Beautiful Women's Picnic 1

Tu, Fu   (712 A.D.-770 A.D.)

On March 3rd the weather is nice 2.
There are many beautiful women along the shore of the Winding River.
Their faces are made up beautifully;
Their movement are natural and graceful.
The texture of their skin is delicate;
Their bones and flesh are unblemished.
Their embroidered silk clothes,
Decorated with gold peacocks and silver unicorns,
Illuminate the scene of late spring.
What do they wear on their heads?
Ornamental designs of jade hanging from their temples.
What do you see on their backs?
Belts, embedded with pearls, fitting their nice figures.
The tent decorated with colorful clouds belongs to the two sisters of the emperor's consort.
The emperor has offered them the honorary titles:
The Queen of Country Guo and the Queen of Country Ch’in 3.
The stew served from a jade-colored caldron is made of a camel's hump 4.
White fish is placed on a crystal plate.
However, the chopsticks made from rhinoceros horns do not disturb these dishes
Because the sisters have eaten too many such meals.
The delicate cuts of fancy knives have gone unnoticed.
Imperial eunuchs ride horse quickly to run errands,
But they are very careful lest they raise dust.
Royal chefs continue to bring in precious dishes.
The sad music of flutes and drums moves both gods and spirits.
Their large and disorderly entourage blocks the traffic of the main streets.
The last one to arrive is the proud Prime Minister.
His horse seems hesitant to move.
He dismounts only when he reaches the tent and steps off on a colorful carpet.
The poplar flowers fall like snow and cover the white algae 5.
A blue bird 6 flies away with a red scarf in its beak.
The Prime Minister is extremely powerful and dangerous.
Common people excise caution and do not go near him.
To irritate him is to court trouble.

1 This poem ridicules the family of T'ai-Chen Yang, the emperor's consort, for being proud, extravagant, adulterous and hedonistic. Her brother, Guo-Chung Yang, was the Prime Minister and assumed more than 40 positions at the same time. He was the most powerful person in the entire nation. The women in the title refer to T'ai-Chen's sisters.

2 According to the old custom, March 3rd was a day for people to go to a river shore to worship gods and pray for fortune. Later, it became a holiday for spring break

3 Each of them received $5000 per month for purchasing make-up.

4 Camel’s hump stew was an expensive dish at that time.

5 This line and the next hint at the incest between the Prime Minister and his sister.

6 Originally, blue birds were the messengers of God’s mother. Later, they were often used as messengers of love letters between boys and girls.