Liu Zongyuan: The Mountain of the Little Rock City ~ 《小石城山记》 柳宗元 with English Translations



《小石城山记》 柳宗元



The Mountain of the Little Rock City
Liu Zongyuan

Heading directly northward from the mountain pass at the western mountain and going downhill after crossing Huangmao Hill, you will come to two mountain paths. One path leads westward and there is not much to see. The other path turns a little northward and then eastward, but forty zhang further, the path ends, as it is cut into halves by a river. Standing along the bank of the river is a hill of rocks. On it some rocks are piled like the parapets of a city wall, and some like beams. Beside them protrudes a rock in the shape of a fort, on which there is a door-like cave. The cave is dark inside, and should you throw a stone in it, you will clearly hear a “dong, dong” sound, which reverberates for a long while. Go up round the fort and you can reach the hill-top, where you can see into the distance. There is no soil, but this makes the beautiful trees and arrow bamboos growing on it look all the more unusual and sturdy. They are well spaced and their heights vary in an appropriate way as if their placement were designed by a clever man.

Ah! I have long been skeptical about the existence of God. Now I cannot help but believe that there is a God. But I am puzzled as to why God did not set this beautiful scenery in the prosperous midland, choosing instead this remote seclude place where its beauty has been concealed from human appraisal for thousands of years and wasted. God would not have done such a silly thing. Is there a God then? Some would say, “God did this in order to comfort those virtuous people who are exiled here.” Others say, “The spirit of ingenuity did not breed great men, but created this scenery of peculiar charm instead. This is why in the south of the Kingdom of Chu there is a scarcity of virtuous and talented men but an abundance of rocks.” I doubt the truth in either of these sayings.

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