On The Road In Lang Son

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Chilang by Ghost Gate Pass, Lang Son Province.

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On The Road In Lang Son
        Phan Huy Chu 1782-1840

Crossing toward the north 
        on a robust current
                heading upstream,
All along the Liang River
        myraid peaks densely packed.
Trees crowd about an old temple
        while smoke rises in thick wafts,
The forest surrounds a deserted barracks
        the road in need of repair.
By Le Market cold mountain mists
        cover an old thatched post station,
On the Hoa Creek's rolling waves
        our bamboo raft floats.
Treading along the Efflorescent trail
        how could I dare to fear hardship?
As I near the border
        my four steeds press on eagerly.
Liàng Shān Dáo Zhōng
Pān Huīzhù 1872-1840

Běi dù chāng liúxiàng shàngyóu,
Liàngjiāng yī dài wān shān chóu.
Shù mí qián miào yān chóngdié,
Lín rào huāng yíng lù zǔ xiū.
Lì shì lán hán máo yì gǔ,
Huā xī bō gún zhú chà fú.
Huá chéng bá lǚ nìng cí xiǎn,
Guānsài fāng yīn sì mǔ qū.

Translator: Liam Kelley 翻譯者

From this poem we can see how the Vietnamese envoys traveled on their journey north into China. Up river on bamboo rafts, being pulled by trackers, walking on rutted, unpaved roads, staying in cold thatched roof post stations (no heat, or hot water here!), transfering from the Liang River to the Hoa Creek, and in horse drawn carriage as they neared the border. These carriages were pulled on rutted dirt and stone roads, so the jolting ride could not have been in the least comfortable. We would cringe at taking a tiring eight hour bus ride today but this would have seemed like heaven to Phan Huy Chu!

For furthur discussion of this poem read Liam Kelley's great book Beyond The Bronze Pillars, Envoy Poetry and the Sino-Vietnamese Relationship, U of Hawaii Press.

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