About this blog...
In July 2016 a friend introduced me to Andrew Wong's (黃宏發 ) blog "Classical Chinese Poems in English" (http://chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.sg/). It was in connection with some discussion he had with some friends concerning the poem by Yue Fei 岳飛: 滿江紅. Since then I have been visiting this blog and often couldn't resist having a go myself in translating a poem or two. The creation of this simple blog is for me to deposit my translations, done very much as a pastime. I hope you enjoy Andrew's painstaking work and my less serious translations.
PS - The only English translation I refer to is Andrew Wong's, unless otherwise stated. So any resemblance to other translations is purely coincidental. My translations try to keep the full meaning of all the words/phrases/clauses and imagery of the original, although the reader might not find exactly corresponding translations for each.
PS2 - I am also adding my translations of interesting poems other than those found in Andrew Wong's blog.

Oct 14, 2022

水浒传: 浔阳楼题反诗

1 心在山东身在吴,
2 飘蓬江海谩嗟吁。
3 他时若遂凌云志,
4 敢笑黄巢不丈夫!

Water Margin:  Writing a Poem of Rebellion at Xúnyáng Tavern

1 My heart's in Shandong though I'm in Wu,
2 Wandering hither thither uncomplaining;
3 One day when I've realised the heroic quest,
4 Dare you mock Huangchao that he's a weakling!

The poem is found in the novel Water Margin (or Outlaws of the Marsh) 水浒传, one of the four famous classical novels in China, written by Shi Nai'an 施耐庵 (1296-1371)​ of the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. In the novel, Sòngjiāng 宋江, in a fit of uncontrollable emotion, wrote the poem on the wall of a tavern  in Xúnyáng 浔阳 after getting drunk.
Line 1: 
Songjiang was a native of Shandong 山东 but was banished to Wu 吴 for manslaughter (please watch CCTV's production of the novel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnshzmF6sY4&list=PLIj4BzSwQ-_sEAJsZnbcxV7sBc51XE8Z5 ).
Line 2: 
江海 means 四方各地 ie everywhere.
谩 has several meanings. Here it means 莫, ie do not.
嗟吁 means sigh, ie express dissatisfaction.
Hence 谩嗟吁 is translated as ‘uncomplaining’.
Line 3:
凌云志 a lofty ambition.
Line 4:
黄巢 was a famous peasant rebel during the Tang Dynasty who even managed to occupy the capital for a short while.
丈夫 here means 大丈夫, someone who is brave, honourable. I have therefore translated 不丈夫 as 'weakling'.
Line 4, I feel, can also be translated "Dare I mock Huangchao that he's a weakling!" That's the beauty of classical Chinese poetry, so rich in meaning.

Shuǐhǔ Zhuàn: xún yáng lóu tí fǎn shī
1 Xīn zài shāndōng shēn zài wú, 
2 piāo péng jiānghǎi mán jiē xū (màn jiē yù);
3 Tā shí ruò suì língyún zhì, 
4 gǎn xiào huángcháo bù zhàngfū!



Songjiang writing the poem (extracted from CCTV's 1998 production of the novel):

Aug 16, 2022

 苏轼 Sū Shì: 观潮

1 庐山烟雨浙江潮,
2 未至千般恨不消。
3 到得还来别无事,
4 庐山烟雨浙江潮。

Watching the Tidal Waves

1 Lushan in mist and Zhejiang's lashing waves,
2 Having not seen, a nagging longing stays;
3 Yet having  seen, they are but as they are,
4 Lushan in mist and Zhejiang's lashing waves.

Line 1: 
庐山烟雨: Lushan (庐山), or the “Lu” mountain, is famous for its mist-shrouded (烟雨) peaks, to which many poems are dedicated and many paintings have it as their subject.
浙江潮: The river Zhejiang (浙江) is now known as Qiántáng jiāng  (钱塘江) located in Zhejiang province. The well known  tidal waves (潮) of this river is a grand and breath-taking sight.
Line 2:
恨: regrets, unfulfilled yearning or desire.

The rhyme scheme of the poem is AAXA and I have tried to follow the same. The poet uses simple words in the poem. However the poem's deeper meaning comes through appreciating the third and fourth lines. The poet, after having gone through various ups and downs in his life, has embodied his insight in life in this short poem.

Sūshì: Guān cháo 
1 lúshān yānyǔ zhèjiāng cháo, 
2 wèi zhì qiān bān hèn bu xiāo. 
3 Dào dé hái lái bié wú shì, 
4 lúshān yānyǔ zhèjiāng cháo.

May 22, 2022

葉清臣 Ye Qingchen - 寄調: 賀聖朝  題: 留別

1  滿斟綠醑留君住
2  莫匆匆歸去
3  三分春色二分愁
4  更一分風雨

5  花開花謝
6  都來幾許
7  且高歌休訴
8  不知來嵗牡丹時
9  再相逢何處

Tune: He Shen Cao (Homage to the Imperial Court) #
Title: Farewell but Please Remain #

1  Filling your cup with fine wine I hope you will stay;
2  Do not leave in such haste I pray.
3  Three measures of spring…two are of melancholy;
4  While wind and rain, the third shall be.

5  Flowers bloom and then go;
6  How often will that be so?
7  So cease our grumbles and let us sing;
8  And next year, when peonies are in bloom, we wouldn’t know,
9  Whither be our next gathering.

The translations for the “Tune” and “Title” (#) are borrowed from Andrew Wong’s translation.
According to Andrew Wong, the rhyme scheme of the original is: AA/xA // xA/AxA. I am unable to follow the original rhyme scheme; my translation has another rhyme scheme of sorts. Also, I have not tried to keep to any particular length for each line.

Yèqīngchén - jì diào: Hèshèngcháo  tí: Liú bié 
1 mǎn zhēn lǜ xǔ liú jūn zhù 
2 mò cōngcōng guī qù 
3 sān fēn chūnsè èrfēn chóu 
4 gèng yī fēn fēngyǔ 

5 huā kāihuā xiè 
6 dōu lái jǐxǔ 
7 qiě gāogē xiū sù 
8 bùzhī lái suì mǔdān shí 
9 zài xiāngféng hé chù

May 8, 2022


1  人生七十古来少 
2  前除年少后除老 
3  中间所剩亦不多
4  还有一半睡掉了

Adapted from Tang Yin’s 一世歌 (Song of One’s Life)
(Author unknown)

1  Beyond seventy few live since  long ago;
2  Less childhood  and the years when we are old,
3  What is left is not much between the two;
4  And of that a large part to bed we go.


During those days, not many people lived beyond the age of seventy. If we subtract the years when we were kids and the years when we were senile, there were not many productive years left. And of these, a large part was spent sleeping. A half serious poem with a serious theme. Treasure the time when we are mature and fit.

I tried to follow the same rhyme scheme, AAXA.

Gǎi tángyín: Yīshì gē 
1 rénshēng qīshí gǔlái shǎo 
2 qián chú niánshào hòu chú lǎo 
3 zhōngjiān suǒ shèng yì bù duō 
4 hái yǒu yībàn shuì diàole


May 1, 2022

 劉方平 Liu Fangping: 月夜 

1  更深月色半人家
2  北斗闌干南斗斜
3  今夜偏知春氣暖
4  蟲聲新透綠窗紗

 A Moonlit Night 

1  Deep in the night, houses lit in halves, the moon shines bright;
2  Across the sky, both north and south, the Dippers glow.
3  I feel the warmth of spring, suddenly,  this very night;
4  And hear the sounds of insects through the green gauze window.


I am unable to follow the rhyme scheme of AAXA and have produced something like ABAB. 

Line 1: 更深 means ‘deep in the night.’
Line 2: 闌干 means ‘crisscross' or 'across' the sky. 'Glow' is not a direct translation from the original. However it  can be understood as such.
Line 3: 偏知 means ‘realise all of a sudden.’
Line 4: The word 新 is not rendered into English as it can be understood, as it appears to me rather long-winded to write 'the newly heard sounds of insects.’

Liúfāngpíng: Yuèyè 
1 gēngshēn yuè sè bàn rénjiā 
2 běidǒu lángān nándǒu xié 
3 jīnyè piān zhīchūn qì nuǎn 
4 chóng shēng xīn tòu lǜ chuāngshā

Apr 3, 2022

 吳錦祥 Ng Kam-Cheung Stephen: 無題 

1 晚霞如火耀窗前
2 日落天邊海欲眠
3 朗月一輪隨夜上
4 無求無欲又明天


1 A crimson evening, like fire, the window brightens;
2 At the sky's edge the sun sets, the sea feels asleep.
3 The circle of the clear moon rises as night deepens;
4 No wishes, no desires, again it's tomorrow.

Wújǐnxiáng: Wútí 
1 wǎnxiá rú huǒ yào chuāng qián 
2 rìluò tiānbiān hǎi yù mián 
3 lǎng yuè yīlún suí yè shàng 
4 wú qiú wúyù yòu míngtiān


Jan 19, 2020

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 蝶恋花 (暖雨晴风初破冻)

 1   暖雨晴風初破凍
 2   柳眼梅腮
 3   已覺春心動
 4   酒意詩情誰與共
 5   淚融殘粉花鈿重

 6   乍試夾衫金縷縫
 7   山枕斜欹
 8   枕損釵頭鳳
 9   獨抱濃愁無好夢
10 夜闌猶剪燈花弄

Butterflies Love Flowers

  1  The first warm showers and breezes break winter's cold,
  2  Willows’ buds and plum blossoms,
  3  The palpable stirrings of spring.
  4  With whom to share my yearning for wine and poesy?
  5  In tears my makeup melts, the headdress feels heavy.

 6  I try my new overcoat braided with golden threads,
 7  Then lying on a tilted pillow,
 8  My phoenix hairpin is ruined.
 9  Alone in sorrow dreary dreams embrace with no respite;
10  Still trimming the candle, hoping, deep in the night.

 1   Nuǎn yǔqíng fēng chū pò dòng
 2   liǔ yǎn méi sāi
 3   yǐ jué chūn xīndòng
 4   jiǔyì shīqíng shuí yǔ gòng
 5   lèi róng cán fěn huā diàn zhòng

 6   zhà shì jiā shān jīn lǚ fèng
 7   shān zhěn xié yī
 8   zhěn sǔn chāi tóu fèng
 9   dú bào nóng chóu wú hǎo mèng
10 yèlán yóu jiǎn dēnghuā nòng

The rhyme scheme of the original is AXAAA, AXAAA but I am unable to follow the same rhyme in my translation.
Line 2: 柳眼 refers to the budding shoots of the willow leaves. 梅腮 refers to the crown of the plum flower, so it is simply translated as plum blossoms.
Line 5: 花鈿 refers to headdress of flowers.
Line 6: 夾衫 a double layered overcoat.
Line 7: 山枕 refers to the pillows of olden days that are curved up at both ends, like hills (hence 山).
Line 10: 夜闌 means late in the night. 燈花 is the candle's wick, and alludes to the saying 灯花报喜, and the allusion is made clear with the word 'hoping' in my translation.

Reference site:

Jan 3, 2020

唐寅 Tang Yin: 桃花庵歌

 1  桃花坞里桃花庵,桃花庵下桃花仙。
 2  桃花仙人种桃树,又摘桃花换酒钱。
 3  酒醒只在花前坐,酒醉还来花下眠。
 4  半醉半醒日复日,花落花开年复年。
 5  但愿老死花酒间,不愿鞠躬车马前。
 6  车尘马足富者趣,酒盏花枝贫者缘。
 7  若将富贵比贫贱,一在平地一在天。
 8  若将贫贱比车马,他得驱驰我得闲。
 9  别人笑我太疯癫,我笑他人看不穿。
10 不见五陵豪杰墓,无花无酒锄作田。

Song of the Peach Blossom Hut

 1a  At the peach blossom grove there's a hut,
 1b  In the hut a fairy dwells;
 2a  The fairy plants the peach blossoms,
 2b  And for wine the flowers he plucks and sells.
 3a  Sober he sits before the blossoms,
 3b  Drunk he sleeps beneath the flowers;
 4a  Day after day, half drunk and half sober,
 4b  Year after year, they bloom and wither.
 5a  May I age and die amidst blossoms and wine,
 5b  And bowing  to mammon never ever;
 6a  Horse and carriage - the playthings of the rich,
 6b  The poor’s company are but wine and flowers.
 7a  Comparing the poor and the wealthy,
 7b  One’s on earth, the other’s in heaven;
 8a  Comparing carriages with the poor,
 8b  One's driven but the other's free.
 9a  Others laugh and say I’m not whole,
 9b  I laugh and say they just don’t know;
10a  The mighty of yore, their tombs are nowhere,
10b  No blossoms, no wine, only the earth to hoe.

Tángyín: Táohuā ān gē
1  táohuā wù lǐ táohuā ān, táohuā ān xià táohuā xiān.
 2  Táohuā xiānrén zhǒng táo shù, yòu zhāi táohuā huàn jiǔqián.
 3  Jiǔ xǐng zhǐ zài huā qián zuò, jiǔ zuì hái lái huā xià mián.
 4  Bàn zuì bàn xǐng rì fù rì, huā luòhuā kāi nián fù nián.
 5  Dàn yuàn lǎosǐ huā jiǔ jiān, bù yuàn jūgōng chē mǎ qián.
 6  Chē chén mǎ zú fù zhě qù, jiǔ zhǎn huāzhī pín zhě yuán.
 7  Ruò jiāng fùguì bǐ pínjiàn, yī zài píngdì yī zài tiān.
 8  Ruò jiāng pínjiàn bǐ chē mǎ, tā dé qū chí wǒ déxián.
 9  Biérén xiào wǒ tài fēngdiān, wǒ xiào tārén kàn bù chuān.
10 Bùjiàn wǔ líng háojié mù, wú huā wú jiǔ chú zuòtián.

Line 1:  桃花坞 (táohuā wù) is the name of a place in 苏州 (Suzhou) where the poet built his house. Literally it means peach blossom flower bed or grove.
Line 5:  车马 (chē mǎ) the phrase literally means carriage and horse, used here to denote the wealthy.
Line 6:  缘 (yuán) is a difficult word to translate. It originated from Buddhist teachings, referring to the kind of supramundane connections between people, usually drawing them together. I have simply translated it as 'company'.
Line 10:  五陵 (wǔ líng) originally refers to the tombs of five Han Dynasty emperors. The phrase is used to denote the very wealthy and the powerful.

Reference site:

Nov 25, 2019

王昌龄 Wang Changling: 出塞

1  秦时明月汉时关,
2  万里长征人未还。
3  但使龙城飞将在,
4  不教胡马度阴山。

Going to the Frontier

1  Forts, moon above, are as in the days of Han and Qin,
2  Soldiers, so far away, have long their home not seen;
3  And at Longcheng, as long as general Fei is there,
4  Galloping marauders won't dare cross the mountain Yin.

Wángchānglíng: Chūsāi
1  Qín shí míngyuè hàn shí guān,
2  wànlǐ chángzhēng rén wèi huán,
3  Dàn shǐ lóng chéng fēi jiàng zài,
4  bù jiào hú mǎ dù yīnshān.

I tried to follow the same rhyme scheme AAXA.
Line 1:  The line means that the frontier posts/forts, and the moon, have not changed since the days of the Qin and Han dynasties (the poet was writing in the Tang Dynasty).
Line 3: 但使 means as long as. 龙城 was a fortress of the northern tribes (who marauded China to their south) which general Fei (飞将) overran. 飞将 was the nick for Han general 李广.
Line 4: 阴山 is a mountain range stretching across over 1000 km in northern China that marked the area separating ancient China and the northern tribes.

Reference sites: