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  • Julia Min

皇帝阁春帖子A Quatrain for the Emperor’s Chamber








A Quatrain for the Emperor’s Chamber

- a season’s greeting scroll for Spring Festival

written by: : Li Qingzhao ( 12th century)

translated by: Julia Min

No need for gold-threaded beddings,

still less a jade bed for a good rest.

Torches can lit the hall in spring wind,

saving the budget for agarwood incense.


Li Qingzhao wrote this in 1143 when she settled in Lin’an ( today’s Hangzhou), the capital of Southern Song Dynasty.

It’s Chinese tradition to post red scrolls of poems on the frames of doors and windows during the Chinese New Year celebration ( Spring Festival ). The tradition was much more sophisticated in the Song Dynasty where the gentry homes would post many poems on screens and hangings – a popular decoration to celebrate the first season of the year. The noted families would receive many couplets and quatrains from their followers and friends as a seasonal greetings, similar to Christmas cards in the west. The content is usually full of wishes and praising words.

In this case, Yi’an wrote a quatrain for the Emperor’s chamber in the year 1143. It could also be just using the format to express her appreciation for the Emperor’s frugal living style. The interesting feature here sees a light amusement, a witty satire for a greater purpose of “ first make people laugh, and then make them think” ( Ig Nobel Prize).

It’s said in some version that our poet was asked by a friend to write this poem so that they could offer it to the Emperor among other gifts. Being a celebrity poet, she might find it hard to turn down her friends if they asked for the favour.


1. (百度百科)

2. (维基百科)

3. 《李清照集笺注》李清照撰,徐培均笺注; 2002年上海古籍出版社

4. 《李清照文集》 作者:(北宋)李清照著,刘振鹏

5. All pictures are selected from google search.



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