The concubine was ordered to serve by sweeping
When the golden palace 2 doors were opened at dawn.
She walked back and forth with a round fan in hand,
Her pretty face was less in favor than a winter raven
For the raven could still bring the shadow 3 of the sun from
Zhao-yang Palace 4.
The following story is based on the book The History of the Han Dynasty:
At first, Jie-yu Ban was Emperor Cheng's favorite concubine because she was
clever, beautiful and wrote well. Later, the emperor fell in love with the two
sisters, Fei-yan Zhao and He-de Zhao. Ban feared that she might be persecuted.
Therefore, she requested to go to Chang-xin Palace to serve the emperor's
mother. Wang uses this story to express his sympathy for the misfortune that the
royal concubines suffered.
The golden palace refers to Chang-xin (trustworthy) Palace where the emperor's mother
The sun refers to the emperor and the shadow refers to the emperor's favor.
Zhao-yang Palace was the palace where the two sisters, Fei-yan Zhao and
He-de Zhao, lived. The emperor spent most of his time there. These two lines say
that the raven could get closer to the emperor than Ban could.