04 July 2020

王維 Wang Wei: 相思 Mutual Yearning


Today, I am posting my rendition of Wang Wei's beautiful little quatrain "Mutual Yearning" which I completed years ago in 2008, but never posted.  I hope you will enjoy it.  Here we go:

Wang Wei (701-761): Mutual Yearning

1            There grow in the south country: jequirity trees;  
2            O how they shoot and sprout, O when comes spring!
3            I pray you pick and pluck, the more, their red beans,
4            A stuff which best intimates our mutual yearning.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者:黃宏發
10 July 2008 (revised 12.7.08; 16.7.08; 19.7.08)
Translated from the original - 王維: 相思

1            紅豆生南國
2            ()來發幾枝
3            ()君多釆()
4            此物最相思

Notes:

*    This English rendition is in pentameter (5 metrical feet) to emulate the original 5-character lines.  The rhyme scheme is XAXA as in the original.

*    Title and line 4:  It is hard to translate相思 but I think “mutual yearning” or “mutual longing” best approximates it.  I had earlier considered using words such as “reciprocal”, “reciprocating”, “reciprocated”, “requited”, “two-way”, and “likewise”, but have decided that “mutual yearning” is best.

*    Lines 1 and 3:  I had considered using “red bean trees” for紅豆in line 1 but have decided to use the proper name “jequirity trees” because the poem refers to the ornamental red jequirity beans and not the edible red beans.  I have somehow covered the image of “red beans” in line 3 as the line, as written, requires an object, and as the “stuff”, as subject, in line 4 requires a clear and proximate reference to “red beans’.  It is not clear if in line 3 should mean “more beans” or “more often”.  I prefer the latter as the poet, obviously, is not asking his friend/ lover to harvest in bulk the ornamental red jequirity beans.  I could have accordingly rendered it as “… pick and pluck, more often, their red beans”, but have finally decided for “… pick and pluck, the more, their red beans” which, though more inclined towards “more beans”, is ambiguous enough to also cover “more often”.

*    Line 2:  I had considered “O how their shoots sprout” but have decided for “O how they shoot and sprout” which sounds far better.

*    Line 4:  The word “intimates” here means hints, indirectly indicates, implies, suggests, etc. which word subtly intimates an intimacy between the poet and the person being addressed to.

02 June 2020

李清照 Li Qingzhao: 鷓鴣天 Zhe Gu Tian -- 寂寞 Solitude


Today, I am posting my rendition of Li Qingzhao's tune lyric poem Zhe Gu Tian (Partridge Sky) -- Solitude as promised in my conversation with my learned friend Ray Heaton in the Comments section of my February 2020 post on Li's other tune lyric poem entitled Dian Jiang Chun -- Naivette.  For the full conservation, please go to the post.  It was indeed very kind of him to have given me a lead by sharing with me and all bloggers his rendition.  Here is Ray Heaton's rendition copied from his comment:

While awaiting your translation in the coming months Andrew, I though(t) I'd share mine....

鷓鴣天 Partridge/Sky

寒日蕭蕭上瑣窗* Cold/sun/dreary/dreary/up/patterned window
梧桐應恨夜來霜 Wutong/must/hate/night/arrive/frost
酒闌更喜團茶苦 Wine/finished/more/enjoy/tea-cake/bitter,
夢斷偏宜瑞腦香 Dream/broken/prefer/should/incense/fragrance
秋已盡 日猶長 Autumn/already/finished/days/still/long
仲宣懷遠更淒涼 Zhong Xuan/yearn for/distant/more/desolate/disheartened
不如隨分尊前醉  Not/surpass/as I please/casually/wine goblet/before/intoxicated,
莫負東籬菊蕊黃 Not/betray/east/fence/chrysanthemum/buds/yellow

Interpreted in my version as:

Untitled

Dearily,  a wintry sun climbed the lattice window,
Overnight, the hoar frost disturbed the wutong tree.
Wine now finished, enjoying the bitterness of tea
My dreams broken, favouring the aroma of incense.

Autumn now gone, days yet long.
His longing for home made Zhong** so dispirited,
But why should I not drink to distraction,
Admiring the yellow flowers at the eastern hedge***?

This is a beautiful rendition in a format of 8-8/8-8// 3-3-8/8-8 words.  The only problem is "to distraction" does not at all translate 隨分, which, in fact, is the most difficult part of the poem.  I hope I have succeeded in tackling it.  Here goes my rendition:

Li Qingzhao (1084-1157):  Zhe Gu Tian (Partridge Sky) – Solitude    

1   A shivering sun in whistling winds, approaching my latticed window,
2   The phoenix tree should have hated, last night came frosts untold.
3   Wining till late, the more I savour --- the bitter taste of block tea,
4   My dreams broken, yet solace I find --- in the fragrant incense borneol.

5   Autumn, now spent and gone,
6   O the day, still long and slow.
7   The more nostalgic that poet of old, the graver his sorrowful woe.
8   I’d rather resign to my fateful lot, and imbibe before the bottle,   
9   Not to miss, at the eastside hedge, the chrysanthemum’s heart of gold.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
20 May 2020 (revised 23.5.20; 26.5.20; 28.5.20; 29.5.20)
Translated from the original - 李清照:  鷓鴣天 -- 寂寞

1   寒日蕭蕭上瑣窗    
2   梧桐應恨夜來霜    
3   酒更喜團茶苦    
4   夢斷偏宜瑞腦香    

5   秋已盡    
6   日猶長    
7   件宣懷遠更淒涼    
8   不如隨分尊前醉    
9   莫負東籬菊蕊黃    

Notes:
*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a tune lyric poem or ‘ci’ to the tune of Zhe Gu Tian鷓鴣天 (Partridge Sky) entitled 寂寞 “Solitude”, which is in two stanzas (4 lines, then 5) totalling 55 characters (= single syllable words), with a line length pattern of 7-7/ 7-7// 3-3-7/ 7-7.  This English rendition follows the same line length pattern, but counting feet or beats (not words, nor syllables) for the length of lines.  The 7-character (syllable) lines are rendered in heptameter (7 feet or beats) with a caesura (pause) after the fourth foot or beat, and the 3-character lines in trimeter (3 feet or beats) with a slight pause after the first beat but, strictly, without any caesura.  This English rendition also strictly follows the rhyme scheme of the original, which is a single rhyme for 6 of the 9 lines, viz: AA/ xA// xAA/ xA//.  Unable to find perfect rhyme words, I have used the “ou” assonance of “window (1)”, “cold (2)”, “borneol (4)”, “slow (6)”, “woe (7)” and “gold (9)” for rhyme.  Though less than perfect, I hope this will somehow and somewhat retain the true beauty of the original.
*Line 1:  寒日 is rendered as “A shivering sun” after considering “… frigid …”  蕭蕭 (pronounced “xiao xiao”) is taken to be onomatopoeic of the sound of winds and is rendered as “in whistling winds” (after considering “in wintry winds”) with the “wh/ w” alliteration and the “i” assonance to emulate the reduplication of .  (up) is rendered as “approaching” after considering “comes/ climbs/ creeps up”, and  瑣窗 translated literally as “my latticed window”.
*Line 2:  梧桐 (“wutong” tree) is rendered as “The phoenix tree”, as I had done in my rendition of 李煜 Li Yu’s 相見歡 “Xian Jian Huan” [*無言獨上西樓 Alone, in silence …] posted September 2012, on the basis of the legendary claim that phoenixes rest on wutong trees only.  應恨 is translated literally as “should have hated”.  I suggest reading “should” stressed to make a 4-beat half line.  (night) (came) (frost) is rendered as “last night came frosts untold” with “untold” (= a lot or innumerable, implied in the context) added for the “ou” assonance rhyme.
*Line 3:  酒闌 is translated literally as “Wining till late”, 更喜 also literally as “the more I savour”.  (round) (tea) is defined in 辭源 as 以圓模製成的茶塊 “blocks of tea made in a round mold …” (my translation)  On “compressed tea”, Wikipedia says they are “blocks of whole or finely ground … tea … leaves that have been packed in molds and pressed into block form … called tea bricks, tea cakes or tea lumps … according to the shape and size …” Therefore, I have rendered it generically as “block tea” (rather than “compressed tea”) to denote it is a tea which comes in block form which must have been compressed.  I had considered and rejected “brick/ bricked tea” (wrong size and shape) and “cake/ caked tea” (right size and shape; but could be mistaken to refer to a piece of cake to go with tea).  I had similarly rejected others such as “packed tea” (packaged) and “pressed tea” (a way of brewing tea).  The last word  is literally translated as “the bitter taste of”.
*Line 4:   (dream) (severed) is rendered as “My dreams broken” which widens the coverage to the poet’s lot in life, after considering and rejecting “My dream disrupted” which covers only that one night.  (partial) (suitable) is rendered as “yet solace I find”.  瑞腦 (borneol) (fragrance or incense) is translated literally as “in the fragrant incense borneol”.
*Line 5:  秋已盡 is translated literally as “Autumn, now spent and gone” with “now” added to make it a better sounding 3-beat line.
*Line 6:  日猶長 is rendered as “O the day, still long and slow” with “and slow” (which is implied in the context) added for the “ou” assonance rhyme.
*Line 7:  仲宣 (pronounced “Zhongxuan”) is the style name (= the formal assumed name) of 王粲 Wang Can, one of 建安七子 the “Seven Great Literati of the Jian’an Period” (190-220) in the reign of the last Emperor of 東漢the East Han dynasty just before 三國時代 the Three Kingdoms Period.  Here, that poet’s name or style name is not transliterated but simply rendered as “that poet of old”.  (yearning for) (distant past and/or home) is rendered as “nostalgic”.  (more) 淒涼 (miserable) is rendered as “the more … the graver his sorrowful  woe”, after considering “… his miserable woe” and “… his misery, his woe”.
*Line 8:  (not) (equal) is rendered as ”I’d rather” after considering “I’d better”, “Rather” and “Better”.  (follow) is rendered as “resign to” after considering “be resigned/ pliant to”, “submit/ yield to”, “bear/ accord with”, and “follow/ embrace/ suffer/ endure”.   (fate or lot) is rendered as “my fateful lot” after considering “my fate, my lot”.  (= bottle or flagon) (in front) (taken to mean drink, not drunk) is rendered as “to imbibe before the bottle” after considering “to drink/ be drunk before the bottle”.  Please note the word “rather” in this line (with the associated idea of “than”) refers to line 7 and not line 9,  to mean “Rather than being  nostalgic and woeful like the poet of old (line 7), I would rather be resigned to my lot in life, to drink wine (the rest of line 8) in the company of blooming chrysanthemum flowers at the eastside hedge (line 9)”.
*Line 9:  (not) (fail) is translated literally as “Not to miss” after considering and rejecting “Than to miss”, as explained in the note above.   (east) (fence) is translated as “at the eastside hedge”.  (chrysanthemum) (heart of flower, to stand for flower) (yellow)  is rendered as “the chrysanthemum’s heart of gold” with “chrysanthemum’s” to translate , “heart” to translate , “of gold” to translate , and the expression “heart of gold” to portray the goodness, kindness (and beauty?) of the yellow chrysanthemum flowers.  
*Lines 8 and 9:  These 2 lines allude to the 20 poems entitled 飲酒 “Drinking Wine” by the Jin Dynasty poet陶潛 Tao Qian (circa 365-427) ( 渊明 style name Yuanming).  These 20 poems are about Tao Yuanming’s life in seclusion.  Lines 5 and 6 of poem Number 5 reads as follows: 釆菊東籬下/ 悠然見南山 “I pick chrysanthemums beneath the eastside hedge/ In peace, at ease the south mountain appears.” (my draft translation).  Chrysanthemum flowers, eastside hedge and wine drinking also appear in another tune lyric poem by Li Qingzhao.  Please see my June 2019 post of her 醉花陰 -- 重九 “Zui Hua Yin – Ninth of the Ninth”, lines 6 and 7 of which reads 東籬把酒黃昏後/ 有暗香盈袖 “Aft dusk, at the eastside ‘santhemum hedge: to our health, a cup I take,/ And up my sleeves, a faint sweet scent pervades.” (my translation).  The eastside hedge is where chrysanthemums are admired and where wine is consumed, in a life in solitude.

04 May 2020

韋莊 Wei Zhuang: 金陵圖 Six Landscapes of Jinling


Here is my rendition of another Jinling landscape quatrain by Wei Zhuang entitled "Six Landscapes of Jinling" which I promised in my last post (April 2020) when I posted Wei Zhuang's "A Landscape of Jinling -- The Capital City".  You may wish to go to it after this.

You may also wish to spend some time on the Comments made by my friend Ray Heaton on the last poem and my Comments in reply.  They may be lengthy but worth the while, particularly on the interpretation of the first 2 lines of this poem.

Here we go.  Thank you, Ray.

Wei Zhuang (836-910): Six Landscapes of Jinling

1   Who says ‘tis really impossible, to portray a grieving heart ---
2   Painters being prone to paint, what the worldly deem as art.
3   O look at these six landscapes of Jinling, her Six Dynasties gone,
4   See dying trees and chilling clouds, all over the city rampart.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
31 October 2019 (revised 1.11.19; 2.11.19)
Translated from the original - 韋莊: 金陵圖

1   誰謂傷心畫不成
2   畫人心逐世人情
3   君看六幅南朝事
4   老木寒雲滿故城

Notes:

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition is a quatrain in heptameter (7 feet or beats) to emulate the original which is a 7-character “jueju” 絕句 (quatrain).  To further emulate the original, I have given to each of the four 7-beat lines a caesura (pause) after the first 4 beats.  The rhyme scheme is AAxA as in the original.

*Title and Line 3:  金陵 (present day: 南京 Nanjing) in the title is rendered simply as “Jinling” in transliteration.  Jinling was the capital of the 4 successive Southern Dynasties of Song, Qi, Liang and Chen in the 南北朝 North and South Dynasties period (420-581) and their 2 southern predecessors, namely Wu (222-280) and 東晉Eastern Jin (317-420).  These 6 dynasties in the South, with Jinling as capital, are collectively known as 六朝 “Six Dynasties” or as 南朝 “South Dynasties”.  Although referred to in line 3 of the original as “South Dynasties”, it is rendered as “Six Dynasties” in my rendition in “her Six Dynasties gone” to evoke sentiments of the decay and fall of dynasties.  in the title is rendered as “Landscape(s)” to mean landscape paintings.  The title of the poem 金陵圖 is, therefore, rendered as “Six Landscapes of Jinling” as line 3 of the poem clearly refers to 6 paintings: 六幅 (six, scrolls, matters).  Wei Zhuang has another poem with the same title of 金陵圖 (with 臺城 added or as an alternative title) which title I have rendered as “A Landscape of Jinling – The Capital City”.

*Line 1:  誰謂 is translated literally as “Who says”.  傷心 (hurt, heart) is rendered as “a grieving heart”.  畫不成 (paint, not, succeed) is rendered as “… ’tis really impossible to portray” after considering “… truly/ well/ well nigh impossible …”  The line is not a mere question, but a rhetorical one, to say it is possible to portray a grieving heart, as will be made clear in lines 3 and 4.

*Line 2:  畫人 (paint, man) is taken to mean “one who paints” and not “to paint people” and is, therefore, translated literally as “Painters”.  心逐 (heart, pursue) is understood as “the heart is after” and is rendered as “being prone to paint”.  世人情 (world, men, sentiments) is understood as “the taste of the worldly people” and is rendered as “what the worldly (to mean, the worldly people) deem as art”.  This line is interpreted as an elaboration and explanation of why it is so hard to portray a grieving heart, but more importantly as a rejection of “what the worldly deem as art”.

*Line 3:  君看 (you, look) is rendered as “O look at”, with “O” added to lead on to the painter’s and poet’s grieving heart brought out by the “dying trees and chilling clouds” in line 4.  六幅 (six, scrolls, … matters) is rendered as “these six landscapes of Jinling”.  南朝 (south, dynasties) is rendered as “her Six Dynasties gone” after considering “… past”.  (Please see note above on “Title and Line 3”.)

*Line 4:  老木寒雲 (old, wood, cold, clouds) is rendered as “See dying trees and chilling clouds”, with “See” added to follow from “O look” in line 3.  I suggest reading “See dying trees and chilling clouds” as 4 iambuses (didum didum didum didum) with “See” read unstressed.  滿故城 (fill, old, city) is rendered as “all over the city rampart”.

12 April 2020

韋莊 Wei Zhuang: 金陵圖 / 臺城 A Landscape of Jinling/ The Capital City

POSTSCRIPT (23.4.2020):  Thanks to Ray Heaton's Comment of my rendering 鳥 (birds) as "roosters" 公雞, I have decided to reinstate in my Note on Line 2 a reference to 祖逖 who was instrumental in warding off offences from the North between the end of the West and the beginning of the East Jin Dynasty

ORIGINAL POST:  Here is a 7-character quatrain by the late Tang dynasty poet Wei Zhuang on a landscape painting of Jinling (present day Nanjing) which I have rendered into English in heptameter with a caesura after the 4th beat and rhymed AAxA.  I hope you will enjoy it.

Today is Easter Sunday, the day our Lord Jesus rose from the dead.  Let us pray we be rid of the novel coronavirus the soonest.  Amen. 

Wei Zhuang (836-910): A Landscape of Jinling/ The Capital City

1   The River in rain, in mizzling mizzles, her reeds in stretches grow;
2   Your Six Dynasties now gone like dreams, roosters in vain do crow.
3   Heartless, utmost, therein your City, the unfeeling willow trees, still
4   Veil and shroud the dyke for miles while their misty catkins blow.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)  譯者: 黃宏發
23 October 2019 (revised 24.10.19; 25.10.19)
Translated from the original - 韋莊: 金陵圖/ 臺城

1   江雨霏霏江草齊
2   六朝如夢鳥空啼
3   無情最是臺城柳
4   依舊煙籠十里堤

Notes:

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  This English rendition is a quatrain in heptameter (7 feet or beats) to emulate the original which is a 7-character “jueju” 絕句 (quatrain).  To emulate the original, I have also given to each of the 7-beat lines a caesura (main pause) mid-line after the first 4 feet or beats.  The rhyme scheme is AAxA as in the original.

*Title and lines 2 and 3:  金陵 (present day: 南京 Nanjing) in the first title is rendered simply as “Jinling” in transliteration as the second title lay bare Jinling was “The Capital City”.  Jinling was the capital of the 4 successive Southern Dynasties of Song, Qi, Liang and Chen in the 南北朝 Northern and Southern Dynasties period (420-581) and their 2 southern predecessors, namely Wu (222-280) and 東晉Eastern Jin (317-420).  These 6 are collectively known as the 六朝 “Six Dynasties” referred to in line 2.  is rendered as “A Landscape (meaning landscape painting) of”.  Wei has another poem with the same title of 金陵圖 said to have been written after viewing 6 paintings of Jinling in the Six Dynasties which runs: 誰謂傷心畫不成/ 畫人心遂世人情/ 君看六幅南朝事/ 老木寒雲滿故城.  (I have yet to attempt a translation.)  The present poem was probably similarly inspired.  The other title 臺城 refers to the old royal palace which had fallen into disuse.  I have taken this to stand for the whole city, hence, rendered as “The Capital City” in the title and simply “City” (capitalized) in line 3.

Line 1:  江雨 (river, rain) is rendered as “The River in rain” with River capitalized to indicate it is the Yangzi River 揚子江 or Long River 長江 being referred to.  霏霏 has 2 completely different meanings: torrential rains and drizzles.  I have opted for the latter as it fits the tone of the whole poem and have, therefore, rendered it “in mizzling mizzles”.  The in 江草 is not repeated but replaced by and rendered as “her” (a personification of the River).  is rendered as “reeds” rather than sedges (for being too pretty) and grass (for being too general).  is not taken to mean “neat, tidy, trimmed, level”, but “uniform, unmixed”.  Hence, 草齊 is rendered as “in stretches (large and/or long patches of unmixed reeds) grow”.

Line 2: 六朝 is translated literally as “Your Six Dynasties” with “Your” added to personify Jinling.  如夢 is rendered as “now gone like dreams” with “now gone” added.  is taken not to refer to “birds” in general, but to “cocks or chicken of the masculine gender” and I have decided for “roosters” after considering “cocks” and “chanticleers”.  You may wish to put this speculation of mine in the context of the Chinese idiom 聞雞起舞 "hearing the cock crows, rise to practise swordsmanship" derived from 晉書 "The History of the Jin Dynasty" which records the biography of a man called 祖逖 Zu Di (266-321, between the end of West and beginning of East Jin) who when young rose to practise swordsmanship every day upon hearing the first crow of the cock.  空 (empty) is rendered as "in vain" after considering "to no avail" and “for naught”.  is translated literally as “crow”.

Line 3:  無情 (no feeling) is rendered as “Heartless”, and 最是 (the most) as “utmost”.  臺城
(elevated city) is rendered as “therein your City” with “City” capitalized to indicate it is the Capital city.  (Please see note on the Title.)  (willow) is rendered as “the unfeeling willow trees” with “unfeeling” added to reinforce the opening translation of 無情 as “Heartless”.  I have enjambed the line by adding at the end the word “still” to cover the translation of 依舊 (as of old) in the original’s line 4.

Line 4:  依舊 is moved up to line 3 and rendered as “still”. (smoke, or mist) (encage, cover) is rendered as “Veil and shroud”.  十里 (10 ‘li’ is about 3 miles) may well be just a hyperbole to say very long.  I have rendered it as “for miles” rather than “ten ‘li’s’” or “three miles”.  (embankment) is rendered as “dyke” after considering “embankment/ bank/ banking”.  And to end the poem and complete the rhyme, I have added “while their misty catkins blow” which is not in the original, but useful for an understanding of how willows work to produce the “misty” look.

06 March 2020

李端 Li Duan: 聽箏 Listening to the Zither

In these novel coronavirus days, when we should best remain secluded, poetry and music should prove to be our best company.

Today, I am posting my English rendition of a beautiful little poem by the Tang dynasty poet Li Duan on a string musical instrument called 箏 "zheng" or 古箏 "Guzheng".  I have translated it as "Zither" which is a similar European (Austrian, Tyrolese, Bavarian) instrument.  If you wish to know a bit more about this musical instrument, please consult my notes on the title and lines 1 and 2 of my English rendition of the poem.

As the Chinese Zither or Guzheng 古箏 has spread to other countries and peoples in East Asia, you may also wish to "google search" the following 7 items to seek more information and to listen to the music made by instruments of the Zither family via the videos provided:

(1) Zither
(2) Chinese Guzheng
(3) Japanese Koto
(4) Korean Gayageum
(5) Vietnamese Dan Tranh
(6) Mongolian Yatga
(7) Sundanese Kacapi

Please enjoy yourselves!!! 

Li Duan (738?-786?):  Listening to the Zither

1   Its strings on their golden bridges, the zither in tune arises;
2   At her fair hands’ fingertips, its resonance chamber in chime.
3   Desiring the caring attention of the man dear to her heart,
4   Coyly, she plucks and plays a wrong note from time to time.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)    譯者: 黃宏發
26 February 2020
Translated from the original – 李端: 聽箏

1   鳴箏金粟柱    
2   素手玉房前    
3   欲得周郎顧    
4   時時誤拂絃    

Notes:

*Form, Metre and Rhyme:  The original is a 5-character quatrain (of 4 lines of equal length).  As Chinese is a mono-syllabic language while English is accentual, stressed syllables (or beats or feet) in the English language are used to determine the line length of the English rendition.  While the original is in penta-syllabic lines (of 5 syllables), this English rendition, also a quatrain, is in hexameter (6 feet or beats), which is less than perfect than the pentameter (5 feet or beats).  There is, in the original, a caesura in every line after the second foot or beat.  To further emulate the original, I have invariably provided a mid-line caesura between the third and fourth beats.  As for the rhyme scheme, although (line 1) and (line 3) rhyme perfectly under current Modern Chinese pronunciation, apparently constituting a rhyme scheme of ABAB, the two words were in fact pronounced rather differently and did not rhyme in Tang dynasty (618-907) Medieval Chinese.  Without venturing into any research on their true pronunciation, I will simply say: (1) they do not rhyme under current Cantonese Chinese pronunciation, and (2) they were classified into different rhyme sections in the classical Chinese rhyme book 佩文韻府 with in 上聲七  (Rising Tone Section 7: ) and in 去聲七遇 (Falling Tone Section 7: ).  The poet’s rhyme scheme must, therefore, be XAXA and this is what I have used.

* Title, and the Zither:  The title (hear) (zither) has been criticized by some as improper as the poem is about the zither in play, not about hearing or listening to it.  I am of the view that the poet is gently asking us readers of the poem and the man represented by 周郎 in the poem to listen to “the sound beyond the strings” 絃外之音 and have, therefore, decided for the literal translation of 聽箏 as “Listening to the Zither”.  (zheng) or 古箏 (guzheng, i.e. ancient zheng) is a rectangular string musical instrument of many strings (13 strings in Tang dynasty days, 26 nowadays, and there had been changes throughout the ages), with each string supported by a moveable bridge.  It is placed horizontally before the player and played with the fingertips with or without a plectrum. It dates from 400 BCE or earlier, probably preceded by the Chinese “qin” or guqin” without the moveable bridges and the Chinese “se” with moveable bridges and with even more strings (now rarely played).  Related instruments (with moveable bridges) can be found in East Asia in (1) the Japanese “koto”, (2) the Korean “gayageum”, (3) the Vietnamese “dan tranh”, (4) the Mongolian “yatga”, and (5) the Sundanese (of West Java, Indonesia) “kacapi”, all probably derived from the Chinese instruments).   On the basis that the European (Austrian,Tyrolese, Bavarian) zither is the only rectangular plucked string musical instrument placed and played horizontally in the West, I have decided to name all these instruments (whether with or without moveable bridges) “zithers” in English, much like naming all string instruments in Chinese.   Depending on the context and the choice of the translator, can either be transliterated as “zheng” (like the “pipa” 琵琶) if one wishes to foreignize it, or be translated as “zither” and nothing else if one wishes to domesticate it.  This is because a “harp” (Witter Bynner) stands, and other plucked instruments such as the “lute” (Tang Li-chang), the “cittern or cithern” (Betty Tsang), and others are all guitar like with a pear shape or round or triangular body.  A possible third option is to use “strings” as a synecdoche for the instrument which, in the case of the title, is of little help.

*Line 1:  (sound) (zither) is rendered as “the zither in tune arises” and moved to end the line.  (pillar) in金粟柱 refers to “bridges” which, in string musical instruments, hold the strings between the two ends.  In the case of the Chinese “zither” (please look up 古箏 “guzheng” on the web), each bridge holds only one string, and are moveable along the string for fine tuning.   They are not “frets”, nor “pegs”.  is therefore rendered as “Its strings on their … bridges” with the addition of (1) “strings” to make clear these are bridges to hold strings, (2) “Its” to say these are the zither’s strings, and (3) “on their (… bridges)” to mean there are as many bridges as strings.  (gold) (millet) is used to describe the bridges and can be interpreted as a gold inlaid or gold colour engraving (of a pattern of either the ripe, hence, yellow millet grains or the yellow 桂花  osmanthus flowers) decorating the bridges.  For brevity, it is simply rendered as “golden” after considering “gilded” and “gilden” without specifying the pattern.

*Line 2:  (white) (hands, or arms, or fingers) is rendered as “At her fair hands’ fingertips” (originally penned as “… arms’ …”) with “her fair hands’ finger(tip)s” used as its literal translation and with “At … (finger)tips” added to pave the way for my rendition of (jade) (room, or chamber) (front) which follows.   The term玉房 is taken by most to mean a luxurious chamber or a lady’s bowers, and the word is understood as in front of such places.  I am of the view that 玉房 refers to the sounding box or resonant cavity (or chamber) of the zither, a term used in the original as a synecdoche for the zither, which has nothing to do with “jade” except to mean the zither is very precious with “golden bridges” (see note on line 1 above) and a “jade-like (to mean ornate) body”.  I have decided for rendering it as “its resonance chamber” after considering and rejecting “its jade-like chamber”.  This interpretation turns the whole line to literally mean “Her fair hands’ fingers in front of the precious zither”, however, to do what and with what result?   I have, therefore, decided to render as “At her (fair hands’) fingertips” to cover both the front position and the fingering action, and to even cover she is in command of and playing the zither.  The result of her action is given through the addition of “in chime” to end the line.  This “chime” is implied in 玉房 as the zither’s “resonance chamber”, and is a resounding complement to “the zither in tune arises” that ends line 1.

*Line 3:  (desire) (obtain) is translated literally as “Desiring” after considering “Wishing”, “Seeking” and “Craving”.  (surname Zhou) (noble young man) refers to the young General Zhou Yu 周瑜 of the Kingdom of Wu (and of Red Cliff 赤壁 Battle fame) in China’s Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), who was also a great musician.  Here, 周郎 is rendered as “the man dear to her heart” which is what it means in this context, after considering “… prince …”.  (glance; care, or attention) is rendered as “the caring attention of”, after considering “a caring glance from”.

*Line 4:  時時 (time and time), which should be understood as “time and again” and not as “always”, is rendered as “from time to time” and moved to end the line, with the reduplication of “time” to emulate the reduplication of in the original.  (mistake) (pluck) (string) is rendered as “Coyly, she plucks and plays a wrong note (from time to time)” with (1) translated as “wrong”,  (2) covered by “she plucks and plays”, and (3) rendered as “a (wrong) note” rather than “… string”, and with the addition of “Coyly”, a word so rich in meaning (from shyly, bashfully to coquettishly, flirtatiously), which gives life to the line and the poem.