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Bibu

Getting to Know Some Poems and Their Related History

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Bibu

Poem with own experience from site tour.

 

Chinese poem illustration: 鹿柴  The Deer Fence  by Wang Wei:  https://youtu.be/9ZFV02thkIs

 

One of the 20 poems on an extremely famous  painting(辋川图), the first kind artwork in Chinese history :  fusion of poetry and painting. It laid the foundation of Scholar Painting(文人画) which featured with scholar life in mountains and rivers, as well as poems on painting.

 

This long painting on a temple wall  depicted 20 view spots within Wang valley(辋川),  with 40 poems written by Wang Wei and his good friend Pei Di(裴迪), which is one poem for one view point per person. The collection of these 40 poems was named as  Wangchuan Ji(辋川集). It could be the most translated  Chinese classic poetry in foreign languages(See Wangchuan Ji in wikipedia).

 

This short ,simple and very subtle poem was interpreted in many ways through the history, yet  when I stepped on the ground of WangChuan, or Wang valley, looking up  to the  giant ginkgo tree  planted by Wang Wei, it seems to me the poem is crystal clear,  simple, peaceful and eternal.

 

鹿柴
王维

 

空山不见人,
但闻人语响。
返景入深林,
复照青苔上。

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Bibu

Today is Qi Xi, a Chinese Valentine day nowadays, this video is my celebration to Qi Xi.

Chinese poem illustration: 迢迢牵牛星 Far Far the Altair by Anonymous

 

https://youtu.be/JBPHU5fA6ME

 

The first poem that reveals the love story between Altair and Vega, a festival , Qi Xi festival , literally the Night of July 7th, since Han dynasty, a Musical department poem written 2000 years ago.

With very obvious simple and primitive wording, this poem is famous for it's sophisticated skill on reduplication, setting up the standard and favor for reduplication in Chinese classic poetry.

The Qi Xi Festival used to be a festival for girls , and today it become an excuse for lovers to celebrate, a Chinese Valentine's Day.

 

迢迢牵牛星

佚名

 

迢迢牵牛星,皎皎河汉女。

纤纤擢素手,札札弄机杼。

终日不成章,泣涕零如雨。

河汉清且浅,相去复几许?

盈盈一水间,脉脉不得语。

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Bibu

Chinese poem illustration: 锦瑟 The Magnificent Se  by Li Shangyin

 

https://youtu.be/jXB-GJ-8Bfk

 

This poem is just like pearl and jade among the richness and glory of Tang poetry. It might not be the most popular poem, while it is regarded  as the best Tang poem  by poetry lovers, by poets through the 1200+ years Chinese history  afterwards.

 

The perfect wording, the  colorful images and  illusions, the mysterious subject almost impossible to decipher make this masterpiece also the greatest puzzle in Chinese poetry history.

This video is my personal approach to decipher this poem,  adding one more possibility to so many existing explanations of this poem:  wrapping up words of his whole life when is dying.

PS: The 3rd pair of sentences also expressed that  his feeling which is the tear drops of pearl is as deep as ocean, his spirit which is the smoke of jade would go beyond the huge mountains.

 

锦瑟
李商隐

 

锦瑟无端五十弦,
一弦一柱思华年。
庄生晓梦迷蝴蝶,
望帝春心托杜鹃。

 

沧海月明珠有泪,
蓝田日暖玉生烟。
此情可待成追忆,
只是当时已惘然。

 

I had a article on this poem in Chinese as well: 此情今再忆,锦瑟五十年

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Luxi

Thanks for bringing this poem by Li Shangyin. Your interpretation makes sense but, as you say, there are many possible alternative views. Do you have any explanation for the 锦  (brocade?) in 锦瑟?  

 

I don't understand Li Shangyin's poems but I like the words and imagery he uses, so I enjoy reading them and searching for explanations. I very much agree with Liang Qizhao (梁啟超, 1873-1929) :

 

Quote

"What Li Shangyin's poems are about I cannot determine. I cannot even explain the literal meaning line by line. Yet I feel they are beautiful, and when I read them, they give me a new kind of pleasure in my mind." 

 

For anyone interested in this poet, the quote above is from the Introduction in a 2018 book on Li Shangyin by Chloe Garcia-Roberts: Li Shang-yin (NYRB poets), which includes 3 different, and all equally beautiful English translations, of this particular poem. The poems in this book are in both Chinese and English. 

 

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