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  • Julia Min

忆少年.疏疏整整Her Boughs are Thinly Spotted, Poised for Grace














Her Boughs are Thinly Spotted, Poised for Grace

- to the musical tune ‘The Young Days’

written by Li Qingzhao (12th Century)

trans. by Julia Min

Her boughs are thinly spotted, poised for grace.

A light touch of pink jade on her dewy face,

like young love, her eyes ripple gleaming waves.

I’m fond of the phrase ‘the roaming perfume’,

but amused by some poet’s ‘pale pear blossoms’.

Horses are galloping to keep the running pace.

From the carriage window I look back in vain, -

just a world of dark waters and white sands behind.

The flute music of “Fallen Blooms” seems in play.

Ahead, who knows what desolate places await.



It has been argued among the scholars whether this piece was composed by Yi’an ( Li Qingzhao’s social name).

The whole poem is about a desolate traveller on the run from disasters, enriched with association through the comparison of two flowers, with one shown and one hidden for you to figure out as in an intellectual guessing game. From the provided hints ‘the roaming perfume’ and ‘The flute music of “Fallen Bloom” ’, we get to know she meant the plum blossoms as these two phrases have appeared many times in her poems on the flower and in many other poems by other writers still today. Plum trees are held in high regard in China for her heroic quality of blooming alone in winter. Her jade and thinly spotted flowers on the frosted boughs represent the proud and pure spirit of a gentleman, and also persevere love and effort to protect beautiful value. In contrast, the clustered blossoms of pear trees would choose the warm and chaotic spring and would fall at the end of the season, no courage to face cold weather. Obviously she’s been hinting the weak response of the Song Court against the invasion from the North. This subject is frequently touched in both her regular poems and ci poems, never missed ever since she was a teenager.

She wrote it on the way following the Court families and troops. Well we know that part well as this has been discussed in many of the appreciation part here in this website. The situation is vividly pictured with “a world of dark waters and white sands’ , the music “Fallen Blooms” and ‘desolate places await’. Their world is deserted behind to the mercy of the invaders, and ahead, an intangible world awaits. Whereas, in her case, a new widow without children, old and homeless, she had nothing but her courage to hold on to for her remaining days.

So, I’d think this could well be written by Yi’an.


Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:



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