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Du Mingfu Built Mengxie Pavilion

There was a pavilion in Lingyin Valley, called Mengxie Pavilion. Its specific location has been difficult to track, but the story of its construction is significant to the region’s history.

The name “Mengxie” of the pavilion means the dreaming of Xie Lingyun (385-433 A.D.), a famous landscape poet in the Liu Song Dynasty. His ancestral home was He’nan and his grandfather was General Xie Xuan, best known for protecting the continuation of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. Thus, Xie Lingyun was conferred the ruler for a small sovereign state, Kang-Le, and he was also called Xie Kang-Le. In the year of 420, Liu Yu threw Jin Dynasty and established Liu Song Dynasty. Xie Lingyun was appointed to be the Yongjia Chief by Emperor Shao, but he withdrew from the court soon and lived in Kuaiji. In the Emperor Songwen period, he was promoted to be the Chief of Linzhou, however, in year 433 he was sentenced to death.

Xie Lingyun is the first productive poet in china whose interest was focused on nature and landscapes. His landscape poetry portrays the beauty of nature, fresh and clear, presenting the landscape vividly and carefully. His poetry is allusive in the style of freshness, which breaks the rule of the dull Taoist poetry at that time.

Xie Lingyun had a rich and prestigious background: a wealthy family with a large amount of servants. After his birth, his family had a divine premonition for his future life. The diviner claimed that he was going to die young if he grew up at home. Therefore, his parents found Du Mingfu who lived in Lingyin, Hangzhou, and asked Du to raise their child in order to avoid the disaster.

A transcendental coincidence, Du had a sound sleep the previous night and dreamed that a person of virtue from southeast came to visit him. The dream was quite true and providentially, the next day, Xie was brought to him by his family. Moreover, it is said that Xie’s grandpa Xie Xuan passed away after ten days.

Du raised Xie Lingyun until he was fifteen, Hence the nickname “Ke’er”, which means a son brought up in another family. After Xie was summoned to the court and became famous, Du built a pavilion on Lingyin, and gave it the name “Mengxie” or “Ke’er” to memorize the coincidence of his dream and the reality. The pavilion was said to be kept until the Song Dynasty. Lu Yuanfu mentioned the pavilion in his poem about Lingyin, “The pine trees growing from the Jin Dynasty extend to the Ke’er Pavilion on the peak.” According to these lines, the pavilion was on Flying Peak and covered by tall pine trees in the front.

It is said that there used to be a huge rock in front of the Longhong Cave on Flying Peak, the ‘Sutra Translating Table’, which is also related to Xie Lingyun. Xie conducted deep levels of research and careful studies on Buddhist sutras with prolific results, which made him very proud. Historical records introduced that the Chief of Kuaiji Meng Ji had an intense passion for Buddhism, and he was honored for his deep understanding about Buddhism. However, Xie looked down upon him and said, “You might have come to the earth before me, but I will become Buddha before you.” When Xie was in Du’s house, he studied sutras at a very young age, and often read the sutras on the rock, so it was called Sutra Translating Table. Yao Xuan, a poet in Tang Dynasty praised that,


“Kang-Le comprehended the Buddhist mystery,

Lonely lived among this forestry.

Translating on it the Buddhist sutras,

The table is like the tone of lotus.”

Our historian predecessors later found out that the content of the poem was false. According to official records, Xie used to closely study Buddhist sutras on Mountain Lushan where he translated Nirvana Sutra--popular in the North--into thirty two volumes that Southerners could read. So there is a real Sutra Translating Table on Mountain Lushan, while the one in Lingyin Temple might be an attempt to borrow Xie’s fame. It is reasonable that Xie was brought up in Hangzhou until the age of fifteen. He learned how to read and write there and he must have been to Flying Peak before. It is acceptable if Lingyin borrows the name from Mountain Lushan because of Xie’s prestige and popularity. However, some people claim that the chatacter “Translating” in “Sutra Translating Table” of Mountain Lushan means real translating, because Xie translated the northern version of sutras into the southern version on Mountain Lushan; while the one in Lingyin, “Translating” means reading, suggesting that Xie read and studied the sutras there. The historical examination proved reasonable and widely referenced.

Records also show that Xie Lingyun loved landscapes, particularly mountains and rivers, “Every time he visited a mountain, he must climbed up the steep peaks. No matter how many rocks blocked his way, he was determined to reach his destination spot. He liked to wear wooden clogs for hiking. During an uphill climb, he would take off the front tooth (horizontal slats at clog’s bottom); for downhill, he would replace the front ones on and remove the back ones.” He had been to numerous regions for beautiful landscape, attributing to vivid work as early master of landscape poetry. His great love for nature, was it a seed sown at Lingyin while he is in the cradle?

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