An anthology of 320 poems. Discover Chinese poetry in its golden age and some of the greatest Chinese poets. Tr. by Bynner (en).
The Yellow Crane Terrace
Where long ago a yellow crane bore a sage to heaven,
Nothing is left now but the Yellow Crane Terrace.
The yellow crane never revisited earth,
And white clouds are flying without him for ever.
...Every tree in Hanyang becomes clear in the water,
And Parrot Island is a nest of sweet grasses;
But I look toward home, and twilight grows dark
With a mist of grief on the river waves.
Passing Through Huayin
Lords of the capital, sharp, unearthly,
The Great Flower's three points pierce through heaven.
Clouds are parting above the Temple of the Warring Emperor,
Rain dries on the mountain, on the Giant's Palm.
Ranges and rivers are the strength of this western gate,
Whence roads and trails lead downward into China.
...O pilgrim of fame, O seeker of profit,
Why not remain here and lengthen your days?
Looking Toward an Inner Gate of the Great Wall
My heart sank when I headed north from Yan Country
To the camps of China echoing ith bugle and drum.
...In an endless cold light of massive snow,
Tall flags on three borders rise up like a dawn.
War-torches invade the barbarian moonlight,
Mountain-clouds like chairmen bear the Great Wall from the sea.
...Though no youthful clerk meant to be a great general,
I throw aside my writing-brush –
Like the student who tossed off cap for a lariat,
I challenge what may come.
A Farewell to Wei Wan
The travellers' parting-song sounds in the dawn.
Last night a first frost came over the river;
And the crying of the wildgeese grieves my sad heart
Bounded by a gloom of cloudy mountains....
Here in the Gate City, day will flush cold
And washing-flails quicken by the gardens at twilight –
How long shall the capital content you,
Where the months and the years so vainly go by?
A Climb on the Mountain Holiday to the Terrace Whence One Sees the Magician a Poem Sent to Vice-prefect Lu
The Han Emperor Wen bequeathed us this terrace
Which I climb to watch the coming dawn.
Cloudy peaks run northward in the three Jin districts,
And rains are blowing westward through the two Ling valleys.
...Who knows but me about the Guard at the Gate,
Or where the Magician of the River Bank is,
Or how to find that magistrate, that poet,
Who was as fond as I am of chrysanthemums and winecups?
On Climbing in Nanjing to the Terrace of Phoenixes
Phoenixes that played here once, so that the place was named for them,
Have abandoned it now to this desolate river;
The paths of Wu Palace are crooked with weeds;
The garments of Qin are ancient dust.
...Like this green horizon halving the Three Peaks,
Like this Island of White Egrets dividing the river,
A cloud has arisen between the Light of Heaven and me,
To hide his city from my melancholy heart.
To Vice-prefects Li and Wang Degraded and Transferred to Xiazhong and Changsha
What are you thinking as we part from one another,
Pulling in our horses for the stirrup-cups?
Do these tear-streaks mean Wu Valley monkeys all weeping,
Or wildgeese returning with news from Heng Mountain?....
On the river between green maples an autumn sail grows dim,
There are only a few old trees by the wall of the White God City....
But the year is bound to freshen us with a dew of heavenly favour –
Take heart, we shall soon be together again!
An Early Audience at the Palace of Light Harmonizing Secretary Jia Zhi's Poem
Cock-crow, the Purple Road cold in the dawn;
Linnet songs, court roofs tinted with April;
At the Golden Gate morning bell, countless doors open,
And up the jade steps float a thousand officials
With flowery scabbards.... Stars have gone down;
Willows are brushing the dew from the flags –
And, alone on the Lake of the Phoenix, a guest
Is chanting too well The Song of Bright Spring.
An Early Audience at the Palace of Light Harmonizing Secretary Jia Zhi Poem
The red-capped Cock-Man has just announced morning;
The Keeper of the Robes brings Jade-Cloud Furs;
Heaven's nine doors reveal the palace and its courtyards;
And the coats of many countries bow to the Pearl Crown.
Sunshine has entered the giants' carven palms;
Incense wreathes the Dragon Robe:
The audience adjourns-and the five-coloured edict
Sets girdle-beads clinking toward the Lake of the Phoenix.
Looking Down in a Spring-rain on the Course from Fairy-mountain Palace to the Pavilion of Increase Harmonizing the Emperor's Poem
Round a turn of the Qin Fortress winds the Wei River,
And Yellow Mountain foot-hills enclose the Court of China;
Past the South Gate willows comes the Car of Many Bells
On the upper Palace-Garden Road-a solid length of blossom;
A Forbidden City roof holds two phoenixes in cloud;
The foliage of spring shelters multitudes from rain;
And now, when the heavens are propitious for action,
Here is our Emperor ready-no wasteful wanderer.
In my Lodge at Wang Chuan After a Long Rain
The woods have stored the rain, and slow comes the smoke
As rice is cooked on faggots and carried to the fields;
Over the quiet marsh-land flies a white egret,
And mango-birds are singing in the full summer trees....
I have learned to watch in peace the mountain morningglories,
To eat split dewy sunflower-seeds under a bough of pine,
To yield the post of honour to any boor at all....
Why should I frighten sea gulls, even with a thought?
Harmonizing a Poem By Palace-attendant Guo
High beyond the thick wall a tower shines with sunset
Where peach and plum are blooming and the willowcotton flies.
You have heard in your office the court-bell of twilight;
Birds find perches, officials head for home.
Your morning-jade will tinkle as you thread the golden palace;
You will bring the word of Heaven from the closing gates at night.
And I should serve there with you; but being full of years,
I have taken off official robes and am resting from my troubles.
The Temple of the Premier of Shu
Where is the temple of the famous Premier? –
In a deep pine grove near the City of Silk,
With the green grass of spring colouring the steps,
And birds chirping happily under the leaves.
...The third summons weighted him with affairs of state
And to two generations he gave his true heart,
But before he could conquer, he was dead;
And heroes have wept on their coats ever since.
A Hearty Welcome to Vice-prefect Cui
North of me, south of me, spring is in flood,
Day after day I have seen only gulls....
My path is full of petals – I have swept it for no others.
My thatch gate has been closed – but opens now for you.
It's a long way to the market, I can offer you little –
Yet here in my cottage there is old wine for our cups.
Shall we summon my elderly neighbour to join us,
Call him through the fence, and pour the jar dry?
A View of the Wilderness
Snow is white on the westward mountains and on three fortified towns,
And waters in this southern lake flash on a long bridge.
But wind and dust from sea to sea bar me from my brothers;
And I cannot help crying, I am so far away.
I have nothing to expect now but the ills of old age.
I am of less use to my country than a grain of dust.
I ride out to the edge of town. I watch on the horizon,
Day after day, the chaos of the world.
Both Sides of the Yellow River Recaptured By the Imperial Army
News at this far western station! The north has been recaptured!
At first I cannot check the tears from pouring on my coat –
Where is my wife? Where are my sons?
Yet crazily sure of finding them, I pack my books and poems- -
And loud my song and deep my drink
On the green spring-day that starts me home,
Back from this mountain, past another mountain,
Up from the south, north again-to my own town!
A Long Climb
In a sharp gale from the wide sky apes are whimpering,
Birds are flying homeward over the clear lake and white sand,
Leaves are dropping down like the spray of a waterfall,
While I watch the long river always rolling on.
I have come three thousand miles away. Sad now with autumn
And with my hundred years of woe, I climb this height alone.
Ill fortune has laid a bitter frost on my temples,
Heart-ache and weariness are a thick dust in my wine.
From an Upper Story
Flowers, as high as my window, hurt the heart of a wanderer
For I see, from this high vantage, sadness everywhere.
The Silken River, bright with spring, floats between earth and heaven
Like a line of cloud by the Jade Peak, between ancient days and now.
...Though the State is established for a while as firm as the North Star
And bandits dare not venture from the western hills,
Yet sorry in the twilight for the woes of a longvanished Emperor,
I am singing the song his Premier sang when still unestranged from the mountain.
Staying at the General's Headquarters
The autumn night is clear and cold in the lakka-trees of this courtyard.
I am lying forlorn in the river-town. I watch my guttering candle.
I hear the lonely notes of a bugle sounding through the dark.
The moon is in mid-heaven, but there's no one to share it with me.
My messengers are scattered by whirls of rain and sand.
City-gates are closed to a traveller; mountains are walls in my way –
Yet, I who have borne ten years of pitiable existence,
Find here a perch, a little branch, and am safe for this one night.
Night in the Watch-tower
While winter daylight shortens in the elemental scale
And snow and frost whiten the cold-circling night,
Stark sounds the fifth-watch with a challenge of drum and bugle.
...The stars and the River of Heaven pulse over the three mountains;
I hear women in the distance, wailing after the battle;
I see barbarian fishermen and woodcutters in the dawn.
...Sleeping-Dragon, Plunging-Horse, are no generals now, they are dust –
Hush for a moment, O tumult of the world.
Poetic Thoughts on Ancient Sites I
Forlorn in the northeast among wind and dust,
Drifting in the southwest between heaven and earth,
Lingering for days and months in towers and terraces at the Three Gorges,
Sharing clouds and mountains with the costumes of the Five Streams.
The barbarian serving the ruler in the end was unreliable.
The wandering poet lamenting the times had no chance to return.
Yu Xin throughout his life was most miserable,
In his waning years his poetry stirred the land of rivers and passes.
Poetic Thoughts on Ancient Sites II
"Decay and decline": deep knowledge have I of Sung Yu's grief.
Romantic and refined, he too is my teacher.
Sadly looking across a thousand autumns, one shower of tears,
Melancholy in different epochs, not at the same time.
Among rivers and mountains his old abode – empty his writings;
Deserted terrace of cloud and rain – surely not just imagined in a dream?
Utterly the palaces of Chu are all destroyed and ruined,
The fishermen pointing them out today are unsure.
Thoughts of Old Time III
Ten thousand ranges and valleys approach the Jing Gate
And the village in which the Lady of Light was born and bred.
She went out from the purple palace into the desertland;
She has now become a green grave in the yellow dusk.
Her face ! Can you picture a wind of the spring?
Her spirit by moonlight returns with a tinkling
Song of the Tartars on her jade guitar,
Telling her eternal sorrow.
Poetic Thoughts on Ancient Sites IV
The ruler of Shu had his eyes on Wu and progressed as far as the Three Gorges.
In the year of his demise, too, he was in the Palace of Eternal Peace.
The blue-green banners can be imagined on the empty mountain,
The jade palace is a void in the deserted temple.
In the pines of the ancient shrine aquatic cranes nest;
At summer and winter festivals the comers are village elders.
The Martial Marquis's memorial shrine is ever nearby;
In union, sovereign and minister share the sacrifices together.
Thoughts of Old Time V
Zhuge's prestige transcends the earth;
There is only reverence for his face;
Yet his will, among the Three Kingdoms at war,
Was only as one feather against a flaming sky.
He was brother of men like Yi and Lu
And in time would have surpassed the greatest of all statesmen.
Though he knew there was no hope for the House of Han,
Yet he wielded his mind for it, yielded his life.
On Leaving Guijiang Again to Xue and Liu
Dare I, at my age, accept my summons,
Knowing of the world's ways only wine and song?....
Over the moon-edged river come wildgeese from the Tartars;
And the thinner the leaves along the Huai, the wider the southern mountains....
I ought to be glad to take my old bones back to the capital,
But what am I good for in that world, with my few white hairs?....
As bent and decrepit as you are, I am ashamed to thank you,
When you caution me that I may encounter thunderbolts.
On Passing Jia Yi's House in Changsha
Here, where you spent your three years' exile,
To be mourned in Chu ten thousand years,
Can I trace your footprint in the autumn grass –
Or only slanting sunlight through the bleak woods?
If even good Emperor Wen was cold-hearted,
Could you hope that the dull river Xiang would understand you,
These desolate waters, these taciturn mountains,
When you came, like me, so far away?
An Evening View of the City of Youzhou After Coming from Hankou to Parrot Island a Poem Sent to my Friend Governor Yuan
No ripples in the river, no mist on the islands,
Yet the landscape is blurred toward my friend in Chu....
Birds in the slanting sun cross Hankou,
And the autumn sky mingles with Lake Dongting.
...From a bleak mountain wall the cold tone of a bugle
Reminds me, moored by a ruined fort,
That Jia Yi's loyal plea to the House of Han
Banned him to Changsha, to be an exile.
To my Friend at the Capital Secretary Pei
Finches flash yellow through the Imperial Grove
Of the Forbidden City, pale with spring dawn;
Flowers muffle a bell in the Palace of Bliss
And rain has deepened the Dragon Lake willows;
But spring is no help to a man bewildered,
Who would be like a cloud upholding the Light of Heaven,
Yet whose poems, ten years refused, are shaming
These white hairs held by the petalled pin.
To my Friends Li Dan and Yuanxi
We met last among flowers, among flowers we parted,
And here, a year later, there are flowers again;
But, with ways of the world too strange to foretell,
Spring only brings me grief and fatigue.
I am sick, and I think of my home in the country-
Ashamed to take pay while so many are idle.
...In my western tower, because of your promise,
I have watched the full moons come and go.
Inscribed in the Temple of the Wandering Genie
I face, high over this enchanted lodge, the Court of the Five Cities of Heaven,
And I see a countryside blue and still, after the long rain.
The distant peaks and trees of Qin merge into twilight,
And Had Palace washing-stones make their autumnal echoes.
Thin pine-shadows brush the outdoor pulpit,
And grasses blow their fragrance into my little cave.
...Who need be craving a world beyond this one?
Here, among men, are the Purple Hills
Finch-notes and swallow-notes tell the new year....
But so far are the Town of the Horse and the Dragon Mound
From this our house, from these walls and Han Gardens,
That the moon takes my heart to the Tartar sky.
I have woven in the frame endless words of my grieving....
Yet this petal-bough is smiling now on my lonely sleep.
Oh, ask General Dou when his flags will come home
And his triumph be carved on the rock of Yanran mountain!
A Night-mooring at Wuchang
Far off in the clouds stand the walls of Hanyang,
Another day's journey for my lone sail....
Though a river-merchant ought to sleep in this calm weather,
I listen to the tide at night and voices of the boatmen.
...My thin hair grows wintry, like the triple Xiang streams,
Three thousand miles my heart goes, homesick with the moon;
But the war has left me nothing of my heritage –
And oh, the pang of hearing these drums along the river!
From the City-tower of Liuzhou to my Four Fellow-officials at Zhang, Ding, Feng, and Lian Districts
At this lofty tower where the town ends, wilderness begins;
And our longing has as far to go as the ocean or the sky....
Hibiscus-flowers by the moat heave in a sudden wind,
And vines along the wall are whipped with slanting rain.
Nothing to see for three hundred miles but a blur of woods and mountain –
And the river's nine loops, twisting in our bowels....
This is where they have sent us, this land of tattooed people –
And not even letters, to keep us in touch with home.
Thoughts of Old Time at West Fort Mountain
Since Wang Jun brought his towering ships down from Yizhou,
The royal ghost has pined in the city of Nanjing.
Ten thousand feet of iron chain were sunk here to the bottom –
And then came the flag of surrender on the Wall of Stone....
Cycles of change have moved into the past,
While still this mountain dignity has commanded the cold river;
And now comes the day of the Chinese world united,
And the old forts fill with ruin and with autumn reeds.
An Elegy I
O youngest, best-loved daughter of Xie,
Who unluckily married this penniless scholar,
You patched my clothes from your own wicker basket,
And I coaxed off your hairpins of gold, to buy wine with;
For dinner we had to pick wild herbs –
And to use dry locust-leaves for our kindling.
...Today they are paying me a hundred thousand –
And all that I can bring to you is a temple sacrifice.
An Elegy II
We joked, long ago, about one of us dying,
But suddenly, before my eyes, you are gone.
Almost all your clothes have been given away;
Your needlework is sealed, I dare not look at it....
I continue your bounty to our men and our maids –
Sometimes, in a dream, I bring you gifts.
...This is a sorrow that all mankind must know –
But not as those know it who have been poor together.
An Elegy III
I sit here alone, mourning for us both.
How many years do I lack now of my threescore and ten?
There have been better men than I to whom heaven denied a son,
There was a poet better than I whose dead wife could not hear him.
What have I to hope for in the darkness of our tomb?
You and I had little faith in a meeting after death-
Yet my open eyes can see all night
That lifelong trouble of your brow.
To my Brothers and Sisters Adrift in Troubled Times this Poem of the Moon
My heritage lost through disorder and famine,
My brothers and sisters flung eastward and westward,
My fields and gardens wrecked by the war,
My own flesh and blood become scum of the street,
I moan to my shadow like a lone-wandering wildgoose,
I am torn from my root like a water-plant in autumn:
I gaze at the moon, and my tears run down
For hearts, in five places, all sick with one wish.
The Inlaid Harp
I wonder why my inlaid harp has fifty strings,
Each with its flower-like fret an interval of youth.
...The sage Chuangzi is day-dreaming, bewitched by butterflies,
The spring-heart of Emperor Wang is crying in a cuckoo,
Mermen weep their pearly tears down a moon-green sea,
Blue fields are breathing their jade to the sun....
And a moment that ought to have lasted for ever
Has come and gone before I knew.
To One Unnamed
The stars of last night and the wind of last night
Are west of the Painted Chamber and east of Cinnamon Hall.
...Though I have for my body no wings like those of the bright- coloured phoenix,
Yet I feel the harmonious heart-beat of the Sacred Unicorn.
Across the spring-wine, while it warms me, I prompt you how to bet
Where, group by group, we are throwing dice in the light of a crimson lamp;
Till the rolling of a drum, alas, calls me to my duties
And I mount my horse and ride away, like a water-plant cut adrift.
The Palace of the Sui Emperor
His Palace of Purple Spring has been taken by mist and cloud,
As he would have taken all Yangzhou to be his private domain
But for the seal of imperial jade being seized by the first Tang Emperor,
He would have bounded with his silken sails the limits of the world.
Fire-flies are gone now, have left the weathered grasses,
But still among the weeping-willows crows perch at twilight.
...If he meets, there underground, the Later Chen Emperor,
Do you think that they will mention a Song of Courtyard Flowers?
To One Unnamed I
You said you would come, but you did not, and you left me with no other trace
Than the moonlight on your tower at the fifth-watch bell.
I cry for you forever gone, I cannot waken yet,
I try to read your hurried note, I find the ink too pale.
...Blue burns your candle in its kingfisher-feather lantern
And a sweet breath steals from your hibiscus-broidered curtain.
But far beyond my reach is the Enchanted Mountain,
And you are on the other side, ten thousand peaks away.
To One Unnamed II
A misty rain comes blowing with a wind from the east,
And wheels faintly thunder beyond Hibiscus Pool.
...Round the golden-toad lock, incense is creeping;
The jade tiger tells, on its cord, of water being drawn
A great lady once, from behind a screen, favoured a poor youth;
A fairy queen brought a bridal mat once for the ease of a prince and then vanished.
...Must human hearts blossom in spring, like all other flowers?
And of even this bright flame of love, shall there be only ashes?
In the Camp of the Sketching Brush
Monkeys and birds are still alert for your orders
And winds and clouds eager to shield your fortress.
...You were master of the brush, and a sagacious general,
But your Emperor, defeated, rode the prison-cart.
You were abler than even the greatest Zhou statesmen,
Yet less fortunate than the two Shu generals who were killed in action.
And, though at your birth-place a temple has been built to you,
You never finished singing your Song of the Holy Mountain
To One Unnamed III
Time was long before I met her, but is longer since we parted,
And the east wind has arisen and a hundred flowers are gone,
And the silk-worms of spring will weave until they die
And every night the candles will weep their wicks away.
Mornings in her mirror she sees her hair-cloud changing,
Yet she dares the chill of moonlight with her evening song.
...It is not so very far to her Enchanted Mountain
O blue-birds, be listening!-Bring me what she says!
I am lying in a white-lined coat while the spring approaches,
But am thinking only of the White Gate City where I cannot be.
...There are two red chambers fronting the cold, hidden by the rain,
And a lantern on a pearl screen swaying my lone heart homeward.
...The long road ahead will be full of new hardship,
With, late in the nights, brief intervals of dream.
Oh, to send you this message, this pair of jade earrings! –
I watch a lonely wildgoose in three thousand miles of cloud.
To One Unnamed IV
A faint phoenix-tail gauze, fragrant and doubled,
Lines your green canopy, closed for the night....
Will your shy face peer round a moon-shaped fan,
And your voice be heard hushing the rattle of my carriage?
It is quiet and quiet where your gold lamp dies,
How far can a pomegranate-blossom whisper?
...I will tether my horse to a river willow
And wait for the will of the southwest wind.
To One Unnamed V
There are many curtains in your care-free house,
Where rapture lasts the whole night long.
...What are the lives of angels but dreams
If they take no lovers into their rooms?
...Storms are ravishing the nut-horns,
Moon- dew sweetening cinnamon-leaves
I know well enough naught can come of this union,
Yet how it serves to ease my heart!
Near the Lizhou Ferry
The sun has set in the water's clear void,
And little blue islands are one with the sky.
On the bank a horse neighs. A boat goes by.
People gather at a willow- clump and wait for the ferry.
Down by the sand-bushes sea-gulls are circling,
Over the wide river-lands flies an egret.
...Can you guess why I sail, like an ancient wise lover,
Through the misty Five Lakes, forgetting words?
The Temple of Su Wu
Though our envoy, Su Wu, is gone, body and soul,
This temple survives, these trees endure....
Wildgeese through the clouds are still calling to the moon there
And hill-sheep unshepherded graze along the border.
...Returning, he found his country changed
Since with youthful cap and sword he had left it.
His bitter adventures had won him no title....
Autumn-waves endlessly sob in the river.
A Palace Poem
In twelve chambers the ladies, decked for the day,
Peer afar for their lord from their Fairy-View Lodge;
The golden toad guards the lock on the door-chain,
And the bronze-dragon water-clock drips through the morning
Till one of them, tilting a mirror, combs her cloud of hair
And chooses new scent and a change of silk raiment;
For she sees, between screen-panels, deep in the palace,
Eunuchs in court-dress preparing a bed.
A Poor Girl
Living under a thatch roof, never wearing fragrant silk,
She longs to arrange a marriage, but how could she dare?
Who would know her simple face the loveliest of them all
When we choose for worldliness, not for worth?
Her fingers embroider beyond compare,
But she cannot vie with painted brows;
And year after year she has sewn gold thread
On bridal robes for other girls.
A girl of the Lu clan who lives in Golden-Wood Hall,
Where swallows perch in pairs on beams of tortoiseshell,
Hears the washing-mallets' cold beat shake the leaves down.
...The Liaoyang expedition will be gone ten years,
And messages are lost in the White Wolf River.
...Here in the City of the Red Phoenix autumn nights are long,
Where one who is heart-sick to see beyond seeing,
Sees only moonlight on the yellow-silk wave of her loom.
300 Tang poems – Tang Shi VI. 1. – Chinese off/on – Français/English
Alias Tang Shi San Bai Shou, Three Hundred Poems of the Tang Dynasty, Poésie des Thang.
The Book of Odes, The Analects, Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, Three-characters book, The Book of Changes, The Way and its Power, 300 Tang Poems, The Art of War, Thirty-Six Strategies
Welcome, help, notes, introduction, table.
Index – Contact – Top