Monthly Archives: August 2015


Li Ch’ing-chao (李清照 , 1084-~1151) was a famous female poet from the Song dynasty (宋朝 , 960-1279). She lived a turbulent life and met with the praise and criticism of many scholars, both of her generation and later generations. Born into an affluent scholar family, she gained fame for her skill in poetry even before her marriage. She was initially married to a scholar from another affluent family with whom she had a happy marriage and shared many poetic and artistic interests. However, due to the turbulent times and the continuing war between the Song dynasty and the barbarian Jurchen tribes, she and her husband had to flee south along with huge numbers of other refugees. Her husband passed away soon after their flight to Nanjing (南京 , Nam Kinh). According to some sources, she re-married and subsequently divorced, extremely unbecoming behavior to more prudish Confucians. Her lyric poetry (詞 , từ) is marked by its sensitive musicality and high levels of refinement.




Ức Tần Nga

Lâm cao các
Loạn sơn bình dã yên quang bạc
Yên quang bạc
Thê nha quy hậu
Mộ thiên văn giác

Đoạn hương tàn hương tình hoài ác
Tây phong thôi sấn ngô đồng lạc
Ngô đồng lạc
Hựu hoàn thu sắc
Hựu hoàn tịch mịch

To the tune of “Yi Chin O”

Gazing down from a high tower
Jagged mountains, flat plains, thin veils of mist
Thin veils of mist
After the crows have returned to roost
Horns blast in the darkening sky

Puffs of fragrance, dying fragrance, the heart’s feelings are cruel
In the West wind the Wu’tong leaves fall
Wu’tong leaves fall
Once again the colour of autumn
Once again desolate silence


-Horns were blown at evening and various parts of the night/early morning to mark the passage of time

-Vietnamese scholar and author, Trần Quang Đức (陳光德 , 1985 – ), courtesy name (字 , tự) Thí Phổ (施普), pen-name (號 , hiệu) Vân Trai (雲齋) has translated this lyric into Vietnamese:

Nom lầu gác
Núi giăng nội trải hơi chiều lạt
Hơi chiều lạt
Quạ về nương đậu
Tù và xao xác

Hương thưa hương tàn tình đời ác
Gió tây lay bứt ngô đồng rạc
Ngô đồng rạc
Về đâu thu sắc
Người đâu trầm mặc



“Great Scholar of the Bamboo Grove” (竹林大士 , Trúc Lâm đại sĩ) was a pen-name (號 , hiệu) of Emperor Trần Nhân-tông (陳仁宗 , 1258-1308), the third ruler of the Trần dynasty (陳朝 , 1225-1440). In addition to being a skilled ruler who successfully dealt with invasions from the Mongol Yuan dynasty (大元 , 1271-1368) and boasted impressive military feats, Emperor Trần Nhân-tông was also famous for his refined poetry and profound knowledge of Buddhist studies (佛學 , Phật học). In the year 1293, he abdicated the throne and having installed his son as his heir, he became a Buddhist monk and wandered the countryside, seeking instruction from learned monks and eventually founding his own school of Zen (禪 , Thiền) Buddhism, called the Bamboo Grove school of Yên-tử mountain (竹林安子 , Trúc-Lâm Yên-tử). He lived the rest of his days on Mount Yên-tử (安子山 , Yên tử sơn) in Quảng-ninh province (廣寧省 , Quảng Ninh tỉnh) in northern Vietnam.



Sơn phòng mạn hứng

Thị phi ngôn trục triêu hoa lạc
Danh lợi tâm tùy dạ vũ hàn
Hoa tận vũ tình sơn tịch tịch
Nhất thanh đề điểu hựu xuân tàn

Inspired in a Mountain Hut

Words of right and wrong wilt and fall with morning flowers
Desires of fame and fortune grow cold along with the night rain
Flowers gone, rain cleared, the mountain is still and quiet
In the sound of a crying bird, once again spring has faded away


-I translated this poem from the version printed in “The Dream-records of Nam-Ông” (南翁夢錄 , Nam Ông mộng lục) a Ming dynasty book written by Lê Trừng (黎澄 , ~1374-1446). He was the son of Lê Quý Ly (黎季犛 , 1336-1407), founder of the short-lived Hồ dynasty (胡朝 , 1400-1406). After the Ming dynasty intervened in the conflicts surrounding the chaos in Vietnam that followed the Hồ rulers rebellion against the Trần dynasty, Lê Quý Ly and his sons were taken captive to China. Lê Trừng was an engineer and had profound knowledge of firearms. He eventually rose through the ranks of the Ming court and became a prominent official. In his later years, he compiled the “Dream Records of Nam-ông”, which is a rather short work containing various sketches of history, important figures, and poetry from Vietnam. I am currently in the process of translating this work into English and hope to have it published relatively soon. Lê Trừng had this to say about this particular poem:


(Kỳ tiêu sái xuất trần, trường không nhất sắc, tao tình thanh sở, dật túc siêu quần, hữu “Đại Hương Hải Ấn tập”, phả đa tuyệt xướng, tích kỳ địa tao binh hỏa, bất đắc lưu truyền. Dư chỉ ký tụng nhất nhị nhi dĩ. Hu! Khả tích tai!)

How lofty and pure, escaping from the dust of this world. Like the uniform color of the vast heavens, the refined poetic sentiments therein are clear and bright, cool and severe. His skill rises far above the common multitudes. His works included the “Đại Hương Hải Ấn collection”, which contained quite a few poems of unmatched excellence. Regrettably, his lands met with the ravages of war, and his works were not passed down. I can only remember but a few poems. Alas! How regrettable!


Vũ Phạm Hàm (武范邯 , 1864-1906), courtesy name (字 , tự) Mộng Hải (夢海), pen-name (號 , hiệu) Thư Trì (書池) was a Nguyễn dynasty scholar from the province of Ha Dong (河東省 , Hà Đông tỉnh) in northern Vietnam. He was noted for being extremely intelligent from youth and graduated through the highest ranks of the civil examinations beginning at age 21. Later in life he began to oversee civil service examinations and was known for coming up with extremely challenging questions involving clever wordplay that would result in the total failure of those taking the test. During some point of his life, his fame reached the ears of a French official stationed in the coastal city of Hai Yeung (海陽 , Hải Dương) who had an appreciation for Classical Chinese and liked to display calligraphy in his residence. Vũ Phạm Hàm complied with the French official’s request and presented him with a plaque with the phrase “Looking bland and soft as a piece of jade” (溫其如玉 , ôn kỳ như ngọc) taken from the Odes of Chin (秦風 , Tần phong), a chapter in the Classic of Poetry (詩經 , Thi kinh). Soon after, the French official proudly showed his new present to his educated Vietnamese acquaintances. Knowing that Vũ Phạm Hàm was famous for his ingenious wordplay, the Vietnamese guests were all extremely embarrassed and explained to the French official that this phrase was in fact meant to be insulting. The Odes of Chin were written in praise of various nomadic barbarian tribes; quoting from this chapter of the Classic of Poetry, Vũ Phạm Hàm intended to compare the French to the pesky barbarian nomads that were a continual nuisance during past dynasties. Not only that, the word “jade” (玉 , ngọc) could also be understood to be short for “jade stem” (玉莖 , ngọc hành) – a euphemism for the male reproductive organ. The Frenchman, furious at being cleverly called both a barbarian and a dick, subsequently had the plaque removed.

The following poem was written at the Liên Hoa cave (蓮花洞 , Liên Hoa động) in the province of Ninh Bình (寧平省 , Ninh Bình tỉnh) in northern Vietnam. It was here in this cave that a famous scholar, Phạm Văn Nghị (范文誼 , 1805-1884), pen-name (號 , hiệu) Nghĩa Trai (義齋) had retired in seclusion after failing in various attempts to oppose French interference in the imperial court.



Đề Liên Hoa động

Hoa Lư thành ngoại Liên Hoa động
Hoa dĩ nhân hương động cánh u
Đại cục vị hoàn năng nhất chiến
Danh sơn hữu chủ túc thiên thu
Thì gian tử đệ tập nhung mã
Sự khứ giang hồ lão điếu chu
Kim thế dĩ vô ẩn quân tử
Thạch bàn thư giá thủy không lưu

Written on Lien Hoa cave

Outside of Hoa-lu citadel there is Lien-hoa cave
The flowers receive their fragrance from man, but the cave remains secluded and dark
Tremendous turns of events not yet complete, he was able to fight his battle
Having their master, these famed mountains will be known for a thousand autumns
In treacherous times, disciples and students must practice with weapons and steeds
Events having past, retire on a fishing boat among rivers and lakes
This generations no longer has its scholar recluse
Beside a stone table and bookcase water still flows to no end


-Phạm Văn Nghị (范文誼 , 1805-1884), after retiring to the mountains took on the name of “The Master of Lien Hoa cave” (蓮花洞主 , Liên Hoa động chủ). The second and fourth lines suggest that the flowers and mountain scenery receive their fragrance and fame from their master, Phạm Văn Nghị.

Aquinas Institute

For the Study of Sacred Doctrine

Nghiên cứu lịch sử

Các bài nghiên cứu, biên khảo và dịch thuật các chủ đề về lịch sử

Sensus Traditionis

A Website Dedicated to the Sacred Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church

Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

henry darragh's blog

tell her for me

Tương Mai Cư Sĩ

Non non nước nước tình tình

The Sacred at Park Place

Bringing Catholic sacred tradition to the neighborhood at Park Place Blvd.

歸源 (Kuiwon)

Classical Chinese Works Written by Korean Authors Translated - 한시•한문 영역 - 漢詩•漢文 英譯