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韓維《謝到水仙二本》“In Gratitude for a Gift of Two Narcissus Bulbs” by Han Wei (1017-1098)


“In Gratitude for a Gift of Two Narcissus Bulbs” by Han Wei [1]









A yellow heart, delicate skirts, on a stalk all hollow; {This flower is white outside and yellow inside, with a hollow stalk like that of a chive. [It] originally grows in the valleys of Mount Wudang and is known among gentlemen as “celestial chive”.}

Joyous is [your] fine name, within the Lord’s hearing. [3]

The thick leaves carry in secret late night dew,

The wilting flowers last just enough for early spring breezes.

The frost-fighter has lost the blaze of a rose, [4]

The water-bred fails to keep the red of a lotus. [5]

[I’m] much indebted, Your Excellency, for your sympathy for my loneliness,

For bestowing such graceful company upon this detached old man.

*From Wu Zhizhen 吳之振 (1640-1714) ed., Song shi chao 宋詩鈔 (Wenyuange yingyin Siku quanshu 文淵閣景印四庫全書 vol. 1461, Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987), 17.43b-44a:

[1] Han Wei 韓維 (1017-1098) was a statesman of the Northern Song (960-1127), and only a few of his poems have survived in anthologies.

[2] Red characters rhyme.

[3] In light of the poet’s note, this line may refer to the fact that the bulbs came from Mount Wudang, one of the most sacred sites of Daoism. Di 帝 (Lord [of Heaven]) would then be the ruler of all gods in Daoism, who is also known as 玉皇大帝 (Jade Sovereign, Great Lord) and second only to sanqing 三清 (the Three Pure Ones, i.e. the three heavens). Moreover, the Chinese term for narcissus, shuixian 水仙, reads “water immortal”, bringing it close to the Lord of Heaven in the Daoist hierarchy and hence a “fine name”. Words like xutong 虛通 (hollow or empty throughout) in the first line and xianweng 仙翁 (old immortal) in the last also give the poem a distinct Daoist flavour.

[4] Jushuang 拒霜 (literally “resisting frost”) is a sobriquet of mu furong 木芙蓉 (cotton rose, Hibiscus mutabilis).

[5] Chushui 出水 (literally “coming out of water”) is not an alternative “name” like jushuang in the previous line, but given the compulsory parallelism of the third couplet in lüshi 律詩 (regulated verse), it may be understood here as referring to lotus (Nelumbo nucifera). Alternatively, these two lines may be rendered as: “Roses resisting frost have lost their blaze, / Lotuses coming out of water fail to keep their red.”

"Shuixian lamei" 水仙臘梅, hanging scroll by Qiu Ying 仇英 (1494-1552)

Image credit: National Palace Museum, Taipei

Album leaf by Chen Zi 陳字 (1634-ca. 1713)

Image credit: National Palace Museum, Taipei

Wild narcissus in my garden


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