A Fresh and Peaceful Melody 1

Li, Pai 2 (701 A.D.-762 A.D.)


Queen Yang is so beautiful
That clouds desire to be her dancing garments
And flowers long to be her face.
The spring wind 3 strokes the banister;
The dew on peonies brightens the flowers' splendor.
Queen Yang is like a goddess.
If we cannot find her on the Jade Mountain in heaven,
Perhaps we should go towards the Palace of God's Mother to see her.


Queen Yang is like a red peony.
It is ornamented with dew which condenses its fragrance.
The clouds and rain of Wu Mountain 4 are heartbroken in vain.
Please tell me which queen in the Han dynasty was able to compete with ours.
It was lovely Flying Swallow 5 when she freshly applied make-up.


The famous flowers and the beautiful queen illuminate each other.
They often win the emperor's smiling appreciation
And relieves the spring wind's unending resentment 6.
The emperor, immersed in the beauty,
Leans on the northern banister of the Fragrance-Concentrated Gazebo.

1 In the T'ang dynasty, every poem was attached to a melody and could be sung. Sometimes, the poem did not have a title and used the title of the melody instead.

2 Pai Li was the official poet in the emperor's court. It was his job to praise the emperor and the queen.
    One day Emperor Ming and Queen Yang went to the Fragrance-Concentrated Gazebo to observe the peonies. Emperor Ming demanded a new song for such nice scenery. Musician Gui-Nian Li composed the melody and Pai Li was asked to write the lyrics. However, Pai Li was drunk at that moment. He completed these three poems while he was intoxicated. This story shows how talented Pai Li was.

3 The spring wind refers to the emperor.

4 It is said that the king of the State of Chu (c. 300 B.C.) once visited Hill T and he made love to a woman in his dream. She told him, "I am a goddess living south of Wu Mountain. Because the mountain is an obstacle between us, I will become morning clouds and travel as night rain to meet you at your balcony." Therefore, even a goddess cannot compete with Queen Yang because the love story is only a sad dream.

5 Flying Swallow Zhao was originally a princess' maid. Because she was a beautiful and skilful singer and dancer, Emperor Wen of the Han dynasty chose her to be his queen. Later, she was demoted from a queen to a commoner because of adultery. Soon after she committed suicide.

6 After his favorite queen, Wu-Hui, died, Emperor Ming resented his fate and became sorrowful. He sent messengers to search all over China for the most beautiful girl to be his queen. These messengers were called "Flower-bird Emissaries". After the emperor found T'ai-Chen Yang to be his Queen, he became happy again.