Mastering Chinese Poetry Ep.22: The Qixi Festival-Tune: Riverside Daffodils
Updated 20:26, 14-Aug-2021

Qixi, meaning "double seventh", is the Chinese Valentine's Day. It falls on August 14 this year, the 7th day of the seventh month lunar Chinese calendar. CGTN shares a classic piece of Song Ci poetry written by Northern Song-dynasty (960-1127) poet Yan Jidao, on our deepest romantic yearnings, in Episode 22 of "Mastering Chinese Poetry": Tune-Riverside Daffodils. 

It celebrates the annual rendezvous between a cowherd called Niu Lang on Earth, and Zhi Nu, the "weaver girl." This ancient tale, which can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-AD 220), tells how they fell in love but were banned from seeing each other because of opposition from the girl's family.  

This beautiful tale of forbidden love has inspired Chinese writers, artists and poets to create countless masterpieces. 

Tune: Riverside Daffodils 

Awake from dreams, I find the locked tower high; 
Sober from wine, I see the curtains hanging low. 
As last year spring grief seems to grow. 
Amid the falling blooms alone stand I; 
In the fine rain a pair of swallows fly.  
I still remember when I first saw pretty Ping, 
In silken dress embroidered with two hearts in a ring,  
Revealing lovesickness by touching pipa's string.
The moon shines bright just as last year; 
It did see her like a cloud disappear. 

(Translated by Xu Yuanchong)

Here we'd like to talk about this great poet. Yan Jidao was born and raised during the Northern Song Dynasty, a period with a comparatively stable political and economic environment. Literary works from this time focused more on the beauty of life and some "meaningless" things.  

Take these two lines in the poem as an example:  

luò huā rén dú lì 
wēi yǔ yàn shuāng fēi 

"Amid the falling blooms alone stand I, In the fine rain a pair of swallows fly.” The writer uses imagery here, straightforwardly depicting a scene by using descriptive language to play to the readers' senses. It's a scene where you can see a person standing amidst falling flowers, and a pair of swallows flying through the misty rain. He did't use adjectives to describe his emotions, but expressed them by drawing us into the scene. So what's the emotion behind it? Loneliness? Sadness? Disappointment? Comprehension about life? He created a space for the readers to imagine.  

Yan Jidao's poems mainly focused on love, often portraying a male persona worried about being abandoned by his lover, with clear language, sincere emotion and straightforward expression.  

jì dé xiǎo píng chū jiàn  
liǎng chóng xīn zì luó yī  

This Song Ci poet is talking about his love for a singer named Ping, who he met long ago. It's kind of love that is destined to not last. But, he wrote, "I still remember when I first saw pretty Ping. In silken dress embroidered with two hearts in a ring." He clearly remembers her name and uses it in this work. There are not many things that happen in our lives that can be remembered forever, but the poet remembered what she wore and even the pattern embroidered on her gown.  

dāng shí míng yuè zài 
céng zhào cǎi yún guī 

"The moon shines bright just as last year. It did see her like a cloud disappear." I personally really like these two lines. The author did not directly express his feelings, but by describing the scene, the bright moon still remains, the one which once illuminated the homeward path of the cloud of many hues. We can feel the sincere and deep emotions from his heart. There was so much joy in his life, the night he met Ping, the singer. These are important memories and moments to him, the love he felt, the joy in his life. Those feelings are very personal.  

People define love in different ways … but it's always very beautiful.


Reporter: Zhu Danni

Videographer: Zhang Wanbao

Video editor: Zhang Dian

Script writer: Zhu Danni

Cover designer: Sa Ren

Copy editor: John Goodrich

Chief editors: Lin Dongwei, Pei Jian

Producer: Li Tianfu

Executive producer: Wen Yaru

Supervisor: Zhang Shilei

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