“Ci” is a form of poetry originated in the Tang Dynasty and fully developed in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Ever since Ci became popular, other forms of poetry didn’t disappear; they went forward in parallel with Ci. Ci was more closely linked with music than poetry. Music was very developed in Tang. History books said, “Starting from the Kaiyuan period, singers also sang foreign and folk songs.” That is to say that after the “Flourishing Tang” period, foreign and folk songs was quite popular beside the traditional music. Some of the new songs had their own verses. We can say that the earliest Ci came from folk songs. The verses adopted by Tang singers were mostly “Lu Shi” and “Jue Ju” written by scholars, yet these poems could not appropriately match the enriched and developed melodies, new verses had to be written. This is the so-called “filling in with verses” which had existed for a long time among the people.  It was when scholars made some earnest efforts to “fill in music with verses”, such exercise became a serious activity. So, the original meaning of Ci is the verses for melodies. From the “曲子词,Qu Zi Ci, Words for Musical Notations” which was discovered at Dunhuang, Gansu Province, we can sees what the early folk Ci looks like. Take “菩萨蛮,Pusa Man” for an example:

枕前发尽千般愿:           Zhen qian fa jin qian ban yuan:
要休且待青山烂,           Yao xiu qie dai qing shan lan,
水面上秤锤浮,             Shui mian shang cheng chui fu,
直待黄河彻底枯。           Zhi dai Huang He che di ku.

白日參辰现,               Bai ri shen chen xian,
北斗回南面。               Bei dou hui nan mian.
休即未能休,               Xiu ji wei neng xiu,
且待三更见日头。           Qie dai san geng jian ri tou.

You made one thousand vows before the pillow:
To cast me off only when the green hill is rotten,
The sliding weight of steelyard floats on the water,
Water is entirely dried up in the Yellow River.

And when stars appear during the day,
The Plough goes the southern way.
Since you can not cast me off.
You can only wait until the sun rises in the deep night.

“Pusa Man” is a title of the melody. In this Ci, six impossible things are cited to prove a passionate and unchangeable love. We can see the language used in the early folk Ci is rather slang, the feeling it conveys is straightforward. Ci was otherwise called “the remainder of poetry” or “long and short lines.”

Ci is in no way freer than poetry, even though there are long and short lines. Since it has to be matched with music scores, the tonal pattern and rhyme scheme are stricter than poetry. The relationship between Ci and music was very close. Much to our regret, we haven’t found any of the musical notations with which Ci poems we have read accompanied. We have no knowledge what so ever how Ci was sung. Today, we read Ci just like a poem; we comprehend Ci lonely from the literal sense of it.

Following are the ABC of Ci:
A.Ci is divided into “令, Ling, Order”, “引,Yin, Prelude”, “近,Jin, Near” and “慢,Man, Slow”.“Ling” is short, usually within 58 characters. The shortest “Ling” is called “Xiao Ling, The Smaller Ling”, for instance the “16-character Ling”.“Yin” and “Jin” are of medium length, usually between 59 to 90 characters.“Man” is the longest, usually more than 91 characters.
B.Ci is often paragraphed into first and second halves. There are rarely 3 and 4 paragraphs. But the Smaller Ling is not paragraphed.
C.There are roughly 1,000 tunes among which 100 or so occur most frequently.
D.We don’t know the origin of the titles for most tunes. There are only records for a much smaller part. For instance “Pusa Man” was the song composed for the “Pusa Man Team” which came to Tang to offer tribute from the Female Man Kingdom. “Pusa” is believed to be female Buddha or budhisattva. Another example would be “Nian Nu Jiao”; Nian Nu was a famous female singer of Tang.
E.Rules of Ci: 1. Every tune of Ci has a set number of characters; 2. Requirement of level and oblique tones; 3. Length of lines varies, there is only one character in the shortest line, there are even 11 characters in the longest line; 4. Rhyme scheme varies. Some rhyme with the last line, some with every second or third line; 5. Antithesis is more flexible.
I shall now mention a few poets and their works. The first one to mention is Wen Tingyun (温庭筠, 812-866), a late Tang poet. His Ci was compiled into a book, which is the first anthology of Ci in China. Wen was the first scholar who wrote a great number of Ci. There are 310 Ci of his still in existence. Most of his Ci describes the life of women which include maiden girls, palace maids, and female singers and so on; some of his Ci describes how wives miss their solider or merchant husbands; some describe lotus collecting girls’ love. The following “Pusa Man” is a representative work of Wen:

小山重叠金明灭,      Xiao shan chong die jin ming mie,
鬓云欲度香腮雪。      Bin yun yu du xiang sai xue.
懒起画娥眉;          Lan qi hua e mei;
弄妆梳洗迟。          Nong zhuang shu xi chi.

照花前后镜,          Zhao hua qian hou jing,
花面交相映。          Hua mian jiao xiang ying.
新帖绣罗襦,          Xin tie xiu luo ru,
双双金鹧鸪。          Shuang shuang jin zhe gu.

  A portrait of Wen Tingyun

Eyebrows are knitted into a small hill,
The bright gold yellow powder looks pale,
Hair on the temples is drooping down like clouds,
Trying to shade the snow-white and fragrant cheeks.
Too lazy to get up and paint brows;
It is late when combing, washing and makeup are done.

Looking at the flower at the front and rear mirrors,
The two flowery faces smile to each other.
The new design will be embroidered on the silk gauze coat,
In the design there is a pair of golden partridges.

The whole poem that writes about one thing- a maiden girl is making up. In the first two (four) lines, you find a small hill, gold color, clouds and snow- a scene of early spring- this is how the girl looks like when she wakes up. The poem may end at mirror looking; yet, an embroidery design model is taken out for the girl to start working. What is in the design is none other than a pair of partridges, which touched upon her thoughts and feelings. That explains why she knits her brows. Why? She desires love and wonders what her man would look like. Analogy, figure of speech was often used by Wen; feelings were always contained in his description of landscape. Wen was very influential to later Ci writing.

Li Yu (李煜, 937-978) was an emperor of Later Tang during the period of Five Dynasties. He was a mediocre ruler, believed in Buddhism, was captured by Song . But he is a great artist, his calligraphy and painting is outstanding, he was an expert of music. His accomplishment in Ci writing is particularly high. After repeated verifications by scholars, we are sure now that there are 32 of his Ci still in existence. The following “虞美人, Yu Mei Ren” is a representative work of Li Yu:

春花秋月何时了,    Chun hua qiu yue he shi liao,
往事知多少?        Wang shi zhi duo shao?
小楼昨夜又东风,    Xiao lou zuo ye you dong feng,
故国不堪回首月明中。Gu guo bu kan hui shou yue ming zhong.

雕栏玉砌应犹在,    Diao lan yu qi ying you zai,
只是朱颜改。         Zhi shi zhu yan gai.
问君能有几多愁,     Wen jun neng you ji duo chou,
恰似一江春水向东流。 Qia si yi jiang chun shui xiang dong liu.

 A painting of Li Yu

When is there an end to spring flowers and autumn moon?
How many things in the past happened?
East wind last night blew at my small building again,
I bear not to recollect my native land under the bright moon.

Carved balustrades and marble steps should still be there,
Only the romantic charm of my loved ones disappeared.
I am asked how much worry and distress I have,
They are just like a river of spring that rolls on to the east.

As the emperor of a fallen state, this Ci was written with blood and tears. It is said on his birthday, he asked singers to sing this Ci at the building where he was detained. When Emperor Taizong of Song heard about this, out of rage, he ordered to Poisson Li Yu to death. Li made the following contributions to the writing of Ci: 1, Amplification of expression. Before him, Ci was almost written about love affairs only, he widened by a big margin the content of Ci; 2, Artistic condensation: he used to convey a meaning in universal sense by way of depicting a concrete individual image; 3, Natural and refined language; 4, A bold and unconstrained style.

Liu Yong (柳永, 987?-1053?) is a Northern Song poet who made two important contributions to the writing of Ci: 1, He was the first advocator of long (slow) Ci, before him the greater majority of Ci was in the form of the shortest “Smaller Ling”. Liu knew how to compose songs himself, on the long Ci he wrote, he also marked the name of tunes or melodies to facilitate the instrument players, and by so doing he proved that long Ci could also be sung. As a matter of fact, his anthology of Ci was also a songbook entitled “Movement”; 2, He was very remarkable in using a great deal of slang in his Ci. Some people said that one of the reasons of Liu’s success was his unrestrained

 A portrait of Liu Yong
and dissolute style of life. He himself once said, “I can endure trading my bubble reputation with a little drink and song humming among girl singers.” When Emperor Renzong of Song heard about this, he commented, “This is a loose man who likes to have a little drink and humming songs with girls. Since bubble reputation is not useful to him, let him filling in the Ci.” From that time on, he was not able to pass the imperial examinations. Liu took it a pleasure to write Ci for the girls at brothels and musicians at workshops. He probably never got married. After he died, there were no relatives to arrange the funeral. It was the girl singers who put their money together and arranged the funeral for him. They also organized meetings to remember him every year. So, in the eyes of many people, Liu Yong was a legendary person, and there were operas written about him. Let’s read first of all “雨霖铃, Yu Lin Ling, Bell in the Rain”:

寒蝉凄切。            Han chan qi qie.
对长亭晚,            Dui chang ting wan,
骤雨初歇。            Zhou yu chu xie.
都门帐饮无绪,        Du men zhang yin wu xu,
留恋处,              Liu lian chu,
兰舟催发。            Lan zhou cui fa.
执手相看泪眼,        Zhi shou xiang kan lei yan,
竟无语凝噎。          Jing wu yu ning ye.
念去去,              Nian qu qu,
千里烟波,            Qian li yan bo,
暮靄沉沉楚天阔。      Mu ai chen chen chu tian kuo.

多情自古伤离别,      Duo qing zi gu shang li bie,
更那堪冷落清秋节!    Geng na kan leng luo qing qiu jie!
今宵酒醒河处?        Jin xiao jiu xing he chu?
杨柳岸,              Yang liu an,
晓风残月。            Xiao feng can yue.
此去经年,            Ci qu jing nian,
应是良辰美景虚设。    Ying shi liang chen mei jing xu she.
便纵有千种风情,      Bian zong you qian zhong feng qing,
更与何人说?          Geng yu he ren shuo?

Cold cicadas are chirping in a plaintive tone.
Facing the pavilion at dusk,
A heavy shower has just gone.
No heart to drink at the farewell banquet outside the city gate,
I can’t bear to part from my girl,
Yet the boat captain urges me to set out.
Hand in hand we look at each other’s tearful eyes,
Not even a word was spoken in sobbing.
I shall be gone,
Into the ten thousand miles of mist-covered waters,
Into the broad sky of heavy sunset clouds.

Since ancient times parting has been most heart broken,
More unbearable we part in chilly autumn when leaves fallen.
Where shall I sober up from drunkenness tonight?
Only poplars and willows along the banks to be seen,
Only the morning wind and remaining of the moon.
I’ll be gone for years,
A future bright day can only add to my sorrow.
Even if I have a thousand amorous words,
To whom should I speak?  

It was said that Emperor Xuanzong of Tang also sang “Bell in the Rain” when he was hiding out in the middle part of Sichuan from the rebels. It was a rainy day he heard horse bells while walking on the plank road on a cliff, the bell reminded him of Concubine Yang, in such a mood, he sang this plaintive and resentful song. Liu Yong successfully turned this old Tang song into a poem of misery and sad parting.

I would like to cite Liu’s “八声甘州, Ba Sheng Gan Zhou—Eight Tones from Gan Prefecture” even if I may make this part a bit longer:

对萧萧暮雨洒江天,         Dui xiao xiao mu yu sa jiang tian,
一番洗清秋。               Yi fan xi qing qiu.
渐霜风凄紧,               Jian shuang feng qi jin,
关河冷落,                  Guan he leng luo,
残照当楼。                  Can zhao dang lou.
是处红衰绿减,              Shi chu hong shuai lu jian,
苒苒物华休。                Ran ran wu hua xiu.
唯有长江水,                Wei you chang jiang shui,
无语东流。                  Wu yu dong liu.

不忍登高临远,              Bu ren deng gao lin yuan,
望故乡渺邈,                Wang gu xiang miao miao,
归思难收。                  Gui si nan shou.
叹年来踪迹,                Tan nian lai zong ji,
何事苦淹留?                He shi ku yan liu?
想佳人妆楼颙望,            Xiang jia ren zhuang lou yong wang,
误几回,                    Wu ji hui,
天际识归舟。                Tian ji shi gui zhou.
争知我,                    Zheng zhi wo,
倚栏杆处,                  Yi lan gan chu,
正恁凝愁!                  Zheng nen ning chou!

 A painting on the theme of the Ci

Facing the pattering evening rain that is all over the sky,
It is another wash of the clear autumn.
Gradually the frosty wind is pressing,
A desolate scene along the Guan River,
The setting sun sheds on the building where I am.
Where I am red color declined and green reduced,
Slowly things stopped blossom.
Only the water in Changjiang,
Rolls on to the east wordlessly with its momentum.

I do not bear to climb high and look afar,
Hometown is so remote,
Thoughts of return are difficult to overcome.
Ah, where were the traces of me in the past year?
What has kept me for such a long time?
My beauty in her makeup room must be longing,
She must have made several mistakes,
Mistook boats as mine at the horizon in gloom.
Don’t you know?
I am leaning on the balustrade,
My heart is sinking with depression to the bottom!

This Ci of Liu Yong has always been regarded as one of the best. Some critics said that it is a monument in the history of Ci. Liu’s Ci was very popular at the time. Records say, “Wherever there is water well, there is Liu Ci to be sung.” Later Ci poets like Qin Guan (秦观,1049-1100) and Zhou Bangyan (周邦彦, 1057-1121) were greatly influenced by Liu. Qin and Zhou both knew music; they were considered masters of the orthodox school of graceful and restrained style of Ci.

 A portrait of Su Shi

Su Shi (苏轼,1037-1101) is another pride of the Chinese nation. He is not only one of our greatest poets, but also an outstanding writer and artist. He wrote numerous poems and Ci, now 2,700 of his poems and 350 of his Ci are in existence. I shall cite two of his Ci first and make some comments later. The first is “水调歌头,Shui Diao Ge Tou, The Head of the Water Tune”:

明月几时有?          Ming yue ji shi you?
把酒问青天。          Ba jiu wen qing tian.
不知天上宫阙,        Bu zhi tian shang gong que,
今夕是何年。          Jin xi shi he nian.
我欲乘风归去,        Wo yu cheng feng gui qu,
又恐琼楼玉宇,        You kong qiong lou yu yu,
高处不胜寒。          Gao chu bu sheng han.
起舞弄清影,          Qi wu nong qing ying,
何似在人间!          He si zai ren jian!

转朱阁,               Zhuan zhu ge,
低绮户,               Di qi hu,
照无眠。               Zhao wu mian.
不应有恨,             Bu ying you hen,
何事长向别时圆?       He shi chang xiang bie shi yuan?
人有悲欢离合,         Ren you bei huan li he,
月有阴晴圆缺,         Yue you yin qing yuan que,
此事古难全。           Ci shi gu nan quan.
但愿人长久,           Dan yuan ren chang jiu,
千里共婵娟。           Qian li gong chan juan.
When would there be a bright moon?
I ask the sky and raise my glass of wine.
I wonder what year it is now
In palaces of heaven.
I wish to ride wind and go back there,
Yet up there in the jade buildings’ halls,
I fear it is too cold to sustain.
In playing with the silhouette of my dancing body,
It is not as good as in the world of human.

Going through the red buildings,
Entering the low and beautifully decorated doors,
Sleepless when the moon is shone.
One should not have grudges,
Does parting under a full moon always happen?
People have sorrow and joy, paring and unity,
The moon is sometimes shady and clear, wax and wane,
Since old times it has been difficult to have perfection.
I only wish people could live long,
Even far apart we can all enjoy the moon which is so fine.

This Ci is a most popular one. Every year, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, people would sing or recite it. Of course, the song is a modern version. Under the title, Su Shi wrote the following words: “I wrote this Ci to remember Zi You and also for the occasion of the Mid-Autumn Festival in the year of Bing Chen (1076), on which day we drunk with joy till daybreak.” Now, let’s read another of his most popular Ci:

 A traditional Chinese painting of Chibi

念奴娇(赤壁怀古)    Nian Nu Jiao(Chi Bi Huai Gu)

大江东去,              Da jiang dong qu,
浪淘尽,                Lang tao jin,
千古风流人物。          Qian gu feng liu ren wu.
故垒西边,              Gu lei xi bian,
人道是,               Ren dao shi,
三国周郎赤壁。         San guo zhou lang chi bi.
乱石崩云,             Luan shi beng yun,
惊涛裂岸,             Jing tao lie an,
卷起千堆雪。           Juan qi qian dui xue.
江山如画,             Jiang shan ru hua,
一时多少豪杰!         Yi shi duo shao hao jie!

遥想公瑾当年,         Yao xiang gong jin dang nian,
小乔初嫁了,           Xiao qiao chu jia liao,
雄姿英发。             Xiong zi ying fa.
羽扇纶巾,             Yu shan lun jin,
谈笑间,               Tan xiao jian,.
樯橹灰飞烟灭。         Qiang lu hui fei yan mie.
故国神游,             Gu guo shen you,
多情应笑我,           Duo qing ying xiao wo,
早生华发。             Zao sheng hua fa.
人间如梦,             Ren jian ru meng,
一樽还酹江月。         Yi zun hai lei jiang yue.

Nian Nu Jiao (Thinking of the Past at Chi Bi )

The great river rolls towards east,
Waves wash away,
All the unconventional persons through the ages.
To the west of the ruins of the forts,
People say:
It is Chibi where Zhou of the 3-Kingdoms who once fought.
Stones shot up pierced the clouds open,
Terrifying waves cracked the banks,
Up like a thousand piles of snow the waves rolled.
Rivers and mountains that are so picturesque,
Many heroes at that time they have witnessed!

Thinking far back at the time of Zhou,
Xiaoqiao had married to him,
His posture heroic and unrestrained.
A feather fan in hand and silk scarf over his shoulders,
While he was talking and joking,
Into ashes the masts and sculls of the enemy were turned.
A delightful tour of the Old Kingdom,
I may laugh at myself for being so sentimental,
White hair may appear early on my head.
Since the human world is just like a dream,
I offer a cup of wine to the moon by pouring it to the ground.

This Ci was written in July 1082. The poet was visiting Chibi and thought of a battle fought 870 years ago. At the battle, Zhou Yu, the General of Wu, defeated the troops of Wei or Cao Cao. On the day of the battle, east wind blew, Wu troops attacked the Wei army by fire, and the warships of Wei were turned into ashes. Xiaoqiao is a famous beauty of Wu, a sister of the King of Wu. This Ci has been reputed as “a poetic masterpiece through the ages,” because of its vigorous style, the broad and great scene it projects to us. The whole poem sounds majestic and powerful.

After reading the above, we may be able to conclude that Su Shi augmented Ci’s function of reflecting social life; he instilled bold and generous spirit into the writing style; he was bold in creating new music patterns. He was criticized for neglecting rules of music; existing music expressions did as a matter of fact not confine him. 

The following is what a Ci depicted: There was pouring rain and strong wind last night. Why did they come so pressingly when it was a good time to appreciate flowers? The rain and the wind was disturbing, she was not able to fall asleep. Wine might be able to get rid of her gloomy mood. But she had a drop too much and slept deeply. It was daytime when she woke up. What about the flowers? She still worried about the flowers after a night’s sleep. She overheard the maid was rolling up the bamboo curtain and asked hurriedly, “How are the crabapple flowers?” The answer was, “They are still the same!” She then said, “You stupid girl! What do you know? Look at the flowers again! Do you see the red color is now less and green more?”

  A painting of Li Qingzhao

All the above is contained in the following six lines of “如梦令,Ru Meng Ling, A Dream Like Short Poem”:

昨夜雨疏风骤。           Zuo ye yu shu feng zhou.
浓睡不消残酒。           Nong shui bu xiao can jiu.
试问卷帘人,             Shi wen juan lian ren,
却道海棠依旧。           Que dao hai tang yi jiu.
知否,知否?             Zhi fou, zhi fou?
应是绿肥红瘦。           Ying shi lu fei hong shou.

Last night rain was pouring and wind came all of a sudden.
I slept deep and could not stand the power of wine.
I asked the one who was rolling up the curtain,
“The crabapples are the same,” the answer was given.
Do you know? Have you seen?
Slim is red and stout is green.

This Ci was written by Li Qingzhao (李清照,1084-1155?), a woman poet of Song. She occupies an important place in the history of literature. Her Ci is of a very high artistic attainment; the language she used in Ci is unique, for instance “stout green and slim red.” We now have a collection of 60 of her Ci.

In the later years of Northern Song, the state of Jin attacked and took over the capital of Song and captured the Song emperor. The imperial family moved to the south of Changjiang River, the Southern Song period (1127-1279) began. In the Ci of Southern Song, patriotic thinking, solemn and sad tone was prevailing because of the stimulation of the danger of the whole country being conquered the broken state and the sufferings of the people. The most important representative poet of this period is Xin Qiji (辛弃疾,1140-1207). Xin was born in the northern part, which had been fallen into the hands of Jin. He joined the farmer’s uprising army when he was 21 to fight against Jin. When the farmer’s army failed, he went over to the southern part. He opposed defeatism and stood for fighting, yet the rulers of the Southern Song Dynasty was content with temporary ease and comfort and had no will to fight. He was once a petty local official in the south, “none of his hundred aspirations was realized” and died with a grievance in his heart. He is most prolific among both northern and southern Ci poets. We now possess 620 of his Ci. Owing to his rich experience in life and

  A portrait of Xin Qiji

his broad knowledge, his Ci has a variety in both content and style. He further enlarged the scope of Ci’s expression, which was already augmented by Su Shi. He is the most creative poet in Ci writing. Let’s read “水龙吟,Shui Long Yin, Song of the Water Dragon—登建康赏心亭,Climbing Up to the Shangxin Pavilion of Jian Kang”:

楚天千里清秋,             Chu tian qian li qing qiu,
水随天去无际。             Shui sui tian qu wu ji.
遥岑远目,                 Yao cen yuan mu,
献愁供恨,                 Xian chou gong hen,
玉簪螺髻。                 Yu zan luo ji.
落日楼头,                 Luo ri lou tou,
断鸿声里,                 Duan hong sheng li,
江南游子。                 Jiang nan you zi.
把吴钩看了,               Ba wu gou kan liao,
栏杆拍遍,                 Lan gan pai bian,
无人会,                   Wu ren hui,
登临意。                   Deng lin yi.

休说鲈鱼堪脍,           Xiu shuo lu yu kan kuai,
尽西风,                 Jin xi feng,
季鹰归未?               Ji ying gui wei?
求田问舍,               Qiu tian wen she,
怕应羞见,               Pa ying xiu jian,
刘郎才气。               Liu lang cai qi.
可惜流年,               Ke xi liu nian,
忧愁风雨,               You chou feng yu,
树犹如此!               Shu you ru ci!
倩何人唤取,             Qian he ren huan qu,
红巾绿袖,               Hong jin lu xiu,
揾英雄泪!               Wen ying xiong lei!

The clear autumn sky of Chu extends far,
Water follows the sky to the boundless autumn.
Looking at the remote hills,
They seem like jade pins or coiled hair of a lady,
seeing them my worries and grievance could only resume.
The sun will set further from the building top,
The lonely goose whines off and on,
Here in the south a man far from home.
Having looked at the Wugou sword,
I strike at the balustrades,
Yet nobody understands,
The purpose of my climb.
Don't tell me perch is delicious,
Even though west wind is blowing,
Has Jiying returned?
The one who bought land and houses,
Should be ashamed of himself,
When facing Liu whose talent was full to the brim.
It’s a pity that time has gone by,
Trees have grown so old,
The state is still swaying in the midst of a raging storm.
To whom should I ask?
I ask the girl with red scarf and green sleeves,
To wipe off the tears of a hero!

Jian Kang is today’s Nanjing. Xin climbed up to the pavilion to let out his pent-up grievances after he had come to the south for eight or nine years, during which time his wish of serving the country was not realized. Jiying, an official in Luo Yang of the Jin Dynasty, was reminded by the west wind of the delicious perch at his hometown-Suzhou, he then threw away his official cap and robes and went home. The one who bought land and houses was Xu Si of the Three-Kingdom period who called on Chen Deng and was given a cold shoulder. Xu then told Liu Bei, the King of Shu, about his experience, Liu commented, “You were of course looked down upon by Chen when the state is in upheaval and you do not devote yourself to the state affairs, in stead, you bought land and houses! If I were Chen, you would be treated even worse!” By quoting these two stories, Xin was saying that he did not want to follow suit. This Ci has always won strong appeal from readers. I would like to cite another Ci, “青玉案,Qing Yu An, Record of Blue Jade”:

东风夜放花千树,       Dong feng ye fang hua qian shu,
更吹落, 星如雨。      Geng chui luo, xing ru yu.
宝马雕车香满路。       Bao ma diao che xiang man lu.
凤箫声动,             Feng xiao sheng dong,
玉壶光转,             Yu hu guang zhuan,
一夜鱼龙舞。           Yi ye yu long wu.

蛾儿雪柳黄金缕,       E er xue liu huang jin lu,
笑语盈盈暗香去。       Xiao yu ying ying an xiang qu.
众里寻他千百度,       Zhong li xun ta qian bai du,
--蓦然回首,            -- Mo ran hui shou,
那人却在,             Na ren que zai,
灯火阑珊处。           Deng huo lan shan chu.

Fire trees blossom at night amid east wind,
This blows down rain of stars (fireworks),
Nice horses and carved carriages are all over the road.
Accompanied with bamboo flutes,
Lanterns are moved in circles,
Fish and dragon dances are performed all night.

With festival hairpins and in splendid attire,
Girls passed by with the smell of perfume and laughers.
I looked for her for a thousand times in the crowd,
-- I suddenly looked back,
There she is,
At a corner where there isn’t much light.

This was on the night of the Lantern Festival. He was looking for his girl. From among so many girls, he couldn’t find her. He was so disappointed. But suddenly he found her at a corner where there wasn’t much light. She hadn’t left and was still waiting for him. It was at this twinkling of an eye; the spirit of life is being condensed. Xin is a master in using various tunes. He used allusions and cited past happenings in his Ci in a natural way. He also discussed policy issues in Ci, which did not sound drab at all. People refer to this form of Ci writing as the “Jia Xuan Form”; “Jia Xuan” is another name of him. Xin’s Ci had a great influence at his time already. Ci writing by his peer poets Lu You, Liu Guo, Liu Kezhuang and others also expressed patriotism and brave spirit.

There was another school of Ci writing in the Southern Song period, represented by Jiang Kui, Shi Zuda and Wu Wenying. They concentrated much of their attention to the harmony of music and to flowery wording. Among them, Jiang Kui (姜夔, 1155-1221) is most influential. He has been highly placed in the history of Ci; some even showed favoritism to him and regarded him as a saint of Ci. He composed music himself. He suggested to the imperial court twice to collate national music. Much to out regret, his suggestions were turned down. If not, we would know much more about our ancient music today. Some critics compared the deep and quiet style of his Ci to “a slim stone and a lonely flower”. Let’s read his “忆王孙, Yi Wang Sun, Remembering Wang Sun”:

冷红叶叶下塘秋,       Leng hong ye ye xia tang qiu,
长与行云共一舟。        Chang yu xing yun gong yi zhou.
零落江南不自由。       Ling luo jiang nan bu zi you.
两绸缪,               Liang chou mou,
料得吟鸾夜夜愁。       Liao de yin luan ye ye chou.

Leaf upon leaf in cold red fall into autumn pond,
Floating clouds always join me when I’m on a boat.
Being so lonely and dreary in the south isn’t what I want.
We are both being tormented,
I figure the chanting phoenix  must be depressed every night.

In the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) “San Qu” prevailed, and not many Ci were written. Ci was written in great quantities in the Ming Dynasty, yet not much was accomplished. Ci writing flourished for a while at the mid-Qing period. The music scores or notations got lost in the Qing Dynasty. From then on Ci has been read and written purely as a unique form of poetry. In Ci writing, most poets of the above mentioned dynasties advocated the graceful and restrained style and followed the suit of Jiang Kui and Zhou Bangyan.


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