Zhao Mengfu's "Letter of Breaking Friendship with Shan Juyuan"

"Letter of Breaking Friendship with Shan Juyuan" is a letter written by Ji Kang, one of the "Seven Sages of the Bamboo Forest" in the Wei and Jin Dynasties, to his friend Shan Tao (styled as Juyuan), and 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 him when he was transferred from Cao Lang to General as Zhong Lang. In the letter, he rejected Shan Tao's recommendation, pointing out that people's natures have their own preferences, and affirming that he is lazy by nature and cannot be restrained by etiquette and law, so he should not be forced. His emphasis on letting go of nature is not only a contempt for the secular etiquette, but also a reflection of his advocacy of the old and Zhuang Wuwei.

Zhao Mengfu's "Letter of Breaking Friendship with Shan Juyuan", written in 1319, on green silk, 21.8x254.7cm. Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), courtesy name Ziang, nicknamed Songxue Taoist, also known as Crystal Palace Taoist, Oubo, was a member of Mengfu and Wu Xing (now Huzhou, Zhejiang) in his middle age, so he was also called "Zhao Wuxing" in the history of painting. Song Taizu Zhao Kuangyin's eleventh grandson, also after Qin Wang Defang. The fifth patriarch is Prince Xiu Anxi, and the fourth patriarch is Chongxian Wang Bogui. Gaozong had no son, but the son of Li Zicheng was Xiaozong, Bogui, and his brother, who bestowed the title on Huzhou, so Meng Fu was born in Huzhou. Great-grandfather Shi Chui, Zu Xiyong, father and , served in the Song Dynasty, all up to high officials; when he entered the state, he was honored as Meng Fugui, and he was given to his teacher Chui Jixian to serve as a bachelor. After his death, he was posthumously named Wei Guogong by Yuan Yingzong, posthumously named Wenmin.

Famous proses that have been passed down through the ages: 

Sincerely, Ji Kang: In the past, you once said in front of Shanyi that I did not want to be an official. I often said that this was the words of my confidant. But what I find strange is that you are not very familiar with me. I don't know where you learned about my aspirations? When I came back from Hedong the year before last, Xianzong and Abdu told me that you once planned to ask me to take over your position. Although this matter did not come true, we know from this that you did not know me well in the past. You are good at responding to situations, and you praise people more than criticize; I am straightforward, narrow-minded, and can't bear many things, so 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 ashamed to be an official by yourself and want me to be your assistant, just like a chef who is ashamed to cook alone and asks a priest to help. The butcher's knife is also stained with a fishy smell, so I will tell you why I can do this.  

   When I was a student, I heard that there is a kind of person who can benefit the world at the same time and is honest and upright. I always thought it was impossible, but now I really believe it. Personality determines that some people cannot bear certain things, so there is really no need to force them. Now everyone says that there is a kind of sensible person who can endure everything. They look like ordinary people in the world, but they can still maintain the righteous way in their hearts, and they can go with the world without any regrets. But this is just a It's just empty talk. Both Lao Tzu and Zhuang Zhou are people I want to learn from, and their positions are very low; Liu Xiahui and Dongfang Shuo are both well-informed people, and they are both content with low positions. How dare I despise them! Another example is that Confucius advocated universal love and selflessness. In pursuit of morality, he would not feel ashamed even if he went to drive a cart with a whip. Ziwen has no desire to be a minister, but has ascended to the high position of Ling Yin three times. This is the desire of a gentleman to save the world and the people. This is also what the predecessors said that when you are prominent, you can take care of the world without changing your will, and when you are frustrated, you can take care of yourself without feeling depressed. Judging from the above, 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. Looking at the above-mentioned people, it can be said that they are all able to realize their own ambitions. Therefore, although the behaviors and paths taken by gentlemen are different, they can also achieve the same goal, and if they follow their own nature, they can all get their spiritual destination. Therefore, there are sayings that people who are officials in the imperial court go in and out for the sake of salary, and people who live in seclusion in the mountains and forests go out for fame and never return. Ji Zha admired Zi Zang's noble sentiments, and Sima Xiangru admired Lin Xiangru's integrity in order to pin his own ambitions. This cannot be changed by force. Whenever I read Shang Ziping and Tai Xiaowei's biography, 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 my body was relatively thin. My mother and elder brother spoiled me very much and did not read those scriptures for self-cultivation and official career. My temperament is relatively lazy and sloppy, my muscles and bones are sluggish, and my muscles are slack. I often don't wash my hair and face for a month or half a month. If I don't feel particularly dull and itchy, I don't want to wash. Urinating often endures until the bladder swells almost to the point of turning before getting up to defecate. And because of indulgence for too long, his temperament becomes lonely and loose, his behavior is simple, contrary to etiquette, laziness and arrogance complement each other, and these are tolerated by his peers and never blamed. After reading "Zhuangzi" and "Laozi" again, my behavior became more laissez-faire. Therefore, the enthusiasm for pursuing official career and glory is weakening day by day, while the nature of laissez-faire and frankness is strengthening day by day. It is like an elk. If it is captured and tamed from an early age, it will obey the discipline and restraint of its master; No matter whether it goes through fire or water; although it is given a golden bridle and fed with the most exquisite feed, it still strongly misses the dense woods and lush herbs that it is 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; As a result, he was attacked by those who upheld the etiquette and hated him like an enemy. Fortunately, he was protected by the general. I don't have the talent of Ruan Ji, but I have the shortcomings of arrogance and laziness; If you keep in contact with people and things for a long time, things that offend people will happen every day. Although you want to avoid disasters, how can you do it? There are also certain rules of etiquette between monarchs and ministers, father and son, husband and wife, brothers, and friends, and the country also has certain laws and regulations. I have considered it very carefully, but there are seven things that I must not bear. Two things are In any case, I can't do this: I like to sleep late, but after I become an official, the guards will wake me up. This is the first thing I can't bear. I like to walk and chant casually with my qin in my arms, or go to the countryside to shoot birds and fish. After becoming an official, the officials will always be by my side, so I can't act casually. This is the second thing I can't bear. After becoming an official, I have to sit upright and work, my legs and feet are numb and I can’t move freely, I have many lice on my body, I have to scratch it all the time, and I have to wear official uniforms and greet the superior officials, this is the third thing I can't stand things. I have never been good at writing letters, and I don't like to write letters, but after becoming an official, I have to deal with many worldly affairs, and official documents and letters are piled up on the desk. Lasting, that's the fourth thing I can't stand. I don't like to go out to mourn, but the secular world attaches great importance to this matter. My behavior has been resented by people who refuse to forgive me, and some people even want to use it to slander me; although I am also vigilant to this I blame myself for a little bit, but my nature still cannot be changed, and I want to restrain my nature and follow the world, but I don’t want to go against my nature, and in the end, I can’t achieve neither being blamed nor being punished as I am now. Less than compliments, this is the fifth thing I can't stand. I don't like ordinary people, but after becoming an official, I have to work with them, or when the guests are full, the ears are full of noisy voices, in a noisy and dirty environment, all kinds of strange tricks can be done all day long. See, that's the sixth thing I can't live with. I am impatient by nature, but after becoming an official, I am busy with business affairs, government affairs linger on my mind all day long, and secular communication also consumes a lot of energy. This is the seventh thing I cannot bear. Also, I often want to say something that criticizes Cheng Tang, King Wu of Zhou, and despise Duke Zhou and Confucius. If I don’t stop talking about this after I become an official, this matter will be publicized one day, and it will be known to everyone, and it will be accepted by the secular etiquette. No, this is the first thing that should not be done anyway. I have a stubborn personality, hate bad people and bad things, speak rashly and presumptuously, speak out, and lose my temper when encountering things I don't like. This is the second thing I can't do anyway. With my narrow-minded personality and the above-mentioned nine diseases, even if there are no external disasters, I will definitely suffer from illnesses. How can I live in the world for a long time? I also heard Taoist priests say that taking food magic and sealwort can make people live longer, and I believe it very much; I also like to travel in mountains and rivers, watching fish and birds in nature, and I feel very happy about this kind of life; once I become an official, I will lose Without this kind of joy in life, how can you abandon the things you are willing to do and do the things you are afraid of doing? 

   To become good friends with each other, it is important to understand each other's natural nature and then fulfill him. Xia Yu didn't force Bo Chengzi Gao to become an official because he wanted to perfect his integrity; Confucius didn't borrow an umbrella from Zixia because he wanted to cover up Zixia's shortcomings; Zhuge Liang didn't force Xu Shu to defect to the Shu Han recently, and Hua Xin didn't force Guan Ning Accepting the position of the prime minister, the above-mentioned talents can be said to be consistent, and they are good friends who really understand each other. You can see that straight wood cannot be used for wheels, and bent wood cannot be used for rafters. This is because people do not want to wrong their original nature and let them have their own place. Therefore, scholars, farmers, craftsmen, and merchants all have their own specialties, and they can all find happiness in achieving their own ambitions. This can only be understood by a well-informed person, and it should be expected by you. Just because you like gorgeous hats, you can't force people across the country to wear them; you like rotten and smelly food, so you can feed dead rats to the ducklings. I am currently learning how to keep in good health. I am estranged from prosperity, abandoning delicious food, and pursuing the highest state of "inaction". Even if there are no "nine problems" mentioned above, I still disdain those things you like. I suffer from depression, and it has worsened recently. As far as I can imagine, I can't bear things I don't like. I have already considered it clearly, if there is no way to go, then forget it. Don't come to wrong me and make me fall into a desperate situation. 

   I had just lost the love of my mother and brother, and I was often sad. The daughter is only thirteen years old, 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 that I can live a simple and poor life, educate my children well, talk about parting with relatives and friends at any time, talk about family affairs, drink a glass of light wine, and play a piano, so 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. You already knew that I was laissez-faire and unreasonable, and I also thought that I was inferior to the talented people in power today in all aspects. If you think that all people in the world like glory and wealth, but I am the only one who can abandon it and be happy with it; this is the closest to my nature, so to speak. If it is a person who is talented, magnanimous, and knows everything, but can not seek official career, that is valuable. A person like me who is often sick and wants to stay away from the world in order to preserve his life for the rest of his life lacks the noble qualities mentioned above. How can he see an eunuch and praise him as a chaste person! If you are eager to ask me to become an official with you, and want to recruit me, and often get together happily, once you come to persecute me, I will definitely go crazy. If there is no deep hatred, I don't think it will come to this point. 

   People in the mountains regard basking in the sun as the happiest thing, and celery as the most beautiful food. Therefore, although they want to dedicate it to the monarch, it is out of sincerity, but it is too impractical. Hope you don't feel like them. I mean what I have said above, I am writing this letter to make things clear to you and to bid you farewell. Sincerely, Ji Kang.