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  • Julia Min

永遇乐. 明月如霜 The moon’s frost white; the wind’s fresh and cool

永遇乐. 明月如霜






清景无限。 曲港跳鱼,


寂寞无人见。 紞如三鼓,



夜茫茫, 重寻无处,




望断故园心眼。 燕子楼空,


空锁楼中燕。 古今如梦,


但有旧欢新怨。 异时对、黄楼夜景,


The moon’s frost white; the wind’s fresh and cool

- to the tune of Yongyule

written by: Su Shi ( 11th century)

translated by: Gordon Osing and Julia Min

The moon’s frost white; The wind’s fresh and cool.

A boundless quietude till a fish leaps the winding pool.

The dews trickle from lotus leaves, and no one but me.-

The night hears three drum-beats and then, a falling leaf.

A sadness takes me as I startle awake from a deep sleep.

Out in the garden I seek her of my dream: where’re thee?

I can feel her everywhere, yet nowhere to be retrieved.

The night is seemingly endless here in the far east.

A traveller, tired of the world, I’ve drained my heart‘s eye

looking for my way back in the mountains of the west.

The Swallow Pavilion is long empty, the beauty, where?

Locked in dust, there’re only deserted nests in here.

The past and the present are dreams that never end.

What added daily are just memories and new regrets.

Someday, there’ll be travellers to my Yellow Pavilion.

I wonder if they’d sigh at midnight so deeply for me.


In the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Zhang Jian-feng built the Swallow Pavilion (Peng City, Xuzhou in the east of the Song) by a lake for his newly married concubine Guan Panpan, a famous singer and dancer. The pavilion attracted many swallows nesting there, hence the name. After he died, she lived on, refusing to remarry out of faithfulness in memory. The story was often referred to in poetry to imply the loss of love and fulfillment.

This ci poem was composed in 1078, apparently after Su Shi’s new project The Yellow Pavilion was completed. He was then the governor of Xuzhou. Su Shi stayed at Swallow Pavilion one night and dreamed the brief visit of the beautiful lady’s spirit there and then. A late autumn night scene under a full moon is a moment often painted in Chinese poetry to express a lost sense of eternal and fulfilled love. The melancholy was also coupled with his shaky status in the Royal Court where the two parties were experiencing a tough political conflict. Daoism came to his comfort for a return back to nature, to his home in Sichuan mountains in the west of the Song. This subject worked as a theme line throughout his career life, a persistent stress whether he should be fully committed to the official career or just leave it and return to nature as a recluse. Well, we all know Su Shi was a man of times and tides. He would always have so much worldly concern that he would never choose a Daoist life over an official life for the Song Court.


1. 古诗文网

2. All pictures are selected from google search.



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