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To the Tune of "Butterflies Lingering over Flowers" 1

Liu, Yong 2 (987-1053 CE)

While I lean against the banister of a tall tower,
The breeze gently blows.
As I look into the distance,
The end of Spring arouses melancholy in my mind.
Surrounded by dewy grass at sunset,
I wonder who is able to understand my longing.

I would rather drink to intoxication.
One should sing when one has wine in hand,
But drinking to escape offers no reprieve.
I do not mind that my clothes are getting looser.
My lover is worthy of desire.


1 The following two videos have the same title, "Butterflies Lingering over Flowers":

2 During his early years, Yong Liu had two first names: Shan-bian and Jing-zhuang. Later, he changed his first names to Yong and Qi-qing. He was a native of Chong-an City (present day Wu-yi-san City in Fujian Province). He failed to pass the Advanced Exam so many times that he wrote "A Crane Flying into the Sky" to express his frustration: "The post listing the names of those who have passed the Advanced Exam does not include mine./ A wise and able government neglects my talent./ What shall I do?/ Given that I had no luck in fulfilling my dreams/ How can I not indulge in wine and women?/ A talented Ci poet is as honorable as a prime minister.// It is fortunate I can visit my lover behind the screen at a geisha house./ I enjoy women's singing and dancing./ Youth will not last./ I prefer light wine and women's singing of poetry to an empty reputation.//" In 1023, He took the Advanced Exam again. The list of successful candidates sent to Emperor Ren-zong for the final approval included Liu's name. At this time Yong Liu's poems were so popular that many of them were known in the emperor's court. Emperor Ren-zong was familiar with Yong Liu's "A Crane Flying into the Sky". The emperor said, "Given that Yong Liu loves songs, let him write Ci poetry. He does not need an empty reputation." Consequently, he crossed out Yong Liu's name from the list of successful candidates. After that, Liu failed to pass the Advanced Exam until he was forty-seven years old. The frustration in pursuing a high ranking position drove him to geisha houses in search of comfort and support. In order to increase their popularity, geisha girls relied on Yong Liu to write new songs for them to sing. The musicians in the royal music school also wanted Yong Liu to write new melodies for them to perform on the imperial stage. In this way Yong Liu made a living from the financial assistance of geisha girls and royal musicians. In 1034, Yong Liu was given a certificate which was equivalent to passing the Advanced Exam. Later, he was appointed as the Deputy Minister in charge of defense and of provisioning of soldiers who were stationed at the borders. His position was soon terminated because he offended a high-ranking official in the emperor's court. In his later years, he was poor. After he died, he had no relatives to hold his funeral. Only geisha girls pooled money to bury him. Each year during the Pure and Bright Festival, a festival to honor one’s ancestors, geisha girls in town would hold a memorial meeting to honor him.
    Lotuses in a Swamp written by Ding-zuo Mei (1549-1615) says, "Yong Liu and He Sun were friends when both of them were commoners. Later, He Sun became the Mayor of Qian-tang City (present day Hang-zhou City). Because the entrances of his mansion were closely guarded, Yong Liu could not see He Sun. Consequently, he wrote a poem entitled 'Watching the Sea Tide' and then went to see a famous courtesan called Chu-chu. He gave her the poem and told her, 'I want to see Mayor He Sun, but I have no way to meet him. Please sing this song at Sun's banquet. If he asks who wrote this poem, you say, 'Mr. Yong Liu.'' At the Midautumn Festival, Chu-chu sang the song sweetly. Then He Sun immediately invited Yong Liu to attend the banquet." The content of "Watching the Sea Tide" is as follows:
"Qian-tang City is a famous scenic spot in southeastern China./ It is a provincial capital where the Qian-tang-jiang River and Lake Xi-hu meet./ It has prospered since ancient times./ Willow trees in the mist enhance the beauty of the picturesque bridges./ With wind-blocking screens and green curtains,/ One hundred thousand homes are arranged on the surfaces high and low in the city./ Towering trees stand by the embankment./ Choppy water rolls up white caps like frost or snow./ The mighty river is endless./ The markets display jewelry/ And the homes are filled with colorful silks to demonstrate their wealth.// There are many beautiful lakes and mountains./ The fragrance of autumn laurel seeds lasts for a long time./ Lotus flowers bloom mile after mile./ Fishermen play flute music during the day./ At night the women rowing through lotus flowers sing the water chestnut songs. (The title of the following video is 'Gathering Red Water Chestnuts': Hundreds of guards march behind you./ While drinking wine and listening to flute music and drum beats,/ You improvise poems about sunset./ Someday you may paint these beautiful pictures and present them in the emperor's court.//"
    The History of Qian-tang City written by Yi-qing Liu of the Yuan dynasty says, "While He Sun was the Mayor of Qian-tang City, Yong Liu wrote 'Watching the Sea Tide' and sent the poem to Mayor Sun. Liu's poem was so popular that it even spread north to the Kingdom of Jin (originally founded in Manchuria). The lines 'The fragrance of autumn laurel seeds lasts for a long time./Lotus flowers bloom mile after mile./' aroused the ambition of Emperor Zhu-liang of the Jin dynasty to brandish his whip, lead troops to cross the Yangtze River, and invade the Kingdom of Southern Song. Chu-hou Xie wrote a poem. It says, 'Who sang the song about Hang-zhou City?/ Miles of lotus blossoms and laurel seeds of lasting fragrance had no feelings./ Who could imagine that they might cause endless sorrow along the Yangtze River?' In my opinion, although Liu's poem caused endless sorrow along the Yangtze River, it was hateful that the officials of the Song dynasty indulged in sensual pleasure and ignored the Central Plains (present day Henan Province) using the excuse of being intoxicated by the beautiful landscape of Hang-zhou City."
    Many of Yong Liu's poems sadly portrayed the agony of some contemporary poets in dire straits. They were true and moving. His love poems are graceful and have lingering appeal. His artistic conception is refined and unrestrained. Yong Liu created many new tunes for Ci poetry. His rhyming schemes are melodious; his lines are smooth; his folk style poetry is full of passion.