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  • Gordon Osing and Julia Min

望江南·春未老 (超然台作) When the Spring is not yet old


原作:【宋】苏轼 (11th Century)


修改:闵晓红( 2022)











When the Spring is not yet old

(written on the Transcending Tower)

- to the tune of Wangjiangnan

written by: Su Dong-po (11th Century)

trans. by Gordon Osing & Julia Min (1991)

revised by Julia Min ( 2022)

When the Spring is not yet old,

soft wind gently kissing the swaying willows,

come to the Transcending Tower with me,

to see the town’s blooms, embraced by the moat,

gleaming through the misty rain so many homes.

After the cold day of Forbidden Fires,

I woke up light-headed, turned over, and sighed.

Why am I nostalgic when surrounded by old friends?

Let's make a fresh fire raising the new tea for a toast.

How fine to spend our best years on wine and poems.

Picture retrieved from Google

Other versions for your reference:


The Transcending Tower is in Mizhou (today’s Zhucheng County in Shandong Province). Su Shi had it rebuilt when he was the Governor. His brother, Su Zhe, gave it its name. The Festival of Forbidden Fires (or Cold Food Festival), which occurs two days before Qingming, recalls a famous episode about a monarch named Wengong who burned an entire mountain to flush out the hiding Zi-tui who had retired there when the victorious King neglected to reward him with other comrades in arms. Honor was at stake. In fact, the injured Zi-tui was so wounded in pride he chose dying in the fire to the embarrassment of being the King's afterthought.

This ci was written in the Spring of 1076. During Qingming Festival, it is the custom of the living to pay tribute to their buried family members and tidy up the tombs at the same time. Home and family were therefore very much on any traveler's mind. The way in which Su Shi makes very personal use of the common scene -- the willows, the flowers and the moat waters -- gives this ci something of what the Western reader would call Romantic implications. I know, Wordsworth poems are coming to your mind now... ...


1. “chao ran tai” : Heavenward Pagoda, or Transcending Platform;

2.“han shi” : Cold Food Festival, two days before Qingming Festival. People were not allowed to make fires, so no hot food on that day.

3. ‘斜’and ‘嗟’:the modern pinyin doesn’t rhyme in the poem, so these two, I reckon, are likely pronounced as ‘xiá’ and ‘jiā’ in the Song Capital Bianliang ( today’s Kaifeng city in Henan Province).

Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:

wàng jiāng nán - the musical tune for this ci poem(Looking at South of the River)

(chāo rán tái zuò )- (write on Transcending Platform)

chūn wèi lǎo - spring not yet old,

fēng xì liǔ xiá xiá - wind soft willows swaying back and forth。

shì shàng chāo rán tái shàng wàng - try go up to transcending platform to see,

bàn háo chūn shuǐ yī chéng huā - half full moat spring waters a whole town flowers。

yān yǔ àn qiān jiā - smoke rain gloomy thousand homes。

hán shí hòu - after the Cold Food Festival,

jiǔ xǐng què zī jiā - drunk awake but sigh。

xiū duì gù rén sī gù guó - stop before old friend miss home / native place,

qiě jiāng xīn huǒ shì xīn chá - let's try new fire to new tea,

shī jiǔ chèn nián huá -poems wine spend golden years。



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