登鹳雀楼 On the stork tower

I have posted the above poem at my weebly blog. Check it out.


The Qing Ming Festival 清眀节 The Tomb Sweeping Day

Next Monday, 5th of April, is the Chinese Qing Ming festival, or Tombs Sweeping day, which coincides with the Easter Monday. It is a tradition on that day that we pay respects to our ancestors or those loved ones who passed away. Ancient Chinese wisdom never fails. As our famous poet Du Mu, in his poem of the same title relevantly wrote “ceaseless drizzles drip all the dismal day”. The weather around that day is almost guarantee to be damp, windy, drizzling and etc.. This year is likely to be no exception. You can see from the picture that I took at one o’clock in the afternoon today from my window looking outside, the weather was sheer miserable. Read more about the festival and the famous poem at my blog. Click here.

A Tranquil Night, by the great Chinese poet Li Bai

Here is another poet by one of the two greatest ancient Chinese poets, Li Bai (李白) (701-762).  It wrote about a person, in a far away land could not get into sleep, staring out of the window and watching the moon, thought that it was frost on the ground, which made him missed home more. I have put up a photo of the of the moon taken by modern technology. If you look at it, the white stuff on the moon really looks like frost. Did our great poet have eyes of a telescope and a mind of a modern scientist.

A Tranquil Night 《静夜思》

床前明月光   Abed, I see a silver light,
疑是地上霜   wonder if it’s frost aground.
举头望明月  Looking up, I find the moon bright; 举头望明月
低头思故乡  Bowing, in homesickness I”m drowned.

Li Bai 李白

Fight bias with bias 以毒供毒 or 以暴易暴

One of  my friends posted  a video on www.italki.com and invited other friends to make comments on it. The video blamed the recent misfortunes of China on the west and accused the western medias for being biased.  It further called for the Chinese people to stand up and fight the west.

The video, no doubt, is an entertaining one, but a watcher should treat it that way and nothing more. In passing I think it is a good piece of material for our italki friends for learning Chinese because it was fitted with Chinese and English titles, although the English left much to be desired.  The video itself is one of the most biased pieces of “reporting” I have ever seen.  Was the author of the video provoking “fight bias with bias” 以毒供毒 (literally means fight poison with poison) or fight violence with violence 以暴易暴?

My Spanish friends from time to time asked  me about my opinion on the “Tibet issue”. I have made known to them that, being a Han Chinese (汉族人),  I am all for “Tibet being part of China”. However, many of the Tibetans definitely feel otherwise. I think the Central Government of China has been or will treat the Tibetans fairly and squarely, just as what it has been doing to Hong Kong. That said, the grievances of the Tibetans deserve to be heard. According to the Chinese Foriegn Ministry the door is open for a dialogue with Dalai Lama subject to certain conditions. I think both sides should sit down and talk and resolve the matters amicably instead of being distracted by side issues. 

Readers are reminded of the “The seven steps verse 七歩诗” of 曹植, which I put up in my blog on April 13 2008. The relevant part of the poem says”本是同根生,相煎何太急?” (Born are we of the same root, brother, should you now burn me with such disregard?). 

I feel this poem applies to the disputes among neighbouring countries of my Spanish friends. 

Wealth or Health?

This is a sequel to my blog on the poem entitled “Ching Ming Festival” by Du Mu. It happened that I was talking to a good friend (let’s name her Mary) who happened to live in the home town of Du Mu – Taiyuan of Shanxi, China. For those who had helped me in the translation of the poem in Spanish, a few of them wondered what and where is “杏花村” named in the poem. In Chinese it is “Xin hua cun” and in English it is “apricot flower village”. According to Mary, historians had it that the village was somewhere in the Anhui Province, but she thought it was likely to be in her home province of “山西” Shanxi (literally means “mountain’s West”). Mary thought so because “Xing hua cun” is in Fen Yang(汾阳)city of the Shanxi province and the city is famous for “杏花村酒”(the wine named after the Xin hua cun).

I tried to be nice and made a comment to Mary that her hometown had to be very beautiful, otherwise, it would not have inspired Du Mu to write such a beautiful poem. Mary surprised me by saying that Shanxi is now polluted by the mining industry in the province. If you look up the link on Shanxi above, you will notice that Shanxi is one the most important mining producing centres in China. No wonder there is pollution. It seems that many miners died of related accidents too. I think Du Mu could never have imagined a scenario like this. What a pity that the ambiance of the environment has to give way to apparent prosperity.

I have a friend from Colombia (let’s call him Carlos),who informed me the other day that he did not have to attend classes at his university as there was a protest going on. As I understand from Carlos, the university was on the verge of going into bankruptcy as it did not get enough funding from the Government, which the lacked the funds. I informed Carlos that the Hong Kong Government does not have this kind of problem as we have large foreign exchange reserves. Carlos joked about coming to work in Hong Kong. I told him that he had to put up with the poor air quality here. Carlos informed me proudly that Colombia is one of cleanest country, in terms of air quality,in the world. I envy Colombia because the air quality in HOng Kong is getting worse and worse because of the air pollution blowing out from Mainland China. As a matter of fact. we are getting less and less number of “blue sky” days in Hong Kong in a year. This is just the price we have to pay for a better economy.

So I ask myself the question: Which is more important: Wealth or Healthy?

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.

The Qing Ming Festival (the Tomb Sweeping Day)

This Friday, 4th April 2008, is the Qing Ming Festival, which has been observed by the Chinese dating back hundred years ago. This year this festival is more important than ever as it is the first time that Mainland China observes it as a national holiday. Qing Ming is not a festival for celebration, but a day of mourning for their ancestors, and in the modern time, for their passed away family members or close relatives.

The Qing Ming Festival 清眀节, meaning CLEAR and BRIGHT festival,falls on the 104th days after the winter solstice, which is the 5th day of April each year and in a leap year(like this year), on the 4th day of April. This festival is sometimes known as the Tomb Sweeping Day, a day that the Chinese tend their graves of their love ones.

As the Festival signifies the changeover of the season from winter to spring, messy weather is the order of the day and the Festival usually met with drizzles and windiness. This year is no exception, it is drizzling, windy, wet and messy outside, which makes one feels the grief for those who have lost their love ones.

The most famous poem that featured the Festival was the poem entitled “Qingming” by Du Mu 杜牧 of the late Tang Dynasty, one of the two greatest poets of China of all time.

清明时节雨纷纷 / qīng míng shí jié yǔ fēn fēn
路上行人欲断魂 / lù shàng xíng rén yù duàn hún
借问酒家何处有 / jiè wèn jiǔ jiā hé chù yǒu
牧童遥指杏花村 / mù tóng yáo zhǐ xìng huā cūn

The literal translation of the poem in English is:

(the time around the Ching Ming Festival drizzling rain falls messily)
(the tomb sweepers around me on the dirt road up the mountain seems soon to lose their souls (lives) i.e. on the verge of dying)
(I politely asked where is the nearest inn so that I can drown my sorrow in alochol)
(the kid cowherd pointed far beyond at Xing Hua village (meaning my sorrow will go on))

The English translation of website China Details is:

The ceaseless drizzles drips all the dismal day,
So broken-hearted fares the traveler on the way.
When asked where could be found a tavern bower,
A cowboy points to yonder village of the apricot flower.

My good friend Jocoso’s translation of the poem in Spanish is :

La llovizna apaga con su llanto el Día de los Muertos.
Por el camino de las tumbas vuelan sombras apenadas.
¡Donde habrá una taberna para ahogar tanta tisteza!
Un joven tropero me señala como llegar al pueblo de Xing Hua .” cuentame que piensas.

My good friend Hedvart’s translation of the poem in Spanish is:

Un brillo de la estacion cae sin parar.
en el camino el peatón quiere rendirse,
pregunta por un lugar donde haya vino;
y el pastorcillo le responde: en el pueblo de Xinghua.