22 March 2021

祖詠 Zu Yong: 终南望餘雪 Viewing the Snow Tops of Mount Zhongnan

 Zu Yong (699-746):  Viewing the Snow Tops of Mount Zhongnan


This is the last of the quatrains I translated some 10 years ago which were never posted on this blog but posted in the Forum website of the Hong Kong Economic Journal.  For the records, this rendition was posted there on 21 January 2011.

I do hope you will like it too:

Zu Yong: Viewing the Snow Tops of Mount Zhongnan

1        Fair is the north face of Mount Zhongnan,

2        Its emergent snow tops floating on clouds.

3        The sky now cleared, the forests glisten,

4        But by dusk the city, a coldness enshrouds.


Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)   譯者: 黃宏發

14th June 2010 (revised 18.6.10; 21.6.10; 22.6.10; 18.1.11; 19.1.11)    

Translated from the original - 祖詠: 终南望餘雪








*     This English rendition is in tetrameter (4 metrical feet) while the original is in 5-

character lines.  The rhyme scheme is xAxA as in the original.

*      Title and lines 1 and 2:  Zhongnan (ultimate, south) is a mountain range south of the capital city Chang-an 長安.  I had considered translating it as “South End”, “South Side” or “Due South”, but have decided for the transliteration “Zhongnan”.  I have taken 餘雪 in the title and 積雪 in line 2 to have the same meaning and had originally translated them into “snow caps” but have now decided for “snow tops”.  I have not ascertained if there are indeed many tops/peaks; but then, if not, I can simply delete the “s” from “tops”.

*      Line 1:  I had considered “north slope/side/range” but had decided for “north face” for alliteration with “fair”.

*      Line 2:  I have deleted “With” which I had originally used to begin the line.  I had also originally used the more literal “Its emergent snow tops floating atop/above the clouds” to translate 浮雲端 but have found it one beat/foot too long and now decided for “Its emergent snow tops floating on clouds”, with “emergent” to mean both “rising above” and “coming into view (appearing)”, and with “floating” to mean both “afloat continuously” and “floating in the eyes (appearing).”. 

*      Line 3:  The 2 words (means precipitation has stopped as in/雪霽 rain/snow has stopped) and (means brightness in this context, not colour) are translated as “The sky now cleared”.  I had considered but rejected both “Now that the sky clears” and “The sky now clears”.  I had originally translated 林表 literally as “tree-tops”, but have decided for “the forests” to contrastingly parallel “the city” in line 4.  I have translated simply as “glisten”.

*      Line 4:  For  I had considered and rejected “at nightfall” and “by evening”, then adopted “come evening”, but have now decided for “by dusk”.  For I had considered “cold air” and “a cold veil”, but have decided for “a coldness”.  I have taken not to strictly mean “to add” but to roughly mean “to layer over” and have translated it as “enshrouds” for the rhyme. 

Classical Chinese Poems in English


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