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  • Julia Min

转调满庭芳.芳草池塘The Fragrant Grass by the Pond




























注:‘几声’, ‘笑我’, ‘黄花’, ‘更游’ 本为原版缺字,后闵晓红不满意其它版本的补字,又根据词意补上。

The Fragrant Grass by the Pond

- to the tune of Mantingfang

written by Li Qingzhao

translated by Julia Min

The fragrant grass by the pond

has stirred my memory beyond.

The wind sends chill through the screens,

waking my dream in the shaded green.

Did I hear knockings at the gate?

Maybe I have friends joining dinner today?-

Well, nothing gold can ever stay.

Just me at the table, drinking alone.

Here, laugh if you will at this sickening lady

who’d not care as she’s so remote from home.

Now that bramble roses faded to mud,

we have but to expect for chrysanthemum.

I remember, I remember,

the happy parties with friends over, --

the creamy teas made on pot fire

followed by warm rice wine

in a hall with incense burners,

until our sleeves are filled with the aroma

until our spirits flew in feathers…

Not to mention the gallant horses,

and crafted carriages flowing like river.

Even thunderstorm couldn’t stand in our way. -

Whatever blooms fallen, we’d not care a moment.

Today, I see a water view so similar,

but a feel peculiarly unfamiliar.


It’s believed that our poet wrote this ci at the age of 54 when she had settled in Lin’an. On a hot summer day, she was resting in her big balcony behind the screen under a big tree near a pond surrounded with green grass plants scented by the roseleaf bramble flowers just fallen after the rain. She seemed to have heard knockings at the gate but her maid returns alone. Just another illusion! At such ‘a remote corner of the world’, how could she find her old friends?! She realized the happiness of her days are gone forever. There is only her resistant courage and gracefulness for the remaining years of her life, which is hinted in the concluding line of the first stanza.

The second stanza explores further her memory of the happy old days before the fall of the Northern Song Dynasty when her beloved husband, family and friends often get together during summer season. It was a carefree luxurious life style with sweet incense burning in the room, tea game going hectic to see who could make the creamiest tea, the young drinking to new poems far into the night… where she of course was often the winner or the hit of the party. Melancholy and loneliness were not in her dictionary, and all just feels like yesterday!

The whole poem structures on the contrast between the past and the present to achieve a striking artistic effect on the readers’ mind about the transforming years between Northern Song and Southern Song. The impact on the intellectual world was obviously a strong one as we have discovered so many artistic works on the period.


1. roseleaf bramble: It was the last bloom of flowers that wither in summer, hinting the last days of beauty and happiness in Chinese culture.

2. creamy teas: popular tea serving in the Song dynasty where a tea ball is crushed to powder and mixed with water seven times until it becomes creamy before sharing into cups for guests. It’s been inherited by the Japanese, and now getting popular in mainland China.

3. remote:it’s more the distance in the mind than the actual miles. Having tumbled here and there with the escape team of the Royal court to many a new destination along the sea borders, even to some islands, Li Qingzhao used hǎi jiǎo tiān yá, i.e. the edge of the sea and heaven, to exaggerate how she felt there and then.

Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:

zhuǎn diào mǎn tíng fāng . fāng cǎo chí táng

fāng cǎo chí táng ,

lǜ yīn tíng yuàn ,

wǎn qíng hán tòu chuāng shā 。

jǐ shēng jīn suǒ ,

guǎn shì kè lái shā 。

jì mò zūn qián xí shàng ,

wéi xiào wǒ ,

hǎi jiǎo tiān yá 。

néng liú fǒu ?

tú mí luò jìn ,

yóu lài yǒu huáng huā 。

dāng nián ,

céng shèng shǎng ,

shēng xiāng xūn xiù ,

huó huǒ fèn chá 。

gèng yóu lóng jiāo mǎ ,

liú shuǐ qīng chē 。

bú pà fēng kuáng yǔ zhòu ,

qià cái chēng ,

zhǔ jiǔ cán huā 。

rú jīn yě ,

bú chéng huái bào ,

dé sì jiù shí nà ?



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