Elegy in honour of Ma Yuanzhang

Presented on the 18th day of the 2nd lunar month, 1920 at Xuanhua Ridge, Zhangjiachuan by the circuit commander of Weichuan Cheng Yaoqin on behalf of the Central Government

Hundreds of poetic elegies and funerary placards were sent to Xuanhua Ridge, Ma Yuanzhang’s final resting place, to mark the hundred days after the death of the shaykh. One of these was presented on behalf of the central government, which in elegant language affirms Ma Yuanzhang’s contribution as both a Jahriyya shaykh and a Chinese statesman. The likely author of this elegy was Ha Rui, the most repected literati in Tianshui, the nearest city to Zhangjiachuan. The Chinese text is taken from Ma Guobin (ed.) Xuanhua Gang Zhi (A Gazetteer of Xuanhua Ridge) (2005, 369-370), with minor modifications to the punctuation.

Dedication of the Central Government


on the sixteenth day, the day of wu-zi of the second lunar month that commenced under xin-you, in the tenth year of the Republic of China,

Provisional Governor of Gansu Province Chen Yin


Circuit Commander of Weichuan Zhang Jianxun

to solemnly present a feast of blood sacrifices before the spirit of the esteemed Ma Guanglie

and to proclaim:

Over the eastern flank of the Gansu Range dark clouds lay down a shroud of snow.

An angry wind stirs. The trees hang their branches low.

Has the heart of heaven turned deaf to our cries?

How the axis of earth shook the joy from our eyes.

All walks of life wear white today as the pen of the statesman is locked away.

Carve out his glory in stone, that his voice may sound eternal.

The jade caskets of each generation are lain out in the sepulchre, to be mourned but not returned.

The beacon of mankind has been plucked from our midst, leaving but who to reveal heaven’s rifts?

He looked upon Kaifeng without anger or frustration

He filled an empty valley with his illumination.

His graces were apparent at his birth. Of the descendents of the Western Prophet he was unique, a hero who could fly on the wind. He was attune to the workings of heaven and earth. Like Xie An, a true inheritor of the spirit of the immortals.

Courteous in conversation, dignified before the court. On God’s revelation he would talk without tire. Gifts lay in waiting for all who arrived at his door. His constant quiescence lay bare the false and obsequious. In place of flowery embellishment he built monuments of permanence.

He received his mission and formed his pact, then took to the saddle. Southwards through the lands of Wu and Yue, and back across the northern plains. Many a mile in search of the grail. He had no need for the sedan chair, nor concern over a forced march. A mountain hut was to him a palace chamber.

Out of fear that our way would become an oddity found in the old books market, he followed the spring geese across the Dragon Sands, and divined a new residence on barren land.

Here he established his reputation, nurturing the students of his generation who arrived at his door. Lotus flowers bloomed on the tips of their tongues. When he pitched his tent, how could their numbers be kept to three thousand? Mile upon mile of mulberry and flax, lovingly cultivated; the struggle was to properly receive them all.

He was known as the Elder, the Benevolent, and now his name is proclaimed on the Ridge.

He magnified the glory of the virtuous; as a teacher he was sincere. A devotee of his hills and fields, when disputes broke out he intervened to keep away the flames of conflict and ensure the streams ran clear. After dealing with the bandits in the rafters he would be as scarce as Lu Lian. He would never confuse red ink with vermillion.

Like Mister Kong he would not shake out Gong Yu’s hat, and remained always cautious like Cao Zhi.

He was at home teaching in an simple shack, a quality rare in times old and times present. From near and far they came to hear his guidance. The concerns of his country remained close to his heart.

He had insight into future events, of which there is documented proof. The residents of Hangzhou had not an inkling of the chaos that would befall them. When the walls of Chengdu were threatened, the roofs and windows had been repaired ahead of the rains.

A true great man, his legacy was of virtue not words, and a wealth of sons and nephews to carry on his work.

The imperial awards he received are a mark of his merit, a permanent testimony of his glorious light.

He upheld the way and taught us the way of heaven.

Until a chasm opened in the earth. The winter moon was shaded by dust. The mourning sounds of the brooks and rivers. A fall likened to the final Fall. And everything transformed within the flash of a lightning strike.

Our esteemed teacher alone upheld true virtue. In fear that all the clans would meet their fate in the holocaust, he recited the divine revelation and adopted his immortal form.

With us but for a moment, yet for a thousand years.

He was as lofty as Mount Tai.

The streams and rivers weep wintry tears.

This edict is proclaimed to elevate the books of posterity, to raise high lofty thoughts, to transmit lofty words, and so nourish those that are left behind.

Let us resolve to continue his legacy as we gaze upon his tomb.

Before the pining, abandoned lovers, at this auspicious place marked by the poplar and the sleeping bull, comforted by shade, midst the fragrance of pine and spruce, I recommend these lines such that the seperation of our times from his cleaves not his light from our darkness.




陳訚 奉命特派渭川道尹程建勛,勤以牲禮庶饈,致祭於馬光烈先生之靈,曰:

隴東雲黯而少微霄,翔風怒而喬木凋。胡天心隻聵聵,胡地軸其搖搖。花門縞素,木鐸沈銷,貞石鐫華,古以永垂。奕葉玉棺,降室可嘆, 莫挽孤標,人師頓失,大義誰昭。能不望隹城而增恨,入空谷而大昭哉。側聞誕生既稟異質,空西宗之兒群,號扶風之英物, 有如何暈穎司天生,取譬謝安風神秀徹。問禮趨庭,談經捐客,頻索隱而証偽,更黜華而崇實。既而感懷懸矢,慨振游鞭,南循吳越,北暨幽燕,遠尋堂奧,無異軸軒,不異長征,願蘧盧而心曠。恐孤吾道入槐市而經傳,於是高賽雁冀遠渡龍沙,荒區卜筑,慧業名家。慰門前之桃李,現舌本之蓮花,絳帳鴻開奚翅三千,簦芨玉關鳩集, 儼然萬頃桑麻,最難賓至如歸。爭上善人之謚,況夫岡名宣化。深摛仁者之華,冀教彌誠,愛鄉尤摯,排難解紛,寧人息事, 每值蒼皇隱構,甘作魯連,深仿朱紫相浠。直師孔氏不彈貢禹之冠,自鷺凜稚圭之制。講習優游衡門棲止,此又晚近所難宜, 為遐邇仰企者也,而況關懷國是。洞燭先機,惟文筆能驗,余杭必亂,非產租不知,京雒將危,未雨而綢繆牖戶,聞風而商榷藩離所全者。大雖遠無遺論,功固偉種德優滋,固宜玉樹盈階,肯堂肯構。金章賜祥以養怡願,靈光之永駐庶世。道其不墮,乃天道無知。地維忽缺,冷月塵昏,河流聲咽,陷可喻於陸沉,速更生諭電瞥。惟先生獨抱仁心,恐萬姓同罹浩劫,乃誦天方經,冀邀神格。何期一霎,遽而千秋,泰山比重,川水寒愁。頒令典以飾終籍,揚名哲,遺名言,以裕后。允紹箕裘,望馬鬣之崇奉,情徒傷乎,楊樹協牛眼之吉兆, 蔭自慰乎,鬆楸馨香。特薦奠輟是修,惟期相隔,無隔明幽。尚饗。


Ma Guobin 马国瑸, ed. 2005. Xuanhua Gang Zhi 宣化冈志 (A gazeteer of Xuanhua Ridge). Lanzhou: Gansu renmin.