Oh yes, 45% functional at least. Maybe 49.
Featured image: “Two Gibbons in an Oak Tree” Yi Yuanji, 11th c.
Gibbons caught my eye, reading a little about Wen Tong today. I saw he’d written a poem about one (a gibbon), which I found on Ferrrebeekeeper of all places, but then not so strange, it’s that kind of place.
Gibbons are one of my (admittedly top oh fifty at least) favourite creatures; the least-known ape (technically the lesser ape), perhaps because they are small and monkey-like, less studied than the others too I can imagine because that’s incredibly difficult the way they move, and in dense forest too. Excuse me, what was that fascinating hierarchical communication gesture you just made, I’ll watch it again while I lie back unobtrusively on this three inch wide branch up here fifty feet off the grou- oh wait, you’re where now? Ever yes in a Frakes voice seen gibbons swinging around doing their thing? Incredible creatures to watch. They use their arms to swing through the trees, and can also get about just fine on their hind legs.
Just saw the glossy update. Have never seen Unbreakable KS, the image and caption alone made me laugh. Glad you’re feeling the humour. Still, because it’s lovely and so are gibbons going with the gibbons and what is a poignant poem, perhaps enjoy the poem if you don’t know it over a nice cup of strong tea with no suds or ash in.
Last year a Buddhist Monk of Hua-p’ing, in the Min mountains,
Obtained a gibbon for me and had it delivered from afar.
On arrival he was already tame and accustomed to captivity,
And his swift and nimble movements were a delight to watch.
He would come and go as told, as if he understood my speech
And seemed to have lost all desire to return to his mountains.
Put on a leash he was not interesting to watch,
So I set him free and let him romp about as much as he liked.
On a moonlit night, he would sing, swinging from a branch,
On hot days he would sit by the flowers and doze facing the sun.
When my children were around or my guests showed their interest,
He would hang upside down or jump about showing his tricks.
I had told a man to look after all his needs,
So that he never even once lacked his seasonal food and drink.
Yet the other day his keeper suddenly told me the gibbon was ill.
He stood on my steps, the gibbon in his arms, and I went to look,
Offered him persimmons and chestnuts, but he didn’t glance at them.
Legs drawn up, head between his knees, hunched up with folded arms,
His fur ruffled and dull, all at once his body seemed to have shrunk,
And I realized that this time he was really in great distress.
Formerly you were also subject to occasional slight indispositions,
But then after I had fed you a few spiders as a remedy,
After having swallowed them you would recover at once.
Why did the medicine fail now, though given several times?
This morning when a frosty wind was chilling me to the bone,
Very early I sent someone to inquire, and he reported you had died.
Although in this world it is hard to avoid grief and sadness,
I was tormented by repentance and bitter self-reproach.
You could be happy only when near your towering mountains.
You had been yearning for far plains and dense forests.
You must have suffered deeply being on a leash or chain,
And that was why your allotted span of life was short.
I had his body wrapped up well and buried deep in a secluded corner,
So that at least the insects would leave his remains in peace.
Mr. Tzu-p’ing, my western neighbor, a man of very wide interests,
When he heard about this, slapped his thigh sighing without end.
He came to inquire several times, in deep sorrow over my loss,
Then, back home, he wrote a long poem of over a hundred words.
Reading those lines my lonely heart was filled with sadness.
Well had he expressed the grief caused by my gibbon’s death!
He also tried to console me by referring to life’s natural course, “That
Meetings result in partings, subject to the whims of fate.”
I took his poem out into the garden, read and reread it
Then, looking up at the bare branches, I burst out in tears.
– Wen Tong
Translated work from “Altruistic Armadillos, Zenlike Zebras: Understanding the World’s Most Intriguing Animals” By Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson