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Chapter 1
The Land: Its Settlement, Use, And Appreciation

Patterns Of Settlement

T'ai-ho County was not a tiny place. In size it measured 1,028 square miles,[1] which is about 85 percent the size of the state of Rhode Island (1,214 square miles). Located on the Kan River, some 150 miles south of the Kiangsi provincial capital of Nanchang, T'ai-ho stretched seventy-five miles east to west and was about thirty miles deep at its thickest point north to south.

The county contained six large subdivisions called hsiang , or "cantons" (see map 1).[2] These had no administrative use in the Ming period. They simply served to identify physiographically coherent regions. Five of the six cantons took in a main Kan River tributary and its feeders, each tributary forming a natural conduit for settlement and communication. The "metropolitan" canton, Ch'ien-ch'iu (Thousand Autumns), with the county seat at its center, straddled the Kan and the lower reaches of several of its tributaries.

The six cantons were in turn divided into seventy lower-echelon units called tu , or townships, which did have an administrative function. They were numbered consecutively. Beginning with the canton of Jen-shan (Benevolent and Good) in the northeast, officials placed township number 1 in the first cropland below the watershed of the Jen-shan River. Then they kept plotting, down that stream and up the next one and so on through the county, insofar as topography allowed. The townships served as quota assignment areas for taxes and services.


Map 1.
T'ai-ho County in the Ming: Cantons and Townships. Maps 1 and
2. are reprinted from John W. Dardess, "A Ming Landscape: Settlement, Land
Use, Labor, and Estheticism in T'ai-ho County, Kiangsi," Harvard Journal of
Asiatic Studies 49, no. 2 (December 1989): 295-364.

Though their exact boundaries can no longer be determined, some seem to have encompassed several square miles of crop- and residential land.

At the bottom of the fiscal-administrative hierarchy lay some 250 rural wards, in T'ai-ho called li . Although county, cantons, townships, and wards together made up what is technically known as a "nested" hierarchy of units, the wards were clearly creatures of compromise between imperial administration and local society. Localism is evident in the way in which the wards were named. Many were named after local features—for example, Shan-t'ien (Mountain Field), Lo-chiang (Snail River), and the like. Several wards were concurrently known by more than one name: T'ao-yuan (Peach Spring), Ssu-hsia (Under the Temple), and Shih-t'ai (Stone Terrace) were all names for the same ward in township 12. Other wards had script variants: Shen-ch'i (in township 4) was written both as Deep Creek and as Sash Creek. And there were duplicated names, as well as one triplicate (three different wards all named Nan-ch'i, or South Creek). Ward names commonly served as choronyms


for dominant local lineages—for example, the Shan-t'ien Yin, the T'ao-yuan Hsiao, etc.

Upon this unsystematic local toponymy, the early Ming state tried to impose order and control, not by redesigning the microgeography but by treating each ward as though it were also a uniform population unit, each consisting of 110 taxpaying households as its core.[3] It then grouped these theoretically uniform wards into the serially numbered townships. Each township contained anywhere from one to twelve wards. In the Ming, the total number of wards wavered between 250 and 260.

Although modern detailed maps show many of these old wards as discrete dots, suggesting punctiform villages, it is clear that in the Ming they were in fact microregions and not settlements as such. They included the actual, physical settlements that were points of departure for local land-use systems.

Of these actual settlements, the largest was the little walled city that served as the county seat. Like the county, it too was called T'ai-ho. It sat on prime alluvial land on the north shore of the Kan, not directly on the water, but slightly inland, so as to escape flooding and erosion. The area within the walls (about a third of a square mile), together with an outer extension of suburban and farming space, was designated for fiscal purposes as township 45. There was no further subdivision into wards, however.

In the Ming and Ch'ing, the city proper had an oblong shape, with an interior network of streets and lanes that featured many odd bends and irregularities (see map 2). Public buildings (like the magistrate's yamen and the K'uai-ko, or Happy Tower, a local landmark) were placed erratically. Certainly the forces of traditional urban planning had been weak here.

The streets were narrow, at best wide enough to admit the horsecarts that, in the Ming period, daily hauled produce in from the countryside. The residential lanes were very narrow. The whole effect was one of crowding. John Nieuhoff, accompanying a Dutch embassy up the Kan in 1655, described T'ai-ho as a small city, set in a "charming" landscape, with well-paved but very narrow streets.[4] Congestion had already been evident centuries before: a twelfth-century observer wrote that a multistory house owned by one Ch'en Ch'eng, though near the Kan River, gave him no prospect on it because "hundreds of houses belonging to people in the market block out the view."[5]

People lived in the city for reasons of livelihood. Some lines of trade


Map 2.
T'ai-ho City and Its Suburb in Ming Times: (1) To township 56 and
P'o-t'ang k'ou (2) Hollow Street (Ao-chieh) (3) Kao-ying Lane (4) Moat Head
Lane (Hao-t'ou hsiang) (5) Old Well Lane (Ku-ching hsiang) (6) Fishpond
Lane (Yü-ch'ih hsiang) (7) Grass Garden Lane (Mao-yuan hsiang) (8) Back
Street (Hou-chieh) (9) Refined Creek (Hsiu-ch'i) (10) Lane of Successful
Officials (Ch'iu-tzu hsiang) (11) County magistrate's office (12) Happy Tower
(K'uai-ko) (13) Clear Creek (Ch'ing-ch'i).

required a certain density of customers, which is why in the fifteenth century the family of Ch'en Hsun—whose fortune was based on land speculation and grain dealing—lived in the east part of the city, "intermixed with the other classes of people," their buildings "packed like fish scales" against those of their neighbors. But willow and sophora trees shaded the front, and a studio was placed in back, far enough from the horsecart traffic and marketplace clamor that none of the noise could be heard.[6]

Others did less well. Liu O (1295-1352) moved from his kinsmen's rural home to a house near the east wall, which "one entered. through a mean alley, reaching a mean dwelling where his family lived frugally," and where he eked out a living as a professional tutor.[7] Medical practitioners were also drawn to the city. So was a more transient assortment of indigents, child-monks, litigants, government students, yamen underlings, and the like. In the late sixteenth century, a writer remarked that there were "several myriad" city families, including "a thousand" government clerks and lictors in T'ai-ho city, but that was surely guesswork. No official enumeration of the city population of Ming or Ch'ing date seems to have survived.[8]


While the city attracted the needy and ambitious, it also clearly repelled many of the affluent, whose fortunes had already been made. Through the Ming, there took place a steady exodus of wealthy people from the inner city (or the crowded parts of the western suburb) for the rest and quiet of rural places.[9]

Suburban spread beyond the city walls of T'ai-ho was not uniform in every direction. South of the city, the Kan River shore lay vacant. East of the city, suburbs failed to grow, probably because of flooding. To the north, the suburb hugged the city wall, along a street called Ch'iu-tzu hsiang (Lane of Successful Officials), where families such as the Hsiao and the Tseng supervised the labor of their bondsmen in soils of "top fertility."[10]

The west side was different. From the two west gates of the city, parallel roads led out for a half mile, laced together by a network of interior lanes. This western suburb straddled a soil frontier between fine alluvial sand along the Kan River to the south and a more mixed and productive alluvium to the north.[11] Intensive farming estates lined the suburb's north edge. Dense settlement continued westward for another mile, where urban township met rural townships 56 and 57. A citylike community developed in P'o-t'ang-k'ou (Broken Reservoir Mouth Ward, township 56).[12]

Out in the broad countryside of T'ai-ho County, rural settlements were not uniform in size or appearance. They ranged from isolated residences, to peasant hamlets, to elite residences whose buildings were scattered about, to densely clustered, citylike communities, like that of the Cheng family in township 35. The family numbered "a thousand and several hundreds," and their "tile roofs look like fish scales, rising up in a dense mass, just like city residences, wherever you look."[13]

By taking actual centers of settlement, whatever their size or form, as starting points, it is possible to use the literary evidence to show that the human use of landscape in T'ai-ho in Ming times was organized into a system of distinct rings or zones. Taken together, these land-use zones demonstrate that several very different kinds of land all had a crucial part to play in sustaining over a considerable period of time a sizable population at a respectable level of affluence, sophistication, and social organization. Yet T'ai-ho's was a subsistence landscape, not a heavily commercialized one.

Starting from any center of settlement and proceeding outward, one entered first an innermost area of intensively worked garden space (yuan, p'u ), often with room in it somewhere for dogs, pigs, and chick-


ens. Gardens were minuscule in total acreage, but they were heavily worked and very productive. Next, beyond the gardens, one came upon the fields (t'ien ), larger in area than gardens but commonly lower in per-acre productivity and not as heavily worked. Finally, somewhere beyond both gardens and fields there stretched an enormous outer envelope of uncultivated space that was an absolutely essential component of T'ai-ho's subsistence landscape, though on average its per-acre yields were lowest of all. (There is an ancient word for that space—tse —but the T'ai-ho writers never used it.)[14]

A few technical words of ancient Mediterranean origin will help in the understanding of these landscapes. If what goes on in the garden (hortus ) is "horticulture," then what goes on in the field (ager ) is "agriculture," and those words will be used with these restricted applications in mind. The exploitation of uncultivated space, essential in many premodern subsistence economies, has all but vanished in modern times, as has the old vocabulary that once named and described it. But the old noun "march" means just the right thing: a mosaic of hacked-up forest, groves of lopped shrubs or trees interspersed with grassy or weedy glades. The rarely used adjective "nemoral" derives from the analogous nemus , or "wooded pasture," of ancient Italy. And so one may refer to the three principal subsistence zones as horticultural, agricultural, and nemoral.

Horticulture In T'al-Ho

What sort of horticulture was T'ai-ho's? J. G. Hawkes has constructed a general typology, indeed a continuum, of gardening modes, which may be of help in answering the question. At one extreme of this continuum there is the jibaro , an apparently planless jumble of subsistence plants of every possible sort, each species being represented by only a few individuals. At the other extreme lies commercialized monoculture, with large areas planted to a single species.[15] T'ai-ho's gardens seem to have filled much of the continuum without reaching the extremes.

Some commercial horticulture has been noted in passing already. There are further examples. The late-fourteenth-century gardens of Lo Hui-ch'ing (of Hsia-mu Ward, township 39) featured single species growing in such quantity as to suggest a commercial operation: "in the west part of the garden, green leeks stand thick-planted in a thousand beds, and behind his house, a myriad red fagara bushes grow widely spaced."[16] In the early fifteenth century, on Lung-chou, the big


river island just south of T'ai-ho city, lived a certain Elder Yao, whose home was surrounded by woods and several tens of mou of fertile land. He grew, perhaps as outfield crops, hemp, millet, and soybeans, which yielded him several hundred hu yearly; but out of gratitude for the founding of the Ming and the return of peaceful conditions, he sent as a gift to the Yung-lo emperor "several tens of boxes of sugar cane, melons, and yams," which fact suggests, again, commercial gardening on some scale.[17]

In 1370, Buddhist monks funded the rebuilding of their temple on the south bank of the Kan from the proceeds of what surely was commercial gardening:

The gardens attached to the temple amount to something over ten mou , and these are presently planted to several hundred fagara bushes, several hundred yams, a thousand or more leeks and cabbages, and several tens of [privet or ash] trees for [insect white-] wax. The pathways are broad and even, and the drainage channels ordered and regular. Hired laborers are assigned the task of cultivating with plows drawn by two-steer teams, and so rapidly do they go, that it is almost as though night, or a storm, were fast approaching.[18]

Most T'ai-ho gardens, however, seem to have been of the kitchen or subsistence type, located very close to the homesite, Owing to the range and frequency of the labor demands they imposed. Besides planting, fertilizing, thinning, weeding, and hoeing, there was a need for daily watering, picking, and hand squashing of bugs, tasks that family members or domestic servants performed. While outfield crops, wet or dry, grew in unitary fields, gardens were usually subdivided into small rectangular plots or beds (ch'i ), with each bed sporting a single species. There is no indication that the jibaro technique was much practiced. Fruit-bearing trees, however, were often scattered about a garden. A bamboo clump would serve as a windbreak, while brushwood fencing or a hedge would enclose the entire complex.

The following examples of garden descriptions seem to show that the T'ai-ho kitchen gardens held a certain diversity of plant species and that the mixtures differed from one garden to another, in response either to local conditions or to the food preferences of the family or to some small market opportunity. These examples also show that some of the literati contributed their own labor to subsistence gardens, and that they occasionally reflected upon the anxieties and satisfactions connected with that labor. The garden descriptions are vignettes, mostly poetic and always select, never complete.

Of some estate in T'ai-ho, fourteenth-century poet Liu Sung (1321-


81) writes: "light frost descends on the soybeans on the hilltop; sunset

clouds rain their glow on the beds of amaranth."[19] The poet here contrasts soybeans in an outfield with the amaranth (cooked and eaten as a vegetable) in the garden bed. In another vignette, Liu Sung and some companions, passing along a road in winter, stopped to look into a well-hidden garden: "Where the streams from the back of the mountain converge, and a high stone path leads through the woods, we spotted the top of a tile roof outlined against the hill beyond, with thick hedging all around the place. So we spread apart the foliage and saw leeks in beds; we pulled aside the vines and there came to view a peach tree by a creek."[20]

T'ai-ho philosopher Lo Ch'in-shun (1465-1547) wrote of a garden, probably somewhere in the south part of T'ai-ho, "where the melon vines spread about after the rain, while in the grove, the oranges bend the boughs in midautumn."[21] Some garden description was off-season: "Melon vines in the garden, long bedraggled in the cold; the yam vines, too, have collapsed since the coming of fall. A light rain has wet the dark path below the flowers; a passing cloud has shaded over the bamboo-fringed pond."[22] A ruined garden, just west of the county seat, prompted this description sometime during the wars of the fourteenth century: "The bamboo clump was long ago cut down, and the trace flourishing apricot trees are knocked flat. The fragrant fagara is drooped and wilting; the fine oranges, insect-ridden too."[23] In the sixteenth century, T'ai-ho philosopher Hu Chih (1517-85) noted his own garden in its seasonal decline: "The idled garden has everywhere grown to weeds, and the wattle gate is open now to the dogs and pigs. The last bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium ) were picked after the frost, but a few vegetables still linger in the rain."[24]

The luffa was a useful member of the melon family—its dried fibers made scouring pads. It also climbed and thus used little space, as Liu Sung noted in Ho-ch'i (Grain Creek Ward, township 65): "Several peasant homes lie hidden in the yellow bamboo; the road by here twists up and down the hills and ridges. The dogs bark at the wattle gate below the sweetgum tree, and, on this cold day, the luffa twines all along the hedge-fence."[25]

A fiber crop like hemp might be posted to the outfields, but it might also be brought in and gardened. Ramie (Boehmeria nivea , a nettle), on the other hand, had to be gardened and did not produce well if handled as an outfield crop. A perennial grown from rootstock, ramie requires intensive care—watering, heavy fertilizing, plus winter bedding, and


periodic replanting. After laborious hand processing, the stripped stems of this plant yield an excellent fabric called summer cloth or grasscloth. Liu Sung carefully described it:

Many families south of the Kan raise ramie;
They first burn the soil, then next year they mound it, and fence it off.
When the old stems are harvested, new stems come up,
And you can get three harvests a year.
The girl of the family to the east, with her fine features,
Weaves white ramie and makes spring clothing.
Early in the morning she goes to the garden to defoliate the stalks;
She peels away the green skins, and comes away with an armful.
Next she goes and rinses the fibers in the pond,
Then, deftly using a round knife, she scrapes them:
It's like snakes shedding their skins, or scales and bristles flying off;
You touch the clouds of fiber now, and their smoothness surprises you.
It's taken her a month to ready everything for the loom.[26]

The garden was, of course, principally a source of household food. Thanks to the mild climate, T'ai-ho gardens could provide some fresh produce all year. When he was an official in Peking, Wang Chih (1379-1462) reminisced that around his home in the western suburb there were "about ten mou of garden, all planted to vegetables, mostly radish [not the European or American radish but a plant closer to the Japanese daikon]. That we'd pick in winter, cut it up together with yam, add leek, salt, and bean paste, and boil for soup. Not even the rarest and richest of foods could surpass that, and everyone in the family loved to eat it."[27]

Some literati performed garden labor in person. Liang Lan (1343-1410), a local writer, ended a day's work in his Willow Creek garden physically exhausted but spiritually euphoric. But as Liu Sung grubbed about his garden one Spring day, his thoughts ran off in several different directions. He thought of the coming harvest from his peach trees, now in bloom, and of the melons that, months later, would ripen from the seeds he now held in his hand. He could dream ahead to "soft, sweet, golden yellow vegetables" and to "pickled, jade-green relish." He had some firm ideas about gardening technique: hemp should be widely spaced; peasants often sowed it too thickly and got puny plants as a result. Similarly, melon had to be planted with a lot of room for the vines to spread. The south side of the Kan River, where he lived (in Chu-lin Ward, township 38), featured a sandy alluvium, which was no good for water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica ) or for "crystal onion," a famous local specialty. Lettuce you ate raw, but rape-turnip you could pickle. He half thought of compiling handbooks on farming and vege-


tables. He must have already planted his seeds because nothing had germinated. If the weeds had flowered (he sighed as he hoed them up), then why had the melons not set fruit? The wheat on the high ridge was stunted and sere because it got no rain after it was planted the previous fall. Weeding was toilsome and unending. The millet had sprouted on the high ground to the east, but the weeds had gotten ahead of it; and they had to be taken out, else if it did rain, it would do the crop no good. He had planted (edible) chrysanthemums too close to a tree, which had since leafed out and was now shading the plants, so that they looked sickly. He wished someone would come relieve him of the watering pot so that he could go eat. On top of it all, the tax assessor had come by to register his mulberry and fruit trees.[28]

Agriculture In Field And Paddy

One could garden any crop one pleased, but traditional field agriculture in T'ai-ho, dry or wet, was limited to a narrow range of plants (rice, wheat, millet, taro, etc.) that can be seen to have certain features in common, foremost among these being an amenability to "mass production" techniques, including an ability to give satisfactory results despite relative neglect. If whatever was grown in gardens was worked at intensively (one plant at a time), then whatever was grown in fields was something that could be handled extensively (many plants at a time).

The greater the number of individual plants needed to produce a given amount of food, the greater is the likelihood of that species being made an outfield crop in a subsistence landscape. And plant for plant, even rice yields little. Thus as long as enough space is available in the landscape, rice along with the other grains will be exiled some distance from the homesite, where the plants and their fruits (kernels) will be handled in the greatest possible quantities on the fewest possible occasions. For the T'ai-ho literati, the location and nature of the staple crops clearly reduced their aesthetic interest. The literati also looked distantly upon the episodic, massed labor that was commonly expended upon such crops.

Dry, that is, nonirrigated, field crops known to have been raised in T'ai-ho in Ming times included spring-ripening wheat, buckwheat, and millet and fall-ripening soybeans. These were planted in any arable land that could not be turned into paddy, or, as occasionally in the case of soybeans, in harvested and drained paddy. In T'ai-ho, these crops provided common local foods (millet gruel, buckwheat cakes, bean paste,


bean curd, etc.), and they probably also served to reduce dependency on the main staple, which was rice. Taro is also mentioned as having been grown in fields, and it must have been an important source of starch for some families.

A few fleeting glimpses of dry field crops are available. A peasant hamlet, nestled against the march, is described in enough detail by Liu Sung that field crops can be distinguished from garden fairly sharply: "In the pass between the hills they grow wheat, and at the head of the pass, hemp. The door of the earthen hut is dark, no stir within. The neighbor's yard is fenced against tigers, and in it, children feed a pet crow. Fine mountains, like green jade, rise on either side; flowing streams lace the garden plots, spilling white foam. Late in the day the adults come home with their hoes in the light rain; poppies have dropped their petals all over the courtyard."[29] In Nan-chüan (South Drain Ward, township 56) there is broad level upland and "fruiting millet, thick in the fields."[30] Along a twisting path that approaches a mountain hamlet, wheat has been planted in ridges of soil; by fall, these ridges will be weed covered, and peasants may snare rabbits there. At Liu Sung's home in Chu-lin Ward, some of his wheat seems to be gardened, i.e., planted in "continuous beds," near mulberry, while the rest of it is planted out on "high ridges" beyond the reach of irrigation water, where, later perhaps, after the wheat is harvested, soybeans will be sown. A bondsman delivers Liu the report that "sunshine in the irrigated fields has made the rice dark green; rain on the hill-ridges has made the soybeans flower profusely."[31]

Because of severe population and livestock losses in the wars of the mid-fourteenth century, much agricultural land in T'ai-ho was temporarily abandoned. In these circumstances a truly extensive mode of field management was here and there adopted as the wars ended, creating for a time a sharp contrast between outfield agriculture and intensive, homebound horticulture. Ancient words for fallow fields appeared in the poetry; weeds and scrub were burned to provide an initial fertilizer of ash when the fallow was brought back into production. In a "three-or-four family hamlet" somewhere in northwest T'ai-ho, "the young children are looking for mandarin oranges; the peasant wives have been planting melon since daybreak. At midday they eat their fill of rice, then away they go to burn off the fallow fields."[32] In T'ao-yuan (Peach Spring Ward, township 12), "eight or nine families live by the green mountain; they set fires and then cultivate, and so are accustomed to using the. weeding spade (hao-ch'an )."[33] Such fields might lie far from the home-


stead: "the peasants are taking lunch in the newly-opened fallow, so their wattle-gated yards are quiet; a dog sleeps in the fallen flowers at the base of the fence."[34] The burning of weeds and brush, accomplished during the fall or winter, made a notable spectacle. "The wind tosses the bright hot fire all about, and the mountains front and rear reflect the conflagration. When spring comes, the rains will break up the black ashes, and the wheat fields below the mountain will be loose and fertile."[35] How long into the Ming the technique of fallowing and burning was continued is not known.

It was surely rice, however, that was the primary field crop in the landscape and economy of T'ai-ho in Ming times. This, the most productive of the earth's staple grains, could be treated more and more as a horticultural item whenever population pressure on the land grew intense enough, as it did in some parts of China. In Ming T'ai-ho, such pressures apparently were seldom felt. Rice plants in T'ai-ho appear to have been germinated in thick seed beds prior to their transplantation into the paddy, so there was something of an early horticultural phase in the life cycle of rice. But, by and large, rice belonged to the realm of extensive grain cropping, although it stood in its own rather peculiar domain, quite apart from the dry crops.

Essential to paddy rice in T'ai-ho were the diversion and manipulation of small streams running down from hills and mountains and the modification of valley floors into a gently cascading series of small, level water fields through the building of appropriately placed balks. Seasonal irregularities in water availability made it necessary to construct gravity-flow reservoirs along the upper and middle courses of small streams (big streams, like the Kan, were useless for irrigating rice). The reservoirs were commonly constructed by means of permanent lateral diking (pei ), which pushed a stream from one side and used natural formations on the other side to guide the flow into one or more holding pools, from which water could be released as needed. Along the lower courses of streams, it was often necessary to lift the water to field level, and this was sometimes done by meeting the stream head-on with permanent or temporary dams.

The laying out of the basic infrastructure, the continued need for upkeep and repair, and the perennial problems of water supply and distribution ensured that rice agriculture could not normally be accomplished by one family, or one hamlet. In Ming T'ai-ho, rice production was handled either through a landlord-tenant system or, alternatively, by bondsmen working under the close supervision of their master.


Among the T'ai-ho literati, only Liu Sung ever reflected aesthetically upon paddy as it lay in the larger landscape, and then but once, where he also inserted a slight down-note: "It's the third month of the year, and the sun and wind have just followed the rain; below the mountain, rice field after rice field is deep in rolling water. The sprouts make a single sheet, like green fabric; but when the wild spotted ducks come, they'll have no place to aligh.t.".[36]

What accounts for the curious disproportion between the prominence of rice in the landscape and the paucity of references to it in the poetry and descriptive prose of the local literati? To the Western eye, the rice paddies of interior south China have a picturesque quality suggestive, at certain times of year, of lush green lawns, but in China they must nowhere have been considered particularly attractive, as witnessed by the rarity of their depiction in traditional Chinese landscape art.

Nor was rice-field labor at all discussed by the T'ai-ho literati; even though Wang Chih said that he once guided a plow through a paddy and Liu Sung, that he once helped carry sheaves. Why the omission, given that the literati did discuss garden labor in detail? The answer does not, apparently, lie in an aversion to physical labor as such. The omission may have had something to do with the cooperative, massed character of the labor conducted in rice fields, often under supervision, and to group singing or the beat of a gong.[37] A literatus as gardener worked alone, or nearly so, and could see and think about the results of his own work. The paddy laborer was but part of a team, a worker whose individual effort was lost somewhere in the team's final product. It is probably for that reason that the literati regarded rice-field labor as socially beneath them.

The Many Uses Of The March

Beyond the fields lay the vast marches of T'ai-ho. If gardened spaces were small, heavily worked, and tended constantly and fields, larger, worked spasmodically, and visited often, then the march lands were spaces that were vast, untended, and visited only occasionally. Their relative neglect surely did not mean that the marches were inconsequential to livelihood. In fact, of the three zones, it may have been the agricultural zone that ranked last. At least one gathers as much from Wang Chen's Nung shu of 1313, a monument in China's technical literature on farming. According to Wang Chen (who was once a magistrate in northern Kiangsi), the pioneer homesteader should locate himself below


a mountain and near water; use grass, brush, and other materials close at hand for building; and lay out vegetable beds first of all. Then, if the opportunity arises later, he may extend his farming space to include the fruits, fibers, and grains.[38]

As may be ascertained from fiscal data from the year 1610 (and closely confirmed by a U.S. Army map of 1954), T'ai-ho contained some 144 to 147 square miles of rice paddy, about 14 percent of its total area.[39] Thus something approaching 85 percent of all available space in the county would have been given over to nemoral pursuits of many different kinds: grazing, hunting, gathering, mining, industry, and the like.

Land-use zones that shaped themselves around settlements in the flatter parts of medieval Europe, starting from a settlement and proceeding outwards from it, had first gardens, then plowed fields, and then a degraded "boundary forest" (home of herbs, wild fruit, game, small timber for fuel and carpentry, foliage for fodder, glades or "lawns" for grazing, and perhaps some mining or industry). Outermost lay wilderness, with big virgin timber.[40]

T'ai-ho County diverged slightly from this pattern because its rough, unglaciated topography meant that flat, farmed land met slope not gradually but at sharp, abrupt angles. In T'ai-ho it was elevation as well as distance that dictated the location of nemoral space. As noted earlier, homesites often backed directly into the base of some steep incline so as to afford the inhabitants a convenient avenue of access into the semiwild and its resources. Thus a fairly distant ring in a flat landscape of old Europe might have begun as a very close one in T'ai-ho.

Among the many essential uses for T'ai-ho's vast march country was the grazing of livestock. In the absence of fodder rotations in field cropping, or of specially maintained and fenced meadow, grazing was conducted at some distance from homesites, in grassy glades and patches.

The grazing animals were goats (yang ) and "yellow cows," or zebu cattle (niu, huang-niu ). In Kiangsi, the massive water buffalo predominated in the great lake plains of the north. The zebu is a smaller animal whose lighter build and lesser strength are counterbalanced by its lower forage requirements and especially by its superior ability to negotiate steep inclines and craggy rocks in search of scarce grass.[41] It and not the water buffalo appears to have been the predominant bovine in T'ai-ho.

A zebu cow was a costly investment—for T'ai-ho's resident Confucian philosopher Lo Ch'in-shun, as well as for the lowliest peasant.[42] In a mid-fourteenth-century poem, Liu Sung told of a peasant family


that tended its cow as carefully as it would a child. "They went lightly with the whip, so as not to hurt it; and when one winter snow and frost killed all the green grass, they fed it salted soup and rice chaff. They grieved to see it thin, as their lives depended on it. They kept it warm and dry in its wooden-doored earthen stall, and day and night they guarded it against theft." Despite the care, the cow came to a sad end, seized by a marauding army and driven off to be slaughtered for its meat.[43]

The main purpose of the cow was to plow rice fields in the spring, but sometimes other uses were devised. In the late fourteenth century, a peasant from a hamlet "by the bamboo grove, where three or four families live, and the path down to the river makes a bend," saved enough to buy a young cow, which he then hitched to a cart to haul water.[44]

One can follow these animals as they move, under constant human supervision, from their shelters near the homestead out to the marches to graze, and back again. Chou Shih-hsiu's late-fourteenth-century poem follows a herder with his long flute as he takes his yellow cows further and further off. The cows have already chewed away the grass on the sandspits and creek margins, so the herder takes them first to a "good place to the west, where rich grass grows on the open slope and flat hilltop." When they have grazed that, he moves them even further to "a remote valley where no one goes, where the crows caw and the wild goats [takins?] run by," where they must chew on clumps of ear-high grass growing among sharp, flesh-tearing rocks.[45] Animals homeward bound from grazing are pictured in a different part of T'ai-ho in the fourteenth century, when sometimes the older members of the Hsiao people of Shih-kang (Stone Hill Ward, township 10), having "strolled with their canes out along the field balks, would come home in the evening in the company of a servant or two, singing songs as they followed behind the returning herd of cows and goats."[46]

A basic characteristic of march country is the alternation of open glades with wooded groves, and because of this characteristic, the T'ai-ho herders (mu-t'ung ) regularly crossed paths with wood gatherers (ch'iao ) as they made their way, inbound or outbound, from centers of settlement. Wood collectors were not lumbermen felling whole trees or clear-cutting forest patches. They were, rather, harvesters of woody suckers and branches, dry or green, that they bundled and portered for sale or their own use as fuel, material for fences, fodder, or compost.

The technical name for this activity is coppicing, and a coppice (or copse) is a grove of trees that periodically undergoes heavy pruning.


Coppicing keeps trees in the rapid growth phase of their life cycles and permits high rates of annual per-acre output, ten or more times as much as in unmanaged or clear-cut forest.[47] Many of the common trees to be found in T'ai-ho's marches (willows, ailanthus, osmanthus, evergreen oaks, etc.) would have responded well to such treatment.

In the march landscape of Peach Spring Ward in township 12, one might have encountered, as Liu Sung did, "a mountain girl, carrying off firewood on her back, her hair hanging down in two braids."[48] Perhaps her home was nearby, tucked into the foot of a coppiced slope. Peasant families found it convenient to have their homes in such sites, with both "fields and brush near at hand," where at sundown the menfolk might be found, just after they had returned with their loads of fuel, laughing and sharing out cups of rice-beer and lying down placidly drunk in their rude doorways.[49]

City residents had to buy their fuel in the city markets. To service their needs, whole families of full-time wood collectors made their homes right in the mountainous country to the north and west. At Ma-shan (Horse Mountain, township 47), near some of the tombs of the Ch'ing-ch'i Yang lineage and the Taoist Temple of the Great Mystery (T'ai-hsuan kuan ), lived some dozen families in the sixteenth century, all of the same surname, and all of them woodsmen. From Teng-k'o ling (Mount Success-in-the-Examinations), about two miles north of the city, wood collectors and herdsmen of the early fifteenth century followed a well-worn path along a ravine that led from highland brush and forage down to city markets. Commercial gathering, aimed at regular sales in the city, also afforded a living for several other families who lived contentedly enough "in thatched huts deep in the woods." Chou Shih-hsiu described them one morning in the fourteenth century honing their hatchets on whetstones and then setting off with their vine-ropes "right up the green mountain." They had already taken enough deadwood and ailanthus, and now they were after green branches and osmanthus. These they planned to bundle and take directly to the city for sale. With the proceeds, they figured to buy rice and other foodstuffs for their parents and dependents back home. Their occupation let them legally escape the tax and service responsibilities that burdened most people.[50]

The wood collector also escaped the farmer's worries over flood and drought. But while the people of medieval Europe tended to regard the woodcutters and other denizens of the wilderness margins with suspicion, the literati of T'ai-ho saw them as harmless. Indeed, behind every


real wood gatherer stood symbolically some local literatus, envious of his fiscal and spiritual freedoms and attracted to the aesthetic setting of his laboring routines. Thus Wang Huan (d. 1423) of Mei-kang (Apricot Hill Ward, township 8) styled himself "wood gatherer" and named the small building housing his private study the Studio of the Wood Gatherer in the Snow (Ch'iao-hsueh chai ).[51]

And what may have been mere idle conceit for Wang Huan was a matter of romantic, hands-on engagement for Hu Yun-chung, a failed but proud examination taker of the late fourteenth century. "He is," wrote his friend Chou Shih-hsiu,

attracted to the mountains and thick greenery south of his home, and whenever he can take the time from managing his fields and gardens, he puts on a headband of kudzu cloth, fetches a feather parasol, and, accompanied by a young servant, proceeds hatchet in hand to a place he likes, where a stream splashes over rocks under a dark canopy of pine and bamboo, and there he amuses himself gathering brush. His explanation is this:

"Men are born into this world with different inclinations. Some you see are like flies and birds, thronging and swarming in noisy markets, competing for goods and profits, and delighting in maximizing their take. Such men have gone irretrievably astray, and cannot know the true happiness possessed by us wood gatherers.

"As for me, I set out in the morning as the sun rises, the fog lifts, and lone clouds float by. I wade across a clear stream, sit enraptured under a dense tree, and let out a long yell as the wind starts to pick up. Not even the immortals beyond this world have a greater contentment. Mind you, I'm not like Chu Mai-ch'en of the Han dynasty, who grubbed bent-backed for firewood, just working until the day he could achieve office at last. When I finish cutting branches late in the day, the setting sun is on the mountains, the smoky landscape darkens, the calls of the wildlife echo back and forth, and deer pass by in file. Then I grope my way back through the vines and out of the valley, parting the thickets and traversing the wild moor, with hardly enough of a bundle to cook a pot of bean soup with. As I reach my gate, my children welcome me—unlike Chu Mai-ch'en, ambitious but stooped with toil, whose foolish wife deserted him.

"Home now from collecting, the moon rises over the upper story where I have zither and books and the mats spread out. I lean out and view all creation, then I order up rice-beer and drink as I like. I don't know whether Heaven and Earth can provide any greater contentment than this. After all, luxurious villas and pleasure gardens eventually fall to ruin, and the status and perquisites of office are vulnerable to sudden loss. I see no pleasure in those, and I guess that's why I find it in wood collecting."[52]

In addition to such amateurish wood gathering, the literati of early Ming T'ai-ho also entered march country for wild and medicinal plants,


which engaged their practical, scholarly, and aesthetic interests. Some built mountain houses right in the march. Behind one such house, early in the Ming, "a green mountain loses itself in clouds," and "along the cliffs to the west, one can sometimes see deer herds pass by." The owner had put medicinal plants out to dry by an unfrequented, pine-shaded window. In Shen-ch'i Ward, a special house was built in the march for an ill parent, close to the sources of curative herbs, which were bundled and placed in the courtyard.[53] Inside Hsiao Tzu's home in Nan-ch'i Ward (township 59), medicinal plants hung along a special rafter, and on a rainy day in spring, the camphorlike odor of the dried birthwort (Asarum sp.) was particularly fragrant.[54]

Amateur botanizing was in vogue in T'ai-ho among the literati early in the Ming. Liu Sung recounted seeing on a mountain path near Shuang-chiang-k'ou (near township 66) an odd plant that for lack of flowers he could not identify, and so he picked it in the hope that some local resident might be able to tell him what it was.[55] Liang Ch'ien (1366-1418) and his friends liked to read and discuss the classic medical texts and take plant-hunting field trips along the upper reaches of the creeks in the back country. Accompanied by a servant carrying a box, they would stop to taste the herbs they found, make drawings of them, and deposit the specimens in the box, talking all the while. Finally, as darkness fell, they would grope their way home through the vines.[56]

The occasional wild species was sometimes simply noted, without reference to its possible uses, medicinal or otherwise. Liu Sung passed by a chü-yu tree as it spread its aroma along a road in Ho-ch'i (township 65). Its notable fragrance probably identifies this one as the Wu chü-yu , or Evodia rutaecarpa , with its medicinal fruits, not noted by Liu.[57] It was presumably a wild climbing evergreen fig (Ficus pumila ) that Liu, on another occasion, saw twining up among the bamboo at the water's edge in Ho-ch'i.[58] Along the southeastern edge of the county, a glimpse could be had from a library window of "the wild green woods on the mountains, with the wind rising, and the dew not yet dry on the green and yellow mountain orange," that is, the Fortunella hindsii , a relative of the kumquat.[59] No indication was given whether, or how, these plants were used, but some sense of the variety and, here and there, the density of the understory flora of the march country of early Ming T'ai-ho was well conveyed.

Early in the Ming, then, the literati and common people of T'ai-ho regularly combed the marches in search of brush and herbs, vari-


ously for consumption, sale, or recreation. Both classes hunted as well. Among the fauna known to have inhabited the marches were rabbit, several species of deer, fox, boar, "mountain ox" (perhaps takin), tiger, and one or more species of primate.

One could hear the chatter of monkeys of some sort in the highest, isolated mountains of the southern perimeter of the county in the mid-fourteenth century, and they are known to have lived in the higher parts of Mount Wu (about ten miles west of the county seat) as late as the early eighteenth. They were hunted and sold for their fur, or as pets.[60]

Early in the Ming, elite sportsmen, alone or in parties, penetrated the wild in pursuit of game. Liu Sung's nephew Liu Chung-ch'i (of T'ai-yuan Ward, township 33) was "as a youth unusually spirited and fond of hunting from horseback with bow and arrow. Once accompanying a hunting party deep in the mountains, he came upon a fierce tiger, and rising ahead alone, he killed it. The experience strengthened his mind."[61]

While such "baronial" standards of behavior were still accepted (as early in the Ming they were), gentlemen also hunted with trained dogs, "long accustomed to their master's habits, responding eagerly to his looks and gestures" as they plunged through thorn thickets and sharp rocks after fleeing quarry.[62] Rugged terrain provided the setting for excitement and sudden drama; a remote ravine in the mountains along the southeastern perimeter of the county set the stage for an incident involving Hu Ju-lin (stalwart and gregarious member of a "big house," student of the Confucian classics, and sporting huntsman). A tiger jumped him before he could cock the trigger of his crossbow. Eventually wood collectors, hearing a din, came to investigate. They found Hu unconscious on the ground, but the tiger could not reach him to kill him because Hu's favorite hunting dog, though overmatched, managed to keep harassing it. The woodsmen chased off the tiger, but when Hu revived and offered them rewards, they declined, arguing that it was the dog and not they that had really saved his life. When the dog died of its wounds a few days later, Hu gave it an elaborate, human-style burial.[63] If the display seems jocular, the sentiment was surely sincere.

Peasants, settled on the edges of the tiger-infested wilds of the southeastern part of T'ai-ho, were also vulnerable to alarming feline intrusions. In the still of a moonlit night one might be jolted awake by the clamor of squawking chickens, bellowing cattle, barking dogs, and yelling men with bamboo sticks chasing off a prowling tiger.[64] The big cats were also known to attack in broad daylight, crouching, as one did, in


thick grass, then springing upon the back of a grazing yellow cow, tearing its flesh and bloodying it, until finally the menfolk drove it away.[65]

The value of wild game was such that when it was depleted, as it was in the canton of Hsien-ch'a by at least the mid-Ming, a community compact (bsiang-yueh ) that imposed hunting and fishing restrictions was organized.[66] Yet game still abounded in the mountains of the county's southeastern border as late as the mid-seventeenth century, as evidenced by the fact that specialized, non-elite "hunting households" (she-hu ) lived there in sufficient number to merit their incorporation into a county defense militia.[67] Still, it appears that as game was pushed ever further away, hunting declined in social esteem. Literati sport hunt-hag died out later in the Ming, and the seventeenth-century revival of Buddhist thought, along with Buddhism's animal-releasing rituals and its revulsion against all meat and slaughter, may have played a part in that.

Fishing on the natural watercourses, large and small, also took place. Fish were bred or farmed in T'ai-ho's many man-made ponds and reservoirs. But just as hunters and gatherers penetrated march country for subsistence or sport, so too fishermen took to the wild waters to plunder nature's own supply of fish.

One might find fishing folk living two families, ten mouths, to a small, broad-beamed boat.[68] An oldest son might work the net, a second son the oar, while the youngest did the cooking.[69] In the late fourteenth century, somewhere near township 66, a fishing family fished through the four seasons of the year; the father sang as he rowed out on the broad Ho shui (Grain River), and though some of his family used fishing cormorants, he preferred using nets. Toward nightfall, they would dock on the riverbank and collect their cooking fuel right there. They neither plowed nor planted; yet they all had food and clothes enough.[70]

In the early fifteenth century, Yen Tsung-tan was locally known as an eccentric sporting fisherman, taking his boat back and forth along the big Kan River between T'ai-ho and Kan-chou city some seventy-five miles south and insisting upon using a fishing-pole, not nets, so as to show that he did not have to make a living at this pursuit. Though he lacked learning, "he was polite to the students and scholars he met, and did not act boorishly with them."[71] There were also land-bound sport fishermen, like the arrogant but convivial Liu Ang (1372-1429). His estate in Tung-ch'ang (township 41) bordered upon some islands and flats toward the mouth of a small Kan tributary. His parties featured zither playing, singing, and board games. When he and his guests grew


tired of those amusements, they would all take rice-beer and go down

to the river and fish.[72]

It is also into the nemoral reaches that one must look for examples of what little industry and mining T'ai-ho County had in Ming times. T'ai-ho's few industries could be found in remote sites, surrounded by near wilderness, where water power, fuel, and raw materials were available. In the extreme southeast, about twenty-five straight-line miles from the county seat, modern detailed maps show a small but conspicuous expanse of irrigated paddy hedged about by rugged mountains. That was the site of Lang-ch'uan Ward (township 26) in Yun-t'ing Canton. Access to it was by way of a long, narrow ravine some ten miles in length. "The cliffs on either side embrace hundreds of mountain peaks," wrote Liu Sung in a poem. "Creeks cross and recross the road, skirting and piercing the grass; daylight lights but half the forest, the rest [the opposite side] is secluded pine. Here a water-driven trip hammer is at work in the autumn rain; there a kiln burning stone pours thick smoke into the evening air."[73]

In the twelfth century, China's paper industry began to move into remote mountain country in search of bamboo, then a new raw material for making paper. In this connection, the industrial valley of Lang-ch'uan came to produce a high-grade bamboo paper good enough that the Yuan dynasty after 1279 used it as stock for its paper currency. The county has also produced modest quantities of a fine-quality "furry-edged" paper from the Ming period on into modern times.[74]

Mining, like industry, is an activity of uncultivated space, or of space rendered uncultivable. As it happened, T'ai-ho's two gypsum mines were each located within a few miles of the county seat, where ugly evidence of occasional attempts at large-scale digging were easily visible. Mining was widely believed to hurt the great veins along which, in geomantic theory, vital forces coursed through the county landscape. In the view of the literati, small-scale peasant digging was tolerable, but ambitious tunneling and shafting by greedy entrepreneurs was not. In Chung-pu Ward (township 6), "pile after pile of mine tailings" signaled to Liu Sung what was afoot in the latter part of the fourteenth century. Pinkish gypsum, in deposits several inches thick, "white dragon bones hidden deep in the yellow earth," attracted the operators, despite official bans. Miners with basket-encased lamps bored deep into the gypsum-laden hills, and so strong was the lure of profit that even when the


tunnels collapsed ahead, those behind dug on all the same. Liu had no objection to people taking a little gypsum to steam or dissolve for medicinal purposes, but the huge output at Chung-pu was instead mixed with salt from Kwangtung, heated to achieve a uniform color, and finally distributed to retail salt merchants, who would rush off with their boats and carts full, never bothering to check the illegally adulterated stuff for taste. The noxious business threatened "irreparable damage to the earth's veins." Liu could only wish for a god to come and trample the whole place flat.[75]

The other deposit, whiter gypsum in thinner veins, lay in one or more hills in the vicinity of Mount Wu. Local peasants used a little of this gypsum to make bean curd for sale, and physicians used it to make "medicinal cakes." That was legitimate. But several times during the Ming, big operators opened the works, recruiting laborers from among vagrants and undesirables (who were accused of conducting robberies at night, after work), until tunnel collapses and a great public outcry shut the business down. Early in the seventeenth century, a local entrepreneur opened the Mount Wu works yet again, this time as an imperial monopoly under eunuch patronage. In 1602 and 1603, official memorials of protest against this outrage stressed the geomantic harm, the low per-load price of gypsum, the damage to people's homes, graves, and fields, and the likelihood of riot.[76] (The Wan-li emperor ignored these protests, and their actual effect is uncertain.)

The literati's dislike for gouging the earth extended to deep wells, but curiously it did not extend to the ravages of soil erosion. In fact, the only early discussion of soil erosion focused upon its visually positive effects. In 1367, Liu Sung and his brother discovered a place, perhaps somewhere in township 41, where a stream had cut so low a canyon through an agricultural plain that the farmers could not reach it for irrigation. Long before, a big dam had been built to remedy the problem, and over time, the water falling into the spillway below the dam had eaten away an enormous hole full of fantastic erosional formations. Liu Sung gave the scene a long, detailed, aesthetic description.[77]

Most of T'ai-ho's march country seems to have been neither owned nor taxed but picked over at will within whatever loose restrictions local custom or agreement imposed. Tomb sites, which were preferably and typically located on uncultivable, semiwild, sloping land, were major exceptions. In T'ai-ho these sites were selected with the advice of professional geomancers, and the tombs carefully constructed so that the ancestors, comfortably interred in their shallow hillside niches,


might forever radiate good influences upon their living descendants. Subtle and exacting criteria for good tomb location guaranteed intense competition for choice sites, and that competition in turn forced the growth of legal protection for assertions of ownership. (A late-fifteenth-century magistrate complained that the bulk of the litigation he handled centered upon disputes over tomb sites.)[78]

The tombs of the great common-descent groups and lineages were not concentrated in one place but scattered far and wide, and thus upkeep and seasonal visits became major efforts in management and logistics. In 1439, it took the Grand Secretary Yang Shih-ch'i more than a month to tour by sedan chair thirty-two scattered ancestral tombs in T'ai-ho County alone (there were yet other tombs in neighboring counties). He found one tomb site encroached upon by home builders, and he directed that the offenders be prosecuted at once. He mentioned by name eighteen tomb watchers (none of them Yangs) who were authorized to receive payments of cloth or cash whenever the Yang kinsmen appeared on their seasonal visits.

The Yang tombs also had a place in the subsistence economy. Yang Shih-ch'i instructed his junior kinsmen that each of their families should take turns cutting grass and brush off the tumuli, in order that each might get an equal share of the fuel. He also had them issue permits to the tomb watchers empowering them to harvest the brush along the outskirts of the tombs. No one was to cut trees off the grave sites, however, unless they grew thick enough to harbor tigers or snakes, in which case the culled trees were to be evenly divided among the Yang families.[79]

The tombs in T'ai-ho's nemoral hillsides were sacred; yet nemoral space never quite acquired the transcendent aura that it once had in the paganisms of the West. No Diana coursed in T'ai-ho's groves and glades; no druids conducted rites under holy clumps of trees. The Podocarpus trees, male and female, that grew by a Buddhist hermitage in Ku-kang (Old Hill Ward, township 22) elicited appreciation of their strange dioecious botany, but they suggested nothing holy.[80] Sacred space in T'ai-ho lay at the highest elevations, on the mountaintops, as will be noted in a moment.

In sum, then, three principal regimes of land use have been singled out: the horticultural, the agricultural, and the nemoral. It has been argued that because the working energies of the people were perforce concentrated nearest their homes, scattering and fading with increasing distance, a basic pattern of land use emerged, with each land-use zone


contributing its specific range of essential goods to the subsistence economy. Early in the Ming, the literati took a certain role in this economy—describing it, rhapsodizing upon it, and personally contributing labor to those activities (like gardening, wood collecting, or hunting) whose marginal productivity was high.

There are, to be sure, some ambiguities in this simple trizonal system. Where in it, for example, does one place afforestation? Here and there in T'ai-ho, members of affluent common-descent groups removed cutover scrub from certain hillsides and planted patches of single-species forest in its place. Examples include the Yang of Shang-yuan-t'ang (Upper Spring Pond, township 43) and the Tseng of Tang-yuan (township 29), who reportedly pioneered the local planting of the China fir (shan , probably Cunninghamia sinensis ) around the mid-fifteenth century.[81] The Kuo lineage, already domiciled for centuries at Kao-p'ing (township 61) when Liu Sung wrote about them, had long-established plantings of pine, camphor, and three species of oak: "the taller trees reach to the clouds, while the shorter blanket the mountains; their yield provides fuel and building materials."[82] In the sixteenth century, Yin Ch'u-yung of Kuan-ch'i (Irrigation Creek Ward, township 14) planted "several li of pine (i.e., rows of pine totaling about a mile in length), which successfully grew into a forest. He offered the advice that pine would not flourish just anywhere and required an appropriate topography: "The pine tree is dark in color and grows very tall. If it is not well-rooted, it will grow twisted and skewed and won't mature properly. That is why it must be planted on level hilltops and broad elevations. It is useless to plant such places to crops, because weeds will shade them out and the scrub will defeat them, which is another reason why pine is best there."[83]

Another ambiguity was the survival in T'ai-ho of watery or marshy places where useful lines of what probably were endogenous species managed to hold their own against the encroachments of garden and field. Water plants such as sweet flag (Calamus sp.), water shield (Brasenia ), water caltrop (Trapa ), perennial wild rice (Zizania ), cattail (Typha ), arrowhead (Sagittaria ), and fringed water lily (Limnanthemum ) grew in such places. All of them were consumable as famine foods, or as delicacies, and seem to have been remnants of a primordial southern diet of "water shield, eels, wild rice, taro soup, [and] baked turtle," constituents in what Hui-lin Li has called a "distinct system" of aquaculture.[84] All the plants can, of course, be deliberately cultivated, but in T'ai-ho their description often suggests a wild or semiwild state.


Local description also includes, alongside the water plants listed above, weedy terrestrial plants that were confined only with the greatest difficulty to narrow marginal locations, always threatening to spread forth at the slightest opportunity. Some of those weeds too were used as famine foods.

Wild rice grew in thick clumps where fishermen in their boats might encounter it.[85] Somewhere near Liu Sung's home, "in the spring wind, mulberry trees fringe the continuous plots of wheat; and in the autumn rain, wild rice and cattail front the pine-covered slope."[86] Here the poet has contrasted the thin filament of one stand against the broad patch of the other. During the wars of the mid-fourteenth century, starving children took baskets out to the idled fields, and though it was already early spring, nothing was green, owing to an exceptionally cold winter: "The cattail and the fringed water lily haven't yet sprouted at the water's edge, but the sweet shepherd's purse [Capsella bursa-pastoris ] has emerged from the mud and flowered," and so they picked that to eat.[87] In township 56, "a deep wood encloses an empty guesthouse . . ., the flowering water shield grows broad-leaved in the creek."[88]

When garden vegetables failed for lack of water, Liu Sung and Wang Tzu-ch'i contented themselves with a pauper's soup of lamb's-quarter (Chenopodium sp.).[89] Wild amaranth (probably Amaranthus viridis ) spread as a "traveler" in fall gardens, and if the melon vines were bug ridden, and the eggplant weed choked, one might be pleased enough to pick it to boil for soup or chop for pickling.[90] At the homestead of the Wen family near Mount Wu, shepherd's purse grew apace with the wheat in the spring snow.[91] The weedy cereal called pai (Echinochloa crus-galli ) could grow either in abandoned dry fields or, as a rice-mimic, in wet places; "starvelings, thin as storks" went into deserted fields to harvest it in famine times. On an "old mountain estate, inhabited by a few families with their dogs and chickens, the hamlet is desolate after the wars, and plowmen are few, and so the cattail and the pal stand tall in fields flooded by fall rains."[92]

Scenic Landscapes

The literati of early Ming T'ai-ho also reflected upon the landscape of their native county in its wider, more inclusive, and more specifically scenic dimensions. Scenic appreciation was a social activity in which the younger cohorts of literati, many with good prospects for official careers, developed a sense of identity and comradeship. Scenic outings,


literary descriptions, and artistic representations enhanced emotional identification with native place, which was useful psychic capital to have in the distant and uncertain world of imperial bureaucracy.

Wang Chih lived to become minister of personnel, one of the highest imperial offices of his time. Home on leave in 1422, his star already on the rise, he described at great length an outing he took with some sixteen promising local literati up to the summits of Mount Wu, west of the county seat. Struck by the grandeur of the view from one of these summits, he remarked:

the rest of us climbed the Wu-po Hill, then pushed ourselves to the top of a crag. Here there were no more big trees, just yellow grass and dwarf bamboo. The view was bright and clear in all directions. Right beneath our feet, and extending for several hundred li , as far as our eyes could see, there lay a scenic expanse of villages, bamboo groves and tree clumps, and smoke and clouds. The big mountains in the south part of the county loomed about like jade tablets. There was the Kan River, flowing in from the west, making its bend in front of the county seat, and then continuing on east, until the smaller mountains hid it and you couldn't see it any more. Inside and outside the city walls you could make out the different government offices, people's homes, and Buddhist and Taoist temples, even though they were packed as tight as the teeth of a comb, or the scales of a fish. I sighed and said to the others: "This truly is a magnificent county. If we hadn't taken this trip, we would never have fully grasped its scenic scale."[93]

There existed local landscape artists in T'ai-ho in the early Ming. Their work is now lost, but comments upon it remain. Nowhere did the commentators say that this art had any value as art. Rather, they took it as a literal but necessarily secondhand likeness of its subject. Looking at a landscape painting was a flimsier experience than viewing the actual landscape that it tried to portray. As Wang Chih put it in a poem he placed on a painting of Hsiao Tzu's home in Nan-ch'i (township 59): "The artist Li has executed this painting with rare skill; yet how can looking at a painting be as good as observing the real thing?"[94] Thus landscape art was here a technique whereby a scene was made portable so as to provide those far from the native soil with something to stimulate sentimental attachments and nostalgic reverie. Hsiao Tzu served in the Han-lin Academy in Peking, and the painting of his Nan-ch'i home would simply have helped him reconstruct a fond and familiar scene in his mind.

But there were other and more important uses for T'ai-ho's landscape art. For example, Wang Chih's mother's family, also surnamed


Hsiao, lived in Lu-kang (Fortune Hill, township 55), some ten miles northwest of the county seat. Their estate was "surrounded by a landscape [ching-wu ] of clear creeks and scenic mountains." Wang's maternal uncle Hsiao K'o (1358-1411) selected the best views, which he called "The Eight Scenes at Fortune Hill," and he devised these labels for them:

Wood Gatherer's Cottage at Fortune Hill
Gathering of Gulls at Snail Cove
Fishing in a Snowfall at Cheng Island
Farming beneath Clouds in Tung Ward
Morning Colors on Gap Mountain
Autumn Sounds on Mount Wu-lao
Moonlight after Rain on Apricot Creek
Clear Wind in Bamboo Pass

He used to sit and sing in those places. He always wanted to have a good lyricist write descriptive poems about them, but he died without having done it. Fortunately, his son, Hsiao Fu-te, has been able to fulfill his wish. This year he brought his own paintings of the eight scenes to Peking, and Lung Shih-yü [Lung Wen, 1409-59], of the Central Drafting Office, helped him in arranging to have various officials here write poems about them. I was asked to provide the preface. . . .

These eight scenes have always been there in Lu-kang, but until the right people were found, they just languished unappreciated in their remoteness and obscurity. Now thanks to Hsiao Fu-te and his father, the beauty of these places has been shown, and that is surely Lu-kang's good fortune, because, as the saying goes, it is people that make a place scenic, just as a man's talent becomes apparent only when it is put to use.[95]

Here a rural T'ai-ho estate has become something more than a holding that affords a livelihood. Art and poetry have commuted it into the recognizable coin of the national aesthetic tradition. The tiny, obscure locality of Lu-kang has won at least a momentary place on the national scenic map, and the Hsiao family has itself gained by its determined promotion of these scenes. Social recognition among Peking officialdom will have injured neither their standing in local society nor their hopes for official careers for themselves. In this way, T'ai-ho's local landscapes could be made to serve as social currency in the wider world beyond.

And T'ai-ho's scenic excellences could also be directed inward, offering psychic benefits to the local landlord and contributing to peace-


ful relations among the laborers on his detached estate. Wang Chih described how:

Twenty li [about 7 miles] south of T'ai-ho there is a place called Nan-yuan [South Garden], with luxuriant forests and broad fields. A range of mountains coming from Feng-ling in Lang-ch'uan [township 26] divides and encloses Nan-yuan to the east and west, about seven or eight li away. A small river, with its source in Hsing-kuo County, flows northwest to join the Kan, and as it comes through here, the water becomes clear and attractive. Given so scenic a landscape, the inhabitants of this place are honest and simple, showing little sign of crime or strife. This is one reason why my friend, Hsiao Chung-ling, has his detached estate here.

As far as the eye can see, all the fine fields and deep ponds are owned by him, and he himself directs his slaves [t'ung-nu ] in the plowing and planting. There is an abundance of everything: rice, soybeans, wheat, vegetables, fish, turtles. Recently his son was appointed magistrate in T'eng County [in Kwangsi], so now there is also a salary income. Hsiao Chung-ling can relax, drink with his guests, and share the enjoyment of this place.

This enjoyment consists of everything that strikes the ear and eye. You look off to the mountains, shaded by dense growths of pine and cypress, and your eye follows the deer as they file up and down. You look out on the river, and there you watch the boats sail by, and the birds and fish as they swim. Your hear the singing of the wood collectors and fishermen; you observe the traffic of plowmen and herdsmen. Once I was going to Shan-t'ien [township 31] and passed through here en route. A slave pointed out the Hsiao detached estate and identified it for me. I would have paid Hsiao Chung-ling a visit, but he wasn't at home at the time. But I did linger and look around awhile.

There was a time when I was home on leave when I thought about setting up a farming estate for my retirement, but I never did it. There was good field and garden land available, but either it lacked a scenic river, without which the wise cannot be content; or else it lacked forested mountain, without which the benevolent are dissatisfied. There are very few places that, like Nan-yuan, have all of it. It is therefore appropriate that Hsiao should seek to preserve his enjoyment by asking me to write this account.

Yet the scenic dimensions of Nan-yuan do not stop here. If you look even further off, then to the south you notice the high peaks of the San-ku [Three Gazers] side by side, rearing a thousand feet up into the clouds. The local teacher Hsiao Tzu-ching [Hsiao Ch'u, 1064-1130] once had a studio out there. Off to the east is Mount Wang, immense and overpowering, like a racing dragon or recumbent tiger. That is where in the Chin era [265-419 A.D. ] Wang Tzu-yao, the immortal, ascended into the sky. But just as the pure and lofty unworldliness of these places transcends the life and death of individuals, so too Hsiao Chung-ling, as he contemplates these distant reaches, must surely achieve a transcendental joy that lies beyond landscape and cannot be communicated to others.[96]


Unlike the series of disconnected scenes at Lu-kang, the Nan-yuan landscape was holistic and complete. The land-use zones succeeded each other with distance; wild water and nemoral slopes enclosed a secure subsistence base that delighted the senses as much as it filled the larder. It was a "Confucian" landscape in that its aesthetics reinforced moral values and social harmony. But beyond the march, on a spiritual-geographical frontier in the far distance, there lay a higher region, this one a Taoist landscape of awesome peaks and world-transcending promise. Below it stretched the humanized landscape of subsistence routine and social obligation, while above flashed a wild, formless skyscape of transcendence, freedom, and joy, the Taoist paradise of the upper atmosphere which the adepts of old had supposedly attained.

The elevated site of the Lung-ch'eng ssu, a rebuilt Buddhist temple in township 8, conveyed a strong sense of otherworldliness to Liang Ch'ien early in the fifteenth century:

Here the hills approach from several hundred li to the southwest, undulating like an uninterrupted chain of dragons. They make a forested ring around the temple, hence its name [Dragon Wall]. You can see the Kan River far off in one direction, and the San-ku peaks in another. You find yourself among steep cliffs with endless green and idle rustling sounds. Atop the heights, you are among the mist-clad pines and cypress, so far from the everyday world that it is like being up among the sacred mountains T'ien-t'ai and Lu-shan.[97]

From the lowland home of a physician in Kuan-ch'ao (township 31), the view of the distant mountains at certain moments also conveyed a hint of paradise: "Whenever the rain stops and the mist evaporates, the play of light and shadow creates rich patterns so unworldly that one is reminded of P'eng-hu and Yuan-ch'ao [mythical island abodes of the immortals].[98]

The relationship between these two realms, one earthly and the other ethereal, was pointed up by Wang Chih while he was living in Peking. He had had forty pictures made and mounted into a long scroll. Thirty-eight of the pictures made up a detailed panorama of all the "mountain and river" scenery of his native T'ai-ho County. "When off duty I look at this," he wrote, "and it is like having the views I knew from long ago right before my eyes. My spirits rise and my heart relaxes. What is it but this painting that lets me enjoy these mountains and forests right here in Peking?"

But two of the pictures were not about scenic landscape. They featured immortals, "floating in the void" and "journeying beyond the


everyday world." Their being there was not an incongruity. If landscape somehow lost its charm, then their purpose became clear. Wang Chih explained:

On second thought, it occurred to me that the landscape of my county was enjoyable when I saw it long ago, but I have long been away and am unsure what changes may have taken place in it. It all depends on the quality of our magistrates. If they have all been good magistrates, who have gained the cooperation of the people and have brought on Heaven's bounty, then the flora and fauna will have flourished even more; the mountains will have become even finer and the waters clearer, and the pleasure of it all will have increased. But this is not what I hear. I fear that what I used to enjoy now looks lamentable, and that the local people must be envying the immortals on their transcendental journey.[99]

Whether in fact the landscape of T'ai-ho began notably to deteriorate in the mid-fifteenth century, owing to official maladministration or to other causes, is uncertain. What soon did occur, however, was a definite end to earlier literati preoccupations with the beauty or grandeur of local landscape in the round. By the sixteenth century, there were signs that some major shifts in attitudes toward nature and landscape were taking place. The clues are several, and they trace an interesting trajectory.

The first clue centers about Kuo Hsu (1456-1532), the only T'ai-ho native ever to achieve anything close to national recognition as an artist. As an artist and literatus, he would be expected to have devoted some of the same loving attention to his native scenery as had the literati before him, who wrote but did not paint. Yet that was not the case. Kuo Hsu developed his artistic ideas on his travels, and though he did live at home for periods of time, none of his work ever explicitly featured T'ai-ho scenes.[100] That is surely strange. All intellectual and emotional contact with the earlier T'ai-ho tradition seems to have broken off. The county landscapes that, just two generations earlier, had inspired so much description and comment, somehow failed to make an impression upon Kuo Hsu.

This curious deflation of T'ai-ho's scenic inheritance is nowhere directly explained, but it does help build a context for understanding the acceptance of certain new aesthetic fashions from outside. An early example of this is the Tzu-i yuan (Garden of Self-Satisfaction) laid out by Liu Che (1541-1611), a member of a wealthy family of K'an-ch'i in township 63. Liu Che is said to have planned the garden in imitation of a style developed in the city of Soochow, in the Yangtze delta region.


This showpiece surrounded a library and a museum and boasted plantings of "a myriad bamboo, a thousand rows of cypress, ancient Prunus mume [Japanese apricot], gnarled pines, red-flowered peach, an osmanthus grove, tubsful of lotus, potsful of orchids, and noted flowers scattered about the courtyard."[101] Again, it is an interesting question why, given the already celebrated picturesqueness of the natural and man-made landscapes of T'ai-ho, it was now felt appropriate to indulge in an expensive, contrived, and inward-turned creation of this sort. (Rural insecurity may have been a factor.)

Excursions changed, too. In earlier times, Liu Sung and Wang Chih and their friends had reached the mountains of T'ai-ho on horseback and scaled them on foot. In the 1660s, however, the literati hiked no more; instead they were taken as tourists by sedan-chair across the rice paddies and up Mount Yü-hua, where rest pavilions awaited them, and where, after a lunch of boiled mallow and rice-beer, they would not explore or botanize but unpack and examine books and paintings by a clear, cold stream.[102] The large and small worlds of nature have been pushed here from the center to the edges of consciousness.

Atop Mount Wang stood an altar, erected in the early fourteenth century by Hsiao Te-t'ung of Peach Spring Ward (township 12), of bricks manufactured at the base of the mountain by hired laborers, then painfully hauled to the top. There, sacrifices to Wang Tzu-yao and other ancient Taoist adepts proved effective against flood, drought, disease, and childlessness.[103] In 1671, more than three centuries after its construction, that altar still stood, and the common people still visited it on foot. The literati, however, now enjoyed some wholly new facilities. Chang Chen-sheng, a retired official from neighboring Lu-ling County (and also a noted Confucian writer) put a battalion of bondsmen (t'ung-p'u ) to work hacking out of the rock and forest a scenic route to the top of Mount Wang that chair bearers could negotiate. The stone-paved path bridged streams and skirted rocky deeps, and all along it were built pavilions, rest houses, and storied structures, each with its own name, easily some twenty in all.[104] This development provided comfort and amusement for literati tourism. Once again, nature found itself modified and outdone by artifice.

No literatus of the early Ming had ever written of the landscape as Hsiao Shih-wei did in his diary. His entry for November 4, 1635, reads: "Yang Chai-yun [Yang Chia-tso] and I waited for K'ang Lin-ting [K'ang Ch'eng-tsu] at Pointed Star Hill [to the west of the county seat]. This is a bald mountain, but it is higher than the surrounding hills and so af-


fords something of a view. There is a stone cliff behind with a big split in it, the best scenic attraction here, but unfortunately it is spoiled by a detestable ramshackle house built right in the middle of it."[105] If this house had been noticed at all in the early Ming, it would probably have been considered an appropriate component of the landscape not a cause for offense as here.

An outstanding achievement among the new landscape fashions in T'ai-ho was the nationally celebrated Ch'un-fou yuan (Spring Floating Garden), planned and built by the same Hsiao Shih-wei in the 1620s, and located in the Willow Creek area of the western suburb.

The Spring Floating Garden was a completely man-made scenic landscape. Hsiao had channels dug to make creeks, soil and rock piled up to make mountains, winding paths laid out, bridges and pavilions erected, and plantings put in. "In every instance," we are told, "he exhausted all possibilities and exercised every cleverness to make this garden different from anyone else's.[106] Hsiao Shih-wei himself wrote a descriptive guide to the park. An excerpt from the middle of it may suffice to give its flavor:

At the end of the Path of Allurement, there is an island, from which the distant trees viewed by moonlight look like so much shepherd's purse. On this island sits Bowl Mountain, half of which looks like it were about to topple into the lake. The mountain looks like a bowl if you view it from the lake; but if you stand on it, and look out on the lake, it is quite like being on a snail that is plowing its way through a dish of water. Looking down from there, you see fish swimming in the tips of the reflected branches of the trees, people walking as if in a mirror, and all the shadows of the trees following you along in midcurrent.[107]

Some complex illusions have been effected here. Mountains, islands, lakes, usually the remote components of a scenic landscape, reachable only with difficulty, have been miniaturized and placed close in. Moreover, this walk-through wilderness is intended to be appreciated less for itself than for its capacity to spring perceptual surprises on the viewer, to suggest imaginative permutations of one thing into something else. Distant trees look like weeds, a toy mountain becomes now a bowl, now a snail's shell; fish seem to swim in trees. Although Hsiao Shih-wei had close personal connections to people whom Frederic Wakeman has styled the "Romantic" literati of seventeenth-century China, with their "esthetic sensuality," "sybaritic laxity," and egocentrism,[108] the Spring Floating Garden seems rather to have tried to express a certain intellec-tuality. Perhaps it embodied in some way the combination of Buddhist


epistemology and intellectual Taoism that Hsiao Shih-wei is said to have adopted in his now lost commentary on the Buddhist text known as the Awakening of Faith .[109]

The new-style gardens of T'ai-ho, affordable by only a few very wealthy men, take us far indeed from the land uses of the workaday world that the early Ming literati celebrated. The identity of some of the plantings that graced these garden underscores the point. Beside such traditional local stocks as camphor trees, bamboo, osmanthus, and magnolia, new and exotic species appear for the first time, most likely as special purchases. Both the Garden of Self-Satisfaction and the Spring Floating Garden boasted specimens of the red-petaled, double-flowered peach (fei-t'ao ), a plant with ornamental rather than economic value, and almost assuredly an import.

Hsiao Shih-wei noted in his diary on November 13, 1635: "the crabapple is all abloom, and there are a few blossoms open on the peaches and plums. The narcissus has put out some luxuriant and lovely bunches of flowers. Later I went over to the Pan-jo Temple to check on the chrysanthemums. The best variety is the 'frost-defying yellow,' but the variety called 'gold sparrow tongue' grown by my younger brother is almost as good." On December 2, he observed that the hydrangea (or viburnum), the "human-faced peach," and the quince had all flowered and that the crabapple was still blooming despite the frost.[110]

The crabapple in question is specified by Hsiao as the hsi-fu hai-t'ang , a spectacular small tree, profusely adorned in season with rose-colored blossoms. H. L. Li identifies it as the Malus floribunda , perhaps a hybrid, and in any case a native of north China.[111] The so-called human-faced peach is not a peach but the Dracontomelum dao , a tropical member of the cashew family, and is, in T'ai-ho, far to the north of its native range. The quince is specifically the t'ieh-keng hai-t'ang (Chaenomeles lagenaria ), or "Japanese quince," also cultivated for its floral display.

There is a certain consistency between the cultivation of these new and exotic ornamental plants and the shift of aesthetic interest from the natural or subsistence landscape to the manufactured miniature. Both gardens seem like deliberate attempts to ignore anything local or commonplace. The Garden of Self-Satisfaction and the Spring Floating Garden combined national fashion and personal idiosyncrasy, but they had no particular connection to T'ai-ho. They could have been put almost anywhere in south China.

As in the mid-fourteenth, so again in the mid-seventeenth century, T'ai-ho County suffered the depredations and upheavals of prolonged


civil war (albeit with very different consequences for landscape appreciation). In 1662, a visitor, Shih Jun-chang, found the county "aswarm with bandits, and thorny scrub growing in what once had been people's homes." He further noted that "wherever you look, you see signs of abandonment . . . and you realize that before the upheavals, there must have been a dense and thriving population of mountain people here."[112] In 1677, a local writer, Liang Kung, described T'ai-ho as still lying in ruins—its schools wrecked, its markets and shops closed, and its fields unworked.[113]

The Spring Floating Garden was an early casualty. By 1662, "wood gatherers and herders had taken everything away," and all that remained were weeds and ruined walls and pavilions, such that "the onlooker would hardly guess that all this was once the garden."[114] No matter. The old garden had fronted on an artificial lake called Lake T'ao, made up of several excavated and interconnected ponds. During the troubled 1660s and 1670s, Hsiao Shih-wei's nephew and heir, Hsiao Po-sheng (1619-ca. 1678), created a new Buddhist temple complex and resort on a different side of this lake. The old garden had been in its day a resort where elite guests (including members of the Restoration Society) had been welcome to stay, and Hsiao Po-sheng continued to offer such hospitality. One famous guest of his, Fang I-chih, commented that since Lake T'ao was not wide and wild like a real lake but calm and sheltered, it should be renamed Winding Shore.[115]

This new resort included a Buddhist temple (called the Sandalwood Incense Region of Wisdom), a Garden of the Buddhist Householder, and a structure called the Tower of Great Compassion, which contained apartments for guests, as did a nearby hermitage (called the I-an, or Shou-shan an). Hsiao Po-sheng's personal showpiece garden, the Tun-p'u (Garden of Escape) with its lotus pond, seems to have been laid out in part of what had been the old Spring Floating Garden. The Garden of Escape featured a grove of fine sophora trees plus tea bushes and medicinal herbs; its gardeners were skilled in the making of tiny boats of orchids and toy sedan-chairs of bamboo, as well as in brewing tea and in the distilling of a fiery vodka, a Hsiao family specialty. The extraordinary wealth of the Hsiao family, only slightly depleted by the wars, made possible all this construction; there in Willow Creek lay a small paradise of repose in a county where "all around lay ruined places and bald-topped hills."[116]

In June and July of 1670, Fang I-chih and the Buddhist abbot Chung-ch'ien had a bamboo raft built and got together a small boating party


on Lake T'ao. One of the participants was a local writer, Wang Yü-k'uo. His account of the party evidences a Buddhist reading of landscape, with a deliberate search for its ambiguities and double meanings:

We waited at Plum Mound, east of the tower, for the moon to rise. A breeze blew in the fragrant lotus, and mist clung in the reflected elms. Soon there was light in the night clouds behind the trees, and the bright moon, round as a basket, rose above the west pagoda. We boarded the raft and rowed among the reflections of the bamboo and cypress. The moon appeared and disappeared as the raft turned this way and that. The two slaves [t'ung ] at the oars' had never been on the lake before, and had to ask directions. We gave them directions and got extraordinary views at every turn. The mountains beyond seemed to follow us in an aimless way; the most darkly foliaged one was Mount Yü-hua.

Presently we heard a slight noise like a brook, coming from the tall trees. It turned out to be an old peasant, working a well-sweep with his foot. He must have been very tired, and we laughed at our enjoying our relaxation while he enjoyed his labor. We were all simply following our inclinations.

We then caught glimpses of lamps burning in the Garden of the Buddhist Householder. The garden people had seen our raft coming, and had lit and placed lamps on shore. We rowed to the temple and landed there. . . . The abbot P'ing-yuan served us tea and snacks, and we discussed the recent history of this place, and while we were regretting not having toured here in the earlier days, the water clock in the tower sounded three times.

So we left the temple and anchored in the broadest and brightest part of the lake. The moon was directly overhead, the water reflected the sky perfectly, and we agreed that it was probably a mistake to consider the lake a miniature, and not a big and wide one after all. Then a breeze ruffled the trees, the night air turned chilly, and the abbot Chung-ch'ien pulled his robe around his head. We ordered the two slaves to row back at once, but they got lost among the islets and couldn't find the way.

The lake used to serve as a place for the Buddhist ceremony of releasing living things, so the fish here were tame. But the birds on shore rose in alarm and twittered among the trees when they heard us talking. That surprised us, and it showed we hadn't yet completely tired of the excursion.

The lake is only about one li from the city wall, so close that we could hear very sharply the sound of something being split. We sighed that although we often want to take some rice-beer and boat about on a body of water under the full moon, armed troops on shore will investigate anything unusual and yell at you if you try. That did not happen to us this time, because the lake is hidden among trees, so we enjoyed ourselves just as we pleased.[117]

Thus, while menials rowed them over the moonlit artificial lake, the literati read the landscape as though it were all a demonstration lesson in the phenomenology of the Awakening of Faith . Opposites blurred and erased each other. Each new sensation posed a momentary contra-


diction, then resolved itself in some higher synthesis. Work merged with leisure, and the small blended with the big. The past entangled itself in the moving time of the present, the tame intergraded with the wild, and even military repression enveloped freedom.

Another famous visitor, the Ming loyalist Wei Hsi, described a boating excursion on Ch'ing-ch'i (Clear Creek), just east of the city, in June 1677. He liked the daytime view there but regretted the absence of any pavilion to sit in. Hsiao Po-sheng arranged a nighttime boating excursion under the moon and on the crest of a chance flood. As the members of the party contemplated their reflections in the calm, moonlit flood-water, their real-life anxieties dissolved. The experience created a joyous frame of mind that, everyone insisted, merited permanent remembrance after the party was over. "It is the inclinations we have in everyday life that create joy," remarked Hsiao Po-sheng. "If we can achieve this joy in ourselves, then no matter where we are, we will be in a waterscape [like this one]."[118]

And so ends the late Ming trajectory leading to increasingly attenuated forms of landscape appreciation. From the early Ming discovery of beauty and value in the real world of nature and life on the land, one ends in the late Ming and early Ch'ing's determination to ignore or avoid that world, with the creation of toy fantasies in artificial lakes and landscaped gardens, and a preference for moonlit surrealisms to the daylight world of settlement, work, and subsistence. As one ponders this cycle of landscape interpretation by the T'ai-ho literati, and all the things it might mean, it is hard to dismiss the suspicion that in T'ai-ho these changing perceptions were to some degree driven by changing social opportunity and social consciousness—that starting in the sixteenth century an optimistic world of local security and favorable opportunity for the literati gradually soured; that a more limited, more problematical, and more distasteful world replaced it; and that the changing perceptions of landscape perhaps served as a sort of barometer for the changing pressures of society. The chapters in the next section attempt to explore what some of those pressures may have been.


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