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  • Julia Min

摊破浣溪沙 . 揉破黄金万点轻 Hidden under leaves shaped like green jade

摊破浣溪沙 . 揉破黄金万点轻

原作:李清照 英译:闵晓红









Hidden under leaves shaped like green jade

- to the tune of Tanpo Huanxisha

written by: Li Qingzhao ( 1084 – 1155?)

translated by Julia Min

Hidden under leaves shaped as green jade

are spotted blossoms like golden sun rays.

Unworldly as Yanfu, the man of honest grace,

she is also a mirror of her soul and pure taste.

Plum trees shy away for the cluttered filaments,

so are the tacky lilacs arrayed in tiered blossoms.

Yet this fragrance, so sensible, kills the romance,

and fumigate my sweet dream beyond reasons.

For appreciation:

This poem could be written by Li Qingzhao as agreed by most scholars. The last sentence could be an indication of the composing time being after she settled in Lin’an where her only hope of returning home is in her dream.

Osmanthus together with chrysanthemum, are the most favoured by the Chinese among the few flowers blooming in Autumn, and so they are often the subjects in literature, especially associated with the Moon Festival. The first stanza is on the sensual features concluded with the unique quality of a crystal soul, the highlight beyond all other poems on Osmanthus. You could read it as a criticism against the fame-seeking and pleasure-hunting luxurious life of many hypocritical politicians at the time.

The other hit point is the courage she used plum blossom saying it pales in comparison, a risky comment on the most depicted flower in Chinese art which is a respected member of “The Four Noble Beings” and also regarded, by many, as “The National Flower”. A dangerous, very very narrow, escape could be sensed as she carefully chose only the stamens and pistils, the minor properties much less mentioned in literature for her symbolic spirit.

Our poet has written at least two poems which are, in my opinion, the most sophisticated of all listed on the subject in history. If she were here today she’s worthy of being crowned with laurel leaves to honour her contribution to Chinese poetry.

This flower poem, like many of her poems on flowers, is a riddle-like description of the form, the colour, the scent, the feel and the quality associated with Osmanthus. With such a perspective, I’d choose not using ‘Osmanthus’ as the title as many others, just leaving it open for some intellectual entertainment. This should suit her taste as my understanding of Li Qingzhao being a lady of worldly pursuit with a rare talent of eloquence and a noble elegance shared by very few in history. Yet the most attractive part is the hidden, unappreciated quality of her sensational humor and subtle taste in life itself from an intellectual perspective. Her life and works are one of the most ideal mirror of the rhymes and vibes in the Song Dynasty, a time of turmoil, a time of greatest politicians, philosophers, poets, calligraphers, artists and a time of economic innovations, philosophy, education, and scientific achievements. Together they made the period “The Renaissance of the East”.

So, I’d like to conclude this poem as a masterpiece.


1. Tanpo Huanxisha: the music sub-tuned from the main tune of Huanxisha;

2. Yanfu: the social name of Yue Guang (247-304 AD), a well-recognized politician in the Jin Dynasty, a man of reason, truth, honesty, and integrity but also unearthly, unromantic, stubborn and even 'a bit cruel' when too sensible, unable to appreciate the subtleness of sentiments and imagination;

3. mirror: often used in literature as a symbol of truth, discovery, honesty and chrystal clarity; Here it’s used to emphasize the noble quality of Osmanthus;


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