Li Ho - Lament That the Days Are So Short
Type of spiritual experience
* Flying lights: Sun and moon.
** Bears' paws were a rich man's delicacy; frogs were eaten by the poor.
*** The Spirit Lady was worshipped by Han Wu-ti. The Great Unity was the supreme deity of the Taoist pantheon.
**** The Jo tree is a mythical tree in the far west (not the east), the foilage of which gives off a red glow at sunset.
*****Chu-ci, The Heavenly Questions, p.49: "What land does the sun not reach to? How does the Torch Dragon light it?"
+ Yellow gold, white jade are ingredients of the elixirs of life.
++ Ren Gong-zi is an immortal in Chinese legends.
+++ Emperor Wu of Han, an assiduous seeker after immortality, was buried in Mao-ling tomb. Liu Che is his name.
++++ Ying Zheng, another ardent searcher for immortal life, was the notorious First Emperor of Ch'in. He died while on a journey, so his attendents, anxious to conceal his death until they returned to the capital, filled the carriages with abalone to hide the smell of the corpse.
A description of the experience
Li Ho (A.D. 790 - 816) - Lament That the Days Are So Short
Flying lights, flying lights,*
I pledge you a cup of wine.
I do not know if the blue heavens are high,
The yellow earth is rich,
I only see cold moon, hot sun,
Both come to plague us.
Eat bears and you'll grow fat,
Eat frogs and you'll grow thin.**
Where is the Spirit Lady?
Where the Great Unity?***
East of the sky stands the Jo tree,****
Under it a dragon with a torch in its mouth.*****
I'll cut off the dragon's feet,
And eat the dragon's flesh.
Then morning will not come back again,
Night will not stay.
So old men will not die,
Nor young men weep.
Why should we swallow yellow gold,
Or eat white jade?+
Who is Ren Gong-zi
Riding a white donkey through the clouds?++
Liu Che lies in the Mao-ling tomb,
Just a pile of bones.+++
Ying Zheng lies in his catalpa coffin --
What a waste of abalone.++++