There are mountains all around Chu1.The woods and tranquil valleys of the many peaks to the southwest are especially beautiful. The peak that provides the grandest and most profoundly lovely prospect is Mount Langya
If one travels into the mountains for six or seven li2
one gradually comes to hear the murmuring sound of water, and rushing out from between two peaks, is a 'brewing spring'3
.By a bend where the road rounds a peak, there spreads a pavilion overlooking the spring, this is the Drunken Old Man's Pavilion
.Who built the pavilion? The monks of the mountain say it was Zhixian4
. Who gave it its name? The Magistrate
himself gave it its name.
The magistrate comes with his guests to drink here, he drinks only a little and is drunk, moreover he is the most advanced in years, so he has given himself the name Drunken Old Man. The Drunken Old Man's thoughts are not set on wine, but on the pleasures to be found among the mountains and rivers. The Drunken Old Man attains the pleasures of the mountains and rivers in his heart, although he expresses it through his wine. 5
The sun rises and the mist in the woods scatters, the clouds return and the hollows of the cliffs are in shadow, these are the changes between light and darkness, the sunrise and nightfall amongst the mountains. The wildflowers blooming with a heady fragrance, fine trees exquisitely dappling shadow, the wind crisp and the sky high and clear, the water falling low so that the rocks begin to show, these are the four seasons amongst the mountains. Setting out in the morning, returning at evening, the scenery of the four seasons is not alike, and pleasure too is without end.
We come across carriers on the road, singing, or travellers resting beneath the trees, those in front calling out and those behind responding, the bent-backed old folks and babes in arms, coming and going without end, the people of Chu a-journeying. By the mountain stream we fish, the stream is deep and the fish are sleek; we make wine from the brewing spring, the spring is fragrant and the wine is crystal clear. Mountain game and wild vegetables spread carelessly before us, this is the Magistrate's banquet. The joy of feasting to our heart's content, comes not from the accompaniment of lyres or flutes; casting a dart and hitting the target6, winning a game of go, the wine tallies all mixed up7,getting up and sitting down, chattering noisily, this is the happiness of a crowd of guests. Pale of face and white of hair, sitting subdued amongst this all, the Magistrate is drunk.
Already the evening sun is on the mountain, and people's shadows jumble. The Magistrate heads back, and the guests follow. Shadows gather in the forest thicket, cries come from above and below, the visitors depart and the birds and beasts take their pleasure. And the birds know the pleasures of the woods and mountains, and do not know the pleasures of mankind, and the guests know the pleasure of going on a outing with the Magistrate, and do not know that he takes his pleasure from their pleasure. The drunk who shares their pleasures, the sober man who retells it in writing is the Magistrate. Who is the Magistrate? He is Ouyang Xiu of Luling.
1 Chuzhou, in present day Anhui Province
2 The exact distance measured by a Chinese li has varied from place to place and time to time. It is generally held to be about 500 metres.
3 Springs with water clear enough for brewing wine were called 'brewing springs' [niang quan] in ancient China.
4 The name of a monk from Langya Mountain Monastery. His name means 'wise immortal'.
5 My translation of the preceding line a touch shaky I fear. Expect a revision when I can check a few more commentaries. Never know, maybe I lucked out.
6 Ancient Chinese drinking game which involved trying to get darts into the neck of a wine flask, loser had to drink.
7 People kept track of their drinks with bamboo tallies. Here they've given up caring who's drunk what.
This is a Song dynasty prose piece by essayist and historian Ouyang Xiu written after his banishment from the Imperial Court to serve as Magistrate of a remote county in Anhui. As we can see, he didn't let this get him down. I've also translated his The old oil seller judges archery