My First Visit to the Western Hill
After I was degraded I lived a most uneasy life in this district. I filled in my time with long walks and aimless rambles, climbed hills every day with my men, or explored deep woods and winding streams, visiting hidden springs and curious rocks no matter how distant. Once there, we would sit on the grass and pour out wine, to fall asleep when drunk resting our heads on each other while my dreams followed my roving fancy. Then, upon walking, we would rise and walk back. I thought at that time I knew all the strange sights in this district, but I had no conception of the wonders of the Western Hill.
On the twenty-eighth of the ninth month this year, as I was sitting in the west pavilion of Fahua Monastery and looking towards the Western Hill, I began to be s truck by its singularity. I ordered my servants to ferry me across the River Xiang; then we followed the Ran to its source, cutting down the brambles and burning the rushes on our way till we reached the summit of the hill.
After struggling to the top we squatted down to rest. The fields of several districts lay spread below my seat. There were undulating sloped with gaps and hollows, as well as mounds and burrows. A thousand li appeared like one foot or one inch, so compact that nothing escaped our sight. Encompassed by white clouds and azure sky, the hill merged with them into one single whole.
Then I realized that this was no common hill. I felt I was mingling freely with the boundless expanse of heaven, and lost myself in the infinity of nature. In utter content I filled my cup and got drunk, unaware that the sun had set. Dark night came from afar and soon nothing could be seen, yet still I was loath to leave; for my heart seemed to have ceased beating and I felt released from my body to blend with the myriad forms of created things. I knew then that I had never enjoyed an excursion before—this was my first such experience.
So I am writing this record in the fourth year of Yuan He.