Saturday 24 July 2010


Tang Dynasty Poem: 咏鹅 [yǒng é]


鹅 , 鹅 , 鹅
é   é   é

曲 项 向 天 歌
qū xiàng xiàng tiān gē

白 毛 浮 绿 水
bái máo fú lǜ shuǐ

红 掌 拨 清 波
hōng zhǎng bō qīng bō

Video Demonstration:

Literal Translation:
Goose, Goose, Goose
Bending neck up singing to the sky.
White feathers floating on the greenish water,
Red feet paddling out gentle ripples.

This poem was written by a Tang dynasty poet called Luo Bin Wang (approx. 640-684), who came from Wuzhou Yiwu, located in today’s Zhejiang region in China. The poet received very fine education from a young age, and had already made a name for himself as a poet during his youth. Together with Wang Bo, Yang Jiong and Lu Zhaolin, they were referred to as the "The Four Masters of the Early Tang Dynasty". It is believed that this little poem was written by the poet when he was only 7 years old!

Modern Translation:
This poem is an appreciation of goose. The repetition of the word “goose” three times in the first line expresses the joy and excitement of children when they first discover the sight of a goose. The last three lines capture vividly the poise, manner and special air of goose. Those white geese swimming leisurely in the lake, making high noises with their necks and heads high up towards the sky, as if they are chit-chatting among themselves, as if they are singing with gusto, and even more so, as if they are singing to the sky. The geese are swimming around in the water, their pure white body contrasting with the greenish water and their red feet gently paddling the water, creating soft ripples.

This poem evokes the picture of a very relaxed, joyful, wholesome, beautiful and carefree atmosphere and describes the world as seen in the eyes of children. This is the way innocent and carefree children first get to know about life and the world - full of joy of discovery and optimism… just like the bird dashing towards the big nature… lively and elated. This poem up-lifts our spirit by drawing us away for a moment to forget the heavy responsibility as an adult, and experience the heart and carefreeness of a child, which allows the child to have the simple ability to focus its interest in the appreciation of geese.

My After-Thought:
This poem reminds me a lot of the expressions of J when he sees the ducks swimming at the lake near our home… when he sees a dog passing by him… or when he sees a bird at our balcony. J is so full of joy and excitement, and he never fails to pass on the joy to Daddy and I. Whenever the regular pigeon-pair makes a visit at our home, Daddy will drop everything and bring J there to get a close look, even if J is in the midst of having his breakfast! The joy of seeing J’s joyful expression is worth it for Daddy to drop everything, including J’s routine!!!

This is a very child-friendly poem, and it is one of the poems that my neighbour has taught her 2.5 years old daughter to recite. Among all the other poems, this is also the poem that my neighbour’s daughter chose to recite for us during one of the Chinese playgroup sessions, and her mother told us that this is her favourite Tang poem.

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