The Broken Mirror

The wife of Xu Deyan(徐德言), the Prince’s Attendant of the Chen Dynasty, was Princess Lechang(樂昌公主), the younger sister of Chen Shubao(陈叔寶), the last emperor of Chen. She was exceptionally talented and beautiful. During Xu Deyan’s tenure as the Prince’s Attendant, the Chen Dynasty was in decline, and the times were tumultuous, making it difficult to ensure the safety of both the country and individuals.

Xu Deyan said to his wife Chen(陳氏), “With your talent and beauty, if the country perishes, you will surely end up in a wealthy and influential household. We might be forever separated. If our fate allows us to reunite, we should have a token.”

So, Xu Deyan broke a bronze mirror in half, and they each kept a piece. He made a pact with his wife, “In the future, on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, you must sell your mirror piece in the street. If I see it, I will come to find you that day.”

When the Chen Dynasty fell, his wife indeed found herself in the home of Yang Su, who treated her with great favor.

Xu Deyan, having lost everything, finally arrived in the capital city. On the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, he searched the market and indeed found an elderly servant-like man selling a half piece of a mirror at an exorbitant price, causing people to mock him.

He took the old man to his residence, fed him, and recounted his experiences. Then, he combined his half of the mirror with the half sold by the old man and inscribed a poem on it: “The mirror and the person have both departed from me; now the mirror returns, but the person has not. No longer does the mirror reflect Chang’e’s graceful figure, only able to cast the radiance of the moon.”(鏡與人俱去,鏡歸人不歸。無復嫦娥影,空留明月輝。)

Princess Lechang, upon seeing the poem, cried inconsolably and refused to eat. Upon understanding the situation, Yang Su(楊素) was also deeply saddened. He sent for Xu Deyan and decided to return his wife to him, along with many gifts. People who heard of this incident couldn’t help but admire it.

Yang Su arranged a banquet to bid farewell to Xu Deyan and Chen, and Chen composed a poem: “Today is such a special day, the new husband facing the old husband. Neither laughter nor tears dare come; this is when one truly realizes the hardships of life.”(今日何遷次,新官對舊官。笑啼俱不敢,方驗作人難。)

Then, Chen and Xu Deyan returned to Jiangnan, living together until old age.

Original text in 《本事詩》:


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