Written in a.d. 809
Tartars led in chains,
Tartars led in chains !
Their ears pierced, their faces bruised — they are driven into the land of Ch'in.
The Son of Heaven took pity on them and would not have them slain.
He sent them away to the south-east, to the lands of Wu and Yüeh.
A petty officer in a yellow coat took down their names and surnames :
They were led from the city of Ch'ang-an under escort of an armed guard.
Their bodies were covered with the wounds of arrows, their bones stood out from their cheeks.
They had grown so weak they could only march a single stage a day.
In the morning they must satisfy hunger and thirst with neither plate nor cup :
At night they must lie in their dirt and rags on beds that stank with filth.
Suddenly they came to the Yangtze River and remembered the waters of Chiao.^
With lowered hands and levelled voices they sobbed a muffled song.
Then one Tartar lifted up his voice and spoke to the other Tartars,
" Your sorrows are none at all compared with my sorrows."
Those that were with him in the same band asked to hear his tale :
As he tried to speak the words were choked by anger.
He told them " I was born and bred in the town of Liang-Yüan.^
In the frontier wars of Ta-li ' I fell into the Tartars' hands.
Since the days the Tartars took me alive forty years have passed :
They put me into a coat of skins tied with a belt of rope.
Only on the first of the first month might I wear my Chinese dress.
As I put on my coat and arranged my cap, how fast the tears flowed !
I made in my heart a secret vow I would find a way home:
' In Turkestan.' North of Chang-an.' The period Ta-li, A.D. 766-780
I hid my plan from my Tartar wife and the children she had borne me in the land.
I thought to myself, ‘It is well for me that my limbs are still strong,'
And yet, being old, in my heart I feared I should never live to return.
The Tartar chieftains shoot so well that the birds are afraid to fly:
From the risk of their arrows I escaped alive and fled swiftly home.
Hiding all day and walking all night, I crossed the Great Desert, *
Where clouds are dark and the moon black and the sands eddy in the wind.
Frightened, I sheltered at the Green Grave, ^ where the frozen grasses are few :
Stealthily I crossed the Yellow River, at night, on the thin ice.
Suddenly I heard Han ' drums and the sound of soldiers coming:
I went to meet them at the road-side, bowing to them as they came.
But the moving horsemen did not hear that I spoke the Han tongue:
Their Captain took me for a Tartar born and had me bound in chains.
1 The Gobi Desert.* The grave of Chao-chiin, a Chinese girl who in 33 B.C. was"bestowed upon the Khan of the Hsiung-nu as a mark of Imperial regard " (Giles). Hers was the only grave in this desolate district on which grass would grow.* I.e., Chinese.
They are sending me away to the south-east, to a low and swampy land :
No one now will take pity on me : resistance is all in vain.
Thinking of this, my voice chokes and I ask of Heaven above.
Was I spared from death only to spend the rest of my years in sorrow ?
My native village of Liang-Yüan I shall not see again :
My wife and children in the Tartars' land I have fruitlessly deserted.
When I fell among Tartars and was taken prisoner, I pined for the land of Han :
Now that I am back in the land of Han, they have turned me into a Tartar.
Had I but known what my fate would be, I would not have started home !
For the two lands, so wide apart, are alike in the sorrow they bring.
Tartar prisoners in chains!
Of all the sorrows of all the prisoners mine is the hardest to bear!
Never in the world has so great a wrong befallen the lot of man, —
A Han heart and a Man tongue set in the body of a Turk."