Rickshaw puller 人力車 [Renliche]

Picturing Science in Modern China

Rickshaw puller 人力車 [Renliche]

Chen Shizeng 陳師曾, “Rickshaw puller” 人力車 [Renliche], leaf 33. Beijing Social Life and Customs 北京風俗圖 [Beijing fengsu tu], ca. 19141915. Album leaf, ink and color on paper; 28.6 x 36.4 cm. National Art Museum of China.

捷足功名小著鞭。                                  For the name of the swift-footed,
                                                                           he runs slightly faster.[i]                   
平生寧肯讓人先 。                           All his life, how is it possible
                                                                           to let others go ahead.
廬山真面終難識 ,                           The true face of Mount Lu, 
                                                                           after all, can hardly be seen.
腰折低頭亦可憐 。                           Bending at the waist and lowering his head, 
                                                                           he is also pathetic.
                                                  十七題 Written by The Seventeenth

行香子(人力車)                           “On the Trail of Incense” (Human-powered Rickshaw)
大道塵沙 ,                                    Main streets in dust and sand,                       
小道枒槎 ,                                    pathways forking and intertwining.
何如曲徑狹斜 。                              How would it be [worse than]
                                                                    this winding alley, narrow and oblique.
千條路熟 ,                                    He is familiar with thousands of roads,         
兩足風拿 ,                                    and his feet ride the wind.
怎聚如鳩 ,                                    Why is he in a hurry like a turtledove,
爭如鶩 ,                                       scrambling like a duck,
怒如鼃。                                        enraged like a frog?

休說乘人 ,                                    Don’t judge rickshaw pullers;
休道浮家 ,                                    don’t remark on boatmen.
快時應也馬蹄差 。                            Sometimes they are so swift that they
                                                                       can probably surpass horse’s hooves.
微乎蟣虱 ,                                    Though minor like a louse,
道亦龍蛇 。                                    their skill is extensive and intricate.
有李膺門 ,                                    Within the retinue of Li Ying,[ii]
專諸巷 ,                                       there are specialists in streets and lanes        
邵平瓜。                                        and [someone like] Shao Ping planting melons.
各有本事。                                     Each man has his own vocation.
                                                   Translated by Lulu Yu, The University of Alberta

[i] Zhubian 著鞭 means either “whipping” or “working harder.” As there is clearly no whip in the hand of the passenger, the meaning of “working harder” makes more sense in this context. 

[ii] Li Ying 李膺 was a celebrated official in the Eastern Han. Though at the time the court was filled with corruption and factional disputes, Li Ying remained upright and scrupulous. Therefore, many capable and righteous people wanted to join his retinue.