Selected Classic Chinese Poems
March to Frontier (从军行)
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.
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.
The Poem in Kunqu Tune
Singer: Wu Shuang (吴双), Kunqu Opera actor from Shanghai
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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)
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.
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.
Day of Double Nine (重阳)
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
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
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
In lanterns hairpins glow
On the top of village girls
Melodies from flutes
Rising from every roads
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
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
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)
Author: Li 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.
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)
Author: Li 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.
Cut apart, it’s still intact,
Tidy up, it’s even more chaotic,
The sadness of distance,
A bitter taste of fate.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
The Poem Expressed with Kunqu Tune
Singer: Cai Zhengren (蔡正仁), Kunqu Opera actor from Shanghai