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Classical Chinese

'李白 宮中行樂詞 一 translation: Lyrics for Wandering in the Palace I, by Li Bai (小小生金屋)'

This is a very rough translation and annotation of the poem 宮中行樂詞 一 (Gōngzhōng Xínglè Cí), ‘Lyrics for Wandering in the Palace I’, by the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet 李白 (Lǐ Bái). The poem is often referred to by its first line: 小小生金屋.

If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments at the end of the page. Note that the goal here is to make the original text more accessible, not to provide a conversion into English.

The only ‘conversion’ type translation of this poem I’ve seen is this one by Herbert Allen Giles. It’s very poetic, but not particularly close to the original, I thought. I’ve had a go at trying to make an ‘explanation’ type annotation here, although I found this poem pretty difficult! Please point out what you think needs changing in the comments.

Rosy clouds

宮中行樂詞 一 Gōngzhōng Xínglè Cí [palace] [in] [walk] [joy] [lyric] [one] Lyrics for Wandering in the Palace I

小小生金屋, Xiǎoxiǎo shēng jīnwū, [small] [small] [life] [gold] [room] So youthful, living in a golden hall; ([小小](http://www.zdic.net/c/f/146/319988.htm) is a binome, here referring to 'youth'.)

盈盈在紫微。 yíngyíng zài zǐ wēi. [full] [full] [at] [imperial palace][] so full of life, in the imperial palace. ([盈盈](http://www.zdic.net/c/8/13f/309198.htm) is a binome meaning 'plentiful' or 'lithe'. [紫微](http://www.zdic.net/c/b/79/127266.htm) is an alternative way of writing 紫薇, and also refers to the imperial palace.)

山花插寶髻, Shānhuā chā bǎo jì, [mountain] [flower] [stick] [jewel] [topknot] Mountain flowers, placed in her splendid topknot;

石竹繡羅衣。 shí zhú xiù luó yī. [China Pink][] [embroider] [gauze] [clothes] China Pinks, embroidered on her veil and clothes. (石竹 is [a kind of flower](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dianthus_chinensis "Dianthus chinensis - Wikipedia").)

每出深宮裏, Měi chū shēn gōng lǐ, [every] [exit] [deep] [palace] [in] Every time she comes out from the inner chambers of the palace, ([深宮](http://www.zdic.net/c/1/2/2846.htm) refers to the inner chambers of the imperial palace, where the emperor lives.)

常隨步輦歸。 cháng suí bù niǎn guī. [forever] [follow] [step] [emperor's carriage] [return] she always follows, walking by the emperor's carriage to return.

只愁歌舞散, Zhǐ chóu gēwǔ sàn, [but] [feel] [song] [dance] [scatter] One feels that her song and dance are floating -

化作綵雲飛。 huàzuò cǎiyún fēi. [change] [be] [rosy] [cloud] [fly] she becomes a rosy cloud and takes flight.

If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments below.

Sources and further reading

Contact me: mhg@eastasiastudent.net