Custom Search

To the Tune of "Paying Homage at the Golden Door" 1

Feng, Yan-yi 2 (903-960 CE)

The wind suddenly rises.
It ripples a pool of Spring water 3.
She leisurely leads the mandarin ducks 4 to a fragrant path.
Her fingers stroke the red apricot blossoms.

She watches the ducks fight 5
While leaning against the banister alone.
Her jade hairpin loosens and falls in a slant.
She looks forward to seeing her lover all day,
But he never arrives.
She becomes excited when looking up and seeing magpies 6.

Notes

1 "The golden door" refers to "the palace door". Those who passed the Advanced Exam had the opportunity to enter the palace and pay homage to the emperor.

2 Yan-si and Zheng-zhong were Yan-yi Feng's other first names. His ancestors lived in Peng-cheng City. At the end of the Tang dynasty, his family moved to Xin-an City and then Guang-ling City (the old name for Yang-zhou City; present day Jiang-du-xian City in Jiangsu Province). Yan-yi Feng worked for the Kingdom of Southern Tang as minister of the Legislative Bureau, prime minister, and grand tutor of the crown prince in succession. He wrote a poetry book called Spring Sunshine.
    Shi-xiu Chen said, "Yan-yi Feng's poetry is deep and beautiful. His rhyming schemes are creative and elegant."
    "The Preface of Spring Sunshine" written by Ju Feng says, "In the Kingdom of Southern Tang, King Yuan-zong and his son, Last King Li, excelled at Ci poetry, so did their prime minister, Yan-yi Feng. Their achievements have never been paralleled. All the Ci poets during the Early Song dynasty followed the legacy of the two kings of Southern Tang and held Yan-yi Feng's poetry as their model just like calligraphers Xun Ou-yang (557-641), Shi-nan Yu (558-638), Sui-liang Chu (596-659), and Ji Xue (649-713) followed the calligraphical works of Xi-zhi Wang (321-379)."
    Notes and Comments on Ci Poetry at the Willow Pond says, "Yan-yi Feng wrote more than one hundred folk style poems. Some of them were collected in the poetry book, Liu-yi. Ting-jian Huang and Shi-dao Chen of the Jiangxi Poetry School considered Feng's poetry shallow and mediocre. (Translator's note. Ban Feng of the Qing dynasty attacked Shi-dao Chen's poetry by saying, "Shi-dao Chen's poetry is rigid, awkward, and difficult to understand.") However, most poets aimed at composing flowery couplets. In contrast, Yan-yi Feng was a poet who could fully express his feelings."
    The Lotus Town says, "Spring Sunshine is rich and nuanced. Its poems may compete with Yu Li's."
    Guo-wei Wang said, "Among all the Ci poets who excelled at meanings, the best one was Xiu Ou-yang. Among all the Ci poets who excelled at art, the best one was Guan Qing. There were few Ci poets like Bai Li, the two kings of Southern Tang, and Yan-yi Feng who excelled both at art and at meanings."

3 This poem describes a woman cherishing the memory of her lover. "The wind" refers to the love of her boyfriend. "Suddenly rises" refers to the fact that her feelings cannot be controlled. A pool of Spring water represents her heart. The title of the following video is called "From Where Does the Wind Come?".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QELYjhFWpwk&feature=related
The wind in this video also means love.
    King Yuan-zong of the Kingdom of Southern Tang teased Yan-yi Feng by asking, "Why are you worried about the wind rippling a pool of Spring water when it has nothing to do with you?" Feng replied, "My line is not as good as your lines "I play a wind pipe in an attic to cherish the memory of a distant friend./ The music is sad and cold." King Yuan-zong was pleased.

4 Mandarin ducks always walk in pairs, a male and a female. They are used to represent an affectionate couple.

5 After My Guests Leave written by Yu Zhao says, "'To the Tune of 'Paying Homage at the Golden Door'' written by Yan-yi Feng enjoys great popularity. It says, 'She watches the ducks fight/While leaning against the banister alone'. People doubt that ducks can fight. I have investigated this matter. The notes for 'The Biography of Chuan Sun' in The History of the Three Kingdoms quote 'The Biography of Biao Jiang' which says, 'Emperor Wen-di of the Wei dynasty sent an envoy to the Kingdom of Wu and requested fighting ducks. The officials in Wu's court suggested to their king, Chuan Sun, that he decline the request. The King of Wu said, 'Emperor Wen-di is in imperial mourning. It is impolite to decline his modest request.’ Therefore, the king gave all his fighting ducks to Emperor Wen-di.'
    "'The Biography of Sun Lu' says, 'Lü Sun, Count of Jian-chang and the second son of Chuan Sun, built a cage for his fighting ducks. Sun Lu said, 'You should diligently study classics. What use is it to build a duck cage?'
    "'The Biography of Seng-da Wang' in The History of Southern Dynasties written by Yan-shou Li says, 'Seng-da Wang, the crown prince's secretary, went to Yang-lie Bridge to watch a duck fight on pretext of illness. Wang was impeached by an auditor.'
    "The essay 'The Biography of King You of Qi' in The History of the Tang Dynasty says, 'King You loved to raise fighting ducks. Once when he went out, a fox came and killed more than forty of the king's ducks by breaking their necks. When the king came back and found the slaughter of his ducks, he accused more than forty of his servants of negligence and punished them with death.'
    "Thus, there have been duck fights since ancient times.
    "'The Biography of Ling-zi Tian' in The History of the Tang Dynasty says, 'Emperor Xi-zong loved to watch ducks fight. He visited Xing-qing Pool near the residence of six kings several times and brought his geese to fight the kings' ducks. One goose could be worth half a million dollars. This story shows that geese can also fight.'"

6 Chinese Valentine's Day is on the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar. In Chinese mythology, Chinese Valentine’s Day originates from a story about the Milky Way. The Spinning-damsel, a daughter of the Jade Emperor (the Supreme Deity of Taoism), lives east of the Heavenly River. She is in charge of weaving colorful clouds for heavenly clothing. The Jade Emperor appreciates her hard work and pities her living alone. Therefore, he marries her to the Herd-boy living west of the Heavenly River. Shortly after they get married, they begin to neglect their duties. This negligence irritates the Jade Emperor. Consequently, he punishes them by changing the Herd-boy into a star in the western sky and the Spinning-damsel into a star (Vega) in the eastern sky. They are allowed to meet each other once a year, the night of Chinese Valentine's Day. On that night, the magpies (xi-que [happy birds]) will build a heavenly bridge from east to west so that the Herd-boy and the Spinning-damsel can meet. It is these magpies that made the Milky Way we see today. Here "magpies" is a favorable sign of her lover's imminent arrival. Thus, she misses her lover so much that even a favorable sign makes her day.