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朱彝尊《鵲橋仙》To the tune “Queqiaoxian” by Zhu Yizun (1629-1709)












To the tune “Queqiaoxian [Magpie Bridge Immortal]” by Zhu Yizun (1629-1709) [2]

Flowers fallen from the magnolia,

Wind rising among the crab apple,

A morning shower passed fresh.

The cat is gone, leaving its warmth on the embroidered seat,

To keep me company on this long day, sitting idle.

With a witty remark,

Or a lazy stretch,

[She] moves about in her scarlet shoes with grace.[3]

Having lost in coin flipping and stalk pulling,[4]

With what are you going to pay me off tonight?

* From Zhu Yizun, Pushuting ji 曝書亭集 (Sibu congkan chubian 四部叢刊初編 vol. 1695, Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1919), 27.4a:

[1] Red characters rhyme.

[2] Zhu Yizun was an eminent scholar and poet of the Qing dynasty. His Jingyikao 經義考, an annotated bibliography of historical works on the classics in three hundred scrolls, remains an indispensable reference in classical studies today. In this ci-poem, his portrayal of an intimate moment on a spring day gives a glimpse of the private life of a classicist.

[3] As common in the genre ci 詞 (lyric), the subject “she” here is only implied by the context and may refer to the poet’s wife, concubine, lover, or a female entertainer.

[4] Doucao 鬬草 (literally “fight with grass/plants”) may refer to two different games. In the “stalk pulling” game in my translation, two players each choose a grass stalk, cross them, and pull the two ends of their own stalk at the same time to see whose stalk breaks. Another version of doucao requires players to collect as many types of plants as possible. The player who has the richest and finest collection is the winner.

Album leaf by Ma Yuanyu 馬元馭 (ca. 1669-1722)

Image credit: National Palace Museum, Taipei

Album leaf by 屈兆麟 (1866-1937), in the style of Giuseppe Castiglione (AKA Lang Shining 郎世寧, 1688-1766)

Image credit: National Palace Museum, Taipei


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