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Classical Chinese

017 王維 西施詠 translation: Ode to Xi Shi

This is a translation and annotation of the poem 西施詠 (Xī Shī Yǒng), “Ode to Xi Shi”, by the Tang dynasty poet 王維 (Wang Wei) translations and articles”). The poem is number 17 in the collection 300 Tang Poems”), and is also known by its first line: 艷色天下重 (Yàn Sè Tiān Xià Zhòng). Xi Shi”) was one of the Four Beauties of ancient China.

[西施 (Xi Shi)](/img/2011/10/20070320080035685.jpg)西施詠 Xī Shī Yǒng [_Xi_] [_Shi_] [song] Ode to Xi Shi

艷色天下重, Yàn sè tiānxià zhòng, [splendid] [appearance] [heaven] [under] [serious] Beauty is highly regarded by all under Heaven -

西施寧久微? Xī Shī níng jiǔ wēi? [_Xi_] [_Shi_] [prefer] [long time] [tiny] could Xi Shi prefer insignificance for long?

朝為越溪女, Zhāo wèi Yuè xī nǚ, [morning] [as] [_Yue_] [creek] [girl] In the morning a river-washer girl in Yue,

暮作吳宮妃。 Mù zuò wúgōngfēi. [sunset] [do] [_Wu_] [palace] [concubine] by sunset a concubine in the Wu palace.

賤日豈殊眾? Jiàn rì qǐ shū zhòng? [lowly] [day] [how] [different] [crowd] In her lowly days, how was she different from the crowd?

貴來方悟稀。 Guì lái fāng wù xī. [noble] [arrive] [place] [aware] [rare] Now a noble, coming to fame for her rarity.

邀人傅脂粉, Yāo rén fu zhīfěn, [request] [person] [assist] [rouge] [powder] Ordering people to assist with her make-up,

不自著羅衣。 Bù zì zhe luó yī. [not] [self] [apply] [gather] [clothes] and not dressing herself.

君寵益嬌態, Jūn chǒng yì jiāo tài, [monarch] [favour] [increase] [pampered] [attitude] The king's favour adds to her pampered attitude;

君憐無是非。 Jūn lián wú shìfēi. [monarch] [fond of] [not have] [right] [wrong] in the king's fondness there is no right and wrong.

當時浣紗伴, Dāngshí huàn shā bàn, [at] [time] [wash] [silk] [friends] At that time, of her silk-washer friends,

莫得同車歸。 Mò dé tóng chē guī. [no-one] [get] [same] [carriage] [return] none could travel in the same carriage as her.

持謝鄰家子, Chí xiè lín jiā zǐ, [keep] [inform] [neighbour] [family] [child] Keep this as a message to the children of neighbouring families:

效顰安可希? Xiào pín ān kě xī? [imitate] [scowl] [how] [can] [hope] in imitating her scowl, what can you hope for?

This poem is quite tricky to translate closely (which I aim to do on this site) whilst getting across the meaning effectively. If you’ve got a better suggestion, please comment below to improve this resource.