临江仙 （三国演义开头卷）杨慎者(1488 -1559)
This poem, 临江仙(Ling Jiang Xian) by 杨慎 (Yang Shen) is more commonly known as三国演义开头卷(San Guo Yan Yi Kai Tou Juan) is one of my favorite poems besides Su Dongbo’s 念奴娇. Both poems are related to the Three Kingdoms Period in China, which is one of the most interesting time in ancient China, and a period that produced more memorable heroes and beauties than any other era that historians can write. It is an era that produced heroes such as Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhuge Liang, Zhou Yu as well as beauties such as Diao Can and Xiao Qiao that became household names.
In this wee hour of the day, as I mourn Lee Kuan Yew, one of the great heroes of our time, I just can’t stop thinking of the words written in this poem, which is still very meaningful in today’s context even though it was written more than five hundred years ago. I would say, this is the beauty of Chinese poetry and more than often, one will be transported into the scene of the poems, to watch the flocks of cranes above ancient Xian or caravans of camels passing through the imposing tower of Jiayuguan along the Silk Road and in this instance, the battlefields of the Three Kingdom period such as Red Cliff, how historians write their versions of Cao Cao, a figure that Lee Kuan Yew was often compared to.
Cao Cao had famously said that he would rather betray the world than to let the world betray him while Lee’s notable quote about his political opponents is “If you are a troublemaker…it is our job to politically destroy you, everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac.”
Alas, the thoughts of heroes are not ours to judge; in all his great, his genius masters him…..一壶浊酒喜相逢, 古今多少事, 都付笑谈中.