Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Poem about Manchus

This is an interesting poem because it reflects on the privilege of being Manchu in (presumably) the 19th century, and also casts a jaundiced eye towards Manchu life at the founding of the Qing. Who could be gloomy, the poet asks, when it’s so nice to be Manchu.

manju irgebun [滿洲詩]    A Poem about Manchus
Staatsbibliothek 14.39 (View Online)
baibi ališacuka,    Depressed for no reason?
ede tookabucina,    Let this banish your melancholy.
fukjin neire manju šu,    Manchu culture, at the founding of the dynasty,
gūnin suse gisun muwa,    was crude in thought and coarse in speech.
5 giyangnan baici aibini,    If we seek an explanation, how is it?
ulhiljeme gūninja,    Snap out of it and consider:
huwekiyen yendere jalin,    For happiness and prosperity,
se selaci wajiha.    we just enjoy the passing years.

Translation Notes

ulhiljeme. This is ulhi-, “understand,” with a suffix -lje-. This suffix appears in verbs with a meaning of “winding, shaking, twisting,” but also in dekde-lje-mbi, “to start (from fright while sleeping).” I’ve chosen the translation “snap out of it” to convey the idea of coming suddenly and unexpectedly to realization.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The last Plum Blossom poems (for now)

In this post I share the last of the plum blossom poems that I have found so far. Over the last few weeks I have learned that the plum blossoms symbolizes hope for Spring in the dark months of Winter, as well as the harmonizing influence of sweetness that balances salt.

The first is a poem in seven-syllable couplets, with one extra non-rhyming line at the end. The second is to the tune of Black-Naped Oriole.


nenden ilha be kidurengge [憶梅],    Longing for Plum Blossoms
Staatsbibliothek 11.41 (View Online)
nenden ilha atanggi,    When will there be plum blossoms?
emu tolgin kidumbi,    I long for them in a dream.
bolori fon manaha,    The Autumn season is worn out,
tuweri yasai juleri,    Winter is before me.
5ilarangge jing teisu,    Anything blooming just now,
sitahangge ainu ni,    how could it hang on?
dergi edun talihūn,    The east wind is uncertain,
buyan yafan simeli,    humble is my garden, and wretched.
fon toloci erin giyan,    If I count the seasons, the time is right,
10biya bodoci esi bi,    if I calculate the months, it is certain.
ho ging [和靖] sargan aibide,    Where is the wife of Hé Jìng?
hoo žan [浩然] gucu absi,    Whither the friend of Hàorán?
ilha geren secibe,    Though one may speak of many flowers,
gecen fonde ya beki,    which ones are strong enough for the icy season?
15jiki jiki jiki bai.    Come, come, come, please!


nenden ilha    Plum Flower
Staatsbibliothek 11.79 (View Online)
tuweri alin de,    In the winter mountains,
eiten moo,    all the trees,
tuheke,    have lost their leaves.
juhe gecen edede,    Frozen is the ice, (shivers)
5 šeyen boco,    White in color,
nenden bonggo,    the plum is first,
nimanggi de sur sere,    laughing on the snow.
biyai dolo,    From within the moon,
ebunjiheo,    has it descended?
10endurin gege.    Fairy lady.


Translation Notes

tuweri yasai juleri. The text actually has tuwari, which looks like it could be some form of tuwa-, so I’m not sure if this is a play on words or just a misspelling.

buyan yafan simeli. The use of buyan instead of buya is interesting because it is not motivated by requirements of meter or rhyme. If the author had intended to say “the humble garden is wretched” it would have been fine to say buya hafan simeli. Instead, it seems the writer used the predicate form of the adjective, which you might expect to see in a sentence like hafan buyan “the garden is a humble one,” and lifted it up to the head of the line. I tried to recreate this effect in my translation.

ho ging sargan. Hé Jìng [和靖] was another name for the poet Lín Bū [林逋], who lived the life of a recluse, and was famously said to have taken “the plum tree as his wife and the crane as his son” [以梅为妻,以鹤为子]. Compare the allusion in Jakdan’s poem to gu šan alin where this poet was buried.

hoo žan gucu. Mèng Hàorán [孟浩然] wrote a poem about an early-blooming plum tree in his garden [早梅].

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The ultimate origin of the “tripod” and “harmonizing stew”

I have been suggesting that references to “harmonizing stew” in the last three flowering plum poems indicated a relationship between the poems. After a bit of digging, I have found that the “harmonizing stew” allusion itself has a long history prior to the Qing, so the relationship may not be as close and immediate as I had thought. In the discourse below, the king of Shang uses the term “harmonious stew” when asking Yuè for guidance and teaching:

《尚书》卷十〈商书·说命下〉王曰:「来,汝说。台小子旧学于甘盘,既乃遁于荒野入宅于河。自河徂亳,暨厥终罔显。尔惟训于朕志,若作酒醴,尔惟曲檗;若作和羹,尔惟盐梅。尔交脩予,罔予弃,予惟克迈乃训。」
The Book of Documents, fascicle 10, Book of Shang: Charge of Yuè, part III: The king said, “Come, Yuè [说]. I, the humble one, used to study with Gān Pán [甘盘], then went and lived in the wild and dwelt on the Yellow River [河]. From the river I went to Bó [亳], and yet in the end I have not attained prominence. You, consider my aspirations, as when making sweet wine you consider the yeast, or when making a harmonious stew you consider the salt and prunes. Try to polish me, without giving up, and I will be able to follow your instructions.” 
The prune, of course, is the fruit of the plum tree [梅] whose flower is called nenden ilha in Manchu and is the subject of these poems. It turns out this is connected with the idea of the tripod through an ancient “container-for-the-thing-contained” metonymy, wherein the term 和鼎 can refer to salt and prunes, since these were used by the ancients for flavoring. (Thanks to 漢語大詞典 for this explanation!)

So going back to original poem, I am no longer so confident that the mucihiyan of last lines necessarily hints at authorship by Mucihiyan, the colleague of Jakdan.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Plum Blossoms, to the tune Journey of Youth

[Note--I have updated this post since discovering that references to “harmonious tripods” and “harmonious stew” have long been allusions to the fruit of the plum tree.]

In addition to the Poem on White Plum Blossoms and Jakdan’s Song on Plum Blossoms, there is another plum blossom poem in the Staatsbibliothek material that mentions “harmonizing stew.”

This shorter poem is set to a  style double tune. The poem ends with a reference to a Táng dynasty official named Sòng Guǎngpíng (宋廣平), who was famously described as having “iron intestines and stone heart” (鐵腸石心), but despite this “hard heartedness” once wrote a rhapsody on plum blossoms (梅花賦). This seems to echo the reference to sele gu-i duha do “iron and jade internal organs” of the first poem.

nenden ilha [梅花],    Plum Blossoms
Staatsbibliothek 14.22 (View Online)
tumen wanggai da uju,    Principal among the myriad fragrances,
i esi encu,    of course it stands apart.
juhe canggi,    There is nothing but ice,
gecen niša,    the frost is hard,
5

nememe luku,

    not only that, but thick.

šasigan hūwaliyambure,    At harmonizing stew
dzaisiyang ben fulu,    the zǎixiàng [宰相] was clever and excellent.
selei niyaman,    An iron heart,
gu-i dere,    and a jade face:
10 sung guwang ping [宋廣平] agu.    Mister Song Guangping

Friday, May 11, 2018

Jakdan’s Take on Plum Blossoms

[Note--I have updated this post since discovering that references to “harmonious tripods” and “harmonious stew” have long been allusions to the fruit of the plum tree.]

The previous poem about plum blossoms ended with a call for the reader to “harmonize the tripod of stew.”

The following poem could be Jakdan’s response to that challenge. Certainly the two poems seem to be related, given the dizzying number of references and phrases they share in common, but further analysis will be necessary to clarify the exact relationship between them.

In this poem, it seems that Jakdan is trying to encourage a dispirited friend, using the image of the flower blooming in the bleak winter, whose appearance betokens the coming of Spring, as a reminder that dark times will pass.


nenden ilha be irgebuhe ucun    A Song on Plum Blossoms
Jakdan 8.16
nenden ilha ai colo,    What shall we call the plum blossom?
lo fuo endurin gege,    The fairy lady of Luofu.
tuweri forgon-i tuwabun,    In a winter scene,
tumen ilha-i bonggo,    the first of the myriad flowers.
5abai silenggi aga,    Where is the dew and the rain?
niša nimanggi juhe,    Heavy are the snow and the ice.
tuwaci hūwantahūn hada,    When I look, barren are the crags,
šaci olhoho holo,    when I gaze, dry are the valleys,
yaya ilha layapi,    every flower has withered,
10eiten orho soroko,    and all the grass has yellowed,
geren bujan niohušun,    the many forests are naked,
erei teile injehe,

    but this alone is smiling.

butui fangšaha wangga,    A dark, smoky fragrance,
tumin šahūri boco,    a deep, frigid color,
15gecehengge ten beikuwen,    what has frozen is so cold,
ilakangge jing hojo,    what has bloomed is suddenly lovely,
selei cikten sargiyakan,    the iron tree trunks are sparse,
šušu dasiha niokso,    a purple covering of lichen,
simacuka udu da,    though solitary its origin,
20dulembuhe aniya fe,    the years it has experienced are ancient,
gengge gangga simeli,    wandering alone, spartan,
hūwanta alin-i hošo,    at the edges of the empty mountains,
gaksi manggai bulehen,    with only a crane for companion,
emgi yaka cecike,    and no other bird.
25buru bara biyai elden,    The hazy light of the moon,
bolgo micihiyan muke,    the clean shallow water,
yadan nimalan hailan,    the exhausted mulberry and elm,
niyere toro foyoro,    the weak peach and plum,
ilan šahūrun gucu,    three cold friends,
30jakdan mailasun cuse,    the pine, cypress and bamboo,
nimanggi-i sasari,    together with the snow,
niyengniyeri be meljere,

    striving towards Spring.

terei da banin kulu,    Its fundamental nature is strong,
teni emhun enteke,    that is why it is solitary like this.
35ioi ling antu halukan,    The south slope of Yuling is warm,
tuttu nenden fushuhe,    so the plum blossoms have burst open,
yuwan lu jidun soningga,    The north slope of Yuanlu is interesting,
gu šan alin gebungge,    Gūshān [孤山] is renowned,
ho hiowen dergi asari,    The eastern tower of Hexuan,
40inu gebu tucike,    has also become famous.
lu k'ai mukei jugūn ci,    From the road of the Lukai water,
benjihengge hon yobo,    what was brought is quite amusing.
bayan wesihun hafan,    An official of honor and wealth,
tuwaki seci ai šolo,

    wants to see it but has no free time.

45giru gulu de fulu,    In form it is full of innocence,
yangse saikan ci moco,    unskilled at looks and beauty,
banjitai uttu hican,    so frugal by nature,
ainahai tuttu oilo,

    but not so on the outside.

jalan an-i asari,    The tower of the Order of the World,
50saha niyalma geli we,    who still knows of it?
aika niyengniyeri erin,    If everyone is groaning
niyalma tome eyoyo,    for Springtime,
hūwaliyambure šasigan,    it is fair to set for them
terei tebuhe tondo,

    a harmonizing stew.

55kuri kari hacingga,    Dappled and spotted,
yaka šahūrun bongko,    with whatever cold buds,
manggai erere aga,    and the earnestly hoped-for rain,
geli gelere bono,    and also the feared hail,
edun fulgiyeme jaka,    as the wind blows it,
60teci biretei mokto,

    but when it settles, everything is bare.

yasa tuwahai wajiha,    I have seen it with my own eyes,
emu tolgin kumungge,    a dream that is lively.
tuttu wesihun saisa,    Thus, honored gentleman
nenden ilha nioroko,    the plum blossoms have appeared.
65geren wangga gurun de,    In all the countries of fragrance,
erei teile encungge,    this alone is different.
uthai yadahūn saisa,    Just so the poor gentleman,
jalan akdun-i gese,    with the strength of the world,
taifin erin somitai,    hiding away in times of peace,
70mohon fonde serehe,    has appeared in the season of depletion.
banjinjiha baitangga,    A useful one who has come to be born,
tucikede oyonggo,    his coming forth is important.
enduri-i fun beye,    Just like a god,
damu yoo cy-i omo,    only to Yaochi lake,
75wasibume ebufi,    he was sent down, he descended,
jalan tuwakū ojoro,    and takes on a worldly aspect.
ede ucun arafi,    For him I have made a song,
akūmbume henduhe,    and completely recited it.
erin tuwabun serenggeo,    Do we speak of seasons and scenes?
80šumin mujilen noho,    It conceals a deeper thought.
erei adali oci,    If this is similar to it,
yabun hamimbi dere.    I think I have done well enough.


Translation Notes

tumin šahūri boco. I cannot find šahūri in my dictionaries, but I think it must be connected with šahūrun, “cold.”

šušu dasiha niokso. For niokso Norman has a form of algae found on the surface of water, but given the context I think this must refer to lichen on the bark of trees or something similar.

gu šan alin. This seems to be a reference to Gūshān [孤山], where the poet Lín Bū [林逋] was buried. Lín Bū was famously said to have taken “the plum tree as his wife and the crane as his son” [以梅为妻,以鹤为子].

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Poem on White Plum Blossoms, possibly by Mucihiyan?

In Manchu, the plum blossom is called nenden ilha, “first flower,” apparently because it blooms before other flowers. Like the earlier Flowers to the tune of the Black-Naped Oriole, this poem associates the flower with a spirit from White Jade Terrace (瑤台).

The imagery of the poem is wonderful, but also interesting are the concluding lines:

agu sinde ai fulu / cingkai minde ala se / mucihiyan-i šasigan / hūwaliyambure!
“Brother, what have you to add? By all means, tell me. Harmonize with this tripod of stew.”

The word for “tripod” here is mucihiyan, which is also the name of Mucihiyan Ioi Fan, a collaborator of Jakdan who translated at least three essays on Chinese poetry into Manchu (see here, here and here). It seems like we could understand these last lines to be Mucihiyan inviting his reader to respond to his poem, which he refers to humorously as a “stew.”. [Edit: see the later post on harmonious stew, which shows that references to tripods and harmonious stew are ancient allusions to the prunes that are the fruit of this tree. It is still possible that this poem is by Mucihiyan, but the case is not so clear.]

In the Staatsbibliothek manuscript this poem is not written in Mucihiyan’s distinctive hand, so if he was the original author then the SB text is a copy made by someone else.



šanyan nenden ilha be irgebuhengge    A Poem on White Plum Blossoms
Staatsbibliothek 14.15 (View Online)
tuweri beikuwen edede,    Brrrr...the winter cold
moo anan-i gecehe,    has frosted tree after tree,
juhe nimanggi canggi [extra tooth],    nothing but ice and snow
edun gecen kejine,

    and wind and frost for a long time.

5 damu yoo tai [瑤台] endurin,    But the fairy of White Jade Terrace,
utulihekūi gese,    as though unaware of it,
gengge gangga durungga,    takes form, wandering alone,
nitan hican murungge,    takes shape, spartan and frugal,
hojo saikan banin wen,    beautiful and lovely in appearance,
10

sele gu-i duha do,

    with iron and jade internal organs.

gecuhun-i ucaran,    The frost is met with
halukan-i mejige,    tidings of warmth.
šahūrun-i hesebun,    The fate of the cold,
niyengniyeri-i šošonggo,

    is to conclude with Spring.

15 hūwanta kenggehun alin,    In the bare and empty mountains,
genggiyen micihiyan muke,    the bright shallow water,
ilha umai ai akū,    not a flower at all
emhun ilaka teile,    but one alone has bloomed.
bolokon-i wa wangga,    A clean fragrant scent,
20jenduken-i wen wengge,    a secret refined influence,
buya bongko fulhuren,    tiny sprouting buds
amba hafun todolo,    an omen of great passage.
bocoi falan ya nenden,    In the realm of color, what is first?
wanggai gurun-i bonggo,    In the country of fragrance it is chief.
25 lo foo [羅浮] tolgin-i saisa,    The gentleman of the dream of Luófú,
biya-i fejile gege,    a lady beneath the moon,
beye giru buruhun,    dim of body and form,
juru akū ten hojo,    peerless in its high beauty.
agu sinde ai fulu,    Brother, what have you to add?
30cingkai minde ala se,    By all means tell me.
mucihiyan-i šasigan,    With this tripod of stew
hūwaliyambure.    harmonize!

Translation Notes

šošonggo. This word normally means “having a chignon” or “shaped like a chignon,” but in this case I think it must be connected with the word šošombi, “to compile; to summarize,” and I think the meaning is that the cold is destined to come to an end with Spring.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Praying Mantis


This is the fourth in the series of poems on lowly creatures set to the Double Tune Celebrating the Sacred Dynasty. Like Dragonfly, this one seems to show a kind of admiration for the subject at the beginning, but true to the form it ends with disparaging lines.

heliyen [螳螂]    Praying Mantis
Staatsbibliothek 11.40 (View Online)
bi tuwaci,    To me, it looks
baturu kiyangkiyan,    heroic and intrepid.
tede sejen muheren,    It has a cart and wheels,
minde suhe arhacan,    I have an axe and halberd,
5

geli ai yadan.

    still, it is not dismayed.

bai gūni,    Just think!
ergen hairakan,    Its strength is pitiable,
fahūn mekele amba,    its courage irrationally great,
beye umesi uyan,    its body very thin,
10banin oilohon.    its appearance ridiculous.