況奉寄,兄不厪念是幸。

[1] 爛泥、泥坑。也比喻艱難而不易擺脫的困境。
[2] 載:充滿; 塗:路途。
[3] 數次。
[4] 自註:南廳即為黃村。
[5] 《釋名》茨,次也,次草爲之也。《書·梓材》惟其塗塈茨。《周禮·夏官·圉師》茨牆則剪闔。《莊子·讓王篇》原憲居魯,環堵之室,茨以生草。
[6] 《紅樓夢》第二回:

只有一個聾腫老僧在那裡煮粥。雨村見了,便不在意。及至問他兩句話,那老僧既聾且昏,齒落舌鈍,所答非所問。雨村不耐煩,便仍出來,意欲到那村肆中沽酒三杯,以助野趣。 甲戌眉批:畢竟雨村還是俗眼,只能識得阿鳳、寶玉、黛玉等未覺之先,卻不識得既證之後。

[7] 宋 陸游《初夜》:

身似遊邊客,心如退院僧。 宋蘇東坡《答參寥三首》:某到貶所半年,凡百粗遣,更不能細說,大略只似靈隱天竺和尚退院後,卻在一個小村院子折足鐺 [chēng] 中,罨糙米飯吃,便過一生也得。其餘,瘴癘病人。北方何嘗不病,是病皆死得人,何必瘴氣,但苦無醫藥。京師國醫手裡死漢尤多。參寥聞此一笑,當不復憂我也。

[8] 阿龍為王導小字。悅,王導之長子。《晉書 • 王導傳》:

悅字長豫,弱冠有高名,事親色養,導甚愛之。導嘗共悅奕棋,爭道,導笑曰:相與有瓜葛,那得為爾邪。 導性儉節,帳下甘果爛敗,令棄之,云:勿使大郎知。 悅少侍講東宮,曆吳王友、中書侍郎,先導卒,諡貞世子。先是,導夢人以百萬錢買悅,潛為祈禱者備矣。尋掘地,得錢百萬,意甚惡之,一皆藏閉。及悅疾篤,導憂念特至,不食積日。忽見一人形狀甚偉,被甲持刀,導問:君是何人。 曰:僕是蔣侯也。公兒不佳,欲為請命,故來耳。公勿復憂。 因求食,遂啖數升。食畢,勃然謂導曰:中書患,非可救者。 言訖不見,悅亦殞絕。悅與導語,恆以慎密為端。導還台,及行,悅未嘗不送至車後,又恆為母曹氏襞斂箱篋中物。悅亡後,導還台,自悅常所送處哭至台門,其母長封作篋,不忍復開。

[9] 嵩山:愛新覺羅 · 永恚 (1730-1790?), 號崧山即嵩山, 清宗室詩人。代善五世孫, 和碩康修親王崇安三子。在他的《神清室詩稿》中有 訪菊、對菊、夢菊、簪菊、問菊等詩。曾為《四松堂集》作序一篇。
[10] 臞qú仙,典出《史記》卷一百一十七司馬相如列傳。司馬相如認為傳說中的眾仙形體容貌特別清瘦,後遂以臞仙等借稱身體清瘦而精神矍鑠的老人。文人學者亦往往以此自稱。

永忠 [1735-1793] 字良輔,又字敬軒;號臞仙,又號蕖仙,栟櫚道人,如幻居士,延芬居士,臒禪,九華道人等。康熙帝十四子允禵之孫,多羅恭勒貝弘明之子,襲封輔國將軍。清代乾隆時期的宗室文人, 也是滿族作家群中重要的一員。曾任宗學總管、滿洲右翼近支第四族教長,有《延芬室集》。詩體秀逸,書法遒勁,頗有晉人風味。常不衫不履,散步市衢。遇奇書異籍,必買之歸,雖典衣絕食不顧也。

[11] 古代運棺材的車。
[12] 拉,牽引。
[13] 古代出殯時拉棺材用的大繩:執紼 [送殯]。
[14] 慟 tòng:表示極其悲痛。
[15] 窀穸 zhūnxī:墳墓。
[16] 曩 nǎng: 從前,以往。
[17] 宋 王銍《默記》卷下:李國主歸朝後與金陵舊宮人書云:


[18] 元 王實甫《西廂記》第二本楔子:


[19] 唐 白居易《浩歌行》: