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Classical Chinese

章碣 焚書坑 translation: The Book Burning Pit, By Zhang Jie

This is a rough translation and annotation of the poem 焚書坑 (Fén Shū Kēng), ‘The Book Burning Pit’, by the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet 章碣 (Zhāng Jié).

焚書坑 Fén Shū Kēng [burn] [book] [pit] The Book Burning Pit

竹帛煙銷帝業虛, zhú bó yān xiāo dì yè xū [bamboo] [silk] [smoke] [dissipate] [emperor] [achievement] [empty] As bamboo and silk smoke clears, the Emperor's achievements are for nothing; (竹帛 “bamboo and silk” refers to books.)

關河空鎖祖龍居。 guān hé kōng suǒ zǔ lóng jū [Pass] [River] [vain] [lock] [ancestor] [dragon] [residence] The Hangu Pass and Yellow River vainly guard the domain of Qin Shi Huang. (Hangu Pass is a particular valley pass.)

坑灰未冷山東亂, kēng hūi wèi lěng shān dōng luàn [pit] [ashes] [not yet] [cold] [mountain] [east] [confusion] Pits of ash not yet cold, the east of the Xiao Mountains in chaos; (The Xiao Mountains are in modern Henan.)

劉項原來不讀書。 líu xiàng yuán lái bù dú shū [Liu] [Xiang] [source] [come] [no] [read] [book] Since Liu Bang and Xiang Yu, there is no reading of books. (Liu Bang and Xiang Yu are historical figures.)

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