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A Letter of Self-Recommendation to Prefecture Governor of Jingzhou Han Chaozong..........Li Bai

2023-03-25 00:53Source:Chinese Literature Translation








A Letter of Self-Recommendation to Prefecture Governor of Jingzhou Han Chaozong

Li Bai

I hear that when eloquent scholars of the country gathered together, they would say: “We would prefer to meet Prefecture Governor Han Jingzhou rather than be conferred the title of marquis with sustenance from ten thousand families.” How miraculous it is for Your Excellency to inspire them with such admiration and adoration! Isn’t it not because you have the courteous manners of Duke Zhou, who was eager to look for worthies and virtuous talents, so that heroes and gentlemen in the country keep running to your door? As soon as scholars are honored by your reception, their reputation is increased ten fold. Therefore, all the unknown talents and virtuous scholars try to become well-renowned and get their worthiness established through your recommendation. It is hoped that Your Excellency will not disdain them because of your own wealth and nobility, nor ignore them because they are poor and lowly. Then out of three thousand guests there will certainly be an outstanding person like Mao Sui, and I will just turn out to be such a person if I am given the opportunity.

  I am a plebeian from Longxi (present Gansu), now traveling in the land of Chu and Han. I was fond of swordplay at the age of fifteen, and I visited a lot of dukes and princes. I achieved success in prose and poetry at the age of thirty, when I was given interviews by many dignitaries and ministers. Although I am less than seven chi tall, I am more ambitious than ten thousand people put together. Lords and dignitaries used to praise me for my lofty aspirations and moral principle. Those are my experiences and deeds in the past, and I dare not conceal them from you!

  The works of Your Excellency are comparable to gods and divinities; your virtues move heaven and earth, and your articles are as meritorious as the Creator, while your learning covers the way of heaven and events of humans. I cordially hope you will be magnanimous and amiable, and will not reject me because of my simply bowing to you without kneeling down. If you are not reluctant to entertain me with a feast and allow me to deliver a pompous speech, just test me whether I can compose an article of ten thousand words, I am sure to finish it right away. Now you are universally regarded as the authority to decide the fate of prose and poetry and judge the worthiness of people. Once a man gets your positive comments, he will be regarded as remarkably outstanding, so why do you grudge receiving me at the small piece of land in front of your hall steps, so that I can hold my head high with my aspirations soaring to the skies.

  In the past, when Wang Zishi served as Governor of Yuzhou, he enlisted Xun Ciming before he took office, and then Kong Wenju after his assumption of position. When Shan Tao was Governor of Jizhou, he selected more than thirty people, some of whom became privy counselors and some ministers. All the above deeds were praised by our previous generations. Your Excellency also recommended a man called Yan Xielü, who was selected to work with the central secretariat. There were also Cui Zongzhi, Pang Xizu, Li Xin, Xu Ying and other people, some of whom were known to you for their talents, and some appreciated for their honesty. When I saw their respectful gratitude to you, their loyalty and devotion to the court and conscientious diligence, I felt moved and inspired so much. Knowing that you are open and sincere to the talented and virtuous, I do not turn to others but seek for your recommendation. If I can be of service in the case of emergency, I will give my humble life.

  As ordinary people are not such saints as Yao and Shun, who can be regarded as perfect? I have schemes and plans, but how can I boast about them? As for my works, I have compiled them into volumes and scrolls, which I will venture to ask for your reading, only fearing they are simply insignificant stuff not to your liking. If you could be so kind as to favor me with your interest in them, please give me paper and ink, as well as copying assistants. Then I will go back, clean my quiet study and have them copied out. I hope the treasured sword of Qingping and the green jade of Jielü will add to their value after being appreciated by Xue Zhu and Bian He. I would like to ask Your Excellency to show your concern for lowly people and open the door of appreciation wider. Your kind consideration is earnestly expected.

Translated by Jin Deming