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  • Julia Min

雨中花慢 . 邃院重帘 From the Inner Garden


原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

英译: 闵晓红(2024.04)



















From the Inner Garden

-to the tune Blossoms Fading in the Rain

Chinese original: Su Shi (11th AC, social name 'Zizhan', art name 'Dongpo')

English translation: Julia Min (Apr. 2024)


From the inner garden, behind curtains and drapes,

A little sweet poem was sent for a moon-night date.

But sth troubled her mind and seized her rosy face.

As the party was over, he came to her west chamber.

She had to have all doors closed to keep him at bay.

So close were the hearts, yet a thousand miles apart.

Most blossoms faded, leaving butterflies lost in dismay.

He played a melody on Sheng and she echoed in heart.

Growing over the low garden wall where he long gazed,  

A blooming bough leaned over, the red apricot flowers.


Alas, shy love is often given away by the flushed cheeks

Trying to hide a burning fire of desire in a familiar street,-

Just a few shots for the thrilled joy between cold realities

Of long hours waiting in silent desolation and desperation.

An open love life plays safe with a dedicated company,

A routine ride on a known course for a known destination,

Free of worldly barriers, gradually free of tender romance.

Lovers taste buds often grow fervent on uncharted regions.

What marks a great taste of pleasure, tender and intense? -

The stolen ecstasy of erotic moments, secret and forbidden.


1.     Sheng: a traditional wind musical instrument made with bamboo pipes.


I’d say this poem stands out as a 101 of Su Shi’s collection. Of all the romantic poems or lines he wrote, rarely do we find his attempt to the limits on the very private feelings on sensual pleasures. The pornographic vibes under the lines could send a shock wave in readers mind, adding colour to his profile as one of the greatest mind in Chinese history.


The composition took place in the early spring of 1078. One day, Dongpo received a gift from his friend Zhang Jie (章楶), a general and a poet. It was a painting of Cui Wei, the famous beauty and singer of the Tang Dynasty. Dongpo’s immediate association led him to the famous love story by Tang’s writer Yuanzhen (元稹) (A Tale of Yingying 《莺莺传》) - a romantic story on the collisions between love and identity, and between eroticism and social duties. It started with their meeting at a banquet where they fell in love at first sight. The romance was structured on and off interrupted by his career expectations and family responsibilities. Their virtues were challenged by worldly judgements. In the end, both ended up marrying a different person but still missing each other.


Considering the age he married and the era he lived, it was common for a gentleman like him to have mistress in the entertainment sector. It was more likely considered romance rather than adultery. So his bold and vivid comments on the stolen ecstasy could be from a personal experience. The language style bears an amusing tone, as if he was just raising a laugh to entertain his friends there while enjoying the painting.


Similar poems on sensual pleasure are widely found in British literature, with more frankness in explicit terms, such as in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 58, Sonnet 151, and also in his play Much Ado about Nothing, and of course more to be found in Lord Byron’s romantic poems.



2. Oxford Academic (Oxford University Press)/ Shakespeare and Sexuality by Stanly Wells;

3. Picture from Google search on


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