Li Ch’ing-chao – To the tune of “Yi Chin O”


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


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