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  • Julia Min

With Gentle Breeze Comes Early Spring - to the Tune of Pusaman 菩萨蛮·风柔日薄春犹早

With Gentle Breeze Comes Early Spring

- to the Tune of Pusaman

Translated by Julia Min

It’s an Early Spring Day 菩萨蛮·风柔日薄春犹早 liqingzhao
Photo retrieved from: Google

With gentle breeze comes early spring.

My sunny mood is cheered by lighter trim.

Then the morning chill sobers me like thorns.

The plum petals on my hair are dry and drawn.

Where’s my dear homeland in my dream?

Drinking seems the only hope to that realm.

The burning incense felt cosy before sleep,

the scent now cold just a lonely soul at sea.


Li Qingzhao wrote this in Ling’an after the long escape following Song’s Court from the fallen capital in the north. This ci poem is structured in couplets with the first two lines in seven characters, and the rest all in five, denoting a shifting of emotion from sunny mood to a growing sentiment evoked by the sight of the withered plum blossom and her drawn face in the mirror.

The next stanza explains why she can’t feel happy even though the day is nice now after the long winter. The fate of the plum flower associates with her youth and the good life in her own homeland which is now just stories. Hence she is drawn to rice wine which helps her dreaming away, back to cosy home where her husband was still alive and they were so happy in a peaceful world.

Such drinking habit and drunk state, often written in Chinese literature, especially in poetry, resonates intellectual sentiments rather than the vulgar out-of-control indulgence sensed by western readers. This poem is regarded as a strong intellectual criticism against the weak response of the Southern Song Court at the invasion of the barbarians from Jin State. Though a lady, Qingzhao had a braveheart as she had written many heritage poems in support of warriors fighting for the lost homeland.


The Source Text in Chinese:











Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:

pú sà mán—Pusaman, the musical tune for this song;

fēng róu rì bó chūn yóu zǎo -- wind soft sunlight thin spring still early;

jiá shān zhà zhuó xīn qíng hǎo – spring dress and vest wearing feeling better;

shuì qǐ jué wēi hán – wake up feeling a bit chilly;

méi huā bìn shàng cán – the plum flower in my hair is withered;

gù xiāng hé chù shì – homeland where is;

wàng liǎo chú fēi zuì – forget only when drunk;

chén shuǐ shí shāo – the chenxiang incense was lit at bedtime;

xiāng xiāo jiǔ wèi xiāo – the aroma from the incense disappeared wine smell still lingers;


rì bó -- sunlight cozy;

zhà zhuó – wear / put on;

bìn shàng -- on her hairdo near her forehead side;

gù xiāng – her native place in Shandong and Song’s capital where she met her husband were all lost to the Jin invaders from the North; She is now in a strange place in the south, called Ling’an.

chén shuǐ -- an incense made from a scented wood, often referred to as chenxiang today;



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