Poems of Bai Juyi
Mixed Feelings in Three Parts, Part Three
Wu's king's heart was ever wasteful.
His playful wardrobe exhausted a surprising amount of jade.
He took his naps in a tent of kingfisher feathers and
Sipped his drinks from a hollow red jewel.
From his hat hung a moon-bright pearl.
From below his belt hung something exceedingly sharp.
His every movement was a boast begging to be seen.
So he would frequently walk in a lingering way.
Ordinary people know what is actually good.
Our hearts' treasure comes from everywhere.
But evil men are happy to oppress the common good
And the gates of Imperial favour are open to them.
Of old, countries were praised for their treasures
Of rice-filled valleys and talent-filled people.
Now we understand Wu's king's emptiness
Brought his people only dust and ashes.
Those who admonished that king died.
Those who could leave him left and did not return.
Those who were troublesome soon slept beneath the grasses.
And the remaining herd dwindled in the darkness.
In 杂兴三首 二, Bai Juyi is criticizing the previous governors of Hangzhou who neglected the essential waters and dike of Xihu. In 杂兴三首 三, I think he is criticizing the Emperor. The new Emperor Muzong was a spoiled brat. Muzong rose to the throne after his father died of taking too many Immortality Pills (mercury, for the most part) and immediately so neglected his empire that regional military governors, who had only recently been subdued by his father, started grabbing all the power they could.
Muzong responded by appointing the worst kind of military governors he could. Wastrels like himself were his better choices. Paracides were among his worse choices. This led to a great deal of dissatisfaction among Imperial troops, which led to local mutinies and murders of Imperial military appointees. The regions which had revolted under Muzong's father then re-revolted and Muzong appointed Pei Du (裴度) to put them back down. In the Imperial Court, Bai Juyi's friend Yuan Zhen was part of one faction in the court and had ambitions of becoming chancellor. Pei Du was part of another strong faction.
Somehow, Yuan Zhen had become a trusted friend of this feckless emperor. Which makes us question Bai Juyi's judgement when it came to friends. But who knows? Friends can change. Anyway, Muzong appointed a string of failures to chancellor during his reign. So Yuan Zhen saw his chance to be one of them, interfered with Pei Du, and was stripped of his imperial scholar status for his trouble, even though he still got to hang out with his friend Muzong. Meanwhile, Pei Du failed to put down the rebels. His commander on the field was forced to commit suicide and the rebels consolidated their strength. But Pei Du was still promoted by Muzong for his incompetent service to the throne and made protector of Luoyang (洛阳). I'm sure this made the citizens there feel very safe.
This is only part of the mess that Muzong made in his brief five-year tenure, which additionally exhausted the Imperial treasuries. But it does explain why Bai Juyi got promoted to Governor of Hangzhou instead of exiled when he criticized Muzong the first time. It looks like Muzong was reluctant to punish anyone. Maybe he was a maudlin drunk. The final line of this poem pretty much sums up the state of the empire when Bai Juyi's term as governor expired. He was not given a new appointment in 824 but was appointed Imperial Tutor and took up residence in Luoyang, which as the "Eastern Capital" was the center of culture -- as opposed to Chang'an, which was the center of incompetence as Muzong's hour upon the stage ends and he exits, stage left.