Today is January 15, 1099, I am an exile in Dan Zhou*. This evening a few old pals came to visit. “It’s such a nice evening with a fine moon, how about we go for a stroll?”They said. Happily I followed suit.
In the western part of the town, we dropped by a temple, passing through some narrow alley, crowded butcher shops and wine stores, where strangers like me were mingling with locals. By the time we got back, it was already midnight. The door was closed, and the ones inside were snoring. Laying aside my walking stick, I let out a laugh. What is gain in life, what is loss? My friends asked what I was laughing about. I was just laughing at myself.
Although I was also laughing at Han Yu**. He was once fishing in a desolate place and couldn’t catch anything, so he thought he should go somewhere far and away, in order to catch big fish. What he didn’t know is, even if you go as far as to the sea, you don’t necessarily catch big fish.
~ Translated from Su Shi’s “A Midnight Note To Myself In Dan Zhou,” written in the Song dynasty
*Dan Zhou – a remote seaside town on Hai Nan Island, where is regarded as “the world’s end” in China