A Chinese Idiom: A White Cloud at One Moment May Look Like a Gray Dog the Next Moment

Yi Dou

PureInsight | June 7, 2004

A Portrait of Du Fu

[PureInsight.org] Du Fu, a renowned poet of the Tang Dynasty, took delight in helping people. Du Fu lived as a pauper throughout his life so he could not afford to offer financial assistances to his friends. Instead, he tried to write poems to encourage them.

Li Guinian was an artist in the Era [1] of Kaiyuan under the reign of Emperor Xuanzhong of the Tang Dynasty. He was much favored by Emperor Xuanzhong. Many rich people and high-ranking officials would invite him over to play and sing music at their parties and banquets. For each performance, Li Guinian would typically get a very handsome reward. During the Anshi Rebellion, Li Guinian fled to southeastern China to avoid the war and there he lived in poverty. One day Du Fu happened to meet Li Guinian again at a banquet in southeastern China and was able to hear his performance. Afterwards, Du Fu wrote a poem to praise his superb artistic talent. Du Fu wrote in the poem: "Little did I expect to meet you again in the beautiful southeast area, especially during the flower blossom season when the flower pedals are dancing and flying beautifully in the air. Please enjoy the beautiful scenery, recall our friendship, and forget your sadness."

Wang Jiyou was a poet from the Tang Dynasty. He lived in poverty and made a living by selling straw sandals. However, he was contented with poverty and devoted himself to pursuing Taoism. He enjoyed reading books and writing poems in his spare time. However, his wife could not bear a life in poverty and left him. Many people made uncharitable remarks about him, but Du Fu wrote a poem to comfort him. "A white cloud at one moment may look like a gray dog in the next moment. Things in life can change in a most unpredictable manner. It is but the natural course of life."

The Chinese idiom, "A white cloud at one moment may look like a gray dog in the next moment," provides a picture of how things in life can change in a most unpredictable manner!

[1] Era name was an East Asian imperial practice of numbering years in an emperor's reign. It originated as a motto or slogan chosen by the emperor. Emperor Xuanzhong of the Tang Dynasty that reigned from 712 to 756 A.D. had the following eras: Era Xiantian (712 – 713 A.D.), Era Kaiyuan (713 – 741 A.D.), and Era Tianbao (742 – 756 A.D.) A similar practice was followed in the United Kingdom until quite recently. Acts of Parliament used to be dated according to the years of the reign of the reigning Monarch, so that "61 & 62 Vict c. 37" refers to the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 passed in the session of Parliament in the 61st/62nd year of Queen Victoria.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2004/5/22/27279.html

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