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Sacrificial Essay of Warning to Crocodiles..........Han Yu

2023-03-25 00:59Source:Chinese Literature Translation







Sacrificial Essay of Warning to Crocodiles

Han Yu

  On a certain day of a certain month in a certain year, Han Yu, Governor of Chaozhou Prefecture, dispatched his military subordinate Qin Ji to plunge a sheep and a pig into a river called Evil Stream as sacrificial food for the crocodiles to eat, along with a letter of warning, which reads as follows.

  In ancient times, when monarchs were in possession of the land under heaven, they burned the vegetation on the mountains and marshland, caught insects, snakes and hideous beasts with ropes and nets, or stabbed them with knives, in order to get rid of such creatures as are harmful to people, and drive them out of this extensive land. When later monarchs did not have enough virtues and prestige to rule over the whole land, large areas between the Yangtze and Han rivers had to be abandoned to the barbarous tribes and ethnic groups in the southeast. Furthermore, situated between the Five Ridges and the South China Sea, Chaozhou is almost ten thousand miles away from the capital, and it is only natural that crocodiles lurk and reproduce here.Today, the Son of Heaven inherits the Throne of the Tang Dynasty, and His Majesty is as holy, mighty, merciful and brave as deities. Even the lands outside the four seas and within the six domains in the east, west, north, south are under his pacifying governance. What’s more, Chaozhou is a place where Da Yu left his footprints, a region close to the Yangzhou Prefecture, an area governed by the officials of the Prefecture and the counties, and a place to pay tributes and taxes to the emperor for him to worship heaven, earth, ancestors and all the deities. Crocodiles are definitely not allowed to live on this land together with the prefectural governor!

  Appointed by the Emperor, the prefectural governor assumes the responsibility for guarding the land and governing the people here, but crocodiles should become so rampant as not to stay contented in rivers and streams. Instead, they occupy places and eat up people, livestock, bears, pigs, deer and roebuck to fatten themselves, reproduce their own offspring, and fiercely contend with the governor to be the local overlords. Dull and weak as he is, being the governor, how can he bow to the crocodiles, appear timid and afraid, dishonor the officials that rule the people, and muddle along here in disgrace? What is more, since he assumes office here by order of the Son of Heaven, he is obliged to reason with the crocodiles.

  If crocodiles possess adequate senses, they had better listen to him. To the south of Chaozhou Prefecture is the sea, which accommodates such huge creatures as whales and rocs, and tiny ones as shrimps and crabs, all surviving and living on the sustenance there. Leaving Chaozhou in the morning, crocodiles can reach the sea by evening. Now the governor has fixed an appointment with the crocodiles: Within three days as best they can, they shall head their ugly pals south for the sea, in order to avoid the prefectural governor that is appointed by the Emperor. If they fail to do so, the period can be extended to five days, and then even to seven days. Failure to meet the requirements within seven days obviously means they refuse to migrate, have no respect for the governor and will not listen to him. In such a case, the crocodiles are considered stupid and stubborn. Although the governor has made things clear in advance, they still remain deaf and dumb. Any creature that is arrogant and disrespectful to the governor appointed by the Son of Heaven, or disdains to listen to him, refuses to move away or shuns him, or acts so stubbornly as to kill people and damage property, shall be definitely put to death. The governor will have to select talented and competent officials and skilled commoners, so they will hold strong bows fitted with toxic arrowheads, and fight with crocodiles till all of them are terminated. Don’t the crocodiles ever regret it!

Translated by Jin Deming