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.


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.

Pinyin:
 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

Remarks:
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:
https://chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.com/2020/01/li-qingzhao-butterflies-love-flowers.html
https://baike.baidu.com/

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  The poor, and the rich with their carriages,
 7b  One’s on earth, the other’s in heaven;
 8a  Comparing the carriages with the poor,
 8b  One's driven and 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.

Pinyin:
 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.

Remarks:
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.

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

Remarks:
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 (which 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:

Nov 23, 2019

元稹 Yuan Zhen: 行宮

1   寥落古行宮
2   宮花寂寞紅
3   白頭宮女在
4   閒坐說玄宗

The Outer Palace

1  The desolate old outer palace,
2  Lonely red flowers still blooming;
3  Court ladies, white haired, sit around,
4  Chatting idly about the dead King.

Alternative translation
1  The desolate outer palace is home
2  To lonely red flowers that still bloom;
3  And court ladies, white haired, idly sit,
4  Chatting about emperor Xuanzong.


Remarks:
The rhyme scheme of the poem is AAXA but I could only manage XAXA for the translation.
Line 1: 行宮 refers to a minor palace built elsewhere apart from the main palace. I have simply translated it as outer palace.
Line 3 & 4: The  word  坐 (sit) in line 4 is moved to line 3 in my translation.
Line 4: 玄宗 was the ninth emperor of the Tang Dynasty. He was the emperor who sent these court ladies to this minor palace (at Lokyang), known as the Shangyang Palace (上阳宫), and they remained confined there (till they all turned old and hair turned white) even after the emperor's death. In order to make the translation easier to understand, 玄宗 is simply translated as “dead King”. “King” is used instead of “emperor” so as to save two syllables and to rhyme with “blooming” :) .
Alternative translation: In this translation I try to get something of a AAXA rhyme to mimic the original Chinese.

Pinyin:
Yuán zhěn: Xínggōng
1   Liáoluò gǔ xínggōng
2   gōng huā jìmò hóng
3   báitóu gōngnǚ zài
4   xián zuò shuō xuánzōng

Reference sites:
https://chinesepoemsinenglish.blogspot.com/2019/10/yuan-zhen-779-831-adjunct-palace-1-in.html
https://m.gushiwen.org/gushiwen_e57030b42c.aspx


Nov 22, 2019

劉石佑 John Lau: 日本德仁天皇登基有感 (2019年10月23日)

1   禮失求諸夷
2   大唐盛世姿
3   東瀛存古例
4   重現壯豐儀

Enthronement of Emperor Naruhito 
of Japan (23 October 2019)*

1  From the eastern folks seek a lost culture,
2  Of the great Tang dynasty at its height;
3  The ancient ways Japan still does harbour,
4  The grand ceremony again in sight.

Remarks:
* Title adopted from Andrew Wong's translation.
The original rhyming scheme is AAXA. I have only managed ABAB.
Line 1:  禮 (the ways people observe in interacting with one another) is translated as culture. 夷 means the foreigners to the east (ie the Japanese).
Line 2:  姿 here refers to cultural characteristics or culture, so it is not translated again, with the word "of" taking care of it.
Line 3:  東瀛 is another term for Japan.
Line 4:   the word "ceremony" is the same as used by Andrew Wong to translate the meaning of 儀 (or 儀式/仪式) here.

Pinyin:
Liúshíyòu: Rìběn dé rén tiānhuáng dēngjī yǒu gǎn
1   Lǐ shī qiú zhū yí
2   dà táng shèngshì zī
3   dōngyíng cún gǔ lì
4   chóng xiàn zhuàng fēng yí

Link to andrew's translation:

Nov 20, 2019

马君武 Ma Jun Wu: 哀沈阳

哀沈阳(其一)
1  赵四风流朱五狂,
2  翩翩胡蝶最当行;
3  温柔乡是英雄冢,
4  那管东师入沈阳。

哀沈阳(其二)
5  告急军书夜半来,
6  开场弦管又相催,
7  沈阳已陷休回顾,
8  更抱佳人舞几回。

Lamenting Shenyang

1  Flirting with Zhao Si and with Zhu Wu,
2  But dancing with Hu Die is the best;
3  Gentle bosom is the hero’s tomb,
4  Who cares the Japs into Shenyang went.

5  The army’s SOS came that night,
6  But the ballroom's music beckons too;
7  Shenyang’s fallen, naught can be done,
8  With lover in arm dance a while more.

Remarks: 
The poem is about the Japanese invasion of Northeast China  (Manchuria) in 1931 with the occupation of Shenyang (then known as Mukden) and how the Chinese general stationed there (Zhang Xueliang) had retreated without putting up a fight, sarcastically describing him as being preoccupied with his romantic escapades instead of defending the motherland.
Line 1: 赵四 (Zhao Si)  means the fourth (四) daughter of 赵, who was the mistress of Zhang the general. 朱五 (Zhu Wu) was the fifth (五) daughter of 朱, who was regarded as a beauty in the region.
Line 2: 胡蝶 (Hu Die) was a famous actress.
Line 3: 温柔乡 comes from the expression “温柔不住住何乡” meaning men can become so infatuated with women that they will want to live forever in their bosom.
Line 4: 东师 means the Japanese armed forces.
Line 6:  弦管 literally means strings and tubes, meaning the music of string and wind instruments.

Pinyin:
Mǎjūnwǔ Ma Jun Wu: Āi shěnyáng (qí yī)
1 zhào sì fēngliú zhū wǔ kuáng,
2 piānpiān húdié zuì dàngxíng;
3 wēnróu xiāng shì yīngxióng zhǒng,
4 nà guǎn dōng shī rù shěnyáng.

Āi shěnyáng (qí èr)
5 gàojí jūn shū yèbàn lái,
6 kāichǎng xián guǎn yòu xiāng cuī,
7 shěnyáng yǐ xiàn xiū huígù,
8 gèng bào jiārén wǔ jǐ huí.

Reference site:

Jun 12, 2019

苏轼 Su Shi: 题西林壁

1  横看成岭侧成峰,
2  远近高低各不同。
3  不识庐山真面目,
4  只缘身在此山中。


Written on the Wall of the  Western Forest Temple

1  In front a range and sideways a peak;
2  High and low, looks different near and far.
3  It's hard to know Lushan as it is;
4  ‘Cos in the midst of the mountain we are.

Remarks:
The original rhyme scheme appears to be AAXA, but I could only manage XAXA.
Title: 西林, meaning western forest, is the name of the temple on the Lushan mountain.
Line 3: 庐山 is the Lushan mountains in Jiangxi province.
Line 4: 只缘 means because.

Pinyin:
Sūshì: Tí xīlín bì
1  Héng kàn chéng lǐng cè chéng fēng,
2  yuǎnjìn gāodī gè bùtóng.
3  Bù shí lúshān zhēnmiànmù,
4  zhǐ yuán shēn zài cǐ shānzhōng.

Reference sites:

Dec 30, 2018

毛泽东 Mao Zedong: 七绝·改诗赠父亲

1  孩儿立志出乡关,
2  学不成名誓不还。
3  埋骨何须桑梓地,
4  人生无处不青山。


*Seven-Word Quatrain - 
  Poem Rewritten for Father*

1  Your son is resolved to leave the ancestral lair,
2  Studies unaccomplished will not return he does swear.
3  It ain't necessary to be buried in one's village,
4  For in life it's so beautiful everywhere.

Remarks:
The poem was written by Mao Zedong, at age 16, for his father just before he left home. The poem was based on another poem by 西乡隆盛 (xī xiāng lóng shèng, Saigō Takamori), hence the title “改诗赠父亲” ( altering a poem for father). I tried to follow the original rhyme scheme of AAXA, and also tried to keep to the same number of beats per line.

Line 1: 乡关 home village
Line 3: 桑梓地 figurative term for hometown, as people liked to plant these trees outside their homes in the past.

Pinyin:
Máozédōng: Qījué·gǎi shī zèng fùqīn
1  Hái'ér lìzhì chū xiāng guān,
2  xué bùchéng míng shì bù hái.
3  Mái gǔ héxū sāngzǐ de,
4  tiānxià wú chù bù qīngshān.

Reference:
https://baike.baidu.com

Dec 24, 2018

蒋捷 Jiang Jie: 虞美人 (听雨)

  1  少年听雨歌楼上,
  2  红烛昏罗帐。
  3  壮年听雨客舟中,
  4  江阔云低,
  5  断雁叫西风。
  
  6  而今听雨僧庐下,
  7  鬓已星星也。
  8  悲欢离合总无情,
  9  一任阶前,
10  点滴到天明。


*Listening to the Rain (to the tune of Yu Mei Ren)*

  1  In youth listen to the rain while in a tavern huddle,
  2  At dusk on the silken net shines the red candle.
  3  As adult, in a boat, listen again as the rain falls,
  4  Wide river and low clouds,
  5  With the west wind a lone wild goose calls.

  6  Now I listen to the rain taking shelter in a temple,
  7  Hair  tinged silvery like the stars’ sparkle.
  8  Joy and sadness, reunion and parting, merciless as ever,
  9  On the steps of the stairs,
10  Let the raindrops patter till night is over.

Remarks:
I try to mimic the rhyme scheme of the original, viz AABXB, CCDXD. Not every word is translated but the meaning and imagery are kept.

蒋捷 (Jiǎng jié) the poet lived through the turmoils and hardship of the end of the Song Dynasty. After the collapse of the dynasty, he went into seclusion as he did not want to serve the new masters.
Title: 虞美人 (Yú měirén) is a musical/poetic format of the Song Dynasty. The poem is a Song Dynasty verse 宋词.
Line 1: 歌楼 (gē lóu) a place of music, song, dance and entertainment for which there is no English equivalent. I have simply used "tavern" as translation.
Line 5: 断雁 (duàn yàn) a wild goose that has separated from the flock
Line 6: 僧庐 (sēng lú) Buddhist temple or monastery
Line 7: 星星 (xīngxīng) hair speckled with white silvery hair
Line 9: 一任 (yīrèn) allow as wished, let (This meaning has been moved down to line 10 in my translation.)

Pinyin:
Jiǎng jié: Yú měirén (tīng yǔ)
  1  shàonián tīng yǔ gē lóu shàng,
  2  hóng zhú hūn luó zhàng.
  3  Zhuàngnián tīng yǔ kè zhōu zhōng,
  4  jiāngkuòyún dī,
  5  duàn yàn jiào xīfēng.

  6  Érjīn tīng yǔ sēng lú xià,
  7  bìn yǐ xīngxīng yě.
  8  Bēihuānlíhé zǒng wúqíng,
  9  yīrèn jiē qián,
10  diǎndī dào tiānmíng.

Reference:
https://baike.baidu.com