Chen Chiju: Sketches by the Little Window ~ 陈继儒《幽窗小记》 with English Translations










Sketches by the Little Window

Chen Chiju

For enjoying flowers, one must secure nonchalant friends. For going to sing-song houses to have a look at the girls, one must secure quiet or mild-tempered friends. For going up a high mountain, one must secure romantic friends. For boating, one must secure friends with an expansive nature. For looking at the moon, one must secure friends with a cool philosophy. For anticipating snow, one must secure beautiful friends. For a wine party, one must secure friends with flavor and charm.

Formal drinking should be slow and leisurely, while unrestrained drinking, elegant and romantic. A sick person should drink a very small quantity, while a sad person should drink so much as to get drunk. Drinking in the spring should take place in a courtyard, in summer in the outskirts of a city, in autumn on a boat, and in winter in the house, and at night it should be enjoyed in the presence of the moon.

There is a proper time and place for getting drunk. One should get drunk in the company of flowers during the day, in order to assimilate their light and colour; and one should get drunk in the company of snow at night, in order to clear one’s thoughts. A man getting drunk when happy at success should sing, in order to harmonize his spirit; and a man getting drunk at a farewell party should strike an earthen pot in order to strengthen his spirit. A drunken scholar should be careful in his conduct, so that humiliations can be avoided; and a drunken military man should order gallons and put up more flags, so that his military splendour can be increased. Drinking in a tower should take place in summer, in order to profit from the cool atmosphere; and drinking in a boat on the water should take place in autumn, in order to increase the sense of elated freedom. These are proper ways of drinking in respect of mood and scenery, and to violate these rules is to miss the pleasure of drinking.

In my studio, all formalities will be abolished, and only the most intimate friends will be admitted. They will be treated with good or bad fare such as I have, and will chat and laugh together and forget our own existence. We will never discuss the right and wrong of other people and will be totally indifferent to worldly glory and wealth. In our leisure we will discuss the ancients and the moderns; and in our quiet, we will enjoy the sceneries of the mountains and rivers. Then we will have thin, clear tea and good wine to fit into the atmosphere of delightful seclusion. That is my conception of the pleasure of intimate friendship.

We burn incense on a moonlit night and play three stanzas on the ch’in, and immediately the myriad worries of our breast are banished and all our foolish ambitions or desires are forgotten. We will then inquire, what is the fragrance of this incense, what is the colour of the smoke, what are the white streams of light darting in through the window, what is this sound that arises from below my fingertips, what is this enjoyment which makes us so quietly happy and so forgetful of everything else, and what is the condition of the infinite universe?

For a quiet studio, one should have some green wut’ung trees in front and some emerald bamboos behind. On the south of the house the eaves will stretch boldly forward, while on the north side there will be a paneless window, which can be closed in spring and winter to shelter one from wind and rain, and opened in summer and autumn for ventilation. The beauty of the wut’ung tree is that all its leaves fall off in spring and winter, thus admitting us to the full enjoyment of the sun’s warmth, while in summer and autumn its shade protects us from the scorching heat.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *