Letter to Wu Zhi, Magistrate of Zhaoge
Fifth month, twenty-eighth day, Pi reporting:
Are you well, Jizhong? The distance that separates us is not great, but office imposes restrictions and I find I have no way to convey the thoughts I want to speak of. The place you are governing now is awkwardly situated and out of the way and our correspondence as a result is sketchy, a fact that increases my depression.
Each time I think back to those days when we amused ourselves at Nanpi, I find them more unforgettable than ever. After mulling over the secrets of the Six Classics and wandering at will through the Hundred Philosophers, we found time to squeeze in a little chess, ending up with a game of liubo.1 Lofty discourse delighted our minds, plaintive strings soothed the ear. We galloped in haste to the northern ground, feasted with the crowd in the southern hall, floating sweet melons in the clear fountain, dunking crimson plums in its cold waters. And when the bright sun had gone into hiding, we carried on by the glow of the moon. Sharing a single carriage or driving side by side, we were off to outings at the inner gardens, our carriage wheels turning slowly, attendants following without a sound. A fresh breeze sprang up with the night and melancholy flutes sounded their faint cry. Joy vanished and grief came in its place; sorrowful were the thoughts that visited us. I turned to you and said, “Such joys can never last!” and you and your companions all agreed. Now, as we foresaw, you and I are parted, each in a different corner of the land. Yuanyu has set off on his long journey, changed into a spiritual being.2 Each time I think of these things, I wonder when I will ever get to talk with you again.
Just now the fifth month pitch-pipe marks the season, and all things are fanned by the soft winds of summer. 3 The breath of the sky is gentle and warm, and fruit of every kind fills the trees. From time to time I go out in my carriage, following north along the bend of the river, attendants piping flutes to clear the road before me, scholars accompanying me in carriages to the rear. The season is the same as it was then, but the time have changed; the things of nature are still here, but the men are gone. How can I describe to you the weariness I feel?
I am about to dispatch a rider to Ye and will have him make a detour so he can pass our way. Carry on, take care of yourself.
1. A game like backgammon played with bamboo dice and ivory pieces.
2. Yuanyu 元瑜 is Ruan Yu 阮瑀, one of the famous men of letters who enjoyed the patronage of the Cao family. He was the father of the even more famous poet, Ruan Ji (210-263).
3. Each of the twelve pitch-pipes, representing a twelve-tone scale, was assigned to one of the months. The fourth, fifth, and sixth months of the lunar calendar correspond to summer.
（Burton Watson 译）