趣文共賞 Inscription Prohibiting Suicides at Wudang Mountain

Note: This post is part of a series where I reproduce random sources that I find interesting, with minimal annotation and commentary. Punctuation and translation (if given) are done by me unless otherwise stated. Corrections and comments are greatly appreciated.


I was recently reading a chapter by John Lagerwey on pilgrimages in the Wudang Mountain 武當山, where Lagerwey quotes a curious Qing-dynasty inscription found in a mountain gazetteer. Apparently, there was a place called the Terrace of Ascension (飛昇臺) where the god Zhenwu 真武 was said to have ascended to the heavens. The place was also known locally as the Suicide Cliff (捨身崖), an unfortunate name that led many visitors to actually commit suicide at the location. Concerned about the situation, the governor-general Cai Yurong 蔡毓榮 (1633-1699) erected a stele prohibiting the use of this misleading name.

Since Lagerwey’s chapter provides only the English translation of this inscription, I checked the original source and found the text to be so interesting that I had to reproduce it here. Below, then, is the full text of Cai’s inscription. In punctuating the text, I have consulted the punctuation done by Yang Lizhi and Chen Mei (see the bibliographical note below).

Source: Wang Gai 王槩. Dayue Taiheshan jilüe 大嶽太和山紀略. 8 juan. Prefaced Qianlong 9 (1744). 6.37a-38a. Edition held in Waseda University Library. (Images accessible online.)


飛昇臺禁止捨身碑文 蔡毓榮(川湖部院)

南巖飛昇臺者。眞武上帝飛昇處也。世俗訛稱為捨身崖。山中道人傳習其訛。又從而神其說。愚夫愚婦誤於其名。或以迷惑之見。或以一朝之忿。輕生隕命。莫之拯救。

夫天下名山絕頂不可勝數。緇黃之徒因其危峻。往往皆以捨身目之。沿襲妄謬。眩惑流俗。不獨南巖也。惟南岩以飛昇之所。亦受不經之名。遂使瑶闕瓊臺血肉狼籍。瀆嫚上眞。陷阱愚昧。肇斯名者不仁甚矣。

世人不悟。相率從之。生為下愚之民。沒為枉死之鬼。必其宿業所招。隳此現前地獄。上帝垂慈。寧無悲憫。今不立禁。傷生必多。故考訂圖經。正其名曰飛昇臺。學道之士。棲心世外。滅景寰中。名列紫府。冲舉將至。登斯臺也。於以驂駕鸞鶴。翱翔雲霞。斯上帝之宏願也。若其功行未滿。猶當望岫息心。而況五濁之愚頑。何可捐彼革穢仰滓山岩哉。

自今以後。不得復稱捨身崖。本宮住持暨諸衆道。隨時曉誡。永遠禁止。如有違犯。有司治以見死不救之罪。其遵勿忽。


Bibliographical Note:

A complete English translation of the inscription is available in John Lagerwey, “The Pilgrimate to Wu-Tang Shan,” in Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, ed. Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), p. 319.

In addition to the edition that I have used here, the Dayue Taiheshan jilüe 大嶽太和山紀略 (1744 edition) can also be found in Siku quanshu cunmu congshu 四庫全書存目叢書 (史部 242).

Half-way through transcribing the text, I found out that a Chinese translation of Lagerwey’s chapter was available online, which also includes the full text of the inscription. The text reproduced here reflects my own preferences of punctuation style, but I have followed the punctuation done by the translators Yang Lizhi 楊立志 and Chen Mei 陳梅 at some sections where the meaning of the text was unclear to me. There are also slight textual variations between my version and that quoted by Yang and Chen.

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