朱自清 作 许景城 译
The past few days have seen me somewhat fidgety. Tonight, as I sat in the courtyard relishing the cool air, what slipped into my mind is the lotus pool I pass by day after day. “Amid the full moonbeams, will it shed a different charm?” I pondered. The moon was climbing its way up the sky, and childish chortles from the lane outside my wall had vanished. Drowsily crooning a lullaby, my wife was caressing our son Run’er in the room, when I softly put on my long gown and walked out, leaving the door bolted behind me.
Along the pool winds a cinder path. It’s a secluded track: few people walk on it during the day. When night falls, it becomes even more forlorn. The pool is surrounded by a variety of trees, thriving and vigorous. Along the path flank some willows as well as a few kinds of nameless trees. On moonless nights, the path looks dreadfully dark. Tonight, however, it was quite welcoming, for all the pale glimmers of moonlight.
The path found me alone, strolling with both hands clasped behind my back. This haven seemed to be mine, as if I transcended my ordinary self and dwelled in a different world. I love hustle and bustle, and yet tranquility also fits into my disposition. Although I long for sociability, solitude also takes root in my heart. Like tonight, I alone in this boundless moonlight, had anything to care about and meanwhile nothing to worry about. How truly free I was! What must be done and spoken during the day had no roots in my mind now. That was the best of solitude. Thus, I indulged myself in the endless lotus fragrance and moonlight.
Leaping to the eye was the meandering pool brimming with interlaced lotus leaves, which rose quite high above the water, like the skirts of dancing girls, sleek and slim. Among the layers of leaves scattered white flowers. Some were blooming, slender and graceful; some budding, coy and shy. They looked like glittering pearls, twinkling stars in an azure sky, or beauties just emerging from bathing. The passing breeze sent me continuous spells of faint scents, like a vague melody emitting from a tower afar. Suddenly, the leaves and blooms quivered, wafting their aromas, in the wink of an eye, across the whole pool. The leaves, supposed to stand close shoulder by shoulder, were now forming a dark green ripple. Underneath flowed serene water, shaded from light and invisible in colour, yet leaving the foliage even more charming.
Like running rills, the moonbeams were stealthily pouring over the leaves and blossoms. Within the pool was floating thin emerald haze. The foliage and blooms seemed to be bathing in milk, as if veiled with gauzy dreams. Full as the moon was, the sky was so misted over with a thin layer of clouds that it failed to lighten the path brightly. But in my eyes, this was just in tune – while a mellow sleep is of vital importance, a snooze offers distinct glamour. As the moon gleamed in through the trees, those shrubs on the high grounds cast ragged and flecked shadows, grotesquely dark like a squad of ghosts. The sparse and sleek shadows of the dangling willow twigs also appeared to be painted on the lotus leaves. The moonlight in the pool was unevenly distributed, but the beams and the shadows chimed a euphonious melody like a famous tune played on a violin.
Fringing the pool, near and far, high and low, were trees, mostly willows. These trees embraced it layer upon layer, except leaving some space near the path, as if saved specifically for the moonbeams. All the trees looked murky and spooky, like a bulk of dense smoke at first glance. Among them, however, the graceful willows could still be figured out easily. Beyond the tips of the trees loomed mountains afar. Yet their silhouettes merely! Through the trees seeped down one or two streetlamp shimmers, as listless as weary eyes. At this moment, the jauntiest were the cicadas chirping in the trees and the frogs croaking in the water. But this exuberance belonged to them only, not to me!
Suddenly, that recalled the liveliness of lotus picking to my mind. It was an old tradition of the regions south of the Yangtze River, which is said to bear a very ancient origin and reach its peak in the Six Dynasties, as evident sporadically in Chinese poetry. Lotus pickers were mostly young girls rowing their boats and singing love songs. Undoubtedly, they abounded, together with bystanders. That was a busy season, meanwhile teaming with romances. Just as the Ode to Lotus Picking by Emperor Yuan of the Liang Dynasty well echoes:
Thus, handsome boys and beautiful girls boated in mutual affinity. The fores sheered slowly, while wine cups still passed. Their paddles were entwined, oaring forward through weeds. Slender girls in plain garments slowed down their pace and glimpsed back. When spring faded into summer, leaves were tender, flowers in bloom. They frolicked slightly lest their clothes get wetted; tucked in their garbs lest the boats be keeled over.
Clearly, that depicts the jaunty jaunts of yore. What a meaningful custom! Sadly, however, such gaieties have faded away in our endowments.Then, the lines from the West Islet Tune also spring to my mind:
采莲南塘秋， 莲花过人头； 低头弄莲子， 莲子清如水。
Lotus picking in South Pool, autumn grand, where lotuses taller than their heads stand. Bowing down to dowse lotus seeds, they find the seeds as pure as the water at hand.
Were lotus pickers to come tonight, they would learn that the lotuses here also stand “taller than their heads”. It’s a great pity, however, that there would be no trail of rippling shadows! All this kindled in me nostalgia for the South – That was still in contemplation, when I raised my head suddenly, only to find myself already reaching my own door. Opening it quietly, I walked in and heard no sound indoors: my wife had been fast asleep for long.
The Moonlit Lotus Pond
(参见Joseph S.M. Lau & Howard Goldblatt, eds., The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature, New York : Columbia University Press, 1995)
These past few days I have been exceedingly restless. This evening, as I sat in my courtyard enjoying the cool night air, I suddenly thought of the lotus pond along which I was used to taking daily walks, and I imagined that it must look quite different under the light of this full moon. Slowly the moon climbed in the sky, and beyond the wall the laughter of children playing on the road could no longer be heard. My wife was inside patting Run’er* as she hummed a faint lullaby. I gently threw a wrap over my shoulders and walked out, closing the gate behind me.
Bordering the pond is a meandering little cinder path. It is a secluded path; during the day few people use it, and at night it is even lonelier. There are great numbers of trees growing on all sides of the lotus pond, lush and fertile. On one side of the path there are some willow trees and several varieties of trees whose names I do not know. On moonless nights this path is dark and forbidding, giving one an eerie feeling. But this evening it was quite nice, even though the rays of the moon were pale. Finding myself alone on the path, I folded my hands behind me and strolled along. The stretch of land and sky that spread out before me seemed to belong to me, and I could transcend my own experience and enter another world. I love noise, but I also love quiet; I love crowds, but I also love seclusion. On a night like tonight, all alone under this vast expanse of moonlight, I can think whatever I wish, or think of nothing if I wish. I feel myself to be a truly free man. The things I must do and the words I must say during the daytime I need not concern myself with now; this is an exquisite secluded spot, a place where I can enjoy the limitless fragrance of the lotuses and the light of the moon.
On the surface of the winding and twisting lotus pond floated an immense field of leaves. The leaves lay high in the water, rising up like the skirts of a dancing girl. Amid the layers of leaves white blossoms adorned the vista, some beguilingly open and others bashfully holding their petals in. Just like a string of bright pearlsor stars in a blue sky, or like lovely maidens just emerging from their bath. A gentle breeze floated by, bringing with it waves of a crisp fragrance like strains of a vague melody sent over from distant towering buildings. When that happened, the leaves and blossoms trembled briefly, as though a bolt of lightning had streaked across the lotus pond. The leaves themselves were densely crowded together, pushing back and forth, and they seemed to be a cresting wave of solid green. Beneath the leaves restrained currents of water flowed, imprisoned beneath them, the color forever hidden, while the stirrings of the leaves were even more pronounced.
The moon’s rays were like flowing waters, gently depositing their moisture on the layer of leaves and blossoms. A light green mist floated just above the lotus pond. The leaves and blossoms looked as though they had been bathed in milk, or like a blurred dream swathed in airy gauze. Although the moon was full, a light covering of clouds in the sky prevented it from shining brightly; yet I had the pleasant feeling that I had come to a fine spot. For just as one cannot do without deep slumber, still a light sleep has its own delights. The moon’s rays filtered down through the trees, and dark, uneven shadows of varying shades were cast by the dense foliage on the high ground, perilously dark and spooky. The bewitching shadows cast by the sparse, twisted willow trees seemed to be painted on the lotus leaves. The moonlight on the pond was spread unevenly, but the rays and the shadows were a concert of harmony, like a celebrated tune played on a violin.
On all sides of the lotus pond, far and near, on high ground and low, there are trees, most of them willows. These trees completely envelop the whole of the lotus pond; only by the side of the path are there gaps, here and there showing through, seemingly left there just so the moon can shine in. The colors of the trees are uniformly dark. At first glance, they resemble a bank of fog and mist, but the slender, graceful forms of the willows can still be distinguished in that fog and mist. Above the treetops a row of mountains can be seen ever so indistinctly, just the hint of their shapes, while one or two faint glimmers of roadside lamps seep through the openings of the branches, appearing like the weary eyes of a tired man. Now the spot was at its noisiest, if you count the chirping of cicadas in the trees and the croaking of frogs in the water. But the noise was theirs alone; I added nothing to it.
All of a sudden, I was reminded of lotus gathering. The gathering of lotuses is an old custom south of the Yangtze, whose origins probably date from very early on but that flourished during the Six Dynasty period. This we know from the poems and ballads of the time. The lotus gatherers were young maidens who drifted in small boats and sang their songs of love. It goes without saying that there were great numbers of lotus gatherers as well as those who came to watch them, for that was a festive and a romantic occasion. “The Lotus Gatherers"by Emperor Yuan of the Liang Dynasty tells it well:
Princely lads and alluring maidens
Adrift in a boat, their hearts in accord;
The boat’s prow describes a slow turn
As they exchange wine cups;
The oars become intertwined,
And the boat moves across the floating duckweed;
The maidens with their slender waists simply bound
Cast glances behind them.
Summer begins where the spring leaves off;
The leaves are tender, the flowers in bloom.
Protecting their dresses from the dampness, smiles adorning their faces,
They gather up their skirts, taking care not to capsize the boat.
This paints for us a picture of the pleasant excursions of those days. They must have been truly memorable events; it is a pity that we can no longer enjoy such pastimes.
I then recalled the lines from “Tune of the West Isle”.
Gathering lotuses at Nantang in the fall,
The lotus blossoms rise above our heads.
Bending over to pluck the lotus seeds,
Lotus seeds as transparent as the water.
If tonight there were lotus gatherers, the lotus blossoms here too would “rise above their heads.” But it is not enough to have before me only these rippling shadows. All of this stirred up in me a sense of longing for the South. With these thoughts in my mind, I suddenly raised my head and found that my steps had carried me to my own gate; I softly pushed it open and entered. I was greeted by complete silence; my wife had long since fallen fast asleep.
- The name of one of the author’s children.
Moonlight over the Lotus Pond
The last few days have found me very restless. This evening as I sat in the yard to enjoy the cool, it struck me how different the lotus pool I pass every day must look under a full moon. The moon was sailing higher and higher up the heavens, the sound of childish laughter had died away from the lane beyond our wall, and my wife was in the house patting Juner and humming a lullaby to him. I quietly slipped on along gown, and walked out leaving the door on the latch.
A cinder - path winds along by the side of the pool. It is off the beaten track and few pass this way even by day, so at night it is still more quiet. Trees grow thick and bosky all around the pool, with willows and other trees I cannot name by the path. On nights when there is no moon the track is almost terrifyingly dark, but tonight it was quite clear, though the moonlight was pale.
Strolling alone down the path, hands behind my back, I felt as if the whole earth and sky were mine and I had stepped outside my usual self into another world. I like both excitement and stillness, under the full moon, I could think of whatever I pleased or of nothing at all, and that gave me a sense of freedom. All daytime duties could be disregarded. That was the advantage of solitude: I could savour to the full that expanse of fragrant lotus and the moonlight.
As far as eye could see, the pool with its winding margin was covered with trim leaves, which rose high out of the water like the flared skirts of dancing girls. And starring these tiers of leaves were white lotus flowers, alluringly open or bashfully in bud, like glimmering pearls, stars in an azure sky, or beauties fresh from the bath. The breeze carried past gusts of fragrance, like the strains of a song faintly heard from a far-off tower. And leaves and blossoms trembled slightly, while in a flash the scent was carried away. As the closely serried leaves bent, a tide of opaque emerald could be glimpsed. That was the softly running water beneath, hidden from sight, its colour invisible, though the leaves looked more graceful than ever.
Moonlight cascaded like water over the lotus leaves and flowers, and a light blue mist floating up from the pool made them seem washed in milk or caught in a gauzy dream. Though the moon was full, a film of pale clouds in the sky would not allow its rays to shine through brightly; but I felt this was all to the good - though refreshing sleep is indispensable, short naps have a charm all their own. As the moon shone from behind them, the dense trees on the hills threw checkered shadows, dark forms loomed like devils, and the sparse, graceful shadows of willows seemed painted on the lotus leaves. The moonlight on the pool was not uniform, but light and shadow made up a harmonious rhythm like a beautiful tune played on a violin.
Far and near, high and low around the pool were trees, most of them willows. These trees had the pool entirely hemmed in, the only small clearings left being those by the path, apparently intended for the moon. All the trees were somber as dense smoke, but among them you could make out the luxuriant willows, while faintly above the tree-tops loomed distant hills - their general outline only. And between the trees appeared one or two street lamps, listless as the eyes of someone drowsy.The liveliest sounds at this hour were the cicadas chirruping on the trees and the frogs croaking in the pool; but this animation was theirs alone, I had no part in it.
Then lotus-gathering flashed into my mind. This was an old custom south of the Yangtse, which apparently originated very early and was most popular in the period of the Six Kingdoms,* as we see from the songs of the time. The lotus were picked by girls in small boats, who sang haunting songs as they padded. They turned out in force, we may be sure, and there were spectators too, for that was a cheerful festival and a romantic one. We have a good account of it in a poem by Emperor Yuan of the Liang dynasty called LotusGatherers:
Deft boys and pretty girls
Reach an understanding while boating;
Their prows veer slowly,
But the wine cups pass quickly;
Their oars are entangled,
As they cut through the duckweed,
And girls with slender waists
Turn to gaze behind them.
Now spring and summer meet,
Leaves are tender, flowers fresh;
With smiles they protect their silks,
Drawing in their skirts, afraid lest the boat upset.
There we have a picture of these merry excursions. This must have been a delightful event, and it is a great pity we cannot enjoy it today.
I also remember some lines from the poem West Islet:
When they gather lotus at Nantang in autumn
The lotus blooms are higher than their heads;
They stoop to pick lotus seeds,
Seeds as translucent as water.
If any girls were here now to pick the lotus, the flowers would reach above their heads too – ah, rippling shadows alone are not enough! I was feeling quite homesick for the south, when I suddenly looked up to discover I had reached my own door. Pushing it softly open and tiptoeing in, I found all quiet inside, and my wife fast asleep.
Moonlight over the Lotus Pond
Of late, I have been in a rather uneasy frame of mind. Sitting in my courtyard enjoying the cool evening, I suddenly thought of the lotus pond that I pass on my way day in and day out. Tonight, it must have a charm all its own, bathed in the light of the full moon. The moon was now rising slowly. Beyond the wall, the happy laughter of children on the road had died away. So putting on my coat quietly, I went out closing the door softly behind me.
A path paved with coal-dust zigzags along the lotus pond, so secluded as to be little frequented in the daytime, to say nothing of its loneliness at night. Around the pond grows a profusion of luxuriant trees. On one side of the path are some willows and other plants whose names are unknown to me. On moonless nights, the place has a gloomy, somewhat forbidding appearance. But on this particular evening, it had a cheerful outlook, though the moon was pale.
On the uneven surface of the pond, all one could see was a mass of leaves, all interlaced and shooting high above the water like the skirts of slim dancing girls. The leaves were dotted in between the layers with white flowers, some blooming gracefully; others as if bashfully, still in bud. They were like bright pearls and stars in an azure sky. Their subtle fragrance was wafted by the passing breeze, in whiffs airy as he notes of a song coming faintly from some distant tower. There was a tremor on leaf and flower, which, with the suddenness of lightning, soon drifted to the far end of the pond. The leaves, softly hidden from view, water was a tremor on leaf and flower, which, with the suddenness of lightning, soon drifted to the far end of the pond. The leaves, softly hidden from view, water was rippling even its color was not discernible so that the leaves looked more enchanting.
Moonlight was flowing quietly like a stream down to the leaves and flowers. A light mist overspread the lotus pond. Leaf and flower seemed washed in milk. It was a full moon, but a pale cloud hanging overhead made it lose some of its brilliance. Moonlight was glowing from behind the trees, and the dense shrubs above cast down gloomy ghost-like shadows of arching willows were like a picture etched on the lotus leaves. Uneven as was the moonlight over the pond, there was a harmony between light and shade, rhythmic as a well-known melody played on the violin.
Skirting the lotus pond, far and near, high and low, are trees among which willows predominate. They entirely envelop the pond, leaving only a few spaces on one side of the path, as if purposely for the moonbeams to penetrate. The trees were now all enshrouded in a heavy gloom, which at first sight looked like a pall of mist, but the lovely shape of the willows remained distinguishable in spite of it. Distant hills loomed above the tree-tops in dim outline. Here and there, a few rays from street-lamps filtered through the trees, listless as the eyes of one who is dozing. At this moment, most lively were the cicadas chirping in the trees and the frogs croaking under the water. But theirs was all the merrymaking, in which I did not have the least share.
Then all of a sudden, I was reminded of the custom of plucking lotus seeds prevalent in Jiangnan, handed down probably from a very remote period and becoming quite popular during the Six Dynasties, as may be seen roughly in songs and poems that survive. This in turn revived my memory of the following lines in the “West Isle Ditty”:
In autumn I pluck lotus seeds in the South Pond,
Tall are the lotus plants, taller than me.
My head bent low, with lotus seeds I play,
Green, green as water all the lotus seeds I see.
If there were people plucking lotus seeds here tonight, they might indeed find lotus plants exceeding them in height; but the absence of the merest shadow of flowing water would spoil it. And that is what has set me thinking about Jiangnan.
Moonlight over the Lotus Pond
I have felt quite upset recently, Tonight, when I was sitting in the yard enjoying the cool, it occurred to me that the Lotus Pond, which I pass by every day, must assume quite a different look in such moonlit night. A full moon was rising high in the sky; the laughter of children playing outside had died away; in the room, my wife was patting the son, Run-er, sleepily humming a cradle song. Shrugging on an overcoat, quietly, I made my way out, closing the door behind me.
Alongside the Lotus Pond runs a small cinder footpath. It is peaceful and secluded here, a place not frequented by pedestrians even in the daytime; now at night, it looks more solitary, in a lush, shady ambience of trees all around the pond. On the side where the path is, there are willows, interlaced with some others whose names I do not know. The foliage, which, in a moon-less night, would loom somewhat frighteningly dark, looks very nice tonight, although the moonlight is not more than a thin, greyish veil.
I am on my own strolling, hands behind my back. This bit of the universe seems in my possession now; and I myself seem to have been uplifted from my ordinary self into another world. I like a serene and peaceful life, as much as a busy and active one; I like being in solitude, as much as in company. As it is tonight, basking in a misty moonshine all by myself. I feel I am a free man, free to think of anything, or of nothing. All that one is obliged to do or to say, inthe daytime, can be very well cast aside now. That is the beauty of being alone. For the moment, just let me indulge in this profusion of moonlight and lotus fragrance.
All over this winding stretch of water, what meets the eye is a silken field of leaves, reaching rather high above the surface like the skirts of dancing girls in all theirgrace. Here and there, layers of leaves are dotted with white lotus blossoms, some in demure bloom, others in shy bud, like scattering pearls, or twinkling stars, our beauties just out of the bath. A breeze stirs, sending over breaths of fragrance, like faint singing drifting from a distant building. At this moment, a tiny thrill shoots through the leaves and flowers, like a streak of lightning, straight across the forest of lotuses. The leaves, which have been standing shoulder to shoulder, are caught trembling in an emerald heave of the pond. Underneath, the exquisite water is covered from view and none can tell its colour; yet the leaves on top project themselves all the more attractively.
The moon sheds her liquid light silently over the leaves and flowers, which, in the floating transparency of a bluish haze from the pond, look as if they had just been bathed in milk, or like a dream wrapped in a gauzy hood. Although it is a full moon, shining through a film of clouds, the light is not at its brightest; it is, however, just right for me - a profound sleep is indispensable, yet as natched doze also has a savour of its own. The moonlight is streaming down through the foliage, casting bushy shadows on the ground from high above, dark and checkered, like an army of ghosts; whereas the benign figures of the drooping willows, here and there, look like paintings on the lotus leaves. The moonlight is not spread evenly over the pond, but rather in a harmonious rhythm of light and shade, like a famous melody played on a violin.
Around the pond, far and near, high and low, are trees. Most of them are willows. Only on the path side can two or three gaps be seen through the heavy fringe, as if specially reserved for the moon. The shadowy shapes of the leafage at first sight seem diffused into a mass of mist, against which, however, the charm of those willow trees is still discernible. Over the trees appear some distant mountains, but merely in sketchy silhouette. Through the branches are also a couple of lamps, as listless as sleepy eyes. The most lively creatures here, for the moment, must be the cicadas in the trees and the frogs in the pond. But the liveliness is theirs, I have nothing.
Suddenly, something like lotus-gathering crosses my mind. It used to be celebrated as a folk festival in the South, probably dating very far back in history, most popular in the period of Six Dynasties. We can pick up some outlines of this activity in the poetry. It was young girls who went gathering lotuses, in sampans and singing love songs. Needless to say, there were a great number of them doing the gathering, apart from those who were watching. It was a lively season, brimming with vitality, and romance. A brilliant description can be found in Lotus Gathering written by the Yuan Emperor of the Liang Dynasty:
So those charming youngsters row their sampans, heart buoyant with tacit love, pass to each other cups of wine while their bird- shaped prows drift around. From time to time their oars are caught in dangling algae, and duckweed float apart the moment their boats are about to move on. Their slender figures, girdled with plain silk, tread watchfully on board. This is the time when spring is growing into summer, the leaves a tender green and the flowers blooming,- among which the girls are giggling when evading an outreaching stem. Their shirts tucked in for fear that the sampan might tilt.
That is a glimpse of those merrymaking scenes. It must have been fascinating; but unfortunately we have long been denied such a delight.
Then I recall those lines in Ballad of Xizhou Island:
Gathering the lotus, I am in the South Pond,
The lilies, in autumn, reach over my head;
Lowering my head I toy with the lotus seed,
Look, they are as fresh as the water underneath.
If there were somebody gathering lotuses tonight, she could tell that the lilies here are high enough to reach over her head; but, one would certainly miss the sight of the water. So my memories drift back to the South after all.
Deep in my thoughts, I looked up, just to find myself at the door of my own house. Gently I pushed the door open and walked in. Not a sound inside, my wife had been asleep for quite a while.
Qinghua Campus, Beijing
Moonlight over the Lotus Pond
These days have found me quite in turmoil. Tonight as I was sitting in my yard, cooling off in the night air, I suddenly thought of the lotus pond I pass by every day: on such a fully-moonlit night, it must assume a different outlook.
As the moon was rising higher and higher up in the sky, we could no longer hear the laughter of children playing in the alleys beyond our wall. Inside our home, my wife was patting our son – Run’er, sleepily humming a cradle song. And quite quietly, I put on my long gown, left the door on the latch and made my way towards the pond.
Along the pond winds anarrow cinder footpath. The footpath, peaceful and secluded, is not much frequented by pedestrians in the daytime and at night, it is even moresolitary. Around the pond grows a huge profusion of trees, exuberant and luxuriant. On one side of the path are willows and some other trees whose names are unknown to me. On a moonless night, it is somewhat somber here, looking rather forbidding. But it has a cheerful outlook tonight, though the moonlight is in a thin, whitish veil.
Strolling along the path I am, all alone, with my hands behind my back. I seem to have this bit of the universe all in my possession. What’s more, it seems that I have overreached my usual self to such an extent as to have entered another world. I enjoy a tranquil life as well as a bustling one; I enjoy being in solitude as well as being in company. On such a night as this, bathing in the mist-like moonlight, I can think of anything or nothing, which makes me feel that I have complete freedom. Also, all that I have to do, or to say, in the daytime, can be totally cast aside at the moment. This is the best feeling that I have when being alone. And I can now immerse myself fully in this profusion of moonlight and fragrance.
All over the pond with its winding margin what meets the eye was a field of trim leaves. The leaves rise high out of the water, looking like the flared skirts of fair lasses dancing gracefully. Upon layers of leaves are dotted with white lotus flowers, some blooming gracefully while others budding bashfully. They are just like pearls shining bright, or stars twinkling high in an azure sky. They are also like fair ladies coming fresh out of a bath. When a breeze passes, it wafts breaths of fragrance, which are like faint singing drifting from a far-away building. Instantly, a slight tremble thrills through the leaves and flowers, like a streak of lightning, flashing across the whole field. And the leaves, which have been jostling and overlapping, are caught trembling in an emerald heave of the pond. Underneath the leaves is the rippling water, which is hidden from view and whose color cannot be seen. But the leaves project themselves all the more enchantingly.
The moonlight, like a cascade, was flowing down quietly to the leaves and flowers and a light blue mist shrouded the pond, which made the leaves and flowers look like being washed in milk or being caught in a gauzy dream. Though there was a full moon tonight, as the sky was covered with a veil of thin clouds, it could not shed its brightest brilliance. But to me, it was the moment of perfection – a sound sleep is certainly necessary, but a nap also has its own flavor. As the moon shed its light from behind the trees, the dense shrubs high above cast down checkered shadows which looked gloomy and ghost-like. But the sparsely-mapped beautiful shadows of the weeping willows looked as if they were painted on the lotus leaves. The moonlight was not evenly distributed over the pond but there was a harmonious combination of light and shade, which was as rhythmic as a famous melody played on a violin.
Around the lotus pond could be seen trees here and there, anywhere and everywhere, most of them willows. These trees had the pond entirely enveloped, with only a few small clearings left on one side of the path, as if purposefully reserved for the moon to shed light. The trees were all enshrouded in such heavy gloom that they looked like a heavy mass of mist at first sight, but the charm of the willows could still be prominently discernible. Above the treetops loomed faintly distant hills – their shapes were rather sketchy, though. Through the branches could be seen some light from a couple of street-lamps, which was as listless as the eyes of someone who is drowsy. The creatures that were full of vitality at the moment, however, were the cicadas that were chirping on the trees and the frogs that were croaking in the water. But this vitality belongs to them; I have nothing in my possession.
Then I was suddenly reminded of the lotus-seed plucking, which was an old custom in areas south of the Changjiang River. The custom, as can be seen from clues in some poetry, could be dated far back in history but was the most prevalent during the Six Dynasties Period. It was the young girls who went plucking lotus seeds in a boat with the singing of love songs. There were doubtlessly a huge number of them doing the plucking apart from those who were watching. That was a busy season, full of vitality as well as of romance. About that, a description was brilliantly made in “Lotus-seed Plucking"written by Emperor Yuan of the Liang Dynasty:
Charming boys and fair maidens
Row their boats in mutual understandings;
They veer their prows slowly,
But pass the wine cups swiftly;
When they pull the oars,
They are easily caught in algae;
When they row their boats,
The duckweed apart floats;
The maidens with slender waists
Are girdled with plain silk
And turn roundwatchfully and with grace.
It is late spring andearly summer
When leaves are tender green and flowers blooming;
They giggle for fear of wetting their silk,
They draw in their skirts lest the boats tilt.
It can be seen that they had a merry life then. It must have been a very fascinating life, but unfortunately we have long been denied the chance to enjoy it.
And then I could recall several lines from the “Ballad of the West Islet”:
In autumn I pluck lotus seeds in the South Pond
With lotus flowers high above my head.
Lowering my head, I pluck lotus seeds
Which are as green as the water underneath.
If there were someone plucking lotus seeds tonight, the lotus flowers would certainly be higher above their heads. But it was a pity that the rippling water was hidden from view. This reminded me of the scenes in areas south of the Changjiang River. — Deep in such thoughts, I suddenly looked up, only to find myself at the door of my house. I gently pushed the door in, with quietness all around me. My wife had long fallen fast asleep.