Apr

5

 I have a cold and so not much energy for anything other than watching tv. I'm catching up on Michael Woods' show about China, and in episode three there is an incredible story about the siege of Kaifeng and the destruction of one of the dynasties in the early 1100s by northern invaders (vid cued up to that point). If you watch it, be sure to get to the poem that is read, "On the Defeat of the Nation" by Li Qingzhao.

I can't find an online version of that specific poem by Li Qingzhao, but I did find this group of translations of some of her other poetry, and there is some really striking stuff with such a clear voice from nine centuries ago:

A sample:

Last night, dead drunk, I dawdled
While undoing my coiffure,
And fell asleep with a sprig of
Faded plum blossom in my hair.
The fumes of wine gone,
I was woken out of my spring sleep
By the pungent smell of the petals,
And my sweet dream of far-off love
Was broken beyond recall.

Now all voices are hushed.
The moon lingers and softly spreads her beams
Over the unfurled kingfisher-green curtain.
Still, I twist the fallen petals,
I crumple them for their lingering fragrance,
I try to recapture a delicious moment.

Leo Jia writes: 

In Turkey today, it is illegal trying to inquire about one's ethnicity. The country stands by a slogan that it is one country, one race, and one religion. I bet they learned the tactics from China just about 2000 years ago when all the country men were termed the Han.

Speaking about Chinese poems, I always wondered in what dialects they were chanted. Obviously not in the mandarin as we know it today, because it's been only widely spoken for less than a century even though it was used mostly in the royal courts as early as the Qing Dynasty some 300 years ago.

But anyhow, due to the nature of the Chinese language being based predominantly more on writing than speaking, it's very hard for a listener to fully understand the chant of a poem, mostly tersely phrased. One just can not easily guess which actual character (which defines the meaning) of a particular sound (which can mean many things) is used.


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