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Feather

| 2019-11-21 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
 
This character refers to the word feather. The Chinese character for fan is etymologically derived from a picture of feathers under a roof.
 

 

羽化而登仙 
yǔ huà ér dēng xiān 
Yu hua means that an insect grows in a pupa towards being an adult insect. It is a metaphor for becoming a winged immortal, the meaning of which is similar to deng xian
 
This is a line from the ci poem, “First Visit to the Red Cliff,” by the Song scholar Su Shi. This poem was composed during the hardest time of Su’s life, when he was banished to Huangzhou, Hubei Province, in 1079, because of his opposition to some of Wang Anshi’s radical reform measures. Despite his five-year banishment, Su exhibited a strong sense of optimism and lack of bitterness, which were reflected in his works. 
 
The first part of the poem depicts how Su and his friends enjoy the night of a full moon in a boat to visit Red Cliff with his friends. “The river stretched white, sparkling as if with dew, its glimmering water merging with the sky. We let our craft drift over the boundless expanse of water, feeling as free as if we were riding the wind bound for some unknown destination, as light as if we had left the human world and become winged immortals” (trans. Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang). 
 
However, this pleasure was wiped out when one of his friends, a flutist, began to play a sad song. “The notes rang out nostalgic, mournful and plaintive, trailing on and on like a thread of gossamer, arousing the serpents lurking in dark caverns, drawing tears from a widow in her lonely boat.” Su asks the flutist why he plays such a note, and the flutist replies that Red Cliff reminds him of the great general Cao Cao, who was defeated in the Battle of Red Cliff in 208. Even heroes like Cao had turned into ashes, let alone commoners like Su and himself! 
 
Su didn’t agree and said, “If you look at its changing aspect, the universe passes in the twinkling of an eye; but if you look at its changeless aspect, all creatures including ourselves are imperishable…Everything in this universe has its owner; and if it does not belong to me not a tiny speck can I take. The sole exceptions are the cool breeze on the river, the bright moon over the hills…...these are inexhaustible treasures supplied by the Creator, and things in which we can delight together.” 
 
edited by REN GUANHONG