Song of the Honey-eating Old Man from Anzhou

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Song of the Honey-eating Old Man from Anzhou
Su Shi 1036-1101

The old fellow of Anzhou has a mind as resolute as iron
But still manages to retain the tongue of a child.
He will not touch the five grains, but eats only honey:
Smiling, he points to the bees and calls them his "doners"!
The honey he eats contains a poetry men do not understand:
But the myriad flowers and grasses vie to transport it.
The old fellow sips and savors and then spits out poems,
Poems designed to entice the ill "children" of the world.
When the children taste his poems, it is like tasting honey,
And that honey is a cure for the hundred ills.
Just when they are madly rushing about grasping at straws,
Smiling, they read his poems and all their cares vanish!
Master Dongpo has always treated others with fairness
But still there are some who like him and some who don't! 
Like a tea that some find bitter and other sweet,
And unlike honey, which tasts sweet to everyone.
So, Sir, I am sending you a round cake of Double Dragon tea:
Which, if held up to a mirror, will reflect the two dragons.
Though Wu during the sixth month is as hot as boiling water,
This old man's mind is as cool as the Double Dragon Well!
Ānzhōu Lǎorén Shí Mì Gē
Sū Shì 1036-1101

Ānzhōu lǎorén xīn sì tiě,
Lǎorén xīngān xiǎoér shé.
Bù shí wǔgǔ wéi shí mì,
Xiào zhǐ mìfēng zuò tányuè.
Mì zhōng yǒu shī rén bù zhī,
Qiān huā bǎi cǎo zhēng hán zī.
Lǎorén jǔjué shí yī tǔ,
Hái yǐn shì jiān chī xiǎo'ér.
Xiǎo'ér dé shī rú dé mì,
Mì zhōng yǒu yào zhì bǎi jí.
Zhèng dāng kuáng zǒu zhuō fēng shí,
Yí xiào kàn shī bǎi yōu shī.
Dōngpō xiānsheng qǔ rén lián,
Jǐ rén xiāng huān jǐ rén xián.
Qiàsì yǐn chá gān kǔ zá,
Bùrú shí mì zhōng biān tián.
Yīn jūn jì yǔ shuāng lóng bǐng,
Jìng kōng yí zhào shuāng lóng yǐng.
Sān wú liùyuè shuǐ rú tāng,
Lǎo rén xīn sì shuāng lóng jǐng.
Translator: Beata Grant

In 1090, Su Shi went to Hangzhou, where he made some new friends. One of these was an unusual monk by the name of Zhongshu, who lived in Hangzhou's Chengtiansi. An extremely gifted poet (unfortunately his collection of poetry, the Baoyue ji, or Precious Moon Collection, is no longer extant), Zhongshu was especially known for his talent at writing yuefu, or ballads, as well as very romantic and even erotic lyrics (Ci). Before becoming a monk, Zhongshu had not only passed the jinshi exam but had taken a wife. However, he found it impossible to stay at home, and one day his angry wife poisoned his meat. Zhongshu nearly died but cured himself by eating honey, which he continued to do for the rest of his life. Furthermore, doctors warned him that if he even touched meat again, the poison would reactivate and he would be dead. On hearing this, Zhongshu decided that he might as well become a monk. Even as a monk, however, he continued to write poety of a distinctly secular sort, about which Su loved to tease him, calling his poetry "the honey of a thousand flowers." He must have been a rather complex person, however--in 1101, coincidentally the year of Su's death, he commited suicide by hanging. Su wrote him a number of poems, including the poem above.

Finding: SSSC 5: 1707-1708

From Beata Grant's Mount Lu Revised, Buddhism in the Life and Writings of Su Shih, University of Hawaii Press/Honolulu.

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