Plum Blossoms

The sky is light gray, there is a dampness on the road, a bit of wind but no rain – it is just such a day and the wild plum in the backyard is almost in bloom.

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Li Qingzhao: Song to the tune of “Pusaman”

Translation and artwork: Lena Tan, 2006

Li Qingzhao (c.1083-aft.1149) was the daughter of a respected scholar and official in Song dynasty China. Her husband was often traveling on official business, perhaps accounting for the recurrent theme of aloneness in her poetry, although the loneliness of women was a common subject for this form of poetry written to the tunes of popular songs. In 1126, the Song capital fell to northern invaders and the court retreated southward to establish a new capital in Hangzhou. Li’s husband died at this time and she was left on her own to relocate her household.

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More poets…

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To the Mid-Autumn Moon

Chang-E in her moon palace; Mid-autumn festival 2003

Chang-E in her moon palace; mid-autumn festival 2003

 

Mid-autumn festival, sipping osmanthus tea and nibbling on lotus mooncake.

The Song poet Li Qingzhao 李清照 (c.1083-aft.1149) posed a riddle:

Naturally, it ranks first among flowers.
The plum surely is jealous,
The chrysanthemum should be ashamed;
It opens by the painted railing, capping the mid-autumn.




(from “Partridge Sky” 鷓鴣天, 暗淡)

Another Song poet Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037-1101) raised his wine cup, and, thinking of his brother far away, sang to the full moon:

We can only hope to live long,
And across a thousand li, together cling to its beauty.


嬋娟

(from “Prelude to the Water Melody” 調頭, 有, written in 1076 )

Translations by Lena Tan