瑞鹧鸪·双银杏 An Ode to Ginkgo Fruit
An Ode to Ginkgo Fruit
- to the tune of Ruizhegu
written by: Li Qingzhao ( 1084 – 1155?) translated by Julia Min
So blessed is she with elegant grace,
So humbled for oranges the mundane.
Who’d know she’s away from her own world,
To be found her virtues more fair and pure?
A small branch is plucked with twin fruit on,
A picture of the Emperor n Yuhuan after wine.
I’d like to open the ginkgoes with gentle care,
To share with my love the fresh taste with flair.
Again if the editor chose not adding the title, it could work as a riddle-like poem for an sense of intellectual humour in the structure of the past and the present contrast, an interplay of yin and yang, or a stream of consciousness manifested to enrich our imagination for a stronger artistic impact.
It has been reasoned that this might not be our poet’s creation as the ci’s poetic meters and rhyming patterns not closely followed, and Li Qingzhao is well recognized for her strict standards on the musical rules, even called by some ‘The Mother of Ci’. The style, the perspective and the subjects chosen, however, do match her habitual way. The first stanza resembles most and could stand alone, even better I’d say, as a poem rather than a ci. The second stanza seems pale in comparison, mainly due to an insignificant contrast in the concluding couplet lines that I would doubt about the source.
1. ginkgo fruit: the symbolic implication associated with nobility, well-bred, well-designed, profound love that stands the test of many life cycles thanks to the fair skin, delicate petite oval shape, and the loving pair nuts inside the fruit. It’s said to be the only survivor in the family 290 million years ago, also called ‘the living fossil’. It has a longer life span than all other trees. The one still thriving is over 1400 years old in the ancient capital of the Tang Dynasty, planted by the 2nd emperor Li Shimin himself in Chang’an ( today’s Xi’an).
2. ‘from her world’: referring to the uncomfortable status where our poet and her dear husband had travelled all the way to the south due to the invasion in the north. They tried to start new in a strange place.
3. ‘Emperor and Yuhuan’: the Tang Emperor Li Longji and his loving concubine Yang Yuhuan, being written in so many literature works and plays, became a symbol of love for a long time in history.