CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
No. 28, December 2011


Searching for the Ming: Part Six | China Heritage Quarterly

Searching for the Ming: Part Six

Zhang Dai
Translated by Duncan Campbell

This is the sixth page of Duncan Campbell's translations of excerpts from Zhang Dai's Search for West Lake in My Dreams. The other pages can be accessed via the following links:

Environs 西湖外景

West Creek 西溪

Millet Mountain is sixty-two zhang high and has a circumference of eighteen li and two hundred paces. At the foot of the mountain is Stone Man Ridge, rising up sharply in a most reverential manner. It is shaped like a man, his double topknot jutting out. Once one has crossed the ridge, one comes across West Creek and the several hundred people living here have gathered within a market village. Legend has it that soon after he retreated to the south and first arrived in Wulin, Emperor Gaozong, observing the richness of the land here, intended to use it for his capital. Later on, having obtained Phoenix Mountain, he was recorded as saying: 'West Creek, we'll leave as it is for the moment', the place having been given its present name as a result of this.[Fig.16]

Fig.16 West Spring 西溪, reprinted without attribution in Old Photographs of West Lake, p.166.

It is a most isolated spot, with many ancient plums of a dwarf variety. Their boughs are twisted and tangled, just like the pines of Yellow Mountain. Enthusiasts, when they get to this place, buy up the smallest trees they can find and take them home to use as part of bonsai arrangements. There is an Autumn Snow Hermitage here and within the hermitage there is a large expanse of bulrushes. It is a most extraordinary sight to see them when, under a bright full moon, they turn as white as snow. To my mind, West Creek is the very embodiment of the elegance of the scenery of Jiangnan, for here one can indulge one's eyes with beauty and ones ears with the music of pipes and song. If one wished to find an isolated creek or a secluded valley wherein to hide away from the world, like Peach Blossom Source or Chrysanthemum River of old, I can think of no better place.

Fig.17 The Yuhang Way 余杭道上, photograph from the early Republic, reprinted without attribution in Old Photographs of West Lake, last image.

My friend Jiang Dao'an owned a villa besides West Creek and invited me to join him in retreat. As I was still immersed in the purposeless affairs of the world at the time, I was never able to do so, a circumstance that I continue to regret to this day.



Searching for the Ming