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  • Julia Min

题八咏楼 The Eight Verses Tower








The Eight Verses Tower

translated by Julia X. Min

The Eight Verses Tower stands so proud

on this ancient land blessed with great minds.

But for how long? The Jin might come down.

Just let it be tested after we rest in ground.

The Wujiang River in front is flowing down

over a thousand miles towards the South,

exposing fourteen counties with their towns.

Would Guanxiu leave them out of bound?


This heroic poem is another strong satire on the weak response of the Court against Jin’s invasion. The Song was at stake as tension was hanging in the air for the future. Li Qingzhao, past her prime years and all alone now, joined her dead husband’s sister’s family in Wuzhou. The sisiter’s husband was the Prefecture. She stayed there for a while and wrote quite a few famous poems on the same subject,e.g. “The storm’s past, and fallen petals perfume the ground – to the tune of Wulingchun”(《武陵春.风住尘香花已尽》).

Similar style is found in her other poem “Alive, I’d be a hero for the people”(《乌江绝句》. In her wisdom, our poet, renown as the Master of Ci, chose traditional poetic form for the heroic momentum when she wrote the ‘bigger’ subject,whereas she would come back to musical Ci form for her sentimental poems, be it affectionate, innocent,or melancholy sensations.


1. The Eight Verses Tower –The tower(八咏楼), original name being Charmed Joy Tower(玄畅楼)was built in 494 under the order of the local Prefecture Shen Yue who was also a famous historian and writer. Located in a peninsular site surrounded by Wujiang River from east, south to west, overlooking a spectacular view of two rivers meeting point, Charmed Joy Tower had become a famous landmark, and of course the favourite place of the Prefecture who wrote eight long poems about it. Both his poems and the subject became well recognized that eventually the Tower was renamed as Eight Verses Tower.

2. The Wujiang River - The Wuzhou County is along the river, hence the name. It could be an important place accessing the north and the south of the Song territory. Li Qingzhao showed a strong concern if this place could stay for the Song in future as the Jin might head south after the fall of the Song Capital Bianliang (today’s Kaifeng).

3. Guanxiu – in Chinese贯休(832-912); He was a revered monk who was born local here about 200 years before our poet visited the tower. Famous for his poetry, paintings and calligraphy, he was once requested by the emperor to change ‘ 14 states conquered’ into ‘ 40 states conquered’ in his poem celebrating the victory. But, as a man of heroic integrity, he refused with a reply :“Since you can hardly conquer another state, I shall not change my poem with another word.” So the ‘14 states’, often quoted by later writers, hints a strong criticism against the Southern Song Court which yielded again and again to the invasion of the Jin from the North.

Pinyin and word-for-word translation:

tí bā yǒng lóu – tower named after the eight poems

qiān gǔ fēng liú bā yǒng lóu – thousand years eight verses tower;

jiāng shān liú yǔ hòu rén chóu – country land leave to posterity to worry about;

shuǐ tōng nán guó sān qiān lǐ -the River access to the South 3000 li;

qì yā jiāng chéng shí sì zhōu – proudly overlooking the cities and towns in 14 counties;


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