28481k's Writing Workshop

This is my test site of putting some of my writing into a wider world.

Friday, August 24, 2007

My own English Translations on Poems of the West Lake in Hangzhou

ryoshu on #linguistics has requested me to translate the following poems into English so that he (and other non-Chinese) can appreciate them. I tried to be rather straight forward and scholarly whereas taking some liberty in order to make it more understandable.

A few small prints:
Words in parenthesis are explaining the phrase preceding it.
Words in curly brackets are words that were not in the poem, but added into
the poem to make it clear.
Notes are numbered and placed in square brackets.


1. 飲湖上初晴後雨 蘇軾

水光瀲灩晴方好,山色空濛兩亦奇。欲把西湖比西子,淡妝濃抹總相宜。

Translation:

Drinking on the Lake, Sunny then rain by Su Shi in Northern Song Dynasty

Light reflecting ripples and waves of the lake {looks} best under the sun,
views of clear mounts and foggy sky are both strangely {beautiful}. If the
west lake and Xi Shi [1] are compared, then both light touch-ups and heavy
brushes will work nicely.

[1] Xi shi (Shi of the Western Village) is one of the Four Great Beauties in
China, her effect to men is comparable to Helen of Troy, which made war
between two states about the same time.


2. 曉出凈慈寺送林子方 楊萬里

畢竟西湖六月中,風光不與四時同。接天蓮葉無窮碧,映日荷花別樣紅。

2. Leaving Jingci Temple [1] for Lin Zifong by Yang Wan Li in Southern Song
Dynasty

It's July [2] in the West Lake, {so} the view differs from other times:
Blanketing [3] water-lily leaves makes it green [5], glaring [6] water-lily
flowers strikes it red [7].

[1] Jingci Temple is a Buddhist temple famous for its bell. The bell on a
small hill compliments with the view, and its sound at sunset is famous in
the West Lake.

[2] July is not your Gregorian/Julian July, but the sixth month Chinese
calendar which usually falls in July or even August.

[3] literally heaven-touching

[4] Nelumbo nucifera, aka blue lotus or sacred water-lily.

[5] original poem has the word "infinitely" here

[6] Flowers won't glare, but it is used here to show the eye-catching scene
of red water-lily

[7] original poem has the word "differently" here, which states the red
appears against the green background.


3. 無題 日本使臣

昔年曾見此湖圖,不信人間有此湖。今日打從湖上過,畫工猶自欠工夫。

3. Nameless by a unnamed Japanese diplomat in Ming Dynasty

Once ago {I} saw the map of lake, couldn't believe there is such a lake! Now
{I} have gone over the lake, the drawings [1] didn't even come close.

[1] original poem has the word "itself" here


4. 題臨安邸 林升

山外青山樓外樓,西湖歌舞幾時休?暖風薰得遊人醉,直把杭州作汴州。

4. Of the house in Lin'an [1] by Lin Xing in Southern Song Dynasty

Hills upon [2] hills and houses after houses, when would music and dances in
the West Lake end? Warm breezes intoxicate the travellers [3], who {now}
take Hangzhou [1] as Bianzhou [4].

[1] Lin'an is by Hangzhou (nowadays a suburb of Hangzhou, then the official
capital of Southern Song), hence the name change from Lin'an (literally
facing sanctuary/still waters) into Hangzhou in the poem.
More info of Hangzhou: It was the capital of Southern Song as well as other
minor states existed.

[2] original poem has the word "green" here

[3] Travellers should be taken as Exiles: when Jurchen conquered and took
half of the Song China away, many exiled southwards. This makes it even
MORE ironic, that the exiles found life in Hangzhou so comfortable, they
won't want to go back.

[3] Bianzhou is Kaifeng. It should have been Bianliang (Biang the log) or
Bianjing (Bian the capital), but the poet made it Bianzhou to create
parallelism with Hangzhou for yet another irony (and complaint).
More info of Kaifeng: It was the capital of Northern Song, which was a major
merchandising nation even though its setbacks of military campaigns. It has
the oldest settlement of Jews and Muslims in China. Then, it had many
different kinds of nationalities staying there, like London and New York
today.

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