From the ancient times, the whole area covering Sichuan, a southwestern Chinese province, has been called as Shu, and the road that connects Changan to Shu was called the Shu road. Shu is also a hometown of Li Bai, who described the Shu road as a tough land that is “harder to walk on than to climb the blue sky, where a variety of wild beasts flock together” in his poem “A hard path to Shu.” Sending off his friend who started off to the very hard land, the poet illustrated the landscape of the Shu road and consoled his friend, with some optimistic advice.
“How hard it is to walk on the Shu road! Walking down the plank road that cuts across the cliff, mountains will emerge out of nowhere, and horses will trot past the clouds. I am familiar with the topographical features of the land, and other people have said so. Although I am worried about your trip, don’t be too overwhelmed. Think about how beautiful blossoming flower trees that cover the plank road and how gleaming the spring waters meandering through the castle would be.
One cannot pass by these gifts of nature. Don’t fret about the vicissitudes of the life as an official. For the fate is already a given, don’t even think about going to the fortuneteller such as Yan Junping of the Han dynasty who was well-known for the accuracy of his readings.” The poet’s encouragement sounds like a recitation of his own experience as well as self-assurance. The poet’s friend would have felt much relieved by the poet’s cordial encouragement not to fret about obstacles before his eyes.