Zhu Yuanzhang and Qinhuai

After establishing his capital in Nanjing, Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, sent an order in the first month of 1372 (the fifth year under Hongwu reign of the Ming Dynasty) according to Chinese lunar calendar to display over 10000 water lanterns over the Qinghuai River as sacrificial offerings to soldiers and civilians who died in the war. This not only resulted in gradual emergence of the lantern show, but also gave rise to an increasing number of houses along the river and pleasure-boats with paintings, revealing prosperity marked by many dance and singing stages along the five-kilometer Qinhuai River. It is said, in the evening of the fifteenth of the eighth month in a certain year according to Chinese lunar calendar under Hongwu reign in the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang and his military mastermind Li Bowen went out in plain clothes. In the role of the master and his servant, they slipped out of the imperial palace to admire the night-view along the Qinhuai River. However, it turned out to be cloudy without the moon in the sky. Liu Bowen hired a pleasure boat with paintings and drank wine with Zhu Yuanzhang in the boat while asking the boat-owner to light lanterns around the boat to make their drinking more exciting. In order to make his master joyful in the course of drinking, he turned the topic of their conversation to a poetic couplet which was likely to interest Zhu Yuanzhang. Looking around, he wrote the first line of the couplet on the spur of the moment while enjoying the surrounding scenery:“The moon is invisible during the Mid-Autumn Festival, so a few lanterns are lit to add lustre to the landscape.” With this just done, Zhu Yuanzhang followed with his verses:“Thunders are not heard on the day of the Waking of Insects, so the drum is beaten several times to astonish people on behalf of the majestic world.” Upon hearing the second line of the couplet, Liu Bowen could not help exclaiming with admiration. On the pleasure boat advancing slowly according to sceneries along the Qinhuai River, Zhu Yuanzhang and Liu Bowen, with wine-shops or singing girls as themes, chanted poems with great interest. After the boating, they went ashore to go on with their tour, enjoying flapping banners of wine-shops, continuous music and singing, young men and women in gorgeous costumes in crowded streets. They gazed at beautiful girls, listened to music, stayed along the Qinhuai River and did not return to the imperial palace until the dead of the night. On their way back to the imperial palace, Zhu Yuanzhang in a high spirit chanted a couplet to eulogize Qinhuai as follows: 
 “A nice river with nice hills, nice breeze under nice moon, making Qinhuai a nice place for ages; Being intoxicated with beautiful girls, music with infatuation and a dream, making admirers obsessed with them for generations to come.”


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