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  • Julia Min

南乡子.宿州上元 My Lantern Festival at Suzhou


原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

英译: 闵晓红(2024.02)













My Lantern Festival at Suzhou

-to the tune of Nanxiangzi

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

English translation: Julia Min (Feb. 2024)

Nature’s fresh again as misty rain sooths the terrain.

Horses and carriages bustle out for a taste of spring.

Why not stay longer for the beautiful wine in here?

and what’s more,                                                          

This old boy feels at home in East of Yangtse River.


The sky’s vibrant with bursting fire stars and flowers

Over rolling hills of budding green n rippling waters.

Life on earth is cosier than up there above the clouds.

and there’s more, -                                                          

I’m heading to ‘East Huainan’s Best’, Zhenzhou Town.


1.     Lantern Festival: The Chinese New Year, usually in February, is a traditional festival to celebrate the starting of the spring season, hence called also “ the Spring Festival”. Lantern Festival is the last day, or more accurately, the 15th evening when people can celebrate under the first full moon of the Chinese lunar year.  It is also a time when people start spring outings to the country. The bustling streets are decorated with colourful lanterns, and shops sell them with riddles written on them. The customer with the right answer is often rewarded with the lantern or some other gift. The festive atmosphere is highest when there are lion and fireworks, dragon dances, parades, and other local celebrations. Every family will eat small glutinous rice balls, called yuanxiao’. The round shape of food and the round moon all send out people’s best wishes for the new year for more family reunions and more fulfilments in life.

2.     East of Yangtse River: sometimes referred to River South (江南) in Zhejiang province in East China today. River East has been generally considered as the richest area since Song dynasty. River South prevails after Southern Song moved its political centre to Ling’an, Hangzhou which was the actual capital city, the very source of the Silk Road, a most advanced place on Earth back then.

3.     East Huainan’s Best: referring to Huainan Road East (Today’s Yangzhou area in the east of China) which is not a road but an administrative state like today’s province in China, with a population of 1.3 million at the time. It was considered as one of the richest and most advanced districts in the Song Dynasty, governing 10 prefectures with Yangzhou as the government centre and Zhenzhou recognized as the No 1 town of Huainan.


There are two regions where he would like to settle for his retirement, which had been lingering in Su Shi’s mind ever since his prime years,  but never really came true in his life just like Lord Xie in his “Fairwell to my Friend Canliao” (‘I shall return on the waves of Yangtze River, -/A deal sealed like Lord Xie’s to retire in the east.’《八声甘州.寄参寥子》). One wish was to return to his native place Meizhou at the foot of Mt Min, considered then the source of the Yangtse River in the west of China. The other wish was also a return, but to his new home in the east of China, the beautiful lower region of the Yangtse River before it feeds to East Sea. It has been the most popular choice among Chinese gentlemen since the Song. It has been a most prosperous region of China, even today.


The time for this spontaneous composition could be 1085 after Huangzhou and before his new post in East China. It could be during the celebration where he enjoyed a few cups of wine with his friends. Readership can easily feel the free and breezy vibes under each line.

The poem opens with a broad picture of a bustling town in his favourite east of the River, followed by the night celebration with lanterns and fireworks. ‘Life on earth’ implies his love for a life among the people, whereas ‘up there above the clouds’ connotes the Forbidden City in the Capital.



  2. picture from逆水寒开发组


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