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Classical Chinese

驅車上東門 translation - I Ride My Chariot from the Upper East Gate

This is a translation of the Chinese poem 驅車上東門 (Qū chē shàng dōng mén), from the Han dynasty collection 古試十九首 (Nineteen Old Poems).

驅車上東門 qū chē shàng dōng mén [drive] [chariot] [upper] [east] [gate] I drive my chariot to the upper east gate,

遙望郭北墓 yáo wàng guō běi mù [distant] [gaze] [city wall] [north] [tombs] and gaze at the tombs beyond the northern city wall.

白楊何蕭蕭 bái yáng hé xiāo xiāo [white] [poplar] [how] [desolate] [desolate] How desolate the white poplars are.

松柏夾廣路 sōng bǎi jiá guǎng lù [pines] [cypress] [lined] [spread] [road] The pines and cypress lined out down the road,

下有陳死人 xià yǒu chén sǐ rén [below] [has] [old] [dead] [people] and below are the ancient dead.

杳杳即長暮 yǎo yǎo jí zhǎng mù [dark] [dark] [and] [long] [evening] It’s deepest black in their endless night,

潛寐黃泉下 qián mèi huáng quán xià [submerge] [sleep] [yellow] [spring] [below] as they sleep submerged in the yellow fountains.

千載永不寤 qiān zǎi yǒng bù wù [thousand] [year] [forever] [not] [awake] They will never wake in a thousand years,

浩浩陰陽移 hào hào yīn yáng yí [vast] [vast] [positive] [negative] [shift] through vast changes in forces positive and negative forces.

年命如朝露 nián mìng rú zhāo lù [year] [fate] [like] [morning] [dew] The years fate grants us are but morning dew -

人生忽如寄 rén shēng hū rú jì [man] [life] [suddenly] [like] [reside] the life of men is but a brief residence.

壽無金石固 shòu wú jīn shí gù [longevity] [not have] [metal] [stone] [certain] Long life has not the certainty of metal and stone,

萬歲更相送 wàn suì gèng xiāng sòng [ten thousand] [year] [more] [each other] [see off] as another ten thousand years are sent on their way.

賢聖莫能度 xián shèng mò néng dù [wise] [sage] [none who] [can] [limit] Of the wise and the sage, there are none who can hold it back.

服食求神仙 fú shí qiú shénxiān [take medicine] [food] [seek] [spirit] [immortal] In medicine and food, some seek immortality,

多為要所誤 duō wèi yào suǒ wù [many] [do] [will] [that which] [harm] but in this way many end up poisoned.

不如飲美酒 bù rú yǐn měi jiǔ [not] [as] [drink] [beautiful] [wine] Far better to drink exquisite wines,

被服紈與素 bèi fú wán yǔ sù [cover] [garment] [white silk] [and] [plain] and be clothed in plain white silk.

Relevant books

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東城高且長 translation – The Eastern Wall is High and Long

This is a translation of the Chinese poem 東城高且長 (Dōng chéng gāo qiě cháng), the eleventh poem in the Han dynasty collection 古詩十九首 (Nineteen Old Poems).

An ancient Chinese wall東城高且長





















The Eastern Wall is High and Long

The Eastern wall is high and long,

snaking, winding, rejoining itself.

The turning wind shakes the earth and lifts it,

as the fragrant Autumn grasses lose their colour.

The four seasons change endlessly -

how quickly the year ends!

The falcon harbours a bitter heart,

and the crickets suffer from being cramped.

Cleanse yourself, set your emotions free -

why restrain yourself and hold back?

There are many exquisite women in Yan and Zhao,

the beautiful ones elegant like jade.

The clothing that covers her is fine latticed silk,

as she stands in the house composing a clear melody.

How mournful is the sound -

the strings are tense, the bridge is pressured.

A rush of emotion, she adjusts her composure, *

deep in thought, humming meditation.

In thought we are a pair of flying swallows -

let’s take mud and build a nest under your roof.

_* Literally this line is ‘she adjusts her belt’_

Relevant books

Series: Nineteen Old Poems

  1. 行行重行行 Translation - Marching On and On
  2. 青青河畔草 Translation - Green, Green, Grass on the Riverbank
  3. 青青陵上柏 translation - Green, Green, Cypress on the Mound
  4. 今日良宴會 translation – Today we hold a splendid feast
  5. 西北有高樓 translation - A Tall Tower in the Northwest
  6. 涉江采芙蓉 translation - Crossing the River to Pick Hibiscus
  7. 明月皎夜光 translation - The Clear Moon Shines Brightly by Night
  8. 冉冉孤生竹 translation - Frail Bamboo Growing Alone
  9. 庭中有奇樹 translation - In the Courtyard there is a Strange Tree
  10. 迢迢牽牛星 translation - So Remote, the Draught Ox Star
  11. 迴車駕言邁 translation - I turn the carriage, pull the reins and set off
  12. 東城高且長 translation - The Eastern Wall is High and Long
  13. 驅車上東門 translation - I Ride My Chariot from the Upper East Gate (this article)
  14. 去者日以疏 translation - The Departed Are More Distant Daily
  15. 生年不滿百 translation - The Years of Life Reach Not One Hundred
  16. 凜凜歲云暮 translation - Bitterly Cold, the Year Ends
  17. 孟冬寒氣至 translation - In the First Month of Winter, Cold Air Arrives

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