David Lewis Paget
Guan Yu's Finger Ring - Poem by David Lewis Paget
I was doing research in Hubei
Where they executed Yu,
That deity soldier glorified
By Buddhists, Taoists too,
I sat perusing manuscripts
That dated from the Ming,
And came across a reference
About Yu’s finger ring.
A ring of gold so broad that it
Would fit a peasant’s wrist,
For Guan Yu was a mighty man
His ring, an amethyst,
Set round with groups of diamonds
It was lost the day, they said,
That Sun Quan had ordered them
To lop off Guan Yu’s head.
They lost it for a thousand years
It turned up with the Ming,
Was lost again in battle with
That mighty force, the Qing,
I’d heard it round the market place
A whisper, now and then,
That ring, it might have surfaced
In the village of Maicheng.
I scoured the streets and alleyways
For signs of old antiques,
Researching as I went, I walked
Around the town for weeks,
I found a backstreet corner shop
One night, and open late,
Run by a dodgy Chinaman
A total reprobate.
He had links to the Triads, they
Would come into the shop,
A shifty group of gangsters with
Their stolen goods to pop,
From where I sat with manuscripts
Up on the second floor,
I’d look straight down the staircase
Watch them come in through the door.
One day they brought in a bundle
Tied up in a burlap sack,
Threw it down on the counter, said:
‘What do you make of that? ’
Fang Zhang then opened the parcel and
He pulled out a giant hand,
The flesh the texture of leather with
A monstrous golden band.
The ring was almost immoveable
The hand, with fingers spread,
Could grasp a maiden around the waist
Or crush a warrior’s head,
I held my breath as the Triad tried
To disengage the thing,
And all the while the diamonds flashed
On that massive golden ring.
Fang Zhang paid over a block of notes
That looked more like a brick,
There must have been a million Yuan
From what I saw of it,
The Triad left and I caught my breath
Fang Zhang had pulled it off,
He threw the hand in a rubbish bin
And then I left the shop.
He hid the ring as I walked on through
I had to get some air,
I’d caught a glimpse of a famous ring,
A thing I couldn’t share,
They’d say it didn’t exist, that I
Was dreaming, if I tried,
They thought that it had been lost to view
The day that Yu had died.
I went back down the following day
The Police were there in force,
They stood out front and barred the way
From normal intercourse,
They told me through an interpreter
Of the murder of Fang Zhang,
His face was black, for around his neck
Was a massive, ringless hand!
27 October 2013
(Pronunciation: Guan Yu - Gwon you
Hubei - Who - bay; Sun Quan - Sun Chu-arn
Qing - Ching; Maicheng - My - cheng
Fang Zhang - Fang Shjang (soft J))
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