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  • Julia Min

临江仙· 梅 The Plum Blossoms

临江仙· 梅















The Plum Blossoms

- to the tune of Linjiangxian

translated by Julia Min

Far into the mist extends the private garden.

Barred cloud enfolds tops of pavilions.

For whom in winter frost is she waiting?

Must be the flirting buds on south branches

her cold dreams feel so cosy with sweet kisses.

Stop playing the song “The Fall of Crimsons”,

when she’s blushing with delicate blossoms.

Would this gentle grace win her love’s glimpse,

Or Spring wind cares for her happiness,

Or her pilgrim soul lived to see prunus blooms?


This ci poem was composed in her early days (1129). Together with another one (Lingjiangxian – How deeply shrouded her courtyard), they read like twins. The first line starts with the same first line from Dielianhua by the great Song poet Ouyang Xiu. It was a popular practice in Chinese poetry where popular lines are copied or similar topic and rhyme followed in honor of the original poem. It was also regarded as a bold reaction to challenge the famous poem itself or the poet himself. We could easily come to the conclusion that Li Qingzhao must be highly recognized as a young poet at the time.

Plum blossom is regarded as one the Four Gentlemen. The word ‘gentlemen’ doesn’t bear any gender reference here. It simply means ‘noble character’ . It has been one of the most written topic in Chinese poetry. Here our poet portrayed a young noble lady, living in a mansion with grand gardens and pools, falls into lonely sentiments first for the long winter and then for her young days passing so quickly without much warm memory of romance with her love. It’s a popular theme in literature but sparks with her extraordinary verse that brings in a charming and tempting aftertaste where the plum blooms and the lady in love are fused in a dreamy state, as in Zhuang Zhou’s “Butterfly Dream”. She is here, and she’s not here, both invisible and physical, an epistemological quandary.

Similar boudoir sentiments are widely found in western lady poets in the 19th century. Anne Bronte wrote:

“I love the silent hour of night,

for blissful dreams may then arise,

revealing to my charmed sight

what may not bless my waking eyes.”


1. ‘shen shen shen’ repetition of one word for simple but stronger effect; one of Li Qingzhao’s favorite verse pattern as shown in her later works Shengshengman. So the influence could be from Ouyang Xiu.

2. ‘qiang guan xiu chui’: The fall of Blossoms, a famous musical piece of the time;

3. ‘shou’: tiny, delicate;

4. ‘hen’: pity, regret;

5. ‘fei’: in full bloom;

Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:

lín jiāng xiān · méi

tíng yuàn shēn shēn shēn jǐ xǔ ,

yún chuāng wù gé chūn chí 。

wéi shuí qiáo cuì sǔn fāng zī ,

yè lái qīng mèng hǎo ,

yīng shì fā nán zhī 。

yù shòu tán qīng wú xiàn hèn ,

nán lóu qiāng guǎn xiū chuī 。

nóng xiāng chuī jìn yǒu shuí zhī ,

nuǎn fēng chí rì yě ,

bié dào xìng huā féi 。



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