宋词 Ci Poetry of the Song Dynasty

苏轼像 A portrait of Su Shi

辛弃疾像 A portrait of Xin Qiji

李清照像A portrait of Li Qingzhao











  Ci is one of the forms of ancient poetry and can be sung to music, so it's also known as musical ci poetry. As the length of the lines in a ci poem can differ, it is also called "long and short-line verses". There are various tunes used for ci poems, so they can be sung in different ways.

  Ci poetry reached its zenith during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). Like Tang poetry, the Song ci poetry holds a very important position in the history of Chinese literature.

  In the course of its development, many outstanding ci composers, such as Su Shi, Li Qingzhao, Xin Qiji and Lu You have appeared.

  Su Shi's ci poems are unrestrained, refreshing and smooth. The contents of his ci poems are rich in subject matter, some expressing his patriotism, some describing country scenes, some depicting grievance when loved ones had to part.... His works blazed a new trail for the evolvement of ci poetry.

  Li Qingzhao was an outstanding ci poetess. Her works are exquisite, refined and full of true feelings. She expressed her understanding and pursuit of true love, described the impact of the changing seasons on human feelings, and reflected the misery of people suffering from the fall of their country and the disasters that befell families. Many of her verses such as "Can't you see? / Can't you see? / The green leaves are fresh but the red flowers are fading!", "This feeling is unable to be removed. / It was shown on my knitted eyebrows a moment ago but has now come to pain my heart?b show her poetic gifts.

  Xin Qiji was the most prolific among the ci poets of the Song Dynasty. His works are filled with heroism. His lines such as "Half drunk I lit the lamp to look at my sword / After dreams of the bugles in our army camps? , "Green mountains are no bar / To the river flowing on to the sea" have been circulating generation after generation. They not only reflected army life in camps but also indicated his determination to resist the Jin troops and his deep love for his own country. Xin's ci poems greatly broadened the themes and enriched the artistic style of the Song ci poetry.

  It remains popular even today. The book Three Hundred Song Ci Poems sells well, and a number of renowned ci poems have been set to new tunes for singing. Here we cite Su Shi's Prelude to Water Melody (Shui Diao Ge Tou) as an example for your appreciation.

  To the Tune of Prelude to Water Melody (Shui Diao Ge Tou)

  Su Shi

  On the Mid-Autumn Festival of the year Bingchen I drank

  happily till dawn and wrote this in my cups while thinking of Ziyou.

  Bright moon, when was your birth?

  Wine cup in hand, I ask the deep blue sky;

  Not knowing what year it is tonight

  In those celestial palaces on high.

  I long to fly back on the wind,

  Yet dread those crystal towers, those courts of jade,

  Freezing to death among those icy heights!

  Instead I rise to dance with my pale shadow;

  Better off, after all, in the world of men.

  Rounding the red pavilion,

  Stooping to look through gauze windows,

  She shines on the sleepless.

  The moon should know no sadness;

  Why, then, is she always full when dear ones are parted?

  For men, the grief of parting, joy of reunion,

  Just as the moon wanes and waxes, is bright or dim;

  Always some flaw ?and so it has been since of old.

  My one wish for you, then, is long life

  And a share in this loveliness far, far away!