To Honor Yuan Qu (屈原) 1 on the Dragon-boat Festival Day (端午節)

Liu, Ke-zhuang 2 (劉克莊, 1187-1269 CE)

    The pomegranate flowers bloom in my lush garden. I raise the curtain and come out in plain cloths, carrying a silk fan. The breeze at noon relieves the heat of summer. Children compete to boast of their handicraft: a new style of head ornaments and moxa-tigers 3. The riverside is crowded with spectators watching the dragon-boat race 4. I am getting old and losing interest in joining the competition. I would rather let young people drum, wave flags, and win the race. The rain from the creek is heavy 5. Waves crash and whitecaps dance 6.

    Ling-jun's 7 bearing was highly graceful. I recall his biography. He wore orchid flowers 8 and carried wine 9 as well as fragrant spice 10. Who would believe a thousand years later people imagine his soul in the river bottom would drool for angled dumplings 11? It is said that dragons in water become angry because they want to, but are unable to eat these dumplings 12. If Yuan Qu were to awaken today and discover how people treat him, he would prefer to die from drinking rather than drown himself 13. With this humor, let us smile for the moment as we mourn this great poet.




1 Yuan Qu (340-278 BCE) is the Father of Chinese Poetry. Chinese celebrate the Drgon-boat Festival in honor of him. The Dragon-boat Festival Day is the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. It is said that Yuan Qu committed suicide on this day by drowning himself in the Mi-lo River. In 1939, the writers at Chong-qing City (重庆市) established Poets Day as the same day as the Dragon-boat Festival Day to honor the patriotic poet, Yuan Qu.

2 Ke -zhuang Liu was a native of Fu-tian City in present day Fujian Province. He had the privilege to become a government official because of his father's great contribution to China. Once he wrote a poem titled "Fallen Plum Blossoms". It says, "It is a mistake to allow Mr. Dong (east) to hold power/ For he is jealous of recluses with integrity." Slanderers copied this poem and showed it to the powerful. As a result, he was not given any meaningful jobs for ten years. His poem "Visiting Plum Blossoms" says, "Meng-de was demoted because he wrote a poem about peach trees./ Chang-yuan offended the incumbent because he wrote a poem about willow trees./ Fortunately, I know nothing about peach or willow trees. However, my poem 'Fallen Plum Blossoms' has caused me trouble for ten years." In 1246 CE, he was given a certificate which was equivalent to passing the Advanced Exam. Xu Feng says, "You Lu (陸游), Qi-ji Xin (辛棄疾) and Ke-zhuang Liu (劉克莊) were the three most important poets in the Southern Song dynasty. Like You Lu, he moved south to devote himself to the emperor and his country. Like Qi-ji Xin, he aimed to contribute to his country, not just through poetry, but also through military service."

3 "Moxa-tigers" refers to the tiger-shape figures made by moxa plants. They are used to banish evil spirits.

4 Yuan Qu's loyalty was not trusted by his king. Qu committed suicide by drowning himself in the Mi-lo River because he wanted to awaken his king from his blind trust of evil officials. "The dragon-boat race" symbolizes an attempt to rescue Qu.

5 The rain refers to the water in the air splashed by the oars and then blown by the wind onto the spectatorsí faces.

6 These two sentences hint at the fierce competition among the dragon-boat teams.

7 Ling-jun was Yuan Qu's other first name.

8 "Orchid flowers" symbolizes Qu's integrity.

9 Wine was used as an offering to gods.

10 "Fragrant spice" was used to entice and thereby conjure gods.

11 In order to honor Yuan Qu, people wrap their dumplings into an angled shape and throw them into a river as their offerings.

12 In ancient China, people believe that bamboo leaves could repel dragons. Therefore, people wrapped their dumplings with bamboo leaves so that dragons in the water could not eat them.

13 This sentence states that few people truly understand Yuan Qu.