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  • Julia Min

菩萨蛮.归鸿声断残云碧 The Honking Geese Are Gone to the North












The Honking Geese Are Gone to the North

- to the tune of Pusaman

written by Li Qingzhao (Song Dynasty)

E. trans. by Julia Min

The honking geese are gone to the north,

Just a boundless sky, puffy clouds torn.

Outside the north sills find yet some snow,

From the censer, long and still, a thin smoke.

The candlelight sees a puppet in gold paper,

nestled by my phoenix hairpin, shining in vain.

The dripping of water clock is often broken

by the Jin army horn blaring from beyond.

The stars are gone, nothing in the sky at dawn,

just the west wind to greet a foreign spring.

It’s not yet for the darling buds and bells.

My heart feels like water, in winter chill.


A strong sense of rootless and alienated sentiment is felt here as it was written in the early days of her settlement in Hangzhou soon after her loss of home, husband, and ten households of artistic collections. The scene starts at twilight through her sleepless night to the next morning. Not a word of loneliness or teardrops used in the work but hidden in every line. The wild geese are often mentioned in Li Qingzhao’s poems to symbolize her nostalgic and homesick feelings towards her husband and home at Qingzhou up north. Though she had some social life in this new land, but her heart stayed in the homeland of her dreams. Gradually, she withdrew to her small circle of friends, living the life of the Recluse Yi’an.

An associating piece could be from Anne Bronte (1820-1849):

“I love the silent hour of night,

for blissful dreams may then arise,

revealing to my charmed sight

what may not bless my waking eyes.”


1. geese (鸿hóng): The wild geese returned to the North when spring started in the South where Li Qingzhao lived after her home in the North was conquered. Wild geese are regarded as the highest among birds in moral standards of benevolence, faithfulness, ceremony, wisdom, and honesty. The geese team is like a family taking care of each other no matter how small or how old you are. The sick and the dying are been attended to as well. So they are respected and loved by the Chinese.

2. puppet in golden paper: a figure made of golden paper used as an ornament on hairdo or room screens during People’s Day (the 7th day of Chinese New Year). The family meal was supposed to have seven dishes.

3. horn: the sound of a military horn, hinting the war between the Song and the Jin invaders from the North.

Pinying and Word-For-Word Translation:

pú sà mán – the music for this song poem;

guī hóng shēng duàn cán yún bì – returning geese sound no more few clouds in the sky

bèi chuāng xuě luò lú yān zhí – northside windows snowfall incense burner smoke straight;

zhú dǐ fèng chāi míng – under the candles phoenix pin shines;

chāi tóu rén shèng qīng – the figure on hair is very light;

jiǎo shēng cuī xiǎo lòu – horn sound chases morning water-clock;

shǔ sè huí niú dòu – daylight at dawn returns the Zodiac and Dipper stars;

chūn yì kàn huā nán – spring early look at flowers difficult;

xī fēng liú jiù hán – west wind holds still the cold;百度百科)



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