The Yueyang Tower
In the spring of the fourth year of Qingli, Teng Zijing was exiled to Baling Prefecture to be the governor there.
In the second year of his office, because of his excellent administration, people lived in peace and contentment, and all previously neglected matters were taken care of.
The Yueyang Tower was renovated and enlarged, and inscribed on its walls were the poetry and the rhymed prose of learned men of the Tang and the present dynasties.
The beauty of Baling centers round the Dongting Lake, which holds the mountain ranges in the distance and swallows the water of the Yangtze River.
It is so vast and mighty that it seems boundless. Dazzling in the morning sun and fading in the gray evening mist, it offers a myriad of scenes.
This is the magnificent view that the Yueyang Tower commands, of which many descriptions have been written.
This beautiful scenic spot is linked with the Wu Gorge in the north and the Xiao and Xiang rivers in the south.
Exiled officials and poets often gather here. How could there be no difference in their feelings?
In the rainy season, an unbroken spell of wet weather lasts for months. Chilly winds howl and turbid waves surge sky high. The sun and the stars lose their luster, and the mountain ranges are scarcely visible.
Merchants and travelers have to put off their voyage, for the masts of the ships have collapsed and their oars broken. It is dark towards evening, and the roaring of tigers and the cry of monkeys can be heard.
At such a time anyone ascending the Tower will be filled with nostalgia for the imperial court and his home as well as fears of calumny and derision against him. Around him is a scene of desolation. Emotions well up in him so strongly that he feels pain at heart.
In springtime it is warm and the sun is bright. The lake is tranquil and it merges with the azure sky into a vast expanse of blue.
The water-birds are playing, some fluttering in the sky, some gathering together on the sandbars. Fishes of varied hues are swimming merrily in the water. The sweet-smelling grass by the banks and the faintly scented orchids on the sandy beaches are lush and green.
Sometimes, when the mist over the lake vanishes, the glorious moon shines over the vast land, its brightness glistening with golden light on the lake. The reflection of the moon is like a piece of jade in the depths of the water.
The fishermen’s songs chime in with each other. How delightful they are!
On ascending the Tower at such a time, one will feel a spiritual uplift, caring for neither glory nor shame.
With a cup of wine in the gentle breeze, he will enjoy the greatest happiness in life!
Ah! I have tried to study the minds of people of lofty ideals in ancient times. Perhaps they were different from the people I mentioned above. Why is this?
The reason is that they were not thrown into ecstasies over their success, nor felt depressed over their failures.
When they were in high positions at court, they were concerned about the people. When they were in remote places, they were concerned about their emperor. They worried when they got promoted or when they were sent into exile.
Then, when were they happy?
They would say, 「To be the first in the country to worry about the affairs of the state and the last in the county to enjoy oneself."
Alas! Who else should I seek company with save them?