the imperial city.Heaven and earth are so vast,I have no name or clan:I wander aloof in the human world,an independent man.Chinese people, especially scholars, habitually used poetry to exchange ideas andfind out what others were thinking. Individuals could be judged professionally,intellectually, morally, and spiritually by their sensitivity to subtle nuances in thesymbolism of poetry. Struck by the stranger's extraordinary verse, Lü Yen saw that itbore the stamp of alchemy and immortalism, esoteric Taoist sciences. Now the manurged Lü to reply with a verse of his own, A Confucian scholar then in his middle age, Lüexpressed his weariness with politics and his interest in spiritual elevation:When I was born, the scholarslived in a time of peace.The regalia of office hang heavy, restrictive;ordinary clothing is light.Who can struggle for name and gainin this world?I would serve the Jade Emperorup in the highest pure heaven.Reading Lü's lines, the mysterious stranger said they would talk, but first he wouldprepare some gruel for their evening meal. As the wizard then rose to cook some cereal,Lü Yen suddenly felt himself overcome by an unfamiliar drowsiness. Unable to keep hiseyes open, he lay his head on the table and fell asleep.In "his sleep, Lü Yen dreamed that he went to the capital and became a successfulscholar. Obtaining a succession of government appointments, he went from one positionto another. Sometimes his new assignment was to a higher position, sometimes he wasdemoted. Gradually he worked his way through decades of ups and downs. In themeanwhile, he married a woman from a wealthy clan and raised a large and prosperousfamily.After forty years of government service, Lü was finally promoted to the rank of prime minister, one of the highest positions of the land. He held this office for ten years,and became accustomed to its privileges and powers. Then, at the zenith of his career, Lüwas charged with a crime and stripped of both rank and property. His family was brokenup, and he drifted off into the mountains alone. Before long he was on the very brink of starvation. Finding himself at length deep in the mountains, freezing in the wind andsnow, he heaved a sigh that seemed to come from the very depths of his being.At that moment he awoke. Looking around, he saw the mysterious stranger sittingat the table with him. The gruel hadn't even finished cooking. The stranger smiled andsaid, "The cereal isn't even done, and you've already dreamed yourself to paradise." Lüwas amazed. Incredulous, he said, "You know what I dreamed?"The stranger said, "In the dream you just had, you experienced fifty years of upsand downs, all in a short while. Whatever you got is not worth rejoicing over, andwhatever you lost is not worth regretting."
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