”The nineteen old poems 古诗十九首“
Harvesting lotus (1)
A lac of sweetgrass
Pick up some for whom?
The one far away
Looking back to old town (2)
But endless journey
Hearts were teared apart (3)
Aging in sorrow (4)
1) The first subject is a lady working in a lac to gather lotus roots for food.
2) Change of subject here: a man on exil thinking about hometown
3) In this "five syllabes poem (五言诗）”，every verse is of different syntax, except the last group of two verses sharing the same pattern:
adv combined word "同心"/ adv coordination 连词 "而"/ verb serving as adv describing a state of action or being "离" / verb "居"
adv combined word 忧伤 / adv coordination 连词 "以" / verb serving as adv describing a state of action or being "终" / verb "老"
However, as a rule that will be further developed in the following decades and centuries, in this group, the two verses follow the same grammatical pattern, but diverse themselves in the tones. Ancient poetry was chanted. There were many tones for each and different words. There are left four tones in modern Chinese language: -, /, v, ` . The first two tones are labelled as "Ping 平", the last two tones as "Ze 仄".
The tones pattern here is therefore: ping ping ze ping ping 平平仄平平/ ping ping ze ping ze 平平仄平仄 We shall have occasions to come back to this quite important characteristic of the more and more codified variation of tones.
4) The rime is all on the second verse of each group: 草 cao, 道 dao, 浩 hao, 老 lao.
The Nineteen old poems 古诗十九首
Today's good party
Guitar reaching far (1)
New piece of music (2)
Deep words in the songs
The truth in the airs 3)
Sharing same wishes
Though nothing is said
Duration of one life
As floating dust
Why not to climb
Nor to aim spots?
Why not to act ?
1) 奋 intense, strengthful
2) 逸 piano, soft, flying far
3) 入神 in extase, beyond life
The Nineteen old poems 古诗十九首
Green green river grass,*
Heavy heavy is
The garden willow.
Lightly lightly she sits
Nicely nicely at the window.
Sweet sweet red powder,
Slim slim white hands.
Singer in the past,
Married to an unstable,
who is not returning.
Difficult to keep
The empty bed alone.
Here, the words "青”，“郁”，“盈”，“皎”，“娥” and “纤” are adjectifs used as adverbs, each repeated side by side to form a combined word describing an active state. The repetition also create a rythme. This method is commonly observed in Yue Fu 乐府 songs.
Words by Fang Wenshan 方文山
Music by Zhou Jielun 周杰伦
Noice of prosperity,
Door to the empty room
Tiring so many
Dreams turn cold
How far indebted for love
If you silently accept,
if you hopelessly wait
In that tower with floating images
how many broken floors
Broken is whose soul
The pain runs straight
Towards a weak light
A crushed door in the mountain
Let me wait
Till history again turns over
Till the wine tastes good
Till you play something
On an ancient guitar
Listening to the youth
The much envied laughters
That history book
Never tolerated tenderness
All is written with much cruelty
Fireworks are easy to kill
People and events, easy to divide
But you are asking if I am serious
A thousand years later
Feelings are accumulated
Who will still be waiting
And that blue book of history
how can it be wrong
Just as a book of Wei
Found in the city of Luo Yang
You followed me
Crossing the gate of the other life
Into the red dust
Under the fine rain
The grass is deep in our hometown
I was told you have still been alone
The city's gate has lost its paint
The root of an old tree remains nearby
On the stone paved street
I heard this: wait longer
Under the light rain
The grass has grown wild in our hometown
I was told you have been staying here
While everybody has left
An air of flute is floating outside the city
and then disappear into a remote village
Our destiny together is falling to the ground
And taking its root and becoming WE
We, in that dark blue temple,
listen to the rain
and hope to last
- Wei (魏）Northern kingdom 403BCE-225ACE
- Luo Yang (洛阳）Capital city where the Kingdom of Jin 晋 settled in after having replaced Wei. Located in today's Henan Province.
"MuLin", seconde part (from Yue fu songs)
Running to battles fields far away, crossing the frontlines in the mountains as if wing-mounted. The northern wind bringing the midnight sounds of drum (1). The icy moonlight shining on solders' and generals' armour. Hundreds of battles, many lives lost. Heroes got home a decade later.
His majesty received them in the palace. Rewards were distributed. One asked Mulin about her wishes. She did not want a high ranked position in the capital. Instead, she asked for a good horse, in order to quickly reach her hometown.
Having had the news of her return, Mulin's parents, in their old age, went out of the city to meet her. Her eldest sister started to put on make-up. Her youngest brother butchered a pig. Mulin went straight to her own rooms, sit on her bed. She took off her army gear, put on her old days' clothes. In front of her mirror near the window, she arranged her hairs soft as clouds, sticked a yellow flower on her forehead.
At the gathering with her friends met in the battlefields, they were very surprised to discover that Mulin was a lady (2).
1) The gardiens at night walk around and through the city every a few hours, using a drum to mark the different blocs of nightly time.
2) Mulin needed to disguise herself as a man to be able to become a soldier.
The divorced lady went to see her mother. Everywhere she went, she carried the dishonour as her shadow. Her mother, not expecting this out-coming, clapped her hands with surprise: "I taught you weaver when you were thirteen. At fourteen you were able to make clothes. At fifteen you could play guitar. At sixteen you know rules and politeness. At seventeen I married you out very well, thinking you wouldn't disappoint your husband's family. What you have done there, so that you are sent back here, this way, without notice?" Lan-Zhi told her mother:" I am really innocent." Her mother then felt great sorrow.
A dozen of days after her return, the district leader sent them a matchmaker. According to her, his third son was about eighteen years' old, handsome, and already eloquent and well-versed.
The mother told the daughter to deal with this mariage proposal herself.
Lan-Zhi answered with tears: "On the day of my departure, my husband reminded me again and again that we will never let ourselves separated. If I now break such a promise, I am afraid a new mariage will not bring me happiness. Please feel free to decline this proposal, and let us discuss later on."
Lan-Zhi's mother frankly told the person: "Our poor and humble family has such a daughter that she was juste sent back home from her husband's family. If she was unable to be a small mandarin's wife, how could she suit a district leader's son? Please inform yourself more widely. I cannot give a quick consent."
A few days later, came another matchmaker. He said he already proposed a girl from a titled family to the district leader's son. Then he informed Lan-Zhi's family that the mayor's fifth son was nice and still single: "Since the mayor wishes his son to marry Lan-Zhi, I come to your respectable door to deliver the good news."
Lan-Zhi's mother thanked him: "My daughter already made promise to someone. Me an old mother do not have a say on the matter."
Lan-Zhi's eldest brother, when hearing this conversation, became very irritated. He turned to his sister, and said:"Why you do not think twice when making a decision! You married a small mandarin first, now you'll have the opportunity to marry a gentleman's son. This is a difference between the sky and the ground. What an honour to you! If you refuse such a mariage, what will be your future?"
Lan-Zhi raised her head and answered:"My brother is right. I left home to serve my husband's family. I didn't expect I would have to come back to live under my brother's roof. I want to behave well to the eyes of my brother. How dare I to be capricious? Although I have commitment with my former husband, our reunion will be impossible. You can right now give them the consent, I will remarry."
The matchmaker stood up and expressed his great satisfaction. He went back with this good news to the mayor his employer: "I, your humble worker, have well-accomplished the mission. The family reacted very positively, so there will be a happy union." (1) The mayor was very happy. He consulted the calendar and the book of fortunes, and found they should marry the two young people within the month, the six positions of both the sun and the moon being in harmony. The thirtieth would be the perfect day. It was already the twenty-seventh. The mayor asked the matchmaker to organize the wedding. Words were spread, everybody was hurrying, people, cars and boats running as floating clouds. Boats were painted blue et white birds, flags embroidered with dragons fluttering at their four corners. Golden cars with jade tires advanced in the wind. Horses with white and black hairs slowed their paces, golden tassels hanging down from the seats. Three million coins were attached by blue cords. Three hundreds rolls of colourful cotton. Delicacies from Guangzhou's market. Four to five hundred people gathered at the mayor's property.
The mother asked the daughter: "The mayor just sent us a letter. Tomorrow they will come to assist your departure and your journey to your new home. Why you are not yet preparing your dress? Please do not fail the matter!"
The daughter said no word, covered her face with a handkerchief, her tears falling as rain. She moved her chair decorated with coloured glaze to the front window. She took scissors and a rule in her left hand, a big piece of silk in her right hand. In the morning she made a double layer skirt. In the evening she finished a very thin shirt. The sun was retreating more and more. She kept crying about the upcoming event.
Le former husband of Lan-Zhi, having heard the news, asked for a leave. When he arrived close to Lan-Zhi's home, his horse started to neigh sadly. The wife recognized the horse's voice, she put on shoes and hurried out. With a heavy heart she looked afar, knowing who was coming. When her husband approached, she raised her hand to tap the horse. "Since my husband left me, she said with a deep sigh, too many things happened, not as I wished before, and yet my husband cannot know the details. I have my parents, plus my brothers pushed me hard. They promised me to another man. What else can you hope?"
The husband said to his young wife: "Congratulations for your moving up. The big stone is still heavy, it will remain a thousand years. The reed can be resistant for a moment, but it gives in fast. You will become a noble lady, and I will alone face the yellow stream (2)!"
The wife exclaimed: "Why you speak this way! We are both unable to control our fate. If you go to the yellow stream, so will I. Let us meet down there. Do not forget our words today!" They hold each other's hands for a moment, then parted away to their own home. What a farewell between a couple so young, and yet already under the shadow of death. They found no word to express their despair. Their only wish now was to quit this world, and to never try to survive without dignity.
The husband went to announce his decision to his mother: "Today the wind is cold, the cold wind is destroying trees. Heavy frost is damaging the orchid in our garden. Today your son, like dusk, will soon be gone, leaving behind his longly mother. I made the plan myself, please no longer blame ghosts and gods. I hope your destiny will be as solid as a southern mountain stone, and your health very good."
The mother's tears were running when the son spoke. "You are son of an honourable family, you have a position in the municipality. Absolutely do not take your own life away just for a woman. You and that woman are not of same rank, it is not wrong for you to leave her. Our east side neighbour has a good daughter. Her beauty is famous in the city. Let your mother go to ask her to marry you, the answer will arrive within a day."
The son prostrated and withdrew. His long sigh resonated in his empty room. Then he made his mind. He looked around his room, in very tensed mood.
On the wedding day, horses and cattle screamed. Lan-Zhi was guided into a blue tent (3). At the sunset, the quiet was back. "My destiny ends today, she thought, my soul will leave even if my body remains!" She took off her silk shoes, and holding her skirt, she went down to the clear water in the pond.
When her husband heard the news, he understood there would be no more hope. He wondered for some time under a tree in his garden. Then he chose a south-est facing (4) branch to hang himself.
The families agreed to bury the young couple together, and to settle them near the mountain Hua. Parasol trees were planted at both sides. Their branches meets, their leaves are connected. A couple of birds came to reside on the trees. Their names are Yuan and Yang (5). They sing to each other every day, till mid night. People passing here would stop, to listen to the birds. Widows would have their mind confused by the song. Thanks to the coming generations, to keep the lesson unforgotten.
2) 黄泉 （huang quan), place to live after life, for the non-enlightens.
3) From late Han dynastie to Tang time, in the Northern regions, people celebrated weddings in a blue tent set up beside the house.
4) The young wife's family lives south-est of the husband's city. South-est, for Feng Shui (风水) believers, is also considered a positive and hopeful direction.
5) This sort of bird is considered as love bird, still today.
To the north shore I wish
to send plum flowers.
So black are her hairs,
her coat, abricot red.
Where is Xi Zhou? Just
a few strokes of oars away.
Shrikes leave at sunset;
Winds blow through ube tree.
Here she steps out of home
with an emerald tin.
Absent is her lover,
she goes to the southern pond.
The automne flowers
of lotus merged with her.
She picks the lotus seeds,
Pure as water they are.
In her sleeves she holds
the seeds with read heart.
In vain she expects him,
Watching the flying swans
in the crowded Xi Zhou's sky,
She climbs to viewpoint.
For all days long, there
she leans on the railing.
The railing zig-zags afar,
her hands hang down like jade.
The high sky, outside,
ripples like green sea.
The sea wonders as the mood;
your sorrow is mine.
If the south wind knows me
it'll blow my dream to Xi Zhou
My seasons full of
Tears and songs, when
departing on my phoenix
Moonlight covers the galaxy
The automne wind rises
bringing fresh joy
Free from the clouds
I run to the moon
- Romantic legend of the cowherd (牛郎）and the weaving girl (织女). They are both gods in the sky, and they can be seen as two stars. The weaving girl is a granddaughter of the celestial keen. After she met with the cowherd, she stopped to weave clothes made of clouds for the keen. The keen separated the couple with galaxy, allowing them reunion only on the seventh day of the seventh month each year, according to Chinese agricultural calendar.
This day is still celebrated today among other traditional holidays.
- Both songs seem to be written by a woman who might be expressing her own sorrows and joys through the legend of the weaving girl.
The bambu flute is only an instrument
borrowed by the sounds so pure so light
From where comes the charm of a song?
Voice and intensity guided by the heart
Arriving at the viewpoint,
The river quietly runs below
Pure and cool.
Perfuming as the orchid
At the waterfront
In the sky,
A golden swan is flying high
My bow is ready
Oh let me reach this bird
Let me live till eternalty
Oh the highest ! I wish you know my feelings,
And my love will last forever.
For me to part from you,
The mountains must become plains,
The river must dry out,
The thunder must strike in the middle of winter,
The snow must fall in summer,
The sky and the planet must become one.