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杨萬里《初二日苦熱》 “Suffering Heat on the Second Day” by Yang Wanli

After a stormy week, we had a few days of more than 33 ℃ consistently, and I’ve found a new activity to make myself feel slightly better: reading poets’ complaints about heat. The following one by Yang Wanli 楊萬里 (1127-1206), for example, is quite amusing.

Yang Wanli is famous for his lively and humorous tone, which is a rare quality to be found in shi-poetry that is usually associated with serious topics and emotions. I should also note that he is not known for writing doggerel, though the following poem comes close to it. This is the kind of poem that is normally not counted among a writer’s literary achievements, but it’s always nice to see an eminent poet getting annoyed by mundane matters and trying to entertain himself with his poetic tricks.

The third line suggests this poem was written in a fifth month. Today is precisely the second day of the fifth month.

*From Yang Wanli ji jianjiao 楊萬里集箋校, collated by Xin Gengru 辛更儒 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2007).

© National Palace Museum, Taipei

Copy of Wang Qizhi's 王羲之 (303-361) note "Da re tian" 大熱帖 (On Great Heat), one of his many complaints about the damn heat.

Transcription and translation:


It's too hot. You can come later. I really hate this heat - it makes me strengthless. Wang Xizhi.

(Note that some people would interpret this heat as an effect of a popular drug known as wushi san 五石散, or "five minerals powder," in Wang Xizhi's days.)


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