събота, 30 юни 2018 г.

Li Yu or Li Yü (937-978)

The Complete Poems of Li Yu (937-978)

Translated by Christopher Kelen


her hair
mauve cloud
coiled bun
jade pinned

frowning brows
she wears

autumn wind on
drizzle out doors

plantain trees tall
too long night
out there


faroff mountains
layered away

mist on the lake’s
chill surface

leaves on the maple
crimson the heart

chrysanthemums bloom
and are gone

ganders stay
until their wings take them

past curtains
merest breeze, just the moon

spring in the jade pavilion

evening makes up
snow white faces
a file of young beauties
in the Spring palace
reed pipes, bamboo flutes
float on the air

who sprinkles the fragrance
into this breeze? Drunkenly
knocking at rails I’m steeped
in sentiments no light admits

therefore the candles stay unlit
clip clop of the moonlight
brings me home

song of the water clock at night

gold pin
rosy cheeks
a rendezvous
just heaven knew

fragrant wick
and weeping candle
a picture of our moods

tears moisten the embroidered pillow
blanket cold as night is deep
the water clock falls still

dream of Spring

over the strings the fingers
over the reed pipe breath
through the frosty bamboo
these purer than words

glance sidelong of the lovers parting

the house inside the rain
the banquet in the house
in Spring a dream
and yearning lingers

music brings me
winter’s dream –


gorgeous flowers
dim moonlight
thin mist

a stockinged tiptoe
to their tryst

he, in the south end
of the Painting Hall

she, into his arms
come trembling

how troublesome to meet
in shadows
how tender the moment
of hearts lit within

first of Spring

first of Spring
for pleasure

what floats in a cup of wine?
the flower

let us not whisper
of withering

it’s Spring – let’s drink to it
you beat the drum

I’ll bring the brush and ink

a fisherman

waves roll into snow
mute peaches make Spring

a pot of wine
a fishing pole

a mist
my vanishing

one oar
one boat

one line
one hook

flowers all over the isle

a full vessel

let me be

let me be

insects fond of flowers

I rambled by the riverside
mourning last of Spring

dark winds drowned the drizzle
and the lamps of Qing Ming

a night wrecked?
I won’t say so
the fat lady may sing

peaches and plums
whisper with laughter

moon in its cloud
comes to bed after

Spring met in mist

shy to meet Spring
now that youth’s passed
I was as shy before

bygones have gone by
grass grown over flowers
mist lies deep over all

beating clothes

sleepless in unending night
the empty hall falls to echoes

through a bamboo curtain
hear winter’s chill

not a frog sounds
but the mind won’t be still

another, sleepless
rises early
wakes the house

does to his clothes
what she dare not
do to the man

waking from a night alone

hair messy
make-up faded
brows frown like the far-away peaks

against the balustrade
delicate fingers
and touching the cheeks

how far tears fall

waking for a piss in the early hours

the palace sleeps

I put on a gown
for the moonlight

stood among the chill bamboo
here’s me – miniature landscape

waterfall of my own making
eyes high in the forest of leaves

seek a star

love lost and passion enduring

I cannot see the girl with the flute
but I know how it is to lie in her arms

flowers bow and lift their heads
in fits the scent of her skin comes to me

twilight in the jewelled glass
willows cast shadows night won’t dispel

it is a cruel breeze brings her to me
our moment in mind’s bubble yet

hung over

cherry blossoms strew the yard
an ivory bed cast in moonlight

hair loosed lustreless
bitterest yearning

tears fall on scant garments of love
so many papers to sign

after one of those endless imperial parties

the guests went home
the painted hall still hung
with its breezes
all the long night

Spring still
one girl waits in the attic
dozing when she’s not required

mirror and make-up both at the ready
still tipsy when the first birds wake her
when comes the whistling
of workmen outside

footsteps of Spring

the footsteps of Spring
are falling away
the long night of blossoms
endures through your sleep

I stayed awake
to outstare this spray
of cherries, to wait
for the light,
for your waking
for withering day

first intimation of winter

autumn too wearies
steps come crimson strewn
herbs from the high hills
fill up the temple
the Double Ninth arrives

and in the yard’s doorway
where kitchen smoke
contends with drizzle

wild geese fly by
only their lament
deathless, unchanging

ennui of Spring

jade pendants dishevelled
make-up marred, messy bun
I hold the stairs up leaning
just me and the scenery
two shadows lament

an easterly wind over the river runs
sun devouring the crests left of hills
Spring’s ennui – all fallen flowers
I wander in among reeds sounding
I can’t go on drinking like this

mourning for the season passed

every petal’s fallen
Spring’s once firm footing’s lost

those butterflies made pretty pairs
a cliché now and spent

the birds who sang
as smoke dispersed

from hazy grasslands
the traveler into sun and drought
casts a fond eye back


our forty years

our forty years

of rivers and mountains

the dragon’s tower

the phoenix in the attic

came down after

a chat up there

in the mist

trees of emerald

once the immortals

were with us alive

I was ignorant

of war

made a better

exile than king

look how thin

how grey

my words now

are you moved?

no court ladies cry

these thousand years since

but a ghost can still

taste his poison


the season half gone

Spring parts from itself

in the time since we’ve parted

the falling plum blossoms

come whirling like snow

I brush them away

but I’m covered again

wild geese bring me no tidings

parting is like the rich Spring grass

even in dreams

my country too far


longing for the south

it’s an idle dream

grass, flowers thrive

the south is far
but the whole country

can hear the orchestra

choke in the dust

of dreamers

in their carriages

come out to view

flowers of Spring


the south – late autumn

in its dream

cold shrouds the mountains, rivers

a lonely rowboat

anchors in reeds

whistling from the tower’s top

to lure the moon along


longing for the southern Spring

the carriages run like water there

in the imperial garden

horses are like dragons there

the flowers and moon of Spring


o my tears

when weeping

stay away from

the phoenix’ flute

it’s a sure route

to a broken heart


no return


I climb the western tower

the moon comes

like a hook

parasol trees

in the deep courtyard

where clear autumn

is kept

no cutting

the ravelled knot

of parting

holds my soul



moonlight tortures the exile’s soul


recalling one’s country

when the moon is full

and ways are lit

then one might

travel the long chill night

to find

jade balustrades

carved halls

still stand

but the rosy visage

of a childhood


spring flowers

and autumn moon


but never

the ones we knew


the unwilling guest

beyond the curtain of the rain

Spring hastens its steps departing

silk quilt too warm now summer’s come

the soul in its icy dawn remains

as in a dream

eyes newly old

scan boundless lands

no longer mine

from this balcony

so far from heaven


in my dream

life was never

proof against woe

my soul is gnawed

with unwept tears

in my dream

I return to my country

not to war

not to rule

not to be king again

will you mount

to the tower

with me

just this once more?

there never was finer

than this autumn day

after evening make-up

soon after
the evening make-up
some rouge smeared
tip of the tongue unfolds
her mouth like a cherry
nearly silently chanting
gentlest of songs

crimson prints left
to the cup’s rim,
splashes of wine
redden her sleeve,
this heavenly nymph
lounges against
the embroidered bed

she chews a red thread
and coyly spits it in
her lover’s direction

in winter’s depth

sun high in the sky
but on earth we’re still frozen

I add to the brazier
carbon shaped like a beast

dance steps have wrinkled
the red brocade mat

anything to keep warm
I bend to pick up gold pins

I’ve dropped. I take a flower
and sniff. Music of bamboo

from palaces elsewhere
the beast in the fire is ash

beauty waking

on the fairies’ hill
a painted hall
and in it
beauty sleeps
and in it
is a kind
of speech

clouds of hair
on a pillow like cloud
embroidered cloth
steeped in scent

I sneak in
but she wakes
from the dream

from behind
the silver and gilt
of the screen
smile of the eyes
takes me in

orioles depart with joy

and the twilight sloughs
clouds dissolve in sunshine

wake from a dream
of fragrant grass
the wild geese scattered
as their cries

the chanting orioles disperse
last petals fall like rain

a desolation in the painted hall
waiting for her return


flowers in the backyard

rare trees grow behind the house
and finer foliage by the mirror
I’ve placed there…

…flowers bloom as years before
the moon as round as ever

the air rings green with light
the voice is vanishing

picking mulberries

red flowers by the temple
all faded to dust
where are the light steps
of Spring?

frowning brows
and free flowing locks

loneliness has its boudoir
waits for the incense ash to drop

what is unbearable must be borne
she sleeps on a stone pillow of facts

reckless he comes
into her dreams

picking mulberries

evening envelops
pulley tackle, gold well, parasol trees

autumn breeze startles
the trees from their doze

old rain with new grief

over the hook
the bamboo screen hitched

beside the jade window
she sits frowning
on the far frontier

if only a carp
would carry him
her missive

if only the river
would wind upstream

crows crying at night

last night the wind
blew with the rain

autumn came moaning
through curtains

candles wept
the water clock grew weary

tossing about on the pillow
I rose and couldn’t sleep again

mundane affairs
float away with the stream

how, without wine
could we live?

crows crying at night

spring flowers floated
away too soon

too soon the Spring
has fled

cold rain at sunrise
chill wind in the twilight

rouged tears
and my drunken state

when will we two meet again?

life is a river run east
always east

Spring always
gone too soon

past dusk in the attic

candles have burnt out
one by one
fallen weeds won’t rest

in a dream
I followed footprints
back to the far distant past

the faces were horrible there

in a pavilion beside the river
I watch the ever onward tide

dusk in the attic
twilight among shaded flowers

my soul climbs the mountain
tears fall for my country
so far away

the past is much nearer

green of Spring

the wind returns
casts new green on the grass
willows shoot with the coming of Spring

I lean on the balustrade wordless with longing
bamboo and new moon just as in spent days

tune of the reed pipes yet
fine wine still in these cups

now the surface of the pond starts to thaw
bright the candles and giddy the incense

frost like hair on my temples drips
green of Spring

sand of the silk-washing stream

moss grows over this wind
autumn steps down to the river
the jade curtain hangs

gold swords have been buried
ambition is done

a moon blooms over attic
and palace

how dreary the shadows
the river casts in

willows in Spring

soft spring rain
through the curtains of willow
ticktock of the water clock
wounding that night

startling wild geese
crows on the gate tower
the lady in her lonely bed
starting too

a fragrant mist
thin glimmer of the candle’s last

here comes the hero
from the embroidery
dazzled by life

unwittingly he slips
into my dream
I hold him till
we have spent
the whole night

Li Yu was the last emperor of the Southern Tang and much better at poetry and painting than he was at running an empire. In this blog I draft responses to Li Yu's poetry developed from English glosses of the Chinese text created by Petra Seak. Some of these may be considered variations or adaptations, some may be considered collaborative translations. Classifying the work this way and finding destinations for it will happen at a later stage.

Christopher (Kit) Kelen is an Australian writer and visual artist. Volumes of his poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino. The most recent of Kit Kelen's dozen English language poetry books are China Years – New and Selected Poems (ASM/Flying Islands) and Scavenger’s Season (Puncher and Wattmann). His next collection Poor Man's Coat - Hardanger poems in being published by University of Western Australia Press in 2018. Kelen is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau in south China, where he taught Literature and Creative Writing for many years.

Li found his domain whittled down to nothing and then became a prisoner who was forced to drink the poisoned cup. But written in tears and blood, his verses have given him a place among the immortals. Li Yü was born August 15, 937, the auspicious year in which his grandfather Li P'ien founded Southern rang State and ascended the throne (937-954). It is strange but true that he was the same age as the state which he came to rule and which met its end while he was on the throne.
Southern rang was surrounded from the outset by ambitious and much more powerful neighbors. It grew rich under the first monarch, Li p'ien, whose ministers suggested he try to extend the frontiers. Li P'ien, who was kind-hearted and peace-loving, is said to have replied: "I have been in the army ever since my adolescence. Knowing that war is the root of all evil, how can I bear to resort to it and make my people suffer for my ambition? I want my subjects as well as those of the other states to live in peace."
Li P'ien not only avoided warring against his neighbors but even on his deathbed is said to have counseled his son Li Chin in these words: "In the Palace of Great Virtue, there lies in store a great deal of gold, silk and munitions. Try to preserve the established kingdom and be friendly with neighboring states in order to live in peace. I have tried to attain longevity by swallowing pills prescribed by Buddhist monks, yet I am breathing my last. When I shall have passed away, if there is fighting in the north, do not forget my words."
Li Chin was a mediocre military leader, statesman and administrator. He followed in his father's foot­steps and continued to consider himself a vassal of the Later Chou and to pay annual tribute. When asked by his ministers why military affairs had been at a stand­-still for more than 10 years, he answered that weapons need not be resorted to for even a lifetime. Forces of the Later Chou (951-960) stationed in Yangchow attacked Southern rang in 956. Li Chin lost all his territories north of the Yangtze River, concluded peace with the invaders, gave up the title of emperor and adopted the Later Chou calendar.
In 961, Li Yü became crown prince. He remained in Nanking when his father moved the capital to Nanch'ang in Kiangsi so as to avoid the enemy facing him on the opposite bank of the Yangtze. Li Chin died in the late summer of 961. Li Yü, the monarch-poet, then re-established the capital at Nanking.
From a literary point of view, Li Yü began life under favorable circumstances. Historians said he showed signs of genius from early childhood. One of his eyes had a double pupil, long believed by the Chinese to be a symbol of intelligence. Moreover, he was good-looking, with fine features, full cheeks and a wide forehead. He also had the good fortune to be born in a "family smelling of the perfume of books." as the Chinese saying goes. The following Tz'u indicates that Li Yü 's father, though a mediocre ruler, was a remarkable poet.

Modeled on "A New Version of Washing Brook Sand"
Gone is the perfume of the lotus flowers, withered are their leaves of emerald.
From the green waves, melancholy rises with the west wind.
I cannot bear to contemplate the autumn scene,
As haggard and worn as the season.
When I wake from dreaming afar, the rain drizzles,
In the small pavilion, the pipes of jade remain chilly, despite my blowing.
In tears, full of regret,
I lean against the balustrade.
This Tz'u is like a lotus flower in a limpid pool, natural and fresh, with neither artifice nor make-up.
Li Yü grew up in the company of two brothers who were also carefully educated. At 18 he married the beautiful and talented Ngo Huang. She was a year older, excelled in singing, dancing and playing the guitar, composed and was a writer. She composed a famous melody, "Invitation to the Dance of Tipsiness" and revived the lost "Melody of the Rainbow-Colored Robe" written during the Tang dynasty. She was in delicate health, however, suffered from insomnia and died at 29. Li was a devoted husband. He tasted her medicine, watched over preparation of her meals and spent many sleepless nights at her bedside.
Ngo Huang's sister, Nü Ying, came to live in the palace without announcement. Surprised to find the sister at her bedside, Ngo Huang asked when she had come. Nü Ying answered that she had arrived several days before. Ngo Huang was angry and turned her face to the wall. Ngo Huang never looked upon her sister again. Before death, she gave her husband her guitar, which had been a present from her father-in-law, and a pair of jade bracelets. Li Yü wrote a funeral oration of several thousand words and buried it and the guitar with his wife.
After four years of mourning, Li married his sister-in-law, Nü Ying, whom he had loved during his wife's illness and who surpassed her in beauty and talent.
Li Yü loved his second wife more than his first and built an elegant pavilion for her in a flower garden. It was big enough for only two. There he drank wine in the company of his beloved queen, who was said by the historian Ma Ling to have been extremely jealous and to have had many concubines put to death. Among Li Yü's court ladies known through historical reference are Huang Pao-yi, who was in charge of the preservation of books and calligraphy; Liu Chu, a clever girl who excelled in playing the guitar and the only one to play from memory the melodies of Ngo Huang; Ch'in Nu, on whose yellow silk fan was inscribed a poem written by Li Yü entitled "Willow Twigs;" Hsüeh Chiu, who excelled in singing; Yiao Niang, an incomparable dancer for whom Li invented the ballet-like lotus dance; Ch'iu Shui, who loved to adorn her hair with strange flowers that attracted butterflies; and Flower Bud Junior, a court lady who excelled in verse writing as had Lady Flower Bud, wife of a Shu emperor, for whom she was named.
Li Yü loved perfumery. He lived in the Palace of Eternal Autumn and Queen Ngo Huang in the Palace of Tender Virtue. A court lady was assigned to the burning of incense in containers with such names as Lotus Flower, Triple Cloud, Phoenix with Crooked Back and Lion. Five aromatics were crushed into a powder to which was added the juice of 10 pears. The mixture was placed in a silver container and heated. When the juice had vaporized, the powder was wafted inside the bed curtains of the king.
Li Yü loved perfumery. He lived in the Palace of ly his territory was reduced to a tiny area on the south bank of the Yangtze River. He tried to appease his enemy by paying tribute while living in a majestic palace fretted with gold and escaping into oblivion with the help of wine, poetry and love. It is necessary to study his character to understand his writing.
Li was romantic, sensitive, artistic, kind-hearted and unrealistic. He was a born poet and artist and also of the royal family. Life was a road strewn with flowers and the world a lovely garden. He surrounded himself with beautiful objects, charming faces, graceful gestures, sweet sounds and fragrant odors. He dreamed of living in peace, prosperity and comfort. Even If the country had been powerful, he could not have resorted to arms. A pious Buddhist, he was reluctant to punish and execute.
In addition to annual tribute. he presented gifts 10 the Sung court as often as possible. Every Sung envoy to the Southern Tang court was honored with endless feasting. He hoped to appease the ambitious and dangerous enemy with kindness and generosity but did nothing to fortify his kingdom. The shadow of the enemy hung over him like a sword but he was too weak to act. His constant fear took seed in his spiritual soil, grew, budded and finally produced beautiful flowers of suffering in his poems.
He was not only a remarkable poet but a painter of no small capacity who excelled in drawing bamboos and birds. He was skilled in calligraphy and wrote critical essays on the subject. His prose resulted in a hundred essays, none of which has been preserved, and he was a good musician.
As a prince, he established the Bureau of Literature. After ascending the throne, he assembled out­standing scholars in the Pavilion of Purified Heart, much as Louis XIV did at Versailles.
Southern Tang was a vassal state of Sung but enjoyed comparative peace and prosperity for a period of 40 years with a policy based on compromise. Li led his life of hedonism in Nanking. The Ch'in Huai River was the center of his recreation. [n the spring, when the banks of the Ch'in Huai were covered with drooping willows and flowering peach trees, he and Ngo Huang, together with courtiers, court ladies and musicians, went out in a two-decked boat while oarsmen kept time to the music of an orchestra. In autumn, when the banks were covered with reeds, Li sailed in solitary splendor as the sound of flutes floated indistinct­ly from afar.
Interior decorations of the palace walls took the form of red silk tapestries embroidered with gold thread set off by platinum. It was said that no candles burned in Us palace and that the hall was lighted by an enormous pearl. One of his court ladies married a general of Southern Tang. She always covered her nose when her husband lit a lamp or a candle because she couldn't bear the smell.
Li was a ladies' man. He surrounded himself with court ladies and showed them affection. For Ch'in Nu, one of his favorites, he wrote the following poem on a yellow silk fan:
Willow Twigs
Gradually aging, I'm ashamed to face the spring.
Wherever I go, flowers remind me of my former love trysts.
The long willow twigs seem to recognize me
And bend their misty tips over my head.
For Yiao Niang, the incomparable dancer, he is said to have invented the Golden Lotus Dance. A golden lotus six feet high was decorated with precious stones and fine silk ribbons and placed in the middle of a pond. Yiao Niang bound her feet with white' silk and wore slippers resembling the ballet shoes of today. This unfortunately led to foot-binding, although such was not Li Yü's intent.
About the dance, T'ang Kao, a Southern T'ang poet, wrote the following satiric poem:
The belle of Ginling well deserves her fame.
A lotus in the pond, a fairy on the water.
Ignoring the idea of rejoicing with the people,
The king contemplates the golden lotus in his palace.
The fame of the Golden Lotus Dance led Emperor Tai Tsu of the Sung dynasty to ask for Yiao Niang as part of the annual tribute. Li Yü was reluctant but Sung had just annihilated South Han and Li was frightened. He gave up the title of Southern Tang and called himself chief of KiangnanState. Yiao Niang was sent north, accompanied by Prince of Cheng, the seventh brother of Li. When the Prince of Cheng had been away a year in the Sung court without any news of his return, Li sent him the following poem, which really was meant for Yiao Niang:
The east wind blows on the water, the mountains swallow the sun.
Idle have I been all this spring.
The fallen petals are strewn, the drinking vessels lie scattered,
I still hear pipes and songs through my drowsy drunkenness.
She awakes from her spring sleep,
Her nocturnal make-up is faded.
There is nobody to adjust her coiffure.
Regretting the passing hours and her passing youth,
Alone in the dusk she leans against the balustrade.
Queen Ngo Huang was an accomplished artist and Li Yü loved her deeply. This is one of his poems to her:
Modeled on "A Peck of Pearls"
Having finished her nocturnal make-up,
She puts some aromatic powder into her mouth,
Slightly showing her tiny, lilac-bud-like tongue tip.
A melodious song forces the cherry to break.
Melted by perfumed wine,
Her lipstick stains the cup and her silk sleeves.
Leaning against the silk-covered couch, unbearably coquettish,
Smiling, she ejects into the face of Lord Tan the red silk thread she chews.

According to Hung Ch'u, a perfume specialist of Sung, six spices were mixed, crushed into a powder and boiled in pear juice. This aromatic mixture was spread within the bed curtains and used to sweeten the breath.
In the fourth line of the Tz'u, "cherry" refers to Ngo Huang's mouth. When her mouth is closed, it looks like a cherry, red and small. When she sings, she opens her mouth and this is likened to a split cherry.
Lord Tan refers to P'an An, a poet of the Ch'in dynasty (265-420), one of whose names was Tan Nu. He was handsome and it was said that when his carriage passed by, the ladies threw flowers at him. Later, the term Lord Tan was used by ladies to denote their lovers.
Modeled on "Spring in the Jade Pavilion"
After nocturnal make-up, their skins shining like snow,
She court ladies are lined up in the spring palace.
The trill of the phoenix flutes hovers between water and cloud,
Everywhere is heard again the Air of the Rainbow­-Colored Robe.
Who fills the air with perfumed powder?
Tipsy, I beat the balustrade to express my true emotions.
Light no candies on our way home!
Let the horses tread upon cold moonlight.
"Beauties are doomed to die young," as the Chinese saying goes. Ngo Huang was in delicate health and often confined to bed. Sister Nil Ying stealthily saw her brother-in-law in the evening as revealed in this poem.
Modeled on “Buddhist Coiffure”
Flowers bright, moon obscure, fog softly flying.
What an auspicious hour for going to my beloved!
Wearing only unfastened stockings, I mount the perfumed
Holding the gold-threaded shoes in my hand.
I meet him at the south end of the painted hall,
Leaning against him, as usual I tremble all over.
As it is hard for me to come out,
He is lavish of love.
Li went to her at the hour of siesta, as he set forth here.
Modeled on “Buddhist Coiffure”
A heavenly maid is locked within the Palace of P'englai.
'Tis the hour of siesta, silent is the painted hall.
Against the pillow shine her cloud-like tresses.
A strange perfume is emitted by her embroidered robe.
Creeping into her chamber, I stirred the pearls of the curtains.
Waking her up behind the paneled screen of silk.
Slowly she turns to me her smiling face
And we stare at each other with infinite tenderness.
And a briefer meeting:
Modeled on “The Clepsydra"
A bird-shaped hairpin of gold in her hair,
Powder and rouge on her face.
She came to see me for a moment among the flowers.
"You know my feelings,
I'm touched by your tenderness.
Heaven alone can witness our love."
The burnt incense-forming an ear,
A candle shedding tears,
They can be likened to our hearts. My pillow is oily,
My silver coverlet is cold,
When I wake up, nearly no water is left in the clepsydra.
There is a lapse of time between the first and second stanzas. The poet went to sleep. When he woke he beheld the incense-stick burnt to ash and the candle dissolved. These images are likened to their hearts. As incense is consumed by fire, so their hearts are consumed by the flame of love. A candle shedding tears is a love symbol often resorted to by Tang poets. Li Shang-ying and Tu Mu used it. Li wrote:
The candle will dry its tears only when burnt to ash.
Tu wrote:
The very candle is sensitive to our parting
And sheds tears till dawn for you and me.
And this was another of Li's poems for Nü Ying:
Modeled on “Buddhist Coiffure"
The clear sound of the copper-leafed Sheng trills within the bamboo box,
To playa new tune, she speeds to and fro her tiny fingers of jade.
Furtively our glances meet,
The autumn ripples of her eyes seem to flow.
In the depth of the embroidered chamber, full of tenderness,
She sweetens my heart whenever she comes. After the union, all becomes empty
My dreams scatter in a spring sleep.
Li's previous flirtations had not resulted in lasting affairs. With Nü Ying, it was different. He asked one of the court ladies to act as lookout whenever he met his Queen's sister. In spite of all precautions, his secret got out. Many of his ministers wrote satires on his love affair.
According to Ma Ling's History of Southern Tang, Li once undertook an austerity campaign, repaired the walls and fortifications and trained soldiers for defense. When Emperor Tai Tzu was informed of Li's intention, he sent Li Mu to Southern Tang to invite his vassal to court. Afraid of being detained, Li feigned illness. He told his ministers: "If, irritated by my refusal, the Sung emperor should attack Southern Tang, I would lead the troops myself and make a last-ditch stand in order to save the country. If I should lose the final battle, I would assemble all the treasure of my palace and burn myself to death instead of becoming a ghost in a foreign land."
But Li was no man of action. When the enemy troops took Nanking, he was at a Buddhist temple listening to the preaching of a monk. What could he do but surrender? The beautiful dream was over. He was taken north a prisoner. He began to look at life and death, the fugitive character of happiness and the vanity of worldly affairs. How could he end his pam and humiliation? Only through death. So he asked: "When will there be an end to spring flowers and autumn moon?"
It was midnight of January 1, 976, when Nanking fell into the hands of Sung troops commanded by Gen­eral Ts'ao Ping. Li had written a letter of capitulation, confided it to his oldest son and to Ch'en Ch'iao, one of his ministers, and asked them to take it to the Sung commander-in-chief. Ch'en Ch'iao refused to obey, saying it would be better to resist to the end. Holding the hands of Ch'en Ch'iao, Li refused and melted into tears. Ch'en Ch'iao asked to be killed for disobedience. Summoning two of his confidants, he gave them his gold belt and said he intended to commit suicide.
When the Sung commander-in-chief. General Ts'ao Ping, reached the palace, the trembling Li opencd the door and submitted his letter of capitulation. General Ts'ao Ping told him to get ready to leave. Two Sung generals criticized their commander-in-chief for letting Li go unaccompanied. General Ts'ao Ping replied that there was nothing to be afraid of, because Li would not have the courage to kill himself.
Li Hou-chu said goodbye to his capital and de­parted for the north in the company of Queen Nü Ying and a suite of 45, including some lady musicians. It rained that day as if heaven was moved to weep. Turning his eyes to the imperial city, Li wrote the following poem:
South and north of the River lies my home of yore.
Thirty years passed away like a dream.
The Palace of Wu lies today in desolation,
The terraces and pavilions of Kuang Ling are now deserted.
The clouds veiling the distant hills are a thousand trails of sorrows,
The raindrops beating my solitary boat are ten thousand lines of tears.
The four brothers and three hundred members of our family
Can no longer sit down together to talk.
This is not a Tz'u but an eight-line poem in regulated verse of seven syllables. The four lines in the middle form two antithetical couplets - two lines so constructed that there is an identical number of char­ acters in each and a parallel correspondence in ideas, tones and syntax. Ideas may be analogous or opposed. Flat tones should respond to sharp tones. The grammatical role of each character or term should be the same.
In the foregoing poem, both antithetical couplets are identical in meaning, the first stressing the desolation of the abandoned palace of Southern Tang and the second emphasizing the sorrow of Li. Instead of writing of his own palace, Li alluded to the Palace of Wu, one of the Three Kingdoms which lasted 42 years until 264. The capital was in Kuang Ling (modern Yangchow).
Li Hou-ehu arrived in K'aifeng. High up in the Pavilion of Brilliant Virtue, Tai Tzu, founder of the Sung dynasty, received him. Li was clad in white and wore a black headdress. After the ceremony of capitulation, the Sung emperor conferred upon him the title of Disobedient Marquis and offered him clothing, horses, chariots and money. At a feast, Emperor Tai Tzu said to Li: "I hear that when you were in the south, you loved very much to write poetry. Would you recite us the couplet which you like best?" Li spoke two lines of a poem on his moon-shaped fan:
The moon is in my hand when I salute,
The wind is in my breast when the fan is stirred.
After hearing the lines, the Sung emperor looked left and right and told his ministers: "What a scholar of the Imperial Academy!" He meant that Li was a poet and not a worthy king ..
Emperor Tai Tzu died in 977. His son T’ai Tsung succeeded him as the second emperor of Sung and made Li the Duke of Lunghsi, offered him 3,000,000 copper coins and raised his monthly pension.
Li's father had been an avid collector of paintings, calligraphy and books. Li entrusted his enormous collection of books to Huang Pao-yi, one of his court ladies. Before the fall of Nanking, he told her: "If the city is lost, burn all the books so that none can lay hands on them." Huang Pao-yi tried to carry out the order but many books were left unburned. Taken north by the Sung troops, they became the property of the Imperial Library, One day when Emperor T’ai Tsung visited the library, he invited Li to accompany him, saying: "I heard that you loved to study when you were in the south. Most of the books here once belonged to you. Read them whenever you wish." Li felt no humiliation and even prostrated himself.
However, he suffered mental anguish as a result of his confinement. In letters to his former court ladies in Nanking, he said that he washed his face with tears all day long. He was not allowed to see former sub­ordinates as he wished. Cheng Wen-pao, one of his former secretaries, had to disguise himself as a fisherman to gain access to his old master.
Tai Tzu forced the beautiful Nü Ying to wait upon him in his palace, Li escaped into oblivion through wine. In a Tz’u entitled "Crows Crying al Night," he wrote:
Last night, wind was mingled with rain.
The sound of autumn rustled through my curtains.
The candle was dissolved, the water-clock stilled,
Often did I lean against my pillow,
Being restless, up or couched.
Worldly affairs pass by like flowing water,
The floating life is like a dream,
Only the road to the land of tipsiness is smooth, take it often!
The others should not be trodden.
Li had spent two winters in the north. On the occasion of his 42nd birthday, he gave a feast. The musicians played so loudly Emperor Tai Tsung was offended. Moreover, one of Li Hou-chu's nostalgic poems was set to music and sung. The Sung emperor heard these two lines:
Last night, the east wind came back again to my small pavilion,
I cannot bear to recall my country of yore in the moonlight.
The song was still on the lips of the singer when Emperor T'ai Tsung had one of the attendants bring a cup of poison which he forced on Li. When the news of Li's death reached Nanking, weeping was heard in every street and lane.
Li Yü died young and left some 40 poems written in tears and blood. His reign was short and a failure, but as a poet he is an immortal.

No author listed. Taiwan Today, December 01, 1971