Slow Tune of Yangzhou
- Poetry of Jiang Kui


- Last updated: 2024-03-19 15:23:58

Slow Tune of Yangzhou by Jiang Kui










English Translation

On Winter Solstice in 1127,I passed Yangzhou.It turned fine after one night of snow.I saw the fieldsovergrown with wild wheat and weeds.When I entered the ruined town,I looked around and was grieved to see green water cold and to hear sad horns blow at dusk.I felt sad and dreary to compare the present desolation with the past glory and composed the following tune which reveals the grief of a ruined country,as says my old uncle-in-law.

In the famous town east of River Huai 

And scenic spot of Bamboo West,

Breaking my journey,I alight for a short rest.

In breeze the splendid three-mile road did I pass by.

'Tis now o'ergrown with wild green wheat and weeds.

Since Southern shore was overrun by Jurchen steeds,

E'en the tall trees beside the pond have been war-torn.

As dusk is drawing near,

Cold blows the horn,

The empty town looks drear.

The place Du Mu the poet prized,

If he could come again today,

Would make him feel surprised.

His verse on the cardamon spray 

And on sweet dreams in Mansions Green 

Could not express 

My deep distress.

The Twenty-four Bridges can still be seen,

But the cold moon floating among 

The waves would no more sing a song.

For whom should the peonies near 

The Bridges grow red from year to year?

Jiang Kui (1155?-1221?)was the first musician among the lyrical poets of the Southern Song Dynasty.This lyric was written when he passed by Yangzhou,most prosperous city before Jurchen invasion,situated to the east of the River Huai and well known for scenic spots such as the Pavilion of West Bamboo and Twenty-four Bridges.

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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