Poems of Meng Jiao
On Reaching Master Xi
Northern hills have little to live on.
Plants all wither in the frost.
Poor scholar, in deep depression,
Eats prunes that turn his stomach.
Life's banalities all change their scenes.
But one person keeps to his studies,
Fearful lest an angry mob arrive and
Change spring's leaves to autumn's yellow.
The virtuous man grasps the lofty mirror,
A public candle without a selfish gleam.
In this dark room, daybreak has not yet reached me.
In remoteness, I weep for emptiness.
Meng Jiao has been meditating in a deep cave (重坎) in the northern mountains. But 坎 is also "depression" and because I have also sat in deep depression as he seems to do here, I risk interpreting "depression" anachronistically. The Tang people would certainly have felt depression at times. But they may not have called it "depression" or 坎.
He goes on to meet Xi Sheren (奚舍人). 舍人 can be "palace secretary" or "people of a village." Here, I believe it refers to an itinerant Buddhist master, as 舍 is also used for "alms." A Buddhist with a begging bowl, I think. While Xi1 (奚) is a family name, it could also be the name taken by this person in Buddhism as it literally means "who?" So "Itinerant Xi" is "Itinerant Who?" and, if he chose this name, he certainly has a sense of humor that Meng Jiao will appreciate.
Dao4hang2 (道行) is the "practice of the Way" and refers to both Daoists and Buddhists. Here I take kong1hang2 (空行) to be "practice of emptiness" or prolonged meditation.