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  • Julia Min

临江仙.送钱穆父 A Farewell Drink with Qian Mufu


原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

英译: 闵晓红(2024.03)













A Farewell Drink with Qian Mufu

-to the tune of The Celestial Man by the River

Chinese original: Su Shi (11th AC, social name 'Dongpo')

English translation: Julia Min (Mar. 2024)

Since last time we parted at the capital city gate,

Three times we’ve changed for the same kindling.

Travelling the world not by choice but by fate,

You still honour the smile like a breath of spring.

The deep old well doesn’t stir a single wave.

A bamboo tree gets joints for integrity in autumn.


It’s a shame this very night will see you sail away

Just yourself, a pale moon, and wandering clouds.

When can we meet again after the drink of today?

Don’t frown, singing girl, your young eyebrows.-

Life is just a long journey of toil and moil.

And I, also a wanderer in the endless crowd.


The year 1091 saw Su Shi governing Hangzhou again in the east of China. It was a very productive time for him not just in poetry but in his contributions to the city. His friend Mufu, however, was undergoing a downturn in his career being assigned from the capital to Yuezhou, a populous place south of the Yangtse River, and then to Yingzhou, a desolate town up north that had been heavily struck by earthquake, flood and long drought. The grim prospect of the challenging post as Yingzhou Governor could have crushed a gentleman’s expectation for a promising career, but Qianmu was a man with a free and easy attitude towards life changes, still able to stay optimistic with a smile about the hardship ahead. Dongpo deeply admired his sophisticated and mature personality, comparing him to a calm well surface and bamboo of upright integrity.


Then he was a bit sad as the short reunion came to an end, sighing that his friend had to continue his journey up north. Well, sadness could touch him but never stayed in him for long, as we all know. His optimistic vigour would soon turn him to the sunny side, well this time, to a broad-minded acceptance of sufferings, making peace with whatever comes along on his own journey. The whole poem is about his friend, but every line is also a reflection of Dongpo himself.


  1. picture from 知乎@李兆香


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