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郭子章《六月柿》“The persimmon of the sixth month” by Guo Zizhang










Guo Qingluo’s Qian cao [2] includes his poem “The persimmon of the sixth month”. Its preface reads, “The persimmon of the sixth month in Qian has stems of four to five chi, each branch bearing five fruits, if not three or four. The whole plant produces no less than twenty to thirty fruits. To call it a flaming parasol with rosy eggs [3] wouldn’t be an exaggeration. The only [problem] is that it has hao-like branches and ai-like leaves,[4] which cannot serve Zheng Guanwen as [paper for] calligraphy like the persimmon leaves in the Ci’en Temple.[5] It is said that its seeds come from the West, thus its name ‘foreign persimmon [=tomato].’” The poem reads:

Bunches of vermilion fruits spread across the stairway,

[Like] flaming trees and burning clouds at the beginning of the sixth month.

These green leaves, though verdant,

May serve Mister Zheng as [paper for] painting, but not for calligraphy.

Han generals led their men beyond the Dragon Dune,[6]

Bringing back both grapes and lucerne.

[Yet in our era of] great peace, with the Son of Heaven disbanding military stations,

Why is foreign persimmon planted everywhere?[7]

* From the entry for shi 柿 (persimmon) in the section "fengtuzhi san" 風土志三 of the Guizhou tongzhi 貴州通志 (1937 edition), quoted in Zhang Yingxue 張迎雪 and Xiang Mengbing 項夢冰, “Hanyu fangyan li de xihongshi” 漢語方言裡的西紅柿, Xiandai yuyanxue 現代語言學 (Modern Linguistics), 2016, 4(3): 58-59.

[1] Coloured characters rhyme. [2] Qingluo is the style name of Guo Zizhang 郭子章 (1543-1618), a politician and prolific writer of the Ming dynasty. Qian cao 黔草 (Qian Drafts) is a collection of his writings in various genres during his tenure as Grand Coordinator in the region of Qian which corresponds roughly to today’s Guizhou province. [3] On huosan chengmao 火傘頳卯, Zhang Yingxue and Xiang Mengbing note that the character mao 卯 (fourth of the twelve earthly branches) is likely to be a typo of luan 卵 (egg); see Zhang Yinxue and Xiang Mengbing, “Hanyu fangyan li de xihongshi”, 59. A parallel text in the Erruting qunfang pu 二如亭群芳譜 compiled by Guo Zizhang’s contemporary Wang Xiangjin 王象晉 (1561-1653) has huosan huozhu 火傘火珠 (a flaming parasol with flaming beads) instead; see section “Guopu er” 果譜二 in Wang Xiangjin, Erruting qunfang pu, 39b-40a. [4] Hao 蒿 and ai 艾 are both plants of the Artemisia genus and are frequently used in a generic sense. More specifically, the former often refers to Artemisia apiacea and the latter Artemisia argyi. [5] When Zheng Qian 鄭虔 (691-759) served in the Guangwen 廣文 Academy, short of paper he practised calligraphy on persimmon leaves at the Ci’en Temple, eventually using up the leaves there; see Taiping guangji 太平廣記: [6] Longdui 龍堆 is short for Bailongdui 白龍堆 (White Dragon Dune), one of the landmarks in Xiyu 西域 (Western Regions) during the Han dynasty. [7] Although textual evidence attests to the introduction of tomatoes towards the end of the sixteenth century, it is noteworthy that they were planted mainly for ornamental and medicinal purposes. The culinary use of tomatoes wasn’t common in China until the late Qing period; see Zhang Yinxue and Xiang Mengbing, “Hanyu fangyan li de xihongshi”, 60-61.

The illustration of xiaojingua 小金瓜 (literally "little golden melon") from Zhiwu mingshi tukao 植物名實圖考 by Wu Qijun 吳其濬 (1789-1847), which is believed to be a variety of tomato.

A happy problem in the tomato season...


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1 comment

1 Comment

Great post. Thanks

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