Poems on Crabs from Dream in the Red Chamber

Dream of the Red Chamber narrates how a grand household with a large population and a high GDP figure decayed and collapsed.

During its heyday, a splendid banquet was held at a luxury and spacious pavilion built on a lily pool, with steamed crabs as the main course and a writers’ festival as the core activity, organized by the poets club with members mainly from the literature-loving teenagers within the family. Inspired by the rich tip-of-the-tongue experience, three principle characters in the novel composed three poems about crabs.

Note: The excerpt of the poems in Chinese as shown below may not be entirely faithful to the original text in the masterpiece.

Poem by Jia Baoyu

Jia Baoyu was a teenage boy living in privilege but ungrateful and rebellious. He did not appreciate what he enjoyed and fancied to be born as a servant girl.

脐间宜温贪忘忌,泼醋擂姜兴欲狂。
饕餮王孙常醉酒,横行公子本无肠。

In your greed, you forget how hard it is to digest,
You indulge in the source of sour and pungent.
You shower it on your prey,
From which you chew the flesh away.

You never progress straight ahead,
But block other people’s way like a crab.
With no heart nor spine,
You celebrate cannibalism with a cup of wine.

Poem on Crab by Lin Daiyu

Lin Daiyu was a teenager girl and treated like a princess in the family, yet she forever felt self-pity and never stopped whinging.

An ink painting by Xu Wei, a Ming Dynasty artist

螯封珠玉双双满,壳凸宝脂块块香.
多肉更怜卿八足,铁甲长戈死未忘。

Inside your sharp pincers,
Packed meat is so smooth,
Purer than white jewels.
Under your thick surface,
Treasured substance
Piled together in abundance.

How awesome it is with eight legs,
You crawl faster than anyone else.
But in your long spears and iron armour,
You meet your fate sent by your karma.

COMMENTS FROM MINDS.COM

Eric
I like the poem though. 😊

All Things Chinese
Don’t you think crabs behave like some politicians and media guys? 😛

soxfan1957
You mean crabs and politicians are bottom feeders?

All Things Chinese
They have sharp pincers for attack and thick shells for defence.

Poem by Xue Baochai

Xue Baochai’s background was relatively humble comparing to Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu. Her family was rich but her brother was a gambler. Yet she cherished the spirit of gratitude and joy, thus she was respected and liked by everyone in the household except a few jealous souls.

桂霭桐阴坐举觞,长安涎口盼重阳。
眼前道路无经纬,皮里春秋空黑黄。
酒未敌腥还用菊,性防积冷定须姜。
于今落釜成何益,月浦空馀禾黍香。

The path stretches before your very eyes,
But you can’t tell between straight and crosswise.
Under your strong and illustrious mask,
You are actually empty inside with no heart.

To purge your toxic smell,
We’ll use chrysanthemums’ spell;
To prevent your chill effect,
We’ll get ginger for help.

When you preyed on others this spring,
Did you ever imagine what autumn might bring?
Soon your presence can no longer be found,
Only the moonlight illuminates the land around.

In the season of harvest,
We’ll gather to toast.
Along the Long Peace Avenue,
The celebration shall renew.

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