Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/527

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bathe, for it was impossible to resist the temptation to test the depth of such a series of great pot-holes as here invited to a plunge. Passing on. now among stunted pines, now across stretches of arid red sandstone and clay, over no real roads, hut by winding paths let ween many small divisions of cultivated field, we came at last to a secluded valley at the junction of two rippling brooks, with 'five old peaks' standing like parapets on a rampart for the background, and the lake winding up a larger valley and spreading out beyond the undulating foothills.

Genius in China, as elsewhere, renders a place illustrious, and few spots are more celebrated than this lovely vale of the White Deer, where Chü Fit Tsz, the greatest commentator of Confucius, lived and taught in the twelfth century. It is still a place of pilgrimage to Chinese literati, for Chü's writings are prized by them next to their classics. Crossing the 'Fairy Bridge' over one of the rivulets, whose constant murmur lent enchantment to the otherwise quiet nook, we saw before us a high 'compound' wall, red in part and white in part. Passing the lesser gates, under gilded ideographs, we stood at last in the courtyard of a college older than any university of Europe, Salerno not excepted. This ancient seat of learning was rebuilt when the banners of the third crusade were advancing on Jerusalem, and its real beginning is hid behind the veil of past ages.

According to Chinese history, the grotto, which shows no signs of a natural origin, being dug out of a cliff and arched over with masonry, was the retreat of the illustrious poet Li P'u (or Li Tai-peh), who flourished during the T'ang dynasty, toward the latter part of the ninth century. P'u had a tame white deer which accompanied him in his walks abroad, and thus he became known as the 'white deer gentleman' and his dwelling as 'the white deer grotto.' A very crude stone image a deer, placed there by Ho Tsing in the fourteenth century, now stands beneath this arch. When promoted to be sub-prefect at Kiangchou, now Kiukiang, P'u built a kiosk over his former sequestered abode, rendering the spot memorable from that day.

At a time when dynasty fast gave way to dynasty (five successive houses holding sway between 907-960) this sheltered corner was the retreat of worthy scholars from far and near, and here fields were bought, buildings erected, students gathered, and a school opened, from the famous halls of which were to come men able to help guide the affairs of state. Si Shan-tao, a master of the Nine Canonical Books, was taken from the Imperial Academy to become the president of this institution, styled the Government School of the Lü Mountains. In 906 it was raised to the grade of a university coordinate with the other three universities of the realm. The enrolment was then one hundred students.

The fortunes of this seat of learning suffered many reverses, fol-