Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #20

There is a man who lives
Halfway down the mountain.
He and his young daughter of eight years
Have joined me on walks by the river.
She has taken an interest in my old pipa
And I have taken her as a student.
It is the greatest delight of my old age
To have her fill my ears with music once more.

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls


Xi Shi’s Ghost

Two thousand years ago
There was a woman of exceptional beauty,
So exceptional, the legend goes,
That whenever she looked
At her reflection in a pond,
The fish would forget how to swim,
And sink down into the darkness.
Two thousand years later,
I have forgotten how to live,
Crushed by a vision of her ghost.


The Story of Xi Shi: 
King Goujian of Yue was once imprisoned by King Fuchai of Wu after a defeat in war, and Yue later became a tributary state to Wu. Secretly planning his revenge, Goujian’s minister Wen Zhong suggested training beautiful women and offering them to Fuchai as a tribute (knowing Fuchai could not resist beautiful women). His other minister, Fan Li, found Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, and gave them to Fuchai in 490 BC.

Bewitched by the beauty and kindness of Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, Fuchai forgot all about his state affairs and at their instigation, killed his best advisor, the great general Wu Zixu. Fuchai even built Guanwa Palace (Palace of Beautiful Women) in an imperial park on the slope of Lingyan Hill, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) west of Suzhou. The strength of Wu dwindled, and in 473 BC Goujian launched his strike and completely routed the Wu army. King Fuchai lamented that he should have listened to Wu Zixu, and then committed suicide.

In the legend, after the fall of Wu, Fan Li retired from his ministerial post and lived with Xi Shi on a fishing boat, roaming like fairies in the misty wilderness of Taihu Lake, and no one saw them ever again. This is according to Yuan Kang’s Yue Jueshu (越绝书). Another version, according to Mozi, is that Xi Shi eventually died from drowning in the river.

(Story Source: Wikipedia)

Memories of Green

Working on a drawing of a blossom tree
With “Memories of Green” playing mellow,
Playing melancholy in the yellow incandescence.
Lapsang Souchong and a lonely heart
Make this man long for the subtle energies of a woman tonight.
Amidst the jazz music and traditional Chinese paintings
He doesn’t have the characters for how he feels,
Nor the words, nor the time,
Nor the paint to picture it.
Sometimes all a man wants
Is quiet eyes and soft lips,
Contently scheming as she sits on his couch.
Most of the time – he has to go without
And so he draws
He writes
He walks
He drinks tea that tastes like dreams of her
And he waits
Knowing that eventually
He will find her
But not tonight
Not tonight
“Memories of Green” and dark sumi
“Memories of Green” under the yellow light.

Beautiful Barbarian Love Song

To The Tune: Beautiful Barbarian

The peonies are heavy with dew.
She pauses in the court to pick a flower,

Then coyly asks her lover,
“Which do you think most pretty?”

Because he likes to tease,
he says, “I think perhaps the flower.”

She pretends offense in any case,
crushes it, and throws it in his face.

-Unknown (Song Dynasty A.D. 960-1200)

Love Song

Clouds circle the moon,
breezes ringing wind chimes,
deepening my doubt.

I lit the lamp to write
my broken heart for you.
My sobbing blew it out.

-Ma Chih-yuan (1260-1324)

Sundown Song

It’s when the descending sun
Is level with the curtain hook

That spring along this river
Is at its very best.

Good smells surround the gardens
Along the riverbank

A column of smoke from the beach
Where boatmen cook their dinners

Steadily chattering sparrows
Fight to roost in the evening trees

Gnats and mayflies swarm
In the air of my front yard

Oh cup of cloudy wine
You too are a gift

A sip or two of you dissolves
All my little worries.

-Tu Fu 760’s A.D.

From David Young’ s translation “Du Fu: A Life in Poetry”
Available on Amazon and if you like Tu Fu then I can’t recommend it enough. Best translations since Rexroth.