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减字木兰花 Budding blooms - to the tune of Jianzi Mangnolia












Budding blooms

- To the tune of Jianzi Mangnolia

written by Li Qingzhao ( 12th century)

translated by Julia Min

From a flower peddler in neighbourhood,

I bought budding blooms in spring mood.

The pink tips are covered in thick dews,

twinkling with gleaming golden hues.

Her natural beauty may charm my mate.

I regret my silly choice, surely too late.

So pinned on hair near my cheeks fair,

I wear the blossom for him to compare.


Composed in her early marriage days when she was still a teenage girl, this ci poem is the only one in this music tune pattern from her collection left today. She was the happiest lady in the world living with her beloved husband who was then a carefree student at the Royal Academy in the capital city of Northern Song Dynasty. A glimpse of their daily life is manifested here, which is a treat for us to enjoy, especially the clever and witted zoom-in of a minute moment in the secret little mind of a young lady.

Other versions for your reference (茅于美):


1. jiǎn zì mù lán huā – the music pattern for this ci poem;

2. chūn yù fang – spring flowers that are just budding, which most likely refers to plum blossoms , the first bloom in spring.

3. tú: used as an adverb here, meaning ‘in vain”;

Pinyin and word-for-word translation:

jiǎn zì mù lán huā – the music pattern Jianzi Mangnolia;

mài huā dān shàng – flower peddler loads on;

mǎi dé yī zhī chūn yù fàng – bought one branch of Spring Budding;

lèi rǎn qīng yún – teardrops soaked evenly;

yóu dài tóng xiá xiǎo lù hén – as if with red rays morning dews traces;

pà láng cāi dào – worried that my husband might think;

nú miàn bú rú huā miàn hǎo – my face not as pretty as the flower;

yún bìn xié zān – cloud hair sideway pin;

tú yào jiāo láng bǐ bìng kàn – in vain ask husband to compare;


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