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SIX NOTES ABOUT LIFE (EXCERPT)
by Shen Fu (1763 - 1825, Qing Dynasty)
English translation: William Chong and Miao Guang

There are countless mundane affairs, yet so little time; so why get involved in all this hustle and bustle? We busy ourselves with life, competing and comparing endlessly, yet no one tells us that fame or dishonor is limited, and that success or failure is hard to measure. Look! The autumn wind blows over the luxurious gardens of the fallen rich, and the darkness that falls over the Wu River*, the bleak Epang Palace, and the desolate Tongque Tower. Name and glory are but dew on a flower; riches and fame are just frost on a grass’ tail.

Seeing through that ploy, forgetting all troubles, what of the royal palaces is there to praise for, or the shackles of profit and fame? Upon the moment of leisure and quietude, let us indulge in wine and poetry, singing the lyrics of “It’s Not Too late to Return” and the tune of “The Vast Sea.” On proper occasions, let us invite a few intimate friends, either to the wilderness besides the creeks, play the zither to your heart’s content, let your pains flow away along the bends of the river, speak of good causes and retributions, or discuss the rises and falls throughout past and modern times. Or we can appreciate brocades of beauty atop flower stems, and listen to the melodious chirping of the birds.

── from Fu Sheng Liu Ji (Six Notes of Life)
* Xiangyu was a renowned commander-in-chief during the time of the Three Kingdoms, who valiantly died while fighting vastly outnumbered.