Su Dongpo: Joking Around With Ziyou


Joking Around With Ziyou

戏 子 由
宛 丘 先 生 长 如 丘
宛 丘 学 舍 小 如 舟。
常 时 低 头 诵 经 史
忽 然 欠 伸 屋 打 头。
斜 风 吹 帷 雨 注 面
先 生 不 愧 旁 人 羞。
任 从 饱 死 笑 方 朔
肯 为 雨 立 求 秦 优。
眼 前 勃 谿 何 足 道
处 置 六 凿 须 天 游。
读 书 万 卷 不 读 律
致 君 尧 舜 知 无 术。
劝 农 冠 盖 闹 如 云
送 老 齑 盐 甘 似 蜜。
门 前 万 事 不 挂 眼
头 虽 长 低 气 不 屈。
余 杭 别 驾 无 功 劳
画 堂 五 丈 客 旗 旄。
重 楼 跨 空 雨 声 远
屋 多 人 少 风 骚 骚。
平 生 所 惭 今 不 耻
坐 对 疲 氓 更 鞭 棰。
道 逢 阳 虎 呼 与 言
心 知 其 非 口 诺 唯。
居 高 志 下 真 何 益
气 节 消 缩 今 无 几。
文 章 小 技 安 足 程
先 生 别 驾 旧 齐 名。
如 今 衰 老 俱 无 用
付 与 时 人 分 重 轻。
Xi Zi You

Wan qiu xian sheng chang ru qiu
Wan qiu xue she xiao ru zhou.
Chang shi di tou song jing shi
Hu ran qian shen wu da tou.

Xie feng chui wei yu zhu mian
Xian sheng bu kui pang ren xiu.
Ren cong bao si xiao fang shuo
Ken wei yu li qiu qin you.

Yan qian bo xi he zu dao
Chu zhi liu zao xu tian you.
Du shu wan juan bu du lu
Zhi jun yao shun zhi wu shu.

Quan nong guan gai nao ru yun
Song lao ji yan gan si mi.
Men qian wan shi bu gua yan
Tou sui chang di qi bu qu.

Yu hang bie jia wu gong lao
Hua tang wu zhang shen qi mao.
Chong lou kua kong yu sheng yuan
Wu duo ren shao feng sao sao.

Ping sheng suo can jin bu chi
Zuo dui pi meng geng bian chui.
Dao feng yang hu yu yan
Xin zhi qi fei kou nuo wei.

Ju gao zhi xia zhen he yi
Qi jie xiao suo jin wu ji.
Wen zhang xiao ji an zu cheng
Xian sheng bie jia jiu qi ming.
Ru jin shuai lao ju wu yong
Fu yu shi ren fen chong qing.


Joking Around With Ziyou

As a teacher in Wanqiu you are like a hill compared to others
Wanqiu’s school like a small boat.
Most of the time you lower your head, reading aloud the sutras and history
When stretching, you hit your head on the ceiling.
Slanting winds blows the curtains, rain pours in

You are not ashamed to teach here, others would be mortified
Some people too short, others too tall, yet both receive the same rations
One will die of obesity, the other of starvation
Handsome and strong palace guards have to stand out in the rain
While other lesser attendants stay warm and dry

Do not be concerned with small domestic bickering
More important to control the six emotions to await and associate with Heaven
People can read ten thousand scrolls and still misunderstand the laws

These people without the skills of Yao Shun of ancient times when laws were natural
Government officials sent out to advise the farmers actually make noise like clouds
But you are simple like Hanyu, finely chopped salt tastes like honey
Let the ten thousand officials pass buy your front door without concern

Even though you head is bowed low, your integrity is not bent.
After my job in Hangzhou, without merit or success
My house still had paintings and ten foot flags with yak tails
Unable to hear falling rain on large buildings

People so few, they barely stir up a light wind
All one’s life I am ashamed, but not today
How can I sit across from the farmers and peasants demanding that they
pay their government taxes
Other government officials roar at them like tigers.

In my heart, I know I cannot work with them
Even though I lived well, my ambition weak for the tasks required
My moral integrity spent and exhausted
Our writings of small ability and renown not enough

We both are more famous for our poems, yet these do not help the people
Today we are older, not as useful
Let other people strive for assignments and distinction.



Sutras: The Buddhist sutras, or sacred texts.

Yao Shun:  (2356-2255 BC) Emperor and metaphor for a morally upright sage-king of the distant past. He was alive during the Great Flood.

Hanyu:  (768-824) Tang Dynasty poet. Some of his work and biography can also be found on this website.



A brother’s advice to a younger, beloved sibling reveals much about the values and priorities of Su Dongpo.


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