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To the Tune of "Bamboo Stalks" 1

Liu, Yu-xi (772-842 CE) 2

Willows are green and the river is calm.
I hear your song coming from the river.
It is sunny in the east and rainy in the west 3.
Like the ambiguity of the weather,
I cannot determine whether your song conveys affection.

Red flowers are in full bloom on peach trees.
The flowing water of the Shu River licks mountains.
The flowers’ red color easily fades like your love.
The water flows endlessly like my sorrow.


1 Yu-xi Liu wrote this poem as if the narrator were a woman. This poem is a ci poem (verse poem). A ci poem can be sung and often uses the title of its melody as its title. Thus, the content of a ci poem is not necessarily related to the title of the poem. The above poem is Liu’s master piece. Records of Ci Poetry compiled by Si-yan Zhang includes a different poem about bamboo stalks by Liu: To the Tune of "The Goddess of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers". The poem's text is "Speckled bamboo stalks remind one of the story of Ladies Jiang-e (When Emperor Yao became old, he abdicated his throne to virtuous Shun and married his two daughters, E-huang and Nü -ying, to him. "Ladies Jiang-e" refers to E-huang and Nü -ying. Emperor Shun reigned in China for fifty years (2255?-2205? BCE). He died during a visit to the south. When E-huang and Nü -ying heard of Emperor Shun's death, they cried. Their tears fell on bamboo stalks. According to Chinese mythology, this explains why some bamboo stalks are speckled.)./ Every tear stain on the bamboo stalk represents one's yearning for love./The passenger from Chu District desires to listen to the sad tune of the zither music/ When the moon brightens the Xiao and Xiang Rivers at midnight."

2 Meng-de was Yu-xi Liu's alternative first name. He was a native of Zhong-shan city, a.k.a. Lo-yang City, in Henan Province. Liu passed the Advanced Exam in 793 CE and became a Great Scholar in the Royal Academy. He was appointed as a censor in charge of supervising the court officials. After joining the reforming party led by Prime Minister Shu-wen Wang, Liu was promoted to Counsel of the Board of Agriculture. However, his party soon failed in a power struggle. Consequently, he was demoted to be the Director of War in Lang-Zhou City. Later, Liu was summoned back to the capital and reappointed as the mayor of Lian-Zhou City, Kui-Zhou City, and He-Zhou City in succession. Then he was appointed as a counsel in charge of receiving guests in the emperor's court. After Prime Minister Du Pei recommended him, Liu became a Great Scholar in Ji-Xian (gathering-sages) Palace, and then the Prince's Guest. During the Hui-chang Period, Liu was given an extra position as editor at the Board of Rites. He mastered folk style poetry. His poems are candid, vigorous, and melodious. Their meanings are deep and far-reaching. He was a great poet in the middle of the Tang dynasty. Later generations honored him as a "Great Poet".

3 In Chinese, "sunny" and "affectionate" are pronounced the same. This line foreshadows the next two. The following video is entitled "The Rain Drifts on the Eastern Mountain, But Not on the Western Mountain" which obviously borrows Liu's idea from the above line: