from The Art of Writing

Lu Ji
261 – 303


Sometimes words come hard, they resist me
till I pluck them from deep water like hooked fish;
sometimes they are birds soaring out of a cloud
that fall right into place, shot with arrows,
and I harvest lines neglected for a hundred generations,
rhymes underheard for a thousand years.
I won’t touch a flower already in morning bloom
but quicken the unopened evening buds.
In a blink I see today and the past,
put out my hand and touch all the seas.

Translation by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

Poem of Sorrow and Anger

Cai Yan
178 – 249

My dwelling is often covered by frost and snow,
The foreign winds bring again spring and summer;

They gently blow into my robes,
And chillingly shrill into my ear;

Emotions stirred, I think of my parents,
Whilst I draw a long sigh of endless sorrows.

Whenever guests visit from afar,
I would often make joy of their tidings;

I lost no time in throwing eager questions,
Only to find that the guests were not from my home town.

The Celestial Market Street

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 130th birthday.

Guo Moruo
1892 – 1978


The street lights are on in a distance
As if numerous stars show.
The bright stars loom in the above
As if numerous street lights glow.
I believe there must be a beautiful market street
In that aerial heaven with cloud clear.
The goods displayed on that street
Must be rarities which we don’t have here.
You see, that shallow Milky Way
Must be not very wide.
The cowherd and weaving lady separated by it
Must be able to visit each other on a ride.
I believe at this moment along that street
Sauntering there must be they.
If you doubt, please look at that shooting star,
Which may be the lantern they are taking on their way.

Translation by Yang Xu

Plucking Mulberries

We present this work in honor of the 375th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Xia Wanchun
1631 – 1647


Willow catkins are swept up by wind and rain
Down on the ground, they roll like blobs of cotton
Down on the ground, they roll like blobs of cotton,
Revealing the spring breeze’s weakness at the pavilion.
Privately I relate my painful memory of a lost country
To the Yangtze River that flows to the east
Its whole length being filled with my grief.

Translation by Yuan Singpei

On Climbing Orchid Mountain In The Autumn To Zhang

We present this work in honor of the Chung Yeung Festival.

Meng Haoran
d. 740


On a northern peak among white clouds
You have found your hermitage of peace;
And now, as I climb this mountain to see you,
High with the wildgeese flies my heart.
The quiet dusk might seem a little sad
If this autumn weather were not so brisk and clear;
I look down at the river bank, with homeward-bound villagers
Resting on the sand till the ferry returns;
There are trees at the horizon like a row of grasses
And against the river’s rim an island like the moon
I hope that you will come and meet me, bringing a basket of wine
And we’ll celebrate together the Mountain Holiday.

A String of Bright Beacon Fires

We present this work in honor of China’s National Day.

Yang Jiong
650 – c. 695


A String of bright beacon fires lights up the Capital;
My blood’s boiling, my heart’s crying out for battle!
Leaving Changan with royal warrant hastily,
Armoured cavalries aim to besiege the enemy city.

Painted banners are dimmed by the heavy snows pelting,
Thundering war drums are heard amidst the gusts howling.
O, To be a fighting centurion I’d be most willing,
Rather than a verse-reciting scholarly weakling!

Crimson Flooding into the River

We present this work in honor of the 115th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Qiu Jin
1875 – 1907


Just a short stay at the Capital
But it is already the mid autumn festival
Chrysanthemums infect the landscape
Autumn is making its mark
The infernal isolation has become unbearable here
All eight years of it make me long for my home
It is the bitter guile of them forcing us women into femininity
We cannot win!
Despite our ability, men hold the highest rank
But while our hearts are pure, those of men are rank
My insides are afire in anger at such an outrage
How could vile men claim to know who I am?
Heroism is borne out of this kind of torment
To think that so putrid a society can provide no camaraderie
Brings me to tears!

Translation by Michael A. Mikita, III