posted 18 Mar 2013, 01:02 by Jim Sheng
[Sung Yu, 3rd and 4th centuries B.C., was allegedly a student of the famous Ch'u P'ing, and a statesman and a poet. His poems are included among the "Rhapsodies of Ch'u."] 


KING Hsiang of the Ch'u State was strolling in the palace on the Epidendrum Terrace, with Sung Yü and Ching Ch'a in attendance. A breeze suddenly got up, causing the king to draw his robe across his breast as a protection. "The air bites shrewdly," he said; "do I, the sovereign and my people feel it alike?" Sung Yü replied, "This breeze belongs to your Majesty alone; how could the people share it?" ''But wind," said the king, "is a vivifying principle of the universe; it is universally exhilarating, and it does not distinguish in its favours between those who are honoured and exalted and those who are humble and lowly. You, sir, just now spoke as if the breeze belonged personally to me, the sovereign. How is this so? " "I have learnt from my teacher," answered Sung Yü, "that forks in the mulberry-tree invite nests and that hollows and holes invite wind, the reason in each case being the different qualities of wind." "But where does wind come from?" asked the king. "Wind," replied Sung Yü, "is produced on the earth, and rises from the tips of the green duckweed leaves; it rushes wildly through ravines and valleys, and roars loudly in large holes. Climbing the slopes of Mt. T'ai, it dances beneath the pines and the cypresses, with streams of whirling water, with angry flashes of flying flames and peals of booming thunder. Now, back to the holes while blowing from every quarter, flinging about stones, breaking off the ends of branches and destroying the undergrowth of the forest. 

"Then, when it begins to abate, after having scattered far and wide the beauty of foliage, it rushes into hollows and rattles door-bars, while a brightness is diffused around as now it calms down and now it comes again. Therefore this pure cool virile wind is wafted about, up and down; it mounts the lofty city walls and enters far into the palace; it touches flowers and leaves, and stimulates their vitality; it wanders among the cinnamon and pepper-trees, and soars round and round over the rolling waters; it strikes at the spirit of the hibiscus; it robs the orchid and scatters the asaram; it levels the magnolia and shrivels the poplar. Returning to its lair, it plays havoc with artemisia and other fragrant plants; it moves to and fro in the court-yard, or northwards to the Jade Hall, where it runs up the silk curtains and passes into the nuptial chamber. That is why it is called the sovereign's wind. 

"The effect of this wind upon those who are in it, is to make them look sad, and chilled, even to sobbing. Pure and fresh, it cures disease and sobers the drunk; it sharpens one's sight and hearing; it gives repose to the body and comfort to the man; and thus it is called the virile wind of the sovereign." 

"Well put, indeed," said the king. "Now can you tell me about the wind of the people." "The wind of the people," replied Sung Yü, "rises with a gust in the slums. It sweeps up clouds of dust from holes; suddenly roused, it brings troubles, piercing through crevices and attacking doors; it disturbs graves and blows about dead ashes; it throws everything into confusion, whirling along rotten flesh and other horrors, until at last it passes through the jar-mouth windows and so into the rooms of the cottage. 

"The effect of this wind upon those who are in it, is to make them altogether dull and full of anxiety, driving out warmth and engendering dampness and distressful emotions. It breeds disease and produces fevers; affecting the lips, it causes sores; reaching the eyes, it makes them red; it harasses by a racking cough, so that people care nothing whether they live or die; and thus it is called the feminine wind of the people." 


THE Prince of Ch'u said to his prime minister, "What have you done that should cause the officers and people of this State to abuse you so clamorously? " 

"Abuse me indeed they do," replied the minister; "but pardon my boldness, and I will explain. A stranger was singing in one of our villages the other day, and this was the subject of his lay:  There is the music of the masses; there is the music of a narrower circle; that of a narrower circle still; and lastly, the classical music of the cultured few. This classical music is too lofty, and too difficult of comprehension, for the masses. 

"Among birds there is the phoenix: among fishes, the leviathan. The phoenix soars aloft, cleaving the red clouds, with the blue firmament above it, away into the uttermost realms of space. But what can the poor hedge-quail know of the grandeur of heaven and earth? The leviathan rises in the morning in one ocean to go to rest at night in another. But what can the minnow of a puddle know of the depth of the sea? 

"And there are phoenixes and leviathans, not only among birds and fishes, but among men. There is the Sage, full of nervous thought and of unsullied fame, who dwells complacently alone.  What can the vulgar herd know of me? "