top of page
  • Julia Min

和董传留别 Farewell, My Dear Friend Dong Chuan


原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

英译: 闵晓红(2023.12)










Farewell, My Dear Friend Dong Chuan

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

English translation: Julia Min (Dec. 2023)

A man of knowledge glows in spirit,

Though dressed in basics roughly made.

You have the golden senna pave your way

After so many years with old school mates.

You’d be so proud, and surrounded by fans,

As the Gold List shows in fresh ink 'Dong Chuan'.

Worry not if you can’t afford the horse in spring.     

Wealthy ladies in carriages would be your friends.


1.     ‘ golden senna’: hinting the time of this composition by mentioning the summer flower when all the applicants in the capital were fully occupied with reviewing for the annual Imperial Exam to be held in autumn. It’s said there were so many golden senna trees in the city that a popular saying goes: “ It’s a world of busy students in a world of golden senna.”(“槐花黄,举子忙”)

2.     ‘the Gold List’: refers to the Royal list of enrolled students;

3.     ‘the horse … carriages: The exam usually took place in autumn, and the celebration would be held in the coming spring. Big crowds would gather the street cheering to the winners, with the leader on the top list, called Zhuang Yuan, riding a decorated horse through the gallery. And this day was also locally called the Dating Day where unmarried ladies of highly-ranked families would watch from their carriages choosing an ideal mate for their future.


It was during his 3-year probationary period when Su Shi first met Dong Chuan, and they had been great friends ever since. The two young talents had many enjoyable moments sharing views on life and career, especially their ambitions of great achievements for the country. They both loved poetry and often corresponded in verses echoing each other’s poems. This poem starts with a powerful line showing Su Shi’s appreciation of his friend’s graceful dispositions in contrast with his financial status. It was a common scenario that most of the applicants became short of money after years of focusing solely on their studies and also had to spend a considerable sum for months of accommodations in the capital city. Su Shi and his brother had a similar experience. Here, he seemed quite confident in Dong Chuan’s success in the Exam, encouraging him to go ahead holding his head high, even teasing him that he would get so busy with fans following him in the streets he might even find his ideal lady for marriage. Money should not be a concern by then.

The first line in Chinese ‘腹有诗书气自华’(A man of knowledge glows in spirit) has become a popular saying in praise of a well-educated man whose spiritual aura shows an impact on his surroundings.



bottom of page