Toiling Farmers
- Poetry of Li Shen

《悯农》

- Last updated: 2023-12-18 21:14:05

Toiling Farmers by Li Shen
中文原文

锄禾日当午,汗滴禾下土。

谁知盘中餐,粒粒皆辛苦。


English Translation

Farmers weeding at noon,

Sweat down the field soon.

Who knows food on a tray

Thanks to their toiling day?

A common Chinese nursery rhyme still popular today, “Toiling Farmers” depicts the hard work and life of a Chinese farmer. Written by Tang Dynasty poet Li Shen, the poem emphasises how hard each farmers work for every grain of rice, and serves as a gentle reminder for children not to waste their food.

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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