Go to contents

Troubles brought on by a poem

Posted August. 19, 2022 07:52,   

Updated August. 19, 2022 07:52


Cherry blossoms are in full bloom in a Taoist temple on the Imperial estate. Carriages of gentlemen on the way home after a flower outing run with a cloud of dust. The poet is repelled by the sight of everyone praising the beauty of flowers in unison, which sounds like blindless assentation and flattery. Nine years ago when the poet was demoted to the countryside, these cherry blossom trees were out of sight, and now they are all over the temple grounds. He is awed by a sense of isolation upon seeing how things have changed. The poet had joined the reformist during the mid-Tang dynasty, but the reform movement failed. After a nine-year demotion in the Southern Barbarians’ land of Longzhou, the poet returns to Chang’an, only to witness the government seized by those who have newly risen to power, whom the poet likened to “countless cherry blossom trees on the temple grounds.” The poet must have been depressed at the strange sight of young gentlemen pompously walking across the street, realizing the change of time.

When this poem started to be widely read by the people, some made groundless accusation against the poet, arguing that the poem is full of resentment and anger. The accusers criticized the poet for having ridiculed and satirized them as classless. The poet was again demoted to Guangdong Province and returned to the town 14 years later. We can only imagine how the poet might have felt upon revisiting the temple. “Half of the expansive garden has been covered with moss, and cherry blossoms have long been gone and rape blossoms are in bloom. Where have all the ascetics who planted cherry blossoms gone? I was here, and now I am back” (an excerpt from “Taking a stroll on the temple again”). The poet might have wanted to remind himself of the truth that justice wins out in the long run.