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“Caotang shi zhi tu” 草堂十志圖 (Ten Records on the Thatched Hall) Pt. 1

Detail of the “Caotang shi zhi tu” 草堂十志圖 (Ten Records on the Thatched Hall), attributed to the Tang artist Lu Hong 盧鴻 (fl. 8th century)

Picture credit: National Palace Museum, Taipei

Inscription attributed to Lu Hong












Thatched Hall

Following the contour of natural terrain, the Thatched Hall faces a fence and a ditch and is a construction that draws on human forces. Thatch was added thereafter to ward off dryness and humidity so that [the construction] serves as a building. [It is] an illustration of simplicity, consonant with the virtuous way of Heaven and Earth,[1] enough to accommodate a man for some rest. The Spirit of the Valley [2] shares the same Way – this is exactly the thing to be valued. When a man given to excess stays in such a place, [he] would ornament it frivolously, which betrays its intrinsic principle. My verse [3] [for this hall] reads,

The mountain makes my house, thatch makes my hall,

Numinous mushrooms and thoroughworts my herb room -

[All] carpeted with deer-parsley, stroked by creeping figs,

[With] melilotus walls built with thoroughworts.

Deer-parsley and creeping figs finish my Thatched Hall,

Shady are its depths, lavish is its scent.

In the midst should a man always be found

Reading golden books, drinking jade brew,

His ruddy face and recluse’s aspiration unchanged for ever.

Inscription by Qianlong Emperor 乾隆 (1711-1799, ruling 1735-1796)





A humble hut with thatch to ward off dryness and humidity,

Deer-parsley and creeping figs delivering fragrance.

The ruddy-faced man sits with a scroll in hand,

Which must be the inner and outer parts of the Scripture of the Yellow Court.[4]

[1] On the handscroll, the character xie 叶 (in harmony) seems slightly smaller than the other characters in this inscription and could be a marker of the rhyming character (in this case, yi 易), as is common in poetry manuals. Note that the verse below does end with the character yi 易, although it doesn’t really rhyme with the other lines within the verse. If xie 叶 is indeed not part of the main text but a note on how the verse and its prelude echo each other, the passage here would read, “[It is] an illustration of the virtuous way of simplicity of Heaven and Earth” (zhao jianyi qiankun zhi dedao 昭簡易乾坤之德道). [2] In Daoism, the Valley refers to the tiangu 天谷 (Celestial Valley) that provides sanctuary to the Spirit. [3] The following verse, written in the style of Chuci 楚辭 (Songs of the South), is rich in botanical images that symbolise virtues and reclusion. [4] The Huangting jing 黃庭經 (The Scripture of the Yellow Court) is one of the most popular of the Daoist texts that provide meditation instructions.

A lovely "Wood Hall" that is also designed to accommodate a man for some rest in the garden of a restaurant hidden in the woods near my village.


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