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  • Julia Min

寒食雨二首 On the Cold Food Festival





自我來黃州,已過三寒食。 年年欲惜春,春去不容惜。 今年又苦雨,兩月秋蕭瑟。 臥聞海棠花,泥污燕支雪。 暗中偷負去,夜半真有力。 何殊病少年,病起頭已白。

On the Cold Food Festival

written by: Su Shi ( 11th AC)

En. trans., notes and appr'n by: Julia Min

Poem One

Three years have now elapsed in a flash

since my banishment to this hinterland.

Huangzhou knows also the return of Spring,

only the spirit’s sapped before the full swing.

The rain descends in floods upon the terrain,

as cold as dark autumn the March east wind.

In sickbed I’m told my favourite begonia tree

ripped bare by sweeping rain in chasing wind,

like a junior grey-haired by a deadly syndrome,

or a beauty sacked at night by an invisible hand.

Her Yanzhi-snow blooms descend to muddy ruins.

as usual, the Creator's plan is beyond us humans.


1. Huangzhou, an old town by the Yangtze River, witnessed Su Shi’s biggest stumble of his life – The Poetry Case at the Crows Court, so called because everyone knew it was a set-up against their beloved Su Shi. Yet it was here he fulfilled his world outlook that gave birth to most of his masterpieces of art.

2. Yanzhi: the Yanzhi Mountain where the soil is red. When it snows, the surface looks pink, so often used by writers to imply young beauties.


春江欲入戶,雨勢來不已。 小屋如漁舟,濛濛水雲裏。 空庖煮寒菜,破竈燒溼葦。 那知是寒食,但見烏銜紙。 君門深九重,墳墓在萬里。 也擬哭途窮,死灰吹不起。

Poem Two

The Yangtze River’s roaring over the banks,

the sky still loaded, claiming the rain season.

My little home now looks like a fishing boat,

barely visible, in the thick fog it is hidden.

The kitchen is empty, only some veggies, and

the fire-reeds so wet in the stove that’s broken.

A crow flies by with paper money unburned,

I suddenly realise the day’s fire is forbidden.

Thousands miles away are the tombs of my kin,

out of reach the Crown in the palace forbidden.

So, shedding Yuan Ji’s tears by road’s dead end,

I regret the burned ash, so wet, can’t burn again.


1. The palace forbidden: the Royal Palace;

2. Yuan Ji: the leader of seven noble men of The Bamboo School in the Three Kingdom Period; It’s said that he’d often shed tears whenever he reached the end of a road, sighing over his unappreciated talent and unachieved ambition.


Dongpo wrote this poem in Huangzhou three years after being released from prison due to the famous The Poetry Case at the Crows Court, a false charge lodged by his political rivals. He wrote this on a long scroll (199.5cm x 34.2 cm) and the calligraphy, invested so much of the vibes of the moment, has been regarded as the 3rd on the top list of Chinese semi-cursive script, which has exceeded the poem in popularity ever since. The original scroll can still be appreciated in the Royal Palace Museum in Taiwan, together with comments handwritten by Huang Tingjian, Emperor Gaozong (Qin Dynasty), and many other notable men in history. It is an invaluable asset of art.


1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min and Huang Haipeng (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红,黄海鹏) 2. picture from



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