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張憲《天狼謠》“The Heavenly Wolf: A Ballad” by Zhang Xian (fl. 14th century)

煌煌天狼星, Glowing bright is the Heavenly Wolf Star,[1]

芒角射參。 Whose spikes shoot at the Three [Stars] and Maned [Head].[2]

獨步天東南, All alone [it] strides across the southeastern sky,

燁煜竟昏。 Flaring and glaring from dusk to dawn.

天弧不上弦, The Heavenly Arch[3] has no string mounted,

金虎斂牙。 The Golden Tiger[4] keeps its teeth and claws in check.

萬里食行人, Across a thousand miles [the Heavenly Wolf] devours walking men,

白骨遍荒。 White bones all over the wilds.

火爇烏龍, Fires burn on the ridge of the Dark Dragon,

血染朱雀。 Blood stains the flight of the Vermilion Bird.[5]

列宿不盡力, Various mansions withhold their forces,

五緯分乖。 The Five Wefts[6] scatter wildly apart.

戍客困疆場, Soldiers away from home are trapped on the battlefield

荷戈涕成。 Bearing pikes, tears in streams.

誰為補天手, Who has the heaven-patching hands[7]

為洗日重[8] Whose washing makes the sun shine anew?


* From Gu Sili 顧嗣立 (1669-1722) ed., Yuan shi xuan chuji 元詩選初集 (Wenyuange yingyin Siku quanshu 文淵閣景印四庫全書 vol. 1469, Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987), 54.21b: https://ctext.org/library.pl?if=gb&file=64201&page=44.

[1] Tianlangxing 天狼星 (Heavenly Wolf Star) refers to Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Its brightness and location in the celestial area traditionally associated with northwestern ethnic minorities made it a symbol of foreign invasion and warfare. The poem was probably written during the upheavals towards the end of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). [2] Shen 參 (Three [Stars]) and mao昴 (Maned [Head]) are two of the Twenty-Eight Mansions (xiu 宿) in the Chinese constellations, the former corresponding to the belt of Orion and the latter to Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45). [3] Tianhu 天弧 (Heavenly Arch), also known as hushi 弧矢 (Arch and Arrow), is located in the jingxiu 井宿 (Well Mansion) and corresponds to nine stars in Canis Major and Puppis. [4] Jinhu 金虎 (Golden Tiger) is an alternative term for the White Tiger of the west in the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. [5] These two lines refer again to the Four Symbols: the Dragon of the East (more commonly known as qinglong 青龍, or Azure Dragon) and the Bird of the South. [6] The five naked-eye planets of the Solar System: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. This couplet may be interpreted as an indirect criticism of the power struggle among regional warlords at the time. [7] This line alludes to the ancient myth of Nüwa 女媧 who patched the holes in the sky with five-coloured stones.

[8] Coloured characters rhyme.


Representation of the Wolf and the Arch/Bow in a medieval manuscript (Or.8210/S.3326) from Dunhuang Mogao Caves; see http://idp.bl.uk/database/oo_scroll_h.a4d?uid=1643564397;recnum=8280;index=1

Image Credit: British Library


Some celestial bodies and concepts mentioned in Zhang Xian's poem


The same view of the night sky with Western constellations highlighted

 

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