CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
No. 13, March 2008


Singing with the Spring | China Heritage Quarterly

Singing with the Spring

Wanyan Linqing, translated by John Minford with Yang Tsung-han

The Huizhou administrative offices are situated in the northwest corner of the city, bounded by the parapet of the city wall. This was in fact the site of the administrative offices as long ago as the Xuanhe reign of the Song dynasty (1119-1125). Within the official precinct there were several fine buildings such as the Hall of Four Treasures, and the Tower of the Pure Heart. Those scenic buildings are no more. Only the Hall of Purple Verdure is still extant, and the Pavilion of the Immortal Fuqiu,[1] which is also called the Pavilion for Singing with the Spring. But though it has preserved its form, it is no longer on its original site. Although my predecessor changed its name to the Rustic Barge, I restored the original name.

According to the local gazetteer of this prefecture, Hong Gua [a Song dynasty official and man-of-letters, 1117-1184] constructed a pavilion by this name attached to an ancient tree on the parapet of the city wall, but it has since been moved down to ground level. In front of the pavilion as it presently stands, there are various trees and shrubs: a magnolia, a crab-apple, and several peonies. I myself constructed a stepped ramp joined to the city wall, allowing one to walk up onto the parapet. I also had constructed a red balustrade on either side of the ramp, and placed two stone teapoys on the parapet. I used to go up and enjoy the panoramic view whenever I had leisure from my official duties. I once recorded this in a poem:

High and spacious is my official residence
      At the corner of the city wall;
When I withdraw to take my meals,
      In high spirits I climb to enjoy the view.
I carry eye-glasses with me
      To scrutinize the clouds;
And a bottle-gourd
      For the occasional draught of wine.
The smoking chimneys and kitchen fires below
      Testify to the thriving community;
A sweep of streams and hills
      Unfolds before me like a landscape scroll.
I laugh at myself,
      A bookish officer with no official skills;
Holding the tallies for six counties,
      Despite my incompetence.

In the last days of the spring season of the year Jiashen [1824], the flowers in the garden were in full bloom. My daughter Miaolianbao, who was seven years old (she was born during the second month of the year Wuyin [1818]), had handfuls of flower petals, and kept pulling on the hem of my gown, wanting me to go and look at the luxuriant blossom. I went to the Pavilion and saw for myself the riot of colour, and the petals flying about like snowflakes. It was indeed a splendid scene, as splendid as anything at Fanli Taoist Priory![2] The red jadelike flowers trailed their silken threads, it was a veritable Realm of Fragrance!

I took some writing paper and began to compose a poem. At that very moment my wife emerged from among the flowers and saw me in the throes of composition, struggling with the niceties of prosody. She smiled. 'I have the first couplet for you already!' she said, and began to recite the lines she had just improvised.

It befits the gentleman of Jade hall,
    To sit among the flowers.

I put down my brush at once!

In the courtyard there were also at that time four pots of wild flowers brought from the slopes of Mount Huang. The Standard, a climbing plant producing bluish flowers like pearls, gems and precious stones; the Pyrrosia lingua, one flower to each leaf, the erect stem crimson as a red cloud; the Nanghuan, its leaf a simple blade and its flower consisting of two rings; the Gooseflock, purest white like a goose, with yellow buds for eyes. My mother was delighted with these flowers, and she joyfully set about painting them all!

My mother had recently come into the possession of an Album of Flower Paintings from Huang Hai, done by Secretary Song Muzhong.[3] It portrays twenty species, among them the four I have just mentioned.


1. Fuqiu was a legendary immortal.

2. Our author describes this Priory elsewhere.

3. Song Muzhong 宋牧仲 (1634-1713), poet, bibliophile and painter.