Poems of Xue Tao
For Those Who Happily Remained After the Rain
Southern Gates of Heaven, spring rains time.
Bright mirrors of hoarfrost and snow
Reflect a multitude of clouds above.
With an empty mind, you can grasp it all.
Many remain of these distinguished drunkards,
Old friends all of Shun's sad wife.
In your waning years, you will be rewarded
With a strange period of flourishing power.
An entertainment poem for Xue Tao's guests. As official hostess of the West Rivers circuit, Xue Tao's status would have been quite high. Circuit governors like her master, Wei Gao, were very powerful. And he was more powerful and more in the emperor's trust than most. He was also gone most of the time, busy putting down rebellions and invasions on all sides. Xue Tao would therefore be mistress of a minor palace, entrusted with the human side of affairs. While it is possible that she was purchased, it is also possible that she was a relatively free agent and could leave Wei Gao's service at will. There would probably have been a sense of equality between them, in spite of the differences in gender statuses which they both would never have questioned.
As for the poem, the Southern Gates of Heaven were the names of fortified passes on the border. Empty-mindedness was a part of Daoism in China before even the advent of Bodhidharma and his Zen. Shun is the legendary early king. But I am too ignorant to know anything about his wife or her legendary sadness. Xue Tao's guests were probably older men who would be amused to hear they would flourish in a particular way once again, knowing they would not, as biology never runs backwards.