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蘇軾《書蜀僧詩》“Note on the poem by a monk of Shu” by Su Shi (1037-1101)


Having pacified Shu,[1] Secretariat Director Wang [Quanbin 王全斌, 908-976][2] chased the remnants of the enemy and strayed far away from his troops. [He] felt ravenous and entered a village temple. The monk in charge was horribly drunk, sitting with his legs sprawled. The lord, enraged, threatened to behead him. The monk responded without fear. Taken by surprise, the lord pardoned him and requested some vegetables to eat. The monk said, “There’s meat, no vegetables.” The lord was even more surprised. [The monk] served him steamed pig’s head. Finding it truly delicious, the lord was delighted and asked the monk, “I presume you don’t just drink alcohol and consume meat – do you exercise any other skills?” The monk said he could compose poems. The lord asked [him] to compose one on the steamed hog. [The monk] took a brush and completed his verse at once:









Lengthy snout, short hair, a thin layer of suet underneath.

Long in the mountains has [it] fed on herb sprouts.

On the spot of steaming, [I] have wrapped [it] with banana leaves;

At the point of serving, [I] further shower [it] with apricot sauce.

Red and fresh, [it’s] gracefully styled “offering on a golden plate”.

Tender and well-done, [it] truly allows for picking with jade sinews.[4]

If [we] took hircine-root for comparison,[5]

Hircine-root would just [taste like] chewing vines.


Greatly amused, the lord gave [him] the title “Master in Purple”. On the thirteenth day of the second month in the ninth year of the Yuanyou era [1086-1094],[6] [I] chanced to talk about this with the lord’s great-grandson, [Wang] Ne, and thereupon recorded it.

* From Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037-1101), Shushi wenji 蘇軾文集 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986), 68.2150.

[1] Shu 蜀 here refers to the Kingdom of the Later Shu (934-965), roughly corresponding to the area of present-day Sichuan. [2] Wang Quanbin was one of the major military leaders in the Northern Song’s campaigns against the Later Shu. He was given the title zhongshuling 中書令 (Secretariat Director; abbreviated as zhongling 中令 in the text) posthumously. [3] Red characters rhyme. [4] Yujin 玉筋 (jade sinews) is a metaphor for chopsticks and is parallel to jinpan 金盤 (golden plate) in the previous line. [5] Zhan’gen 氈根, alternatively written as shan’gen羶根(hircine-root) refers to lamb. [6] The date corresponds to 2 March, 1094.

Figurine of a cook, with a pig's head on his table; Eastern Han period (25-220)

Picture credit: Chengdu Museum

Terrine, or head cheese, another way of cooking a pig's head, or parts of it (such as the ears, as in the photo).


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