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


Searching for the Ming: Part Three | China Heritage Quarterly

Searching for the Ming: Part Three

Zhang Dai
Translated by Duncan Campbell

This is the third 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:

Western Approaches 西湖西路

Flew-Here Peak 飛來峰

Flew-Here Peak juts up sharply, penetrating the clouds and appearing like a crystal inlay within the firmament. It is a most fantastically shaped rock fallen from the sleeve of Madman Mi.[33] Any petromaniac who caught sight of it would be bound to drop to their knees in homage, not daring a disrespectful word and addressing it as 'Elder Rock'. How I hate Yang the Bald One for having its entire surface carved into Buddha statues, Arhats and Revered Ones, hundreds upon hundreds of them, crowded one beside another.[34] It is as if The Lady of the West's gorgeous skin and lustrous body had been tattooed all over with depictions of terraces and ponds, birds and beasts, all outlined with black ink. My very bones ache when I think about how this extraordinary Heavenly-inspired phenomenon has suffered at the hands of chisel and hammer. And then I begin to hate the mountain for the fact that it chose not to hide itself away in the Western Quarter but rather to fly here from Spiritual Vulture Peak without a second thought, suffering this sort of humiliation as a consequence. An analogy can be drawn here between the fate of the mountain and that of the superior man who, born in ill times, rather than exercising restraint and hiding himself away, makes public display of his talents, reaping nothing but mistreatment and cruelty as reward for his efforts, two examples of this being Guo Pu[35] and Mi Heng.[36] With a sigh, the monk Wise Principle had asked the mountain why it flew here, for he too felt both bitterness and regret at its fate.

Moreover, the Arhats that Yang the Bald One had carved alongside the creek were made in his own image and depict him either riding a lion or astride an elephant, with naked maids in attendance and presenting him with tributes of flowers. One such statue is already too many! Tian Rucheng smashed one of them to pieces with an awl,[37] and, as a youth studying here in Goulou Mountain Hut, I did the same.

It is said that whilst he was living in Hidden Virtue Temple, Yang the Bald One took to desecrating ancient graves, indulging in necrophilia with the disinterred corpses. Knowing that behind the temple stood the graves of the wife of the Supervisor Lai and the daughter of the Assistant Director of the Left Lu Hua, both of whom had been extremely beautiful and had died young, their bodies having been preserved in mercury, Yang the Bald One ordered them disinterred. A monk called Zhendi living at the temple at the time, a bit of a simpleton who collected firewood and drew water, became enraged when he heard what was happening and started to scream insults at Yang the Bald One. Fearing that the monk's actions would get them all into trouble, the abbot had him locked up. At the fifth watch of the night, when Yang the Bald One got up to go about his obscene business, Zhendi escaped by jumping over a wall, took up Skanda's wooden baton and set off to beat Yang the Bald One's brains out. Yang's retainers rushed to save him from this fate, not one of them remaining unscathed. Zhendi danced around in the mêlée, soaring yards into the air like a falcon or a leaping tiger in quite a preternatural manner. All of a sudden, the lanterns and candles went out and the handles of all shovels and hoes that had been used to excavate the grave disintegrated. In absolute terror, Yang the Bald One believed that Skanda himself had made an appearance and far from persisting with what he had been doing, he fled with all his men, never daring to mention the matter again. In actual fact, the monk had simply been giving vent to the anger of the spirit of the mountain itself.


Cold Spring Pavilion 冷泉亭

Cold Spring Pavilion stands to the left of the gate of the Temple of the Soul's Retreat. Its cinnabar walls and green trees set off the surrounding gloom of the forest. The pavilion faces a steep cliff face from which can be heard the gurgling the spring, pure and soulful to the ear. A dozen western chestnut trees grow behind the pavilion, tall and wide of girth;[38] standing under their shade in a cool breeze serves to refresh one's entire body. The chestnuts, as they ripen in early autumn, are as large as cherries; cracking them open to eat, one finds their flesh the colour of beeswax amber, their fragrance that of the seed-cases of the lotus. When I was studying at Goulou Mountain Hut in the Jiazi year of the reign of the Tianqi emperor [1624], the monks here made use of the chestnuts in their offerings to the Buddha. I found them crisper than the water-lily, sweeter even than the walnut.[Fig.4]

Fig.4 Cold Spring Pavilion 冷泉亭, reprinted without attribution in Old Photographs of West Lake, p.84.

During the summer months, in search of respite from the heat, I would move my pillow and my bamboo mat here into the pavilion and lie beneath the moon, the music of the brook burbling away nearby merging with that of the flutes and stings. On one occasion, having heard the sound of this brook, Zhang Mingbi intoned that poem by the Southern Song poet Lin Ji that goes: 'Floating towards West Lake amidst song and dance,/ One forgets entirely that one is deep within the mountains'. Here he speaks of the fact that the sound of the brook so embodies that of bells and musical stones that it is as if it were singing and if it were not flowing into West Lake where would it flow! I once made the comment that the people living by West Lake are never without a song, no mountain here is without its song, no river or brook without its song, painted ladies and dissolute dandies, even village maidens and mountain monks, none are without a song on their lips. I remember also that Chen Jiru[39] once wrote that: 'West Lake has famous mountains aplenty but no recluses, ancient temples but no eminent monks, painted beauties but all without talented mates, and even the Birthday of the Flowers is not accompanied by moonlit nights'. Cao Exue also wrote a poem ridiculing this circumstance:

Roast Goose and lamb, followed by lime soup,
First a visit to Lake Heart Pavilion then on to the Tomb of Yue Fei.
In the slanting rays of the sun before dusk the visitors are not yet drunk,
But then they cast aside the bright moon and return to Qiantang.

When I lived by West Lake, I usually stayed in a houseboat and every night I could see the moon reflected in the lake; nowadays, to avoid the clamour of the Temple of the Soul's Retreat, I come in the evenings to Cold Spring Pavilion and here, each night, I look out at the moon shining upon the mountain. How very fortunate I've been in the pleasures that I have laid claim to in my life! I once claimed that nobody more appreciated the beauty of West Lake than Su Shi, but he too would retreat within the walls once night had fallen. The tranquillity of the deep mountains, the moon shining bright within the empty firmament, pillowing one's head on the rocks and rinsing one's mouth in the stream, lying beneath the stars and in the shadows of the flowers, apart from Lin Bu and Li Bo of Goulou Mountain, few have been those that have experienced such things. Even the monk Huili and the poet Luo Binwang[40] were not granted the pleasure of taking their place here besides me.


Temple of the Soul's Retreat 靈隱寺

During the Ming dynasty, first the Temple of Manifest Blessings was destroyed by fire, not long after this, the Temple of the Soul's Retreat too burnt down and, soon thereafter, Upper India Temple was consumed by flames. These three great temples were destroyed one after another in a short space of time. At the time, the abbot of the Temple of the Soul's Retreat was the monk Jude and he ensured that Soul's Retreat was the first of the three to be restored.[Fig.5]

Fig.5 Temple of the Soul's Retreat 靈隱寺, reprinted without attribution in Old Photographs of West Lake, p.138.

As to this temple, it was first established by the monk Huili in the First Year of the Xianhe reign of the Jin dynasty [326], the plaque at the gate reading: 'Site of the Awakening to Luminous Virtue'. According to legend, it was written by Ge Hong. The temple grounds included four stone stupas built by Qian Liu, the Martial and Majestic Prince of Wu and Yue. In the Fourth Year of the Jingde reign of the Song dynasty [1007], the name of the temple was changed to 'Chan Temple of the Jingde Soul's Retreat', but it was destroyed in the Third Year of the Zhizheng reign of the Yuan [1343]. Restored at the beginning of the reign of the Hongwu emperor of the Ming, it was given its present name.

In the Seventh Year of the reign of the Xuande emperor [1432], the monk Cloud Continuance had the temple gate constructed and Excellent Tablet built the main hall. This hall contained an obeisance stone more than one zhang in length and decorated with exquisite patterns in the shapes of flowers and tortoises. In the Eleventh Year of the reign of the Zhengtong emperor [1446], the monk Jadeite Principle constructed the Directly Pointing Hall, the plaque of which was inscribed by the noted calligrapher Zhang Jizhi, but in the Third Year of the reign of the Longqing emperor [1569] the temple was again destroyed. It was rebuilt by the monk Rutong in the Twelfth Year of the reign of the Wanli emperor [1584] and then repaired by the eunuch Sun Long in the Twenty-eighth year of the reign of the same emperor [1600], only to be destroyed again in the Thirteenth Year of the reign of the Chongzhen emperor [1640]. The monk Jude, upon examining Rutong's old account books and discovering that he had spent some 80,000 taels on having the temple rebuilt, knew that to have the same done again now would cost at least double that amount. Devoting himself to the task, he soon raised the sum his Karma, it would seem, being somewhat larger than even that of either the monk Zhuhong[41] or Golden Grain Tathagata himself.

The monk Jude is a cousin of mine and, in the Dingyou year [1657], I went to pay my respects to him. At the time, work on the main hall and the abbot's room had not yet commenced, but off to the east a line of secluded belvederes and fine meditation cells were all but completed, and over a hundred guest rooms and monks' cells had been finished and were already fully furnished with yew tables and rattan beds and all other necessary accoutrements. In the refectory there were three huge newly cast bronze woks. Each could cook three piculs of rice, enough to feed a thousand people. Pointing at the woks, Jude told me: 'This is the patrimony that it has taken me more than a decade to put together'. The resident monks are more numerous here than at any other major temple. Noon that day, as we sat sharing a meal, a novice appeared with a noteat. Not having any idea what it was about, I heard him tell the novice: 'Ask the quartermaster to open up the granary'. The novice departed, and once I had finished eating I went for a walk outside the gate of the temple. There I saw more than a thousand men swarming about, all of them shouldering loads of rice which they quickly unloaded into the granary. They went about their business of measuring out the grain without a sound and had soon disappeared. I asked the monk what this was all about, and he replied: 'Every year, Master So-and-so, our benefactor from Hanyang, gives us five hundred piculs of rice, paying for the cost of its transportation here as well and not allowing the porters to accept as much as a cupful of water from the temple. He's done this for seven years now.' I sighed with admiration. When I asked him when he expected the main hall to be completed, he replied that as he would turn sixty in the sixth month of next year, and his disciples now numbered over 10,000, if each gave ten taels, he would have 100,000 taels with which he could complete his task. Three years later, both the main hall and the abbot's room had been finished, and I wrote a poem to record the splendour of the place.


North Tall Peak 北高峰

North Tall Peak stands behind the Temple of the Soul's Retreat and is reached by means of several hundred stone steps that wind their way around thirty-six bends. On its summit stands Flowery Fluorescence Temple, dedicated to the Five Sages. Halfway up the mountain, one finds a temple dedicated to the Horse Head Girl, the Goddess of the Silkworm, and here in spring crowds come to pray for bountiful silk harvests. The seven-storied pagoda on the peak was built during the Tianbao reign period [742-55] of the Tang dynasty, only to be destroyed in the Huichang reign period [841-46] of the same dynasty. It was restored by Qian Liu, the Martial and Majestic Prince of Wu and Yue, but was again destroyed in the Seventh Year of the Xianchun reign period [1272] of the Song dynasty.[Fig.6]

Fig.6 Twin Peaks Piercing Clouds 雙峰插雲, reprinted without attribution in Old Photographs of West Lake, p.10.

Here the various hills crowd around like screens and the lake is as a sunken mirror. Viewed from high above, the various pleasure craft and fishing junks upon the lake disappear into the waves like gulls or wild ducks, only to reappear in a moment's time. As they draw further away they become ever more indistinct and, finally, one can see only a lingering hint of their presence. Far off to the west the Raksasa River resembles a newly washed filament of raw silk, merging in the distance with the haze of the sea, the vague horizon seemingly boundless in its expanse. Zhang Gongliang wrote a poem about this scene that gives the lines: 'The mist of the river separates into whiteness, that of the sea congeals,/ Where the green of Mount Wu ends, there rises Mount Yue', a veritable painting within a poem. The prefectural city stands precisely between river and lake, a twisting maze of streets and lanes spread out into the distance, the scale-like tiles of the roofs and the dense greenness of the trees and bamboo setting each other off to best advantage, at once both elegant and dense, and with its dancing phoenix and coiled dragon, this is truly the site of august power!

On the slopes of the mountain stands the stupa of the Chan Master Wuzhao. His lay name was Wen Xi and he was a man of the age of the Tang dynasty emperor Suzong. He was buried here in the stupa. During the Song, when Han Tuozhou[42] turned the place into a burial ground, he had the stupa opened up, discovering that it contained a porcelain niche in which Wuzhao's body lay as if he were still alive, his hair hanging down past his shoulders, his fingernails having encircled his body. Han Tuozhou had him cremated. It took three days to do so completely, leaving behind a hundred or so relics. 北高峰在靈隱寺後,石磴數百級,曲折三十六灣。上有華光廟,以祀五聖。山半有馬明王廟,春日祈蠶者咸往焉。峰頂浮屠七級,唐天寶中建,會昌中毀;錢武肅王修復之,宋咸淳七年復毀。此地群山屏繞,湖水鏡涵,由上視下,歌舫漁舟,若鷗鳧出沒煙波,遠而益微,僅規其影。西望羅剎江,若匹練新濯,遙接海色,茫茫無際。張公亮有句:"江氣白分海氣合,吳山青盡越山來。"詩中有畫。郡城正值江湖之間,委蛇曲折,左右映帶,屋宇鱗次,竹木雲蓊,鬱鬱蔥蔥,鳳舞龍盤,真有王氣蓬勃。山麓有無著禪師塔。師名文喜,唐肅宗時人也,瘞骨於此。韓侂胄取為葬地,啓其塔,有陶龕焉。容色如生,發垂至肩,指爪盤屈繞身,舍利數百粒,三日不壞,竟荼毗之。

Goulou Mountain Hut 岣嶁山房

Li Bo, who took the sobriquet Goulou, was from Wulin and he lived at the foot of Taoguang's Hill, within the confines of the Temple of the Soul's Retreat. There he had built a small mountain hut of a few rooms, sited above and thus commanding a view of a twisting brook that ran through the secluded valley. With its bubbling brook flowing beneath his belvedere, its sheer cliffs thrusting into the heavens and the profuse vegetation of its ancient trees, the hermitage was exquisite in its sense of isolation. Here the hermit lived, all alone. Addicted as he was to poetry, he formed a deep friendship with Xu Wei of Heavenly Pond.[43] When guests arrived he would summon his serving boys, ordering them to get a small boat and to ply them all to that section of the lake that lay between the West Chill and Broken-Off bridges. Once there, they would laugh and sing the day away. Sometime before he died he built his own tomb out of mountain rocks, and it was here that he was eventually buried. He wrote a work entitled Collected Poems of the Hermit of Goulou Mountain, in four volumes.

In the Jiazi year of the reign of the Tianqi emperor [1624], I studied here with Zhao Jiechen, Chen Hongshou[44], Yan Xubo, Zhuo Renyue and my younger brother Zhang Feng. Both the abbot, Zichao, and the garden vegetables and mountain herbs were plain, unseasoned and pure. But I regret that at the time I had not yet managed to cleanse my heart of the desire for fame and fortune and this failing caused me to offend against the spirits of the mountain, a fact of which I remain deeply ashamed until this day.

A Short Record of Goulou Hermitage
by Zhang Dai

Goulou hermitage abuts upon the mountain, the brook and Taoguang's Road, and thus no path leading to it is without a bridge, not one of its structures fails to sour upwards like a belvedere. Beyond the gate, the hoary pines look down with an expression of disdain and the thick vegetation is studded with trees of various other kinds. The chill green shadow cast by the trees seems boundless and is such that the faces of one's companions disappear into it. The stone bridge is set low to the ground and is large enough for ten people to sit upon it in comfort. The monks had cut down some bamboo poles and used them to lead the water of the spring beneath the bridge, and the waterwheels creaked and groaned as they turned.

In the Jiazi year =of the reign of the Tianqi emperor [1624], I shut myself up here for seven months or so, satiating my ears with the sound of the brook and my eyes with the genial shade of the trees. The mountain was covered in chestnut trees and bamboo shoots of incomparable sweetness and fragrance. The people of the district used the hermitage as their marketplace and would arrive each morning with fruit and fowl for sale. But never any fish. So I dammed up the brook to form a pond and there I raised several dozen large fish. When guest would arrive, I could fish one out and serve it fresh. In the late afternoons I would set off for a stroll, visiting Cold Spring Pavilion or the Bao Family Garden or Flew-Here Peak. On one such occasion, I followed the course of the brook to take a look at the Buddhist statues to be found there on the mountain, imprecating the name of Yang the Bald One as I went along. Once at the spot, I saw a statue of a Persian barbarian riding upon a dragon, accompanied by four or five barbarian maids who were presenting him with a tribute of flowers and fruit. The maids were all naked. I promptly decapitated the statue of Yang the Bald One with an awl and proceeded to smash up all the maids as well, throwing the shards into the latrines in order to revenge myself upon him. The monks, believing that I had desecrated the Buddha himself, began to mutter darkly to themselves: 'Tut! Tut! What a strange business'. Only once I had explained to them who he was did they all cheer up and begin to laugh in admiration for what I had done.




Blue Lotus Mountain Hut 青蓮山房

Blue Lotus Mountain Hut had been the villa of Master Bao Yingdeng.[45] Set within the tall bamboos and ancient flowering plums and pillowed upon Lotus Blossom Peak, the Mountain Hut overlooks a winding creek, deep ravines and steep cliff faces, set off beautifully within the forested peak. Master Bao was obsessed with springs and rocks and 'every day would stroll in his garden for pleasure'.[46] At the time, the beauty of the terraces and kiosks here was unparalleled in the age; shards of rock had been used to form a platform and brushwood woven to form a door, so that within the sumptuous extravagance there remained a touch or two of the rustic, just like a ruled and measured red and blue painting by the Tang Master Li Zhaodao, with the towers and terraces finely drawn and even the bamboo hedges and thatched huts resplendent in their golds and greens. In those days the Asymmetrical Room and Secret Chamber were full of beautiful women, and walking through these rooms today one can still smell the lingering traces of their perfume. At the time so numerous where the bundles of head-ornaments and piles of silk embroidery that lay within the chambers that one had to twist and turn, circle round and about before being able to find a way out. So clever had been the Master's design that it was like that Labyrinth Tower of old.[47] No other member of the Zhejiang gentry could match the excellence of Master Bao's troupe of actors and singers.

Although it has since changed hands a number of times, people nowadays, as they pass its gate, continue to refer to it as Bao's Northern Estate.


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Searching for the Ming

Notes: Part Three

[33] The sobriquet of Mi Fu 米芾 (1052-1107), the celebrated Song dynasty painter, calligrapher, and art historian, who was also a noted petromanic. For a short biography of him (by Lothar Ledderose), see Sung Biographies, vol.4, pp.116-27.

[34] Yang the Bald One is a reference to Yang Lianzhenjia 楊璉真伽 (Yang Rin-chen-skyabs) (fl. 1277-88), a lama of Tangut or Tibetan origins who served as Supervisor of the Buddhist Teaching South of the [Yangtze] River under Khubilai Khan. He was responsible for the restoration of a large number of Buddhist temples but earned the hatred of the Chinese population through his greed in general and his desecration of the Song imperial tombs near Shaoxing in particular. He was also responsible for the carving of the esoteric (Tantric) statues at Flew-Here Peak. For a discussion of this man, see Herbert Franke, 'Tibetans in Yüan China', in John D. Langlois, ed., China Under Mongol Rule, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, pp.321-25; and Igor de Rachewiltz, et al, eds., In the Service of the Khan: Eminent Personalities of the Early Mongol-Yuan Period,Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1993, pp.561-62 and pp.577-78. For a discussion of the statues in particular, see Heather Karmay's Early Sino-Tibetan Art, Warminster: Aris and Phillips Ltd., 1975, p.24; and, Wang Xufeng 王旭烽Xihu xin mengxun—Hangzhou 西湖新夢尋—杭州, Shanghai: Guji Chubanshe, 2001, pp.194-7.

[35] Guo Pu 郭璞 (276-324) suffered as a result of his opposition to a planned revolt against the Eastern Jin dynasty.

[36] Mi Heng 禰衡, a man of the Eastern Han dynasty, was executed for his public humiliation of the general Cao Cao 曹操 (155-220).

[37] This claim is somewhat disingenuous, it seems. In the 'Lawless and Forlorn' chapter of his West Lake Tourist Gazetteer: Supplement (Xihu youlan zhiyu),Shanghai: Zhonghua Shuju, 1958, p.116, Tian Rucheng records that in the Twenty-second year of the reign of the Jiajing Emperor (1543), the then Prefect of Hangzhou, Chen Shixian 陳仕賢, ordered three of the statues depicting Yang Lianzhenjia destroyed.

[38] It was believed that these trees had been brought back from India by the monk Huili and planted here.

[39] For a short biography of Chen Jiru 陳繼儒 (1558-1639), perhaps the preeminent cultural figure of his age, see ECCP, pp.83-84.

[40] On Luo Binwang 駱賓王 (before 640-97), an important early Tang dynasty poet, see Indiana Companion, vol.1, pp.596-97.

[41] On the late-Ming monk Zhuhong 祩宏 (1535-1615), see Yü Chün-fang, The Revival of Buddhism in China: Chu-hung and the Late Ming Synthesis,,New York: Columbia University Press, 1981.

[42] Han Tuozhou 韓侂胄 (1151-1207) was executed for his opposition to the appeasement policies of the Southern Song dynasty; for a biography of the man, see Sung Biographies, vol.1, pp.376-84.

[43] Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521-93), from Shanyin in Zhejiang, was an eccentric mid-Ming poet, painter, calligrapher and dramatist. For a short biography, see DMB, vol.1, pp.609-12. When Xu Wei was imprisoned and sentenced to death for having killed his second wife, Zhang Dai's great-grandfather Zhang Yuanbian was instrumental in having him released. Zhang Dai's first known literary activity was a collection of Xu Wei's hitherto unpublished poems.

[44] Chen Hongshou 陳洪綬 (1598-1652) was a noted late Ming painter. For a short biography of this man (by Fang Chao-ying), see ECCP, pp.87-8.

[45] Bao Yingdeng 包應登 (zi Hansuo 涵所), from Hangzhou. After becoming an Advanced Scholar in 1586 and serving as Assistant Surveillance Commissioner in the Education Intendant Circuit of Fujian Province, Bao retired to live out his days beside the banks of West Lake. He was a close friend of Zhang Dai's grandfather Zhang Rulin.

[46] An allusion to the line in Tao Qian's 陶潛 (365-427) poem 'The Return: A Rhapsody' (Gui qu lai ci 歸去來辭) which, in J.R. Hightower's translation, goes: 'Every day I stroll in the garden for pleasure', for which see John Minford and Joseph S.M. Lau, eds., Classical Chinese Literature: An Anthology of Translations, Vol I: From Antiquity to the Tang Dynasty, New York: Columbia University Press and Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2000, p.518.

[47] Built by Emperor Yang of the Sui dynasty (r.605-617) once he had established his southern capital at Yangzhou, Labyrinth Tower (Milou 迷樓) came to symbolize both the decadence and extravagance that characterized his reign and its inevitable consequence—dynastic collapse. Emperor Yang was murdered within his tower.