Zhao Mengfu's "Book of Severing Diplomacy with Shan Juyuan"

"The Letter of Severing Diplomacy with Shan Juyuan" is a letter written by Ji Kang, one of the "Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove" during the Wei and Jin Dynasties, to his friend Shan Tao (also known as Juyuan). It is also a famous prose that has been passed down through the ages. This letter was written by Ji Kang after he heard the news that Shan Tao wanted to recommend him to replace his original position when he was transferred from Cao Lang to general to serve as Zhonglang. In the letter, he rejected Shan Tao's recommendation, pointed out that people have their own preferences, and stated that he was lazy by nature and could not be restrained by etiquette and law and could not be forced. His emphasis on letting nature go is not only his contempt for secular etiquette, but also a reflection of his admiration for the old and Zhuang Wuwei.

Zhao Mengfu's "Book of Severing Diplomacy with Shan Juyuan", 1319, green silk, 21.8x254.7cm. Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), whose courtesy name was Zi'ang, also known as Songxue Taoist, Crystal Palace Taoist, and Oubo. In his middle age, he was Mengfu and a person from Wuxing (now Huzhou, Zhejiang), so he was also called "Zhao Wuxing" in the history of painting. The eleventh grandson of Zhao Kuangyin, Taizu of the Song Dynasty, and the successor of King Defang of Qin. The fifth generation ancestor is Prince Xiu Anxi, and the fourth generation ancestor is Chongxian Jing Wang Bogui. Emperor Gaozong had no children, so his son Zichen was named Xiaozong, Bogui, his elder brother. He was given the title of Huzhou, so Mengfu was born in Huzhou. His great-grandfather Shichui, his ancestor Xiyong, his father and his father, served in the Song Dynasty, all reaching senior officials. When he entered the imperial court, he was honored by Meng, and he was awarded the title of Shichui as a bachelor in Jixian. He was a bachelor of Jixian University. After his death, he was posthumously named Wei Guogong by Emperor Yingzong of Yuan Dynasty, with the posthumous title Wenmin.

Famous prose that has been passed down through the ages: 

Sincerely, Ji Kang: In the past, you once praised my unwillingness to serve as an official in front of Shan Jin. I often said that this was the words of a close friend. But what I find strange is that you are not very familiar with me. I wonder where you learned about my interests? When I came back from Hedong the year before last, Xianzong and Adu told me that you had planned to ask me to take over your position. Although this did not happen, I knew from this that you did not know me well in the past. You are good at adapting to situations, and you praise people more and criticize less. I am straightforward and narrow-minded, and I can't stand many things. I just made friends with you by chance. Recently I heard that you have been promoted, and I feel very worried. I am afraid that you are embarrassed to be an official alone and want to recruit me as an assistant, just like a chef who is ashamed to cook alone and wants to recruit a priest to help. Butcher's knives also have a fishy smell, so I would like to tell you why you can do this.  

   When I was studying, I heard that there was a kind of person who could benefit the world and be aloof at the same time. I always thought it was impossible, but now I really believe it. Character determines that some people cannot tolerate certain things, so there is no need to force it. Nowadays, everyone says that there is a kind of understanding person who can tolerate anything. They look no different from ordinary people in the world, but in their hearts they can still maintain the right path and can go along with the world without any regrets. But this is just a person. It's just empty talk. Lao Tzu and Zhuang Zhou are both people I want to learn from, but their positions are low. Liu Xiahui and Dongfang Shuo are both knowledgeable people, but they are content with low positions. How can I dare to talk about them with contempt! Another example is that Confucius advocated fraternity and selflessness. In order to pursue morality, he would not feel ashamed even if he held a whip and drove a cart. Ziwen had no desire to be a prime minister, but he ascended to the high position of Ling Yin three times. This is the gentleman's intention to save the world and benefit the people. This is also what the predecessors said: when you are prosperous, you can take care of the world without changing your will; when you are frustrated, you can be alone without feeling depressed. Judging from the above principles, when Yao and Shun were emperors, Xu You lived in seclusion in the mountains, Zhang Liang assisted the Han Dynasty, and Jie Yu sang songs to persuade Confucius to go into seclusion. Their ways of conducting themselves in the world were consistent. Looking at the people above, it can be said that they are all able to realize their ambitions. Therefore, although the behaviors and paths taken by gentlemen are different, they can still achieve the same goal. If they act in accordance with their own nature, they can all achieve the destination of their souls. Therefore, there is a saying that people who are officials in the imperial court go in and out for the sake of salary and position, and people who live in seclusion in the mountains and forests go back and forth for the sake of fame. Jizha admired Zizang's noble sentiments, and Sima Xiangru admired Lin Xiangru's integrity to support his ambitions. There is no way to force them to change. Whenever I read the biographies of Shang Ziping and Tai Xiaowei, I admire and admire them very much, and I often think of their noble sentiments. In addition, I lost my father when I was young and was relatively thin. My mother and brother pampered me and did not read the scriptures on self-cultivation and officialdom. I also have a lazy and undisciplined temperament, with sluggish muscles and sluggish muscles. I often don’t wash my hair and face for a month or half a month. If I don’t feel particularly stuffy and itchy, I don’t want to wash them. I often have to endure urination until my bladder is so swollen that it almost turns, and then I get up to go to the toilet. And because of excessive indulgence, one's temperament becomes arrogant and undisciplined, one's behavior is slow and contrary to etiquette, and laziness and arrogance complement each other. However, these are tolerated by peers and never criticized. After reading "Zhuangzi" and "Laozi" again, my behavior became more laissez-faire. Therefore, the enthusiasm for pursuing official career and prosperity is weakening day by day, while the laissez-faire nature is getting stronger day by day. This is like an elk. If it is captured and tamed and raised from an early age, it will obey the discipline and restraint of its owner; if it is restrained when it grows up, it will definitely jump around crazily, trying to break free of the rope that binds it, even if He did not care about life and death; even though he was given a golden bridle and fed the most exquisite feed, he still missed the dense woods and lush herbs that he was used to. 

   Ruan Ji doesn't talk about other people's faults. I often want to learn from him but I can't do it. His nature is more honest than ordinary people, and he has no intention of harming others. His only shortcoming is excessive drinking. As a result, he was attacked by those who upheld etiquette and hated him like an enemy. Fortunately, he was protected by the general. I don't have Ruan Ji's talent, but I have the shortcomings of arrogance and laziness; I don't understand the ways of the world, and I can't adapt to changes; I don't have Wan Shijun's caution, but I have the shortcomings of being outspoken without knowing what to do. If you stay in contact with people for a long time, things that offend people will happen every day. Even if you want to avoid disasters, how can you do it? There are also certain etiquette and laws between kings and ministers, father and son, husband and wife, brothers, and friends. The country also has certain laws. I have considered it very carefully, but there are seven things that I will never tolerate. Two of them are This is not allowed under any circumstances: I like to sleep in, but after I became an official, the guards would wake me up. This was the first thing I couldn't bear. I like to walk around with my piano in my hand and chant, or go to the countryside to shoot birds and fish. After becoming an official, officials will always be by my side, so I can't act as I please. This is the second thing I can't bear. After I became an official, I had to sit upright and work. My legs and feet were numb and I couldn't move freely. I had lice all over my body and I had to scratch them all the time. I also had to wear official uniforms and greet superior officials. This is the third thing. Things I can't stand. I have never been good at writing letters, and I don’t like writing letters. But after becoming an official, I have to deal with a lot of worldly matters. Official documents and letters are piled up on my desk. If I don’t go out to socialize, I will violate the ethics and lose my etiquette. If I force myself to socialize, I can’t. Lasting, this is the fourth thing I can't stand. I don’t like to go out to mourn, but the world takes this matter very seriously. My behavior has been resented by people who are unwilling to forgive me, and some people even want to use it to slander me; although I am also wary of this. I blame myself for a little bit, but my nature still cannot be changed. I also want to suppress my nature and follow the world, but I don’t want to go against my nature, and in the end I can’t do what I am doing now without being blamed. Without compliments, this is the fifth thing I can't stand. I don't like common people, but after I become an official, I have to work with them, or sit with guests, and my ears are filled with noisy and noisy sounds. In a noisy and dirty environment, all kinds of strange tricks and tricks can be used all day long. See, this is the sixth thing I can't stand. I was born with an impatient character, but after I became an official, I was busy with official duties, government affairs lingered in my mind all day long, and secular interactions also consumed a lot of energy. This was the seventh thing I couldn't bear. Also, I often say things that criticize Cheng Tang and King Wu of Zhou and look down on Duke Zhou and Confucius. If I don’t stop talking about this after I become an official, this matter will one day be publicized and known to everyone, and it will be recognized by secular ethics. No, this is the first thing that should never be done. I have a stubborn personality. I hate bad people and bad things. I speak rashly and outspokenly. I will lose my temper when I encounter things I don't like. This is the second thing I should not do under any circumstances. With my narrow-minded character and the nine diseases mentioned above, even if there are no external disasters, I will definitely suffer from illness. How can I live in this world for a long time? I also heard from Taoist priests that taking food magic and Polygonatum japonica can make people live longer, and I believed it very much. I also like to travel in mountains and rivers, watch fish and birds in nature, and I feel very happy with this kind of life. Once I become an official, I will lose it. Without this kind of joy in life, how can you abandon the things you are happy to do and do the things you are afraid of doing? 

   For people to become good friends, it is important to understand each other's natural nature and then fulfill them. Xia Yu didn't force Bo Chengzi to become an official because he wanted to fulfill his integrity; Confucius didn't borrow an umbrella from Zixia because he wanted to cover up Zixia's shortcomings; recently Zhuge Liang didn't force Xu Shu to defect to Shu Han, and Hua Xin didn't insist on Guan Ning. Accepting the position of prime minister, these talents can be said to be consistent and good friends who truly understand each other. You see, straight wood cannot be used as wheels, and curved wood cannot be used as rafters. This is because people do not want to detract from their original nature and let each of them find its own place. Therefore, scholars, farmers, industry, and businessmen all have their own majors, and they all find happiness in achieving their own ambitions. Only knowledgeable people can understand this, and it should be within your expectations. Just because you like gorgeous hats, you can't force people to wear them even if they are crossing the border; you can't force dead mice to feed the mandarin duck chicks because you like rotten and smelly food. I am currently learning how to maintain my health. I am staying away from glory and splendor, abandoning delicious food, and am in a quiet and tranquil mood, pursuing the highest state of "inaction". Even if there are no "nine problems" mentioned above, I still disdain the things you like. I have a problem with depression, which has worsened recently. I think that I can't stand things I don't like. I have considered it clearly, if there is no other way out, forget it. Don't try to wrong me and put me in a desperate situation. 

   I had just lost the love of my mother and brother, and I felt sad all the time. The daughter is only thirteen years old, and the boy is only eight years old, not yet an adult, and often sick. Thinking of these makes me very sad and hateful, I really don’t know where to start! Now I hope to live a plain and poor life, educate my children well, and be able to talk about my farewells with my relatives and friends at any time, talk about home affairs, drink a glass of light wine, and play a piece of piano. This way my wish has been fulfilled. If you keep pestering me, you are just trying to find someone for the court so that he can be used by the world. If you had known that I was laissez-faire and unreasonable, I also thought that I was inferior to the capable men currently in power in every aspect. If you think that all secular people like glory and wealth, but I am the only one who can abandon it and be happy about it, this is the closest to my nature. You can say this. If you are a person who is talented, generous, and knows everything, and you don't seek official career, that is valuable. People like me who are often sick and want to stay away from the world in order to preserve their remaining years lack the noble qualities mentioned above. How can I see a eunuch and praise him as a chaste person? If you are eager to ask me to be an official with you, if you want to recruit me, and often have fun together, if you come to force me, I will definitely go crazy. If it weren't for the deep hatred, I don't think it would have come to this. 

   People in the mountains regard the sun basking on their backs as the most pleasant thing, and celery as the most beautiful food. Therefore, they want to dedicate it to the monarch, although it is out of sincerity, but it is too unrealistic. Hope you don't become like them. What I mean is what I said above. I am writing this letter not only to make things clear to you, but also to say goodbye to you. Sincerely, Ji Kang.