This is the ninth year of Yungho (AD353) Kueichou in cycle. We met in late spring at the Orchid Pavilion in Shanyin to celebrate the Water Festival.
All the scholar friends are gathered, and there is a goodly mixture of old and young. In the background lie high peaks and deep forests, while a clear, gurgling brook catches the light to the right and to the left. We then arrange ourselves, sitting on its bank, drinking in succession form the goblet as it floats down the stream .No music is provided, but with drinking and with song, our hearts are gay and at ease. It is a clear spring day with a mild, caressing breeze, the vast universe, throbbing with life, lies spread before us, entertaining the eye and pleasing the spirit and all the senses. It is perfect.
Now when men come together, they let their thoughts travel to the present. Some enjoy a quiet conversation indoors and others play about outdoors, occupied with what they love. The forms of annulment differ according to temperaments, but when each has found what he wants, he is happy and never feels old, then as time passes on and one is tired of his pursuits, it seems that what fascinated him not so long ago has become a mere memory. What a thought! Besides, whether individually we live a long life or not, we all return to nothingness. The ancient regarded death as the great question. Is it not sad to think of it?
I often thought that the people of the past lived and felt exactly as we of today. Whenever I read their writing, I felt this way and was seized with its pathos. It is cool comfort to say that life and death are different phases of the same thing and that a long span of life or a short one does not matter. Alas! The people of the future will look upon us as we look upon those who have gone before us. Hence I have recorded here those present and what they said. Ages may pass and times may change, but the human sentiments will be the same; I know that future readers who set their eyes upon these words will be affected in the same way.
The Orchid Pavilion
In the ninth year of the reign Yungho[A.D. 353] in the beginning of late spring we met at the Orchid Pavilion in Shanyin of Kweich’i for the Water Festival, to wash away the evil spirits.
Here are gathered all the illustrious persons and assembled both the old and the young. Here are tall mountains and majestic peaks, trees with thick foliage and tall bamboos. Here are also clear streams and gurgling rapids, catching one’s eye from the right and left. We group ourselves in order, sitting by the waterside, and drinking in succession from a cup floating down the curving stream; and although there is no music from string and wood-wind instruments, yet with alternate singing and drinking, we are well disposed to thoroughly enjoy a quiet intimate conversation.
Today the sky is clear, the air is fresh and the kind breeze is mild. Truly enjoyable it is sit to watch the immense universe above and the myriad things below, traveling over the entire landscape with our eyes and allowing our sentiments to roam about at will, thus exhausting the pleasures of the eye and the ear.
Now when people gather together to surmise life itself, some sit and talk and unburden their thoughts in the intimacy of a room, and some, overcome by a sentiment, soar forth into a world beyond bodily realities. Although we select our pleasures according to our inclinations—some noisy and rowdy, and others quiet and sedate—yet when we have found that which pleases us, we are all happy and contented, to the extent of forgetting that we are growing old. And then, when satiety follows satisfaction, and with the change of circumstances, change also our whims and desires, there then arises a feeling of poignant regret. In the twinkling of an eye, the objects of our former pleasures have become things of the past, still compelling in us moods of regretful memory. Furthermore, although our lives may be long or short, eventually we all end in nothingness. “Great indeed are life and death”, said the ancients. Ah! What sadness!
I often study the joys and regrets of the ancient people, and as I lean over their writings and see that they were moved exactly as ourselves, I am often overcome by a feeling of sadness and compassion, and would like to make those things clear to me. Well I know it is a lie to say that life and death are the same thing, and that longevity and early death make no difference! Alas! As we of the present look upon those of the past, so will posterity look upon our present selves. Therefore, have I put down a sketch of these contemporaries and their sayings at this feast, and although time and circumstances may change, the way they will evoke our moods of happiness and regret will remain the same. What will future readers feel when they cast their eyes upon this writing.