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  • Gordon Osing and Julia Min

摊破浣溪沙 . 病起萧萧两鬓华 Recovered? Enough to note her temples thinning

摊破浣溪沙 . 病起萧萧两鬓华











Recovered? Enough to note her temples thinning

- to the tune of Tanpo Huanxisha

written by Li Qingzhao ( 12th century)

trans by Gorden Osing & Julia Min

Recovered? Enough to note her temples thinning,

to see a rising moon waning at the window-screen,

to drink cardamon with pods boiled together,

to take away the chill, to abstain from tea-drinking.

To find at her pillow favourite old books of poems,

to love in her own doorway a land drenched in rain,

the Osmanthus blooming, and like them, to compose

all day for others her own exquisite sensations.


This ci was composed during a recovery after serious illness caused by a short but disastrous marriage arranged by her brother. She had the courage to sue him to the Court for settlement. The relationship was resolved but the Song Law would take the female to prison for divorcing her husband according to Confucius standards on female conducts. Our poet stayed in prison for nine days before her beloved husband Zhao Mingcheng’s family stepped in and she was freed. It was a huge life lesson for her and thankfully she survived the suffering, again. Now she was about 48 years old (in the year 1132), and had resolved, in spiritual practicality, to get on with her own life.

The whole poem reads with a cheer tone as anyone lucky to survive the challenge. She sounds grateful to get her life back, enjoying the quietude and solitude among her books, her poetry, and her favourite Osmanthus blooming in the refreshing landscape before her doorstep.


1. " cardamon " etc. : Chinese people in ancient times (and the present) boiled cardamon

to take away chills, and used the crushed seeds in the round tops in several medicinal ways,

as well as for condiments.

2. “abstain from tea drinking”: Chinese medicine believes tea contain some property that

would reduce the effect of herbal medicine.

3. “Osmanthus”: a symbol of modesty, gentle grace, and subtle nature, pure fragrance and nobility;


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