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  • Julia Min

河传.香苞素质 So Blessed with the Purest Complexion

河传 .香包素质











So Blessed with the Purest Complexion

- to the tune of Hechuan

written by: Li Qingzhao / Anonymous

translated by: Julia Min

So blessed with the purest complexion,

And a modest sweetness in her buddings,

She is first to echo the secret call of Spring,

Alone in a quiet land, at dawn this morning.

It’s time to wear the flower on my brow, and

No more the flute tune “The Falling Blossoms”!

Let’s enjoy good wine under the trees blooming,

and play the game on perfumes by the railings.


This is likely a piece by Li Qingzhao judging from the language style and the sentiment. She could have written it after her trip to Jiangning ( today’s Nanjing ) when her husband was the mayor, or Head of Jiangning prefecture. Again she has left the flower subject to the readers for a fun game of guessing based on the description. It would be an easy one if you have read some of her poems of the same nature.

Well, it’s the first bloom of the year during the Spring Festival braving frost and snow. Regarded as one of the four noble characters in Chinese culture. …

Yes, it’s the plum tree, the most written flower by Yi’an. This one, however, takes a different perspective on her fleeing journey with the Royal team to the South. Instead of celebrating in the big tower over the river, she had to do it secretly and quietly amid the fear of invaders’ horses galloping down from the North. We have to appreciate her huge effort in making the best of the moment, a strong desire for her lost home and the cultural values of the customary lifestyle doomed in the flute tune of the Jin.

No word of melancholy or patriotism is used, no word of the flower name is mentioned, yet the vibes penetrate through the whole poem achieving a powerful impact on the readers’ mind.


1. ‘wear the flower on my brow’: a traditional Chinese forehead make-up with a five-petal plum flower, called Shouyang Make-up named after Princess Shouyang (Southern Dynasty) who, according to the legend, had the flower on her forehead while taking a nap on the veranda under big plum trees. She couldn’t wash it off, and thus had to wear it ever since. It’s also called Huadian, or Huazi, or ‘plum blossom make-up or ‘plum make-up’, very popular later in the Tang and the Song.

2. ‘the flute tune “The Falling Blossoms”: a sad music of the Jin on the plum blossoms falling, the invading state from the North.

3. ‘the game on perfumes’: a guessing game over the scents of flowers, one of the many games the Song people play for entertainment such as the game on the names of different plants, the game on the tune/authors of poems, … a socializing activity in the drawing rooms or outside in their home garden.


1.  李清照文集 作者:(北宋)李清照著,刘振鹏
2   《李清照集笺注》李清照撰,徐培均笺注; 2002年上海古籍出版社



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