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A “fu,” or prose-poem, by Sung Yü (fourth century b.c.), nephew of Ch’ü Yüan.

Hsiang, king of Ch’u, was feasting in the Orchid-tower Palace, with Sung Yü and Ching Ch’ai to wait upon him. A gust of wind blew in and the king bared his breast to meet it, saying: “How pleasant a thing is this wind which I share with the common people.” Sung Yü answered: “This is the Great King’s wind. The common people cannot share it.” The king said: “Wind is a spirit of Heaven and Earth. It comes wide spread and does not choose between noble and base or between high and low. How can you say ‘This is the king’s wind’?” Sung answered: “I have heard it taught that in the crooked lemon-tree birds make their nests and to empty spaces winds fly. But the wind-spirit that comes to different things is not the same.” The king said: “Where is the wind born?” and[25] Sung answered: “The wind is born in the ground. It rises in the extremities of the green p’ing-flower. It pours into the river-valleys and rages at the mouth of the pass. It follows the rolling flanks of Mount T’ai and dances beneath the pine-trees and cypresses. In gusty bouts it whirls. It rushes in fiery anger. It rumbles low with a noise like thunder, tearing down rocks and trees, smiting forests and grasses.

“But at last abating, it spreads abroad, seeks empty places and crosses the threshold of rooms. And so growing gentler and clearer, it changes and is dispersed and dies.

“It is this cool clear Man-Wind that, freeing itself, falls and rises till it climbs the high walls of the Castle and enters the gardens of the Inner Palace. It bends the flowers and leaves with its breath. It wanders among the osmanthus and pepper-trees. It lingers over the fretted face of the pond, to steal the soul of the hibiscus. It touches the willow leaves and scatters the fragrant herbs. Then it pauses in the courtyard and turning to the North goes up to the Jade Hall, shakes the hanging curtains and lightly passes into the inner room.

“And so it becomes the Great King’s wind.

“Now such a wind is fresh and sweet to breathe and its gentle murmuring cures the diseases of men, blows away the stupor of wine, sharpens sight and hearing and refreshes the body. This is what is called the Great King’s wind.”

The king said: “You have well described it. Now tell me of the common people’s wind.” Sung said: “The common people’s wind rises from narrow lanes and streets, carrying clouds of dust. Rushing to empty spaces it attacks the gateway, scatters the dust-heap, sends the cinders flying, pokes among foul and rotting things, till at last it enters[26] the tiled windows and reaches the rooms of the cottage. Now this wind is heavy and turgid, oppressing man’s heart. It brings fever to his body, ulcers to his lips and dimness to his eyes. It shakes him with coughing; it kills him before his time.

“Such is the Woman-wind of the common people.”



A Hundred Seventy Chinese Poems. Trans. A. Waley. London: Constable, 1918.



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