Happy Dragon Boat Festival! Seeing as today’s festivities are all about commemorating the poet 屈原 (Qu Yuan), it seems appropriate to have a look at a poem that is usually attributed to him: 離騷 (Lí Sāo) – The Sorrow of Parting.
The whole poem is 372 lines long, of which I’m annotating just eight (the full original text is available here). This extract has particular significance for me because it’s the source of my Chinese name, 脩遠 (Xiūyuǎn; usually I just write it as 修远).
The Sorrow of Parting
Zhāo fā rèn yú cāngwú xī,
[morning] [depart] [brake] [at] [Cang] [Wu] [oh]
Taking off the brake, departing from Cangwu at dawn,
xī yú zhì hū xuán pǔ;
[dusk] [remain] [arrive] [at] [hang] [garden]
and before night falls, arriving at the Hanging Gardens;
yù shǎo liú cǐ líng sǒu xī,
[want] [little] [stay] [this] [spirit] [gathering place] [oh]
I wish to stay at this gathering place of the spirits,
rì hūhū qí jiāng mù;
[sun] [sudden] [sudden] [it] [will [sunset]
yet the sun is about to set;
wú lìng Xīhé mǐ jié xī,
[I] [order] [Xi] [He] [restrain] [limit] [oh]
I order Xihe to slow to a trot;
wàng yān zī ér cōng pò;
[gaze] [Yan] [Zi] [yet not] [hasty] [urge towards]
gazing at Mt Yan and Mt Zi, yet not anxious to approach them;
lù mànmàn qí xiū yuǎn xī,
[road] [boundless] [boundless] [its] [cultivate] [distant] [oh]
the road is boundless – cultivation so distant;
wú jiāng shàngxià ér qiúsuǒ.
[I] [will] [above] [below] [and] [seek] [search]
I shall explore it from beginning to end.
縣 in the second line is 懸 (xuán), meaning “hanging”; 縣圃 refers to the mythical hanging gardens in the Kunlun Mountains.
瑣 in the third line is 藪 (sǒu), which means both “gathering place” and “marsh”.
羲和 is a Chinese goddess who rides the sun like a chariot (she’s also described as the mother of the ten suns in Chinese folklore). 節 here is 按節, meaning to stop a horse or chariot by pulling on the reins.
崦 and 嵫 are both mountains in modern Gansu province.
The part that my name comes from, 脩遠, is something like “distant cultivation”, as in a never ending journey. 脩 also means “to cultivate” or “to study”, so I take the name to mean “a never ending journey of self-cultivation”. Go me.