Mastering Chinese Poetry: 'Qingming Scene at the Su Causeway'
April 5 marks this year's Qingming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, in China. It's a day to honor deceased family members and visit them at their graves. The festival dates back to over 2,500 years ago and has inspired numerous poems for blending the joys of springtime with the sorrows of mourning the dead.
In this episode of Mastering Chinese Poetry, we go over a short poem by Song poet Wu Weixin: "Qingming Scene at the Su Causeway."
Qingming Scene at the Su Causeway
The pear blossoms are dancing in the gentle breeze,
and here comes the Qingming Festival.
Men and women, old and young,
take a trip out of town to look for spring.
When the wonderful music, songs and dances end at sunset,
warblers sing and fly through thousands of willows trees.
(Translated by Zhu Danni)
Spring scene at West Lake, Hangzhou city, East China's Zhejiang province. [Photo/VCG]
lí huā fēng qǐ zhèng qīng míng
yóu zǐ xún chūn bàn chū chéng
This piece describes a one-day trip during the Qingming Festival at the famous West Lake in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province. The essence of this tradition is to commemorate our loved ones who are no longer with us by visiting them at their burial site.
Remembering the dead comes at a time when nature is being reborn during spring, with the cool weather inviting people to the outdoors. It's this scene that the poet evokes by conjuring common springtime imagery: a gentle breeze, flowers in full bloom and fresh air.
rì mù shēng gē shōu shí qù
wàn zhū yáng liǔ shǔ liú yíng
Everything has an end: winter, life… even a day out. The last two sentences of the poem depict the day as it winds up. The beautiful scenery that people have enjoyed during their outing is fleeting and brief. "When the wonderful music, songs and dances end at sunset, warblers sing and fly through thousands of willows trees."
Qingming-centric poems have tried to merge the concepts of death and birth, but the festival isn't necessarily only about grief. Like the poem we shared today, it's an occasion to enjoy life with our loved ones by our side and welcome the arrival of spring and the power to revive nature and all its elements.
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