Custom Search


Li, Shang-yin (812?-858 CE)

The stars and wind tonight are the same as they were last night,
So is the east ball room of Laurel Hall, west of the painted pavilion 1.
Though our bodies, lacking the wings of a colorful phoenix, could not fly to each other 2,
Our hearts were linked like the heavenly line 3 on a rhinoceros' horn.
Your hand passing the hook 4 made the wine warm in my veins
Even though we did not sit together.
We were divided into different groups to play the guessing game 5
As the candlelight glowed red.
When the morning drum announced the hour for work
I spurred my horse toward the Orchid Tower 6
Like a dandelion seed spinning and drifting on the wind.


1 The first two lines say that Li fell in love with a woman he met at the party the previous night, but felt lonely when he visited the same place again.
    After reading Li's love poem, one may desire to listen to the following love song,, to add proper atmosphere.

2 Shang-yin Li recalled the party held the previous night.

3 It was said that the white line going from the top to the bottom of a rhinoceros’ horn would bring good luck. Nowadays this line is more often interpreted as follows: For those whose hearts are closely linked, even the slightest hint of feeling or thoughts will be fully understood between them.

4 Gou Yi, the wife of Emperor Wu-di in the Han dynasty, had a hand that stiffened into a fist when she was young. The emperor pried her hand open and found a jade hook. Afterwards, her hand was cured. Later, based on this story, someone invented a game called "hiding the hook". The game is played as follows: A blindfolded person beats a drum. While the drum is beating, a jade hook is passed around. When the drumbeat stops, the person who has the hook in his or her hand must perform some entertainment such as telling a joke or singing a song.

5 The guessing game was to guess the object under a cover.

6 Li's office was in the Orchid Tower, where the Bureau of Archives was located.