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Hand-Planted Wisteria by Poet Yuan Mei
  Release time: 2014-07-04   The visit quantity:0   Eyesight protective color:  

The celestial official at Sui Garden is romantic,

Depicting the ducks during my olden frolicking days without fatigue;

He, good at papers, tries hands at shovels,

Ancient vines resemble hornless dragons full of magic.

The poem is written by Wu Shaocha when he encountered the wisteria in the official court yard of Shuyang County where Yuan Mei once spent his official career and planted the wisteria with his own hands. The wisteria, traced back to approximately 300 years ago, stands still in Shuyang Government yard, vibrant with vitality.

The root of the wisteria is five feet thick. Vines climb up the tree like dragons coil around the beam, quite spectacular for beholders. When spring comes and the purple swallows fly swiftly among willows, the wisteria sprouts in tenderness with flowers in full bloom. The lush vines swayed in breeze, presenting a scene like a mass of purple cloud and sometimes like a big green umbrella, so flushing and graceful!

Yuan Mei is considered as one of the Magistrates of Shuyang County enjoying a virtuous reputation in the history. Born in Qiantang (currently Hangzhou) of Zhejiang Province, he had a styled name of Zi Cai and acted as Shuyang County Magistrate in the eighth year of Emperor Qian Long in Qing Dynasty (1743).

Yuan Mei made outstanding accomplishments in his official career in Shuyang where he laid emphasis on investigations upon assuming office. Meticulous one-by-one investigations were carried out in aspects ranging from local customs, geographical environment, hills, rivers to officials, common people, political affairs and production. Most of the serious issues were detailedly recorded in paper reinforced by poems as proof while some matters dealt with or solved also found record in the poems. If, for example, he found out the extremely terrible conditions of water conservancy facilities in the County, he would write in a poem to the effect that the wealthy only know to purchase land while few would invest in water conservancy which leads to floods and droughts. Confronted with the situation worsened by locust plague, he wrote lines like “Rampaging floods submerge roads connecting east to west; locusts plague the city like riding wave crest.” and “Ten years of flowers drowned in floods, how could I bear the grudge of Liutang River without regrets!”. Against such a background, Yuan Mei mobilized local citizens to dig channels in containing the floods and strove to hold the disasters in leash and eradicate them once for all.

During his incumbency in Shuyang, Yuan Mei attached equal importance to production on one hand and culture and education on the other, focusing on training and selecting talents. Meanwhile, he by himself complied textbooks for students at school, so that Shuyang citizens at that time led a contented and peaceful life against the background of booming folk customs. Hence the following lines in Eight Joys In My Incumbency in Shuyang written by Yuan Mei:

Dreaming of visiting the Luo Pond, I hew out wilderness;

On my own, I cut paper and trim volumes of books.

Buying the silkworm seeds, I send them to silk ladies as gifts;

With my own articles and essays, I tirelessly teach skillful writers.

Within just a few years in his tenure, Yuan Mei had indeed cultivated and recommended a batch of talents, among whom one was a successful candidate in the final Imperial Examination while four were provincial -level candidates for the Imperial Examination. One young scholar in Shuyang called Lv Youxiang lost his father at an early age and lived in a poor family, but he studied hard and was brave enough to do good to help others. Yuan Mei thought highly of this young scholar and exerted every effort to recommend him to superiors. Lv Youxiang then took office as Chief of Caozhou State.

In dealing with daily official routines, be it important affairs or trifles, be it disputes and cases among officials or the mass, Yuan Mei conducted inquiries and investigations in person and made prompt decisions without delay.

Yuan Mei was a romantic and poetic person in life who took pleasure in touring around and making literary friends in leisure time. Regarding the wisteria in the Court Yard, a legend goes like this: Once, after dealing with business, he amused himself at the river side of Xintao in Xi Township in Shuyang together with his attendants. There nestled the ancestral garden and pinery belonging to Hu Jianjing, Editor for the Imperial Academy. Inside the garden were various flowers and plants, which drew intense interest from Yuan Mei. A fondness of planting was also stoked up in this poet’s heart who then took the wisteria and pagoda tree sapling back to his court yard and planted them in the yard with his own hands. Taken thoughtful care of by Yuan, they gradually grew up much to his delight. Thus he left the lines as follows:

Who says officials lack leisure time and cheers?

To think of Shuyang sedan chairs!

Planting flowers of all seasons with shovels,

For a government official, writing papers becomes effortless.

After he left Shuyang, local citizens had cherished profound affection towards the wisteria and protected it day and night. In past years, numerous literary men and tourists have been attracted by the plant which is widely eulogized by later generations together with Yuan’s lines.


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