Selected Classic Chinese Poems

March to Frontier (从军行)

The remains of Jade Gate Pass of the Great Wall

The remains of Jade Gate Pass of the Great Wall in Qinghai (Blue Sea) section, built during Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago.

Author: Wang Changling (王昌龄 698 – 757), a Tang Dynasty poet, statesman and army officer.  

Snow mountains darkened by long clouds from Blue Sea,
A lonely city in distance is Great Wall’s Jade Gate Pass.
My golden armour worn out during combat in desertland,
Yet I will not return home until Loulan is reclaimed.

青海长云暗雪山,
孤城遥望玉门关。
​黄沙百战穿金甲,
不破楼兰终不还。

Warriors dance to a new pipa tune,
With thoughts for loved ones at home.
Unsettling is my concerns for the nation over the border war,
Calmly is an autumn moon watching over the Great Wall.

琵琶起舞换新聲,
总是关山旧别情。
撩乱边愁听不尽,
高高秋月挂长城。

The Poem in Kunqu Tune

Singer: Wu Shuang (吴双), Kunqu Opera actor from Shanghai

Comments from Google Plus: 

Bily “iqra” Base:

Sounds sad.

All Things Chinese: 

Sad, because a warrior is dancing on the knife edge and could be done away with at any moment therefore may never have a chance to see the loved ones and enjoy family life.

However, it is also a poem full of proud and determination. To serve and even die for the common good is an honour.

Loushan Pass (娄山关)

Loushan Pass

Loushan Pass – a bottleneck passageway in Mt Lou bordering Guizhou and Sichuan Provinces

Author: Mao Zedong (毛泽东, 1893-1976), a poet, calligraphy, statesman and the founding father of PRC. 

Amid ferocious wind from the west,
Under the morning moon in season of frost,
The cry from a wild goose is heard,
And the sound of horse hooves clattering on road,
And the hum of bugles in a low note.

西风烈,
长空雁叫霜晨月。
霜晨月,
马蹄声碎,
喇叭声咽。

Who says the strong Pass is an iron wall?
We are crossing its summit once more.
And crossing the summit,
When the hills roll like waves in ocean,
When the sun is blood-red and dying.

雄关漫道真如铁,
而今迈步从头越。
从头越,
苍山如海,
残阳如血。

Day of Double Nine (重阳)

Calligraphy of the poem by the author

Author: Mao Zedong (毛泽东, 1893-1976), a poet, calligraphy, statesman and the first leader of PRC. 

Nine is the biggest yang digit in I Ching, thus lunar September 9 is the traditional Senior’s Day in China, known as Double Ninth Festival.

Man ages fast but nature forever young
Double Ninth came each year
And Double Ninth again comes around
When chrysanthemums smell sweeter
Particularly on the battleground

人生易老天难老,
岁岁重阳。
今又重阳,
战地黄花分外香。

The world is loud with autumn wind
It is not the season of spring
Yet it is better than the spring
As the frosty land is boundless and clean

一年一度秋风劲,
不似春光。
胜似春光,
寥廓江天万里霜。

The First Full Moon Night (元宵)

Author: Tang Yin (唐寅 1470 – 1524), a Ming Dynasty poet, calligrapher and painter

Lunar January 15, the first full moon night, is the first family reunion occasion with lantern shows and riddle cracking games.

Without the light
It will be a boring moon night
Without the moon fully round
The spring has not truly arrived

有灯无月不娱人,
有月无灯不算春。
春到人间人似玉,
灯烧月下月如银。

In lanterns hairpins glow
On the top of village girls
Melodies from flutes
Rising from every roads

满街珠翠游村女,
沸地笙歌赛社神。
不展芳尊开口笑,
如何消得此良辰。

The Lantern Festival Night (元夕)

Author: Tang Yin (辛弃疾 1140 – 1207), a Ming Dynasty poet, calligrapher and painter

Lunar January 15, the first full moon night, is traditionally Chinese lantern festival. 

Night wind from the east blows open thousands of flowers
And blows down fireworks like a shower of meteors
Scented horse carriages little the roads
Gorgeous tunes from passionate flutes with echoes
In the sky a bright full moon slowly rolls
On the ground are fish and dragon lantern shows

东风夜放花千树
更吹落,星如雨
宝马雕车香满路
凤箫声动
玉壶光转
一夜鱼龙舞

Ladies dressed up with head decor in gold
Giggling when passing by with air in perfume
People search in the crowds to locate their hero
Only find he stands at a dark corner on his own

蛾儿雪柳黄金缕
笑语盈盈暗香去
众里寻他千百度
蓦然回首
那人却在
灯火阑珊处

Xin Qiji himself was a hero defending Chinese civilisation against barbaric and aggressive Tartars (the early form of Manchus and Mongols).

Early Departure from White King City (朝发白帝城)

Li Bai's poem penned by Bo Xilai

A wild cursive hand calligraphy of Li Bai’s poem penned by Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing leader

AuthorLi Bai (Li Po 701—762), a Tang Dynasty poet

At dawn in the rosy clouds I left White King City,
A thousand lis to town of Jianglin just a day’s journey.
While monkeys from both sides shout and yell,
My boat has already passed myriads of hills.

朝辞白帝彩云间,
千里江陵一日还。
两岸猿声啼不尽,
轻舟已过万重山。

White King City (白帝城) is a place with historical significance. It was where Liu Bei (刘备), the King of Shu (蜀国), one of the three kingdoms at the end of the Han Dynasty (206 – 220), appointed his son Adou (阿斗) as his successor on his deathbed.

“If Adou is good enough, please help him,” he said to Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮), his PM and one of the top I Ching masters in Chinese history. “If Adou is proven to be hopeless, you can replace him.”

Adou later was proven to be completely hopeless, but Zhuge Liang refused to replace him with himself. After he died Adou handed over entire Shu territory to the Kingdom of Wei (魏国) in exchange for maintaining his royal title and a lavish lifestyle.

That was how the Romance of the Three Kingdoms ended.

Ascend West Terrace (上西楼)

AuthorLi Yu (李煜 937 – 978), the last emperor of Southern Tang

Alone, in silence, I ascend the west terrace,
The moon in crescent looks like a hook.
A single Wutong tree in a quiet patio at the season of fall, so dismal.

无言独上西楼,
月如钩。
寂寞梧桐深院锁清秋。

Cut apart, it’s still intact,
Tidy up, it’s even more chaotic,
The sadness of distance,
A bitter taste of fate.

剪不断,
理还乱,
是离愁。
别是一般滋味在心头。

After Emperor Li Yu lost his kingdom in prosperous south of Yangtze River, he became a prisoner of Song and was locked in a small residential quarter in a bleak northern city far away from his homeland.

It was during that period, he produced some best classic Chinese poems.

One autumn night, he again ascended a terrace looking at the direction where his former kingdom was. The scene was murky and gloomy under a slim crescent of the moon, so was his heart, thus one of the most cited Chinese verses in history was born.

The Poem Expressed with Beijing Opera Tune

Singer: Du Zhe (杜喆)

Ode of Winter Plums (咏梅)

Digital painting created by Chinese artist

Digital painting created by Chinese artist

Author: Mao Zedong (毛泽东, 1893-1976), a poet, calligraphy, statesman and the founding father of modern China. 

The winter plum blossom in traditional Chinese culture is the symbol of strength and humbleness with the courage to stand against the undesirable trend.

Windy rains observe spring to go,
Stormy snow welcomes spring to return.
On the ice-clad rock high and sheer,
A flower blooms pure and fair.

风雨送春归,
飞雪迎春到。
已是悬崖百丈冰,
犹有花枝俏。

She has no intention to win beauty contest in spring,
But content to be a messenger for season that is coming.
When the land is fully covered by blossom,
She happily disappears from the mountain.

俏也不争春,
只把春来报。
待到山花漫时,
她在丛中笑。

Staying in Mountain at Autumn Night (山居秋暝)

Author: Wang Wang Wei (王维, 701-761), a Tang Dynasty poet, statesman, musician and painter.  

Empty hill
Fresh after drizzle
In autumn twilight
Air is chill

Noise from a bamboo grove
When washing women return home
Lilies wave in a lake
As fishing boats sail through

A brilliant moon
illuminates pine woods
A limpid brook
Flows on rocks.

Rowdy spring blossoms wane
As they soon or late may
While quiet season of fall
Hermits feel truly at home

空山新雨后
天气晚来秋
明月松间照
清泉石上流

竹喧归浣女
莲动下渔舟
随意春芳歇
王孙自可留

The Poem Expressed with Kunqu Tune

Singer: Cai Zhengren (蔡正仁), Kunqu Opera actor from Shanghai

Leave a Reply