Poems of Bai Juyi
Opening Dragon Gate's Eight Day Rocky Beach
东都龙门潭之南有八节滩 九峭石船筏过此例及破伤 舟人楫师推挽束缚大寒之月 裸跣水中饥冻有声闻于终夜 予尝有愿力及则求之会昌四年 有悲智僧道遇适同发心 经营开凿贫者出力仁者施财 於戏从古有碍之险未来无穷之苦 忽乎一旦尽除去之 兹吾所用适愿快心拔苦施乐者耳 岂独以功德福报为意哉因作二诗 刻题石上以其地属寺事因僧 故多引僧言见志
South of Chang'an's Dragon Gate Pool is Eight Day Beach with its nine great rocks. Boats and rafts passing there are often broken or overturned. Master boatmen, with oars, push and pull in the narrows. In the coldest moon, naked and barefoot on the water, you could hear them all night. Hungry and freezing, they call. I once vowed to do something to help them. In Huichang, fourth year, I found some wise and compassionate monks, worthy of the Heart Sutra, who agreed to dig a tunnel. The poor supplied labor. The rich, money. And so, this ancient, dangerous obstruction, through unfailing hard work, was one morning completely removed. Now I take this opportunity as a fitting occasion of happiness when bitterness is removed and I can impose my happiness on my listeners. Who will not admit this achievement to be a karmic reward? So I write two verses to be engraved on these rocks. By these I call attention to the temple's work and its monks so that many will be led by these words to see their aspiration.
Silver chisels, golden hammers, earnest as thunder.
Eight Day Beach, nine rocks' knife-edges broken.
Bamboo poles and laurel oars fly like arrows.
One hundred rafts, a thousand boats, pass in single file.
Exertions of the master rely upon crowd's strength.
Mony spent upon this work is leveed on the rich.
One by one, they come together, join from all directions.
Do not imagine this road of dust and sand will not open.
Seventy-three old men with bodies well-worn
Swear to open a dangerous road through the cliff.
Night boats coming here will no longer overturn.
From today, straining legs will avoid adversity.
Six miles of shouting beach becomes a river of men.
Mid-winter, shadowed prison becomes a sunlit spring.
Even if my body dies, my spirit will live on
In the harsh effort that brings mercy to those who come.
It is 844. In two years, Bai Juyi will be gone. But at seventy-two and in retirement, he uses his influence with the empire and the temples to drive a tunnel through the cliffs alongside a dangerous stretch of the river south of Chang'an. For him, a dream come true. For those who work the river, life.