Li, Shang Yin (812? A.D.-858 A.D.)


Using several sheets of thin, fragrant silk embroidered with a phoenix-tail design,
I sew a green-flecked bed-canopy with a round top 1 in the dead of night.
I remember the day we met.
I was bashful and covered my face with a full-moon 2 fan.
We could hardly hear each other's words
Because of the rumbling traffic in the street.
Since then I have been lonely
And have watched the flowers of the lamp 3 fall one by one during the night.
I have not heard from you again
And now the pomegranate trees turn red with blossoms.
Today I saw only your horse tethered to a drooping willow tree at the shore.
I wonder where in the southwest you wait for the fair wind 4.


A curtain with several layers hangs across the door of Mo-Chou 5 chamber.
While lying on a bed,
I feel the quiet night is stretching out very long.
The story of the Goddess 6 is only a dream.
There is no sweetheart in the maiden's dwelling.
The fragile stem of a water chestnut is beaten by wind-swept waves.
The dew under the moon does not seek laurel leaves' fragrance 7.
Even though I know it is no use to be lovesick,
I do not care if others consider my sorrow inappropriate.

1 This type of green-flecked bed-canopy with a round top was called the Canopy of a Hundred Sons. It was often used for the wedding night.

2 A full-moon fan is a white round fan.

3 The flowers of the lamp refer to the wick braided into flower shapes.

4 In his poem "Seven Sorrows", Zhi Cao compares himself to a woman. He says, "I wish I could become the southwestern wind/ And reside in your heart after I die." Here "the fair wind" means "his true love".

5 Mo-Chou means "do not worry". A footnote on Classical Music says, "There was a woman named Mo-Chou in the City of Stones. She was good at singing folk songs." The word "Mo-Chou" appears frequently in ancient Chinese poems. It refers to a woman in general.

6 The prologue of the poem "The Goddess" written by Yu Song says, "King Xiang of Country Chu and Yu Song traveled together along the Cloud-Dream Lake. The king ordered Yu to write a poem about the Goddess of Wu Mountain. As expected, the king met the Goddess in his dream that night. She was extremely beautiful."

7 Because Chinese often use a gold branch and jade leaves to describe a lady from a noble family, the fragile stem and laurel leaves refer to the woman Li imagines writing this poem. The dew symbolizes her tears. Fragrance means "fame or compliments".