Châu Hải Đường – Improvised on a rainless Double Seventh Festival

nguu lang

Châu Hải Đường (周海棠) is the pen-name of translator and calligrapher Lê Tiến Đạt ( 黎進達), courtesy name (字 , tự) Minh Thành (明成). He is a native of Vĩnh Bảo district (永寶縣 , Vĩnh Bảo huyện) located in Hải Phòng (海防), northern Vietnam. His home village is located close to the birthplace of Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm (阮秉謙 , 1491-1585), a famous poet of both classical Chinese and Vietnamese poetry. As a child, Châu Hải Đường studied classical Chinese under his grandfather, after which he continued to study both classical Chinese and Mandarin. He has translated several books from Mandarin into Vietnamese, including The Ugly Chinaman (醜陋的中國人 , Xú lậu đích Trung Quốc nhân) by Bo-yang (柏楊 , Bá Dương) and The Despicable Sage: T’sao T’sao (卑鄙的聖人:曹操 , Ti bỉ đích thánh nhân: Tào Tháo) by Wang Hsiao-lei (王曉磊 , Vương Hiểu Lỗi) . The Vietnamese titles of his translations are, respectively, Khoe Bàn Chân Nhỏ  (誇盘蹎㳶) and Tào Tháo: Thánh nhân đê tiện (曹操: 聖人低賤). Renowned for his calligraphy, he also teaches Chinese calligraphy and classical Chinese at the Nhân Mỹ school of calligraphy (仁美學堂 , Nhân Mỹ học đường) in Hà Nội (河內), the capital city of Vietnam.

In addition to practicing calligraphy and working as a translator, he also writes his own poetry in a variety of classical Chinese and traditional Vietnamese forms. The following poem was writing on the Chi-hs’i festival, or Double Seventh festival (七夕 , Thất Tịch), a festival celebrated across China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. The festival, which is a romantic occasion similar to modern-day Valentine’s Day, is traditionally associated with the story of the Herd-boy and Weaver-girl, two lovers who are separated on opposite sides of the Milky Way. Each year they meet only once, and shed tears together which fall to earth in the form of the rain that usually falls during this season. Interestingly, there are two stars associated with these lovers that in fact do cross paths only once a year around this time.

七夕無雨偶作

織女牛郎事有無
世間聽說正模糊
幾經七夕無風雨
豈是年衰淚已枯

Thất tịch vô vũ ngẫu tác

Chức Nữ, Ngưu Lang sự hữu vô?
Thế gian thính thuyết chính mô hồ.
Kỷ kinh Thất tịch vô phong vũ;
Khải thị niên suy lệ dĩ khô?

Improvised on a rainless Double Seventh Festival

The Herd-Boy and Weaver-Girl, is this story true or false?
Hearsay of the world is truly vague
How often has the Double-seventh festival passed without wind or rain
Is it that in old age their tears have dried?

Notes:

-The author has also translated this poem into Vietnamese:

Chức Nữ, Ngưu Lang chuyện có không?
Nhân gian nghe nói những mông lung.
Mấy phen Thất tịch không mưa gió;
Há bởi già nua lệ cạn dòng?

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