Jueju (Two Golden orioles Sing in the Green Willows)
- Poetry of Du Fu

《绝句》

- Last updated: 2024-03-29 20:15:45

Jueju  (Two Golden orioles Sing in the Green Willows) by Du Fu
中文原文

两个黄鹂鸣翠柳,一行白鹭上青天。

窗含西岭千秋雪,门泊东吴万里船。


English Translation

Two golden orioles sing in the green willows,

A row of white egrets against the blue sky.

The window frames the western hills' snow of a thousand autumns,

At the door is moored, from eastern Wu, a boat of ten thousand li.

This poem dates from 764.

A li is a Chinese unit of distance, equal to approximately a third of a mile.

Wu is the region around modern-day Shanghai.

Often regarded as a poet-historian, Du Fu wrote about the emotional impacts of political and social turmoil. However, in this particular poem, he avoids the topic of political events altogether, focusing instead on the simple, harmonious beauty of nature. In deviating from his past poems, he establishes his prominence as a poet who not only represents the depth of human emotions, but also the breadth of nature’s beauty.

Du Fu illustrates two aspects of the natural world — its colors and its seasons. In the first two lines, he presents four colors: the yellow orioles; the crisp, green willows; the white egrets; and the clear, blue sky. This splash of color not only contributes to the sensory imagery of the poem, but it also alludes to the seasons of spring and summer. It is during these two seasons that the willows become fresh and green, and the sky becomes crystal clear. His embedded reference to these seasons sets up for his next line, where he mentions the snow-capped Western mountains. The juxtaposition of spring and summer versus autumn and winter reveals that nature is capable of expressing beauty no matter the season. Du Fu’s last line incorporates a reference to the water that the boat rests on. Water signifies the boundary between civilization and nature; where there is water, there are civilizations. By alluding to water in the last line of this elegant poem, Du Fu draws the connection between the natural world and humanity — both are beautiful in their own unique ways.

Why Chinese poems is so special?
The most distinctive features of Chinese poetry are: concision- many poems are only four lines, and few are much longer than eight; ambiguity- number, tense and parts of speech are often undetermined, creating particularly rich interpretative possibilities; and structure- most poems follow quite strict formal patterns which have beauty in themselves as well as highlighting meaningful contrasts.
How to read a Chinese poem?
Like an English poem, but more so. Everything is there for a reason, so try to find that reason. Think about all the possible connotations, and be aware of the different possibilities of number and tense. Look for contrasts: within lines, between the lines of each couplet and between successive couplets. Above all, don't worry about what the poet meant- find your meaning.

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