Autumn of the Year of Jiazi

Part 1 (right side scroll)

At the beginning of late spring in the ninth year of Yong-he period [A.D. 353], which was the year of Guichou according to the lunar calendar, we met at Lanting [Orchid Pavilion] in the Shanyin County of Kuaiji Prefecture to celebrate the Water Festival.

Here were gathered all the illustrious persons, young and old ones.

In the background lay lofty peaks, around us were deep woods and slender bamboos, while a clear gurgling brook reflected the sunlight as it flowed past either side of the pavilion. We grouped ourselves in order, sitting by the waterside, and drinking in succession from cups floating down the curving stream.

Despite the absence of music from string and wood-wind instruments, yet with alternate drinking and singing, we were well disposed to thoroughly enjoy a quiet, intimate conversation.

The sky was clear; the air was fresh while the caressing breeze was mild.

The immense universe and myriads of life lay spread before us, entertaining the eye and pleasing all the senses. It was truly enjoyable.

When men come together, they let their thoughts travel to surmise life itself. Some enjoy a conversation indoors and some, overcome by a sentiment, soar forth into a world beyond realities.

Although our inclinations differ according to temperaments, noisy or sedate, yet when we come upon…

Part 2 (left side scroll)

…something that delights us, we feel happy and contented, to the extent of forgetting that we are growing old.

When satiety follows satisfaction, and with the change of our whims and desires, what fascinated us not long ago has become a mere memory.

In the twinkling of an eye, our former pleasures have become things of the past. Furthermore, we may live long or short, but eventually we all end in nothingness!

“Great indeed are life and death”, said the ancients. Ah, what sadness!

I have noticed that the people who lived in the past felt exactly as we do today. Whenever I read their writing, I see that they were moved exactly as ourselves, and I am often seized with pathos.

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! The people of the future will look upon us as we look upon those who have gone before us.

Hence I put down a sketch of these contemporaries and what they said. Time and circumstances may change, but the human sentiments will remain the same.

The future readers who cast their eyes upon these words will be affected in the same way.

Autumn of the year of Jiazi

from “Imitation of Lanting Xu” RyuSeki

* This famous piece “Lanting Xu” was originally created in semicursive script by Wang Xizhi, who was respected as the, “sage of calligraphy.” It is the preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion and is the most notable and well-copied piece of calligraphy in Chinese history. Wang Xizhi met forty one talented scholars, including his friends Xie An and Sun Chuo, at Lanting on the 3rd of the 3rd lunar month in 353.

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