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40— Hsü Hung-tsu (1586–1641)
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Hsü Hung-tsu (1586–1641)
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Hsü Hung-tsu, better known by his artistic name, Hsia-k'o (Mistlike Traveler), has been canonized as the ultimate Chinese traveler. He possessed a rare commitment to an unencumbered life devoted exclusively to traveling, and produced monumental diaries that dwarf all other efforts. Hsü was born in Chiang-yin, in present-day Chiangsu, into an old scholar family that had fled south after the fall of the Northern Sung. His immediate forebears were men of some literary reputation who declined to enter the government during the turbulent politics of the late Ming, preferring to lead leisurely, comfortable lives as local gentry on their estates. His father, Hsü Yü-an, about whom the connoisseur Ch'en Chi-ju (1558–1639) wrote a biography, enjoyed traveling to nearby scenic places. He died in 1604 from wounds inflicted by marauding bandits near his home.

After a youth in which he pored over books on geography, travel, history, and Taoism, Hsü Hung-tsu decided at the age of twenty-two to devote his life exclusively to visiting the places he had read about; he never even bothered to take the official examinations. Rather, for thirty-three years until his death at the age of fifty-five he traveled to more than sixteen of the modern provinces, often venturing on foot and facing robbers, desertion of servants, the death of companions, lack of food and shelter, inclement weather, and illness. In between journeys, he returned home for brief periods, during which he married twice, raised a family, and was particularly devoted to his mother. Indeed, she was extraordinary for encouraging his unconventional ambitions and even accompanied him on one of his shorter journeys at the age of eighty. With her death in 1625, Hsü felt free to roam more widely; his most strenuous travels thus took place in his later years.


Fig. 50.
Wu Pin (active ca. 1583–1626),  Mount T'ien-t'ai (Terrace of Heaven Mountain)  (detail, 1607).
Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, HAA 3678. 1. To the left is the Rock Bridge.

Although Hsü saw himself in the tradition of epic figures such as Hsüan-tsang and Yeh-lü Ch'u-ts'ai, he differed from them in the purity of his motivation. He traveled neither for religious merit nor out of political necessity but in the idealistic spirit of Taoist "free and easy wandering" as well as an insatiable curiosity about the natural world. Initially, he was attracted by scenic beauty and the aura of these places in the literary tradition. In his later journeys, he became more interested in geographical questions, and a number of his hypotheses about such features as cave formations have since been validated by modern scientists. Hsü enjoyed a wide range of acquaintances, including many prominent scholars, who regarded him as something of a legend. They valued highly the hand-copied sections of his travel diary that they were able to read.

Hsü's diary was compiled over the course of his travels. He would write at the end of each day, if possible, or several days later, relying on his excellent memory to preserve the details of what he had seen. His entries ranged from about 250 characters to over 4,000. Although


some diaries were lost, those that were preserved cover a period from 1613 to 1639 and amount to over 600,000 characters. The diaries were basically notes that Hsü kept on the road for his own benefit. Unlike the other travel writing in this anthology, they were not polished literary pieces intended for publication in their original form. He did in fact plan to publish them eventually, but he died unexpectedly from an illness contracted on the road and was unable to edit them. At first, therefore, they were hand-copied by his friend Chi Meng-liang in 1642. Subsequently, one of his sons recovered more diaries, printing them in a 1684 edition that is no longer extant. In 1776, Hsü's grandson published another corrected edition. Further printings throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries popularized the diaries.

The literary appeal of the diaries lies in their spontaneous, unfinished form. Lacking a commemorative occasion or a moralistic intent, they present a relatively objective, unmediated vision of the world in the tradition of "the classification of things." Hsü's narration of his journey, which is recorded with meticulous detail in a concise prose style, conveys the experience of a direct encounter with the landscape. Though his diaries do not project a strong sense of personality, they capture the reality of travel more than other writers had, even to the point of noting the food consumed and the condition of his lodgings. Hsü's prose is rich in figurative expressions, and his descriptions include visionary perceptions of Nature as an everfascinating texture of interacting phenomena. He incorporates lyric responses to the environment in short, poetic phrases. Occasionally, there are subjective opinions and even moments of humor. The sheer magnitude of his diaries and their accuracy have earned them considerable documentary credibility. Whether retracing his footsteps or engaging in "recumbent traveling," readers have considered his diaries to be the ultimate example of aesthetic realism in Chinese travel writing.

From The Travel Diaries of Hsü Hsia-k'o  image (1613–1639)

Terrace of Heaven Mountain  image (1613)

Terrace of Heaven Mountain (T'ien-t'ai-shan) is located in the north of modern T'ien-t'ai, Che-chiang. Though not especially difficult to climb, it was originally considered remote and mysterious. Sun Ch'o


(314–371), a member of Wang Hsi-chih's circle, was among the first to celebrate it in his imaginary "Rhapsody on a Journey to Terrace of Heaven Mountain" (Yu t'ien-tai-shan fu ). The Taoist alchemist Ko Hung (284–362) also praised it as a suitable place for manufacturing elixirs. But it was largely developed as a spiritual site by Buddhists; indeed, it was the place of origin of the T'ien-tai school, founded by the monk Chih-i (530–597), which later spread to Japan. In his twenty-three years on the mountain, Chih-i built twelve temples. The major one was the Temple of the Peaceful Nation (Kuo-ch'ing-szu), which Chih-i dreamed would bring tranquillity to the country. It was completed in 598. Later, in the eighth century, the temple was home to the three reclusive monks Feng Kan, Han-shan, and Shih-te. It had been lavishly restored twelve years before Hsü's visit.

The mountain is actually a range that extends from Transcendent's Mist Mountain (Hsien-hsia-shan) northward to the Chou-shan Archipelago. Its highest point, 3,732-foot Lotus Summit (Hua-tingshan), is encircled by lesser peaks. The mountain contains eight famous scenes, of which the arched Rock Bridge (Shih-liang) is the most notable, extending twenty-three feet across a waterfall 140 feet high; its narrowest section is only one-half foot wide. The following selection records Hsü Hung-tsu's first visit to the mountain together with the monk Lien-chou; he returned for another visit in 1632.

The last day of the third month in the year kuei-ch'ou [May 19, 1613]: Left Ning-hai[1] through the West Gate. The clouds had dispersed and the sun was shining brightly. My mood appeared joyful along with the mountain's glow. After ten miles, reached Guardian Liang's Mountain.[2] Heard that tigers were stalking the roads hereabout and had injured several tens of people in a month. Therefore, I decided to spend the night here.

The first day of the fourth month [May 20]: It rained in the morning. Traveled five miles, and came upon a fork in the road. Our horses headed west toward Terrace Mountain,[3] and the sky gradually cleared. Another three miles and we arrived at Pine Gate Ridge.[4] The mountain became steep and the road slippery, so we dismounted and proceeded on foot. Though we had crossed over several ridges since Feng-hua,[5] we had merely been following the foothills. Now the road began to wind around as we ascended along the spine of the mountain. Meanwhile, it had cleared after the rain so that the sound of springs and the colors of the mountains were transformed all over. The azaleas blazed


forth among the emerald growth, making me forget about the difficulty of the climb. After another five miles we had a meal at the Sinewy Bamboo Monastery. On the summit, wheat was being grown everywhere. Proceeded south from Sinewy Bamboo Ridge and turned onto the wide road leading to the Temple of the Peaceful Nation.[6] We happened to meet a monk from the temple, Yün-feng, and dined with him. He told me that this road led to the Rock Bridge[7] but that the mountain becomes more dangerous, the road is long, and it would be difficult to bring along luggage. He suggested I travel lightly and have the heavier things brought to the temple to await me. I agreed and had the porters follow Yün-feng to the temple while I and the venerable monk Lien-chou[8] took the path to the Rock Bridge. Traveled one and a half miles over Sinewy Bamboo Ridge. There are many short pines along the ridge. Their old trunks are bent and twisted with beautiful blue-green needles—just right for the kind of potted trees one sees in Su-chou. Another ten miles or so and we arrived at the Amitabha Monastery. Above and below it stood high hills. It is deep in the mountains, and the land is barren and desolate. (All the trees and shrubs have been burned away for fear that they might conceal tigers.) Cascades thundered, and the wind gusted; there were no travelers along this lonely stretch. The monastery lies on a plateau amid a myriad hills, and the road to it is long and barren. Located halfway up, one can dine there and spend the night.

The second day of the fourth month [May 21]: After lunch, the rain finally stopped. We then waded along the swamped roads and clambered up over the ridges; the streams and rocks appeared increasingly secluded. After seven miles, reached the Temple of the Celestial Realm[9] by evening. As I lay in bed, I wondered about the ascent to the summit the next morning and hoped that clear weather would be an auspicious sign. For the past few days, it had cleared up in the evening but there was no sun the next morning. As I lay dreaming during the fifth watch [3:00–5:00 A.M.], I heard a voice say that there were bright stars filling the sky and was so happy I could not go back to sleep.

The third day of the fourth month [May 22]: Arose early. The sun was indeed glorious. I set my goal on mounting the summit. Ascended for about a mile, arriving at the Monastery of the Lotus Summit;[10] after another mile, just as we were approaching the summit, there was the Li Po Hall[11] —but neither place was anything worth looking at. I had heard that below to the left of the cottage was the Cave of the Yellow Court Scripture ,[12] so we followed a narrow path for less than a mile to where I gazed down upon a rock boldly protruding and found it quite exquisite and flourishing. When we arrived, there was a retreat


built by a long-haired monk in front. He had sealed up the cave's entrance with rocks to block the draft from the cave. I sighed deeply, filled with regret. Then I climbed back up to Li Po Hall and followed the path to the very summit. It was dense with wild grass. At this height, the winds were biting. More than an inch of frost lay on the grass. Meanwhile, jadelike flowers and trees glistened on the mountainsides, creating an intricate splendor wherever I looked. The wildflowers were in full bloom along the edges of the ridges, but the summit, in contrast, exuded no color, constrained, no doubt, by the cold at this height. Returned back down to the Monastery of the Lotus Summit, crossed a small bridge beside a pool, traveled over three ridges. A stream wound about as the mountains enclosed a scene where the trees and rocks were magnificent and beautiful. Every turn produced some unique sight, satisfying all my expectations. After seven miles, passed the Upper Monastery of the Universal Teachings[13] and arrived at the Rock Bridge. Worshipped Buddha at the Pavilion of the Udumbara Blossom[14] but had no time to inspect the waterfall. Went down to the Lower Monastery and gazed up at the Rock Bridge and the waterfall. They both appeared to be way up in the sky. I had heard that Broken Bridge and the Curtain of Pearls[15] were especially scenic. A monk told me that if we started right after lunch there would be time to go there and return. Later, we proceeded from the Bridge of the Transcendent's Raft toward the rear of the mountain, where we crossed a ridge and followed a stream for about three miles. A waterfall dropped down from a stone gate, winding its way in three stages. The uppermost is Broken Bridge, where two rocks meet, leaning against each other. The water splashes between them, then swirls down into a pool. In the middle stage, two rocks stand opposite each other like a doorway. The water is forced through this doorway and becomes extremely agitated. At the lowest stage is a pool whose mouth is quite wide. Where the water flows out resembles a threshold. From there the water flows along a cavity and descends to the side. Each of the three levels rises several tens of feet high, and every one is absolutely fantastic. But when I descended by the steps alongside, there were places where the path turned and my sight was blocked so that I could not get a complete view of it all. After less than half a mile, there was the Curtain of Pearls. Where the water falls is broad and fiat, which slows its force so that it flows steadily to the sounds of "ku-ku ." Barefooted, I bounded through the grass, swung around trees, and followed along cliffs. Lien-chou was unable to follow me. We returned only when dusk had fallen all around us. Rested at the Bridge of the Transcendent's Raft. Gazed at the Rock


Bridge, shaped like a rainbow over the waterfall, which spat out snow-flakes. I almost lost all desire to go to sleep.

The fourth day of the fourth month [May 23]: The sky and the mountain were a single shade of blue-green like mascara. No time for breakfast. Quickly crossed the Bridge of the Transcendent's Raft and ascended to the Pavilion of the Udumbara Blossom. The Rock Bridge stands just beyond. It is more than a foot wide and thirty feet long. It is suspended between two hills. Two cascades issue forth to the left of the pavilion. On reaching the bridge, they converge and drop down for more than a hundred chang with the thunderous roar of a river that has burst through a dam. I walked over the Rock Bridge and looked down at the deep pool. It was both hair-raising and bone-chilling. At the end of the bridge was a giant rock, which blocked me so that I could not reach the mountain in front. I had to cross back. Passed the Pavilion of the Udumbara Blossom and entered the Upper Monastery of the Universal Teachings. Followed the stream in front of it and arrived again at the giant rock that had blocked my way to the mountain. Sat down and observed the Rock Bridge. A monk from the Lower Monastery urged me to eat, so I went. After eating, went another five miles and reached the Temple of Eternity. Visited the Repository for Buddhist Sutras, a two-story hall with a set each of Northern and Southern School sutras.[16] There are many ancient firs in front of and behind the monastery; it would take three men with outstretched arms to encircle one of their trunks. Cranes make their nests on top. Their cries reverberated, yet another ethereal sound in these mountains. On this day, I wanted to visit the Paulownia and Cypress Monastery[17] and view the Jade Terrace and the Double Gatetowers,[18] but after several attempts I could not find the way and finally changed my plans in the direction of the Temple of the Peaceful Nation. It is fourteen miles from the Temple of Eternity, and between them is the Hall of the Dragon King. Each time I descended a ridge I thought I had reached fiat ground, but after several such descents it had still not leveled out. I thus realized how high the Lotus Summit is—not far from Heaven, indeed! At dusk, reached the Temple of the Peaceful Nation. Was met by Yün-feng, and it seemed like encountering an old friend. Discussed with him the marvelous sights I planned to visit. Yün-feng said, "The finest scene is by the Two Crags.[19] Though far off, we can ride there. First we can visit the Two Crags, then walk to Peach Spring[20] and reach Paulownia Monastery. This would include the Emerald Cliffs and the Red Citadel."[21]

The fifth day of the fourth month [May 24]: Disregarded signs of rainy weather and took the road to the Two Crags, "Cold" and


"Bright," leaving the temple through the west gate, where we hired horses. As soon as our horses arrived, so did the rain. After seventy miles, arrived at Pu-t'ou Village. The rain stopped and we sent the horses back. After less than a mile, entered the mountain, where the winding peaks were reflected in the water. The trees were flourishing, and the rocks, extraordinary—I took great pleasure in the scene. A stream flowed from Tung-yang District with a strong current, as wide as the Maiden Ts'ao River.[22] Looked all around but could not find any ferry, so I crossed on the back of a servant. The depth of the water rose past his knees. Then we had to cross a torrent, which took nearly an hour. After a mile, arrived at Bright Crag. Bright Crag was where Han-shan and Shih-te lived in retreat.[23] Here, two mountains twist and turn toward each other to form what the local gazetteer calls "Eight-Inch Pass."[24] Entered through the pass to find sheer cliffs surrounding me on all four sides like a city wall. At the end was a cave several tens of feet deep that could accommodate several hundred people. Outside the cave were two crags to the left, both located halfway up the cliffs. On the right was a rock shaped like a bamboo shoot jutting upward. Its top was even with one of the cliffs and separated from it by no more than a hairline. Green pines and purple flowers flourished on top. It complements perfectly the crags to the left—it could certainly be called a marvel. Exited through Eight-Inch Pass, climbed up another crag, also on the left. I looked up at it as I approached and it resembled a cleft, but when I reached the top it was spacious enough to hold several hundred people. There was a well in the middle named "Transcendent's Well"—shallow and yet inexhaustible. Beyond the crag was a particularly unusual rock several tens of feet high with a forked top resembling two men. The monk described it as "Han-shan and Shih-te." Stopped at the monastery there. After a meal, the clouds dispersed and the new moon appeared in the sky. I stood on the summit of this undulating cliff and watched the pure light flood the rock walls.

The sixth day of the fourth month [May 25]: Departed from the temple at the break of dawn. After more than two miles, reached Cold Crag. Its rock wall stood straight up as if hewn. Looked up at it in the sky and saw that it had numerous caves. There was one such cave halfway up the crag about eighty paces wide and more than a hundred paces deep—level, spacious, and bright. Proceeded along the right side of the crag and climbed up through a cleft in the rock. There were two rocks facing each other, rising straight up in the cave. They were separated below but joined together at the top—a "Bridge of Magpies."[25] It could rival the Rock Bridge by the Monastery of the Universal


Teachings, but it lacks the cascade plunging straight down. Returned to the monk's quarters for lunch, then found a ferry and crossed a stream. Followed this stream down the mountain along a strip of sheer cliffs and jagged precipices overgrown with plants and trees hanging down from their tops. Among them were crabapple and redbud trees. Their reflections covered the stream as sweet breezes wafted toward me. Magnolias and fragrant plants were everywhere. In no time, reached the entrance to a mountain. Rock walls stood perpendicular, extending down to a torrent at their feet. The torrent was deep and its flow swift. There was no land on either side of it. Holes had been bored into the rock wall to aid in crossing, but only half of my foot could fit into each hole. I shuddered as I pressed my body against the wall to pass. From Cold Crag it was five miles to Pu-t'ou Village, then followed a small path to Peach Spring, which is beside the Temple Guarding the Nation.[26] The temple has been destroyed, and none of the locals remember anything about it. Followed behind Yün-feng along a winding road choked with tall grass. The sun had already set, but we could find no place to spend the night until we finally asked the way to Plateau Pond. The pond is only seven miles from Pu-t'ou Village, but we had been taking this small path that wound about for more than ten miles. Spent the night there. Now I believe how Peach Spring can cause travelers to lose their way.[27]

The seventh day of the fourth month [May 26]: Proceeded along the winding road from Plateau Pond for more than ten miles. Crossed a stream and entered a mountain. Another one and a half miles and the opening to the mountain gradually narrowed. There is a lodge there named "Peach Blossom Vale."[28] Followed alongside a deep pond. The water was a clear blue-green. A waterfall poured down into it from above. This was the Ringing Jade Torrent.[29] The torrent follows the winding shape of the mountain, and I followed wherever the torrent led. The mountains on both sides were like skeletons of rock. Patches of emerald foliage grew among the clustered peaks. Everywhere I looked was delightful. Its scenic beauty ranks somewhere between that of Cold and Bright Crags. The road breaks off where the torrent ends. A waterfall crashes down from a hollow in the mountain with ferocity. I left, dined at the lodge, and proceeded southeast through the vale; crossed over two ridges to search for what is called the "Jade Terrace" and the "Double Gatetowers," but no one knew where they were. About a mile farther on, learned they were on the summit. Followed the road there with Yün-feng, pulling ourselves up until finally we reached the top. Looked down at sheer peaks, which encircled us just


like at Peach Spring but these emerald cliffs were loftier by far. On top of the peak there is a break in the middle: this forms the Double Gatetowers. What they surround and enclose is the Jade Terrace. Three sides of the terrace are precipitous cliffs, and the rear is connected to the Double Gatetowers. I stood facing the "gatetowers," but dusk had fallen and there was not the time to climb them. However, I had been able to view all the other famous sights in one day. Then descended the mountain behind Red Citadel and returned to the Temple of the Peaceful Nation, traveling ten miles in all.

The eighth day of the fourth month [May 27]: Left the Temple of the Peaceful Nation. Went one and a half miles along the rear of the mountain. Ascended to Red Citadel. On its summit a rounded cliff rises prominently. When viewed from afar, it resembles a city wall, and the color of the rock is a pale cinnabar red. The caves have been converted into monks' dwellings at random, obscuring their natural beauty. The Cave of the Jade Capital, Gold Coin Pond, and the Well for Cleansing Intestines[30] are all of no particular interest.[31]

Seven Stars Cavern  image (1637)

From 1636 until 1640, Hsü Hung-tsu carried out his last and most extensive journey, this one to southwestern China. His leisurely route took him through the present-day provinces of Che-chiang, Chiang-hsi, Hu-nan, Kuang-hsi, Kuei-chou, and Yün-nan. The diaries completed during these years are more than ten times the length of all those written previously and represent a distinct phase of his travel writing in which the search for geographical knowledge became more important than aesthetic pleasure. The southwest did not contain an abundance of historical sites but was rich in unusual natural formations, particularly caves. It was his observations about these—of which he visited over one hundred in the course of his travels—that has attracted most interest from modern scientists.

Seven Stars Cavern (Ch'i-hsing-yen) remains one of the major scenic attractions in the city of Kuei-lin in Kuang-hsi, an area renowned for the picturesqueness of its karst mountains. Seven peaks form a group on the left bank of the Li River (Li-chiang), and their arrangement is said to resemble the Big Dipper. Seven Stars Cavern, located at the midlevel of the mountain, was formed by an underground river. Its widest part measures 141 feet, and it is 89 feet high. The route through the cave is about one-half mile long. It became a tourist attraction in the late sixth century during the Sui dynasty, and numerous inscriptions by literary travelers attest to its long popularity.


Hsü's southwest travels were filled with difficulties; his servants deserted him, and his traveling companion, the monk Ching-wen, died. Although he may originally have intended to go as far as Tibet, this final journey ended when his own health deteriorated. He had to be carried back home, where he died in 1641.

The second day [of the fifth month in the year ting-ch'ou : June 23, 1637]: After breakfast, together with the monk Ching-wen and my servant, Ku, packed provisions, took along bedding, and departed eastward through Pontoon Bridge Gate. Crossed Pontoon Bridge,[1] then turned east again to cross Flower Bridge.[2] East of the bridge, turned north and proceeded toward the mountain. (By the cliff on the east side of Flower Bridge is a small rock that protrudes,[3] abutting the end of the bridge—it beautifies the stream and connects the scene with the village; it also catches the eye of anyone traveling east.) A jagged mountain stands northeast of Flower Bridge. Though its rocky heights cannot compare to the peaks that line the road on the southeast,[4] this is where Seven Stars Cavern is located. It is about half a mile from Pontoon Bridge. The cavern faces west; below it is the Temple of the Buddha of Longevity, and we began our climb up the mountain by the left side of the temple. First we came upon "a pavilion with eaves like wings," which greets the traveler. Called "Plucking Stars,"[5] it was built and inscribed by Ts'ao Neng-shih.[6] Above it was a cliff that jutted out horizontally with space enough only for one's feet, but the view looking down at the city walls and the western mountains was quite exhilarating. To its left was a Buddhist hermitage, which stood at the mouth of a cavern. Upon entering, one is unaware that there is a cavern. I asked a monk from the temple where exactly it was. He pushed open a door at the back and led me inside. We climbed up steps for about thirty feet—his hermitage had concealed the entrance to the cavern. It was pitch black, then suddenly we turned to the northwest and the space grew brighter as it opened up before us. It had an arched ceiling over fiat ground with numerous "bamboo shoots" and suspended "pillars"[7] clustered in the center. They created a pure and intricate beauty. This, the upper cave, is Seven Stars Cavern.

Descended by stairs to the right and entered the lower cave, known as the Cave Perched on Mist.[8] This cave is gigantic, luminous, magnificent, and spacious. Its opening also faces northwest. Gazed up at its loftiness and majesty. Across the ceiling ran a fissure. A rock in the shape of a carp was suspended from the fissure, leaping downward,


head to tail covered in "scales" and "bristles." If one tried to carve such a thing, one could hardly obtain a closer resemblance. Next to it were rocks that were coiled up, knotted together, twisted around, and that formed canopies with their many colors aglow. To the northwest were layered terraces stacked high. Climbed up a set of stairs—this was Lao-tzu's Terrace.[9] North of the terrace, the cavern was clearly divided into two areas. Proceeded west along the high terrace, then east through the middle of a deep valley. Walked further up from the terrace and through an opening straight north into a dark area. Above, the arched ceiling appeared endless; below, the ground dropped down into a pool: cavernous, precipitous, and fissured. What had been level suddenly became dangerously steep. Just then, the guide I had hired earlier lit a torch of pine twigs at the bottom of the cave and entered another cave. He didn't come by the terrace, so I couldn't follow him. Nor could I tell where he was, for it was too dark. So I descended from the terrace and returned to the floor of the cavern. The guide preceded me, holding the torch. We passed along the east side of the terrace through a valley and only then saw that the walls of the terrace were compacted and fractured, forming interweaving patterns that contained all sorts of phantasmal shapes. I recalled that I had just descended to this place from above. Went directly north and entered a "Celestial Gate"[10] of stone pillars standing erect but that admitted only one person at a time. After entering, found it to be another arched space, lofty and extensive, with balustrades of rock on the left. Below, it dropped down into a deep blackness so obscure that no bottom was visible: this was Otter's Pool.[11] The guide said that it is so deep it connects with the ocean, but this is not necessarily so. From Lao-tzu's Terrace northward down to the lower level here, heights and depths kept shifting, dense formations meshed with open expanse, creating yet another realm. Within this I passed through two more "Celestial Gates." The path gradually turned to the northeast and contained such rock formations as "Sprig of Bamboo in a Flower Vase," "Fisherman's Net," "Chessboard," "Eight Transcendents," "Steamed Buns," and images of the divine youth Sudhana[12] on both sides with the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin in the middle. The guide hurried on. Even though I forced him to linger so that I could study things more carefully, for everything I observed I had to neglect something else. However, what I really wanted to see was not located here.

Again we crossed over a cliff while ascending. To the right was a pool, abyssal and black just like Otter's Pool but its area was greater: this one is called "Dragon River."[13] It is probably connected to Otter's Pond. Walked further northward, then turned east past "Red Carpet"


and "White Carpet":[14] like hanging fur robes and suspended rugs whose patterns resembled textiles. Then, eastward, we passed "Feng - and Huang -Birds Playing in the Water." As soon as I had passed through an opening, a cold wind came whistling by—"sou-liu ." The torch was extinguished, and my skin felt raw. Because the wind had entered the cave from outside, upon reaching this opening it had become compressed and its force increased. (Windy Cave on Layered Colors Mountain is also like this.[15] Formerly it was not called "Windy Cave," but this is what people now call it. Whether there was a "Windy Cave" here in the past no one knows today.)

Exited and suddenly saw a halo of white light that illuminated the deep valley inside, creating an expansive atmosphere like the sky at daybreak. Then went east out of the rear cave. There was a stream from the north of the cave, which circled around and entered the cave from the south. I think it must become the Dragon River farther on. A small rock bridge spanned it, constructed by the Sung minister Tseng Pu.[16] Crossed the bridge and wiped off a spot on the cliff to the right of the mouth of the cave: it bore an inscription by His Excellency Tseng. Thus I learned that this cave was formerly called Cold Water Cavern. When Tseng served as a military commander in Kuang-hsi he built this bridge in his search for marvelous sights, and the name was changed to "The Cave of His Excellency Tseng." It is undoubtedly connected underground with Perched on Mist forming a single cavern: only the two gateways separate them.

I stood for a long while on the bridge and saw someone washing clothes and fetching water from the stream. I inquired, "This stream flows here from the northeast. Can one enter by following it upstream?" He replied, "By following along the water channel, one can enter more than a mile deeper. Compared to the outer cave, the road is twice as long, and the sights are twice as fantastic. But the depth of the channel is unknown—only during the winter months can one wade across it—now is not the right season." So I took him on as a guide.

He went back to get a torch, and I followed him outside the cave, then to the right, where I arrived at the Monastery of the Forest of Blessings.[17] Left the pack I had been carrying there and had the monastery prepare a meal to await us on our return. Then I followed the guide, going in, as before, through the narrow opening of the eastern entrance. Passed by Feng - and Huang -Birds Playing in the Water, reached Red and White Carpets, and then turned northward at the fork in the path. Along the way was a "lion" playing with a ball, an "elephant" with a coiled trunk, and a "camel" with a long neck and a rounded hump. There was an earthen tomb with sacrificial offerings


such as hog bristles and goose feet arranged before it. There was a vegetarian "Arhat's Feast," with golden winecups on silver trays arranged below. In the honored place was the God of the Mountain, about a foot or so high, seated on an overhanging cliff. In a recess was a figure of the Buddha only seven inches high, seated in a formal position next to a Bodhisattva situated halfway up the cliff. There was a meditation couch and a small shrine—the couch was suitable for sitting cross-legged and meditating. In front of Kuan-yin on her throne was a prayer wheel that, it seemed, was about to start spinning. Farther back was another deep, dark pool facing a bridge over a flowing stream. At this point, the guide dared not enter any farther, saying, "Even with lamps and torches, several days would not be enough to cover it all. No one ever goes beyond here. Moreover, once the water rises, how could we protect ourselves against it?" So we turned back, passing by Red and White Carpets and Feng - and Huang -Birds Playing in the Water before exiting. I calculated that the route from the Cave Perched on Mist to His Excellency Tseng's Cavern was less than a mile; from Tseng's Cavern farther in and then back out along this circuitous route was about a mile. However, not a single sight in these two caves escaped my view.

After exiting from the cave, I lunched at the Monastery of the Forest of Blessings and gazed upon Wife's Peak to the east, which I had seen upon my arrival. Hurried down a side path and found to the west a hollow at the foot of the peak. Some vegetable gardeners had built their houses in it. (They raise a golden-colored tobacco that can be smoked.) To the north of this are many more caves. These surround His Excellency Tseng's Cavern and are quite numerous. At this point, I followed along the southern foothills of Seven Stars Mountain, turned north through wild grass, and went through three caves in succession. I calculated that the Cave of the Springtime Visit[18] ought to be located north of here and that it could be reached by crossing a hill.

I thus headed north in the direction of a hollow in the hill and came across a small path. After half a mile, arrived at the summit where the rock was steep and protruded—there was barely enough room to get a foothold. And the small fissures in the rock were concealed by brambles and thorns, so climbing up became more and more difficult. From a distance, the unique shape of the rock slabs and the strange forms of the petal-like peaks seemed to conceal while supporting each other; as I approached, though, they increasingly opened up and revealed themselves, leaving me in a daze. After another half mile, crossed over the hill and descended by means of the stairs that had been cut into the rock. At the foot of the stairs was the Cave of the Springtime Visit. It


contains three caves in succession, all facing northeast. Surging clouds arose by the westernmost one. Entered deep into the cave. There was a rock suspended in the middle like a hanging lung. Penetrated westward, then turned south. The cave gradually darkened. Unfortunately, there were no inhabitants, and I could not obtain a torch to penetrate further. However, I had heard that there was nothing extraordinary inside, so there was no need to go in any farther.

On the right side of the cave was an opening that led to the middle cave. This cave located in the center is wide in front, but one cannot penetrate far into it. In the front are rocks that resemble a suspended, forked tree and an upside-down dragon. On the right side of the cave was an opening leading to the eastern cave. In this easternmost cave, the suspended rocks are even more abundant. One side of the cave, moreover, contained a fissure. A clear spring flowed down into a pool whose cold, green surface was mirrorlike. I had my servant Ku watch over the packs in the middle cave while I went with Ching-wen from the front of the cave along a cliff, eastward. Above, rocks standing erect were like people; those crouching low, like animals. In the eastern part, rocks like roof tiles touched the sky—I looked up at them, and they seem to have been cleaved. Below, a clear stream wound around—it is called Sword's Trail River (also known as the Kuei River).[19] It originates at Yao's Mountain.[20] From the northeast, it reaches the northern foothills of the mountain and flows out west under Old Ko's Bridge[21] and thence westward into the Li River.[22]

At this point, I turned and reached the eastern corner of the mountain and looked up to find at the middle of the cliff row upon row of grottoes as if the clouds had exhaled a curtain of gauze. Where a file of three such grottoes were, I imagined that if they were joined inside so that these three were one it would resemble an elegant many-storied pavilion in the middle of the sky whose white jade eaves would be visible through the clouds—this would be a marvelous sight! And yet, it did not seem possible to reach it. We wandered back and forth below it before we cleared away some undergrowth among the rocks, cut some stairs into the overhanging cliff, and climbed up from one level to the next. Finally reached a grotto, and as expected it led into a middle grotto. However, this middle one was so low that I couldn't raise my head up. I had to cross it around the outside as if it were a pavilion on a terrace, and not through its interior space. Then I reached the third grotto and entered through a narrow fissure. Went to the rear, where there was a shrine with a window in front. There was a "jade pillar" suspended in the window. To the left of the pillar was another shrine with an arched roof above and a platform beneath. I sat down on it in


a meditative position and all my limbs felt perfectly relaxed—even if someone set out to carve this, he could not create something so marvelous! Its front was opposite the jade pillar. There was a small stalactite hanging down; a spring of watery pearls kept on dripping. Ching-wen and I crouched down in front of the jade pillar in the space of the window and looked down the precipitous cliff. The passersby below looked up at us and kept walking around in circles below; some lingered, unable to leave. After a bit, two wood gatherers from the village looked up at us for a long while and finally clambered up. One said to me, "This would be a fine place to build a cottage, for my village is nearby and I could always look out on it." I said, "This pavilion in the sky is, I regret, a bit too shallow and narrow. If it were only slightly more spacious and deeper, one could reside here." He replied, "Above the middle grotto is another cave that is quite spacious." He wanted me to climb up to it, but although I tried for a long while, I couldn't reach it. So I descended and rested against a shady pine. Just where the two wood gatherers had gazed up at me, I now gazed up at them. They grasped hold of some branches and searched for stairs but finally were blocked by a precipice and found no way to climb up any farther.

After a while, once more went west into the eastern cave of the Cave of the Springtime Visit and entered the middle cave. Followed along the western waist of the mountain and entered the western cave, which contained many inscriptions by men of the present carved on the walls. Exited the cave going west and came across yet another cave. Its entrance, which faced north, was about fifty feet high. Inside, I descended slightly, turning west. Although it gradually grew darker, its lofty and spacious proportions increased greatly, But without a torch I could not penetrate further. This was indeed an ancient cave! On a cliff to the left was inscribed in large characters the phrase "The Five Excellences and the Four Evils,"[23] written by Chang Nan-hsüan in his heroic and consummate style of calligraphy.[24] How sad that no one appreciates it; moreover, even the name of the cave cannot be determined. It could be the "Cave of the Encountered Transcendent"[25] or "Pellet Cavern." I brushed off the wall of the cavern, only to find an inscription by Ch'en Fu of P'u-t'ien during the Sung dynasty,[26] which read, "Islet Cave."[27] Is this because the cave is located on an islet in the Kuei River? West of the cave, the Sword's Trail River flows straight from the northeast, pressing along the foot of a cliff. The cliff becomes increasingly arched and sheer, its height piercing the empyrean while extending down into a deep pool—how majestic and powerful!

A rock bridge spans the water leading westward, so that both the cliff and the river are to the south of the road. This spot is the northeast


corner of Seven Stars Mountain, and the cliff's name is Pellet Mountain.[28] From Springtime Visit to here is less than half a mile. From its southwest corner I crossed over Elders' Bridge. (Elders of various towns had it constructed, hence its name.) Looked at the summit of the cliff and saw a cave located high up. Above and below it, the rock was extremely steep and sheer: it must have been the entrance to the Cave Perched on Mist. When I focused my sight to its left, I saw yet another cliff with a hermitage among the clouds, quite different from the one at the rear entrance to Seven Stars Cavern. Hurriedly turned east to climb the mountain. At the foot, I first encountered a temple. No doubt it, along with the Temple of the Buddha of Longevity and the Seven Stars Monastery,[29] stands in front of mountains that are like three legs of a tripod along a north-south axis. On the south is Seven Stars Monastery—above it to the east is Seven Stars Cave; in the middle is the Temple of the Buddha of Longevity—above it to the east is the Cave Perched on Mist; in the north is this temple—above it to the east is Morning Clouds Cave.[30]

Climbed with bent knees while lock, king upward, then walked straight up several hundred stairs until I finally entered Morning Clouds Cave. It faces west, lies to the north of Perched on Mist, and is less than half a mile farther from Elders' Bridge. The mouth of the cavern was situated high up; inside, the cavern turned to the north and was extremely lofty. The monk T'ai-hsü of Hui-chou[31] had piled up stairs and erected a pavilion at the entrance. It soars up along the sheer cliff and gazes down over the City of Rivers,[32] happily greeting the Western Mountains in the distance. By then, however, the late sun's rays were falling on the cliff and so I struggled to climb farther, hard pressed by panting and sweating. I had barely thrown myself at the foot of the Buddha to offer a prayer when suddenly a monk called to me—it was Jung-chih.

Previously, I had met Jung-chih at Antiquity Plateau on Transverse Mountain[33] and again at the Green Bamboo Monastery in Heng-chou.[34] Jung-chih left first to return to Kuei-lin, and we planned to meet at Seven Stars Cavern. When I arrived here, I asked anyone I met about him, but no one knew anything. After going through Seven Stars Cavern, I told myself that I would never be able to find him. Then when I arrived here, I suddenly encountered him most unexpectedly. So I spent the night in his cave I asked about the pathway to the higher cave to the north, and Jung-chih said, "Although this cave is lofty and stands to the right of the cliff, there have never been any stairs going up to it. However, the south wall of this cave is separated by only ten feet or so from the northern base of that one. One might bore


a hole through from inside this cave, since outside there is no place to support a stairway." I leaned against a railing and gazed off to the north. The cave was blocked by rocks, so I was unable to observe it from a closer distance. There was nothing left but to undo my hair and gaze toward the Western Mountains to identify the various peaks.

(The Western Mountains from north to south: at the extreme north is Yü's Mountain;[35] south of it is East Town Gate Mountain;[36] and south of this is Dragon Tree Cave Mountain and Windy Cave Mountain, also known as Cassia Mountain;[37] further south is Fu-po's Mountain[38] —all of these form a range east of the city. West of Yü's Mountain at the extreme north is Flowerscape Mountain;[39] south of it is Lingering Horse Mountain;[40] south of this is Retirement Mountain;[41] and south of this is Marquis Mountain and King of Good Fortune Mountain.[42] These form a range to the west of the city. Between Fupo's and Retirement Mountain stands Unique Beauty;[43] opposite it to the south by the mouth of the river are Mount Li and Pierced Mountain.[44] All of these are west of the Li River, hence the name "Western Mountains.")

The third day of the fifth month [May 24]: Stayed in the pavilion at Morning Clouds Cave. Sat facing the west as I recorded the events of the past several days in my diary. At twilight, bade farewell to Jung-chih and descended the mountain. Passed the Temple of the Buddha of Longevity and Seven Stars Monastery to the south, traveling less than half a mile in all. Westward crossed over Flower Bridge, then went less than half a mile again, crossed Pontoon Bridge, and entered East River Gate. Three hundred yards south and I arrived at the Chao Residence, where I spent the night.[45]


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40— Hsü Hung-tsu (1586–1641)
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