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江城子·天涯流落思无穷(别徐州)A Traveller of the World, a Seeker for the Soul

江城子·天涯流落思无穷 (别徐州)













A traveller of the world, a seeker for the soul

(Leaving Xuzhou)

- to the tune of Jiangchengzi

written by: Su Shi ( 11th century)

translated by: Julia Min

A traveller of the world, a seeker for the soul,

I feel like we’ve just met; Now I’m set to go.

“How much spring is left me?” I ask East God

as I pluck the last bloom for my love in sorrow.

“And who will be my good friends in Huzhou?”

The March river rippling forward in Sui Levees,

I start southward, my back to the returning geese.

The joint of Si and Huai vanishing in my sight,

all the cosy flashbacks begin to unfold, brimming;-

How can I flow my tears now to Chu River East?


1.     East God: east wind is the main wind direction in spring, also called ‘East God’, another name for ‘Spring God’.

2.     Sui Levees:  the grand canal built in Sui and Tang dynasties to lead water north. Here it refers to the water from the Bian River (a branch of Si River) to the Huai River;

3.     returning geese: the wild geese would fly from south to north in Spring. Although Su Shi was governor in Xuzhou for only two years, he already felt like home, hence ‘returning’. Huzhou is in the south of Xuzhou.

4.     Chu River: the other name for River Si that flows through Xuzhou and joins River Huai in Xuzhou City; But Huzhou is some distance away from the river.


This is a farewell lyric, a ci song written upon leaving Xuzhou to Huzhou after Su Shi was appointed to be the governor of Huzhou. Only 23 months in Xuzhou, Governor Su had already established himself as a father-like figure loved by the locals, even freshly remembered today among the Xuzhou people. Every school child knows him through his poems listed in their textbooks. For a thousand years, no other governor or mayor ever passed him in the minds of Xuzhou people. He led the people building levees ( The Su Levees) and the Yellow Tower against flood, opening coal mines for the winter, and restoring the local iron metallurgical industry, and many more. Plus he has left some famous calligraphy and three hundred poems there and this one probably the last one composed before arriving at his new post in Huzhou.


At the age of 42, Su Shi and his followers were called ‘the Old Party’ or ‘Yuanyou Party’, a name to define against ‘The New Party’. The New Party were in the peak of enacting their New Laws at this time. Being disfavoured by the Throne, Su Shi chose to be dispatched from the Court to help with some hand-on work on regional administration. And it turned out he quite enjoyed his stay in Xuzhou though his political ambition for the Song still remained as a hard knot, hence the human inquiry: “How much spring is left me? I ask East God.”  Indeed, Su Shi, with his temples thinning by the year, aspired going back to the Court with his followers to bring things back to order for a stronger and greater Song. Instead, he was dispatched, travelling north and south, even as far away as Hainan Island, footing the biggest map ever in the entire history of civil servants dispatchment of the Song Dynasty.  Yet, his life was intensely lived with vigour and passion shared by everyone around him. And his artistic vibes have become ever more vibrant over a thousand years.  


1. 杜杰华《苏轼在徐州》

2. 无犀 原创 (



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