When young, Su Shi and his younger brother Su Zhe passed through Mianchi County on their way to Kaifeng to take civil service examinations. The brothers stayed in an old Buddhist monk’s place, and each left a poem on the wall of a Buddhist monastery. When Su Shi moved to his newly assigned post after passing the exams, Su Zhe sent his brother a poem after sending off Su Shi and returning to Kaifeng. In his poem entitled “Sending memories of Mianchi County to my brother,” he worries about a rough journey ahead of his brother and reminisces the poems they left together on the wall of the monastery. The below is a poem written by Su Shi upon his arrival to Mianchi County in response to his younger brother’s poem:
What is our life on earth?
A flock of migrating geese
Rest for a moment on the snow,
Leave the print of their claws
And fly away, some East, some West.
The old monk is no more.
There is a new gravestone for him.
On the broken wall of his hut
You can’t find the poems we wrote.
There’s nothing to show we’ve ever been there.
The road was long. We were tired out.
My limping mule brayed all the way.
(Translation cited: https://thebamboosea.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/su-tung-po-tracks-in-the-snow/)