CHINESE POEMS translated by YK Kwan
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The Chinese text was prepared and produced by courtesy of Mrs. Rosita
Chan of Hong Kong, though any error still belongs to the author.
50 Selected Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD) Poems
Authors in chronological order
Brief introductions have been added to the poems or the author
望 月 懷 遠 張 九 齡 ( 678-740 )
海 上 生 明 月 , 天 涯 共 此 時 。
情 人 怨 遙 夜 , 竟 夕 起 相 思 。
滅 蠋 憐 光 滿 , 披 衣 覺 露 滋 。
不 堪 盈 手 贈 , 還 寢 夢 隹 期 。
Thinking afar in moonlight Zhang Jiu Ling
A bright moon rising over the sea,
Shores apart, watching the same
Is someone dear to me.
I loath this endless night;
And could not sleep but think of thee.
In this full moon light,
Who cares for candlelight?
Stepping out I don my gown,
And feel dew on the ground.
I wish to offer you moonlight in a handful,
But, to my real shame, ‘tis impossible.
Retirng to my bed, it seems,
I might find happier days in dreams.
Zhang Jiu Ling, 張 九 齡 Tang poet (678-740). Became advanced Imperial Scholar 進 士 and appointed as Emperor’s counselor
右 拾 遺. In the reign of Xuan Zhong 玄 宗, and in year Kai Yuan 開 元 年 間, promoted to Chief Secretary and then Prime Minister.
He criticized An Lu Shan 安 祿 山 as viciously ambitious but was disregarded by Xuan Zhong. When Xuan Zhong asked for his
opinion in appointing Li Lin Po 李 林 甫 as Chief Minister, his answer was : a disaster to the Court and society 禍 延 宗 社. Xuan
Zhong 玄 宗 was displeased. Zhang was relieved in 736 and he died four years after. His sagacity was proved twenty years
later in the An-Shi Rebellion 安 史 之 亂 755-763).
A far off place. See: 韓 愈 , 祭 十 二 郎 文 :一 在 天 之 涯 , 一 在 地 之 角,
The author did not mention what but it must be the moonlight in his hands.
涼 州 曲 王 翰
Song of Liang Zhou Wang Han (687-726)
With sparkling glasses that shine,
I indulge in my exquisite grape-wine.
We were going for another round,
But the pi-pa signaled that we should mount.
Lying drunk in a battlefield seems a joke,
But please don’t ridicule me, my folks.
Ever since fighting wars, we must learn,
How many could remain alive and return.
Liang Zhou涼 州is now Wu Wei County武威縣 , Gansu Province甘肅省.
Author: Wang Han, Tang poet. (687 – 726 ), qualified as advanced imperial scholar進士 c713
In his younger days he had a reveling temperament. He was once the Prefect of Yu Zhou汝州剌史 but was demoted to
Acting Prefect of Tao Zhou道州司馬 where he died in office.
春 曉 孟 浩 然
Dawn in Spring Meng Hao-ran (689-740)
Spring dreams not awakening,
Until everywhere birds singing.
In last night’s storm and raining,
Guess how many flowers reeling?
Author: Poet of Tang Dynasty (689-740). He was a well-known scholar but had never been appointed an official of the
Tang government. The popularity of his poetry was equivalent to Wang Wei 王維who was his friend and their style was
known as “Wang Meng” 王孟. He was also a friend to Li Bai 李白 and about 12 years senior to the latter.
臨 洞 庭 上 張 丞 相 孟 浩 然
八 月 湖 水 平, 涵 虛 混 太 清 。
氣 蒸 雲 夢 澤 , 波 撼 岳 陽 城 。
欲 濟 無 舟 楫 , 端 居 恥 聖 明 。
坐 觀 垂 釣 者 , 徒 有 羨 魚 情 。
Poem to Prime Minister Zhang at Dong Ting Meng Hou-ran
It is Autumn in Lake Dong Ting,
Its surface with the horizon merging.
Misty vapours rising to the sky,
Covering the whole marshland wide.
Waves lapping to the east,
Only at the city wall they cease.
Crossing over is my intent,
But I find no boat at hand.
In this open-minded reign,
Idling at home is a disdain.
Fishermen are angling on the bank,
I envy to join their rank.
Lake Dong Ting洞 庭 湖, the largest lake in China, in Hunan 湖 南. See also Poem 26 by Du Fu.
Prime Minister Zhang: Zhang Jiu Ling 張 九 齡, See also Poem 01 by him.
This sentence implies the author’s intention to join the civil service but without an intermediary.
This explains the situation further.
In year 733, the author was traveling to Dong Ting and Chang-an 長 安. He sent this poem to Zhang Jiu Ling who was
Prime Minister 丞 相 at the time, as a request for a position in the government. It was later in 737 when Zhang was
demoted to Prefect of Jing-zhou 荊 州 that the author was recruited as a staff 幕 僚.
Yun Meng 雲 夢 澤 was name of a vast marshland by Lake Dong Ting.
Yue Yang city, 岳 陽 城.
The fishermen were the people with a catch, implying an “official position”.
出 塞 王 昌 齡
Into the Wilderness Wang Chang-Ling (698-757)
The moon is the same as in Qin’s days,
As in Han , the pass looks the same way.
Marching ten thousand miles away,
The soldiers are not seen returning today.
Had we a brave General Li to lead in the fray,
At the frontier , the Huns would be held at bay.
The Qin-Han 秦漢 period was c. 200BC. The author was therefore referring to a period almost 10 centuries ago.
The Qin Dynasty was short-lived (15 years) and closely followed by the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). Both had the same
sort of troubles posed by the northern Huns as foreign invaders.
The pass was the same one as in Han. The insinuation is in the line that follows, suggesting that despite the same pass,
the Han generals were much more successful in containing the threat of the Huns’ frontier incursions.
General Li Guang李廣 was a famous general of the Han era, known by the Huns as the “Flying General” 飛將軍, suggesting
the speed of his maneuvers. Dragon City 龍城in the original text refers to another matter. It was the name of a city in the
heartland of Mongolia, which was the farthest that the Han army had advanced in pursuit of the Huns, a high- watermark of
the success of the Han Dynasty.
The original text referred to “Yin Mountain” 陰山which was a mountain range inside Mongolia separating the Huns and
the frontier of the Han Empire.
送 別 王 維
Farewell Wang Wei (701-761)
I would treat you to wine after dismounting,
Asking where would you be heading.
Disillusioned, you said you were,
Retiring to the Southern Mount , you prefer.
Just go and don’t ponder about the future,
Clouds are ever-changing as life by nature.
竹 里 館 王 維
Bamboo Lodge Wang Wei
Sitting in solitude in a bamboo grove,
I play the zither and then
Whistle to my heart’s content.
Deep into the forest is a pleasure
That people don’t understand.
The bright moon visits with leisure,
And only she can comprehend.
Southern Mount meant “Qin Range” ”秦嶺south of Xi-an西安in Shaan-xi Province 陝西省.
雜 詩 王 維
Sundry Poem Wang Wei
To my home village you just have been,
You can tell me what you have seen.
In front of my window, the plump tree,
Has it blossomed yet? Did you see?
A total of three poems were collated under the same title and from their contents, it was probable that a couple were
staying in opposite sides of the river. A message was given to a boatman crossing the river and after he was told that the
message was delivered, the husband asked the messenger about the state of affairs of his wife’s home.
渭 城 曲 王 維
渭 城 朝 雨 浥 輕 塵,
客 舍 青 青 柳 色 新 。
勸 君 更 盡 一 杯 酒,
西 出 陽 關 無 故 人。
The Song of Wei City Wang Wei
After the morning shower is a city clean,
Willows in refreshed colour next to the inn.
Can I impose on you one more glass?
You’ll see old friends no more beyond the Pass.
This had become the most popular parting song in ancient China, known as the “Triplet of the Yang Pass”, 陽 關 三 疊 and
it was taken to mean that the song or part of it was to be sung three times over.
Wei City was called Xian Yang 咸 陽 in Qin Dynasty, known as Wei City in Han Dynasty, now in Shaan-Xi 陝 西 Province.
Author: Wang Wei, Tang poet (701-761). He was known as a poet since the age of 15 and some of his popular compositions
were made when he was only 16-17. He became an advanced imperial scholar 進 士 at the age of 20 (721AD). Being a man
of many talents, his calligraphy, painting and knowledge in music were as profound as his poetry.
Pass: “Yang Pass”陽 關, near Dun-Huang 敦 煌.. West of the Pass was the beginning of the route to the West now known as
山居秋暝 王 维
空 山 新 雨 後 , 天 氣 晚 來 秋 。
明 日 松 間 照 , 清 泉 石 上 流 。
竹 喧 歸 浣 女 , 蓮 動 下 渔 舟 。
随 意 春 芳 歇 , 王 孫 自 可 留 。
An Autumn Night in the Mountains Wang Wei
In a quiet mountain after a sudden shower,
Autumn fills the air in late evening hours.
In between the pines, moonlight shows,
Over the rocks, clear spring-water flows.
Finished washing, women-folk come chattering
Homebound through a bamboo path.
Lily foliage are back and forth bending,
As fishing boats slide past.
Though spring is spent,
Following my heart, I still may
Let this lone traveler continue to stay.
將 進 酒 李 白
Please Drink Li Bai (701-762)
Do you not see sir, from the sky,
The water of Hwang He comes by?
It thunders and flows to the sea,
And forever cannot be retrieved.
For your hair, sir, do you not feel,
Like what the mirror would show?
Fine as silk as the morning may reveal,
But in the evening, white as snow.
When one’s life is riding on a crest,
No revelry seems in excess.
Do not let your time pass,
Facing the moon with an empty glass.
In this world I happen to be,
Heaven will find a purpose for me.
A fortune is only good for spending,
Care less, it will be returning.
Slaughter cattle, make merry and dine,
We should all drink three hundred cups of wine.
Master Cen , dear Dan-qiu, no matter how,
Drink your wine, don’t stop now.
For you, Sirs, a song I’ll sing,
Lend me your ears to the lyrics:
Pomp in music and food does not count,
I hope I’m drunk forever and not sound.
Saints and sages were lonely men as of old,
Only wine drinkers leave their names bold.
When Prince Chen once sumptuously dined,
Reveling was the only thing the party did know.
Emptying gallons of precious wine,
Worth its weight in gold.
As host I never mind the cost,
Just buy it and let’s drink with no remorse.
Precious cloak , splendid horse,
Come my page, do not pause.
Sell them for my cause,
Let’s cure our everlasting loss.
Li Bai, the most celebrated poet in Tang Dynasty (701-762)
Cen Xun and岑勲 Yuan Dan-qiu, ,阮丹丘both were friends of Li Bai.
Prince Chen was son of Cao Cao in the Three Kingdoms Era.
The cloak referred to was one made of silver fox fur mentioned in Shi-ji, costing a thousand teals of gold.
送 孟 浩 然 之 廣 陵 李 白
故 人 西 辭 黃 鶴 樓 ,
煙 花 三 月 下 揚 州 。
孤 帆 遠 影 碧 空 盡 ,
惟 見 長 江 天 際 流 。
Bidding Meng farewell to Guang Ling Li Bai
I bade my friend farewell at Yellow Crane Tower,
He’s heading east to Yang-zhou amid April flowers.
His lonely sail became a distant silhouette,
Vanishing in the azure skyline.
Where the Yangtze and the sky met,
There was nothing I could find.
Guang Ling 廣 陵 is now Yang-zhou 揚 州 in Jiang-su 江 蘇 Province.
Friend referred to was Meng Ho-ran. (See Poem no. 2)
East: Yellow Crane Tower was west of Guang Ling and therefore the original text used the word “west” 西.
April: The lunar calendar usually starts the year in February and therefore approximately one month behind the Western
calendar. April would generally correspond with 三 月 “the third month” in the original text.
送 友 人 李 白
Farewell to a friend Li Bai
North of the citadel a verdant hill lies close,
Around east of the city, a clear river flows.
This is the place to say farewell to my friend,
Who’s to start a lone journey on land.
Drifting clouds reflect his drifting heart,
A setting sun tells us it’s time to part.
To my departing friend I wave my hand,
While his horse is neighing time and again
登 金 陵 鳳 凰 臺 李 白
Ascending Phoenix Terrace in Jin Ling Li Bai
Phoenixes once gathered here and hence,
Phoenix Tower was built where it stands.
The phoenixes had long flown away,
Only the Yangtze is still flowing today.
Palace gardens of Wu turned a deserted gloom,
Jin celebrities only remembered by their tombs.
In azure blue, the Triple Peaks are only partly shown,
Between the rivers , on the isle , herons come to roam.
Clouds always block the sun , it was said,
The Capital in darkness is what I fret.
Phoenix Terrace: situated at Phoenix Mountain, near Nan-jing. 南京
Jin Ling had been known since the time of the Warring States
(c. 8th century BC) and is now Nan-jing.
Li-Bai: Most celebrated poet in Tang. (701-762)
Wu吳: In the Three Kingdoms era, Jin Ling金陵 was the capital of the State of Wu and palaces were built there (c. 200AD)
over 500 years before the time of the author.
Jin晋: Meaning Eastern Jin東晋 whose capital was also at Jin Ling金陵.(c. 4th century AD)
Triple-Peaks: 三山Name of a mountain south-west of Nan-jing南京 by the River Yangtze.
Rivers: River Qin Huai秦淮 joins Yangtze to the west of Nan-jing
Isle: An alluvial island in the river off the West Gate of Nan-jing. It was frequented by herons and therefore known as Isle of
Clouds block the sun: Meaning undesirable elements in the imperial court having their ways over the righteous.
The Capital: Chang-An, Capital of Tang, now Xi-an西安 in Shaan-xi Province 陝西省.
靜 夜 思 李 白
Night thoughts Li Bai
My bedroom floor flooded with moonlight,
I thought it was frost, but not quite.
Lifting my sight,
I see the moon shining bright.
Dipping my head, I brood:
How would my home-village be tonight?
The 3rd line might come from “Autumn song”秋歌 in Jin Dynasty晋 (3rd century):
“Lifting my head I see the moon shining bright as day; 仰頭看明月
“My thoughts go with it, a thousand miles away.” 寄情千里光
下 江 陵 李 白
Travelling downstream to Jiang Ling Li Bai
Leaving Bai-di city upon sunrise,
Amid vermillion clouds in the sky.
The journey has been made in a day,
Though Jiang Ling is a thousand miles away.
The howling of apes on both banks is still in my ear,
Yet thousands of mountains the boat has cleared.
Jiang Ling江 陵is now in Hu-bei Province, Jiang Ling District, said to be 1200 li(s) from Bai Di city白帝 .
Bai Di city: The city changed its name to Bai Di白帝 towards the end of the Eastern Han Empire 東漢; it is now in Sichuan
金 陵 酒 肆 李 白
Farewell party in a Jin Ling wine shop Li Bai
Willow leaves fluttering in the wind,
Aroma filled the wine shop, out and in.
A local girl pressed, and offered to guests
A new wine, to see if it would pass the test.
Jin Ling elites came out warmly,
To bid me farewell for my journey.
Those travelling and those who are not,
All drained their glasses and finished their lot.
Please try asking the river flowing east ,
When our feelings for one another would cease.
Jin Ling金陵 was founded during the time of the Warring States (circa 8th Century BC) and is now Nanjing. 南京.
Author: Li Bai, the most celebrated poet in Tang Dynasty, (701-762).
Willow “flowers”花 in the Chinese text meant willow branches. The word “flower” was necessary to bring about the last word
“aroma”香 in association and to rhyme the second line of the verse.
“Wu girl” 吳姬in the original text meant a girl of the city. Jin Ling 金陵used to be the capital of the state of Wu, 吳 five centuries
before the time of the author, c.200 AD.
The process of pressing was necessary to extract the new wine from its residue through filtering.
“East flowing water” 東流水in the texts refers to the River Yangtze flowing through Nanjing.
宣州謝朓樓餞別校書叔雲 李 白
Farewell to Uncle Yun in Xie’s Tower Li Bai
The by-gone days that forsook me,
Were days that couldn’t be stayed.
Today is the day that ravels me,
And causes disarray.
Setting off is an autumn crane ,
In a fair wind for ten thousand miles away.
Let’s drink to that if we may,
In this tower, before you’re on your way.
Your literal style like Jian An and Fung Lai ,
And Xie’s elegance also stands high.
Our romantic temperaments want to fly,
To embrace the moon in the sky.
With a blade one tries in vain
To sever water but it flows more.
With wine I try to kill the pain
In my heart but it feels more.
Life is never what we want it to be,
So go on a boat, let down your hair and be free.
Uncle Yun叔雲: Li Yun李雲was a clansman of the author in the rank of uncle.
Xie’s Tower謝朓樓 was a tower named after the mayor of the city of Xuan, 宣州 who was also noted for his achievements as
Author: Li Bai, the most celebrated poet in Tang Dynasty (701-762).
An analogy to Li Yun.
Jieng An建安: A period in Han, which was noted for its essays.
“Fung Lai”蓬萊 is a legendary fairy island in the sea. Li Yun worked in the State Secretariat and the records there were implied
to be as secretive as the fairy island
Ancient Chinese used to tie their hair up and wear attires on their heads. Letting down the hair suggested retired life with no
關 山 月 李 白
Moon over Mountain Pass Li Bai
A bright moon rose from Tian Shan ,
Breaking through a sea of clouds to shine.
Sweeping from thousands of miles away,
The wind reached the pass of Jade Gate.
At Bai-deng the Han Emperor was once embarrassed,
By Tu-fans gloating over the Lake to harass.
This is a battleground as of old,
Rarely people return alive and whole.
Frontier solders keeping watch from their base,
Homesickness appeared on their face.
In high chambers wives watching the same moon,
Sighed unceasingly for their husbands marooned.
Tian Shan 天山is now known as Qi-lian Shan祁連山 at the north-west of Gansu Province甘肅省. Qi-lian meant sky or heaven in
The wind: implying the invading foreign tribes.
Jade Gate玉門關: Its site is to the west of Dun-huang, 敦煌 a gateway at China’s frontier to the West.
Bai-deng白登: The first Emperor of the Han Dynasty漢高祖 fought the Huns near Bai-deng and was besieged for 7 days before
The original text mentioned “wu”, 胡meaning foreign tribes generally. In this case it meant the Tu-fans吐蕃 who made
frequent incursions into the territories of Tang.
Lake: meant Lake Qing-hai, 青海now in Qing-hai Province. 青海省
怨 情 李 白
美 人 捲 珠 簾 , 深 坐 顰 蛾 眉 。
但 見 淚 痕 濕 , 不 知 心 恨 誰 。
Resentment Li Bai
By a window is a lady fair,
Blinds rolled up with care.
Eyebrows knitted she sat,
Sinking in her seat, upset.
Traces of tears on her cheeks can be seen,
There is no idea whom she has grudge in.
黃 鶴 樓 崔 顥
Yellow Crane Pavilion Cui Hao (704-754)
Gone with the crane in the Pavilion,
The immortals had flown away;
Leaving it a historical oblivion,
Only a name which remains today.
One could not expect the crane to return,
That the white clouds in the sky had learnt.
Across the expanse of the water one sees,
The city of Han-yang and its trees.
Parrots’ island lies in between,
With fragrant grass vividly green.
When the evening sun is setting in,
I scan where my home could have been.
The haze over where the waters flow,
Does not render a yearning heart consoled.
Li Bai, the most talented poet of the time, came to the same pavilion but did not leave any poem, saying: “The scenery is
before me but I cannot compose, since Cui Hao’s poem has already done so.”
Author: Cui Hao, Tang Poet (704 ?-754) whose early poems were thought to be filled with levity. However, this poem which
was a later composition earned high repute and is thought to be the best of its kind.
Han-yang漢陽 was west of Wu Chang 武昌 and North of Han River漢水 . Since it is to the north of the river, it was known as
兵 車 行 杜 甫
Song of Soldiers and Chariots Du Fu (712-770)
Chariots rumbling, horses neighed,
Soldiers had bows and arrows to their waist.
Parents, wives and children came,
To bid a last good-bye.
The march off had dust spreading high,
And the main bridge couldn’t be identified.
Outfits were tugged and fairway blocked, amongst cries,
The wailing could be heard far up in the sky.
Wayfarers were asked by passers-by,
Recurrent conscription was the answer why.
The fifteens are required to guard against Tu-fans’ harm ,
The forties, when not fighting, are garrisoned to farm.
Set off as teens with headbands done for them,
Grey-haired, still guarding in frontier camps.
In the front, soldiers’ blood never stopped to flow,
As a sea turned red would show.
All because of an Emperor eager to expand
His frontiers to gain more land.
Do you not see all counties east of Hua Mountain,
With ten thousand villages in desolation?
Though able-bodied wives take the tiller,
Fields are weeded over, hither and thither.
The Qin soldiers were used to war,
And known for the pains they could take.
But they were being driven in awe,
Like poultry, dog and pig.
Though elders may care to ask what they saw,
Dare conscripts demur and deprecate war?
Take for instance winter this year:
Before front soldiers had any respite there,
Rent is exacted on the soldiers’ share.
Where from can people pay a tax so unfair?
Until then people had no understanding,
Having a son is not exactly a blessing.
It’s better to have a daughter in a family.
Since to a neighbour she can be married,
Whereas, one never knows,
Where one’s own son may be buried.
Do you not see where bare bones lie,
Unattended and unclaimed, by the Lakeside ?
New ghosts are ululating over old ghosts’ cries,
On a gloomy and drizzling day, one could be terrified.
This poem is believed to be written c. 752
Bridge: Xian-Yang Bridge咸陽橋 was at the main thoroughfare, Xian-yang Avenue in the Capital of Chang-An, leading to the
Tu-fans: Foreign tribes making repeated incursions to the western frontier of China at the time. In this case, the conscripts
were sent to the north guarding area to the west of Huang-ho.
A military system in Tang Dynasty where soldiers were sent off to frontier regions to work as excavating farmers when there
was no warfare.
The conscripts were so young that their headbands had to be put on for them by local officials. In this case, it was the
municipal officer for a lane or street.
The emperor mentioned in the text was Wu Di, 武帝 in Han Dynasty漢 but it was an insinuation of the Emperor at the time of
the author, namely Tang Xuan Zong. 玄宗Both were keen to expand their empires’ frontiers. It was obvious in ancient China
that an emperor could not be openly criticized. Insinuation was therefore absolutely necessary. However, later on in the
poem when he raised the matter of “rent tax” 租稅 he mentioned “winter this year” 今年冬. There is little doubt that he was
depicting contemporary events rather than that of Wu Di 漢武帝
(c.100BC) 850 years ago.
Shan-dong 山東in the original text meant territory east of Hua Shan (mountain)華 山
Chang-An where the conscripts came from, was Qin 秦territory and since the era of the Warring States its people were
known as veteran soldiers.
租稅The tax in the form of rent payable to the government by the soldiers for the use of the land in their 租稅The tax in the
form of rent payable to the government by the soldiers for the use of the land in their home village, but the land were in
most cases not cultivated for reason that the soldiers were serving in the front without recess.
By the side of Lake Qing-hai, 青海now near the city of Xi-Nin西寧市, a ground over which the Tang soldiers and Tu-fans
fought for a lengthy period.
贈衛八處士 杜 甫
To Wei Ba, the hermit Du Fu
Rarely seeing each other, we live afar,
Like the morning and the evening star.
What makes tonight a special night?
For us to share the same candle light.
How long can youth and strength hold?
Now grey hair tells that we are old.
Old friends become fewer and fewer;
Feelings too much for me to endure.
For twenty years we’ve roamed,
Who’d guess today I appear at your home .
We parted as single men in our bloom,
Now your children are all fully-grown.
Pleasantly they asked of me,
Which part I came from the country.
Before I can furnish a reply,
Table was set with food and wine.
In the midnight rain the folks
Cut the chives and serve with oats.
By the host the encounter is treasured,
Wine we consumed without measure
In goblets, but we are not drunk,
Old sentiments should not be unsung.
We shall be mountains apart by the morrow;
There is no telling of this endless sorrow.
Wei Ba衛八 was an old friend of the author by the surname Wei衛 who lived as a hermit. He was 8th among his brothers
and therefore named Ba八. His other names were unknown.
Du Fu, born in Hu-nan Province, one of the most celebrated poets in Tang Dynasty (712-770). Known as the ” Poet Sage “.
This poem was believed to be written in 758 by the author, (aged 46) when he was on his way to Lo-yang and met his old
friend Wei Ba by chance after 20 years and was being invited to Wei Ba’s home.
客 至 杜 甫
Visitor Du Fu
To the north and south of my hut the rivulets flow;
Only seagulls are daily visitors to and fro.
Hitherto unswept, the patio floor;
For my first visitor I open my humble door.
Far from market, I can only offer food of a kind,
And nothing more in a poor home, than last year’s wine.
For one more company next door, do you mind?
If I shout over the fence for him, to finish off our wine.
The visitor on this occasion was the County Magistrate. : The author had made a note on this poem to the following
effect: “pleased with county magistrate Cui’s崔visit”. From the description in the poem one can see that the author was
living under meager conditions. He was therefore pleased with the honour given to him by the magistrate’s visit, despite
his humble abode.
Du Fu, one of the most celebrated Tang poets .(712-770)
旅夜書懷 杜 甫
Night thoughts during travel Du Fu
In a gentle breeze by a grassy bank,
Under a tall mast, in a lone boat I stay.
Over a wide plain, the stars hang,
And the moon rose from the River thundering away.
By my writings should my name be known?
Because of my age should my office end?
Drifting like a seagull all alone,
Under a vast sky, stranded on sand.
River Yangtze or Chang-Jiang 長江(long river).
When this poem was written, the author was 54,. (765 AD)
In the first month of the year, 765, the author resigned from his office and was leaving his home with his family from
Cheng Du成都 , travelling down the River Yangtze.
Jiang 長江(long river).
登 高 杜 甫
Hiking on Double 9th Du Fu
In a gusty wind and under a lofty sky,
Apes are howling ululant cries.
Over an isle with snow-white sand,
Birds gather hovering before they land.
The wood spreads far and wide without bound,
Leaves are falling with a rustling sound.
The unceasing Yangtze comes thundering on;
For a traveller, miles away from home,
Autumn doesn’t make his heart grow fond.
Aged and frail, I ascend this tower alone,
Troubling times render my mind torn.
More grey each day, my sideburns have grown;
There’s not even wine over which to mourn,
My dismal state, only to myself known.
It has been ancient Chinese custom to perform hiking to high places and mountains on the 9th day of the 9th month of the
Chinese calendar (lunar calendar), customarily called the Double 9th Festival or simply Double 9th. The original title was
“5 poems on the 9th” with this poem under the title登高.
Poet of Tang Dynasty (712-770). This poem was written in 767 when the author was at Kui Zhou .
At the time, the author was obliged to abstain from wine because of his prevailing ailments.
登岳陽樓 杜 甫
Ascending Yue-yang Tower Du Fu
I heard about the waters of Dong Ting in the past,
Now I‘ve ascended Yue-yang Tower at last.
By these waters were the states of Wu and Chu demarked,
Over it’s expanse, nature changes from light to dark.
Relatives and friends had no word for me,
Aged and frail, my boat is my company.
Against the Tu-fans the mountain pass must hold,
Therefore to the North, the soldiers would go.
Leaning against this lofty window,
I cannot stop my tears flow.
Yue-yang Tower 岳陽樓was the tower of the West Gate of Yue-yang city岳陽城, overlooking Lake Dong-ting. 洞庭湖It was built
in Tang Dynasty and repaired in Soong Dynasty.
Du Fu, born in Hu-nan Province, one of the most celebrated poets in Tang Dynasty (712- 770). Known as the ” Poet Sage “.
Dong-ting洞庭: Lake Dong-ting is on the south bank of the Yangtze River, north of Hu-nan Province.
Wu吳and Chu楚: State of Wu was East to the Lake and Chu on the West. Wu: A state in the Three Kingdoms Era.(c. 200AD)
Chu was sstate of the Warring States Era (c.200BC)
Aged: When the poem was written, Du Fu was 57 and suffering from various ailments. He and his family lived on a boat.
He died one year later in 770 AD.
The Tu-fans invaded from the north and soldiers were deployed to defend north of the pass.
春 望 杜 甫
國 破 山 河 在 , 城 春 草 木 深 。
感 時 花 濺 淚 , 恨 別 鳥 驚 心 。
烽 火 連 三 月 , 家 書 抵 萬 金 。
白 頭 搔 更 短 , 渾 欲 不 勝 簪 。
Spring outlook Du Fu
A country shattered with its capital wrecked,
Only the mountains and rivers are intact.
A city despite the return of spring,
Only grass and bushes wildly reigned.
Flowers showing the season only brought
Tears against which in vain I fought.
Even birds could cause me a fright,
Reminding me of my parted family’s plight.
The war raged on for three months old,
A home letter would worth more than gold.
My grey hair became short and rare,
To what could I pin my hat on there?
The Capital Chang-an 長 安 was lost to rebel An Lu shan 安 祿 山 with the Emperor in exile.
塞 下 曲 盧 綸
Songs on the Wilderness Lu Lun (748-799)
The wood was dark and windy in the night,
The undergrowth was shaken with might.
The general drew his bow,
And let his arrow go.
In first light he was curious where it went,
And found it embedded into a rock indent.
Wild-geese were flying high,
There was no moon in the sky.
Attempting to break away in the night,
Shan-yu and his soldiers took flight.
Our light cavalry was giving chase,
Weapons snow-laden in the haste.
Lu Lun, Tang poet (748-799).
Shan-yu: 單于A name for the chieftain of the Hun tribes.
野幕敞瓊筵， 戎賀勞旋； 醉和金甲舞， 雷鼓動山川。
We laid out a great feast in full view,
Among our tents in jubilation.
Returning victorious over foes in the battlefield,
We deserved a great celebration.
In golden amour we merrily danced around,
While rolling drums shook the ground.
The title was the name of a tune of the Imperial Music Academy 樂府曲名 at the time.
Author: Li Yi, poet of Tang Dynasty (748-827), qualified as an advanced imperial scholar進士 at 21. Disillusioned by the
imperial court duties, he self-exiled to the western frontiers and spent 26 years with the armies there. He was later recalled
to the court by Xian Zong憲宗.
Chi-tang瞿塘: Chi-tang Gorge瞿塘峽, one of the three famous gorges of Yangtze River, in present day Sichuan Province四川省.
江 南 曲 李 益
A song south of Yangtze Li Yi (748-827)
I married my husband from Chi-tang engaged in trade,
Who always managed to miss his returning dates.
Had I known more dependable is the tide,
I would have married a lad by the seaside.
遊 子 吟 孟 郊
Song for a Traveling Son Meng Jiao (751-814)
A piece of thread in the mother’s hand,
Up and down the son’s clothes it ran.
One stitch follows another,
By a mother concerned;
Waiting for her son’s early return.
How can his heart, feeble as a straw,
Return the sunny warmth of his mother at all.
Author: Meng Jiao (751-814) in his younger days lived as a hermit in Xiung Mountain嵩 山 in He-nan Province河南省. He only
qualified as an imperial advanced scholar at the age of 46 in 796. He worked as a low ranking official in various post and
later resigned. He died while he was on his way to his appointment as an army chief of staff.
楓 橋 夜 泊 張 繼
月 落 烏 啼 霜 滿 天 ,
江 楓 漁 火 對 愁 眠 。
姑 蘇 城 外 寒 山 寺 ,
夜 半 鐘 聲 到 客 船 。
Night berth by Maple Bridge Zhang Ji (c.753)
Against a setting moon, the crows caw,
The sky is covered by pelting frost.
A woeful traveler lying awake by the dyke,
Watching maples under fishing lights.
Outside the city wall of Gu Su one can tell,
Where exactly is Han Shan Temple.
For each chime of its midnight bell,
Strikes in my floating heart an echo.
烏 衣 巷 劉 禹 錫
Black shirt lane Liu Yu-xi (772-842)
By the bridge over Qin-wei River,
Wild flowers and grass had grown over.
In Black Shirt Lane, nothing much differed,
And at the entrance it was the same sunset ever.
Into the halls of dignities , the swallows once flown,
But now they are finding their way in ordinary homes.
Now in Nanjing city, south of the Qin-wei River秦淮河 in Jiangsu Province江蘇省. The place used to garrison soldiers dressed
in black during the time of the state of Wu吳, hence its name.
Poet of the Tang Dynasty (772-842). Qualified as an advanced imperial scholar at the age of 21, he spent his life in various
high court official posts and in later years was demoted as acting prefects of provinces.
In the original text, 朱雀橋 was a floating bridge across Qin-wei River built in the Eastern Jin Dynasty 東晉 (c. 400AD), about
400 years before the time of the author.
The names mentioned in the original text were Wang-du王導 and Xie-an謝安, dignities of the Eastern Jin period, living in
草 白 居 易
離 離 原 上 草 , 一 歲 一 枯 榮 。
野 火 燒 不 盡 , 春 風 吹 又 生 。
遠 芳 侵 古 道 , 晴 翠 接 荒 城 。
又 送 王 孫 去 , 萋 萋 滿 別 情 。
Grass Bai Ju Yi
On the meadow the grass supplely lie,
Each year, they grow and die.
Wild fires cannot kill them all,
Spring comes and again they grow tall.
Ancient paths are their favourite grounds,
In the sunshine covering ruined towns.
They see royal princes come and go,
Waving adieu with a heart of gold.
Tang poet (772-846) born in Henan 河 南, qualified as an advanced imperial scholar 進 士 in the years Jing Yuan 貞 元.
Initially he worked in the imperial secretariat as 校 書 郎;and later because of court intrigues, was demoted to Jiang Zhou
江 州 as deputy prefect 司 馬 at the age of 43. He was also posted as prefect to Hang Zhou 杭 州 and Su Zhou 蘇 州 and then
as tutor to the crown prince 太 子 少 傅.
He was minister of law 刑 部 尚 書 in 842 and died in office four years later in Luo-yang 洛 陽 at the age of 75. He served the
reign of eight Emperors, from De Zhong 德 宗 to Huan Zhong 宣 宗 and left almost 3000 poems, which was a rare record.
琵 琶 行 白居易
Pi Pa Verse Bai Ju-yi (772-846)
Bidding farewell to my friend in the night,
By the quayside on the Yangtze River .
Nakai flowers in the autumn moonlight,
And maple leaves in the wind quivered.
I dismounted after my friend,
Who had already stepped on deck.
We had wine cups in our hands,
But music was what we lacked.
With a dismal farewell in mind,
Little pleasure could be sought from wine.
We seemed lost, so was the moon in the river.
Then we heard the sound of pi-pa over the water,
And forgot what we were there for.
Following the sound, we discreetly called
For the fiddler but the music broke;
Only belatedly a reply was evoked.
We drew our boat near,
And invited the fiddler to appear.
In better lights we refilled our wine,
And prepared afresh to dine.
Under thousands of pleas, she slowly paced
Her debut with a pi-pa shading her face.
Tuning the peg, only a few notes she played,
But found it hard to keep her emotions at bay.
For each measure, unleashed a private sob she made,
As if delivering a plaint of her fate.
With knitted eyebrows she casually played,
To empty what her heart longed to say.
Lightly she plucked her strings with care,
Fluently playing melodies with flair.
The heavy string was strong and fast like driven rain,
The small string delicate, like a whisper faint.
All mingled, notes played slow and forte,
Like assorted pearls, landing on a plate of jade.
Like nightingales amongst the flowers sang,
Like murmuring water flowing on shallow sand.
As the strings became frozen still,
Even flowing water turned bitterly chilled.
When for a moment all sounds froze,
From the bottom of our hearts arose
All secret woes hitherto untold,
For this moment, silence was gold.
Then suddenly a silver vase explodes;
With water splashed.
And I hear cavalry riding bold
In a sortie, with weapons clashed.
As the tune came to the end,
Sweeping the fiddles, she flicked her hand.
With the sound like fabrics torn apart,
Four strings in unison, shaking my heart.
The boats next to us turned silent and still,
Over the river, only a moon hanging in the autumn chill.
With a face full of thoughts,
She put the plectrum back into slot.
Rising, aligning her attire and she
Was as composed as one could be.
“A girl from the Capital was I,” she said,
“Under Sha-mo Hill, a home I once had.
By thirteen, in pi-pa I already made a name,
From the first group of Imperial Minstrels I came.
My talent was, even by the masters, unsurpassed,
My visage made other music girls outclassed.
Gallant young men fought to present
Gifts to me to befriend.
For every tune I played,
Countless silk pieces came my way.
Jade and silver hairpins bashed
To keep time beats and smashed.
In the revelries, silk gowns dashed
All over with wine splashed.
Frivolity carried on, year in, year out,
Spring turned autumn, I cared little about.
Then my brother joined the army one day,
And my aunt passed away.
Dawn followed dusk and my beauty faded,
Visitors were few and they shunned my gate.
Until no longer young I tarried,
And finally to a merchant I married.
He cared more for business than leaving me,
Last month he went on a trip buying tea.
All alone I wait in a boat by the quay,
A bright moon over the river is all I see.
In midnight dreams, youthful times I recall,
Down my rouged cheeks tears would fall.”
I heard the tunes of pi-pa and I sighed,
Hearing the recitation, my woes multiplied.
We are both castaways amnestied,
By time and tide to a life undignified.
Despite we weren’t acquainted before,
This encounter is worthwhile after all.
Since leaving the Capital last year in exile,
Relegated to this city , my health failed.
Void of music, for a desolate city I wail,
Not hearing flutes and strings made me ail.
I live in soggy lowland and can only find,
Bamboo and wild creepers entwined.
What did I hear from dusk to sunrise?
Only apes’ and cuckoos’ awful cries.
In spring mornings and autumn moon’s time,
I grab a bottle and pour my lonely wine.
Aren’t there mountain songs and peasant’s flutes?
Aye, but their noises appear to my ears too crude.
I heard your pi-pa articulation tonight,
Opening up my ears with fairy music in flight.
Please be kind to play one more tune,
I shall compose the pi-pa lyrics for you soon.
Brooding over my words for a while she stood,
Then resumed seated and play she would.
With strings tightened and a tempo quick,
A new wailing tune had us overwhelmed and transfixed.
All those present could not but cried,
Tears too obvious for their sleeves to hide.
Which audience had most tears to come by?
A moistened gown showed that it was I.
It was a hill to the South-east of Chang-An near the tomb of a minister by the name of Tung . As a gesture of respect, his
kinsmen always dismounted when passing by. So it was known as Dismount Hill下馬陵. Later, people took the mickey out
of it and called it “Toad’s Hill”, 蝦
蟆陵 by similarity of the pronunciation of “Sha-ma” 下馬 (dismount) and “Sha-mo” 蝦蟆 (toad).
Capital of Tang was at Chang-an, 長安 now Xian 西安. Xun-Yang City. 潯陽城
The original text mentioned the “Deputy Prefect of Jiang Zhou” , 江州司馬 who was the author and his “green gown” 青衫
getting wet. Green gown was the gown for court officials of the lowest grade. It is presumed that the author, being in exile,
mentioned this for modesty.
江 雪 柳宗元
River in Snow Liu Zong Yuan (773-819)
Not a bird in miles flying in the cold,
On all roads and tracks, not even a soul.
Only one old man with a grass hat and shawl,
Fishing in his lonely boat in the snow.
Author: Liu Zong Yuan, Tang poet (773-819) noted for his simple and elegant style in poetry and also his calligraphy. He
became an advanced imperial scholar 進士 by the age of 20 in 793 and was involved in a movement in the reformation of
the government. He was later exiled to Yong Zhou 州 as Acting Prefect司馬 and later to Liu Zhou柳州 as Prefect 剌史 . He was t
herefore known in generally as Liu Liu Zhou 柳柳州 (with the name of the prefecture as his 2nd name). This poem was
written after his exile to Yong Zhou and fully reflected his state of mind to court politics.
Grass hat and shawl: Hat 笠 (of a conical shape) and shawl 簑were usually woven with palm leaves and worn by peasants
in ancient China to keep the rain out while working in the field.
行 宮 元 稹
Transitory Palace Yuan Zhen
An ancient palace deserted and want of mend,
Only the flowers there bloom once again.
Now grey-haired, but a maid-in-waiting before,
Passes her time, telling stories of the Emperor.
Transitory Palace: a temporary residence of the emperor while he was on a tour.
Author: Yuan Zhen, Tang poet (779-831) whose father died at the age of 8 and he was taught by his mother. He came 2nd
及第in the official Court Examination at the age of 15. He was a close friend of Bai Ju-yi 白居易who was 7 years to his senior.
Bai’s poem once had this reference of him:
“At every post-station I must first dismount;
Walk around the columns to see if your poems could be found.”“每去驛亭先下馬，循牆繞柱覓君詩”. The style of these two poets was
so close that it was known as “Yuan-Bai” style. 元白體
This poem was written around 810, after the “An-Shih” Rebellion 安史之亂 and about 50 years after the death of Yang
Yu Huan楊玉環 (Emperor’s consort) in 756. So a maid-in-waiting in her late teens at Xian Zong’s玄宗 time would be about 70,
telling stories about the ex-Emperor.
Emperor: Emperor Xian Zong 玄宗 in the years of Kai Yuan開元 which were years of prosperity in the Tang Dynasty.
赤 壁 杜 牧
The Red Cliff Du Mu
A broken halberd to the bottom of Yangtze sank,
Preserved for centuries , buried in sand.
Retrieved and re-polished, it could still be,
A fine relic of a former dynasty.
Had the East wind blown otherwise
Than Marshall Zhou had visualised,
His country might well be overwhelmed,
With the Qiao sisters as captives in enemy camp.
Red Cliff was site of a famous battlefield on the southern bank of the Yangtze River and is now in Wu Chang武昌, Hu Bei
The battle took place in the Eastern Han Dynasty東漢 , the 13th Year of Jian An 建安 between the states of Wei 魏 (north
of Yangtze) and Wu 吳(south) in the Autumn of AD 208.
Du Mu, Poet of Tang Dynasty (803-852).
The poem was written circa 842 AD, when Du Mu was Prefect of Wang Zhou黃州 剌史at the age of 40, well over 600 years
after the Battle of Red Cliff was fought.
East wind: it was the legend that the northern invading navy were attacked by fire at their base by the southern navy,
spread by an easterly wind which was unusual in autumn season and burnt all their ships upstream of the Yangtze
Marshall Zhou was Zhou Yu周瑜 who led the Wu army and navy.
The Qiao sisters大喬，小喬 were famous beauties at the time in the State of Wu. One was the wife of Marshall Zhou and
the other Queen to the King of Wu.孫策
The original text mentioned “bronze bird” which refers to a tower built by Cao Cao曹曹 of the State of Wei 魏 in He-Bei
河北 for his pleasures and was known, by a huge bronze figure of a bird at the top, as Bronze Bird Tower 銅雀臺. At the
time of the battle, in fact the tower was non-existent. It was only built 2 years later in 210 AD.
遣 懷 杜 牧
Consoling one’s mind Du Mu
Travelling without purpose and idling around,
Nothing else mattered when wine was abound.
Southern beauties had slim waists for your arm,
And could dance like butterflies on your palm.
For ten years I lived in a dream, in houses of ill fame,
And earned myself in Yang-zhou a perfidious name.
The original text mentioned 楚腰 “Chu waist” which means the waist of girls in the State of Chu 楚. Chu was established in
the era of the Warring States and occupied area to the South of the Yangtze River.
The legend was that a famous dancer in the Han Dynasty known, as “Zhao, the Swallow”趙飛燕 , was so light-footed that
she could dance on someone’s palm.
The original text mentioned “green houses” 青樓 which means brothels in ancient China.
秋夕 杜 牧
Autumn Night Du Mu
Silvery candles in an autumn scene,
Casting light coldly on the pictorial screen.
With tiny silk fans, children in the night,
Were after glowworms flying bright.
In the courtyard, the air was cold as water,
Lying, I could see in the sky the Altair and Vega.
Altair牽牛星 and Vega織女星 (the latter being a class 1 star) are on opposite sides of the Milky Way 銀河.
登樂遊原 李 商 隠
Ascending Leisure Plateau Li Shang-yin
Late afternoon I felt a slight displeasure,
And drove my carriage up the plateau.
A gorgeous sunset I watched with leisure,
But dusk was setting in and time wouldn’t hold.
Leisure Plateau: 樂遊原Originally a leisure ground for Han Emperor Xun Di宣帝. It was to the south-east of Chang An 長安 and
from its elevated position, the whole of the Capital could be overlooked.
Author: poet and scholar in Tang Dynasty, (812-858), qualified as an advanced imperial scholar進士at the age of 25. He
was involuntarily involved in the court factional struggles (Nu-Li factional struggle牛李黨争) prevailing at the time and had
never held any high-ranking office. His poetry style was closely related to Du Mu 牡牧 and was referred to as “Li-Du” junior
小李杜.(The proper authentic poetry “Li-Du” 李杜
were Li Bai- Du Fu). His 20 odd poems captioned as “untitled” were most popular but their main objects have always
been wooly, secretive and controversial to later critics.
嫦 蛾 李商隱
Moon Fairy Li Shang-yin
Under candlelight on a mosaic screen ,
Deep shadows were cast.
The Milky Way could be seen,
With the morning star subsiding last.
Stealing the immortal potion should have been
Something for Shang-Er to regret.
For there is nothing more she would fret
Than gazing at the blue sky and sea,
Each night with her heart getting more sad.
A screen decorated with in-sets of mother-of-pearls and stones.
A screen decorated with in-sets of mother-of-pearls and stones.
Shang-Er: It was ancient Chinese legend that Shang-Er’s husband was King Hao-yi (,后羿) who was given a potion of
immortality by a goddess. She stole that potion from her husband who was infuriated and she fled to the moon, hence
becoming the Moon Fairy (the equivalent of Cynthia in Greek mythology).
無 題 李 商 隠
Untitled Li Shang-yin
From emptiness the dream came, and soon
It vanished again into thin air.
Up in my chamber I can see the moon,
In the early morning, it’s still there.
My beloved in a distant land marooned,
A dream in vain is too much to bear.
In a hurry, a letter I have to write,
Before the ink is made to be right.
The golden leaves on my duvet in candlelight,
Was partly dim and partly bright.
Faintly the floral embroidery on my posted-net,
Was tinted by musk incense near my bed.
On a fairy island is as far
As one’s mind can get,
But he’s thousands-fold away,
Which makes me so sad.
隴西行 陳 陶
A song west of Lung Mountain Chen Tao (812-885)
Sworn to wipe out the Huns , every man
Was prepared to fight to the very end.
Five thousand gallant soldiers went,
But were all lost in foreign sands.
By the river the pitiful bones,
Were soldiers who died unknown.
Yet in their wives’ dreams at home,
They are still each a living man.
金 縷 衣 杜 秋 娘
Cloak of Golden Threads Madame Du
Please forsake your cloak of golden threads,
Please spend youthful time wisely with your head.
Gather your roses with the chance you get,
If you wait and tarry you will regret.
In “Anthology of Tang Poems” 全唐詩 the author was ascribed as anonymous. In Du Mu’s preface to “Madame Du’s Poetry”,
she was described as of Jin Ling (now Nanjing) origin, concubine to a marshal in the frontier. She excelled in singing this
song of Cloak of Golden Threads and once sang in the imperial court. It might be for reason that she was subsequently
attributed to her name.
哥 舒 歌 西 鄙 人
Song of Ge-shu Anonymous
Up in the night sky,
The Great Bear hanging high.
Ge-shu fully armed,
Touring a midnight round
The infamous Tu-Fan ,
Who spy on our land,
Know its different now;
And dare not cross Lin-tao .
Geshu: Originally the name of a tribe of “Tu-jue” 突厥 to the West of China. Here Geshu suggests Geshuhan哥舒翰 who was
the name of their leader, guarding the West.
Author: “Si Pe Ren”西鄙人in the original text meant that it was somebody anonymous who was a “western frontier man”.
Great Bear大熊星座: (Ursa Major) 卝斗星座 The group of 7 stars that spread out like a bucket pointing toward the North Star,
is also commonly known as the “Plough “.
Tu Fan: 吐蕃 Name of a tribe of Mongols to the North West of China.
Lin-tao: Now “Min County” 岷縣 of Gansu Province甘肅 , the western end of the Great Wall of China built in Qin Dynasty秦.
(c. 3rd century BC)
贈 別 (1) 杜 牧
娉 娉 裊 裊 十 三 餘 , 豆 蔻 梢 頭 二 月 初 。
春 風 十 里 揚 州 路 , 捲 上 珠 簾 總 不 如 。
Farewell (1) Du Mu
Swaying with grace she walks, a thirteen plus,
Like a bud in early spring, before it does unfold.
For miles in Yang Zhou, I failed to find a lass
Who rolled up window blinds, an equal.
This poem was written abut 835 when Du Mu 杜 牧 was leaving Yang Zhou 揚 州 for Chang-an 長 安 , in tribute to a young
courtesan between thirteen and fourteen years old whom he just bade farewell.
Author, Du Mu, (803-853) Tang poet. When the author was in his early thirties, he worked as a secretarial staff 幕 僚 for
the Governor 節 度 使 at Yang Zhou 揚 州, and he was a frequent patron to the numerous brothels in the city, leading a
care-free life. See Poem 40. Later he was promoted to the capital. His superior, Governor Niu (牛 僧 孺 ) gave him some
advice in his farewell party 餞 行, showing him privately all the reports on him visiting the disorderly houses during the
years. He was fully grateful to Niu 牛 for his tolerance and changed his attitude thereafter.
裊 (音 鳥, niao),柔 美 貌 豆 簆 (mace, an East Indian spice. It only flowers in summer. In early spring, it is only budding and
a state of virginity.) 至 初 夏 開 花, 二 月 初 尚 未 開, 故 以 喻 處 女, 後 因 稱 少 女 處 子 為 豆 簆 年 華. 意 指 路 上 珠 簾 捲 處 , 看 到 女 子 總 不
者 所 贈 別 的 那 一 位 . (Translator: It is envisaged that Du Mu was given a ceremonial departure for his promotion to the
capital and citizens of Yang Zhou crowded to watch the possession. And ladies of easy virtue rolled up their window blinds
[horizontal bamboo strips decorated with pearls] upstairs to have a vantage view of him and waved him goodbye.)
贈 別 (2) 杜 牧
多 情 卻 似 總 無 情 , 唯 覺 樽 前 笑 不 成 。
蠟 燭 有 心 還 惜 別 , 替 人 垂 淚 到 天 明 。
Farewell (2) Du Mu
Full of passion but words fail me,
Wine cup in hand but I find no glee.
The candle has a heart for this parting night,
Dropping tears for me till day is bright.
[Translator: This poem was written, under the same heading as the previous one, to the girl courtesan he was saying
泊 秦 淮 杜 牧
煙 籠 寒 水 月籠 沙 , 夜 泊 秦 淮 近 酒 家 。
商 女 不 知 亡 國 恨 , 隔 江 猶 唱 後 庭 花 。
Berthing on Qin Wei River Du Mu
A freezing river shrouded in haze,
A moon hiding behind lace.
I berthed on Qin Wei River
At night near a wine bar.
The sorrow of a country lost, it seemed,
was beyond a singer’s esteem.
A girl on a merchant’s boat in late hours,
Was singing a tune of “Palace garden flowers”.
商 女 means a girl on a merchant’s boat, in this context, a singing girl.
Wei River 淮 河, a tributary to Chang Jiang 長 江, flowing through Jinling, 金 陵 (Nanjing 南 京 nowadays). Because it was
believed to be first irrigated in Qin dynasty 秦 朝 that it was called Qin Wei 秦 淮.
Author, Tang poet (803-853).
The kingdom of Chen 陳I in the Era of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.
後 庭 花 literally: back garden flowers, also known as 玉 樹 後 庭 花. It was s tune composed by the last king of the Chen
Kingdom 陳 後 主 who lost his kingdom in 589 and became a captive of the Sui Dynasty 隋 朝.. Jingling had been a capital
of the Chen Kingdom and the tune was therefore reckoned as one reminiscent of a dying kingdom. Incidentally, Tang
Dynasty ended about 50 years after the author died.
新 嫁 娘 王 建
三 日 入 厨 下, 洗 手 作 湯 羹 。
未 諳 姑 食 性 , 先 遣 小 姑 嘗 。
A new Bride Wang Jian
In the kitchen, hardly a bride for three days,
Making a meal I wash my hands in haste.
A new family’s usual cuisine, I have no hint,
My sister-in-law can tell me with a first taste.
Author was born c.767 in Henan, an advanced imperial scholar 進 士 and once appointed deputy prefect of Shaan Zhou
陝 州 司 馬 .