Poems of Meng Jiao
Feeling Like Leaving Chang'an
Beyond words, lies the highest virtue.
There's enough out there for everyone.
My horse has four hooves, too, and
Leaves the gate as if it weren't even there.
Jade tower of twelve stories,
Lofty, and surrounded by verdant life.
Down below are the rich men's vermillion gates.
Which of those is recommended to the lonely scholar?
Qing1yun2 (青云) is both clear sky and highest virtue. Like the Roman's, Chinese virtue is not Christian virtue. It is more like Roman virtus or, perhaps, robur -- strength and power. And gates are symbols for passing into or out into new realms. Twelve is the number of completeness for Chinese. And this twelve-storied object is more than a tower. Jing1 (京) is used for the capital of a country or the burial mound of a noble. It is the symbol of a structure of importance and power.
This is from the period of Meng Jiao's exam failures. He's in his mid-forties, surrounded by twenty-somethings, who pass the exams which he fails. He knows that his poetry is sufficient but, as today, no one shows up with a big bag of money when you do good individual work. You're supposed to fit in, get your papers, and grind your nose off on the grindstone that grinds other men's grist into wealth. So it's spring, another exam failed, and Meng Jiao, in all his pauperous dignity, is ready to blow this popsicle stand.