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A Feast of Lanterns, by L. Cranmer-Byng, [1916], at

p. 90


A.D. 1715-1797

One of the happiest poets the world has known was born at Hangchow, the capital of the province of Chekiang, two hundred years ago. At an early age he was admitted to the college of Han-lin with the degree of doctor, and shortly afterwards sent to Chiang-nan as district magistrate. But the city of Nanking has the greatest claim upon his memory, for there he retired at the height of his career owing to a breakdown caused by overwork. There, on the outskirts of the city, he lived the life of a garden philosopher, a second Mr. Hsuan-wei. This garden became a shrine of literary pilgrimage frequented by the most talented men and women of the day. Yuan Mei's genius was universal. He was by turn philosopher, historian, prose writer, and poet. A learned French-man, M. Imbault-Huart, discovered in an unfortunate moment that he had written a cooking manual and forthwith dubbed him the Brillat-Savarin of China. His manual is, in fact, a dainty trifle compounded of epicurean philosophies and served with sauce piquante. But Yuan Mei will live not by reason of his table, but for the sake of a garden made immortal beyond the Palace of the Moon, where the beloved of the goddess has followed the radiant children of his dreams.

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