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  • Julia Min

东坡 A Walk at Dongpo, the East Slope


原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

英译: 闵晓红(2024.04)






A Walk at Dongpo, the East Slope

Chinese original: Su Shi (11th AC, social name 'Zizhan', art name 'Dongpo')

English translation: Julia Min (Apr. 2024)


The moon starts to glow after the rain on the East Slope.

No more hustles and bustles, just an idler walking alone.

I’m taking the rocky road you can’t have on the street;

And I love the clicking tone of my stick on the stones.


Dongpo, the Chinese pinyin for ‘东坡’ (meaning east slope), was a barren land on a hillside near the Red Clift outside the old East Gate of Huangzhou Town. The farm life as a criminal politician opened a unique chapter for Su Shi where he managed to cultivate his character for a more sophisticated insight about the world. In a Chinese idiom, we may say, “Out of the sloppy muddy mess grows a proud and pure lotus flower (出污泥而不染)”. His ability of tolerance came from his broad-minded character and optimistic attitude about life. His wife Wang Fo commented that he saw no enemy in his life journey.  The five-year’s rocky journey (1079-1084) could have ruined many public celebrities, but proved to be a great turning point marked with huge success in Su Shi’s artistic creation.  


This little poem gives us a glimpse of his life at Huangzhou. The irony is deeply webbed in the comparison between a busy fame-seeking world and a solitary night at East Slope. He was just a forgotten outsider marginalized from the Song political centre. Yet, he could enjoy the moonlit barren land where the clicking of his walking stick hears like music, -- an attitude as in the movie “Singin’ in the Rain”. He believed the shadowed moon would come out clear and shine again. And indeed, this dark and dreary experience was just an appetiser, getting him ready for something big on the way.


The East Gate and parts of the building complex (still standing today) have always been a famous destination on Su Shi’s must-see sites. I was lucky having 3-year teaching experience at a normal institute which could well be on the old East Slope as it suits what has been recorded in books and poems. The Red Cliff was our morning reading venue where I volunteered to tutor my students on weekdays. Every fiber in the texture there was woven into my mind and heart without me fully realising it until thirty years later.


1. Picture from Google search


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