Seven Steps Verse 七步诗


Here is a very famous Chinese poem which had used metaphors to its fullest. It is well known that Chinese are very subtle especially when it comes to critising some one more senior than you, be it in the family, in a company or in politics, hence, metaphors are often used for this purpose. The scene of the Seven Steps Verse took place at the end of the Han Dynasty, or sometimes known as the Era of the Three Kingdoms or the 14th Century.

Below is as quoted from Wikipedia:

The famed scene described Cao Pi’s suspicions of his brother Cao Zhi trying to usurp his rule (Cao Pi was also jealous of his brother’s talents, particularly his masterful command of imagery). Consequently, Cao Zhi was summoned to the court and was issued an ultimatum in which he had to produce a poem within seven strides such that Cao Pi was convinced of his innocence. Cao Zhi did so, and Cao Pi became so flustered with emotion that he spared his brother, although he later exacted punishment upon Cao Zhi in the form of demotion.

The poem itself was written in the traditional five-character quatrain style and was an extended metaphor that described the relationship of two brothers and the ill-conceived notion of one harming the other over petty squabbling.

The poem is as follows:

煮豆燃豆萁,Zhu3 Dou4 Ran2 Dou4 Qi2,
豆在釜中泣。Dou4 Zai4 Fu3 Zhong1 Qi4.
本是同根生,Ben3 Shi4 Tong2 Gen1 Sheng1,
相煎何太急? Xiang1 Jian1 He2 Tai4 Ji2?

The literal translation of the poem is as follows:

Bean stalks were added to the wood for boiling the the beans in a pot,
The beans were weeping in the pot (the beans were popping like popcorns (or weeping) in the oil held in the pot)
Both the beans and the bean stalks came from the same root (plant),
Bean stalks why you have to burn me so bad (says the beans)

The English tranlation of Wikipedia is as follows:-

Boiling the beans while charring the stalks,
and of this the beans thus wailed:
“Born are we of the same root, brothers two;
should you now burn me with such disregard?”

Here is the Spanish translation of the poem provided by my good friend jocoso:

Las legumbres se cocinan con el fuego de sus tallos
Desde el medio del caldero se oye un penoso lamento:
“Si de una misma raíz fuimos hechos, hermano
¿Por que te esfuerzas con tanto celo a verme rostizado?”

This poem, I think, applies to fights among neighbours, different factions or races within the same country, or fights among family members.

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