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西江月. 照野弥弥浅浪 The Moon Brightens the Murmuring Shallow Stream

西江月. 照野弥弥浅浪

( 顷在黄州,春夜行蕲水中,过酒家饮。酒醉,乘月至一溪桥上,解鞍曲肱,醉卧少休。及觉已晓,乱山攒拥,流水锵然,疑非尘世也。书此语桥柱上。)

原作:苏轼( 11th Century)











The Moon Brightens the Murmuring Shallow Stream

- to the tune of the Moon on River West

(composed during my spring trip on my horse from Huangzhou to Qishui Town; After a few drinks at the local tavern, I felt tipsy while walking to a bridge under a bright moon. So I unsaddled the horse and inclined by the bridge for a nap, only to find myself wake up to a spring dawn with the murmuring river winding the landscape from distant mountains and hills. It was so beautiful. For a moment I thought it were the dream world, hence I wrote this poem on a baluster of the bridge.)

Written by: Su Shi ( 11th AC)

English trans. by: Gordon Osing & Julia Min (1990)

Revision by: Julia Min (2022)

The haziness in the sky might be the thinnest clouds.

The moon brightens the murmuring shallow stream.

Holding back my steed from crossing in his turnouts,

I want to lie down in the rich grass on the sand beach.

It’s so lovely, the river gleaming in the cool breeze.

I can’t let him trample it into broken jade pieces.

Unsaddled, he’ll rest with me by Willow Bridge,

till cuckoos wake me at dawn to a spring stream.


This Ci was composed in March, 1082 which was Su Shi’s third spring in Huangzhou. He was riding along then called 'the Orchard River' ( today’s Xi River in Xishui County, not far away from Huangzhou). I’m quite familiar with the place as it’s my birthplace where I cherish many childhood memories (1963-82). The bridge, called 'the Old Bridge' today, was on my way to my primary and middle schools on the temple side. I can still picture it that it was built with rammed earth on wooden structure with wooden tiers deep into the fast running sand river which was about 150-200 metres wide, exposing wide sandy beach on the temple side in the dry seasons. We also practised military trainings there in summer. The other side of the river is less sandy, and usually covered with wild flowers I used to collect them after school. There was no cement used, no bridge railing on either side and there were many holes on it. As children we used to jump over them for fun, totally ignorant that it was indeed a dangerous bridge on the brink of breaking down after many years’ poor maintenance.

The landscape must be more beautiful at Dongpo’s time with much less buildings. He could have visited the temple, rode along the River enjoying the river view and stopped at a tavern for perhaps a few cups of local wine. Then he probably inclined for a nap which quickly turned into a desire for a whole night’s rest there and then. The implied theme is the unbounded timeless sensation and the desire to surrender to his social reality and return to the slow pace lifestyle of the natural world, which he hinted by holding back his horse’s high spirit to run through the night and lie down in the rich grass. A Daoist spirit is strongly sensed here in his aspiration for a union with Mother Nature.


1. Willow Bridge: the site can be found today in the east of Xishui County, Hubei Province. A new bridge was built beside the old ruins. It’s actually about half a mile away from Clear Stream Temple where he wrote another famous poem “A Visit to Clear Stream Temple by the Orchard River Flowing East”.

2. cuckoos: the cuckoo’s cry in spring is believed in China to conjure homesickness, especially in the mind of a wearied traveller.


1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min and Huang Haipeng,published by the People's Publication House Henan Province in 1990 (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红,黄海鹏)(The moon brightens the wild murmurings of a shallow stream;/a haziness in the sky might be the thinnest clouds./Ok as is,/But I’m drunk and want to lie down in rich grasses. // They’re lovely, the full stream and the white moon./I can’t let him trample to pieces of broken jade all this./I’ll unsaddle him here, rest my head on Green Willow Bridge,/Till cuckoo wakes me and it’s already a Spring dawn.)



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