Selected Classic Chinese Poems

March to Frontier (从军行)

The remains of Jade Gate Pass of the Great Wall

The remains of the Jade Gate Pass of the Great Wall in the Qinghai (Blue Sea) section, built during the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago.

Author: Wang Changling (王昌龄 698 – 757), a Tang Dynasty poet, statesman and army officer.  

Snow mountains darkened by long clouds from the Blue Sea,
A lonely city in distance is Great Wall’s Jade Gate Pass.
My golden armour is worn out during combat in desertland,
Yet I will not return home until Loulan is reclaimed.

青海长云暗雪山,
孤城遥望玉门关。
​黄沙百战穿金甲,
不破楼兰终不还。

Warriors dance to a new pipa tune,
With thoughts for loved ones at home.
Unsettling is my concerns for the nation over the border war,
Calmly is an autumn moon watching over the Great Wall.

琵琶起舞换新聲,
总是关山旧别情。
撩乱边愁听不尽,
高高秋月挂长城。

The Poem in Kunqu Tune

Singer: Wu Shuang (吴双), Kunqu Opera actor from Shanghai

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS

Bily “iqra” Base:

Sounds sad.

All Things Chinese: 

Sad, because a warrior is dancing on the knife-edge and could be done away with at any moment, therefore, may never have a chance to see their loved ones and enjoy family life.

However, it is also a poem full of pride and determination. To serve and even die for the common good is an honour.

March towards the Execution Ground

A poem penned by Tan Sitong (1865-1898) on the eve of his execution for the crime of attempting to change a backward and racist social system brought into China by Manchus.

Should I run and hide,
Dodge the death for another day and night?

Nope!

I hold my sword in front,
Laughing at the sky aloud.

I am proud to fall on the execution field,
Paving the way for a better world to unfold.

望门投止思张俭
忍死须臾待杜根
我自横刀向天笑
去留肝胆两昆仑

The Loushan Pass (娄山关)

Loushan Pass

Loushan Pass – a bottleneck passageway in Mt Lou bordering Guizhou and Sichuan Provinces

The PAL Chair

Beijing Opera interpretation by Mr Zhang Junqiu (张君秋), one of the four greatest Beijing Opera artists for female roles

Author: Mao Zedong (毛泽东, 1893-1976), a poet, calligrapher, statesman and the founding father of PRC. 

Amid ferocious wind from the west,
Under the morning moon in a season of frost,
The cry from a wild goose is heard,
And the sound of horse hooves clattering on road,
And the hum of bugles on a low note.

西风烈,
长空雁叫霜晨月。
霜晨月,
马蹄声碎,
喇叭声咽。

Who says the strong Pass is an iron wall?
We are crossing its summit once more.
And crossing the summit,
When the hills roll like waves in the ocean,
When the sun is blood-red and dying.

雄关漫道真如铁,
而今迈步从头越。
从头越,
苍山如海,
残阳如血。

Jinggang Hill

Calligraphy in the wild cursive hand Poem and calligraphy by Chairman Mao.

Flags and banners flying below,
On hills, drums and bulges echo.
Besieged by murderous foes, layer upon layer,
We stand our ground firmly, preparing to fire!

山下旌旗在望,
山头鼓角相闻。
敌军围困万千重,
我自岿然不动。

Winter Clouds

Author: Mao Zedong (毛泽东, 1893-1976), a poet, calligrapher, revolution leader and the founding father of the PRC. The poem was composed in 1962 when China experienced unprecedented pressure from the natural and the international environment.   

The clouds dark, the snow fluffy & thick,
The land is pale as flowers all fade.

Though frosty waves rolling through the sky,
A sign of warm breath can be detected in the land.

True heroes have no fear of wild animals,
Brave warriors can expel any devils.

Winter plums just love the chilly trial,
Only noisy flies will perish in a cold spell.

雪压冬云白絮飞,万花纷谢一时稀。
高天滚滚寒流急,大地微微暖气吹。
独有英雄驱虎豹,更无豪杰怕熊罴。
梅花欢喜漫天雪,冻死苍蝇未足奇

Orange Island in Changsha

The Hills Are All Red in Autumn – Ink painting by Li Keran (李可染 1907 – 1989)

Author: Mao Zedong (毛泽东, 1893-1976), a poet, calligrapher, statesman and the first leader of PRC, composed at Orange Island in the fall of 1925. 

At the tip of Orange Island,
Alone I stand in the autumn cold.
To the north, the Xiang River ceaselessly flows,
In the front, a panorama of red hills expansively unfolds.
On the water that is so blue like crystal,
Hundreds of boats swiftly come and go.
While eagles cleave the air above,
Fish glide in the limpid deep blow.
Under the sky of the chilly indigo,
All lives try to send free of their soul.
Mulling over this wild view,
I wonder who holds sway in this world.

独立寒秋,湘江北去,橘子洲头。
看万山红遍,层林尽染;
漫江碧透,百舸争流。
鹰击长空,鱼翔浅底,
万类霜天竞自由。
怅寥廓,问苍茫大地,
谁主沉浮。

I was here with a throng of comrades,
So vivid those hectic months and years.
We were young and full of beans,
No opinion was too bold to express.
We countered the rich and the privileged,
No more than a bunch of pests.
The memory is still fresh –
In the centre of the torrent,
We struck the water with arms bared,
Waves surged high to reach the mid of the air,
Halting the advance of the speedy jets.

携来百侣曾游,
忆往昔峥嵘岁月稠。
恰同学少年,风华正茂;
书生意气,挥斥方遒。
指点江山,激扬文字,
粪土当年万户侯。
曾记否,到中流击水,
浪遏飞舟。

Day of Double Nine (重阳)

Calligraphy of the poem by the author

Author: Mao Zedong (毛泽东, 1893-1976), a poet, calligrapher, statesman and the first leader of the PRC. 

Nine is the biggest yang digit in I Ching, thus lunar September 9 is the traditional Senior’s Day in China, known as Double Ninth Festival.

Man ages fast but nature forever young
Double Ninth came each year
And Double Ninth again comes around
When chrysanthemums smell sweeter
Particularly on the battleground

人生易老天难老,
岁岁重阳。
今又重阳,
战地黄花分外香。

The world is loud with the autumn wind
It is not the season of spring
Yet it is better than the spring
As the frosty land is boundless and clean

一年一度秋风劲,
不似春光。
胜似春光,
寥廓江天万里霜。

The First Full Moon Night (元宵)

Author: Tang Yin (唐寅 1470 – 1524), a Ming Dynasty poet, calligrapher and painter

Lunar January 15, the first full moon night, is the first family reunion occasion with lantern shows and riddle cracking games.

Without the light
It will be a boring moon night
Without the moon fully round
The spring has not truly arrived

有灯无月不娱人,
有月无灯不算春。
春到人间人似玉,
灯烧月下月如银。

In lanterns, hairpins glow
At the head of the village girls
Melodies from flutes
Rising from all roads

满街珠翠游村女,
沸地笙歌赛社神。
不展芳尊开口笑,
如何消得此良辰。

The Lantern Festival Night (元夕)

Author: Tang Yin (辛弃疾 1140 – 1207), a Ming Dynasty poet, calligrapher and painter

Lunar January 15, the first full moon night, is traditionally Chinese lantern festival. 

Night wind from the east blows open thousands of flowers
And blows down fireworks like a shower of meteors
Scented horse carriages little the roads
Gorgeous tunes from passionate flutes with echoes
In the sky a bright full moon slowly rolls
On the ground are fish and dragon lantern shows

东风夜放花千树
更吹落,星如雨
宝马雕车香满路
凤箫声动
玉壶光转
一夜鱼龙舞

Ladies dressed up with head decor in gold
Giggling when passing by with air in perfume
People search in the crowds to locate their hero
Only find he stands at a dark corner on his own

蛾儿雪柳黄金缕
笑语盈盈暗香去
众里寻他千百度
蓦然回首
那人却在
灯火阑珊处

Xin Qiji himself was a hero defending Chinese civilisation against barbaric and aggressive Tartars (the early form of Manchus and Mongols).

Early Departure from White King City (朝发白帝城)

Li Bai's poem penned by Bo Xilai

Wild cursive hand calligraphy of Li Bai’s poem penned by Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing leader

AuthorLi Bai (Li Po 701—762), a Tang Dynasty poet

At dawn in the rosy clouds, I left White King City,
A thousand lis to the town of Jianglin just a day’s journey.
While monkeys from both sides shout and yell,
My boat has already passed myriads of hills.

朝辞白帝彩云间,
千里江陵一日还。
两岸猿声啼不尽,
轻舟已过万重山。

White King City (白帝城) is a place with historical significance. It was where Liu Bei (刘备), the King of Shu (蜀国), one of the three kingdoms at the end of the Han Dynasty (206 – 220), appointed his son Adou (阿斗) as his successor on his deathbed.

“If Adou is good enough, please help him,” he said to Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮), his PM and one of the top I Ching masters in Chinese history. “If Adou is proven to be hopeless, you can replace him.”

Adou later was proven to be completely hopeless, but Zhuge Liang refused to replace him with himself. After he died Adou handed over the entire Shu territory to the Kingdom of Wei (魏国) in exchange for maintaining his royal title and a lavish lifestyle.

That was how the Romance of the Three Kingdoms ended.

Ascend West Terrace (上西楼)

AuthorLi Yu (李煜 937 – 978), the last emperor of Southern Tang

Alone, in silence,
I ascend the west terrace.
The moon in the crescent
Looks like a hook, unpleasant.
A single Wutong tree in a quiet patio
In a season of fall, so dismal.

无言独上西楼,
月如钩。
寂寞梧桐深院锁清秋。

Cut it apart,
It’s still intact;
Tidy it up,
Even more chaotic.
The lives in separation,
A taste of desolation.

剪不断,
理还乱,
是离愁。
别是一般滋味在心头。

After Emperor Li Yu lost his kingdom in the prosperous south of the Yangtze River, he became a prisoner of Song and was locked in a small residential quarter in a bleak northern city far away from his homeland.

It was during that period that he produced some best classic Chinese poems.

One autumn night, he again ascended a terrace looking in the direction where his former kingdom was. The scene was murky and gloomy under a slim crescent of the moon, and so was his heart, thus one of the most cited Chinese verses in history was born.

Ode of Winter Plums (咏梅)

Digital painting created by Chinese artist

Digital painting created by Chinese artist

Author: Mao Zedong (毛泽东, 1893-1976), a poet, calligraphy, statesman and the founding father of modern China. 

The winter plum blossom in traditional Chinese culture is the symbol of strength and humbleness with the courage to stand against the undesirable trend.

Windy rains observe spring to go,
Stormy snow welcomes spring to return.
On the ice-clad rock high and sheer,
A flower blooms pure and fair.

风雨送春归,
飞雪迎春到。
已是悬崖百丈冰,
犹有花枝俏。

She has no intention to win the beauty contest in spring,
But content to be a messenger for the season that is coming.
When the land is fully covered by blossom,
She happily disappears from the mountain.

俏也不争春,
只把春来报。
待到山花漫时,
她在丛中笑。

Staying in Mountain at Autumn Night (山居秋暝)

Author: Wang Wang Wei (王维, 701-761), a Tang Dynasty poet, statesman, musician and painter. 

Empty hill
Fresh after drizzle
In autumn twilight
Air is chill

Noise from a bamboo grove
When washing women return home
Lilies wave in a lake
As fishing boats sail through

A brilliant moon
illuminates pine woods
A limpid brook
Flows on rocks.

Rowdy spring blossoms wane
As they soon or late may
While in the quiet season of fall
Hermits feel truly at home

空山新雨后
天气晚来秋
明月松间照
清泉石上流

竹喧归浣女
莲动下渔舟
随意春芳歇
王孙自可留

The Poem Expressed with Kunqu Tune

Singer: Cai Zhengren (蔡正仁), Kunqu Opera actor from Shanghai

A Village Beyond the Mountains (山居秋暝)

Added on 23 November 2019

Author: Lu You (陸游 1125-1210), a Song Dynasty poet. 

Beyond the rolling hills and winding rivers
When you thought you came to the dead-end
There you found dark willows and bright blossoms
And a tranquil village among the lush vegetation.

山穷水复疑无路
柳暗花明又一村

COMMENTS FROM MINDS:

soxfan1957
Do you know what poem this is? Appears he wrote several thousands of them.

All Things Chinese
It’s about his bushwalking experience: Beyond the rolling hills and winding rivers, I discovered a flowery village where people lived a simple yet content life 🧐

The moral of the poem: Don’t give up and you will eventually see a way out.

A Review of Shaoju Opera Journey To The West

The review on Shaoju Opera “Monkey King Subdues Demon Three Times”, a story from Journey To The West was done in a form of a classical Chinese poem by Chairman Mao Zedong. The calligraphy was also produced by Mao, one of the best calligraphers in Chinese history. 

Amid thunderstorms and lightning,
A demon rose from a skeleton.
The monk has compassion but not wisdom,
That encourages the demon to bring forth misfortune.

A lost Tang poem rediscovered in the 21st century

This fine Tang poem wasnt known to the public until very recently. When a porcelain pot of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) was examined for an auction that is held at Beijing International Hotel on September 7 -10, the dealers noticed a verse inscribed on the pot. However, the verse is not included in the Complete Collection of Tang Poems (《全唐诗》).

Once depart, a thousand miles apart
The end of the separation is not in sight
A month, thirty days straight
Not a single night, you’re not in my mind

一别行千里
来时未有期
月中三十日
无夜不相思

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