New Mandarin Chinese Lesson: An Old Poem About Sorrow

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We're excited to announce that Mathilda Ren (任回驳) has just published "An Old Song About Sorrow", a new Advanced level Mandarin Chinese lesson, on Language Mentor!


Lesson Script

Notes:

1. Shū is usually translated as "book" but in this case it means "write". Bóshāndàozhōng means "Bo Mountain path", and bì means "wall of mountain".

2. Old Chinese poems are very succinct and very beautiful. A mere ten words can tell an entire story. This format leaves much space for the imagination. As such, there's no way to provide a single "correct" translation. Here we offer one possible interpretation. For another interpretive approach, plus interesting details about the poet and his times, see this Wikipedia article.

3. This poem is often referred to by the generic name "Tune Name". This is a common practice for poems of this type, and refers to the style of the poem. In ancient China poems were often originally written as new lyrics for existing tunes. Over time the melody was forgotten but the metre and rhythm of the song were retained in a poetic style. Poems' styles were referred to with the phrase "to the tune of [tune name]".

4. The word translations below are from ancient Chinese. In Chinese, as in all languages, many words can carry many different meanings. The translations that we provide here are those that are best suited to understanding the poet's meaning, and in many cases are specific to the author's time period - the twelfth century AD.


Script:

An Old Poem About Sorrow by Xin Qiji
Yìshǒu Guānyú Yōuchóu de Gǔshī — Xīn Qìjí
一首关于忧愁的古诗——辛弃疾

Writing
Shū


Wall



Middle or Among or In
Zhōng


Path
Dào


Writing on Bo Mountain Path Wall
Shū bóshān dào zhōng bì
书博山道中壁

To know or to recognize
Shí


To not know
Bùshí
不识

Worry or Sorrow
Chóu


Flavor
Zīwèi
滋味

The taste of sorrow
Chóuzīwèi
愁滋味

Young people don't know the taste of sorrow.
Shàonián bùshí chóu zīwèi, ...
少年不识愁滋味,……
Note: Literally... young person/people ~ not know ~ taste of sorrow ("worry/sad/grief flavor")

Love climb towers.
Ài shàng cénglóu.
爱上层楼。
Note: This line can suggest many things. For example, to one person it might suggest "when I was young I liked to climb towers and travel." For another person it might suggest "standing in a high place and watching what is below."

Love climb towers.
Ài shàng cénglóu.
爱上层楼。

For
Wèi


To write a poem



Classical poem



When writing poems I pretended I had really suffered.
Wèi fù xīn cí qiáng shuō chóu.
为赋新词强说愁。
Note: Literally... for ~ write ~ new ~ cí (ancient poem form) ~ forced/insincere ~ say ~ sorrow (worry/sad/grief)

Now
Érjīn
而今

Know to the limit
Shíjìn
识尽

Now - know enough - the taste of sorrow, ...
Érjīn shíjìn chóu zīwèi, ...
而今识尽愁滋味,……

Want to



Yet
Huán


Stop
Xiū


want to speak, yet stop.
Yù shuō huán xiū.
欲说还休。

want to speak, yet stop.
Yù shuō huán xiū.
欲说还休。

But
Què


Speak
Dào


Weather
Tiān


Cool
Liáng


Instead - say "cool weather, what a nice Autumn."
Què dào tiān liáng hǎo gè qiū.
却道天凉好个秋。




About Language Mentor

You can study this lesson, and many others, using Language Mentor - an audio-centric app that is designed to be used while your hands and eyes are busy doing other things. You can download it at the Android Play Store and the iPhone App Store.


Creative Commons License

This article and the lesson that it presents are both licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

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Sunday, 16 December 2018
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