The Beautiful Xi Shi
- Poetry of Wang Wei


- Last updated: 2024-04-19 09:19:55

The Beautiful Xi Shi by Wang Wei








English Translation

Since beauty is honoured all over the Empire,

How could Xi Shi remain humbly at home? --

Washing clothes at dawn by a southern lake --

And that evening a great lady in a palace of the north:

Lowly one day, no different from the others,

The next day exalted, everyone praising her.

No more would her own hands powder her face

Or arrange on her shoulders a silken robe.

And the more the King loved her, the lovelier she looked,

Blinding him away from wisdom.

...Girls who had once washed silk beside her

Were kept at a distance from her chariot.

And none of the girls in her neighbours' houses

By pursing their brows could copy her beauty.


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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