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王翰 涼州詞 translation: Liangzhou Verse, by Wang Han


This is a translation and annotation of the poem 涼州詞 (Liángzhōu Cí), by the Tang dynasty poet 王翰 (Wang Han). The poem is #303 in the collection 300 Tang Poems, and is also known by its first line: 葡萄美酒夜光杯 (Pútáo Měijiǔ Yèguāngbēi). Sometimes this poem is seen with the title 凉州曲.

 

涼州詞
Liángzhōu Cí
[Liang] [Zhou] [lyrics]
Liangzhou Verse

 

葡萄美酒夜光杯,
Pútáo měijiǔ yèguāngbēi,
[grape][] [fine] [wine] [night] [light] [cup]
Fine wine in a luminous glass;

欲飲琵琶馬上催。
yù yǐn pípá mǎshàng cuī.
[want] [drink] [pi] [pa] [horse] [on] [urge forward]
one wants to drink but the mounted pipa player orders us onwards.

醉臥沙場君莫笑,
Zuì wò shāchǎng jūn mò xiào,
[drunk] [crouch] [sand] [field] [sir] [do not] [laugh]
If we are drunk, crouching on the battlefield, do not laugh;

古來征戰幾人回?
Gǔlái zhēngzhàn jǐ rén huí?
[old] [since] [campaign] [battle] [how many] [man] [return]
since old times, how many men return from war?

 

If you notice a mistake or disagree with the translation, please comment below to improve this resource. You might want to have a read of this, as well.

 

Notes

夜光杯 refers to a kind of drinking glass, made of white jade, that glows in the dark. Such a glass was supposedly given as a gift to 周穆王, one of the kings of the Zhou dynasty.

夜光杯 (Source: 游比比)

夜光杯 are a specialty of Gansu province, the location of Liangzhou. The name is translated above as ‘a luminous glass’, but could also be ‘a glass of light’ or more literally ‘a glass that glows at night’.

The translation of the second line is pretty clumsy, but as with all translations here the intention is to make the poem clear and accessible to students, not to produce an elegant equivalent in English. There are links to more poetic translations below.

The pipa was used to give orders on the battlefield, in much the same way bugles and drums were used in Europe for this purpose.

沙場 is literally ‘sandpit’ or ‘foxhole’, but refers to the battlefield in general.

Source: 凉州曲 – 百度百科

 

Links:


  • http://www.chinesetolearn.com/ Shu

    葡萄美酒夜光杯,
    Pútáo měijiǔ yèguāngbēi,
    [grape][] [fine] [wine] [night] [light] [cup]
    Fine wine in a luminous glass;
    Don’t forget the grapes here.

    醉臥沙場君莫笑,
    Zuì wò shāchǎng jūn mò xiào,
    [drunk] [crouch] [sand] [field] [sir] [do not] [laugh]
    Though we are drunk, crouching on the battlefield, do not laugh;
    I think this is — If we got drunk, then ……

    The rest seems fine.

    • http://eastasiastudent.net Hugh Grigg

      Thanks!

      ‘Wine’ in English nearly always means grape wine so I thought it was OK to leave that out.

      I changed the “though” to an “if”.

  • http://www.chinesetolearn.com/ Shu

    Well, Hugh,

    You were translating a Chinese poem though. There are many kinds of wine in China, and that is why the poet wanted to differentiate them by saying it was grapes wine.

    This is what the dictionary says:
    noun
    1.
    the fermented juice of grapes, made in many varieties, such as red, white, sweet, dry, still, and sparkling, for use as a beverage, in cooking, in religious rites, etc., and usually having an alcoholic content of 14 percent or less.
    2.
    a particular variety of such fermented grape juice: port and sherry wines.
    3.
    the juice, fermented or unfermented, of various other fruits or plants, used as a beverage, sauce, etc.: gooseberry wine; currant wine.

    So, a huge percent, yes, but not nearly always.

    • http://eastasiastudent.net Hugh Grigg

      Surely when translating into English, the meaning of the chosen word in English is most important? Otherwise, for example, 电脑 should be translated as “electric brain” and not “computer”, so as not to lose the exact specifics of the original.

      Also, notice how in the dictionary definition above, the non-grape types of wine are prefaced with the name of whatever fruit they come from. To me, “wine” means grape wine unless otherwise specified.

      In any case, the literal gloss included here makes sure that readers know it’s grape wine, specifically.