In 1183, a Chinese Poet Describes Being Domesticated by His Own Cats


Here in Korea, the place I are living, cat homeowners are not referred to as cat homeowners: they are referred to as goyangi jibsa, actually “cat butlers.” Clearly the concept tom cats have flipped the domestic-animal script, no longer serving people however being served by people, transcends cultures. It additionally is going a long way again in historical past: witness the 12th-century verses not too long ago tweeted out in translation by writer Xiran Jay Zhao, wherein “Song dynasty poet Lu You” — some of the prolific literary artists of his time and position — “poem-liveblogged his descent from cat proprietor to cat slave.”

The tale starts in 1138, writes Zhao, when “Down On His Luck scholar-official Lu You will get a cat as a result of rats stay munching on his books.” The 8 poems on this collection start with reward for the animal — “It’s so comfortable to the touch and heat to carry in mattress / So courageous and succesful that it has ousted the rat nest” — and is going on to explain the cats he therefore acquires, who selflessly vanquish the family rats whilst indulging in not anything greater than the occasional catnip binge.

Or no less than they do to start with. “Night after evening you used to bloodbath rats / Guarding the grain retailer so ferociously,” Lu asks one in “Poem for Pink-Nose.” “So why do you presently act as if you happen to are living inside of palace partitions / Eating fish each day and sound asleep in my mattress?”

As time is going on, Lu reveals himself “serving fish on time” to his cats most effective to search out them “sound asleep with out fear.” As the rats rampage, he poetically moans, “my books are getting ruined and the birds wake me earlier than crack of dawn.” Has all of it been not anything greater than “a ruse to get meals from me?”

Yet it kind of feels that Lu has no regrets about cat possession, if possession be the phrase. “Wind sweeps the arena and rain darkens the village / Rumbles roll off the mountains like ocean waves churning,” he writes in 1192’s “A Rainstorm at the Fourth Day of the Eleventh Month.” Yet “the furnace is soothing and the rug is heat / Me and my cat aren’t leaving the home.” This is relatable content material for the cat butlers of Korea (a tradition completely influenced by China in Lu’s day), or certainly any place else on the planet. The patriotic poet would indisputably be happy by the modern day ascent of China — and in all probability simply as a lot by the prime and ever-rising standing of the home cat.

via Xiran

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and publicizes on towns, language, and tradition. His tasks come with the guide The Stateless City: a Walk via 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


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