River-snow
- Poetry of Liu Zongyuan

《江雪》

- Last updated: 2024-04-16 21:37:30

River-snow by Liu Zongyuan
中文原文

千山鸟飞绝,万径人踪灭。

孤舟蓑笠翁,独钓寒江雪。


English Translation

A hundred mountains and no bird,

A thousand paths without a footprint;

A little boat, a bamboo cloak,

An old man fishing in the cold river-snow.

Five-character-quatrain

River Snow ( 江 jiāng 雪 xuě), which deals with  the general idea of man’s loneliness and the specific theme of the philosopher-poet’s isolation in a bitterly cold world. The simple title conveys indescribable but real meaning to anyone who has experienced the sensation of whirling snow and a moving river.

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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