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To The Tune of "The Fortuneteller"

Lu, You 1 (1125-1209 CE)

Prologue. I wrote this poem to sing the praise of plum blossoms 2.


Next to Duan-qiao 3 Bridge near the post office
The plum trees bloom alone 4 in the wild.
At sunset the blossoms look lonesome and sorrowful in the wind and rain.

Unwilling to arouse jealousy in other flowers,
Plum blossoms avoid displaying their beauty in Spring 5.
After they wither and fall,
Some of them become mud;
Others are crushed into dust by passing wheels.
Only their fragrance remains.


1 Wu-guan and fang-weng were You Lu's other first names. Lu was a native of Shan-yin City (present day Shao-xing City in Zhejiang Province) in Yue-zhou County. He began to write poetry at the age of twelve. In 1153, You Lu took the Advanced Exam at the capital, Lin-an City. It was recommended that You Lu be placed first and Xuan Qin, a grandson of Prime Minister Kui Qin, second. Kui Qin was angry and wanted to imprison the one in charge of the recommendation. In addition, Kui Qin disliked You Lu because Kui Qin was a capitulator while Lu wanted to fight against the enemy. Consequently, Kui Qin crossed out You Lu's name from the list of successful candidates. The following year, the examiner of the Advanced Exam placed Lu’s paper in the top rank again. However, powerful Kui Qin was jealous of Lu's talent and used his influence to prevent Lu from passing the Advanced Exam. In 1155, Kui Qin died. In 1158, You Lu was appointed as the secretary in the mayor's office at Ning-de-xian City in Fu-zhou County. In 1162, Emperor Xiao-zong inherited the throne. He gave You Lu a certificate equivalent to passing the Advanced Exam because Lu mastered classics and wrote well. You Lu was appointed as an editor at the Privy Council. Later, he became the assistant mayor at Jian-kang-fu City and then Xing-long-fu City. In 1170, Lu moved to the State of Shu and became the assistant mayor at Kui-zhou City. In 1172, he became a staff officer of Yan Wang, the Imperial Mediator in Sichuan Province. In 1175, Lu was appointed as an advisor by Governor Cheng-da Fan of the State of Shu. In Fall 1179, Lu became an official at Fu-zhou City in charge of sales of tea and salt. He strove to eliminate the corruption caused by the government's monopoly of tea and salt sales. In 1180, Fu-zhou City suffered a draught in Spring and a flood in May. Lu distributed grain to victims from the grain depots without the government’s permission. For this reason, Lu was accused of usurping power and then removed from his office. In Spring 1186, Lu was appointed mayor of Yan-zhou City (present day Mei-cheng-zhen City, Jian-de-xian County, Zhejiang Province). He was again accused of usurping power and was consequently terminated from his position. In 1188, Lu was appointed assistant supervisor in charge of weaponry. In 1189, Emperor Guang-zong inherited the throne. Lu was appointed senior secretary of the Board of Rites. Before long, Lu was impeached because he proposed to reduce taxes. After being dismissed from his office, Lu lived in the countryside in seclusion until his death. Lu was not refined in manners and dress. People ridiculed him as tui-fang (decadent). Consequently, he called himself fang-weng (decadent man).
    In 1144, You Lu married his cousin, Wan Tang. The above poem was written in Shen's Garden that year. You Lu’s parents worried that You and Wan’s marriage might obstruct You's studies, so they frequently scolded Wan Tang. They also blamed her for not becoming pregnant. You's mother could not get along with Wan Tang, so she forced You to discard Wan in 1145. In 1146, You Lu still visited Wan whenever possible. In 1147, You's mother discovered that their romance continued, so she forced You to marry another woman, Wang. In 1148, Wang gave You Lu a son. After Wan Tang's parents learned this news, they forced Wan to marry Shi-cheng Zhao, a friend of You Lu. In Spring 1151, You Lu visited Shen’s Garden and met Wan Tang and her husband. Later, Wan Tang brought some dishes to You Lu and then left with her husband. You Lu was upset and wrote a poem, "To the Tune of 'Phoenix Hairpin'", (The title of the following video is "Phoenix Hairpin": on the garden wall:
"Her rosy and delicate hands brought me wine and delicacies./ The garden was filled with Spring spirits./ She was like a willow branch extending over the palace wall (A palace wall was tall, so the willow branch was unreachable. This description alludes to the fact that Wan Tang married to someone else)./ The east wind blew ominously./ I have been unhappy and sorrowful/ During our years of separation./ I made a serious mistake!/ I made a serious mistake!// She is still beautiful except that she becomes slender./ Her silk handkerchief was soaked in tears mingled with rouge./ Peach blossoms fell./ The pond and the pavilion look desolate./ Our oath remains in my mind,/ But it is inappropriate for us to write to each other./ I wish to speak but, upon reflection, do not./ I wish to speak but, upon reflection, do not."
    In 1152, Wan Tang visited Shen's Garden again. After reading You Lu's poem on the wall, she responded by writing a poem with the same title:
    “The unkindness and inconstancy of human relationships/ Are like a storm at dusk./ Flowers easily fall./ The morning wind dries my tears./ Their stains remain./ I wish I could write down my sorrow./ I end up talking to myself by the banister./ It is difficult to live through my misery./ It is difficult to live through my misery.// As we have gone our separate ways,/ I am no longer as I was before./ When the bugle blows and the cold night is about to end,/ My sick soul often rocks like the ropes on a swing./ I am worried about people asking me how I feel./ I swallow my tears and pretend that I am happy./ All I can do is hide my feelings./ All I can do is hide my feelings."
    Wan Tang died in Autumn 1152.
    In 1199, You Lu wrote the following two poems entitled “Nostalgia in Shen’s Garden”:
"It has been forty years since she died and my dream broke./ The willow trees in Shen’s garden are so old/ That no seeds drift from them anymore./About to become the dirt of Ji-shan Mountain,/ I am still upset in mourning her death."
"The bugle on the rampart blows sadly at sunset./ The old pond and pavilion in Shen's garden no longer exist./ The green Spring waves beneath the bridge remind me of my past pain./ I mistake them for the reflections of wild geese flying across the sky."
    In 1200, You Lu wrote the following two poems entitled "The Dream of Visiting Shen's Garden":
"When I approach the southern part of the city,/ I become sorrowful./ Everything in Shen's Garden upsets me./ The fragrance of plum blossoms enters my sleeves./ The Spring water ripples under the bridge at Lü -zhan Temple."
"The small path in the southern part of the city encounters Spring again./ I can only see plum blossoms but not my ex-wife./ Her bones have been buried for a long time./ The ink marks of her poem still absorb the dust of the garden wall."
    In 1206, Lu wrote a poem entitled, "Listening to My Mother's Rebuke at Night":
"My mother said I should have concentrated on my studies./ It was a pity that I fell in love in my youth./ My impatience to escape loneliness incurred my mother's rebuke/ Which was like wind and rain on the creek."
    In 1208, You Lu visited Shen's Garden again, he wrote the following poem:
"The trees in Shen's Garden bloom like brocade./ I saw half of them years ago./ They also believe a beautiful woman will turn to dirt eventually,/ But they cannot bear that a delicate dream broke so soon."
    You Lu was a patriotic poet. He wrote more than 9,000 poems. They were rich in content: they expressed his political aspirations and reflected the sufferings of common people. His poetic style was vigorous and unrestrained. His poems about his daily life were creative. Shen Young (1488-1559) of the Ming dynasty said, "You Lu's poetry is as delicate as Guan Qin's and as vigorous as Dong-po Su's."

2 The following video entitled "Singing the Praise of Plum Blossoms" shows how this poem is sung:

3 "Duan" means "broken"; "qiao" means "bridge". Duan-qiao Bridge is a scenic spot at Lake Xi-hu in Hang-zhou City. As the snow on the bridge begins to melt in Spring, from a distance the horizon with the bridge in it looks like a white chain broken in the middle. This was how the bridge gained its name.

4, 5 In China, plum trees bloom in Winter, while other trees bloom in Spring.