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Andrys Basten | all galleries >> Angel Island Immigration Station - restored barracks > In front of Wall Poem No. 69
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In front of Wall Poem No. 69
04-APR-2009 Andrys Basten

In front of Wall Poem No. 69

Angel Island, California

Detained in this wooden house for several tens of days,
It is all because of the Mexican exclusion law which implicates me.
It's a pity heroes have no way of exercising their prowess.
I can only await the word so that I can snap Zu's whip.

From now on, I am departing far from this building
All of my fellow villagers are rejoicing with me.
Don't say that everything within is Western styled.
Even if it is built of jade, it has turned into a cage.

- From the walls of Angel Island Immigration Station, author unknown,
   Poem 69 from Island, p. 134
   Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940.


A book titled "Chinese American Transnationalism" has a somewhat different translation
by the book's author Sucheng Chan:

This wooden house has kept me for tens of days
For the Mexican exclusion law also lassoed me
What a pity heroes cannot use their martial skills
And can only wait to hear the crack of Zu's whip.

As I leave this building far behind
My fellow villagers and I together rejoice
Don't say everything here is Western-styled
Though it might have been built of jade it still becomes a cage.

-- "Lassoed" instead of "implicated" and
-- "heroes cannot use their martial skills" instead of "heroes cannot use their prowess."
-- In one, he would crack Zu's whip
-- In the other, he would wait to hear the crack of that whip.

Re "Zu's whip":
Zu Sheng, the famous general Zu Di of the Eastern Jin Dynasty wrote:
"I would start practicing martial arts at the cock's crow, till eventually
I commanded an expedition in the north, on horseback, whip in hand."

With thanks to Teddy and Tom, of Tom Taylor's "The Bay Area Photography & Exploration Society" meetup group, which got together for this visit to Angel Island.  Teddy introduced us to the first translation of this wall poem.

Canon PowerShot A710IS
1/25s f/3.2 at 10.0mm iso400 hide exif
Full EXIF Info
Date/Time04-Apr-2009 11:14:53
ModelCanon PowerShot A710 IS
Flash UsedNo
Focal Length10 mm
Exposure Time1/25 sec
ISO Equivalent400
Exposure Bias
White Balance
Metering Modemulti spot (3)
JPEG Quality
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Focus Distance

other sizes: small medium original
Mary Ann Campbell07-Apr-2009 14:51
Very nice page, gorgeous photo, and with the translation.
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