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On the Seasonable Rain Pavilion..........Su Shi

2023-03-25 01:21Source:Chinese Literature Translation







On the Seasonable Rain Pavilion

Su Shi

  This pavilion is named after rain in celebration of a joyous event. In the event of joyous happenings in ancient times, things were named after such happenings to mean that they should not be forgotten. When Duke of Zhou received the rice granted by the Emperor, he used Jiahe (golden harvest) as the title of an article he had written. When Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty got a precious tripod, he named his reign title Yuanding (the august tripod). When he defeated his enemy Qiaoru, Shusun Dechen named his son after Qiaoru. Though happy events were different in scale, the purpose of naming after them was the same.

  It was not until the second year of my arrival in Fufeng that I began to have an official residence built. I had a pavilion put up as a place of repose on the north side of the main house with a pond on the south side, from which water is drawn for the trees planted around. In the spring that year, it rained in the south of Mount Qishan where wheat was growing vigorously. According to divination it would be a year of bumper harvest. Then, however, it did not rain for a whole month, and the people became worried. In the third month, it rained on the day of Yimao; on the day of Jiazi it rained again, but the people still didn’t think they had enough rain. On the day of Dingmao it rained once again for three days on end. The officials celebrated together in the courtyard; the merchants sang in chorus in the market place; the peasants felt delighted in the fields; sad people rejoiced, the sick were cured, and my pavilion was completed as well.

  So I held a banquet in the pavilion, and spoke to the guests about the rain. I asked them, “How about five days without rain?” They said in reply: “Five days without rain, the wheat would not grow.” “What about ten days without rain?” I asked. “Rice cannot be kept alive without rain for ten days,” they answered. “If there were no wheat nor rice, it would be a year of famine. Lawsuits would increase and thieves would go rampant. In that case, even if I intended to have fun with you in this pavilion, would it be possible for us to do so? Now Heaven does not abandon the people here, just at the time there was going to be a drought, Heaven granted us the blessed rain, so that you and I can amuse ourselves in this pavilion, all of which is granted by the rain! How can we forget about this?”

  After the naming of pavilion after rain, a song followed in its praise. The song lyrics say: “Even if pearls fell onto the ground, those suffering cold could not take them for a jacket; even if white jade fell from the sky, the starved could not eat it for food. It has rained for three days, and whose power shall we owe it to? People owe it to the governor, but the governor says he doesn’t have such power. To the Emperor, the Emperor also denies. To the Creator, the Creator refuses to credit it to himself. To the Space, the Space is too void and ethereal to be named after. So I name my pavilion after rain.”

Translated by Jin Deming