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To the Tune of "The Creek Where Xi-shi Washed Her Yarn" 1

Qin, Guan 2 (1049-1100 CE)

I feel a light chill as I listlessly ascend to the attic 3.
Dark clouds seem to turn the morning into the end of Autumn.
A wisp of smoke and running water 4
Endow artistic depth and tranquility
To the painting on the screen.

Carefree falling flowers are as light as my dreams.
Boundless drizzle is as misty as my sorrow 5.
Beaded curtains hang on small silver hooks 6.


1 Guan Qin was banished from the palace due to the power struggle between two parties. At the age of forty-nine, he was demoted to Mayor of Chen-zhou City. His political career was doomed. In this poem, he expressed his sorrow by speaking as if he were a housewife missing her husband who is away from home.
    Yi-guang Shi was Xi-shi's original name. She was a native of Zhu-meng Village of Zhu-ji City in the Kingdom of Yue (present day Zhejiang Province) near the end of the Spring and Autumn Period. Her family was poor. When she was young, she had to wash yarn to help out with domestic expanses. She was the most beautiful woman in Chinese history. In 494 BCE, Guo-jian, the King of the State of Yue, was defeated by the troops of the State of Wu on Kuai-ji Mountain. After his defeat, Gou-jian slept on a wood pile and tasted fish bile each night to remind himself of his shame. He followed the advice of his prime minister, Li Fan, and sent Xi-shi as a spy to corrupt the King of Wu. In addition, he secretly reinforced his army. In 473 BCE, Gou-jian finally destroyed the State of Wu. Xi-shi, Zhao-jun Wang, Diao-chan, and Yu-huan Yang were called the Four Most Beautiful Women in Chinese History.
    The following two videos both have the same title, "The Creek Where Xi-shi Washed Her Yarn":

2 Shao-you, Tai-xu, Huai-hai-ju-shi and Han-gou-ju-shi ("ju-shi" means "master of the scriptures of Buddhism") were Guan Qin's other first names. He was a native of the Gao-you City (in present day Jiangsu Province) in Yang-zhou County during the Song dynasty. In 1085, he passed the Advanced Exam. In 1086, Dong-po Su recommended him as a senior secretary of the Bureau of Archives and an editor at the Bureau of National History based on his talent and integrity. In 1094, he was dismissed from his positions because his party lost in a power struggle. At first, he was demoted to the position of mayor’s assistant at Hang-zhou City. Because Censor Zheng Liu falsely accused him of slandering Emperor Shen-zong while Qin was an editor of The History of Emperor Shen-zong's Reign, Qin was demoted again and became the official in charge of wine tax at Chu-zhou City. Due to his frustration, Qin often visited temples, discussed scriptures with monks, and wrote books about Buddhism. Later, when accused of writing books on Buddhism, Qin was removed from his office and sent to exile in Chen-zhou City. After he became an editor at Heng-zhou City, he was transferred to Lei-zhou City. In 1100, Emperor Hui-zong inherited the throne. Queen Mother Xiang governed the court from behind a screen. Qin was appointed as Minister of Promoting Virtue. On his way back to the capital, Qin visited Guang-hua Gazebo at Teng-zhou City. He was thirsty and asked for water. When the water arrived, Qin smiled and died.
    "Eulogy to Guan Qin" written by Lei Zhang (1054-1114) said, "All Guan Qin acquired were low-ranking positions. He suffered hardship all his life, incurred blame frequently, and died young. He was exiled to a region infected with diseases and died in a bleak and desolate place."
    Yan Zhang said, "Guan Qin's poetry is fluid, simple, elegant, spirited, and beautiful. The more you read his poem, the more layers of flavor you experience."

3 The attic refers to a high ranking position.

4 Running water reminds one of youth passing away.

5 After Dong-po Su read these two lines, he appreciated Guan Qin’s talent and decided to marry his little sister to Qin. On their wedding night, Su’s little sister wanted to test Qin's talent before she allowed him to enter their nuptial chamber. The exam was divided into three parts. Quan Qin quickly finished the first two parts, but he had a difficult time finishing the third: Su's little sister wrote the first stanza and asked Qin to write the second stanza to finish the poem. Her first stanza was:
"I open the window to see the moon./ The moon is bright;/ The stars are sparse./ Certainly, there will be no rain (The characters for "rain" and "talk" are pronounced the same in Chinese) tonight." Qin paced back and forth in the drawing room, racked his brains, and could not finish his exam. Having seen his suffering, Dong-po Su picked up a stone and threw it into a pond. Su's action inspired Quan Qin to write the second stanza: "One stone penetrates the sky's reflection in water. The sky above is high and clear. Tomorrow morning frost ((The characters for "frost" and "couple" are pronounced the same in Chinese) will form." Su's little sister was pleased. In this way, Guan Qin became Dong-po Su's brother-in-law.

6 This line may indicate that she had a sleepless night or that she is waiting for her husband’s return. When the curtains hang from hooks, they are not enclosing the bed.