"Jia Dao was a Buddhist monk who gave up the monk's life around 810, after meeting the poet Han Yu, and moved to the capital, Changan. Along with other poets, Zhang Ji and Meng Jiao, Jia Dao followed the esthetic principles advocated by Han Yu, which celebrated the didactic and moral effect of literature, and presented the poet as an honest Confucian rectifier of societal wrongs. With the encouragement of Han Yu, he tried many times to pass the imperial examination, but failed repeatedly. Although he was not a successful official, he gained a strong reputation as a poet. Here is a famous story about the first meeting of Jia Dao and Han Yu, from the compilation of poetic anecdotes titled Notes of Xiang Su: |
When Jia Dao was concentrating on his poems he was oblivious to all else. One day, riding his donkey, he was thinking about these lines:
Birds return to their nests in trees by the pond.
A monk is knocking at a door by moonlight.
He couldn't decide whether to replace the word “knocking” with “pushing,” so he was making wild gestures on his donkey, acting out first a knock and then a push. While doing this he encountered the high official Han Yu, and neglected to give way. Arrested by the bodyguards, and brought before Han Yu, he was asked to explain his actions. He explained how he was trying to decide between these two words. Han Yu considered this for a long time, and said, at last, “knocking”" is better and they became fast friends.
The great Song Dynasty poet and statesman Ouyang Xiu admired Jia Dao's intense evocations of hardship. Here is Ouyang's discussion: “Like Meng Jiao, Jia Dao was a poor poet until his death and liked to write lines reflecting his hard life....He writes:
I have white silk in my sideburns
but cannot use it to weave a warm shirt.
Even if one could weave hair, it wouldn't do him much good. Jia Dao also has a poem "Morning Hunger" with these lines:
I sit and hear the zither on the western bed:
two or three strings snapping in the cold.
People say that this poem shows that hunger as well as cold is unbearable.”
From Translations from the Chinese by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping www.thedrunkenboat.com/tbchinese.html